Book Publishing

Smashwords vs. Amazon: How to Decide

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One of the biggest challenges for self-publishing authors and indie authors is finding the right solution for publishing and distributing your ebook. There is no doubt that Amazon is the biggest and most well-known book distribution service for ebooks, but it is not the only option available. Smashwords is another platform that might be right for you. Let’s compare Smashwords vs. Amazon to see which one is best for you.

What is Smashwords?

Smashwords is a free ebook publishing and distribution platform that supports self-publishing and indie authors. With Smashwords, authors and publishers maintain full control over how their works are priced and distributed. It is currently home to over 135,000 authors and independent publishers. Literary agents also use Smashwords to publish works.

The Smashwords homepage

Smashwords allows readers to read ebooks with no Kindle device needed. They can read their selections online or on reading devices, such as an iPhone, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other ereaders —or they can choose to use a Kindle. Smashwords also offers authors and publishers marketing tools to help them connect with their readers. They offer distribution to major retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Tolino, and over 40,000 libraries using Overdrive.

Smashwords provides excellent support for sales and marketing. In addition to its own marketing efforts, Smashwords also helps authors with ideas they can do to help increase sales. It provides excellent tutorials and instructions on formatting your book, too as well as plenty of tools to make publishing your book easy.

Smashwords cost to publish is completely free, and when your book sells, you get to keep 85% of the profits for ebooks sold on the Smashwords website. If your work is sold to another distributor, such as Barnes & Noble or Apple Stores, your royalties might differ. (Your royalties might also differ depending on the country of distribution.)

Smashwords vs. Amazon

Self-publishing comes in many different flavors, and which one you choose depends on how much work you want to do. Your choice must factor in formatting, the royalties you want to earn, and what type of distribution agreement you want for your work. The number of books on Smashwords has grown from 6,000 in 2009 to over 500,000 in 2018. By comparison, Amazon’s Kindle store contains over 9 million titles.

KDP Home Page

One of the advantages of publishing on Amazon is that they are the most well-known, and many readers will check on Amazon for a title first. This also means that you have a lot more competition than on the smaller platform. Both platforms offer excellent tools to help you get your work into digital distribution. To be successful on Amazon, you need to understand how to use the right Amazon keywords and do offsite promotion of your work to be successful.

Amazon offers two different royalty plans. One is a 70% royalty rate option, and the other one is a 35% option. To be eligible for the 70% option, Amazon requires you to meet certain criteria, such as enrollment in KDP select. They also have a Kindle Unlimited program, but you must be sure to follow their rules.

Amazon does not offer the level of marketing tools that Smashwords provides to its authors. This means that you will have to do all of the legwork in driving people to your ebook. There is no guarantee that you will make more sales on Smashwords, and you will still have to do some of the advertising yourself, but you have less competition on the smaller platform. Also, Smashwords works to drive sales and distribution through several different networks and distribution systems.

Draft2Digital vs Smashwords

Draft2Digital is another option for publishing and selling your ebook. Draft2Digital and Smashwords both have advantages and disadvantages. One of the features that many authors like about Draft2Digital is that they offer a Universal Book Link (UBL) that allows buyers to click on the link and choose the online platform they wish to use to purchase the book.

Draft2Digital offers several sales channels, but they only have access to about 30% of the ebook market. Because they are a smaller distributor, it means that you will have to do much more promotion to make your book a success. Draft2Digital is a newer platform and is not as well-known as Smashwords, but it is gaining readership.
Like Smashwords, Draft2Digital is free to publish your work. Smashwords only accepts doc and epub formats. Draft2Digital will also except works as a docx format. Draft2Digital allows you to keep 90% of the profits, but you also must keep in mind that they have a smaller distribution network.

One of the big differences between the two platforms is that with Smashwords, you do the formatting and prepare your book ready for publishing. On Draft2Digital they do this for you. While having someone else do the formatting can be an excellent option for the beginner, it also means that you have less control over how your published work appears in its final form. Both offer free ISBNs.

One major difference between Smashwords and Draft2Digital is that you can offer your books on Amazon without restriction if you publish through Draft2Digital. This is an option on Smashwords only if you have earned over $2,000 on Smashwords, and you request it through the Smashwords author support system. One of the strongest arguments for Smashwords is the size of their distribution networks and the number of publishing platforms that they work with regularly.

To publish on Smashwords, you must format your work according to a 27,000-word document that serves as their style guide. If you are a beginner, this can seem like a daunting task. The publishing process on Draft2Digital is easy to understand and is more user-friendly for beginners. The advantage to Draft2Digital is that you do not have to be familiar with publishing industry terms and standards and only have to worry about your content and editing.

Draft2Digital pays monthly, but you may have to wait for 40 days to be paid by Smashwords. Also, Smashwords will not distribute payment until you have made at least $70 in your account. Both these options are excellent choices for beginners, and which one you choose depends on which features are more important to you and your level have experience.


Is Smashwords better than KDP?

Whether Smashwords is better than KDP depends on your publishing goals, the type of work you produce, and whether you want to turn your ebook into a print book. If you wish to publish your book in both print and ebook format, Kindle Direct Publishing is probably the best route because you can easily transform your ebook into a print book and offer them together. Another advantage to Amazon is that you can make your work available in multiple languages other than English. You also have the option of having a voiceover produced and offering your book through Audible.

If you decide to publish on Amazon, be sure to read the fine print. You need also need to know that in some cases, you will be required to offer your book through Kindle Unlimited, which offers royalty payments based on the number of pages read by the reader. Smashwords offers more channels for distribution and does not have the exclusivity rule that Amazon does, but many authors prefer the tools available on KDP.

Photo by felipepelaquim on Unsplash

Does Smashwords publish on Amazon?

Unfortunately, Smashwords had to sever its contract with Amazon due to Amazon’s exclusivity agreement, but they still offer limited distribution on Amazon if you meet certain criteria. Because Smashwords distributes your book to many other distribution channels and libraries, Amazon considered this a violation of their rules against offering your book on any other platform. If you choose to publish on Amazon, you cannot offer your title on any other platform, and they are strict about this rule. On Amazon, ebooks are only a small portion of their products, and they offer royalty-free music, videos, movies, and physical products.

As you can see, you have several excellent options for publishing your ebook and getting it to market. Draft2Digital and Smashwords are similar in that they are smaller than Amazon and are friendlier to beginners. With Smashwords, you also have the option to offer your book through more distribution channels. When you compare Smashwords vs. Amazon, it comes down to a matter of whether you want to go with the largest platform in the world, or whether you want access to a larger distribution network.

Chris Craft

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Founder of InspireFirst and Nao Media.