One of the keys to running a successful business is to have as wide a distribution as possible for the product you are selling. For writers of e-books, that wide distribution comes from Smashwords.
Somewhat like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, Smashwords allows the writer to self publish his or her own works online and sell it in e-book formats. But that's where most of the similarities end. While there is no doubting the power Amazon has to help promote an indie writer, Smashwords does many, many things which Amazon does not.
Smashwords does something else even more important for writers. The site currently distributes e-books to more than a half dozen e-book distributors online. If that doesn't impress you, keep in mind the names of some of these distributors. Barnes & Noble. Sony. Kobo. Apple. And others.
What this means is you can go to one site, upload your e-books, and in a matter of days or weeks your e-books will be available for sale throughout the Web on multiple sites, many of them major retail sites. And if you don't want to send your work to all the sites, Smashwords does allow you to opt out of the ones you don't want to use.
Currently a writer cannot use Smashwords to make his or her e-books available at Amazon or Google, but that seems to be in the works. How do I know this? Because I regularly follow the Smashwords Site Updates and the Smashwords blog, both written by Smashwords Founder Mark Coker (who is a swell guy, by the way, if you ever have any contact with him).
All of this might sound confusing to the beginning e-book writer and publisher, but take heart. Smashwords has a free Smashwords Style Guide e-book available in multiple formats that offers step-by-step instructions on how to format an e-book for their services.
Now, beginners often are curious as to how much all of this will cost them. You've written your novel, formatted the e-book properly and now you're set to upload it to Smashwords, but what will the charges be?
What? Say that again.
That's right. Nothing.
There are currently no start-up fees whatsoever on Smashwords, and there are no fees down the road. So how does Smashwords itself stay in business? The same way Amazon and other self-publishing e-book sites do, by taking a percentage of your sales. Which means Smashwords only makes money if you make money. And don't worry about that percentage being too high, because you will stay make a good percentage yourself. How do you know what the percentages are? Well, to be honest, that's complicated. Why? Because of all the different distributors with which Smashwords deals, and because of foreign sales, the percentages you earn tend to fluctuate up and down somewhat. But it's still usually about more than 50 percent on average. The good thing, however, is that you the creator of an e-book get to set the prices for your e-books. You can even give your e-books away free, and some writers do this in order to try and build readership.
So go check out the Smashwords FAQ, and decide if the site is right for your self-publishing adventures. I'd bet it most likely is.