Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Libraries Can Launch Community Publishing Initiatives with Self-Published Ebooks


Libraries have long provided an essential community service by making books and other information products freely available and accessible to local community patrons.  Libraries play a critical role in promoting literacy, a culture of books and the joys of reading.

With the rise of ebooks, public libraries are at a crossroads.  Some large traditional publishers, which fear digital lending might cannibalize retail sales of both print books and ebooks, have been hesitant to supply ebooks to libraries at the very time that library patrons are clamoring for access to such products.

On March 21, I gave a three-part presentation at the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services symposium held in Lansing, Michigan.  I outlined the opportunity for libraries to expand their community role by developing programs that promote a culture of authorship

I've embedded the presentation below.


Libraries are uniquely qualified to orchestrate community resources and talent to help local writers become professional self-publishers. By holding seminars and classes, and by bringing local authors together face to face with readers and aspiring authors, libraries can help unleash the talent locked inside the minds and fingertips of their local community's writers.  They can also help ensure a steady future supply of library-friendly authors who will want to supply their ebooks to libraries.

Smashwords stands ready to support public libraries around the world that have a desire to develop such community publishing initiatives.

Here in Los Gatos over the last six months, in partnership with the Los Gatos Public Library, Smashwords has been conducting a community publishing pilot program.  I'd like to thank Henry Bankhead and the entire staff at LGPL and the Town of Los Gatos for their support and encouragement.

The elements of the program are simple, and can easily be replicated and expanded-upon by other libraries.

We recognized that in order to e-publish, writers needed three important tools:

  1. The knowledge to professionally publish
  2. Access to an ebook printing press
  3. Access to retail and library distribution

We focused first on step one, the educational component.

We created three, one-hour seminars to educate patrons, aspiring authors and library staff about ebooks, and ebook publishing best practices.  The three workshops included:


  1. An introduction to ebooks - Provided library patrons and library staff a general overview of ebooks, ebook market trends, and ebooks at libraries.  Attached to the presentation, Henry Bankhead of LGPL provided a tutorial on how readers can check out ebooks from LGPL.
  2. An introduction to ebook self-publishing - Provided aspiring authors an introductory primer on how to prepare, create, self-publish and distribute an ebook.  The presentation provided a detailed checklist of the most important steps necessary to publish an ebook.
  3. Ebook publishing best-practices - This session focused on the best practices of the most commercially successful indie ebook authors, drawing upon the 29 best practices I outline in my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

At Smashwords, we're happy to share the Powerpoints of these and other workshops with any library who requests them.  The embedded presentation above contains updated versions of two of the tree LGPL presentations (#2 and #3).

Libraries could develop other workshops as well.  A couple of the librarians from Michigan last week suggested to me that they could leverage their new media labs to bring together local graphic artists who could help local authors design ebook covers.  What a great idea!  And it's only the tip of the iceberg once libraries start considering how to marshal local talent toward the common objective of helping local writers produce quality books.   How about classes on writing, or editing, or cover design?  How about connecting local authors with library patrons who'd like to serve as beta readers or proof-readers?

Following the completion of the first three parts of the seminar series, Smashwords and LGPL worked on providing the last two pieces - the access to the ebook printing press, and the access to retail and library distribution.

Luckily, these latter two pieces were already built at Smashwords.  The new thing we created for LGPL - which we can now offer to other public libraries - was a co-branded publishing portal.

At the LGPL website, they offer a link titled, eBook Self-Publishing Partnership.  If a local author clicks the link, they're led to a co-branded version of the Smashwords web site, where the author can sign up for a free account and begin accessing the breadth of our publishing and distribution tools. The signup-confirmation email they receive can be customized by the library.  We set this up for the library at no charge.

Each time the author clicks to upload a new book, they're greeted with another co-branded image that reminds them of their connection to Los Gatos Public Library.

The co-branded publishing portal is based upon the same technology we use to power the co-branded publishing portals for Sony and Diesel.

LGPL offers ebooks to its patrons by using an ebook aggregator which operates LGPL's ebook checkout systems.  Soon, our books will be available through most of the leading ebook aggregators.  This means that soon, local Los Gatos authors will be able to "Publish to the Library."   Libraries have the opportunity to encourage local authors to publish locally and distribute globally though our partnerships.

As a Smashwords author or publisher, you have an opportunity to assist your local library.  Contact your local library and offer to do a talk about your own e-publishing adventure.  Or join with local indies and do a panel discussion.  Download the presentation above and customize it for your own library workshops about ebook self-publishing.  You have an opportunity to mentor your community's next generation of indie authors!

Encourage your local library to sign on with one of the many leading ebook aggregation services, such as Baker & Taylor Axis 360, 3M's Cloud Library, or Overdrive.  Our books are available through Baker & Taylor today, and should be available through the other two in the weeks and months ahead.

If they're deploying their own ebook checkout systems following the Douglas County Model, tell them about Smashwords Library Direct.

Good luck, and have fun!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Apple iBookstore Enters Japan, Now Operates in 51 Countries

The Apple iBookstore today announced its entry into Japan.  Apple now operates iBookstores in 51 countries. Over 140,000 Smashwords titles are available in Japan today.

Apple announce their entry into Japan with a rare press release.  Click here to read it.

The press release contains an interesting tidbit I hadn't read before.  It says the iBooks app, which powers the iBookstore on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, has now been downloaded 130 million times.  Impressive.

Below, for your global ebook distribution pleasure, is the full list of countries in which Apple is now selling your Smashwords ebooks.

List of Apple iBookstore Countries

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Bolivia
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Guatemala
Honduras
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Mexico
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Norway
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
United Kingdom
United States
Venezuela

If you're not already distributing your book to Apple's 51 iBookstores, I invite you to work with Smashwords. Smashwords is an authorized global aggregator for the iBookstore. We make it fast, free and easy to reach these and other global markets to come.   Click here to learn how to publish and distribute ebooks to the Apple iBookstore with Smashwords.



Monday, March 4, 2013

Apple iBookstores in the U.K. and Ireland Promote Self-Published Authors in Breakout Books Feature

Apple's Breakout Books is sweeping the globe, bringing unprecedented merchandising visibility to dozens of self-published Smashwords authors.

Apple’s U.K. and Ireland iBookstores today elevated self-published ebook authors to the top of the store in the latest example of Apple’s successful Breakout Books merchandising feature.  This week’s Breakout Books feature showcases 55 self-published titles, approximately 40 of which were distributed to Apple by Smashwords. 

Breakout Books is an ongoing promotional feature at Apple iBookstores.  Today’s news follows massive Breakout Books email blasts to iBookstore customers last week in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland, and a growing drumbeat of Breakout Books features at iBookstores in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Breakout Books feature was first piloted in Apple’s Australia iBookstore in December. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal covered the US rollout last month.

The featured titles are selected by Apple’s merchandising teams in each market, and showcase breakout titles from self-published authors around the world.

The criteria for inclusion is largely customer-driven - selected titles exhibit strong reviews and ratings, and have shown exceptional sales performance.  It means that Smashwords authors who do a great job of wowing readers with their books stand a shot at gaining similar merchandising attention in the future.

The selected titles span recent bestsellers in romance, mysteries and thrillers, general fiction and literature, and sci-fi & fantasy.

To understand the significance of Apple’s Breakout Books feature, it’s helpful to note that such high profile merchandising attention has historically been limited to large, long-established publishers. By placing the Breakout Books feature front and center in the iBookstore, Apple is throwing its tremendous merchandising weight behind the self-published author community, and in the process is helping to level the playing field for all writers.

The increased worldwide merchandising by Apple of self-published ebooks speaks, I think, to the rising importance of indie authors to the future of book publishing and book retailing.  Self-published ebooks satisfy a large and growing segment of the book-buying audience.  These readers appreciate high-quality books at affordable prices.  Most of the featured Smashwords books today are priced around £1.99 (around $2.99 USD), and several of the books featured today are priced at FREE.

39 Smashwords Books Featured in Breakout Books

Here’s a list of the Smashwords books featured in this promotion, in alphabetical order by title.  If an author blogs about their inclusion in this feature, I'll try to provide a link below their name so readers can visit their blog.

A Highland Home - A Contemporary Highland Romance by Cali MacKay
   Cali MacKay celebrates Breakout Books  (here too)
A Tangle With Werewolves by Reese Currie
Afterlife Saga by Stephanie Hudson
   Stephanie Hudson celebrates Breakout Books (here too)
Breathe by Elena Dillon
   Elena Dillon celebrates Breakout Books
Control Room by J. Daniel Sawyer
   J. Daniel Sawyer celebrates Breakout Books
Dangerous Evolution by Gregg Vann
Dazzle (Delaney's Gift #1) by Amber Garza
Easy Bake Coven by Elizabeth Schulte
  Elizabeth Schulte celebrates Breakout Books (here too)
Edge of Infinity by Jeremy Reimer
   Jeremy celebrates Breakout Books
Elfblood by Kyra Dune
End Storm by Maz Marik
   Maz Marik celebrates Breakout Books
Fallen Too Far and Predestined by Abbi Glines
    Abbi Glines celebrates Breakout Books
Harvest Moon by C.L. Bevill
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
Just a Little Crush by Tracie Puckett
   Tracie Puckett celebrates Breakout Books
Moon Island (A Vampire for Hire Novel) by J.R. Rain
Needle In The Groove by Jeff Noon
Noah (5th Street #1) by Elizabeth Reyes
   Elizabeth Reyes celebrates Breakout Books
Red Spirit by Humphrey Hawksley
Shudder by V. J. Chambers
Solar Island (A Tara Shores Thriller) by Rick Chesler
Sophie's Secret by Tara West
   Tara West celebrates Breakout Books
Sparks by David Quantick
Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0 by Randolph LaLonde
Taunt (Ava Delaney #2) by Claire Farrell
The Attribute of the Strong by Stephen Sweeney
   Stephen Sweeney celebrates Breakout Books
The Boy Who Sneaks In My Bedroom Window by Kirsty Moseley
   Kirsty Moseley celebrates Breakout Books
The Charmer by Autumn Dawn
  Autumn Dawn celebrates Breakout Books
The Curse of Credesar by Robert E. Keller
  Robert Keller celebrates Breakout Books
The One You Fear and The One You Love by Paul Pilkington
   Paul Pilkington celebrates Breakout Books (here too)
The Penal Colony by Richard Herley
   Richard Herley celebrates Breakout Books
Thirst (Ava Delaney #1) by Claire Farrell
Too Close For Comfort by Adam Croft
   Adam Croft celebrates Breakout Books
Wanted by Kelly Elliott
   Kelly Elliott celebrates Breakout Books
When Summer Ends by Isabelle Rae
Wicked Game by Matt Johnson
  Matt Johnson celebrates Breakout Books

The Breakout Books feature is a permanent, rotating feature updated by Apple over time as new indie books break out.  The feature can be found on the iBookstore at http://iTunes.com/BreakoutBooks. If you're outside the U.K., this will show you the current Breakout Books selection in your local store.

Please join me in congratulating these Smashwords authors on their success.  Their success will open the door for many more Smashwords authors in the future.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Six Tips to Bring Your Book Back from the Doldrums - Reading the Reader Tea Leaves


A few times each month, I’ll receive a plaintive email from an author asking me why their book isn’t selling better.

It’s always tough to receive these emails, because I know behind the email is an author who’s feeling disappointed, or possibly depressed their years of effort have borne no fruit.  The impossibly of answering such a question makes it all the tougher.  There’s no one single magic bullet. 

Some of the authors who contact me are considering throwing in the towel.  I always try to respond with some feedback that might set them on the right course, often by encouraging them to study the best practices of their fellow authors, as I chronicle in The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Sometimes my feedback is well-received, and other times they’re offended when I share opinions they don’t want to hear.

The cold hard truth of the matter – which we advertise front and center in our account registration emails, the FAQ, the about us page, and in my free ebooks about e-publishing  – is that most books don’t sell well.  Period.

In my RT Booklovers presentation last year, I shared some charts on the sales distribution curve.  One such chart is at left (slide 16), and it’s the friendliest, most sugar-coated of the charts.

Book sales tend to conform to what’s known as a power curve.  There are a very small number of books that breakout big, as shown on the left side of the chart, then there’s a middle area where a bunch of authors are doing reasonably well, and then there’s the long tail that stretches out a mile beyond the right perimeter of the chart.  Most books land in the long tail.  They might sell a few copies here and there, or sell none at all.

Your mission as author/publisher, should you decide to accept it, is to take the necessary steps to move your book’s performance up to the left side of the power curve.

In the traditional world of print publishing and brick and mortar distribution, you had only one shot.  If your book didn’t take off immediately, stores would pack up your book and ship it back to the publisher for a full refund.  Stores effectively forced your book out of print before it had time to find its audience.  Stores had no choice – they were hamstrung by limited and expensive physical shelf space, and they needed to make room for the flood of incoming, potentially more-promising books on the way.

In the new world of self-published ebooks and democratized ebook distribution, the virtual shelf space is unlimited.  Even if your book sells zero copies per year, the retailer will still happily list it.  This means your book is immortal.  If you don’t get the formula correct, right out of the gate, you always have another day, another month, or another year to improve your book so it can start selling.

This is the topic of this blog post.  I’m going to share six tips on how to take a fresh, honest look at your book and evaluate what you might do to improve your results.  Most of my tips help you discern what it is about your book that's preventing readers from connecting with it.  I should note that many of these tips below apply to authors with free books too, because there are many books that get very few downloads.

Six Makeover Tips:  How to Bring a Book Back from the Doldrums

Makeover Tip #1 – Look at your reviews at Smashwords, Apple, B&N and Amazon.  Ignore the reviews from friends and family, they don’t count.  Average them up.  How many stars are you getting out of five?

Reviews of Never Too Far by
Abbi Glines (Apple iBookstore)
Today, when I look at the top 20 bestsellers at the Apple iBookstore, they’re averaging 4 stars.  On other random days I’ve done this test, they averaged 4.5.  The #1 bestselling book today at Apple is Never Too Far by Abbi Glines (distributed by Smashwords), and it averages 4.5 stars.  Some of the representative comments are, “loved this book,” “Amazing,” “couldn’t put it down,” “couldn’t stop reading,” “such a wonderful story,” “cannot wait for book 3!” and, “this book hasn’t been out 24 hours and yet I read it twice already.”  If you want to be a bestseller, good or good enough is not good enough. 

You need to WOW your reader.  It doesn’t matter if you write romance, mystery or non-fiction, if your book doesn’t move the reader to an emotional extreme, your job isn’t done.  Take the case of my novel, Boob Tube.  It averages around 3.5 stars.  That’s not good enough.  We’re not wowing readers.  My wife and I should probably do a major revision if we want better reviews.  Our sales range from 20 to 40 copies a month.  What if after a revision, we averaged 4.5 stars?  Imagine how that would move the needle on sales.

    What if you don’t have reviews? – This is as big of a problem as poor reviews.  If your book has been out for more than three months and it’s not selling well and you don’t have reviews, I’d set the price to free, at least for a limited time.  What do you have to lose?  Readers aren’t finding you anyway.  That’s the decision we came to with Boob Tube.  For the first two years (2008-2009), Boob Tube sold maybe 20 copies.  It had only one or two reviews.  My wife and I decided to set the price to free for six months.  We got 40,000 downloads, a lot of reviews, and even our first fan mail (yay!).  Then we set the price to $2.99 and it started selling.  Without reviews at the retailers, Goodreads, LibraryThing and elsewhere, few readers will take a chance on you.  FREE helps readers take that chance.

Makeover Tip #2 – Redo your Cover Image.  If your book’s reviews are averaging over four stars, yet the book isn’t selling, your cover is probably the problem.  This was the case last year for Smashwords author R.L. Mathewson.  She was earning fabulous “WOW” reviews from readers, yet she was only selling a few copies a day (even still, a few copies a day is way above average for most authors).  Read the interview with R.L. here.
When she upgraded her cover images, her books immediately took off and hit the N.Y. Times bestseller list.  Great reviews plus a great cover can make all the difference.  A great cover image makes a promise to the reader.  A poor cover image chases potential readers away.  Does your cover make a promise?

Here’s a quick test, and a challenge:  If you were to strip away the title and author name, does the image tell the reader, “this is the book you’re looking for to experience [the feeling of first love for romance; fear for horror; edge of your seat suspense for thrillers; knowledge for a non-fiction how-to; an inspiring story of personal journey for a memoir, etc].”

Is the cover image professional?  Does it look as good or better than the top-10 sellers in your category or genre?  The human brain is programmed to process imagery faster than written words.  When a reader is browsing book listings, they’re looking to have their attention arrested by something that speaks to them.   Everything else is noise.  Don’t be the noise.

Back to my novel.  A couple bestselling Smashwords authors have told me that the cover of Boob Tube doesn't work.  It took me awhile to come around, but I agree with them now.  The image focuses on breasts, which are an obsessive, almost-debilitating focus for the actresses on daytime television soaps.  We explore this in the book.  Yet to the reader, the image sends conflicting messages.  Is this book erotica, or pornography?  No, of course it’s not, but the reader doesn’t know.  Because the image isn’t resonating with the right promise, we’re probably chasing away readers who would otherwise be drawn to the story.

Makeover Tip #3 – Is your book priced too high?  When a book is priced too high, it makes the book less affordable to the reader. If you're an unknown author, it makes the reader less willing to take a chance on you.  For readers who could afford it, the high price can makes the book less desirable when there are alternative books of equal quality at less cost.  Last year, when we conducted a comprehensive study of the impact of price on unit downloads and gross sales, we found that lower prices moved more unit sales than higher prices (no surprise there).  We found $1.99 and below underperformed in terms of gross sales (unit sales * price).  We found books priced at $2.99 earned slightly more than books priced over $10.00, yet enjoyed six times as many unit sales.

Dollars in your pocket are nice, but over the long term, the greater number of readers is what will drive your fan base and future sales.  If your book is priced over $5.99, and it’s not selling well, experiment with a lower price and see what impact it has.  There’s one other potential advantage of lower prices:  if the reader feels they received a great read for the price, they may be more likely to give you a positive review, and a positive reviews will lead to more readers.

Makeover tip #4 – Look at your sampling to sales conversion ratio.  The Smashwords store has a little-known feature I think is entirely unique in the ebook retailing world:  We tell you how many partial samples were downloaded.  If you click to your Dashboard, you’ll see a column for book sales and a column for downloads.  The download count is a crude metric, but if you understand how it works, you’ll be able to use it as a relatively good tool.  This data is only for sales and downloads in the Smashwords store.

The download data includes both sample downloads and full book downloads for purchased books.  If a customer or sampler downloads in multiple formats (such as epub and mobi), or downloads multiple times, each time will tick the download count higher.  To make the data cleaner, subtract your paid sales from the download count.  Divide your sales at Smashwords.com by the number of downloads.  This will tell you, roughly, what percentage of downloaders actually purchase your book.

When I do the numbers on my priced book, The 10-Minute PR Checklist, I find that approximately 13% of sample downloads lead to sale.  That’s pretty good.  When we last ran the average numbers a couple years ago, we found that site-wide, about 1 in 50 sample downloads led to sale, but when we looked only at books that had actually sold, the number was closer to 1 in 25 (about 4%).  I’ve seen multiple recent bestsellers at Smashwords where the conversion ratio is 50%.  That’s amazing!  Use these numbers as rough guides.  If you have multiple books at Smashwords, you can see how the numbers compare across your list.  Compare with your friends.  If you’ve had 150 sample downloads and zero sales, such as in my Tip 6 example below, it’s fair to say readers are sending you a message.

Makeover Tip #5 – Are you targeting the right audience?  As a writer, you’re never going to satisfy every reader.  That’s okay.  Don’t try.  Readers who love horror novels may not love romance.  Know your target audience, and then make sure your title, book cover, book description, categorization and marketing are all aligned to target that audience with fine-tuned precision.  If you send the wrong messages, you’ll fail to attract the right readers.  Instead, you’ll attract the wrong reader, and the wrong reader will give you poor reviews.  Again, I’ll use my own novel as an example (since I’m not afraid to illustrate my mistakes!).  Early in our novel, a dead body is discovered, so there’s a bit of a mystery about who did it.  It’s a minor plot point, and the book isn’t categorized as mystery.  However, at one time in 2011, our book description played up the mystery surrounding the murder.  For at least one reader, after she read the description she downloaded the book thinking it was a murder mystery.  It’s not.  It’s a book about the dark side of Hollywood celebrity. 

As a result, we disappointed her, and received this one-star review:
“If you want to read about drug use, masochism, naive behavior leading to wrecked lives and truly disgusting eating disorders, this book is for you. If you were looking for a murder mystery, look somewhere else. I got more than 50% into the book and no one was calling the death a murder. So, no investigation, no questions, none of the things that make a book a murder mystery.” 
Following this review, I removed the murder-mystery subplot from the description and focused on the top themes.  So take a fresh look at your description, cover, categorization and marketing and make sure you’re targeting the right reader.  Avoid the temptation to target a broader-than-necessary market.

Makeover Tip #6 – Pride goes before the fall.  It’s tough being a writer.  You pour your heart and soul into your words, and then lay your words bare before the world to judge.  It takes bravery and confidence to publish.   Speaking from personal experience, it’s heartbreaking to receive your first one-star review.  We all get them. 

Over at Amazon, where I have the most reviews, I received this about Boob Tube:
“A total waste of my time. As another reviewer said, the best part was when I decided to stop reading it! If I could give it a minus star, I would.” 
OUCH!  Nothing’s worse than when the reader hates the book so much they don’t even finish it, and then they leave a review like that just to drive the knife deeper.  What if the book got better later?  What if everything started making sense on the next page?  Readers are a fickle bunch. 

To press forward as a writer, we have to decide what we can learn from, and what we can ignore.  Find your strength from your five-star reviews (we have those too!), and carefully find your inspiration about where you might improve from the negative reviews.  I try to learn something from every review, even if I don’t agree with it.  Some writers, after receiving such scathing criticism, might feel inclined to curl up in a fetal position, unpublish their books, and give up.  Never give up!

The opposite response to reader feedback, however, can be equally destructive, and that’s to let pride leave you deaf and dumb to the bread crumb clues your readers are giving you.  If you want to be a successful writer, you have to be willing to listen to the judgment of readers.  Your readers, through their word of mouth, will determine how many other readers you reach.

I think the chat transcript below serves as a good case study in pride (in fact, it was the spark that led me to write this blog post).  The author contacted me on my personal Facebook page.  As much as I try to separate my personal life from my private life - and I discourage Smashwords inquiries over my personal page - at Facebook it’s difficult to divorce the two without coming across as a rude ogre.  If someone messages me, I try to respond.  I omitted his name, country and other details to protect his identity.  I made minor edits for typo fixes or clarity.  Warning: There's not a happy ending.

Author: Hey Mark.  Good evening

MC:  hi there

Author: I have published 3 books on Smashwords around a year back.  But I haven't been paid a penny since then as [Smashwords] claims that there have been no sales of my book.  Same is the case with Createspace where I have published 5 books since last two years and same with KDP where I published 6 books since last two years.

MC:  Sign in to your Smashwords account, click to the Dashboard, then click to the Sales and Payments report, then click to the different years. You've got sales but you haven’t reached the payment threshold of $10.

Author:  Since American Government is behind my ass as they are working on my brains and spiritual development for last 15 years, I suspect they have hacked into my accounts everywhere.  I live in [country omitted] but have briefly worked in US with [employer omitted] and then In England for [employer omitted] for [X] years

MC:  No. That's not happening. Take a look at my two free ebooks, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. You'll learn what the bestselling authors are doing. It's tough to sell books, so you're not alone. Also check out the FAQ to learn how to take fullest advantage of the Smashwords platform, and if you have additional questions, please contact our support team via the "Comments/questions" link.

Author: If you go to Amazon.co.uk and just search on [name omitted] the auto search features lists my name on top still I have zero sales. Is it possible ???  On amazon.es and amazon.it if you search on [category omitted], my four to five books are in top 20 out of some 200 books still I have zero sales for last two years.  I am an MBA from [country omitted]'s top business school.

MC:  Completely. Just looked at your books at Smashwords. You're not allowing sampling. That will almost guarantee no sales. Also, your books are only 3,000 words. The bestselling books are over 80,000. If you think Amazon is underreporting your sales, buy your own book there and see if they report it to you. Sorry I don't have better news for you, but readers are not responding to your books. My two free books might help you. Good luck.

Author: My books are a collection of [category omitted] so word count is not a factor for their being bestselling or not.  I purposely stopped sampling as in first four months of my book’s launch on Smashwords there were around 150 downloads of my books but no purchase.

MC:  Alright, so you need to take that as a message from readers that your book didn't meet their needs. Cutting off sampling only guarantees no chance of sales, because people rarely buy sight-unseen.

Author: which I failed to fathom

MC:  This stuff is covered in my books [and on the Smashwords site].

Author: Also on [country omitted] retailers ( Online ) every 15 days my books go out of stock How would you justify that with zero sales worldwide.

MC:  I can't answer that. We don't do print books. But if you're looking for a conspiracy, I think you're barking up the wrong tree. You should address the stocking question to the retailer, or to your print provider.

Author: First of all don't take this as an offence, i am neither barking , Just seeking help from someone who I thought would be considerate to my plight. As it turned out it is not the case. Goodbye

The author then unpublished his three books at Smashwords.  I was sorry to see that.  His decision only seals his fate. 

Conclusion


If you never give up, you never fail.  As long as you remain open to listening to what your readers are telling you, as conveyed through their action, inaction and reviews, you’ll be more likely to learn how to grow as a writer and publisher.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Read an Ebook Week Kicks off at Smashwords Sunday March 3

Read an Ebook Week, the world's largest global celebration of ebooks, kicks off this Sunday at Smashwords.

The celebration runs March 3-9.  Enroll your books now on the RAEW enrollment link on the Smashwords home page.  You can enroll your books to be 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off, or FREE.  Your enrollment doesn't change the list price of your book.  Instead, it generates a coupon code your readers can redeem during the sale.

The week-long celebration of e-reading is the brainchild of Rita Toews from Winnipeg, Canada.  Rita is a soft-spoken mother of two and grandmother of one, and an author and cover designer.  I profiled Rita three years ago over at The Huffington Post (click here to read the profile of Rita Toews).

Each year under Rita's volunteer leadership, the Read an Ebook Week website becomes a clearing center for authors, publishers, retailers and device-makers offering special one-week ebook giveaways to help attract new converts to the joys of ebooks.  The celebration is also a favorite for device-owners who like to stock up their readers and tablets with deep-discounted books. 
This will be our fifth year year sponsoring the event.  The last couple years, as Smashwords as grown, the Smashwords Read an Ebook Week catalog has become the epicenter of much of the action.

Thousands of Smashwords authors will participate this year, and many will do so without lifting a finger.  All free books are automatically included in the catalog.

Each year, the event breaks sales, download and traffic records for our web site.  More than a couple times, it crashed the site as thousands of readers overloaded our servers by stocking up on ebooks like there was no tomorrow.  Each year, it's a great test of our infrastructure.

Interestingly, although site sales drop off in the weeks after the sale, they always settle in at a higher average rate than before the sale.  I think what this means is that the event brings new fans and eyeballs to Smashwords authors.

The promotion benefits from a concept known as network effects (more on the concept at Wikipedia).  Although the network effects concept is usually applied to computer networks and social networks, it can also be applied to Read an Ebook Week as well.  The more authors who enroll, the greater collection of books, and thus the greater value the collection is to readers, and thus the greater the word-of-mouth excitement.  The more authors promoting their participation, the more readers who are drawn in to discover the works of all Smashwords authors.  In other words, for every author and reader participating, the event becomes all that much more valuable to the other participants.  Do your part, participate, support your fellow authors and readers, and above all, have fun!

Whether you participate as an author, publisher or reader, visit the official Read an Ebook Web Site to learn more.  Also visit their banners page where you can download RAEW banners, badges, buttons and bling to promote your participation on your blog or web site.  The graphics are available for both English and Spanish.