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.