On Smashwords and Amazon

Amazon has created a new program called kdp select.  The jist is that participating authors have a chance for extra money if their books are borrowed through the Amazon prime library lending program. To participate your books must be exclusive to Amazon.  This means they can’t be for sale anywhere else and you can’t put excerpts on your own sites or blogs.

I will not be joining this.

To do so would be the same as telling nook owners “sorry but you don’t matter.” And I have too many readers who own nooks (this was a surprise to me too!) I most certainly would never tell any reader that they did not matter. That they are willing to churn through my drivel makes them amazing people that I’m so, so grateful for – no matter what format they read it on.

The second reason has to do with loyalty. Smashwords was my first ebook experience. I’ve watched as it has grown over the last three years under the guidance of Mark Coker who has worked hard at negotiating distribution deals, updating the site and dealing with a lot of frustrating and sometimes annoying authors (I’m sure he’s dealt with nice ones too). I have mailed smashwords  at random times and always gotten a fast – and personal – response – even after midnight. I can’t say the same for Amazon. Smashwords has FAQs, free downloadable how to’s and will even send you a list of people who do formatting and cover work.  Amazon has a crappy forum that I can never find answers on and offers covers for 200$ (most of which anyone on the smashwords list would do for 75$ or less.) Smashwords allows you the option to make your work free. Amazon will only make it free if you can show that it is free somewhere else or you join the kdp select group. Smashwords offers multiple formats right on their page (including kindle’s .mobi files) and distributes – free of charge – to several other retailers (B&N, kobo, diesel, apple etc.). Amazon offers kindle files only. (admittedly with an app you can read those on a phone or PC.)

That’s not to say smashwords is perfect, though their faults lie in their sudden expansion. Because of the ebook publishing boom, they’ve been flooded with books that have to be processed. This means what once took a week now takes a month. And while I am as impatient as everyone else, I understand.  I used to make  two covers a month. I was lightning fast. Now I handle twenty or more. I’m not so fast now. If I were to expand and hire someone else to take half or more I could be, just like if smashwords hired a few hundred(or more) people like Amazon has they could be faster. though, frankly, I’m not sure I want them to turn into Amazon junior.

Maybe I am naive and lack the proper business mind set, but smashwords has always felt like “real people” to me, while Amazon is just a corporation. I have no loyalty to Amazon. If someone insults it I don’t feel the desire to defend it. Amazon only wants profits. They use me to get a minuscule amount and I use them back. Childish or not, smashwords feels more like a partner. I want them to succeed because I believe in what they’re doing. I am an indy or self pubbed who proudly does it all myself – just like smashwords does it themselves. We’re on the same wavelength. I expect amazon to screw me over. I trust smadhwords not to. Maybe there’s no room loyalty in business, but frankly that’s not the kind of business I want to be in. That’s why I went Indy in the first place.

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  1. I agree with you 100%. Smashwords does have that personal feel to it. I keep thinking I’m making a bad decision from a business perspective in not going with KDP Select. But in all honesty, that potential doesn’t bother me because I’m standing for something I believe in, and I believe in Smashwords and all they’ve done for their authors. If my stolen books had been on Smashwords last summer, I have no doubt they would have been removed right away, but I had to get a copyright lawyer after Amazon. Then when Smashwords saw that some authors were getting slammed with 1-star reviews from people hoping to hurt their sales and Smashwords removed those reviews and the people’s accounts so they couldn’t keep doing it, that all made me love Smashwords even more–as if I hadn’t already but that was the icing on the cake for me. Amazon seems to encourage the review trashing I see going on over there. I don’t see Amazon as a friendly environment. I hope Smashwords never becomes an Amazon Junior either. it’s best being separate from all of that. (sorry to ramble)

  2. I have to admit, Smashwords has been good to me. However, loyalty to Smashwords was the farthest thing from my mind when Kindle Select came down… maximizing profits was.

    I personally believe the chance of someone downloading an indie book through Amazon Prime is slim to none. Even the big sellers like Konrath or Hocking price their books at $2.99 or below. If I was on Amazon Prime, I sure wouldn’t use my token on a $2.99 book. I’d have my eyes on traditional bestsellers with prices so rich, they make me cringe.

    The big seller for me is the 5 free promo days, but is 5 days enough to make a difference? I’ve watched people do 2 day promos and noticed the effects on the Kindle ranking fade the next 24 hours. I wonder, will 3 more days make a difference? I highly doubt doing one day here and there would be enough to truly help the book take hold in the market. Amazon gave that Crawford guy’s work away for free for 2 weeks, and already his ranking is nearing 200k.

    The 5 free promo days is attractive. I just have doubts it’d be enough to make the sacrifice worth joining. What I’m thinking is I probably just need to work on legitimate promotions…. find a way to tap into the ePub market.

    • Exactly. The chances of my book – or a lot of the enrolled books – getting borrowed is slim. If you can’t sell it for .99 you probably won’t have people queueing up to get it as their one free download a month.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Jo. One of the major draws of going indy, is to have rights to your own work. I don’t like the idea that you can’t even promote your own book on your own blog with kdp select. I enjoy reading author’s excerpts. There have been books I may have never bought, had I not read the excerpt and been drawn in.

    Nice to know Smashwords has been so good to you. I’ve been buying more and more books from their site.

    • Yep. If I wanted to let someone else own it I’d start querying lol! I know it’s only 90 days but as reena says who is gonna borrow mine? And I’ve done the free promo on Amazon already.

  4. Catana

     /  December 12, 2011

    Bravo! Amid the pros and cons of joining Amazon’s new program, very little has been said about loyalty. Granted, we wouldn’t publish if we didn’t hope to make money, but if we judge loyalty by what it costs us, it isn’t really loyalty. We might just as admit that we’re in it just for the money.

    • Yeah, that’s why I’ve been told I’m not “serious” about being an author. But that’s the beauty of indy, I have the right to be “un-serious” about it, LOL!

      • Catana

         /  December 14, 2011

        I think it’s fair to make a distinction between being serious as an author and serious about making money. All it takes to be serious as an author is to write books, make them the best you can, and publish them. Maing money is an entirely separate issue.

        • Amen! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

          • Very true! I find that seriousness is all a matter of opinion, as is everything else, and trying to fit someone else’s standard is never a good idea. 😉 As long as we are happy and fulfilled with what we are doing and how we are doing it , then that’s what matters.

  5. It will be interesting to see how many do participate.

  6. I’m afraid I’m not quite as harsh toward Amazon as you are, Jo, but I agree with you about this lending library business, and I won’t be participating, either. They want an exclusive arrangement for at least 90 days, which I won’t give them. I want my books to be available in as many formats and for as many people who want to read them.

    • Oh, Amazon is good for what they are and *knock wood* I have never had any major problems with them. I do find the “pool” of money shady, but not every idea that every company has is a good one 😉 I know several authors are pulling their books form Amazon, and I have no intention of doing that. To me that defeats the purpose in not participating in the first place – to have your books available in as many places as possible.

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