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SmashWords offers a fairly standard editing and e-publishing service, but an extensive online network for sales, plus free ISBNs. Whilst it makes its money from taking a cut of your online sales, its rates are lower than many other such sites, so you keep a bigger share of the profits.
SmashWords.com claims it is “the worlds largest indie ebook distributor”, which certainly makes it a good place to be. Its list of online distributors is pretty extensive, meaning that your book is likely to reach a wider audience. What's more, you keep up to 80% of earnings from sales on the site, and 60% of earnings from sales on the various other sales sites it uses. These aren't amazing rates, but it's better to earn 60% of $1000 than it is 100% of $5, right?
The site lacks a few options that some people may be interested in. There are no options for designing covers, there are no printing options, and generally graphic design options are lacking. However it does offer free ISBNs and you can convert your book to multiple formats for free, amongst other things. It also includes a store for people to find texts to buy based on their price, sales figures and more. This is a fairly plain front, but it does the job. You can set your own prices and descriptions in the hope that users will be taken with your book, whatever it might be. This also includes key words so that users can find your book based on their interests.
To date, Smash Words have published almost 300,000 books. This is a fairly impressive number and the site covers a wide range of genres, so your book ought to be able to find a cosy home somewhere. You can also check out their “discover more” section, which has interesting interviews and tips for writers. A community feel is also maintained through the site's Facebook and Twitter pages, although a forum or blog area would also be appreciated.
If you don't have the time or inclination to format your own text or design a cover then you can enlist some pretty low cost ebook formatters and cover designers to help you out, starting from $40. Unless you're a designer or have a friend who has designed your cover, then you may wish to make an enquiry as to how much a cover will cost you, as many of the texts on the site seem to have pretty good cover images and you wouldn't want yours to fall behind in such a virile marketplace.
There are a few free features that might be of interest to you if you are interested in self promotion. The site provides a coupon manager which allows you to generate custom coupons (useful if you want to give a discount or a free copy to a reviewer). You can also use a series manager if you have a few books with a serial plot, letting customers who own the first few copies know that you now have a new book out. The team will also send you a summary of your sales, which is simplified for paying your taxes.
SmashWords offers a few little extras that make it stand out a little from the crowd. Its system is simple enough, but lacks options. Selling directly through the site gives you a decent cut of the profits, although selling through its various other networks makes you considerably less. That said, its distribution network is pretty impressive, so you've a much greater chance of making sales. If you're not too bothered by having plenty of design options to choose from, Smash Words could be for you.
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