Often the first place new authors think of publishing their e-books is Amazon. And this makes sense since Amazon is the largest e-book retailer out there. But not everyone has a Kindle. Some people have Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Kobo or choose to read off their smart phones or computer. To reach these readers, you need to have your book in iTunes, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo store and various other e-book retailers.
One of the easiest ways to get your book into multiple e-book retailers is to publish it through Smashwords, a free self-publishing website. Once you format your book to their standards and submit it, Smashwords will distribute your e-book to other retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Baker & Taylor as well as Amazon. (See the complete distribution list here.) They also will offer your book on their own site, which allows readers to download e-books in ten different formats.
The good thing about publishing through Smashwords is that you only have to format your e-book once, and they provide a step-by-step style guide for you to follow. After that they take your book and run it through what they call their “meat-grinder” which then formats it correctly for whichever e-book retailer it is being sent to. This means they will create files that are compatible with a variety of e-reader formats such as EPUB, LRF, HTML and Mobi.
Now to have your e-book distributed to the other retailers, you need to be included in what Smashwords calls their Premier catalog. In order to be included, you must have a cover image and must correct any formatting errors that occur from going through their “meat-grinder”. (Be sure to go back and check your dashboard because they do not send an email with errors that need fixing.)
Now Smashwords can publish your books through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but some authors like to decline these options and use Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) and PubIt (Barnes and Noble) to publish on those retailers. The reason for this is that you will get paid quicker going directly through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and possibly earn a higher royalty rate.
Publishing on Smashwords costs you nothing. They do take a 15% commission off of each sale on their site. If your book is purchased through one of the major online retailers, you earn 60% of the suggested list price. In comparison, Amazon offers 35% to 70% royalties (based on the price you sell your e-book) and charges a delivery fee if you are getting the higher royalty rate. So by using Smashwords to distribute to Amazon, you will lose a portion of your royalties to pay for the middle man (assuming you priced your book $2.99 or higher to get the higher royalty rate).
I highly recommend using Smashwords to get your e-book out to the various e-book retailers. One of the other nice things about using Smashwords is that they make it very easy to offer discounts on your books through their coupon system. And they also offer free guides on marketing and publishing to help you succeed in your self-publishing endeavor.