[EDIT 13/May/20 THIS IS OUT OF DATE. MY BOOKS ARE CURRENTLY (CORONAVIRUS) FREE on SMASHWORDS – yeah, but i’ll leave the rant up – it still stands]

Just pulled my books off Smashwords.

Indie writing? You can shove it where the sun don’t shine. And anywhere it does, I’m not fussy. I’m going to start actively looking for an agent the moment i get a new book finished for them to look at. Not the Polo series, that’s going to have to wait – nobody will touch a book previously self-published. Not unless your current book sells, of course, then they suddenly get very interested.

A bit of a relief, really. So tired of struggling to promote them singlehandedly, with Smashwords not helping. They made it hard for anyone to find my work unless i managed to catch someone’s attention on Twitter and give them a direct link.

I foolishly marked my first book Adult (back in 2011) , thinking just that it wasn’t a children’s book, so the first 10 weeks my first book was published, Smashwords literally made it invisible unless someone opted in to ‘Adult’ which to them meant “hardcore erotica”. Now they have porn masquerading as Romance on the front page. Times change, of course, but somehow i don’t think Smashwords have.

I hoped that my intermittent trickle of Smashwords royalties would become a flood, instead their ratings system (i’ve bitched blogged about that before in The End of My Brilliant Career) meant my trickle dried up just as it became regular income, and the dust coming off the former revenue stream got in my eyes and throat, choking me with the stupidity of it all.

If you were reading one and thought you still had time to get the rest, just hit me up on Twitter (@stinginthetail) and i’ll give them to you.

I’m going to rewrite, i think, and then put them on Amazon – somewhere that’s honestly just into making money instead of pretending they give a flying fk about indie writers.

The funny thing? Smashwords just changed their display system – and well-reviewed books now seem to be showing on the front page of Science Fiction (The Birthday Dragon is) but you have to decide to change the sort, scroll down past 8 other tempting choices, then select “Highly Rated Books”.

And it doesn’t really make sense – all 5 star reviews, mostly 2 star reviews, whatever, might show up as “high rated”. None of my other books  show in the first couple of pages, but books with only one 5 star review do. Dragon Outlaw suddenly shows up on page 5, despite having 1 each of 4 and 5 star reviews, and Dragon Soldier, with 3 five star and 1 4 star review doesn’t show up at all. Nor does Dragon Skin, which has 3 five star reviews.

If i can’t find my own books, how the fk are you going to?


The really hysterical bit? If you select ALL SORTS suddenly The Birthday Dragon appears as one of the Top Rated books. But it’s BEHIND a book with only 4 reviews, one of them 4 stars. The Birthday Dragon has 15 reviews – all 5 star except 1. There’s no reason for it to be behind this other book. Well, none i can see.

I do show up before some dude with 2 5 star reviews, 2 4 star ones, and a 1 star one which comments “I couldn’t even finish the book.. the spelling and grammar errors were too much to handle. It was like a pre-teen wrote this book, one without ever going to English class.” Having looked at the book, i think they’re being too kind. I didn’t make it through the first 2 pages.

As an experiment, i toggled Scifi off, and just selected free books, The Birthday Dragon ended up on the second swipe, so i looked at who was ahead of me. Books with 2 5 star reviews. Some with variants, like some 2 star reviews and some 5 star. So now it makes no sense at all. If i look at Fantasy, it’s the same.

What i don’t understand is why? I mean, there are other people like me, with 10+ top reviews, and then 1 bad one which put them with me on page 143 of Best Rated Fiction – behind people with 1 five-star review – and before that we WERE selling. Until that one 4 star review knocked us off the front page (Highly Rated used to be an option at the TOP of the page, not any more).

Now, unless people scroll down, or deliberately look at Well Reviewed books, we’re still invisible – and it looks like we rate behind some truly awful works. If i read those, and figured anything behind that was worse, i wouldn’t be clicking through either!

I tried looking at the Highest Rated page in the old format (way down the page there’s an option to do that) and discovered it’s likewise lost all semblance to any kind of order. At the top is a book with 4.94 from 96 reviews published 10 years ago, at the bottom of the first page is someone with 5 from 7 reviews, and books with 2 five star reviews are ahead of books with four 5 star reviews. Other books with 7 five star reviews are on page 18 of the Highest Rated listings. What did that one dude with 7 5’s on Page 1 get right?

There’s something else i really don’t get. Why wouldn’t you want us to sell our freaking books? Especially since Smashwords was founded to sell the founder’s books.

So that’s it. Crashed, burned, ashes blown away. Which sounds depressing, but i’m actually looking forward to it, because after 8 years of struggling on Smashwords, and them making my book/s invisible more often than not, it feels good to be free of it all.

copyright 2019 Lee Abrey

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