Saturday, December 31, 2011

Smashwords Year in Review 2011

Welcome to my annual Smashwords year in review.

2011 was another strong year for Smashwords and our authors.

We're ending the year with over 92,000 titles published, up from 28,800 at the end of last year.

In my 2010 year in review post, 75,000 was my stretch goal for this year, so we beat it by a good margin.

Smashwords today supports over 34,000 authors and small publishers around the world, up from 12,000 a year ago.

I launched Smashwords four years ago with a crazy idea to change the way books were published, marketed and sold. I believed authors should have the freedom to publish directly to their readers without the interference of publishing gatekeepers. My ideas were not unique. The great Dan Poynter has been evangelizing the virtues of self-publishing for over 30 years.

I’d like to think we’ve helped bring Dan’s vision to life. Smashwords married self-publishing with ebooks, and we did it with a free platform that enabled any writer, anywhere in the world, to easily publish an ebook using nothing more than a word processor. We took the printing press – once under the sole dominion of the publisher – and put it in the cloud for all to use.

Unlike publishing services that earn their income by selling paid services to authors, Smashwords doesn’t sell services. Smashwords earns income only if we help sell books. We earn a small commission on sales equal to 10% of the list price for distributed books, and 15% of the net for books sold at our retail operation. We think our approach aligns our interests with the interests of authors. The more we help you sell your book, the better we all do.

What started as crazy dream has become a reality. We've created a business that empowers authors to reach readers with their words. Smashwords authors collectively earned millions of dollars in 2011. More importantly, we've helped tens of thousands of authors enjoy the freedom to publish and get read.

When we launched in early 2008, many writers viewed self-publishing as the option of last resort. Self-pubbed authors were often ridiculed as "vanity" authors, and much of the most vitriolic criticism came from fellow writers. We don’t hear much of that anymore. Self-publishing is finally earning the respect it deserves.

Today, self publishing is the option of first choice for many first-time authors. Previously published authors - the backbone of Big Publishing, are also wading into the indie waters. Most start with their reverted-rights works. Then they catch the indie bug and release unsold works, and then they move on to original first releases. You might think of it as a graduated progression toward enlightenment that starts with baby steps before the big leap. More will take those first steps in 2012, inspired by other successful indies, possibly inspired by you.

I think few people in the traditional publishing industry comprehend how this indie author revolution will transform their business in the next few years. Their world is about to be turned upside down.

Unfortunately, when faced with simultaneous convergence of multiple big trends (the rise of ebooks, the rise of the indie authors, the shift of bookselling from brick and mortar to online), most big publishers have taken actions counterproductive to their own self-preservation. They're trying to grab author rights they don't deserve. They're trying to the hold the line at 25% net royalties for ebooks, which works out to a paltry 12-17.5% of list. That line can't hold when authors can earn 60-80% list by self-publishing, and enjoy better distribution.

The power of publishing is shifting from large publishers to authors. It's what I’ve predicted for four years, and now the trend is plain as day for anyone who chooses to see it. What happens when authors lose faith in Big Publishing? This was the subject of my blog post earlier this year, Nietzsche and the Downfall of Big Publishing, inspired by what I thought were interesting parallels with the Arab Spring.

2011 was the year indies proved they can out-publish, out-compete, out-distribute and out-sell the large publishers. Look no further than the bestseller lists at major retailers to see how the indie insurgents are scaling the lists. A few have even landed in the NY Times ebook bestseller list. We’ll see more of this in 2012.

The Indie Movement Reaches Adolescence

Indie authors, free of the legacy business practices and expense structures of the large publishers, are beginning to feel their oats.

If the indie author movement was a person, it would just now be entering puberty. It's in that gawky awkward pimply stage of life. The participants are filled with unbridled optimism for the future, confident they're writing the new rules for the future (and they are!).

Visit any writers message board and you’ll find writers plotting the future of publishing. Sure, the skeptical observer will find petty internecine squabbles reminiscent of high school, and copious uniformed opinions dripping with unfounded speculation, fear, greed, envy and aspiration. But dig deeper and you'll see something profound is happening. These newly fledged indie ebook authors (old timers are the ones with two or three years of experience) are piecing together the secrets of successful modern day publishing.

They’re sharing information, debating, arguing and leading the revolution that is upon us. We're witnessing the rise of the indie author collective, and the collective - warts and all – is giving rise to an intelligence and sophistication that will redefine publishing for the better.

The practice and professionalism of self-publishing grew by leaps and bounds in 2011 as indie authors collaborated. The best indie authors and small presses are publishing books of equal or higher quality than traditional publishers, and they're doing it faster, smarter and less expensively. Because the indies are earning 60-80% of the list price as their royalty, they're earning higher profits while producing a product that is more affordable and more accessible to more readers around the globe than ever before.

As some lucky indies strike gold (and let’s be realistic, most indies do not sell well, just as most traditionally published books don't sell well), they share their secrets in real time and inspire all authors to raise their game.

We're witnessing a publishing renaissance that will lead to more readers, more reading, greater literacy, and greater and more amazing published works than could ever have been realized under the old gatekeeping system.

As I've often stated here and elsewhere, traditional publishers are in the business of selling books, not publishing books. They acquire books they think they can sell. Nothing wrong with that, unless you’re an author whose work is not perceived as commercial, or you lack the fame of an established platform, or you’re a reader who appreciates more choice at less cost.

Writers write for reasons different than publishers publish, and it's at the nexus of these opposing motivations that the indie author revolution took root.

Today’s indie ebook author is at the right place at the right time. Print is in decline as reading moves to screens, brick and mortar fades, and book buying moves online.

The Free Printing Press Helps Shift Publishing Power to Authors

In the old world of two or three years ago, publishers controlled the printing press and access to distribution. Today, thanks to free ebook publishing and distribution tools like Smashwords, the printing press is free and available to any author, and distribution is open to all.

Retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and Amazon deserve a lot of credit for welcoming indies to their virtual shelves. These ebook retailers are hungry to carry the books of indie authors because these books satisfy their customers (they sell). Retailers also understand that readers could care less about the name of the publisher on the book’s virtual spine.

The implications of this revolution are profound. Writers are now in charge. The writer decides when their manuscript graduates to published book. Readers decide which books are read.
Along with this power shift also comes the responsibility for authors to honor the best-practices of the best traditional publishers. Readers have little tolerance for anything less, and this is how it should be.

In this age of abundance where consumers have unlimited access to myriad high-quality sources of entertainment and knowledge - much of it accessible for free - writers need to up their game. Those who honor the reader by publishing great books will reach the most readers.

Book marketing has always been a word of mouth business. If you write a book that touches your reader’s soul, or inspires them with passion or knowledge, your readers will market your book for you.

There's never been a better time to be a writer. The opportunity to reach readers with words has never been greater.

Against this backdrop, you might understand why I’m so excited about the future I see for Smashwords authors and publishers. Our business is dedicated to helping authors stake their rightful claim to this bright future.

So let's turn the page to Smashwords...

If I were to sum up our focus in 2011 in one word, that word would be infrastructure.

Smashwords has been profitable for 15 months. We're reinvesting these profits to build a solid foundation upon which we’ll deliver continuous service enhances to our authors, publishers and retailers for many years to come.
Our development roadmap calls for over 500 minor and major service enhancements. Some are so minor you might not notice them. Others we think will knock your socks off. The Smashwords you see today barely scratches the surface of what we think is possible.

The bulk of our development effort this year focused on building a scalable technology infrastructure that can support one million or more published and distributed books (or, about 10X our current size). To enable this future, we invested heavily in infrastructure. Much of this infrastructure build-out is invisible to users, and if we do our job right it remains invisible. You don’t care how we build it, you just want what we build to work for you, whether you're an author, publisher, retailer or reader.

Notable Smashwords Milestones 2011

Before I review the plans for 2012, let’s summarize some of the notable business, technology and competitive highlights for 2011:

1. People - There are real people behind Smashwords. 12 months ago, we were barely three employees. Today we're 13. We've got a great team here in California, all of whom are dedicated to serving our authors, publishers, retailers and customers. We value every client.

2. Platform infrastructure - We completely rearchitected the underlying Smashwords platform this year to improve scalability, reliability, performance and security. As one of the Twitter founders once said, developing a fast-growing web service is akin to rebuilding a rocket ship in mid-flight. I grok that. The Smashwords platform has a lot of complex moving parts. Most of our last six months of development work has been focused on this infrastructure under the hood; the nuts, bolts, gears, glue and magic that hold our systems together. Most people never think about infrastructure except for when it fails. The proof in our pudding: Our infrastructure improvements have led to fewer website outages and faster page load times at the same time our catalog of books and traffic have exploded.

3. Distribution - We revamped our technical integrations with our retail partners so our books can flow to them faster and more accurately than ever before. Most of our retail partners also upped their games to accommodate our incredible increase in title volume. This is not to say everything is perfect. It is not. We view distribution as a never-ending work in progress, and we will continue to work in a constructive manner with all our retail partners to explore how we can improve our mutual performance.

4. Meatgrinder - We completed multiple updates to our Meatgrinder conversion engine, both in terms of scalability and also capability. On the scalability front, earlier in the year Meatgrinder was taking up to 30 hours to convert a single ebook. We tripled conversion capacity and now complete most conversions within three minutes. On the capability front, we improved Meatgrinder's ability to produce higher-quality books by adding greater styling control, automatically generated NCXes, and automatic error correction for some common formatting problems.

5. Categorization - We're in the final stages of a complete remapping of our categorization system to provide complete support for the latest BISAC categorization specifications. We're now supporting more categories than ever. Good categorization is a foundational element of what comes next in 2012.

6. Discovery - Multiple items here. Books aren’t purchasable unless they’re findable (or tripped over or stumbled upon or recommended by a friend or promoted), and that's where discovery comes in. We kicked off 2011 by adding support for long book descriptions (4,000 characters). We updated the shopping cart so it recommends up to 12 other books by the same author. In March, we launched the official Smashwords Facebook page which now gets thousands of visitors each week (thanks to the great volunteer efforts of Smashwords author John Low!) including many readers looking to discover new authors. In June, we acquired a block of 50,000 ISBNs from Bowker so we could give them away for free (ISBNs enable distribution to Apple, Sony and Kobo).

7. Reporting – We increased the frequency of our aggregated sales reporting from retail partners. We introduced a new downloadable spreadsheet that maps each quarterly payment to the sales behind that payment, and we made the data easy to query by author, retailer or title. For sales at, we improved our email notifications so authors can more easily monitor more information about about their sales as they happen. Customers, too, now receive more complete purchase confirmations to help them access their books faster and easier.

8. Literary Agents – We updated our publishing platform so literary agents can now upload and manage the indie ebook efforts of their clients.

9. Globalization – On a percentage basis, most countries outside the US are just now entering the exponential growth phase. Their markets are where the US market was two, three or four years ago. Within a few years, the market for ebooks outside the US will dwarf the US market. We took a number of steps in 2011 to expand the global footprint of Smashwords ebooks. We signed an expanded distribution deal with Apple which increased our international coverage to Apple iBookstores in 32 different countries. Today, nearly half of our Apple sales come from outside the U.S (I’m surprised the media hasn’t picked up more on Apple’s impressive international success in 2011). We updated our payment and reporting systems to track VAT, which is handled differently by different retailers. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of Smashwords authors around the world, we released translated Smashwords Style Guides in German, French, Spanish, Italian (also the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide in Italian) and Dutch. A Bengali version is completed and a Danish version is in the works.

10. Smashwords Gifting - Our final big feature of the year launched on Christmas eve. We now make it easy for customers (and authors too, if they choose) to purchase ebooks as gifts. We think this is a nice complement to our popular Smashwords Coupon tool.

11. Competition - Many new ebook distribution competitors came on the scene in 2011. Back in 2008, we were the only game in town when we became the first ebook distributor to focus exclusively on self-published authors. Now you have choices. We feel honored that so many authors, small publishers and agents continue to choose Smashwords over the competition.

The ebook market remains in an exponential growth phase. 2011 will probably show ebooks at 20% of the US book market, up from 8.3% the year before and 3% the year before that. Based on preliminary post-Christmas sales results I’ve seen for Smashwords books at Apple, B&N and Sony, I think 2012 could see ebook market share in the US rise to between 40 and 50%. I expect many more competitors will come online in 2012 and 2013. I've been in technology for the last 20 years, so I'm intimately familiar with the inevitable boom and bust cycles of things touched by tech (and I have the old scars to prove it). Ebooks are in the boom phase now, but they cannot continue the torrid pace of growth. The new competitors and the noise they create will draw more authors, books and readers into the market, and will act as a growth catalyst for a couple years. When the exponential growth ends and the bust comes (and yes, it will come), some of these new competitors will disappear. Any one of us could disappear if we fail to build profitable businesses that add measurable value to those we serve.

In 2011, the most formidable competition came from Amazon, which has been on a multi-year rampage to disintermediate anyone or anything that stands between Amazon and their target customer. Three weeks ago Amazon launched KDP Select, a new opt-in service that represents their boldest broadside yet aimed at competing ebook retailers. KDP Select requires participating authors to remove their books from all retailers except for Amazon. I blogged why I think KDP Select is bad for authors (here and here). While most Smashwords authors share my view that exclusivity is a dangerously slippery slope to trod, thousands of authors enrolled titles in the Amazon program before Christmas. Of the approximate 65,000 or so books enrolled in KDP Select, nearly 6,000 books came from - and disappeared from - Smashwords as a result.

Despite the punch in the gut from Amazon, we still managed to grow our title count during the month of December (now over 92,000 titles), albeit at a lower rate of growth than we’re accustomed. Preliminary holiday sales results indicate our remaining authors enjoyed an impressive sales bump in the first few days following Christmas at Apple (up over 70%), Barnes & Noble (up over 100%) and Sony (up 30%). I don’t yet have results from Kobo and Diesel. If the record-breaking post-Christmas bump follows the same pattern as last year, sales will moderate a little in the next two weeks and then stabilize and begin growing again at a new normal that’s measurably higher than the pre-Christmas sales levels. These strong holiday sales, and the tremendous growth we’ve seen this year both in the US and internationally only solidify my conviction of the importance of authors maintaining broad and diversified distribution. Every retailer – even the smallest – works to introduce authors to new readers they wouldn’t reach otherwise. Yes, distribution is our business so my view is biased. I believe in the value of retailers and the distributors who serve them.

Someday, if the Amazon powers see fit, we’ll distribute more of our titles to them as well (we’re currently distributing about 200 titles to them). We’d much prefer to engage with Amazon as a partner rather than as adversary. We think we and our authors can help make their business more successful, just as we’ve helped our existing retailer partners grow their businesses. A good distributor helps retailers ingest and list more titles more efficiently and at less cost than operating their own self-pub platforms.

What's Coming to Smashwords in 2012?

Smashwords is an ebook distributor, so our priorities will be guided by this focus. Service enhancements will concentrate on making our books more available and more discoverable by readers.

In 2012 we’ll shift more of our attention from backend infrastructure to customer-facing user experience. The new features and service offerings will leverage the new infrastructure foundation we built in 2011.

Here’s a brief sampling of what you can expect from Smashwords in 2012:
Discovery – We’ll complete the BISAC recategorization mentioned above very soon, and from there we’ll turn our attention to our retail operation and give it some much overdue love and attention on the discovery front. We’ll add more search options to the Smashwords home page, more alternative discovery paths to help readers find books they'd enjoy reading, and we’ll revamp the algorithms driving our best-seller lists so they more accurately reflect the collective intelligence and reading preferences of our customers. Once that initial stage is completed, we’ll leverage some of these new features on a couple secret projects that might surprise some folks, one of which will help our retail partners identify Smashwords books that deserve extra promotion.

More Distribution - We'll add more distribution outlets in 2012, the first of which we'll probably announce in the next two months (working on the technical integration now).

Faster Distribution – We currently ship to retailers once a week. In 2012, we’ll phase in more frequent shipments to those retailers that can support it so books appear faster and metadata changes reflect faster. This will give authors greater control over their distribution.

Faster Reporting - Some Smashwords authors have already noticed that we've increased the speed and frequency of retailer sales reporting over the last two months. We will continue to make incremental progress here for the retailers that can support it.

Faster Premium Catalog Approvals - There are two variables influencing Premium Catalog approval times. The first variable rests with the author or publisher, and that's the responsibility to upload a book that's formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide. A well-formatted book gets approved on the first review. We'll continue to improve the Smashwords Style Guide and other resources to help make it faster and easier for authors to format their books. The second variable is on our side, and that's the vetting process where we manually review each title for adherence to the Style Guide and the Smashwords Terms of Service. We've added two new recent hires to the vetting team and will add additional staff in the new year as required. The goal is to get approvals down to under three days. The faster the approval, the faster we can distribute you to retailers. In addition to throwing people at the challenge, we'll also continue to develop new automated tools to accelerate the process.

More Control - There are several planned features related to providing authors greater control over more aspects of their publishing, distribution and metadata. One such feature planned for the second half of 2012 is Smashwords Direct, which will give authors the option to upload their own pre-formatted .epub files (and other formats) if they choose. Also look for greater control over foreign currency pricing.

My thanks to you

As another fabulous year draws to a close, I want to express my sincere appreciation to every Smashwords author, publisher, reader, retailer and service provider partner (shout out to the awesome pros on my “Mark’s List” who help their fellow indies with low-cost formatting and cover design services). We created this for you.

With your trust, confidence and support, we will continue to serve you. When you utilize our distribution services, you’re directly supporting our mission to reshape book publishing for the benefit of authors and readers everywhere.

Happy New Year, and safe holidays. Peace all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smashwords Authors Experience Blowout Christmas at Barnes & Noble

It looks like it was a blowout Christmas for Smashwords authors at Barnes & Noble.

I'm looking at the early sales results for December 25 and December 26 for the titles Smashwords distributes to Barnes & Noble. For these first two days, sales are running about 225% (125% higher) of the daily sales average for November through mid-December (12/29 update: sales are remaining strong. 12/28 sales, three days after Christmas, were 260% of previous 30 day rate, or up 160%).

While it's too early to draw definitive conclusions, I think the numbers speak well for B&N headed into January.

FREE Smashwords books were also popular with B&N customers, racking up hundreds of thousands of downloads in two days. At the current download rate, our authors with free books will yield close to 10 million downloads in the next 30 days from B&N alone.

In the next couple days I should have sales results from the Apple iBookstore, where Smashwords authors were already enjoying a surge in sales over the last two months. Early reports of iOS activations (the operating system for the Apple iPhone and iPad) indicate Santa stuffed a lot of stockings with iPhones and iPads too.

The numbers also speak well for the importance of authors maintaining broad, uninterrupted distribution to multiple ebook retailers. Earlier this month, Amazon played the Grinch who stole Christmas when it convinced thousands of authors to remove approximately 65,000 books from Amazon's competing retailers two weeks before Christmas. Thankfully, only about 5,000 of those books came from Smashwords authors, with most Smashwords authors heeding my warnings (here at the Smashwords blog and also at the Huffington Post) and their own gut instinct that exclusivity is generally a dangerous idea. I wonder how many of these authors will feel duped? I imagine some will do well by their decision, but I suspect most will have shot themselves in the foot.

If the patterns we observed last year hold true again, we'll see a massive stepping up of the sales rates across all retailers in the first few days following Christmas, followed by a week or so of moderation, and then a new normal going forward that is significantly higher than the sales rate for the weeks and months immediately preceding Christmas.

Here are the top 20 Smashwords bestsellers at Barnes and Noble for the two day period of December 25 and 26:

Smashwords Top 20 at B&N (total dollars), December 25-26

  1. Demon Dark - Penelope Fletcher
  2. Fate (My Blood Approves Series #2) - Amanda Hocking
  3. Wisdom (My Blood Approves Series #4) - Amanda Hocking
  4. Arousing Love - M. H. Strom
  5. My Blood Approves (My Blood Approves Series #1) - Amanda Hocking
  6. Mud and Gold - Shayne Parkinson
  7. Voodoo Kiss (Ancient Legends) - Jayde Scott
  8. Shotgun Groom - Ruth Ann Nordin
  9. Fires of Prophecy: The Morcyth Saga Book Two - Brian S. Pratt
  10. The Witch's Ladder - Dana Donovan
  11. A Job From Hell (Ancient Legends) - Jayde Scott
  12. The Queen's Blade II - Sacrifice - T C Southwell
  13. Immortal - Lauren Burd
  14. Demon Day - Penelope Fletcher
  15. Settling the Account - Shayne Parkinson
  16. Doomed (Ancient Legends) - Jayde Scott
  17. A Second Chance - Shayne Parkinson
  18. Warrior Priest of Dmon-Li: The Morcyth Saga Book Three - Brian S. Pratt
  19. The Mists of Sorrow: The Morcyth Saga Book Seven - Brian S. Pratt
  20. The Queen's Blade III - Invisible Assassin - T C Southwell
Congrats authors, and a warm welcome to the millions of readers who will discover and enjoy Smashwords books this holiday season.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Smashwords Introduces New Ebook Gifting Feature

Smashwords yesterday released a new ebook gifting feature.

Because Smashwords books are available in multiple ebook formats, our books are readable on any e-reading device.

Simply click to the book you want to gift, and click the "give as gift" button. The shopping cart will ask you for their name and email address. The lucky recipient will receive an email with a hyperlink that allows them to claim their gift. If they're already logged in to their Smashwords account, the book will appear in their Smashwords Library. If they don't have a Smashwords account, they'll be prompted to register.

Prior to this new feature, authors were unable to purchase their own books. One advantage of the gifting option over Smashwords Coupons is that the recipient, assuming they're already a Smashwords member, can simply click the hyperlink in the email and the book is loaded into their Smashwords Library. No purchase or checkout process necessary.

In the next few weeks, we'll add new features based on your feedback. We'll also integrate prompts into purchase confirmation emails and review reminders so your fans are encouraged to purchase your book as a gift for their friends.

We've created a temporary email address where you can send your beta testing feedback and bug reports. Email gift at smashwords dot com

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amazon Shows Predatory Spots with KDP Select

Amazon today announced a new service offering for authors and publishers who upload to their KDP platform: KDP Select. Writer beware.

At first glance, the program looks enticing. Amazon has created a $500,000 monthly pool of cash they'll distribute to participating authors based on the number of times your book is borrowed from their new lending library.

As they note in their FAQ, if your book accounts for 1.5% of the downloads during the monthly lending period, you'll earn 1.5% of the pot, or in this case $7,500.

But there's a catch. Actually, multiple catches, which are outlined in their Terms and Conditions:

  1. For the time your book is enrolled in the program, you cannot distribute or sell your book anywhere else. Not Apple, not Barnes & Noble, not Smashwords, not Kobo, not Sony, not even your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.
  2. If you violate their exclusivity terms at any point during the three-month enrollment period, or you unpublish your book to remove it from the program so you can distribute your book elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings, or you may get kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.
  3. Your enrollment, and thus your liability to Amazon, automatically renews every three months if you neglect to opt out.
Amazon has also modified the Kindle Direct Platform's user interface with the effect of making it almost difficult not to enroll your books. Where they once placed their pull down menu for managing your book's settings, they've now placed the enrollment link. The pull down settings menu is moved to the bottom of their dashboard.

Let's examine the implications for this new program, not only for authors but for the nascent ebook industry as well.

When authors enroll a title in the program, they're contractually obligated to remove their books from all other distribution channels.

Wow. Most indie authors appreciate their independence. This rule is quite restrictive.

Impact on authors:
  • Forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.
  • By unpublishing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales rank, making their book less visible and less discoverable when and if they reactivate distribution to competing retailers
  • Makes the author more dependent upon Amazon for sales. Do you want to become a tenant farmer, 100% dependent upon a single retailer? As some of you history buffs may know, tenant farming, and the abuses of power by landlords, was a primary contributor behind the great Irish potato famine.

Impact on competing retailers:
  • Harms other retailers by denying them access to your book.
  • Many authors will permanently stop distributing to Amazon's competitors once they become fully dependent upon Amazon for the lion's share of their earnings
  • Motivates more customers to purchase at Amazon since Amazon has this exclusive content.
  • Discourages formation of new ebook retailers around the world
The new Amazon KDP Select program strikes me as a startling example of a predatory business practice. Amazon has the opportunity to leverage their dominance as the world's largest ebook retailer (and world's largest payer to indie authors) to attain monopolistic advantage by effectively denying its competing retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc) access to the books from indie authors.

The move will also make it more difficult for new retailers operating outside the US to gain footholds in their respective markets if they lose fair access to the content readers want to read.

Amazon might argue that indie ebooks today only account for a fraction of overall book industry sales. True, but that fraction is growing quickly as indies scale all the best-seller charts. This trend will continue as more and more professional authors turn their back on traditional book publishers in favor of self-publishing. Amazon is smart. They understand indies are the future of book publishing.

European Commission and US Department of Justice Unwittingly Working to Create Amazon Monopoly

Amazon's new service offering comes at a time when the European Commission and even the US Department of Justice are scrutinizing the legality of agency ebook pricing. Agency ebook pricing, as you'll recall (see my blog post last year on our move to agency pricing) allows authors and publishers to set their own price and receive higher royalty rates. Amazon is a long time foe of agency, and as a result is probably enjoying a virtual wet dream as they savor the implications of potential restrictions against the agency model.

If agency pricing is limited or overturned, it would allow Amazon to price ebooks at below cost and effectively eliminate the profitability of all its competing retailers. This would also discourage the formation of new competitors. It's ironic that the EC and US DOJ are pursuing these ill-advised campaigns that could lead to less competition in the ebook market, not more.

What the EC and US DOJ fail to realize is that big publishers (the target of these investigations), which (I agree) price their books too high, are becoming less relevant to the future of book publishing as authors lose faith in the myth of big publishing. The problem of high prices from big publishers is not an agency issue, it's big publishers pricing their books too high.

Agency Pricing Enables Indie Authors and Small Publishers to Lower Prices

Despite fears to the contrary, we see evidence at Smashwords that agency pricing might actually encourage lower book prices. Indies, which are enjoying great benefits from the agency model (Smashwords only distributes to agency retailers), are using agency to offer customers lower prices, not higher prices. The average ebook at Smashwords is priced under $5.00, and we have over 15,000 books priced at FREE. Why do indies price their books lower when they have the freedom to charge anything they want? The reason is that indies realize that consumers value fair prices, and as a result these lower prices give indies a competitive advantage over the large publishers.

When an indie author can earn 60-70% of list with agency pricing, they can set a lower price yet still earn more per unit than if the book was sold under a wholesale pricing model (where the royalty would equal 43-50% of list). As an example, if an author wants to earn $2.00 from each book they sell, at a 70% agency rate they'd price the book at $2.85. Under the wholesale model (50% discount off list), they'd need to price the same book at $4.00.

The agency model puts profits in the pockets of the author or publisher, where it belongs, while allowing the retailer to earn a fair profit. Agency pricing relieves retailers from the pressure of competing on price and instead forces them to compete on customer experience, such as developing discovery tools and recommendation systems that help match readers with the books they'd enjoy reading.

How should indie authors respond? Horror might be a good start. Recognize that your long term interests are best served by enabling a vibrant and competitive global ebook retailing ecosystem to develop. Distribute your book to as many retailers as possible. A world of many ebook retailers, all working to attract readers to your books, is much preferable to a world where a single retailer dictates all the terms.

Obviously, I have a horse in this game. Smashwords is probably the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks. We publish and distribute over 90,000 ebooks from 33,000 indie authors and small presses around the world. We exist to serve our authors and publishers. We supply Amazon's competitors. We'd love to supply Amazon as well, but they're unwilling to provide us agency terms.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bright Future for Scandinavian Digital Publishing

Approximately 90 Scandinavian publishing executives gathered a couple weeks ago in Copenhagen, Denmark at the historic Carlsberg brewery for the annual invitation-only Scandinavian Publishing Executive Meeting. The conference was organized by Schilling, a strategic consultancy for Scandinavian publishers.

The conference took a decidedly international theme by importing speakers from Spain, the U.K. and United States, including yours truly representing Smashwords, and Nyree Belleville, a best-selling Smashwords author who writes under the pen names Bella Andre and Lucy Kevin.

Scandinavia is representative of the vast majority of global ebook markets where ebooks still represent less than one percent of overall trade book sales. Like the markets in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia which have experienced a rapid transition to ebooks over the last two and three years, the building blocks are now falling into place for Scandinavia to experience similar exponential growth as readers transition from paper reading to screen reading.

Personal highlights of the conference:
  • Apple's Nordic region manager talked about the iPad's potential to unleash the creativity of authors and publishers
  • Pete Downton, a former VP at Warner Music, urged book publishers not to repeat the errors of music publishers (who dealt with change by raising prices and suing customers).
  • Nyree Belleville talked about how she'll earn over $1 million this year selling indie ebooks, and why she's unlikely to go back to traditional publishing
  • Presentations from four interesting publishing startups - 24Symbols, Jellybooks, Smashwords and Valobox - exploring new business models to connect readers with books
  • An overarching theme of unprecedented opportunity for the world's authors and publishers to leverage the power of global distribution to reach new markets with ebooks that were previously unreachable via print.
I wrote a blog post over at Publishing Perspectives exploring the above sessions and others in greater detail. Click here to read A Bright Future for Scandinavian Digital Publishing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smashwords Style Guide Translated to Italian (Guida allo Stile Smashwords)

The Smashwords Style Guide is now available in an Italian translation, Guida allo Stile Smashwords.

The Italian translation is thanks to the generous volunteer effort of Giuseppe Meligrana, an Italian publisher at Smashwords. Giuseppe is also planning to translate the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

The new Style Guide will make ebook publishing and distribution more accessible to thousands of Italian-language authors. As one of a handful of authorized global Apple aggregators, we're pleased to distribute Italian authors not only to their home country's Apple iBookstore, but worldwide as well.

As we announced October 24, Italy is among the 26 new iBookstore countries now served by Smashwords distribution.

Prior to these new stores, Apple operated in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Australia.

Of the 26 new stores added by Apple, the Italian store was the top performer by unit sales for Smashwords authors and publishers for the week ending November 20.

Two fun facts about the Italian language, per Wikipedia:
  1. Italian is spoken by 55 million people in Italy, and 6.7 million outside the country
  2. Between 120 and 150 million people worldwide use Italian as a second or cultural language
The release of the Italian Smashwords Style Guide follows the recent release of French and German Style Guide translations. Additional translations are in process for Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Bengali.

If you're a Smashwords authors or publisher and you'd like to translate the Style Guide into your native language, please see the instructions here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Smashwords Launches Ebook Publishing Service for Literary Agents

Back in August, I blogged about The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap, an online strategy document I created to help literary agents assist their clients' e-publishing efforts.

Today, after several weeks of beta testing, we announced new features at Smashwords that give agents more control over their Smashwords listings. We created a new Smashwords account category called Agent (previous two were Author account and Publisher account).

Once an agency upgrades to Agent status, their books will appear at Smashwords as "written by author name, agented by Agency Name" in the Smashwords metadata. When the books are distributed to Smashwords retailers, the books will appear as published by the author, not the agent.

The distinction between Agent and Publisher is important. Previously, agents who uploaded books to Smashwords utilized our Publisher tools which automatically identified the agent as the publisher. Most agents consider their clients, the author, as the publisher. The author controls the rights but the agents assist the e-publishing by providing ebook formatting, cover design, uploading, metadata management, payment aggregation and promotion services.

We also created a special Smashwords home page catalog for literary agents.

Literary agents have an important role to play in the next chapter of the indie ebook revolution.

Although any author has the freedom to easily self-publish an ebook through Smashwords, many authors would rather outsource this task to their agents so the author can dedicate their time to writing the next book, or promoting their existing books.

I see three immediate opportunities for agents to assist their clients' indie e-publishing efforts:
  1. Help their clients and their estates re-release reverted-rights works as Smashwords ebooks. If the rights haven't reverted, the agents can help their authors or estates obtain clear title to the reverted rights prior to e-publishing.

  2. Help the clients publish "interstitial" ebooks, such as possibly shorter unreleased works that can be released in between or in concert with traditional book release schedules. These interstitials can aid an author's ongoing platform-building activities, and can help catalyze traditional book sales introducing new readers to the author's work (note: it's helpful for the agent to coordinate interstitial plans with publishers if a publisher holds the rights to an upcoming book).

  3. Help publish unsold works, or works where the advance offered by the publisher was insufficient to merit the author giving up their rights to a publisher.

You can read our full press release, Smashwords Launches Ebook Publishing and Distribution Service for Literary Agents in the Smashwords Press Room. Here's an excerpt of quotes from the press release:

What literary agents are saying about Smashwords:

“Smashwords has offered what many other self-publishing platforms do not, a way for agents to be involved with digital publishing without having to take on the title of ‘Publisher,’" said Abby Reilly, E-Book Project Manager at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, based in New York. “Giving our clients a space in the new and exciting world of digital publishing, while continuing to shepherd all aspects of their literary careers, is a thrilling challenge for our agency. We are delighted to be working with Smashwords to make this happen.”

“Smashwords makes it easy to begin exploring the new digital terrain,” said Beverley Slopen, whose literary agency shares her name and is based in Toronto, Canada. “It is an exciting time in publishing, a time like no other, and our authors want to be there. They are pushing us to broaden our knowledge and our skill set. While ebook publishing is not a substitute for traditional publishing, it adds an amazing new dimension.”

“I have been an avid Smashwords supporter since its inception, and over the past three years have integrated digital publishing initiatives in the career plans of all my clients,” said Laurie McLean of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. “Most of my clients have both traditionally published books and ebooks in their bag of tricks, and it is exciting to see how they complement each other. While many people have been bashing literary agents as gatekeepers of the old guard in publishing, I feel that digitally-engaged agents are the perfect mentors to guide authors through these turbulent waters of opportunity. The new Smashwords Agent service has made my job even easier.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Smashwords Style Guide Translated Into French and German

Ebook publishing is now more accessible to more writers around the world thanks to new French and German translations of the Smashwords Style Guide.

Guide des Styles Smashwords and Der Smashwords Formatierungleitfaden are now available for free download at Smashwords, and will soon be available at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Diesel and Amazon.

Translations for Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are in the works (Update: Dutch and Bengali translations are now in process as well).

My thanks to Anne-Sophie Gomez in France for translating the French version, and Annemarie Nikolaus in Germany for the German version. Both of these authors volunteered their time and effort to help their fellow writers. Anne-Sophie and Annemarie are also both experienced formatters on my "Mark's List" list of low-cost formatters, so you can hire them for formatting jobs if you don't have time to do it yourself (send an email to list at smashwords dot com to receive the list via instant autoresponder).

The original English version of the Smashwords Style Guide has been downloaded over 130,000 times. I'm hopeful these new contributions by Anne-Sophie and Annemarie will help thousands of French and German writers achieve their publication dreams as well.

Ever since our launch in 2008, we always intended for Smashwords to serve as an ebook publishing platform for the world's writers. These new translations move us one step closer to fulfilling that goal. Today, over 30,000 authors, many of whom are outside the US, have taken advantage of our ebook publishing and distribution tools to publish over 85,000 titles.

If you're a Smashwords author and would like to help translate the Smashwords Style Guide to your native language, please leave a hyperlink to your Smashwords author page in the comments below (no email address necessary) and I'll contact you. The pay is horrible (no pay), though you will receive translation credit plus the admiration and respect of the thousands of authors you will help. Languages I'm most interested in at this time (corresponding to the 32 Apple iBookstore countries to which we now distribute), in alphabetical order, include: Bulgarian, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Greek, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Luxembourgish, Maltese, Norweigan, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, Slovene, and Swedish.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Praise of Simple Ebooks

I attended the PublishersLaunch eBooks for Everyone Else conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. It was a great conference. I enjoyed meeting with authors, partners, agents and even competitors.

I gave a short presentation that explored the benefits of keeping ebook publishing simple. I embedded the presentation below.

My message: The myriad e-publishing options can sound intimidating for first-time ebook authors, agents and publishers. I urged attendees to not make their e-publishing adventure more complex and expensive than necessary. Complexity limits accessibility and availability. Expense limits profits and increases the price for readers.

I shared how we approach publishing at Smashwords. When I look at what's selling at the major ebook retailers, 80-90% of the ebooks readers purchase are what I call "simple books." Simple books, by my definition, are straight narrative (like fiction or narrative non-ficition), or narrative plus images. Simple books offer well-formatted reflowable text that easily shape-shifts across multiple e-reading devices and formats.

Simple books are inexpensive to create. As any Smashwords author can tell you, a word processor is an incredibly capable ebook creation tool when you marry it with the Smashwords Style Guide and our automated Meatgrinder conversion technology.

Simple, however, does not mean substandard. Smashwords ebooks support good design with custom paragraph styling, intra-book hyperlinks, NCX navigation, glyphs and images.

Meatgrinder, because it's an automated conversion system, has always drawn skeptics who question our ability to create high quality books with automated conversion. Some of that skepticism has diminished over the last couple years as we've improved the technology, though critics remain, especially among those who offer paid conversion services. I've got nothing against these professionals, and I agree they're well-suited for more complex books for which Meatgrinder was not intended.

To accommodate the books from these ebook design pros, we'll offer a Meatgrinder bypass option called Smashwords Direct by the end of 2012. That means it's coming but it's not immediately imminent. Even when we offer that service, I expect most authors will still choose the Meatgrinder route because it's faster, cheaper and, well, simpler.

If you're considering Smashwords, I invite you download the Style Guide and learn for yourself how easy it is to create and distribute a high-quality ebook with Smashwords. Learn more here: How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple iBookstore Expands Smashwords Ebook Distribution to 26 New Countries

Apple this week dramatically expanded the international reach of Smashwords ebooks by distributing our catalog to 26 new iBookstores across Europe and Scandinavia.

Prior to this week, over 50,000 Smashwords ebook titles were available in Apple iBookstores in the US, Canada, U.K., Germany, France and Australia.

All Smashwords authors, publishers and agents enjoy immediate access to this expanded distribution.

Below is the list of new iBookstore countries now reachable through Smashwords.
Czech Republic

Go Global With Smashwords

Within the next few years, the global market for ebooks will likely eclipse the US market. Already at Smashwords, I can report that prior to this news, almost half of our iBookstore sales were coming from outside the U.S.

Although the US represents the world’s single largest ebook market today and is still growing rapidly, the US market is also the most mature. Growth rates in the US, where the ebook market has more than doubled each year for the last several years, are likely to slow thanks to the law of large numbers (you can't keep doubling forever!). I expect the US will end 2011 with ebooks accounting for 15-25% of trade book sales.

Contrast this with markets outside the US, where ebooks will account for probably between 1% and 5% of the market this year. These markets are only now beginning to enter, or will soon enter, exponential growth phases that will take them to 15-25% the next few years assuming their growth trajectories follow similar patterns seen in the US and other English speaking countries.

Indie authors will reap a two-fold benefit. They now have access to more markets, and these markets will grow faster than the U.S. in the years ahead.

The necessary ingredients for this growth include availability of affordable ebook content in concert with low-cost e-reading devices (dedicated e-readers, multi-function tablets like the iPad, smart phones, personal computers) powered by local-language ebook stores.

This is exciting news for indie ebook authors, not only for authors here in the US but also for indie authors in these new territories. Because Smashwords is an Apple-authorized global aggregator for the iBookstore, authors, publishers and literary agents around the world can use Smashwords to quickly and easily distribute local-language ebooks into their country's iBookstore, as well as to Apple iBookstores outside their country.

My thanks to our friends at Apple for introducing Smashwords books to these new markets.

If you’re not yet distributing with Smashwords, visit our How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords page. In addition to distributing to the 31 Apple iBookstores, we also distribute your book to the online ebook stores operated by Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore and to major mobile app platforms such as Stanza and Aldiko.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How Ebook Buyers Discover Books

Most writers write to get read, so how do readers discover ebooks?

To discover clues to the answer, I posted a survey over at Mobileread, the online forum popular with many ebook readers.

I challenged readers to select the single most common criterion they follow to discover their next read.

The results provide some interesting data points Smashwords authors and publishers might consider in their marketing efforts.

To capture a broad range of usable data, I suggested 12 answers, one of which was "Other." Respondents were allowed to select one answer only since I wanted to identify the single most important discovery criteria.

As of this writing, 206 people answered the survey. Click the image to enlarge it.

Key findings, plus my observations:

1. The most-selected answer was "Recommendations from fellow readers on online message forums, blogs and message boards," with 29% of respondents choosing this. By contrast, only 4% selected, "Personal friend/family member recommends it to me." I think this is fascinating, because it implies readers might trust the collective wisdom of strangers and online acquaintances more than they trust the recommendations of immediate friends and family. At the risk of placing too many eggs in this basket, remember 71% selected something else.

2. The second most common answer was, "I look first for my favorite authors," coming in at 18%. This makes sense. As I mention when I present my Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success talk, the author is the brand and if the author can earn the trust and loyalty of readers, readers will return to that brand for their next read. Readers in this group may also be more risk-averse. One respondent commented, "I'm at a point in life where I mostly stick with authors I already know and like. Why waste time and money on something I may not like?"

3. I found it interesting that the top two answers accounted for 47% of responses, with the other 53% of answers fragmented across ten other answers. This implies, I think, that in order for authors to reach the maximum number of readers, it requires them to orchestrate multiple touch points.

4. Several answers indicate buyers prefer a random discovery approach. Readers like to browse. Taken in the aggregate, random browsing rivals the single largest discovery method, with over 25% of respondents. The following are all random browsing methods: I browse book covers, and if it grabs me I investigate further (7%); I browse randomly then look at reviews (7%); I read free ebooks, and if I like the authors I buy their other titles (5%); I browse paper books at brick and mortar bookstores, then search for the ebook online (4%); I'll sample anything, and if it grabs me I'll download/buy it (4%). Most other answers involve some element of random browsing.

5. The Mobileread community has apparently abandoned traditional print media as their first choice for reviews and recommendations, with only 3% citing this as their preferred book discovery method. This isn't surprising, considering Mobileread is a hyper-focused community dedicated to e-reading. It's not representative of the entire population of book buyers. However, I think Mobileread does serve as a leading indicator of how consumer sentiment will change once readers make the transition to e-reading. Looking at the answers in aggregate, it's clear that over 90% of ebook discovery is occurring in the online realm.

6. I was surprised only 3% of respondents looked first to the bestseller lists, which scored just as poorly as print media reviews. Possibly it's a flaw in how I structured the survey. I was also surprised that retailer recommendations, such as the "people who bought this bought that," scored only 5%. Maybe if I asked, "Name the top three methods you use for discovery," these would have scored higher.

7. The "Other" answers, where I invited Mobilereaders to leave comments and elaborate, elicited 11% of responses. Judging from their comments, several of them found it difficult to choose a single favorite discovery method (in other words, they didn't follow the survey instructions which asked them to choose their #1). Of those who provided true "other" answers, several mentioned they discover books at libraries, or select primarily by title or book description (I should have included these as a survey options).

What to make of the results? How might authors and publishers focus their e-publishing efforts based on the data above? I think it boils down to the following:

  • Write a great book that resonates with readers and gives them something to talk about
  • Target readers who are active in online communities because they influence their fellow readers (The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide provides 30 online marketing ideas)
  • Maximize the availability of your book so readers can randomly stumble across it and sample it
  • Boring titles, unprofessional cover images and poorly written book descriptions are instant turn-offs
Do the findings above match your experience as a reader or author?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ebook Readers Buy More Books, Says New Harris Interactive Survey

A new Harris Interactive survey published today finds surging interest in ebooks and rapid adoption of e-reading devices.

Key findings:

  • E-reader usage is surging - 15% of Americans now use an e-reading device, up from 8% one year ago. One in six Americans who don't yet own an e-reader plan to buy one in the next six months.

  • Those with an e-reading device read more books - Whereas 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year and 20% reading 21 or more books in a year, among those who have an e-reader, 32% read 11-20 books a year and 27% read 21 or more books in an average year.

  • E-reader users buy more books - 32% of Americans report they have not purchased any books in the past year compared to only 6% of e-reader users. Whereas only 10% of Americans purchased between 11 and 20 books and 9% purchased 21 or more books, 17% of e-reader users purchased between 11 and 20 books and 17% of e-reader users purchased 21 or more books.

Click here to read the full ebook survey results from Harris Interactive, which also includes data on the most popular genres.

The survey was based on interviews with 2,183 American adults and was conducted in July.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Smashwords at Upcoming Conferences and Events

This weekend kicks off a busy speaking schedule covering eight conferences, seminars and workshops and at least a dozen panels and presentations.

If you're attending any of these events, please say hello. It's always great to meet Smashwords authors, agents and publishers.

Each event is hyperlinked so you can learn more. For most events, some or all of the event is open to the public but please pre-register in advance to confirm attendance.

September 16-18 (San Luis Obispo, CA): 27th Annual Central Coast Writers' Conference. The keynoter is NY Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry, who, btw, ran an in-depth interview with me on his blog yesterday. I'm participating in four sessions. On Friday, I'm participating the Tech, Toys and Digital Tools pre-conference workshop, and then on Saturday I'm on a fun panel that will do an American Idol-style evaluation of writers in the audience who request critiques (this should be interesting, at Smashwords I deliberately avoid judging author works). On Sunday I'll do a workshop on ebook publishing best-practices, and then at the end of the day I present a wrap-up keynote where I'll talk about the biggest trends impacting the future of publishing. My thanks to Laurie McLean, an agent at Larson-Pomada Literary Agents for introducing me to Judy Salamacha, the organizer of this conference who assembled such great speakers and workshops.

September 20 (Los Angeles, CA): Writers Guild of America. I'm speaking at a WGA workshop alongside authors Lee Goldberg (on Smashwords) and Alexandra Sokoloff (also on Smashwords). Topic: "E-Publishing: Self-Help for WGA Members."

September 21 (Los Angeles, CA): Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance. Topic: E-publishing Seminar. I'll provide a primer on ebook publishing, talk about big trends in publishing and how indie authors can exploit these trends, and then I'll wrap with my latest Seven Secrets talk where I review the best practices of the most successful Smashwords authors.

September 26 (New York, NY): PublishersLaunch Ebooks for Everyone Else, a conference produced by Michael Cader of Publisher's Lunch and Mike Shatzkin of IdeaLogical. It's full day seminar covering a bunch of cool topics of interest to authors, small publishers and literary agents. I'll talk a few minutes about how authors, agents and publishers can leverage automated conversion services such as Smashwords or those offered by some retailers to produce high-quality, low-cost ebooks. Also appearing at the conference: Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Group, Michael Tamblyn of Kobo, Scott Waxman of Diversion Books and the Waxman Literary Agency, David Wilk of Booktrix, Joshua Tallent of eBook Architects and other smart cookies you'll find here.

October 10 (San Francisco, CA): LitQuake. This conference looks so super cool I'm sorry I'm missing it. Adding to the coolness factor is Bill Kendrick, our CTO. He'll appear the evening of October 10 in a session titled, Want That Book Published? How to Navigate the New World of Publishing. Bill's fellow panelists include literary agent Ted Weinstein (Ted's on Smashwords!), Laura Mazer of Soft Skull Press and Penny Nelson of Manus and Associates Literary Agents.

October 19-23 (St. Pete Beach, Florida): Novelists, Inc. 23rd Annual Conference. Theme: New Rules, New Tools: Writers in Charge. I'll participate in multiple sessions. One session will explore the new publishing landscape, and will feature fellow panelists Don Weisberg of Penguin, Linda Quinton from Tor, Carolyn Pittis from Harper Collins, and Lou Aronica, a New York Times bestselling co-author, novelist, and former Publisher of Avon Books and Berkley Books. In another session, we'll explore how professional authors can maintain reader excitement between big book projects. This second panel features Don Weisberg, Linda Quinton and also includes the awesome David Wilk of Booktrix. Looking forward to meeting several Smashwords authors at the conference! Full speakers list here.

October 29 (Sunnyvale, CA): E-publishing workshop sponsored by the South Bay Writers chapter of the California Writers Club. I'm presenting an intensive 1/2 day seminar covering virtually everything you need to know to produce, publish, promote and sell an ebook. Click here for the workshop brochure (opens a PDF). I'll start with an introductory primer on ebook self-publishing, present the Seven Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success, and then will wrap with some advanced topics exploring issues like ebook pricing and retailer sales rank.

November 2 (San Francisco, CA): Ebooks for Everyone Else comes to San Francisco. The one-day information-packed seminar will feature several fresh faces not at the first event in New York City from September 26, including yours truly. I'll talk again about how authors, agents and publishers can leverage automated conversion systems such as Smashwords to produce high-quality, low-cost ebooks. Several agents will be on hand to discuss their indie ebook initiatives, including Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency, Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Scott Waxman of Waxman Literary Agency and Diversion Books, and Ted Weinstein of Ted Weinstein Literary Management. As I blogged earlier, I'm so excited about the opportunity for literary agents to help their clients do indie ebooks I created The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap to assist their planning and strategy. Find the full list of speakers here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Smashwords Reaches Three Billion Words Published

Smashwords reached another milestone yesterday. One of our authors published the three billionth word.

We reached two billion words four months ago, and one billion 11 months ago.

To put this in further context, in the last four months we averaged 8.3 million words a day. This works out to about 350,000 words per hour, 5,700 words per minute or almost 100 words per second. Can you hear the keyboards clicking?

Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform. We're simply a tool that enables the efficient publication, distribution and management of ebooks. Our mission is to unleash the literary talent of writers from every corner of the globe.

We're now publishing over 70,000 books from 28,000 authors. In our first year, 2008, we published 140 titles. That grew to 6,000 in 2009, 28,800 in 2010, and will likely surpass 90,000 this year.

We take none of this for granted. This growth is entirely thanks to Smashwords authors, agents, publishers, retailers and customers who have granted us the privilege to distribute and sell these books.

Every day, the 11 of us at Smashwords are working to better serve you. My thanks to you for your continued trust, confidence and partnership. With your help, the best is yet to come.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How to Self-Publish an Ebook with Smashwords: 32 Authors Share Their Tips and Tricks

The other week, I invited Smashwords authors and publishers to help their fellow authors by writing a "How to Publish an Ebook on Smashwords" blog post.

32 authors and publishers below shared their smarts in an engaging and diverse collection of first-person tips, tricks and experiences.

For their effort, each will receive a collector's edition Smashwords coffee mug.

If you know an author who's not yet publishing ebooks, please share this collection with them. Used in concert with our Smashwords Style Guide (the ebook formatting bible for Smashwords), these posts will make their publishing adventure faster, simpler and more enjoyable.

Smashwords Authors and Publishers Share their Smarts

  1. Julia Group - Publishing Wizard & Spy on Smashwords : Easy, peasey, lemon squeezee

  2. Kristy K. James - Helpful Tips For Getting Published On Smashwords

  3. AG Claymore - Publishing an eBook with Smashwords

  4. John H. Carroll - How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords

  5. Aaron Majewski - How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords

  6. Jeff Hendricks - Self-Pubishing eBooks with Smashwords

  7. Linda Pendleton (and Don Pendleton) - Ebook Publishing With Smashwords

  8. Red Haircrow - Sharing the Smashwords Love: My Story On Why & How I Came to Self-Publish

  9. Ian Thomas Healy - The Care and Feeding of THE MILKMAN: Super Secret Extra Cheesy Edition on Smashwords

  10. Susanna Mahoney - is the first step to publish your book for the world to enjoy

  11. Anna Patterson - My Road to Publishing a Book

  12. Dennis R. Blanchard - How I published THREE HUNDRED ZEROES with Smashwords

  13. Kevin Domenic - How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords

  14. Carol Anita Ryan - How you can publish on Smashwords

  15. Wendy Maddocks - My publishing experiences with

  16. Carolyn Brown - Tips for Publishing eBooks with Smashwords!

  17. J.L. Murphey - Publishing Smashwords Style

  18. Tommie Lyn - ...about formatting for Smashwords

  19. John O'Brien - How I published A New World: Chaos with Smashwords

  20. Jaye Seay - How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords

  21. Karen Woodward - Publishing With Smashwords

  22. Maranda Russell - Tips for Publishing on Smashwords

  23. Jody Kihara - Smashwords, Formatting, and Special Characters (Em-dashes and En-dashes)

  24. Lillie Ammann - Publishing Ebooks on Smashwords

  25. D.C. Sargent - How To Tackle Smashwords

  26. Dr. Tae Yun Kim - How the “Seven Steps to Inner Power” ebook was Published with Smashwords!

  27. Cameron D. Garriepy - How to self-publish via Smashwords

  28. B.C. Young - How to Publish and Distribute eBooks with Smashwords

  29. SiewJin Christina Jee - Smashwords, a blue mug and I

  30. David Derrico - How To Self-Publish With Smashwords

  31. Ruby Barnes - Ignore Smashwords at your Peril

  32. Sue A. Lehman - How I Published at Smashwords!

The Customer Perspective

We received this submission from a Smashwords customer in France who blogs and writes book reviews under the name, TheSFReader. Although it's not a how-to for authors, it provides interesting perspective on why one avid ebook buyer shops first at Smashwords (and also provides copius suggestions for future Smashwords features, so thanks!).
TheSFReader - I Love Smashwords, Don't You?

My thanks to everyone above for taking the time to share their tips and tricks for the benefit of fellow authors, publishers and readers.