Friday, February 28, 2014

Read an Ebook Week 2014 Kicks off Sunday

Read an Ebook Week kicks off this Sunday.  Smashwords is again sponsoring the event for the sixth year running.

Thousands of Smashwords authors will offer free and deep-discounted titles starting Sunday March 2 and running through Saturday March 8.

Readers, starting Sunday March 2 Pacific time, the Smashwords catalog of participating titles will appear at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1


Readers and Authors:  The official Read an Ebook Week hub page is at Smashwords and offers access to banners, buttons and badges you can post on your web site, blog, Facebook and other social media outlets to celebrate your participation in this event.  This page will also feature links to promotional or free catalogs to make it easier for readers to find books.  Currently I have links to the Smashwords RAEW catalog, two great Apple iBooks catalogs (FREE series starters and featured FREE books), Barnes & Noble and Diesel.  I plan to add links to other retailers as well.

Authors:  To enroll your book(s) in the promotion, go to https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos or click the "Authors, add your books to the promotion" button on the Smashwords home page.

If you're interested to learn the story behind Read an Ebook Week, read my 2010 interview with Rita Toews at The Huffington Post .  Please note that the prior web address mentioned in the interview, www.ebookweek.com, is now controlled by a squatter and is not associated with this promotion, so please don't link to or promote the old address.  The Smashwords RAEW page at www.smashwords.com/ebookweek is a better option, and has Rita's blessing.

The official Read an Ebook Week Facebook page, operated by Ms. Toews, is at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Read-an-E-Book-Week/193882590629749  Show your support for RAEW by "Liking" it on Facebook.

Authors:  How to Get the Most out of Your Participation

Read an Ebook Week is a collaborative event driven almost entirely by indie authors and their readers.  Here's what you can do to maximize the fun:

  1. Enroll all of your books.  Make it enticing for readers to add all your books to their shopping cart.
  2. Promote your involvement across all your social media outlets.  Have fun!  Download your favorite official RAEW buttons, banners and badges, and like stickers, stick 'em everywhere virtual sun shines - Facebook, Twitter, your web site or blog, Tumblr, wherever you connect with your fans.  Link the images to your Smashwords author page (you'll find the link in your web browser by clicking on "Profile" at Smashwords) so it's easy for readers to add your books to their shopping cart.
  3. Invite your writer friends to enroll in the promotion, and encourage them to promote their books to their fans.  Every author has the ability to draw more readers to the promotional catalog at Smashwords, and the more readers the more sales and downloads for all the participating authors.  In other words, the more authors that participate, the greater the benefits for all the participants.
Have fun!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Smashwords Authors Publish 10 Billion Words

Smashwords authors today reached an exciting milestone:  10 Billion Words Published.  The milestone was reached sometime around noon Pacific.

These words come from 87,000 writers from every corner of the globe who have gathered together to change the world of publishing one ebook at a time as manifested through their 288,000 titles at Smashwords.

These writers are revolutionaries and saviors of the written word, even if they don't view themselves as such.  They're leading the indie author movement.

It took about 50 months for us to reach 5 billion words in July, 2012.  It's taken only about 18 months more to add the second 5 Billion.

These 10 billion words represent creative expression unleashed.  And they represent a lot more.

Here are some fun stats to help you grasp the enormity of this 10-billion-word collective achievement:

  • If a person could type 30 words a minute, 24 hours per day, it would take a single individual 5.6 million hours of writing, or about 630 years without a break, to type this many words
  • The average book at Smashwords is 34,722 words
  •  Let's assume it takes the typical writer 9 months to write a book.  The human heart beats 100,000 times per day.  Each book was created with the life force of about 27 million heartbeats.  The Smashwords catalog of 288,000 books represents about 7.8 billion heartbeats.  Wow.
  • Assuming 9 months to write a book, it would take a single individual 216,000 years to write this many words. 
  • Let's assume the average word in a sentence in print, including the space that follows it, is about 3/8 of an inch long (wild guess!).  These words would stretch 312 million feet, or about 60,000 miles (96,000 kilometers), or long enough to wrap the earth almost  2 1/2 times.
Smashwords was launched six years ago.  Since then, every writer in the world has had the ability to self-publish a multi-format ebook at no cost through Smashwords and other platforms.  Imagine the creative output ebook self publishing has enabled these last few years, and imagine what's yet to come.

Imagine the number of literary classics that have been birthed over the last few years - classics that might not be recognized as such for years to come.

I'm blown away by the scale of these numbers, and I'm humbled these 87,000 authors, small presses and literary agents have chosen to partner with Smashwords to help realize their books.

Is Self Publishing Good or Bad for the Culture of Books?

There's been a lot of hand wringing lately in some circles that self publishing is enabling a deluge of low-quality books.  These people are missing the point of self publishing.  Self publishing gives writers the freedom to decide when they'll graduate to become a published author.  The gatekeepers are replaced by readers.

Gone is the myopic, suffocating filter of perceived commercial merit by which traditional publishers judge and reject books.  I've got enormous respect for the people of publishing, but their business model, and their value system for books, is off-kilter and out of date.  Prior to the rise of ebooks and the rise of indie authorship that ebooks enabled, the business of big publishing had become hazardous to books and book culture.  Why?  Because books cannot and should not be valued by sales or estimated sales alone.  These smart, well-intentioned people in publishing were forced to play a blindfolded grim reaper by guessing which books readers didn't want to read.  And then they threw the surviving spaghetti against the wall and let readers decide.

A reader can't accurately tell anyone what they really want to read until they read it, in the same same way I didn't know I wanted to listen to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit until I heard it.  The best creative works break preexisting molds and surprise us.

The Travesty of Lost Culture

What about the spaghetti that never made it to market, and that would have stuck if only given the chance?  What about the hundreds of thousands of fine traditionally published books that were forced out of print weeks after release, before they had a chance to be discovered by readers?  Many of these books will never see the light of day again.

Consider the millions of writers who've had their dreams crushed over the last couple hundred years because their books were rejected when publishers didn't recognize their value.  Virtually every literary classic today has a story of how it was almost not published.  Imagine the thousands of literary classics - classics that would have surpassed anything ever published -  that died with their authors, tossed out with the attic trash.

This tragedy no longer needs to be repeated, because the world of books is no longer constrained by a broken business model that is unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a chance on every author.

Self Publishing Energizes Book Culture, Lead to More Better Books

http://widgetville.blogspot.com/2011/09/spread-word-about-smashwords.html
I founded Smashwords so I could take a chance on every author.  To reject rejection.  I wanted to give writers the freedom to publish and readers the freedom to read what they like.

Writers recognize that success cannot be measured by dollars alone.  There are spiritual and emotional pleasures to be had by self publishing that only writers can understand.

Now back to the critics who complain about the torrent of crud enabled by self publishing.

Yes, self publishing will enable more poor-quality books than ever before.  But so what?  The flip side of this coin is that self publishing will enable more better books than ever before.   You cannot grow wheat without chaff.  Yin and yang.

More better books is what matters most.  More diversity.  More choice. More freedom to publish and freedom to discover and enjoy.

Online book discovery systems are amazingly adept at burying the crud and surfacing the creme. The books that are truly horrible - books released by writers who failed to honor their reader with a quality read - quickly become invisible because readers will reject them today and in the future.  The great books - the ones that take readers to emotionally satisfying extremes - will always find readers and bubble up to visibility, if not today, then next month or next year or next decade.

Great books are more discoverable today than ever before.  The retailer discovery algorithms do an incredible job of capturing, measuring and leveraging the collective wisdom of readers as they browse, sample, purchase, read, review and talk about these books.  As capable as the book discovery algorithms are today, they'll only grow smarter in the future.

Fear not, dear booklovers, self publishing will not only improve publishing, self publishing will save publishing.

Congrats to all Smashwords authors.  You are improving the world of books one word and one indie ebook at a time.  Thanks for allowing all of us on the Smashwords team to join you in this transformative adventure.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Preorders - A Guide to Preorder Strategy

Ebook preorders are one of the most powerful book launch tools for indies.

As I've blogged here previously, multiple Smashwords authors have hit the bestseller lists with the catalyzing assistance of ebook preorders.

But as many authors have learned, the mere act of doing a preorder does not guarantee a successful launch.  In this context, a good universal metric of success is for each new book you release to reach more readers in less time than your prior release (that's how you know you're building readership!).

Like any tool, you need to learn how to use preorders before you'll get the best results.  Several Smashwords authors have used preorders so often and with such success that they've become masters.

Preorders are a common checkbox item for nearly every title released by a traditional publisher, yet most indie authors don't take advantage of preorders.  It's a shame more authors don't use preorders, because in the battle for reader eyeballs preorders are a great equalizer.

Probably the biggest reason most authors don't take better advantage of preorders is because they either don't yet know about the tool, or don't know how to utilize it to its fullest effect.

I want to help you make preorders work for you for your next book release.

Earlier today, I published a presentation about preorder strategy on Slideshare.net titled, Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Preorders: A Guide to Preorder Strategy, and have embedded it below.


I hope you find it helpful.  I also hope you're share it with your friends, Tweet about it or review it on Facebook.

The presentation provides an introduction to ebook preorders, and then reveals specific recommendations for preorder timing and preorder marketing. Most of these ideas were inspired by my observations of what worked and what didn't work for your fellow Smashwords authors.

And this is where you come in.  If you've had success with Smashwords preorders, I want to hear from you.  Please blog about your success, embed my presentation in your blog post, and share the preorder tricks that worked best for you.  If you've received positive feedback from fans who appreciate the ability to place these set-and-forget preorders, mention that in your post.  Preorders aren't just for the benefit of authors, they're for readers too.  Then leave a link in the comments below and I might add the link to my list below.

One rule for submissions:  In order for me to link to your blog, you must provide some value-add, either in the form of personal experiences and lessons learned, or in the form of summarizing the presentation's key points in a well-structured blog post.  A summary of the points enriched with your own personal experience would be even better! 

Please visit the links of your fellow authors below.  They took the time to help your next book release be more successful, so please return the favor by acknowledging those who did a great job by commenting on their blogs. And if they do an especially great job, check out their books!
Indie Authors Share Preorder Tips, Tricks and Insights

Giacomo Giammatteo - How To Sell More Books: Smashwords Levels The Playing Field With Pre-orders
Alicia Renee Kline - Why Preorders Should be Part of Your Marketing Strategy
Renee Benzaim  - Pre-Orders through Smashwords Can Benefit Both Readers & Writers
Stephanie Hurt  -  Smashwords Preorder – A Great Thing!
Sally Ember - Why Ebook Preorders Will Help My Next Book Land Higher on the Ebook Bestseller Lists
Gigi Galt  - Hit the Best Seller Lists With Pre-Orders
Heather Gartside - What to Expect: finding true love and perfecting preorders for my newly-born novel
Felipe Adan Lerna  - Question Mark @ the Intersections of Pre-Orders and Scribd Oyster etc
AH Pellett - Just Like Big Publishers, Indies Can Set up Preorders Too 
Tami Veldura - Introducing the Street Team

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Farewell Sony Reader Store


Goodbye to our friends at the Sony Reader Store.

Sony today announced the imminent closure of its Sony Reader Store in the US and Canada.  The store will remain in operation until March 20, after which it will cease ebook sales.

Effective immediately, Smashwords will cease delivery of new titles to Sony.   We will continue to deliver metadata updates and takedowns, and Sony will continue to process them.

What this means for authors:  Any time any retailer closes - especially one such as Sony who pioneered the ebook market - it's a sad day.  Along with Barnes & Noble, Sony was one of the first two major retailers to embrace self-published ebooks when Sony partnered with Smashwords in 2009.  Sony's devices and ebook store predated Amazon's, so when the history books of the indie author revolution are written I hope historians give Sony the credit they deserve as a true pioneer.  My sentiments and appreciation for Sony and their awesome people aside, the impact on Smashwords authors today will be minimal.  The Sony store, as most authors know, is one of the smaller retailers in the Smashwords distribution network.  To put this in perspective, on a typical month, less than 2% of our authors' monthly sales come from Sony.

blog.sony.com/2014/02/the-future-of-reader-store/
Next steps for Smashwords authors (updated):  If your books are already listed at Sony, there's nothing you need to do.  On or around March 20, your book's listing at Sony should disappear.  Your customers at Sony will have ample opportunity to backup their purchases. 

Next steps for Sony customers (updated):  Kobo, a Smashwords partner, will assume control over Sony's customers relationships, giving most Sony customers the option to migrate their Sony libraries into their Kobo library to maintain access to their books.  Note that the Sony book files will not transfer from Sony's servers to Kobo's servers.  Kobo will use the ISBNs (unique digital identifiers) of the Smashwords/Sony books to map the customer's purchase to the same book at Kobo.  Kobo has created a helpful FAQ page to assist Sony customers in the transition at http://www.kobo.com/sony   Sony has created a similar page of instructions at http://blog.sony.com/2014/02/the-future-of-reader-store/  If Smashwords books have been purchased by Sony customers, and those books aren't currently distributed and onsale at Kobo, then those books will not transfer.  Authors can mitigate this customer inconvenience by ensuring all their Smashwords Premium Catalog books are opted into Kobo.  Since Smashwords distributes to Kobo under a separate agreement, the book product listings at Sony will not transfer to Kobo.  For Sony customers, the migration to Kobo is optional.  Even if Sony customers choose not to migrate to Kobo, they can download previously purchased books from the Sony Reader Store until April 30, 2014. However, if Sony customers transfer their library to Kobo via the transfer link, they will continue to have access to their ebooks after this date, assuming those same books are available for sale at Kobo.

What led to the Sony closure?  One can only speculate, but the bottom line in my opinion is competitive pressure from all sides - from device-makers, tablet-makers and other stores, and Sony's inability to remain competitive in the fast-evolving ebook device and retailing spaces.  Although they pioneered the ebook industry, the industry grew up around them and grew faster than them.  Our sales levels at Sony over the last four years have remained relatively flat, whereas our sales at other retailers have grown by multiples.  Another contributor:  Amazon price matching.  As many Smashwords authors know, Smashwords and our retailers Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo have dramatically improved our ability to quickly and accurately load Smashwords titles and metadata updates.  Sony's integration systems, although they have improved over the years, by comparison have not evolved at the same rapid rate as its competitors.  Over the last few years, this led to frequent price matching from Amazon, and a lot of author frustration, which led many bestselling Smashwords authors to opt out of Sony entirely.  Price matching is a blunt force weapon that Amazon wields with impunity.  Amazon knows its price-matching practices place immense pressure on its competitors.  Here's how:  If Amazon finds a KDP book priced lower elsewhere, it price-matches to the lower price.  If you're enrolled in KDP Select, or enrolled in the 70% royalty rate, this price disparity situation puts you in direct violation of Amazon's terms of service, which leads to a threatening email from Amazon notifying the author of the violation and the consequences of such violation.  Amazon punishes the author with full knowledge that the price discrepancies are not the author's fault, and then authors feel pressured to abandon the smaller retailer rather than risk facing Amazon's future wrath.  The behavior this motivates (opting out of the smaller retailer forever) then harms the smaller retailer and makes the author more dependent upon Amazon.  Amazon has always been brilliant in this regard.  They know how to litter the stage with land mines (constructed of policies and consequences) in plain view and then wait for their competitors (be they retailers or Big 5 publishers) to step on them.  "Oh, didn't you see the big warning sign in your contract?"  But without question, it would be unfair and inaccurate to claim Amazon or indie authors killed Sony.  Amazon's price matching represented only one of many competitive pressures that set the stage for this.  Ultimately, in the cruel and unforgiving competitive world we live in, the responsibility is Sony's alone. 

What this means for the industry:  Any time we lose a retailer of any kind - whether ebook retailer or neighborhood bricks & mortar retailer - it's a sad day.  Book culture, and book sales opportunity for authors, is maximized by having as many booksellers as possible employing as many passionate booklovers as possible out there dedicating their every day to connecting books with readers.  The more retailers there are, the less dependent the author becomes on any one single retailer.  Diversification is good.  Concentrated risk is bad.  It would be a sad day if five years from now 95% of ebook sales consolidated around one or two retailers.  Such a state of affairs would strip indie authors of their independence and power.  So although the loss of Sony is inconsequential from an author sales perspective, it provides a cautionary reminder that it's in every author's best interest to foster a diverse and thriving ecosystem of multiple ebook retailers.  Ultimately, the retailers that indie authors support and promote are the ones that will survive and thrive in the future.

Farewell Sony.  I wish our friends at Sony the best and trust their dedicated team members will find new opportunities to participate in the ebook revolution they helped create.  I'm so appreciative of the amazing support they provided Smashwords authors over the last five years.