Often the first place new authors think of publishing their e-books is Amazon. And this makes sense since Amazon is the largest e-book retailer out there. But not everyone has a Kindle. Some people have Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Kobo or choose to read off their smart phones or computer. To reach these readers, you need to have your book in iTunes, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo store and various other e-book retailers.
One of the easiest ways to get your book into multiple e-book retailers is to publish it through Smashwords, a free self-publishing website. Once you format your book to their standards and submit it, Smashwords will distribute your e-book to other retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Baker & Taylor as well as Amazon. (See the complete distribution list here.) They also will offer your book on their own site, which allows readers to download e-books in ten different formats.
The good thing about publishing through Smashwords is that you only have to format your e-book once, and they provide a step-by-step style guide for you to follow. After that they take your book and run it through what they call their “meat-grinder” which then formats it correctly for whichever e-book retailer it is being sent to. This means they will create files that are compatible with a variety of e-reader formats such as EPUB, LRF, HTML and Mobi.
Now to have your e-book distributed to the other retailers, you need to be included in what Smashwords calls their Premier catalog. In order to be included, you must have a cover image and must correct any formatting errors that occur from going through their “meat-grinder”. (Be sure to go back and check your dashboard because they do not send an email with errors that need fixing.)
Now Smashwords can publish your books through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but some authors like to decline these options and use Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) and PubIt (Barnes and Noble) to publish on those retailers. The reason for this is that you will get paid quicker going directly through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and possibly earn a higher royalty rate.
Publishing on Smashwords costs you nothing. They do take a 15% commission off of each sale on their site. If your book is purchased through one of the major online retailers, you earn 60% of the suggested list price. In comparison, Amazon offers 35% to 70% royalties (based on the price you sell your e-book) and charges a delivery fee if you are getting the higher royalty rate. So by using Smashwords to distribute to Amazon, you will lose a portion of your royalties to pay for the middle man (assuming you priced your book $2.99 or higher to get the higher royalty rate).
I highly recommend using Smashwords to get your e-book out to the various e-book retailers. One of the other nice things about using Smashwords is that they make it very easy to offer discounts on your books through their coupon system. And they also offer free guides on marketing and publishing to help you succeed in your self-publishing endeavor.
The only problem with Smashwords is that they’ve done away with the Premium ISBNs. For most authors, being “Published by Smashwords” isn’t a problem and the free ISBN is fine for them. But I’m my own publisher and I do not want to be “Published by Smashwords.” My only alternative is to pay a higher price for my ISBN elsewhere and publish on Smashwords using it. The Premium ISBN was only $9.95 if I purchased it through them.
And if that is your goal, to be your own publisher, and you have to purchase your ISBN elsewhere, then publishing through Smashwords is superfluous. I’d rather go through the individual booksellers, choosing where I want my books to appear, and make a higher royalty. Why get paid 60% when I can make 70% dealing directly with the booksellers.
Just a thought.
This is very helpful. I’m on Amazon KDP now but about to finish the exclusive 90 days. I want to get my book out to other retailers. So, if I place my book on B&N (I have an epub file) do I need an ISBN? Can I use the epub file for Smashwords? And if I buy the ISBN through Smashwords, who owns the ISBN? I’m not my own publisher.
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