Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.

An open letter to Smashwords.


I’ve given you a good chance, Smashwords. I’ve published my best selling book with you; you know the one, Stony Creek; sales on Amazon have far exceeded my expectations and it’s still selling well, ten months after publication. So why can’t you sell it? Not even one copy?

I’ve tried several books with you, Smashwords (May I call you Smashy?) and I’ll leave a couple for the time being, but I don’t intend to put any more up. The only ones that appear to be moving much are the freebies and even then, I thought that might be worthwhile as a promotional tool. Unfortunately you won’t allow me to promote my books at Amazon in the freebies. Understandable of course but I’m sure you can see it kind of makes the whole thing pretty pointless for me.Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle

I know you do sell some books, Smashy; you have sold a couple for me, some time ago now, but, for whatever reason, your buyers don’t want to buy my books. I don’t take that personally because there are many buyers at Amazon who do buy my books, especially Stony Creek, which you’ve had for a couple of months now, I think. I’ll leave it with you for now, simply because it is selling very well at Amazon and I have no intention of using it as a free promotion there, so there’s no need for it to be exclusive. And of course I’ve already gone through all that tedious business of formatting for you. (Whew!)

I think, however, I’ll end up removing all the others so I can offer them free occasionally with Amazon’s KDP Select–I don’t mean this to be an ad for Amazon but, honestly, Smashy, I just don’t see the point.

Farewell, and no hard feelings.

Stony Creek at

And at Amazon UK

Free ebooks 14th and 16th September: Beast of War (Fantasy for kids, big and little) and Connections (short stories)

UK readers: Beast of War and Connections

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the 14th actually starts here some time in the early evening on our 14th, so you should be able to get freebies at tonight.


Author: cmsgardnerblog

I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction, for teens and adults. I live in Central Victoria, Australia and my books are available at

22 thoughts on “An open letter to Smashwords.

  1. I’ve never had many sales through Smashwords. Free does well, but everything else is a waste of time, at least for me. I know folks who have success with Apple and B&N through their SW distribution, but I’ve never caught on. :-/

    • Yes, it’s odd, isn’t it? Are you with Amazon as well?

      • I am. I have three books in Select. I decided to split up a novel and offer the first portion permafree, so I went through Smashwords to utilize the ability to set the price at $0 and have Amazon price match. My sell-through rate is pretty poor for that book, but I give away 5-10 copies a week between Amazon and Smashwords. Occasionally I get a nibble through B&N and Apple… and even “sold” a freebie through Scribd.

      • How did you get Amazon to price match your freebie? I tried to do that with a short story I have free on Smashwords but I couldn’t get Amazon to put it up free and eventually I unpublished it.

      • After using the “Tell us about a lower price” link to no avail on the book’s Amazon page, I actually reached out to KDP customer service and they responded within 24 hours and changed it. They also then told me to use the “Tell us about a lower price” link next time. 😉

      • Thanks Sam, I did try that but it didn’t work for me.

  2. I recently took the gamble of removing my books from KDP select to publish on smash words too. I ran the gauntlet of the formatter and got onto premium distribution. My sales were zero for about 3 months and then when I added one book, ‘Sober is the New Black’ sales gradually started to happen and increase. They are now at 10 books per week compared to 10 books per day at Amazon. I wonder if this is par with the market share of each?
    One thing to remember is the new iPhone 6 has ibooks already installed on it at purchase and I’m wondering if more people will default to using that instead of safari and amazon??
    But don’t worry, if you’re selling on Amazon, you must be doing a lot of things right!!

    This is my author page for info. Rx

    • I’m planning to leave Stony Creek on Smashwords since I don’t want to use it as a free promotion at Amazon, but I doubt I’d bother putting any more up there, unless the situation changes. Thanks for the tip about iPhone Rachel.

  3. I find your post rather strange, Chris. I’ve also only sold a few books through Smashwords, but Smashwords itself is hardly the point. It’s Smashwords distribution channels that are valuable. They send your book out to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo and many other places where people can buy your book online. Have you had no sales through their online distribution channels?

  4. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. Léa

  5. My overall sales have been almost entirely with Smashwords. Amazon & Kindle only sell through one retail point of interaction. But Smashwords uses Apple (iTunes), Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, Scrollmotion and more. And Smashwords does this for you for free. Who else provides this level of constant service, with all major e-book retailers, let alone does it cost-free? Who promises to re-format your masterpiece into the type used by each major retailer? You can spend countless hours reformatting your MS, or, you can let Smashwords do it for you. I think it’s a terrific service that has produced unexpected royalties.

    • Well done, Charles. Maybe it’s a particular type of book that does well on Smashwords, but I’ll stick with Amazon where my books, especially the latest one, are doing quite well. I did have some trauma initially with formatting for Createspace, their POD dept, which, by the way, now distributes to other places as well, but I’ve got the hang of it now. If you only want an ebook the formatting with Amazon is simple. I’ve decided to withdraw all the books I had for sale on Smashwords but have left a free short story and my interview.

  6. Love this! Smashwords is such a palaver with the ridiculous formatting, and sells zilch for me. Mind you, I don’t sell any of my indie books at Amazon either as I am (officially!) the World’s Most Unpopular Author, but at least I can give them away for free at Amazon. :))

    • Congratulations Anne! That’s quite a claim to fame, although a bit hard to prove. I have some books that sell and some that don’t. My author page probably looks a bit like a jumble sale because I don’t want to write just the one type of book, any more than I want to read just the one type of book. I see yours vary from biblical fiction to gay erotica–interesting mix!

  7. I have to agree with you about Smashwords, Chris. It’s more technically challenging uploading to Smashwords (for me, anyway) and I have three books on it with not that many sales for each. It is good for distributing to the likes of Kobo etc. but I have sold tons of books on, with starting to increase steadily lately. Thanks for visiting my blog, by the way.

  8. The majority of my ebooks are 99 cents, which results in Amazon producing the lowest royalties- less than $10.00 – of any other outlet month over month. I have 3 ebooks for free on Amazon, each being downloaded between 8,000 and 15,000 times a month, which makes Amazon the leader by far for free ebooks compared with any other outlet.

    It may be the price point on Amazon which results in such low sales, but sales history shows B&N far exceeds Amazon and even Scribd provides much more royalty income than Amazon these past 3 months.

    Smashwords provides me with 2-3 sales a month on its own web site, which s quite acceptable considering it isn’t really a retailer like Amazon or Apple or B&N.

    I have my ebooks on Amazon, Smashwords and everywhere which makes sense for possible sales. Even if I get only 30 sales month on Amazon it’s better than nothing, but the income from B&N, Apple, Kobo, and Scribd is what keeps me going.

    • Interesting Ted. I have the opposite experience. What type of books are yours? Not sure if that makes a difference. I have a variety but it was only really the freebies that worked on Smashwords for me and I’m including their outlets. At Amazon I have two books in particular, Stony Creek and Not Guilty, that sell well, while the others only sell occasionally. Are your Amazon ones free all the time? I can’t work out how to do that!

      • My Amazon free ebooks are free all the time. I never enrolled in the Amazon KDP Select program because I think it sucks, as I wrote here….
        (Note: Amazon sucks post written in 2011. Amazon may have changed their policy since then so check Amazon for latest version of their rules.)
        How to get your ebook price set to free.

        1) Publish ebook through Smashwords at free
        2) Wait until free ebook appears at B&N and/or Apple
        3) Publish work on Amazon. Once published go to Product Details section of your work and look for link to “tell us about a lower price”
        4) Copy URL for free ebook on B&N and/or Apple
        5) Paste URL for B&N and/or Apple in appropriate area of “tell us about lower price” link page.

        You’ll have to wait for Amazon to update price on the display page, but you’ll see the price never changes in your author dashboard section of Amazon. It’s weird, but that’s the way it is with Amazon.

        Also you may find some countries don’t adjust their works to free. See Amazon terms of service or their pricing page for information.

  9. Thanks Ted, I did try most of that when I had a small ebook free on Smashwords but not the actual URL. Maybe one day I might try again. Maybe.

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