Smashwords or Amazon?

I published Death on a Dig four days ago to, meaning it’s selling on Smashwords’ web site here. It isn’t available yet on any other sites – Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and a half dozen others Smashwords distributes to – because it has yet to go through a ‘manual review.’

I decided on Smashwords over Amazon’s Kindle Select because, since Smashwords offers a much higher royalty rate, it seemed worth the experiment. Many years ago HarperCollins published my non-fiction Girls of Summer: In Their Own League and I recently republished it as an ebook on under their Kindle Select program.

I wanted to compare that experience to Smashwords.

Here’s what I now know that I didn’t know when I uploaded my book to Smashwords.

  •  Smashwords’ ‘manual review’ period is open-ended. If it still hasn’t been accepted for wider distribution after 10 days, I am encouraged to get in touch with them to find out why. When I first uploaded it to Smashwords, I received one error that I corrected immediately. I have another six days to go before I can expect to get their attention about whether or not other errors need to be corrected. I have emailed them about this, but don’t expect a reply. Effectively, it’s being sold exclusively on Smashwords for 10 days.
  • I have now uploaded Death on a Dig to Amazon, but not under Kindle Select, which means the book isn’t eligible for their lending program or other promotional efforts.   It’s my fault that I didn’t put Death on a Dig for sale on Amazon the same day that it went up on Smashwords. (Thanks to a couple of Goodreads authors who helped me with that.) If I had realized I could sell it on Amazon and Smashwords at the same time, I would have followed up sooner. I am learning all of this as I go, and I had confused the Kindle Direct (general) and Kindle Select (exclusive) programs, and thought that if it wasn’t exclusive to Amazon, I couldn’t sell it there at all.
  • Smashwords has two columns reflecting sales and downloads. The sales column includes all books purchased, including those purchased with a coupon, meaning for free. The download column includes all downloads, including multiple downloads by those who have purchased the book once. The only way to figure out exactly how many people have paid the full price for the book is to figure out your royalty for one, look at the left hand side for the total royalty you are currently owed, and do some math.  So 12 sales, 17 downloads – how many sales for full price?  Well, royalties are $16.04 and I receive $5.94 per book, so that means I have sold three. And yes, I know that the math is wrong. I am estimating because even with a calculator, I can’t make it come out right. I suspect that Smashwords and I share the blame for that.
  • Amazon is very thorough in all the information they provide to authors about Kindle Select (the program giving them exclusivity for an ebook) and about setting up an Author page. Nowhere, however, does it emphasize to authors that if they decide not to enroll their ebook in Kindle Select, they can still offer it for sale on You have to infer that from the information given. I suspect that’s a deliberate omission.

I expect that any minute now I will receive an email from Smashwords letting me know that Death on a Dig is being more widely distributed as I read, and an email from Amazon letting me know that it is online there as well.

I can’t wait (fingers tap, tap, tapping).

If you want to know how this turns out, you can Follow my blog to the right.

Update:  Of course, as soon as I published this, Amazon informed me it is now live on their site

Categories: Self-publishing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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