Smashwords bills itself as a global ebook distributor, but that barely touches what Smashwords can do for the independent author. Try this for starters:
- step-by-step instructions for formatting your manuscript for ebook conversion
- conversion to 9 different ebook formats
- free ISBN
- unlimited updates to both your books and the metadata associated with them
- distribute your book to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Baker & Taylor and Diesel bookstores
- you set your price
- centralized sales reporting from all bookstores
- book and author profile pages in the Smashwords book store
- free marketing and selling tools
There are no up-front costs for these services. Smashwords earns it’s money as a commission from your sales. You will receive 85% of your net book sales in the Smashwords store (70.5% if it’s an affiliate sale). For sales through other book stores, you will receive 60% of the list price since both the book seller and Smashwords will be taking a share of the sale. But, since Smashwords is providing centralized sales reporting, the time-saving benefits are well worth the cost. Oh, I forgot to mention that you determine what you want the price to be. And, you can change the price at any time. Smashwords even has a coupon system you can use as a marketing tool.
You are responsible for all the writing and editing efforts needed to create your book. Once the book is ready, follow the formatting steps provided in the free Smashwords Style Guide and you’re ready to create your account and upload your first book. You set the price, enter appropriate descriptions and metadata (keywords to help book buyers find your book) and your book page in Smashwords’ online bookstore is created.
The Premium Catalog service distributes your book to major retailers, but your book submission must meet additional requirements like a properly formatted book cover graphic and an ISBN (which can be set up at no cost during the submission process) along with several other requirements. You’ll find complete details on these requirements at the Smashwords site.
Currently there is a technical problem distributing Smashwords books to Amazon. Until this is resolved, only the higher volume titles are being forwarded to Amazon by Smashwords. You can submit them yourself, but you will have to manage those sales through Kindle Direct Publishing instead of through Smashwords’ central reporting. Hopefully this situation will be resolved soon.
They are also working on a process to submit books to libraries. Once the technical details are complete, you’ll hear more about how that option will work.
Smashwords provides a simple and straight-forward method to publish your book yourself. Since it’s in their best interests to see your books sell as well as possible, they also provide a lot of good marketing advice and tools. In my opinion, the services and support they provide is a bargain considering the small commission they receive.