Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

This past weekend at the Self Publishing Book Expo in New York, I presented my Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. I embedded the presentation below for your Powerpointing pleasure.

The presentation builds on a previous presentation (and blog post here) on how the rise of indie ebooks will transform the future the future of publishing.

For this session, I added new material, including the all-new seven secrets plus one bonus secret that covers how authors can maximize the virality of their books.



The Seven Secrets (plus bonus):

  1. Write a great book - Your reader's time is more valuable than their wallet. Readers have unlimited choice for high-quality content, so authors must respect the reader's time by publishing the highest quality book possible. As the publisher, it's your responsibility to do what many traditional publishers do so well, and that's to honor the editing and revision process.

  2. Write another great book - The best-selling authors at Smashwords offer deep backlists. Think of each book as a fish hook in the ocean. When each book cross references the other books with simple hyperlinks (both inside the book and within the retailer's merchandising systems), you create a net. A deep backlist also offers you the opportunity to earn the trust of the reader. Once the reader trusts that you'll respect their time with a great read, they'll be more inclined to sample and purchase your other titles.

  3. Maximize distribution - Availability is the precursor to discoverability. If your book isn't serendipitously discoverable in multiple places via topical or themed search engine queries, or via keyword or categories searches at retailers, it might as well be invisible. Get your books distributed in as many online bookstores as possible. Many readers go to a bookstore with the intention to find a great read, and they're not necessarily looking for a specific title, so if your book isn't there it's not discoverable or purchasable. Some of the same rules of print publishing apply to ebook publishing. The more bookstores that carry your book, the more chances you have to connect with a reader.

  4. Give (some of) your books away for FREE - The highest grossing authors at Smashwords offer at least one book for free. FREE is one of the most misunderstood and underutilized ebook marketing secrets. Free works best if you have a deep backlist.

  5. Trust your readers and partners - Some authors don't publish ebooks due to fear of piracy. That's silly. Piracy cannot be prevented. J.K. Rowling doesn't publish ebooks, yet within hours of each release of her Harry Potter series, her books were available online as pirated ebooks. Don't make it difficult for your fans to purchase legitimate copies of your book. Trust your readers to honor your copyright (and for those readers who won't, there's little you can do about it). If you limit the accessibility of your book by infecting your book with DRM, then you'll limit your ability to connect with readers. Last week during my trip to Brazil, I spoke at an ebook publishing presentation sponsored by Singular Digital alongside Rodrigo Paranhos Velloso, the director of business development for Google Latin America. Rodridgo made an absolutely brilliant observation about DRM. He said, "when you DRM something, you make the non-DRM'd versions more valuable." In other words, when you apply DRM, you encourage piracy.

  6. Have patience - It takes time to build your publishing business. Unlike traditionally published print books that hit store shelves and usually go out of print soon after, ebooks are immortal. When your book lands at a new retailer, think of it as a seedling. With time and proper nourishment, it has the chance to build deep roots (customer reviews, sales rank, SEO). Never remove your book from a retailer's shelves because you're dissatisfied with its sales compared to other retailers (see distribution above).

  7. Marketing starts yesterday - Start building your marketing platform before you finish your book, and then invest time every day to build that platform. Implement a solid social media strategy. Participate in social networks, and more importantly, contribute to your social networks. If you view your Facebook and Twitter followers has people to be sold to, you'll hurt yourself. Instead, add value. Help your fellow authors be successful. When it comes time for you to launch your book, your social network friends will want to return the favor by opening unexpected doors of opportunity.

  8. Architect for virality - In the presentation, I described my concept of "first reader," the person you convince to purchase your book. Every reader is a first reader. If your book resonates with them, they'll promote the book to their friends. If it doesn't resonate, they won't promote it. Since readers will determine the success of your book, you, as the author or publisher, can take steps to facilitate the virality (word-of-mouth) of your book. The presentation outlines those steps, as well as how to avoid what I call Viral Decay and Negative Virality.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room in Adelaide, Australia. I'll be in Australia for most of the rest of the month, here to speak at a series of if:book Australia's "future of publishing" Next Text seminars in Adelaide (Oct. 6, 7), Brisbane (Oct 10), Byron Bay (Oct. 13) and Perth (October 18, two events). I look forward to meeting Smashwords authors and publishers at these events. Register now at the links above.

On October 29, I'll probably do a half day ebook publishing event in Auckland, New Zealand, hosted by the New Zealand Digital Publishing Forum. More on this later once things are confirmed.

October 6 Update: Read an updated and slightly modified version of this post over at the Huffington Post.

44 comments:

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great advice Mark. Hope you are having a blast!

DW said...

Brilliant advice Mark. I'm working on those great books as I comment.

Shayne Parkinson said...

Nice presentation, Mark! I'm very much hoping to meet you here in New Zealand.

Randolph said...

Fantastic post, great presentation!

I think you've managed to hit almost every nail inside the 21st century indie publishing house on the head!

Des Greene said...

Excellent powerpoint presentation, Mark.
Enjoy Oz and NZ!

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

I'm still trying to get my Smashwords royalties paid. I can't find any where to ask for support on the website. I'm over the payment threshold and am a bit confused about what next to do.
I'd appreciate any advice you can give me.

Shayne Parkinson said...

Anne: at the top of each Smashwords screen is a link marked "Comments/questions/customer support? Click here!"

If you click on that, you'll be able to post your question (you'll also see a list of FAQs). Click on it from your profile page ("My Smashwords"), and your details will be attached to the message, making it easier for the support person to respond. Hope this helps.

missymaxim said...

Anne: 3rd Quarter payments go out at the end of this month. You'll receive the deposit or check then.

hache said...

THanks for the helpful tips. This seems to be the collective wisdom in the small emerging voice for e-books. Looking forward to continuing along this process.

Oswald Bastable said...

A little off-topic, but the one billion works published mark has been passed!

Jason Matthews said...

Thanks as always, Mark. I'm very grateful for Smashwords and the new writing model in general for independent authors like me.

Lewis Evans said...

Good, solid advice, Mark.

I'm looking forward to entering the fray!

funke said...

Thank you so much for your sound words of wisdomw

Earnest Brant Mercer said...

Fantastic site/info/etc. I just waded thru your guide word by word and published my new book (that I have worked on since 2005). Your style is simply a standout in this day of overuse of jargon.
Earnest Mercer

Judd Exley said...

Mate, brilliant stuff and, for my money, it's like Google doing a post about how to "Rank #1!" or something crazy like that.

You've got a lot on the ball here, and this site is going to change the world baby!

I VERY much look forward to meeting you in October out here in Perth, the ass-end of an ass-end continent, but gorgeous and wonderful nonetheless.

Enjoy it down here mate!

M. R. Mathias said...

Step 9. Create a social posting/responding cycle and stick too it. Twitter is your friend.
M. R. Mathias
@Dahgmahn on twitter

Angela said...

Very helpful! Thank you for sharing! :)

Ted R Bailey said...

I'm completely envious of your trip to Australia. On the other hand, I think you're doing a great thing.

Zack Proser said...

Great post. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

Very useful tips! Thank you, Mark.

romu said...

I have published two books with Smashwords and the third this year, I hope. I can only corroborate what Mark recommends. Above all, patience is the queen of virtues. Each author is trapped by his ego, one day or another, I think, but after a while, we need to focus on writing, this is important. The rest will come.

Lisa Vandiver said...

Thank you Mark for all that you do for the Smashwords authors. I am not one of the big sellers there, but each time I've asked you for assistance, you have helped me. For that reason alone, I will always publish through Smashwords first. Thank you for your guides and tips. They are study worthy, and full of excellent advice! I will continue studying those guides for all my publishing assistance! Have a great day!

Honorée Corpron Corder said...

Mark, Thank you for Smashwords and for this post. I've bookmarked it and review it and the marketing guide often to make sure I'm covering all my bases. Can't wait to see what happens next!

easydog said...

I'm very interested in the role literary agents will play and especially how to make (selfishly) my ebooks available to them.
Thanks much
Ed Wingham

CommanderE said...

Good advice. I'm a couple of months away from self publishing my first novella and I intend to incorporate these tidbits of advice into my publishing strategy.

Thank the stars for Smashwords.

Sherry said...

Publishing my first book has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. The writing has always been easy, it's the marketing that is the difficult part. My husband got me motivated to finish the book and he used your step by step publishing process. He must have uploaded twelve versions. Now he is pushing me to do the next book. The marketing is exciting and I know he has read your blog and watched this powerpoint.

Thank you for what you do, Sherry
Daily Spiritual Tools

chadjohnsonsmindset said...

Good advice. I hope I have the good fortune of selling my books. I do have one for free also.

c7ece8c0-dc7e-11e0-a915-000bcdcb5194 said...

This is so well-done, so inspiring! Thank you for your humor and your secrets. I see great things ahead!

Nina Whyle said...

Thank you. Useful tips for a first time ebook novelist and instead of skimming your advice I actually read every single word and then reread every single word.

cowgirlbrumby said...

Taking a quick break to say, 'I loved your marketing tips and advice!' Thank you very much for posting this. I'd better get back to writing my next book... Cheers, Cg ;)

Babe Hugs said...

Dear Mark,

You give me hope. I keep reading everything you write.
Thank you for the hope--thank you for making publishing my stories a realty I can believe in. I love you for that dear heart. Bless you!

Appreciatively,

Babe Hugs

Jane K. said...

Mark,
This post is very helpful and encouraging. I look forward to reading many more!

Unknown said...

Thanks to the Web and to people like Mr. Coker, it is a FABULOUS time to be a writer.

SummerKnight said...

Great advice, espescially to those of us whom are green and trying to gain knowledge of the metwork.

Valarie Thompson said...

Thank you so much. I'm new to ebook publishing. Your tips are very helpful to me. Your advice makes me more confident to go forward with publishing my ebook. Thanks again.

Elle Casey said...

Great stuff! I'm devouring this kind of info, working hard to market my first novel, published on Jan 1, 2012: Wrecked by Elle Case. Thanks Mark for all the great (free) info.
Smashwords.com

Max Sharp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Sharp said...

Thanks for the advise Mark!! I love the idea of viral book infection spreading like a wild fire!!:)
Max Sharp (Author)
The God of Me (Love)

Jeff said...

The insight to 'The Seven Secrets...' was invaluable. Thanks, Mark

Jeff Tikari

Mathias said...

Awesome Mark, this is real visionary stuff... looking forward to working with your company for a long time.

Unknown said...

perfectly said!

Pete Buckley said...

Looks like sound advice Mark. Looking forward to implementing it!

boiled down money goo guru said...

One more thing. I would add to contract the services of a professional book cover designer, as you have mentioned before. Thanks for the "List." http://coryrichardson.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/my-favorite-book-cover-designer/

Sakuntala said...

Great advice, Mark. I am looking forward to publish my next book shortly.