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.