Wednesday, March 23, 2011
My Experience With Smashwords...So Far
For over a year now, I've been publishing my ebooks through Smashwords, an online company that specializes in allowing indie authors to format and upload their digital books to be sold on different platforms, including the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Sony Reader. Although I've experience a few drawbacks during my time working with them, I would say my experience has been somewhat satisfactory.
The first thing I'd like to direct attention to is the wonderful resource Smashwords makes available to anyone who goes to their site - Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. This free guide walks you through step-by-step on how to format your manuscript in Microsoft Word to get it ready for Smashwords Meatgrinder technology that will spit out your manuscript in all of the formats available to Smashwords. This guide is valuable even if you don't decide to publish your ebooks through Smashwords because it gets your book ready to look decent on almost any ebook platform.
Publishing through Smashwords will give you 85% or more net sales proceeds from each book sale from their site. The numbers are lower if you go through the distribution channels because retail starts to take bigger pieces of the pie. Each book published through Smashwords gets its own page. Smashwords even lets you place links on your book's page of where readers can find the paperback versions.Readers can leave reviews - however a reader has to have purchased you book directly from Smashwords in order to leave a review on it, which is somewhat of a drawback. Although, authors can also create coupon codes to help promote their books. Some authors have used coupon codes that give 100% off a book. This allows Smashwords to track the download as a purchase, meaning the person who downloaded it can review the book without having to pay for it.
As convenient as Smashwords is, I have run into a few issues, such as my book taking forever to be approved for Smashword's distribution channels, and my book being denied distribution for reasons that were already resolved. I've written the support department on a number of these issues in the past without receiving a reply, although I've had Mark Coker email me himself and take care of the issues. As helpful as Mark's assistance was, I would hope to see the support team reply in a more prompt manner in the future. I know once or twice I was told that they never received my email, but in order to send them a message, you have to fill out a form on their own website, making that a technical issue on their side.
Another big issue I've seen more than once - and am currently dealing with again - is the pricing issue between Smashwords and the Sony Reader Store. I changed the price of my books on Smashwords at one point in the past and it took months for the price to change on the Sony site. When I wrote Smashwords support on this issue, I received an email back from Mark Coker explaining to me that he was working to resolve the issue.
Lo and behold, I changed the price of two of my books a couple months ago and I have yet to see the price change on the Sony site. Deja vu. However, it's changed on all the other sites I have open to distribution. This makes it difficult to tell people I have my book available for their Sony Reader because the prices are higher there than if they were to purchase my books at almost any other site. The only other option is for them to purchase the actual Sony Reader file from Smashwords and manually put it on their ebook reader.
One strange thing I've heard from other authors using Smashwords is that their sales went up when they pulled out of distribution through Barnes and Noble Nook and simply made their book available directly through the Nook platform, PubIt!. I thought this might be wishful thinking, but since I pulled out of the Nook distribution through Smashwords, I've sold two copies of my books through the Nook platform. I know that's not a lot, but my sales on that platform were zero before.
Overall, I recommend Smashwords to any indie author looking for a solid website to make their stories available in digital format on multiple ebook readers. Smashwords is still growing, especially with the big self-publishing buzz going around lately, and growing pains are inevitable. But the company looks to have a lot of potential and a very bright future.