Smashwords: A Must for Your Author’s Toolbox

Written by M.J. Moores | July 2, 2015

Every writer should have a toolbox – a go-to place that lists or houses all the fantastic contacts and resources that you can’t live without. Whether you’re self or traditionally published (or just building an author platform) one essential item to have in your toolbox should be Smashwords – the eBook distributor.

About 50% of all books purchased are eBooks, and 50% of those are sold by Amazon’s Kindle Books. There’s a lot of information available on how to use Kindle Direct, but what about the other 50% of the eBook market? How do you tap into that?

One of the most cost effective and straightforward skills you can have as a writer is a working knowledge of the eBook platform Smashwords. It is the largest royalty-based eBook distributor out there, so you can be assured that publishing through their platform is safe, affordable and easy to use. Their independent sales (eBooks bought directly through their online store) are highly competitive. With distribution to Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd and Baker & Taylor, plus three channels for library sales and several more online retailers, that elusive other 50% of the eBook market becomes easily accessible.

One of the best features of Smashwords is its royalty option system (because we all want to know exactly what kind of money we stand to make). If you sell an eBook through Smashwords’ Market Place, you’ll generally earn 85% of the sale price (typically 60% from their outsourced distributors). That means on the sale of a $2.99 novel, you’ll get $2.54 and Smashwords earns $0.45. And what does that 15% go toward?

As a Smashwords Author you get amazing email support – they’ve always responded to my queries in less than 24 hours. There is a thorough FAQs page, an eBook formatting guide for DIYers and options to convert your MS Word Processing file to: .mobi, .epub, .pdf, .rtf, .ltr, .pdb, plain text and html. It is easy to upload new versions of the same book or add a new book to a series; and there are free ISBNs.

Then there’s the marketing side of what they offer. In addition to being able to organize pre-orders for your forthcoming books, the coupon manager is a fantastic way to place your book on sale without changing the official price. That’s a good thing because if your eBook is also listed with Amazon’s Kindle Direct, Amazon will automatically price-match to the lowest it can find your book listed online.

So, if you’re doing a special promotion by generating a coupon code buyers can use on the Smashwords Market Page, you are driving sales traffic to the site that’s earning you the most in royalties. You have the freedom to do this as often as you want (with simultaneous coupons for different percentage discounts) and you can even create a free coupon for giveaways without actually having to list your book as free.

Smashwords has an Author Dashboard that also allows you to customize your profile, track your statistics, list links to print copies, check on your affiliate or channel distribution and more.

Smashwords is provides authors an avenue for sharing anything from full-length novels, to anthologies, poetry collections, short stories, teasers and book prequels, but there are a few things you need to understand about what they offer. First and foremost, if you are a dedicated self-publisher with your own imprint you need to know that even with your own ISBN, Smashwords requires that you list any book with them as a “Smashwords Edition” in the copyright information.

Additionally, the reason they are able to distribute to so many different platforms is that their Meat Grinder (the program that assesses your Word file) requires that you strip down your formatting to the most basic fundamentals – which limits the overall look and feel of your final product.

And once you’ve been accepted for Premium Catalog Status, you’re not actually guaranteed placement with Amazon. You need to sell $2,000 on one book before you can ask Smashwords to link you to this major retailer. As Amazon has yet to create a bulk upload facility to their Kindle Direct platform, Smashwords manually coordinates on only a few hundred of their most prestigious titles.

While the benefits appear to outweigh the negatives regarding the use of Smashwords, it really does depend on your goal for releasing your work. Regardless, as a traditional and self-published author with my own imprint, I still use Smashwords as an invaluable distribution tool.

I see their Market Place and outreach to major and minor distributors around the world as access I cannot afford to pass up. I have no qualms about distributing short works of fiction that I list as “free” through them because I know that I’m reaching that other 50% of the eBook marketplace. This in turn is either earning me money or helping spread the word about my writing, making Smashwords an invaluable resource in my author toolbox. Why not let it be one in yours too?

Bio: M.J. Moores began her career as a high school English teacher with a passion for creative writing. She left the teaching profession to work as a freelance writer and editor but was unimpressed with the lack of straightforward, simple (and free) resources available to new and emerging writers; so she started her own writers’ blog (Infinite Pathways) to help her fellow compatriots. M.J. is the author of Publicizing Yourself: A Beginner’s Guide to Author Marketing and two writers guides through Authors Publish. Her first science fiction/fantasy novel The Chronicles of Xannia: Time’s Tempest will be re-released July 6st, 2015 with Infinite Pathways Press. Every good book deserves a chance to be read. ~ M.J. Moores  http://mjmoores.com