Guest Post: Is Smashwords all that?

By Catherine Burr

When I first started publishing books, believe it or not, e-books had not come into existence. There was no Smashwords, no Nook, no Kindle. I published books the old-fashioned way, with a print run by a traditional printing company (not print on demand), and had stock of books in my garage until they were sold. Cut chase years later and this thing called Kindle came along. I was instantly intrigued.

Having grown up in Silicon Valley, technology was all around me and being on the forefront of the digital revolution was a thrill. When I started publishing e-books on Kindle, most people had a confused look on their faces when I mentioned the word, “e-book.” My sister used to explain it to people who I was on the “cutting edge” of books. Still, most people hadn’t heard of e-books and I must’ve explained a thousand times about e-books and the new technology called e-readers. I was publishing e-books before most people knew what they were.

photo credit: catherine burr
photo credit: Catherine Burr

From the beginning, I loved the idea of having thousands of books at disposal in a portable device. And, people bought e-books. I published a few books to start, and was wowed at the result. I bought a Kindle and took it with me everywhere. It was something that most people hadn’t seen and curiosity abounded.

Now as I look back since my entry into the digital world of e-books, the many choices for readers are endless, not to mention reading books on our phones. I for one, usually start reading a book on my phone, then switch over to my Kindle. I download a sample book onto my cell and if I read straight to the end and want to buy the book, I can download to both my Kindle and cell phone for the price of one book.

My husband can also download the book onto his cell phone, Kindle, or more likely iPad, since we are on the same account. I started off mentioning Smashwords, and the reason I mention it is because if I were to give a new author advice about where to start, I would probably lean them toward Smashwords, for the simple reason that one can upload a single title and have it distributed to all the same places that otherwise you’d have to open accounts for and upload one by one.

When I started publishing e-books, Amazon was the major, if only player. Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Smashwords, none of the e-book retailers that are prevalent today, carried ebooks. So when I published an e-book, it was to Amazon.

Then years later, came along the other venues. But now, with Smashwords, the process of publishing to distribution channels is streamlined. I will admit, I have found the Smashwords “meat grinder” very unforgiving as far as formatting e-books. You must follow the Smashwords guidelines exactly if your e-book is to be processed for their premium channels.

The process can seem daunting, it is daunting, and when I was initially uploading to Smashwords, I had many frustrations, the way they want the books stripped of URL’s, ads for your other books, the list went on and on, as far as what you could have in the book and couldn’t. You had to have the copyright page exactly as they stated or face rejection.

But, the beauty of Smashwords, for all the pain, is that you only have to upload once and if your book passes their regiment, then it’s distributed to most of the same accounts that otherwise you would have to go in individually and upload, channel by channel.

I am aware that Amazon entices authors with their KDP Select program. Be aware, that you are making a commitment to a certain period of time to not have your book on other channels. KDP Select didn’t work for me because my books were already published on other channels when they came out with this program and so I do not have first hand knowledge of using it, but by Google searching, you can find others who have thoughts on the program.

Wherever you begin your e-book publishing journey, the resources and distribution channels extend around the world and bridges readers and authors like never before in this history of publishing.

About the Author:
Catherine Burr is a publisher, bestselling romance novelist, inspirational blogger, and children’s author. Her books are sold in over 60 countries in both print and e-book formats. She lives in a small country town where she writes books on her cell phone.

Follow Catherine Burr on Twitter.

Visit Catherine’s website at


3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Is Smashwords all that?

  1. This article was so informative and to think I was considering Smashwords for future endeavors. One thing for sure, I don’t need anything that’s going to be technically complicated when it comes to formatting. However, I must have tried Smashwords before and forgot about it after becoming frustrated, because I have information saved to my email account, showing that I dabbled with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Smashwords can be a really comprehensive way to release indie’s books to all those outlets in one fell-swoop, however the process requirements (at least when I used it last), can be challenging.


    2. You hit the nail right on the head. If something is too complicated, people will move on. Authors don’t need such formatting and techinical complications. There are tons of services out there willing to charge to do formatting and such. I actually paid for that in the beginning, but then learned the process myself, but it is time-consuming. But, once uploaded and processed, the beauty of Smashwords is that you only have to upload and process once for many outlets, and that’s a good thing.


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