Problems with Smashwords

Hi, everyone. I’m having more than a bit of a problem with Smashwords, and wondering if/how other authors have been dealing with it. A small glitch in the grand scheme of things, but I’m actually feeling pretty unhappy with the situation.

I’m being asked to certify that my books do or don’t contain taboo content; content prohibited by the Smashwords terms of service.

I don’t actually have a problem with doing that. (In fact, I’m fairly sure that Last Line does contain such content in the form of dubcon. Oh, that Mikey.) I do have a problem with the fact that this certification process is being carried out under the umbrella term, “erotica”.

Have a look at the screen grab. There’s just no getting away from the fact that Smashwords is trying to persuade me that I write erotica.

erotica certification

Now, for the record, I think well-written erotica (ie stories, films, artwork, etc, which exist mainly for the portrayal of sex) is great, and a considerable art form. But, unless I’m going completely mad here, “erotic romance” (ie fully plotted romantic storylines which don’t “fade to black” on the sex scenes) is something completely different.

And, more worryingly than anything else, Smashwords is telling me that I, the author, am the person who has categorised my work as “erotica”. This is being done with such insistence that I actually went to have a look. Nope – every single one of them is “romance, gay, erotic” or some variation on that. Nowhere in any of my categorisations does the word “erotica” occur.

Mountain out of a molehill? Maybe. But I still don’t want to go through with this process. The more I think about it, the more I object. I’ve spent seven years now building up a brand. My readers know what to expect, and erotica isn’t it.

I’d welcome advice. Part of me is thinking, especially given current stressful life events, “Ah, just agree and be done.” But I feel there’s a bit more at stake here than the listing of taboo content. I don’t think writers of erotic romance *should* be shovelled into a poorly understood erotica category by Smashwords and their retailers. Writers of gay fiction and romance are coming under enough pressure from a reactionary establishment as it is.

Am I misunderstanding some crucial aspect of this? I don’t make a fortune out of Smashwords, and I doubt anyone there would grieve if I took my books down. However – and this is very important to me – I feel that my readers should have the choice to purchase elsewhere than on Amazon.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with Smashwords,and while the person handling the matter is doing his best to explain, the fundamental problem we have is that neither he, nor Smashwords, nor Smashwords’ retailers, seem to accept that there is any distinction between fiction with erotic elements and erotica.

Any words of wisdom, fellow Smashwords authors? Did you think, “Ah, just agree and be done”, or are you too questioning the process? I’d be really grateful to hear from you.


2 thoughts on “Problems with Smashwords

  1. My problem is their formatting. The cover is either too small or large. The title’s letters are not the correct size. The manuscript’s words are not the right size. Most of all no one knows about Smash words. Their premium catalog may be a ruse to cause someone to spend money to have someone work on the manuscript/cover. Bottom line no other distribution site do I have these problems. Good luck with your book. MD


    1. They can be tricky, Mark, yes. So far (fingers crossed!) the only real problems I’ve had with them is the categorisation issue, and they did work with me to fix that.

      Format-wise, if you do want to work with them, the very best way is to take a Word doc and “nuke” it, ie copy and paste it into Wordpad or Notepad. There is a way of preserving the italics when you do this, and I’d be happy to send you this info if you’d like it. Essentially, this knocks off all formatting, so there’s nothing to get caught up in the Smashwords meatgrinder. Of course you have to reformat in Word, but that’s easy enough – just the fonts, any line spacing or indents you like to use, and that’s it. If I follow this, my books pop into their Premium Catalogue no bother.

      The covers have to be a certain number of pixels wide – can’t remember how many offhand, but you can fix this easily in Paint.

      I don’t make a fortune from them. They’re a useful second stream of income after Amazon, and an alternative outlet is always useful – not to mention appreciated by readers who like to get their Nook versions from Barnes & Noble. Anyway, you may have given up on them, but if not, I hope this is helpful. 🙂


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