Publishing Your Ebook Is Changing on Smashwords

From The Book Designer:

This is a third and final perspective in my publishing strategy trilogy, a drama festival with three events, Amazon and Ingram being the earlier performances. There have been five-week breaks between these theatrics as I proceed in the Joel Friedlander modern publishing ecosystem.

If you want to distribute your ebook through Amazon directly and then also to “every ebook vendor beyond Amazon,” how should you do it? Smashwords is my recommended choice.

Non-exclusive is my chosen publishing survival mantra in book/ebook publishing. I work with Amazon directly, but am non-exclusive. I also think this is the healthiest approach for all citizens who control “knowledge products” in our society, meaning books/ebooks. We need as much diversity in the marketplace of ideas as we can arrange. Diversity in the marketplace is a socially desirable goal.

I have always wondered what percentage of ebooks sold in America are sold on Amazon. I have heard a lot of folks say 60% for several years. But recently a couple of knowledgeable people said the figure is higher. If you have credible info on this, please share it with us.

I wanted a way to distribute my ebook with Amazon and beyond Amazon. My targets would be Apple Books (formerly called iBooks), B&N ebooks, Kobo, and all the other vendors. How would I do this?

. . . .

I decided years ago, in my first ebooks, to proceed with BookBaby for two ebooks. They did and still do a good job. But revisions of my ebooks with BookBaby will require a substantial new cost, as I understand it. In Amazon Kindle and in Smashwords, I can simply write over the file at no cost. So I switched to Amazon direct and to Smashwords for “everyone else,” which is what I recommend now for ebook distribution.

. . . .

Details of Financial Return to the Author in Kindle, Ingram, and Smashwords

Authors need to keep track of exactly the cash returned to them in sales from their participation in each of these publishing ecosystems.

With my $4.99 ebook, how much do I earn today in the various structures?

Amazon Kindle

In Amazon Kindle, the formula appears to be 70% of retail, but after a delivery fee, which depends on ebook size.

Your ebook on Amazon must be in the recommended $2.99-$9.99 range to get the 70%. The return appears to drop to 35% when you are out of compliance regarding the recommended ebook prices.

. . . .


In IngramSpark the formula for ebooks appears to be 40% or 45% return of retail price and there is no restriction on price parameters.

. . . .


In Smashwords, the situation is both simple and more complicated.

When Smashwords sells one of my ebooks in Apple Books, as an example, it appears that I earn 60% of list. For Libraries, the return is 45% of list.

However, Smashwords also has its own internal selling ecosystem, so my book in that structure appears to net for me 56% to 85% of list. The details are granular. Mark Coker recently wrote me about this as follows:

“For sales through the Smashwords Store, the percentage is based on the total amount of the shopping cart. The author earns 85% net where net = the purchase price minus the PayPal fee. So, for some common price points it would be 56% for a 99 cent ebook, 74% for a $2.99 book, 76% for $3.99 and 80% for books or shopping cart totals over $7.99. The easiest way for you to get the exact percentage at different price points is to log into your account, click publish, then enter sample prices into the pricing calculator. It’ll display a dynamic pie chart that shows how much is earned at each price for each channel.”

. . . .

Smashwords, as well as IngramSpark, does not appear to penalize authors who want to price their ebooks above $9.99. Two of my travel journalism colleagues, experts in their niches, like this set-your-own-price approach. They have their niche markets and are able to command higher than $9.99 for their ebook products. On Amazon their return would drop to 35%.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Perhaps it’s time for another exploration of Smashwords and IngramSpark, but PG’s long-ago experiment with non-Amazon platforms resulted in very few sales for Mrs. PG’s books.

While PG was on The Book Designer site, he discovered that Joel Friedlander, book designer extraordinaire, had vastly expanded his collection of templates for the interior design for various types of books. You find all the design templates here.

For the last two of Mrs. PG’s books, PG has used KindleCreate (if the link doesn’t work for you, just Google KindleCreate), a free downloadable book formatting mini-program.

KC has worked pretty well and none of Mrs. PG’s readers have complained, but Joel’s templates address some of KindleCreate’s shortcomings (in PG’s eyes):

  1. KC only has four different formatting templates (and to PG’s untutored eye, only one looks good enough for Mrs. PG’s books.)
  2. KC is tightly-integrated with KDP (good), but the file it produces doesn’t seem to be useful for anything but publishing with Amazon. No Epub sites need apply.
  3. Additionally, PG couldn’t find any way to adjust anything in the file produced by KindleCreate in MSWord. Any problems with the final ebook file could only be addressed with the very limited KC program.

PG would be interested in hearing other comments about KindleCreate vs. MSWord-based templates from visitors to TPV who are familiar with both.

4 thoughts on “Publishing Your Ebook Is Changing on Smashwords”

  1. I have found Smashwords easy to use.

    I also really like the widgets you can use to promote your books, the fact that they distribute to prettymuch everyone except Amazon and Google Play and that the payment percentages are pretty good with a minimum of hassle.

    Now, the first thing that will come up is complaints about how hard it is to format. In my experience, I have found it EASY to format for Smashwords. Just keep a couple of simple things in mind:

    Cover image should be 1600 x 2400

    Submit a Word .doc (old Word format) so the book is available in all formats on the website and so there is a readable sample. (You can submit an Epub directly, but there is no sample for readers).

    I use Google Docs to create and save to .docx. Then I use to convert to old fashioned .doc as Google Docs does not offer this format — I have done three books this way with no conversion issues in the Meatgrinder (Smashwords’ conversion software).

    Use Styles to format instead of hand formatting each paragraph (hand-defining paragraphs WILL make a mess of things).

    You can obviously play around with style definitions, my objective is to keep the manuscript simple to it converts easily:

    I use Normal Text for the body of the work, Heading 1 for chapter titles and Heading 2 for sub-chapters.

    Normal Test I define as Times New Roman 12. First line indent .3. LEFT justified. Indents: all 0 except for first line (0 for left, right, before, after, at:). Single line spacing, “None” for “at.”

    Heading 1 Times New Roman, centered, bold, italic, 14. NO FIRST LINE INDENT.

    Heading 2 Times New Roman, center, bold, italic, 13.

    The formatting is not fancy but it is functional and it works — and honestly, I have never heard a reader say, “Oh wow, look at those beautiful drop caps.” I think typographers and designers obsesses about details that most readers really don’t care much about.

    Good luck!!!

  2. I left Smashwords for Draft2Digital. User interface is good, it’s easy to upload through, and D2D adds useful things. And their customer service is quick and good.

    My D2D sales in just six months were triple what I sold at Smashwords that full year. My first full year at D2D was triple what I sold ALL seven years at Smashwords.

    I have never looked back, and convinced some other authors to switch to D2D as well. Each one also saw an immediate rise in sales.

    D2D does a .mobi format. I upload that to Amazon with zero issues.

    D2D for the win.

  3. Wow… It’s like a time machine.

    Um, I recommend avoiding SmashWords like the plague. At this point, it has almost no unique channel.

    I do strongly recommend going wide, and I prefer PublishDrive to its close competitor StreetLib and to D2D (whose distribution is less wide).

    There’s still a case to be made for going directly to a few of the retailers (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, Kobo) in order to control the timing of sales pricing, for discount sales.

  4. I use both Smashwords and Draft2Digital. Smashwords seems to be where the really hardcore ebook people buy their books (I sold just about 400 copies on the Smashwords direct channel this year), and coupon feature is very useful for giveaways. Also, when I have people ask “I wanna buy a PDF copy of this book”, I can direct them to Smashwords.

    That said, uploading to Smashwords became immensely easier after I started using an ebook formatting program called Jutoh. Jutoh can generate a Smashwords-ready ODT file (which is easily converted to Word) with a few clicks, and I haven’t had any problems uploading those to Smashwords.

    For ebook formatting on other platforms, I use Vellum. It is Mac only, and I’m mainly a PC user, but I got a used MacBook Air just for Vellum, and I’ve had good results with it.

Comments are closed.