I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, May 14, 2012

May Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing Series (Week 2: Rachel Morgan Guest Post) (and Random Act of Kindness BLITZ!)

Welcome to my May Monday series on Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing. I hope you'll find heaps of information and knowledge within these posts to help you on your writing journey or give you information about the journey other writers are undertaking. I'll have guest posts from:
  1. Michael Offutt (last Monday), 
  2. Rachel Morgan from Rachel Morgan Writes (today),
  3. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse (May 21), and 
  4. Adina West from Stairways and Landings (May 28).
They're all either already published or have books that are coming out soon via self-publishing or digital publishing, and they're going to share some of their publishing journeys with you, give you interesting information about self/digital publishing, and even give you the chance to win some cool loot! And each of the four weeks, I'll be popping in some agent tips/posts and "link love" on the pros and cons of self- or digital publishing as well.

Some agent thoughts on self-publishing

Natalie Lakosil has answered some Author Q & A on Self-Publishing, including how authors can publish traditionally after self-publishing.

Rachelle Gardner has written a post on the intriguing question of: Are Agents Running Scared?

Nathan Bransford has written so many awesome posts on self-/digital publishing. This week his post is about The Biggest Challenges in the New Era of Publishing.

Some "link love"

Rachel Morgan shares some of her publishing stats in her guest post below. And if you are interested in hearing about the publishing stats of another published author, check out Shelli Johannes's recent post where she gives an Update From the Indie Front: My Indie Sales Update. It's very enlightening to see how she's done over the last six months of self-publishing.

Tracey H. Kitts has written a post on Why Do So Many Hate Self-Published Books - I don't know if any  of you have experienced this attitude, but it's an interesting read in any case.

In keeping with the week's focus on "Self-Publishing Stats" and the experiences of self-published authors, here's the post from Amanda Hocking that I mentioned last week, where she talks about the success of her two new series, which are being "traditionally published": How Am I Doing Now?

I hope all those links are very helpful. And here is Rachel Morgan's guest post, where she gives her experiences of self-publishing and compares Amazon KDP vs Smashwords:

Rachel Morgan's Guest Post

Self-Publishing: Amazon KDP vs Smashwords

Amazon KDP

  • I found the formatting requirements to be simpler than Smashwords.
  • Everyone knows Amazon! More people will come across your book.
  • Bestseller lists. Customers can see your book’s ranking overall on the Kindle Store as well as within specific categories. This is a good thing if your book is doing well, but possibly not a good thing if your ranking isn’t great!

  • Amazon only sells one ebook format—the Kindle format—and so their ebooks can only be read on Kindles.
  • You have to wait up to 48 hours for your ebook to be available for sale.
  • The categories you choose when you upload and publish your ebook are NOT exactly the same as the search categories in the Kindle Store. So all the research I did beforehand (number of books in each category, as well as keyword searches within each category) was almost useless!
  • Your ebook can end up on a random bestseller list, which may confuse readers. For example, in its first week, Guardian ended up on an Anthologies bestseller list, despite the fact that it’s not an anthology!
  • You cannot make your book free unless it is enrolled in the KDP Select program, where you then have the option of 5 free days during every 90 day period. (Unless you try and force Amazon into a price match, but you don’t know how long that will take, or how long it will take for them to put a price back on it.)
  • Your ebook may be “lost” whilst publishing! I hadn’t heard of this until it happened to me! When I published the second installment in the Creepy Hollow series, Labyrinth, I received the standard email from Amazon congratulating me on publishing a book, and giving me the link to where I could find it. However, when I clicked on the link, I got a 404 Not Found error. Over and over again! After some research on the KDP forums, I discovered a few other people had experienced the same problem. One person was still waiting a MONTH later for their book to show up! Fortunately, Amazon “found” my book within a day or two. Phew!


  • Smashwords produces multiple formats of your ebook, so customers can read it on many different e-readers.
  • Smashwords distributes to other online retailers, like Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and Baker & Taylor.
  • Your ebook can be available for sale on the site within minutes (depending on (I imagine) how many other people are uploading at the same time).

  • I found the formatting requirements to be a little more complicated (or at least long-winded) than Amazon’s.
  • Not as many people buy from Smashwords.
  • You have to wait a while for your book to be approved for the Smashwords Premium Catalogue. It took a little over two weeks for Guardian to be approved. (Smashwords won’t distribute your ebook to any retailers until it has been approved.)
  • There are no ranking details for your book.
  • Distribution times. After a book is approved, it is supposed to take one to two weeks to show up on other online retail sites. I found Guardian on Sony, Kobo and Diesel within that time, but a MONTH after it had been approved, when I unpublished Guardian from Smashwords so that I could try out Amazon’s KDP Select program, the book STILL had not shown up on Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore. (That was on April 25th, and I first published Guardian on March 5th)

Other Comments

DRM and Piracy
Another difference between Amazon and Smashwords is DRM (Digital Rights Management). I didn’t list it in the pros and cons, because it can be both a pro and a con! On Amazon you can choose whether you want to apply DRM or not. On Smashwords there is no option. None of their books have DRM. If you don’t want anyone pirating “sharing” your ebook with others, then you’ll want to have DRM. However, honest customers who have no intention of passing on copies of your book may still find this frustrating as it means they can only read your ebook on one device. There have been many debates on whether piracy of ebooks is a good or bad thing, and this blog post isn’t about that. (But you’re welcome to bring it up in the comments if you want!)

Difference in Sales Numbers
At the time that I unpublished Guardian and Labyrinth from Smashwords (so that I could try out Amazon's KDP Select program) I had sold about six times more copies on Amazon than through Smashwords. And through the retailers that Smashwords distributes to, I had sold only ONE copy!

~  ~  ~

Thanks so much for that awesome guest post, Rachel! Here is her bio and her links:

Rachel Morgan was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. She always loved reading, but decided to do something science-y with her brain when she left school. She studied Genetics and Biochemistry, but eventually realized that research wasn’t for her—writing was! These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school girls, she writes fiction for young adults.

The Creepy Hollow Series
Author Links

A Giveaway! 

Rachel has kindly offered a giveaway! Just leave a comment then click through the Rafflecopter link below :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Random Act Of Kindness Blitz

A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing Community

Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook.

Kindness ROCKS!

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

I am randomly picking Rachel Morgan, who is a good friend--Rachel was my fifteenth follower, and her comment on one of my posts in late 2010 inspired me to create my Writers' Platform-Building Campaign, which I know has helped so many of you connect with other writers and build your platform. I thought it rather appropriate to choose Rachel, given she has shared her guest post with us today *grins*.

Rachel, for my RAOK gift, I'm offering to help by critiquing your next book in the CREEPY HOLLOW series :) And if you have a minute, please stop in and tell Rachel how awesome she is!

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round. :)

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

How about you: Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness? Were there any links above that will be useful to you? Are you self-publishing or digital publishing - if so, where are you in your publishing journey? 


AimeeLSalter said...

Wow, GREAT guest post, Rachel! (And thanks... er... Rachel...)

What a great way to start ROAKB!

Unknown said...

Oh WOW! Thank you so much for that Random Act of Kindness!! And thank you for hosting me today :-)

Stina said...

Thanks Rachel for the great post and congrats on being selected for the RAOK. :D

Joanna said...

Rachel, love the clarity and stats of this post. Many thanks and very deserving of the random act of kindness.

Libby said...

I had the same results on smashwords vs. Amazon. However, the coupon generator on Smashwords is helpful for book reviewers, that way they can get a copy any way they'd like.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I am loving RAOK today - and what a great pick in Rachel! Thanks for the great post(s)!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great post, Rachel, and congrats on your RAOK! I think the more opportunities authors have, the better it is for authors.

Patti said...

Such great information on self publishing. I'm definitely bookmarking this post. And I really liked how you picked a commenter who inspired your campaign.

Will Entrekin said...

Amazon only sells one ebook format—the Kindle format—and so their ebooks can only be read on Kindles."

False. Correct it can be read only using a Kindle application, but the Kindle application is available for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod), Android (myriad phones & tablets), Windows, Mac, and most browsers (so wherever an internet connection is available.

Plus, of course, the Kindle devices mentioned (Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, and Kindle Fire).

Also, with regard to availability, the 48-hour stat is an outlier Amazon indicates it might take a book to reach other territories (UK, DE, etc.). They actually indicate it takes 12 hours for a title to become available in the US store, and I've found it generally takes quite a bit less (usually four or so).

cleemckenzie said...

Love your post, Rach, but that's nothing new. I always love your posts!

Great pros and cons on this business of self-publishing.

Here's to #RAOK. May they continue.

Sue Ann Bowling said...

One thing I'm not absolutely sure of. I understand ADP Select is publish-there-and-nowhere-else. But can you publish both Smashwords and Amazon if you don't go select?

Peter D. Shapiro said...

I've hesitated to add Smashwords as an ebook platform for my novel GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE (in addition to Kindle and Nook) because of its lack of DRM. I'm not worried so much about unpaid copying (piracy) as about someone reissuing my book on Amazon under his or her own name, a form of theft that has been reported recently. Also I have a question -- if your book is already available on BN.com for Nook, and Smashwords makes its version available on BN.com, then what happens? Does it appear twice on BN.com? More generally, how are ebook distribution overlaps handled between Smashwords, Kindle, and BN.com?

Concerning time for GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE to appear on Kindle, in my case it was ~12 hours. Nook was even faster.. maybe a couple of hours.

Rick G said...

Awesome post, Rachel. I have to say, little by little, I'm falling out of love with Smashwords. For starters, sales there pale in comparison to Amazon and even B&N (for me at least). The only plusses for their distribution for me have been a few sales on Apple's store.

Secondly, it's a control issue. I spend far more time formatting for Smashwords, yet I feel I have better control over how the end product will appear on Amazon. If I format for kindle, then I can test on kindle devices and know how things are going to look before I upload. If I do it on Smashwords, I have to wait for their conversion and then download everything and hope it looks fine...if not, rinse and repeat.

Unknown said...

Aimee, Stina, Joanna - Thanks for stopping by :)

Libby - Oh yes! I forgot to mention the coupon thing for Smashwords. That's definitely a pro :)

Thanks, Susan!

Nicole - It's probably true that the more "outlets" our books are available at, the better.

Thanks, Patti :)

Will - Yes, that's true, I forgot about the other Kindle apps. I've never liked reading on a computer, but forgot that there are smaller devices you can download a Kindle app for.
Of course, I'm only talking about my own experience here, and it's always taken longer than 12 hours for me. You must be lucky!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Author Lindsay Mead said...

I find this all very frustrating and I blame Amazon for it. All I want to do is publish my book and make it available everywhere, but that's not possible with Amazon. They're the leading sellers, so you need them. However if you publish through them, you alienate everyone who has a Nook or other e-reading device.

Unknown said...

cleemckenzie - The posts here are always great :)

Sue Ann Bowling - If you're NOT on KDP Select then you can publish on BOTH Smashwords and Amazon.

Peter - I think you book would appear twice on BN.com as it would have a BN ISBN and a Smashwords ISBN. But on the Smashwords distribution manager, you can "opt out" of any of the channels. So I opted out of the Amazon distribution channel, as I already published there separately.

Rick - I know EXACTLY what you mean! More mission to format for Smashwords, and yet it can still turn out "wonky"!

Unknown said...

Lindsay - Well, you don't have to publish exclusively through Amazon. Only if you want to use their KDP Select program. But yes, then it is kinda "unfair" to people who have other ereading devices!

Author Lindsay Mead said...

Rachel - Thanks for your reply. I'll have to look into KDP Select and learn more about it. I'm glad to know that you can publish on both Smashwords and Amazon. That would solve the issue of availability. Good, my frustration has lessened lol.

Angela Ackerman said...

I really enjoyed Rachel's guest post--Becca (thankfully) handled most of the uploading stuff, but all of this aligns with what we experienced. Pretty scary about Amazon losing books tho! Yikes!

That's great that she's your RAOK choice as well. That's cool how her comments lead you to do the Crusader campaign!

Thanks so much for joining in today, Rach! It's been so much fun!


Leslie S. Rose said...

Wow, this post is definitely bookmark worthy. Congrats to Rachel for the RAOK love. Our writings buds are the one's who keep our heads above water. I'm having a blast checking out everyone's love posts.

Gwen Gardner said...

Thanks Rachel! You gave us a thorough examination of the pros and cons so now we can make informed decisions. I'll be rereading this post before I make any moves!

J.L. Campbell said...

Lots of good info here on publishing options. I hope I never lose a book in Amazon's system.

I'm liking Rachel's covers a lot.

Abby Minard said...

Great info, Rachel. So can you epublish on both sites at the same time? It looked like you were...but I wasn't sure. Looks like you've really done your research- way to go!

Charmaine Clancy said...

Very helpful interview. There are so many options out there for publishing now it's hard to figure it all out. I love the cultural growth of Indie publishing, so I self-published my debut novel MY ZOMBIE DOG through Amazon's KDP program. It's provided my book with a good platform but I will be publishing through Smashwords as well when the 3mths is up - my only reason is that I don't like the idea of contributing to a monopoly and worry that's what Amazon will become by excluding other publishers.
The RAOK idea is great, I've just been tagged too. Now the hard decision to pick someone!

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi all, Mark from Smashwords here. :)

You've got some great info here, though I think the premise of the headline itself is flawed, and it speaks to a mistake that many authors make. It shouldn't be "Smashwords or Amazon?" It should be both. Amazon gets you approximately 60% of the market (numbers are hard to come by, but that's what some analysts say), so every author should be there. Smashwords can help an author easily and efficiently distribute to other major retailers.

For best practices, and a discussion why more distribution is better than less, download my free ebook, THE SECRETS TO EBOOK PUBLISHING SUCCESS: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431

Miriam Forster said...

Those covers of Rachel's are GORGEOUS. And yay for random kindnesses!

Unknown said...

Angela - It was pretty scary "losing" a book on Amazon!

Leslie - I hope you can find the info useful in the future :)

Gwen - Glad the pros and cons have helped you. Good luck with any epublishing moves you make!

Thanks, JL Campbell!

Abby - Yes, you can publish on both Amazon and Smashwords at the same time (as long as your book is not part of the KDP Select program on Amazon).

Unknown said...

Charmaine - Thanks for stopping by. I'd be interested to hear your experience with KDP Select. I've only recently enrolled my books in the program and it hasn't benefited me much yet.

Mark - Wow, when writing this post it certainly never crossed my mind that the founder of Smashwords himself would read it! I think you're absolutely correct that it benefits authors (and readers too, of course) to distribute through as many channels as possible. I suppose the title of the post was to catch people's attention, really!
The only reason I unpublished from Smashwords was because I wanted to be able to make my books free on Amazon for a period - hence the KDP Select route. But at the end of the 90 day period I'll be back at Smashwords :-)

Miriam - Thank you! I am rather fond of my covers too ;-)

Unknown said...

Hi Rach! That's very useful information on self-publishing and I'm going to check your RAOK blitz(ed) right now ...

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Although I have not published yet, I do have some PBs that would be a possibility for an e-book. Thanks for the comparison, Rachel...very helpful!

Heather Murphy said...

Very useful information! I am stopping by to catch up with blogs that I missed during A-Z as part of the "Road Trip"

Heather said...

Great post, filled with excellent info. Thank you for putting this together. I love all the options open to author now days, it puts the control where it always should have been. But I always stress to anyone who goes indie, use a good editor and work hard to produce the very best book you can!

Unknown said...

Susan - Thanks!

Jarm - Good luck with your PBs! Glad the comparison was useful for you.

Heather Murphy - Well done on catching up with A to Z blogs. There are MANY that I didn't get to visit during April!

Heather - Editing is definitely of major importance.

Mina Burrows said...

Flip'n awesome post, Rach! Loved hearing all the pros & cons about Amazon vs. Smashwords! LOVED IT. Hats off to Rachel Morgan!

Jocelyn Rish said...

Great post from Rachael and Rachel. I met Rachel during the most recent Campaign, and she's awesome. I JUST joined the e-reader world this week, so I'm looking forward to reading her Creepy Hollow books.

Melodie Wright said...

So helpful, Rachel. I'd heard about Smashwords but had no idea how they compared with KDP.

Unknown said...

Fantastic post! Hope you enjoyed the RAOK week too!

Anonymous said...

I am concerned with rights...as in, I truly want to be self-published and retain all rights...can I do this on both Smashwords and Amazon? I heard that if you take a free ISBN number on Smashwords that they become your publisher...what does this mean for your right to pull the book, etc.?

Marcial Galaxio said...

Rachel, thank you for your right-to-the-point article, and thanks to your readers as well... lot's of things becoming clearer for a newbie :)

Hugs from Argentina-Spain

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