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I had considerable experience self-pubbing ebooks before this and have learned much after the explosion in demand that aspiring independent authors need to know. The difference in the two methods is striking.
Preparation (formatting) of your ms:
- Smashwords provides a 36 page guide that has to be followed to the letter or your ms file will not be converted by SW's software into the files for the different e-readers. The guide is challenging for authors who are are computer savvy and daunting for those who are not. Because SW converts to several e-formats, authors can't easily preview them to see mistakes, and the changes SW requests are often arrive a week later and are not easy to understand.
- Kindle Direct Publishing requirements for the ms file are much simpler and easier to follow. Authors make far less mistakes initially and the mss go through KDP's conversion process quickly. Their preview mechanism is excellent - authors can see their mistakes immediately, correct them on their ms file, and re-upload in a matter of minutes. (Also read Support below)
- SW's support team is slow to non-existent. After several emails went unacknowledged and unanswered through customer support on the website, I resorted to emailing Mark Coker, the owner. If a reply is forthcoming, often it is hard to understand or fails to answer the question. This sloppy service continued for six months. My last support request, emailed on Nov 28/11 took SW 11 days to answer.
- KDP has prompt and focused support. Their answers are precise, easy to understand, and in an author's hands in less than 24 hours, unless a Sunday or stat holiday intervenes.
- SW does not apply any DRM to any e-books.
- KDP gives authors the choice.
- To understand the implications of DRM for your e-books, see http://beaconlit.blogspot.com/2011/05/digital-rights-management-summary.html
- SW took months to get one of my books distributed and available on all e-reader platforms this fall. The longest wait occured with Chapters-Indigo's Kobo who had a backlog and wouldn't permit SW to deliver. Wait was September 2 to November 29, eleven weeks. On Dec 19, Kobo uploaded it to their catalogue, which meant Book Magic missed most of the Christmas rush. The fastest distribution was to B&N's Nook at four weeks. Sony still has to upload it to their catalogue. A client's SW's e-book took six weeks to load to Kindle last year and he missed an critical sales opportunity. Authors can opt out of distribution to KDP and that's what I advise.
- KDP is fast! After the author uploads their e-book and Amazon checks it, the e-book will be available for readers to purchase in the catalogue in two days or less.
Neither SW nor KDP charge authors to self-publish electronically. They make their money on the sales of e-books. Authors' commissions from SW differ between e-reading platforms, but are mostly 60%. Kindle authors receive 70% of sales for most ebooks (it's based on price).
So, there you have it -- one author's recent experiences in electronic self-publishing. Hope it helps!
UPDATE - July 10, 2012
Smashwords recently announced they have speeded up their file vetting process and the time it takes for ebooks to be shipped to Kobo.
QUESTION: What experiences in e-self-publishing can you add for everyone?