Tag Archives: self-publishing

Sharing the Smashwords Love: My Story On Why & How I Came to Self-Publish

It began with a vampire. No, not the shiny ones or lovers and fighters on the big screen, but a virtually unknown Russian named Vlody who first appeared in my consciousness eleven years ago.

I’d been traditionally published in a few different genres a few times and though this wasn’t my main literary focus, it was a fun, dark fantasy-filled tale I wished to share with the world. Since I had positive communication with one of my publishers, I submitted “Katrdeshtr’s Redemption,” The Night Cat, Book 1, which they said was well-written but didn’t work for them, as they accepted fantasy but didn’t wish to go into this type of sub-genre. Entirely their choice, of course, but instead of queuing back in line and laboring through the submit, decline and resubmit process, since my schedule was quite busy at the time, I decided to self-publish.

I first went to Amazon as I’d heard of their self-publishing application. I searched other websites and companies also, but as I didn’t have extra cash I wished to front for publishing my work, especially considering some of the fees being charged, I kept looking. I came across Smashwords through a simple surf on the web, by entering the question, “Best place to self-publish.”

After reading the Smashwords Style Guide, and all the little steps and tics to formatting a manuscript, at first I was overwhelmed and didn’t think I could do it. But I told myself, “Hey, you wrote the book in the first place, why shouldn’t you be able to take it a step further?” With Katrdeshtr’s beautiful, immortal voice also demanding to be heard, I did exactly as the guide suggested, I set aside several hours to devote solely to editing my story, formatting and rechecking my work. Using the guide, step by step, I found it wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined it to be, it just took time and dedication: just like writing a book in the first place.

Wishing to have my story in the Premium Catalog, I made yet another nervous yet thrilling leap, as I downloaded the free graphic art application Paint.net and created the cover image layering a photo I’d taken plus free images on the web. And so my character, Katrdeshtr the Night Cat (as he renamed himself after a few hundred years finding his original, Vlody, too boring) was given the face I’d imagined and his supernatural story was presented to the world with the help of Smashwords.

Soon after that I published three more titles at Smashwords, but for a particular work of mine since it was a lighter type of fantasy set in a contemporary setting, I regressed a little, I’d call it, I was interacting with that same publisher again and though they said again it was beautifully written, they didn’t think their readers would like it and that it wasn’t personally something they’d like to read and they only published what they liked to read.

…didn’t think their readers would like it….?

….it wasn’t personally something they’d like to read…?

….they only published what they liked to read….?


That didn’t sit well with me at all. I believe it is the reader’s choice what they want to read, and they should be given every opportunity to find something special for them. So with pleasure and new determination, I returned to Smashwords, self-publishing the title, “The Angel of Berlin”, and though my other works have received good reviews, it has been my most successful venture to date.

My Next Steps

I asked some of my friends who are also writers, but hadn’t decided whether to publish their work or who’d admitted not wishing to go through the extremely subjective process of acceptance by traditional publishing, I told them without hesitation and with great confidence, go to Smashwords! Do it your way!

Because too many indie and self-published books are still getting shunted to the side and dismissed by review groups, on 31 October 2010, I opened my review/interview site “Flying With Red Haircrow” utilizing the knowledge and methods I’d gained as a reviewer and intake coordinator for online literary magazines.  And a few months ago, though I’d self-published my own works, I opened the indie publishing side of my brand, opening it to other authors who may need help along the independent path. I’ve been fortunate to find a partner as enthusiastic about a few projects I had in mind. At both sides, authors are welcome to submit their press releases, promos and updates to have them post, shared around and auto-fed to other sites like Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, that I am a part of.

Our slogan and mission at  “Flying With Red Haircrow”:

“Enjoying the freedom of creativity…”

  • To provide unique perspectives.
  • To provide readers with more variety.

Our quote:

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.”

— Red Haircrow

 My Testimony

With the advertising, marketing and online interaction I take part in every day, besides the many review requests received regularly, I get a lot of email, but one of the messages I always read first whenever it appears is the newsletter from Mark Coker’s Smashwords Blog.

Helpful, honest, willing to ask and answer the hard questions about publishing and the writing industry and market in general, it always provides a level of encouragement I find absolutely indispensable. On those days I feel like everything is going wrong with my writing or have those moments of doubt on whether this was the best choice, I reread articles on that blog. It never fails to provide me with the courage and motivation I need to continue.

What are some of the tips I have for writers on self-publishing and Smashwords?

  • First of all, believe you can do it, because you can!
  • Secondly, conceive, write, edit and revise to the very best of your abilities, get help if you need it and accept constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart and understand you and your work. That way you can be 100% confident in whatever you produce, and when/if you do receive a review where someone didn’t like it, you still know your work and you are worthy. It just might not have suited their personal tastes.
  • Follow the Smashwords Style Guide closely. They have carefully provided a manual for your work to look as best as possible.  Presentation and quality are two of the keys to your success.
  • The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide can save you a lot of time and angst, don’t be too proud to rethink things when you need to. Remain true to your purpose, but also be willing to adapt as the ebook publishing industry is continuing to evolve.
  • Even on those days when you feel sales aren’t meeting your expectations, or you’d think about what more you could do to make your books a success, take time out to read other writer’s heartfelt expressions of how Smashwords helped them achieve their goal of being published. Sharing the proverbial love is a great way to receive positive feedback and support. Help other and help yourself. Visit the Smashwords page on Facebook. Reach out to others, as there are plenty of indie enthusiasts out there.

And just a few tips for writers from the standpoint of a reviewer:

  • No matter what the reviewer says, remember you took the steps to write, publish and share you work, and for that alone you might be congratulated.
  • For reviews where constructive criticism is offered in an objective way, take it for what it is. No writer is infallible, and we can see that when even well-known and widely successful writers are critiqued heavily. Take it as encouragement to improve your craft, something we can all try to do, whatever level we’re on.
  • Reviews are inherently subjective. Even though it’s hard to receive a chancy or poor review, remember that one person may not care for your work, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t either. On the other hand, if you find a number of people saying the same thing, this should give you an indication of what might need attention.

What Smashwords can do for you and what I love most about them!

Smashwords is an excellent website and great opportunity both for authors and publishers to get their work out there were readers can read it!

After writing your blurb and description, deciding on the genre and tags for your work, and creating or commissioning a cover image (if you would like to be included in the premium catalog), you can take your well-edited manuscript saved as a Microsoft Word file and upload it with just a few clicks then their specialty application converts it into several different formats of your choice.

After passing a necessary inspection and being checked for errors in formatting, your work will be available on the site. If your file meets further simple requirements regarding presentation, cover and quality, your ebook will be included in the Premium Catalog which ships out to online distributors like Sony, Apple, Kobo and more if you wish. You can opt in or opt out of any of these choices.

Easy to read graphs and reports can show you how your ebook is selling across the web, and you can receive notification at your personal email address whenever you have a sale on-site. If you have any questions, Smashwords has a great staff who’ll answer as soon as possible. Create your profile, add your website and feeds from other sites like Twitter and WordPress, and Smashwords can be your central location for telling readers more about yourself and your work.

The thing I love most about Smashwords is the upfront and no non-sense, yet professional and friendly approach they have. If they’ve made an oversight or error, they tell us. They regularly post site updates so you can know what’s going and to help you get as much exposure for your work as possible. It is an interaction process that I greatly appreciate because I feel they honestly and personally have my best interests as a writer at heart.


Filed under Writers and Writing

The Special Beauty of Indie Writers

Sometimes it’s a spur of the moment chance you take. At others, after careful contemplation, you summon up the courage to let someone else read your writing. Often the reader is a close friend, a relative perhaps, or in a wider example, a professional acquaintance such as a work or schoolmate.

For many, it takes special initiative to prepare their work to the best of their ability and submit to a publisher. The wait for a reply, whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’, can be agonizing…if you receive one at all. The latter may apply if you’ve neglected to format exactly to their specifications or missed some other guideline. But whatever the case, making the final edits and sending them off by email or post, is an accomplishment in itself, of which anyone could be proud.

I once had an acquaintance tell me, “Wow, I’ve never met a writer before!” And I replied, “You’ve probably met a lot of them, but just didn’t know. They were shopkeepers, or nursery workers or any other job out there, but they also wrote and probably keep it to themselves quietly creating their masterpiece.”

The whole process of having submitted to a publisher then awaiting reply can disturb your sleep, distract your mind during the day, and generally leave you on edge, but if you receive an expression of interest or intention, the taste of success can be sweet indeed. Feelings of validation, accomplishment and triumph are only a few of the emotions you might experience.

You’re given the date for your book release, and be assured the publishers wish it to succeed for they’ll get paid just like you do. Multiple announcements to online groups, magazines and the like, besides those in printed form will be launched forth, so a base number of interested buyers will be available who’ll give you a chance even if you’re new or not yet “a name.”

Taking the independent or self-published route, however, takes a unique and special courage that too often goes unacknowledged or is misunderstood as to reason behind the choice. You still have those who very mistakenly call self-pub or indie publishing “vanity publishing” and negative stereotypes persist towards indie authors, though this area of the writing industry has grown in positive leap and bounds and quality is increasing exponentially.

Even more so than with a traditional publisher, going the “indie route” takes extra effort on the writer’s part if they are going to succeed, and by that, I mean even selling just one copy. It is your drive, your personality and the strength of your hard work that can directly affect not just your sales but your “name”, how you’re viewed by others.

A special sub-category of this particular discussion is sending your work out for review, because that’s directly asking for someone’s opinion on your work, for good or for ill. We all know reviews can be very subjective based on the individual who is reading.

Publishing your own work or being accepted by a traditional publisher is a presentation of your writing to others, not easy but not exactly hard either. Requesting reviews is a different ballpark in my opinion, often needing an extra bolstering up of that courage I mentioned before.

As an indie or self-published writer, whatever term you use, sometimes it can feel like you have not just your own doubts working against you, but the industry itself and even other writers, not to mention readers and reviewers. We all have read of the publishers and agents who seem to look down on indie work as if it is not as good as “traditionals” or even worthy of their attention; that being a self-published writer is something to somehow be ashamed of.

But, why other writers and readers?

Just a couple of the reasons: some “traditional” writers also look down on indie writers, making the assumption the indies just “couldn’t get a deal” or their work wasn’t of a high enough level. Some believe indies took the “easy” way out, scorning the “proper” channels in order to just get “something” out there on the market.

Sure, there are writers like that. Some don’t take the proper time to make sure their work is formatted or edited properly for a variety of devices or print. Some obvious errors go uncorrected or are overlooked even in stories of good quality. These are some of the complaints readers who do take a chance with indies often cite. Many review groups or individuals do not accept self-pubs or indie at all and definitively state it in their guidelines, reflecting readership in general. They don’t even give indies a chance in the first place.

So we’ve other writers, “old” aspects of the publishing industry, readers and reviewers against us, which can occasionally seem overwhelming. Who of us writers have joined a writing website, guild or group and received a welcome, yet after we speak of our work and that it’s indie…suddenly no one has much interest? I can’t say it has happened to me often, as I do have work formerly published through traditional channels and books published under my own brand, Flying With Red Haircrow, but I have felt the condescending vibe that it’s not “real” or to be taken seriously if it’s been self-published. Very certainly in certain genres this seems to be a widespread belief.

What I’ve found so refreshing about interaction between myself and other self-published or indie writers is the enthusiasm and lack of pretension. I haven’t felt the intensity of competition, the attempts or need to “one-up” someone else, put someone in their supposed place as a “newbie” or less seasoned writer, or the keeping of exclusive circles of the “elite.”

As indies, we’re all on a level playing field as it were, and it is more often recognized or expressed as such. Many indies out there, if they can help another writer, they do so without hesitation. Of course, there are some friends or acquaintances you may get to know better, but the favoritism apparent among traditionals I’ve observed, is far less.

Although I still respect the hard work “traditionals” put into aspects of their craft, once I went indie, it’s really hard to go back to the strictures and attitudes and boundaries of traditional publishers who have their schedules to keep and preferences on what they believe readers want to read.

I’ve been privileged to get to know some of the histories and heartfelt expressions of the indie authors I’ve reviewed here at Flying With Red Haircrow. Working on a novel for decades with the feeling it’s not comparable to published works, or that they lack the credentials or reputation to get it in print, but finally taking the steps to publish it themselves. The outright fear and anxiety they felt submitting their book for review, and the ones who were cognizant some parts of their writing could use improvement but eager and willing to try their very best to make it so. To me, indie authors/publishers and their supporters are beautiful things. And that’s exactly why I included these words on my seekers of review/interview page:

“I respect the courage it takes to allow someone to read your dreams and imaginings because in many ways it can reflect your ideals and inner self, some aspect which might not ordinarily be presented to the world.”

Indie and self-published writers, keep your spirits up! Your courage is to be admired. You’re not only putting your heart, your work out there to be accepted, liked or disliked in critique, you are presenting yourself solely as captain of your own fate, to rise or fall by your own means, by merit of your own skill. That can be intimidating, but also exhilarating to plan and execute the literary journey of your dreams.

There are more and more out there, but a few sites that support indie authors/publishers: Step by Step Self-Publishing, Smashwords, Indie Book Collective and The Indie Spotlight. Take advantage of those who appreciate, advertise and improve your presence and work.

Addendum 5 June–

From Mark Coker’s Smashwords Blog even more encouragement and enthusiasm for indie writers and this special revolution, Three Year Retrospective, and a Look Ahead:

I founded Smashwords with the firm conviction there’s a vast human potential trapped inside the minds and fingertips of unpublished writers. I thought if we could provide the enabling tools to help writers unleash their potential upon the world – to be judged by readers – that great things could happen.

Today, great things are happening. Indie authors are inching up the best-seller lists, and their success inspires the next wave to go indie. Yet commercial success and the promise or potential thereof is not the primary driver for the indie revolution. Writers write for reasons different than publishers publish.

More writers will write, more will publish, and more will bypass publishers to connect directly to readers.”

Simply amazing!

Be part of the revolution!


Filed under Writers and Writing