By the time you are reading this, Smashwords will have begun (October 22) shipping indie titles to the global distributor Gardners.
Based in the UK, Gardners distribute to retailers and libraries in 138 countries.
It’s a great deal for ambitious indies wanting global reach. My titles have been in Gardners for many years. Back in 2011 one became that year’s biggest selling indie ebook, and the eleventh biggest-selling ebook overall, thanks in part to Gardners. Obviously Amazon was the key player, but it was the availability in and sales from all the other UK retailers that clinched it.
I’ve long advocated indies get into Gardners, and now Smashwords has made it easy (unless you are an erotica author – Smashwords erotica titles are barred by both Gardners and OverDrive) I was initially delighted.
This new deal almost made up for the Flipkart fiasco, when Coker punished all Smashwords indie authors by axing Flipkart distribution because Flipkart wasn’t running its business to suit Amazon’s T&Cs. You couldn’t make it up…
I fear the exact same thing will happen to the Gardners partnership in the not too distant future.
Smashwords indie authors were sending their titles to Flipkart and, at a later date, changing their mind and jumping into KDP Select.
KDP Select requires exclusivity, so Smashwords indies unpublish at Smashwords and Smashwords orders the partners stores to unpublish those titles.
The big players like Apple and Kobo are quick to respond. Flipkart was not so fast.
Indie authors, having done their bit and delisted from all other retailers, jump into Select and, out of the blue, comes the dreaded email from Amazon telling them they are in breach of Select rules because the title is still on Flipkart.
This meant a lot of unhappy Smashwords indies.
Coker responded by blaming Flipkart (far easier than fixing the problem at the Smashwords end), and cancelled the distribution agreement for all Smashwords authors.
No matter that most of us had no intention of jumping in and out of Select.
No matter that many of us were just beginning to gain traction in Flipkart.
As it happens there is anyway a big question mark over the future of the Flipkart ebook store right now.
But the issue here is Mark Coker letting the whims of Select-Hopping indies dictate which stores the rest of can get into.
Select-Hopping authors understandably didn’t like the Flipkart response time and Coker wielded the axe.
It’s now just a matter of time before the Gardners deal goes the same way, and for the exact same reason.
Gardners distributes to 400 global retailers. I can assure you from long years of personal experience that, no matter how quickly Gardners HQ send out the order to those retailers to make changes, not all those outlets will be fast to respond. Most will see delays of many weeks.
Many of these stores are in countries where Amazon doesn’t have a Kindle store, so the mighty Zon won’t notice if you’ve jumped into Select and your title is still on a retailer somewhere in Denmark or Poland.
Many more will be in countries that do have a Kindle store.
And when Amazon finds a Select title still lingering in a Gardners outlet in the UK, or Germany, or Italy, or Australia, or… The nasty emails will be sent, indie authors will go complaining to Mark Coker, and Mark Coker will start sharpening his axe again.
Internationalist indies looking to use Smashwords to build a global readership will once again find the rug pulled from under their feet. Hey, who cares about us? Not Mark Coker, clearly.
But there’s a simple and elegant solution, that could have been used to save the Flipkart deal, and can be used to save the Gardners deal.
Here’s the thing.
No-one is being forced to opt-in to Gardners, just as no-one was being forced to opt-in to Flipkart.
So, Mark Coker, why not just put a clear message on Smashwords that, if you opt into Gardners you should allow at least four weeks, ideally longer, for changes to be implemented.
That way indies who like to play Select-Hopping will simply not opt-in, or can plan well ahead, and internationalist indies can enjoy the fruits of the Gardners distribution deal without having to worry when the axe will fall.
With the slick and easy-access (no Meatgrinder nonsense!) Draft2Digital about to announce a deal with 24Symbols and lots of neat additions to its services, and with StreetLib and PublishDirect all offering a much broader distribution range than Smashwords does, Mark Coker needs to do everything he can to keep Smashwords relevant to indie needs as we head into the second half of this decade..
The Gardners deal is a big step in the right direction.
If it lasts.
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