Thursday, February 16, 2012

E-Tailers, Part Deux - Smashwords

On February 1, 2011, I announced my intent to indie-publish my own books. Over the course of the following three months, I posted results of my research.

Back in July, I updated and revised some of this information during a guest blog series over at Pitch U. Much of this information was consolidated into a book called Creating a Business Plan for the Indie Writer. (It surprised the hell out of me when it hit the Business book bestseller list on Amazon in December.)

From some of the questions and comments on Monday's post, it's time for updating again. And yes, folks, this IS how fast the publishing landscape is changing!

Once again, the information on the blog is free. When CBPIW is updated, I will upload Version 2.0 to all the retail sites and provide a coupon code so y'all can get a free copy. There's no sense in all of us having to reinvent the wheel.


There are several different ways to sell your e-books on online.

1) You can create your own online store. (Ex. Bob Mayer and Jen Talty's WDW Publishing)

2) You can uploaded directly to a retailer. (Ex. Amazon)

3) You can go through a distribution service provider which sends your e-book out to various e-tailers.

Smashwords is a combination of (2) and (3). I first wrote about Smashwords in this post.

To update:

Smashwords still only accepts MSWORD files, though Mark Coker (the owner of Smashwords) has indicated he's looking into allowing writers to upload EPUB files directly.

If you need help formatting your MSWORD document, Mark has written The Smashwords Style Guide, a 40-page booklet of instructions on how to use Smashwords. Mark should pare the instructions down to 5-pages for clarity, but that's just my personal opinion. However, the guide is free.

Smashwords then converts the MSWORD file to various file formats including, MOBI (Kindle), EPUB (Nook, iPad), PDF, TXT, etc. using their proprietary Meatgrinder software. The Meatgrinder has its pluses and minuses, depending on what type of e-book you're producing and your own software programming skills.

Your e-book is then sold by Smashwords directly through their website for a 10% cut of your list price plus a delivery charge. The delivery charge varies depending on how many other e-books that customer buys at the same time.

Smashwords then distributes your e-book to Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple, and Diesel. To date, Smashwords have not been able to work out a distribution agreement with Amazon, though it's listed as a retailer. (Of course, if I were Jeff Bezos and Mark Coker continually compare my company to the Galactic Empire and me to Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, I wouldn't be too keen on doing business with him either.) From there, your e-book is automatically distributed unless you opt out through the Distribution Channel, which you can access through your dashboard.

Right now, neither Sony or Apple will accept an e-book from Smashwords unless it has an ISBN (i.e. an International Standard Book Number). You can buy ISBNs through Smashwords, but then the publisher code on the ISBN is Smashwords, not your publishing company.

Also, Smashwords requires that you place text in your e-book stating that it is the Smashwords edition of your book.

In my case, I've opted out of Amazon and Barnes & Noble since I can upload to them directly. My books aren't currently being distributed to Sony or Apple since I'm still working on getting my own ISBNs and I don't wish to purchase ISBNs from Smashwords. So right now, Smashwords only distributes my books to Kobo and Diesel. [Edit to add: Kobo now requires ISBNs as well.]

For me, the extra 30% of the list price to Kobo and Diesel are worth letting Smashwords do the distribution. I would have to jump through some serious hoops to get Kobo to allow me to upload directly to them. As of  January 11, 2012, Diesel still will only accept e-books from Lightning Source or Smashwords.

On a side note: Apple also has some pretty weird conditions for uploading directly to them, including that fact that you must have a Mac. Sony, like Diesel, only accepts uploads through their chosen distributors.

I hope this helps you in making your business decision. I've been using Smashwords for almost a year now. If you have any more questions, post them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

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