In today’s Opinion slot, Giacomo Giammatteo of our Watchdog team, fresh from updating ALLi’s guide book Choosing A Self-Publishing Service, pays tribute to Smashwords, which has just been awarded ALLi’s Author Service Award 2014.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll come right out and say it – the publishing world is in an obvious state of flux. The worst part is that so many companies are rushing to take advantage of self-published authors with shoddy services and exorbitant prices. When doing this job, it can sometimes seem as if the entire industry is rife with charlatans, and so it’s nice to find companies whose goals are in sync with authors. Smashwords falls squarely into this category. Their philosophy is simple and their motivation is clear. In order for them to make money, authors have to make money. They don’t charge for anything except selling your book. They sell no additional services. They have no sales team. What they do…what they are driven by…is the same thing that drives you, as an author. Their goal is to deliver the best product and negotiate the most favorable deal for the authors with distributors and retailers. Mark Coker, president of Smashwords, has lived up to that, as evidenced by the agreements he has managed to wrangle for authors against many of the other distributors.
Smashwords a winner in 2014
Of all the distributors indie authors can use, Smashwords has the widest distribution, feeding Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, but also Flipkart, Txtr (announced yesterday) (http://blog.smashwords.com/
Ambassador for Indie Authors
Mark Coker is a passionate innovator who got into this business through writing a book himself. He regularly speaks out on behalf of indie authors and is constantly looking for ways to improve Smashwords.
We’re not saying Smashwords is perfect; no indie author tool is perfect and we are not unaware of the frustrations many indies’ experience there.
Before you knock Smashwords for the little things, you might consider this: scaling up from a mom-and-pop operation to handling hundreds of thousands of books in a few years is no easy feat. Rapid growth has crippled more than a few good companies. Smashwords has shown that they can handle that growth, and they have managed to improve while doing it. Smashwords also continues to be the only service that an author can have complete confidence about where the company’s interest lies. Other companies have other services to sell, or books are part of larger operations for them but, as mentioned in our review, Smashwords makes no money unless the author makes money; and they’ll lose money if you don’t sell books. That means that they must do all they can to make sure you sell books and that they maximize your profits, because your profits and their profits are directly related.
The Advantage of Free Changes
One of the biggest advantages of using Smashwords is the ability to make changes for free (also possible on Amazon and some other services). Some authors might not see this as a big deal, especially if you haven’t been in this game long, or if you only have one book out. But Mark Coker was the pioneer in ebook distribution. He understands that indie authors make mistakes, without the protection of a publishing house, and that changes will have to be made by many. He could take advantage of authors and charge for that but he doesn’t. Why? Because he knows if authors have to pay to change a file, they probably won’t do it. And that means the mistakes will stay there. Coker knows that mistakes are killers. There isn’t much that will stop the indie revolution quicker than the perception that all indie books are crap.
And it’s not only mistakes that are cause for changes. Many other distributors charge for price changes, or only allow a few per year; at Smashwords you can change prices whenever you want. Also, as you bring out more books, you might want to include the links to your other books, or at least list the other books in your previous ones. This helps sell your other novels. If you have to pay to change each book, though, you aren’t likely to make those changes, which means you miss opportunities. I have seven books out now, and I will likely publish three more this year, bringing the total to ten. If I wanted to change something in all of those books, at most distributors it would cost me $450 or more. At Smashwords it will cost me nothing. I was going to say, ‘that’s priceless’ but it’s not; it’s worth exactly $450.
What is priceless is Smashwords’ presence in this marketplace and that is why the company wins our Author Service Award 2014.
Orna Ross Adds: I’d like to personally congratulate Mark Coker and the Smashwords team and I look forward to presenting this award to Mark at Book Expo America next week. (Fri 30th May 12.30pm if anybody’s going… love to see you there!)
This award is an acknowledgement of excellent service to writers and will be given annually, its key criterion being that the service puts the needs of authors and readers first, unfortunately a missing component for too many services in the sector.
As all of us who worked on our guide Choosing A Self-Publishing Service know, comparing different author services one to the other is like comparing apples and cabbages. The ALLi award does not say Smashwords is No 1 in the self-publishing services market or a must-do for all self-publishers (as always, it will depend on the needs of the individual author) but is an acknowledgement of Smashwords’s achievements as an ebook distributor, given that ebooks are the lifeblood of most indie authors’s income.
Other author services that are commended in the book include Amazon KDP, Createspace and Audible; Apple iBooks; Ingram Spark and Lightning Source; Kobo Writing Life and Nook Press.
For all the reasons articulated so well by Giacomo above, and particularly for its focus on writers and readers, everyone at ALLi is delighted to acknowledge those achievements with this award. Congratulations Mark and Smashwords!
Our suggested tweet to share this with the indie author community: “Announcing @markcoker‘s @Smashwords as winner of @IndieAuthorALLI‘s Author Service Award 2014: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/smashwords-wins-allis-top-self-publishing-services-award“