Thursday, October 1, 2015

Smashwords Nightmare

My books are for sale where?

Let me preface this. Back in 2012 when I self published my first book, I was happy to load White Lies into Smashwords and send it off to all the retailers they distribute to. Finding my ebook on sale at Barnes and Noble or iTunes was exciting. When Smashwords expanded, I thought that was fantastic. My books were available all over the world. And my reports showed me a trickle of sales in foreign countries. I was delighted.

Then the sales abruptly stopped. In the past 8 months, I've sold only 1 book through all those distributors. I thought it was odd that as I published new books my sales went down, but I haven't been doing a lot of advertising.

Last month I decided to experiment with putting 2 books into KDP exclusively. I unpublished them from Smashwords on August 30, and waited. And waited... Luckily, Scattered Seeds was a pre-sale and didn't go out to all the distributors. Lethal Seasons was another story.

First unhappy surprise - Kobo redistributes my books. I discovered this through a forum somewhere. So I went out to look and sure enough, there are my books on a French website. I have no idea what the market is for post apocalyptic survivor stories in France, much less for those in English in a non-English speaking country. As the author and publisher of that book I was annoyed that I didn't know about this redistribution. Although I admit it could be in the fine print somewhere that I carelessly skimmed over.

Second unhappy surprise - Smashwords can't control their partners. I am still waiting for Flipkart to remove Lethal Seasons from their website, 31 days after making the request. I have emailed them several times, only to be told that all they can do is ask. Even now that they have severed their partnership, Smashwords seems unable to retrieve its catalog from Flipkart.

While staring at the display page for Lethal Seasons on Flipkart, I discovered yet another unhappy surprise: my book is offered for sale through WS Retail. After a little research I found out that WS Retail is owned by Flipkart in some sort of loophole to dodge Indian laws. How that affects me and my little ebook, I've still to sort out.

So some of the retailors are acting as distributors and passing on my books to yet another retailer. I suppose that explains the odd royalty variables. But now I am suspicious of my complete lack of sales through all those new extended channels. It is totally possible that I am just having a bad run. And as I said, I haven't been doing any advertising. But I still have that niggling doubt that sales are falling through the cracks somewhere.

And my marketing plans for the latest book are all on hold. It's hard to promote book 2 when book 1 is being held hostage.

16 comments:

  1. Oh my! This is good to know. I've been out of the loop thanks to RL stuff. Good luck, hope you can get it all sorted out!

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  2. Thank you Necia. Still working on it.

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  3. Sorry to hear about your problems with Smashwords. I hope you get everything straightened out soon. I wish I knew something that could help, but I've never dealt with them.

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    1. Thanks Bridget. Another learning curve in the self publishing journey.

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  4. I had the same experience when I put my books into KDP Select/KU. Amazon contacted me and threatened to never let me publish anything with them ever again under any pen names, if I didn't get my books off Smashwords other channels. I desperately contacted Smashwords and they said all they could do was to contact the channels again. I told this to Amazon and luckily they understood. Lesson learned: I'll never do Select again if it means I might not be able to publish on Amazon at all, just because the Smashwords channels were out of my control!

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    1. I understand that perfectly, Suz. I had read something similar and was forewarned before I tried to do Select. It is so frustrating to be taken to task for something out of your control,

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  5. Thank you for this article Alice. This definitely influences my decision on whether to go "broad" using Smashwords. While they are very well-intentioned, I agree that there is lack of control they have that is frightening for an indie author.

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  6. Very good to know. No smashwords!
    Thank you

    The name hadn't inclined me to even look at them so far, luckily.

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  7. Oh yes, I'm very excited to have found a new PAF writer. My favorite genre.

    But no KU I see. :o{

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  8. I wonder if this applies equally well to Draft2Digital or even publishing direct to retailers? Even if I upload direct to Kobo Life, do I really have control over my books? I suspect it is purely the distributors that have this problem. You could send a cease and desist request?

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    1. That has been suggested. There is a long discussion about this over at Passive Voice. If you'd like to take a look.

      http://www.thepassivevoice.com/10/2015/smashwords-nightmare/

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  9. Thank you for this information. I received your first book as a promo, hopefully through a legit site for my Kindle. I purchased your second book through Amazon yesterday. I am in the US, I didn't even realize Kobo was widely used by anyone. I will say, your first book being free caused me to discover you and I hope you will write more post apoc.

    I have friends that use smashwords and I think I need to let them know about this.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. I hope you enjoy it. Book 3 will be out in Oct. You can sign up for my newsletter to find out about new books. I only use it for book launches or sales.

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