Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shortchanging Yourself and Your eBook

by Darke Conteur

The other day, I found a novel I wanted to read. I found the author through an online article, and even though it wasn’t in a genre I normally read, the blurb really got my attention. This author had a few novels self-published through Amazon, and when I did a check to see where else she might have published, I couldn’t find any. Needless to say, I was more than disappointed. I have the Kindle app on my laptop, but I was given a Kobo for Christmas. I haven’t used my Kindle app since.

It made me wonder about this new lending library thing Amazon is doing and whether it’s a good thing or not. Personally, I think it’s detrimental to a self-published author’s career to publish their book with only one company. One of the keys to sales is word of mouth, and it’s hard to get the word out if you’re only on a few sites. Even if those sites represent a large portion of the eBook-buying industry.

I know a few writers who published on two sites only—Amazon and Smashwords. Smashwords creates several files, many that support the more popular readers, but if I purchase an e-file, I have to transfer the file to an SD card, then to my reader. It would be easier if I could download the novel from the Kobo website library to my reader, and isn’t one of the big selling points of digital books that it's easy for the reader to get them?

I thought about my little book. I have it on Amazon and Smashwords. Smashwords will distribute your eBook to Kobo, iBookstore, B&N, and several others IF your formatting and everything qualifies you for their Premium Catalogue. There are a couple more stringent hoops to jump through with the format, but that's part of why Smashwords is so popular, because it allows you to get into those stores with one stop. The biggest drawback for me is formatting. It's a lot of work, but in the end, isn't it worth it to have your book in as many different outlets as possible?

Thanks to R.C. for the information on Smashwords. :)

Darke Conteur: author of stories from the dark side. Blogs Here, Twitters Here, & plays Facebook games Here.

16 comments:

JeffO said...

Unfortunately, authors and readers are getting caught in the middle as the Big Dogs battle for market supremacy.

Darke Conteur said...

It isn't even the big dogs, it's the little pups too. No one ever said putting all your eggs in one basket is a good idea. Just in this last week I've come across two more books, one urban, one steampunk, but because they only have them in one ebook format (for Amazon), I won't/can't purchase them.

Richard said...

I think that, as self-publishing ebook writers, we need to take the long view. I see no problem with limiting myself for, what is it, 90days, to one publisher, if that will expose my book to thousands of potential readers. After the 90 days, it's back out for everyone. I don't think very many of us are losing very many sales during that 90 days. There are pros and cons to everything. But, in the long view, that my book will be selling, hopefully, forever, what's a 90 day limitation?

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Dean Wesley Smith recommends that authors publish their books as widely as possible. I publish my e-books with Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. (I think you get a higher royalty if you publish directly on B&N, and the process is similar to Amazon's.) It was pretty exciting to see a sale on Apple via Smashwords the other day.

Christopher Hudson said...

My experience with Smashwords was less than stellar ... not a single copy sold in 6 months ... Kindle hasn't exactly lit it up for me either, but at least there are a few sales a quarter ... I took down my Smashwords book, Northern Cross and moved it over to KDP Select along with Headwind.

J. Lea Lopez said...

Christopher, do you mean not a single sale from the Smashwords site, or none through any of the extended distribution outlets either?

Authors have to remember, too, that just putting your book in as many locations as possible is only the start. The marketing is still up to us.

Darke Conteur said...

Exactly, J. Word of mouth is everything for writers, but you're not doing yourself any good if you market like crazy, but limit the places your book can be purchased.

Josh Hoyt said...

These are some good points and since I plan on self publishing soon I will need to keep this in mind. Thanks

Jean Oram said...

Definitely having your work available in multiple places is great. For me, I hate getting my ebooks on Amazon because I do not use a Kindle. And well, it drives me a bit nuts! So having it on Smashwords is great for me! I can get the format I want without dickering around on my computer.

Jemi Fraser said...

I think for myself I'd like to have my books in as many places as possible (if I ever get as far as having books for sale!!) - that way there are more chances of getting my books into the hands of my target audiences.

mark williams international said...

The issue of formatting to required standards, acquiring ISBNs and getting through the admissions process means it is very difficult to get onto Kobo and Apple direct, and almost impossible for many international stores.

Smashwords Premium Status can be a real pain to get, and take months.

And as some comments here indicate, Smashwords does not deliver great results even in the very few stores it does supply. We sold 125000 of just one title last year and made a total of just $50 from the Smashwords outlets. Never again.

We now offer direct access to Apple, Kobo and also the prestigious UK stores Waterstone's and Foyles, along with many, many smaller ebook stores internationally (including Fishpond and Kalahari).

We provide FREE formatting to required standard and also provide free ISBNs. And as a bonus you get your ebook deposited forever in the British Library!

Having our titles on multiple platforms helped our own title become the biggest indie seller in the UK in 2011 and the eleventh best-selling ebook in the UK out of all ebooks sold.

Anyone not in Select, or looking at options for when they come out, should drop us an email and we'll send full details.

Darke Conteur said...

I'm afraid I have to strongly disagree with you on several points in your reply.

'The issue of formatting to required standards, acquiring ISBNs and getting through the admissions process means it is very difficult to get onto Kobo and Apple direct, and almost impossible for many international stores.'

I disagree. If an author wishes to self-publish, they have two options when it comes to formatting; 1. Pay someone or, 2. Do it themselves. It it's the latter, then the author must approach it like any other part of learning to write and learn the ins and outs to format properly. They're career as a writer depends on it.

As for ISBN's, Smashwords issues them to each novel for free, and you can use the same one if you choose to upload to Amazon. That's what I did. Plus, each author should look into ISBN in his/her own country. In Canada, they're free and from what I've seen, they're pretty cheap to purchase anyway.

As for international stores, my novels show up on Amazon UK, and my step-daughter has no problem purchasing them. As for getting on Kobo, or BN, or any of those sites, that can be accomplished by obtaining Smashwords Premium Status. That's the reason Smashwords is so popular.

'Smashwords Premium Status can be a real pain to get, and take months.'

No, it is not a pain to get. It takes some learning on the writer's part, and that's it. All they ask is that you have a novel that looks professional in cover art and formatting, and to make sure you state that this particular file is a Smashwords edition. It takes a few months because they have to manually check all books that request Premium status. I uploaded my latest novel in the last week of January, and obtained Premium Status the first week of February. Now, both of my novels are in BN, Kobo and other out ebook outlets.

'And as some comments here indicate, Smashwords does not deliver great results even in the very few stores it does supply. We sold 125000 of just one title last year and made a total of just $50 from the Smashwords outlets. Never again.'

It isn't up to Smashwords to market or promote your novel. That's your job. That's part of being an indie or self-published novelist. It isn't up to any outlet to market or promote actually.

Thanks for posting. :)

Christopher Hudson said...

J. Lea: Well, I'm not sure, but the sales figure posted on the Smashwords dashboard was 0.

Darke Conteur said...

NOTE: I want to add that Smashwords does not look nicely on those who use the ISBN numbers they issue on other sites. I said I did, but honestly, I can't remember. The ISBN is optional on Amazon.

My apologies.

JoeB said...

Darke,
I totally agree with you on all points. The only problem I've had is getting my Word document to be accepted as a doc. rather than a docx. That was entirely my computer's fault, not Smashwords. I also used the same ISBN for Amazon that I received free from Smashwords. Getting listed on the Premium portion of Smashwords usually takes ten days or less. As far as number of sales of Amazon vs. Smashwords; my combined sales with Smashwords and their network is approximately double the volume from Amazon.

I haven't regretted keeping all my options available for sites to publish with by including Smashwords. And they record sales immediately, so I can check every hour if I want to see my sales.

Velvet Over Steel said...

What great insight from you and all the comments. Thank you everyone for sharing!! Good luck to you All!!