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5 Things Indie Authors Should Know About Smashwords

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I’m sure you’ve read the astounding number of articles on Amazon’s plot to destroy the book retailer market and if you haven’t, I suggest you read this post from Joe Konrath, which sums it up beautifully.

But here’s the deal, amidst the debate about Amazon, indie authors, e-books, and the shift in traditional publishing, a sleeping giant called Smashwords could be the next Amazon. Gasp!

Mark Coker, Smashwords founder, describes his enterprise as the marriage of self-publishing with ebooks. In a blog he wrote,

“we did it with a free platform that enabled any writer, anywhere in the world, to easily publish an ebook using nothing more than a word processor. We took the printing press – once under the sole dominion of the publisher – and put it in the cloud for all to use.”

Pretty cool right? More than 34,000 authors and small publishers seem to think so. Coker declared,

“We’re witnessing a publishing renaissance that will lead to more readers, more reading, greater literacy, and greater and more amazing published works than could ever have been realized under the old gatekeeping system.”

If you’re an indie author or thinking about it, Smashwords is worth researching. If you doubt it, start following Mark Coker’s blog and read it for yourself. In the meantime, here are the five things you should know about Smashwords:

1. Smashwords ended 2011 with over 92,000 titles published, up from 28,800 in 2010.

2. The e-books enterprise was created to give authors freedom to publish directly to ereaders without roadblocks or interference from publishing gatekeepers.

3. Smashwords earns income only if they help their customers–as in authors–sell books.

4. Its infrastructure has been priority number one. As a result, the systems that hold their website together have led to impressive page load times and very few website outages.

5. The conversion engine, aptly referred to as the “Meatgrinder” continues to defy logic. It currently can complete most conversions in three minutes (it took up to 30 hours to convert an ebook this time a year ago).

So there you have it. Smashwords is a force–a key player in the indie author revolution–and we should all make it our business to pay attention to their evolution in 2012.

And if you’ve used Smashwords, we want to know. How was your experience? Could they truly be the next Amazon in the publishing industry?

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  1. Smashwords is a great tool — way easier to use and understand than Amazon’s Kindle programs but still powerful enough to get your book on iTunes and the like (especially if you really watch their formatting guidelines). Super job on the overview!

  2. I used Smashwords for a short time with my first eBook, Dead Man Walking, but then switched to KDP Select because I was curious about it.

    My new eBook, Little Demons, just came out and I won’t be using Select with it so will definitely be putting this one on Smashwords to stay. I just have to do some reformatting first to get it ready for the Meatgrinder, which actually didn’t seem to be as big a hassle as some have said it would.

    If anyone can make Amazon sweat, I believe it’s Smashwords.

    • Marty we agree — Smashwords will definitely be competition for Amazon’s Createspace. I’m curious why you chose to go back to Smashwords — that’s super interesting. Thanks a ton for the comment!

      • I didn’t leave Smashwords because of any problems. I had a few sales from the site but Amazon was in the lead, and I wanted to see what Select might do. Honestly, the Select program boosted sales considerably but I’m still not 100% thrilled with the exclusive requirement so I decided to go with Smashwords and Barnes & Noble this time around, along with Amazon.

        • This is fantastic information for us. Thank you for sharing your experience. You made a tough call, but I would also have some trouble with that exclusive agreement. Someone mentioned that they opted to not go with Smashwords because they didn’t love the layout options. Any thoughts on that?

  3. It will definitely be interesting to see how Smashwords grows and competes with Amazon. Most authors I know sell 80 — 90% of their work through Amazon (including me). If Smashwords can cut into that percentage, indie authors will definitely be happy. I know I will.

  4. I put up a short book of short stories for kids (Santa Barbara Fire Song) on Smashwords. The process in the meatgrinder was good. It was immediately approved and then there was a two week wait to hear I had made an error on chapter designations. That change took only a few minutes and then another two weeks before the next review that resulted in Premium Status and having the product sent on to other outlets (called Channels by Smashwords). I didn’t read everything about distribution and didn’t realize until after I went through the process that Smashwords and Amazon don’t share products at this point. As I want my ebook to be free, I see Amazon as a problem since they apparently won’t take free books nor will they allow one to “sell” free the same book elsewhere. Some of my potential readers want a Kindle version FROM Amazon as they are tech-phobic and don’t want to follow Smashword’s very simple directions for downloading to their Kindle. Hmmm? http://paddledoc.blogspot.com/