Until December 2011, I published my books at four main venues: Amazon, BN, CreateSpace, and Smashwords, and I have recommended them all to my friends and fellow indie authors as good business partners. I’ve extolled the virtues of Smashwords’ Style Guide and their customer service, and until recently, my only real complaint with them has been slow reporting and payment.
But when I chose to enter my ebooks temporarily in the Kindle Select program, I was required to remove my ebooks from all other sales venues. Therefore, I took them out of all Smashwords’ distribution channels and also unpublished my books there completely. This should have been the end of the matter.
But that’s when my problems began. In March, I discovered that one of my books had become available on Kobo via Smashwords. Confused, I immediately emailed Smashwords, and the problem was resolved quickly. Not only was this odd–the book was listed as unpublished and not entered into any distribution channels–but it also jeopardized my standing with Kindle Select. Still, the problem was fixed, and I figured it was a freak error.
Today, I discovered that three of my “unpublished” titles had again been distributed to another retailer by Smashwords without my direction. I have not changed anything in my account: all my books were “unpublished,” and they were not listed in any of the distribution channels, which technically shouldn’t matter since they were unpublished. So nearly six months after I removed my books from their sales channels, some of them are still being published, distributed, and sold without my knowledge or consent. (I have contacted customer service, but I’ve not heard back yet. However, it was after 3 PM, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.)
Yet again, my Kindle Select status is being risked because of this company’s mistake, but that is not my biggest concern. Frankly, the fact that this error has happened to me twice causes me to question the accuracy of Smashwords’ distribution system. How are my unpublished books making it out to retailers? And even when I was selling and distributing via Smashwords (of my own free will), were my books accurately making it to the retailers I’d selected? And what does that mean for other authors? Has this happened to you? Are your unpublished books being sent to retailers without your consent?
I am not one to create drama or to rant about every little thing that happens, but I believe this problem is worth mentioning to my writing and publishing friends. I can no longer do business with a company that is selling my books without my permission. Even if this is an error, it has occurred twice, so it is clearly not a fluke or isolated incident. Once my books are removed from (unauthorized) sale at the retailer and my remaining royalties are paid, I am going to be forced to delete my account at Smashwords. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.