ebook distribution

Parting ways with Smashwords

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Today marks the ending of a relationship that has been good. It’s like breaking up with a boyfriend you’ve become comfortable with, and although you feel sad, you suddenly realise that now you can take more notice of all those other fish that people say are in the sea. They are there too.

A few days ago, I published my ninth novel, A.W.O.L, a sci fi romance. All my previous eight novels have been published in both paperback and e-book formats, and this new one is no different. For the last eight books, I have used multiple publishing platforms, to increase my visibility around as many sites as possible, and this new books is no different. For the last eight books I have used Smashwords as one of e-book publishing platforms, but this new book is very different.

Smashwords have always been one of my favourite publishing sites, because of their distribution, which has always been pretty fantastic. The trouble with Amazon, is that although most people buy from there, Amazon only make ebooks for the Kindle. Not everyone uses a Kindle. Some folks use iPads, iPhones, Palm readers, Nooks and loads of other e-reader devices. For these other e-reader devices, you need sites that produce e-books in the appropriate formats for these e-reader devices to use. There are loads of sites that sell e-books for all these other e-reader devices. iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Diesel and many others, and Smashwords distributes your book to many of these. Up until recently, they were the only one who had such a wide distribution.

Many authors hate Smashwords, and are quite happy to vocalise their hatred. The upload process, what Smashwords calls ‘the meatgrinder’ is unnecessarily difficult, and any deviation from an extremely strict formatting process, results in refusal of your file. They do produce a free book to guide you through their formatting process, and if followed very strictly, upload should go without a problem. There is zero margin for error or creative expression in your formatting though, which is another annoying thing.

Smashwords also insist you list them as your publisher on your copyright page, which is one of the main things everyone hates about them. Not content with taking a cut of your royalties, they also require to be your publisher.

Up until now, I have never had any problems uploading to Smashwords. It has always gone through first time and I’ve been perplexed as to why so many other authors all say they have so many problems. I now fully understand all those other authors, and join them in their hatred.

My Word subscription ran out, and I could not afford the £80 needed to renew it, so I used Kingsoft Writer to format A.W.O.L and uploaded to Lulu, Createspace and Amazon KDP without a problem. I always do two formats for ebook, one for KDP and one for Smashwords, as they require totally different formatting, and this time was the same. When I tried to upload the file to Smashwords however, it refused it, saying that the file was an application/KSWPS file with a .doc extension. Not only do I not have the first clue what a KSWPS file is, I’ve no idea how to change it. So I paid for renewal of Word, which meant I could not pay the rent that week, and opened the file in Word, and saved it again from there, renaming it completely. Smashwords still refused to accept it. I then copied the document into a fresh word document, and totally reformatted from scratch, entirely in Word, saved from Word and renamed again. Smashwords still refused to accept it.

smashwords capture

I got in touch with their support, and heard from a guy called Kevin, who asked me to send him my content and cover shot files, which I did. He then said they uploaded fine when he tried, but they won’t when I try. He finally admitted that he hasn’t a clue why this is happening.

Having ranted about this on my facebook page, someone gave me a link to a page called Draft2Digital, which is an ebook publishing platform who distribute to iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. With nothing to lose, I took a look and uploaded the book, which was accepted straight away and is now for sale at those three outlets. It seems that the only way Smashwords distribution is better, is because they also distribute to Sony ebooks and Diesel.  Pfffffft……….!

Draft2Digital will do your title page, copyright page, table of contents and end papers for you (about the author, other works by etc) if you haven’t done them yourself, and there is no style guide you have to follow, and no demands for them to be listed as your publisher. Just upload your formatted file and away you go. They are also trying to secure distribution with several other well known ebook sites, so they will soon have a distribution network to beat all others.

I have sold a few books at Smashwords, but not so many that I’m not prepared to leave when there’s a better service available. My book has been available through Draft2Digital for just a couple of days, and already there’s been a sale. I’m happy with them so far and have no intention of fighting with Smashwords anymore.

The eight books that are already up at Smashwords can stay there, but I will not be using them again in the future. This has put me off them for good. I will use Draft2Digital for my future books and will recommend them to everyone. If Smashwords wants to get back into favour with authors, they need to shake themselves up. Their meatgrinder is too hard to navigate, the demand for listing as publisher is just wrong, and the famous lack of support is just not acceptable. Sites like Draft2Digital show how easy it is to provide a service without making the process difficult, and more publishing sites like them will pop up as time goes on.

Bye bye Smashwords, you suck cock.  I won’t miss you, and I’m happy with all the other services that are available now.

UPDATE – April 3rd

Today I got another email from Kevin, saying that the only thing he can suggest is to try uploading via Firefox, even though I hate it.  If it still won’t work, then he said “it obviously wasn’t meant to be.” So I very reluctantly downloaded Firefox (I detest it with a passion) and tried the upload. The file uploaded without a problem, just to make me look like a twit. Apart from not liking my title being all capitals, and making me change it to Awol (with initial capital only), it uploaded smoothly and is now in the queue for pro catalogue review.

I will wait until it is safely accepted in the pro catalogue before deciding whether to delete it from Draft2Digital, as it might cause a problem with the distribution. D2D distributes to B&N, Kobo and iTunes, and so does Smashwords, so the fact that the book is already at those locations with D2D might cause a hiccup that Smashwords doesn’t like.

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