Epublishing: Smashwords vs. Amazon

With the recent self-publication of my first novel “The Soul Detective,” a reader of my blog noticed the link from my novel on my home page takes those interested to Smashwords.

The reader asked why I chose Smashwords over Amazon.

The short answer was I didn’t. I actually went with both. But because I used Smashwords first, I linked to that website first. Since this reader asked about it, I thought I might detail the differences that separate the two for any other writers going the self-publication route, specifically via epublishing.

When researching the best sites and methods to go about epublishing, I stumbled across Smashwords. Several other blogs suggested checking it out. So I obviously did.

I instantly loved it. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, comes across as someone who generally wants writers to be successful, whether it’s financially, philosophically or just plain happily to produce an ebook.

Coker’s desire to help writers epublish is evident in the painstaking length he’s gone to to help writers publish to Smashwords. Coker published the Smashwords Style Guide, a completely free step-by-step guidebook to publishing on Smashwords. The effort put forth in the guidebook is wonderfully helpful.

The reason Coker and Smashwords does this is twofold:

1. To make sure readers who’ve gone to lengths to download and read your book are rewarded with an easy-to-read ebook;

2. To make sure that the biggest ebook retailers (Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Sony, Diesel) distribute your book. Smashwords acts as a distributor to ship your books to all those other ebook retailers. That means, that simply by following the guidebook, you just need to publish to Smashwords (correctly as the style guide indicates) and Smashwords will in turn distribute to all those retailers.

Now, with Amazon, Amazon does not distribute to all those retailers. However, Amazon and its Kindle are the most widely used ebook outlet. Smashwords and Amazon work together a little bit in that some (albeit very few) ebooks from Smashwords are distributed to Amazon. Regardless, Smashwords does make publications available on its site for Kindle users, so even if you were to opt to solely publish at Smashwords (though it doesn’t makes sense to), Kindle readers can still find your work of art at SW.

Amazon also has step-by-step instructions to epublish to its site, Kindle Direct Publishing. However, it didn’t seem to be quite as in depth, nor did I really need it because after following the guides set down by Smashwords, I had already pretty much done everything KDP requires.

Beyond those steps for the two, they start to vary. Amazon has plenty of options for printing hard copies of your novels. They also have a number of paid options to help produce your book, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Smashwords has helpful tips and insights, but they don’t go to the length Amazon does because that’s not the goal at SW. They want an author to write and enjoy their writing. Naturally, they want you to sell some books too because they (like any ebook retailer) get their cut.

So when choosing where to publish, use the best outlets available to you. For me, it seems like both of these sites provided great options.


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