Saturday, October 31, 2009

Smashwords Launches NaNoWriMo Promo

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, kicks off November 1 with thousands of writers who will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in under 30 days.

Smashwords has launched a special promotion to help NaNoWriMo participants publish, update, share and promote their Nano works-in-progress.

Participants can upload daily updates to Smashwords. Their works-in-progress will be made available as multi-format ebooks, readable on any e-reading device, personal computers and many mobile devices.

All participating writers will receive promotion at within a special NaNo catalog, as well as distribution of their works-in-progress to Stanza, the e-reading app used by over 2.5 million people on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and to Aldiko, the e-reading app for Android smart phones.

NaNoWrimo participants who want to publish and update their works with Smashwords can visit the Smashwords/Nano Promo page. Writers who want to join NaNoWrimo should register at

The Smashwords/NaNo promotion is an experiment in social publishing, and will provide readers unique insight into the writing process.

Smashwords is offering this free promotion as a public service to NaNoWriMo participants. Smashwords is not an official sponsor of NaNoWrimo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Editor Unleashed and Smashwords Partner on New Writing Contest: Why do You Write?

Why do writer's write?

This is the subject of a cool new essay writing contest over at Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed writing community. Smashwords is co-sponsoring the contest, which carries a $500 prize for the winner.

Like the last Flash Fiction 40 contest we co-sponsored with Editor Unleashed, it's free to enter.

The top 50 entrants, as voted on by the Editor Unleashed community and a panel of expert judges, will be published at Smashwords in a free anthology (If you haven't seen the Flash Fiction 40 Anthology, download it here).

"Why Writers Write" will also be the subject of my next column over at Huffington Post. The topic fascinates me. As I wrote in my latest HuffPo column, like all artists throughout the centuries, most writers are severely under compensated for their work. Yet they keep writing, and they will always keep writing. Why?

Kudos to Maria for choosing such a fascinating and important theme. Learn more about the contest over at Editor Unleashed.

Tell me, why do you write? Add your comments in the comment field below.

November 16 update: My new column at HuffPo is up, "Why Do Writers Write?"

Image credit: Editor Unleashed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do Authors Still Need Publishers?

In my new post today over at Huffington Post, I ask the question, "Does Stephen King still need a publisher?"

I think the answer is no.

Once an author develops the platform and fanbase of a Stephen King, Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, why not self-publish? They can hire their own team of editors, designers, marketers and sales force, partner with a couple big distributors, and sell their books for less yet still make 2-3X the profit.

If publishers are going to remain relevant, they need to do what Stephen King can do for himself, only better.

The HuffPo post is an updated derivative of one I originally wrote here back in April, in which I speculated the risk of publishing would shift to the author. Given the changes we've seen in the industry since April, I'm more convinced than ever that author will continue to shoulder a larger share of the risk of publishing, and this will lead to a dramatic transformation of the publisher-author power balance in favor of authors.

For most of the last couple centuries, if you wanted your book published, you had to work with a publisher, because they controlled not only the printing press but the means of distribution as well.

Over at the Huffington Post story, a great discussion is already taking place in the comments. MJ Rose, well known as an early ebook advocate, a self publisher, and now a mainstream commercial author, argues that publishers remain relevant because they control access to brick and mortar retailers. I don't disagree. Publishers still control access to physical shelves.

Looking ahead, especially as ebooks rise from a likely 5 percent market share in 2009 to 30 or 50 percent within the next five years, publishers will be hard pressed to maintain the same relevance.

If in five years half or more of the market has gone digital, then that's half the market any author can distribute to without the need of a traditional publisher. Smashwords already has agreements in place to distribute books to several major online retailers as well as the top mobile apps, and within the next couple years we'll have all the major retailers covered.

How do you think the role of publisher will change over the next few years? Do authors still need publishers? Comment here, or join the discussion over at HuffPo.

OCTOBER 18 UPDATE: The column at HuffPo has sparked some interesting debate and discussion, at HuffPo, on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Some Twitterers, apparently concerned I was questioning the value of publishers (I love publishers BTW!), created a special Twitter hashtag of #publishersmatter and a spirited debate ensued (click the link to view the thread). Kate Eltham, a writer out of Brisbane, Australia, and the CEO of the Queensland Writer's Centre, contributed to the discussion with an intelligent response on her blog, Alphabet Soup.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Self-Publishing Book Expo November 7

November 7 in New York is the first annual Self-Publishing Book Expo.

I'm presenting a session titled, The Rise of Ebooks. My presentation will review the past, present and future of ebooks, and provide attendees actionable advice on how to publish, promote and sell their books. Stop by and say hi!

If you live near New York and you're either already self publishing, or considering self publishing, you'll get a lot of out of this conference.

The conference is packed with several other great looking sessions and panel presentations covering publishing, book distribution, book publicity and social media marketing. Some of the speakers on the other sessions include Bob Young of Lulu, Janet McDonald of Ingram, Brent Sampson of Outskirts Press, Andy Weissberg of Bowker, and publishing consultant Laura Dawson who also runs Bloggapedia. See the complete list of speakers and sessions here.

The event will be held 9:30am to 5pm, Saturday, November 7 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers at 811 Seventh Avenue, at the corner of 53rd Street. A mere $30 gets you in to the exhibits and session presentations. If you're an indie author and you want to show off your book with your own table in the exhibit hall, the cost is $325. Visit the Self-Publishing Book Expo web site for more information.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Ebooks are Hot

The subject of my second column at Huffington Post, clocking in at a healthy 1,200 words, is "Why Ebooks are Hot and Getting Hotter."

For those of you who want an abbreviated version (with a few new details thrown in), here are my top ten reasons:
1. Screen reading now rivals paper - Screens now offer a reading experience almost as good as paper. For some readers, especially those with vision impairments (like all of us over age 40!), screen-reading is often better than paper.

2. Proliferation of multiple high-quality e-reading devices - There are numerous killer e-reading devices, and odds are you're already holding one - your cell phone. Or, you're reading through one - your computer. More cool new e-reading devices and apps announced every month.

3. Oprah Winfrey - Oprah Winfrey sung her praises for the Kindle one year ago and set the ebook market on fire.

4. Early adopters are the new evangelists - Ten years ago, ebooks flopped due to high prices, limited content, poor screens and DRM complexity. Most early adopters were unimpressed. What a difference a decade makes. Today, most people who try an ebook have a "WOW" experience, and go on to evangelize ebooks to their friends.

5. Greater content selection - Hundreds of thousands of ebooks are available today, and many of them are free. Within a few years, it's likely nearly every book known to mankind will be digitized and accessible at a click.

6. Free books are gateway drug - Someone give Michael Hart a Nobel Peace price for creating Project Gutenberg, the non-profit, all-volunteer organization he founded in 1971 to distribute out-of-copyright works as electronic books. While it's difficult to name any single person as the father of e-books, it's fair to say Michael Hart shares DNA with the common ebook.

7. Portable library in the cloud - Books are moving from physical repositories (personal libraries, public libraries, book stores) to virtual repositories (personal online libraries, online public libraries, free online repositories, and online bookstores), and the reading world will be all the better for it. I still love my print books though.

8. The slush pile, digitally liberated - Indie authors are embracing ebooks in a big way. Why wait months or years for your book to be published in print when you can publish now on Smashwords in seconds? Like a giant slush pile of digitally liberated books, thousands of new titles - many born digital - are coming online each year. They comprise gems of undiscovered brilliance alongside works that might make your eyes bleed. Publishers are disintermediated as exclusive gatekeepers, the authors control their own destinies, and the readers decide what books go on to become big hits. Word-of-mouth meets viral social networking, and book marketing will never be the same.

9. Prices dropping - In my last HuffPo column, I argued Why We Need $4.00 Books. Response was generally favorable, though a few pundits thought I was nuts. This morning, I stumbled across this post from my buddy JA Konrath, who makes a strong case for why authors can earn more money self-pubbing low-priced ebooks as opposed to selling ebooks at the higher prices advocated by traditional publishers. Considering I've been preaching the concept of low priced ebooks = greater author profit for 18 months, I'm pleased Joe has proven the concept with real world experience. Check out his post.

10. Impulse buying - Ebooks are super-easy to sample and purchase in bulk. Some of the early data I've seen indicates ebooks readers buy more books. Very exciting. If anyone out there can point me to real data (supporting or contradictory - I want the truth!), let me know and I'll update this post.

If all of the above interests you, then my longer column over at HuffPo might interest you. Check it out, tweet it, share it and tell a friend.

Think 10 reasons aren't enough? Did I miss anything? Feel free to add a #11, #12, etc. below in the comment field.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Smashwords Billion Word March

We just hit 150 million words of original indie ebooks published at Smashwords, up 50 percent from only seven weeks ago.

I believe in big goals, so here's crazy one: Come join with Smashwords as we strive to reach one billion words by the end of 2010.

It took us 17 months to get where we're at today. Can we grow 700 percent in 15 months? Sure, why not, let's go for it.

As Smashwords grows, it opens up exciting new opportunities for our authors and publishers to connect with readers around the globe.

Please encourage every author and publisher you know to upload their books to Smashwords. We offer free, easy and instant ebook publishing, and free distribution to major online retailers. No hidden fees or packages to buy. 85 percent net back to the author or publisher.

To learn how to make your books available to a worldwide audience in minutes, visit this link for How to Publish at Smashwords.

Update - November 3, 2009: We hit 200 million words today, up 33% in less than one month.

Update - January 7, 2010: We hit 315 million words today, up 57% in two months. Only 685 million words to go.

Update - April 14, 2010: We hit 500 million, halfway there!

Update - June 4, 2010: We hit 600 million

Update - September 10, 2010: We hit 872 million. Wow. Over a quarter billion words in three months, almost 100 million per month.

Update - October 23, 2010: Goal reached ahead of schedule!!! See the blog post here.

Update - December 27, 2010: With five days to go in the year, we hit exactly 1.25 billion words at about 1:20 Pacific time today.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Time for the $4.00 ebook?

The Huffington Post launched a new books section today, and I'm one of their new bloggers. For my debut column, I challenge publishers to offer $4.00 ebooks.

No, I'm not suggesting we destroy the livelihoods of publishers and authors. Instead, I want to help save publishing from its slow downhill march to irrelevance as more and more readers abandon books in favor of lower cost forms of information and entertainment.

Books today are too expensive for the vast majority of the world's literate consumers. Imagine how much smaller the book market would be today if books were only offered in hard cover? We need lower cost formats, now.

I don't argue that all books should be priced at $4.00. The new price point would be for ebooks only, and only for a subsection of a publisher's catalog. For example, wouldn't it make sense to resurrect a publisher's out of print backlist via $4.00 ebooks?

While I'm sure some people will think I'm smoking opium to suggest such a low price point, my proposal isn't really that outrageous. Book prices are already dropping, and authors are helping to drive the drop. At Smashwords, we already have hundreds of authors who set the price of their books at zero. Don't quote me on this, but the last time I checked, about 20 percent percent of our titles were priced at free yet they accounted for over 80 percent of our downloads.

Authors and publishers should consider creating new lower cost formats for their books, just as trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks are lower cost alternatives to the old hard cover book.

Since ebooks cost so little to produce, print and distribute, the format is ideally suited to the $4.00 book. For authors who sell a $4.00 book at Smashwords, they still net $3.05, or about eight times more than the average 5 percent royalty on a mass market paperback.

If we don't offer the consumer what they want, publishing is in for a world of hurt. The challenge is to learn how to balance what the consumer wants against the rights of authors, publishers and booksellers who deserve fair compensation for bringing us these books.

Read the column at Huffington Post.