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“Amazon Is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns” says Mark Coker of Smashwords

Mark Coker, Self Publisher

Mark Coker, Smashwords Founder and Alliance of Independent Author’s Advisor

MONDAY OPINION.  Guest Post by Mark Coker. For more of Mark’s  thoughts on the dangers of exclusivity and importance of distribution to all retailers, see his free ebook, SECRETS TO EBOOK PUBLISHING SUCCESS.

Every indie should get their books distributed to as many retailers as possible. Every author should be at Amazon, but they should avoid the temptation to enroll in the KDP Select program because of its exclusivity requirements.

From a global market share perspective (and this is a global market!), Amazon’s share is declining over the last few years. Authors who go exclusive – even if only for three months at a time – are harming their ability to capture this global growth.

The other retailers are rising in importance. Keep an eye on the Apple iBookstore (already in 32 countries), Barnes & Noble (rumored to be going global soon) and Kobo (has always had a global focus).

Smashwords-distributed authors have seen impressive growth at these three retailers over the last 12 months, especially at Apple. Apple’s the dark horse in this race, and probably the biggest single threat to Amazon’s dominance.

Amazon is playing indie authors like pawns in its greater battle to harm other ebook retailers by getting authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon. Unlike Amazon, Apple doesn’t attempt exclusivity, and doesn’t do draconian price matching. Amazon’s the only retailer that threatens its authors with account termination if they don’t obey Amazon’s strict price-parity requirements.

I’ve got mad respect for Amazon, and I personally like every Amazon staffer and executive I’ve met, but I don’t approve of their policies and have told them so. I’m surprised more indies don’t push back.

Part of the challenge, I think, is that ever since Amazon launched KDP Select, they make your KDP account’s configuration look incomplete *unless* you enroll in KDP Select. I’ve heard from many authors who say they enrolled accidentally.

Shortly after Amazon opened up India, they made the 70% royalty rate contingent upon the author enrolling the book in KDP Select. Not a good sign that they continue to flex their exclusivity muscle.

If KDP Select dropped the exclusivity requirement, I’d be a big supporter of the program. The exclusivity piece is completely unnecessary, and only causes long term harm to authors and Amazon’s competitors.

If indies agree that a healthy, vibrant global ecosystem of many many ebook retailers is in the best interest of authors, readers and the future of books, then indies should think twice before succumbing to exclusivity. Support all your retailers.

When you tell your fans where they can purchase your books, provide direct links to all your retail outlets.

 

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160 Responses to “Amazon Is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns” says Mark Coker of Smashwords

  1. Stephanie Zia October 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    After experimenting with KDP it feels good to have everything back with Smashwords.

    • James Lythgoe November 7, 2012 at 1:06 am #

      I thought long and hard about the KDP Select but I didn’t like the exclusivity clause.
      My book, The Golf Swing: It’s all in the Hands wouldn’t be a big seller in India so the 70 % royalty wasn’t an incentive. There are only 100,000 golfers in India. I would have had to delist my book from several other retailers including my own website. I simply came to the conclusion that it was expensive to choose KDP Select. I would lose sales from my other listings which I wasn’t prepared to do, not to mention exposure by being listed in other places.
      James Lythgoe, author of The Golf Swing: It’s all in the Hands

    • Joe Perrone Jr. November 7, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

      I’m right with you, Mark. However, Smashwords needs to be more responsible about making sure author bio information and book descriptions are submitted to those outlets in a more timely and accurate fashion. Also, I find it very hard to access/find the Apple ebook store. Perhaps you can work with Apple to improve its ebook store’s visibility. Lastly, the earnings statements are impossibly difficult to decipher (IMHO). But, don’t get me wrong, I am still a big fan of Smashwords.

    • Corey Feldman April 21, 2013 at 1:53 am #

      I don’t get that. So don’t use select. Upload to KDP, upload to iBooks, upload to B&N, and upload to Kobo. Then stop giving a 3rd party a percentage of your work.

      • Bobbi Schemerhorn July 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

        Hey Corey,

        Although you make an excellent point, indie writers in Canada can only self-publish to Amazon and Kobo. So for me, I would have to use a third party to distribute to everyone else.

        But if you don’t like KDP and the exclusivity of it, don’t put it on that list. Amazon will still sell your book. That is what I have done.

  2. Dan Holloway October 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I’m constantly surprised too that more “indies” don’t stand up to Amazon. As a self-publisher I have never made my paper books available through Amazon, and when I started a small press I refused to make those paperbacks available through Amazon, for example. I got widely derided by people who thought I was somehow cheating my authors (despite the fact the policy got us coverage at places most small zero budget places could only fantasise about). My logic was simple – I wanted to support fabulous bookshops doing amazing things and to give them something really worthwhile in stocking our books – something people couldn’t get cheaper on Amazon.

    Writers seem not to have cottoned on to what other business sectors latched onto decades ago – the buying public really do care about ethics and are prepared to put themselves out for a superlative product that comes with an ethical imprimatur. So sticking by your principles needn’t harm your business

  3. Keith Edwards October 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    Agreed. I enrolled my book in KDP Select to try and get it into the Kindle Singles Program. It was passed over, and now, having exhausted the KDP marketing options (that don’t involve money) I’m stuck for another month before I can unenroll and push the book out to other platforms. Definitely won’t be doing that again!

  4. Mary Gottschalk October 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Mark’s advice would be super if Smashword’s didn;t have it own unique formula for e-pub. My memoir (SAILING DOWN THE MOONBEAM) is I-tunes compliant, but Smashwords won’t accept it. The problem is a series of illustrations which I would, it seems, have to pay a small fortune to have re-done to Smashwords standards, when I already paid once to have them professionally done for Apple.

    If Smashwords would accept the Apple version of E-pub, I’d be there in a heartbeat!

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 1:14 am #

      Hi Mary, although this isn’t the topic of this column, we have committed to begin accepting direct .epub files by the end of the year, probably near Xmas. However, considering all the work you put into the memoir, the cost to get a book formatted for Smashwords (assuming you don’t have the time to do it yourself for free by following the Smashwords Style Guide) is minimal, probably $50-75 if you hire somone on my list (send an email to list@smashwords.com). While it’s important for you to be on Apple, it’s also important to get your book to B&N, Sony, Kobo and some of the smaller retailers we serve, not to mention our library channel which will create some exciting opportunities over the next couple years. Good luck!

      • KS Augustin October 23, 2012 at 4:46 am #

        I’m very happy to hear that Mark because, at the moment, *Smashwords* is the one treating its publishers like children. At the moment, I cannot have indented paragraphs in the meat of my novel, followed by non-indented paragraphs on my copyright page. The “Meatgrinder” throws a wobbly for something that, surely, should be my call, not yours.

        And, yes, the name might have been cute at one time, but if you want people to start behaving like professional content producers, then you have to step up to the plate and start giving them professional tools to do it.

        As I keep saying, it’s not Amazon’s to win, it’s yours, and Kobo’s and B&N’s, etc. to lose.

        • Elizabeth Barone October 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

          You should check out Smashwords’ style guide; you can certainly use indented and non-indented paragraphs, and the style guide explains how. I always set up my ToC and non-story sections as centered and non-indented. :)

          • T. J. Edison May 30, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

            Smashwords accuse me of using the spacing bar to indent sentences and centre headings, meaning I don’t use that tab with the opposing arrows on the left of my keyboard, nor do i use the tool bar to left, centre, right or block.

            I’ve unpublished all my books there.

            Go figure.

      • Lynn October 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

        Mark, I think most of us writers who do participate in KDP Select know we’re making a deal with the devil. But the exposure and subsequent sales are hard to beat.

        I’m very excited to hear you’re going to be accepting .epub files directly soon, as I think that will make it a lot easier for authors who do their own formatting to participate at Smashwords. I’m planning to take a couple of books out of the KDP Select program in the new year, so this sounds like perfect timing for me – which I’m sure was your main goal :-)

      • Martyn V. Halm November 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

        One of the reasons I haven’t gone Smashwords with the Amsterdam Assassin Series is that I don’t work in Word. I write in Scrivener and convert into epubl, mobi or pdf. I deal directly with Amazon and Kobo and Apple, but as a non-US resident I can’t publish straight away on Pubit and Sony. If Smashwords would accept epub, I’d have the Amsterdam Assassin Series up in no time at all.

      • Jerrold Mundis December 15, 2012 at 6:55 am #

        “we have committed to begin accepting direct .epub files by the end of the year, probably near Xmas.”

        Okay, it’s now near Xmas and nearly the end of the year.

        And . . . ?

  5. Scott Waxman October 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    Mark thanks for writing about this. There are so many authors flocking these days to Amazon and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle on kdp select. By agreeing to this kind of exclusivity they are giving up so much distribution elsewhere. At Diversion Books we publish all of our authors to multiple platforms and back up every title with significant marketing. Although Amazon has asked us for exclusivity on our titles this something I have never agreed to. More than anything we need an even playing field for e-book retailers and that means full distribution for all of our titles.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 1:18 am #

      Great to hear, Scott. And with your great work at Diversion, you’ve got a first hand appreciation of the book-buying power enabled by full distribution to Amazon’s competitors. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Anthea Lawson October 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    If the other retailers would get their acts together and offer stronger competition, plus a way for indies to boost their visibility (as Amazon has) then I’m sure the appeal of Amazon’s Select program will dim.

    But as long as there’s that big fat carrot dangling out there, and as long as some authors see fantastic results with Select/KOLL, people will continue to opt in.

    Rather than exhorting authors to resist, I’d like to see more emphasis put on the other retailers to step up their game. Please! B&N’s customer service for authors is minuscule to nonexistent, and discoverability for new indie authors practically nil, Kobo is slanted toward NY publishing, and Apple has its own arcane requirements, including locking indies into price points that end in .99 no matter what.

    When the other retailers start treating indie authors as more than an afterthought, there’s your solution. :)

    (and no, I have not opted into Select for any of my titles, ever – but I can see the appeal)

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 1:33 am #

      Hi Anthea, I see this differently. I think B&N, Apple, Kobo, Sony and others have all shown tremendous support to indie authors, and have done so for many years. All these retailers have opened their stores to indie authors. B&N and Sony were the first to open up their shelves to Smashwords authors in 2009, and Apple opened up on day one with the launch of the iBookstore (we had 2,200 titles there on day one – now we have over 120,000). Smashwords titles routinely scale the bestseller lists at these retailers. Our titles frequently receive promotional love from the retailers. Each of these retailers is investing millions of dollars to drive reader eyeballs to their shelves, and none of them are standing still. They’re all working to add new features, improve discoverability, improve service, and to open up new opportunities for all authors. They invest a tremendous amount of resources to load, update and support our books, and we know this because we’re actively engaged with our counterparts at each retailer on a daily basis. Yes, Amazon is the largest single retailer, so it’s not uncommon that their sales today will usually dwarf the sales of any single competitive retailer, though in the aggregate, the non-Amazon’s are on the rise.

      • Marty Raaymakers October 23, 2012 at 2:15 am #

        My problems with Barnes and Noble and e-books is that their search engine sucks royally and that when I buy an ebook after looking at something in a store, the store gets no credit.

        I have to know a books exact title or author to be able to find anything I want. It is so frustrating to not be able to have a good search on their site because I love their physical store combination.

        Because I love their physical stores, I want to see them be able to stay in business. The one I go to most often is in a town where it may end up being a store that gets cut. I know they can trace the purchases made within a store on the stores internet system. I just wish they would do it.

        thanks for the post Mark.

      • Anthea Lawson October 23, 2012 at 4:56 am #

        I agree with the other retailers’ sales rising – it’s part of why I’m not going the Select route. But Amazon actively engages their direct indie publishers in a way no other retailer does (though Kobo may get there soon) in terms of offering tools directly to the indie author.

        It’s not just that Amazon is the biggest retailer of ebooks out there, it’s also that they provide indie authors with a nimble interface and a few different ways to reach readers (including active lists, solid also-boughts, the lure of Free – and the ability to track your free downloads, unlike at Kobo – and lends when joining Select, not to mention one of the best search engines out there.)

        Smashwords does and continues to do indie authors an incredible service, and I’m behind you guys – but it’s more than ‘Amazon is the biggest, therefore your sales will be bigger.’ It’s also that they provide a solid service that indie authors are looking for. I’d love to see some of the other retailers do so, and I’m glad to hear that they’re ‘working to add new features’ and improve discoverability.

    • Dario Ciriello October 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      Anthea, you hit the nail on the head. See also my post below.

  7. Gareth Skarka October 22, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    If Smashwords would allow authors to upload already-formatted ebooks, rather than forcing us to use the awful and all-too-aptly-named Meatgrinder, you’d instantly become the best choice for independents.

    Unfortunately, your insistence upon that horribly broken system, which produces amateurish results, means that not only will I never use your service, but I will continue to advise all independents to instead deal directly with Apple, B&N and Kobo.

    Seriously, Coker — at least offer the option. Meatgrinder is amateur-hour, and results in atrocious formatting. Give independents a reason to sign with you. Let us upload pre-formatted files directly.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 1:40 am #

      Gareth, although this will soon be a moot point, I disagree with your assessment of Meatgrinder, and I expect most of our authors who’ve created professional-quality ebooks with our system would disagree as well. Nevertheless, as I mentioned above and as we have consistently stated for the last nine months, we’ll offer a direct upload option by the end of the year. In the end, we’ll leave it to our authors and publishers to decide what option is the best for them. I expect the vast majority of our authors and publishers doing straight narrative will still opt for our Meatgrinder, though if they want to supply their own quality file, that’ll be fine too. thanks.

      • David Alastair Hayden October 23, 2012 at 3:25 am #

        I’m glad to hear you will be allowing direct uploads soon for those of us who can make validated epubs on our own! I respect you and what Smashwords is about, but after coming off Select I didn’t activate my books again because I didn’t want to deal with the Meatgrinder. I don’t want to make the updates to the text and deal with Word again, a program I’ve kept only because of Smashwords. I wasn’t happy withe Meatgrinder results anyway. I used chapter heading pictures. So finicky about that. I’m sure it’s decent for absolutely plain text. I know a writer with excellent sales who has left their uncopyedited versions on Smashwords because they didn’t want to repeat the process.

        But with direct upload, I’ll be back and happy to go to iBooks and Sony through Smashwords.

        As for Select, it was great for me and I’ve no problem with it. To me, it’s just a tool. Send each book through it for one three month period to get a boost on the biggest site then move them out into the rest of the world. Three months once in the life of a book is no big deal to me. If they were to start hard under urging of those not in, I’d have a problem. And I don’t think authors should stay in it longterm.

      • Catana October 23, 2012 at 4:34 am #

        Given the steady stream of complaints about Meatgrinder on Kindleboards, and on various writer’s blogs, I’d say that a fairly large percentage of Smashwords authors will be happy to abandon it and Word.

        • PRice October 23, 2012 at 10:35 am #

          Why would satisfied customers waste their time replying to whiners?

          If a person can’t follow straight-forward directions on eBook formatting, why is that Smashwords’ problem?

          • Catana October 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

            Why would you assume that people who have problems with Meatgrinder can’t follow directions? It’s a flawed system that badly needs to be upgraded.

        • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

          Hi Catana. I’ve listened to the complaints for four years. We’ve taken what we can from the valid criticisms and used the feedback to guide the development of Meatgrinder. We’ve always been upfront about both the capabilities and the limitations of Meatgrinder. The upside of Meatgrinder is that it has made professional ebook publishing fast, free, easy and *accessible* for tens of thousands of authors around the world. Accessibility enabled by free has always been a prime motivator for us. I don’t think an author should have to pay money to create an ebook. We have authors who publish with us from library computers, I suspect because they might not own a computer. I suspect some of our authors are even homeless. They probably don’t have the financial means to pay a professional to hand-code their .epub of .mobi file for them. We have authors struggling to make mortgage payments, or struggling to put food on the table. They shouldn’t have to pay. Most self-published ebooks don’t sell well, so to the extent we can help extract cost from an author’s production expense, we make it easier for them to publish, and we increase their odds of publishing profitably.

          The downside of Meatgrinder is that it’s an automated tool, and like any tool there’s a learning curve. Any automated tool will offer varying degrees of flexibility and inflexibility. The greatest inflexibility of Meatgrinder is that it requires the author to take time to study the Style Guide and learn how to do their styling in Word. Meatgrinder will never allow the same precision possible with a hand-coded file, though for most books we get really close, and for people who take the time to do it right, they create high-quality files that readers and our retailers love across all platforms, devices and screen sizes. From a consumer perspective, these files are often indistinguishable from hand-coded files.

          I find the critics usually fall into a few buckets:

          1. Authors and/or ebook designers who have a valid, legit requirement to take advantage of the greater formatting and layout control afforded by hand-coded epub files.

          2. Authors and/or ebook designers who think Microsoft Word is beneath them. Some of these people have taken the time to master Word and other tools, and like the folks in category #1 above, they have valid reasons reasons to prefer other tools. But I’ve found most of the Word-haters haven’t taken the time to learn Word, or they might be anti-Microsoft, and for these critics their criticism often reeks of ignorance or bigotry. Granted, Microsoft excels at making each new version of Word more difficult to learn than the last, but for people who take the time to learn it, it’s a powerful, flexible publishing tool.

          3. People who tried Meatgrinder, but didn’t follow the Style Guide instructions, and as a result their book lit up our AutoVetter filters like a Christmas tree. When this happens, the author has the choice to give up and get mad at us, or they read the manual and try again. Most read the manual and get it right.

          3. Ebook designers who are selling custom ebook design services. I believe these folks genuinely believe in the value of their services, and most of them do great work. I don’t ascribe ill-intent or deceit to these folks, though I do know that they often attract clients with simple books that don’t really require advanced or expensive design.

          4. People who have seen the critic’s comments and have bought into the FUD, and for FUD reasons alone they’re averse to giving us a chance.

          I listen to all the critics. In the end, despite what some people might think, I ultimately don’t care if authors use MG or use professional design services. I support both options. It’s not my place to tell an author what’s right for their book. As long as the author is providing us a quality file that meets our retailers’ requirements and satisfies readers, I’ll leave it the author to perform their own cost-benefit calculus as to which approach makes the most sense for them. If an author decides MG gives them advantage, great. If not, no worries.

          • Gareth Skarka October 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

            Your “buckets” breakdown is very telling.

            It now is quite obvious why you’ve essentially ignored four years of criticism, and even now are waiting to implement direct upload (something which shouldn’t require significant back-end coding at all) until the “end of the year.”

            When your response to constant criticism of the program over an extended period comes down to your assessment that the criticisms are based entirely on a) Arrogance, b) Stupidity, or c) Herd Mentality, with a slight grudging acceptance that a minority might have a “valid legitimate requirement” — well, that speaks volumes.

            I’ll be sure to point every independent author I can to this response of yours. It’s very enlightening.

          • Ken E Baker October 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

            Mark’s article is on Amazon and how authors are potentially being used to impact the publishing industry. Unfortunately Gareth et al, your discussion veers off a tangent into the technical aspects of the meatgrinder – which everyone know is not the best solution out there, yet is able to assist many authors who wouldn’t know how to format an ebook if their life depended on it.

            Since we are on the topic of choosing to use one publishing system at the expense of another, you are welcome to exercise this right – even if you and your insults are the minority.

          • Dalya October 23, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

            BUCKETS!!!! LOL.

            Chowderbuckets!

          • Mark Coker October 24, 2012 at 1:42 am #

            Gareth, you’re completely mischaracterizing my comments and our attitude toward authors. If we didn’t agree there was strong need for supporting direct .epub uploads, we wouldn’t do it. You can question our timing all you want, but it’s untrue we ignored our authors. All our product and service developments are driven by direct feedback from our authors. Although this might be an important issue for some authors, it has not been the most pressing for the vast majority of the authors we serve. As a fast-growing startup (now 19 people), we choose our development priorities carefully, and every single week we make difficult choices about what we’ll do next, and what we don’t do. Every large billion-dollar ebook retailer makes the same decisions every day. We just happen to be more open and transparent than most. Each year, I do an annual year in review, where I talk about what we achieved, and what we plan to achieve in the year ahead. We’ve achieved much of what we said we’d achieve this year and more, and the year isn’t completed yet. Stay tuned. http://blog.smashwords.com/2011/12/smashwords-year-in-review-2011.html

          • D. Moonfire October 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

            I might add a fifth category to that list: people who don’t use Word to write.

            I use a text editor and a build system that can make the Mobi and EPUB books fairly easily (the creation programs scriptable), but creating a Word document automatically is a tad harder (more so if you don’t use Windows).

            It’s a small group, but I’m helping a small publisher put out books and it is a lot easier when I can automate things. :)

            I haven’t been paying attention, but I’m glad to hear that EPUB will be an option for Smashwords. I’ll be jumping on that as soon as you make it public, mainly because I don’t trust all my eggs in one basket and would rather work with smaller businesses (Smashwords is a *tad* smaller than Amazon, I know) than larger ones.

          • Ramon October 26, 2012 at 2:02 am #

            This meatgrinder issue is interesting. I’ve published five books with smashwords. The first time took a long time because I had to study the style guide. After that, I learned how to use Word more efficiently, and subsequently have had zero problems with meatgrinder. I’ve heard a lot of people complain, but it seems straightforward to me.

            One thing that does bother me, though, is the synopsis on ibooks. The synopsis is all mashed together in one huge paragraph and I don’t know how to fix that.

            Other than that, I’ve had good work come from the grinder.

          • Chris O'Byrne October 30, 2012 at 4:37 am #

            For three years I’ve run a company that provides professional ebook conversion services. We also provide distribution services, meaning we take care of the uploading for those people that don’t want to do it themselves. Smashwords has and will always be one of the most important parts of that distribution. The base of all of our conversions starts with a Word doc because that’s the best way to handle formatting, whether the book is a easy-to-format fiction or complex nonfiction with many images, lists, and more. We’ve never had to take an ebook converted by the Smashwords’ Meatgrinder and adjust it for any reason. And I check every single conversion!

      • Ray Ford October 24, 2012 at 3:55 am #

        As a customer, I lost count of how many times I had to open a Smashwords book in Sigil and “fix” the formatting. I am glad to hear you will be allowing pre-formatted ebooks by the end of year. Another reason to love you guys (no DRM being the biggest).

  8. Derek Murphy (@Creativindie) October 23, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    I went exclusive with amazon for awhile, showed no increase in sales, made something like $20 bucks that month. Now I’m back everywhere – Smashwords gets my book into Apple’s istore which alone is usually worth about $100. The big perk is that going KDP Select allows authors to give the book away for free for a few days and run a special promotion/campaign around it.

  9. soconfusediputitinselectanddidntmeanto October 23, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    Considering that Smashwords will not approve for premium distribution serials (e.g. in the same vein as the highly successful, USA Today charting serials by Kelly Favor and Sara Fawkes or the highly successful series by Delilah Fawkes) with Smashwords telling authors to wait until they finish the serial to submit, perhaps there’s quite a bit of juice left to KDP Select before such serials are finished, unless, of course, the author can go directly to a platform like BN and Apple, which do not send the authors emails saying that they won’t publish serials.

    • Ty Johnston October 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

      Yep, I don’t get this one either. A growing number of serials are quite popular, and I’ve had some minor success with my own dip into serial fiction. My suggestion would be to let the authors publish it and then the readers can figure out what they want or don’t want, which is, I thought, a big part of the whole independent publishing movement.

  10. Catana October 23, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    When I started self-publishing, it was exclusively with Smashwords. It wasn’t until my Smashwords sales dropped nearly to zero, that I even contemplated signing on with Amazon. But I finally did, and my sales have been fairly steady there for the last seven months. In the meantime, Smashword’s Prime distribution has remained pretty much useless for me. I plan to publish my next book with Amazon and Smashwords, but will not go for Prime. I’ll promote the book with coupons for the first month, and then will unpublish it at Smashwords and sign it up for KDP Select for three months. It will be my first time with Select, and I’m doing it as an experiment rather than take anyone else’s word as to whether it’s a good idea. When the three months are up, I’ll republish on Smashwords and go ahead with Prime.

    I appreciate your position, Mark, but I’m at the point where I’m much less enthusiastic about Smashwords, and have decided to use both sites in a way that seems most likely to benefit me. Which means that I won’t boycott Select just because you say so.

  11. Penelope October 23, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    I believe the reason that most newbie “indies” go with Amazon KDP select, is that they are just starting out and relying on Amazon to get the word out about their books. Since they are the behemoth of the self-publishing industry, authors flock to them like a moth to a flame.

    Once the word is out, and indies start figuring out that there are better, and not so restrictive places they can publish their books, they will make the switch on their own.

    I think the “negative” if there is one, about publishing elsewhere, is the rumor that it can take up to 4 weeks to get your works published on the i-bookstore. Amazon makes it “super easy” and convenient, so that could be a concern for authors impatient to show their work to the world.

  12. Glenn Scrimshaw October 23, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    Although my work is listed on Smashwords i’ve not really looked into pushing my work there as i’ve concentrated on Amazon as it’s the market leader for sales. As a new indie author still learning i put my time into what will probably give better results. I’m not a big fan of Amazon but most of the people you talk to who have e-readers use Amazon kindles or are getting one.
    From doing a recent update on my first books blurp Smashwords did do the update alot faster than Amazon and when releasing books Smashwords lists much faster so maybe i should spend a little time working out the site.

  13. Wayne Smallman October 23, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Like many other authors, the temptation is there. But that temptation soon ebbed when I realised that my ranking with the other venues — such as Smashwords — wouldn’t merely be suspended for the duration, but collapse.

    I think that’s exceptionally damaging, and really not appropriate for any aspiring authors.

  14. Robin October 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    As a reader/customer,I find it frustrating when I hear that one of my favorite authors has a new book out and I can’t purchase it because I don’t have a Kindle.When authors decide to use KDP Select they are pretty much telling a portion of their fan base that if you don’t own a Kindle….pffft.While they might gain sales now,they may lose more in the long run by alienating some of their fans.I feel like It’s like a smack in the face,a good one too,my face is still stinging.

    • fiona64 October 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more, Robin. I have tried telling author friends that they are essentially telling me and every other Kobo/Nook/Sony Reader/ePub customer out there that we are not wanted in their audience, but they don’t seem to get it. One of my favorite authors has now gone exclusively with KDP Select for her eBooks, and I couldn’t be more disappointed in her.

    • JR Tomlin October 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      It would be great if we had a fan base at the other retailers. The fact that the retailers make it so difficult to develop that and give us such an uneven playing field makes that unlikely. So maybe talking to B&N or iTunes (don’t bother talking to Kobo–nice folks but nowhere near making sales yet) then we’ll put our books there for sale. But putting my books somewhere they will in effect be stuck in the back of the store where no one finds them much less buys them is hardly a good business practice–not when it keeps them from having the best visibility at a larger retailer.

      There is nothing personal. But why should I keep Amazon customers from finding my books in order to make my books available to other customers who won’t? To me that makes no sense whatsoever. I don’t prefer a fan base in one place over another. I do prefer their being able to discover my books.

      • R.L. Garrett October 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

        JR, I own a Nook. Your attitude — which is a very, very short term way of thinking — just cost me as a reader.

        • Paul Sadler October 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

          RLG — You completely missed JR’s point because you think he was saying “nooks are bad”. It wasn’t about that, but rather directly responding to Coker’s article, where everything is a business decision. His argument, and yours, is that “more retailers = more possible readers = more sales = better”, therefore don’t do KDP select that limits you to one.

          Your response makes as much sense as someone saying, “Oh, you don’t like Amazon? Then I don’t want you as a reader.”

          Neither is what the choice is about — if you can sell 100 books through a company that makes it easy for you but you have to give them exclusivity, or 50 through them plus 1 or 2 (maybe) through another that makes it painful for you to deal with them, which would you choose as a businessperson? I’m sure that JR would love to sell to you as an individual, but B&N makes that near impossible for some authors.

          It’s not an “attitude”, it’s a business decision, just as Coker’s argument outlined. For JR, it makes more business sense not to waste time on a dysfunctional company that limits his sales and invest in one that does. Does that suck for you? Sure, but that’s not his “fault” or his “attitude”. It’s not about you, it’s about B&N not servicing the authors who provide the products they sell or the readers who buy the products.

          PolyWogg

      • Elizabeth Barone October 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

        “It would be great if we had a fan base at the other retailers.”

        I built my fan base through years of blogging, chatting on Twitter, and connecting with readers. I think it’s dangerous to assume a retailer should be responsible for gaining you customers. Sure, different retailers helped me grow my readership, but none of them will make or break me; rather, careful marketing, distributing to as many e-tailers as possible, and maintaining relationships with my readers will keep my career going.

        • Richard Bilkey October 29, 2012 at 1:43 am #

          “I think it’s dangerous to assume a retailer should be responsible for gaining you customers.”

          Thank you Elizabeth for explicitly stating one of the most fundamental points that all self-published authors should keep in mind. I am sure that all of the authors reading and commenting on this article work extremely hard on their author platforms and marketing but it always bears repeating that it the author needs to take control of their fan base rather than relying on self-publishing services like Smashwords or retailers like Amazon to direct readers to their book.

          The major message I see in Mark’s article is encouraging growth in Amazon’s competitors and the importance for all authors and publishers that this trend continues. Yes, Amazon currently leads the pack by a long way and deservedly so – it was first to market and provides the strongest interface and suite of tools for independent publishers. However, putting all your eggs in one retail basket is poor strategy and
          if Amazon becomes the only retail option for independent publishers then authors will find it even more difficult to make their books discoverable in a crowded marketplace.

    • MarcCabot October 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      Amazon’s free Kindle app allows Kindle books to be read on pretty much any non-proprietary electronic device, including iOS and Android devices, Mac, Windows, and Linux computers. What they’re saying is, “If you have a Nook or some other e-reader, you’ll need to read my book on your computer or smart device,” not “Pfft.” In fact, if Nook has a web browser, you can still read even Select books on it through Cloud Reader. I think. I don’t have one and have no way to check. So it’s not exactly a thumb in the eye of a non-Kindle owner.

      (I have fourteen published books on Smashwords and Amazon: I don’t use Select. I’m neither pro-Amazon nor pro-Smashwords. I’m pro-me.)

    • Will Entrekin October 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      Owning a Kindle is not a requirement for reading Kindle books. When publishers refuse to implement DRM on Kindle books, readers can buy them and convert them into any format they like. For more information on this process, try here:

      http://excitingpress.com/convert-exciting-books/

      Mark, I’m thrilled to hear you’re phasing out Meatgrinder. I’m not a fan of ePub myself (I find it harder to code for and more difficult to develop effectively), but Word is just . . . well, Word. It may still deserve mention in a discussion of tools for professional-level writing, but professional-level publishing?

      I’m inclined to agree with some of the comments regarding denouncing Amazon. I agree with you to some degree; it’s problematic, and it may reduce the diversity of the ebook ecosystem, but for the moment Amazon is simply the best game in town in terms of a reading and user experience–and I mean the total experience, from browsing for new books to discover all the way to delivery of books to a device. Apple is a close competitor, but no one else comes even close.

      You could, though. Smashwords is a brilliant idea, and you’re certainly passionate about both your publishing ideals and your support of authors. Are you considering a site redesign, with an emphasis on usability and discoverability, in addition to accepting ePub files for distribution? I think that would help a lot. Though I wonder: are you more interested in making Smashwords a distributor or a destination?

      It’s worth noting sometimes putting all one’s eggs into one basket is preferable to attempting to juggle them all while walking back to the kitchen. The latter often results in egg on one’s face, and then the yolk’s on you.

      Okay, I’ll stop with the bad jokes. But for various reasons, discussion regarding Kindle Select needs to include more than just denouncement of exclusivity.

    • Rolando October 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      Oh come on. There are free programs that you can set up in your computer like the Kindle for PC that will allow you to read e-books. And there are also free apps out there that will allow you to do the same for some other devices. Authors are not being disrespectful, they are just following the best option they have in their opinion. If you REALLY love what an author writes you will make an effort to read his/her work in a different platform. If not, maybe you din’t care that much to begin with.

  15. Ken E Baker October 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    What did your grandmother used to tell you? Never put all your eggs in one basket.

    Amazon’s strategy is nothing but clever and calculated – wooing away authors under the guise of exclusivity and the promise of strong sales. And if it works for some, then that is great for them.

    I, however, am loathe to believe in something that promises sales, but removes potential markets from the author. Not everyone buys from Amazon, and nor should they.

    This, for me, is the DRM for publishing agreements.

  16. Cynical in Seattle October 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Oh, Mark.

    I’ve always been supportive of Smashwords, but frankly that’s starting to get hard. This article just makes me sad. It makes my self-published friends sad, too.

    If you spent half as much time improving your own business as you did denouncing Amazon, you’d be more successful. It’s starting to look bad. You’re coming across as an author who spends more time writing one-star reviews of the competition than you do actually writing books of your own. Don’t be that guy, honey, for all our sakes.

    We don’t want Amazon to be a monopoly any more than you do, but it feels like their competitors are in a race to see who can fail the hardest–I know this is harsh, and I’m sorry for that, but it’s true.

    “Nevertheless, as I mentioned above and as we have consistently stated for the last nine months, we’ll offer a direct upload option by the end of the year.” … this. This is an example of why this article is so painful. Nine months, really? You’re a small business. Your ONE advantage over Amazon is that you should be agile. It shouldn’t take nine months to implement a feature that’s so overwhelmingly important. Amazon offers authors a carrot–exclusivity for rewards. You offer them a stick–the worst upload/format process of any ebook retailer. Is it any wonder you’re losing authors? Yeah, it’s great that you know it’s a problem, but this industry can change in the blink of an eye. “We’ve been reassuring you we’ll get around to fixing it for nine months, be quiet!” is not acceptable.

    People go to Smashwords because you’re the best option for most people to publish to Apple and (if they’re outside the US), B&N. If those places got their stuff together, Smashwords would become irrelevant overnight. Don’t let that happen. Smashwords needs to become a place people WANT to use, not a place that we HAVE to use.

    We need a better formatting system. Premium needs to work faster and it needs to be more accurate. We need customer service that responds in less than a week, and is actually helpful when they do respond. We need to get rid of idiotic rules like “no serialization” when serialization is the future of the format. What we DON’T need, dear Mr. Coker, is condescending articles about how evil your competitor is.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

      Cynical, every individual’s author’s mileage will vary. What I see are millions of dollars in aggregate sales dollars flowing in from retailers. From that, I know which retailers are on the rise, which are doing the best jobs of connecting readers to our authors’ books, which are holding steady, and which are weak. I see (and have shared in my Secrets ebook) how a single book’s sales will gyrate at a single retailer, and how books break out at different retailers at different times, and often for no reason than randomness. My interest is to look out for the long term interests of our authors, because if we help our authors do well we all do well. If I think a retailer is pursuing policies harmful to authors, I’ll call them out. I have always been full of praise for Amazon as well. I don’t denounce them as the evil empire as some do, and I have always encouraged authors to maintain full distribution on Amazon, despite the fact they’re pursuing a completely different game, as is their right. Time will tell if my admonishments regarding exclusivity are on the right side of history. Time will also tell if we continue to improve our business to our authors’ satisfaction. I’m confident we will. Although we aim to provide 100% satisfaction to everyone, we’ll always fall short. It won’t stop us from aiming high. We listen carefully to our authors and take our guidance from them, but just because we listen doesn’t mean we will always agree, or move on a schedule desired by every voice. We’re fielding over 50,000 voices that don’t speak in unison. My job is to guide our development in a direction that helps the greatest number of our authors achieve the greatest aggregate benefit from our efforts. In 4 1/2 years of this, I think we’ve done a decent job. Definitely not perfect, though. Far from it. We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, we’ve owned up to them, and I’d like to think we’ve learned from them and have grown stronger from them. It’s easy for some to tell us we should have done this or that differently, or this or that slower or faster, and in many cases we’ll agree, but in the end the decisions we make are our own and our authors will judge us in the long term by the wisdom of our decisions. In one sense, we and Amazon are very similar. We’re both making business-critical decisions today with an eye for how these decisions will play out four or five years from now. We both tolerate people misunderstanding or underestimating where we’re going.

  17. Robert Nagle October 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Amazon has done the same thing for their subsidiary Audible. If you let Audible distribute your audio books exclusively, you qualify for 50-90% of royalty split. If you don’t let Audible distribute exclusively, you are eligible only for 20-70%. http://www.acx.com/help/what-s-the-deal/200497690 . That is how business works, I’m afraid.

    I would love to see Amazon be prohibited from including most-favored nation clauses in their KDP contracts. That’s really what is hurting competition.

  18. Mr. Anonymous October 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    I am on Amazon KDP and have had no problems. I have six books on there so far, and all are doing well. Been on there a year now. I took one off KDP and put it on Smashwords. In 5 months in made me $0.60. That was on Apple, Nook, and all the others it states, as well as the Smashword site. I put the same book back on KDP and this month it has earned $167 already so far!

  19. Gordon Wilkinson October 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Although my genre will never sell many copies (poetry) i did look at the Amazon KDP and came to the conclusion that they want all the cream with the author taking all the risk. Being exclusive on one site alone for 90 days might not sound a bad idea but personally i think it is.

  20. Dario Ciriello October 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Mark,

    I entirely agree with you about KDP select. As soon as it came out, I looked at the rules and saw at once that it was in now way to my advantage–I’m stunned that anyone with a good book would even consider it.

    On the other hand, I do have to question your assertion about other markets growing in importance. In the 15-month period that my nonfiction book, ‘Aegean Dream’ has been available, it’s sold over 3,000 copies on Amazon Kindle, a couple of hundred in POD print, and three or four through Smashwords and all the other channels combined, with pricing even across all platforms. The other books (two SF anthologies) offered by my same small press, Panverse Publishing, have done nothing on any channel other than Amazon

    Given this experience, while I very much like what Smashwords is doing and the fact that you broke ground for all of us indie publishers, I can frankly see no reason to continue working with Smashwords. Where Amazon has the whip hand seems to be in its searchability; a reader can enter keywords on Amazon and come up with my book, but on B&N et al they essentially have to know the title or author name. Amazon gives authors a visibility the others don’t. The other platforms have done absolutely nothing for me.

    What are your thoughts in this regard? Why does Amazon account for very. very close to 100% of my sales, although Kindles only account for, what. 60%-70% of the ereaders out there? And it’s not just me: other authors I know have very similar stories.

    Best,
    Dario

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

      Hi Dario, it’s really dangerous to draw conclusions based on a random sample of one’s own experience, or the experience of a few others. I think it’s awesome you’ve had such great sales at Amazon. There’s obviously something about your book or your marketing or the readership at Amazon that propelled you forward in their discoverability algorithms. Assuming Amazon has 60% of the market (and this number could very likely be higher or lower, noone really knows), it’s especially unusual you’ve got close to 100% of your sales there. Be thankful! :) I’ve heard stories of authors selling more in the tiny Smashwords.com retail store than at Amazon, but those stories are rare and not representative. However, I have heard and increasing number of stories from authors who say they’re now earning more through the Smashwords distribution network than they earn through Amazon. A couple years ago, those stories were almost unheard of. I’ve seen multiple instances where a Smashwords book breaks out a certain retailers and not others. They might be strong at Sony, and weak everywhere else, or strong at Apple, and weak everywhere else. I’ve seen this with NY Times ebook bestsellers. I’ve seen books break out big at small retailers, then break out at the larger ones up to a year a later. I’ve seen books go from selling over 1,000 copies a day to dozens a day, or from dozens to thousands. I think there’s a tremendous amount of luck and serendipity involved. Something as simple as a single book club buying 10 books at once from a single store could conceivably propel a book forward in a retailer’s “people who bought this bought this” recommendation engine, and then that becomes the catalyst for a break out. My advice is get everywhere, and then look for opportunities to spark the breakouts, either with promotions, updated cover images, new pricing, marketing, or new releases. Also be sure to provide fans links to your books at all the retailers. On your blog at http://dariospeaks.wordpress.com/ for example, I see all your buy links go to Amazon, so none to B&N, Apple, etc.

      • Dario Ciriello October 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

        Mark, thanks very much for taking the time to respond at length.

        I should have mentioned that the vast bulk of my book’s sales were on UK Kindle. What I believe happened is that in February 2012, sven months after my book first appeared and as Brits started to think about trips to Greece, enough bought my book that it got into the top ten nonfiction>Greece books and started to be crosslinked by Amazon; from there on, sales took off in a hockey-stick curve, peaking at 600 copies in June, with sales of around 2,700 in just six months. The point is that until it got that visibility via Amazon’s algorithms, it didn’t so much, which does accord with your excellent point about basing conclusions on a sigle data point. Yeah, I get that.

        Also, although you’re right that I have only linked to Amazon on the blog–I’ll remedy that with a link cloud, and thank you–the blog has only been going since March, and only the minutest portion of sales *may* have come from that (I check click-throughs). On the other hand, the Panverse Publishing website (www.panversepublishing.com), which has been up for 3 years and gets a good many hits, links all books to both Amazon and B&N… yet literally none of my sales, on any title, come from B&N.

        So the issue seems to be that Amazon is doing something very right (as many posters above have suggested), whereas other digital book retailers are dropping the ball. I think some of this must be due to Amazon’s very superior search function as well as its awesome branding.

        Now I’m actually working off not one but three data points–my own ‘Aegean Dream,’ plus the two Panverse SF anthos available as ebooks. These have all bee linked to both Amazon and B&N from my publiser site; and yet, with Amazon only having maybe 60% of the ereader market, sales of all three books have been something like 99.9%+ through Amazon.

        So why aren’t the other channels working?

        Thanks for your time. I’ll keep watching Smashwords :)

  21. PA Wilson October 23, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    I do wish that Amazon would allow for KDP select without exclusivity, but I think saying they are treating indie authors badly is a stretch. As an Indie, I think part of the joy is experimentation. The fact that it’s only for 90 days seems like a good experiment for me. I did try it and wasn’t getting the results I wanted. So, I went back to broad distribution.

    I also sell most of my books through Amazon, but I have readers of other formats, including print so I go wide. That’s not to say I won’t try KDP select again, I’m willing to try some things out and I think that’s healthy.

  22. sharkbytes October 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Mark- I grudgingly use Amazon because it’s where most of my sales come from, but there is NO WAY I’d limit myself by enrolling in KDP. Keep on improving Smashwords! I wish I saw more sales there, but I have a hard time convincing people that it’s easy. Somehow, my non-computer-literate friends can figure out Amazon, but not SW. Seems really easy to me, so I don’t get that.

  23. Nathan October 23, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    I have two titles with Smashwords and I’ve tried all the marketing tips (on a small budget) and despite having many downloads of my novels, just haven’t seen any sales. Maybe it’s my work, who knows. But I’m going to try KDP select with my next title and see what happens. Couldn’t get worse.

  24. Jonathan Hopkins October 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I didn’t go with KDP – apart from pricepoint limitations, something didn’t smell quite right to me.

    But I would have done with my second novel. Because, by comparison with Kindle, sales through Smashwords have been dismal. And Kobo’s arbitrary decision to discount affected the Amazon margin – can’t blame them for price matching.

    So based on my first effort the choice would have to be sales/visibility versus distribution reach. As a newbie I’d have to pick the former.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      Jonathan, Kobo doesn’t discount our books. All of our retailers are under the agency model. They’re all supposed to honor your prices set at Smashwords, and if they don’t, it’s an error you report to us if we don’t discover it first.

  25. Indie Author October 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    I think Cynical in Seattle brought up some very valid points that Mark didn’t really address. The only reason I am currently using Smashwords is because I can’t get into B&N on my own. I’ve already uploaded to Kobo, Amazon, and iTunes directly.

    Why?

    I can’t stand the often horrible lag between changing a price or uploading book content and when it finally shows up on the vendor’s end. One of the beautiful things about going indie is our flexibility and agility. Sadly, Smashwords robs us of our key strengths. Now I realize the bottleneck may be on the vendor’s side of things. I’m quite confident Smashwords sends my changes as soon as possible, but when they take weeks or months to show up, it frankly doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. Few years ago I used to be a waiter and when the kitchen screwed up the food for a table, I usually lost out on tips. It sucked, but that was the reality.

    If I could have gone through B&N directly as I did the others, I would have skipped Smashwords altogether. I know a number of other indie authors who feel the same. And it’s sad because I’d like to see them thrive, but at the end of the day they’re providing a service and their business will live or die by how well they give their customers what they want.

    As a side note, here’s my Smashwords wishlist:

    1) Much quicker turnaround time (ideally I think it should take no more than 3 days to upload my novel, have it approved for premium distribution and show up on a vendor’s website. That goes for price and content changes to existing books as well. Waiting weeks and sometimes months is just unacceptable).

    2) If I have a problem I’d like to hear from SW customer service within 24 hours, not a week or two later (I will say I’ve personally found them polite when I do finally hear from them).

    3) I want to be paid monthly instead of quarterly.

    4) I’ve heard that Smashwords titles don’t get the same kind of visibility as they do for authors who go direct. I hope that’s not true (I’m expecting Mark to tell me it’s not true), but if it is, it’s a big drawback.

    Things I like about Smashwords:

    1) All my books are in one place (which I can control via the dashboard).

    2) Being able to make coupons for giveaways is a big help for promotions.

    3) Distribution to vendors I’d never to be able to reach on my own.

    Anyway, hope some of this helps.

    • Gareth Skarka October 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      Unfortunately, as Cynical In Seattle has pointed out, it’s becoming a bit of a pattern.

      You’ll note upthread that my criticism was met with astonishing arrogance, and when I called him on it, the thread was shut down.

      Addressing the shortcomings of Smashwords is not Mr. Coker’s strong point. The question remains what IS his strong point, aside from doomsaying crusades against Amazon.

      Again — if Smashwords spent as much time improving its service as it did in complaining about the market leader, the choice to use them would certainly have a better case being made for it.

  26. Robert Campbell October 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    I set myself up precisely for Smashwords. All the way. I am at a point that I am ready to press the button to send it to the “Meat Grinder” and was doing a last check of what I know I didn’t finish in the registration/application. I have wasted two days trying to fill out payee forms, finish my profile page, find the ISBN numbers that they downloaded to me. Everything is missing. If I fill in all this info again, it disappears when I leave that page to get more info. There is no answers from CS and they say they are behind a couple of weeks. I am really disappointed and have just sent a letter asking for assistance. I never expected this after all I have read and you have said. Since I have had no replies until now I am getting heavy into Create Space.
    Not what I want but I don’t want to get back into the hassle described above
    I’m in a quandary right now as I wanted to get this and a paperback out before Xmas.
    Hope they can help in time. R Campbell Nice web page.
    My 32 daughter with Masters in Graphic art did whole cover, My daughter #3 graduate Journalist did formatting. My wife, English Major primary editor. I was hoping for a one shot deal with your computers. Starting all over again sucks.R Campbell

  27. Frustrated Author October 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Dear Mr. Coker,

    I hate the exclusivity requirement, I really do. I resisted enrolling in Select for a very long time. I had three novels in the Smashwords catalog (all in Premium too) and I tried every gimmick to try to boost sales. I participated in your big Read-a-Ebook week and I used the coupon generator regularly. I had direct links on my website and I even touted the fact that Smashwords offered multitude of formats. In fact, whenever I told people I had ebooks, I always sent them to Smashwords over Amazon, because I knew you had the most formats.

    The fact of the matter was that NOTHING was working for me. I had almost no sales on Smashwords or Amazon or any other venue for several YEARS. My IRS reporting thing was under $30 for all of 2011. So I felt I had nothing to lose when I gave up the listing on ONE of my three books and enrolled it in Kindle Select.

    I know you don’t want to hear this, but the results were incredible. I gave away 4000 copies of that one book in the first two days it was on free promotion, but the sales of the other two books (that were not ever in the Select program) just went through the ROOF! I made over $75 the first WEEK! After that, I made over $300 a month because people were actually BUYING the book even when it went off the free promotion. I’m not even counting the borrow revenue from being in the KOLL.

    When my first ninety days was over, sales had started to dwindle a little (but still much better than before), so I decided to let the Select enrollment expire. I thought I would give Smashwords a fair chance at my sales. I wanted to give the few people out there with Nooks another shot at owning my book now that enough people had read it and it was “proven”.

    I republished the book I had removed. The other two books had never been unpublished. In fairness to what Amazon had offered, I made my first book FREE, without need of coupon. I gave Smashwords three full WEEKS at that price. Now, I think I was more than fair. Amazon only sold my book free for five days. Smashwords got it for three weeks. Yet, I saw not a single boost to my other books during this time. I still made NO money whatsoever.

    Incidentally, when I allowed my Select enrollment to expire, my overall sales at Amazon plummeted. They had been dropping slowly since the last free promo, but I have no doubt that being in their Prime database is extremely helpful, regardless of whether you use the free promos. You get more from Amazon when you give up the other retailers. They make it worth it.

    When three weeks of free did absolutely NOTHING on Apple or B&N or Smashwords, yes, I pulled that book again and I re-enrolled it in Select. I’m sorry. I really am. I wish I could offer my book in Nook and PDF and in the Apple Store. I really do. But Amazon gives me the one thing your system just doesn’t: sales.

    Maybe for others, the sales aren’t much different. Maybe other authors do great at B&N and Apple. I can only speak for myself. Amazon is where MY books are selling like hotcakes and while I do not like the exclusivity requirement, I simply cannot deny that it is 1) worth it and 2) not really much to have to relinquish anyway.

    Before I tried Select, I was convinced there was no point in writing commercially. I was convinced I was just a wannabe writer and should give up. Now I feel differently. Amazon gave me hope and made it worth it to keep writing. Does accepting their search engine boost in exchange for exclusivity make me a pawn? Maybe. All I know is that I cannot sell any books with Smashwords, but I CAN sell books (and quite a few of them) on Amazon if I play the game their way. If that makes me a pawn, I am at least a richer pawn.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

      F.A., it sounds like KDP-S is working great for you. When I say “pawn,” my point is not to demean those who use it, or make you feel bad. If my post comes across that way to you, I apologize. If you’re convinced it works better than anything else, stick with it, but with eyes wide open. My point about pawn is simply to challenge authors to realize how they’re a small but critically important enabler of a larger chess game at Amazon, where Amazon’s strategy is to bleed authors away from their competitors, and to make these authors more dependent upon Amazon. Amazon is smart. They realize indie authors are the future of publishing – traditional publishers are not the future. Amazon’s playing a long term game of attrition. They realize that if they can pull 5 or 10% or whatever % of ebooks exclusive, that over time customers will have that many more reasons to buy a Kindle or Kindle Fire as their next media device, as opposed to some other, or that much more incentive to get in the habit of purchasing ebooks from the Kindle store and managing their library there, regardless of what media device they use. Over the long term, if the attrition plays out, they’ll render their competitors’ ebook stores irrelevant. They also realize that by disadvantaging KDP authors who don’t enroll in KDP-S, they’re adding incentive for you to go exclusive. It’s a game they can play while they’re still the dominant ebook retailer. It remains to be seen if they can continue playing this way if the other retailers grow from here. Their success with this strategy is also wholly dependent upon indie authors saying yes. From my POV, the exclusivity is unnecessary. They’ve got a great retail platform, the lending library feature is super-cool, and they offer a great multi-platform customer experience. If they dropped the exclusivity, they’d probably attract more books to KDP-S which would please their Prime subscribers, they’d please more customers, and they’d earn greater author goodwill.

      • Dario Ciriello October 25, 2012 at 12:59 am #

        Mark–Gotta agree totally with you on this. The key phrase here is, ” My point about pawn is simply to challenge authors to realize how they’re a small but critically important enabler of a larger chess game at Amazon, where Amazon’s strategy is to bleed authors away from their competitors, and to make these authors more dependent upon Amazon.” I would also point out that KDP Select is a greater gift to readers than it is to authors.

        I love Amazon, and they deserve their success. But authors do need to understand the stakes here and know that Amazon’s primary goal is to make money, not be the author’s friend. Amazon didn’t get where it is by being stupid, and I strongly recommend that authors really look hard at this gift horse.

        And don’t even get me started on their new ‘author rankings’…

  28. Adam Pepper October 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    Mark,

    Although I agree we all want to see a healthy marketplace with a wide variety of retailers, your tone is condescending. Amazon playing authors as pawns? The implication that these foolish authors just dont know any better. But we do. We know that 90% or more of our sales are coming from Amazon. We know that the only sales we make through BN and Kobo are from fans we send there. Amazon sends their customers to us.

    We arent pawns, we’re partners profitting together. Reaching readers together. The relationship is mutually beneficial. Amazon is by far the best option we have to reach new readers.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

      Adam, I’m sorry if you find my tone condescending. It’s certainly not my intention, and I’m sorry if I’ve written anything to give that impression. Authors are not being foolish. Some authors are trying KDP-S and having great success, like Frustrated Author above, and some have tried it without result. If you’re getting 90% of your sales there, that’s great. Just understand that your you’re exposed to more risk. If your percentage of sales at any single retailer exceeds that retailer’s global market share, you’re exposed to extra risk. Not that risk is necessarily bad. With high risk can come high reward. Though just as no investment adviser would recommending investing all your retirement in a single stock, I’m here to suggest that authors are wise to think twice before placing all their book eggs in a single basket. Kindleboard’s is rife with tales of woe where Amazon tweaked an algorithm and suddenly an author’s gravy train came to an end. If an author’s putting bread on the table with their earnings, that’s a scary event.

      • Adam Pepper October 24, 2012 at 1:26 am #

        Your use of the word pawns wasn’t a term of endearment. And when you say “Amazon is playing authors” you are implying one side is being victimized. Apologies aren’t necessary but denying your intent strikes me as disingenuous.

  29. Jesse V Coffey October 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    My problem is once Smashwords did away with the premium ISBNs, there was no point in publishing there. I don’t want the free ISBN that says “published through Smashwords.” I am my own publisher — with two other authors that publish with me. I used Smashwords as distribution company and the ISBN was mine, purchased through you. If I can’t do that, I don’t need you. If I have to purchase my ISBNs separately, then I might as well distribute myself. How can that be addressed to a mutual advantage?

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      Jesse, one option is for you to purchase ISBNs in bulk at Bowker. You can buy 10 for $25 each, or 100 for $5.75 each. Or, use our free ISBNs. I think Sony’s the only retailer that keys off of ISBN for publisher information in book page metadata. Our other retailers will still identify you as the publisher, and even at Sony, if they’re misidentifying Smashwords as the publisher (we consider ourselves a distributor), if you contact our support team they can often work with Sony to update the metadata for you. We haven’t decided if we’ll bring back the Premium ISBN offering. Part of the issue is that we don’t like selling stuff to authors.

  30. JR Tomlin October 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Mark, you may have mad respect for Amazon but with remarks like “they make your KDP account’s configuration look incomplete *unless* you enroll in KDP Select” you obviously don’t for us authors.

    I am not stupid. Thank you.

    If all that money I make from Amazon (which I don’t make from novels elsewhere) makes me a pawn in your view, so be it. I’ll take being a pawn selling novels and making money over one whose novels sit on a shelf and never sell any day of the week.

    MAYBE if instead of raging at Amazon if you pushed Barnes & Noble and iTunes to give indies a level playing field instead of sticking our novels in the back of the store, we’d be a lot more receptive. As it is, to be frank, you just strike me as someone who is whinging and whining.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      JR, I’m not whinging, and I’m not raging either. I don’t think authors are stupid, and you should be smart enough to know that. It’s because I think so much of authors that I express my opinions on this issue when so few have the balls to stand up, and I do it despite the attacks I receive from authors who mistakenly believe I’m criticizing them. :) You’re free to ignore my warnings. I’ll also stand up against wrong thinking, such as your allegation that B&N and iTunes don’t give indies a level playing field, or that they place you at the back of the store. The evidence doesn’t support your beliefs. Our titles routinely hit all the best seller lists at these retailers. Our authors will earn millions of dollars this year from both Apple and B&N. If you’re not there, you’re not participating. They want to sell indie ebooks. Further case in point, take a look at the Apple ibookstore today. The #7 bestseller in the US store as of this second (and yesterday too), store-wide, is a new Smashwords title. This is happening more and more frequently. If KDP-S works great for you, great. If you’re getting all your sales from Amazon, great. If you’re comfortable with that, don’t let my divergent opinions bother you.

      • JR Tomlin October 24, 2012 at 4:12 am #

        Ah so telling us that we are so stupid that we allow ourselves to be pawns is admiration for our intelligence. Sure it is. You’re right about one thing. I can easily live with your clearly expressed contempt.

        For your information I HAVE books at B&N and iTunes which have never had even $100 in sales while this year I have had twenty thousand dollars in sales at Amazon. So yes, Amazon works for me.

        And Amazon doesn’t beg me to send customers to them or whine about other retailers. Amazon is a long way from perfect and I would love to see other retailers be worth listing with but until I see that, I’ll take the sales I get from Amazon. Oddly enough, they send customers to me.

  31. Dalya October 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    I’ve got some books in Select and some up on Smashwords now. I paid to get a copy of Word and followed the instructions and got through the Meatgrinder with only a few tears, but I’ll be very happy to be able to upload epubs, because that way I only have to make updates to one local file when I add a book to my list.

    I wish the process could be faster, but I imagine some of the shipping lags are due to the other retailers. It’s been a month since I uploaded books to Smashwords, and still they aren’t showing up on the Barnes & Noble website. To me, a month is awfully long, and I don’t know how long it’ll be in the end. I’m not just being impatient; this is my career.

    When I email my mailing list that a new book is up and it’s on Amazon as of today, and B&N in maybe a month or so, that doesn’t send a great message either.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

      Dalya, something’s definitely wrong there. I asked our tech team to take a look.

      • Dalya October 24, 2012 at 1:09 am #

        Ah, cool! Yeah, I never know if it’s just me or if these things always take this long. Sometimes I wonder if if’s because I’m Canadian. :-) (joke)

  32. Brian Kittrell October 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    I have participated in KDP Select for one title, which is a very basic formatting book going from a MS Word manuscript to a Kindle .mobi file with Amazon’s tools. It was just one of those kinds of books that I don’t think will do well elsewhere without a lot more material.

    When Amazon decided to give the 70 percent rate to books in India only if they were enrolled in Select, I increased prices on all of my titles for the Indian market to $7.12. Will people buy it? Doubtful. However, it speaks of my thoughts about KDP Select and their exclusivity requirement.

    Exclusivity is good for Amazon, not the content producers.

  33. Karl jones October 23, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Sorry Mark but I really really have to respond here.
    My co-written book 10 Nights is currently at #1 in Drama on Amazon US with more than 4,000 sales since the beginning of the month. In the same period the book has sold 100 copies at B&N, 10 copies at Kobo (we’re independently released there) don’t know how many copies have been sold at Apple yet this month but I don’t it’s any more than B&N, oh yes and 6, count them 6, copies sold via your own company, Smashwords.

    Please do tell me again why I should avoid Amazon and pay more attention to you.

    • Mark Coker October 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      Karl, congrats on your success. I’m *not* advocating, nor have I ever advocated, that authors should ignore Amazon. Second sentence, “Every author should be at Amazon, but they should avoid the temptation to enroll in the KDP Select program because of its exclusivity requirements.”

    • Dario Ciriello October 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

      Karl–this closely parallels my own experience (posted elsewhere on this thread), except that my ratio of non-Amazon sales is even far lower (almost nonexistent).

  34. Virginia Llorca October 23, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    You cannot generalize from each of your specific cases. Smashwords Style Guide and Meatgrinder work perfectly for me. I am an non-techie, elderly housewife. Every time I have had to go to Smashwords excellent customer service, I have figured it out for myself first. You get a robotic answer from a foreign country from Amazon. They have never corrected or explained free books popping up for no reason.

    Previewing my work in Adobe Digital Editions (free) is a joy. B&N is my best seller, by far. I do not know why. The only advantage to KDP is the five day freebie. Each time it results in a few more cross sales. I emphasize few. I always use Smashwords method on a Word Doc, change the front work to say Kindle Edition and upload it problem free to Kindle. Never did tat mobi. or Calibre stuff.

    I have a little trouble with their cover demands, but can usually work it out.

    You cannot use genre specific results to praise or condemn any system.

    Then there is wordpress that will not let you comment on a wordpress site from a blogger site. Elitest.

  35. Hugh Howey October 24, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Great write-up, Mark. And I’m heartened to hear that you’re considering direct epub uploads in the near future. The meat-grinder is the reason I don’t offer works through Smashwords and elect to distribute directly through individual retailers. I applaud the change.

    It should also be pointed out that there are many of us who pulled out of KDP to support the diversity of our readership, and we are losing money to do so. That’s not an easy decision to make. I give up thousands of dollars a month in Lending Library funds in order to be available on sales channels that account for 5% of my earnings. I do this to be fair to my readers (the same reason I make my works DRM-free and lending enabled). Sure, it’s the right thing to do. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

    • Brian October 25, 2012 at 12:40 am #

      Well put, Hugh. I wish it were otherwise.

  36. Robert of Prague October 24, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Hi Mark Coker;

    I’ve read all the comments, very interesting stuff. I’ve an account w/ SW but am reluctant to upload through the MG due to many issues, many expressed here. Btw, my book is formatted & !styled! in Word & it looks great in pdf. I am a certified translator & know Word & Corel-WP backwards. I am miffed by the 5 Mb upload limit too since my book has a great color cover & seven b&w illustrations.
    I am even more reluctant to go w/ SW after you conveniently ignored relevant objections from SW users posting here, e.g., the lost filed info (see Robert C. comment today [sounds like a nightmare to me]), the slow CS response, the slow upload/distribution, etc.
    I asked a simple Q & received an irrelevant A from your CS in ten days! That’s unacceptable.
    I see your A re: selling ISBN as a cop out. If we authors want/need it, why not continue offering it. I have but one book (published as a hardcover a while back in EU) & don’t need ten ISBNs or one for 125$. You guys pay 1$ per ISBN buying it in bulk. I just want to self-publish on Kindle & the other major e-formats in a simple and fast way.
    Lastly, I appreciate the vast output of info for writers you put together but agree that the MG seems like an obsolete & nasty auto-editor. I’ve read the instructions & my eyes crossed & I felt nauseous. I tried several freebies (e-pub & mobi) on the Web & they did an OK job w/out putting me through the grinder of your MG (pun intended). All the other aggregators distribute to Kindle yet you don’t supposedly due to Amazon’s upload backlog. Doing a global upload around 11 PM EST might be easier; the US sleeps & EU is waking up. My suspicion is that your MG is not capable producing the clean XHTML & CSS coding needed for the current Kindle & Kindle Fire & the upcoming multimedia e-books. I’ve been doing it for years at home on a PC based recording studio, MS Office & PhotoShop on DVD – my CDs, photos, .pps & book on one platform. Are you doing anything re: the latest formats? I didn’t think so.
    Last week, I tried the auto-editor at BookTango & it was a nightmare. It lacks ‘Title’, the three preset Headings & formatting are only left justified. My book looked like a cheap beginner Word doc. Just like your system does, it locked me out without warning & I lost !four hours! of last pre-upload editing I couldn’t save. I didn’t leave my PC for that long being aware of these glitches on browser based portals. I am in no mood trying SW/MG & go through the waste of time & other issues again mentioned on this forum & ignored by you. My Word design (both in doc & docx) is simple, elegant & easy to read; it looks like a book. I used their approved font but the auto-editor rejected it. They have a very quick phone/chat/e-mail CS but incompetent re: technical issues. I was attracted by the 100% payout, distribution on Kindle & a promise of a much quicker distribution than SW.
    There you have it.

    • Mark Coker October 24, 2012 at 1:13 am #

      Robert, a book that looks great in PDF is not necessarily ready for upload to any platform, whether that’s Amazon or Smashwords. If you read the Smashwords Style Guide, you’ll learn how to format for Smashwords, and what you learn there will help you when you prepare your file for upload directly to Amazon. With only seven B&W images, our 5MG upload limitation will probably not be an issue for you. Yes, our customer service response time is slow, though we have increased staffing and our response time is dropping quickly. Some inquiries are now getting same-day responses. Distribution speeds to various retailers vary, though we’re shipping to all retailers at least once per week, and some more frequently. Once we deliver a book to a retailer, the book is subject to a processing time at the retailer. Please see our FAQ for more information on the particulars: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq

  37. Jon October 24, 2012 at 1:55 am #

    Heres what I think

    Being as Smashwords has the worst support I have ever seen. I published on smashwords back in September 18th and I still have not got my books listed on the sites you speak about. Took over a month for barnes and noble and sony and KOBO is still not listed a month and half later.And please dont tell me its because of them etc etc etc..

    RUBBISH

    Its been over one month and half and Im still not on KOBO.

    I am about to pull my book from smashwords and let my subscribers know about my experience with smashwords. It’s been horrific!

    Jon

  38. Edward G. Talbot October 24, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    I’m an experiment of one, but I got more sales on Amazon in the day after I went free due to KDP select than in a year of Smashwords channels with one book. This did not happen with every book or every time, and I subsequently have removed some books. While I have no doubt that it is true that the other outlets are growing, I haven’t seen that growth. I’m a huge Smashwords fan, but I find the assertion that authors “should” have their books available as many places as possible to be wrong as a blanket statement. There are good reasons for some authors for some books to join KDP select, and I don’t think these comments about it are a positive for Smashwords-Author relations. When it was first announced, Mark, I felt that you did a pretty good job trying to explain your opinion in a direct manner. The most recent posts have become more adversarial. If you truly believe we’re idiots for choosing KDP select in some cases, that is disturbing. If you don’t, well, that’s how it’s coming off.

    Regarding Meatgrinder, Mark, you forgot one bucket – those who don’t want spend the time fighting with the meatgrinder. I know from experience that for most books it always possible to eventually get it right by spending time (and sometimes it doesn’t take much extra time). Or pay $100 for someone to format it just for Smashwords. The latter is not an option for an author who wants to take advantage of changes/promotions etc on a regular basis. And the former may quickly lead an author to upload directly to Pubit and ask himself how much time is it worth it to spend for less than 5% of total sales.

    For me, it took only one time where I blew 5 hours with trial and error before I decided it wasn’t worth the effort in some cases. The style guide is ever-changing, and things that were fine a year ago or two years ago are not now. I get that plenty of people make it work. I also get that you are working on alternatives. I don’t agree that your buckets represent the entire universe of people who have a problem with it.

  39. Jerrold Mundis October 24, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    In the main I agree with this, and while I have experimented with putting a couple of my short works in KDP Select (none there at the moment), I have never put any of my books into the program.

    But I do take some issue with the underlying spirit of the statement “Unlike Amazon, Apple doesn’t attempt exclusivity, and doesn’t do draconian price matching.”

    Technically, that is true. But what Apple *does* do is limit uploading only to people who have Macs, completely locking out writers with PCs – and thus forcing them either to use aggregators or not to have their books available for iPads/iPhones.

    And – terribly – every aggregator, very much including Smashwords, crushes all paragraphs in a book’s product description into one great, impenetrable block of prose when submitting to Apple, rendering that description virtually if not wholly unreadable.

    Every book I have sold on Apple via a Smashwords submission has been *despite* the crushed product description, rather than because, or aided by, awell-written and properly paragraphed description.

  40. JR Tomlin October 24, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    I will say this. I don’t think exclusivity is ideal and I would prefer if Amazon didn’t require it. But what is far worse than exclusivity for for indie authors and the e-book market is B&N, Kobo and iTunes having poorly designed stores, horrible search engines and not giving indies any way to gain visibility. Changing THAT would instantly kill exclusivity with Amazon. In the meantime being a “pawn” for Amazon has gained me far more sales than anyone going on about how they are “pro-indie” and of course in the meantime making thoroughly condescending remarks about us.

    • ipg October 24, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      I saw your comment after posting my own, JR, but I agree with you. It’s astounding to me that Kobo and Apple won’t put in a search engine and allow us to specify a handful of keywords. I’ve written to them several times but it’s like shouting at a wall–no response, not even an acknowledgement that they received my email. Btw, I’m not in Select, but am a fan of Amazon and, really, a 90-day exclusivity period is a ridiculously short time to be committed to anything . . . yawn.

    • Dario Ciriello October 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      JR, although I don’t like or participate in KDP Select, I think your other comments about B&N, Kobo, and iTunes are dead on. Well put.

      Dario

  41. Daisyrose October 24, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    I am a reader with a Sony e reader. It has got to the stage now that if it is not in e pub I do not purchase. I have just discovered Kobo as it will allow downloads in Australia. B&N do not but I see that Mark says that that is about to change.

    So when authors say that a book is available on Amazon and B&N I try and find it somewhere else including SW. Sometimes I am lucky but many times I am not.

    I do not have plans to buy a Kindle. I really like my Sony.

    Just saying!

  42. Grace Brannigan October 24, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    I think I read every single comment. I’ve got 6 romances out currently, on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N and Kobo Books. I’ve opted into all the channels through Smashwords. I love the fact that Smashwords is here and the options they offer. I’ve only been epubbed since May of this year. I currently have 2x the amount of sales on Amazon, without KDP.

    I tried KDP for the first book in May, when I only had one book out. Not a success, due I’m sure to having only one book, due also to being in such a huge category, romance. I prefer to spread the books around and have them available lots of places now.

    Now even though I opted into all the channels, I also uploaded to B&N and Kobo myself separately from Smashwords. I’ve had sales through both sites with the books I uploaded on my own, but unfortunately, not yet through Smashwords on those sites.

    I’ve had no trouble with the meatgrinder, never had any autovetter errors, was accepted into the premium catalog with all 6 books. I got info on how to create the epub through someone who does it all the time. Maybe also because I don’t do anything fancy with the books, but the job is fine as far as I know and I have checked on various devices.

    I buy my own lot of ISBN’s directly from Bowker that are tied to my small publishing company Questor Books. My first book in July or so took about a month before it went premium catalog, then the rest of them took about 4 to 6 days. I can only say I’ve had positive experiences with Smashwords, though not yet any raging sales.

    I do recognize there’s a lot of growth involved in this business and just on the outskirts here observing things, I’m thinking Smashwords is growing rapidly too, and trying to keep up. I guess for me there’s no race, but my job as an author is to put out my idea of quality books. I really think books that hit it big can sometimes indeed be a crap shoot, who knows when or where it’s going to happen.

    So, I’m all for Amazon, Smashwords, B&N and Kobo Books (who incidentally right now is offering 80% royalties until November 30th. ) And thanks Mark for Smashwords and here’s to things improving, being trimmed, fixed and maybe made simpler. For me it’s been a great learning experience!

  43. ipg October 24, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    My titles are not in Kindle Select and have always been available on all major eBook platforms. I’m not a fan of exclusivity and am not here to defend Select. Still, although people can point fingers at Amazon all they want, the fact remains is that Amazon is the only retailer who actually takes indie authors seriously. They are the only vendor with an actual search engine that uses keywords that we can specify. Apple and Kobo don’t even offer the option. Barnes & Noble pretends it does, but the keyword functionality does not work. B&N Pubit hasn’t even done me the courtesy of responding to my messages asking about why my titles don’t show up in a search on the keywords specified in my Pubit setup.

    I understand that many indies are selling at all the other vendors, but no one can seriously dispute that the vast majority of us make 90% of our sales at Amazon because AMAZON ACTUALLY MAKES THE EFFORT TO PUT OUR BOOKS IN FRONT OF PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BUY THEM!

    So I will keep my books on all the retail sites, but the truth is I get annoyed to think that B&N and Apple and Kobo will take the same 30% cut of my top line without providing even a fraction of the service that Amazon provides for that same amount.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not on Smashwords at all and so I’m not including them in this rant.)

    Thanks.

  44. R.M. Prioleau October 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I love Smashwords for the simple fact that it’s 100% pro-indie. It’s a great place to discover new authors who may not be on Amazon. But as an indie author, I like to make my presence known in as many online retail outlets as possible. That includes working with Amazon. Millions of people visit Amazon to buy books more than they do Smashwords. It makes more sense for an indie author to have their book up there. I sell little to no books on Smashwords compared to Amazon.

    I think the biggest drawback and gripe about Smashwords is Meatgrinder. There needs to be a better, more modern way to directly upload books.

    KDP seemed to work great for me when I first did it, but I agree, that I don’t like the exclusivity issues. I’d like to have my book available to everyone. However, I will still continue to use KDP for my future works until it’s no longer benefitting for me.

    • Gareth Skarka October 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      “I think the biggest drawback and gripe about Smashwords is Meatgrinder.”

      I think the commentary thread on this article has fairly conclusively demonstrated that the biggest drawback and gripe about Smashwords is Mark Coker: Dismissive in language, disingenuous when called to task for it, and perhaps most unforgivably in a web-based business environment, slow to change.

      If a core part of your user experience has been drawing constant criticism for 4 years, it should not take you a year to implement changes. Mr. Coker has been saying a direct upload option will be coming for nine months now, and still says it’s going to take until the end of the year. That’s ridiculous.

      He’s set up Smashwords as an option that people either use grudgingly, or because they don’t know any better. He should be trying instead to make it a service that *draws* users by offering a better experience than his competitors.

      Rather than do that, however, he insults authors, dismisses their criticism as based in arrogance, stupidity or herd mentality, and then wonders why his business is losing clients.

      • Annie Oldham October 26, 2012 at 5:42 am #

        Oh good grief, can we stop tearing each other to shreds? It’s hardly productive in the exclusive vs. all-retailers debate. You say that the only talent Mr. Coker has is to rage against his competition. All you’ve been doing is the exact same thing: raging against Smashwords. Let it drop.

  45. Sandra Novelly October 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I published on Smashwords.com and I love them! I did publish to Amazon but did not (and could not) do Kindle Select. While I think Amazon does a fine job, I want to be able to put my books on other websites for maximum exposure.

  46. Stephanie Jackson October 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I did (and am still locked into) the Amazon KDP Select program. To me it was a waste of time. I did 2 days of free promotion, but it wasn’t worth not being able to publish anywhere else for 90 days. I’ve sold ALOT of copies of my books on Amazon, but only a few have been borrowed through their Lending Library. In their lending program most ebooks range from .99 to 4.99, but if you brak down the cost of reader enrollment in the program it cost roughly $8 a month to borrow one book. Why would anyone spend $8 to to ‘borrow’ a book when you could have bought the book for less than $5? The Select program doesn’t make sense for the author or the reader. On a separate note, I have a website where I’m offering free book promotion for Indie books. You get a images of your book, your book blurb, and your buy links. There are many genres to chose from. Just visit http://theindielist.weebly.com/ and click on the Author Promotion tab to get your book listed!

    • Brian October 25, 2012 at 12:40 am #

      Stephanie,

      Amazon Prime membership provides free two-day shipping and access to streaming television and movies, in addition to borrowing from the KOLL. Book lending is only one component. So for $6.58 a month it’s a pretty good deal for most folks, even if they don’t borrow a single book.

      I don’t like the exclusivity either, but Select does have it’s advantages for the writer. I have two of my three books in Select and sales are pretty good (so are the borrows). Look at it this way; if you try it and Select sucks, opt out after three months. It’s not really all that long. Until B&N, Kobo, Sony and the rest of them start giving a crap about pushing readers toward self-pub/indie, so we can actually sell our books, our options remain limited.

      Brian

  47. Kathy October 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Do we have sales figures to back up this opinion? Would like to see some numbers for authors who went KDP Select and those who went global. Since I’m new at this and all ….

    Thanks

    • soconfusediputitinselectanddidntmeanto October 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

      Kathy – There’s no broad study that I know of. If you want a good example of a book that used KDP select initially and went through the freaking roof – Sara Fawkes’ Anything He Wants.

      My advice (and since this is beyond anonymous, you’ve got no idea whether you can assign any weight to it) is that if you don’t have a backlist or a series with at least books 1 & 2 done, Select isn’t a good option for you. Select should be used selectively. You need all the usual requirements for good sales: good writing, good cover, good product description, good price (except for first in a serial, stay out of the .99 bin). Plus you need either the select book to be a draw into the rest of a series and, as stated, at least book two ready to roll, or you need other stories in your backlist of similar appeal as the Select book. Outside of the series scenario, I would not recommend select to someone who doesn’t have at least 10 books in their catalogue.

      Also, if you’ve already released the title other places and plan on unpublishing at those other places for the 90 days, you need to be very cautious. Amazon is heavy handed on the “exclusive” requirement and if you are on those other channels (e.g. sony, apple, bn) via a channel distributor (like Smashwords or Lulu), you can easily get burned on Amazon by how long it takes to unpublish or mysterious republishing on those channels despite your having opted out of them.

      E.g. it can take a painfully long time to get on Apple via another distributor – you push your title to Apple via Smash or Lulu – it’s 4 weeks later and you’re still not up on Apple. You OPT OUT of Apple on S/L and UNPUBLISH on S/L and then enroll in Select. Two weeks later, you get a very nasty email from Amazon that you’re violating the Select exclusivity requirement. You search high and low and are OMG/WTF, why is my title now on Apple? Simple – delayed communication between Apple and the distributor you used.

      So, Select must be examined on a title-by-title basis and used very carefully. It can give a great boost TO THE RIGHT AUTHOR WITH THE RIGHT BOOK. And that’s true with everything you will do as an author to enhance your discoverability.

  48. Elizabeth Ann West October 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    I understand Mr. Coker is writing an article warning about KDP Select, but he is a direct competitor with Amazon, so let’s not start believing his goals are altruistic. It is a legitimate argument that part of the Smashwords exodus is not just KDP Select fueled, but in part by deficiencies in the Smashwords publishing interface (and not just the Meatgrinder). I’ve been out of KDP Select for 6 months, still do not have my book back up on Smashwords. And I see no future change in that publishing decision until direct upload is available, the site is redesigned aesthetically, and I am sure I want to permanently make my book available on their distribution channels since pulling a book has been very problematic for many authors.

    When Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon all allow direct upload without an ISBN, there is a clear indication that if Smashwords doesn’t change, it will be left further behind. Yes, the Meatgrinder has opened up ebook formatting to authors who can’t write a line of HTML, but if that group of authors were selling enough to maintain Smashwords’ bottom line OR not leaving to try out KDP Select (since you can now just upload a Word document to Amazon’s direct publishing interface, so the meatgrinder has lost it’s exclusivity of avoiding technology), then we wouldn’t hear from Mr. Coker on such a semi-regular basis that we all must withdraw from KDP Select.

    Even Amazon recently did an overhaul of their home site to reflect modern web design aesthetics. Smashwords has great features like coupons that many indies could benefit from, but directing readers to Smashwords is a bit embarrassing. It looks unreliable to new customers we authors direct there because the design of the site is dated. And, unless you put on the Adult filter, it looks like you’ve been directed to something that should have .xxx instead of .com. Plus the home screen is defaults to newest, so a new reader is bombarded with a bunch of titles that are completely untested and the navigation interface up top looks like a fan fiction site (and I LOVE fan fiction, but it doesn’t look professional).

    And really, aside from it hurting Smashword’s bottom line, there is no real threat to ANY author using KDP Select. None. Zero. It’s 90 days which is the same time it can take some authors to get the kinks worked out of their premium distribution for a novel with a Smashwords. For the authors it works for, who are we to say they are somehow wrong to use “exclusivity” to promote their sales? Fine by me, make more room at the other ebook store tables. It’s not like the terms are so draconian Amazon is requiring an author to have all ebooks in KDP Select to have one in there, or that KDP Select is 6 months long, a year long etc. It’s 90 days. It’s a 90 day promotional opportunity, something many indies could learn from as most of us play yo-yo with our prices so much we expect bumps and shifts when we cut prices by a $1 for a few days.

    No, KDP Select not only hurt Smashwords in the number of authors it has selling books on their site, it also exposed the shortcomings of management for their premium distribution. You are dealing with a middle man, who has absolutely limited, if any, control to pull your book down on distribution channels it has contracts with once an author elects to change distribution strategies if the distribution channel chooses to not honor the request.

    Honestly, my advice to authors is to keep control over distribution first and foremost, including the control to put your book exclusive for 90 days if you choose to, anywhere you want!

  49. Sharon L Reddy October 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I think what most authors don’t understand is reporting from other retailers, and subsequent payment, are often on a 30-90-day cycle. Considering most use the link to Amazon in their advertising, I wonder that they don’t see they’re the ones driving the sales there, while ignoring other opportunities.

    I’ve used the Select program. It does not work as well as one Google adwords ad, which does not lead to Amazon. This tells me readers of my type of work don’t like Amazon. This year, I will be encouraging all AARP member authors to link their book ads to other retailers, due to them ignoring cyberbully power to affect every author’s sales. Basically, Amazon considers individual authors trying to get help not worthy of the bother of actually looking at what’s being done to them.

    Basically, Amazon views authors as a glut on the market and itself as ‘the only big game in town.’ Yes, it takes about three months to really get sales rolling at any retailer. If you’re promoting Amazon, by linking to them in all your promotions, it’s you, not them, selling your book, and of course sales are better where you’ve linked them.

  50. Renee Pawlish October 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    The article and the responses are very interesting. I think Mark has a point about the exclusivity being an issue, but I also agree that it’s hard to say no to Amazon, since most of indie sales do seem to come primarily from there. It’s also hard to say where an author’s KDP-S success comes from – did the author heavily market and promote the free days (with free and paid sites), what genre is/are the book(s) in, how big is the author’s social media following,etc.? I’ve had up and down results with KDP-S, but what if it goes away? If you put all your marketing and sales efforts there, will you have lost? Will those who publish elsewhere be ahead of the game? Who knows? None of my books are in KDP-S at the moment and I’m going to try other sellers again and see what happens…
    What I find disturbing is that I talk to more and more readers who say “I don’t need to buy any more books because I’ve downloaded so many free ones.” This isn’t good for any author, no matter where they sell their books…

  51. Anonymous Author October 26, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    In the last five months I’ve made over $100,000 on KDP Select through sales and KOLL borrows. That’s why I don’t mind the exclusivity.

  52. Phil October 28, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    My first response to the article would be to quote Mandy Rice-Davies – “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

    Bit of honesty would be good. What he’s really saying is that Amazon are taking his market and he doesn’t like it.

    I have a couple of items on Amazon in KDP. Why? Well I tried to put them through Smashwords. I’m perfectly au fait with Word. But the dreadful Meatgrinder wouldn’t format a Word file that I’d put in from scratch – that is I converted it to a .txt file and then brought it back into Word. There was absolutely nothing in the file except precisely what was defined in the Smashwords documentation. That file was rejected 3 times. No reason. As a system is was pure cr*p. So, I gave up.

    I can format a file into any sort of document – epub, mobii, pdf, whatever. I can make my ebooks look exactly how I want them. I don’t need and won’t be forced to use stuff that doesn’t work.

    While my stuff is in KDP I’ve got plenty of time to format my ebooks as I want them to submit directly, where that’s an option, or via a consolidator.

    What I don’t need is yet another company (Smashwords) trying to rule the ebook universe.

  53. Patty Jansen October 29, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Many of my friends have already responded here.

    I have never had an issue with the meatgrinder, but then again, I used to format books (you know, the print variety), and through experience prefer to write my manuscripts in Word in ASCII-compatible format. Much of the trouble with the meatgrinder is caused by Word formatting.

    The main use of Smashwords for me has been distribution to B&N and, until recently, Kobo. Recently, I’ve been selling twice as much on B&N as on Amazon. But before mid-September, it was very much the other way around.

    I have no idea why this happened, or how it happened, and no idea how long it will last. The argument for multi-distribution is solid. I cringe when I see people too dependent on just one publisher. Each of these publishers may pull the rug out from underneath you at any time. It may be deliberate or an accident, but when one of your bestsellers gets de-listed (as happened to me recently on B & N for no reason that I can discern), it is good to have other listings.

    To me, that means having a book in KDP Select as well. It is just one option in a list of venues that we can use to get sales. The obvious power of Select is control over free days. I don’t often mess with Smashwords pricing because you never know when promos filter through to the other sites. I can tell you that once a price filters through to Sony, you’ll never be able to re-set it. I ran a promo for a book in November LAST YEAR and Sony refused to change the price from free, so I ended up having to delete the book. I’ve recently done that with a few other books as well. Communication with these sites via Smashwords is sub-optimal. So I like Select for that reason: I can run a promo. The book is free for those days, and there are no nasty and long-running consequences.

    KDP Select is a tool in the writer’s tool box, and I think people should use it. I also think people shouldn’t use it exclusively, because you never know where your books will suddeny start selling well.

  54. Theresa M. Moore November 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks to a content thief who has stolen my rights to a mere short story (also available on Smashwords), I am engaging on a round robin of emails with both Amazon and KDP, and I have reported the content thief to the FBI’s Internet Crime bureau. Apparently, Jeff Bezos is not only fond of kicking everything to his minions to handle, his minions don’t communicate with each other. I have demanded that they close my account but they refuse to. I was not getting sales on KDP anyway, and have not done for several months. Now the content thief has complicated my exit and I am getting ready to sue KDP. I have added a copy of one of the emails attached to my complaint to the complaint report at IC3 along with a text of part of the story which contains my copyright information. This is not over yet, but you can be sure that I will NEVER do business with Amazon or KDP again. Those of you who are defending Amazon would do well to remember that Amazon can and will yank your content anytime it feels like it, and there have been several Amazon customers who have experienced this situation over the last few months. It happens both ways, often without explanation or apology. Now, we’ll see what happens when I see the results of the IC3 complaint.

  55. RachelintheOC November 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    I disagree with you, Mark.

    I have two books enrolled in the KDPSelect program, and I was one of the original supporters.
    Here’s why:

    When my first book came out, I uploaded everywhere (including Smashwords). That was Jan of ’11. When KDPSelect started, I looked at my profits over those 11 or so months: 93% of my profit came from Amazon. I’d made thousands before the KDPSelect party started — since then both my books have become #1 Paid bestsellers.

    I made maybe $10 on Smashwords.

    One thing I’ll caution people about: you cannot just go free and wait for the sales to come in when you port back over to paid. Make NOISE! Ads, guest blogs, interviews, blog hops, contests…all contribute to your overall buzz. I find most authors don’t know or understand this (and end up spamming their books on Twitter repeatedly).

    Until another company can create a better product for visibility, exposure, and payment on lends, I’m happy to stay with KDPSelect.

    (and to the gentleman above who discusses print: KDPSelect is a digital only option. So your print copies are not involved in the exclusivity clause).

  56. A B Potts November 3, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    Yes, I too tried the KDP Select program but I objected strongly to the fact that I had to deny non-Kindle readers access to my book. I won’t be doing it again. Smashwords though, could do with adding the ability for the author to format their works for each format themselves. The translation matrix they use sometimes presents some odd formatting features, and formatting distinguishes a quality product from an amateur one. I know, for instance, that my PRC file is fine but when Smashwords translates it into ePub, it has some weird things in it. I have an ePub file ready for them, but I can’t upload a separate ePub version to them. It would be nice to have the option. That way we could illustrate that ePubs aren’t just hobby publications.

  57. Alba Lewis November 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    I’m really glad Mark that you have been on the case. I’ve looked a few times at amazons ‘exclusive’ offer. And been perplexed as to what it is trying to achieve. What is depressing is that the point of all of this is the chance to have an explosion of individual creativity. Its the ultimate ‘put it out there’ opportunity.

    The chance to get your book out there, and the huge global market that exists, should mean the support to expose as much as possible which then must have an exponential growth for all distributors when an author or book works. So amazon really has decided to prevent that chance for individuals to see what happens and in return for them to be part of the distributors who would benefit. And I’m a fan of what amazon has done.

    For me a real lack of thought about the potential here. Come on amazon, work with this new river of imagination and income.

    I’d also like to add that in all the communications and articles I’ve seen with smashwords, there has only been a sense of working together to keep expanding this exciting market. Thanks for the work.

  58. Nicholas A. Rose November 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Thanks for blogging about this subject again Mark. Speaking as an indie whose sales plummeted on Amazon after they introduced the KDP Select, I’ve refused to enroll on this programme simply because of the exclusivity requirement. As I’ve slowly but surely built up a sales base through B&N’s Nook, there is no way I want to wreck this by removing my books from their platform.

    However, I suspect why my sales on Amazon have fallen is mostly due to ebook readers waiting for my books to become “free”. I already offer a series of books (novellas, two released so far with another to come) which are permanently free, which should give people an idea whether or not they like my writing.

    I’m not losing too much sleep over Amazon’s Select programme however, I write for my own enjoyment as well as that of my readers. Which means I’m in this game for the long term, not to make a quick buck.

    Thanks for all that you and your staff at Smashwords do, and have done, for indie writers, and the excellent help and advice you offer to newbies.

    Regards

    Nicholas A. Rose

  59. Tammy Doherty November 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    I’m not a fan of limiting people to only one option, for anything. I am on Amazon via KDP but I chose not to enroll in KDP Select. My goal is to sell books, lots of books, not just to those with a Kindle device. Lots of people have a Nook and many others read on their iPod, or some other device…or even their computer. So it would be shooting myself in the foot to give Amazon 90 days exclusivity, especially at Christmas time.

    I just reread the details of KDP Select as I prepare my next novel for release. The only part that has any attraction is being able to have a free offer – but I can do that with Smashwords! So if someone WANTS to go w/Select, fine, but try to think about all the people who don’t have a Kindle who won’t be buying your book until it’s available for other devices.

  60. Linda Pendleton November 4, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    I disagree with your stand on Amazon, Mark. I have a number of books with Smashwords, along with a number of my husband, Don Pendleton’s books. For three years now, I’ve had books at Kindle,also. I have a number of books in the KDP select this last year, and in most cases, the program has been very effecitive for my sales. And as always, my sales are much greater with Amazon, then through Smashwords’ retailers. There are other reasons I like Amazon over Smashwords’ retailers, and one thing is monthly royalty payment and up to the moment reporting that I have with Amazon. I do understand it is nearly impossible for Smashwords to report from retailers in that way.

    After 22 years as an Authors Guild Inc. member, I am not renewing my membership currently due, because of the stand they choose to take against Amazon.

    For me, Amazon has been great. I’m sure authors will make choices for their best business interests. I know authors who are very happy with their association with Amazon as much as I am..

    I could also suggest to Apple that they make it easier to find their store and the ebooks.

  61. Stephen M. Sanzeri November 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    I am on Amazon-Kindle, and Smashwords..hoping to make the Premium Catalog. I am close, just tweaking it one last time. Do exactly what Mark’s Style Guide says, and eventually you’ll be accepted.

    I find the opportunity to be with Barnes, Kobo, Apple.. and the next big player that SW’s attracts, much larger and a much better opportunity than offering my book, “ULTIMATE PREY,” for free, with a percentage of the POT that will get me pennies. And to be cuffed to exclusivity? It feels like being in bed with a Vanity Publisher. And the pain of pulling my book from SW’s is not something I want to do. I have spent a lot of hours to get this far with the formatting. It should be perfect. I will give the Premium Catalog a chance…..

    Don’t get me wrong, Amazon is King. They have done me right. But instead of chancing Kindle’s KDP program, I would rather market myself.

    I think the future is bright and exciting with E-publishing. Who know, something better may come along.

    Thanks for the good work Mark.

  62. Lola November 27, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    I can’t praise Smashwords eognuh. I published with them nearly two years ago and when an epub glitch suddenly occurred a month ago I was frantic because I couldn’t seem to correct it. I needn’t to have worried they were brilliant and helped me sort it out.

  63. Kristy K. James December 22, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    I’d be very curious to know what some of the commenters have to say about KDP/Select now that so many authors sales have plummeted over the past few months. My Amazon sales were incredible for most of 2012, going from almost no sales in January, to climbing by 400-500 books per month…EVERY month from May through September (nearly 3,000 books that month). And then they started dropping. In a panic, I put them all in Select, thinking that would solve the problem. Not even close. At the current rate of sales, I’m on track to sell about 820 books for December. That’s a far cry from 2904 in September.

    Some people say it’s because of a hacker issue early this fall. Others say that Amazon changed the algorithms to favor traditionally published authors. Whatever the reason, when I’m no longer bound by Select next month, I’m not going to put them back in. Like so many others, my sales with Smashwords wasn’t great before, but I didn’t do any marketing to speak of either.

    As authors, we bear the lions share of responsibility for marketing our work. Whether we’re traditionally or independently published…that’s our job. Sure it would help if all of the retailers made it easier to find our books, but it’s probably not going to happen. That’s why we need to work hard to build a fan base. It will take time, and I have no doubt it will be a MAJOR pain in the neck, but marketing is the biggest key…and the area where most of us fall short, I’m sure.

    As for so many people being offended by what Mark said…what’s up with that? If any of you think Amazon cares about you, think again. They’re in business, same as you. You say no to Smashwords because you don’t sell enough books here. Well, if the whole algorithm story is true…Amazon just said the same thing to us. We don’t sell as many books as traditionally published authors, so they’re going with the group that will be more profitable for them. It is, after all, just business…right?

  64. Dolceviognier December 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    I was wondering when someone bigger than myself would call Amazon out about the exclusivity demand for their KDP Select program. It’s a great program, and it has yielded great results for me. Also, I can’t forget to acknowledge the option to have free promo weeks, but to insist that I not sell my books at other sites is insane. I make quite a bit off of B&N, Smashwords and other places. The idea that they think people would be willing to cut off other sources of income has baffled me since it came out. I keep wondering if they will ever change that policy. The concept of the rental is a good one. One month, I had several hundred. No, it wasn’t a commission as high as a sale but it was more than I would have normally made. I understand that they want to corner the market by forcing everyone to buy kindle, but I hope it doesn’t work!

    I must admit that this is the very reason I don’t own a kindle or an I – anything (Phone, Mac, Pod, Pad, etc.). I really am bother by the demands of exclusivity and controlled information. They take things just a bit too far for my tastes.

  65. Ronnie Virdi December 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I came across this blog completley by accident but I have to agree with Mr. Coker, smashwords is much easier and more friendly too as I recently published my book: I’m Possible. Insights To The Pursuit Of Dreams. on smashwords as well as kdp amazon but smashword’s style guide is so easy to follow and makes sure your book is formatted perfectly so it can upload to any pusblisher from my experience, my book made premium catalog on the first time and it was formatted to be uploaded to amazon as well. I avoided amazons select program because I read Mr. Cokers free marketing ebook as well and the funny thing is that most of my sales and my first sales as well were on smashwords not amazon which is supposed to be the bigger market where reportedly most authors make 70% if not more of their sales. Plus, I also feel a far amount of loyalty to mr.coker since it was his site that first gave me the reassurance that I could infact follow my dream of becomming a science fiction and fantasy author (who wrote a self help book…irony) and it was his site that made it so easy to move forwards and write with confidence so yeah….smashwords memeber for life! fair treatment of indie authors because soon we will rule the world…..sort of…..ok maybe not but we will rule all ereaders soon enough!

  66. Jason Lee January 1, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Published my first book on Amazon in October 2012 and enrolled in KDP Select. Man, what a mistake! I’m counting the days to its expiration. I agree with everything Mr. Coker said.

    My opinion, based on a lot of research, is those who stand the greatest chance of benefiting from KDP Select are authors who crank out novels and have a huge body of work, low word count, and highly commercial. Maybe that explains why my first novel, an Epic Fantasy of 141,000 words, failed to receive even one download.

    Smashwords, here I come!

    Jason Lee

  67. Robin M. Williams January 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I can’t agree with you more, Mark. The truth is that an author, no matter how well known or infinitesimally recognized, has a better chance getting his name and written works out in public by making them available on many forums, publishing sites, bookstores, not just one. Spread the wealth, as the saying goes. If I go to Barnes & Noble and see your book on a sale table or on a bookshelf while I’m browsing a specific genre, and then I go down the street to Cozy Corner Bookstore and start browsing again through the same genre and your book and name appear once again, that’s two times the exposure. It’s the same in the online industry. Don’t allow yourself to be put in a corner. Make sure your works are in all four corners and the middle of the room. Submit to all publishing sites and watch the magic! I have my first book announcement posted at readrwwilliams.com. Do I think it will see in a whirlwind of attention? No. It has to be posted at all ebook sites, along with personal marketing. When “A Deadly Suggestion” launches February 1st, it will be launched on every site available. That’s exactly why trucking companies have their name splattered on the side of their trucks. You’re on the freeway and see a truck and the company name and logo. An hour later you see another truck with the same ID. What happens? A truck you never would even give a second look at suddenly reminds you you saw a truck from the same company hours earlier. The same with books. The more places your book is seen, the more often people become familiar with your name and your books. So spread yourself around like a seed and watch the garden blossom!

  68. Sean Liebling January 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    I hear you Mark and I agree with most of your points however, that said Smashwords has some issues also.

    1) Very slow response in review. Sure, quicker than TOR or Bantam but incredibly slow compared to Amazon.

    2) Very slow submission to your third parties, i.e., Apple, kobo, B&N, etc.

    3) Low market share compared to Amazon. In 4 days I’ve sold 41 copies of my latest Zombie Thriller on Amazon vs. 6 on Smashwords. Says it all really.

    4) Yes your software is pretty cool. Amazons blows it away however. Good job though.

    I could go on and on but pretty much all the important things were covered already in this thread.

    Is there a solution? Sure. Mark, you know the issues you face and I’m positive your desperately trying to correct them to gain a larger market share. Good luck and I mean it. The Amazon KDP isn’t really that good for indies for sure unless your throwing a loss leader out there to redirect to your website or promote other books in a series or whatever. I agree with you.

    What to do? Gosh. Publish on SW and Amazon seems to be the best route but SW could easily gain a larger market but speeding up their system. Don’t know if that will happen but I’m hoping.

    Sean,

  69. Marlayna Glynn Brown January 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    After nearly a year with Amazon, I’ve let my KDP Select expire on my first three memoirs and did not enroll my recently released fourth. I’ve now listed all four with Smashwords and at this point am losing money due to lack of being paid for Amazon KOLL.
    Since I’m very new to Smashwords, I’m going to give it a strong chance. But I feel like I’m starting over with no recognition when I’ve done very well at Amazon alone.

  70. Sophia January 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    The way I understand how Smashwords works is as an eBook aggregator right? So, they take an eBook and publish it on various seller sites, then the eBook sells, and they get the money. But before they give it back to authors, they take a cut, right? So, why don’t authors just publish directly to each site? What is the point of an eBook aggregator if you make even less? I recently found a website called Novelnook that offer 100% royalties AND free publishing. Why aren’t there more sites like this? I feel like publishing online is a completely different story than print publishing. What do you guys think?

    – Sophie

  71. Artie Margrave April 7, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    First I’d like to mention that I like Smashwords. It offers indie authors another avenue for publishing and distribution. I’ve gotten so good in bypassing the site’s Meatgrinder that if I suddenly encounter an error, it’s a sin on my part and I try to rectify my situation (and even ask for forgiveness). I also like the fact that Mr Mark Coker endeavors to give his advice to writers all over the world about the best and worst deals they can have (and I hope it’s in that context he’s employed here). But the fact remains that: in marketing an ebook, people prefer more to click on an amazon link than a smashwords link. Why? Returns. Sales. And if I can produce my own ebook with my own design without any apprehension of one hidden error approaching and yet make so much more money from amazon, why bother with smashwords at all? Meatgrinder is a good software but it just isn’t flexible enough. It has to be able to bend some rules (not up to its elastic limit) to accomodate taste and then all will be well. But I hear the Smashwords group want to implement epub direct so maybe that’s good, a step forward. Discoverability is also not as impressive as it is on smashwords. In the end Smashwords is good, but Amazon appears to be better. There’s still best for any one of the two to develop towards and neutral to say, Amazon is in pole position.

  72. Artie Margrave April 7, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    First I’d like to mention that I like Smashwords. It offers indie authors another avenue for publishing and distribution. I’ve gotten so good in bypassing the site’s Meatgrinder that if I suddenly encounter an error, it’s a sin on my part and I try to rectify my situation (and even ask for forgiveness). I also like the fact that Mr Mark Coker endeavors to give his advice to writers all over the world about the best and worst deals they can have (and I hope it’s in that context he’s employed here). But the fact remains that: in marketing an ebook, people prefer more to click on an amazon link than a smashwords link. Why? Returns. Sales. And if I can produce my own ebook with my own design without any apprehension of one hidden error approaching and yet make so much more money from amazon, why bother with smashwords at all? Meatgrinder is a good software but it just isn’t flexible enough. It has to be able to bend some rules (not up to its elastic limit) to accomodate taste and then all will be well. But I hear the Smashwords group want to implement epub direct so maybe that’s good, a step forward. Discoverability is also not as impressive as it is on amazon. In the end Smashwords is good, but Amazon appears to be better. There’s still best for any one of the two to develop towards and neutral to say, Amazon is in pole position.

  73. Twila May 17, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    Thanks for the interview!! I’ve heard some good evaluations concerning the vBulletin 5 but honestly I’m
    still to hear or read through whats been explained about the new pricing plans.
    So far as the earlier versions of vBullietin were concerned, they had been much better than it competitors.
    .

  74. Dani Lovell May 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    I am confused. Can someone please help without making me feel like a dummy? I have published through Smashwords, and my status is ‘pending review’ which is fine and very exciting. This is not what I’m confused about. I understand that publishing with KDP direct requires exclusivity, so I will not be going down that route because Smashwords seems to do everything I need right now, however, it is mentioned (within Smashwords website) that only a few hundred books can be distributed via Smashwords to Amazon… but if it requires exclusivity, does this mean Smashwords won’t distribute it to anyone else? I appreciate that my book wouldn’t be considered for that anyway because it is currently free, so I won’t make the $2000 necessary to be considered to distribute to Amazon. Sorry if I’m being dense here, I am very new to all of this and cannot find a thing online to explain it, but is there something that is NOT KDP direct but IS Amazon that makes it ok to sell books via amazon and other retailers at the same time? I have purchased books on iBooks that my friend buys via Amazon for her kindle, are these books that haven’t been self-published? Please can someone explain, because of course I would like my book and my future books that will not be free, to sell via as many retailers as possible, and while I wait for my book to be manually reviewed at Smashwords, I feel the need to explore any other options that maybe be available to me.

    I would like to add (on the subject that these comments seemed to stear towards) that I wrote my 127,000 word book on Apple Pages, transferred it to Microsoft Word and followed the Smashwords Style Guide word by word. I had no idea if I was doing it correctly and am not ‘Microsoft Word’ savvy, so found it a touch confusing, but managed to upload without a single auto-vetting error, so although I know I may experience issues with the manual check, I am thrilled and a great supporter of the Smashwords process thus far. Thank you Mark Coker for the Style Guide!

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  76. Kim May 31, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

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  77. Dan November 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    Interestingly, after publishing on Smashwords, and abandon KDP select, all the sales on Kindle increased shortly after that due to a higher visibility of our authors. In other words, abandoning KDP select is more profitable than not doing it. Besides, where there’s no choice, we tend to move to totalitarian regimes, and that’s what Amazon has been creating, by carefully selecting the authors they want to promote, ignore racist reviews in their website, delete valuable and honest reviews, and ignore marketing manipulation by certain teams of so called “authors”, which are there to steal copyrights and content, not really promote independent writing. Having books on Amazon has been more painful than profitable. And it’s a shame to see so many authors selling themselves just to get a bigger ego through amazon, while neglecting that multiple platforms is what promotes democracy, knowledge and a better future for the human race, far beyond the lifespan of their book, because maybe, somebody one day, from one of these competitors, will bridge all this content to the hands of sudents all over the planet, and create a revolution in the way we think about libraries. Plato is surely thankful that all his writings weren’t just in the Library of Alexandria, because they would have been lost forever. And I thank God that the original Bible isn’t just in the hands of the Catholic Church, or we would have never had access to the gospels that shows us the criminal mistranlations on it. We, at Uplifting Books Publishing, look at the future, and that’s why we support the project of Smashwords, as this is a company thinking about the same future in which we believe.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Amazon Is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns,” says Smashwords founder, Mark Coker | The Passive Voice - October 22, 2012

    […] dropped the exclusivity requirement, I’d be a big supporter of the program.Link to the rest at How to Successfully Self-Publish and thanks to Dan for the tip.Click to Tweet/Email/Share This Post wpa2a.script_load(); Amazon, […]

  2. “Amazon está utilizando a los autores independientes como peones”, dice el fundador de Smashwords Mark Coker | Actualidad Kindle - October 23, 2012

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    […] more about how KDP Select may not be such a good thing.  Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, writes Amazon Is Playing Indie Authors Like Pawns.  Many disagree, but some authors who have been around for a while, like JA Konrath and Dean […]

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