Smashwords may be lesser known, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the site. It may not have the name recognition of Amazon and B&N, but it seems to hold its own fairly well.
You can find my works on Smashwords here.
1. More Retailers
Unlike Amazon and B&N, Smashwords has a service where they will distribute your e-book to other retailers. I think this option is great, and it eliminates the need to upload your book to each retailer individually and to make changes on each retailer’s site when updates are warranted. It’s a big time-saver in that sense. Plus, you achieve a wider distribution beyond just Smashwords.
2. Top Royalties
Smashwords pays 80% royalty. This isn’t completely straightforward, but sales directly on Smashwords pay an 80% royalty rate, regardless of the price of your book (minimum of 99 cents). You can set an optional affiliate payment, which is automatically set at first to 11% unless you opt out or change it. But essentially, anyone that refers a reader to Smashwords using an affiliate code can get 11% of the proceeds of a sale of your book (or different amount, depending on what you set it at).
In my experience, most sales don’t come via an affiliate. I don’t like losing out on 11% when it happens, but I also appreciate that without the affiliate, I wouldn’t have made the sale, So there’s that.
Additionally, if your book is priced at under $2.99, you still get this higher royalty rate, which differs from Amazon (but no longer B&N, as of 2/1/2021). And there is no reduction based on location of purchaser.
If your book is in the premium catalog – meaning it is getting distributed to other retailers like Kobo, Apple, Scribd, etc. – the other retailer takes 30% and Smashwords takes 10%. So you still end up with a 60% royalty if it isn’t an affiliate sale. This is great on its own due to the ease of getting your book out to more places, but there’s an additional benefit if your book is under $2.99. If you publish via B&N and have a book priced at 99 cents, you would get a 40% royalty rate. If you go through Smashwords, you still get this 60% rate. (**Update** B&N now has a 70% royalty, regardless of e-book price; however, the above analysis still applies for other retailers).
3. Strong Sales
Of course it could just be my experience up to this point, but I’ve found that the sales through Smashwords have been strong. Nearly as strong as using just Amazon, actually.
4. Affiliate System
I like the affiliate system, both in that affiliates have some motivation to link to my books, but also in that I can be an affiliate and potentially add revenue by directing others to Smashwords or particular books/authors.
5. Quick publication
At least to Smashwords, itself. My books are available on Smashwords in a matter of minutes. It takes a day or two to get to other retailers, but for Smashwords itself, it’s nearly immediate.
But, unlike B&N, if you are looking at a book that has a coupon, they actually tell you the book is discounted and what the coupon code is.
1. Worse Ease-of-Use
I’ve found that the formatting needed to be acceptable on Smashwords for their premium catalog status to be far more difficult than Amazon and B&N. It’s no issue if you only want to publish on Smashwords, but if you want to go to other retailers, you have to format it in a very particular way using an older version of Word. I understand that part of this is due to needing to convert to multiple formats due to differences amongst retailers, but it also feels like it could be better-automated in 2021.
2. No Ability to Use Coupons at Retailers
While I love that I can put my books on sale at Smashwords (like Hooky On His Orders: Faithfully Unfaithful, and On His Orders: Entertaining Three currently are), this doesn’t carry over to retailers. It would be nice to be able to have a consistent price/promotion across all retailers. But, since I don’t have an account with other retailers and, because even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to add a coupon published through someone else, I can’t add a comparable coupon.
3. Smashwords is Relatively Unknown
I think this one speaks for itself. Most people haven’t heard of Smashwords and don’t go to it first. Again, my sales there have been fine, but I think it’s still lacking in some name recognition for a lot of consumers.
The bottom line for me is that I think Smashwords is fantastic. It has great royalties and it distributes to other retailers. It makes wider distribution easier with no need to make multiple stops when changes are needed.
My workaround to the hassle to format correctly has been to have all of my formatting preset in a document that I can then past my books into, applying the relevant formatting to each section. I think it took me about 20 minutes to format Strictly Business: Tormenting Tom this way.