Smashwords, ISBN numbers & Book Covers

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It’s Wednesday again, so of course, I’ve been doing some nosing around in the business of self-publishing. Making the decision was the easy part for me. Wading into all that goes with it is where the challenge begins. 

I continued my research over the past week and I picked up some new treasures, along with old sites and resources I keep going back to. Here’s the stuff I’ve got so far on text formatting and making book covers.  

I gotta tell you I almost had a nervous breakdown felt daunted when I decided to read the Smashwords Style Guide (which is free, by the way).  The book has 71 pages and I almost defeated myself with negative thoughts before I got going. I asked myself questions along the lines of how on earth can I read through all this and understand what it means? Do I have enough brainpower to handle this stuff?  

I decided to print it out, but today, I had an epiphany. I’m going to climb the Smashwords mountain, one step at a time. It’s the only way, right?  So, I’m going to read that 71-page monster manual - one subject at a time on a need-to-know basis. I'll cover all bases eventually.

So what did I need to know today?

How do I format my book for Smashwords?  I’ve identified the relevant pages in the Style Guide where the writer has outlined all the steps.  

How do I format my book for Kindle? According to Smashwords, their formatting genie aka the ‘Meatgrinder’ converts uploaded text to a variety of formats, which works with several devices eg, Kindle/Nook.  The Meatgrinder alerts users when text is not properly formatted. Francine Howarth, my pal from the Romantic Friday Writers Group posted an article on formatting for Kindle.  Here’s another about formatting for Kindle in eight steps

How do I get an ISBN number?  Oh yes, I won’t get very far without this one. Every piece of published writing needs this bit of identifying code.  I can buy a number in Jamaica from the National Library, which will take two weeks, or I can do this online almost instantly at the Bowker ISBN Agency. Anybody want to guess which option I’ll be taking when I’m ready?

Some scouting on the local National Library site revealed that there’s a one time registration fee of $US20, plus a fee of $US20 for a single ISBN number. I can get a block of ten numbers for $US50. If I’ll be distributing the book free, I can apply for a waiver on the payment of the ISBN number. Knowing how things work on my lovely island home, I’ll be doddering around with a cane before I get that waiver.  So, moving right along…

How do I make my own cover?   I found some great articles, including one posted by a friend of mine, Tirzah. She explains how to create a cover without Photoshop.  I found a Bare Bones Guide: How to Create a great ebook cover and on the kindle author site, I found this one - How to create a cover for your Kindle ebook. There’s also a basic post on this site. For those who have no creative ability, there’s the wise option of paying someone to create a stunning cover. Your sanity will also be left intact longer if you opt to pay someone to format your e-book. Smashwords has a list of providers.

I made a stop yesterday that I wanted to mention. RachnaChhabria did a lovely interview with a guest author, who talked about professionalism in writing, editing, and publishing one’s work. It’s worth a visit.

A lot to learn in a week, huh? And I really haven't scratched the surface yet.

Before you go, are there any pearls of wisdom, or good links you want to share?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've read tweets, blog posts, and FB status updates about these headaches. Yes, take it one step at a time.

    There's some free public domain pics out there that would make for good covers. I can't remember the link.

  3. Hi,

    Hee hee, know just where you're at: I've got the T-shirt!


  4. I can't even begin to get my head around this stuff, so kudos to you :)

  5. Medeia, I'm looking at this an another learning experience,which it is, so I am just putting one foot in front of the other, knowing the journey will be slow, but fruitful.

    Francine, I lift my hat to you. I know you've trod this road already. :)

    Slow and steady is my mantra, and the reason I haven't thought about pulling my hair out yet.

  6. Over a year ago I was looking at Lulu for self-publishing. They have a package that provides you with the USBN.

    As for cover art-- I had a friend suggest that I look at some of the sites where artists post their work and if I liked a style, contact them to see if they would be willing to draw up something for a fee.

    Best of luck with all of it!

  7. Kait Nolan's got some great posts explaining self-publishing steps, if you haven't already seen them.
    The cover art would be one of the aspects that would stress me out the most, I think, since I have no eye for that sort of thing at all. Guess that's the good thing about blogging and crit partners - you can always ask for others' advice!

  8. No pearls of wisdom re. formatting I'm afraid, but I think you're going about it exactly right -- just keep breaking it down into manageable chunks. Each one is achievable!

  9. Thanks for sharing, Mary.

    Deniz, I definitely will do a stopover at Kait's blog. You gotta love the writing community. A great bunch of supportive people.

    Amie, right. Small tasks I can manage. :)

  10. When I did some research about Amazon's CreateSpace, I saw they had a lot of information, but because it was in links it didn't feel as intimidating as staring down a 71-page manual. :) If we as authors can write a book one step at a time, you're right that this next stage will happen in the same way. But, oh, that first time!

  11. Hey, Michelle, yes, bite-sized bits for me at this stage!

  12. I'm leaning more and more toward self-publishing myself so all of this information is very helpful. Thanks for compiling it all. I'd love to learn more about your self-publishing process and what you learn.

    Thanks for posting this.

  13. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. :D Yours is amazing, too!

    What an excellent post this is. It's so nice of you to share all the info you've found. I'm in awe of anyone who can navigate the waters of self publishing. It seems pretty tough and oh so much to learn. Sounds like you're on top of it though. Great job. You're right. One thing at time will get you through to the end. :D Good luck

  14. Hey, Angela, glad this helps. I'm learning things everyday. Found out today that Smashworda also can provide ISBN numbers, which makes sense. Lots to learn from that manual I talked about in this post.

  15. That book would terrify me. In fact the whole process would terrify me. It's great to read about how you are managing it and understanding it and I imagine that writing it out for us, also helps it sink in that little bit better for you. Reinforcing what you have already read.

    A great and informative post.

  16. You've got a good handle on it! Bowker is the best place to get bar codes, too. There's sites that offer them for free, but they don't guarantee they will work. Scary thought!
    I do encourage writers to have their covers professionally designed though. Cover art is so important. It's the first thing people see online and you're competing against big publishers, so it needs to stand out and look professional.

  17. Thanks, Cheryl-Ann,
    There really is much to learn. Which is why I’m starting with just one story that I intend to give away. The process will help me cut my teeth in the self-pubbing arena.

    I think that approaching this as a no-rush project will help me keep my sanity. The more time I take to read and understand what I am doing, the better and more smoother things will be. You’re right, putting what I’ve learned somewhere is helping me move slowly, but surely towards where I plan to be some months down the road.

    Dianne, thanks for stopping in. I think based on the information people like yourself are sharing with me, I can also think about doing a ‘pearls of wisdom’ post somewhere down the road – with people’s permission, of course.

    I agree that cover art is of vital importance. I did some research on that last night too, since I like being rounded in every direction.

  18. This is some extremely useful advice and I thank you so much for sharing this with the writing community. You rock! Sorry I haven't been around in a while. Hope you'll still keep as a follower. :)

  19. A that should be "me" as a follower LOL Typos Arrgh!

  20. Hi, Melissa,

    I've been just as swamped as you and every other writer around.:) Thanks for dropping in. Glad the information is helpful.


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