Happy Thanksgiving. I thought I’d take this moment to tell all of you folks about a service I’m very thankful for indeed. But first, a little groundwork. You see, I write. Regular readers of the site may have noticed this. Most of what you get to see here falls into the categories of “pointless rhetoric” and “thorough review”, with a dash of good ol’ PR work here and there. What you may not know is that occasionally the urge strikes to write something a little more substantial. Something with a plot. The sort of thing that industry professionals might call “long-form prose” and what the rest of us would call “a book”.
When one of these literary urges comes along, I’ll generally scribble down thoughts in notepads until the feeling passes. The problem with that plan is that eventually I ended up with a mound of paper that, against all odds, reached a conclusion. Now, it is one thing to waste time. It is quite another to look at a physical pile of wasted time that can literally be measured in pounds. In order to justify such a colossal effort, I was going to have to try to publish this thing.
As I’ve established before, the traditional publishing system is a gauntlet that makes American Idol look positively nurturing by comparison. You craft a carefully edited and agonizingly polished query letter and send it to an endless sequence of literary agents. Most will simply fail to respond. The majority of those who remain will bounce back a form letter informing you that they are too busy to even READ your query. If you are extremely lucky, you’ll get a personally written rejection, containing a message that generally boils down to “Yeah, this sounds like it sucks.” If you are blessed, they’ll ask for a sample, or even the whole thing, which is a sneaky way for them to offer an even more crushing rejection that cites specific EXAMPLES of why you suck. On the one in a million chance that they agree to take you on as a client, that just means that it is the publisher’s turn to start doing the rejecting. As a person who doesn’t take rejection well, the process left me with a less than rosy attitude.
I was certain that there had to be a better way to get a book published than allowing an endless string of strangers say “tl,dr”, so I dug a bit. That’s when I found Smashwords. About three hours later, my book was ready to be published. That’s not an exaggeration, I seriously had it ready for customers in the same day that I found out about the site. If you have a book, and you can follow some simple guidelines, I guarantee that you can do the same.
I’m not saying that Smashwords has made me rich. It hasn’t. I’m just saying that Smashwords gave me the freedom to decide for myself whether or not my book was good enough. It gave me the ability to distribute it to people and see what they think, on my own terms, and with full control over every step of the process. It let me skip the endless hoops that the big publishers expect you to jump through, and it let me stand side-by-side with them in places like Barnes And Noble and the Apple Bookstore.
This isn’t a commercial. Smashwords isn’t sponsoring this site, and I’m not getting a dime for recommending them. They are just a service that has done for me what dozens more refused to do, and when they asked for help getting the word out, I thought you folks might want to know. If you want to see what I’ve published with them, you can find my stuff here and here. (Interested in reading them but don’t have the cash? Leave a comment and I’ll post a half price code. Yes, they let you make coupons. Isn’t that neat?) If you want to give Smashwords a try yourself, here’s something they put together to help you along: