I’ve been announcing my impending entry into the brave new world of self-publishing e-books for some time now but, as with everything, it was taking much longer to get organized than I had originally hoped. So last weekend when a couple of friends independently ask me for my feedback on publishing with Smashwords, I decided, “Eff it, I’m going to self-publish this weekend or cough up blood trying.” Okay, maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but I made a vow and stuck to it. Last weekend I uploaded my short story “The Mailbox” to Smashwords.

“But, wait,” you cry, “how come this is the first I’m hearing about it? Why haven’y you blogged, tweeted, or facebooked about this if it’s been up for a week already?!?”

A fair question, sailor. Well, the first thing I noticed is that the mobi file (the format used by the Kindle) created by Smashwords had a glitch in it, a blank line like an extra return in the middle of a paragraph. I tweaked and retweaked my specially formatted Word document, uploading it over and over, but no matter what I did that blank line kept appearing in the same spot. The epub version (used by Apple and others) and the pdf, generated from the same Word doc, looked fine. I emailed Smashwords support about the glitch and am waiting for a response.

Next I was going to assign an ISBN to my story. You have to have an ISBN to be sold by Apple, Sony, and Kobo. But I got an error message when I tried to assign the ISBN. Turns out Smashwords has run out of them. They’ve ordered another batch, and should get them soon. Okay, another small annoyance, but I’ll just have to take care of that issue when they get the new lot of numbers in the system.

Next I noticed another speed bump. Although Smashwords creates a Kindle file that readers can buy directly from Smashwords, due to some technical gobbledygook with Amazon, the files aren’t listed there. Ka-what? Amazon is practically taking over bookselling but my story won’t be for sale there? Never fear, however, you just have to deal with them directly. So today I clicked over to Kindle Direct Publishing to upload “The Mailbox.” I figured it would be easy, because I’ve already got the text and cover file I created for Smashwords.

Turns out I was counting my unhatched chickens before the horse, as they say. I uploaded the file and, being new to the Kindle Direct process, realized too late that I’d already published it before previewing the results of the file conversion. I finally figured out how to preview it and discovered all my paragraph indents had disappeared for no apparent reason. Yay. So I unpublished the Amazon version and now have to figure out what went wrong there. At least that damn blank line in the Smashwords Kindle file wasn’t there.

This might sound like I’m bashing Smashwords, but that’s not my intention. These are just some bumps in the road. Keep in mind that the Smashwords service is free and gets you a free ISBN and uploads your story to several retailers; it’s a great deal. I’m going to stick with them and handle Amazon separately. I’ll get the bugs worked out and let you all know what happens. Meanwhile, I’m considering this blog my soft launch of “The Mailbox.” Click on over to Smashwords and check it out, it’s only 99 cents.