Smashwords: Good or Bad?

In today’s high-tech world of self-publishing, the internet is full of self-publishing companies. With so many options available, those looking to self-publish their first book are often confused by these different offers. This leads to a popular question among my clients: where is the best place to self-publish my book?

Above all else, I always tell clients that they should never pay money to self-publish their book. The company should earn their revenue from a percentage of the royalties. That brings us to the popular site, Smashwords.

For those who don’t know about Smashwords, it is a free e-book publishing website that distributes to all major retailers. This includes popular platforms like iBooks and Nook. However, is it truly a good deal? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

The Pros of Using Smashwords

  • It’s very easy to sign up for an account and get started.
  • The author has full control over their book. This includes price and what platforms the book is distributed to.
  • Smashwords is completely free with no hidden fees. This includes free listing, a free ISBN, and even free tracking.
  • Smashwords provides a free, howbeit very complicated, formatting guide.

The Cons of Using Smashwords

  • Smashwords limits the size of books.
  • Smashwords is extremely picky about formatting. They are so picky that those unfamiliar to using Styles or other advanced setting in MS Word will have to hire a professional to format their book.
  • Their automated formatter (called the Meatgrinder) is overly zealous and often frustrating.
  • Limited Market Outlets.
  • Super picky about book covers. It must be a specific size, orientation, and of high quality. This really isn’t a bad thing though but will annoy some people.
  • Authors are forced to include “Smashwords Edition” on the copyright page. Furthermore, Smashwords also restricts any links to books that are not published through Smashwords.

As you can see, Smashwords is extremely hostile when trying to combine it with other publishing methods. This limits the amount of exposure you can generate from books sold through Smashwords.

The biggest problem with Smashwords is Smashwords. They are limiting themselves by not upgrading their policies to match the times. While they were certainly the “go-to” self-publisher in the early days of self-publishing, many other free services are emerging that blow Smashwords out of the water.

Overall, it’s not a terrible product but it could really use some improvements. I will still recommend it for specific genres of books but if they do not revisit their policies, then I might remove it from my list of recommendations in the near future.

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