Smashwords: a necessary bane to indie writers?

I don’t think it’s possible to calculate how many times I’ve screamed at the computer screen while working at the site Smashwords.  An independent e-publishing site that allows authors to sell their books in all available formats, the concept seems wonderful.  Unfortunately, it appears, someone has somewhere dropped the ball.

I have tons of e-books.  I have the Kindle App that runs .mobi files as well as the wonderful program called Calibre.  Calibre works with any e-book formats (mobi, epub, lit, pdf, etc) along with allowing you to alter the metadata, change cover art, switch formats, and manipulate the way you store your library.  So yes, I know I how e-books look in various formats and bring that eye to my own.  And trust me, not everyone has great looking products.  Strangely enough, I’ve found it has nothing to do with money – big house publishers are just as likely to screw it up as amateurs.

Amazon Kindle will let anyone upload anything to their severs.  I can see why some crotchety old traditionalists get riled up over this.  It wasn’t until recently that Amazon thought to offer formatting tips, and I’ll admit that my first two books had a number of errors when I uploaded them.  The thing is, unless you’re a superstar, an “A-list Author,” you shouldn’t be charging a whole hell of a lot for an e-book and guess what – nobody really cares how the chapters headings are formated on their screen.  They bought your $1.99 e-book for cheap entertainment, and while I’ll be the first to demand a certain amount of quality control (and pride in your work), there’s no need to agonize over font choice display.

Like Smashwords seems to.

A handful of times now, I’ve almost walked away from the site.  However, I stick around primarily for two reasons.  #1 – Smashwords is truly international, unlike Amazon with their various “.dot” endings.  I’ve found that folks in other country ocassional can’t get my work, especially those in Australia.  Why I have so many fans in Australia, I have no idea, but I want them to have access to my crap books.  #2 – I can put whatever I want on Smashwords for free.  Some magical spell allows you to do the same at Amazon, but I haven’t discovered it yet.  I have a simple formula for a D-list Author such as myself – full e-books are $2.99, e-novella are $0.99, and short story are free. 

Out of the nine works I have on Smashwords, ony one has been accepted into their Premium Catalog.  I have no idea what I did differently with that one as opposed to all the others.  They like to remain somewhat vague on the reasons, but everyone who has worked with Smashwords will recognize the response of…

  • This book requires modification prior to inclusion in Smashwords’ premium catalog.
  • This book has failed EpubCheck. 100% EpubCheck compliance is required by Apple. Click to our EpubCheck Help page to learn how to fix.

I’ve been an Apple guy for over a decade, but WOW, does this piss me off.  Does anyone even buy e-books from Apple?  Where?  The damn iTunes store?  Sorry, I got sick of updating it every three days.  And your “Help Page” is worthless.

People buy e-books because they don’t take up any room, they’re cheap (usually), and they can read them on their phones or when they’re supposed to be working.  Sure, there should be guidelines for how these things are set up, but nobody is going to win awards for Digital Excellence.  Borders has shut down, Dorchester Press has gone under, the old world of publishing is slowly but surely dying.  Instead of trying to cram the old rules onto the the new world, let’s make up some new ones. 

I mean, we see how well it’s working out over in the music industry…




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One response to “Smashwords: a necessary bane to indie writers?

  1. Excellent post… let me tell you I am particularly annoyed and upset since Smashwords had rejected the distribution of my ebooks saying ” This book requires modification prior to inclusion in Smashwords’ premium catalog”, but Smashword team guys don’t give me any feedback according “which” errors should be solved.

    All my books surpassed the Auto Vetter Errors Test and the Epubcheck Online. Besides I consulted 3 ebook editors and checked them as OK. Smashwords Customer Service doesnt respond my mail…. This is quite frustrating :o(
    Besides Smashwords states they won’t accept complains from rejected customes …*??¿¿+

    I thought Smashwords was on the Indie Author’s side but I guess it is not…</bç

    My books were on PENDING REVIEW STATUS before this happened… so I guess it was during the Manual Revision….and received no mail with no clue from the team… :o(

    I am presently moving to Amazon and Nook… let's see what's next

    Bliss and blessings and keep up this good blog

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