Smashwords vs Amazon

When I initially published In the Shadow of Angels, I published it through Amazon – mostly because the interface on Createspace guides you directly to the KDP page when you publish the print version. There was also the part of me that liked the familiarity of it being on Amazon; I’d never made a purchase from Smashwords, and assumed that a lot of other people hadn’t as well. Now that my 90 day exclusivity contract for KDP is up, I have published it on Smashwords as well, and I am rethinking the entire Amazon angle.

Smashwords is much more friendly to the indie author. It makes publishing in multiple formats very easy, and gives you a lot of stats as an author that Amazon simply doesn’t offer. It can’t replace Amazon (they don’t distribute to Amazon except in very specific circumstances) but it does distribute to most other online ebook vendors. Well worth giving up the potential downloads through Kindle Unlimited and KOLL. Add to that the “reader sets the price” function (now the reader has no reason not to buy it -and you don’t have to pick only a certain number of days per 90 to make it free), and it’s a done deal.

As a reader, I love the Smashwords interface. It is so simple to navigate and find exactly what I am looking for. On Amazon, I have to choose my genre and scroll through hundreds of pages of short stories and books labeled “free sample” to try to find actual books, then look into a book description to see if it is actually a full length novel. It is a real pain in the ass. That same process on Smashwords comes down to choose your genre, choose your word count (greater than 50,000 words), choose the price you want to pay (free, 99¢ and under, $2.99 and under, etc.) and you’re done. So for the purposes of my new indie book reviews, I can quickly find a newly released indie book and start reading. Prior to using smashwords, it literally took me at least an hour to find a suitable novel on Amazon. That process took me under two minutes yesterday.

No, you’re not going to be finding the latest novel by Grisham, King, or any other established authors on Smashwords, but to me, that is the point. I would rather plop down my three bucks (2.99 is a self-imposed limit on what I will pay for an indie book) and hope to find a gem, helping out a fledgling indie author in the process, than to plop down ten or fifteen bucks to be the millionth person to read the latest novel from [whoever].

In short, as both an indie author and a reader, Smashwords is significantly more user friendly than Amazon. It can’t replace distribution on Amazon (yet), but at least for the foreseeable future, I will be getting my books from them instead of Amazon. I’ve even updated my sidebar to give my Smashwords link top placement.

I especially like the choose how much you want to pay feature. That means I can reasonably download a book and pay only after I’ve read it. In the case of the indie books I’ve reviewed so far, I would have shelled 2.99 for one of them, 99¢ for two of them, and one of them I wouldn’t have dropped a dime for. If you are considering reading In the Shadow of Angels, I encourage you to do the same. Download it, read it, and if you think it was worth anything, pay after you’re done. If you don’t think it was worth anything, don’t pay (I’d love someone who doesn’t think it was worth anything to send me a PM or email with the reasons why. Maybe it’s something I can address). It really is a beautiful system.

I’ve only just started using Smashwords, if my opinions happen to change on any of this over time, I’ll post about it here.

One other thing to note regarding Smashwords is that when if you download the .mobi file for your directly to your kindle, it won’t show up as a book normally does. It will appear in your ‘docs’ folder and will have a white cover that says ‘kindle’ instead of a the standard kindle cover. You can read it from there just fine if you want, but it won’t have the feature of automatically saving your location. All you have to do to solve the issue is email the .mobi file to your kindle address (if you have a kindle, it registered an email address for you which is probably your name plus a couple of numbers followed by To find that address, just tap the ‘docs’ tab on your Kindle and click on the button that says ’email’. It will display a message telling you your kindle email address. Once you send it to that address, it should display as a normal book. I suspect that this extra step is intentional on the part of Amazon to try to keep you from downloading books from other sources, but I’m a bit cynical.

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