5 Reasons to Publish Your Ebooks on Smashwords

| Posted in E-publishing |


Smashwords LogoSmashwords is an ebook marketplace and distributor you may not have heard of if you’re new to e-publishing, or if you’ve primarily focused on the Kindle so far. Or maybe you’ve heard of it, but you didn’t get the appeal (or got frustrated with the way ebooks are uploaded there).

In today’s post, I’m going to give some reasons why you might want to check Smashwords out, or give them another chance if you’ve tried and dismissed them in the past.

1. Smashwords can get your ebooks into marketplaces you can’t on your own.

Amazon & Barnes & Noble are very friendly to indie authors, and uploading an ebook to their marketplaces is the work of a few minutes. You don’t need an ISBN or anything to get listed in those stores. Apple is less friendly (ISBN required and hoops to jump through), and, as far as I know, you can’t even get into Borders or the Sony Reader and mobile app stores.

Smashwords can get your ebooks into those places, and you can always opt out of distribution to B&N and Amazon if you want to handle that on your own (I do with one exception–see the “bonus” reason down below).

2. Smashwords pays a high royalty on ebooks sold through their site.

Smashwords gives you 85% of the ebook sales price, which is a higher cut than anyone else offers. Granted, they don’t have the eye traffic an Amazon or B&N gets, but if you actually put forth some effort, you can certainly sell books there, and it’s not as if it takes away from your sales elsewhere.

I uploaded my free short story, Ice Cracker II, there, and have been getting sales from Smashwords ever since. Also, if you’re someone who likes to promote by conversing in forums, the folks who hang out at MobileRead have all sorts of different e-readers, and many of them use Smashwords (I asked in a post a couple months ago), since it provides all the ebook formats in one place. People can even grab pdfs there if they don’t use an e-reader.

Oh, by the way, that 85% applies to ebooks of any price (as opposed to Amazon and B&N, who will give you a smaller 35-40% royalty on ebooks priced less than $2.99.

3. Smashwords lets you upload free ebooks (and distribute them too).

As an indie, you can’t currently upload anything for less than $0.99 at the Amazon and B&N stores, but, as I’ve written about before, giving away a free ebook can be a great promotional tool.

I hardly sold any ebooks at Barnes & Noble before my freebie appeared there, but I’m doing much better there now, and I’m sure that’s helped.

4. Smashwords has a more appealing affiliate program than other bookstores.

In my post, How You Can Make Money Promoting My Ebooks (and other people’s too), I told bloggers how they could make a few extra bucks with affiliate programs. That’s where they get a cut of the sales price for books sold through links on their sites.

On Amazon and B&N, authors have no say as to how much they can offer their affiliates (it’s a flat 5-7% or so). On Smashwords, you can offer anything from 0 to the default of 11% on up to 81.5%. I have all my ebooks set for 75%.

You may be thinking that’s nuts–why would you want to give someone else some of your money?–but keep in mind these are ebooks that wouldn’t be sold at all if not for that “someone else.” You’re giving that person a reason to promote your work on their site and help you get the word out. And, hey, if it’s a Book 1 in a series, the reader might come back and buy several more books for which you’ll get the full cut.

5. Smashwords’ coupons make it easy to give away ebooks.

Whether you’re giving away review copies or freebies to contest winners, it can add up if you’re sending e-gift certificates for your books through Amazon. Also, not everyone is going to be a Kindle owner, so it’s good if you can give away other formats as well. Sure, you can always send the files directly to people, but I’ve run into more trouble than you’d think with that from folks who aren’t sure how to get a file from their inbox to their e-reader.

You can also create coupons that are good for a certain percentage off, which may be something you’d like to try if you have a higher priced ebook, or you’re not looking to give your work away for free.

Bonus reason: If you’re a fan of publishing 99-cent ebooks, you’ll make more from Barnes & Noble sales via Smashwords

I only recently found out about this. On accident, I ended up with my 99-cent Ice Cracker II (and other stories) collection on Barnes & Noble via Smashwords distribution. Instead of getting the usual 40 cents I get for a 99-center uploaded through B&N’s PubIt, I get 60 cents per sale. That’s apparently the across-the-board deal Smashwords has with its partners.

So, if you’re selling a lot of sub-$2.99 ebooks at B&N, meaning they don’t qualify for the 65% royalty, it might behoove you to get them listed through Smashwords instead.

Any thoughts? Love Smashwords? Hate them? Both?


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Comments (17)

Great article. As a reader I like Smashwords. As a writer I haven’t used them yet but plan to.

Thanks for the comment and tweet, Raelyn!

My novel’s been “pending review” at Smashwords for 2 weeks! Arrrgh! Did I goof the formatting? Do I just need to be patient?

(Thanks for this great post, Lindsay!)

Hi, Steve! I’m in the same spot with Flash Gold. I remember Emperor’s Edge took a good two weeks, too, though Encrypted took a couple days. I think it just depends on their workload.

I suspect all this press on Amanda Hocking and other e-publishers making big money and getting lucrative deals has everyone jumping on the bandwagon right now!

This is a great post. I am a huge advocate for Smashwords and I’m planning on submitting my MS once I have it completed (about another month) through Smashwords.

I’m glad someone has pushed out the info, as such. Thanks!

Oh, I didn’t know that about the royalty rate being higher for the cheap Nook books through Smashwords. So, this isn’t the case with the cheap Kindle books through Smashwords?

Thanks for this clear, concise overview on Smashwords! It has been on my to-do list to look into, and now I’ll definitely publish there. The more avenues the reader has to your material, the better 🙂

I’ve always been a little leery of Smashwords, mostly from the bad formatting that I find on the books that I purchase there, and the fact that Word is their required format for submissions. Then Mark Coker (creator of Smashwords) had a recent guest post on Joe Konrath’s blog and recommended two of the books that Smashwords has published as examples of good formatting using Word. Well, I downloaded them. One file was damaged (and Mark didn’t know it; it’s since been corrected) and the other was not great formatting.

I direct you also to two blogs from “Kindle Writers” recent archives:


When I get my book done, I will format it myself (the HTML code for an e-book is actually fairly simple) and, that way, I will be sure that the final result will look the way that I expect.

Thanks for the comments, all!

Cathy, Smashwords isn’t getting books into Amazon right now, AFAIK. Though I’ve read they’re working on it.

John and Kevin, you’re welcome!

Peter, the “meatgrinder” formatting program Smashwords uses does seem to be the biggest grievance people have with them. I know I loathed it at first, because I was trying to make it work with Pages (I’m a Mac gal), and it wasn’t happening. Of course, I started out with my short story collection, which needed a hyper-linked table of contents, so that made things more persnickety.

I finally caved and got Word (the editors I was working with all used it anyway), and haven’t had much trouble with the meatgrinder since, though I had someone do my novels for me (epub and mobi files), as I wanted those as good as they could be, and that’s what I uploaded to Amazon and B&N.

The thing is that you can do both: put your own copies up, formatted as you like, in Amazon & B&N and let Smashwords get you into the stores that don’t allow indies to upload files on their own. If the option is simply not to have your work in those stores, well, that’s a crummy option.

I’m not making a fortune from Kobo, Sony, etc., but I am making some, and I also sell ebooks in the Smashwords store. There’s a small, but perhaps growing, readership that’s aware of Smashwords and likes that they can get all formats there (I’ve met more than one ebook-lover who reads them as pdfs on his computer). The 50% sample Smashwords allows you to offer there is nice too. Sometimes on Amazon, front matter keeps you from getting more than a couple pages of story in the sample.

Anyhoo, enough rambling! 🙂

I have books with Amazon. Do they allow their customers to publish the same books on smashwords?

Absolutely, Ron! As long as it’s your book, you can put it out there everywhere. 🙂

Something most US readers /writers won’t realise is that B&N, in their infinite wisdom, do not allow anyone outside the US to buy from, or upload to, their site.

I’m co-author of a Kindle UK top-five seller, but the only way I can get our e-book on the nook is through Smashwords, and once there I can’t buy it from B&N to check how it looks.

How crazy is that?

We sell 20,000 a month on Kindle UK. We sell less than one a month on B&N via Smashwords.

Lindsay, you say “If you’re selling a lot of sub-$2.99 ebooks at B&N, meaning they don’t qualify for the 65% royalty, it might behoove you to get them listed through Smashwords instead.”

We are reliably informed that B&N give priority (algorythms) to ebooks uploaded direct wit PubIt, and Smashwords uploads are effectively sidelined.

It certainly seems that way.

Hi Mark,

As an Irish writer, living in Sweden, I have the same issues. I can’t upload direct to PubIt, so must go through Smashwords, and while I haven’t done it yet (hopefully by the end of the month), I have heard that the visibility of your titles is affected on B&N if you go through Smashwords.

One further drawback for me is that for some reason, since I downloaded Kindle-for-PC, I can no longer see prices and Kindle rankings on the UK Kindle site (as it won’t let me buy). Very annoying.


Mark, it does seem short-sighted of these guys to make it harder on non-U.S. publishers/authors.

It took three to four weeks from the time I uploaded an ebook to Smashwords until it appeared in the B&N store (in the two cases where I didn’t use PubIt).

David, I hadn’t heard that Smashwords titles might get less of a priority at B&N. People do find my two Smashwords-published ebooks that are there. I have no idea if sales would be better if they were released through PubIt (one is the freebie, so that wasn’t an option). I’d be curious to hear more about that if anyone has information.

I just published my first book (Growth Lessons) first on Smashword then on Amazon. It’s kind of a trade of, if you ask me. I like Smashwords better for the following reasons: higher royalties, stats (it lets you know in real-time if you’re book is being looked at even if nobody is buying it) and it sends me an e-mail every time I have a sale. But you have to do a lot of marketing because for some reason there’s not as much traffic.

Like the original poster said, it’s easier for reviewers/giveaways. I just create a coupon for that person and they can get the book for free.

Yes, Amazon has more traffic, but to be honest, I’ve had more sales on Smashwords, it’s just that you have to work the marketing a little harder. My two cents.

The only pb I have with Smashwords is that if you want to just publish one short story although it states that the user can set your price. It doesn’t allow the person to buy it for let’s say 0.30$ or 0.20$.

Smashwords boasts that it allows the user to set his price but how can they can say this when you can only pay 0.99$ or get it free.
I don’t call this much of a choice.
There’s the coupon method but i don’t know if there’s a limit to how much you can give away. I would think there is.
Thanks for sharing your info.

It would be nice if you could set short stories to less than 99 cents, but I think it’s a matter of credit card companies and Paypal charging a set fee per transaction, so neither you nor Smashwords would end up making anything on a 20 cent purchase (it might even be negative).

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