How to Publish Your Book to Smashwords: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Self-publishing has opened doors for many authors, and platforms like Smashwords have made it even more accessible. ‘How to publish your book to Smashwords’ is a question many authors ask when they’re ready to take the plunge into the world of digital publishing.

Smashwords offers a straightforward path for getting your book out there, reaching readers worldwide. It’s known for its ease of use and wide distribution network, making it a popular choice among self-publishing authors.

Embarking on your Smashwords publishing journey can be both exciting and daunting. This article aims to guide you through each step, from preparing your manuscript to marketing your published book, ensuring a smooth and successful publishing experience.

How to Publish Your Book to Smashwords

Smashwords is one of the best alternatives to Amazon KDP, so here is a step by step guide on how to publish your ebooks to Smashword easily and without any unnecessary hustle.

1. Creating a Smashwords Account

How to Publish Your Book to Smashwords

The first step to publishing your book on Smashwords is creating an account on their platform. This process is straightforward and the starting point for your self-publishing journey.

To begin, head to the Smashwords website and look for the sign-up option.

You’ll be asked to provide some basic information like your name, email address, and a chosen password.

It’s important to use an email address that you check regularly, as this will be the primary way Smashwords communicates with you about your book and account.

Before you create your account, there are a few prerequisites you should have ready.

Firstly, decide if you’re publishing as an individual or on behalf of a company, as this will affect your account setup.

If you’re planning to receive payments, ensure that your financial information, such as your PayPal account, is in order since Smashwords uses PayPal to pay royalties.

Also, have a clear idea of your publishing goals. Are you planning to release just one book, or do you intend to publish multiple titles? Your approach might influence how you set up and manage your Smashwords account.

Once your account is set up, you’ll have access to your Smashwords Dashboard. This is where you’ll manage your books, track sales, and access useful resources.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the Dashboard’s features – it will be a valuable tool as you progress through the publishing process.

2. Preparing Your Manuscript

Getting your manuscript ready for Smashwords is a crucial step. Their specific formatting guidelines ensure that your book can be converted into various eBook formats and distributed through their channels.

Following these guidelines closely will save you time and prevent issues during the publishing process.

Firstly, Smashwords requires that manuscripts be submitted in a Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx).

This format is preferred because it’s compatible with their Meatgrinder conversion tool, which turns your Word document into different eBook formats. If your manuscript is in a different format, consider using Word or a compatible word processor like Google Docs or LibreOffice to convert it.

Here are some key formatting tips:

  1. Use Styles: Smashwords strongly recommends using Word’s built-in styles for formatting. This includes headings, subheadings, and body text. Styles ensure consistency throughout your document and help with the conversion process.
  2. Avoid Complex Formatting: Keep your formatting simple. Complex elements like headers, footers, and footnotes can cause issues. Smashwords’ system works best with straightforward text.
  3. Insert a Table of Contents: For longer works, a clickable table of contents is essential. This can be easily created in Word using the ‘Insert Table of Contents’ feature.
  4. Use a Standard Font: Stick to common fonts like Times New Roman or Arial. Unusual fonts might not convert correctly.
  5. Spacing and Margins: Ensure consistent spacing and reasonable margins. Smashwords suggests 1-inch margins all around and a 1.5 or double line spacing.
  6. Images: If your book includes images, they should be properly embedded in the Word document and of a reasonable size.

Smashwords provides a comprehensive guide called the ‘Smashwords Style Guide’, which is available for free on their website. This guide is an invaluable resource, walking you through the formatting process step-by-step.

Additionally, software tools like Calibre can be helpful for previewing how your book will look in different eBook formats.

This tool isn’t necessary for formatting but can be useful for ensuring your book looks good in various formats after conversion.

3. Designing Your Book Cover

The cover of your book can significantly influence a reader’s decision to buy and read your book. It’s the first impression potential readers have, so investing time and effort into your cover design is crucial.

Your cover should reflect the genre of your book. Readers often look for visual cues to find books within their interest area.

A good cover is also a marketing tool, helping your book stand out in crowded online bookstores.

Designing Your Own Cover

  • Use Design Software: If you have design skills, you can use software like Adobe InDesign or free tools like Canva to create your cover.
  • Follow Genre Conventions: Look at other popular books in your genre for inspiration. Notice common color schemes, fonts, and image elements.
  • Keep It Simple: Avoid cluttering your cover with too many elements. Focus on a central image or idea that captures the essence of your book.
  • Test Different Designs: Create multiple versions and ask for feedback from potential readers to see which design resonates most.

Finding a Professional Designer

  • Explore Platforms: Websites like Reedsy, Fiverr, and 99designs connect authors with freelance cover designers.
  • Check Portfolios: Review the portfolios of potential designers to ensure their style aligns with your vision.
  • Communicate Clearly: When you find a designer, communicate your book’s synopsis, target audience, and any specific ideas or concepts you have for the cover.
  • Budgeting: Keep in mind that professional designers come with varying price tags. Ensure you find someone within your budget who can deliver quality work.

Remember, your book cover is an investment in your book’s success. Whether you design it yourself or hire a professional, ensure it accurately represents the quality and theme of your work.

4. Uploading Your Manuscript


Once your manuscript is formatted according to Smashwords’ guidelines, the next step is to upload it to the platform.

This process is straightforward but requires attention to detail to ensure your book is correctly categorized and easily discoverable.

  1. Log In to Your Smashwords Dashboard: After logging in, you’ll find an option to ‘Publish’ on the dashboard. Clicking this will start the process of uploading your book.
  2. Enter Book Details: You’ll be prompted to fill in the details of your book, including the title, description, and pricing. Write a compelling description as it’s one of the key factors that attract readers.
  3. Choose Categories: Selecting the right categories is crucial for reaching your target audience. Smashwords allows you to choose multiple categories and tags for your book. Think about where your book fits best – whether it’s romance, mystery, non-fiction, etc., and choose accordingly.
  4. Setting Up Metadata: Metadata includes information like your book’s title, subtitle (if any), series name, language, and publication date. Accurate metadata improves your book’s discoverability. Ensure all information is correct and aligns with your book’s content.
  5. Upload Your Manuscript: Now, upload your formatted Word document. Smashwords will convert this file into multiple eBook formats.
  6. Upload Your Book Cover: Upload the cover image for your book. Remember, the cover should be a high-resolution image, as it’s the first thing potential readers will see.
  7. ISBN Assignment: Smashwords can provide you with a free ISBN, which is a unique identifier for your book, or you can use your own if you have one.
  8. Review and Publish: After uploading your manuscript and cover, and filling out all the details, review everything to ensure accuracy. Once you’re satisfied, click the ‘Publish’ button to submit your book. It will then go through Smashwords’ review process, and once approved, it will be listed for sale.
  9. Distribution Settings: Finally, select your distribution channels. Smashwords distributes to major eBook retailers, but you can choose where your book is sent.

It’s important to note that you can update your book details and files anytime after publishing. It’s important to periodically review your book’s listing to ensure that all information remains current and accurate.

5. Setting the Price and Distribution Channels

Price and distribution channels can significantly impact your book’s reach and profitability.

Advice on Pricing Your eBook

  • Consider Your Goals: Are you looking to maximize revenue, or do you want to reach the widest possible audience? Higher prices can yield more revenue per sale, but lower prices might attract more readers.
  • Research Your Genre: Look at the pricing of other eBooks in your genre. Pricing your book within a similar range can make it competitive.
  • Experiment with Pricing: Smashwords allows you to change your book’s price easily. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different price points to see what works best for your book.
  • Consider Promotions: You might start with a lower price to attract initial readers and reviews, and then adjust it later. Smashwords also allows you to create coupon codes for promotions.

Selecting Distribution Channels:

  • Wide Distribution: Smashwords offers wide distribution to major eBook retailers like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple Books, as well as to libraries.
  • Opt-In or Opt-Out: You can choose which channels you want to distribute your book through. Consider where your target audience is most likely to shop for eBooks.
  • Exclusivity Considerations: Be aware that some channels, like Amazon’s KDP Select, require exclusivity. If you choose to distribute through Smashwords, you cannot enroll your book in these exclusive programs.
  • Library Distribution: Smashwords also distributes to library aggregators, which can be a great way to reach new readers. Libraries pay for their eBook inventory, offering another revenue stream.

Setting the right price for your eBook and choosing effective distribution channels are key to your success on Smashwords. These decisions should align with your overall publishing strategy and goals, helping you to maximize both your book’s reach and your earnings.

6. Marketing Your Book on Smashwords


Effectively marketing your book is vital for its success on Smashwords. While the platform provides great tools and services for distribution, actively promoting your book can significantly increase its visibility and sales.

Tips for Marketing on Smashwords

  • Optimize Your Book’s Listing: Make sure your book’s description is engaging and keyword-rich. This can improve its visibility in searches both on Smashwords and in external search engines.
  • Utilize Smashwords’ Author Profile: Complete your author profile with a bio, photo, and links to your social media or website. This personal touch can attract readers and build a following.
  • Participate in Smashwords Promotions: Smashwords occasionally runs site-wide promotions, like the annual Read an Ebook Week. Participating in these events can give your book more exposure.
  • Use Smashwords Coupons: Create coupon codes for promotions and share these with your audience, particularly during holidays or special events.

Marketing Beyond Smashwords:

  • Leverage Social Media: Share your book on social media platforms. Engage with your audience by creating content related to your book’s theme or genre.
  • Build an Email List: Collect email addresses through your website or at events. Regularly update your subscribers with news about your book and any promotions.
  • Get Reviews: Encourage readers to leave reviews on Smashwords and other platforms. Positive reviews can boost your book’s credibility.
  • Collaborate with Bloggers: Reach out to bloggers or influencers in your genre. Offer them a free copy of your book in exchange for a review or feature.

Smashwords Marketing Tools and Services:

  • Smashwords Author Interviews: You can create a self-interview using Smashwords’ interview tool, which is then published on your profile page. This can give readers more insight into you and your book.
  • Smashwords Widgets: Use Smashwords’ Book Widgets to showcase your book on your blog or website. These widgets link directly to your book’s page on Smashwords.
  • Smashwords Affiliate Program: Encourage others to promote your book by participating in the Smashwords Affiliate Program, which offers a commission on sales made through affiliate links.

Remember, effective marketing is about connecting with your audience and building relationships. Utilize the tools available on Smashwords and combine them with broader marketing strategies to maximize the reach and impact of your book.


Publishing your book on Smashwords can be a straightforward and rewarding journey. With the right preparation, from setting up your account to formatting your manuscript and choosing the perfect cover, you’re well on your way to sharing your work with a global audience. The process of how to publish your book to Smashwords is designed to be user-friendly, perfect for both new and experienced authors.

Remember, the success of your book on Smashwords also depends on your marketing efforts. By taking advantage of the platform’s tools and services, you can maximize your book’s potential and reach readers worldwide, turning your publishing dreams into reality.


How much does it cost to publish on Smashwords?

Publishing on Smashwords is free. There are no fees for uploading and distributing your eBook. They make money by taking a small percentage from your book sales.

How does Smashwords pay authors?

Smashwords pays authors through PayPal. They transfer your earnings monthly, provided you meet the minimum payment threshold.

How much money do you make on Smashwords?

Your earnings on Smashwords depend on your book’s price and sales volume. Smashwords offers up to 80% royalty on sales made through their platform and 60% through other retailers.

Is Smashwords a good place to publish?

Yes, Smashwords is a good platform for publishing, especially for authors looking for wide eBook distribution. It’s user-friendly and offers a higher royalty rate compared to many other platforms.

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Stefan is the CEO of Automateed.

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