Claude Bouchard Books

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Ramble On

Held Hostage by Smashwords

Posted by bigceebee on March 13, 2012 at 8:20 AM

Though I originally posted this on March 13th, I've now updated it as the saga continues.

A few months ago, I posted a blog about my unhappiness with Lightning Source and their new payment policy which discriminated against content providers residing outside certain select geographical areas. More recently. it was Amazon's turn when I criticized their practice of drastically discounting the print version of a book and then applying their price-matching policy to discount the Kindle version in comparison to the print price they had set.

Well, it seems that Smashwords is of the jealous type and also wanted its turn in the spotlight and since I'm all for equity and fairness, I figured, why not. Here's the deal.

Since some of you may not be familiar with Smashwords, I'll start by giving you a brief intro and some pertinent information about what they do and how it works. Smashwords is an ebook distribution firm where one can upload one's work and make it available for sale to the public. In addition to selling said ebooks directly, Smashwords also distributes them to other retailers like Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Apple. As per the information found on Smashword's website, books or subsequent modifications made are transmitted to other retailers weekly on Thursdays or Fridays. Their site also indicates that support requests will be responded to within 72 hours. However, as they say, don't believe everything you read on the Internet...

On February 18, 2012, precisely 29 days ago, I unpublished Vigilante and ASYLUM at Smashwords as I wished to enroll them in Amazon's KDP Select which requires exclusivity. At the same time, I modified the pricing of my other books. As these changes would have an impact on a planned promotion, I sent a message to Support on February 21th indicating my appreciation for anything which could be done to accelerate the process. Sure enough, during that week, the modifications were sent to retailers across the board... Except Apple...

By February 29th, 11 days after having made my modifications, nothing was reflected at Apple so I sent another support request to Smashwords. The end of the week came and went and though there was a data transmission sent to Apple on March 2nd, my modifications were not included. On March 5th, I received a response to my February 29th request telling me there had been a shipment on March 2nd and that my modifications would be included in the next Apple shipment. Shortly after, I received a response to my February 21st request informing me that my modifications had been expedited to Apple. GREAT!

Not quite... While I understood this to mean my changes had been transmitted to Apple, what it apparently meant was they would be sent the next time data was transmitted... On the coming Thursday or Friday... So I thought... Wrong... Nothing was sent...

A support request sent on March 9th and a follow-up sent March 12th remain unanswered to date... So much for their 72 hour maximum response time. An email sent to Mark Coker, head of Smashwords, on March 10th also went unanswered but when I followed up on March 14th, he replied, apologizing for the delays, informing me he'd asked their tech team to investigate and, I quote, "We'll get to the bottom of it."

Thursday and Friday have since come and gone... Nothing has been sent to Apple. As a result, Vigilante and ASYLUM remain available at Apple. In the meantime, I've now received a first notice from Amazon, informing me that I am not respecting the KDP Select exclusivity clause. The price changes for my other books at Apple have not been made either, resulting in lost revenues for any sales made there. In addition, it's useless for me to adjust my pricing for Kindle (93% of my sales) as Amazon's price-matching machine will kick in as soon as I do so. Yep, more lost revenues...

Oh, I should mention that I contacted Apple about this issue but was informed I should contact Smashwords, their content supplier...

So, in summary, after 29 days, I remain unable to proceed with my promotion plan and powerless to do anything about it as I'm held hostage by Smashwords...

The novels I refer to in this post can all be found at Amazon for your Kindle at currently reduced prices so you might want to take advantage of it while you can. :)

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Reply K Simpson
09:52 AM on March 17, 2012 
Incredible. I've been weighing pros/cons of Smashwords et al. This distraction must be driving you nuts!
Reply bigceebee
09:57 AM on March 17, 2012 
Hi, K. To be honest, I've been dealing with Smashwords for a couple of years and never had any problems. It just seems that when that one time comes when I want things to happen quickly and smoothly, it all turns to crap. And yes, this is driving me nuts.

K Simpson says...
Incredible. I've been weighing pros/cons of Smashwords et al. This distraction must be driving you nuts!
Reply Lamar
06:42 PM on March 17, 2012 
The problem may not be with Smashwords but with Apple. They took nearly a month to approve an e-book of mine I placed with them directly.
Reply Deanna
09:32 PM on March 17, 2012 
I can definately relate to your problem with Smashwords. In general, I think Smashwords is a great idea and a wonderful way to get your ebooks on as many sites as possible. However, if you are even considering joining Amazon's KDP Select, do not bother to distrubute your books to other sites through Smashwords or you will be waiting a long time to get them taken down. Smashwords claims that if you unpublish your book, it will be taken off of the other sites in 2-3 weeks. The truth is it probably will not come off of all the sites for 2-3 months. And it will take several e-mails to Smashwords before you get a reply. I didn't have trouble with Apple, but I did with Barnes & Noble. They just wouldn't take the books down. I had to contact B&N; myself until I annoyed them so much they finally responeded. After nearly two months after taking my books off of Smashwords, they are both finally off of all sites. So I understand how you feel. I hope you will be able to get everything straightened out soon. :)

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