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Increase eBook Sales Exponentially By Mass Syndication With Smashwords

Smashwords Today I want to talk about one way you can easily increase your eBook sales exponentially through a platform called Smashwords.

eBooks are a great way to take your knowledge and expertise and turn it into an income stream.

They are great for generating some nice passive and residual income online without having to own your own website or blog.

I have written a significant amount about this potential income stream. You can read my full series on eBooks here.

In addition, I also wrote about one specific way to give your eBook sales a tremendous boost on the Amazon Kindle platform. You can read that article here.

Recently I have been playing around with Smashwords and waited to write this post after having tested it out for at least a month.

Smashwords is an eBook syndication or distribution platform similar to Amazon Kindle or the Barnes and Noble online book store. The difference is that in addition to selling your eBook on their own site, they syndicate or distribute your eBook for sale to several other major platforms as well.

All you have to do is manage your eBooks from your dashboard within Smashwords, making it a true one stop shop.

Here are the eBook platforms that Smashwords makes your eBooks available for sale on:

  • Amazon
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Sony
  • Kobo
  • Apple
  • Diesel
  • Page Foundry
  • Baker-Taylor

Some of these platforms DO NOT accept individual submissions if you were to submit your eBook to them. They only accept eBooks exclusively through Smashwords, which is a big testament to this platform and the wonderful things they are up to. I really think this organization has a chance to revolutionize the entire eBook publishing industry.

Here is another benefit. Smashwords has arranged special negotiations with some of these eBook publication and distribution platforms so that the royalties you receive are larger if you publish your eBook through Smashwords than the royalties you would have received if your eBook sold through the individual eBook platform. It is amazing how they are able to do this.

This verbiage is straight from the Smashwords website:

If you do distribute directly to any of these retailers, consider consolidating your distribution under the Smashwords umbrella.  The fees we take are very low, and with Smashwords you gain the time-saving convenience of centrally managing all your ebook distribution from a single Dashboard.  In some cases, you’ll even earn more going through us.  Of course, this is your choice and we appreciate your continued business, however you choose to work with us.

Yes, wow…

How Does Smashwords Work?

Just like any other eBook publishing platform. You take your eBook word file and you upload it. Once you do, Smashwords converts your eBooks into several formats so that it is compatible with all the eBook readers out there.

I simply took my eBook word document files that I already had and went through the upload process. Once your eBook has been uploaded and converted, you go to your Dashboard and assign it an ISBN number for free and make it available for sale.

There are two levels of review involved.

When you first submit your eBook file, Smashwords will accept it and immediately make it available for sale on its distribution platform. But the real benefit of using Smashwords is their access to all the other eBook distribution networks. You want your eBook to become available for sale on all those avenues.

In order to do this, Smashwords requires you to format your eBook word document file in a very specific way. So specific that it can be painstaking if you are new to it. They do provide step by step instructions on formatting on their website, but I swear it is a super long, mind numbing document that just tired me out few paragraphs into it.

Alternatively, Smashwords will provide you, upon request, reasonably priced freelancers who will do the conversion for you, as well as freelancers who will design your cover page for you. They have specific requirements regarding book covers as well.

I outsourced both the formatting and the design of the cover page. If you’d like a referral for the formatting piece, feel free to email me and I will send you my guy’s info.

For the book cover I just use Elance. You can also use Elance for the eBook formatting.

eBook Pricing on Smashwords

There is an option where you can have your readers determine the price of your eBooks. Very neat. Normally however publishers set a price just like on any other platform. All Smashwords asks of you is to make sure your prices at Smashwords are the same as at other retailers.

Similar to other eBook publishing platforms, you can also run discounts and promotions of sorts as well.

How Much Will You Earn in Royalties?

The following verbiage is straight from Smashwords:

Royalty Rate Specifics:

Apple, Baker & Taylor (Blio), Barnes & Noble, Sony and Diesel:  60% of the list price for prices $.99 and up. For Apple sales originating in their U.K., German and French iBookstores, you receive 60% of the list price minus the VAT tax, which they include in your list price.

Baker & Taylor (Axis360 library platform): 45% of the list price.  Library patrons are able to check out only one copy at a time.  The books are wrapped in DRM so they time out after a specific period of time.  The library can purchase multiple copies if they decide demand warrants multiple simultaneous checkouts.  Otherwise, the library purchases a single copy and allows only once copy at a time to be lent out.  If a library patron wishes to obtain a book that’s already checked out, the patron is given the option to purchase a copy.

Kobo:  60% list for prices between $.99 and $12.99.  For prices over $12.99, your earnings share is 38%.  The 60% earnings share applies only to US and Canadian dollar-denominated sales.  Elsewhere, the 38% rate applies.

How Well Does Smashwords Work?

I wasn’t exaggerating when I typed the title of this post. My sales have increased significantly by publishing my eBooks on Smashwords. Why? Exposure. It’s simply a numbers game.

Whereas in the past my eBooks were only published on three platforms, they are not published on several more, more than double, and it hasn’t cost me anything except for the cost of eBook formatting and cover design, which you can do on your own if you choose to.

What is not to love about an organization like Smashwords? I encourage you to spend some time on their website. They are truly doing some amazing things in the eBook industry, and it feels like selfless service to the independent publisher community.

Thank you Smashwords for doing what you are doing.

So Have you heard about Smashwords? Have you, or someone you know tried it? I want to hear your thoughts about it?

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30 Responses to “Increase eBook Sales Exponentially By Mass Syndication With Smashwords”

  1. Eddie Gear says:

    Sunil, that sounds promoising. But dont you think the Amazon store has a much larger network and would get you better reach and sales?

    • Hal says:

      I don’t think it is a matter of Amazon being better than Smashwords or vice versa. Provided you aren’t enrolled in KDP Select you are free to list your book on both platforms.

      I published my first ebook on Amazon using KDP Select but I opted not to renew enrollment so now I am prepping my ebook for Smashwords. I am hopeful that exposure on additional platforms equates to more sales. KDP Select got me some additional royalties from Prime member borrows, but not enough that I thought it justified continuing to allow Amazon the exclusive rights.

      @Sunil, was the “exponential” increase purely from the increased exposure, or are there other things you did to drive sales?

      • Sunil says:

        good addition Hal. yes, the increase was purely exposure. I did nothing additional except populate the author section on Smashwords for each book.

    • Sunil says:

      it’s not an either or predicament Eddie. you can submit to both. in fact, Amazon is part of the Smashwords network, saving you the extra step if you are ok not enrolling in KDP select.

  2. Darren says:

    I am wondering one thing though. On amazon when I publish, if I make an update or improvement to a book, I simply re-upload it to amazon and if the change is big enough amazon might let all my purchasers know.

    What happens on smashwords if you want to make changes to a book, will it re-submit to all the sites?


  3. Hmmmmm, always discovering new new awesome stuffs.
    I haven’t heard of Smashword before Sunil but from this post, it seem to be good. Am still writing my Amazon kindle stuff, will give this one a shot too. ONE STEP TO ANOTHER.

    Thanks for sharing friend,

  4. Sounds like a great all-in-one-tool if you are planning on trying to get your ebook on those other networks. I have never sold an ebook but losing 40% seems to be a lot. I guess some of something is better than all of nothing.

  5. Latusha says:

    This post came out right on time. I have one book on amazon and a new one on smashwords. It just got accepted into the premium section so it should be sent to the additional retailers any day now. I’m curious to see how the book does on amazon vs smash words. I opted not to put the new book in kdp select because I wanted to try out smashwords. One plus so far I noticed with smashwords is that google seems to like them because my book was indexed like within a day.

  6. Sarah Park says:

    I’ve never heard of SmashWords until I read your post. I’ve been with Amazon since I started a couple of years ago. I’d like to try on this one and see the difference between the two.

  7. I am almost done with my first eBook and am now looking for ways to promote it. Learning about SmashWords is a great help for my next step. I think I need ot find out more about it. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I wouldn’t trust Smashwords software conversion tool for anything formatted more than a novel. Have you read their style guide? After spending dozens of pages explaining how to get the best results from their “meatgrinder” they say it may still look like trash and you will have to save your manuscript as a text document to strip all formatting out and start over. And then at the end of the day, the style guide itself isn’t even properly formatted!

    • Sunil says:

      Smashwords is still in its infancy and evolving. I have tried their format on three readers and so far it’s been ok. I don’t doubt that mishaps in formatting may occur as Amazon also runs into this through their auto formatting tool. do you have a better recommendation for those interested in publishing on the various platforms Smashwords distributes to?

      • Amazon’s check is pretty inefficient judging my the amount of noise I constantly hear about poorly formatted books on the Kindle store.

        I like to compare the technology to machine translation. I’m sure you could expand your reach exponentially by having a version of your sites in Spanish or Mandarin. But would you trust just plugging your text into Google Translate?

        Smashwords says that “in the latter half of 2012” they will accept validated epub’s but that hasn’t happened yet. When they do, I will start to take them seriously.

        • Sunil says:

          some great points Edward. what do you recommend publishers do who want to maximize reach and exposure today while not compromising on potential formatting?

          • Most ebook retailers have made great strides in the last year towards opening up their platforms to independent authors.

            Then, in terms of exposure, my understanding of the matter is that Amazon is the absolute leader with over 50% of all ebook sales. Next comes Barnes & Noble with about half of all remaining sales. iTunes comes in third. Kobo, and Sony round out the “big” players. With Google Play, Google could become a legitimate player in the ebook market, but I don’t see them making it any higher than the third spot. After that really qualifies as “long tail” sales.

            Independent authors can now publish on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play without an ISBN. If your purchase an ISBN, then iBooks becomes available to you. Only Sony is closed to independent authors without going through a service like Smashwords. It will take a little effort on your part, but you can probably reach at least 90% of your potential sales without resorting to Smashwords.

            • Sunil says:

              I appreciate the detailed breakdown Edward, but we are back at step 1 in terms of book compatibility/format. since the Smashwords formatting guide still presents challenges, what do you recommend publishers do/how should they approach distribution of their books to all the platforms you mentioned?

  9. Well, to actually get the ebook files to submit to the distribution channels you can either hire a professional to do it for you (shameless plug: I do this, and my rates are reasonable) or do it yourself.

    For those who want to do the formatting themselves, the absolute best tool out there is an open source progam called Sigl, which is a WYSIWYG epub editor. Save your manuscript as an HTML file, import it into Sigil. From there, you can update the formatting of the text, sort it into chapters, add metadata, and validate the file. If you don’t own your own epub e-reader (such as B&N Nook, Sony Reader, or Kobo), download Adobe Digital Editions (Windows, Mac) and/or Calibre. Both are free ebook managment & reader programs. that you can use to check how your book will appear.
    If your source file is a MS Word document, I’d recommend opening it in OpenOffice first as that saves a much cleaner HTML file.

    I’d also recommend reading Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines; it’s a great resource on creating well formed ebooks regardless of platform.

  10. fran says:

    I have decided to get my ebook professional formatted. Do I need two different verisons? One for Kindle and one for Smashwords? If I get one for Smashwords will Kindle accept it?
    Thanks for your help.

    • While I do provide a Kindle version and epub version, the reality of the situation is that a properly formatted epub should convert just fine when uploaded to Amazon. There are very few differences between the formats besides how they are assembled. (If you know anything about programming, this comment should explain the difference: epub is like a scripted language and kindle is compiled).

      That said, Smashwords wants a Word file. And that’s why I will never use them.

    • Sunil says:

      Fran, if you format it for Smashwords, they will convert it to other formats as well for you. Kindle will do the same if you were to upload your word document ebook on their site. check out Edward’s thoughts on ebook formatting. he is in this business and recommends formatting individually for various platforms. personally I have not had any issues going through the Kindle or Smashwords dashboard.

  11. Ida says:

    For one thing, it is a time to share your views and feelings.
    As an example, the Tierney family crest is catalogued as
    “Azure two lines rampant or, supporting a sword proper”.
    You need to first off own an Amazon Kindle DX or Amazon Kindle 2 e-reader,in order
    to start sharing Kindle books.

  12. Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar
    one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of
    spam remarks? If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can advise?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

    • Sunil says:

      Spam is always going to be an issue. some of the opt in boxes you see near the comments (confirm you are not a spammer plugin) as well as Akismet work very well.

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