Monday, December 31, 2012

Smashwords Year in Review 2012 - The Power in Publishing is Shifting to Authors

Welcome to my annual Smashwords year in review.

In the last 12 months, tens of thousands of new authors and publishers have joined the Smashwords community.  I welcome you.

A brief introduction to Smashwords is in order.

I founded Smashwords in 2008 to change the way books are published, marketed and sold.  I realized that the traditional publishing industry was broken.  Publishers were unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a chance on every writer. 

Today, Smashwords has grown to become the world’s largest distributor of ebooks from self-published authors and small independent presses.

The idea behind Smashwords was simple:  I wanted to create a free ebook self-publishing platform that would allow me to take a risk on every writer.  I wanted to give every writer the freedom to publish, and every reader the freedom to read what they wanted.
 
Back in 2007, we designed our logo with this revolutionary ideal in mind.  The up-thrusting fist holding the book represented our desire to transfer the power of publishing to writers and readers.  Today, we still refer to it as our “Power to the people” logo.

The revolution is now in full swing.  Indie authors know ebook self-publishing is the future of publishing.  Ebook retailers know this as well.  Traditional publishers, however, have been slow to grasp the transformative impact the self-publishing revolution is having on the industry. 

We’re entering a golden age of publishing.  The ebook self-publishing revolution will lead to a more great books being published than ever before.  More books will touch the souls of more readers, because indie ebooks make books accessible, affordable and discoverable to more people.  These books, in all their diverse and controversial glory, are cultural treasures.

Our authors know that every writer – every one of us – is special, and those who doubt this truth will become the dinosaurs of tomorrow.  You can’t truly honor the culture of books without honoring the writers who create them.  You can’t truly honor the value of books if you measure their value by perceived commercial merit alone.  You either value the human potential of all writers, or none at all.

Every day, I’m thankful that so many writers, readers and retailers have supported the cause of self-published ebooks.  Every day, I’m tickled pink that so many authors, publishers and retailers have partnered with Smashwords, because without your trust and support, we wouldn’t be here.

Unlike self-publishing services that earn their income by selling over-priced services to authors, Smashwords doesn’t sell services.  The money flows to the author.  We earn our commission only if we help sell books.  We think our approach aligns our interests with the interests of our authors and publishers.

Since most books don’t sell well, and we rely entirely on commissions, it’s incredibly difficult to build a profitable business doing what we do.  We figured out how to do it.

Smashwords highlights for 2012

2012 was another incredible year for the Smashwords authors, publishers, literary agents, retailers, libraries, and customers we serve.

Here are some of our key milestones for 2012:  

  • Catalog growth:  We're ending the year with more 190,500 books at Smashwords.  98,000 new titles were added to the Smashwords catalog this year.  This is up from 92,500 at the end of 2011, and up from 28,800 at the end of 2010, 6,000 in 2009, and 140 our first year in 2008.
  • More authors/publishers/literary agents choosing Smashwords:  Smashwords today supports 58,000 authors and small publishers around the world, up from 34,000 at the end of 2011, 12,100 in 2010, 2,400 in 2009, and 90 in 2008.
     
  • Profitability: Smashwords has been profitable for 27 straight months, and our profitability is growing as our business grows.  We’ve done this without bringing in outside venture capital, which means we’re free to pursue our unconventional business model without the interference of outside investors.  Profitability is important, because it means we’re here for the long haul.  It means we have the resources to reinvest in our business for the benefit of the authors, publishers, retailers, libraries, and readers we serve.  Nowhere is this investment more apparent than in our staffing numbers (next item).
     
  • Employee Count:  We’re ending 2012 with 19 employees, up from 13 in 2011, and 3 in 2010. This year we continued to invest heavily in customer service and software development. 
     
  • Faster-Faster-Faster:  Thanks to investments in technology and staffing, we’re providing faster conversions, faster Premium Catalog approvals, faster response times to support inquiries, faster distributions to Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, and faster sales reporting.  We will improve further on all counts in 2013.
     
  • Libraries:  We signed new distribution deals with library aggregators such as Baker & Taylor Axis360, 3M Cloud Library and one other major aggregator not yet announced.  We added support for custom library pricing, and we introduced Library Direct to support libraries that operate their own ebook checkout systems under the Douglas County Model.
     
  • Ebook Distribution Systems:  We began a complete re-architecture of our ebook distribution systems to enable faster, more accurate ebook distributions and metadata updates. 
     
  • Smashwords Profiled in Forbes Magazine:  This was a big deal for us.  For the first time ever, we revealed to the world our revenues (Forbes requires that startups they profile reveal numbers).  Later in the year, we received coverage in the New York Times and Time Magazine.  The indie ebook revolution is starting to go mainstream, though I think we're all still flying below the radar.  That'll change in 2013.
     
  • Improved categorization:  We completed adding support for thousands of BISAC categories to help our author's books land on the correct virtual shelf.
     
  • Merchandising collaboration with retail partners:  We ramped up our merchandising collaboration with retailers, especially Apple, which has been incredibly proactive and creative in working with us to create new opportunities to connect Smashwords books with millions of their customers (See Apple’s Breakout Books promo).  We continued to build tools to help our retailers identify books worthy of promotional love, because these tools help Smashwords authors sell more books and help retailers satisfy more of their customers, which is their primary objective.
     
  • Retailers earning millions of dollars from the sale of Smashwords books:  Our retail partners have made incredible investments to help list, maintain, promote, merchandise, and sell our books to their customers.  I’m pleased to say their investments are paying off.  We want our retail partners to do well with our books, because the value they provide to our authors and publishers far exceeds the sales commission they earn. 
     
  • We released the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success:  In March, I released this free ebook, which identifies the 28 best practices of the most commercially successful Smashwords authors.  It's the lastest in a series of free ebooks I've written that promote professional publishing best practices.  Along with The Smashwords Style Guide (how to publish an ebook) and the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to promote any book and build author platform), my three books combined have now been downloaded over 250,000 times.  Thousands of our authors and publishers have since put these practices to work. 
  • Amazon:  Our relationship with Amazon has been frustrating.  Even though Smashwords authors have the freedom to bypass Smashwords and work directly with many of our retail partners, about 80% of our authors choose to distribute through Smashwords.  They appreciate the time-saving convenience and simplicity of centrally managing their books and metadata from the Smashwords Dashboard.  Unlike every other major retailer, Amazon has not yet provided us the ability to do large, automated distributions and metadata updates.  As a result, our authors who would prefer to reach Amazon through Smashwords are forced to upload direct to Amazon.  Although I remain hopeful Amazon will one day see fit to treat us as a partner rather than a competitor to be crushed, killed and destroyed, I’m not holding my breath.  We’ve built a healthy, profitable and fast-growing business without their help, and we’ve done this despite their attempts to harm us and our retail partners.  Unlike traditional publishers which would probably go bankrupt if they stopped distributing to Amazon, we face no such noose.  In the meantime, we focus our energy on helping our true retail partners succeed in the marketplace.
  • We protected your right to publish legal content:  When PayPal tried to ban certain categories of “objectional” books, we pushed back, and led a broad coalition of authors and pro-books advocates to overturn PayPal’s proposed policies.  PayPal and the credit card companies decided to do the right thing.  It was a victory for all authors, and demonstrated the growing power of the indie author movement, especially when we stick together and work toward a common cause.  At Smashwords, we’re always advocating for the rights of our authors.  Much of this advocacy happens quietly behind the scenes, outside the glare of press releases and media spotlight.  We’re all in this together.
  • Smashwords Direct: Today, we released Smashwords Direct, a new publishing option at Smashwords that allows authors and publishers to upload professionally designed .epub files for distribution through the Smashwords network.  The service complements our Meatgrinder conversion engine by enabling us to support ebooks with more complex formatting requirements.

Industry Highlights:
When we started Smashwords five years ago, self publishing was viewed as the option of last resort, and 99.95 of writers aspired to publish through traditional publishers.  The stigma of self publishing that was so prevalent five years ago has given way to new credibility, as Smashwords authors top all the bestseller lists and set the example for the next generation of writers.

At the same time, we’re seeing a growing stigma develop around traditional publishers, which continue to underserve authors and readers.  Just as traditional publishers were slow to embrace ebooks before they began their breakout in 2009, publishers have also been slow to recognize the transformative impact self-publishing will have on the business of books.  Self-published ebooks still account for the minority of ebook sales, but just as ebooks will one-day eclipse print books, so too will self-publishing eclipse traditional publishing.

In 2012, some Big 6 publishers bumbled their way into the self-publishing business, starting with Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition in July of the granddaddy of vanity presses, Author Solutions (ASI).  In November, oblivious to all the screaming indie authors who called foul about the business practices of ASI, Simon & Schuster introduced its own self-publishing imprint called Archway Publishing, powered by none other than ASI, and proudly offered publishing packages ranging from $1,000 to $25,000.  Twenty-five thousand dollars?  How do they sleep at night?  By adopting the worst practices of the worst vanity presses, publishers telegraphed to the writer community what they really think about authors:  Only a few of you are worth the investment of our time, talent and resources, and the rest of you are worth only the money in your wallet.

It was a cynical move.  A move that will damage the already diminishing credibility of large, traditional publishers, even those which haven’t made such a bone-headed move. 

In my 2011 Smashwords Year-in-Review post last year, I wrote:
“I think few people in the traditional publishing industry comprehend how this indie author revolution will transform their business in the next few years. Their world is about to be turned upside down.”
They still don’t get it.  From the perspective of indie authors, it’s starting to not matter.  Publishers risk irrelevanance if they don’t adopt more progressive business policies soon.

The writing is on the wall.  Traditional publishers are earning well-deserved ridicule and stigma at the very time indie authors are shedding their stigma by blazing a better path forward.  What I tell you here isn’t pie-in-sky theory or empty pontification.  The numbers tell the story.

In 2010, it was virtually unheard-of for an indie ebook author to hit the bestseller lists at retailers, let alone the NY Times bestseller list.  In 2011, indies began to hit the bestseller lists on a more regular basis, but it was still rare.  In 2012, indie ebooks were frequently listed among the top 10 bestsellers at major retailers, and multiple indie authors landed books in the bestseller lists maintained by The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and others.  For example, the week of August 4, 2012, four Smashwords authors hit the NY Times fiction ebooks list in the same week.  Next year we’ll see more, and within a couple years indies will dominate all the bestseller lists and it’ll be seen as business as usual.

Some industry watchers might label my prediction delusional.  Indie authors know it’s real because some of them are experiencing it today, and they’re sharing their results with their fellow indies. 
At Smashwords, where we distribute books to most major retailers, we see the sales numbers.  We see how our books are starting to earn more dollars than many traditionally published books.  This growth is not because Smashwords is wonderful, it’s because all writers are wonderful.  You can’t love books without loving the writers who write them.

What’s driving the rise of indie ebooks?  There are multiple factors, chief among them include:
  1. Indie authors are learning to become professional publishers – Indies are pioneering the publishing best practices of tomorrow, as I note in the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  They’re becoming more sophisticated publishers, and they’re starting to publish better books, priced more competitively, written more responsively to reader tastes, and more broadly distributed.
  2. It’s a game of numbers – Although only a small fraction of indie ebooks grace the bestseller lists, the publishing output of indie authors is unprecedented.  Authors are now releasing over 9,000 books per month on the Smashwords platform.  Thanks to such democratized publishing and distribution, the business of publishing has become available and accessible to all writers, for FREE.  Writers who were previously shut out of publishing – simply because the conventional publishing business was broken and unable to take a risk on every author – are now publishing for free at Smashwords and elsewhere.  Writers who previously gave up on writing are now writing again, because every writer can now confidently begin a book and know that it will be published, one way or another.

    In my 2013 book publishing predictions post, I talked about how future bestsellers are like baby black swans.  They’re extremely rare, and hidden and indistinguishable amid flocks of baby black geese.  Publishers devote enormous energy trying to cull the flock and eliminate the geese, yet at the same time they’re also indiscriminately culling black swans.  Self-publishing changes this.  Self-publishing gives all writers – the geese and rare swans alike – the freedom to publish direct to their readers, today, and be judged.  Readers are the only ones capable of reliably identifying the black swans.  This shouldn’t be a surprise.  Readers have always created bestsellers through their impassioned word-of-mouth.

    When we analyze the future of publishing, where authors become more professional, and all books are given a chance in the marketplace, the law of numbers would indicate that it becomes a reasonable and inevitable conclusion that self-publishing will hatch more black swan bestsellers of the future than traditional publishing.  The vaunted editorial gatekeeping function of publishers, long mistakenly believed to be a public service, has become a public disservice.  At the end of the day the smart folks in publishing can only guess at what readers want to read.  Publishers have long been in the business of throwing spaghetti against the wall, and then retroactively taking credit for the few books that become bestsellers.  Now writers can throw their own spaghetti, and when it’s cooked just right, the author can take the deserved credit.
  3. Retailers welcome indie ebooks – Retailers have been true enablers in the ebook revolution.  Ever since 2009, every major retailer has welcomed self-published ebooks.  These retailers have collectively invested hundreds of millions of dollars to bring readers to their stores, and these readers are purchasing these books.  Retailers and authors alike are earning millions of dollars for their efforts, which makes it a win-win for retailer and author.
  4. Ebook Self publishing is simply a superior method of publishing – Ebooks cost less to produce, package and distribute than print books.  There’s no inventory, and therefore no returns of unsold inventory.  With a traditional publisher, it often takes 12 months or more before the book is released.  With indie ebooks, the book is published instantly to a worldwide market.  The indie author enjoys greater creative freedom, a closer relationship with their readers, the ability to earn 85-100% net as opposed to the paltry 25% of net paid by publishers, and the ability to price lower - which has the virtuous effect of driving greater sales volume, faster platform-building and greater author profits.  Unlike the static print books of yesteryear, ebooks are living creatures.  Indie authors can leverage Viral Catalysts (see my Secrets ebook for more on these) to make their books more available, more discoverable and more enjoyable.  Unlike print books, most of which quickly go out of print, Indie ebooks need never go out of print.  Ebooks are immortal.
  5. Reading is moving to screens – Ebooks as a percentage of the overall trade book market will reach about 30% in 2012, up from 19% in 2011, 8% in 2010, 3% in 2009, and 1% in 2008.  Within two years, ebooks will account for over 50% of book sales.  As noted in my 2013 predictions, I predict that the number of books read on screens will exceed the number read on paper in 2013.  If authors want to reach readers, indie ebooks are the fastest, most efficient method of doing so.
  6. The global opportunity – The ebook retailers expanded their global footprint in 2012, and will expand further in 2013.  This means an author in Columbia can upload their book to Smashwords today and see that book available for sale in the Apple iBookstore in their home country in a matter of days.  And because that book is written in Spanish, it’s also available in the world’s largest Spanish-speaking markets across North, Central and South America (and Spain too!).  Authors can publish locally and reach readers globally.  This kind of global publishing and distribution simply wasn’t feasible under the old print model.
  7. Stigmas of traditional publishers increasing as self-publishing gains street cred – Many Smashwords authors now publish direct to their readers and don’t even bother to shop their books to agents and publishers.  At multiple writers’ conferences this year, I lost track of the number of times authors approached me and said words to the effect of, “I’ve been waiting for years to get picked up by a publisher.  I’m done waiting.  I’m going to self-publish and get out there now.”

What's Coming to Smashwords in 2013?

At Smashwords we consider our business in constant beta.  Every day we’re tweaking our business processes and technology to make everything we do faster, more reliable, more scalable, more efficient and more competitive.

In 2013 we will continue to invest in people and technology to better serve our authors, publishers, retailers, and libraries.

Here’s a brief sampling of what you can expect from Smashwords in 2013:

  • Discovery – We’ll improve our metadata to make our books more discoverable by readers.  One such example is series.  Currently, we don’t offer an elegant method of identifying books in a series.  You’ll see this in 2013.
  • Retailer Merchandising – We’ll continue building tools, processes and relationships that give Smashwords-distributed books increased visibility to the merchandising managers at the major ebook retailers.  By serving our retailers, and helping them identify Smashwords books that are worthy of extra in-store promotion, many of our authors will enjoy merchandising advantages not available to other authors.
  • More Distribution – We’ll continue to create new distribution opportunities for our authors and publishers.  We believe the more high-quality retailers promoting our books to readers, the better. 
  • Faster Distribution – In 2011, we shipped books to our retailers once per week.  In 2012 we began shipping multiple times daily to Apple, once-daily to Kobo, and twice-weekly to Barnes & Noble.  In 2013 we will continue to work with our retail partners to allow faster shipments and faster metadata updates.  This will give authors greater control over their distribution.
  • Faster Reporting – We provided faster sales reporting in 2012, compared to the previous year, but we still have much improvement to make, both in speed and schedule consistency.  We will continue to make incremental progress here in 2013.

  • Faster Premium Catalog Approvals – Six months ago Premium Catalog approvals took up to 13 days from the date of upload.  Today approval times range from 1-5 days.  We will continue to add staff and technology to improve the speed of reviews so your books can reach retailers faster.
  • Improvements to Smashwords Store – When people tell us the design of the Smashwords store is so circa 2000, we take it as a compliment because we think they’re being generous by at least a decade.  The Smashwords web site user interface is outdated.  We’ve neglected the design and customer experience of the Smashwords store, in favor of investing our limited resources on the distribution side of our business where we generate over 90% of our revenue.

    2013 is the year we will give the Smashwords store a facelift, not because we have designs on becoming a large ebook retailer (well, actually, we already are, even though that’s not our focus), but because we think an updated site will help us attract more books and more customers that we can feed to our retail partners.  In 2013, expect to see us start adding links to some of our retail partners, so the millions of visitors to the Smashwords site can enjoy greater freedom to purchase our books and support our authors at their favorite ebook retailers.  Although an individual ebook sale at Smashwords earns the author a higher royalty than a book sold at our retail partners, a book sold at our retailers brings a multiplier advantage, because it drives their “also bought” algorithms.  Put most simply, our retailer partners with their broader customer reach have the ability to turn each sale into more sales than we can at the Smashwords site.
  • Improvements to Smashwords Direct – As I write this, Smashwords Direct has been operational for about one day.  We’ll make multiple iterative improvements to Smashwords Direct in 2013 because we want to make it as easy as possible for Smashwords to become the ebook distributor of choice for as many authors and publishers around the world as possible.
  • Expansion of “Mark’s List” – A couple of years ago, we created a simple auto-responder email (email to list@smashwords.com) that contains a list of recommended, low-cost ebook formatters and cover designers.  When you hire off of this list, all your money goes straight to the service provider performing the work.  We don’t receive a commission, advertising fee or kickback of any sort.  This means you gain access to valuable services at the lowest possible cost.  Most of the providers are fellow Smashwords authors.  We’ll expand the list in 2013 to contain more service categories.  The application process will be announced at Smashwords Site Updates as we open up the list to more providers.  There may be some surprises, but I’ll save that for another time.

My thanks to you

I want to express my sincere appreciation to every Smashwords author, publisher, reader, retailer, literary agent, service provider partner, and angel who has supported Smashwords over the last few years.  I want to especially thank authors who continued distributing their books through Smashwords despite the inevitable growing pains experienced by both Smashwords and our retailers.  Those of you who left and are considering returning, I thank you too.  Your support of Smashwords – especially your decision to distribute through Smashwords – is what fuels our ability to serve the greater community of all writers around the world.

Although I’m excited by what we’ve accomplished thanks to your talent and support, I’m even more excited by the future that lies ahead of us.  I still believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.  I believe that within five years, the majority of bestselling ebooks will be published by self-published authors, and I want those authors to be Smashwords authors.  Help me realize this, because working together we can create a better future for writers, readers, retailers, libraries, and all those who contribute to the culture of books.

Happy New Year and safe holidays.  Peace to all.

37 comments:

  1. To manage all that in four years is astounding! Congratulations and a well-deserved pat on the back to you and all the staff. Can't believe you do it with less than 20 people, as well. 13 will be a lucky year for us all, I hope.
    Yeah, the smashwords search engine is a little erratic.

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  2. Thanks Mark! It was nice meeting you at the self-publishing conference. Premium catalog approval for my book was 2 days. Looking forward to the improved discoverability algorithms. Happy 2013!

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  3. Good review Mark, I don't miss anything you write here.

    I hope new writers will make 2013 the year they decide to write their own books and give it a try. The door is open and it takes nothing more than your best effort in writing a book, and publishing it for free. It doesn't get any more wide-open than it is right now.

    Write your book. Publish it. Revise as necessary. Re-publish it. The feedback you'll get from readers - is so valuable. Listen - and you'll improve. Take it personally, and you'll fail miserably.

    I know a small handful of new writers that published for the first time in 2012. A couple of them seem to have caught the bug, a couple have pulled back and don't seem so excited about ebooks because they didn't see huge success.

    Look at it as a long term play. Start writing today if you have the interest - and keep writing, keep revising books that are on the market already, change the covers, change the descriptions, change the prices, change the genre you write in. Figure out what type of book you write best - and start cranking those out.

    Writing books is your pension. Forget about getting something when you retire from the company you worked for over thirty years of your life. Forget about social security. Producing content in the way of ebooks is much more secure. You can hand them down to your kids as you pass on too!

    Best of luck and life to everyone in 2013. If you think you are a writer - you MUST give it a shot in 2013.

    Cheers,

    Vern L.
    MikeFook.com

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  4. Congratulations to everyone at Smashwords on such a successful 2012!

    I've been publishing with Smashwords since May 2011 and feel as though I've kind of grown up with you - your company and the opportunities it offers just keep getting better and better. I've made mistakes - for one thing against all my instincts and your advice, I listened to someone else and removed my books from your site for a couple of months. Big mistake but I keep telling myself it's all part of the learning curve! I won't do it again for sure.

    I've learnt an incredible amount about the publishing industry through you and have enjoyed the journey immensely. Thanks for keeping pushing those boundaries and giving us writers more and more opportunities - I'm sure 2013 will be successful, busy and happy for all of you!

    Best wishes, Kate

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  5. I did a lot of research on self publishing for over a year before making the decision to go with Smashwords. I heard nothing but praise about your company prior to me signing up with Smashwords and have nothing but praise for you after a year.

    Your growth proves that I didn't make the wrong decision.

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  6. I hopped on board two years ago, and have been pleased all along the way. Keep it up!

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  7. Yes, I'm one of those authors who left and who is now coming back. Tried Amazon's Prime thing but it was not worth the isolation. Maybe for some it is.

    Thanks for always keeping us informed with the best publishing insights, Mark.

    Happy New Year to you, to all the amazing authors, and, especially, to all the supportive readers who understand that with services like Smashwords, they are the ones who truly benefit most from this publishing revolution we are all in the happy midst of...

    Peace.

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  8. I published my first short story with Smashwords in June, 2010, and slowly built my back list since then, learning from each publication how to improve my writing, formatting and marketing. Thank you, Mark, for giving me and all the other authors a chance to find our readers. I look forward to any and all improvements on this exciting journey in 2013 and beyond.

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  9. Great post Mark. Indie books are the new "green" way to shop, except now consumers feel they are benefiting real people with an internet presence instead of abstract rain forests or unhappy molecules of CO2.

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  10. I jumped into self-publishing for the first time in 2012 when I got tired of rejections. I published two short stories and a novel. I have the same goal for 2013.

    My favorite feature on Smashwords is the ability to make coupons. I have used a lot of those over the past year to promote my book on Facebook and on my blog.

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  11. Fantastic! It's certainly been a great year :)

    RE: Amazon - another issue with them is a comment they made in a support email to me (I had changed the price on my book on Amazon, but instead of saving it kept 'erroring') They said that while they would look into - "Please note that we retain discretion to determine our retail prices." - can;t say I liked that very much :/

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  12. Have enjoyed my success with Smashwords this last year and a half. Reports are still difficult for me to decipher at times, but the end of the quarter figures tell me about all I need to know...I'm selling. Thanks for all of your encouragement. Write on, authors!

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  13. Some years back I went ona customer service course, where they talked about 'Delighting your customers'. I thought at the time you were as likely to 'delight a customer' as you were to win lotto. People are somewhat hard to please and expect six Ickes change out do a five.

    You have done it- consistently and continuously!

    Wayne Watson
    'Meddlers in time'
    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/6204

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  14. Six bucks change out of a five! (Touch screens!)

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  15. Happy New Year and massive congrats to you and the team at Smashwords. I've been publishing through you for nearly 2 years now and you've changed my life. Thank you :)

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  16. Thanks Mark - I love the personal engagement you demonstrate and the "constant beta test" concept is exactly right. This business is evolving at lightning speed so you have no choice but to relentlessly evolve with it, leading the way where and when you can. My books are on KDP Select now but when the 3 months are up I'm looking forward to broadening to the Smashwords platform. You're building something good here.

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  17. I rather like the clean, uncluttered, and sober design of the Smashwords site, and I hope the redesign that keeps being alluded to here will preserve these rare virtues.

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  18. I watched from the sidelines for a couple of years before taking the plunge with Smashwords in August 2012.
    Mark, from the first page of the Smashwords style guide, I liked your style. Thank you and everyone at Smashwords. I will repost your review on my blog http://www.martyn51.blogspot.co.uk and pass it around my friends spreading the word about Smashwords and becoming an independent author. Seeing my name and the words Indie Author on Diesel as a Smashwords distribution partner was a special moment.
    Keep up the excellent work, more power to your people!

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  19. Thanks for this excellent update and for all the improvements. Please note that faster response time on support inquiries and problem reporting is but one measure of customer service. The more important measure is the quality of the response, making sure the question is answered or the problem is corrected.

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  20. Leading by example. Good work Mr. Coker. 2013 is going to be awesome!

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  21. I've got 18 books published by a small publisher. I've had 2 other books go through horrendous 'chasing' due to faltering companies and dubious practices (don't believe the contract that says all rights automatically revert to the author in case of bankruptcy. It doesn't - it all gets frozen until something is sorted out). After hearing about self-publishing from a few other authors, I decided to give it a go, and started with Smashwords. It's been awesome, I love it - especially knowing all rights are my own. It feels great to have such a hand in everything, from writing to editing to formatting to organising covers (thank you Joleene Naylor!). The sense of accomplishment is indescribable.

    And Smashwords has always been there to answer any queries. It's awesome! I happily tell people to give it a go. If you have a story in you, and you spend that time writing it, why shouldn't you have the pleasure of seeing it in print? And let's be honest - who can argue with the royalties? Sure, I still have to work , but I'm getting much better returns than I ever have before!

    Also, the amount of talent out there is great. I've stumbled across some great books by self-published authors that in all liklihood would have been overlooked by a big publisher. there loss, our gain!

    Thanks Smashwords - and Happy New Year to us all!

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  22. If you can make the Smashwords store look like the Amazon store, you will become MASSIVE.

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  23. I've been with Smashwords from '09 and have been too busy editing and writing to promote my books. My bad.

    Smashwords has been extremely responsive when I've had technical problems with their meatgrinder software in the past.

    A more powerful search engine would be a good addition.

    Thanks Mark for all your good work and may 2013 be a blockbuster year.

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  24. Congratulations to you, Mark, and all of your colleagues at Smashwords who have accomplished such great things for indie authors! I've just published another book, the second book in a YA fantasy/mystery series, so I appreciate the series function you're talking about. Plus, I'm planning on releasing a serial novel sometime in 2013 (if I can rewrite the original novel to work as serial).

    My little dragon Miro is still lonely over at KDP Select, though, because Smashwords doesn't want to play with him (too big file size; we already talked about that on the other blog). I'm missing an announcement for increased file sizes here. Did I overlook it, or won't it come in 2013 after all?

    Anyway, not here to complain but rather to congratulate and say thank you for all you are doing for indie authors! :)

    All the best,
    Saoirse

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  25. Your greatest contribution in 2012 was most probably the fight with Paypal and credit cards company which was won thanks to your valuable input. We owe you a great deal for that.
    On the Smashwords platform though, I must say that premium approval is not getting faster at all, and that distribution is still facing a lot of issues.
    I wish you could implement a ticket system for support, to avoid support requests to be omitted and allow better follow up on the time take to reply.
    Keep up the good work.

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  26. Thank YOU, Mark, for all your hard work and your commitment to indie authors!

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  27. Thank you, Mark. I appreciate the way you take care of authors. I've even learned to get along with THE MEATGRINDER!
    Happy New Year!

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  28. So in your planning for 2013, have you entirely skipped the option for setting foreign currency pricing? authors continue to depend on oscillating exchange ratesß

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  29. Thanks Mark and the team at Smashwords

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  30. Small Point - Colombia please not Columbia - all the best to Smashwords in 2013

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  31. Thanks Mark & Smashwords team. Would appreciate it if you are able to get an Australian distributor on your books as have encountered some obstacles getting my books into Australian State Libraries. Robert L J Borg aka Tomewriter
    www.tomewriter.wordpress.com

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  32. Very interesting, Mark, as usual. I've also taken your advice about writing a series and have just completed my second murder mystery which follows The Reluctant Psychic. This one is entitled, 'The Psychic Spy and the Mystery of Masterman's Retreat.' It is now with my editor so should be hitting Smashwords soon. We'll see if this catches on.

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  34. Mark,

    I am almost ready to publish my book on Smashwords and I can't thank you and your co-workers enough. I've read every scrap of info you have on your site and all of the instructions, advice and tools have made my experience so smooth and enjoyable. This is my first novel and I debated and debated whether or not to attempt to publish, fearing that the trials of publishing would ruin the experience. I found out about Smashwords through Jamie McGuire and it has replaced my fears with excitement and a world of possiblities. Thank you!

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  35. Mark

    I'm so glad to see the improvements you've listed, especially the update of the smashwords site format. It is fully functional as is, but appearances do matter. You have always suggested that we get a professional cover for that very reason and I believe you. I think a professional look will only enhance the buyer experience.

    Also, having a better search capability for books will certainly improve sales. More than once I've given up sifting through titles trying to find certain types of books. Multiple filter options would be great. You have a lot of titles on this site. A lot of titles!

    I would like to make one suggestion and that is to show the number of downloads to readers on the book page. Often I have wanted to know how popular the title was that I was looking at. I suppose that could be an option for authors, in case someone didn't want that information shown.

    So, congratulations on having the best site for ebook authors. I'm really looking forward to seeing the changes you mentioned for this year.

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