Smashwords has major shortcomings.
After plowing through their 100+ page manual (The Smashwords Style Guide), and following, exactly, each of its instructions, I submitted my newly formatted work for its review process and waited for their reply.
Smashwords says that they will reply within 24 hours, and they did. They informed me that my work had failed their tests, and that I needed to correct the nine errors listed.
OK. No problem. I had made some mistakes, and I needed to correct them.
The errors are displayed by clicking a link on Smashwords’ dashboard page. The problem is that the list is written in a language that not even the NSA can decipher. This is a major shortcoming.
Smashwords provides another link to a page that, they say, explains the meanings of the error codes, but that page only adds to the confusion. It has no apparent connection to the specific error messages listed. I continued searching throughout their website for answers, but I found nothing to explain how to correct my errors – another shortcoming.
I can follow instructions. I have been doing just that throughout this whole series of blog posts (“So you want to be an author…”) The instructions provided by Smashwords fall far short of what is needed for us “do-it-yourselfers.”
The only relief they offered was a list of freelance formatters for hire. This “solution” displeased me. One of the reasons I had chosen Smashwords in the first place was to learn their processes for myself.
But, I bit the bullet and hired one of the formatters they recommended. He was thorough and provided the necessary modifications within a day or so. The price was $49 dollars – not extravagant, just galling.
As part of the deal, I requested that they please provide me with an explanation of my errors, and how they corrected them. They denied my request because, they said, it was too involved to do so. The formatter did tell me that at least some of the problems stemmed from my use of word play that was not compatible within the Smashwords regime.
Once my work was fixed and returned to me, I followed their instructions and “published” it.
My work is now in a queue pending review. Smashwords warns that this process can take up to a week, after which there is another wait while Apple conducts its own review. All told, it appears that it can take up to anywhere from two to three weeks before a work is ready for sale. Draft2Digital says it will publish immediately – and they will format your book for you.
So, why did I choose Smashwords? A momentary lapse of sanity, perhaps?
Turns out that I may not have had a real choice in the matter anyway.
Here (thanks to Greg Strandberg – one of our fellow contributors) are three links with comments by professionals on their experiences with Smashwords:
The common thread in these pieces is that the authors are unhappy with Smashwords slow responses to the number of books sold and the profits those sales generated. This is a reasonable objection since it makes linking marketing efforts with resultant sales more difficult to correlate.
I have just been informed that my book has been approved and it is now available in all formats except Apple’s. Yea!. It took them less time than they said it might for the completion of their review process.
Also on a positive note is their customer service. Contrary to what I read elsewhere, I found their customer service quite responsive. I sent them several emails about problems reviewing my manuscript with their EPUB checking tool, and I received almost immediate responses. They were very attentive to my specifics, and offered quick and ready solutions.
My main reason for using Smashwords has been realized. My book is now available on all reading devices (via epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, & html), on all screen sizes, and it will soon be available on Apple.
Given these results, I am satisfied with Smashwords in spite of their shortcomings. Like Amazon, they are the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, and it’s hard to ignore the benefits of their size, dominance, and connections in the marketplace. I only wish that their procedures had been less involved. I would have liked to have known what my specific errors were, and the methods used to correct them.