Guest Post | Amazon vs. Smashwords: Which Is Right for Your Book? | Sarah Rexman

Numerous writers have embraced e-book technology as a way to independently publish their books, reach new markets, and earn greater royalties for their work. Retail giant Amazon has long dominated the market for authors looking to self-publish their e-books, but it has quickly been followed by other e-book publishers, such as Smashwords, Lulu, and BookBaby.

Amazon and Smashwords have gone head-to-head over the last several years, battling it out as the preferred platform for self-published authors. If you are considering where to self-publish your e-book, here’s what you need to know about how Amazon and Smashwords compare.

Market Access

Amazon still dominates the market for self-publishing and e-books. However, depending on your goals for your book, it is not always the clear winner.

Amazon may have a larger market share, but it publishes specifically for the Kindle. Though there are apps that allow the use of Kindle material on other readers and devices, the material is marketed primarily for Kindle users.

Smashwords allows you to publish your book in any format (ePub, iPad, Nook, Mobi etc) to use on any reader – even the Kindle. However, if you use Smashwords to distribute your content to Amazon, you will lose a portion of your royalties to pay for the middle man. There are no such extra fees to publish in other formats. Smashwords will also automatically format your text once you upload it.

Ease of Access

When you upload your book to Amazon, it becomes available in the market within hours.

However, reports of conversion times vary for Smashwords. Site owners previously reported an average time of 30 hours, but now the site claims to convert in only a few minutes. Many users report that uploads to Smashwords can take much longer, from several days or even months to appear in some marketplaces. One user complained that it took several weeks to get a manuscript approved and another five months for a book to show up on Kobo. Smashwords itself reports that there can be some delays once books are shipping to other marketplaces. It is also worth noting that your book is not instantly shipped to these other distributors, but is done so on a weekly schedule.


The amount you receive for each sale varies greatly between the two sites.

Amazon pays author royalties of between 35 percent and 70 percent, depending on how the book is priced and the other options. To receive the 70 percent royalty rate, books must:

• Be priced between $2.99 and $9.99
• Be limited to sales in certain countries
• Must cost at least 20 percent less than any physical version of the book

Delivery fees will be deducted from the 70 percent royalty, though not from the 35 percent royalty. Books sold under the 35 percent royalty can be priced from $0.99 to $200 and can be sold in any country. For a complete list of rules, please visit Amazon here.

Smashwords pays its writers a flat royalty fee of 85 percent of net sales (after the transaction fee) made directly through Smashwords or Stanza. The rate may vary if sales are made through other outlets. Transaction fees can include payment processing fees, affiliate fees, retailer discounts, costs for erroneous transactions, credit charge-backs and other associated fees.

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Discounts and Promotions

Sometimes you have to sweeten the deal to make a sale, offering discounts and even free copies to spread word of mouth. Amazon does not allow its writers to offer discounts or free copies. There is a Kindle gift system in place, but you have to pay for your own content. If you want to send out numerous review copies directly from the site (which will be seen as more trustworthy content, rather than coming as an attachment from your e-mail), this could get very expensive.

However, you can offer any kind of discount that you choose through Smashwords. This is especially useful if you want to provide review copies, give gifts to family and friends, or encourage more sales through a limited promotion.


Any user can review any book on Amazon. All you have to do is sign in, write the review, and submit it. However, only users who have purchased a book can review it on Smashwords. This is problematic if you want to ask friends or family members to review your book – or if you want to send promotional copies to readers, blog followers, or even fellow authors. You can get around this restriction by offering a promo code to get the book for free on Smashwords, but it’s an extra step that Amazon doesn’t make you take.

Many authors find that both Amazon and Smashwords offer them a valuable marketplace in which to sell their books. Most choose to make their books available on both markets to supplement the shortcomings of each and to strengthen their overall marketing efforts.

What are your thoughts on Smashwords vs. Amazon? Do you prefer one over the other? Have you sold more books on one over the other? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

About the author

Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a master’s degree in environmental science. Her main focus for the site involves anything pertaining to bed bug extermination.
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