There are undoubtedly a large number of companies available to authors who wish to self-publish or digitally publish their works, each offering its own unique features for writers.
Smashwords founder Mark Coker, who co-wrote a novel Boob Tube, with his wife, was fortunate enough to find a literary agent from a very well-known New York agency, but after two years of unsuccessfully attempting to sell the manuscript, the agent had to terminate representation.
“Every book has a right to be published,” explains Coker of the core belief behind his e-publishing company, “but millions of authors are being denied the opportunity to get their works out there to the readers.” After all, publishing is a business driven largely by the need to weigh the risks involved in taking on a new author or an uncertain project with how much it will cost to publish the material.
With the notion that every author deserves the chance to publish his work, Smashwords is determined to make sure the key barriers to publishing are removed from its model, namely the financial costs to the author who chooses to e-publish and the task of formatting a manuscript to as many as nine different e-reader devices.
“The Smashwords Style Guide is available free on our website, and it tells authors how to format their own works. If the author doesn’t feel confident in his ability to format it or if he just doesn’t have the time to put towards it, we have a list of reputable outside people who will format it for a fee. We will share the list of people we know who are trustworthy, but we will not charge authors anything or accept a commission to convert the manuscript.”
Once a manuscript is formatted, Smashwords makes it available to several e-book retailers, such as Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, as well as available in the app stores Stanza and Adiko, the largest e-reader apps for the Apple and Android markets, respectively.
Today, Smashwords issued a press release that its titles were now available to Scroll Motion, which distributes e-reader apps to the Apple app store and the Google app store, reaching approximately 90% of the app market. A deal is also in the experimental stage with Amazon.com to make Smashwords titles available for Kindle, with the full catalog of titles planning to be distributed by September.
So what does this mean for the author? An opportunity to be heard. With no upfront costs to the author, Smashwords takes a percentage of each sale, leaving 85% of the net price, a price which the author gets to determine, in royalties. Coker has even had manuscripts submitted by homeless writers from public library computer stations, which reinforces his decision to not charge authors to submit their work.
Aside from the concept that everything can be published, Smashwords still maintains a very strict policy of not publishing inappropriate materials such as pedophelia, hate literature, or illegal activity, just to name a few. As for the quality of the work, that is part of the responsibility that writers need to take.
“If the quality is bad, the work isn’t proofread, there are typos and errors everywhere, the readers will send a clear message to the writer through ratings and poor sales. Our focus is trusting the readers to be smart enough to know what’s worth reading, but the author has to take responsibility for his own work.”