How to Publish on Smashwords

Publishing your first ebook is a lot like sex. You can read about it all day long, even ask your friends, “what was it like,” but until you’ve actually done it, it remains a big mystery. So here it is, my friends, the nitty-gritty of my first Smashwords experience.

Step One: Getting the File

If you’re re-releasing a print book as an ebook, first, you have to get an MS Word file that matches the print book. For that, you can send a physical copy of the book to SB Services (listed on my Author Resource page). Or, you can find a pirated copy online like I did. Either way, you have to read through the whole thing carefully to be sure it’s clean. Cleaning up a pirated copy was so time consuming that I recommend hiring SB Services, since I’ve heard several authors praise the cleanness of the scan. Whichever route you take, read this blog post for my tip on making your read-through easier.

Step Two: Preparing the File

You have two options. You can read the Smashwords Style Guide and prepare the file yourself, or you can hire someone like Rob Sider at to do it for you. I really wanted to do it all myself so I could share my great knowledge here, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I got nearly there on my own, but then I read something on Amazon about needing a searchable table of content.

That was also when Life reared its ugly head and things got so crazy, I couldn’t handle learning one more thing. So, I cried uncle and hired Rob. Since my file was already so close to being ready, he charged me very little to finish it. Money WELL spent! Thank you Rob Sider! You saved my sanity!

Step Three: Uploading the File

Here’s the nitty-gritty. The actual deed. The part that remained a mystery until I did it.

I went to Smashwords, opened an account, and created my profile on Smashwords. Then I hit the “Publish” tab and started filling in all the little boxes. I’m embarrassed to say the first attempt flopped. I think the file failed to upload because I was so nervous about doing everything right that I took too long.

The first hitch was I didn’t write a synopsis ahead of time. So when I got to that box, I had to stop and write one. You’re allowed 400 characters, including spaces. Mine is EXACTLY 400, to the last period. Ha! (read it here.)

Next, you upload the MS Word file and the cover. Covers should be 72 dpi, 600 pixels by 900 pixels. You can deviate from the pixel size a bit, but from doing several covers (see My Cover Designs) this size really is best.

Step Four: Try Again — Troubleshooting

I did all the above, then hit “Publish.” And . . . nothing happened. What?! After all these months of prep and I failed??? If you succeed, you’ll see a spinning wheel as each format uploads. For me, nothing happened the first time.

I went through the process a second time, and the file uploaded fine (Woo-hoo!), BUT I got an error message saying I hadn’t done my copyright area right. So I had to fix that and re-upload the corrected file.

The Mistakes I Made

1) I really do think I took too long uploading the file once I started the process. So, have everything ready to go, your synopsis written, and don’t obsess — you can make changes later if you need to.

2) I deleted the words “Smashwords Edition” that Rob Sider at had inserted to my copyright area. My logic was, I’m planning to buy my own ISBN number, so I didn’t think I needed it. I did. If you’re using Smashwords, you need the word Smashwords somewhere in that opening area. On the recommendation of Mark Coker at Smashwords, I replace “Smashwords Edition” with “Published by Julie Ortolon at Smashwords.”


If you need to make changes to your Word file after you’ve uploaded it, click on “Edit this book” on your dashboard. One of the first choices on the page is “upload new document.” So really, don’t stress about getting it exactly right the first time. You’re uploading a file, not setting it in stone.


Once you hit Publish and the file goes through, does your book instantly appear at all the online bookstores? Uh…no. You have to qualify for the Premium Catalog, which takes time. As in a few days or even weeks. Ugh. I did not know that. So that’s where I am, waiting to get word that I’ve been anointed as worthy.

In the meantime, help me celebrate! My first ebook, Falling for You, is available in all ereader formats at Smashwords.

If you find this blog useful and want to say thanks for all the information I share, I’ll be real subtle here and say, “Buy my book from Amazon,, or Smashwords!” You can also download a free sample, but hey, the while book is only $2.99. Hallmark “Tank You” cards cost more than that!

How was that for subtle? *G*

I have lots more information coming so stay tuned. And happy cyber surfing!

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