A couple of weeks ago, I posited that you could use Smashwords to create sneak peeks of your buyable works to have out there for free and that it would produce greater exposure among those people who just like to troll free stuff, who wouldn’t have found you anyway. Traditional publishers do this all over the place with ebooks (and they don’t always indicate that what you’re getting is a sample in their description). Why couldn’t we do the same?
So I uploaded the first three chapters of both Forsaken By Shadow and Devil’s Eye. While I was waiting on approval for premium distribution, I suddenly started actually selling both novellas on Smashwords itself. Usually I don’t sell anything there directly, so this was nice. If nothing else, I sold 16 copies over February and March so far, and made $7.20 I would not have otherwise made (though admittedly some of these numbers are skewed as I am in the middle of a promo thing). In the just over 2 weeks that it was live, I had 395 downloads of my Sneak Peeks for each book. For comparison, in the almost year I’ve had stuff available on Smashwords, I have only had 526 downloads of paid and free samples of both books, which includes all the freebies I’ve given away for reviews–a not insignificant number. I am content to say that’s proof that my theory is accurate.
I kept waiting and waiting. Usually my stuff is approved for Premium Distribution within a couple of days. This was over 2 weeks, so I concluded that the free stuff went to the bottom of that pile to check.
Well, yesterday I finally heard back with this message:
Please unpublish this. Per the Smashwords Terms of Service, we only publish complete, standalone works, not works in progress or short serials. Our research indicates that Smashwords customer want complete, finished works. Once theseries is completed and constitutes a completed story, then please return to your Dashboard and click “upload new version” to upload the complete work. Thanks!
Yes, those typos were theirs.
Well obviously my work is finished and is not serial, and if they’d bothered to actually look further, they’d see that both full length titles are for sale on their site and have been for some time, which is indicated at the end of the Sneak Peek. For now I’ve unpublished them and written an email asking for an appeal, explaining what I was actually doing. I’ll keep y’all posted.
Update: Well the appeal was (predictably) declined, but Mark was really polite and clear about the difficulties such a proposition would present for the site (which makes total sense). Ah well, it was worth a try, and I really appreciate that he took the time to LISTEN (huge perk in customer service) and provide a thoughtful response.