Smashwords, one of the e-book pioneers, is very much a DIY operation. You bring your Word file and cover image, upload it into the company’s “meatgrinder” tool, and in a matter of minutes, you create your e-book in just about every format you’d want. You can then sell that e-book on Smashwords.com or have the company aggregate it out to most of the major e-book sellers, including Barnes & Noble’s eBookstore, Apple’s iBooks, Sony, Kobo, and Stanza. Smashwords says it will soon have a deal in place for the Kindle.
Smashwords offers a free style guide for formatting your e-book and focuses on keeping things simple. I created an acceptable-looking e-book in about 30 minutes after making some tweaks (usually they involve spacing between chapter breaks) and reprocessing my file three times. You don’t get a table of contents, which some people care about and others don’t. Your e-book will not look exactly like an e-book from a traditional publisher, but if you follow Smashwords’ guidelines, you can end up with an e-book that looks decent and will satisfy most readers.
Smashwords prides itself on not charging you for creating your e-book and taking only a small cut of author’s royalties (see Smashwords’ overview ). Though the cut is small, it’s still a cut, but that’s the price you’re paying for the convenience of having your book distributed on a wide array of platforms. You also have the option of acquiring your own “premium” ISBN. I’m not going to get into a full on discussion of ISBN, which is “a unique identifier associated with your e-book, but most companies provide a free ISBN for your e-book or roll the price up into a package. Smashwords has a good quick guide to e-book ISBNs that you should take a look at.
As you might imagine, when you have a middleman taking a cut, it becomes harder to figure out just how much you’re taking home from every sale of your e-book. I asked Smashwords’ CEO Mark Coker how much an author stood to make on an e-book priced at £2.99. Here’s what he had to say:
- A £2.99 Smashwords book on Apple’s iBookstore earns £1.794 (60 percent of the retail price). Smashwords takes 10 percent of the retail price or £.299.
- At Barnes & Noble’s eBookstore, a Smashwords author earns 42.5 percent of the suggested list price set by the author, so a £2.99 book = £1.27 to the author and £.22425 to Smashwords. This equals 85 percent of the net to author.
- At Kobo, which also powers Borders eBookstore, an author earns 46.7 percent of the suggested list price, so £2.99 = £1.39 to author and 25 cents to Smashwords.