Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship With Smashwords

As an Indie Author, Smashwords has been a great place to start. The set up is very friendly for newbies and you have explicit instructions on how to get your work published. I recommend it to anyone thinking of jumping into eBooks.

  • Based on the instructions there, I was able to figure out Amazon and publish on there are well. Awesome!
  • It also affords me the ability to price my books and change the pricing whenever I want. I can even put books up for free permanently. It gets people to check out my work and those that like it buy my other books. Nice!
  • Another thing I like about Smashwords is that they distribute my books to B&N and Apple as well as other eBook sites. They even collect the money and give detailed payment information (though they only pay out quarterly). Still, it's great!
  • Smashwords stands up for and believes in the little guy. I feel supported there as an author, especially as an author of erotica. Bravo!
  • Best of all - it's FREE! Well, at least the publishing is. Naturally, they take a small cut of everything you sell. Yay!


I don't know if they struggle due to a large influx of authors flocking to the site or they have bad software or they are simply understaffed because Smashwords definitely has issues:

  • Books do not show up on certain sites or take months to show up. While my books were having success on Amazon, I didn't make money on Apple and B&N because the books just simply weren't there. (And I am still waiting on some...) Growl!
  • Changes you make in price, book cover, or edits are not necessary going to show up on the other sites. Really???
  • Your books must wait to be "okayed" for distribution and sometimes this can take up three weeks to happen. And then you wait another 2, 4, 8 weeks to show up on the other sites. Crickets...
  • The support team will answer your email, but it usually takes between one to two weeks for them to respond. Sometimes when they respond, you are told to send another email with specific information and then you may have to wait an additional week or two to get a follow up response. Worse, I get a different person each time. So, even though it is the same issue I've been dealing time and time again, I have to go through the whole situation from scratch. It sucks.
  • The payments can be really delayed when the big companies like B&N and Apple are behind in paying Smashwords. The money you made in March may not be paid out until the end of August.
Despite all that, I continue to use Smashwords because it is the best option open to me at this point. I apologize to all my readers on Apple, B&N, Sony, and Kobo. You are either getting old versions or you are still waiting for books to show up. I am sorry. I wish I had some control over it.

In the end, I figure if I was using a traditional publisher, I would experience even more delays, have less of a say concerning my books and be expected to pay a ton of money for the favor.

So I still love you, Smashwords, but there are times I just want to slap you.


  1. Thank you for sharing that Red! I always wondered how Smashwords worked and (when the day comes) how I would be able to publish. All very wonderful and useful tidbits you shared. Filing them all for future reference :)

  2. Thanks Ava! It goes without saying that I would love to read your work when you decide to take the plunge.

    I enjoy sharing what I learn, because I figure we are all in this together. The more we help one another the better it is for everyone. In the words of Martha Stewart, "It's a good thing."

    1. Big :D
      from me!
      And all that you said is very true! You are a great person!

  3. Red - I surfed in here from Amazon. I like to look at list of other authors people buy when they buy me, and your name was there. In fact, I see your name everywhere! Congrats on your success!!

    I want to encourage you to have some patience with Smashwords. Employee wise, they are a small company that is just trying to stay on top of this ridiculous increase in demand. I uploaded my first book there in October 2010 and I've seen a lot of ups and downs since then. Like, sometimes, the wait in the premium queue will get faster. And then, suddenly, it slows again. I also remember over a year ago before their Meatgrinder software was upgraded. Right after the news of Amanda Hocking's success in February 2011, suddenly thousands of people rushed to Smashwords. The wait just to go through Meatgrinder increased from six hours (on a good day) to 24 hours (on a typical day). It was horrible. And now, the most I usually have to wait is a couple of minutes.

    There are other ways to get on Apple, like Lulu. I actually have a publishing company where I publish other authors to Apple and pay monthly royalties, but we're no longer publishing erotica (which means I do NOT publish even myself to Apple anymore) because Apple, about a month ago, decided they'd just had it with erotica and they completely got rid of our entire catalog of 90 books without bothering to see what was erotica and what wasn't. Some were Christian romance! They deleted us because they had strict orders to "get rid of explicit erotica." So, we're back on the store (after a fight) but we're not publishing erotica anymore, at all, because we can't afford to fight with Apple again. They determine what is and isn't "explicit." So, we're going with a conservative approach by publishing NONE.

    Anyway, I told you the Apple story to let you know that there's often something going on behind the scenes. "Apple" is such a wholesome-sounding name for a company that can be such a freakin' nightmare to deal with. in publishing, there's usually a whole side that most people never see, and I only have a taste of that from working with Apple. I can't imagine what it's like to have to publish thousands of people to all those distributors like Smashwords does.

    Also, did you know that Kobo is launching a self-publishing platform?

    Congrats again on your success!! This industry changes so much, so quickly. From one month to the next everything's different. It's exciting, frightening, and maddening all at once.


    1. Shaina,

      Thank you so much for the informative comment! I appreciate the reminder about the unseen issues we authors are never privy to. I will never forget the support Mark Corker gave to authors of erotica when Paypal was threatening to drop us.

      As frustrating as Smashwords can be at times, I do understand that in the real world of publishing there are tons of delays. In some ways, I am a spoiled little author - all I know is Smashwords and Amazon.

      So glad you took the time to connect! I wish you much success as well. :)