Smashwords is an increasingly popular eBook retailer and distributor, especially for indie authors. But they had one major flaw – they wouldn’t accept EPUB files directly from authors. They insisted all their authors send books through their “meatgrinder” system that would churn a Microsoft Word document into a (hopefully) readable eBook for devices like iPad, Nook and Kindle.
But there was one huge flaw in that plan… Their meatgrinder didn’t handle specialty items such as bullet points, graphics, text-wrapping and other elements common to non-fiction. Their service worked great for continuous-flow books like most novels, but more and more non-fiction business books were getting nasty reviews on Amazon due to poor formatting, which Smashwords’ required use of their meatgrinder didn’t help. Not to mention in order to format your MS Word doc you had to follow their detailed step-by-step technical manual… which made even my head spin when I printed it off and tried to read it. Authors are not computer programmers or coders, nor should they be.
This is why I recommended all my clients to stay away from Smashwords. Until now.
Smashwords recently added an option for authors to submit pre-formatted EPUB files directly to them for distribution through their beta Smashwords Direct program. This means authors can get an eBook professionally programmed, preview it on their own Kindle, iPad or Nook and know it’s good to go, rather than counting on an unreliable meatgrinder that typically turned non-fiction books into gobbly-gook rather than readable text.
When I heard this news, I literally got out of my chair and did a little dance. Why? Because Smashwords is a great service provider! Their website is first and foremost an eBook store. They don’t try and “sell” you on their services; instead they promote your books. This is great for authors, as their 85% royalty commission is the best you can find – anywhere. Add to that their distribution network of every major retailer except the Kindle Store (which I hear they’re still working on) and you’ve got the makings of a fantastic partnership.
Amazon’s Kindle Store still dominates the market in eBook sales, so in my personal opinion using Smashwords without also publishing your eBook on Amazon’s Direct to Kindle platform would still be shooting your book sales in the proverbial foot. However, after using a professional eBook programmer to turn your book into clean, beautifully-formatted EPUB and MOBI files and then uploading those files directly to Smashwords and Amazon KDP respectively, you can dominate every square pixel of the eBook marketplace.
What are your thoughts on Smashwords’ new policy of accepting EPUB files from authors? Will you use it? Why or why not? Discuss…