How to Sell More Ebooks at Smashwords

| Posted in Book Marketing |


Sell Ebooks at SmashwordsIf you’re like many indie authors, you’d like to sell ebooks through Smashwords since there are quite a few perks:

  • They pay a higher royalty than Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the others (85% and there’s no dip in your cut for titles priced under $2.99).
  • They offer all ebook formats so you don’t have to worry about directing Nook people to B&N, Kindle people to Amazon, etc. etc.
  • They have a more flexible affiliate program, meaning you choose how much to offer affiliates (people interested in promoting your ebooks so they can make some money too).

There are lots of reasons Smashwords should be appealing to authors, but their marketplace doesn’t get nearly the eyeballs of Amazon or even Barnes & Noble and Apple, so it can be a challenge to sell ebooks there.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make some sales at Smashwords though. Here are a couple of things that have worked for me:

Doing periodic giveaways via their coupon program

I don’t bother with half-off coupons or anything like that. I do 100% off and make the coupon good for a few days. Then I’ll publicize it in the Mobile Read forum.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve sometimes had bloggers pick up on those giveaways and write them up on their sites. This ends up helping me with promotion, and sometimes the folks who get the freebies go on to pay full-price for other ebooks (just recently, I gave away some free copies of Emperor’s Edge this way, and I had quite a few sales of the sequel, Dark Currents, as a result. Some people picked up Encrypted too).

Talking up the affiliate program

I admittedly haven’t done much with this since I wrote up my “How to Make Money Promoting My Ebooks (and other people’s too)” post back in January, but I do see sales from affliates now and then on my Smashwords dashboard. Quite a few came after that post, which makes me think I should probably put a permanent link to it over in the menu somewhere so new readers can find it.

But, anyway…

We can talk about book promotion techniques all day, but ultimately your fans are the ones who are going to be responsible for your career taking off. If they like your stories, they’ll talk about them regardless (because they’re awesome like that 🙂 ), but you can give them a further incentive to talk up your books by offering a percentage of the earnings via the Smashwords affiliate program. The default for affiliates is 11%, but you can give away your entire cut if you want (I have my ebooks set at 75%, which is close to the max). These are sales you wouldn’t have gotten if someone else wasn’t promoting your books, so there’s no need to be stingy.

If you do decide to participate in the affiliate program, let your readers know about it. Even folks who shop at Smashwords might not be aware of it, and writing up instructions that let readers know how to add affiliate links to their sites can be helpful for those who are new to the idea.


I’ll be the first to admit, advertising tends to be more misses than hits when it comes to book sales (meaning you’ll probably spend more than you make), but, as I’ve mentioned before, I have had some luck with Goodreads pay-per-click ads.

Also, if you have an entire series out, and it’s common for readers to go on to buy the rest of the ebooks after they read the first, it may be worth taking a loss on Book 1.

While Smashwords lacks the name recognition of an Amazon or Barnes & Noble, it’s not a bad place to send people who click on an ad since they do have every ebook format available. You don’t have to worry about wasting money by sending Nook people to your Amazon book page, for example. And, again, since you’ll make the largest cut at Smashwords, there’s another reason to direct people there as opposed to other venues.

Well, there are three ways to get a sales boost at Smashwords. Do you buy there, or have you done well selling there? Do you have any tips for other authors?

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Comments (10)

This is missing a from my point of view huge advantage of Smashwords: They sell epub files to people outside the USA.

I have an ereader that is not a Kindle. I won’t support amazon’s proprietary format by buying books to de-DRM and convert to a format my reader understands. B&N along with most other North American ebook retailers I’ve found just plain refuses to sell books to me.

As far as I can tell, if an English language book is not available either at Smashwords or Kobo, I cannot buy it.

Hm. Mind, while I vastly prefer links to Smashwords to links to amazon, a possible argument against directing people to Smashwords sales there don’t help the amazon sales rank/”people who bought this also bought”, etc. Those discovery tools are very useful, I’ve heard…

Great article, Lindsay,

As a preference, I send folks to Amazon for sales. 🙂 I have to admit, I love seeing my rank rise. However, I can’t ignore the versatility of Smashwords. When I encounter people who can’t download my work from Amazon due to their country, I send them to Smashwords. I’ve yet to find an individual not able to at least download the free works I have available from Smashwords.

Plus! I love the coupon feature. It’s the only place I know where I can gift someone a digital copy of a work without it costing me a penny. When it comes to sending out review copies, especially mass quantities, Smashwords rocks!

Thanks for the comments, Anke and Reena! I’d definitely include Amazon links anywhere I had the option to put both (such as my blog), but on Twitter or a Goodreads ad where you don’t have room for multiple links, that’s where Smashwords can be nice for our non-Kindle-owning readers. 🙂

I’m a huge fan of Smashwords too, for reasons that Anke mentioned, even though I have a Kindle. Multi-format, DRM-free, accessible to readers outside of the USA, coupons, (this sounds silly but…) a visible word count of the work on every book page. If I’ve overlooked where the word count is on the Amazon book pages, let me know.

What counts against Smashwords is (1) clunky UI (2) awkward browsing experience as they don’t have anything like Amazon’s recommendation algorithms. I really hope Smashwords gets an upgrade on those parts soon. I want this multi-format DRM-free retailer to continue to be a strong alternative to big ol’ Amazon.

They’re out of free ISBN’s right now, so I have to wait to get listed elsewhere thru Smashwords. I’ve found them a great experience so far altho I won’t make any money yet.

@Frida Hah, I like knowing the word count too. A novel can be anywhere from 60k to 200k + so that can factor into how much you’re willing to pay.

@Mary Eep, out of free ISBNs? Hm, I got one for Dark Currents in early June (though I’m still waiting for it to get approved for the premium catalog and distribution). I actually think iTunes may be the only store you need an ISBN for. I know you don’t for B&N. Not positive about Sony and the smaller retailers.

Not only long or short novel – there are individually packaged shrot stories out there. Priced at 99 cents. I like buying those, if I like the author’s work in general, but if the author neglected to mention the “short story” bit in the description, I’m sure they manage to make some buyers at amazon angry.

I have published 10 books at Smashwords. I have sold books right up to the $75 level, and now the sales have stopped. It’s like I’ve reached a barrier that I am not permitted to cross. I am wondering if Smashwords ever intends to let my books go beyond the $75 level and actually pay me? I published also with Amazon, but as soon as they learned that my books were also at Smashwords, they cancelled my account and cut me a check for about $5 for the sales there. My books are all reasonably priced, well formatted and written, with lots of art and pic that I’ve done myself. I’ve seen the work of others and mine are really so much better than most. And so I can’t understand why my books have progressed to the $75 level and stopped right there at about $68 period? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Steve Nelson

Steve, it sounds like you tried to sign up for Amazon’s KDP Select (which requires exclusivity). You can upload there without being exclusive to them–just don’t check the KDP Select box. You may need to email support there and see if they’ll give you another shot, because it’s much easier to make money at Amazon. It’s a much larger store with many more readers. There isn’t much in the way of book discoverability at Smashwords, other than the fact that new releases show up for a while. I don’t sell that many books in the Smashwords store itself. You can also make accounts and upload your books to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Apple (though sometimes it’s easier to go through Smashwords to get into the Apple store).

You might hang out in the Writers’ Cafe on Kboards (a forum) to get some more general advice on indie publishing.

I want to find smashwords affiliates to help me sell my book. I am juicing 30%. I’ll put their books on my websites too:

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