Friday, November 9, 2018

Smashwords Unveils New Book Discovery Interface; Surpasses 500,000 Published Books

I'm excited to share two big pieces of news with you today.  I'll tackle the headline items in reverse order since one is the preface to the other.

The first news is that Smashwords catalog has grown to over 500,000 books!

Thank you to all Smashwords authors, publishers and readers for helping us achieve this milestone.

When I founded Smashwords ten years ago, the mission was simple:  I wanted to democratize publishing.  I wanted to make it fast, free and easy for writers to self-publish ebooks like a pro.

We created professional-quality tools that enabled writers to bypass traditional publishing gatekeepers, and we offered a simple storefront so our authors could sell their ebooks directly to readers.

The year after our launch we turned our attention to distribution, where we made it possible for major ebook stores to efficiently procure, stock and sell ebooks from our indie authors and publishers.  And then we helped open up the library market to indie ebooks.

True to our mission of democratization, for the last ten years our little Smashwords Store has displayed books in a style that what we affectionately refer to as the “firehose.”  Books were displayed as they came in, with new books appearing at the top of the home page mere seconds after upload by the author or publisher. 

That deliberate design decision was controversial.  No major ebook seller displays every new self-published ebook on their home page – warts and all – as they arrive to the store.  I can understand why.  It’s not the best way to sell books!

Yet I wanted to give every book and every author their 15 minutes (or more) of fame so they could find their first readers.  I'm sure many of our current USA Today and NY Times bestselling authors found some of their very first readers thanks to the firehose. 

Although some Smashwords Store customers enjoy inspecting every book as they come in, the firehose method is suboptimal for most readers. 

The advantage of the firehose approach was that it created a level playing field for all authors, and that's why we stuck by it.  The downside of the firehose is that with zero home page curation, our home page could look quite ugly at times, and that’s putting it kindly. Often, our home page is downright scary, especially when a string of books with poorly designed covers come in all at once.

In short, my stubborn commitment to democratization meant we haven’t been putting our best foot forward, especially for first time visitors to the Smashwords website.  We weren’t adequately showcasing the best of our best from among our over 100,000 authors and publishers.

We’ve always known we could sell more books in our store with curation, yet the prospect of curation butted up against our core mission.  We’re not here to judge.  We don’t want to gatekeep.

We’ve always believed that readers are the best curators.  We also believe in the value of diversity and choice.  One reader’s life-changing masterpiece can be another reader’s dreck.

We further rationalized the firehose (both in internal staff debates and external communications with authors) by pointing out the fact that over 90% of our authors’ sales have always come from our distribution to our awesome retail partners such as Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Scribd, as well as to the library outlets we supply. 

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, ebook sales at major retailers in recent years have been anemic at best, and some have experienced declines.  Yet over the last couple years, sales in the Smashwords Store have increased, and that’s despite the limitations of our firehose approach on the home page, and despite our primary focus on helping our major retailer partners sell more of our authors' books.

What is it about our store that caused it to buck this industry-wide trend?  I suspect the reason is that despite our store’s rough edges, it offers several unique features that readers love.

Readers love that all our books are DRM-free, which means the reader can enjoy their purchases their way on any device they own now or in the future.  Readers also love Smashwords Coupons, our best known and most popular feature, and they tell us they also appreciate our multi-format ebooks, and our myriad flexible search, discovery and sampling features that help readers find their next great read.

Now that we’ve hit 500,000 books, we’ve achieved a critical mass of titles that allows us to do more with our store.  We can provide these loyal customers more options for book discovery.

Introducing an Improved Smashwords Store

After many months of planning and design, today we unveiled the most significant change ever to the Smashwords home page.

We think the new design strikes a good balance between democratization and usability.  We make it easier than ever for readers to discover the best books at Smashwords, as judged by their fellow readers.

We’re also excited to keep the original "classic" interface as an additional option for readers who want to continue taking advantage of its special powers.  And we’re already considering additional experimental interface options we can introduce in the future that will put more readers closer to their next great read.

The new interface unveiled today retains the best elements of the classic design, including the firehose.

Here’s a summary of some of the enhancements you’ll find today on the front page of the Smashwords Store:

Books in Shelves

The firehose, which previously displayed all new books as they arrived, is replaced by nine new “shelves,” offering a more conventional book discovery experience.  But since we’re never satisfied with the conventional, if you scratch below the surface you’ll find we’ve added some interesting twists you won't find anywhere else.

Whereas previously we only displayed 20 books at a time, now we can display up to 45 by leveraging horizontal shelf displays.  We’re also emphasizing covers over the prior text-heavy design.

Each shelf is organized around a different book discovery theme.  The themes, in order of presentation, include:

  • Featured New Releases – New releases we think are worthy of reader consideration based on early sales and author track record.
     
  • Trending Now – Books that have shown impressive sales strength in recent days.
     
  • Bestselling Books – Bestselling indie ebooks.
     
  • Top Series Starters – This shelf makes it easier than ever to find your next great series.
     
  • Bestselling Box Sets – Looking to immerse yourself in a great single-author or multi-author box set?  Look no further. 
     
  • Featured Special Deals – This shelf leverages our self-serve, automated merchandising feature, Special Deals
     
  • Free Special Deals – Looking for free Special Deals?  You’ll find them here.
     
  • Recent Purchases at Smashwords – This is a fun one.  This shelf displays the most recently purchased “Premium Catalog” books at the Smashwords store.  There’s a good chance that a fellow reader just discovered a book you might enjoy too.
     
  • Newest Arrivals – This is the new firehose.  It was important to me that we maintain this option.  This remains a one-of-its-kind opportunity for every author to be featured on the home page, and a great feature for readers who enjoy browsing every new arrival.  This is where – if you’re lucky – you’ll be the first to discover a future bestseller.

Multi-Dimensional Book Discovery

It’s now easier than ever for readers to discover incredible books right on the Smashwords home page.  At first glance, our shelf design might look similar to the shelves you’d expect at any other major ebook retailer.  They’re different. 

These shelves are dynamic in that they allow the reader to customize the all nine shelves' contents with a single click.  When you first visit the home page you’ll see all nine categories of shelves, drawing upon the best of the best at Smashwords as judged by your fellow readers.

But what if you’re a fan of fantasy, and you want to find the best fantasy books?  Simply click “Fantasy” in the navigation pane on the left side of the page, and voila, all nine shelves are populated with with fantasy books, where you can browse a great selection from multiple dimensions.

If you prefer longer fantasy books, or books under a certain price, you can drill down further to the best books that will interest you across the nine shelf themes.  In short, you retain the most useful of the prior search options but now we’re giving you multi-dimensional results.

With thousands of book categories and subcategories, eleven filters for price and book length and nine shelves, we calculate there are over one million unique search combinations customers can use to drill deep to discover the best of the best from among our 500,000+ books.

The home page shelves are also intelligent in that they know not to recommend books you’ve already purchased at Smashwords, making it easier than ever to discover new books and new authors.

Reader-Powered Algorithms

The shelves are controlled by new algorithms that determine which books appear in which shelves, and in which order.  These algorithms are fully automated, and powered by real readers who are spending real dollars.  As a distributor of ebooks, we have the ability to leverage vast amounts of sales data to identify the best Smashwords books that match reader interests.  Take a look at the new Smashwords home page.  I trust you’ll agree it looks much improved.

Readers Gain Enhanced Control over Erotica

Erotica has always been a popular category for Smashwords authors and customers.  Our catalog of legal erotica is probably one of the broadest collections anywhere.  Starting today and for the next visit by all future first-time visitors, we prompt you to select your erotica preferences.

The default setting, if you don't make a selection, is no erotica.   This has been our policy for many years.

But now we give you even greater control.

Our previous book filtering options were unable to accommodate those many readers who wanted mainstream erotica - the erotica carried by all major ebook stores -  but didn’t want to view erotica that delved into more taboo subjects.  Previously, your only choice was to block it all or see it all.

Now you can choose which types appear on the Smashwords home page and in your search results.

If you want no erotica, only mainstream erotica, or all erotica, those preferences are your choice.  You'll find this option under the "Filtering" button that appears prominently near the top of the page.

Click the (i) next to the filtering option to learn more about the filtering options, or to view definitions of the different erotica types so you can make a more informed decision.

These new erotica preferences are enabled by our initiative starting in September 2017 that required all erotica and erotic romance titles to be properly labeled by their authors and publishers if they contained taboo themes.  If you’re curious to learn more about our certification initiative and how it benefits readers and authors alike, check out the announcement here, Smashwords Implements New Classifications for Erotic Fiction.

Adult Fiction Books Gain Increased Visibility

When you walk into your local bookstore, most of the books you see are adult fiction and non-fiction.  Adult is not a four-letter word.  Adult doesn’t necessarily mean that the book contains steamy sex scenes.  Many adult fiction books contain themes or violence that would be inappropriate for minors, even though the books aren’t promising titillation.

Yet due to the blunt nature of our previous preference settings, readers would often block general adult fiction by accident when they really meant to block erotica.  Effective immediately, these non-erotic adult books will be visible to all customers of the Smashwords Store regardless of their erotica preferences.

We believe this change will give customers access to more of the books they’d expect to find in any favorite bookstore.  It’ll obviously benefit our authors too.

"Highest Rated" Listings Now More Relevant

This is an update we implemented in August but haven’t had an opportunity to announce yet.  As mentioned above, we believe readers are the best curators.  Readers manifest their curation through their purchases, reviews and word of mouth.

We’ve always allowed readers to search books and filter book results based on which were the highest rated by fellow Smashwords customers.  Up until August 16, 2018, we listed our “Highest Rated” books ranked simply by their average average review rating, with the highest averages appearing at the top of the list.

This meant that a book with only one five-star review could be ranked above a book with 49 reviews averaging a still-impressive 4.9 stars out of five.  That wasn’t fair to authors or readers, and it also led to a lot of authors attempting to game the review system.

There were even bad authors who’d torpedo other authors' review ratings with a single four-star review so their book could appear higher.  Such bad seeds were banned from Smashwords, yet as you can imagine it becomes a game of whack-a-mole.

The new Highest Rated listings still show the average review score and the number of reviews, but their listing order is now determined by a new multi-faceted algorithm that weights various factors for credibility.  I won’t go into the factors for obvious reasons, but just know it’s more difficult to game.  And as always, we have a zero tolerance policy on gaming. Gaming represents a grave disservice to fellow readers and authors.

This new algorithm applies to the classic interface, which is where you'll “Highest Rated” filter resides. 

What's Next for the Smashwords Store?

We still have a long list of improvements we want to make with the store.

In the months ahead you'll see us continue to add new shelves and other fun enhancements based on reader and author feedback.

Although we're excited about the improvements, we've only scratched the surface of what's possible.

Let us know what you want to see next!  Click the "?" icon at the top of any Smashwords web page to share your suggestions for our store.  I'll read every suggestion.


Tips for Authors – How to Sell More in the Smashwords Store

I expect some authors and publishers will have questions about what they can do to maximize the visibility and sales of their books under the new home page interface. 

I’ll put this in Q&A form.

Q:  How can I improve the odds of my book appearing in home page features?

There are several things you can do here, ranging from the obvious to not so obvious. 
  1. Publish with Smashwords - If your book isn’t at Smashwords, we can’t sell it in our store! 

  2. Real sales matter - Our algorithms are heavily weighted toward actual sales at Smashwords, Smashwords retailer partners and to libraries. 
     
  3. Release your next book as an ebook preorder - Books released as preorders sell significantly more copies than those that are not.  Preorders you earn across the Smashwords distribution network will boost your odds of appearing in multiple shelf categories, especially the top shelf, "Featured New Releases." Listen to Episode 4 of the Smart Author Podcast to learn how to make ebook preorders work for you. 
     
  4. Distribute your books with Smashwords - Your sales at Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive and others will improve your placement in each shelf.  If you’re not distributing with Smashwords, we can’t give you credit for your sales.  
     
  5. Adopt and continuously refine your best practices - This is where professional bestselling indies are separated from the rest.  If you think you’ve adopted all the best practices and you’re done, think again.  Here are two free resources that will increase your sales at every retailer: 
    A.  The Smart Author Podcast – Start with the first episode and then listen to the rest in sequential order.  The Smart Author Podcast represents a free masterclass in ebook publishing and marketing.  It guides you step-by-step from the very basics of ebook publishing to more advanced topics.  Listen for free at Apple Podcasts or any other major podcast directory.  For direct links to the most popular podcast sources – or to listen right now over your web browser or read full edited transcripts of each episode – visit https://smashwords.com/podcast

    B.  Smashwords Book Marketing Guide - The new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide identifies 65 free marketing ideas that will help you make your books more discoverable and desirable to readers.  If you’d rather listen that read, the entire book is serialized on the Smart Author Podcast starting with Episode 10
  6. Run promotions using Smashwords Special Deals.  It’s super simple to launch a Special Deal.  Click to your Dashboard’s Coupon Manager, create a coupon, and mark it as a public coupon.  Two of the nine shelves feature books that are drawn from the Special Deals catalog.
     
  7. Check your categorization - When you upload a book to Smashwords, we ask for categorization information.  Some authors make the mistake of giving their book a single categorization when dual categorization is usually more appropriate. For example, if you write Christian Romance, you might want your book to be categorized under fiction: romance: christian and fiction: romance: clean & wholesome.  Each categorization opens up the opportunity for your book to appear on more customers searches.  Always choose the most specific categorization that accurately reflects the targeted reader who will enjoy your book the most.  For example, fiction: romance: paranormal is the virtual shelf a paranormal romance fans would visit rather than fiction: romance: general.
     
  8. Promote your book at all stores - On your website, blog and in other social media promotions, provide a direct hyperlink to your books at all retailers served by Smashwords, including the Smashwords Store.  Each book you sell at Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Kobo and other Smashwords distribution partners will also help you sell more in the Smashwords Store, because sales there will raise your visibility in the Smashwords Store.  And each sale you earn at Smashwords can get you listed on the Smashwords home page in the “Recent Purchases at Smashwords” shelf. 

Q:  Can I contact the merchandising team at Smashwords to get placed on a shelf?

No.  Each book’s placement in the shelf is determined by actual customer sales, and by the reader’s search preferences.  See the prior question on how to maximize your odds. By basing placement on merit, as measured by sales and our other secret sauce factors, it creates a level playing field for all authors.  Your selection isn’t based on whether someone at Smashwords thinks your books are worthy, or is a personal fan of yours.

Q:  Can I pay to have my book featured on the Smashwords home page, or advertised there?

No.  We don't want to sell you advertising.  We want to sell your books. 

Q:  I’m friends with someone who works at Smashwords.  Can they help me get featured on the Smashwords home page?

No, sorry, no friends and family shortcuts.  Please refer to the tips above.

Q:  Can you tell me more about the algorithms that drive each of the shelves above?

I’ve shared quite a bit above already.  We want to discourage attempts at gaming the algorithms so we’re keeping the exact ingredients of our secret sauce secret.  We plan to continually adjust the algorithms as we work to do an ever-better job at surfacing books that will thrill customers who shop at the Smashwords Store.  We also don’t want to encourage writers to waste their precious time obsessing over how to please algorithms. Instead, focus your energy on pleasing readers and all else will follow. 

Q:  How much can I expect to sell in the Smashwords Store?

Keep your expectations low.  Although hundreds of thousands of readers pass through our store’s virtual doors each month, our store is still relatively small.  At present, on average, sales in the Smashwords store typically range between what our authors sell at Scribd and Kobo, and about half of what they sell at Barnes & Noble.  Every author’s mileage will vary.  Bottom line, our store is a small retailer but one you shouldn’t miss.  You’re likely to pick up new readers who wouldn’t find you anywhere else.

Q:  I work at a large publisher with thousands of high-quality titles.  Can I deliver my books to Smashwords in bulk via ONIX?

At present, no, but please drop us a line (next item below has contact info) if you have a proposal for our consideration.  In the meantime, please upload books one at a time per normal.

Q:  Where can I provide feedback or suggestions for the Smashwords home page, or for new shelf categories and themes?

We want to hear from you!  We’re excited about the improved discovery experience for the Smashwords home page, and we look forward to enhancing it further in the future.  Please click the “?” icon at top of any Smashwords page to send us your comments and suggestions.  We always appreciate your feedback, positive or negative.


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33 comments:

Tracy Falbe said...

I'm thrilled with your updates. I've always managed to sell a few dozen ebooks a year right here at Smashwords. I also buy the bulk of my ebooks here because it's my favorite place. Despite the many criticisms over the years, I think SW is clear and easy to use. I've found a few titles with the firehose too. I'm glad that you're keeping one firehose shelf. As a suggestion, you might want to think about a "random picks" function on the category level. It could be fun for readers to click on and see 4 or 5 random titles in their desired category. I've often wished that all ebook retailers had this because curation becomes such a popularity contest based on reviews and newness that titles tend to age out and get buried forever.

Shawn said...

This is long, long overdue, and I wholly applaud it. I think this will not only help authors, but will help Smashwords too.

I agree with Tracy above: "random picks" is a good add-on.

Leeanna Morgan said...

Congratulations, Mark and team! The changes are fantastic.

Paul Samael said...

I can see the commercial logic of the new interface but I'm a bit bemused by the results in practice. My books are all free and whilst I wouldn't expect you to promote them as hard as paid for books, I hope you'd agree that having at least some free books of reasonable quality helps to draw readers to the site (hopefully they will buy some paid-for stuff as well). But if I select "Free" from the menu across the top of the page, hardly any books appear in the category my books are listed under ("Literature" - which I also accept is probably not your best selling category!). For free books, you obviously can't do an algorithm based on sales, but you have download figures plus ratings and reviews - so why so few results in the shelves? I note that reviewer ratings also seem to have disappeared as a way of filtering results.

Is all this something you're still working on or are you taking the view that free books don't deserve any real visibility in the new interface? Sorry to strike a negative note - generally I think Smashwords is a really good platform and you have done self-published authors a great service.

Pat Donovan said...

catagory, number of titles pls?

(chuckle) i'm dead. It took me a while to get to the sf and it's all I read.

Robert Easterbrook said...

Sucks if you're not a best seller. People should be able to discover books through search, not by word of mouth. If people can't find your books because they do not appear in any search except under your name - people who don't know you won't search your name - then that is pretty nasty for authors who do not have email listings or expensive marketing or sales.

Mark Coker said...

@Tracy, thanks! A shelf called Random Picks? I think we could have fun with that. I like the idea of a shelf that can help bring new attention to more seasoned books. I'll add that to the list for consideration!

@Shawn, thanks for that vote on Random Picks.

@Leeanna, thanks! Your books were popping up in the shelves all the time during our pre-launch testing. :)

@Paul, thanks for this awesome observation. You found a hole we want to fill. We were already contemplating a "Most Downloaded" shelf that would capture both free and priced books so that might be the path we take to address what you discovered. You might see a new shelf soon. We've always been strong advocates for free, especially when those free books help introduce new readers to authors with books to sell at a price. We see that dynamic in play with series. Series with free series starters usually earn the author more than series with priced series starters.

@Pat, can you clarify your question or suggestion? You want to see the number of titles in each category?

@Robert, we'll certainly be thinking a lot about this as we iterate the algorithms. Democratization is in our DNA. To be clear, we're not looking to replicate the same search experience on the new interface as we do with the classic interface. The classic interface makes every title in our catalog potentially discoverable if you drill deep enough. The search bar and other entry points across the site allow additional views into titles that aren't necessarily bestsellers. The new interface aims to present books that have achieved a certain level of reader endorsement. In the meantime, the Recent Purchases shelf is one feature that is within reach of any author with books that sell, even if they're not bestsellers. One sale can get you exposure. Though I want to emphasize that authors should keep sales expectations low. Most sales at present are not driven by the home page - they're driven by readers following hyperlinks from outside Smashwords that lead to specific book pages. Whereas the classic interface did a good job of chasing a lot of potential readers away from Smashwords, we hope the new interface invites readers to stick around and explore more of the amazing diversity of books to be found at Smashwords. Thanks for the comment.

Emma Laybourn said...

While I think the new interface looks good, I find its usability somewhat restrictive. I've recently been trawling the free children's books looking for ones to recommend on my blog: but with the new interface this has suddenly become much harder. For instance, on searching a category such as 'Action and adventure/Pirates', I can no longer get a list of books with the best reviews or the most downloads, and can only see five books at a time, which makes it much more difficult to trawl back and find older books. Nor can I see the length of a book until I click on it. (With children's books this matters.)
Since so many of Smashwords' readers are attracted by the easy access to free books before deciding to buy, I feel it would be a big mistake to make the bulk of the free books effectively invisible. So although I appreciate the massive effort that's gone into the new site, I feel there are some tweaks still to be made. Maybe you could highlight the fact that the classic interface can still be used to browse in depth. At the moment, newcomers to the site are not likely to realise that an alternative interface exists.

AC Adams said...

Hello,

I like the interface. I too would like to see the number of books in each category, also a "see all" tab that will show all of the books in a category at once, like apple books does it. As an author, I'm curious to know if the first five or six book we see on each category before we click the arrow, are the books ranked? In other words is the first book we see in a category the number one seller and the second book number two, etc?

Pamela Cummins said...

A HUGE thank you to Mark and the Smashwords staff! It’s awesome that you made and will continue to make updates to the website based on feedback from authors and readers. This new update, among numerous other reasons is why I always inform my readers of the Smashwords bookstore. Personally, I do the majority of my book shopping at Smashwords because I know the author is paid the highest percentage on their books than any other eBook store. Now, I can scan the bookshelf option first, if I nothing tickles my fancy – I can always do a search or switch back to the old site. Well Done!

Inkstain said...

Got all excited over nothing. We agree with Robert Easterbrook above. Some of us are satisfying readers in narrower categories, but obviously don't deserve the love of Smashwords?

Just once, as the publisher of a series of Historical Fiction, Greece and Rome (ancient), "The Embers of Empire," it would be nice to see you do something special for that category to the advantage of all?

But no, it's still the spotlight on bestselling romance and erotica, again getting the bulk of your attention. Never a special promotion for 'sword and sandal' fiction.

Too bad.

Susan K. Stewart said...

I like the new store. It looks more inviting. However .... most of the books featured are fiction. How about a nonfiction category? Trending, best-selling, whatever. Just a way to feature more nonfiction on the home page.

BillSmithBooks said...

I really like the new interface, with a couple of caveats:

* I would love if it if each shelf section was a "click through" link that goes to the classic interface with the relevantly sorted books -- the right/left scroll only carries so many choices, it would be nice to be able to scroll through more choices more quickly.

* It would be great to have a genre/subgenre "tag cloud" option prominently featured -- hit the tag cloud button and it takes you to a page with relevant tags under the cloud, very similar to the "tag cloud by author" section for each author. Tag clouds can both help readers narrow down their options and steer them in the right direction if they "kind of know" what they are looking for but not exactly.

Maybe add a "most popular authors" under each category/sub catgory and for each tag when clicked?

Kris Rusch and others talk often about the "discoverability" problem with online book stores and I absolutely think it is an issue -- the tag clouds help with the serendipity of "I never knew this existed, cool! I must get it now!" which is really the biggest competitive advantage bricks and mortar stores have.

But overall -- nice design. I miss the "firehose" because there was always the "hey that's new and cool" potential, but yeah, it created a very distorted view of Smashwords as a whole based on what happened to be coming through at the moment.

George Phillies said...

Looks pretty. As a thought, being able to expand in particular the new arrivals group to the full page might be something to try someday.

Congratulatiosn again on reaching a half-million books.

Justin said...

Fantastic! As an author with over 400 books, I absolutely LOVE the way you have decided to go with the website. It not only caters to the reader but the author as well.

Great job!

David Mac said...

Is it top series-starters or top-series starters?

Might a future option be to switch off some of the shelves? Half a century of practice having shown that being trendy or "best-selling" does not necessarily mean I want to read the words, though it may be worth a quick look as you pass by.

Personally am not much on judging a book/story by it's cover, and the new interface is much less immediate for additional information, so I hope the classic viewing will continue in some form. {Going straight to it to more closely examine a shelf would be neat, especially after customisation.}

Not seeing a ratings filter on new interface - apart from at discover more classic. That option, as with an interface or category change, throws away any modifiers previously applied.

Bill Kendrick said...

@BillSmithBooks, @George Phillies, & @AC Adams - The "Firehose" is still available to you via the "Newest" sort option, over in the classic interface (e.g. here) as well as in its own shelf, "Newest Arrivals", in the new interface. The deeper you dig, the older the books, all the way back to the very oldest.

@AC Adams - Yes, as with the classic interface, where the first book on the first page is the "most [whatever]" (newest, best selling, most downloaded, etc.), the second book is the "next most [whatever]", and so on. Of course, the algorithms to decide how to arrange them is sometimes quite complicated (and as Mark noted, subject to change, as we refine things).

@David Mac - "Top Series Starters" are the starting books -- the first books in the series -- of top-selling series. Sorry about the ambiguity there. :)

And yes, may be open to adding shelves based on book ratings, as well as perhaps other data points (author popularity, etc.).

@Susan K. Stewart - Indeed, on the home page, where you're seeing things from the point of view of our entire catalog, you'll still see a lot of fiction, since it sells the most. (Though right this moment, I'll note that a Nonfic book is in the #1 spot in Bestsellers.)

Of course, all you need to do to focus on the kind of book you want (e.g. Nonfiction) or specific category or genre is to navigate to the category in question! (e.g., Romance novels, or Business books.)

Gabriella West said...

This new storefront looks like a good move. I have a slightly related comment: Will you be getting rid of the Google Plus buttons soon? Nobody's going to be using this now, as the platform has been declared dead by Google. So it would be smart to get rid of it before the actual thing goes away! Just a thought. I can't be the only one who is irritated by seeing that button...

Robert Nagle said...

This is excellent news, and you (and authors) may be interested in a new feature I'm introducing on my blog to promote Smashwords authors. (
described here
).

Once a month (and possibly more often) I'll be running a roundup of ebook giveaways and promotions. I'll also be running regular reviews.

The first column runs on Saturday November 24, and the deadline for submitting your promotions is 11:59 PM on Thursday November 22. Deadline for the December article is Saturday December 15, 2018 11:59 CST (to be published the day after).

In addition to running a list of promotions, I am also giving free ad space each month on my blog for select SW ebooks. My site is a member of the SW Affiliate program.

Authors, if you want to forwards me info about your promotions, send them to smash @ fastmailbox.net by the deadline above. I posted guidelines about how to submit .

Mark, if you want to spread the word about this promotional opportunity, please do! (I'll forward to you the first Smashwords roundup when it's out). I'm committed to doing this for at least 6 months.

If you remember, I wrote a March roundup about overlooked SW gems during Read-an-Ebook Week . Now it will be a monthly thing. Thanks.

Robert Nagle,

K.C. Taylor said...

Amazon is phasing out the Also-Boughts row in their bookstore. Less and less people are seeing it on book pages now, so organic reach has dropped a ton. At the same time, all the ads and sponsored products are turning customers off.

Organic reach should be important for Smashwords to set itself apart, especially at a time in the book world where no one makes even minimum wage with their stories without a significant ad budget that's only growing more expensive. Be. Different.

#9 said...

Can you fix the issue with your image processing where the areas that should be pure white on a cover have some sort of graphic corruption?

For example, look at this book's cover.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/nicholaswstuller

The areas that should be completely white, aren't. You can just barely make out some horizontal lines that shouldn't be there that are slightly off-white. I have linked a zoomed in version below to better illustrate what I am talking about. These horizontal lines are not visible in the full-size version, however, the smaller thumbnail-sized version with the graphical corruption is the one that gets sent out to all the various retailers.

https://i.imgur.com/ajOKYt7.png

Kevin Shlosberg said...

@ #9 Can you please contact our Service Team with this concern? You can reach us by clicking on the big ol' question mark at the top of any Smashwords page or the Support link in the footer menu of any Smashwords page.

Thanks!

N Brown said...

Personally, Mark, I think, in your usual erudite and seemingly reasonable way, you've chucked all those authors, who helped to make Smashwords from its early days, well and truly under the bus. Smashwords has become another forum that wants to distance itself from what it regards as a 'lower breed' of writer. Shame on you. You've joined the snobs who think writing and publishing should be an exclusive club where only the successful deserve visibility.

Robert Zwilling said...

If I don't use your advertising avenues, and I put out books for free, I'm not going to show up anywhere in your new display system?

Using prenamed shelves reminds me of goodreads which is totally unsearchable and trend setting reminds me of amazon, which is totally unscalable.

My question is, are you going to keep the classic button or get rid of it.

Perhaps you could rename the classic button so readers would have a better way of sorting through the selections by knowing the there are two different ways of doing it versus thinking there are two different ways of looking at the same results.

Kate Jay-R said...

I'm afraid I hardly sell any books on Smashwords, only when I do free and they show up as a 'purchase'. I agree with the other comments. I'm always hoping that Smashwords will do something that will make a real difference. I have archived some books so I can go exclusive with Amazon who are still the big boys for selling ebooks. I imagine if you're a bestseller or write commercial fiction then the algorithms will be on your side, but for the rest of us, we will sink without trace.

nlo said...

Great, Mark! Really. I always thought Smashwords undersold itself as a place to sell books (rather than focus on distributing them elsewhere). Sad that the other stores have gone downhill, but many also lack a proper discovery engine (which, IMO, should combine what some people like with the discoverability of a bookstore where a certain randomness arises).
I've kept my books here because of the control over coupons/ebook formats is very impressive. Look forward to getting more out here.
I will say only one of my books is at KDP & not here, and that's because it has many pictures (and I'm leaning that way in the future) and is too large for Smashwords. Is there going to be a solution around this for graphic stories etc?
Thanks, and this is seriously big news in the underground publishing world.

Dusk Peterson said...

Speaking as a reader, here's what I like about the new interface:

* The algorithms, which, if they work as well as Amazon's algorithms, should provide great discoverability.

* Your tweaking of the erotica and adult fiction settings.

* The changes to stop the gaming.

Here's what I miss:

* While highlighting the most prominent books on the front page of each category is fine, I want an easy way to be able to work my way down the full list of books within each shelf. Clicking on a caret to see four books at a time is painfully slow and doesn't encourage me to browse very far at all. I consider that sort of design the very *opposite* of discoverability.

* I miss the "Most downloads" and "Highly rated" buttons at the top. I did a Find search and found them buried down on the sidebar, but those are buttons that I use a lot.

* I *really* miss having the story summaries show in the listings. That was something that I always thought made Smashwords more attractive than other e-bookstores.

I agree with what @BillSmithBooks says: "I would love if it if each shelf section was a 'click through' link that goes to the classic interface with the relevantly sorted books." And @Robert Zwilling said, "Perhaps you could rename the classic button so readers would have a better way of sorting through the selections by knowing the there are two different ways of doing it versus thinking there are two different ways of looking at the same results." That would combine the best of the old with the best of the new.

@Bill Kendrick said, "The 'Firehose' is still available to you via the 'Newest' sort option, over in the classic interface (e.g. here) as well as in its own shelf, 'Newest Arrivals', in the new interface."

First of all, as a reader, I never regarded the classic interface as a firehose. It was quite easy to narrow the selection to the most prominent books by clicking on the "Bestsellers," "Most Downloads," and "Highly Rated" buttons. You're disparaging a design of yours that actually worked quite well for me as a reader. :)

Secondly, (1) a new visitor isn't going to think to click on the "classic interface" button, and (2) with the newest arrivals on the new interface, you still have to click on a caret after every four books. Do you know how long it takes to glance through the listing for a hundred books that way? You're going to give your customers carpal tunnel syndrome. :)

So again, you could combine the new with the old by having the top page of each category lead to the classic interface in an obvious manner, such as a "See all books in this category" link.

Thank you again for the new good stuff! I hope you can continue to refine the design.

#9 said...

I like the redesign, but there is an issue with titles being duplicated on the front page. There are a limited number of spaces available and having the same book appear multiple times is a missed opportunity to entice potential readers into clicking on a book that looks interesting.

I understand that a book may be deserving of appearing in the top spots across several categories, but if someone isn't interested X under Featured New Releases, they probably aren't going to be interested in X under Trending Now and Bestselling Books.

For those unfamiliar with the site, these duplicate entries may even give them the impression that you don't have that many books for sale.

To put things in perspective, imagine going to the YouTube homepage and seeing thumbnails for the same SNL clip three times, the same NFL highlight two times and the same movie trailer two times. That would be dumb, right?

:/ said...

Not sure how this is better. With the new interface, I don't any way for someone to stumble upon my book accidentally. They would have to type it in. How is this better than the old format?

:/ said...

Also, when is "My Brilliant Memoir" by Sally Smithfield going to be released? I've been waiting eight years, for Pete's sake! :-(

Kate Jay-R said...

@ :/ - not sure what you mean about 'being released'. Smashwords is a self-publishing platform so you would release yourself as long as it gets through the meat grinder

S.C Wade said...

So Smashword used self published authors to get to their magical 500,000 number and now only want to display the best selling ones throwing the rest of their authors under the bus and kicking them down the road. So let me get this straight if I am already an author with books selling well on your site you will put my next book (whether it be good or bad) on one of the featured lines. But as a new author as you said in your remarks above you have 15 min to get a shot at staying on one of your featured time lines for readers to find you. Otherwise your book gets buried in never never land and only someone specifically looking for your book and putting it in the search line can find it at all on your site? Explain to me how your all about helping new authors get started. I am sure readers think they love it but will find limited choices as time goes on and you start to play gatekeeper of what is and is not displayed for them.

Sawyer Hughes said...

I 100% agree with this. To be honest I would expect much more free books for indie authors like this gentleman and myself are trying to promote our writing. Hopefully someone downloads a free book, than they feel like they can invest their money when we decide to charge. I cant find any of my books on here and I'm thinking its because what he said. Has it got to the point to write about banana hammocks or charge to see my book shown? Also, wheres all the reviews?? The review system is broken here and it's the only reason I havent published a book here recently. I suggest fiverr to anyone who feels this way. Publishing here has been so frustrating and produces self doubt