Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1

I promised a post about Smashwords and here it is! A word of warning: this turned out to be a little long, but there’s a lot of information to cover. So much so that I had to split it up into two posts.

Smashwords. The ebook etailer and distributor that either has authors/publishers smiling or frothing at the mouth.

First, before I go on, realize that I treat publishing my books as a business and I’m in it for the long-haul. It colors everything I do and decide. With that in mind, let’s start.

What are the main complaints about Smashwords?

  • I sell way more at Amazon with Kindle!
  • Quarterly payments are too slow.
  • Slow sales (for most)
  • Meatgrinder woes!
  • Premium Distribution is too hard to get into!
  • Premium Distribution sales numbers come in too slow.

Some view one or several of the above as deal-breakers and refuse to upload with Smashwords. I believe that is short-sighted, and I would like to explain why by taking each of the objections and analyzing them.

“I sell way more at Amazon with Kindle!”

For many this is true. Amazon has a big market and some believe if they hit Amazon big they have it made. But, there is a problem with this kind of thinking. Amazon does not have ALL the market. Other retailers are nipping at their heels and shaving off market-share every day. Why ignore the other markets that are attracting readers? What if one of them someday starts gaining a bigger market-share than anyone expected?

Even now, isn’t finding readers what is important?

If it is, then you need to know something. Amazon is a friendly place to shop for ebooks for only part of the world. The rest of the world? Amazon is the last place to go. Why do I say that?

Because Amazon tacks on a $2 surcharge on any ebook bought if you are not in one of their preferred geographical locations. That can get expensive really fast. For a $.99 ebook it’s ridiculous.

So, all those international customers who might like to buy your ebooks… are you going to ignore them? They aren’t going to buy from Amazon unless they REALLY want the ebook.

Most don’t. Several have thanked me for thinking of them. They go to places like Smashwords where they can buy the ebooks they want without a surcharge. In fact, they love Smashwords. One payment, no surcharge, and they have the ebook available in multiple formats that they can download or re-download depending on what piece of hardware they want to read on.

Oh, and the royalties? Smashwords does not play games with the royalty rate being different in different geographical locations. The royalty rate is the royalty rate is the royalty rate (unless it’s a sale initiated by an affiliate).

This is a win-win for both the author/publisher and the reader. It means gaining access to a worldwide audience. To purposely ignore it seems rather foolish.

This point is also why I upload to All Romance eBooks (Omnilit). This is another site that has a different demographic than many other sites as well as a very good international audience. By using ARe I can reach readers that may not frequent other ebook retailers. Every person finding my work is a win!

“Quarterly payments are too slow.”

The first time I heard this complaint I almost collapsed laughing. Wow, have Indies become spoiled.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble pay 60 days after the close of a fiscal period (fiscal period = one month) if the sales are above a certain threshold (depending on payment option selected). Typically the threshold is $10.

Once an author is earning more than $10 a month for several months in a row, they get a nice little deposit every month.

Oh yes, this is nice. Very nice indeed. But it’s also a recent development.

In Big Publishing? If you are lucky enough to get a royalty payment above the advance, you will likely get paid every six months (and expect them to be delayed until you yell loud enough and threaten to invoke certain contract clauses). So, from this, to a payment every month.

It’s easy to see why Indies have become spoiled, but come on, a payment every quarter is a reason to balk? You’re still going to get paid! This is money you might not have received any other way by reaching an audience who might not be shopping at the other big etailers.

You’re going to spit at more money? Really?

Slow sales (for most)

As with anything, there is a bell-curve. Most putter along at a definable level, while others go much higher or lower. This is the same across all etailer sites.

First, consider the international customer, those with multiple ebook reading devices who don’t like to convert themselves, or those who dislike DRM (which Smashwords doesn’t use at all). Smashwords is valuable to all of these demographics.

Only a few sales? They are likely sales you wouldn’t have made elsewhere. Again, I ask, isn’t this all about finding readers?

A slow sale is still a sale you might not have made anywhere else.


And this is where we break for this post. Part 2 will show up soon, taking on the rest of the objections!


Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1J.A. Marlow

A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.

For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction 83600 word stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” by J.A. Marlow.

AmazonDistribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1 | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1

15 thoughts on “Distribution Channel: Smashwords Pt 1”

  1. Big Smashwords fan here!

    Thanks for this. I’m still learning and absorbing, and this was helpful.

    So at some point, it seems, I’ll be needing to find out more soecifics about all the places I can offer my ebooks for sale around the world…

    IMO Smashwords is a great place to start.

    • Smashwords has been a good place for Indies from the beginning. I can only hope that will continue in the future.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Keep telling them! It is not the etailer stopping the books from selling. 🙂

    I refused to put my books on Amazon because of the surcharge outside specific areas, but now Australia is part of the areas I may add Amazon to the list, eventually.

    Thanks for the reminder for ARe. I need to look into that. 🙂

  3. Does ARe accept any genre? I’m nearing the point where I can finally upload my first eBook. Thanks for the information, your blog is great for getting started.

    • @Katharina

      ARe has two sides. The All Romance side is all sorts of romance. Omnilit is all genres. I have only one on the All Romance side and have all the other stories listed on the Omnilit side.

  4. Another question: Smashwords has the option of adding an ISBN to my book. Can I use the same ISBN on ARe or would I need a different one?

    • The free ISBN number you can ‘buy’ at Smashwords is supposed to be used only on the Smashwords site. Supposed to. I’m sure there are some people who use it everywhere. 😉

  5. Thanks for the insight. As far as I could tell, buying ISBNs for yourself isn’t exactly cheep. I’ll ponder it.

    • Definitely not cheap because of the monopoly Bowker has for ISBN numbers. And, unlike some other countries, for US authors they are not free. This is why monopolies are not good things.

  6. The 10 US-dollar minimum royalty limit applies only to US-citizens. If you’re outside the US like me and don’t have a US bank account, Amazon won’t pay you your royalties by electronic bank transfer but by cheque. And for cheque payment the minimum amount is 100 US-dollars. Now I actually have a US-dollar currency account at my bank (I’m a translator and occasionally get dollar payments), but Amazon won’t accept that account, because it’s not with a US bank.

    Amazon is still better with regard to non-American customers and publishers than Barnes & Noble (for whom we don’t exist at all), but they’re far from perfect.

    • @ Cora
      Thanks for the reply. Welcome to the blog!

      Barnes & Noble is very US-centric, to the point I think it’s a detriment to their business. Amazon is bad in dealing with the paperwork needed for dealing with the IRS. Even more reason to go with places like Smashwords. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Why should you pick Smashwords? –
  8. I had one little glitch with SW when I first uploaded (waiting in that looong queue, lol); there was problem with ePub.

    So I did the nuclear method like Mark Coker suggests in his guide, and it was accepted. Getting into the premium catalog took a little longer; about 20 days.

    I don’t understand why people would want to limit themselves, because as you stated, the Kindle isn’t the only player in town. And everything isn’t America-centric, despite what we Americans may think. 😉

    I think following Mark’s guide is the ticket.

    And, BTW, I like to buy on SW because I can use Paypal. That’s what I did, J.A., to buy your Into the Forest Shadows 🙂 – I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it after I get through a couple more books in my neverending To Be Read pile. 🙂

    • @Nancy
      The way I do my ebook formatting means I start out with a nuked document from the very start. Makes it very nice and easy to proceed from there. Even so, I’ve had to nuke what I did a time or two to get rid of problems that just ‘appear’ but that’s a problem with Word, not Smashwords. :p

      Getting into the Premium catalog has been a lot faster of late. One published last week is already up, 7 days later. I like those turn-around times!

      I like to buy on Smashwords, as well. Oh goodness, speaking of a TBR pile!

      By the way, I hope you enjoy the novel! Congrats on selling your first copy there!


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