What’s Smashing About Smashwords, And What’s Not

It’s no secret I’m not the world’s biggest fan of aggregation. I totally get that some people aren’t gifted with large quantities of time or tech know-how, but I don’t like sharing my royalties (Smashwords takes 15%). I figure the benefit of indie-dom is sole claim to that percentage, and I’m not giving it up without damn good reason.

Well, there are some. Damn good reasons, I mean. I’ll just talk about Smashwords, because I like them best, but I am told you should check out BookBaby and Draft2Digital as well. They both take royalties cuts as well. BookBaby 15%, Draft2Digitial 10%.

1. Library access: Smashwords distributes to libraries through three channels, one of them brand new big news: Overdrive. I copied the following in straight from Smash so you could see their words:

  • “Library Direct is for large bulk opening purchases by individual public libraries who operate their own library ebook checkout systems (the act of a library operating their own ebook checkout systems is typically referred to as the Douglas County Model, which named after the large library network in Colorado that pioneered this model. Click here to view our Library Direct announcement.
  • Baker and Taylor’s Axis360 operates hosted library ebook checkout systems.  Libraries purchase the ebook from Axis360 and Axis 360 hosts the book for the library, and manages the ebook checkouts.
  • OverDrive (New!!!) – Smashwords announced distribution to OverDrive on May 20, 2014.  OverDrive operates the ebook checkout and procurement systems for more than 20,000 public libraries around the world.  OverDrive accepts all Smashwords Premium Catalog titles except erotica.”

I haven’t seen anything come of it with my books since I’ve had them on Smash from Library Direct or Axis360, and unfortunately if you read the fine print, you only make the potential cut for Overdrive (the big player in library ebook lends) if you’re part of the Smashwords-curated “most popular” titles. So, while you’re “available” for distribution, you don’t actually get distributed unless you are a big seller on Smash. Which you won’t be if you opt out of the major channels like Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks.

So, theoretically Overdrive sounds great. And I’ll opt in and hope for the best. In actuality, I don’t expect for my bestselling, award winning books to make the cut. Not that I’m bitter about it or anything, LOL.

2. Perma-free: One darn good way to stimulate sales of your indie series books is to offer the first book in the series free, permanently, also known as perma-free. Kobo, who I adore, let’s you do this directly. And they promote first-in-series-free books, too, which is very forward-thinking of them. As a result, when my book Saving Grace of the Katie & Annalise series went free on Kobo, my sales increased by 1000% there. And no, that isn’t a typo.

Smash also lets you offer your books free, permanently. However, they don’t promote them for you. They do however aggregate them free to Nook and iBooks, who won’t let you price your directly uploaded indie books at $0.00. So to get Saving Grace free everywhere, I put it on Smash and opted in to iBooks and Nook (and everywhere else except Amazon), and I put it up directly on Kobo.

I’ll post next month on HOW to go permanently free on Amazon, and on how perma-free “month one” went for me everywhere (preview: fan-fucking-tabulous).

3. All-you-can-eat retailers, maybe: Oyster, Scribd, and a few others are offering all-you-can-eat ebooks for a monthly subscription price. I’d love to get me in on some of that action. So I opted in to both on Smash. After six months, even though I had AMAZON REVIEWS telling the world the readers read my books on Oyster, Oyster reported I had zero reads each month and thus paid me zero dollars through Smash.

I had family members decide to test the system and pay for one month subscriptions and download and flip all the way through my books (Oyster purports to pay full royalties after a small percentage of the book is viewed). Oyster reported I had zero reads and paid me zero dollars. This began to feel like piracy to me. I already had the willies, so I pulled all my books off of the Netflix-type vendors, except my perma-free books. You can’t pirate what I’m giving away, so have at it, Oyster.

4. Pre-order: Both iBooks and Nook will allow pre-orders of your ebook if you aggregate to them via Smash, even though they won’t allow you to do it directly with your indie book. Yeah, you know Kobo lets you do it directly, because they rock. (Kobo, I love you, and I’m posting all about it next month.) Amazon won’t let dirty, nasty indies pre-sell at all.

My last novel, Finding Harmony, had hundreds of pre-orders via iBooks and Nook thanks to Smash. While that isn’t huge, I learned from it and plan to add a zero to the end of that number with the pre-order release of my next novel, Going for Kona.

So, my strategy these days for Smashwords is that for my pay-per-unit books I aggregate only to the library services, and to those pay-per-unit services that I don’t want to monkey with elsewhere because they aren’t worth my time. Kobo, iBooks, Nook, and Amazon get my direct uploads so I can keep all my royalties, except when when I’m offering my ebooks for sale in the pre-order phase–then I use Smash for iBooks and Nook. For my perma-free books, I aggregate them everywhere but Amazon and Kobo via Smash. It works for me, y’all.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_o mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) and was named one of Houston’s Top 10 Authors by the Houston Press. You can pre-order/back her next novel, Going for Kona, HERE. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

p.s. Smash doesn’t aggregate to Google Play, so I upload direct there as well. And I’ll post on how to do it someday soon because it is so very NOT simple, and I am already seeing sales traction there after only a week.

3 thoughts on “What’s Smashing About Smashwords, And What’s Not

  1. Eric Hutchins

    Really an outstanding post, so much good information here. Whether people read it here or in a future copy of Loser II, I hope that folks will see it and take the time to read and take advantage of it.

    1. Pamela

      You’re welcome Chris. Thanks for all you have done to help the writers of South Central Texas and the Gulf Coast!

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