Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Smashwords Smashes Barriers

Yesterday brought news that Smashwords, Inc., will begin supplying books to the Amazon.com Kindle store. This is good news for authors who have published in e-book form. Smashwords already has agreements with Barnes & Noble, Sony and Shortcovers. A short release in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal noted:
Smashwords said it now publishes and distributes more 4,800 original e-books from 2,200 independent authors and about 80 small independent publishers. The service launched in May 2008 with a focus on self-published authors, and then in May 2009 expanded its offerings to support publishers as well.
Publishers Weekly had news that writers will be especially interested in:
Similar to its deal with Shortcovers, Smashwords will pay authors and publishers 42.5% of the digital list price (set by the author) for book sales through Amazon.
Smashwords expects to begin shipping e-books to Amazon on November 25 and the books will begin appearing in the Kindle store some time in December. You can opt-out if you don’t want your books on Kindle.

Having your book available in e-form does not mean you’re anti-print. For those who want to be in both digital and print or those who want to be in digital form only, this gives you another avenue to reach readers. I also think we’re closer to a format that will be compatible with all e-readers, which is vital to the longevity of this “new” way of reading.
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  1. It's nice to hear a little good news for authors. A format that will be compatible with all e-readers makes such good sense. I can't believe it hasn't been done yet.

  2. That is good news! Thanks for sharing.

    Marvin D Wilson

  3. Ebook interest is certainly growing. The Master's Program my daughter is considering provides ALL textbooks on a supplied Kindle. Any additional avenues for books is a good one.

  4. The only problem I have with using Smashwords is that their automated conversions (they even call the software the Meatgrinder) often produce less-than-elegant results, particularly for Kindle and ePub.

    If your book is text-only and you carefully follow their file prep directions, the results will probably be OK.

    If all you care about is that the book is available in many formats that can be read on a multitude of e-reading devices, go for it.

    There has been a lot of discussion among readers lately about poor formatting and excess errors in Kindle books. Which side of that problem do you want to be on?

    Smashwords provides a valuable service that may not be the best solution for every book. I recommend you buy a few books (with similar content to your own) on Smashwords and check the various formats before deciding to use it for your own book.

    Walt Shiel

  5. Recently one of the big publishers (I forget which) announced they'd had a 400% increase in ebook sales in their last quarter. 42.5% royalty is not bad, better than Macmillan's 25% but not as good as the suggested 50%.

  6. Recently one of the big publishers (I forget which) announced they'd had a 400% increase in ebook sales in their last quarter. 42.5% royalty is not bad, better than Macmillan's 25% but not as good as the suggested 50%.

  7. Walt, is the current solution to format for each type of device? Is there one format that works for all readers or is that way off into the future since e-readers are in competition with each other? I think we'd all like to be on the side where our books are perfect in every format and available on all types of e-readers.

  8. Who wouldn't want to be on Kindle? All three of my latest novels outsell the print editions on Kindle.

  9. Yay! Great news, I believe. The more publication in any format, the better, IMO.

  10. One of my books is on the Kindle. I'll have to check the sales. Honestly, I didn't even know it was out on ebook until about a week ago.

    I think the ebook thing is really going to explode soon...in a good way.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  11. I agree that e-publishing is going to continue to grow at a very fast pace. I have two books and a short story on Kindle right now. Loaded two myself, and have made a few sales. The other novel was put on Kindle by my publisher, so I will have to wait for the next royalty to see how well it is selling.

    I do wonder what is the advantage of using the Smashwords distribution over an author selling his or her own books on Kindle?

  12. Helen,

    I recently put my books and many of my client's books on Smashwords to take part in Operation EBook Drop. This great program allows deployed servicemen and women to receive free e-books from the authors. We offer the books through Smashwords with a discount coupon for the full price for soldiers who request books through Operation EBook Drop.

    I'm also glad that Smashwords is getting wider distribution for the books, through the Sony Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Short Covers, and now Amazon.

    I will opt-out of Amazon distribution for books that are already available on the Kindle, because, of course, the author makes more money directly through Amazon. However, I have a couple of books only on Smashwords, so I will include them in the Smashwords Amazon distribution.

    Formatting the books was a pain, but I think the results on all formats were good for those formats. Obviously, text format isn't very pretty but it's functional for certain applications. The problem, I think, comes with books with a lot of graphics or special formatting. That is lost in some formats, not necessarily a conversion problem (though it can be), but simply because those formats don't support the graphics or other attributes.

    epub may eventually become the format of choice, but in the meantime, I encourage my clients to make their e-books available in as many formats as possible to reach a larger audience.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  13. This is interesting. I need to go look at Smashwords again.

  14. I signed on to Operation E-book Drop today. I don't care if I never make a dime from my stories: if a soldier in a far away place enjoys a few minutes of "escape" ... it will have been totally worth it.

  15. Thanks, Lillie, for the information. Clearly, a lot of you are already way ahead in the e-book game.

  16. Thanks for sharing the information, Helen. E=books are definitely gaining in popularity. I'm looking forward to my new children's book being available on e-book next year. I wasn't sure about the idea at first, but Guardian Angel Publishing is having much success with them!

  17. Helen, thanks for this post. I posted a link to this from Smashwords.

    @walt - The Smashwords Style Guide is very up front about the strengths and limitations of the Meatgrinder. And yes, if a file fed to Meatgrinder isn't properly prepared, it'll come out looking worse than hamburger. We definitely work best with straight narrative, so novels, poetry, memoirs and non-fiction without columns, tables, and linked TOCs/footnotes/endnotes. We're planning a Meatgrinder bypass system that will allow authors and publishers to swap out some of our outputs with their own perfect files. No need to purchase a book to check out how our books may look (though by all means, do purchase our books!). You can try all our books before you buy, most with generous samples.

    @Maryann - We work with authors who prefer working direct with Amazon, and authors who prefer working with us. We give you the choice to decide. We're non-exclusive. Outside of Amazon, we help authors gain distribution in places they might otherwise never gain distribution.

    @Lillie - For B&N, Sony and Amazon, we pay 42.5% of the digital list. For Shortcovers, we pay 46.75%.


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