Smashwords Sounds Superb
It looks like the self-publishing and e-book markets are going to evolve a bit further when a new operation called Smashwords hits the scene in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Here's a press release with the details.
Some of the highlights that should make this an attractive service:
- Anyone can become a published e-book author in "minutes" and the service is ideal for just about any length work including "full length novels, short fiction, essays, poetry, personal memoirs, non-fiction and screenplays."
- The effective royalty rate is hard to beat as authors will get 85% of the net proceeds from each sale.
- They're planning to offer all the latest marketing and PR tools like embedded YouTube book trailers and widgets.
- The sampling and pricing models are extremely flexible and should allow for a great deal of try-before-you-buy activity. In fact, authors can make up to 99% of their work available as a free sample.
I also like the fact that they're planning to offer DRM-free files in a variety of formats, including .mobi. I don't want to speculate too much on this, but if it's done properly it could create an entirely new content service for Amazon's Kindle. That's right. DRM-free .mobi files should load seamlessly onto a Kindle via the USB cable with no intervention from Amazon. If this takes off it would make the Kindle less of a closed/proprietary system, at least from a content point of view. Very interesting...
I don't know. The focus on "anyone" being able to publish sounds like a lot of the same hype we hear all the time in the self-publishing arena. The social networking features could be worthwhile and the auto conversion to other formats is handy. I think there is a lot of potential for ebooks but there's going to be a lot of crappy ebooks spilled out by this platform, too.
As you said, the key is "if it's done properly".
Posted by: Jeff | February 17, 2008 at 10:15 PM
Hi Joe. Thanks for the kind words!
To Jeff: your points are well taken. We realize a lot of bad stuff will be published, but it's a necessary tradeoff to enable us to create a universal publishing platform. We don't believe that publishers should be the the sole arbiters to determine what's worthy of being published, and what's not. Authors should be able to publish anything, and the readers can sort out what's worth reading. Often, especially with writers who are before their time, we don't realize the brilliance of a work until many years later.
Posted by: Mark Coker | February 18, 2008 at 03:02 PM
And the place of the traditional publisher in all this, if anything? What do you think?
Posted by: L.L. Barkat | February 18, 2008 at 03:20 PM
L.L., I see the traditional publisher filling much the same role they have up to now, namely, the authors and projects that appear to have the most PR and broad distribution potential. The up-front investments for the traditional publisher's products are much more significant than the one that come through the self-publishing channels. The traditional publishers will still have the experience and capital to help make these products a success.
To be fair, I fully expect operations like Smashwords and other self-publishers to push traditional publishers to innovate and try new models. There have been far too many books that never saw the light of day because they couldn't get placed with a traditional publisher. Even if they only address the needs of a small market it's great to see these products have platforms and distribution models that can work. Btw, I'm not saying that all self-published titles will be low-sellers! I'm quite sure there will be many breakout titles from the self-publishers...again, it's a great way to keep the traditional publishers honest!
Posted by: Joe Wikert | February 18, 2008 at 03:49 PM
Joe - this reminds me of an old joke:
Q. Why is talk cheap?
A. Because supply exceeds demand.
Posted by: Bob Martinengo | February 19, 2008 at 10:10 AM
Hi Bob. Excellent point! There's no doubt services like this will be filled with questionable content. Then again, are any publishers arrogant enough to say that questionable books never get published?...
Posted by: Joe Wikert | February 20, 2008 at 04:10 PM