Every Indie author will either know or strongly suspect that the best place to publish their books is on Amazon. There is a lot of information on this site on how to go about doing that and plenty of other online resources have discussed and advised how to publish books via Amazon.
But are there other options?
The quick answer is of course ‘YES’…. there are bound to be other options besides Amazon for publishing books. But then you need to know what they are and why.
With ebook readers growing ever more popular, what many independent authors do is to publish their books on Amazon and or Createspace first and then to use a third party distributor like Smashwords to get their ebooks published with other online distributors.
There is a good reason for this and quite simply put…. it is down to administration. Smashwords, for example, has positioned itself in the ebook distribution market place as a provider of services to independent authors. What they have done is to provide comprehensive help and advice that will help most reasonably computer-competent authors format their books ready for publication and, if required, provide an ISBN for the book. Then they convert the books to multiple formats that can be used on virtually all the ereaders currently available in the market place. Also, if the book achieves premium status, they will distribute it to multiple online distributors.
Achieving premium status depends on the formatting of the book prior to submission. In other words – all relevant formatting requirements detailed in their style guide must be met.
They collect all royalty payments from the various distributors and once they have taken their cut, which is quite modest actually, they reimburse the authors with their net royalties.
At the time of writing, Smashwords can arrange for the distribution of an ebook (that has achieved premium status) to the following list of online distributors:
- Barnes & Noble
- Page Foundry
- Baker & Taylor Blio
- Library Direct
- Baker-Taylor Axis360
There is an opt out function for any distributors you prefer not to distribute through, either because you have already distributed through them independently or perhaps you just prefer not to distribute through a particular channel. This list continues to grow as Smashwords make agreements with new distributors.
You can of course go to most of these sites independently to try and set up accounts so that you can publish your book with them. But there will be stringent requirements that have to be met in order to get your book accepted, particularly with respect to formatting and you will then of course have to deal with the administration yourself on a distributor by distributor basis.
For authors outside of the USA you may well find that the distributors are also forced to withhold up to 30% of your royalty payments for the tax department (IRS). The only way around this is to apply for an international tax identification number (ITIN) and send a letter to each distributor advising them that you are exempt from withholding tax (provided you are of course). If, on the other hand, you are only dealing with Amazon and Smashwords you should really only need to advise them. I should mention here that I am not a tax adviser, so please ensure you verify what you need to do with someone qualified to do so based on your own personal circumstances.
This thread on Goodreads may help for anyone trying to get an ITIN http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/756351-dealing-with-amazon-com-and-the-irs—authors
What Are the Disadvantages of Using Smashwords?
There are definitely some disadvantages to using Smashwords, here is a quick summary:
- They take a cut of your royalties
- Even with their comprehensive style guide, some people still struggle to get their books formatted to a standard that will get them into the premium status category. The consequence being your book will only then be distributed by Smashwords and will not go out to the other distributors listed
- Smashwords only sell a small percentage of books directly, mostly I suspect because it is more complicated to download a file and transfer it onto an ereader (even with detailed instructions being available)
- There are file size limitations (10MB) and graphics, where used, need to be relatively simple and straightforward in nature
- They only publish eBooks
- You cannot upload books with DRM (digital rights management ) protection
A Quick Summary of the Advantages of Using Smashwords
Just a quick list of what the advantages are for an independent author publishing through Smashwords:
- The potential to get your books listed with multiple distributors and with only one account to administer
- Your books can be converted to multiple formats to suit most ereaders using an automated process
- You can get free ISBN’s for your book
- Publishers and agents can also use Smashwords for their clients
- Growing in popularity with established social media presence that can be used for book marketing
- A range of different tools and options available for promotion campaigns
- Free link to printed books
- Video facility for book trailers
- A range of author profile tools including, interviews, social media links and blog feed.
- Books are free of DRM constraints (likely to be appreciated by potential customers)
Who else provides Similar Facilities to Smashwords?
Of course you may not like the look of Smashwords or decide their formatting style guide is just too complicated, so here are a few other successful distributors that independent authors can use:
And just in case you haven’t explored the Amazon route for publishing eBooks, then take a look here http://kdp.amazon.com/ The most popular publishing platform for independent authors and where you are most likely to make reasonable sales. You can ask Smashwords to list you with them if you want to, but to be honest this is one option you are probably better taking care of yourself.
If you need help with any aspect of getting your book published and promoted then you are free to leave a comment or get in touch via the contact-us page.