Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Smashwords Launches Second Annual July Summer/Winter Sale

It's July 1, which means it's summer in the Northern hemisphere and winter in the Southern hemisphere.

It also means it's time for the second annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, where readers can find hundreds (and within days, thousands) of ebooks on sale with great savings of 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off, and 100%-off (free).

Smashwords authors and publishers can enroll their books now by clicking here to the enrollment page, where you'll find all your Smashwords books. Simply click the radio button corresponding to the coupon level you want.

All enrolled books will receive inclusion in the special Summer/Winter Sale catalog on the Smashwords homepage, and will also be included in special sale catalogs in Stanza on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and in Aldiko on Android devices.

After you enroll, you can use one of the following global coupon codes to promote your book to fans on Facebook, Twitter, online message forums, social networks, your private mailing lists or your blog.

Smashwords Ebook Coupon Codes for the July Summer/Winter Sale:

SWS25 - 25% off
SWS50 - 50% off

SWS75 - 75% off

SW100 - 100% off

The sale starts now and runs through July 31. If you're a reader, check the sale catalog often, because new titles are being added to the promotion every day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Smashwords Partners with Wattpad to Create New Publishing Opportunities for Indie Authors

In a joint press release issued today, Smashwords and Wattpad announced a partnership that will open up new publishing opportunities for thousands of indie authors around the world.

If you're not familiar with Wattpad, they operate one of the largest social networks for writers and readers. Writers at Wattpad upload free stories, serialized stories and works-in-progress, and readers comment. It's a great opportunity for authors to share their writing, gain feedback and build fan followings. I first mentioned them in the comments section of my post earlier this month on serialized ebooks.

Consider Wattpad as a smart complement to your overall publishing strategy. Unlike Smashwords, Wattpad doesn't sell books. But whereas Smashwords prohibits works-in-progress, Wattpad and their large community of readers welcome works-in-progress. Like Smashwords, they invite authors to publish free, complete stories as well.

Reach your Beta Readers at Wattpad
If you think about it, book authorship involves a multi-step process. You brainstorm, plan, conceptualize, start writing, stop writing, pull your hair out, start writing again, revise, remove more hair, revise, edit, edit, pray your hair grows back, and so on until you have a finished work.

If you don't involve test readers during the revision process, you're missing out on a golden opportunity to improve your work. I call these early readers your "beta readers."

When my wife and I were writing our novel, Boob Tube, we cherished our beta reader feedback. We'd complete a major rewrite, show it to beta readers, then revise again. The best beta readers are people you don't know, because they'll give you the most honest feedback. Our favorite feedback came from our most vocal critics - those who would identify flaws in our writing style, character development or storyline. With each beta reading round and revision, our book grew better and stronger.

If Wattpad was around when we wrote our book, we would have used them.

Use Wattpad to reach your beta readers and gain new fans. Once your story is finished and ready for prime time, bring it to Smashwords for publication and distribution. Then re-engage with the WattPad community as you develop your next book.

So, what's involved in this partnership? Smashwords and Wattpad have added cross-promotional integration between the two services. Wattpad writers can add a direct hyperlink to their Smashwords author page so fans at Wattpad can purchase their finished works as multi-format ebooks. Smashwords authors can post their works-in-progress, free books and serialized books at Wattpad to reach new readers. After you open your Wattpad account (Go to, you can link your Wattpad page to your Smashwords page. Next, click to Edit Profile in your Smashwords Account tab to link your Smashwords author page to your new page at Wattpad. Got that? The cross links make it easy for your fans at both Smashwords and Wattpad to discover your full spectrum of work.

More coming between Smashwords and Wattpad. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Are Serialized Ebooks a Bad Idea?

Charles Dickens didn't invent serialized novels, but he's certainly one of the best known authors to use the serial approach.

Whereas the traditional story has a beginning, a middle and an end, the serial novel is often characterized by the never-ending middle. The author starts the story, and then releases new installments over time.

I wonder what Charles Dickens would think of serialized ebooks. The topic is on my mind today because when I woke up this morning and looked at the Smashwords home page, it was dominated by five installments of a single ebook, each about 10,000 words.

The other day, I asked another author to stop posting his series of 2,000 word ebooks.

At Smashwords, we have a strict policy of only publishing complete, finished works. If you want to publish a partial book, or a work-in-process, we don't want it, because it doesn't fit with our mission of connecting a reader's eyeballs and wallet to the finished works of our indie authors and publishers. If a customer purchases an unfinished, incomplete or partial work, they feel ripped off.

Yet we face a quandary with serialized books. They occupy a grey area. They technically don't comply with our terms of service, unless each serialized chunk can stand alone as a complete story. But whose job is it to judge whether a story is complete or not, or long enough to qualify as a standalone work?

I created Smashwords to eliminate gatekeepers, not to become one. I don't want to stand in the way of an author's creative expression, or fail to serve a reader's desire for serialized works.

So I wondered, are readers interested in serials? Am I wrong to discourage serials on Smashwords?

To gauge reader interest, I posted a short query over at Smashwords Site Updates, inviting Smashwords customers to share their opinions. Concurrent with that post, I posted an online poll at MobileRead, where I asked readers to share their opinions on serialized ebooks.

The early results surprised me. With only 36 votes recorded so far, 91% of respondents claim they either avoid reading serialized ebooks, or they never read them. It'll be interesting to watch how the numbers shake out once the vote count approaches a more statistically significant sample size.

The comments at MobileRead are even more interesting. Many readers there are passionately opposed to serialized ebooks.

The initial results indicate I'm probably correct to continue discouraging serialized ebooks at Smashwords. We're unlikely to outright ban them, because we don't want to get into that gatekeeper role of determining what's complete, and what's not.

My hunch is that Darwin's natural selection, powered by reader preferences, will prevent serialized ebooks from catching on. Most writers write to attract readers, not repel them.

Why do most readers hold serialized books in such disdain, as my unscientific poll appears to indicate? If I distill the essence of the initial MobileRead comments, as well as the private emails I've received today, it boils down to these four reasons:

  1. Lack of immediate gratification - If you enjoy a book, you want to finish it now, not later.
  2. Risk - You fear investing money in the serials, only to have the author abandon the project and leave the story unfinished.
  3. Cost - A serialized book can be much more expensive than a complete book.
  4. Inconvience - It's easier and more convenient to download a single file than multiple files.
One Smashwords publisher, who asked to remain anonymous, emailed me this interesting idea:
If serialization of ebooks is permitted, it should only be after the author submits the entire book: then, and only then should the online publisher allow the chapters to be sold piecemeal... possibly on some standardized/automated periodical basis, like once a week.
If we were ever to embrace serialized books at Smashwords, I think his approach is equitable to all and makes sense. It would free us from gatekeeping and allow us to enable distribution and merchandising with a fully automated, author-opt-in technology solution. We like automation. However, given the apparent lack of interest in serialized ebooks, for the time being we have bigger fish to fry. And on that count, stay tuned. Cool stuff in the works.

Click here to cast your vote in my MobileRead serialization poll. The poll will close in two months.

Image credit: Wikipedia, photo of a young Dickens. For more on Charles Dickens, see his Wikipedia page. Click here for the Wikipedia page on serialized literature. Learn about Stephen King's well known ebook serialization experiment on the Wikipedia page for his book, The Plant.