Another stick of dynamite just went “boom” in the brave new world of ebooks (actually, this link is more detailed than the previous one).

Self-publishing authors will be able to offer their titles on Apple’s iBookstore for the iPad at almost no cost, potentially breaking down the barriers for independent writers who want to sell their work across the globe.

According to DigitalBeat, the self-publishing service Smashwords has signed a distribution deal with Apple to put books on the iBookstore, which will be a part of the iBooks application, available as a free download on the iPad through the App Store …

The e-mail from Coker also revealed Apple’s pricing rules for the iBookstore. Each title’s price must end in 99 cents (i.e. $12.99), and books can be priced as low as 99 cents. The price of the book must also be less than its print counterpart.

Author Dean Takahashi said users can submit their work to Smashwords through a simple process that involves uploading a Microsoft Word file, setting the price and deciding where the book is to be published …

Through the service [Smashwords], authors receive 85 percent of net sale proceeds from titles, or 70.5 percent of affiliate sales. The report said the cost to distribute a book on the iPad is free …

Apple’s iBooks application is compatible with the ePub format. Apple will also sell content from some of the largest publishers in the world, including HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Shuster.

Independent writers–that’s anyone who can type on a computer and upload a Word file–will be able to sell their books through the iBookstore and iBooks app via Smashwords, which will offer an overall 60% royalty rate to authors (normally Smashwords offers 85%, but that’s only directly through their own site). I’m not suggesting that everyone should start publishing junk and trying to make money that way, I’m only saying that at this time, it is very easy to get your works onto the Kindle store, iBookstore, etc.

Amazon made waves by offering a 70% royalty rate to indie authors starting on June 30th, 2010. As long as indie authors price their ebooks between $2.99 and $9.99, that’s the swell deal Amazon is offering. And without a doubt, the deal is really swell, considering that there are indie authors already selling thousands of books a month via the Kindle store. For more on that, follow JA Konrath’s blog.

Joe Konrath is doing quite well with his ebooks in the Kindle store (he expects to be making $10K/month come July), but there are also unheard-of new authors selling thousands of ebooks a month there, too. Look for stories like John Rector’s and Boyd Morrison’s, who parlayed Kindle success into traditional publishing contracts. Rector and Morrison are somewhat unusual stories, but those stories are also becoming more common. Konrath’s blog has featured others as well (especially in the comments).

Now Apple and its new homeboy Smashwords is luring authors, not with a higher royalty rate (60% vs 70% with Amazon), but by allowing authors to price their books at $0.99 or $1.99, which many authors have done on Kindle in order to generate more downloads and find more readers.

Oh, by the way: Authors don’t have to choose one or the other. They can easily be on Smashwords/iBookstore, as well as Amazon/Kindle.

The conventional wisdom remains that aspiring authors are best served by trying to publish traditionally, but the independent alternative to the conventional approach keeps getting more and more interesting, and without a doubt that trend is rapidly strengthening. Owning the e-rights to your books forever, while more and more people are buying ereaders like Kindle, Sony, and iPad (and Kindle books can be read on any computer, anyway), does have its allure.

It’s also worth noting that Joe Konrath has discouraged aspiring authors from going indie right off the bat [EDIT: See April 7 Update, below] and encouraged new writers to seek a literary agent first, but at the same time Joe has mentioned that he’s unsure of whether or not he wants to give up the erights to his future books because he knows from experience how valuable they are, and how valuable they will be.

If you want to hear from someone who argues well for the future of indie publishing and walks her talk, check out Zoe Winters.

So tell me, what do you make of all of this?

UPDATE (April 7th, 2010): Joe Konrath has, to some degree, changed his point of view on self-publishing ebooks. On his blog today, he makes a strong case for authors retaining their e-rights. In practical terms, this likely means holding onto all rights, since publishers are (to put it mildly) reluctant to give up those rights. Yes, this would mean that dreaded thing which shall not be spoken of in serious writing circles: “self-publishing.” You may want to wash your hands now.

I asked him the following in the comments area on his blog:

What kind of advice should an unpublished author draw from your recent posts, Joe? Get an agent, publish traditionally, get your name out there, and then (based on today’s post) go indie with ebooks and POD once you think you can sell enough books that way?

Joe Konrath’s response:

I’m hesitant to give advice on this. A month ago I’d say get an agent and traditionally publish. But I was just on the phone today with a friend who has been traditionally published, and I warily cautioned him to look at the numbers before accepting any new offers, because he could potentially make more money on his own.

This blows my mind, BTW. I did NOT expect to ever be a cheerleader for self-publishing.

But numbers are numbers, and my predictions for the future of ebooks have 1 full year of data to support them.

So, hell, I don’t know what to tell you, Moses. I do know this for sure:

Everyone needs to make up their own mind. You need to follow your own path, based on your experience and experiments.

Experts are fine to listen to, but no expert (me included) should be considered Gospel.


UPDATE April 9th, 2010. Sounds like Joe Konrath is probably going all-in with self-publishing his future novels as ebooks. Check out his post.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010 at 2:27 pm and is filed under Publishing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 comments so far


Thanks for the shout out! One point of clarification though:

You get 85% off of books sold directly through Smashwords. Smashwords premium distribution channel includes Sony ebookstore, Apple ibookstore, Kobo, B& and

However, you make lower than 85% through those places through Smashwords. Most of the time you end up making about 50%.

For that reason it’s better IMO to go directly through Kindle for Amazon distribution instead of through the Smashwords premium dist. for Amazon. You can opt in or out of any of Smashwords distribution channels and they are continually working to add more.

March 29th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
Tom B

I’ve uploaded a book onto Smashwords. Not sold a copy yet but had a few downloads of the first section, early days. I think it’s the way to go.

1) There are so many books out, many great reads that would never ever see the light of day otherwise.

2) It’s so difficult to get your book noticed by an agent or publisher, I’m not sure if it’s even worth trying. It’s not like they make it easy.

3) I’ve written a book I would like someone to enjoy reading it.

March 29th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Thanks for the correction, Zoe. I read that article and it gave the impression that it was an 85% royalty rate through iBookstore via Smashwords, which was a little surprising to me. So what you’re saying makes sense.

Has it been stated anywhere exactly what the royalty rate would be selling through Smashwords to iBooks?

March 29th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Zoe, this link suggests that the author’s royalty will be 60% on Smashwords-to-iBookstore:

Yep, this one confirms the same:

Still, not bad at all.

March 29th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for the heads-up. I’m close to giving this a go.

March 29th, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Tom, at this point, the Kindle store seems to be the way to go. New authors seem to be able to sell fairly well via Amazon. From what I’ve heard, Smashwords sales per se tend to be much, much smaller.

March 29th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I don’t know if 60% is the end amount that authors get for books sold in the ibookstore or not. I’ll be leery aboud anything that doesn’t come directly from Smashwords.

Also BNet is wrong about requirements to get the 70%. Amazon doesn’t own ANY rights. It’s a non-exclusive deal. You don’t “give up” ANY rights to Kindle that you can’t use anywhere else.

You just have to price between $2.99 and $9.99 and you can’t price lower elsewhere. That’s it. People want to twist it all around but I’ve read the contract. I’m betting these people creating these little blog newsbytes haven’t.

March 29th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Zoe, here’s the quote from Smashwords about the 60%.

“9. How much does distribution to Apple cost you? Nothing. Like all Smashwords
services, it’s free. We earn our income when your books sell. We will pay you
60% of the list price for all your sales.”

Thanks for saying that about the BNet article re: Amazon and rights. I read that and thought that sounded wrong. Amazon does mention the text-to-speech matter, but that doesn’t sound like it’s grabbing any rights. There is this, though:

“Under this royalty option, books must be offered at or below price parity with competition, including physical book prices. Amazon will provide tools to automate that process, and the 70 percent royalty will be calculated off the sales price.”

I am guessing that means that if you’re on Kindle for $2.99, that you couldn’t be in iBookstore for, say, $1.99 (if you want the 70% royalty rate from Amazon). That’s just what it sounds like to me, though.

March 29th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Great blog! How the hell did you do this? I’m jealous.
About smashwords, it wasn’t very easy for me. After reading up to page 24 on prepping an MS for the meatgrinder, I gave up. Was ticked the thing was so darned confusing people were offering their services for a cost to prep an MS.

Went with ireadiwrite, though I think the royalties are too low there.

March 29th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

“…brave new world of ebooks…”

“Brave New World” shout out perhaps? 🙂

March 29th, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Tracie, after being an Atlanta Braves’ fan all my life and seeing “Brave New World” used hundreds of times in headlines about the team, I should know better than to use that phrase, but for some reason I couldn’t resist!

March 29th, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I just updated the post with some new comments at the end from Joe Konrath.

April 7th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Nice post, Moses.

I’ve found Smashwords an excellent company to deal with. Now my books are available on the iPad before New Zealand even has a release date for iPads! The tyranny of distance is no obstacle.

April 7th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hi Moses,

Have been reading the comments over on Joe K. blog as well.

There isn’t any reason why an author can’t publish their ebooks on both Amazon and Smashwords. I’ve done it on both. And yes, the style guide for Smashwords is lengthy, but they are only trying to make sure your book looks the best on all ereaders out there.

I write science fiction with my coauthor and we have 2 novel ebooks and 2 novella ebooks published and we’ve gotten sales, slow and steady. Time will tell how well the books do.

April 9th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Good for you and congrats on getting your works out there, Debra.

April 9th, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I updated the post again. Check out Joe Konrath’s latest blog (linked at the end of my blog post).

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