Episode 144 – Box Set Changes, Self-Publishing Insults, & All Romance Ebooks

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Question of the Week: Do you submit your books to Smashwords?

Welcome to 2017! Jim and Bryan took on the latest tips and news, including the sudden closure of All Romance Ebooks, new Kindle Unlimited box set rules, and the angry response to the recent Huffington Post anti-self-publishing article. After thanking their patrons, Ambition by Geoff North, How I Sold 80,000 Books by Alinka Rutkowska, and Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope, the guys tackled tips on AMS keywords, ACX, and the Self-Publishing Calculator. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you use Smashwords to publish your books wide?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How authors can use keywords to improve Amazon ad conversion rates
  • What two authors’ yearly earnings reports can teach indie authors
  • How authors can stay under budget with the Self-Publishing Calculator
  • Why one author says indies “insult the written word” and how others responded
  • What new steps Kobo has taken to expand its international influence
  • What improvements Smashwords authors can expect in the new year
  • Why authors should keep a close eye on their boxsets in KDP Select
  • What led to All Romance Ebooks’ closing and how it will affect authors
Question of the Week: Do you submit your books to Smashwords?

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  • Craig A. Price Jr.

    I don’t use SmashWords. Last I checked, they have a massive file you have to read for submission guidelines and I haven’t bothered to read all of it yet. I use Draft2Digital to publish wide, it’s simple and easy. I’ve heard SmashWords is easier than it used to be, but I haven’t spent the time to try and figure it out yet. I will eventually.

    • Bryan

      Eventually 🙂

  • Lavie Margolin

    I don’t use Smashwords. I am exclusive to Amazon at the moment for KDP because they continue to be the best way to remain visible.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing, Lavie!

  • If memory serves correctly, I’ve only put one or two permafrees on Smashwords. It’s always been a pain to use, so I haven’t bothered. They would need to offer some really big incentives to entice me. I’m really happy with D2D.

    • Bryan

      Like Hawks playoffs tickets or something… 😉

  • Kendall Hanson

    My first three or four books were on Smashwords, but I haven’t bothered since then thanks to the difficulty of working through their process and the lack of transparency in reporting. I agree, Draft2Digital is just so much cleaner and easier. Plus, D2D’s add-ons of your additional books, etc., make it so much more worthwhile to go wide with them.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing, Kendall.

      • Kendall Hanson

        Sure, I always listen to the podcast.

    • Gillian

      I love that add-on feature as well!

  • I started using Smashwords last year in order to get my books into iBooks and I have been very happy with the results. I publish directly on Kobo, Nook, and Amazon, so I don’t use Smashwords to distribute to those sites. To date, I’ve seen the results on Smashwords that I wanted. I wanted to sell in iBooks and I have, so Smashwords has served that purpose.

    But people are right, they make it a pain to try and format a file and I question the sales figures.

    What I did to make Smashwords not such a pain in the butt was to follow step by step through their submission guidebook and create a template that I use over and over again. Then when I go to publish, it’s a breeze.

    I’d be happy to share that template here for any readers who would like to use Smashwords, but only if Jim and Bryan approve to have a link in the comments section.

  • If my box sets get taken down, I’m coming for YOU Bryan Cohen. Shhhhhhh.


    • Bryan

      Bring it, Thorn! 🙂

  • Mark S. R. Peterson

    I’ve used Smashwords (to get my books in iBooks and Nook) and it continues to be #2 saleswise, right behind Amazon. Their meat-grinder process has gotten easier over the past few years and have had no problems. Sorry, I tried D2D for my latest book and was very disappointed in the formatting result, so I took it down.

    • Bryan

      Good stuff, Mark. Thanks for the input.

  • Simon Goodson

    I use Smashwords and have done for a long time. I’m direct with Amazon, where 80% of my income comes from, so the quarterly pay wasn’t a real issue. I’m UK based so I just let it sit in the paypal account anyway and use it to pay for advertising, courses etc most of which are USD based (so I avoid FX fees both ways).

    I actually don’t mind the meatgrinder but then my alter-ego in the daytime is in IT so I was able to identify and remove the problems I had, I also use Libreoffice not MS Word so the file’s a lot cleaner anyway. That said… I am looking to move to Vellum soon (I don’t have a Mac, but I do have a cunning plan) and at that point will probably go direct to Kobo and maybe Apple. Nook and other stores I’ll probably stick with smashwords for, just because I’m used to them – also I’ve built a suite of tools to automatically scrape the sales figures into a custom tracking database so moving to D2D would mean having to rebuild that part.

    The thing that bugs me most about Smashwords is not seeing how many free downloads I’ve had on Kobo, as it makes it hard to know what the buy-through rate is there.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, an alter ego. How exotic! Thanks, Simon :).

  • Gillian

    Like Simon Goodson, I am direct on Amazon and have used Smashwords for other e-tailers. I’ve never had a problem with the meat grinder but I just felt it was more time spent away from my writing. Since I discovered Draft2Digital I’ve stopped using Smashwords, but have left my first 3 books on there.

    • Bryan

      “I felt like it was more time spent away from my writing.” Good point, Gillian.

  • Wendy Clark

    The boxed set thing has to be a misunderstanding because I don’t see why an omnibus/box set of one author should be different a multi-author anthology/box set. Unless someone is trying this out to catch copyright thieves? I think we should just wait and see the response.

    • Bryan

      It SEEMS like a misunderstanding, Wendy. And that’s what I’m hoping for on behalf of the author community too.

  • QOTW – All five of mine are in SWs, but I didn’t know about D2D back then. I plan to try D2D for my next one because I had bad experiences with SWs the last time I made a pricing change and the last time I updated a book description.

    My book had been in there for two years, but as soon as I made a pricing change, it said my book had a TOC that didn’t match the my chapter headings and UNPUBLISHED THE BOOK. They wouldn’t help me and told me I had to fix it even though it had been like that for two years. Because I couldn’t fix it fast enough I missed my marketing opportunity.

    BTW, the chapters and TOC were fine, but didn’t fit with their idea of what a chapter should be, I guess. I had to rename them all to Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. For my non-fiction?

    • Bryan

      Not fun, Roland. That stinks.

  • I went wide with my books in November. I use Smashwords but only because I wanted to get them in Overdrive for the libraries, which Draft2Digital doesn’t offer (yet). I use D2D for going to Apple and any other market I don’t go direct over Smashwords as much as possible due to the better interface.

    I found Smashwords interface is so fractured and very non-intuitive. Any other distribute users a book-centric design, so go to the book, do all the updates. Smashwords does their odd function-centric design, so you have to go to different areas to deal with series, pricing, distribution, ISBNs, etc. It just makes no sense to me at all why they would choose such an organizational method.

    For now, I just have my own uploaded ePubs. Their how to publish guide for getting through
    meatgrinder is so obnoxiously written I could not get through it. I would much rather a simple check list of what they require/demand, or better yet be like every other ebook retailer and just let me upload my files and be done.

    • Bryan

      Have you had any luck with your books in Overdrive, Anma?

      • So far no, though I was able to confirm that they are now buyable by libraries through it 🙂 I was torn between making it free for libraries and the minimum, but I got the impression that free would limit the distribution some. I may have misread that though.

        • Bryan

          Good to know, Anma. I hope you have some luck with that!

  • I looked at Smashwords back in 2013 but it was the meat grinder that made me stay away. I ended up going select so it became a moot point, but if I were going wide, I would go direct, if I felt like I needed to use an aggregator today, I would use Draft2Digital. They seem to have a better reputation for being more user friendly. And Jim was right on the backlash against Laurie Gough (from one-star bombs on GR to death threats): https://www.facebook.com/LaurieGoughAuthor/posts/1243749839041536 It crazy how nasty things can get on Social Media. According to Gough, it was HuffPost that came up with that post title and I believe her since they’re experts on clickbaiting. Writer’s write for HuffPost for free with the lure of “exposure” but sometimes that can be a bad thing! I actually feel bad for Gough seems she wrote something when she was having a bad day and HuffPost used her because they knew it would generate a lot of traffic, comments, and backlinks.

    • It’s pretty bad what they did to Gough in retaliation, but the title was the least of her problems. It was actually pretty accurate to the article.

      • I agree. The title reflects the content of the article, so she can’t blame HuffPost for the backlash. If her intent wasn’t to demean indie authors, then she should have chosen her words much more carefully… Well, she should have just scrapped it, because that entire article was a vicious slam on self publishing.

    • Bryan

      Sad to hear that Gough was “baited” by HuffPo, but Roland is right, her article was even angrier than the title.

  • Dave Core

    I use Smashwords. The free formatting guide came in very handy, and now that I know how the meat grinder works I don’t care that it takes a while to process. It doesn’t take so long that it interferes with my ability to promote. Now that the payment schedule is accelerated I have even less reason to go to D2D. Plus Mark is hands-on and accessible which I appreciate.

    • Bryan

      Big fan of Mark Coker for sure. Good point, Dave.

  • I used to use smashwords to publish a magazine (and I think most of the downloads were from the smashwords store). But by the time I was ready to publish my novellas, I had found Draft2Digital and the ease of using them meant that I switched over immediately. I may be “losing” sales from their store, but I really really don’t want to have to deal with the meatgrinder.

    • Bryan

      Do you think you are losing sales, Eustacia? I’ve definitely gotten a lot of sales from D2D.

      • Hmm… I’ve never put my novellas through smashwords so I can’t tell, but I do remember a few sales (from the smashwords storefront) every now and then for the magazine/short story that I did put on smashwords. Then again, I didn’t sell anything through its distribution channels.

        I’ve sold… I think 6 books through Draft2Digital, but I’m not losing hope yet.

        • Bryan

          Never lose hope ;).

  • I use Smashwords to get me into stores not serviced by D2D.

    I my be reacting to a different story, but am also confused by your take on Book Bundles. I’d heard the issue was KU Bundles containing works that were available as stand-alones outside of AMZ making significant portions of the larger work non-exclusive in violation of Select rules.

    • Bryan

      Hey Edwin. What you’re stating definitely breaks Amazon TOS. But, in this case, the titles were only on Amazon, and Amazon still took ‘em down.

      • My understanding is that the one publishing the book has to have exclusive rights to everything inside. If the books or works are still published directly by the authors, then they obviously don’t have that. The TOS don’t say ‘right to publish,’ but say ‘exclusive rights to the work.’ I’m paraphrasing, btw.

        • Bryan

          Exactly. Yeah, that’s where it gets tricky, because they’re not applying it evenly across the board.

          • In all seriousness, I unpublished all of the This is the End multi-author boxes. I hadn’t realized that there were KU titles in each one. I’m surprised I didn’t get red-flagged right away. They lasted 3 years which is a long time for multi-author boxes.

  • I started out with Smashwords in 2012 but have pulled out as I regroup. Will be going back in this year with D2D and IngramSpark. SW really needs a UI update.

    • Bryan

      “SW really needs a UI update.” Agreed, Bill.

  • Crissy Moss

    I did submit to Smashwords. I prefer D2D so much, Smashwords is …. well, a meat grinder.
    I was actually thinking of going wide again with some of my books, but if I do I will be going through D2D again. The only two platforms worth going direct are Amazon and Kobo. Everything else is too aggravating.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the input, Crissy!

  • I do use SW, but it’s the very last service I use. Like Bryan, I’m all on board with D2D. Like Jim said, people go for easy.

    • Bryan

      All about the big easy, Raphyel.

  • kimolisa

    I’ve been using Smashwords since 2012, to the point that I offer formatting services on Fiverr for authors publishing through Smashwords, but I’ve moved to D2D simply for the money.

    I’ve got over $300 sitting in SW because I live in a country that doesn’t support PayPal. If I enter a US address for a freight forwarder, they require me to enter a Social Security number which I don’t have because I’m not a US citizen. Then in conversation with their people, I discover that they can send it to an account I have with Payoneer but I have to reach a threshold of $500, unfortunately, I’ve already pulled the books that have been selling and placed them in D2D.

    What kills me is I’ve already gotten paid by D2D and I’ve only been with them for a few months, I’ve been with Smashwords for over 4 years and I have yet to get paid. Le sigh.