Saturday, April 19, 2014

Smashwords at uPublishU at BEA - Ebook Preorder Strategy and iBooks Merchandising Secrets

If you live within reach of New York City, don't miss the uPublishU self-publishing conference taking place Saturday, May 31 2014 at the Javits Center between 9am and 4pm.

40 speakers will share their smarts to help indie authors take their publishing to the next the level.  Register before May 15 for $115 and save $100 off of the regular $215 registration fee.  You'll find the registration link on the uPublishU landing page.

Smashwords will be there in force as a sponsor so I hope you can make it.  We'll also have a table so please stop by and say hello.

The conference this year promises to be their best yet.  They've broken the sessions into three concurrent tracks so you can choose the topics that best meet your goals and objectives.  The three tracks include Bringing Your First Book to Market, Tools & Marketing Mania, and Publishing at the Next Level.

For a full list of sessions and workshops, click here.

I'm presenting two workshops:

1.  10:00 am – 10:50 am

Hit the Bestseller Lists with Ebook Preorders: Preorder Strategy A-Z
Track: Tools & Marketing Mania
Room: 1E10

Learn how to make your book launch more successfully with ebook preorders. Preorders represent one of the most exciting new book launch tools for self-published ebook authors. In this session, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker will help unlock the secrets to preorder success. He’ll describe how preorders work, and will teach authors how to plan, stage and execute a successful preorder strategy. Using Mark’s methods, multiple Smashwords authors have hit the retailer bestseller lists. The recommended preorder strategies are grounded in professional publishing best practices that will help make any ebook launch more successful. Mark will share recent case study examples of how indie authors have used preorders to increase sales rank, sales and visibility.

2.  11:30 am – 12:20 pm
Apple iBooks Merchandising Strategies
Track: Publishing at the Next Level
Room: 1E11

Learn how to reach more readers at Apple' iBooks!  iBooks is the world's second largest ebook retailer, and operates in 51 countries. In this session, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker will teach authors how to stand out in this fast-growing, indie-friendly ebook store where self-published titles regularly top the charts. Mark will teach attendees how books are merchandised at Apple, how ebook merchandising works, how merchandisers select titles for promotion, and what authors can do to maximize their odds of merchandising love. Although the session will focus on iBooks, the lessons learned are universal. Learn how to make your books stand out at every retailer.
uPublishU is one of several sister conferences taking place during BEA, North America's largest book conference.  BEA is one of my favorite conferences, and it's been cool to see how self publishing is becoming a bigger piece of each year's conference.

Click here to learn more about uPublishU
Click here to learn more about BEA and its many sister conferences occuring concurrently during the week.

See you in New York!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Female Authors Dominating Smashwords Ebook Bestseller Lists


Each month, Publishers Weekly publishes the Smashwords Self-Published Ebook Bestseller List.  We report our bestsellers based on dollar sales aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network which includes retailers such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Smashwords store and others.

The other day I was browsing our February 2014 Smashwords bestseller list at Publishers Weekly and realized that all the top 25 bestsellers were written by women.  Cool beans.

Wondering if this was a fluke, I looked at our December 2013 Smashwords bestseller list at PW and bingo, same thing.  All 25 books were written by women.

Then I looked at the bestseller list for November 2013.   Same thing again.  100% women.

Our ebook bestsellers for October 2013?  You guessed it, 100% women.

If you're wondering why I skipped January in the examples above, it's because we and PW decided to shift the publication schedule to increase timeliness, so we skipped January and published February in March.

Why are women dominating the Smashwords bestseller lists, other than the fact that these women are all super-awesome writers?  One likely factor is that romance is the #1 bestselling genre at Smashwords, and romance is overwhelmingly written by women.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I'm constantly blown away the smarts, savvy and sophistication of romance authors.  These ladies have pioneered many of the ebook publishing and distribution best practices that so many indies take for granted today.

But strong romance performance doesn't fully explain the story.  While 2/3 of our February bestseller list was romance, 1/3 was not, with the remaining categories including historical fiction, fantasy and mystery.

Could it be that there are more female writers than male writers?  I don't know the industry-wide or Smashwords-specific gender breakdowns.

Could it be fiction readers, which skew female, prefer books written by women because the authors are women, or because women write stories that are most appealing to women?  I don't know.

For another reference point, I looked at today's top 25 bestsellers at the US iBooks store.  64% written by women.  At Amazon US, 56% of today's top 25 bestsellers are written by women.

There's a pattern here, but my data points above are too limited to draw a statistically significant conclusion.  For now, file the above under curious and unexplained observations.

Keep up the great work ladies!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Free Series Starter Promotion at iBooks Features Dozens of Smashwords Authors

Apple iBooks this week introduced an international merchandising promotion in the US, Australia and New Zealand spotlighting free series starters.  Smashwords-distributed books make over 80 appearances in the promotion.

All featured Smashwords authors are taking advantage of Smashwords' new Series Manager merchandising tool, which we launched back in September.  As I mentioned in September, Series Manager enables authors to attach their titles to series, which makes it easy for readers to easily identify books within a series, or across related series.  Just as importantly, series metadata gives Smashwords retailers greater flexibility to promote books within a series.  Apple's FIRST IN A SERIES promotion is one such manifestation of the new merchandising opportunities now available to Smashwords authors thanks to Series Manager.

In the US iBooks store, featured Smashwords titles are organized under categories of Mysteries and Thrillers, Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Teen Fiction.  Please join me in congratulating the following Smashwords authors for their inclusion in this special merchandising feature:

Mysteries & Thrillers
Russell Blake - Night of the Assassin
Stephen Leather - Natural Selection
Mike Wells - Passion, Power & Sin
JD Nixon - Heller
Al Rennie - Clearwater Journals
Odette C. Bell - Trouble & Treasure

Romance
Lacey Weatherford - Crush
Lili St. Germain - Seven Sons
Lauren Blakely - The Start of Us
DW Cee - Emily's Story
Melody Grace - Untouched
Lisa Scott - Flirts! 5 Romantic Short Stories
Callie Hart - Deviant
Erica Stevens - Kindred
Rucy Ban - All My Life
Danelle Harmon - The Wild One
Abigail Strom - Cross My Heart
Lilianna Anderson - Too Close
Lily Graison - The Lawman
Anne Marie Novark - The Doctor Wears a Stetson

Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Frankie Rose - Sovereign Hope
Jason Halstead - Child of Fate
T.M. Nielsen - Dimension Shifter
John H. Carroll - Rojuun
G.P. Ching - The Soulkeepers
Jeffrey A. Carver - Neptune Crossing
Odette C. Bell - A Plain Jane
Joseph Lallo - Bypass Gemini
Randolph Lalond - Origins
Edward Crichton - The Last Roman
Jonathan Moeller - The Tower of Endless Worlds
Maree Anderson - Seer's Hope
Joseph Lallo - The Book of Deacon
TC Southwell - The Queen's Blade
Brian S. Pratt - The Unsuspecting Mage
Richard L. Sanders - The Phoenix Conspiracy
Sarah Woodbury - Daughter in Time
Michael Wallace - The Dark Citadel
TC Southwell - The Queen of Arlin
TC Southwell - The Broken World
Tara Brown - Cursed
Jessica Sorensen - Darkness Falls
Michael R. Hicks - First Contact (In Her Name: The Last War)

Paranormal Romance
Nicky Charles - Bonded
Erica Stevens - Captured
Kira Saito - Bound
Jessica Sorensen - Shattered Promises
Addison Moore - Ethereal
Rebecca Ethington - Kiss of Fire
Tenaya Jayne - Forbidden Forest
Claudy Conn - ShadowLove Stalkers
Maree Anderson - The Crystal Warrior
Lacey Weatherford - Of Witches and Warlocks: The Trouble with Spells
Kristen Middleton - Blur (Night Roamers)
Tara Brown - Cursed (Book 1 of the Devil's Roses)
M. Leighton - Madly
Rachel Higginson - Love and Decay

Teen Fiction
Chanda Hahn - UnEnchanted
GJ Walker-Smith - Saving Wishes
Quinn Loftis - Prince of Wolves
Amy Miles - Forbidden
Tracie Puckett - The New Girl
Jessica Sorenson - The Fallen Star
Julia Templeton - The Deepest Cut
Penelope Fletcher - Glamour
Kira Saito - Bound
Shelly Crane - Significance
Erica Stevens - Kindred
Melanie Nilles -  Starfire Angels
Kaitlyn Davis - Ignite
Christie Anderson - Deep Blue Secret
K.A. Tucker - Anathema
Devyn Dawson -  The Light Tamer
M. Leighton - Blood Like Poison: For The Love of a Vampire
Sophie Davis - Talented
India Lee - Hidden Gem
Elaine Pierson - Growl
Claire Farrell - Verity
M. Leighton - Madly
Jessica Sorenson - Ember
Jamie Campbell - Ignite
Sandra Thompson -  The Ghostly Grammar Boy
Alicia Michaels - The Bionics
Ashlyn Daube - The Circle


Most of the titles above are also featured in Australia's and New Zealand's FIRST IN A SERIES FREE promotion.  As a bonus, Australia/NZ features an additional category for Fiction, which includes the following Smashwords authors:

Free Series Starters - Fiction

Shayne Parkinson - Sentence of Marriage
Brian K. Larson -  The Secret of Crystal

Congratulations to all featured authors, and thanks to the great team at Apple for their tremendous support of Smashwords authors!

If you're one of the lucky authors above, be sure to celebrate with your fans.  Right mouse click the titles above to copy the direct hyperlink to the book.   Just a quick reminder also to refer to the store as either iBooks (‘Download on iBooks’) or the iBooks Store (‘Available on the iBooks Store’), and not iTunes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Indie Ebook Author Community to Earn More than Traditional Ebook Authors

In my post last week I predicted indie ebook authors would capture 50% of the US ebook market by 2020.

Today, I'm looking at the implications of this from another angle - author earnings.  Hugh Howey has recently lavished some welcome attention on this question at his AuthorEarnings.com web site (I examined the resulting uproar at Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt).

One of the commonly cited advantages of indie ebook publishing is that indies earn much higher "royalty" rates than traditionally published authors.  Smashwords authors typically earn 60-80% of the list price, versus traditionally published authors who earn 12.5% to 17.5% of the list price.  The rate paid by the publisher depends on whether their publisher is selling books under the wholesale or agency models.

Let's put some numbers on the bones of these percentages.  A Smashwords-distributed author earns $2.40 on a $3.99 ebook sold through one of our retailer partners, whereas a traditionally published author would earn about 50-70 cents.  In order for the traditionally published ebook author to earn the same $2.40, their ebook would have to be priced between $13.71 and $19.20.  This explains why talented authors are feeling such strong economic incentive to go indie.  Indies can price their product lower, but still earn more per unit sold than they can earn from traditional publishers who overprice their books yet continue to offer a small royalty percentage.

The chart at the top of this page is generated off of the same estimates that created the chart at left which I first shared in last week's post.

The chart at top was created by multiplying the percentage of the market going to indie ebook authors (at left) by 60%, and the percentage going to traditional authors by 15%.



These percentages are approximations based on the spreads I mentioned above. 

You can download my spreadsheet to develop and share your own estimates.  Nothing would make me happier than for someone with better numbers to prove that my 2013 indie ebook market share estimate of 15% is too high (it would mean Smashwords authors have more upside in the future!).

I am confident, however, that the 10 winds of change I identified in the last post will lead indies to capture increased market share in the years ahead.

What's initially striking to me from the new chart at the top of the page is that 2014 could be the first year that the total dollars earned by indies at retail will equal dollars earned by traditional authors.  For 2020, the indie ebook community could earn almost four times more than the traditionally published ebook community will earn if indie ebook authors achieve the 50% market share I predict.

The next most striking thing is the slope of the curves. Note how steep the slope is for indie authors.  The linear market share growth I modeled for indies in last week's chart leads to a bigger differential in this week's chart in terms of the dollars going into indie authors' pockets vs. traditional authors' pockets. In plain English, for every retail dollar that shifts to an indie ebook, the author earns 60 cents.  For every dollar that goes to a traditionally published ebook, the author only earns 15 cents.

My charts and assumptions are not without their limitations. My numbers don't attempt to incorporate unearned advances, for example.  It's common for publishers to pay authors advances that are never earned out by book sales.  In such situations, the stated royalty percent underestimates what the author earned (it also represents a failure of the publisher to accurately estimate the commercial potential of a book).

An additional limitation of today's chart is that I'm assuming the current royalty rates stay the same. This is a dangerous assumption.  If Amazon lowers ebook rates like it lowered Audible audiobook rates the other week, Amazon would break my model and break the banks of many authors. Or, traditional publishers could heed the call of writers to increase their ebook royalty rates. Or, everyone could raise royalties.

My projections paint a picture of an indie author community poised to capture an ever-larger share of ebook profits if print continues to decline in importance.

But this does not mean that indie authorship is the road to riches. The rise of self-published ebooks will lead to a glut of high-quality books that never go out of print. These books, combined with the ebook releases of traditional publishers, will accumulate on ebook retailer shelves and lead to more high-quality ebooks competing for a limited number of reader eyeballs.  It means readers will become more discerning.  It means all authors - indie or otherwise - will face more intense competition than ever before.

Good books aren't good enough anymore.  Readers want wow books. Indies will deliver.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

10 Reasons Indie Authors Will Capture 50% of the Ebook Market by 2020

There's a debate raging about the size of the self publishing market.
 
I think indie ebooks will account for 50% of ebook sales by 2020.

What do you think?

On one side of the debate, you have folks such as myself who believe all signs point toward indie ebook authors capturing an ever-greater percentage of the ebook market.

On the other side you have folks who think self publishing represents an insignificant portion of the book  market.  The naysayers think we indie optimists are delusional.

Could both sides be right?  Yes, if you look at the numbers as they stand today, and no if you look at the trends.

When you look at the trends, a new picture emerges.  Yes, I understand it can be dangerous to extrapolate trends.  Any number of events can strike to disrupt or reverse a trend.  But if you have confidence in the drivers of a trend, and you think the wind in the sails of these drivers will blow stronger not weaker, then the future becomes plain as day.

Today I'm contributing to the discussion by offering up a downloadable spreadsheet you can use to become your very own ebook pundit.  Click here to download my spreadsheet at Dropbox.

After you download the spreadsheet, open it and simply enter your estimates into the yellow cells.

You'll place your estimates in two rows:  1.  In row 11, you'll estimate the percentage of trade book sales represented by print books (as you probably know, the term "trade book" refers to consumer books typically purchased through bookstores).  2.  In row 13, you'll estimate the percentage of ebook market sales earned by indie ebook authors.

Enter your numbers for each year from 2008 to 2020.

From these two rows of estimates, the spreadsheet will calculate:

  1. The percentage of trade book market sales represented by ebooks
  2. The percentage of the overall trade book market represented by indie authors
  3. The percentage of the overall trade book market represented by traditional publishers
And then it will draw you a pretty chart.   I encourage you to take a screen shot of your chart, post it to your blog or favorite social media site, and then explain in your post the reasoning behind your estimates and beliefs.  Do me a favor and include a link back to this blog post so others can play the pundrity game too, and please also post a link in the comments below so that others can visit your blog and benefit from your opinions and insights.

My estimates, and my pretty chart, are at the top of this post.

I'm estimating ebooks for 2013 represented 30% of the overall US trade book market, and print books accounted for 70%.  Indie authors don't have access to print distribution for brick and mortars, so I've omitted any indie credit for print in my estimates.

I'm estimating indie authors represented 15% of the ebook market.  Using these numbers, that means sales of self-published authors on the strength of ebooks alone accounted for 4.5% of the US trade book market for 2013.  If my estimate is correct, it explains why publishers have maintained their intransigence when it comes to reforming their royalty rates and other business practices for which indies are now losing patience.

It's easy for a naysayer to poo-poo this 4.5% as evidence that despite all the noise about the indie revolution, traditional publishing is still the main game in town.  Do these naysayers see the writing on the wall of where this is all leading?

There are some early signs publishers are beginning to feel the heat from self published authors, and it comes from Harlequin, the grand dame of romance publishing.  In Harlequin's management discussion portion of its 2013 earnings announcement (released March 4, 2014), the company for first time cited self publishing as a potential competitive risk:  "The proliferation of less expensive, and free, self-published works could negatively impact Harlequin’s revenues in the future." (hat tip Publishers Lunch).   View the report here (opens a PDF).

I'm sure there will be those who criticize my 2013-2020 estimates for being wildly optimistic, or crazily conservative.  Only time will tell.  My primary concerns are the general trends, the drivers of these trends, and what these trends mean for the writers we serve.


As I look to the future, I think the numbers start looking really exciting if you're in the indie author's shoes, and scary if you're a Big 5 publisher.  In my spreadsheet, I see indie authors accounting for 50% of ebook sales by the year 2020.  I think my estimates are fairly conservative.  Some people today think indie ebooks already account for 25% or more of ebook sales.  I'm modeling a steady but gradual shift from print to ebooks, and a steady but gradual increase in the indie ebook market share.

If my projections come to pass, indie authors will control over one third (35%) of the overall trade book market in seven years.  Go ahead, call me crazy or delusional.  I don't mind.

Below, I'll explain why my numbers are more achievable than the naysayers think.

10 Reasons Indie Authors Will Capture Half of the Ebook Market by 2020


  1. Print will continue to decline as a book-reading format as more readers transition to screens. The transition to screens will be driven by the low prices, selection, exceptional discoverability and instant reading pleasure delivered by ebooks.
  2. Brick and mortar bookstores will continue their march into the sunset with more store closures.  I'm not happy about this, but I don't see the trend reversing unless bookstores start serving wine and pot brownies in their cafes.
  3. The perceived value of publishers will decline in the eyes of writers as the importance of print distribution declines.  Print distribution is an important glue that holds many writers to their traditional publishers.  When publisher stickiness decreases, writers will be tempted to explore the indie author camp.
  4. Indie authors have learned to publish like professionals, which means self publishing will lead to more better books, and more diversity of better books.   The professionalism and sophistication of indie authors has increased dramatically in the six years since we launched Smashwords, and this professionalism will increase in the future as indies pioneer tomorrow's best practices.  These authors are publishing books that are quality-competitive with traditionally published books, but priced dramatically lower.  As a result, these authors have the ability to under-price, outsell and out-compete the ebooks from traditional publishers.  It means indie authors will have platform-building advantages over traditionally published authors.
  5. The number of self-published ebooks will explode, and these ebooks will continue to enjoy democratized access to professional publishing and distribution tools such as Smashwords, and democratized access to global online retail distribution (every major ebook store wants to carry self-published ebooks).  Every author - even indie authors - will face increased competition from the glut of high quality works that never go out of print.
  6. The most successful indie authors are mentoring the next generation of authors.  Indie authors act like a vast publishing collective of writers helping writers. 
  7. The stigma once associated with self publishing is melting away at the same time the stigma of traditional publishing is on the rise.  Indie authors are in the cool kids club now.  They know they can publish with pride and professionalism, and they're developing teflon skin that deflects the once ego-bruising criticism levied by self publishing naysayers.  If you haven't been to a writers conference lately, go to one.  A few years ago, writers would leave conferences depressed in the knowledge that their dream agent only accepts one in 10,000 queries.  Today, writers attend conferences and learn to self publish like a pro.  They leave the conference upbeat in the knowledge that one way or another, they'll publish their book their way.
  8. Writers are discovering the joy of self publishing. If publishers are from Mars, authors are from Venus.  They speak different languages and hold different values. The rewards of self publishing transcend the conventional and myopic commercial metric value systems of publishers.  Indie authors are enjoying total creative control, faster time to market, ownership over their publishing future, and the flexibility to innovate and evolve their immortal ebooks which will never go out of print.  Indie authors enjoy the freedom to serve their fans as they want to serve them.  Icing on the indie author's cake: Indie ebook authors earn royalty rates 4-5 times higher than they'd earn from traditional publishers.
  9. Readers don't care about the publisher name on the ebook's virtual spine.  The brand they care about is the author brand. Indie authors are learning to build their own brands. 
  10. The growing rift between writers and publishers will cause the next generation of writers to avoid shopping their books to publishers, and will undermine the goodwill of writers who until now have been loyal to their traditional publishers.  Writers are angry.  After centuries of living on the bottom rung of the publishing ladder, they're feeling their oats and relishing their new-found power and respect.  I wrote about this last week for Publishers Weekly in my opinion piece, Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt (may require registration).

Have fun with your punditry!  I look forward to hearing all views, especially if you don't agree with me.

READ NEXT:  Read my follow-on to this post,  Indie Ebook Author Community to Earn More than Traditional Ebook Authors

Friday, February 28, 2014

Read an Ebook Week 2014 Kicks off Sunday

Read an Ebook Week kicks off this Sunday.  Smashwords is again sponsoring the event for the sixth year running.

Thousands of Smashwords authors will offer free and deep-discounted titles starting Sunday March 2 and running through Saturday March 8.

Readers, starting Sunday March 2 Pacific time, the Smashwords catalog of participating titles will appear at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1


Readers and Authors:  The official Read an Ebook Week hub page is at Smashwords and offers access to banners, buttons and badges you can post on your web site, blog, Facebook and other social media outlets to celebrate your participation in this event.  This page will also feature links to promotional or free catalogs to make it easier for readers to find books.  Currently I have links to the Smashwords RAEW catalog, two great Apple iBooks catalogs (FREE series starters and featured FREE books), Barnes & Noble and Diesel.  I plan to add links to other retailers as well.

Authors:  To enroll your book(s) in the promotion, go to https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos or click the "Authors, add your books to the promotion" button on the Smashwords home page.

If you're interested to learn the story behind Read an Ebook Week, read my 2010 interview with Rita Toews at The Huffington Post .  Please note that the prior web address mentioned in the interview, www.ebookweek.com, is now controlled by a squatter and is not associated with this promotion, so please don't link to or promote the old address.  The Smashwords RAEW page at www.smashwords.com/ebookweek is a better option, and has Rita's blessing.

The official Read an Ebook Week Facebook page, operated by Ms. Toews, is at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Read-an-E-Book-Week/193882590629749  Show your support for RAEW by "Liking" it on Facebook.

Authors:  How to Get the Most out of Your Participation

Read an Ebook Week is a collaborative event driven almost entirely by indie authors and their readers.  Here's what you can do to maximize the fun:

  1. Enroll all of your books.  Make it enticing for readers to add all your books to their shopping cart.
  2. Promote your involvement across all your social media outlets.  Have fun!  Download your favorite official RAEW buttons, banners and badges, and like stickers, stick 'em everywhere virtual sun shines - Facebook, Twitter, your web site or blog, Tumblr, wherever you connect with your fans.  Link the images to your Smashwords author page (you'll find the link in your web browser by clicking on "Profile" at Smashwords) so it's easy for readers to add your books to their shopping cart.
  3. Invite your writer friends to enroll in the promotion, and encourage them to promote their books to their fans.  Every author has the ability to draw more readers to the promotional catalog at Smashwords, and the more readers the more sales and downloads for all the participating authors.  In other words, the more authors that participate, the greater the benefits for all the participants.
Have fun!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Smashwords Authors Publish 10 Billion Words

Smashwords authors today reached an exciting milestone:  10 Billion Words Published.  The milestone was reached sometime around noon Pacific.

These words come from 87,000 writers from every corner of the globe who have gathered together to change the world of publishing one ebook at a time as manifested through their 288,000 titles at Smashwords.

These writers are revolutionaries and saviors of the written word, even if they don't view themselves as such.  They're leading the indie author movement.

It took about 50 months for us to reach 5 billion words in July, 2012.  It's taken only about 18 months more to add the second 5 Billion.

These 10 billion words represent creative expression unleashed.  And they represent a lot more.

Here are some fun stats to help you grasp the enormity of this 10-billion-word collective achievement:

  • If a person could type 30 words a minute, 24 hours per day, it would take a single individual 5.6 million hours of writing, or about 630 years without a break, to type this many words
  • The average book at Smashwords is 34,722 words
  •  Let's assume it takes the typical writer 9 months to write a book.  The human heart beats 100,000 times per day.  Each book was created with the life force of about 27 million heartbeats.  The Smashwords catalog of 288,000 books represents about 7.8 billion heartbeats.  Wow.
  • Assuming 9 months to write a book, it would take a single individual 216,000 years to write this many words. 
  • Let's assume the average word in a sentence in print, including the space that follows it, is about 3/8 of an inch long (wild guess!).  These words would stretch 312 million feet, or about 60,000 miles (96,000 kilometers), or long enough to wrap the earth almost  2 1/2 times.
Smashwords was launched six years ago.  Since then, every writer in the world has had the ability to self-publish a multi-format ebook at no cost through Smashwords and other platforms.  Imagine the creative output ebook self publishing has enabled these last few years, and imagine what's yet to come.

Imagine the number of literary classics that have been birthed over the last few years - classics that might not be recognized as such for years to come.

I'm blown away by the scale of these numbers, and I'm humbled these 87,000 authors, small presses and literary agents have chosen to partner with Smashwords to help realize their books.

Is Self Publishing Good or Bad for the Culture of Books?

There's been a lot of hand wringing lately in some circles that self publishing is enabling a deluge of low-quality books.  These people are missing the point of self publishing.  Self publishing gives writers the freedom to decide when they'll graduate to become a published author.  The gatekeepers are replaced by readers.

Gone is the myopic, suffocating filter of perceived commercial merit by which traditional publishers judge and reject books.  I've got enormous respect for the people of publishing, but their business model, and their value system for books, is off-kilter and out of date.  Prior to the rise of ebooks and the rise of indie authorship that ebooks enabled, the business of big publishing had become hazardous to books and book culture.  Why?  Because books cannot and should not be valued by sales or estimated sales alone.  These smart, well-intentioned people in publishing were forced to play a blindfolded grim reaper by guessing which books readers didn't want to read.  And then they threw the surviving spaghetti against the wall and let readers decide.

A reader can't accurately tell anyone what they really want to read until they read it, in the same same way I didn't know I wanted to listen to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit until I heard it.  The best creative works break preexisting molds and surprise us.

The Travesty of Lost Culture

What about the spaghetti that never made it to market, and that would have stuck if only given the chance?  What about the hundreds of thousands of fine traditionally published books that were forced out of print weeks after release, before they had a chance to be discovered by readers?  Many of these books will never see the light of day again.

Consider the millions of writers who've had their dreams crushed over the last couple hundred years because their books were rejected when publishers didn't recognize their value.  Virtually every literary classic today has a story of how it was almost not published.  Imagine the thousands of literary classics - classics that would have surpassed anything ever published -  that died with their authors, tossed out with the attic trash.

This tragedy no longer needs to be repeated, because the world of books is no longer constrained by a broken business model that is unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a chance on every author.

Self Publishing Energizes Book Culture, Lead to More Better Books

http://widgetville.blogspot.com/2011/09/spread-word-about-smashwords.html
I founded Smashwords so I could take a chance on every author.  To reject rejection.  I wanted to give writers the freedom to publish and readers the freedom to read what they like.

Writers recognize that success cannot be measured by dollars alone.  There are spiritual and emotional pleasures to be had by self publishing that only writers can understand.

Now back to the critics who complain about the torrent of crud enabled by self publishing.

Yes, self publishing will enable more poor-quality books than ever before.  But so what?  The flip side of this coin is that self publishing will enable more better books than ever before.   You cannot grow wheat without chaff.  Yin and yang.

More better books is what matters most.  More diversity.  More choice. More freedom to publish and freedom to discover and enjoy.

Online book discovery systems are amazingly adept at burying the crud and surfacing the creme. The books that are truly horrible - books released by writers who failed to honor their reader with a quality read - quickly become invisible because readers will reject them today and in the future.  The great books - the ones that take readers to emotionally satisfying extremes - will always find readers and bubble up to visibility, if not today, then next month or next year or next decade.

Great books are more discoverable today than ever before.  The retailer discovery algorithms do an incredible job of capturing, measuring and leveraging the collective wisdom of readers as they browse, sample, purchase, read, review and talk about these books.  As capable as the book discovery algorithms are today, they'll only grow smarter in the future.

Fear not, dear booklovers, self publishing will not only improve publishing, self publishing will save publishing.

Congrats to all Smashwords authors.  You are improving the world of books one word and one indie ebook at a time.  Thanks for allowing all of us on the Smashwords team to join you in this transformative adventure.