The Conspiracy Mentality — Smashwords

It’s almost enough to make you believe in conspiracies, even where they don’t exist. Big corporations get together to undercut and destroy small independent challengers. With Smashwords currently down from what is apparently a DOS attack, you just have to wonder. Proboards forums, and “other sites” were also hit, but Proboards, which hosts the Smashwords forum, is back up. This makes the third major hoo-hah Smashwords has suffered in the last few months. The first one certainly can’t be blamed on a conspiracy since the company that owns its servers had a major hardware failure. Smashwords had barely recovered from that when the Paypal “censorship” storm broke, and Mark Coker took hits for modifying Smashwords’ TOS to comply and avoid the possibility that Smashwords would lose its account with Paypal. Many authors removed their books as a protest, punishing the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Of course, if you’re going to go with the conspiracy theory, Amazon’s earlier release of KDP Select also belongs in the mix. Thousands of books were pulled from Smashwords so that their authors could take advantage of Amazon’s book-selling power. There will never be any way to determine just what percentage of the absconders benefitted by making their work exclusive to Amazon, but the damage to Smashwords, and possibly even to Barnes & Noble, undoubtedly continues.

In February, I started adding my books to Amazon, reluctantly, and after several months of publishing exclusively on Smashwords. It seems that my timing was good, however much I regret that. My Smashwords sales have fallen to zero in the last few weeks. Ditto for sample downloads. I could attribute both facts to the books having found all the readers they’re going to get, except that they’re selling on Amazon — slowly and sporadically, but they are selling.

Mark Coker is an innovative person. He’s also upbeat and a fighter. But it doesn’t take a conspiracy to bring down a small company. All that’s needed is a run of bad luck. And one flaw. Coker knows the flaw exists, but hasn’t yet done much about it. The response to that flaw is that I’m seeing more and more comments from writers who use Smashwords only because of its distribution channels to retailers. When they add up the numbers of their sales, Smashwords barely matters. Smashwords isn’t viewed by most people as a place to buy books, and that, along with the below-the-belt hits it’s taken lately, spells trouble.


14 thoughts on “The Conspiracy Mentality — Smashwords

  1. That’s too bad. When I have a choice to buy from Smashwords or Amazon, I’ll buy from Smashwords. They have muliple versions and no DRM. The only reason I buy from Amazon (kindle versions) is if I can’t get the book from an alternate source. And until I worked out how to remove the DRM from my kindle purchases, I refused to buy anything at all, even if Amazon was the only place I could get it.

    1. I also prefer to buy from Smashwords or from the original publisher, whenever I can. I’ve been able to kill the DRM on a few Kindle books, but not all of them. Other apps might do a better job, but i haven’t had a chance to look around and try out any others.

      Aside from preferring to support smaller players in the publishing game, I don’t even have a Kindle, and the desktop app is pretty wonky. I don’t like the idea that Amazon might lose or deliberately remove books that I’ve paid for.

      I’m not counting Smashwords down and out, but things are looking pretty shaky at the moment.

  2. I didn’t realize all the trouble they were having (though I was aware of the censorship thing), but I do have to admit I find Amazon a better place to buy, but only because I like to read from the Kindle app. It is just quicker and easier to buy from Amazon. They have that one click thing…

    I’ll try to support Smashwords more in future.

    1. Amazon does have some advantages, including 1-click buying for ebooks. But I recently discovered one downside. I have a gift card with a mysteriously decreasing balance. My payments are supposed to draw on one of my bank accounts, but when I filed a request for information, I learned that you don’t have any options of how to pay for 1-click purchases. If you have a gift card, the gift card is charged, and of course, there’s no other way to pay for ebooks except via 1-click. So, to keep what’s left of my gift card balance from being piddled away on book purchases, I’m not buying any ebooks at Amazon until I’ve used the card for something more important.

        1. Oddly, for some reason, maybe your comment, I decided to Google an author whose book is on my Amazon wishlist. I’ve been putting off buying the book because of the gift card tie. And he’s on Smashwords! Tah dah! Now I can buy it with Paypal.

  3. I’ve had the same experience that I’m selling on Amazon, but sales on Smashwords are now very few and far between. Even if you post links to both sites, I notice only the Amazon link seems to get bites. I suppose people just prefer to shop somewhere familiar and where they can do so with one click than negotiate a smaller scale site. There is also the issue that, although there is lots of good work on smashwords, you have to scroll through an awful lot of dross to find it, if you are just browsing and I imagine that must put people off the site.

    I wonder if it would be better if there was some way for Smashwords to showcase their best in each genre so that the first thing visitors see isn’t some semi-literate incest fantasy.

    1. That raises a lot of questions, and I’m not sure there’s any way to answer them. I’ve had Smashwords links on my blog for quite some time, and I could say that adding the Kindle links has made a difference. But I’m not at all sure any of the sales are coming from my own links. Here’s where the new WP “Views by country” comes in. Most of the views of this blog are from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia. There’s only one from Germany, but I’m seeing multiple sales from Germany.

      If I use the same tags and categories for Amazon and Smashwords, then something else is going on. Browsing on either site isn’t going to turn up anything you’d want to read unless you do use proper tags and categories. It’s hard to believe that anyone’s going to stumble over my books by accident, even given the enormous traffic advantage that Amazon has over Smashwords. Also, I’d assume that is a bigger site than, but I have way more sales on

      So the big question, for me is, if there is a small market for my books, why am I selling on Amazon and its offshoots, but not even getting any sample downloads from Smashwords? I can’t say that my Amazon links are taking away sales from Smashwords because I finally succumbed to Amazon only when SW sales dropped to a bare trickle. That includes the retailers SW distributes to. I’ve had exactly one sale from any channel, and that was way back.

      The only answer I can come up with is that whatever SW needs to do to compete with Amazon, it’s not doing it.

  4. I get a few sales on Amazon, a few more than on Smashwords, but sales from Barnes & Noble far outperforms both Amazon and Smashwords combined. My sales at Apple are about the sames as Amazon & Smashwords combined.

    Smashwords and the Smashwords Forum are not connected in any fashion. The Smashwords Forum is operated by Smashwords authors for the benefit of Smashwords authors.

    The fact that Smashwords and my Smashwords Forum were both hit by DOS attacks is merely coincidental.

    The Smashwords Forum is located at

    1. i figured there probably wasn’t a connection, but there are days when you have to wonder.

      It would be interesting to know why people get completely different results with different retailers. I registered with Pubit, originally, and my B & N sales were almost non-existent. So now I let Smashwords handle it.

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