Smashwords for Independent Authors and Publishers (Part 1)


Smashwords is the largest distributor of self-published e-books in the world. They have more than 290,000 titles published by 80,000+ authors and publishers around the world. As an author what will interest you the most is that when you publish on Smashwords, they not only sell the e-books through their own store, but also distribute it to other major retailers like Apple and Kobo.

They do not distribute to Amazon, however. So, to get your e-books on Kindle, you still have to go to Amazon KDP.

So, what does Smashwords have to offer? We have created this fact sheet, so our authors are informed and in the know. We will explore it in two part-series.

Questions you might have

  • What formats are accepted by Smashwords?
  • How is my book eligible for Distribution?
  • What is their distribution reach?
  • Who determines the price of my book?
  • How much royalty do I get?
  • Do they help with the marketing?

This part will cover the file formats and distribution. Second part of of the series will get into pricing, royalty and marketing.

Formats accepted

Smashwords accepts only the following two formats-

  1. Word documents (preferably doc. not docx), and
  2. EPUB

They convert the Word documents to multiple formats including EPUB, Mobi, PDF etc. EPUB is used as it is, and is not converted to other formats. There are some other feature limitations with EPUB files as well.

They have started accepting EPUB only recently and they still recommend a Word .doc file. One of the reasons is that EPUB creation has been traditionally difficult to prepare for authors, especially creating a file that adheres to their specifications. Many authors find Smashword’s strict specifications for word docs also bothersome and difficult to deliver, as they do not allow for any pre-existing styles.

With InstaScribe, your EPUB formatting is made easy. So, we encourage you to create your e-books using InstaScribe and upload it on Smashwords. We are also looking at the possibility of generating a doc file for Smashwords.

Eligibility for Distribution

To be eligible for distribution beyond Smashwords own store and some mobile distribution apps like Stanza and Aldiko, you need to get into their Premium Catalog. The requirements to get accepted are arduous and complex, particularly their formatting requirements.  At InstaScribe we are working towards making it easier for authors to format their books. We welcome any feedback from any authors who have uploaded our EPUB files on Smashwords and faced any difficulties. We will try to resolve them as soon as possible.

Their premium catalog is the preferred catalog as it guarantees distribution to many major retailers (see distribution reach next). Go to for all the specs and details.

Distribution Reach

Smashword’s premium catalog provides Global distribution to a multitude of retailers including- Apple iBooks (51 countries), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Page Foundry, Flipkart (the largest bookseller in India), Scribd, Oyster, Baker & Taylor, Sony, the Diesel eBook Store, and they say ‘more on the way’. They also provide distribution to all major smartphone platforms with app providers such as Aldiko, Page Foundry, FB Reader, Kobo and Word-Player.

The time it takes for the e-book to appear on the various retailers varies. Smashwords ships the books daily to Kobo and Apple, and weekly to other retailers. The retailers may, then, take their own time to list the e-books, which can be couple of days to a few weeks. So, trying to do a launch on the same date across platforms is tricky. If you want to do some marketing around launch, it is best to wait for the book to be available everywhere and then announce a launch date.

One potential solution is to use their pre-order marketing tool, which will be covered in the next part.

We hope that it has been useful till now. We will look into pricing, royalty and marketing in the next part.


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