As most of my fans know, I use the Smashwords distribution platform to get my novels into the hands of various online retailers. They’re all ebooks. I’ve used CreateSpace and Amazon to market paperbacks of the same titles, plus their companion Kindle versions, because Amazon won’t play nice with Smashwords by switching to the agency model.
I’m not going to discuss Agency versus Wholesale. I’ll leave that up to others.
What I will discuss is the blog over at Smashwords, where Mark Coker gave 10 Reasons Indie Authors Will Capture Half of the Ebook Market by 2020. I read them all. I thought about it. I read it all a second time. I agree with Mark’s comments, but he messed something up. Something that can only be messed up by humble modesty and a powerful effort to not sound too self-important.
I’m going to share, and my reasons for it, my own ’10′ list, as the title of this blog post suggests. Many will claim I’m biased, and well, that I am. But truth is truth, and the absolute truth serves no agenda.
10 Reasons Why Smashwords Will Dominate Ebook Sales By 2016
1. Massive Distribution Channels - The only cost in using the Smashwords distribution channels is a small learning curve, time to properly format and upload into their system, and that’s it. There’s no fees for processing your ebook into several widely used formats all at the same time. Nobody else does that! Not Amazon, not Apple, not anybody. Even with Sony shutting down their ebook services, Smashwords still has a dozen, if not more, retailers who are accepting titles from Smashwords, and selling them world-wide.
2. You Can Buy A Title and Own All Formats with One Price - This is one of the best features at Smashwords, and honestly, I don’t understand why this hasn’t taken off like wildfire. Say you own a Kindle. You buy a title at Amazon, your Kindle breaks… you have to fork out for a new Kindle if you want to ever read that story again. Or download the Kindle Reader to your PC. If you want to replace your Kindle with a Nook and your PC is still offline with a bad video card, you need to re-buy that same novel at Barnes & Noble.
Most people accept that. I can’t, not when I can go to Smashwords, buy that novel, and no matter what ereader I’m using, I can access it. Heck, if my ereader is stolen or killed in an automobile accident, and my computer blows its own circuits out from a power surge, I can still go down to the public library, log in to my Smashwords account, and finish that chapter because you can read that title in HTML, no reader needed! Heck, I can fix my computer and never buy another expensive proprietary electronic etch-a-sketch on steroids again!
For those who need their gadgets, it’s still a no-brainer. If you buy directly from Smashwords, you can own a Nook, or a Kindle, or whatever else is being sold out there, and access and read the same title between all of the devices. You own that title forever! Yours to read however you want, with whatever you want… muwahahaha! *Lightning Flash Here* This is a big-huge thing in my brain department, because if you buy something from say, Amazon, can you read it on your Nook device? Nope!
A Smashwords bought title can be read anywhere, by anything that uses the Internet, with one price. Download your titles onto a USB memory stick or thumb drive, if the Internet isn’t always available to you, to read it on your laptop later on. Nobody else on planet Earth does that.
3. Everything Explained Up Front with No Guessing - There is a small, but important learning curve when you use Smashwords. It won’t cost you a single penny to find out everything you need to know. Smashwords publishes a Style Guide to properly format for conversion. They publish a success guide, among a few valuable tools they offer, completely for FREE. I read The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success and I can tell you here and now, that is a prime education that’s not holding back on anything. It’s not the same tawdry sales pitch hook-fest redneck-grabbing door to door lip service you’ve actually paid money for in the past, just to regret doling out the dollars.
Mark Coker’s must read book will help your ebook become a success, and is actually loaded with supporting data, examples, what works and what doesn’t, and damn if I didn’t increase my own sales by following their observations on how the market works. Not just for authors, but how it works for readers who want to discover your platform and become a fan. I would easily pay up to twenty bucks for that necessary education, and Mark Coker is giving away that powerful piece of work for FREE.
The whole point of it all is staggering. Does anybody else on the Internet not only give you a place to build your own platform for FREE, but share an analytical set of FREE ebooks to show you how to build your own platform for the best sales possible? Nope! Only at Smashwords, and people are still running to other companies, handing out dollars like it grows on trees, just to not learn anything, and wonder why their sales aren’t happening.
Smashwords makes its money when you sell your ebooks. They take a small percentage, and the majority of the royalties go directly to the author. If you get great sales, Smashwords makes money, which is why they provide you everything you need up front for no charge.
4. Smashwords Terrifies the Living BeJeebies out of Amazon - There is a book called ‘Rules for Radicals’ written by Saul Alinsky. Inside it somewhere, is a tactic used to try to change public opinion in a certain direction. It states, and I paraphrase since it has been a while since I read it… “If you can’t argue the facts, if you can’t prove your point as a viable alternative, then attack the subject. Use violent language and insulting terms, but make sure it’s in context of the argument.” Why is this important to know? Over at Amazon, they do not play nice, when it comes to discussing your books sold there as opposed to selling them on Smashwords. They look down upon Smashwords as an ‘upstart’ and while all other retailers across the Internet works with Smashwords openly, freely and without worry, Amazon does not. They see Smashwords as a threat, because they see the potential that Smashwords possesses.
I’ve dealt with Amazon Customer Service employees myself, over the phone. The moment they know I’m a Smashwords author, who is also using the KDP platform individually, I go from “Mr. Roberts” to “Who are you again, and why are you contacting us?” I’ve been bludgeoned with unwanted price changes and low royalty rates because I didn’t want to be exclusive to Amazon only. I want everyone to be able to buy my novels and short stories, not just Amazon customers. Amazon punishes for that, which is sad. Like any bully, they don’t want to share the sandbox. They want to dominate it, and they make no secret about it.
Let me just say this. I’ve listened to a list of obscenities from Amazon Customer Service people when I’ve asked them why haven’t they price-matched my novels at Smashwords and other online retailers that Smashwords services. I’ve never used one cuss word when talking to Amazon, and more than once, I nearly hung up my phone. If they have to verbally attack a company that is not Amazon, I know why. They can’t counter the facts with their own. They have to attack it. It’s what radicals do, especially when they’re afraid.
5. Smashwords Doesn’t Answer to a Board of Investors - Any company beholden to a board of investors may as well be giving blood donations at a vampire-owned blood-bank. I can say this openly and freely, without the Lords of Chaos hunting me down with bloodied pitchforks, so you can quote me on this: “Mankind has known freedom and slavery. Mankind has only recently discovered a level of living hell that stagnates all growth at the whims of the rich idiots who play with the souls of their customers. That’s the Board of Investors, who recently bought, blended, and drank Lucifer’s own heart. Why? Because they could.”
The fact that Mark Coker is in control of Smashwords, he can invest the time and money he makes in the best interests of his customers and partners. I’ve worked for companies that sold their stock to investors, and I’ve worked for companies that re-invested into themselves, to grow and be better, instead of lining the pockets of strangers who would vote their ideas out of existence. Night and day? Hell no. The difference is between the Living and the Dead. A living company that can grow on its own is a powerful entity, because they can’t be bought by other companies unless the owner wishes it. Amazon would pee themselves with joy to be able to buy the majority of stock options to absorb Smashwords, if they could get away with it. It’s a good thing they can’t! Mark wouldn’t do that to us on purpose, I’m sure.
6. Smashwords Focuses on a Single Specialization - Ebooks are the only focus for Smashwords, and since 2009 through to today, they’ve come a great distance. This is a boon, because what research, development, deployment and anything else related to ebooks, works so well only for the benefit of ebooks. That single focus is the growing power displayed by Smashwords.
Consider how bloated Amazon is with products. They have to look at the marketing strategies, sales trends and statistics for millions of physical products, well before you get to ebooks. To Amazon, an ebook is only a slice of the pie. To Smashwords, the ebook -is- the whole pie.
Even book and mortar stores that sells paperback bricks… ah, shucks. Sorry. Not enough coffee. Doing that one over. Ahem. Even brick and mortar stores that sells paperback books can’t fully focus on ebooks alone. Traditional Publishers know how to sell paperbacks in their sleep, but by comparison, ebooks are still relatively new. Many people love physical paperbacks, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get their favorite author on their shelves. The moment Smashwords figures out the magic formula to make people want those digital books in the same manner, look out. They’ve almost got it down too, and they’re looking to learn even more, to share it with their Indy Authors, for free. That’s an explosion of success that’s well on the way in its countdown.
Here’s one untested idea. Set up a front-end Smashwords account for a Brick and Mortar Bookstore. It’s a special interface. The store location signs up, gets a free Smashwords account. They make a Wi-Fi connection available in their store, and most already do by the way, and customers with their gadgets and laptops will see an in-store note saying that Smashwords.com is available to browse at that store’s location. They look up Smashwords through the physical store’s Wi-Fi, and get the Smashwords Ebook page, where all the formats are available. If the customer makes a purchase and spends money at Smashwords, the Brick and Mortar store earns the affiliate commission for that sale. People can shop for their traditional paperbacks, but if they want to shop ebooks, they can, and that store location benefits. No price difference for the customer, and the retailer gains a little extra money per sale. Can you see the potential yet? I know I can!
7. Smashwords is Growing Faster than a Magical Bean - Seriously, I love fairy tales. Smashwords is a dose of serious reality, but their growth is still eye-popping. The best part, that growth hasn’t even begun to peak.
Most other retailers have reached their plateau. Amazon is like the large overweight giant at the top of the beanstalk. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the royalties of an author, who thinks they can make off with my treasure!
Smashwords Jack maybe small in comparison, but he is fast, smart, and will work diligently to reach his goals. We know how it turns out for the giant in the end, and that fall is a mighty long one, indeed. Amazon’s unfriendly approach will ultimately doom them, but they have other products they can turn to, during times of difficult profits.
In other words, Smashwords has plenty of room to grow, where other companies are wondering where their profits are going to be by next Christmas. If a retailer depends on the holidays to get their undercutting sales out of the red and back into the black zone, they’re getting too big for their britches. I don’t think Smashwords will have that problem, ever. Think about it. How much ebook inventory do you have to off-load to make space in the warehouse for new merchandise? Precisely. Ebooks don’t have that issue, and it’s a cost saving grace that can only translate into more profits for the company.
8. Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords, Believes in You - Before you chalk this one up to mere hype, you need to know a few things. Another business, one with a Board of Investors and all that yuck stuff that can strangle a company into a financial hurt locker, didn’t have faith in a part of their own business. I’m talking about Dell Computers, Inc where I was a Senior Hardware Technician, Subject Matter Expert and yes, at one point, one of those guys who took phone calls before having fun by training new hires to do the same thing.
At that time in 1999, amid all the crazy Y2K junk the media stirred up for giggles and we knew better in the Tech departments, I heard one of the stockholders say, “Home and small business is only 20% of Dell’s sales. If that goes down the tubes for any reason, we still have our government contracts to keep us afloat.” That attitude prevailed, against my own calling for cooler heads to make better plans. They foresaw their own doom, by making sure it happened. By the end of 2000, Home and Small Business Tech Support needed to be downsized, and outsourced for cheaper tech support, because there was no motivation to do the right thing for that part of the business. They overstaffed one side, understaffed the other, and didn’t bother with comparing metrics over what was working, and what wasn’t.
They gave me a Synergy Award for saving the company some money just because I organized the Laptop Call Center with the Desktop Call Center to work together, as one was getting too many calls without enough technicians, and the other side wasn’t getting enough calls and had way too many technicians on staff. Me, a mere High School Diploma nobody, saved a multi-billion dollar business a ton of money, because I wanted that part of the business to succeed. Yet, they had an office stuffed full of over-educated yuppie blow-hards who didn’t want to figure stuff like that out, because they felt they could lose that part of the business without sinking their jobs.
Right now at Smashwords, we have Mark Coker, who sent me, a nobody, an email one fine day because I felt one of my non-fiction books might end up affecting the sales of my fiction books. I got an email from a customer saying that he didn’t know I was a right-wing nutjob, and if he knew that, since my non-fiction book back then was on Politics, he wouldn’t have ever bought my fiction. I messaged customer service at Smashwords, part of it as an apology for making plans to unpublish one of my books.
Mark himself replied, and I forget much of what he said, but I could tell that he believed in my work. That I should keep everything listed and not to unpublish, where people like that customer wasn’t the majority, but in the minority. He actually felt bad that the reader felt that way. The email wasn’t small either, Mark actually took serious time to reply. I knew then that Smashwords was the right company. Mark believes in his business, he wants every author to succeed in some way, and to never give up. THAT is what makes a business function like it should, that is the fire that makes Smashwords light up so well.
Any business owner who believes in their own company so much that he will go that far to keep a Politically controversial book available, to build my own platform with Smashwords backing it up, I know it won’t be long before such a business all but skyrockets. As a note, that book did eventually get unpublished, but only when the date range for the elections it addressed was well over with.
9. Smashwords Actually Invests In Their Authors Sight Unseen - Any company that is willing to invest in your product, sight unseen, is either genius in design, or totally off their rocker. Nobody at Smashwords is off their rocker. What? You think that free ISBN is free for Smashwords? Consider the amount of books they’ve put up for sale. Now consider, that if each one that uses an ISBN only costs a dime for each ISBN (I know it’s a lot more than that!) you might begin to appreciate how much money they spend just to help you get into a couple of extra online stores. Bowker doesn’t hand those out in large batches of 50,000 ISBN codes for free. They charge for it, and Smashwords pays the price.
You write your ebook. It can be bad, or good, or just so-so. It can have a stellar cover or a crappy cover. It can reek amateur or shine like a professional. You can assign a free ISBN to it once you upload the work for conversion, in any of those instances.
I know that other companies also offer a free ISBN, but don’t think it’s just the cost of doing business. Those other companies charge something for their services. That price, of whatever you need, be it a cover, or editing services, or formatting work that they can offer to do for you, are off-setting those costs. If you pay out a single dime to get published, those funds are deferring some part of the risk in publishing your material. Smashwords charges nothing, anywhere. They provide a list of people who charge for some help if you need it, but they’re not part of Smashwords, and aren’t necessary to upload and publish your work. You can learn to do everything, and do it better than some Traditional Publishing Houses, and reap the rewards for it. There will be no barbarian hovering over you with a battle-ax asking, “What’s in your wallet?” over at Smashwords.
Nobody else that I know of invests in their authors as much as Smashwords does. When the rest of the world figures that out, the stampede for a Smashwords branded novel will be large, and I predict, in the near future.
10. Feeding the Need versus Feeding the Greed - Readers have a powerful need to search for the next best book. Smashwords recognizes this, and monetizes that need by providing such a diverse range of products, it’s hard to know where to start looking. Most people don’t understand how rare that is, because it’s a business model that has worked for centuries. Before taxes, permits and regulations, if you needed something and spent the money for it, those who are providing the product makes a profit, from the ground up. Say it was food. The farmer makes a profit. The store makes a profit. The store and customer both fills a need.
Today, farmers are subsidized, so they can’t make a profit even if they wanted. They’re told what to grow and in what amounts. Stores are taxed to death through permits and fees, so what profits they can make becomes limited. Oh, they make money, but not as much as they could have.
Ebooks are the ground root product of an active imagination. We only have to spend time and effort, and nobody tells us how much we can charge, because it can be unfair to the other author living down the road, who is suffering from a drought… err… from writer’s block. Smashwords can make the best money by supporting us, their authors, from the ground up. No government agency has been able to put a fee, or a regulation upon anything we do…at least yet, over and above what we pay in taxes for income.
Companies like Amazon feeds the greed by sucking in those hard-working authors and literally making sure they reap a larger portion of the royalties, unless a certain amount of things are done in favor for Amazon. So far, it has worked to the tune of millions of extra dollars in their accounts, instead of the pockets of their authors.
With Smashwords, the best royalties are offered, because they know how hard the authors work to produce their books. Smashwords encourages growth, where Amazon will happily consume. Amazon grows a service like a crop. Consider what they’re doing for Audio Books. Once they had a sizable crop of authors that started to make a nice amount of money, they harvested their investment by cutting the royalties down. They spun that golden wheat into bales of future cash, and who lost out, and who won in that department?
When I say that Smashwords feeds the Need, it’s because they serve readers and authors alike, and with plans to keep that strategy in place. That type of business model grew our nation, from 1776 to 1913, building roads, bridges, schools, firehouses, police departments and many other infrastructure without income taxes from our paychecks. Without a sales tax, without permits or usage fees. It not only worked, but worked well, increasing the value of the US dollar by 13% in that time frame. After 1913 and the start of the IRS and income taxes, the value of our dollar, never, ever increased again. Before 1913, the only time when somebody paid into the Federal Government, when Congress was in control of the money supply, was through a percentage of profits made by corporations. That was it. Land taxes paid the local bills when it came to what was needed, not the Fed.
I can see the value of Independent Authors growing in the same light through the Smashwords business model. We make a sale, that is the only time Smashwords makes a percentage of money from our profits. No Board of Investors are needed to support Smashwords, nor did any stock needed to be sold to raise the funds. The company grew on its own, feeding a need rather than feeding the greed, and its a sturdy base to keep growing. The more we succeed, the stronger Smashwords can continue to grow.