Friday, August 26, 2011

Share your Smashwords Smarts, Earn a Shiny Mug

Share your Smashwords smarts and we'll send you a shiny new collector's edition Smashwords coffee mug, hot off the presses.

Each month, thousands of new authors and publishers join Smashwords, and many come to us with no prior knowledge about ebook publishing and distribution. For some, Smashwords is a breeze. For others, there's a steep learning curve.

Are you a Smashwords pro? What tips can you share with fellow authors and publishers to help them get up and running quicker, easier and with less frustration?

Here's how to earn your mug (plus other fab benefits):

1. Write a blog post titled something like, "How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords," or, "How I Published [Book Title] with Smashwords," or whatever else you think is fitting for an informative how-to post.

2. In your own words, explain to the uninitiated what Smashwords is, and how authors and publishers can use Smashwords as a tool to get their ebooks out there.

3. Now for the best part. Share your smarts. How did you do it? What tips and tricks did you learn along the way to make it faster and easier to get your books properly formatted, in the Premium Catalog, and selling to readers? What other Smashwords authors inspired you along the way? Give 'em a plug!

4. Provide helpful hyperlinks in your post to the resources at Smashwords you found most useful as you were getting up to speed (possibly the Smashwords Style Guide, the FAQ or its glossary of ebook terminology, the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, the Smashwords Blog, the How to Publish and Distribute with Smashwords page, or the Smashwords Facebook forum?). Also be sure to include your book cover image in your post (this is an opportunity for you to promote your book too!), and add a hyperlink to your Smashwords author/publisher page and book your book pages so readers can view your finished work.

5. Add the Smashwords logo. Right mouse click on the one at left to save it to your desktop so you can add it to your post.

6. Once the blog is complete, post a link to it in the comments below and then email your complete mailing address to mug at Once all the submissions are in, I'll feature the best of them (or all of them, if they're all great) in the body of a new blog post for early September titled something like, "Smashwords Authors Share Smashwords Tips and Tricks," which will become a collection of first-person how-to posts for other authors. Not only will you earn a mug for your trouble, you'll help your fellow authors and publishers. You also get some traffic to your blog because we'll promote this collection as a resource for other authors and publishers (so put your best foot forward and make your fellow authors proud!).

7. We'll limit this to the first 40 respondents who submit their posts by September 3. If the response is stronger, I'll give you a rain check for the next batch of mugs we produce in a couple months.

8. Optional Bonus: Now that you've taken the time to create a great resource for your fellow authors and publishers, share it. Are you in a writing club? Offer to contribute it to your next newsletter. Email it to your friends who aren't yet doing ebooks. Facebook it, tweet it. Offer it as a guest blog post to your favorite blogs (see more blog marketing ideas in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide). Create a PowerPoint and post it to (my recent Powerpoint, The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap, has had over 9,000 views already. Wow. I love For more on them, see my August 7 Site Updates post). Share your smarts, help your fellow authors.

About the Mugs:

They're high-quality, made in the USA cobalt blue mugs with white, black and silver metallic printing. Only 70 of them exist. They're not for sale.

The front of the mug shows the Smashwords logo on a shiny silver background (they're actually small amount of real silver in that ink).

The back summarizes the benefits of the Smashwords service (click the image at below to enlarge). There's also a note that it's a collectors edition mug commemorating our first 65,000 ebooks (a milestone we zipped past about two weeks ago).

Thanks to our good-looking models Aaron Fernandez, who works on our vetting team, and Angela Schiavone, who works on our support team (she was a Smashwords author long before she was a Smashwords employee). Also thanks to Jim Azevedo, our new marketing manager who took the photos.

Have fun!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Smashwords Adds Adult Filter

Smashwords today added an adult filter to the website.

The filter prevents first time visitors and others from viewing content rated adult by the author/publisher unless the visitor specifically asks to see such content. It filters out such content from the home page, search results, category listings and tag queries.

The adult filter was inspired by Google's "Moderate Safe Search" option, which is the default option for all users of the Google search engine.

A clearly visible "ON/OFF" toggle link appears in the upper right portion of the visitor's home page screen so they can easily set their preference. Click the ON or OFF and it toggles your setting to the other option.

Our new Adult Filter replaces what was previously known as our Prude Filter, a name that offended many. We agree, it was inappropriately named. It filtered out all adult material, not just erotic content. More importantly, the previous filter was not the default setting, which meant first time visitors, children and others not looking for adult content were exposed to inappropriate images, words and descriptions on the home page without their consent.

The filter has no bearing on our Smashwords Terms of Service regarding the types of books we will publish and distribute. It simply makes viewing adult content an opt-in choice. We trust this moves us one step closer toward fulfilling the promise of our tag line, "your ebook, your way."

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap

I mentioned previously I think the next chapter of the indie ebook revolution will be written by literary agents.

It's starting to happen. In the last few months several literary agencies began working with Smashwords. I look forward to welcoming others in the months ahead.

Today I posted a presentation at Slideshare titled, The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap to review the opportunity I see for literary agents and their clients.

As I mentioned in my prior post on agents, literary agents can add a lot of value to the publishing process. They're the trusted author advocates charged with helping authors maximize the commercial potential of their works. A great agent brings passion, smarts and relationships that can multiply an author's success several-fold.

Literary agents represent some of the most commercially successful authors and author estates.

In the presentation below, I share my ideas for how literary agents can better serve their clients by adding e-publishing services to their clients services mix.
The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap
Access the complete collection of Smashwords presentations here: Smashwords Slideshare Library

I view the publishing services ecosystem as a spectrum.

At one polar extreme you have traditional publishers who provide a wide range of service capabilities to authors, including editing, production, sales, distribution, marketing to accounts payables/receivables, and more.

Publishers take risks on books by investing their resources to bring them to market.

With the rise of ebooks and self-publishing, authors now have the opportunity to perform many of these publishing functions on their own, should they choose.

On the extreme left side of my spectrum I have what I call the "DIY Anarchists." These are the rare minority of hermits who do everything themselves and only sell on their personal website for fear of sharing a cut with a retailer or other intermediary that sits between them and their reader.

The vast majority of indie authors are somewhere in the middle. Many might use Smashwords for ebook conversion, publishing and distribution, then use POD printers for their print book. They might perform some responsibilities themselves, or they might farm out roles to specialist freelancers or service providers.

Some indie authors, basking in the new-found freedom to publish on their own terms, have an inclination to take on more than they should. Just because you have the power to assume all the responsibilities of a publisher doesn't mean you should bear the burden alone. This is where the publishing services specialists come in.

In the end, the decision to outsource some or all of your publishing services to an intermediary comes down to time. How can you best utilize your time?

For many authors, as I noted in my post, The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, their time is usually best spent writing great books. Focus your energy on writing a book that sells itself. If your book sparks intense passion with readers, they'll market your book for you. I tell folks if they have $2,000 to invest in marketing they're probably better off investing that money with a professional editor who can help drive the next revision (I also advise authors to pinch their pennies; never spend money you don't have; and never go in debt to publish your book).

Literary agents have a unique opportunity to do for their clients what many of them do not want to do - or cannot do - for themselves.

What does the entry of agents into the publishing services field mean for you, the author? I think it's great news. Over time, it should allow agents to take more risks on more authors.

I've spoken with numerous agents who've shared how they loved an author's work but were unable to sell it, or unable to rep it because publishers wouldn't buy it. For agents who got into the business for their love of books and helping authors, it's a soul sucking experience.

Now agents have another reason to say yes. They can help release books think readers would want to read, rather than being forced to focus on books they think they can sell to a publisher. What publishers want to buy and what readers want to buy are usually VERY different things.

It's in every indie author's best interest, as well as the best interest of readers, that more agency-repped authors release their books as indie ebooks. Books usually get better when touched by an agent. Speaking from personal experience, I know the novel my wife and I wrote got better thanks to the feedback of our former agent at Dystel & Goderich.

Every indie ebook released by an agent creates a rising tide that lifts all authors and brings new credibility to this humble practice otherwise known as self-publishing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Smashwords Style Guide Updated; Downloaded 100,000+ Times

We updated the Smashwords Style Guide today to include improved instructions for building linked Tables of Contents, controlling your NCX, building intra-book links for footnotes and endnotes, and troubleshooting. The new instructions are included in an expanded Step 20. Download the latest Style Guide here.

Over the last three years, we've made continuous enhancements to our Meatgrinder conversion engine, backed by over 50 updates the Style Guide where we capture our best practice recommendations for producing high quality multi-format ebooks.

Today, the ebook production quality possible through Smashwords rivals that of many hand-coded books that would cost the author hundreds of dollars were they to hire a professional ebook designer. We still have a ways to go, however. Our support for bulleted and numbered lists needs improvement, for example.

Thanks to the flexibility of our Meatgrinder conversion engine, we also make it possible for you to update or upgrade your book at any time without expense.

Separately today, we reached an exciting milestone. Today, the 100,000th copy of the Smashwords Style Guide was downloaded at Thousands of additional copies have been downloaded through our retail distribution network and Amazon.