Since I started text formatting services a few years ago, the question I get asked most is what is the difference between Smashwords and Amazon and do I really need to publish on both? Estimates vary from person to person but generally it’s safe to assume that, at the present time in the USA, Apple’s eBook market share is approximately 15%, Amazon’s is 50% and Barnes & Noble is 20% .
Assuming these figures are correct, obviously this makes Amazon the best bet, but then why would anyone wish to sell their eBook product to only half of the possible market? Yet this is the dilemma people face when they consider using Amazon’s KDP Select service. This stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. According to Amazon themselves, here’s how you benefit:
Keep control. Make changes to your book at any time.
Distribute globally. Publish once and reach readers worldwide.
Get to market fast. Publishing takes less than 5 minutes. Your book appears on Amazon within 24 hours.
Earn 70% royalty. Available to customers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, and more.
Multiple languages. Publish in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese.
Publish to Kindle platform. Make your book available on Kindle devices and on free Kindle apps.
Now all the above is true except they forget to mention the main sticking point (unless you look closely at the small print ): that eBooks enrolled in KDP Select must:
“not be available in digital format on any other platform during their enrollment. If your book is found to be available elsewhere in digital format, it may not be eligible to remain in the program. When you make your book exclusive to Kindle for at least 90 days, it will be part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library for the same period and you will earn your share of a monthly fund when readers borrow your books from the library. You can also promote your book as free for up to 5 days during these 90 days. “
So are these benefits all worth it for reaching only half of your target market? Amazon undoubtedly still dominates the market for self-publishing and eBooks, but that does not necessarily make it the best and only option.
So let’ s assume you decide to publish on both Amazon (without KDP Select) and Smashwords premium catalog at the same time. What are the differences?
Formatting is honestly a nightmare on Smashwords. Harsh words, but unless you are familiar with line breaks, the differences between page layout and eBook page layouts, font sizes, and paragraph returns, then it’s not going to be easy for you to get your eBook on the Smashwords Premium Catalog without going through a lot of frustration and time. Smashwords provides a free 36 page guide that has to be followed to the letter or your Microsoft Word file will not be converted by Smashword’s software converter into the files for the different e-readers. Because Smashwords converts your file to several e-formats, it’s not easy to preview them to see if there any mistakes, and the changes Smashwords requests are often late in arriving and hard to understand.
Amazon’s rules, however, are much simpler and easier to follow. Authors make far fewer mistakes initially and hence go through the conversion process far quicker. In addition, the preview mechanism is excellent. Authors can see their mistakes immediately, correct them on their word file, and then upload it again in just a couple of minutes.
2. Upload Time
When you upload your book to Amazon, it becomes available on the market within hours. However, conversion times for Smashwords and its premium catalog vary enormously and are extremely unreliable. Anything from 5 to 30 hours depending on internet traffic and the time of the day. Some report even longer times.
Even when you are approved for the Premium catalog, the problems aren’t over.
Because Amazon is one entity, the process is a lot simpler: you pass the test and you’re off. With Smashwords though, your eBook is sent to many different eBook retailers which poses a few more problems:
(a) your book has to go through the famous Apple certification. There seems to be no logic in what gets approved, it seems to be more about who is sitting down that day to examine your eBook.
(b) Different delays caused by individual retailer certifications and backlogs means insecure waiting times. Also, this makes it harder to predict when your eBook will go on sale and makes it harder to implement sales targets.
(c) Human error becomes more likely with wrong prices and wrong genres, which in turn are harder to spot.
(d) The time taken for a correction you have made can take weeks to update on the retailer’s sites.
3.Price and Royalties
Neither Smashwords nor Amazon charge to self-publish electronically. Instead they make their money on the sales of eBooks. Authors’ commissions from Smashwords differ between platforms, but are mostly in the region of 60%. Selling on Smashwords’ own website pays its writers a flat royalty fee of 85% of net sales (after the transaction fee), but if you are expecting to make any significant sales here, think again. Transaction fees charged by the retailers can include payment processing fees, affiliate fees, retailer discounts, costs for erroneous transactions, credit charge-backs, and other associated fees.
Amazon authors receive between 35% and 70% of sales for most eBooks (it’s based on price, location, and tax status).
To receive the 70% royalty rate, books must:
• Be priced between $2.99 and $9.99
• Be limited to sales in certain countries
• Must cost at least 20% less than any physical version of the book
Delivery fees will be deducted from the 70% royalty, though not from the 35% royalty. Books sold under the 35% royalty can be priced from $0.99 to $200 and can be sold in any country. In other words, it’s complicated…
4. Discounts and Promotions
Remember we are not talking KDP here but sometimes you have to sweeten the deal to make a sale, offering discounts and even free copies to spread word of mouth and yet Amazon does not allow its writers to offer discounts or free copies. There is a Kindle gift system in place, but you have to pay for your own content. However, you can offer any kind of discount that you choose through Smashwords which is useful if you want to provide review copies, give gifts to family and friends, or encourage more sales through a limited promotion.
With amazon all the reviews are in one place, on one site rather than scattered all over the place as they are on many different retailer web sites.
Obviously looking at all the points above, it seems that Amazon is easily the better option. But the eBook market place is changing everyday and my advice is definitely to have your fingers in as many pies as possible in preparation for the changes. I personally cannot bring myself to be limited to half the potential market simply because it’s harder to reach the other 50%.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~by Roger Gerald Scott, award winning author, co-founder of AHA site, provider of professional e-services at www.ebookformattinganddesign.com