Smashwords is a popular self-publishing platform that many authors use to get their work out into the world. But is it good for authors? What are the pros and cons of using Smashwords?
In this article, we will explore all of that and more. We'll discuss how Smashwords can help authors publish their work, as well as some of the drawbacks. We'll also give you some tips on how to use Smashwords to its full potential!
Let's dive right in.
How Does Smashwords Work?
As said earlier, Smashwords is an avenue that helps authors and small independent publishers to publish and distribute their works to major ebook retailers and library platforms except for Amazon.
Smashwords authors get to exercise complete control in the pricing, sampling, and marketing of their ebooks. Also, you'll receive various services free of charge like training and marketing tools, free ISBNs, sales and tax reports, among others.
They also have a podcast that talks about everything Smashwords self-publishing- giving tips from the fundamentals to advanced topics.
As a business, they earn a 15% commission on every book sale from their store and 40% from their partnered retailers.
Are you interested in publishing with them? It can be pretty straightforward. Here's a summary of the steps to take.
How to Publish On Smashwords
Step 1: Create an account
Creating a Smashwords account on their website is simple. You'll sign up with your email, then choose a member name or pen name that correlates with the publisher name you'll be using. After signing up, you'll receive a confirmation email containing a link to activate your account.
Step 2: Upload your Manuscript
With an activated account, you can then prepare your manuscript for uploading. Smashwords have a style guide that shows you how you should format your work to meet their requirements and that of other retailers.
You'll upload your manuscript as a Microsoft Word or epub file. For the Microsoft Word file, Smashwords will automatically convert it into multiple formats used by them and other retailers.
Step 3: Cover Image
After your file is uploaded, you'll add a cover image as per their cover requirements. This includes;
- Adding colored images that are vertically rectangular
- Using covers that have both a title and name of the author
- Using an image that shows no nudity, among others.
Tip: A cover image creates the first impression on a prospective buyer. Therefore, create an image that's clear and interesting enough to want to read the book. If you don't have the skills, hire a professional designer to do the job.
Step 4: Attach Price
Once you've formatted your book and added an appropriate cover image, you'll enter the information required in every field provided. This includes pricing. Do not overlook their pricing guidelines. You'll need to attach a price that ends with $.99 as in $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, and so forth. This is because your book will be priced at $.99 increment on Apple stores.
Step 5: Publish
After you've entered every detail required, double check then hit the publish button. You'll receive a notification on your dashboard showing the status of the manuscript. You'll either see "pending review" "accepted" or "requires modification. The latter shows that you did not fully implement their formatting guidelines. You'll be given tips and options, which can include revision and uploading a new version. In that case, you go back to the dashboard and click "Upload a new version."
How Smashwords Help in Marketing Your Ebooks
With Smashwords, you'll not only publish your ebook for free here but also receive remarkable sales and marketing support. Smashwords offers a free marketing guide book among other training tools that authors find very handy.
The book provides dozens of marketing suggestions and insights like:
- How to make your book discoverable to buyers
- Social media marketing strategies
- Ways to achieve press coverage
- Marketing your books at no cost.
They also have a free ebook that teaches you the secrets to becoming a successful publisher. Besides that, you can leverage their podcast to learn how to publish and sell like a pro. There are certainly a lot of resources you can benefit from in Smashwords.
The Pros and Cons of Smashwords
Let's go over some of the pros and cons of Smashwords self publishing.
Provides a One-stop Shop
Smashwords distributes to hundreds of affiliated retail outlets, including the three major retailers;
- Barnes and Noble
- Apple Books
It also makes your books available in about nine different formats to cater to various readerships.
It can be cumbersome formatting your book for each of these retailers and downloading them on their sites. Fortunately, Smashwords takes that load off you. Readers can also purchase from their store since it's also a retailer.
Provides a Fair Play Ground for SEO
Just like Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Smashwords offers a great landing page that boosts the SEO of your book. Your publisher's dashboard will display links for every ebook you publish and a list of SEO entries for each title.
This is not only great for exposure but also a good marketing strategy for your works.
It's Totally Free!
With Smashwords, you get to enjoy free services: no setup charges, the free profile page for your book, free publishing, free training and marketing tools, the list goes on.
You'll also get a free ISBN for your title if you don't have one yet. This will enable you to distribute your ebook to vendors like Apple. How cool is that?
Very few publishers will allow you to earn 85% of your book's net income, and Smashwords is among these few. When you sell via their store, you earn 85% and 60% via other retailers.
Compared with self-publishers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, who pay 70% and 65% royalties, respectively, Smashwords offer a generous amount per book.
You are The Boss
Being your own boss at Smashwords means you will enjoy complete control of your books. You are in charge of publishing and sampling your books, setting and changing their prices, and deciding where to have them sold.
Their affiliate program also allows you to set affiliate rates. Simply put, you'll retain all your rights as the owner of the book.
Simple and Fast Publishing
Once you have your manuscripts ready and in the proper format, publishing can be easy, especially for repeat users. Moreover, you can do revisions and second editions easily too.
Upon publishing, your ebook will be available in their store almost immediately. It will, however, take up to 10 days to reach the stores of other retailers.
Smashwords allows the use of coupons to promote your ebooks. You can sell your ebooks here at discounted prices by giving discount codes to potential buyers.
Besides the common drawbacks that cut across all self-publishing platforms, Smashwords doesn't really have a lot of disadvantages except;
It can be frustrating, particularly for a first-time publisher, to format their work on Smashwords. The formatting process is extensive and can be daunting. This discourages many authors and publishers from using this platform.
Many publishers would rather go for the easier formatting styles provided by other self-publishing platforms like Draft2Digital, than go through 30,000 words compiled in a 117 page PDF file just to learn Smashwords' formatting style.
Compared to other self-publishing websites, Smashwords' is a bit underwhelming. It's aesthetically unpleasant and can be a turn-off to some prospective users.
They can do a better job than that.
Distribution to Amazon
As much as Smashwords distributes to many leading ebook retailers, it doesn't distribute to the largest market – Amazon. This means you'll have to publish your ebook separately at Kindle Direct to sell on Amazon.
Is Publishing on Smashwords Worth It?
Whether publishing on Smashwords is worth it depends entirely on your goals as a publisher. What type of work do you want to produce? Would you want to convert your ebook into print someday? Which retailers would you like to reach?
From my perspective, Smashwords is worth it.
As mentioned before, you can easily publish and dispense your work to several vendors under 'one roof' on Smashwords. Picture yourself approaching all these vendors individually, going through their processes of formatting, signing contracts, and other requirements to have your books on their sites. Tiresome, right?
But for only 10% of your commissions, Smashwords will do all the distributions, saving you time and energy.
It is also less tedious to track your book sales on one platform than on several venues. Smashwords does aggregated sales reports for you. It also provides aggregated tax reports, easing the process of filing returns on tax day.
More so, unlike Amazon's KDP, Smashwords serves non-Kindle readers. Therefore you'll have your books reach a wider audience, especially overseas. This will boost your books' exposure which will eventually translate to a high SEO rank.
Authors also find Smashwords' marketing tools way better than other self-publishing platforms like Draft2Digital and KDP. This means you'll have to work extra hard to promote your ebooks on these websites. Keep in mind, however, that it's not guaranteed that you'll sell more on Smashwords.
Nevertheless, I would advise that you diversify your publishing options so that if one platform gets uppity, you won't be hit as hard.
Many authors do not exclusively publish on one platform. For instance, they'll publish on Amazon since it's currently the giant retailer, and it's where most readers begin their search for titles. But also have their books launched on Smashwords and other platforms just to maximize profits.
Analyzing the pros and cons of Smashwords, it is safe to say that it's good for authors. You can consider publishing with them to enjoy their free but beneficial services. Follow these simple steps to publish your books.
Lastly, consider publishing and selling on multiple platforms. It is a smart move.