Lately, there's been a dramatic increase of what I called "Smashwords Publishers." These are outfits that only publish eBooks only on Smashwords. They upload the work into Smashwords, then push the work out to the major retailers via Smashwords.

 

I could create one this weekend if I wanted to. I know how to format work for Smashwords's Meatgrinder, I can produce PDFs and I have access to a photo editing program. Anyone matching this description could, too.

 

So are these "Smashwords Publishers" good or bad? Here's my breakdown.

 

Good

 

• Their products can reach major e-retailers.

• They take care of all the formatting, which can be a pain in the butt.

• Authors gain a bit of credibility by being attached to a publisher.

• They promote their work (for the most part, although some don't).

 

Bad

 

• Smashwords provides equal access to publishers and authors. Anything a publisher can do on Smashwords, an author can do.

• The publisher could be some random guy with no experience.

• They're taking a cut of royalties away from the author. (as with any publisher)

• Their revenue strategy is mostly based around "The Shotgun Effect" (i.e. accept every submission, throw it against the wall and see what sticks)

 

What do you think?

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Smashwords really doesn't care about quality work.  And you're right--it's the shotgun-effect when it comes to putting the books out there.  No promotion whatsoever.  Which, I think, should be a starting point for any would-be e-publisher to build on.  Tackle the problem of promoting your books and don't hand it over to the writer.  Almost invaribly the majority of writers are terrible about successfully promoting their books.  Or want to.

It is interesting to me that the comments in regards to publishers promoting books - whether they are print or e-books - never seems to change - no promotion. Just an observation.

Having worked on both sides of the spectrum, promotion is defined differently depending on the author or publisher.
I've given this some thought, because I turned over my unpublished work to my agents for publication on Kindle etc. I don't mind paying the 15 %.  My agents have been good to me in the past, and it seemed that they should share in such profits. Anyway, that was my thinking, but I'm not altogether sure they like doing this sort of thing.  A difficult situation.

"I've given this some thought, because I turned over my unpublished work to my agents for publication on Kindle etc. I don't mind paying the 15 %.  My agents have been good to me in the past, and it seemed that they should share in such profits. Anyway, that was my thinking, but I'm not altogether sure they like doing this sort of thing.  A difficult situation."

 

You are very nice. And if your agents don't like doing this for you, then they don't like money. 

 

It's trivial to publish on Amazon and B&N. Smashwords is slightly more difficult, but still a piece of cake. I'd love a percentage of someone's work in return for putting their books up on these retailers. 

 

Here's my unsolicited advice. Pay flat fees for the self-publishing services -- cover, editing, and formatting. There's no need to give away a percentage. But if you do want to hand off to an agent and give that agent a percentage, then that agent needs to pay for a professional cover, provide good editing and proofing, and format your work so it looks great on the e-readers. Anything short of that doesn't really earn the percentage. 

 

As to the original question, I think these services are like most services that spring up around a growth industry. Some are legit and some are sharks out looking to make a quick buck who will do as little as possible and charge you as much as they can get away with. 

 

Self-publishing is really fascinating and we're going to see a lot of drek, but we'll also see a lot of really good stuff. And maybe the best thing about it is that writers can make a lot more per sale so they can get by on selling in smaller numbers. 

 

 

Some of these Smashwords publishers will develop reputations - and some will be very good - based on what they publish. Just like traditional publishers. They won't all accept everything submitted Smashwords will, but the individual publishers may not. One of my stories is in a collection published by Untread Reads (Discount Noir) but they turned another collection I was part of.

 

Whatever publisher you're with affects how your book is received. If your first novel is published by Hard Case Crime it gets received differently than if it's published by Knopf, not because of your particular book but because of the reputation of the publisher. It has nothing to do with formatting. The same will happen with online publishers.

 

Some of the publishers on Smashwords now are small presses with limited print runs and some are foreign language publishers putting out their backlists for the first time in English and i suspect we'll see more of that kind of e-book only publishing.

 

I suspect the better publishers will gain traction within the Smashwords "biodome." But that might be a year off. The best-selling eBooks on Smashwords are free, self-published, smut or mention Justin Bieber. (seriously, it's #3, "A Letter to Justin Bieber's Hair.")

Well, "better publishers" and "bestsellers" are two different things. It looks now as though every niche market will be served, flattening out the sales across a far greater spectrum than ever before. Perhaps the total number of book sales will remain the same but many, many more books will sell 1000 copies and very few books will sell more than 100,000.

 

At the moment that sounds better than nothing, alas!
At a recent writer's conference I attended, Ken LIzotte (he's a PR publicist guy) said that of the 180K to 1M books published every year (print versions) less than 7 percent sell more than 1,000 copies. And consider this: only 17 percent of the books published are fiction ... all the rest are non-fiction ... think of all those cookbooks and How To's and Whatever for Dummies
The "Bad" points #s 1,2 and 3 trump all of the good points put together.

I'm a fan of Smashwords and Amazon (etc). They are allowing a platform for self-publishers and indie writers to publish their books and make them widely available.

 

Of course, because they are merely a facilitator, all of the promotion comes down to the author. This might seem like a shotgun approach, but really it isn't much different to how most midlist authors are treated by major publishers anyway. The next point is that they also keep sales rankings and process payments. The rankings are actually really good, especially on Amazon, in attracting readers. If you start climbing the rankings the more people will see the book. Given the popularity of the stores that Smashwords provides to, the readers will see a lot of books that they wouldn't get the option to in a traditional store and it is on equal footing with the Paterson's of the world.

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