Smashwords – essential reading for eBook publishers

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been getting into Kindle publishing on Amazon recently. All my efforts have been a case of learning by doing, because I was starting from zero, with no experience of doing this before.

Ever heard of Smashwords? I must admit I hadn’t. I’m glad I have now, though. They seem to be pretty good at what they do, which is to act as a publisher and distributor for indie authors. They have a series of free eBooks, and I’ve already read the first one I found. It’s Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success by Mark Coker, which in my opinion is well worth a read if you’re interested in publishing books independently without wading through the quagmire of the traditional publishing industry.

Here’s a link to Mark Coker’s free Kindle eBook:

If you prefer, you can get it direct from the Smashwords site:

Whilst this is a very good read, and I do highly recommend this book, you should also remember that one of its purposes is to be a sales pitch for Smashwords. That doesn’t spoil the book, it’s just that when you read it you need to remember that the opinions expressed therein aren’t totally objective. They do work with Amazon, but they seem keen to persuade authors not to work exclusively with Amazon. That seems fair enough. We only ever agreed to 90 days of exclusivity on Amazon to give the books a bit of a kick-start.

Once our 90 days are up, I’ll definitely give Smashwords a try. Have you used Smashwords already? Please tell us your experience in the comments form below!

For those who have been following what we’ve been doing on the eBook publishing front, you may remember that we signed up to the Amazon KDP Select programme, which enables you to give your book away free for up to five days. This helps you to rank well in the Amazon search engine and thus drive sales once your book comes out of its free period and goes on sale.

Mark Coker is somewhat disparaging of KDP Select, as you’d expect from a distributor of eBooks. He doesn’t want you to agree to any exclusivity anywhere. He quite cheerfully describes the KDP Select programme and then snaps this on at the end of his description.

It’s an innovative, creative program, except for one fatal drawback in my opinion: It requires exclusivity.

He argues that authors should steer clear of the programme.

And then he asks if this demand for exclusivity is “evil genius” by Amazon.

He also has some scathing comments about DRM:

At Smashwords, we don’t infect our books with DRM (Digital Rights Management) copy protection schemes. We believe copy protection is counterproductive, because it treats honest, law-abiding customers like criminals by limiting their ability to enjoy your book.

Well, I know that this book is a sales pitch for Smashwords, but he does seem to be protesting a bit too much about Amazon and what they do sometimes.

On the subject of theft he goes on to say:

In 2011, we discovered about a dozen instances where criminals had stolen Smashwords ebooks our authors had priced at free. The criminals then republished them as ebooks at Amazon. As alarming as this may sound, it’s really difficult for the criminals to go undetected for very long, and most of them are caught before they earn a penny from their activity.

Hmm. I agree about the criminal activity, and I’ve seen it for myself with Clinton Lee’s content. Several thieves have simply copied and pasted his content and published it as a book. Thieves are bad enough. What I find truly shameful is that Amazon does not immediately remove these ‘books’ from sale immediately the theft has been reported.

Our first eBook will come out of its Amazon 90-day exclusivity period on 22 November 2012, so I’ll go and give Smashwords a try then. I’ll let you know how I get on. They also have an affiliate scheme, which I’m tempted to join, but I won’t yet until I’ve learned my way around a bit more.

Just in case you’re thinking, “Hey! Isn’t this supposed to be a blog about website traffic?”: yes, it is. There’s more than one purpose in publishing an eBook. Not only does it supply a stream (trickle in my case) of passive income once you’ve written the book, it also provides you with a means to tell more people about your websites. If they want more information to comment on or ask about anything, then they need to visit one of our websites to do it. You can’t talk to an eBook. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t answer you.

Have fun.


2 Responses to “Smashwords – essential reading for eBook publishers”

  1. Kimberly

    Smashwords sounds interesting; in four years they have published over 140,000 books by 45000 authors.

    In the ‘about’ section I found this:
    “Smashwords offers multiple free marketing tools to help authors and publishers connect with readers. We offer distribution to major online ebook retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple iPad iBookstore, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store, and to all major smart phone platforms via app providers such as Aldiko, Page Foundry, Kobo and Word-Player…

    Authors should publish their books on Smashwords not because they’ll make a lot of sales today, but as a long term investment in their writing career. eBook authors face the same marketing challenges all authors have always faced. By publishing digitally on Smashwords, however, authors and publishers can expand their global readership by leveraging the power of viral marketing to reach more potential readers with less effort.”

    This sounds like a real find; thank you Kay.


  2. Kay

    Hi Kimberly

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’m looking forward to trying Smashwords and I’ll be sure to report back. I agree with them that you want to be selling your books in as many places as possible.

    However, selling on Amazon requires you to rank well in their search engine. And giving away your book free for a few days does seem to give it a kick start. That’s why I agreed to the initial 90 days of exclusivity.

    He explained the “evil genius” on Amazon’s part as being a means of keeping certain books exclusive to them over the Christmas holiday period (when most sales are made). But a lot of books aren’t really suitable as Christmas gifts anyway, so I didn’t really get his beef.

    I agree, Smashwords does look good. I’m not sure how I found them, nor indeed how come I hadn’t heard of them before.



Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS