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Smashwords Commended By ALLi’s Author Service Award 2014

Smashwords Commended by ALLi’s Author Service Award 2014

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.

Photo of Giacomo and his dog

Giacomo Giammatteo, ALLi Watchdog

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

Photo of Mark Coker with bookshelves

Mark Coker, Smashwords Founder

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/2014/05/smashwords-to-distribute-250000-ebooks.html), the two biggest subscription services (Scribd and Oyster), and a number of library services. It has its own retail store, which is not core to its business, but provides useful services like coupons. In the past year, Smashwords has made a number of enhancements to their distribution systems, working closely with retail partners, yielding good improvements in delivery speed and reliability. They’ve introduced a number of new distribution agreement around the world and subscription services. Additionally, Smashwords is using its clout to get good merchandising deals for indies with Apple and other stores. One other benefit of Smashwords is that it allows you to go perma-free, which some may want to do with the first book in a series. Many indies attest to this as their best marketing tool and Smashwords remains the only way through which you can set a book free on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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.

Orna4-180x180Orna 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 ‘s @Smashwords as winner of ‘s Author Service Award 2014: 

Author: Giacomo Giammatteo

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the "No Mistakes" Careers series.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.” His website is at www.giacomogiammatteo.com.


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  5. Bob, the important thing is you’re happy with the service you’re using. I haven’t used D2D, but I have heard good things about them. I’m always thrilled to see new vendors who provide good service.

  6. First off, I’m happy for Smashwords. I have been an indie self-published author since 2009 and I am a member of AIA. I have 32 books in one series, five in another and I’m presently writing my third book of another series. I have used Smashwords since I started, although I have published directly with Amazon and then directly through Barnes & Noble and Kobo in the last couple years. In the last six months I have been using a service called draft2digital.com and I have to say I’m extremely happy with them. They are easy to use, they create a table of contents for my books, allow me to download both .mobi and .epub files that they create for the retailers, help with CreateSpace books, and they DON’T charge for any changes I need to make in revisions, the cover or prices and I can do it as often as I have to. I just put up the last 15 of my books to them and within 24 hours all the books were available on Apple and Kobo. I was amazed. They pay royalties every month and their reporting system is top-notch, easy to understand and informative. I’m starting to move my books off B&N and using D2D now to publish on B&N. I have had more problems with Smashwords in the last year or so, than I could take and I’m opting out all of my books to go with D2D. Draft2digital.com is a breath of fresh air. No, they don’t distribute to all the minor retailers that Smashwords does, but they are working on it. I’m happy with the major retailers they do provide. I like having all my books in one source and changes can be made to all of the retailers often and changes are made fast. Again, I’m glad for the Smashwords award since they have worked hard to get to where they are, but they have gotten to be too much for me to use. Yes, Smashwords does a lot but D2D is still fairly new, but growing and I’m happy with them.

  7. Jane, that’s very true. My favorite thing about Smashwords is that they allow changes with no cost. That doesn’t seem like a big deal until you look at other distributors and realize–hey, that’s going to cost me money to fix that mistake. Or change the cover.

    Re: the lack of sales. I hear a lot of people say that their sales only come from Amazon, but 99% of the time those same people only promote to Amazon. Every Tweet has an Amazon link, FB posts are linked to Amazon, etc. Try promoting equally to other retailers. I have been doing this and it took a while but soon l began reaping rewards from those other retailers. I’m not suggesting that anyone ignore Amazon, simply spread the love.

  8. I agree with all of the above. I publish with both Amazon and Smashwords. Everything that has been said here of Smashwords is also true of Amazon (no charges to make changes, whcih is critical for me.) I must admit that I find Smashword’s e-book formatting requirements baffling, but once I got it right I was able to easily replicate it for my other books. (An e-book formatting service I used was not up to speed and Smashwords rejected that version, so I had to recreate another from scratch.) I would also mention that, although Smashwords has very broad distribution, I have only ever received minimal royalties from them, with the vast the majority of my sales by far coming from Amazon. As a compliment to Amazon, however, Smashwords is my preferred platform and advice from Mark Coker is consistently excellent. My favourite things about Smashwords has not been said here. Once you have uploaded your ebook, the author can download versions in any of the available formats – easier than using Calibre or other software. And if you want to gift a copy, you can give the recipient an individual coupon code for their use only.

  9. Hi, Arlene. Smashwords has the broadest distribution network, but not all Smashwords authors can get into Amazon yet. Apparently Amazon’s system does not accommodate bulk uploading of titles, which restricts Smashwords as they have more than 200,000 titles. I think only the top several hundred authors are able to go that route. You could still go direct with Amazon and use Smashwords for others. Their distribution list is impressive.

  10. This is a fabulous article and an endorsement I can trust. I’ll be telling more of my e-book authors about Smashwords. Do they also distribute through Amazon, Giacomo?

    1. Hi Arlene, ALLi’s recommendation to maximise ebook sales (at the moment; things change rapidly in this business) is to go direct to Amazon (and perhaps Kobo, Nook and Apple too) and use Smashwords, or another distributor, for the rest.

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