Indies Unlimited has a good Q&A with Mark Coker. As usual he answers questions honestly. Here’s one of them:
2. Smashwords has come a long way very quickly. How do you see your role in the indie author movement?
It’s tough for me to evaluate our role in the movement. I’d like to think we were among the first to arm indies with the free tools, knowledge and inspiration they needed to wage this revolution. I think we were the first to build a business model that is entirely dependent upon the success of indie authors. When I first started working on the business plan in 2005, it was very important to me that the DNA of our business be 100% aligned with the interests of authors. That means we’d only earn money if we help our authors sell books. We’d never sell services or packages. We’d never employ sales people. It means that our business was created to take a risk on every author. It means our authors should earn more than we earn. We’re going to put over $10 million in the pockets of our authors this year. That makes me happy. We’re now offering full time employment to 16 people who are passionate about books and authors. That makes me happy. We’re helping our retail partners earn millions of dollars on our books as they bring joy to millions of customers. That makes me happy, because their support of indie authors has made all this possible.
As I designed our business plan, it was also important to me that we’d never be parasitic. There are publishing services out there that earn their money blinding the eyes and stealing the dreams of authors. Those services turn my stomach. Darwin will catch up with them because the indie revolution doesn’t reward mosquitos and leeches.
I think history will show that we were one of several catalysts in the indie revolution, though there are several who stand ahead of us in the accolade line. Indie authors deserve the most credit, followed by retailers and their customers who have carried, purchased and recommended our books without hesitation. Barnes & Noble and Sony were the first two major retailers in 2009 to sign distribution agreements with Smashwords. Their foresight helped blow the distribution doors wide open for indies. Amazon, of course, deserves massive kudos, as does Apple, Kobo, Diesel and every other ebook retailer large and small that has opened their doors to indies