Smashwords Publishing for Family History Writers | The Armchair Genealogist
Start Looking

Smashwords Publishing for Family History Writers

In an effort to establish some of the most cost efficient and easy to use avenues for family history writers to publish their stories, I have been analysing the various companies available at our disposal. We’ve looked at Bookbaby and Amazon/Createspace and Lightening Source. It’s time to add one more to the mix Smashwords.

Smashwords is a globally independent ebook publishing and distribution platform.  Founder Mark Coker created this company 3 years ago, out of his own need when he failed on the traditional publishing stage.

For family history authors, Smashwords is a nice fit. You simply create your ancestor’s story in a Microsoft Word .doc file.  Once your story is complete, you can create an account and upload your manuscript onto the Smashword’s site for free.  The Smashwords Style Guide will help you with your formatting. If you’re not interested in formatting it yourself, then consult Mark’s List, where you can find a list of formatters who will be more than willing to help you for a fee. They can also help with cover design.

Once your manuscript is loaded, Smashwords will convert your document into nine formats for distribution, including Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and other platforms. Smashwords is currently looking at various avenues to distribute their ebooks to libraries, a great bonus for family history writers. They are currently participating in a Canadian and US beta test in combination with the Internet Archive.

Some nice things about Smashwords for the family history author are its free ISBNs, and unlimited updates to your book and metadata. They also offer free marketing and selling tools.  Smashwords provides an author profile and will index your book for SEO. 

Most of us are not expecting to make a lot of money on our family history book, but wouldn’t it be nice. First, if you’re interested in just getting your family history out there you can most certainly list it for free, if you wish. Otherwise, Smashwords will give you 85% of sales from every book that you sell on their site. 

If you sell your book through their affiliate links on your blog or website, you will receive 70%. If you distribute it out to Barnes and Noble or Amazon, you will receive 60% of each sale. Sounds pretty good!

Keep in mind if you upload your book to Amazon’s Kindle directly, (not using Smashwords) you will receive 70% of each sale. Therefore, by going through Smashwords you lose 10% of your Kindle sales. You do have the option of bypassing  Kindle’s distribution via Smashwords and handling that directly yourself increasing your profits by 10%. 

Smashwords, a young company,  has grown tremendously. In 2008, its first year of operation it published 140 books; by the end of 2010 they had published over 28,000 ebooks. Smashwords has gone out of their way to make the process as painless as possible, the key to making them so successful so fast. Family history writers, there is a very small learning curve here.  

Wait times to getting book out to distribution channels has improved from 30 days to 4 days and converting a book took 30 hours now takes 3 minutes.  Certainly, it seems there is much more growth ahead for Smashwords and that can only bode well for the family history writer.

With companies like Smashwords, there are just no more excuses to not write and publish that family history. Keep in mind, Smashwords does not handle print publishing, this is where you would turn to Createspace and Lightening Source.

Be sure to consult the Smashwords Style Guide, the Smashwords blog, particularly the post How to Self-Publish with Smashwords: 32 Authors Share Their Tips and Tricks and the Marketing Guide, all aimed at helping the author reach their self-publishing goals.