eBooks Distributed by Smashwords Now Showing up in OverDrive’s Main eBook Catalog

Things are looking up for authors who distribute their ebooks through Smashwords and want to get them into libraries. Reports are coming in today that a handful of indie titles have escaped the self-published ghetto and are now listed in the main Over Drive catalog with all of the "regular" ebooks.

Ever since OverDrive started carrying titles distributed by Smashwords earlier this year, those works have been singled out for special treatment and have been locked away from the rest of OD's catalog. This makes the titles difficult for librarians to find, much less buy, and this has obviously impacted visibility and sales.

But as the eBooks Bargains UK blog reported today, that situation is slowly beginning to change.

We are now hearing from Smashwords-delivered indies that SOME of their titles are appearing in the main OverDrive catalogue. It’s not clear yet if this is the early stage of a full flood of indie titles and that OverDrive have opened the ghetto gates, or if these are hand-picked titles selected by Smashwords and that the rest of us are still consigned to the can.

At this time a search for Smashwords as publisher (which all Smashwords-delivered ebooks will carry even though Smashwords isn't our publisher) shows about 4,000 titles in the OverDrive store.

Out of 200,000.

That's not much of an improvement, but it's better than nothing.

If you're an indie author with titles at Smashwords, can you check your ebooks and see if they escaped the ghetto?

If your titles are still being singled out for the Smashwords treatment, and you want to get them into library collections, I would suggest that you consider a different distributor.

For example, the UK-based distributor Ebook Partnership has a contract with OverDrive, and any title sent through this distributor are included in the main OD catalog. Ebook Partnership charges an annual fee and not a commission, so the cost structure is different, but escaping Smashwords could be worth the hassle.

And frankly, I am beginning to feel more and more that indies would be better off avoiding Smashwords entirely. This issue with OverDrive is but the latest example of Smashwords dropping the ball. There's also things like SW continuing to identify itself as the publisher of the ebooks it distributes (this happens on Scribd and OverDrive) or the way SW only just changed their policies to no longer require that they be mentioned in the front matter.

I've also heard from some authors that titles distributed through SW have "the indie stench", to use a colorful phrase. I would tend to discount that claim (I also don't think indie ebooks stink), but given the ongoing issue with OverDrive, well ...

What do you think?

image  by Editor B

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

21 Comments

  1. Maria (BearMountainBooks)3 October, 2014

    The fee is too high at every other distributor I’ve checked. You’d have to sell a lot of books via overdrive to justify that fee–and if you stop paying, your book is removed. That’s not much worth getting your book into the system unless you have several libraries actually interested in purchasing the book. Just because your book is in overdrive does not mean libraries will purchase it. I worked at a library. Getting your book stocked in a library is a fiercely competitive game. Yes, there’s some exposure, so you could look at the fee of a distributor as a marketing plan, but keep in mind you could pay the fee and have no libraries buy your book (or only two or three).

    Smashwords is not all bad and while I agree they dropped the ball on this, they still provide a valuable service, especially for authors who do not want to upload to multiple suppliers. Are they perfect? No. Do they fill a niche need? Yes. If they want to remain competitive, will they have to keep improving? Yes.

    But all that is the nature of the business.

    Reply
    1. ebookbargainsuk3 October, 2014

      Maria, Ebook Partnership charge $40 per year per title. You get back 100% of net so it doesn’t take long to make a saving on the 15% Smashwords takes from every sale.

      Erotica authors who go with EP get their titles into the OverDrive catalogue. All Smashwords erotica is barred. Period.

      Being in the OverDrive catalogue means anyone anywhere in the world can log into OverDrive and find the titles, then check with their nearest libraries to see if the book is available. If not they can request it.

      Smashwords only gets you to the OverDrive libraries. EP get you into the other key OverDrive retail partners including Waterstone’s.

      In addition EP gets you into the Ingram and Gardners catalogues, Magzter, the Bookmate subscription service, eSentral, etc, as well as all the main ebook stores.

      And as per our previous post on Smashwords, it may not be a store all indies would want to be in if it means innocuous children’s titles being displayed alongside hard core porn.

      Reply
  2. Juli Monroe3 October, 2014

    I’m with Maria. So far I’m happy with Smashwords, though sometimes Mark Coker’s blog posts make me roll my eyes. I really like their storefront. I had a stronger-than-expected July because of their site-wide sale. While I’m not making a fortune from them, I do make enough to get a payment every quarter. Since writing isn’t my main source of income yet, getting paid only once a quarter isn’t a problem for me, and distribution has been fast and simple so far. I’m planning to pull my books from Nook Press and let Smashwords distribute and keep everything except Amazon in one place. However, I’m keeping an eye on other options, and I won’t hesitate to switch in the future if it looks like it makes sense.

    Reply
  3. Beth3 October, 2014

    Just to clarify, what authors are seeing is probably that their books are being purchased by libraries, so they are showing up in a search of the public OverDrive catalog. The issue that was reported before had to do with the backend site for library purchases. They have not changed anything regarding the self-publishing ghetto on that site. Authors aren’t able to check that site to see where there books are listed, only library staff who work with an OverDrive collection.

    It is encouraging that there are libraries paying attention to the books in the ghetto and still purchasing them, however.

    Reply
    1. Beth3 October, 2014

      Also, I did check to make sure nothing had changed before I responded, because I wanted to make sure I was giving you correct information. I’m still upset about the decision OverDrive made, but their response to me was basically “really, it’s a good idea and you want it that way, trust us”. *sigh*

      Reply
      1. Maria (BearMountainBooks)3 October, 2014

        Yes, of course, Beth. They know best!!! :>) I was excited about being in libraries and I’m happy that three libraries have ordered my books. But gosh. Talk about an uphill battle!

        Reply
    2. ebookbargainsuk3 October, 2014

      Up until now Smashwords titles were not showing in the OverDrive catalogue the public can see. Only in the indie-ghetto catalogue. So unless a reader knew of a self-pubbed title and asked for it there was no chance of getting any further.

      Now some 4000 of the 200,000 Smashwords titles are in the main catalogue. This is a big leap forward.

      Indies who went to OverDrive via other avenues have always been in the OverDrive public catalogue.

      Reply
  4. Maria (BearMountainBooks)3 October, 2014

    Mine have been purchased by libraries, but they are still behind the “Special buttons must be clicked wall.” So if all that has changed is that the books are being purchased, it just means that some librarians have decided to click the extra options (or make it available to patrons when asking for books.) One library had it available for patrons to search–as soon as they found out people were requesting books from that section, they shut that option off and the smashwords books are no longer displayed to patrons. I have asked my library to add the button so that patrons can search that section. No dice so far.

    Reply
    1. ebookbargainsuk3 October, 2014

      Marie, again, Ebook partnership titles go straight into the main catalogue, where they can be seen. If a given library has them it will then show on the next stage of the search. If no library has yet bought them they will still be in the public catalogue and discoverable, and the librarian will not have to hunt in the indie ghetto to order them.

      Clearly at this stage your titles are among the 196,000 yet to be allowed through.

      Hopefully Mark Coker will respond to Nate’s post and let us know if they are all on the way, or if the 4,000 is some sort of special arrangement and the rest of us are still stiffed.

      Reply
  5. Felipe Adan Lerma4 October, 2014

    I used up all my goodwill having libraries locally check over and over for my titles. Promised update news never came. All this since June or something? No thanks.

    Reply
    1. Maria (BearMountainBooks)4 October, 2014

      Mine were there, but the covers were missing for a month while I worked on the issue.

      Forty dollars is not a bad fee, but it requires that I sell ten or so books to libraries–they can’t keep them longer than a year unless I continue to pay the 40 dollar fee, yet the library is only going to pay once. The issue I have with the model is there is no risk/reward to the distributor. They make 40 dollars whether a book sells or not. They take it up or down according to the payment. I know how difficult it is to get into a library. I’m in probably five or six (print and ebook) total, and that meant asking fans to request the books. It’s a hassle.

      It makes a lot more sense for me to find a library that wants the books and donate a print copy. It’s cheaper, they get to keep the book as long as it’s in good condition and I have about the same marketing reach.

      Reply
      1. Felipe Adan Lerma4 October, 2014

        Same here, I’m leaning more and more to print copies for libraries.

        Reply
        1. Maria (BearMountainBooks)4 October, 2014

          They’re still a hard sell, but the way I look at it is this: I spend under 10 dollars on the print copy. If they carry the book, I’m actually reaching a different audience than my core audience, which is ebook.

          Now, if it were easier to get into libraries, I wouldn’t hesitate to take more steps, but right now, it’s just not there.

          Reply
      2. Ebook Bargains UK5 October, 2014

        But as said previously, Marie, it’s not $40 to get into the libraries alone. That fee gets you into (subject to acceptance at the other end) ALL the outlets Ebook Partnership supply.

        Ebook Partnership have by far the widest distribution of any of the indie-friendly aggregators.

        Reply
    2. Ebook Bargains UK5 October, 2014

      Felipe, you now have two titles showing in the OverDrive catalogue.

      There’s hope yet!

      Reply
      1. Felipe Adan Lerma5 October, 2014

        I’m always hopeful (smiles). Thanks Ebook, getting communications and updates is such a huge morale boost.

        Reply
  6. Mark Coker4 October, 2014

    Hey all, some facts:

    * Smashwords has delivered our titles to OverDrive on time and as promised, and we continue to deliver new titles every week. As of yesterday, Smashwords has delivered 214,815 titles.

    * OverDrive tells us they have ingested 132,300 titles so far and these books are available for purchase by libraries. Smashwords authors can view daily sales reports in their Dashboards.

    *With 214k delivered and 132k ingested, it means OverDrive still has approximately 80,000 titles awaiting processing. It’s fair to say it’s taken them longer than either they or we expected, but it is what it is. We will continue to do everything we can to move things along and be a great partner for them.

    * OverDrive’s website is designed to be public-facing for patrons of a particular library, but not public facing for a view into their entire catalog. This means you can’t easily determine which books are in their catalog. We’ve seen signs they’re working to make their site more public facing, but I can’t speak to particulars.

    * OverDrive tells me they’ve received positive feedback from libraries regarding the segregation. This means the “ghetto” is unlikely to be abolished any time soon unless libraries (OverDrive’s customers) voice their opposition to it. Our position, which we have shared on numerous occasions with our friends at OverDrive, is that such segregation is a disservice to libraries and their patrons, not to mention it’s insulting to the indie authors and publishers we represent. No Smashwords retailer segregates titles from indie authors and publishers. In fact, as many Smashwords authors have observed, it’s common for indie titles to receive preferential merchandising at retail. So, if you want to make a positive difference, form a positive relationship with your local librarian, help educate them about indie publishing and encourage them to share their opinions with OverDrive.

    * Despite the delays and segregation, I remain excited about the OverDrive relationship, and I’m optimistic it will become an increasingly important channel for Smashwords authors and publishers in the years ahead.

    * There’s a lot every author can do to make library ebooks a success. In our original announcement of the relationship, I provided numerous suggestions for how indie authors can partner with local libraries – http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/05/smashwords-and-overdrive-to-bring.html Every Smashwords author has an opportunity to be a force for positive change. It starts by partnering with your local librarian. Help educate them about the exciting opportunity for them to partner with indie authors. This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: Be positive and professional. Know that as an indie author, every time you reach out to your local library, you’re representing all indie authors. I’ve already heard horror stories of indies acting like psychotic pests to their librarians. That’s not helpful, it’s harmful. Most librarians want to support their local indies. Help them.

    Reply
    1. Maria (BearMountainBooks)4 October, 2014

      Thanks, Mark. Despite our whining, you are one of the few who speak up for indies at every opportunity and we’ve known all along the segregation was not your fault or intent.

      As for partnering with libraries, it’s not easy, but it can be done SOMETIMES. Libraries have known about and dismissed self-published authors for a long time–long before ebooks came along. That’s not Mark’s fault.

      Most libraries want less books to sort, not more. I don’t see the situation with overdrive changing any time soon. I don’t blame smashwords, but because of the choices that libraries and overdrive have made, the program is less valuable that it should be.

      We indies may win them over in time and with good pricing. But it’s going to be an uphill battle.

      Reply
    2. Ebook Bargains UK5 October, 2014

      Mark, thanks for that.

      As of today, Sunday 05 OverDrive is showing almost 6,000 Smashwords titles, which suggests they are all slowly coming through.

      Confused by this: “OverDrive’s website is designed to be public-facing for patrons of a particular library, but not public facing for a view into their entire catalog.”

      When we go to the OverDrive catalogue we see everything there.

      We then have an option to check if a given title in the catalogue is available in a particular library.

      If the “ghetto” is going to remain as a self-pubbed section for those who want to search for indie titles, while the titles are also all available in the main catalogue, as it appears now might be the case, this is great news.

      We share your optimism. We know from indies getting into OverDrive through other avenues that they get a lot of interest from library users in North America, the UK and Australia, so no question OverDrive can deliver great results if the readers know the titles are available.

      Al indies should monitor the OverDrive catalogue regularly and if/when (hopefully now just a matter of when) their titles do appear they should all add the OverDrive link to their promo.

      At the moment the Ebook Bargains UK promo newsletter appears to be the only one with an OverDrive Libraries promo button.

      If indies petitioned the big promo players like Bookbub to carry OverDrive Libraries links that would really improve the chances of being found by library users.

      Reply
  7. Smashwords OverDrive Saga Updated – It’s Looking More Promising By The Day. | Ebook Bargains UK Blog5 October, 2014

    […] The Digital Reader expanded on the story and Mark Coker stepped in to explain that while 215,000 titles have been sent, OverDrive have so far only ingested 132,000 of them, so some 80,000 Smashwords titles have yet to reach OverDrive at all, let alone the public catalogue. (LINK) […]

    Reply
  8. […] my books did not appear. I’m not the only one who has found this to be true. It turns out all books distributed by Smashwords were put into a virtual ghetto, (also see here and here) and the majority appear to still be […]

    Reply

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