More on Smashwords

This is a post in response to Ruth’s post of 2/6 re: Pricing and Smashwords. I’m not addressing the pricing but would like to share my experience about SW’s. It seems more appropriate to do it as a post here than a comment there so here it is:

My experience with Smashwords has been quite different from what it seems has been shared in Ruth’s post and subsequent comments. From the beginning, my goal was to qualify for their Premium Catalogue.  If your book qualifies, SWs provides a free ISBN. I didn’t much care if the ISBN was free or not in that $9-10 is not a deal killer for me but since the goal was to be in the PC I just decided to see what happened and see if January Moon qualified, which it did. Unlike Ruth, however, I believe in ISBN’s for my purposes so I would have bought an ISBN if necessary (if January Moon wasn’t placed in the Prem Cat).

[OOOPS! Stop! Editorial insert for a correction here! (Is there such a thing?) Ruth didn't say there was a time lag between uploading on SWs and seeing the book go live for sale. Someone did somewhere but it wasn't here. She was only referring to the delay in re: the Premium Catalogue. Sorry for the confusion; please blame it on the Nyquil.]

So, anyway, January Moon qualified for the Premium Catalogue, was given an ISBN, and that part is history.

However, when I uploaded my book to Smashwords at the very end of September the book was almost immediately visible on SWs site as a new book. I don’t think it took any more than 12 hrs. So, I’m clueless as to why anyone would wait days or weeks to see their book on SWs. That seems odd to me. Has something changed? Perhaps someone needs to write to Mark Coker and ask him. I’m a big fan of SWs because I’ve found Mark Coker to be the singularly most responsive businessperson in the world.

Anyway, my dashboard told me that the book’s acceptance into the Premium Catalogue was “pending” approval; however, even as it was pending acceptance into the PC I could clearly see that January Moon was available for sale on the SWs site. I checked back several days in a row and then probably 3 or 4 days later I saw January Moon had been approved & placed in the Premium Catalogue. If I waited even as long as a week I’d be very surprised; I honestly think it happened within days — 5 tops.

I opted into ALL of the distribution channels. Almost immediately I saw when the book would be sent to those channels or when it was sent. There was no undue lag time.

I made several changes to the ms and watched how they were handled. The distribution chart clearly indicated when each new “version” would be re-sent to B&N, Apple, Sony, etc. It was very efficient and clear cut. I uploaded new versions that weren’t really new documents at all — the exact same ms each time — and I watched what happened each time. Each time I uploaded a new ms I was told it once again had to be approved for the PC but sometimes this “approval” happened within hrs, once or twice a few days but never more. Then I’d see how it changed on the distribution flow chart; I could see the date each version was sent to B&N, Apple, etc. I could see the last time a version was sent. Again, it was very professional and easy to follow. Testing it as I did made me really understand the process and establish confidence in it.

I opted into Amazon right from the getgo but after several months watching SWs still fail to resolve what they called the “meatgrinder” issue I decided to opt out and go over to Amazon directly and using their DTP program I uploaded January Moon to Amazon. I don’t think their program is as easy as SWs but it wasn’t necessarily terrible. (Warning here: you CANNOT use the same document you use @ SWs for the upload to Amazon or the formatting will be screwed up. I’ve already written about this and will mention it again at another time but consider this the heads up.)

After I went to Amazon I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t do the same for B&N (and use their PubIt! program). I had no real reason to do this since SWs was sending January Moon there already but I decided to explore the options. That was an unmitigated nightmare. B&N is one of the most internally confused companies I have dealt with and, trust me, I’ve dealt with many. In brief, PubIt! is not as user-friendly as Amazon and NOWHERE near as easy to use as SWs.  If you have a problem — well, fat chance you can even locate the department responsible for handling it. After none of their emailed answers even addressed my question I spent hours on the phone trying to track down a human and when I finally located one — who assured me the problem would be fixed instantly — I learned 10 days later it wasn’t resolved at all and whomever I had spoken to had given me completely incorrect information and getting that bit of info took another 2 maddening hours trying to slug through the byzantine corridors of B&N’s many departments (none of whom wanted to take responsibility for anything and none of whom interact with one another; I actually spoke to someone in marketing who knew nothing about PubIt! She thought it was owned by Amazon!).

If things goes well for you and B&N, God bless. If you have a problem, however, be prepared to wallow in Corporate Hell.

After that experience I RAN BACK to SW’s and decided that forever and a day they can deal with B&N. I discussed it with Mark Coker and one of the things about allowing SWs to distribute to B&N for you is that you then can turn the problem over to SWs. If they can’t solve your problem, trust me, you never would be able to solve it. SWs, one assumes, has some leverage. You? Honestly, I don’t think Dan Brown could get any satisfaction. There is a BIG reason that company is in financial distress and it’s not all due to the vagaries of the marketplace. They’ve given new meaning to the term “User UN-friendly.” 

SWs of course takes a small fee to distribute your book to B&N, Apple, Sony, etc. To me,  it’s a small and fair price to pay to have them serve as my advocate, accountant, and distributor. All my records re: B&N, Apple, Sony etc. are now consolidated with SWs and I can tell exactly how many books I’ve sold at each of those retailers in only one glance at my SWs report. 

I already have Amazon to track for the ebook and CreateSpace for the paperback so what the hell? Do I really need to also track B&N, Apple, Sony etc. if there’s a company like SW’s to do it for me.

I think not.

One more thing about B&N and SWs: I saw that B&N had some significant online advertising about ebooks for $2.99 and less. Mine wasn’t listed. I looked more closely and saw that no INDIE books were listed. I was pissed. I emailed Mark Coker. He was already talking to them about this and it seems they are now working out some concessions where B&N claims they will highlight indies in the future in some special ad campaign.  If you’re being distributed to B&N via SWs or are their yourself having used their PubIt! program you might want to pay close attention to this and work with me to keep the pressure up.

Amazon is the 900# gorilla in the business and I don’t know what control we as individuals have over them. Perhaps we need to form a collective of independent authors; dunno. It might be a good thing to look into w/the AiA.

The times they are a’changin’… 

Hadrian extolled his fellow Romans to rebuild Rome “brick by brick, my fellow citizens, brick by brick…”

I say to you we’re rebuilding the history of publishing “indie book by indie book…”

Have a nice day; ~mick

PS: This was bashed out in a huge hurry, no time to proof, miserable head cold, over tired, and drugged with NyQuil. You can either be charitable toward me or… well, I don’t give a damn about the altnerative. I’m a very nasty person when I’m sickie-pooh.  :(

Just a warning… :)

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10 thoughts on “More on Smashwords

  1. I have to go back and check my post. I didn’t mean that it takes your book weeks to show up on Smashwords. It will show up right away or in a few hours (depending on how many people are submitting their books at the same time) on Smashwords. I meant it takes weeks to even a couple months to show up on their distribution channels like B&N. Right now, they are backed up and it’s taking longer than usual to get books up on the distribution sites. That’s why SW has hired some new people.

    As for B&N, I will have to second your experience with them. Mine wasn’t with PubIt, thank God, but it was with a review I had posted and tried to change because the author didn’t like that I left a certain spoiler in it. I never did get it changed, and this was after months of trying to deal with them. Emails don’t work. Phone calls aren’t satisfactory. It’s nothing like Amazon or SW. Both Amazon and SW are worlds better than the B&N system. I’d much rather have SW deal with B&N for me as well. Why put yourself through grief if you don’t have to?

    Okay. I’m going to recheck my post and clear the whole SW thing up. :D

    • Ruth is correct; she didn’t say there was a long lag time between uploading to SWs and having the book show up for sale; it was all about the Premium Cat. I continue to take shelter in the fact that I am seriously impaired due to the fact that I have fully kreusened myself with massive amounts of NyQuil. I either read it elsewhere or dreamed it in my fevered & drugged sleep.

      Well, let me assure you, I’ve made worse mistakes. But apologies to Ruth.

      Yes, I think B&N is Book Retailer from Hell. Pox on them.

      • I’m glad you mentioned it because I never even mentioned when books go up on SW. That part is important, so I went back and edited it in. I was jumping ahead of myself on that post. :D

        Hope you feel better soon. I know how weird it feels to be that sick with a cold. I thought this post was coherent so I wouldn’t have known you were sick unless you said it.

  2. First I hope you get to feeling better. Head colds can be a bear and make it hard to think. :)

    Secondly my experience in as far as timing was just about like Ruth’s with Smashwords. Granted it was available on smashwords itself incredibly fast. But as far as being approved for the premium cat, that was about two weeks time. Then it was another week before being released to the stores. I have to mention that they still have not hit the Sony market, they say they are working on that problem. I hope it is not turning into an Amazon problem of which I have opted out of and went ahead and also published directly at Amazon.

    Thirdly (warning curve ball time) yes Smashwords was much easier to format for. I agree with you about Amazon. It is harder than smashwords but not to awful hard. It did take me a few tries to get it right using their Mobipocket creator. Next time I think I will just create two versions out right. One for smashwords and go ahead and html format it by hand for Amazon and use Calibre to convert it to mobi format. Now here comes the curve ball. LOL! If you have ebooks that you publish that are FREE feedbooks.com is the easiest of all to use. IMHO the output from feedbooks looks a lot better than smashwords. Plus look at these download figures for “It Waits”.

    Smashwords 267 downloads
    Feedbooks 2429 downloads

    Granted people do not leave comments much at feedbooks. They download and run wham bam thank you mam. Thats the downside. LOL!

    BUT feedbooks does do a great job with search engine placement. To give it a whirl google my full name, Robert M. Yelverton. Feedbooks has top listing.
    Now get even more precise and google
    “It waits” Robert m Yelverton (including the quotes)
    Three top listings for that vanity googling. :)

    So if you are working to get your name out and you have free ebooks then I suggest feedbooks.com also as a tool.

    Opps, my curve ball went out of the park and off topic. :(

    • Thanks for mentioning feedbooks.com again. I remember you mentioned it before and it slipped my mind. I do want to try it out. My pen name sure could use a boost.

  3. Thanks for the sympathy; I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck but am pretty sure this won’t be the thing that kills me. I’ve now moved to DayQuil…

    Thanks also for the interesting information; good to share that stuff.

  4. Hope you get better soon!

    I have had good times all around with Smashwords. The only distribution snafus I;ve run into are Borders.com and Diesel – none of my books show up in either place – but it is partially my own fault. Another author contacted several of us about when she noticed a similar issue and she mailed Mark Coker who was looking into it and he messaged us all and told us to get back to him if our books didn’t show up in those places, and I just haven’t gotten around to it. Weird, I suppose, but I don’t do so much business in other places, anyway. My main seller is amazon.

    I have to agree with your statements about Mark, he answers you quickly, and he actually answers! best customer service I’ve ever run into!

    • They’re doing Borders now? I didn’t know that. I’ll have to check that one out. I remember reading that Borders was coming but didn’t hear beyond that.

      With the distribution channels, it takes awhile to build up sales through them, but once you do… It’s amazing. Hang in there. I now sell more through the Smashwords channels than I do at Amazon.

  5. Hi Guys…intersting comments and replies to Margaret’s good post. I have to say that Mark Croker at SW is brill and he has always been quick to reply to any queries i had. Very efficient indeed! Thansk for the heads up on feedbooks.com too. cheers Dave

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