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Publishing on the iPhone, iPad etc.

Monday, 5 April 2010

I've blogged previously about electronic publishing on the Kindle. You might be interested in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of that series of posts. But they only cover Amazon's machine and there are, of course, numerous other eReaders out there. Not the least of which are the Apple products : the iPhone, the iPod Touch and, soon, the iPad. These, of course, are so popular it's possible they'll become the de facto standard for eBooks (or, as I think we'll eventually call them, books).

So how easy is it to get your fiction onto all these other devices? Publishing to the Kindle via Amazon's DTP web site turned out to be pretty easy. How involved is it to publish on the iPhone/iPad, the Sony Reader etc?

In fact, it turns out to be pretty easy too. There are various ways of going about it, but I've been experimenting with the Smashwords service, which makes it a breeze to publish to a wide variety of platforms all at the same time. As they themselves put it :

Our ebooks are available for sale in the bookstore, and are also distributed via multiple online channels, including major online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo (formerly Shortcovers) and Sony, and the native catalogs of top mobile e-reading apps (Stanza on the iPhone used by 2.5 million+ people; eReader on the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile Smartphone, Palm Treo and Centro, Symbian Mobile Phones; Aldiko and Word-Player on Android phones).

So that seems to cover all the bases. Smashwords seem to be developing pretty actively, too, so I imagine they'll cover new devices and services as they emerge. For instance, they support Apple's just-opened iBookstore, the service that might become an iTunes for books. The neat thing is, you just upload your manuscript once and Smashwords convert it to all formats.

As with Amazon, the service is free to use, although you don't get 100% of any sales you make. You do, however, get 85%, far in excess of that offered by Amazon.

Using Smashwords is straightforward. After creating an account you just need to format your work in the required style (in Microsoft Word) and upload it along with your cover artwork. Smashword's formatting requirements are rather more comprehensive than Amazon's but they do publish a very clear Style Guide that you can download. I found it only took me a couple of attempts to get my story properly uploaded and formatted. You can easily test things out as you go by selecting the online, browser version of your story. When you're ready, you instruct Smashwords to publish and your work is out there.

Of course, that's only the beginning. Because the process of publishing is so straightforward, and because there is no editorial control, you'll be competing with a vast amount of other writers. As on the Kindle, your success will depend on how much effort you put into self-promotion and platform-building (and, obviously, how good a writer you are). There are many things you can do to promote your work but, again, Smashwords offer a guide full of advice. There's quite a lot you can do from their own site, e.g. generating voucher codes you can offer to your readers so they get discounted or even free downloads. For the record, I found it rather harder work to generate sales through Smashwords than it was through Amazon.

So there we are. Whatever the arguments for and against self-publishing/indie publishing for eReaders, it seems to me that, if you do want to try, using Amazon DTP and Smashwords together gives you just about everything you need right now.

Things will undoubtedly continue to evolve in this area. I, for one, still think it's preferable to aim for publication with a conventional publisher for something like a novel, even though there are undoubtedly people out there making some sort of a living via indie publishing. Perhaps the best approach is to publish some pieces electronically, with the hope of building up a readership that you can then carry with you into more conventional publishing. In this sense, ePublishing becomes just a part of the "platform building" that writers are so often encouraged to undertake. Not really very much different from, say, writing a blog ...

In any case, this is a rapidly-evolving area and one that it certainly makes sense for writers to keep an eye on.


  1. Hi

    Wow, thank you for keeping abreast of all these possibilities and then sharing them very succinctly here!

    This kind of self publishing is definitely something to be kept in mind for the aspiring writer!

    Good luck with all your attempts. I am now 46% into your short story! A proper kindle would have allowed me to read it on the train to and from work or wherever! Being kept here in my home pc means I only get to read about 5 minutes per day! Hence my slowness!


    Take care now


  2. Old Kitty,

    Glad these posts have been of some interest.

    I'm also glad you're reading TAM - perhaps you do need a Kindle? Mind you, I was using the London Underground recently and carried out an (unscientific) survey of eReaders while doing so. And the truth is I only saw one eReader at all and that was someone using an iPhone. Couldn't tell if they were reading my story though! But I saw lots of people reading paperbacks ...


I'd love to know what you think.