The complaints are piling up over the unresponsiveness of Mark Coker’s Smashwords publishing company, which touts you’ll get “Your ebook. Your way.” Authors send emails through the proper contact and wait for a reply. And wait. And wait. Sometimes, for weeks, there is no response. This is not how to run a business that is trying to compete with Amazon.
In my own recent experience, I chose to use Smashwords as a means to have my books published to iTunes and other outlets, like Sony and Diesel. The iTunes author interface is cumbersome and difficult for this author to figure out. The SW (Smashwords) meatgrinder is disliked by many authors, but I never had a problem with it, or with getting accepted into the premium SW catalogue that is required before books can be sent out for distribution. I did all that. Passed the meatgrinder. Had my books, there were 3 of them, accepted in the Premium catalogue and checked all the distribution points I wanted.
A month later, after I’d gotten through that acceptance process, I went back to SW to check up on my books through my dashboard and I saw that my second book was not being shipped to Apple. First and third were, but not #2. I had it checked to go, but the message on the dashboard said it hadn’t shipped, but it would. Odd, I thought, and emailed SW through the contact link at the top of the page.
I got an email back within a decent time line. It took a couple of days. This was back in mid October, 2012. I was assured that the problem was fixed. I moved on to other projects. When I checked back some weeks later, in November, I discovered that no, the problem remained. And from there it just got worse. Through the month of November there was much back and forth. Finally, the difficulty was blamed on iTunes. By then, I’d decided to move on and informed them they no longer had to worry about sending my book as I was unpublishing all but one book from Smashwords.
I thought that surely this would be the end of it, but no. In the process of checking my links to all the various retail outlets, I discovered mid December that iTunes had my unpublished book live on their site.
I immediately wrote to Smashwords through their contact form again and told them to take the book down. I know, a Comedy of Errors here. Again, not the kind you want to have when you are trying to compete with Amazon. That was last year, last month about a week before Christmas and I’ve not had a response from them since. Last I checked (today) my second book was still up on iTunes even though it has been unpublished for over a month! Is it selling anything? With the book unpublished, how am I to know?
This is just plain shoddy business practice. I’ve been on Smashwords for quite some time now and had intended to put my entire series there even though I haven’t sold more than a handful on the site. (Compared to Amazon where that figure has moved into the thousands) Mark Coker recently suggested that Amazon was leading authors around by the nose. Well, at least there’s money at the end of that lead line. I think I’ll take a company responsible for helping me pay my mortgage over one that doesn’t respond in a reasonable timeframe to problems. At least Amazon sends out a bot response, and then they do get back to you. I may not always like their answers, but it is an answer instead of the crickets coming from SW.
The same problems are being reported across many platforms and from many authors who need faster response times than a month. For instance, customer service reps from Sony claim to have been issued a new directive with instructions to stop assisting the large number of authors from Smashwords calling in to get problems fixed. Only Smashwords, who acts as publisher, can make changes to books, says Sony, cover changes, new versions and including having the book removed completely. Smashwords is not keeping up their end of the bargain.
As an author in control of my rights and work, I should be able to tell SW to unpublish or change my distribution set up and expect that my instructions will be followed within a reasonable timeframe. A month+ is not reasonable. If there’s a problem with companies like Barnes and Noble, or iTunes following through with those direct requests from SW then Mr. Coker should get those problems ironed out with those companies, instead of using that as an excuse. Authors are left wondering what the status is of their work. If we want to go into Amazon’s exclusive program, Select, we ought to be able to do that, but because these companies keep our books for weeks on end, against the exclusivity agreement with Amazon, it’s like threading the eye of a needle to make a schedule for marketing activities when the unknowns keep getting in the way. Mark Coker doesn’t have the right to hold my book hostage indefinitely by not getting this delayed response from his partners worked out. It’s all electronic! It’s a computer program that says unpublish that book!
Mark Coker needs to get his house in order and soon, or many more authors like me will give up on his grand idea, and seek elsewhere for what we need. So far, Amazon is doing a far better job of filling that need. I’ve only one book left with SW. I’m actively looking for somewhere else to publish.
Are you having problems with Smashwords? (or anywhere else?) Feel free to leave a comment. I’ll pass them along.