Struggling with an Alternative for PayPal Users

I’ve had a number of folks from countries outside the US who have contacted me to ask me how I’m going to make either my novels or my courses available to readers or students who don’t have access to or or the Apple Store or CreateSpace.

What these folks have all had in common is their ability to buy via PayPal (and thus to use Smashwords).

I promised to re-investigate Smashwords, and it remains as bad a deal for writers as it was before. I think I’ve come up with a workable alternative, but it will be a lot of work for me, so before I leap into it, I’d like to get just a rough idea of interest.

If you only have access to US products via a PayPal account, please let me know here, as well as a little info about where you are, or why you prefer PDFs, or why you prefer PayPal.

Format will be PDF. I simply don’t have the time or the ability to create a bunch of different versions of my work for all the platforms out there.

Prices will match the prices I offer elsewhere, and the content will, aside from format, be otherwise identical. I’m considering doing this as a matter of accessibility for folks who might not be able to get my work otherwise.

ADDED LATER: My take on the whole true self-publishing vs. packaged publishing issue.

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56 responses to “Struggling with an Alternative for PayPal Users”

  1. Kit Russell Avatar
    Kit Russell

    I don’t know if you’re still reading comments to this entry, but I have a Kobo and they accept PayPal.

    1. Ida Ewing Avatar
      Ida Ewing

      Kobo…. if you read further into their website….. accepts Paypal ONLY in certain countries. So if you, for ex., has an American issued credit card and an American bank account tied to it BUT may be living abroad in a country where Kobo does not see fit to accept Paypal… then it is still a no go.

  2. Lizzy Greenberg Avatar

    Great comments. Thank you for posting this.

    Lizzy Greenberg

  3. Cat Avatar

    This might be a little “off subject” but is there a recommended list of tools to use to get a book into the different formats? I see Lulu, I’ve read Smashwords, Amazon has it’s own converter, etc…..

    Also it seems that different publishers are jealous and want you to only publish with them if you use their tool, are there some we want to do this with or those to avoid (besides Smashwords).

    Short or Long list?

    1. Holly Avatar

      I can’t tell you what to do. I can tell you what I’m doing.

      I buy my own ISBNs. Owning your ISBN is essential in maintaining control of your work. My one exception with this is in using the free CreateSpace ISBNs for print versions. My philosophy here is: If CreateSpace tries at a later date to control my work through those ISBNs, I’ll delete the books from there, use my personal ISBNs, and republish my print versions on Lulu. They’ll cost buyers a bit more, but frankly, paper books are a negligible part of books sales at this point, and becoming less important every day.

      For e-publishing, I use my own tools. Scrivener, mostly, which does very nice .mobi and .epub and print and PDF formats, but where .epub and .mobi are concerned, requires me to fiddle around too long to get the books the way I want them.

      I hire a formatter for my .mobi and .epub versions, because I want them to be done in a very specific way, and I don’t want to spend the time it takes me to do them that way. (Rule of thumb when you’re living on your writing: You spend money to buy time. Time you can convert into more writing. Money, you can’t.)

      I can place the converted files from my formatter where I want them without any encumbrance—they are not linked by or associated with an online seller’s software.

      I do my PDFs and print versions myself, because I can do those directly from the file I send to my formatter, and they come out the way I want them immediately.

      I personally manually upload to each of the places I sell. I manually control my own prices.

      And I maintain direct control of my books and close control of my income.

      1. Kevin O McLaughlin Avatar

        Holly, I’m missing how ISBNs have anything to do with control of your work. I use the $10 ISBNs for Createspace books too. ISBNs are a tracking number, in the USA generated by a for profit corporation (Bowker) to track book sales. They aren’t related to ownership or control of a work at all. Again, far as I know; I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I don’t use ISBNs for Amazon or B&N ebooks; those venues do not require them, and providing one gains me no advantage that I am aware of.

        I’d look into Lightning Source (Ingrams POD subsidiary) before considering Lulu. The downside is that you DO have to pay $70 per book to get it into distribution, and you do need to supply your own ISBN (required). The up side is that costs per copy are about the same as Createspace, and you get set retailer discount down to 20% (instead of the mandatory 40% for Amazon sales or 60% for other venues via Createspace!). That means you can get the books to customers cheaper via LSI/Ingrams, while still making more per copy.

        Example: a 200 page book on Createspace costs $3.25 to print; if you list it for $10, then you get $2.75 per copy sold on Amazon and 75 cents per copy solid at other retailers. Same book via LSI costs $3.50 to print, and if you sell it for $10, you make $4.50 per copy on all venues. Sell it for $8, and you still make $2.90 per copy. Worth considering, if you can sell enough copies to make up that initial cash outlay!

        On ebook conversion: consider looking into Jutoh. Does both epub and mobi. Does a much better job exporting than Scrivener (I have Scrivener, still use Jutoh). There’s a lot more fine control, much more reliable one-press formatting, and the ability to embed much better metadata with the book. Scrivener is good – I use it to put my rough drafts into ebook form so I can give them first reads and make notes as I go (saves me paper). But Jutoh is a better tool for professional conversion for publication.

        1. Holly Avatar

          You’re coming at this as someone who already has run through the ropes, and figured out a system that works from you.

          I’m NOT.

          I’m coming at this as someone who has been getting a LOT of e-mails that start with “I self-published my book with X company, and paid for printing and distribution and publicity, and now I find out that their idea of publicity was a website, and their idea of distribution was that website, and they own the ISBN and have my agreement to publish with them…” and that end with “What can I DO?!”

          Way too many folks, many of whom read my site, think that Publish America (or any other bundled-service pay-to-publish company) is what I’m talking about when I say I’ve moved to self-publishing. So I’m making it clear here that I am talking about nothing of that sort.

          Instead, what I’m telling people is “DON’T sign agreements, DON’T put your work in the hands of people who will control your money and your payouts, DON’T work with anyone whose sales records are not updated in what is essentially realtime and which are transparent, DON’T use someone else’s ISBN and distribution service.”

          I’m watching people who have created good books realizing that they have been screwed by middlemen. Again. Who have written books that they can’t take elsewhere, can’t publish themselves, will get paid ridiculously small returns on, because they did not understand that you don’t NEED middlemen to self-publish, and they are now chained to a business that is easily as bad as any commercial publisher.

          I’m making it a point to tell new writers they don’t need middlemen. In almost every instance, when a company says, “We’ll provide your ISBN,” the company also says, “We’ll provide your distribution, and we’ll pay you.” And then the company provides the same distribution you could give yourself, but slices a portion of your income out for their services, and hangs on to your money, and determines the schedule on which you’ll be paid.

          Aside from having printed copies of your work made up, in fact, you don’t even need Amazon or B&N or iTunes. These are distributors, and as such, because they have such large reach and offer both transparent accounting and good royalty structures, they are convenient.

          Convenient. Not essential.

          The next big leap in internet technology—invented by some thirteen-year-old kid in his bedroom—that scours the internet for independent bookstores on individual author homepages, and bundles them into a single virtual bookstore configured by the end user based on his interests, is entirely capable of making Amazon, B&N, and iBooks, and other distribution middlemen, obsolete.

          The internet flattens hierarchies, and every company that creates one, then attempts to use its size to control the market and dictate terms against what consumers want, invites people to figure out better ways to get what they want directly. The company that succeeds at monopolizing book distribution will be the cue for that kid in his bedroom to get to work.

          For the writer, the point, the beauty, and the power of self-publishing is that you have immediate and direct control of your creation. You have no intermediary between you and your readers.

          For the readers, the beauty of self-publishing is that if you like a particular writer’s books, you can guarantee a writer will keep writing them by directly funding his writing (buy buying them). You are not some invisible cog that tossed $14 bucks to a publisher, not a dime of which reached the writer. You’re the person most of whose $2.99 went directly to the writer and allowed him to buy his kid dinner.

          The writer wants you to read his books, because with you in the picture, he isn’t living on pasta and vegetable oil with a bit of salt for flavor. (Been there, done that, thank you commercial publishing.) The writer will write books he hopes you’ll love so you’ll keep buying them. He’ll tell his stories to YOU, not to his editor and agent, filtered against their beliefs that there is no market for intelligent books or for whatever it is that you love.

          The most immediate and direct self-publishing is You-PayPal (or other payment processor)-Reader. Communication and exchange are immediate and direct. You pay your PayPal fee, but you don’t wait for your money. This is the form of self-publishing I’ve been engaged in since I wrote Holly Lisle’s Create A Character Clinic, and it changed my life. You don’t need ISBNs, you don’t need any intermediaries, you don’t need a publisher, editor, agent—nothing. You need your brain, your skill, and your ability to create files other people can use to extract the information you had in your brain.

          You and your software create products your reader buys directly from you, and you ask your reader what he’s looking for, and then answer his needs.

          I want the broader reach that Amazon, B&N, and iTunes can give me, so for now I’ve included this second channel, and suspect that it will become my biggest channel. I don’t expect Amazon to get stupid regarding how it treats its writers, and I don’t expect it to establish a monopoly.

          BUT… I’ll maintain my direct sales—and evaluate how my PayPal products go compared to my major platform products. I’ll keep my fallback position, in case Amazon or some other distributor attempts to corner the market and dictate unfavorable terms.

          My objectives in publishing my own work are two: No one gets to stand between me and my reader again, and no one gets to stand between me and my ability to pay my bills and feed my family again.

          Which is a VERY long answer to “Why you don’t use someone else’s ISBN, written mostly for the other folks who read me, because you already know this.

          Thanks for the recommendations on the software. As noted, however, my rule of thumb is, “Pay money to buy time,” so I’ll continue to work with my book packager to create my .mobi and .epub files.

          1. Kevin O. McLaughlin Avatar

            Completely agree with just about everything, Holly. =)

            Avoid third parties who “upload for you”. Distribute directly to retailers. Don’t agree to deals that won’t also let you sell on your own site (at least not long term; I have one work on Kindle Select as an experiment, but can pull it back after 90 days).

            Use middlemen where it works to your advantage. Period. Always keep your options open and watch for the next thing coming down.

            I think you ought to consider the possibility that you’re buying ISBNs out of habit, though. Because Bowker is just another middle man service provider trying to make money between the reader and writer. Apple is the only major ebook retailer that requires an ISBN to sell ebooks. I don’t buy ISBNs because the ISBN is dead, in ebooks, at least for now. It might someday become vital, but i doubt it. It’s simply not necessary.

            So I use the free ISBN from Smashwords to reach Apple, because I figure I ought to have the books on Apple even though very few people actually buy books there. It’s another retailer, another avenue for sales, and more avenues for sales are good.

            But I’m not going to pay Bowker to get there. It’s simply not worth the expense.

            Just think about it. Your methods will vary from mine, and they should. But think about what paying Bowker is actually buying you.

            1. Ray Johnson Avatar
              Ray Johnson

              Any writer should avoid agreeing to any deal they don’t fully understand, haven’t thought about, or are too excited over to think clearly about. Make sure you know how the deal works, and why you want to sign on. The other guy is in business – you can be pretty sure he knows what he’s doing, and even if he is genuinely trying to be honest, your interests are not his first concern. So he expects to make money from dealing with you, but what do you get out of it? Unless you know the answer to that, don’t sign on. Sure, holding a printed copy of something you’ve written in your hand is nice, but it’s better to wait and get the details right than to jump in and lose control over your work just so you can feel like a published author.

          2. Ray Johnson Avatar
            Ray Johnson

            You’ve put your finger on an important point here. For writers, control of our work is a vital issue. And in the world we live in today, no writer needs to surrender control of their work to anyone else. The reputable businesses don’t seek to force you to surrender that control. When anyone does, you should wonder why? What makes them think you’ll want to escape them before they have a chance to make a profit? (Hint: usually, they know once you understand what they plan to do to you, you’ll want to put a stop to it. So they seek control, so by the time you find out, it’s too late.)

      2. Ray Johnson Avatar
        Ray Johnson

        I certainly agree that it is important to control your own work, but if you don’t mind, I do have a question. I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into your wording, or if I misunderstand the issue with ISBNs. I do know that once you allow an ISBN to be issued for a work, that work has been “published” and no publisher is likely to pay for “first publication rights” which are the most valuable rights usually sold, even if the ISBN was issued solely because of a single copy you ordered for your own use.

        But beyond that, I wasn’t aware anyone could use an ISBN to control your work. As long as you retain the Copyright rights to the work, wouldn’t you be able to pull the work from any market, then issue another edition with your own ISBN affixed? Is it just the time and inconvenience necessary to do that which you’re concerned with, or is there another issue I’m not aware of or not thinking through?

  4. Carina Avatar

    I would also prefer PDFs. I don´t have an ereader and I like to be able to print pages. Not sure how the other formats works, but if I had to buy an ereader to read a book, I would not buy the book.

    I´m ok to use my credit card on Amazon, but if I have the choice, I´ll choose Paypal, because it´s more convenient.

  5. William Gaius Avatar
    William Gaius

    Paypal works very well for foreign transactions. My UK publisher pays me using Paypal, and I can maintain the amount in Sterling if I want, or convert to dollars.
    Where Paypal fails, is when your account is hacked. About two years ago, mine had ten fraudulent transactions of about $90 each in a 30 minute period at 3 in the morning before Paypal caught it. This was not the problem; the problem was that it took nearly a year to get all the fraudulent transactions resolved. I didn’t get paid until a specific transaction was resolved, so my $900 was returned to me in $90 chunks, one at a time.
    OTOH, I was only hacked once in several years, and this particular incident had nothing to do with legitimate transactions as you are proposing.

  6. Shawna Avatar

    Thank you (re:PDFs); just saw the email.
    And double thank-you for the discussion on the WordPress plug-in… I have plans that need something of that sort in the near future, and that sounds like it will work perfectly.

  7. Stijn Hommes Avatar
    Stijn Hommes

    I prefer PDFs because I can use them on any device I have or will buy without being restricted by a particular company. Paypal is a must because I do not have a credit card and have no intention of getting one. So it is simple. Someone who doesn’t offer Paypal or the ability to pay through my Dutch bank account won’t get my business unless they want to offer me their product for free.

    And I mean FREE; not as LinkedIn suggests: we’ll charge your non-existant credit card when the free trial is over instead of ending the membership.

  8. Martin Drevin Avatar
    Martin Drevin

    I do not like being bound to a proprietary device to read e-books and therefore strongly prefer pdf’s. If the material is something I am going to refer to in the future I like to print it out, which also makes it easier to hilite and write notes on.

    Most of the e-books I check out on Amazon and B&N is in any case more expensive than the REAL book, and I still prefer the real thing. Why must I then pay the price of 40+ books to get a device to read an e-book, where the batteries run out before finishing one book?

  9. Sara Avatar

    If I wasn’t already a member of HTTS and HTRYN, I’d prefer PDF and PayPal as well. I prefer to work on my notebook computer, and only use my Kindle for fiction. PayPal is the best payment method for me, although I’m fine with the “Verified by Visa” standard that’s used in lots of places now.


  10. Eileen Avatar


    I use pdfs and enjoy them. I don’t own a kindle or other ebook reader. I print my pdf files or read online, but I try to limit the time I spend on the screen, so most of them end up on paper. My New Zealand Credit Card number is often not accepted by overseas payment systems, but has been accepted by paypal and amazon. I’m not familiar with Create Space and don;’u use Barnes and Noble etc but do use amazon.

  11. Darlene Avatar

    I like having books in pdf format, I don’t have a reader so reading them on my desktop is the only option I have right now. I also like Paypal because to me it’s more secure than always entering my credit card info. I also like Create Space, so far it’s been okay for me.
    I’m not familiar with Smashwords, never heard of it, they don’t sound too reliable from the comments I’ve read.

  12. Grace Robinette Avatar
    Grace Robinette

    I use Paypal and my trusty computer, no kindle, etc. Thank you

  13. Shawna Avatar

    I strongly prefer PDF format for a couple of reasons:
    1) The ability to print it out – when I’m reading for pleasure, “consuming”, if you will, I prefer my ereader; when I’m “working” with material, going back and forth between the text and my computer, I strongly favor the printed page. (Has something to do with my retention of the material and how my brain processes it, I suspect; something akin to reading aloud to find errors rather then just proofreading visually.)
    2) As a secondary consideration, my reader does play very nicely with PDF. It’s not a Kindle, Nook, or Sony, but it works well for me, especially homeschooling ebooks are usually sold PDF format – and that’s a niche I’ve accumulated a lot of ebooks in.

    That brings to mind a pet peeve of mine: there are some markets that Amazon and B&N simply isn’t open to yet, because their chosen formats aren’t realistic for the material. Kindle and epub are nice, but they’re by no means perfect. I’ll be glad to see handling of forms and images get past these early hit and miss days.

  14. David Nelson Avatar
    David Nelson

    My main concern is the ability to print your courses and study them that way. I do not care who I pay.

  15. wednesday Avatar

    If I’m trying to learn something, I prefer a PDF that I can print out and have at my elbow. That is a dealbreaker for me. If there’s a way to print out an eBook (short of cut and paste and that doesnt’ always work), I don’t know how to do it. If I can’t print it out, there had better be other, paper access to it. Otherwise, I’ll look for another supplier of the same knowledge.

    As for Paypal, a lot of people trust paying them more than they trust paying through Amazon or another vendor. I don’t know why…it doesn’t matter to me, it does to some. What matters to me is the ability to print out what I buy if it’s a workshop. If it’s fiction, I don’t have a problem reading it in eBook form.

    I bought all of your workshops. If I hadn’t been able to download and print out the PDFs, I wouldn’t have bought them. You included that capability in the PDFs…thank you.

  16. Lucille P Robinson Avatar

    I prefer PDF because i cannot afford ereaders and such. I like PayPal because of the convenience of the system, but am willing to consider sending money orders. Thank you for being willing to take your readers into consideration on this matter and for all the courses you’ve already made available the other way.

  17. Hauckston Avatar

    And Holly, I really appreciate that you go so far out of your way to satisfy your writer clients! Thank you very much!

  18. Hauckston Avatar

    Just wanted to say that if pdf files are the format, I can drag it onto my kindle and take it everywhere.. works very well for me.

    And I use paypal – never had a problem with it. And for those who aren’t aware, you can use a debit card with paypal now, too.

  19. Shari Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    First, I would like to say thank you for everything you have on your website. I hope in the near future that I will be able to take at least one of your courses.

    I am currently living in Saudi Arabia. I do not have an e-reader so a PDF is what I prefer. I know that Saudi Arabi blocks A LOT of websites. Also, I have tryed download from other sites for free books and I receive the message, “Sorry, this file is unavailable for the middle east.” it just makes me want to cry. 🙁

    I wish you luck! I will check back for updates.

    Take Care,

  20. Patrick Baum Avatar


    I will use any method of payment, shop any store, climb every mountain, ford every stream; OK, I’ll stop.

    It is impossible to operate a small business and please everyone. If you must make changes to your policies, I will cooperate, even if I should have to straddle my hot German motorbike and deliver the monthly payments to Nome in krona.

    As for format, I couldn’t care less. It’s the content, Holly. The value lies in that WRITER’S BRAIN of yours. Just. Don’t. Stop.


  21. Crystal Avatar

    I am NOT one of the people you described above. But, I may have a solution.

    If you don’t want to use Smashwords, have you considered According to their site, XinXii is Europe’s leading indie eBook publishing and distribution platform.

  22. jessica Avatar

    hi, i’m from new zealand and get access to some books on kindle. I would prefer pdf format because I can bring it up on a bigger screen than my kindle and i like pay pal because it is instant and secure , i already have some of your short courses in pdf i am still saving to get your bigger courses.

  23. Ray Johnson Avatar
    Ray Johnson

    I certainly respect your choice to sell or not sell your books in whatever manner or format you desire, but, since you’ve asked… 😉 I live in the US, but I will not use a credit card. I don’t consider it worth the trouble or expense. If I can’t buy something without a credit card, I won’t buy it – or, if I’m terribly desperate, I’ll get someone else to do it for me, and pay them cash.

    As for PDF – I’m legally blind. I prefer PDF format over others for that reason; it is easier for me to pull it up on a large screen on my PC and view it the way which is most comfortable for me. In addition, I consider it the most “archival” of digital formats, although I’m aware ‘archival digital format’ is an oxymoron if there ever was one. But it is cross-platform (I’ll soon be using Linux only, so that matters), not device dependent, and enough of a common standard it wouldn’t be nearly the issue it would for any other format to find some way to read it.

    1. Ray Johnson Avatar
      Ray Johnson

      I wanted to add something to my comment. There may well be other visually impaired people who prefer different options. I respect their choices – but my particular condition is rare, and my vision does not work, in a fundamental way, like everyone else’s. (I have no retinas, and never have, was born with ‘rewired’ optic nerves and my only vision is what in anyone else would be their peripheral vision.) So most of you will have no idea what might work best for me, just as I make no claim to know what would work best for you. And there may even be others who share this condition who find other options preferable; again, that’s your choice. I respect it. Please respect mine. I’ve found that in some cases, when you have to struggle enough to do something, part of the issue is simply whatever you’ve learned to live with. So please, accept that I know what works best for me. That’s all I claim to know, that’s the limit of my opinion here. That’s (as I understand it) what Holly asked.

      1. Kevin O McLaughlin Avatar

        I understand and sympathize with the vision issue. On the plus side: DO remember that epub readers allow you to resize the text to quite a large size. I think you might find it more effective for reading than PDF, not less. And it works equally well on Linux as other operating systems. Hope that helps. =)

        The problem with PDF is that if you’re using an ereader, it’s very problematic to read them. The text ends up *really* tiny since the device renders an 8×11″ page down to a much smaller screen. For the millions of people reading mostly on smartphones today, it’s even worse. Epub and mobi reflow the text and allow the user to resize the text, so they’re equally readable on all screen sizes.

        There’s the other bit that if you’re hoping to use DRM, PDF is a bad format (I got this impression Holly wants DRM). Most users are going to have to convert it from PDF to epub or mobi in Calibre before they can load it in their reader (reasons above), and DRM means they’d need to take the time to remove the DRM first, which is an added hassle. I don’t consider DRM well-advised anyway, but if you plan to use it, PDFs are a bad option.

        1. Ray Johnson Avatar
          Ray Johnson

          I don’t use an e-reader; with their tiny screens, they would make me crazy. 🙂 And if e-readers won’t allow you to change the (effective) font size on PDFs, that is poor implementation on their part, not a limitation of the format. I can change the size of text on my computer as easily as I can change it in a word processor (although the terms used in the menu are different, the result is the same).

          Since Holly already said PDF, if she makes it available, would be in addition to the other formats, I don’t think anyone who prefers those formats needs to worry. It’s her decision in the end, anyway. Of course, I’m hoping she will add PayPal and PDF options, but it depends on what works for her and for her audience. As much as I hope for a certain outcome, I can understand that. Printed copies produced via letterpress would be nice, too – but it would be unreasonable to expect any publisher other than a luxury press to offer them. So all any of us are doing is giving her a glimpse into the opinions of those interested in buying her work.

          1. Kevin O McLaughlin Avatar

            Ereaders can generally read PDFs. They can also enlarge the PDF page size, same as the one on your computer screen can. They can’t resize the text – neither can the one on your computer. PDFs are locked text formats, they resize the entire page, not the text itself.

            For example, if I make a PDF 500% of the normal size on my computer, I have to scroll over a LOT as I am reading across each line of text. Ditto for ereaders, only moreso because the screens are much smaller. You can do it; but it’s not an easy way to read! =) I usually drop PDFs into Calibre and port them to mobi if they’re a long work I want to carry around with me.

            For someone with vision problems, the only tablet devices I’d recommend for reading would be the larger ones like Kindle DX or iPad. You can resize the text to be quite large. You never need to scroll, just turn the page; the effect is like instantly making the book a “large text” book. Works even better on large computer screens.

            (Sorry for the digression, I’m a nurse when I’m not writing and publishing – so I deal with this sort of thing pretty often in my line of work. Epub/mobi are in general a huge boon for people with reduced vision, and are usually superior to PDFs for that purpose. If you want to drop me a line directly, I’d be glad to work with you more specifically on methods which might work for your specific case.)

    2. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Ray,

      I’m adding in the PDF format. You plus the folks from countries that can’t get the other formats have assured me that I won’t be wasting my time including a format that isn’t needed or wanted.

  24. Eva Gorup Avatar
    Eva Gorup

    As far as I know, Barnes and Noble only accept credit cards with American residency address, so they’re out for anyone outside US anyway.

    I’m from Slovenia and have access to SOME Kindle books – for some reason, there are books that are not available through Amazon for Europe region. (And most if not all are more expensive, *eye roll*) I don’t know why some Kindle books are off limits to overseas customers – it may have something to do with publishers or rights or something? – but I just wanted to mention this in case that as a seller you’ve got to check somewhere saying you want to sell your books in Europe as well.

  25. Madelie Human Avatar
    Madelie Human

    I live in South Africa. Although I have previously bought from you through Paypal, I now have access to Amazon and have already bought a few of your books on Kindle. Thanks!

    Madelie Human

  26. Chris Kelworth Avatar

    I’m ‘outside the US’, but I don’t have a problem accessing the Kindle store – actually, I have a small problem with the surcharges they add onto each book for daring to be Canadian, but that’s not a big deal. I’d probably prefer the Kindle store to paying for PDFs on my paypal, but it’s not a big deal either way.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Kindle, Nook, and iBookstore, as well as print format, are already a given. I have a bunch going up, a bunch more in production now, and I’m committed to those platforms for the foreseeable future.

      PDF is in addition to, not instead of.

      If there’s enough interest, I’ll go ahead with it.

  27. Mel Corbett Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    Do you go into why you don’t like smashwords somewhere else? A lot of indie authors seem to be gung ho about it, so If you don’t mind I’m curious about why you chose to pass on it.


    ~ Mel

  28. Liana Mir Avatar

    Why IS Smashwords bad for authors? You can opt out of any of the premium distribution retailers and the royalty rates are reasonable. Am I missing something?

    1. Holly Avatar

      I have covered this elsewhere, but I’ll go over it again.

      1) Smashwords pays quarterly. If you’re making a living at this and you’re self-pubbing, that’s not good enough. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and CreateSpace pay monthly. PayPal, if you’re using it directly, pays INSTANTLY. If you’re living on your writing, three months can be the difference between paying your bills and having creditors pounding on your door.
      2) Smashwords does not offer the option of DRM.
      3) Smashwords requires the use of its Meatgrinder, which puts out books that are less professional than books I pay to have professionally formatted, and which are sometimes so mangled Amazon refuses to accept them.
      4) Smashwords takes a royalty ON TOP OF the royalties taken by the places where books are sold. I’ve just gotten out of twenty-plus years of dealing with layers of middlemen who all get a cut of what I earn. I’m not going back in.
      5) Smashwords acts as an intermediary for the stores where your works reside. If you want to put a book on sale and you’re dealing with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes directl, you can put your book on sale the day you want it on sale, and take it off the day you want it off. With Smashwords, you can have days, weeks, or months between the time you want something done and the time it gets done.

      1. Kevin O McLaughlin Avatar

        Holly, I think you’ve misunderstood some elements of Smashwords.

        1) True. But it’s interesting that quarterly is now too infrequently, when biannually was the norm a couple of years ago. 😉 But yes, I agree, they need to update this.

        2) True. But smart publishers don’t use DRM anyway. No DRM accomplishes any function beyond irritating readers. Like many readers, I actively avoid DRM-laden books. I will also generally break the DRM on books I buy that have it, now that the Library of Congress has made it *legal* to break ebook DRM for personal use in most cases. DRM is easy to break, so it fails to do anything but annoy and turn off customers. Smart publishers don’t use it.

        3) I do professional formatting of ebooks. When I do, I give my customer an epub, a mobi, and a Smashwords ready DOC file. I have *never* had an issue getting an upload to Smashwords to look as good as any epub. If your designer is incapable of this, it is designer incompetence, not a fault of Smashwords.

        3b) Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon, so *none* of your books are getting to Amazon from Smashwords. That’s not bad formatting. That’s because Amazon refused to deal with Smashwords. 😉

        4) Smashwords does take a percent on top of the retailers it distributes to. It takes 10% of the cover price for most. However, it gives you 85% of the cover price for sales on its site: the best in the business. It allows upload to Kobo and Sony, who are virtually impossible to reach directly. And it gives 60% on B&N sales regardless the price, so my 99 cent short stories make me 59 cents there instead of the 45 cents they’d make going through Pubit.

        5) Smashwords does act as an intermediary for retailers you *elect to use them for*. That’s key. Want to go direct to B&N? Use Pubit. Want to go direct to Apple? Use iTunes. Just click the buttons on your Smashwords console to turn off distribution to those sites. You can, if you choose, elect to upload to Smashwords to ONLY have the stuff for sale on Smashwords. This gives you a fast, easy way to get your material in front of readers who need to use Paypal.

        In short, Smashwords does precisely what you are looking for, and does it better than anyone else in the business.

        1. Holly Avatar

          Biannually was too infrequently. You do notice I walked AWAY from commercial publishing when a better alternative became viable, right? Commercial publishing is for masochists.

          Quarterly is ALSO too infrequently. Pointing to a shit model and suggesting that shit used to be good enough, so shit should still be good enough, is not rational. The commercial publishing model was NEVER good enough. However, it had distribution locked up, which made shit the only game in town.

          There are some folks who like the services Smashwords offers. I’m not one of them. You are certainly welcome to use it for your own work. I won’t use it for mine, for the reasons given.

          And since I have no interest in publishing on Kobo, because of its discounting practice, Smashwords has nothing to offer me I can’t get elsewhere, and better.

          1. Kevin O. McLaughlin Avatar

            Kobo isn’t allowed to discount books distributed to it from Smashwords. Smashwords has an agency agreement with all retailers they send ebooks to. So no discounting allowed. That’s one of the big pluses for their service.

            It’s your business; you can sell books where you want. 😉 Just want you to have accurate information on which to base that decision. Even if you opt out of all external distribution on Smashwords, sales on the site itself are large enough to be worth considering.

  29. Renee Avatar

    Why is Smashwords a bad deal for writers? (Apologies if you’ve already covered this elsewhere.)

  30. Ieva Avatar

    I live in Latvia and we are struggling with access to ebooks (ie I haven’t been able to order from Waterstones, haven’t tried any other stores but still). I could, theoretically, get an ebook through Kindle store which seems to work for LV and then jump through hoops to transfer it to acceptable format for my eReader or computer reading, but I would strongly prefer a PDF payable by PayPal or credit card.

  31. Cat Avatar

    What is wrong with smashwords? I’m about to use them to get my book into the different e formats?

    Otherwise it seems the pay pal and PDF should work for just about anybody.

    I like pay pal because it is secure, pay pal itself acts as the clearing house and you wont get spam from them or because of them.

  32. Kristen Avatar

    Hi Holly,
    I sell a PDF ebook and some downloadable MP3s through one of my web sites, and I’ve had good success using a WordPress plugin called WP eStore. After installing it and setting it up (adding your PayPal info, uploading the PDF products, linking to the products, etc.), it becomes an almost entirely hands-off process. I get orders every day but I don’t have to do anything. The plugin takes care of everything — it processes the order, handles the payment through PayPal, sends the customer an email receipt containing a link to download the files they purchased (you can also give the customer a download link on the success/confirmation page), sends you an email to notify you of the order, etc. All I do is login to PayPal once a week and transfer the funds to my bank account. That’s pretty much the extent of the effort it requires. The plugin is available here:
    (Also, I should mention I don’t work for the creators of the plugin and I don’t get anything from referring people to their web site. I just like the plugin because it has worked well and suited my needs.)

    1. Holly Avatar

      😀 That’s what I’m using to deliver the downloads for HTTS, HTRYN, and other courses, and what everybody who’s a student had to upgrade their membership for a month or two ago. Well, eStore plus eMember plus a plugin Margaret built for me to get people to the boards, plus a couple other things.

      Like you, I love it. After the customer service issues I’ve had to deal with because of LFM and SquirrelCart and RAP and other solutions I’ve tried, I’m wary as hell of it, though.

      But so far, it hasn’t generated much in the way of customer service issues.

      I wasn’t going to sell anything except board access from my site, but digging once more through the odious options offered by Smashwords, I’ll consider it if there’s enough interest.

    2. Rob Avatar

      That WordPress plugin is just what I’ve been looking for. Thanks! As for Smashwords, I’ve read just about equal numbers of good and bad reports about it. What about Lulu? Is that dead in the water or worth looking into?

      1. Holly Avatar

        I love Lulu. CreateSpace allowed me to create books that were less expensive for my readers, so I switched, but Lulu’s quality is exceptional.

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