Smashwords: A Review

Okay, I think it is time to put some of this Smashwords love-fest into perspective. I’ve read so many articles lately talking about how Smashwords is the best thing since sliced bread. Don’t get me wrong, most of what is said about them is true. It is a one stop stop for your ebook. You upload to Smashwords and they’ll send it to almost every online ebook site on the web (the notable exception is Amazon). Easy. Mostly. Convenient? Definitely. But it isn’t without its flaws. And here are the ones I’ve found.


The biggest obstacle you’ll first run into with Smashwords is formatting. Their Meatgrinder program is very particular and can be a pain to format for. That said, it isn’t impossible. It helps if you are using a PC with Word. OpenOffice is a pain to deal with and I haven’t tried LibraOffice yet. But getting your manuscript accepted into Smashwords or even their premium catalog is only the first step.

The problem is changes. You look at your formatting in PDF, HTML, even MOBI and it looks fine. But it uploads to iBooks and suddenly it is weird. And it will stay weird until they ship again which is at least a week. So that’s a week of people downloading your book and immediately deleting it because all the text is red or it is center justified.

On top of that the formatting is often okay, but not great. Case in point is the MOBI formatting for Kindle. When I formatted it myself, it was perfect. I could make changes and make sure it looked right. But when Smashwords did it, it was just okay. Readable? Sure. But surely not up to my standards. My book is a reflection of me. I don’t want just an okay reflection of me. I want the best one I can get. Smashwords doesn’t allow you to change formatting manually for each format type.


My problem has been Kobo. Others have had other issues but mine was Kobo. It’s been five months and my book still isn’t showing up in their library. My book is free so it isn’t as much of an issue but it surely would be if I was losing out on a revenue stream. Of course, Smashwords can’t do much about that. They send the book and when Kobo (or whoever) gets around to uploading it, they do.

Edit 6/21/11 – Sometime during the month of June Bob was finally uploaded to Kobo. Not sure what caused the delay.

Black Hole of Communication

The first email I sent to Smashwords was answered in minutes from Mark Coker directly. I was very impressed. Since then, I’ve been actively ignored. I’m not one to send endless questions. I think I’ve sent three total emails one of which was to change my email address, something the website directed me to do if I wanted my email address changed. My email hasn’t been changed and I don’t expect ever to receive any sort of response to any of my previous emails and I won’t bother sending more since I’m sure they won’t be answered.

This is a problem. Smashwords is growing in leaps and bounds (if Coker’s twitter posts are to be believed) and it still seems they are running a skeleton crew. Their directions basically tell you that you shouldn’t email them if you have a problem but should instead pay someone (from a list they provide) to fix it for you. That’s the sort of customer service Apple wishes they could get away with. It’s stunning that they can have such a policy and still have the following they have. Sure, they are a start up but at this point they seem to be getting large enough that customer service is going to become a must.


Don’t get me started on the delays. I’m trying not to curse in this post and it is really hard when getting to this topic. Smashwords states they’ll get to your manuscript in a week or two. It took them much longer than that for me. And then they asked me to remove a picture from the manuscript (something their directions said was okay) and then took another two weeks to approve the book. I was pulling out my hair. Sprinkle in a healthy dose of “don’t contact us” and I was ready to punch someone in the face.

This goes hand in hand with the lack of communication. If they are so overwhelmed that they can’t answer questions, so overwhelmed that they can’t post your book in a timely manner, and so overwhelmed that they can’t provide any sort of assistance, what good are they? If the idea is that they make epublishing easy, I’d rather be aggravated with Apple or Amazon directly where I have control over my document than with some stupid gatekeeper.


For those interested in numbers, having an up-to-date count of downloads is your crack. You check your stats daily, hourly, minutely. But, other than Smashwords downloads, you have to wait for literally MONTHS to find out how many downloads you’ve had. Months? Oh, I don’t think so. This isn’t Smashwords’ fault but it, alone, is enough for me to submit to each of the major services individually. I uploaded to Kindle and I can check at any time and see how many downloads I’ve had from the US, UK, and DE stores. I still don’t know how many iBook downloads I’ve had and I’ve had my book on iBooks since February 18th (that’s three months for those reading in the future).

Edit 6/21/11 – According to the Smashwords sales report page, my Apple sales should be adjusted through May 28, 2011. It is still showing zero sales. I’ve got 35 reviews on the US iBookstore alone so I know that can’t be right. Hell, I downloaded it. Against my better judgement (and previous statement), I’ve sent an email to Smashwords. We’ll see if I get a response this time. I’m not hopeful.

Edit 12/10/11 – Received word from a commentor that Smashwords doesn’t currently report stats on free books (though they receive them). Information that should be communicated to prospective authors.


My last gripe is a nitpick. Smashwords has become the defacto site for posting erotica. If you spend any time on the site it seems well over half of the books are some sort of fetish erotica (I have no stats on that, it just seems so). While I have no problem with people writing or reading erotica, it bothers me that Smashwords is so full of it. I almost don’t want to send people to the site because of it. I honestly wish there were multiple Smashwords URLs for each of the divisions. That way when you hit “Home” you’d be at children’s books home or sci-fi home and not looking at a book cover with a half-naked woman with a whip titled “Disciplining Daddy.”

Note – I have no idea if such a book exists and if it does…well, I don’t know what to say.


So, what does this mean for me and Smashwords? Well, there are some services that won’t accept direct submissions (not sure which those are but they are out there). Smashwords is good for them. They are also good for giving away copies of your book as they make it easy to create a coupon code that people can use. But for the services that I’m seeing the most traffic, namely Kindle, Nook, and Apple, I’m probably going to submit directly. Sure it’ll cost more money (need individual ISBNs) and it’ll be more hassle, but I’ll want to track my upcoming release Bob Moore: Desperate Times more closely. Plus, with direct submissions you’re generally making a larger cut of the sales price and you can control exactly how the book looks. When you are trying to put out the best product possible, that alone is reason enough. As an overall service concept, I give Smashwords a 4 out of 5 (needs Amazon shipping for a 5). For performance, I give them a 3 (better/some customer service would increase this to a 3.5). For my satisfaction, I give them a 2 (far too aggravated for a higher number but they did get my book into many venues).

Concept -[rating: 4]

Performance – [rating: 3]

Satisfaction – [rating: 2]

Followup – More Smashwords Stats Woes

Having problems formatting your eBook for Smashwords? Check out my Smashwords Self Publishing Guide!

78 thoughts on “Smashwords: A Review”

  1. This is interesting stuff. I just uploaded my first bit o’ work to Smashwords and Amazon yesterday, and the contrast was striking. I had no problems with Meatgrinder–the Smashwords Style Guide is really helpful–but a bunch of other issues (like differentiating between me, the publisher, and me, the author) were handled way more smoothly on Amazon.

    So far, I’ve had a pretty good experience on Smashwords, though–but the customer service stuff you mention concerns me.

  2. Hopefully you have a better time of it than I have. I know most of the people I’ve contacted haven’t run into the same delays/problems. I could just be that guy that fell through the cracks but the fact that my emails have been systematically ignored should concern everyone IMO.

  3. I will soon be publishing my first ever eBook which will be a compilation of artwork and literature work. To get through meatgrinder, their book suggests endless formatting necessities which makes the book look really boring.

    Is there anyway i can submit directly to ibook store? Is lulu a better option if i want to send my book to ibook store just in case direct submission is not possible?

    Meatgrinder wants me to keep my font size at a maximum of 16. Can i increase it much more to say around 24 to 30 and the text will still look great on kindle, ipad etc.?

    Kindly help.

  4. The problem with Smashwords is that they are formatting for everyone. If you want specialized formatting for your book (like you need), you’ll have to submit individually.

    With Kindle we used this formatting guide. I have heard that on the Kindle, there is a bit of a margin issue but with the Kindle app (the only way I have of viewing the book), I’m not seeing it.

    For iBooks, you can submit directly to Apple from iTunesConnect. I imagine this gives you many more formatting options. The downside of submitting directly to Apple is that you have to have a tax ID number (you can Google it for more information). If you have one, it is supposedly very simple. When Bob 2 is done, I’ll be doing it and writing about it on this blog.

  5. Oh, and you can submit directly to B&N for the Nook here. I don’t know much about the process but I can’t imagine it is any more complicated than the other two.

  6. Read the really comprehensive formatting guide available from the Smashwords site. Personally I see the limited formatting options/one stop solution as ideal.

    1. Sure, if you are doing a book without many pictures and you don’t care that sometimes the formatting will be slightly off from service to service (my titles and such are not centered on iBooks but they are everywhere else I’ve tried). I’m not saying their service isn’t useful, it the customer service that is sorely lacking.

  7. I’ve put some short stories on Amazon with no problem, yet didn’t get the first one right on Smashwords. The print looks fine to me, but it says the formatting isn’t right and doesn’t say exactly what. I guess I can figure it out from their guide. It also says the cover is too small (a same cover that worked fine with Amazon). I don’t know how to make it bigger. ?

    Unless I just missed it, I wish there had been a way to review/get their instructions for corrections, before I pushed Publish and waited for hours.


  8. Harry,

    That’s definitely a problem, and it isn’t a new one. Smashwords being a DIY site is just fine when it was small. But as it grows, and continues to grow, you can no longer take a hands-off approach to self-publishing. Well, they can, but eventually someone is gong to do something similar with a more user friendly front end and that’ll be the end of Smashwords.

    And hours? I waited for weeks. Weeks to have them tell my my cover was slightly too large. And then I waited for weeks again for final approval. Definitely frustrating.

  9. Thank you! … For your insight into this matter. New authors need to know the truth about their marketplace, yet so many of us don’t know where to turn for honest evaluations. Your blog has been extremely honest and appreciated. I was going to use their services but wondered if it would be as easy as what they confessed. I’m with you, customer service should be tops for businesses, especially with DIY projects. I think I will try to individually submit my first ebook novel–myself.
    Once again … Thanks for the insight!

    1. You’re welcome. My hope is that Smashwords takes this feedback in the manner it was intended – constructively.

  10. Great article. I learned a lot. I went to the Smashwords site and found it obviously so heavy from visuals that you cannot move from page to page without it being agonisingly slow. I gave up, and will look to get on iBooks a different way. Thanks.

  11. I do not like smashwords at all. It takes them weeks to answer simple emails and as far as I can tell they do not even report their sales. I personally know of sales through Iphones of my book . (One of them was me buying the book as a test,) but nothing shows up on their site and I can’t get a reply from them as to how long it should take, ( Amazon takes about 5 minutes to show up.)

    It is quite possible that they are growing so fast they do not have the abilitiy to track anything, or they are jsut keeping everything for themselves? Hope not, but there is no way to know. I am going to get my book off of there and do everything direct. I don’t like having an entity that won’t even respond to my questions in control of my creation.

  12. Thank you for this article. I’ve heard Mark Coker speak a few times and he’s very impressive and interesting. My problem is that the SWs tutorials and rules are SO overwhelming at first. I used some of what they teach to format myself for Kindle. I made some mistakes, but had someone help me with Mobi conversion and my book looks great on Kindle.

    I’d like to go to other stores now, but am not sure why I would pay a “middle man” like SWs to do that. They will take a cut, but I didn’t have to pay them to get on Amazon, obviously. And all of what you say here is constructive, but concerns me.

    Do you have any further thoughts on what it’s like to upload to iBookstore or pubit directly?

    And just to clarify: most people don’t know about Smashwords. They don’t go there to BUY your books. They have to be able to find our books on the various stores sites. Am I correct?

    Many thanks for this helpful article. Laura

    1. Laura,

      Thanks for the comment. I am currently finishing up my second book in the Bob Moore series and will be publishing direct to iBooks, Amazon, and B&N if possible. I’ll definitely follow up with a post about it (and tutorial if it seems needed).

      I agree with everything you said. If SW would make the process easier or would, at least, respond to questions/inquiries, I would be more than happy to let them take a cut. But when I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall with no support, no responses, and no stats, I don’t see why I should let them have anything.

  13. This was a very informative article. Thanks. I just published on Kindle and found it quite frustrating adjusting tables (a financial book).

    So looked around for other options for my next book. Smashwords seemed good but I was wary of the nuclear approach. Think I will just stick with Amazon for now. Not sure they will print it since it is a critical look at the financial losses from Kindle Fire for 2012.

  14. I’m a bit late to the Smashwords party but I do have to say that my first impressions were not good. I’m a writer with a vested interest in checking out sites for publishing.

    The site is not visually appealling at all, it’s very basic but easy to navigate.

    I read four stories in all, all fiction. The first was a Harry Potter knock off, the second had a thinly disguised Buffy as the heroine, the third was a pile of verbose poo (how do shadows whisper someone’s name?) and the fourth was a short story which the writer should have had edited before he/she uploaded it, it was full of grammar, spelling and continuity errors. A quick scan of a few other stories revealed more of the same.

    I found out very quickly that a good editor/beta is essential when writing, I have two who do a marvelous job of keeping me in line. It would seem that is not common practice.

    My impression, it’s basically the alter ego of that pit of voles, If I do publish I’ll avoid it like the plague.

    1. Vic,

      The thing that is nice about Smashwords is that it gives you access to stores you wouldn’t normally have. The downside (other than the ones you’ve mentioned) is that the big ones, you can submit manually (and thus avoid paying them a royalty). Personally, I’m going to do my next book manually for Nook/Kindle/iBooks, and use smashwords for everything else. If for no other reason that I can give out coupon codes easily through them.

      Couldn’t agree more about the editing, though. Very lacking. I have found that, for the most part, the cream rises to the top.

  15. I agree whole heartedly. My book has been waiting for two weeks to be reviewed and this is the second time I’ve uploaded. The first time I uploaded, it was never distributed to the other stores (at that time my book had been on sale with SW for 2mos).
    However after reading this article and comments, I’m starting to wonder if I need SW at all? I seem to be doing better with Amazon and B&N. But how can I upload to the ibookstore?

    1. Gela,

      The problem with the iBookstore is that you have to have a Tax ID number. You can read more about how to post on iBooks on This is the direct link to iTunes Connect (where you’ll submit your book).

      Vic – this is one of the problems that Smashwords helps circumvent. It also allows you to get your book into bookstores that don’t allow direct submissions. I’ll have more to say on this in a very short while as I’ll be submitting Bob Moore: Desperate Times to Amazon (and eventually the rest) over the weekend (fingers crossed we get the editing/formatting done in time).

  16. I am ready to submit a children’s story, Bo Dog and a Teaching Phonics Reading ebook to be self published. I’ve read so much on line that I’m confused as to which direction to begin. Xlibrie has offered a package. Do you have any suggestions for me as to where to begin. I’m very inexperienced at self publishing.

  17. Novena,

    Does your book have a lot of pictures or specific formatting requirements? Personally, I’d think I’d start with Amazon. They are the most user friendly. I’m going to post about Amazon soon (working on it now) and it really is a “what you see is what you get” experience. All you need is a word doc to start. Just remember that the size of a word page is much bigger than a kindle screen.

  18. Coming late to this discussion – but what disturbs me is the TOS of Smashwords. I even asked their help service to clarify and was shocked regarding the answer.

    I write YA novels, mostly romance and urban romance. One of the basic topics in YA novels is growing of age and sexuality. Mind, this is not about erotica, just sex-positive content in that department. It’s been done since Judy Blume, which means the 1970s, and whether you read Sarah Dessen, Daria Snadowsky, Jennifer Echols, Kody Keplinger or Melvyn Burgess, the sexual experiences or wanted experiences and discussions thereof of just about any aged teens is part of the genre.

    Not just that, there are quite a few YA novels realistically depicting rape and its aftermath like pregnancy or infections. It’s also a much needed, and written about topic.

    Yet smashwords forbids ENTIRELY sexual encounters of any kind for characters under 18 years of age:

    “…any characters that are 17 or younger cannot be depicted as engaging in sexual activity or considering it.”

    This includes literally everything, be it that of a raped young woman and how she forces her school peers to acknowledge it happened (see for instance Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” or Melvyn Burgess “Nicholas Dane”) or teens learning about their own sexuality and having their first boyfriend/girlfriend (see Burgess’ “Doing It” or Keplinger’s “Duff”) or such dystopian tales as the current smash hit “The Hunger Games.”

    None of that would be publishable with Smashwords! Also of course not the novel I am currently writing about a young girl who gets raped and keeps the resulting baby. I can and will publish it via Amazon, but I resent being censored in such a silly manner.

  19. Ann,

    I remember noting that particular TOS and thought, “That’s not a bad idea.” Mostly because I thought it would keep out all the hentai-fueled fan-fic that could certainly be a problem. With all the erotica on Smashwords already, I certainly don’t see a problem with them trying to keep out child porn.

    But your point is well made and well taken. I completely agree. These topics need to be discussed and should be discussed in a positive and constructive manner. Seeing the outcomes of sex and pregnancy is something that can only help our kids make better decisions.

    Giving people an access to child porn, albeit without pictures, however, is not.

    I can see where Smashwords is coming from on this. They don’t really have time to answer emails much less filter through their offerings for your type of YA novel and the child erotica. Making a blanket policy like that probably is the only way they could realistically handle this touchy subject.

    On the other hand, it seems like they could have a review policy that allows your YA offerings an extended waiting period so that they could be properly reviewed and included in their catalog. It seems that’s not the way they want to go yet.

  20. Hi Tom,

    if you have a closer look at YA novels, what I am talking about is roughly 50-60% of the genre. As per the nature of who these books are directed at (13-18 year old youths) this is quite logical, first experiences with their sexuality IS what that phase of life is about. And without writing that like erotica, a positive or at least neutral approach to that sexuality is as necessary as talking about the risks (not for nothing the USA have the highest incidences of teen pregnancies, teen rape, teen STDs).

    Fact is that all the renowned authors I named in my first post – published, showered with prizes and the gold standard of YA – would be unable to publish via Smashwords should their books go out of print. And not just YA, there are a gazillion reasons for a writer to describe people under the age of 18 having sex which are entirely legit. Juliet was 13! Up to the late medieval age marriage with 13-14 was normal, babies at that time as well and women were middleaged with 18-19. Under Smashword’s TOS neither Shakespeare could publish, nor the much more recent Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Saga) or Katherine Kurtz (Deryni books), that’s high fantasy for you. Tolkien by the way also would have been forbidden, he has multiple underage characters having it off with vastly aged characters.

    Fact also is that there is nothing which forbids description of sex among minors as long as the work has literary merits (or Lolita would have been out of print already), that’s for the law and judges to decide, not to arbitrarily censor. Childporn as per the current definition is visual, with only such exceptions of the written word, which are entirely obscene and prurient. No normal YA novel will make this cut. And in erotica underage characters are ALREADY also forbidden, so there. That is taken care of.

    As Smashwords threatens to become as much a market monopolist as Ebay already is, there’s also the threat of becoming just as oppressive.

    Lastly, I do not at all mind erotica. I’m European, I’m not at all religious, I even enjoy reading well-written erotic stories when I am in the mood. I give it to you, most of those on Smashwords are horrid but not because they are erotica, instead because they are so badly written. However, Josh Lanyon for instance publishes also via Smashwords, and he is one of the very best m/m erotic romance writers out there whose books rival some of the best romances written in other fields.

    These TOS smack of the religious right and censoring. Sorry, but I can see nothing positive in them. I’d rather have a gazillion awful erotic novels, than lack one well-done fantasy, SF or YA book. And if you think which Nobel prize winners also would fall down the ditch you can only shake your head.

  21. Interesting article. My first attempt with Meatgrinder went without a hitch. It was great, considering my nerves were jumping. Just didn’t think I could publish something without getting grief from the machine.

    It took ten days before my free short story was accepted into the premium catalog.

    Reminded me of the first time I’d tried to get a manuscript published – fifteen years ago. The traditional publishing house kept my story for one year before sending it back with a note that it wasn’t what they were looking for.

    Complete waste of my time.

    With Smashwords, you don’t have the extended wait. But had this format been available, when I grew the courage to try getting my work published, I’d never have known I was essentially turning out crap from my keyboard.

    However, with a writing course under my belt and years of honing my skill,you can’t imagine the excitement I feel at seeing my work finally posted after a nine-year publishing hiatus.

    The only downside I see to Smashwords are the writers who have a story idea, raw talent and who believe that’s enough to write a book. Writing no longer becomes a craft but another poorly written, poorly thought out jumble of thoughts: much like you’d see in a blog.

    It’s like a wine shop selling a vast assortment of liquors – both excellent and poor qualities – and giving them the same labels. The shopper won’t know the difference until after they’ve sampled.

    Hopefully, sour wine won’t sour the reader.

  22. Jacqueline,

    That’s a good point and the self-pubbed world is full of some pretty horrible prose. I know that my second book is vastly superior to my first simply because of the experience writing the first gave me.

    There is no doubt that the traditional publishing process “helps” writers get better simply by making them try harder. But the question has always been how many great works have been overlooked? How many potentially great writers have been discouraged and given up? Is it worth it?

    The real benefit of the ebook revolution is the preview. I don’t need half a book to know if I like something or not. A chapter will do. Sometimes a paragraph. It is the “thumbing through the book at the bookstore” of the electronic world. To use your wine analogy, it is like a wine store full of wines of various quality with similar labels and small tasting cups in front of each. You may chose to shop by label alone but you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t like the contents. If anything, such “sour wine” will teach buyers to take a quick look at that preview before they hit purchase.

  23. Thanks for the informative article, I have several (text) books already published through a publisher (Landlinks press) and I am just getting my head around the whole ebook thing as I have several books ready to go. Re your comment “The thing that is nice about Smashwords is that it gives you access to stores you wouldn’t normally have. The downside (other than the ones you’ve mentioned) is that the big ones, you can submit manually (and thus avoid paying them a royalty). Personally, I’m going to do my next book manually for Nook/Kindle/iBooks, and use smashwords for everything else. If for no other reason that I can give out coupon codes easily through them”. What do you mean if you submit manually you can avoid paying them a royalty? Don’t you have to go with the 35% or 70% royalty option with Kindle for example? Is there a way out of this?
    Cheers, Jane Myers

    1. Jane,

      Sorry, I missed this. What I was referring to is the Smashwords cut they take on top of the royalty you pay to iBooks/Nook/etc. The royalties charged by the ebook retailers is a given – you can’t get around that. Smashwords takes an extra 15% of net (usually works out to 10% the asking price) on top of that. That was the royalty I was looking to get out of by publishing manually.

  24. Smashwords’ latest weakness is their server reliability. They’ve acknowledged that in their (when available) news but right now (1:20 rmt) they’re dead in the water again for at least three times in the last week. They tout using one of the biggest ISPs around — but to me that’s not impressive.

    As for Smashword’s hurdles, it’s like any other tool: if you have to spend as much/more time understanding the tool as/than you do on the work the tool is meant to accomplish, it’s time to get a more productive tool.

    I write — or try to. I don’t do XML/HTML/CSS/ad nauseum. That’s what the tool is there for, to build compatible ebook structure and creation for me. As it is, the Meatgrinder can’t handle endnotes/footnotes. I don’t care what the style guide says. And that ain’t good for any serious non-fiction work like I do.

    Maybe that’s why there’s so much “erotica” (nicely named) on Smashwords?

    1. You know, J., I think you summed it up best when you said, “I don’t care what the style guide says.” That’s exactly it. The fact is that it probably works, but there is no one out there (specifically at Smashwords) to give you any help. I don’t know how they can sustain their business model without adding some sort of customer support element.

  25. Thank you for an extremely clear and helpful review of Smashwords, its strengths and weaknesses and, for that matter, your tightly written overvew of the market in general. Oh, yes. I bought the book.

    David Wark

  26. I started out thinking that SW would be a great site to release my second book after using another site to publish my first book, but after reading all of the reviews of SW I think not. I have a pro editor and graphic designer and have sold more myself than any site has sold(actual hard and soft bound books) and I guess that I would rather do the hard work and set up for booksignings than fuss with someone that will not talk to me, and actually ingores me. I don’t think that I have the next Twilight or Harry Potter, but my reviews are solid. I recieved one bad review and the guy actually told me he would help me write better though I have no idea of his credentials and he is not published himself.
    I think that writing in is my blood and the formatting and sales stuff is for the professionals. Guess I should just keep looking.

    1. If you are going to put that much effort into your books (graphic designer leads me to believe their are a lot of pictures), I’d definitely suggest you format the books yourself. Or pay someone to do them for you. Either way, you’ll end up with a book that you’ll be happy with instead of fighting with the meatgrinder program on Smashwords.

      But, then again, Smashwords is really only for authors of text-only books (IMO) and specifically ones that don’t want to go through the hassle (if you check out my publishing guides, you’ll see it really isn’t that much of a hassle for text-only books) of self-formatting. If you end up formatting your books yourself, I urge you to post about your experiences. Lots of people have questions about how to make pictures show up correctly and, since I don’t have any in my books outside of the cover, I don’t have any answers for them.

  27. Hello,

    Thanks for all the posts to help new unexperienced authors be on the right track.

    I am very scared about this new experience. I have worked so long in having my first eBook finished and was so proud to have it copyrighted last week. Unfortunately, I found out that in order to publish with Apple, the books must have an ISBN. That is ok, but I can’t affort to pay that much. Unless I missunderstood, it seems as I would have to have more than one ISBN to publish in one format and another, which means, it is not only $125. It ends up being quite high.

    That being said. I thought I would have my own website and paid to to be with Volusion, which is a place that helps ecommerce. My thought was that I could be an affiliate with Amazon, and would market my site to sell my eBook. I only have one, but have so much I want to write/publish. This was another disappointment I had. In order to be seen on the search engines, it seems as I would need to pay or wait ????? a long time to be seen in there.

    So… I really hope you can help me with this new adventure. I thought SmashWords would be a good alternative, after I saw the ISBN would be free, but when I saw that all of my formating would have to be deleted (almost), I became a bit reluctant and started to look for their reviews, and was pleased to see yours that is very helpful. I used to be a Graphic Artist, so naturally, I have problems to just type and submit something. I always like to have something that catches the eyes and do my formating for this reason. Now, I do not know what to do.
    – Amazon seems to be an excellent choice since people buy alot there… but I have to put my book into a Kindle format. Does it mean I will lose all my formating and nice design?
    – Barnes & Nobles, Apple, Nook, etc… how does it work?

    Sorry if my questions and what I said seems as I repeat what you said and others, but I’m so new into this eBook and was really hoping to make it profitable, who knows, maybe be able to make it a full-time income. Thanks so much… Hope you can answers my questions and wonders.


  28. Oh… sorry, I forgot to say.

    I finished my first eBook and wrote it in Word, then really thought that pdf would be the best to go. In my view, I really like pdf because you can read it in an iphone, ipad, android, but it is also possible to print it, if needed. This first eBook does not need to be printed, but the other eBook I started to work on will need to be printed, since I created worksheet for French teachers to use and give as handouts. I was into a huge shock when I saw that Amazon only does the Kindle and does not accept the pdf (unless I missunderstood).

    So, for the pdf format of eBooks… what do you suggest?

    Once again, thank you so very much.


  29. Assal,

    If you want PDF, be aware that Smashwords (this by their own admission) will not give readers your cover…only the text/graphics of the book itself.

    I can’t say that this is true for all purveyors of PDF. You might also see that your Adobe Acrobat reader now offers five free Word-to-PDF conversions. I tried it on a pretty complex (a few graphics, MANY on-page footnotes and a complex, multi-page table — all done with Word 2002) and it came out just as it went in…my mistakes and all!!

    J. in CO

  30. …and a postscript: that should be, “…a pretty complex book…” up there.

    Being your own editor has pitfalls…


  31. Assal – My paragraphs address each of yours.

    First, don’t be afraid. I’ve written a few guides to get you through the process. If they don’t help, feel free to use my contact form (though I wrote most of what I know in the guides). Google will also serve you well.

    ISBN – You need one for Apple and for a print copy (though many services like CreateSpace will provide one for you). If you want to avoid the ISBN payment, go through Smashwords. They will list themselves as publisher unless you pay them a nominal fee. I could care less who is listed as publisher on my books. The author credit is what is important to me.

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is another issue entirely. The best thing to do is to list your website with all the search engines and write something that people will search for (like, oh, formatting guides).

    I understand your concerns about formatting. But, and I don’t say this lightly, you may have to just get over it. I’ve seen even professional books that try to do graphic stuff that comes off poorly. If the options are “a blandly formatted book on Amazon” or “an eye-poppingly formatted book on my own website”, you’re better off with the former. Every time. If you have a Kindle (or one of the many devices that have Kindle apps), you can download your document before you publish it to test. There are also programs that Amazon provides to test to see how your document will look on one of their many eReaders (see my guide for more).

    PDF. Okay, I’m going to do a post about these but what J. said is true – If you go through Smashwords you can kiss your cover goodbye. But, it is so easy to output a PDF these days from a word doc, there is no reason to go through them. But, and I can’t stress this enough, PDFs SUCK on small screens (phones in particular). It isn’t that they aren’t readable – they just don’t resize the text and you’re either forced to hold the phone close to your face or you must zoom in and move the text around with your finger as you read.

    Note, I’m changing my above menu to include a tab for Publishing Guides since Audio didn’t really pan out.

  32. Hi Everyone,

    I’m considering using Smashwords for my non-fiction eBook. When customers download your eBook from the Smashwords website, is it encrypted? I’m concerned about sharing and unauthorized reselling.

    1. Smashwords doesn’t use DRM (see this link as to why). In my experience, DRM does little but punish people that want to transfer their purchased copy from one device to another. Pirates always find a way around DRM so they aren’t bothered either way.

  33. I’ve been with Smashwords for a while and getting an eBook Premium is a pain. I’m expecting some royalties to come but haven’t seen payment distributed yet. They state they pay on month after each quarter. It’s now the last day of April 2012 and I still haven’t seen my payment being distributed. What’s other people experience with getting paid from Smashwords?

    1. Gary,

      You know, I can’t say. I know I got one payment from Smashwords but I don’t know how timely it was. Amazon and B&N are pretty good at paying though. I think Apples waits until you have at least $100 of sales before they’ll cut you a check.

  34. Smashwords is okay as long as it doesn’t need to actually monitor it’s distributors (such as Sony). Putting your eBooks out there is easy. Recalling them is almost impossible. I caution anyone considering smashwords to proceed with the understanding smashwords works in one direction only – to put material out there. It neither maintains nor effectively recalls material. I can’t get them to remove my books from Sony so I can take advantage of Kindle Select rentals. Beware.

  35. I’m just beginning the self-publishing/epublishing journey. I may be a bit old fashioned in expecting someone I want to do business with being responsive. I have tried to register with Smashwords 3 times – still no luck. So, I sent them an email – after reading these posts, I suppose I shouldn’t expect a response anytime soon. I think I’m just going to avoid this option and pursue others.

    1. Eric – Recently (like last month) I finally got a response from them. I had hoped they had turned the tendency of not responding around. Maybe not.

  36. Tom – Still no resolution. The reason I was trying to sign up for a Smashwords account was to buy a book. Thinking like a potential seller, if people can’t get signed up to buy books, what’s the point of trying to sell them there? They’ll just go elsewhere – as I did.

    1. I’m disappointed. I thought they might be on the up swing and getting on top of these CS issues.

  37. Just thinking about writing a book (have all ideas in my head but barely wrote any lines) and it seems like for a beginner this is the only way to submit to Smashwords. At least to learn things.
    Would that make sense to make a “first of the series” book of 20 000 words for this publishing “training” rather than put all 100 000 words in one book?

  38. Costa,

    There are a lot of ways to do what you are talking about. Getting experience is something that can’t be undervalued. But the problem has traditionally been that your group of friends/family are either unable or unwilling to give you the sort of feedback you really need. Critical feedback.

    You could write something shorter and publish to smashwords. You could join a writer’s group or writer’s forum and seek feedback. You could even take a couple of classes at a local university. All these are good options.

    Another that I only recently became aware of is Wattpad. It is a social networking site built around writing. People typically post chapters (or shorter) and look for feedback. Your level of participation will, of course, dictate how much feedback you get. I also can’t promise that the feedback will be any good.

    Good luck and let me know what you end up doing.

  39. Just read your comments both good and bad about Smashwords.

    As a writer who has as yet to publish, the negative comments worry me.
    I do think I’ll go the direct to Kindle and Nook route initially, and attempt Smashwords for the other sites.

    1. That’s a safe route. Though, remember, if you do put your book up for free, Smashwords won’t report how many downloads you got from Apple. I’m not sure Apple will tell you if you upload to them directly, but I know you can’t get the info from Smashwords.

    1. Unfortunately, I haven’t. There are actually quite a few ways to self publish your books. I’ve only done the direct route and through Smashwords.

  40. A common technique to sell books is to make the first, usually shorter, one of a series free. This seems to be what you did with your Bob Moore books.
    As far as I know, Amazon does have an option of making a book permanently free. A way of getting round it is to publish the book on Smashwords, as well, and make the book free there. Amazon then match the price, so “Bob Moore: No Hero” is free on Amazon, but shows a crossed out 99 cent price.
    This is one of the uses of Smashwords.

    1. Unless their policy has changed, they didn’t consider Smashwords to be big enough to lower their own price. It is better if you link up to B&N or iBooks if you want them to reduce their price. Better yet, link up everything you can.

  41. Since you put your answer to my suggestion, I have done some little experiments with Smashwords and Amazon.
    I put an update to my novella, “War and Space” onto Smashwords on the 15th of December 2012. The novella was already in their premium catalog, and the revision was approved almost immediately (on the 14th of December 2012. This apparent time paradox was because I was using Australian Central Daylight Time while Smashwords is on US Pacific Time.) I had made the novella free on Smashwords, and I got someone else to report the lower price on Smashwords.
    It wasn’t until the 2nd of January 2013 when Barnes and Noble updated their price that Amazon made my book free.
    So the experiment confirms your information about Amazon not bothering with the price Smashwords (And a few other ebook retailers) charge, but do match the price of Barnes and Noble.

  42. I’m in the stages of editing my fantasy novel. This’ll be my very first time publishing and I’m curious whether this is overall a good first-time thing and if big-time publishers might find me? (I know if any the chances are slim, but am just wondering.)

    What is premium referring to?

    Also, I’ve heard e-books are becoming more popular than actual paper books. Is this true?

    And (sorry to ask so many random questions) do you think social networking might improve any chances to sell?

    Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

  43. Ice, in answer to your question, the premium catalog on Smashwords I was referring to is their catalog of books they distribute to several retailers.
    Putting a book on Smashwords is easy, and it is available for people to purchase it from Smashwords immediately. Much more important than sales directly from Smashwords are sales from the retailers they distribute to.
    Getting books onto their premium catalog means your book will be distributed. It can sometimes be frustrating getting onto the catalog.

  44. Hello everyone!

    Anyone know how to contact Smashwords?
    I can’t find an email address on their website to contact them.

    Thank you


  45. Carlos, Try clicking on “Comments/questions/customer support? Click here!” in the centre at the top of the Smashwords page. This should get you to a place where, on the right hand side, you can send your message.
    Smashwords are sometimes slow in responding.

  46. Steve, thanks for the help. I’m in the middle of moving from Australia back to the US and haven’t had consistent Internet access. I should be more responsive from this point forward.

  47. I’m having horrible problems with Smashwords customer service. Not only are they slow to respond, they are often rude when they do respond. I’m thinking about pulling my book from their site. Anyone have any suggestions based on personal experience?

    1. Jill,

      I’ve delineated my experiences pretty thoroughly on this site. To summarize – getting them to respond is often the problem. I’ve never experienced them being rude when they do. Can you be more specific? If you decide to take your books away and format them yourself, I’ve posted guides (link at the top of the page) for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

  48. My friends would go to smashwords and try to order my book but couldn’t–Turns out they put an adult filter on all books classified as adult content and the filter had to be turned off to access any of these books classified as adult content–didn’t know this–lost many sales. When i sent them emails about this they didn’t like what I said to them and they kicked me off the website with money in my account which they kept..No it’s not free

  49. I was earlier only on amazon and then I decided to broaden with smashwords. So yes, formatting on amazon is much easier but once I got the hang of smashwords meatgrinder I did not find it difficult. More laborious, though. Amazon allows you to use microsoft word’s toc feature whereas for smashwords you have to bookmark and hyperlink each chapter which is a chore.

    Amazon’s response time is very much better.

    Sales reporting time is the same for both. smashwords has sorted out that issue.

    I fully agree about the erotica flood on smashwords. I write for middle graders and I hesitate to direct the children / parents to smashwords. It would be great if they could split their content.

    The plus is definitely access to more number of stores.

    Having said all this, I would conclude that none of these are big problems for an indie author. The problem is visibility. Getting reviews. Announcing your presence. That remains a problem whether you are on amazon or smashwords.

    With publishers offering pre release books through Netgalley, it has become very difficult to get reviewers to accept indie books. Any thoughts on this?

  50. Their customer service and response times are primitive compared to other sites. They are already losing clints to Draft2Digital who in reality got them to get off their high horse a little and start thinking of their customers. Historically not a Smashwords prioirty. They have slipped back to their old ways. Two of my titles are accepted by Amazon, B&N, Kobo Createspace etc but can’t get past the Smashwords reviewers. Thee’s absolutely nothing wrong with the formatting. I’ve checked the epub file for example. And as I say the problem doesn’t appear elsewhere. It’s a recurrent problem with Smashwords. Mark has done a lot for indie writers but he has lost focus on responding to valid complaints about his systems. He doesn’t seem to realise the strength of feeling from his customers

  51. My book, Excite is priced at $99.99 and is high on the most downloaded list. I have 9 books published and need a dashboard transfer to see units sold. However, I am told I am owed $11. by Mark. Every author has a different problem with smashwords.

  52. Many comments focus on the ease or dis-ease of publishing on Smashwords. It was easy for me. The really disappointing part of SW is buying e-books. Initially a buyer must register with SW. But, SW does not walk the buyer through the process clearly enough. I have had many people email me wanting to buy my book but cannot wade through the maze to register. They give up. I lose a sale. In my first three weeks I sold 4 books but had 50 hits to read the first 10% of my book. They like it but will not tolerate the difficulty registering.

  53. I’ve been having a horrible time with smashwords customer service. Two weeks ago I watched my book go from in the top 80 on the all time bestsellers lost in my category to the next day just completely gone from the list. Because I went through smashwords apple won’t work with me directly which they let me know within 48 hrs (the standard initial response time they have I noticed) contact smashwords customer service and immediately they just assume my book sucks and lost its position. The fact that they completely ignored the fact that even with a day of no sales the worst that would happen is I’d go down in ranking not entirely disappear. To add salt to the wound he claims apple still hasn’t responded almost two weeks later. The site offerings are nice but worthless if they can’t even offer decent support when vendor glitches affect their authors works.

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