So Smashwords, they of the 42.5% royalty, has just entered the Kindle Store. This isn’t quite the game-changer you’d think. Now, don’t get me wrong, clearly, the Smashwords deal was designed to steal yet more of the Nook/Sony thunder. And, actually, thinking about the implications of Amazon giving some upstart a better rate on Mobipocket orphans has, with general holiday cheer, led to me formatting today’s books in tune with Beyonce and various other talented women singers from the ’80s, ’90s and this decade.
After all, rather than face a huge black eye and angry protest from dissed Mobipocketers that would clearly benefit Sony/B&N, Amazon will pretty much be giving its earliest Kindle partners similar terms to Smashwords. Only question is if it’s a sly email, or, you know, something involving an NDA.
Just one thing stands in the way of Coker dominance: Tiering. Actually, not all ebooks in the Kindle store are equal. There’s about five different rows.
1. DTP publishers. They are never discounted in the store.
2. Mobipocket orphans. They are discounted, but are missing some other things.
3. Mobipocket orphans with matching print editions. They’re better featured, but are still missing a few things. Difference is subtle, but as an example, of the dozen or so top-selling Olympia titles in smut at any given moment, only one or two books won’t have a print edition (yet.). That’s true of Olympia’s non-print competitors from earlier in the decade as well. They only have one or two top-selling books in smut. Heh.*
4. Publisher Program members. These are the guys who’ve signed an NDA. They get better rates, more help with promotion, and in many cases Amazon actually prepared their Kindle editions for them from printed books at no cost. Think Grove-Atlantic, Cleis, etc.
5. Uber-partners. These guys get the best rates, help with formatting (if need be), and additional abilities, like the ability to “disappear” competiting titles from smaller presses in search results with an email. Think HarperCollins, Penguin, and remember it’s really not a good idea to disappear titles from a guy who might know more about the true copyright status of Lolita than you do.**
Looking at the Smashwords books, well, they get a better rate than DTP editions. But, that’s about it. No discounting. No indication of print editions. No… promotion, it seems, the top book was around 35k in sales rank. They’re either between the first and second tiers or, if some harsh Kindle reviewers trash the formatting in Smashwords editions, at the very bottom of the totem pole.
Certainly, it’s early, and certainly I owe Mark Coker a beer for the favor he did me, but it’s not clear, particularly given the low-quality formatting of Smashwords’ meatgrinder, whether a self-publisher might not be better off giving up that extra 7.5% in exchange for controlling the look of their content, and maybe giving themselves an imprint for the book, with an eye to the future.
*It’s theoretically possible to give a DTP ebook the same ISBN as the print edition if you don’t have access to Mobi’s “Available Print Edition ISBN.” As far as I know, only one idiot did, but that guy is a known serial plagiarist and wholly discredited industry “expert” who’s not even invited to any of the various ebook conferences this season, so we can’t read anything into his complete lack of sales.
**Be glad it’s a holiday, RH, and we’re talking about three books I didn’t expect to sell, but I’m a little perturbed, particularly as you guys clearly aren’t publishing those titles either, and one has a very nice Goodloe cover.