Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Smashwords Partners with Romance Daily News

Smashwords has partnered with Romance Daily News, a new online magazine for romance readers that launches this week at the annual Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference in Denver.

Romance Daily News (RDN) represents an exciting new book marketing opportunity for all romance authors and publishers, and a great opportunity for readers to discover the very best in indie romance.

This is a multi-faceted, multi-year partnership, leveraging many of the unique capabilities and features of the Smashwords ebook distribution platform.

Smashwords will provide daily romance bestseller lists and will manage nominations and fulfillment for the magazine's free Book of the Day giveaway.  Let's look at these items one at a time:

RDN/Smashwords Book of the Day 

Each day of the year, RDN will offer its subscribers a free romance ebook from a top-selling author.  All featured titles normally carry a price, making this an exclusive deal for RDN subscribers.  For series titles where the first book in the series is already free, featured books will offer book #2 in the series for free and both titles will be promoted.

If you're a romance reader, you'll want to subscribe to RDN.  It's carries an introductory price of only $9.99 per year, though the price will increase in the future.

The first 90 daily featured slots have already been filled, many of which are New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors.  Some of the authors scheduled for Book of the Day features in the first 90 days include R.L. Mathewson, Quinn Loftis, Katie Ashley, Amy Miles, Opal Carew, Sam Crescent, Karen Lynch, Leeanna Morgan, Natasha Preston, Nicky Charles, Cynthia Sax, Kym Grosso, Elizabeth Reyes, Emma Hart, Brenda K. Davies and many other international bestsellers.  The first featured author is Cecilia Tan.

The Book of the Day feature will utilize the Smashwords Coupon feature which will allow RDN subscribers to download the book for free, and will allow authors to track redemptions.

Each featured Book of the Day will be accompanied by an author Q&A interview, powered by Smashwords Interviews, and edited by Lori Perkins, the publisher of Romance Daily News.

Featured authors are selected by the Smashwords merchandising team and Lori Perkins.  At present, the nomination process is invitation-only.  First round invitations were based on the author's sales track record at Smashwords, and we expect future rounds will weigh heavily on author track record as well.  We're looking for proven reader-pleasing authors to feature.  By focusing on track record, we can eliminate subjectivity (we love all our authors!) and surface proven reader-pleasers as voted upon with real readers' dollars, downloads and preorders.

Two tips on how to maximize your odds of landing an invitation for future Book of the Day slots:
  1. Release your next book as a preorder, with the longest possible runway.  This will help your sales.  In the new 2018 Smashwords Survey (I revealed the findings at RT Booklovers a couple months ago but haven't released them here on the blog yet), we found that 75% of all romance sales for new releases went to the 29% of romance titles that were released as preorders.  Books released as preorders are dominating bestseller lists!  Learn more about preorders and preorder strategy by listening to Episode 4 of the Smart Author Podcast (run time only 23 minutes).
  2. Distribute with Smashwords.   If you're not distributing your preorders and backlist with Smashwords, we can't count your aggregated sales across our network, and you can’t create the Smashwords Coupons and Smashwords Interview which are essential components of your Book of Day promotion.  And it should go without saying that if you have books in KDP-Select exclusivity, we can't feature them, nor can we credit those sales toward your track record.

RDN/Smashwords Bestseller Lists

In what we believe is an industry-first, each day of the week, RDN will run a different bestseller list, supplied by Smashwords, based on aggregated sales results from across the Smashwords distribution network (i.e. Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Smashwords Store, OverDrive).  These lists are dynamic, in that they'll refresh each week to reflect the latest sales data.

The daily lists will fall under the following nine categories (we're likely to add more categories in the future):
  • Monday - The bestseller list will alternate every other week between bestselling YA and bestselling New Adult.
     
  • Tuesday - Will feature top romance preorders releasing in the next two weeks
     
  • Wednesday - This list will alternate between most popular series starters and bestselling box sets.
     
  • Thursday - Bestselling contemporary romance
     
  • Friday - Bestselling paranormal romance
     
  • Saturday - Bestselling erotic romance
     
  • Sunday - Top 40 indie bestsellers across all fiction and non-fiction categories.

These lists, with buylinks pointing to iBooks, B&N and Kobo for preorders, and to the Smashwords Store for other books, will make it easy for RDN readers to discover, preorder and purchase the best in indie romance.

All authors and publishers that distribute with Smashwords are eligible to earn spots on these lists based on their aggregated sales performance across the Smashwords distribution network.  This means the same tips above for landing a Book of the Day feature are the same tips that can help you land in these high-profile bestseller lists.

Subscribe to Romance Daily News at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ or follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RomanceDailyNews  

Enjoy!



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Smashwords Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

This past Sunday marked ten years since the public launch of Smashwords on May 6, 2008.

Wow, what a difference ten years makes.

Ten years ago, the book publishing industry looked quite a bit different than it does today:
  • Print books controlled 99.5% of the market; ebooks accounted for about ½ of 1%
  • If a writer wanted to get their book into bookstores where readers discover and purchase books, they needed a traditional publishing deal because publishers controlled access to retail distribution
  • Few writers wanted to self-publish; it was considered the option of last resort for failed writers
     
  • The writer community perpetuated and enforced the stigma of self-publishing by castigating those who self-published, branding them as "vanity" authors

The Roots of Smashwords

The story of Smashwords started back around 2002, when my wife and I completed a novel titled Boob Tube.  We landed representation from an awesome agent at one of the most respected literary agencies in New York.  They were known for repping NY Times bestsellers.

For two years and across two submission rounds, our agent pitched our novel to all the major publishers of commercial women’s fiction.  Our novel, which explores the dark underbelly of Hollywood celebrity, targeted fans of daytime television soap operas.  Despite our agent's great work, he was unable to sell it.

Publishers were reluctant to take a chance on our novel because previous novels targeting soap opera fans had performed poorly. 

It was our failure to find a publisher that opened my eyes to what I considered a huge problem facing millions of writers:
  • Publishers were unable and disinterested to take a chance on every author
     
  • Publishers acquired or rejected book based on perceived commercial merit; this meant that great books with limited commercial appeal might never see the light of day
     
  • The agent-publisher gatekeeping system meant that most writers were blocked from publication
     
  • Publishers could only guess what readers wanted to read, yet they were also rejecting books that might have gone on to become bestsellers or cultural classics if only these titles had been given the chance to be judged by readers

  • Thousands of unpublished writers were taking their manuscripts to the grave each year; I considered the loss of their stories, knowledge and life experiences a cultural travesty and an enormous loss to mankind
     
  • Publishers were deciding what readers could read!

 The Internet as a Force for Democratization

If we rewind to the mid '90s, the Internet was on the rise.  Everything touched by the Internet was transformed and reconfigured. 

The Internet facilitated seamless peer-to-peer communications and efficient commerce.  It enabled content creators to digitally publish directly to their audience, thereby bypassing traditional gatekeepers.

Jeff Bezos launched Amazon in 1994.  At first, the publishing industry treated the company as a harmless curiosity.

By the early 2000s, blogging was coming on strong.  Blogs helped democratize publishing by allowing anyone to self-publish stories and opinions online.  Early bloggers were criticized.  The general criticism leveled against bloggers went along the lines of, “How dare these amateurs fancy themselves as writers.”  Yet great writers were emerging from the blogosphere.

In 2005, YouTube was launched.  YouTube allowed anyone to self-publish their videos online.  New video producers - ordinary people - began developing massive audiences on YouTube.  It was a talent discovery machine.

Despite the early inspiring examples of bloggers and YouTube, by 2008 the traditional publishing industry was relatively untouched by the Internet and the rise of user-generated content.

As I pondered the publishing conundrum faced by my fellow writers, it struck me as odd that publishers weren't leveraging new publishing approaches enabled by the Internet to say yes to more authors.

In fact, I found that publisher attitudes toward the general population of writers were downright hostile.  They didn't want to say yes to every writer, even if they could.  Publishers had this holier-than-thou idea that most writers were unworthy of publication.  They viewed – and continue to view – their curation and gatekeeping function as an important value-add to book culture and readers.

They had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  They decided which writers became published authors, and which books were published, marketed and sold.  They were artificially constraining the publication of books.

Here’s the thing:  I too appreciated their value-add, and I continue to appreciate their value-add to this day.  Despite my evangelism of self-publishing over the last ten years, I've also taken a lot of arrows for my advocacy for traditional publishers as well.  I think self-publishing and traditional publishing are both excellent, mutually synergistic options.  The author chooses what's right for them.

But one can appreciate the great work of publishers while also recognizing the gaping hole that remains in their publishing businesses, and the harm it caused to book culture through benign censorship.   It's a hole Smashwords and Amazon KDP fill.

There's value in democratization and freedom of choice.  There's value in giving writers the freedom to publish and there's value in giving readers the freedom to decide for themselves which books they want to read.

One of the great powers of the Internet is to make it possible to efficiently aggregate and reach micro-targeted audiences on a global scale.  These niche audiences can't be reached economically with print books, but digital books are a different story.

In my mind, a book with the potential to change the life of a single reader - even if that single reader is your child or grandchild - is just as important as a New York Times bestseller enjoyed by millions of readers.  I believe it's wrong to value books based on commercial performance alone.  Some great books will never sell well.

From Problem to Solution

Against the backdrop of publishing's culture of NO, I imagined it would be really cool if an enlightened publisher or publishing service could say yes to every writer in the world, and do it at no cost to the writer.  And then I wondered, “What if that someone could be me?  What if I could take a chance on every writer in the world?”

This was the genesis of Smashwords.

Throughout my career, I’ve always been drawn to "change the world" ventures that carry a higher purpose.  I’ve long believed that a life without higher purpose is a life squandered.   Every person with a pulse has an opportunity to take small but significant steps today that will leave the world better than we found it.  It doesn't matter if you're a  writer, entrepreneur, home maker, school teacher, garbage collector, artist, doctor, mechanic, baker or retired.  Pick your passion and make a difference.

Writers are some of the most passionate, inspiring world-changers I've met.

In late 2004 I set to work on the Smashwords business plan.

I wanted to turn the conventional publishing model upside down.  I wanted to give authors full control over their rights, pricing and publishing decisions, and I wanted to flip the compensation model so that 85% of the net proceeds went directly to the author.

It was also important to me that Smashwords' interests be aligned with the interests of writers.  Rather than sell publishing packages or charge upfront for our services, we'd offer our service for free and we'd earn our income on commission.  If the author made money, we made money.

Back in 2008, most self-publishing services made money by exploiting authors - they sold authors over-priced publishing services.  They focused on selling books to authors rather than selling books to readers.

It’s fair to say that my business idea was unconventional for its time.  And maybe a bit crazy too.

I wanted to start a business publishing writers no smart publisher wanted to publish; selling books in a format – ebooks – that readers didn’t want to buy; and I’d sell these books in store called Smashwords.com that no reader had ever heard of.  Oh, and I knew little of the publishing industry other than what it was like to write and edit a book, find an agent, and fail to sell it.  I didn’t have venture capital backers or angel investors.  I didn’t have a lot of money to invest.  But I believed the world needed something like this that could give all writers a risk-free shot at achieving their dreams.

In my favor, I understood the Internet, and I already had a 20-year career in technology marketing and entrepreneurship to draw from.  In my prior career running a technology PR firm between 1993 and 2007, I worked with dozens of pioneering startups such as McAfee Associates and Rightnow Technologies.  I helped bring these companies to market, and I helped them exploit new approaches to software marketing, such as electronic software distribution, freemium, software-as-a-service and subscription business models.

Unbeknownst to me back in the mid 1990s, these new approaches to software marketing would later serve as the foundational building blocks to enable the rise of the Indie Author Movement, which itself was fueled by ebooks and democratized (and digital) production and distribution.  Ebooks are software!

We launched Smashwords in 2008. 

Our launch was met with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism from the writing community.  I expected enthusiasm from my fellow writers, but I didn't expect the skepticism.

Back to 2008, my idea that every writer had a right to publish was seen as downright radical if not subversive to the way-things-should-be.  It's still not a universally accepted idea.  But neither is free speech.  As I discussed in my Smart Author podcast episode about The Indie Author Manifesto, ever since Gutenberg's printing press there have always been those who seek to control free expression.

Books and authorship are the ultimate form of free expression.

For a historical deep dive into the prevailing views, attitudes, and concerns among writers we faced at the time of our launch, check out this thread at Absolute Write from 2008.  It serves as a good example of the public reception we received from the skeptics.

The thread started off with someone falsely accusing Smashwords of spamming the Nanowrimo message boards, and then progressed from there with some heated discussion and attacks pointed my way.  I joined the fray and did my best to explain our well-intentioned service.

In 2009, almost exactly one year after our launch, we expanded our publishing platform to support small independent presses.  Although I didn’t anticipate this need in 2008, we soon discovered that small independent presses faced many of the same publishing hurdles faced by indie authors.

Also in 2009, we expanded our focus to become an ebook distributor.  It was probably the most consequential decision in the evolution of our business.  Our authors' sales took off once we opened up sales channels that were previously inaccessible to them.

In the years since, we've continued to innovate a steady stream of new tools, new service enhancements and new distribution opportunities.  Ten years in, I still feel like we've only scratched the surface of what's possible.

Now, on this ten year anniversary of Smashwords, I’m tickled pink when I reflect on what our authors and publishers have accomplished.  I'm so proud of them, of you.  Indie authors are leading a renaissance in publishing, and we can expect that the power and influence of indies will only increase in the future.
 
Here’s where your world stands now:
  • Every writer now has access to the tools, knowledge and freedom to self-publish with pride, professionalism and success
     
  • Every major ebook retailer carries self-published ebooks
  • Most libraries now have the ability to purchase self-published ebooks, including the ebooks of local authors
     
  • The rise of ebooks, paired with democratized book production and distribution enabled by the work of Smashwords, Amazon KDP and others, made it possible for previously unpublished writers to reach millions of readers.
     
  • Many writers now aspire to self-publish as their option of first choice rather than the option of last resort
  • Many writers no longer bother pitching their books to agents and publishers; instead, they publish directly to their readers using self-publishing platforms
  • Hundreds of thousands of writers now enjoy the freedom to reach readers on their own terms.
     
  • By most estimates, indie ebook authors have captured between 20 and 30% ebook market share measured by unit volume (and much more in some genres), and this share will continue to grow in the years ahead because indie ebook authors enjoy numerous competitive advantages over traditional publishers
     
  • Many of our authors - once shunned by gatekeepers - have gone on to become USA Today and NY Times bestsellers
  • Many of our authors have gone on to secure lucrative traditional publishing deals yet they return to Smashwords for the indie publishing side of their business
     
  • Self-published authors now self-identify as indie authors, and they wear this badge with well-deserved pride
     
  • Indie authors have pioneered many of the new best practices for ebook publishing, marketing and promotion; traditional publishers now look to indies for ebook marketing insights and inspiration
     
I’m pleased Smashwords was able to play a small part in this revolution.  It's been my sincere privilege to join so many of you on your publishing journey.

Whatever we accomplished at Smashwords, we didn’t do it alone.

Credit goes to...
  • The 130,000+ amazing authors and publishers who work with us for ebook publishing and distribution
     
  • The retailers and library platforms that dedicate such enormous effort to supporting our indie authors and small presses; thank you Apple, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive, Kobo and more!
     
  • The millions of readers around the world who’ve purchased over $100 million worth of Smashwords ebooks at retail over the last 10 years
     
  • The amazing team here at Smashwords:  Our development team spends every day dreaming up and developing new tools to give our authors and publishers a competitive advantage; our service and vetting teams dedicate their days to supporting our authors, publishers and sales channels; our merchandising team works to promote our authors at major retailers and library platforms; our marketing team focuses almost 100% of its effort empowering indie authors with best practices knowledge they can use anywhere, even if they don’t publish with Smashwords; our finance team manages the inflow and outflow of money to ensure our authors and publishers are paid on time, every month; and my wife, advisor and confidant, Lesleyann, without whom I would have never co-written a novel about soap operas that started this grand adventure.
     
  • Thousands of forward-thinking publishing industry professionals and participants (journalists, bloggers, authors, publishers, literary agents, editors, formatters, cover designers, conference managers, book doctors, publishing consultants, retailers, librarians, educators, readers and more) who went out of their way to open doors for Smashwords and our authors and publishers

Thank you everyone for your trust, confidence and partnership.  We're looking forward to serving you in the years ahead.

What’s coming in the next ten years from Smashwords?


If you look back at our original launch press release, our mission has changed little over the years.

I founded Smashwords to help writers reach readers.  Long term, we will always maintain our core focus on helping our indie authors and publishers connect with more readers.  We’ll do this by continuing to develop industry-leading tools and relationships.  We'll continue to introduce new opportunities that put more control in the hands of authors and publishers.  We’ll continue to fight for your right to publish, and we’ll continue to do our part to support a thriving and vibrant publishing and bookselling ecosystem for the mutual benefit of authors, publishers, retailers, libraries and of course READERS!

---

Check out my Smart Author Podcast, where I guide writers step-by-step from the very basics of ebook publishing to more advanced expert topics.  Learn to publish like a pro.  Learn new insights to grow your business.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Publishing in the Classroom - How Los Gatos High School Helped Hundreds of Students Become Published Authors

Does love of reading open doors for readers? The answer is yes! The knowledge, stories and deep-meaning found in books help readers exploit more of life's great opportunities.
How can we encourage more people to become readers?  I think one answer is to teach more people the joys of writing and publishing. 

In episode 16 of the Smart Author Podcast, out today, I share the story of a publishing project I helped launch four years ago at Los Gatos High School in collaboration with the Los Gatos Public Library.

Each year, over 100 freshman honors poetry students write, produce and publish a poetry anthology.  The project, led by visionary poetry teacher Tonya McQuade, has helped over 600 students become published authors.

When students are given the opportunity to publish and distribute their work to a global audience, it transforms their relationship with the written word.  Publishing makes writing more meaningful, because publishing is how writers share their works with readers.

At the end of their book publishing project, the students hold a book launch to celebrate their accomplishment in front of parents, teachers and fellow students.

In addition to graduating from high school as published authors, these students will enter the first chapter of their lives with a new appreciation for the joy of writing and reading. 

Learn How to Launch Similar Classroom Publishing Projects in Your Community

Over the course of the last 15 episodes, Smart Author podcast listeners have learned how to professionally produce, publish, distribute and promote an ebook. 

In this new episode, I challenge listeners to use their newfound indie publishing superpowers to start similar classroom publishing projects at schools in their local community.   Once indie authors mentor local teachers and help them get started, the teachers can run with the project.

These projects don't cost the students or the schools anything.

In the first anthology published by Los Gatos High, Windows to the Teenage Soul, teacher Tonya McQuade included a Teacher's Guide in the appendix of the book so other educators can replicate her project in their schools.  I've included a link to the book in the show notes for this episode, and also included links to updated teaching resources you and your local educators can use to kickstart similar projects in your community.

Access show notes for Episode 16 - Publishing in the Classroom

Where to listen:

Apple Podcasts

Stitcher

TuneIn

Google Play Music

Overcast

YouTube (audio)

iHeartRadio 

Libsyn

Smart Author hub page (Listen over your web browser)  




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Smashwords Enters Audiobook Market with Findaway Voices

Smashword Partners with Findaway Voices for Audiobook Production and Distribution
Smashwords today entered the audiobook market via a partnership with Findaway Voices.

Over 100,000 Smashwords authors and publishers now have convenient access to audiobook production and distribution services.  The agreement gives authors and publishers greater control over audiobook pricing, rights, and distribution, and all without exclusivity or lockups.

Effective immediately, you'll notice audiobook creation options integrated into multiple stages of the Smashwords publishing workflow.  The new feature is visible in the Smashwords Dashboard, and also accessible at https://smashwords.com/audiobook.

Start Your Audiobook Production Today

With a single click, you can instantly deliver your ebook and metadata into the Findaway Voices platform, at which point you’ll choose a password for your Findaway Voices account and begin the audio production process.

Your first step is selecting a professional narrator.  You'll answer a short questionnaire at Findaway Voices about your audiobook’s desired emotional tone; the accent, dialect or gender preference for your narrator; the voice style; the heat level of the book; and information about the book’s main characters.

The Findaway Voices casting team will then use this information to recommend a curated list of six to ten professional voice actors for your consideration.  Recommendations will include audio samples and hourly rates for each narrator.  From this list, you can request audition samples where narrators submit sample readings of your book.

There is no cost or obligation during the audition process.

Production begins after you select your narrator and sign off on the production contract.  You will pay production fees directly to Findaway Voices.

To assist your budgeting, here are some rough guidelines:  Fees are based on the number of hours and minutes of the finished production.  Each hour of recorded content comprises roughly 9,000 words, which means a 26,000-word novella might run about three hours and a 100,000-word book would run about 11 hours.  Narrators typically charge between $150 and $400 per finished hour.

Global Audiobook Distribution

When production completes, you'll control all rights to the audiobook.  You'll also have the option to distribute your audiobook to Findaway Voices’ global network of over 20 sales outlets including Apple iTunes, Audible, Scribd, OverDrive and Google Play.

Findaway Voices will pay you directly.

If you already have a professionally produced audiobook, you can visit https://smashwords.com/audiobook to transmit your title's metadata to Findaway Voices, and then you'll see the option to upload your audiobook files to Findaway Voices for distribution.

No Exclusivity or Lockups

There’s no exclusivity or lockup period.  You'll enjoy full control over your choice of distribution outlets.

You can remove your book from Findaway Voices’ distribution network at any time, and can also sell your audiobook anywhere else you please.

You set the price for single copy sales.  The various outlets operate under different sales models (single-copy sales, subscription listens, pay-per-use, etc.), which means the calculation for royalty rates will differ from one channel and sales model to the next. 

When Authors and Publishers Gain Control, Readers Win

When authors and publishers gain greater control over pricing and distribution, new opportunities arise to serve readers.

Audible, the dominant audiobook subscription service, provides subscribers one download credit per month with its $14.95 monthly subscription.  This credit system incentivizes value-conscious subscribers to download longer and more expensive books.

This credit system has the unintended effect of creating a void in the audiobook market for shorter or lower-cost audiobooks.

Thanks to our partnership with Findaway Voices, it’s now more economically feasible for authors and publishers to invest in audiobook production for shorter books, or books that might carry lower prices.

I think this could be a boon for authors, publishers and consumers alike who want to enjoy lower-cost audiobooks, whether we’re talking novellas, shorter non-fiction, free series starters, or erotica.

Why Audiobooks are Exciting

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment of the publishing market today.

I’ve long been a fan of audiobooks because they free up more hours in the day to enjoy books.  Unlike printed words on paper or screens which require the reader’s undivided attention to read, audiobooks can be enjoyed while the listener performs other tasks, such as when they’re driving their car, cooking a meal or taking a walk.

For the last few years, audiobooks have been the fastest growing segment of the book industry.   Sales for 2017 were up about 20% over the prior year.

Get Started Today

Smashwords authors and publishers can launch audiobook production today by visiting their Smashwords Dashboard or going direct to https://smashwords.com/audiobook.

If you’re not yet publishing with Smashwords, visit our How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords page to learn out our free book publishing and distribution services.  The moment you upload your ebook to Smashwords, you’ll see the option to launch audiobook production.

Happy listening everyone!

Monday, February 5, 2018

New 2018 Edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide Offers 65 Book Marketing Ideas

The new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is now available.

Click to your favorite retailer to download it now for free:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Kobo
Smashwords


You'll learn 65 book marketing ideas ideas to make your book more discoverable and desirable to readers.  Even if you've already implemented some of these ideas, I provide fresh context to make your implementation of these ideas even more effective.

You'll learn how to:
  1. Spend more time writing and less time on marketing
  2. Build your author brand
  3. Drive greater reader word of mouth
  4. Make your book market itself though autopilot marketing
  5. Use preorders to improve marketing efficiency and reader lock-in so your new book is already marketing your next book
  6. Leverage blogs to market your books
  7. Market your ebooks to libraries
  8. Run creative, reader-pleasing promotions with Smashwords Coupons
  9. Earn mainstream media coverage
  10. Partner with fellow authors on over 10 collaborative marketing opportunities
And there's so much more.

The Guide features a new introduction, dozens of new and updated marketing tips, and a new “Deep Dives” section that covers social media strategy for authors, how to work with beta readers, and how to earn free press coverage.

This is my first update since 2013.  The previous edition was 16,000 words.  This new expanded edition is 40,000 words.  I think the continued popularity of the older edition speaks to my unique approach to book marketing.  I emphasize evergreen book marketing strategies that will work for many years to come.  

As readers of this blog may know, before I published this new edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide I first serialized it in audio form on my SMART AUTHOR podcast.  I completed that serialization on January 26 and released the ebook on January 31.

Here's Episode 10 to give you a taste of what this new 2018 edition offers.




Enjoy!

Friday, January 26, 2018

How to Earn Free Press Coverage

Have you ever read a news story or watched a TV interview and thought, "They should have interviewed me for this story!" ?

If so, you're in for a treat with episode 15 of the Smart Author podcast.  This is part six in my six-part audio serialization of the new forthcoming 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. 

In this final installment of this marketing series, I teach authors how to earn free press coverage.  Press coverage can dramatically elevate the stature of your author brand and drive more readers to your books.  I also teach you how and when to write a press release, and how best to promote that press release to the media.

This episode draws heavily on my former life in public relations.  I first fell into public relations back in the late '80s while I was still in college (here's the full story).  Later, in 1992, I joined one of the largest Silicon Valley PR firms, and then in late 1993 I left it to found my own PR agency which I ran up until the launch of Smashwords in 2008.

I've always had enormous respect for the power of PR.   PR practitioners use their skills to influence media coverage.  The prospect of self-interested parties influencing the media to influence what people know, think and believe is at once exciting and terrifying. 

It's exciting when good PR helps elevate the stature of good people, good products and important stories.  It's terrifying when PR is used to misrepresent facts, as we see all too often nowadays in the business and political spheres.  The dark side of PR touches our lives every day.  Back when tobacco companies spent millions of dollars to convince consumers that smoking was safe, that was dark PR.  Or in more modern times when large petrochemical companies like Koch Industries fund puppets to sow doubt about climate change, that's an example of dark PR.  Or when Russian-backed trolls create fake news to sow division in Democratic countries and mislead voters, that's another example of dark PR.

In this episode, I teach you how to use PR as a force for good, and that good is to help elevate the stature of your author brand.  You'll learn tips for ethical PR based on facts and honesty.  You'll learn how to leverage your smarts and expertise to help journalists help their readers with your knowledge and news.

It was quite a challenge for me to condense three decades of PR experience into 49 minutes, but I trust this information-packed episode will give you actionable ideas you can incorporate into your book marketing.

Over in the show notes for this episode, you'll find a full written transcript and a mockup of how a good press release should be structured.

Enjoy! 

Here's where to listen and subscribe:

Apple Podcasts

Stitcher

TuneIn

Google Play Music

Overcast

YouTube (audio)

iHeartRadio 

Libsyn

Smart Author hub page (Listen over your web browser) 



Friday, January 19, 2018

Social Media Strategies for Authors

Today in part five of my six-part marketing series, I take a look at social media strategies for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Social media is a mixed bag for many authors.  We at once appreciate its power and potential while at the same time curse it for taking time away from writing. 

We appreciate its potential to help authors forge closer relationships with readers yet at the same time we curse it for fostering tribalism, echo-chamber thinking, fake news and trolling.

In short, social media brings out the best in people but also the worst.


If you've been active on social media for the last decade, then much of what I share you'll already know.  But if you're feeling alienated or unfulfilled by social media, or are starting to question how best to use it without sucking your soul dry, then I think the social media strategies I share will inspire you to forge a healthier relationship with the three most popular social media platforms. 

Some of the topics I discuss include:
  • Seven tips for social media success
  • The four types of Twitter users, and how most of us are (and should be) a blend of multiple types
  • My personal Twitter strategy, and why no one strategy is right for every author
  • Not sure how to conduct yourself on Twitter?  Hear my eight Twitter etiquette tips
  • Facebook: how the most powerful social media platform holds your followers hostage
  • How authentic should you be on Facebook?
  • The struggle to balance authenticity with the potential for alienation
  • How LinkedIn can work for non-fiction authors
  • How every author can use LinkedIn to further their professional development
  • Four tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn

If you'd like to connect with me on any of these platforms, here are my direct links:

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/markcoker
Facebook:  https://facebook.com/markcoker
LinkedIn:  https://linkedin/in/markcoker

Coming up next on Smart Author, I wrap up my six-part audio serialization of the 2018 edition of the Smashword Book Marketing Guide with episode 15.  You'll learn how to earn free press coverage to build your author brand and generate more demand for your books.

If you're just now discovering my six-part marketing series, I suggest you start with part one which was episode 10.

Here's where to listen and subscribe:

Apple Podcasts

Stitcher

TuneIn

Google Play Music

Overcast

YouTube (audio)

iHeartRadio 

Libsyn

Smart Author hub page (Listen over your web browser) 









Friday, January 12, 2018

25 Book Promotion Tips - Part Four in the Smart Author Podcasts Six-Part Series on Book Marketing

Today in Episode 13 of the Smart Author podcast, I present part four in my six-part series on book marketing.

In this episode, I share 25 book promotion tips.

The tips are presented in logical order to roughly correspond to the different stages of a book’s marketing - from pre-launch to launch to post-launch, but most can be implemented in any order at any stage of an author's publishing journey. 

Some of the topics covered include:

  • How you can use preorders to keep loyal readers on your train
  • How to find and engage in specialized communities where your prospective readers are hanging out
  • How to leverage blogs to build your author brand and collaborate with fellow indie authors, plus how to organize a blog tour
  • How to use Smashwords Coupons to build readership, engage with readers and incentivize list-building
  • ... and much more.

If you haven't yet listened to my series on book marketing, I recommend you start with Episode 10 of the Smart Author podcast, which was part one in this series.

Next week's episode will explore social media strategies for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Here's where to listen and subscribe:

Apple Podcasts

Stitcher

TuneIn

Google Play Music

Overcast

YouTube (audio)

iHeartRadio 

Libsyn

Smart Author hub page (Listen over your web browser) 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Autopilot Book Marketing

The majority of your readership will come from readers who stumbled across your book.

Maybe the reader was looking for a book like it.  Or maybe they weren’t even looking for a book but found your book on their path to somewhere else.

Now imagine your book as a stationary beacon, buried deep in a forest of millions of other books.  How can you equip your book to continually transmit its location and attributes so that those who might enjoy it are drawn to it, even if they’re not looking for it?

And then how do you ensure that once you draw a reader to your book, they leave your book a converted evangelist, ready to proselytize their passion for it to their fellow readers on the book discovery trail.

This is the idea behind autopilot marketing.  In today's new episode 12 of the Smart Author podcast, I present 17 tips that will help you put some the most important aspects of your book marketing on autopilot.

You'll learn learn how to leverage your book to sell more books, grow your platform faster, and spend less time on marketing and more time on writing. 

It's part three in my six-part audio serialization of the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.
Give it a listen at any of the find podcast sources below.

Happy New Year!


Listen and Subscribe to Smart Author

Apple Podcasts

Stitcher

TuneIn

Google Play Music

Overcast

YouTube (audio)

iHeartRadio 

Libsyn

Smart Author hub page (Listen over your web browser) 



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Smashwords 2017 Year in Review and 2018 Preview

Welcome to my annual Smashwords year in review for 2017 and preview of the year ahead.

I’d like to start first with a big shout out to Smashwords authors, publishers, business partners and industry friends for your trust and partnership.

And a big welcome to the thousands of authors, publishers and readers who joined the Smashwords community this year.

February 2018 will mark the 10-year anniversary of when we first announced Smashwords to the world and began private beta testing.  May 2018 will mark the 10-year anniversary of when we opened our virtual doors for business.

These last 10 years have been nothing short of amazing, and it’s thanks to authors and publishers like you that we’re still here to serve you.

We ended our first year of Smashwords in 2008 with 140 books from 90 authors.  Today, Smashwords carries over 470,000 titles and works with 135,000 authors and publishers around the world.  We work with an awesome network of retail and library distribution partners who do amazing work behind the scenes to support Smashwords authors and publishers.

Let’s look at the business and service milestones for Smashwords this year and then I’ll share a preview of our plans for 2018.

Business Milestones

  • Books published – We now publish 472,100 ebooks, up 8% from 437,200 at the end of last year.
  • Words published – We now publish 16.8 billion words, up 1.2 billion or 7.5% from 15.6 billion a year ago.
  • Authors/pen names served – We now publish 135,175 authors, up almost 8,000 or 6% from 127,500 authors a year ago.
  • Profitability – Despite the moribund sales of most retailers, we managed to eke out another profitable year this year.  Our balance sheet is strong with cash and no debt which means we’re in a good position to ride out the industry slump as other players come and go.
  • Library ebooks show more growth – Library ebook sales continued to show modest growth, indicating that library sales are somewhat decoupled from weak retail sales.  The library ebook market is still small and has room for more upside.
  • Kobo holding steady - Kobo has been holding its own these last four years as other retailers have struggled more.  I think this speaks to their broad geographic footprint and strong line of e-reading devices that continue to earn solid reviews.  From their founding, Kobo has always had more of an international focus than the other larger retailers.  They’ve also got some additional measure of diversification in that they power the bookstores of other stores, and now they’re expanding into audiobooks. 
  • Scribd shows growth – Back in 2015, Scribd did a big pivot by cutting most romance from their catalog.  Romance readers were reading this subscription service out of house and home so Scribd had to pull back and regroup.  As a result, Smashwords romance authors took a big hit in 2015 compared to the strong sales they experienced at Scribd in 2014.  In 2016, however, we saw modest growth return at Scribd.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in 2018. 
  • Sales up at Smashwords Store - Another bright spot was the Smashwords Store, which bucked the industry-wide trend to show year over year sales growth.   I think the performance was boosted by a few factors:  1.  Strong results for authors participating in our big two annual promotions for Read an Ebook Week and our July/Summer Winter Sale, and the addition of a new annual sale, our Smashwords End of Year Sale which ends January 1.   2.  Our new Smashwords Special Deals feature (I’ll describe it below) a self-serve merchandising tool, made it easy for readers to find onsale books.   3.  I think there’s a growing awareness that the Smashwords Store pays royalties up to 80% list, even on some 99-cent ebooks. For authors with strong platforms and the ability to direct readers to one store or another, it's a profitable sale.

Service Milestones

  • Monthly payments! – We launched monthy payments in early 2017.  Previously we paid quarterly.  We also eliminated the prior $10 threshold on PayPal payments.  Even if we only owe you a penny, we’ll pay that penny!
  • Distribution to Bibliotheca cloudLibrary – In February we announced a distribution deal with  Bibliotheca cloudLibrary (formerly 3M CloudLibrary), adding up to 3,000 additional libraries that can now purchase Smashwords titles.
  • Faster, more frequent deliveries to Barnes & Noble – In February, 2017 we announced that thanks to our friends at B&N, Smashwords now delivers books and updates 24X7 to their store.  Previously, we delivered only once-daily Monday-Friday at their request.  This means faster listings for your books.  It’s worthwhile to contrast this with the very early days of ebooks back in 2009 when it could take retailers several weeks to list a book, or contrast with print publishing where it can take a publisher 12-18 months to get a book into stores.
  • 2017 Smashwords Survey – Every year we produce this research report based on actual aggregate sales data sourced from across our retail and library distribution network.  Every year when I’m producing it, I privately curse it and swear I never want to do another (it’s a lot of work to pull this together!!), but every year when the findings reveal themselves I’m amazed at the insights it brings.  This year’s survey had two big bright spots from my perspective:  1. We found that $4.99 joined $2.99 and $3.99 as a pricing sweet spot that can maximize readership and earnings.  My takeaway from that finding was that despite all the pressures for devaluation in the marketplace, authors with loyal readership have pricing power.  2.  We knew from prior annual Surveys that books released as preorders sell more copies than those that are not, but this was the first Survey where we dug deeper and discovered how preorder books are vacuuming up the lion’s share of new book release sales each year. 
  • Special Deals launched - In August we introduced Special Deals, a new self-serve automated merchandising feature at the Smashwords store.  To join this ongoing home page promotion, simply create a coupon code in your Dashboard’s Coupon Manager and set the coupon to “public.”
  • Global pricing control – In September, we gave our authors and publishers unprecedent control over pricing with the launch of our new Global Pricing Control feature.  You can now set custom prices for 248 different countries and 152 local currencies.  If you want to price at 3.99 Euro in Germany and 2.99 in Italy, you can do that with Global Pricing Control.  It’s also a great tool for authors doing BookBub promotions who need to lock down different custom prices in different countries, or for authors who need to deal with Amazon’s unruly price-matching nastygram emails.
  • New categorization options for erotic works – In September, after many months of close collaboration with our largest retailers, we rolled out a new classification system for erotic works that allows authors and publishers to certify the presence, or lack thereof, of certain taboo themes.  The feature allows us to give retailers and library partners greater control over what they receive from our authors and publishers.  As I mentioned in the original announcement, the move was designed to enable greater trust and transparency about the themes contained in these books.
  • New ticketing system to support you better – This month we rolled out a new ticketing system to support your service inquiries.  Every time you click the “?” icon at the top of any page at the Smashwords site and fill out that support form, it’ll generate a unique ticket which our team will track until your question is answered to your satisfaction.  It’ll also let you provide us instant feedback about each interaction with our service team.  Did we do great, or could we have done better?  Our goal is service with a smile.  We aim to answer your questions quickly, accurately and completely the first time around. 
  • Smart Author podcast – In October I launched the Smart Author podcast.  This has been my passion project for the last 18 months so it’s been a lot of fun (and incredible hard work  - my hat goes off to my fellow podcasters who’ve been doing this much longer!) to produce and share this with the world.  It’s like a free masterclass in ebook publishing best practices.  Apple Podcasts placed it in to their coveted New & Noteable home page feature for a few weeks which gave it a big boost (thank you Apple Podcasts!), and the launch was also assisted by an amazing volunteer launch team of Smashwords authors.  If you haven’t listened to it yet, you can check out the trailer right below or visit https://smashwords.com/podcast for links to the various podcast directories that carry it.


Smashwords Plans for 2018

We’ve got some exciting plans for 2018.  In broad strokes, here’s what you can expect:

  • Home page redesign – The home page you see now at Smashwords will get a refresh as we work to make more books more accessible and discoverable to the readers who want to discover them!
  • New line of business - Smashwords will expand our footprint by entering a new adjacent market that I think will please our authors and retailers alike (how’s that for opaque and obfuscated?)
  • More book marketing tools - We're working on a number of initiatives here that fall under the theme of helping you sell more books.  Some of this will be high profile and visible, and some of it will be behind the scenes.  I'll keep this item broad and vague for now so we don't tip our hand too much.
  • More continuous improvement - Every week at Smashwords our engineering team is launching new updates to the Smashwords platform.  In addition to the high-profile new features we announce here at the blog or at Site Updates, there are many more smaller but equally important incremental enhancements.  We're never standing still.
  • New 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide - I first published this back in 2008, and updated it several times over the years.  The last major update was almost five years ago.  I think its continuing popularity speaks to the fact that I focused on evergreen book marketing ideas.  These aren't flash-in-pan marketing tips that work today but won't work tomorrow.  The new edition is completely revised and restructured.  The organization is more logical, making it easier for authors and publishers to leverage these ideas at every stage of their publishing journey.  The new edition is scheduled for full release at the end of January.  If you can't wait another month, you can get it early via my exclusive advance audio serialization of the new edition on the Smart Author podcast (next item).
  • More from Smart Author – Unlike podcasts that go on for hundreds of episodes (and kudos to them for their achievement), I always intended Smart Author to have a finite number of core episodes focused on evergreen best practices.  Right now I’m in the middle of doing an exclusive advance audio serialization of the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and then after that I’ve got a few more episodes planned that should keep me busy through the end of February or March.  After that, we’ll see.  Tell me what you want next, because this podcast is for you.  
  • More surprises
Thank you again for your trust, partnership and support.  Thanks also for distributing with Smashwords.   When you distribute with Smashwords to the retailers and library platforms we serve, you're directly supporting our ability to bring you exciting new tools and opportunities.

Don't miss my 2018 publishing industry predictions, also out today!