This page describes how Smashwords distributes ebooks to a growing network of online retailers, mobile app platforms and affiliates. Of the 180,000+ original ebooks we publish, over 140,000 are in our Premium Catalog, which is what we distribute to major ebook retailers.
Please carefully study this page to learn what you, as the author or publisher, can do to maximize the distribution of your books.
Smashwords offers three primary catalogs, our Premium Catalog, our Standard Catalog and our Atom/OPDS Catalog.
1. Premium Catalog (Reaches Major Retailers): Once your book is accepted into the Premium Catalog, we automatically distribute it to major online retailers such as Apple (distribution to iBookstores in 51 countries), Barnes & Noble (US and UK), Sony, Kobo, WH Smith in the UK and FNAC (both powered by Kobo), Livraria Cultura in Brazil (powered by Kobo), the Diesel eBook Store, eBooks Eros (operated by Diesel), Baker & Taylor (Blio and the Axis360 library service), Page Foundry (operates retail sites Inktera.com and Versent.com; operates Android ebook store apps for Cricket Wireless and Asus), and other distribution outlets coming soon. These retailers require certain mechanical standards, such as a quality book cover image, a proper copyright notice at the top of your book, and other simple requirements outlined below. If you're a serious author or publisher, you want your books included in Smashwords Premium Catalog. Both Apple and Sony require you have an ISBN, which you can obtain or assign in the Smashwords Dashboard's ISBN Manager. For additional special requirements of the Apple catalog, see this checklist, How to Publish Ebooks on the iPad with Smashwords. Visit your Dashboard's Channel Manager to control which retailers we distribute your book to.
2. Standard Catalog: Prior to uploading your book to Smashwords, carefully study and implement the formatting requirements of Smashwords Style Guide. The moment your book completes conversion, it's available for sampling and sale at Smashwords. By uploading your book to Smashwords, you certify your book satisfies the copyright and content requirements outlined in the Smashwords Terms of Service, which is the contract between Smashwords and its authors and publishers. Books that violate the Terms of Service will be removed, and gross violations will result in immediate account deletion.
3. Atom/OPDS Catalog (Reaches Major Mobile App Platforms): This catalog contains all the books for sale at Smashwords.com. Sample distributors include Stanza on the iPhone and Aldiko on the Android mobile device platform. These two e-reading apps alone reach millions of readers combined. The catalog is also distributed to the Word-Player and FBReader apps, and to the Inkmesh ebook search engine. To qualify for distribution in our Atom/OPDS Catalog, an author or publisher is simply required to abide by the Smashwords Terms of Service. Within seconds of your book going live at Smashwords, it is listed in the native catalogs the apps above. Smashwords first implemented its Atom feed in January, '09, concurrent with its Stanza distribution relationship. Software developers can learn more about the OPDS specification here, and can access the Smashwords Atom/OPDS feed here. If you are a developer of mobile apps, and would like to receive the Smashwords catalog, please click the customer support link at the top of the page.
Although we have a distribution agreement with Amazon via their Kindle Direct Platform, they're unable to receive our entire catalog until they create of a bulk upload facility. In the meantime, we're only distributing a few hundred titles to Amazon out of our catalog of over 150,000. We understand that many Smashwords authors would prefer the convenience of distributing to Amazon via Smashwords, rather than uploading direct to Amazon. If your book has earned over $2,000 at Smashwords and you would prefer to consolidate your distribution via Smashwords to Amazon as opposed to working direct with them, please click the "comments/questions" link and let us know you're in the $2,000 club and would like to be considered for our distribution to Amazon.
This Premium Catalog represents a subset of Smashwords titles that match the mechanical requirements of our online distribution partners. When you upload your book for the first time, it is automatically considered for the Premium Catalog and for distribution to our retailers if it satisfies the mechanical requirements.
Smashwords distributes Premium Catalog ebooks to the major online retailers mentioned above.
If you carefully follow the instructions, it's fast and easy to gain inclusion in the Premium Catalog.
Not all Smashwords books will automatically qualify for distribution on their first attempt. To qualify, the books must meet simple mechanical requirements (see "Criteria for Inclusion" below) required by our retailers. The requirements do not reflect a judgment of the quality, marketability or topic of your work.
All books go through a two step evaluation process, including Smashwords Direct books. Step one is automated, and step two is manual inspection.
In step one, we run an automated filter we call AutoVetter that checks to see if you followed the Smashwords Style Guide. AutoVetter provides you immediate feedback after you publish or make changes, and will guide you on how to correct obvious problems that will prevent you from gaining inclusion in the catalog. The moment your book completed conversion, you'll see the AutoVetter messages (if any) on-screen, and we'll also email you the messages. Books that pass the AutoVetter screen are then given fast-track priority for the second, manual stage of evaluation.
Step two is a manual inspection. We review fast-track books first, so most fast-track books are usually approved for the catalog within a week (if we're not backlogged).
Updating your book before Premium Catalog Approval: Feel free to continue to update the book if you discover formatting errors, or if you want to make changes to the associated metadata (things like the book description, price, sampling rates, author name, etc.). If you see a button that appears, "Resubmit to Premium Catalog," click it because that's your way of telling us you want these new updates delivered to retailers.
Updating your book after Premium Catalog Approval: After your book is approved, you can still continue to make changes and updates as necessary. Changes to previously approved books are usually reviewed same-day during normal business hours.
The Smashwords Style Guide is your best resource for understanding Premium Catalog requirements. The information below summarizes some of what you'll find in the Style Guide. Even if your book is initially accepted into the Catalog, we may remove it later if we discover it doesn't meet the following criteria. All Smashwords authors and publishers are urged to review these requirements and make the necessary updates.
Formatting - If your book doesn't follow the recommendations of the recently updated Smashwords Style Guide - http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52 - we cannot add it to the Premium Catalog. How does your book look? A good canary in the coal mine is the HTML Reader on your book page. If this page looks ugly (like multiple font sizes, inconsistent line spacing, lines overlapping one another), you didn't follow the Guide. Considering all the recent important updates to the Guide, all Smashwords authors and publishers should take a fresh look at their books and consider how to make them look better. Also follow the guidelines in the Guide for the copyright page, the Smashwords Edition statement, the license statement (to reduce piracy) and other helpful tips. Most common formatting errors that will lead to rejection (not a complete list): Using multiple successive paragraph returns to arrange text (creates blank ebook pages); using exotic, non-standard fonts; using tabs instead of proper first line paragraph indents; and not following the Style Guide's guidance on how to unify the text of your book around the "Normal" paragraph style with a common unified font size.
EPUB - EPUB is one of the many formats Smashwords produces after you upload your Microsoft Word source file. If you carefully format your book to the requirements of the Smashwords Style Guide, it will produce an EPUB file ready for distribution. If you don't make EPUB available as an option, we can't distribute your book. In order for your book to ship to Apple, the EPUB we produce for you must pass Epubcheck, the industry-standard validator for EPUB files. See the Style Guide for more information about EPUBCHECK. You'll also find information in our FAQ in the Apple section.
Book title - Some Smashwords authors and publishers have developed a bad habit of screwing up their title by adding words not related to the title, such as, *Joe's Memoir (half off for one more day only!)*. Don't bastardize your title because it'll disqualify you from the Premium Catalog. Similarly, don't do your titles in ALL CAPS. It's okay if it's ALL CAPS on your book cover, but not the metadata that displays on the site. Also avoid using "quote marks" in the title.
Book description - You must have a complete, professional-looking book description. If your description is written in ALL CAPS, we'll reject it. If your book description contains information not related to the description, such as "Use XYZ123 Coupon Code for 1/2 off now!" or "Visit my website for a free PDF" we will reject it. Update your book description by clicking to "settings" from within your Dashboard.
Book cover - Required as a JPG or PNG image file. Must display the front cover of your book only, and the front cover should include the book title and author name. Your book must have a book-like cover, because bookstores use your cover to merchandise your book in their online store. The ideal cover image is a vertical rectangle shape (like a book) with approximate dimensions of 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels tall. The minimum width is 1,400 pixels. Images cannot be square or three dimensional. For a helpful overview of possible cover dimensions, please visit our blog post on New Smashwords Cover Image Requirements. If your title is obscene or pornographic, we will reject it. It should not contain nudity, whether photographic or illustrated, and should not depict one person perpetrating harm upon another, or any other forms of graphic violence. As a general rule, keep your covers PG-13. Covers should not list the retail price, or advertise content or supplemental material not included within the book. If our retail partners object to anything, they will refuse to display your book. If your cover will give readers nightmares, it's probably not okay. :) If you can't create your own cover, send an email to email@example.com for a referral to a low cost cover designer. You'll find additional information on covers in our Smashwords Cover Image FAQ.
Copyright page - See tip 21b in the Style Guide for an example of how it should look. Your book must have a copyright page that designates the author as the copyright holder. It's not enough to list "By AuthorName." We want to see the words, Copyright Authorname Year. See the Style Guide for a sample, or see the examples below. The copyright page should contain one of the following phrases (you decide what works best for you): "Smashwords Edition" (without the quotes) or "Published by [the name of the author or publisher publishing it on Smashwords] at Smashwords" (without the quotes).
Here's an example of a short and sweet title/copyright page:
Memoir of a Happy Kitten
by Buster Bulldog
Copyright 2010 Buster Bulldog
And here's another good example
The Joy of Formatting
Published by Norma Forma at Smashwords
Copyright 2010 Norma Forma
"Published by" - If the body of your ebook says, "Published by CreateSpace," or "Printed in the United States," for example, we'll reject it. We love print books too, but remember your print book is different from your ebook, so don't confuse your readers. Your ebook is published by you (the author or publisher), not the printer or publishing services provider you used. You're welcome to tell customers where the print version is available. See the Style Guide for guidelines.
Links to Ebook Retailers - Smashwords will distribute your book to multiple retailers. Out of courtesy to the retailers, your book cannot contain hyperlinks pointing to Amazon or other retailers. Such links confuse customers. Imagine, for example, someone purchases your book from the Barnes & Noble store on their Nook, and at the end of the book you point them to Amazon for your other books. Such a customer can't read Amazon books on their Nook. It's also unfair to the retailer. The Style Guide has guidelines on how to provide acceptable hyperlinks to your other books. It's okay to link to your Smashwords author page or book page (since we're your publishing platform and distributor) or link to your personal web site or blog. It's also not a bad idea to add a generic statement at the end of your book such as, "Enjoy these other [Author Name] titles at fine ebook retailers everywhere."
ISBNs - Smashwords supports ISBNs. Go to the Smashwords ISBN Manager for more information. While ISBNs are not required to publish at Smashwords, or to gain inclusion in the Premium Catalog, they are required for three of our large retail partners, Apple, Kobo and Sony. An ISBN is a digital identifier that helps identify your book within the book industry supply chain. If you have an ISBN for your print version of your book, DO NOT list it as the ISBN for your ebook. Ebooks require different ISBNs, tied to each format you're distributing via retailers.
Complete Work - Smashwords only publishes and distributes complete works. If your book is a partial sample of a book or a work-in-progress, we cannot publish it.
Meets Smashwords TOS - The Smashwords Terms ofService is our contract with you. The TOS outlines what Smashwords will publish and what we will not. For example, we require all books listed on Smashwords to be original works, published on Smashwords by the author or the exclusive digital publisher. We do not accept public domain books, or books that appear elsewhere on the Internet under other authors' bylines such as Private Label Rights Books. We also don't like scammy "Get Rich Quick" books that offer "systems" for making money on the Internet. As we review all Smashwords books for Premium Catalog consideration, we'll remove books that don't meet the standards for originality. Read the updated Smashwords TOS at http://www.smashwords.com/about/tos
Updates - If you make updates to anything other than price after we ship your books to retailers, your new updates may require review before the updates can ship to retailers. Until your updates are approved, the prior approved version will ship. Updates include things such as changes to your title, changes to your book description, changes to your book, or new cover images.
Subject to Change! - Refer to the Smashwords Style Guide for the most up-to-date formatting requirements.
Please carefully follow all formatting requirements in the Style Guide. If you uploaded the same file you used for your print book, we can't accept it. Remember, we're trying to help you create a good looking ebook. Ebooks require different formatting. Common problem: More than five consecutive paragraph returns, anywhere in your manuscript. This creates blank ebook pages in small-screened devices. Activate Microsoft Word's "Show/hide" feature to clearly identify these formatting errors (the Style Guide shows you how).
Improperly Formed NCX
An NCX is part of your .epub file, and it provides useful navigation for your readers. Kobo requires you to have at least a two-part NCX. Apple also prefers and in some cases requires an NCX. Check your NCX by downloading Adobe Digital Editions. ADE does a great job of showing you your NCX (it'll appear in the left side of the window when you open your .epub file). See Step 20 in the Smashwords Style Guide for screen shots of the NCX, as well as tips on how to create them and trouble shoot them.
Epubcheck is an industry-standard tool that checks your .epub file for compliance to the .epub standard. Apple requires 100% compliance, as does Smashwords for Premium Catalog inclusion. Meatgrinder automatically repairs many epubcheck errors, but is unable to automatically repair all of them. Epubcheck errors are difficult to decypher. To learn how to fix your epubcheck errors, visit our EPUBCHECK Troubleshooting page.
Missing Proper First Line Paragraph Indents and/or Block Styles
If you don't add the visual cues to distinguish one paragraph from the next, your paragraphs will run together and become unreadable. Your readers won't know where one paragraph ends and the next begins. This is mostly common sense, yet it's one of the most common mistakes. Books are composed of paragraphs. At the end of each paragraph you finish the last sentence with a period and then hit the Enter key. There are two primary ways that authors create the visual cues to separate their paragraphs, the first line paragraph indent, or the block paragraph.
*Use ONLY ONE METHOD, not both*
First line paragraph indent: The first line of each paragraph is indented. This is the most common way paragraphs are separated in traditional print books, and it's a good method for most types of ebooks as well.
Block paragraph: The second method is the block paragraph method, which is what we use on this page you're reading now. To create a block paragraph in Microsoft Word, modify your paragraph style to define a trailing "after" space after each paragraph, measured in points such as "6 pt." This adds padding between the paragraphs, and makes paragraphs easy to read. DO NOT create block paragraphs by placing a paragraph return on an empty line between the two blocks.
Missing Proper Front Matter/ Copyright Page
See (Step 21b) of the Smashwords Style Guide for a clear examples of how to do it. Make sure your book contains the copyright page. It's very important you assert your right to publish. In addition to containing the phrase "Copyright [author or publisher name] [year]", the copyright page should also mention that this is your Smashwords Edition, or that the book is published by you at Smashwords.
Improperly Identified Publisher or Retailer
If your ebook incorrectly names your publisher, it'll be rejected. This is the Smashwords Edition of your ebook. If it says Kindle Edition, we can't distribute it. Out of courtesy to your ebook retailers, do not advertise the availability of the same ebook at other ebook retailers. Apple, for example, routinely rejects books if you add hyperlinks to competiting ebook retailers. Since Smashwords is your distributor, links to your Smashwords author page or book pages are okay.
Missing an Appropriate Book Cover
If you don't have a book cover, you can't get in the catalog. A book cover image should be a vertical (upright) book-like image, not a square or horizontal (sideways) image or three dimensional image. The book cover should be at least 1,400 pixels wide. The title of your book and the author's name should be listed on the cover. If you can't create your own cover, ask for a low cost referral (see below). Visit our cover image FAQ for complete guidelines and tips.
Font Size Error
Do not use fonts or paragraph styles that define larger than 18 pt type. Beware, just because you shrink a font on screen doesn't mean you fixed the problem. If the underlying paragraph style defines a large font, you should modify the underlying style.
Mistakes in Table of Contents
Do not include page numbers in your table of contents. It's a sure sign you ignored the Smashwords Style Guide. If you want a linked Table of Contents, DO NOT use Word's TOC fields. Instead, use Word's "bookmark" feature, which you'll find documented in the Style Guide. See Step 20 in the Smashwords Style Guide for detailed instructions on how to build good navigation into your ebook.
Waiting for You to Resubmit
If your book was previously rejected and you corrected the problem, please be sure to return to the Dashboard and click the link, "Needs submission" and then click the resubmit button on the other side. This is your way of telling us you finished your revisions and you're ready for us to review your book again.
Metadata is information attached to your book, like your author name or your book description. If your author name is lower cased, like lilywhite lilith, we'll reject your book and ask you to fix it. All author/publisher names should be Initial Caps, so... Lilywhite Lilith and NOT ALL CAPS such as LILYWHITE LILITH. In the book description, avoid using ALL CAP words, otherwise we'll reject it. Don't mention temporary promotions or coupon codes, because our retailers cannot honor them. Also don't include web addresses in the description. Don't mention prices in your book description.
First, don't email us to complain! :) Remember, we're trying to help you satisfy the requirements of retailers, and create the most professional looking book possible.
If your book doesn't make the cut, it probably means you didn't follow the Smashwords Style Guide, or you didn't follow the recommendations on this page. To update the book, upload it via the "upload new version" link in your Dashboard.
We expect you to exercise common sense. The mechanical requirements for inclusion in the Premium Catalog will only serve to make your books more accessible, discoverable and enjoyable by readers, and that's the point, right?
Many great Smashwords authors and publishers don't make it into the Premium Catalog on their first attempt. Don't take it personally. We're here to help you get in.
Get a Referral to an Ebook Formatter or Cover Image Designer
Mark Coker has created a short list of Smashwords authors who provide low cost formatting and cover design services for fellow Smashwords authors. If you would like to receive the list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you'll receive it via instant autoresponder. We don't receive a referral fee, and we cannot warrant their work. We provide this list as a service to you. The reason we recommend them is because other Smashwords authors have been satisfied with them. Also understand that you're hiring them, not Smashwords, and your payment to them does not entitle you to special fast-track handling of your book or priority customer service.
If our reviewer doesn't accept the book or revision into the Premium Catalog, they provide you guidance regarding the recommended next steps you can take to gain inclusion. You will find the reason for your title's rejection in your Dashboard by clicking on the "Requires Modification" hyperlink under the Premium Status column.
From your Dashboard, you can view your "Premium Status." You will either see the words, "Approved," "Pending,""Requires Modification" or "Needs Submission."
Approved = Your book is in the Premium Catalog. Even though you made the cut, you should still review the above requirements in section 3 above, and double check that your book follows the formatting requirements of the Smashwords Style Guide. If we later discover we approved you in error, we will remove you from the list until the problems are corrected.
Pending = We haven't evaluated your book yet. Please be patient. Trust us, we want to get your book into distribution just as quickly as you do! Please don't email us to ask when your book will be evaluated. If your book has one or more AutoVetter error messages, fix the errors now, because otherwise it will delay or prevent us from manually reviewing your book.
Requires Modification = This will be a clickable link where you can learn what your next steps are. After you make the necessary modifications, you must submit your book for re-evaluation. The button to re-submit will not appear until you have made the modifications.
Needs Submission = This means we're waiting on you to complete the necessary tasks to re-submit your book. Visit your book status page (click to Dashboard, then click the link under the "Premium Status" column to find the resubmit button.
If you carefully follow the instructions above, and you follow the guidelines of the Smashwords Style Guide, you'll have no problem gaining quick inclusion into the Premium Catalog.
Cost - There is no cost to be included in the catalog, just as there is no cost to publish or distribute with Smashwords.
Your Earnings - See our earnings FAQ in the Support Center for detailed information on how your earnings are calculated. For sales through our retail distribution network, you'll usually earn 60% of the retail price for all prices $.99 and up, with a few exceptions for overseas sales through Kobo.
Sales Reporting, Royalty Payments - Although Smashwords provides you real-time sales reporting, most of our retail partners report sales on a delayed basis, so we will usually integrate these results into your Dashboard's Sales & Payments report anywhere from one to six weeks after they occur. Keep in mind that we will often report sales in advance of those sales becoming payable to you. See your Dashboard's Sales & Payments report for additional information.
Expected sales - Will you sell a lot of books? Unlikely. Shelf presence, while critical, is only the first step in selling a book. It's up to you to write an incredible book and generate demand for it. If you haven't done so already, be sure to read The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (IT'S FREE!), where we share the best practices of the most successful Smashwords authors.
Premium Catalog - You can check the status of your book by visiting your Dashboard. We are completely transparent about our criteria. Since we manually review thousands of books each week and we're only human, you can expect we will apply the criteria inconsistently. We ask for your patience. If your book is accepted, it could still later be rejected if we discover your book slipped through our manual and automated filters, or if we later modify the requirements based on retailer requests. If your book is rejected, fret not, we will do our best to notify you about the reason in your Dashboard and give you ample instructions on how remedy the situation. If you think we rejected your book in error, please click "comments/questions," provide a hyperlink to the book in question, and describe why you think our vetting team was in error. We're here to help!
Ship Dates and Errors - Currently, we "ship" the Premium Catalog approximately once a week, usually on Thursdays and Fridays. For Apple and Kobo only, we ship daily. To view ship dates, go to your Dashboard and click the Channel Manager link. If your title is not accepted for a ship date, you can wait for the next ship date. Our intention is to help every Smashwords author or publisher who wants distribution to receive it, but it is your responsibility to review the requirements. We're constantly working with our retailers to help them increase the speed and accuracy of their listings. The day we ship doesn't correspond to the day your book appears at the retailer. Books usually appear within three to five days of shipment, though some retailers such as Apple may impose longer wait times. Also expect glitches. Our retailers are processing updates on literally thousands of our books each week, so mistakes happen. Please monitor your book's listings at retailers. If you discover your book is listed incorrectly or mispriced two weeks after we shipped an update to a retailer, don't contact the retailer. Instead, here's how to notify Smashwords of retailer listing errors: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#error
Smashwords Direct - Smashwords Direct is a new publishing option that allows you to upload pre-formatted, professionally designed EPUB files, rather than a Word .doc file. This feature is in beta. Carefully study the Smashwords Direct documentation before taking advantage of this option.
Prices - If you currently have your book set to "Reader sets the price," this pricing option is not supported by our retail partners. In this situation, we will give your book a price for their purposes. We'll set the default to $4.95 but you can also go to Dashboard: Settings to set the suggested list price at retail. Effective December 1, 2010, B&N will no longer accept Smashwords books that are priced at "Reader Sets the Price," so if you want distribution to B&N, select a normal fixed price option. FREE books will also be distributed, and available to our retail partners' customers for free. Be sure to add a link in your book, preferably near the copyright page, listing a hyperlink back to your Smashwords author page so readers know where to find your other work.
Channel Manager - The Channel Manager appears in your Dashboard. This allows you to view and control the retail outlets that distribute your book. You'll be able to set suggested retail price, view the status of your book, or remove your book from a particular distribution outlet. This feature is in continuous development.
ISBNs - ISBNs are digital identifiers that help retailers and distributors keep track of your books. Your ebook ISBN must be different than your print ISBN. Smashwords supports ISBNs. To learn more, or to assign ISBNs to your books, visit the ISBN Manager. Smashwords retail partners Sony, Kobo and Apple require ISBNs. Other retail partners may assign other numeric identifiers to your book if you don't supply one. Those identifiers may list Smashwords as the publisher, or possibly even the retail partner. Some Smashwords authors fear this reduces their ownership, or threatens their copyright - not true.
Sampling - Each channel partner utilizes different sampling practices, and these practices may differ from the practices at Smashwords. For example, at Smashwords, if you choose 10% sampling, this means the first 10% of your book, from word one, is available as a free sample. Some retailers, however, maybe permit customers to sample 10% of any portion of your book, and they may allow them to sample a different 10% on another date. We will do our best to inform you of the individual sampling policies of each retailer. If you do not agree with the sampling policies, you can opt out of that retailer (we think the policies of our partners are fair and reasonable, so we doubt any Smashwords authors would want to opt out for this reason).
If you're already in distribution - If your books are already in distribution at the same outlets we distribute to, you'll have the option to remove your books on an outlet by outlet basis by visiting your Dashboard's Channel Manager page.
Timing - How long until your books appear in stores? - After your book is accepted into the Premium Catalog, your book will begin shipping out to retailers. We usually ship once per week, though for Apple and Kobo we ship daily. It usually takes retailers two days to two weeks to list new titles. Check the Channel Manager link in your Dashboard for ship dates. Check the Channel Manager for updates. If your book is delayed to Sony or Apple, see these FAQ entries here.
Length - At present, our partners will take ebooks of all lengths. If this changes, we'll reflect it here and in the Channel Manager. Our research indicates longer books are more popular with readers.
Thanks for publishing and distributing with Smashwords! Please tell a friend. Smashwords was created for your benefit, so please let us know how we can better serve you.
For regular Smashwords news and updates, follow the Site Updates page or follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/markcoker Join the Smashwords group at Facebook here: http://facebook.com/Smashwords.