I’m not in the same position as someone who’s had a lot of success with publishing. Aside from History of the Internet, most of my ebooks don’t sell at all, much less well. This probably has to do with length. I write short, and short stuff is harder to sell. This means I have more room to experiement–I’m not losing anything if I pull my books out of Smashwords and try this for a few months.
I understand the long-term concerns of competition, but I can’t sacrifice profit and reach to prop up an uncompetitive business. You have to give me a reason to choose you over the other, and Amazon’s competitors have failed to do that. Amazon is competing, and they’re winning.
What can Smashwords et al do to win me back?
1. Analytics. Real statistics. Show me a sales funnel, referrals, and all the good stuff I’d get if I had something like Google Analytics bolted on to it. This is big, and it’s something Amazon desperately needs. I would drop them in a heartbeat if I could get real and actionable data from the other sellers. Showing me aggregate data with a month lag tells me nothing.
2. Apps. Why is there no Smashwords app for my Kindle Fire? Or for any other book seller? Mobipocket is an open format. And most of the readers for other formats available in Amazon’s app store are garbage. A good epub reader with reliable and easy to use access to Gutenberg and other archives would do wonders.
Accept that, for now, Kindle is the standard and work with it. Work on your own reader if you must, but make it easy for me–and my readers–to access your stores from the devices they own. I can read my Kindle books on my phone. Why can’t I read my Smashwords books on my Kindle Fire without a convoluted transfer process?
3. Reach. This wouldn’t even be a problem with app support. I could just point readers to the Smashwords app in the Amazon app store and tell them how to get my book through it. I don’t mind doing that. But right now it’s not even possible. Not that I’d mind people finding me through other stores. But how long do I have to wait? I’ve made about $30 through Smashwords and the stores it distributes to. Amazon has earned me a multiple of that.
So what now?
Don’t look to authors to make your stores competitive. That has to come from you. If you’re not going to produce a book reader people want to use, make it easy to use your store with other readers.