Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Smashwords Introduces “Special Deals”- Automated Merchandising of Onsale Ebooks

Smashwords today announced Special Deals, a new merchandising feature at the Smashwords Store that showcases onsale books. 

Effective immediately, your onsale ebooks will receive automatic merchandising through the Smashwords Store’s myriad book discovery options.

Most authors know Smashwords as the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks to retailers and libraries, and this remains our primary business focus.  But did you also know that thousands of Smashwords authors use our small Smashwords Store as their personal ebook promotion platform with profile pages, widgets, Smashwords Interviews (self-interviews), Smashwords Alerts (automated new release notifications to readers) and coupons?

The new feature is powered by Smashwords Coupons.

Click the box for "Make this a public coupon"
To run a sale, click to your Dashboard’s Coupon Manager screen, click “Generate coupon” or click to reactivate or edit an existing coupon, then follow the simple instructions to make your coupon public.

Of the many book marketing tools provided to Smashwords authors at no cost, Smashwords Coupons have been one of our most popular tools since we first introduced the capability almost ten years ago. 

Each month, thousands of Smashwords authors use Smashwords Coupon codes to run custom ebook promotions.  Authors can create coupon codes to run exclusive private (the most common form of Smashwords Coupon) or public promotions, all the while earning industry-leading royalties up to 80% list.

We’ve continually enhanced the Smashwords Coupon feature since its first introduction.  In the last 12 months alone we added campaign tracking (unique labels attached to each coupon to enable campaign sales tracking), metered coupons (limiting the number of redemptions if you want to create urgency with a first-come first-served get-'em-while-they-last promotion) and most recently in December, public coupons (the option to expose your coupon codes directly on your book pages). 

As with our all Smashwords Coupons, Special Deals will not change your price at retailers (if you want to run a sale at all Smashwords retailers, change the book's price in your Dashboard).

In this screen shot, the customer is filtering for bestsellers
over 100,000 words with Special Deals priced $2.99 or less
For readers, Special Deals makes it easier than ever to discover onsale ebooks at Smashwords.  Most of these deals are exclusive to Smashwords. 

Readers can browse the Special Deals catalog from the Smashwords home page and filter by category, book length, latest releases, bestsellers, after-coupon prices, and highest-rated.  Books with Special Deals are also discoverable in all other online catalogue searches.

Customers can take advantage of Special Deals simply by adding the onsale ebooks to their shopping carts.  No need for readers to enter coupon codes!

Although this new feature increases the visibility of your onsale ebooks, to get the most out of your sale you’ll still want to get out there and actively promote your deal on social media and to your private mailing lists.

If you've got a large readership or social media following, Special Deals is a great way to run short term flash sales.

You can spice up your promotion and make it more compelling by combining other Smashwords Coupon features such as using our metered coupons to make your special deal available to the first [you specify] number of readers who take advantage of it, or by giving your Special Deal a short expiration.

When you promote your Special Deal, be sure to link directly to your book’s book page at Smashwords to maximize your conversion rates from browser to buyer.  If you’re able to drive enough sales from your personal promotion efforts, it can cause your book to rise in the sales rank at Smashwords which then will increase the visibility and desirably of your books to other shoppers who browse our bestseller lists by category, price or book length for their next great read.  Since our store is small, it doesn't take a lot of sales to significantly boost your rank.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks

Welcome to the sixth annual Smashwords Survey!

Each year for the Smashwords Survey, I analyze ebook sales aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network.

We're looking to identify potential data driven insights that can help authors and publishers make their books more accessible, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers. 

The results are often just as much a surprise to me as they are to you.  When I drill down and analyze difference aspects of the data, I don’t know if I’ll find a lump of coal at end of the trail or a pot-of-gold.  This year I discovered a lot of gold.

As you review the findings, please maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. The data represents the aggregate experience of thousands of authors and millions of dollars in book sales, but your results may vary.  Your book is unique.

The factors that cause a reader to discover, sample, purchase or enjoy a book cannot be fully explained by data.  Nor can data yet determine why one story or writing style is preferable to another.  

For example, if you were to ask a reader why they purchased a given book, you might receive an answer like, “it looked interesting to me.”  But why did it look interesting?  In all likelihood, not even the reader fully understands the conscious and unconscious factors that caused them to click on one book instead of another.  Was it the color combination on the cover image, the price, the author name, the position of the sun, the day of the week, what they ate or was it a convoluted mysterious witch's brew of thousands of simultaneous factors?  I suspect the latter.

It’s also quite possible you glean insights from the data that I and others will miss completely.  If so, that's great.  My goal here, as it is with everything we do at Smashwords, is to create tools and share data that give you competitive advantage in the marketplace.  It up to you to put the tools and knowledge to work.

I first presented the Survey results last month at the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta, GA.  Below I have embedded an enhanced Slideshare Edition of the presentation which contains additional information that was conveyed verbally in the live presentation.

Each year I mix things up by examining new aspects of the data.  This year, in an industry-first, I share data on ebook preorder adoption rates among authors across different genres and categories.

And then I go a step further by exploring the percentage of that genre's sales for the Survey period that were accountable to the books released as preorders in that genre or category.  My mind was blown.  It was as if bright light suddenly illuminated a dark corner of the universe.

On the pricing front, I found signs that many indies who are selling well at $2.99 should probably experiment with higher prices.  In previous Surveys, $2.99 and $3.99 were the sweets spots.  It looks like it's time to add $4.99 to that mix.

There's much more I want to share with you.

Inside the 2017 Smashwords Survey

Here are some of the questions we seek to answer:
  • What are the top fiction and non-fiction categories?
  • What romance categories perform the best? 
  • How do box sets perform, and which types of box set perform the best?
  • Do authors who release ebooks as preorders sell more books overall?
  • How do preorder adoption rates differ across genres (New!!) 
  • What percentage of overall sales in each genre for new titles go to books released as preorders (New!)
  • What are the pricing sweet spots for full-length fiction to maximize both readership and author earnings?
  • Do longer books still sell better?
  • Does FREE still work, and what about free series starters?
  • Do series books sell better than standalone books, and if so, by how much?
And here you go, the Smashwords Survey!




Sharing is caring!  Above in the presentation pane you see this share link.  If you find the Smashwords Survey useful, please click it to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, or embed the full presentation on your blog using Slideshare's neat embed feature.  

Additionally, please also this blog post on social media, the address of which is:  http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords-survey-2017.html

The sales data is aggregated from across the Smashwords distribution network of major retailer and library ebook providers for the period between March 2016 and February 2017, the same period as the 2016 Survey.  Smashwords distributes to multiple retailers and libraries.  The largest Smashwords retailer is iBooks, followed by Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Smashwords Store, Scribd, Amazon and several smaller outlets including public library aggregators such as OverDrive.  Since we only distribute a small fraction of our titles to Amazon, the results may not fully reflect how books behave at Amazon.  Use your own judgement. 

Support Future Surveys!

If you distribute with Smashwords, thank you!  You are directly contributing not only to our data, but also to our ability to continue bringing you this data. If you don't use Smashwords for ebook distribution, please consider consolidating your distribution with us.  We want your sales data, and we want to help you sell more books!  Click to learn how to publish with Smashwords and join over 130,000 authors and small publishers around the world who collectively publish over 450,000 titles with us.

Ninth Annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale Kicks off July 1 - Enroll Your Books Now!

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale
It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.  This can mean just one thing:   

It's time for the ninth annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale!

Enrollment is now open for our annual indie ebook extravaganza.  The sale kicks off July 1 and ends at 11:59pm Pacific on July 31. 

The sale represents a massive collaborative marketing event for Smashwords authors and publishers.   Each author and publisher - simply by promoting their own books - helps expose those same readers to the thousands of other participating books. 

For one month only, readers can discover tens of thousands of special deals 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off and 100%-off (FREE!).  So whether readers are looking for a great beach read or something to keep them cozy on a cold winter's night in front the fireplace, they'll find it here.

When the sale goes live, the catalogue will appear linked on the Smashwords home page. All participating books will have their participation noted on their individual book pages.

We make it easy for readers to slice and dice their searches by discount level, category, price and multiple other factors.  It's a great chance to fill up those shopping carts and show your favorite authors some love!

Check back frequently throughout the month of July for great deals on the world's best indie ebooks because new books are always being added to the sale.

Smashwords authors and publishers:  Enroll Now

Enroll your books today with a couple clicks at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos.

Now would also be a good time to review your publishing calendar for the next 12 months and get everything up on preorder now.  Although preorders are not included in this sale, once these new readers discover your awesomeness, you'll want to visit iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo to reserve your next books on preorder.  Learn more about Smashwords preorders here.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fahrenheit 451 Meets April Fools

April 1 is April Fools Day, a raucous day of silliness when otherwise trustworthy people and companies are granted tenuous permission to invent stories that aren't real. 

It's been a semi-consistent tradition here at the Smashwords blog for me to write an annual April Fools post.  These fictitious stories try to strike a balance between believably and absurdity.  My aim is often to satirize an important subject of interest to Smashwords authors, publishers and readers.

This year I was planning to write a satirical post about how Amazon has secretly replaced its customer service representatives in India with ill-tempered auto-responding robots.

Satire is at its best when it provokes honest discussion of facts that make us uncomfortable.  Great satire causes us to face the truth of reality in all its absurdity.

Like many, however, I'm growing increasingly alarmed by the rise of fake news and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theorists masquerading as truth tellers.  They pump out toxic misinformation, often with the aid of automated bots, designed to lure their audience into an alternate reality where black is white, up is down, facts are fiction, and alternative facts trump truth.

What does it portend for civil society and humanity when willful ignorance is celebrated above facts?

As authors and readers, we should care. Books are the best vehicles for deep thinking. We authors have the power - one book at a time - to right this wayward ship.  We readers have a responsibility to demand truth telling.

So on this one day a year where fake news is *almost* socially acceptable, I've decided to shelve my April Fools post.  I don't want to play the trickery game this year.

I invite you to join with me this April 1 to pause, reflect on the importance of facts, and read a good book.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and consider grabbing a copy of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.  It's a cultural treasure that reminds us how books, authors and readers hold the power to save humanity from itself.

I first picked up Fahrenheit 451 in high school but didn't finish it.  I lacked the life experience at the time to appreciate it.  Now I'm thinking it's one of the most important books ever written.  This old story written 67 years ago was written for our times today.  That's the timeless wonder of great books.

I recommend the 60th anniversary edition because it contains a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an appendix of insightful essays by writers including Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale is the next read on my iPhone).

I also recently read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, another amazing read that like F-451 reminds us of the importance of books.

Unlike the futuristic society portrayed by F-451 where owning books is illegal, in Brave New World society has become so averse to deep thinking that no one wants to read books anymore.  Instead, citizens in Brave New World try to maintain their lives in carefree drug-induced hedonistic bubbles.  Soma holiday anyone?

Orwell's 1984 is another of those prescient books about truth-telling and doublespeak that I didn't fully appreciate in my youth but now view - like Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World - as timely and essential reading for those of us who want to leave the world a better place than we found it.

If you were looking forward to my April 1 post, please accept my apologies.

I was looking forward to writing about those ill-tempered robots. 

If you think it'd be a fun story to write, I invite you to write it, label it as satire, post it on your blog and then share the link below in the comments.


Here are links to my prior April 1 posts:

2016:  Kindle Power Bucks Solves Book Marketing Challenge
2015:  New Amazon Service Eliminates the Need for Authors
2013:  New Smashwords WEED Service Treats Common Author Ailments
2011:  Smashwords Acquires Amazon, New Company Called Smashazon
2009:  JK Rowling Publishes Harry Potter Ebooks at Smashwords

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Read an Ebook Week Kicks off Sunday March 5

The 9th annual Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion kicks off this Sunday March 5 and runs through end of day March 11.

Thousands of Smashwords authors, publishers and readers participate in this global ebook celebration featuring thousands of FREE and deep-discounted ebooks. 

Authors and Publishers:  Enrollment is now open at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos   With a few clicks, you can enroll your books into coupon categories of 25% off, 50% off, 75% off or FREE.

Readers: When the promotion goes live on Sunday, visit the promotional catalog at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1 and be sure to check back often because thousands of new books will join the promotion during the week.

The special home page catalog enables readers to browse by coupon discount and filter by category, bestseller status, word count and multiple other factors.  We also note the title's coupon on individual book pages to encourage browsers to become customers. 

The sale is being promoted to over one million Smashwords customers.  Don't miss out!

Please help spread the word to your fellow readers, authors and publishers.

How to Join the Celebration

Here's a quick checklist to help you get the most out of the Read an Ebook Week event:

  1. Authors and publishers:  Enroll your books at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromo.   If you're not yet publishing with Smashwords, now's a great time to get started.  Visit https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords to learn how.
     
  2. Visit the Smashwords Read an Ebook Week event page at https://www.smashwords.com/ebookweek where you'll find downloadable buttons, banners and images you can share on social media to promote your participation in the event.  You'll also find convenient links to several retailers offering free ebooks.
     
  3. For the story behind Read an Ebook Week, check out my interview with Smashwords author Rita Toews who founded this event 12 years ago - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/the-story-behind-read-an_b_487343.html or visit her official Read an Ebook Week Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Read-an-E-Book-Week-193882590629749
     
  4.  Every day during the week long sale, celebrate on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, blog, private mailing lists) that you're participating in the event.  Be sure to include a hyperlink to the promotional catalog at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1
     
  5. Readers:  When you discover a great deal, share it with your friends on social media.  Be sure to tag the author (find their Twitter and Facebook addresses on their Smashwords author profile page) so they know you downloaded their book!
     
  6. Authors and publishers:  If you haven't done so already, complete your Smashwords Interview at https://www.smashwords.com/manageinterview/info  This is a great chance for you to connect with current and prospective readers on an entirely new level by sharing the story behind the author!  Once you complete your interview, share it on social media.
     
  7. The official hashtags for the promotion are #Smashwords and #ebookweek17

This promotion is exclusive to the Smashwords store.  It will not impact prices at other retailers.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Smashwords to Supply Nearly 300,000 Titles to Bibliotheca CloudLibrary

Smashwords today announced a distribution relationship with bibliotheca, operator of the cloudLibrary™ digital lending platform which serves over 3,000 public libraries in the US, Canada, U.K. and Australia. 

Starting in one week, Smashwords will begin shipping nearly 300,000 titles to bibliotheca.  The Smashwords catalog represents more than 120,000 indie authors and small independent publishers, including many of today's bestselling indies.

Ninety percent of cloudLibrary’s customers are located in the US and Canada with the remaining 10 percent located in Australia and the U.K.  They also reach a small number of academic and K-12 libraries.

Smashwords offers indie authors and small independent presses unparalleled distribution to approximately 30,000 public and academic libraries around the world.  With the addition of bibliotheca, the Smashwords distribution network reaches most major library ebook platforms including OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners UK (Askews & Holts and VLeBooks) and Odilo.

As I mentioned in my annual Smashwords Year in Review post, Smashwords ebook sales to libraries increased in 2016 despite a general industry slowdown at retail.  Although library ebook sales represent a minority of sales for most authors, I expect libraries will continue to represent a promising long term growth opportunity for indie authors.

Bibliotheca has deep reach within the library market.  Its cloudLibrary platform was originally founded by 3M in 2011.  3M is best known for Post-it pads and Scotch tape, though unbeknownst to a lot of people 3M built an extensive library business and was an early pioneer in library self-service checkout systems.  Bibliotheca acquired 3M’s library operations in 2016. 

In addition to the 3,000 libraries that use bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary to acquire and manage their ebooks, bibliotheca works with nearly 30,000 other libraries to provide additional management systems and solutions.

First shipments of Smashwords titles will begin one week from today on February 9.  Given the size of our catalog, we anticipate the complete integration will take between two and three months although the first titles should start appearing in their catalog in the next few weeks.  Similar to our relationships with other library ebook platforms, Smashwords erotica titles are excluded.

The cloudLibrary service is made available to library patrons as an app.  The app supports desktop and mobile devices including PCs, Macs, iOS devices, Android, Chrome and some Kindle devices.

Patrons download the app at yourcloudlibrary.com then select their country, state and local library, after which the patron enters their library PIN code into the app.

Once registered, patrons can view and checkout titles for a time-limited period.  If the book is already checked out, the patron can place the title on hold so they’re in line to read it as soon as the current checkout expires.  This hold data is visible to the library’s collection development managers who can use this information to identify high-demand titles for which they should purchase additional copies.

Libraries will also have the option to expose the complete Smashwords catalog to patrons so patrons browse the full catalog and suggest titles their library should add to their collection.  This is a cool example of what’s known as patron-driven acquisition.  Patron-driven acquisition helps librarians ensure they're purchasing titles their patrons actually want to read.

Once bibliotheca completes their ingestion of Smashwords titles, Smashwords will support bibliotheca’s merchandising efforts by providing regular “Smashwords Hotlists” of top performing preorders and other recommended bestsellers.  The sales and merchandising teams at Bibliotheca can use these buylists to share purchase recommendations with collection development managers at libraries.

All currently published Smashwords Premium Catalog titles - excluding erotica - will receive automatic distribution to cloudLibrary unless the author/publisher has proactively opted out of all new channels from their Dashboard's Channel Manager.   If you don't want distribution to cloudLibrary you can opt out from your Dashboard's Channel Manager screen.

I strongly recommend all authors and publishers to participate, not only to sell ebooks to libraries, but to build their author brand with library patrons who are big buyers of ebooks at retail.

If you’re a librarian and you’d like to learn more about cloudLibrary, click here to visit their website.

If you're an author or publisher and you're not yet working with Smashwords, click here to learn more about Smashwords ebook distribution services.

Please join me in welcoming cloudLibrary to the Smashwords family!