Friday, July 26, 2013

Smashwords Introduces Preorder Distribution to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo

Smashwords authors and publishers now have an exciting and powerful new merchandising tool:  Preorders at Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Today we launched a public beta of our new preorder feature, available immediately to over 70,000 Smashwords authors and publishers around the world.

With preorders, Smashwords distributes a book to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo in advance of the official onsale date.

During the preorder period, customers place advance orders.  At some retailers such as Apple, these advance orders accumulate in the days and weeks prior to the official onsale date and then credit all at once on the date of release, which causes the title to spike in the retailer's bestseller lists.

I expect preorders to become an essential best practice for all professional indie authors, because the benefits are too significant to pass up.

Here's a quick summary of preorder benefits:
  1. Advantageous placement in genre and store-wide bestseller lists - All preorders credit on day one of the release, the onsale date.  This can cause the book to spike in the charts.  The advantageous placement in the bestseller lists increases visibility and discoverability, which builds buzz and sales.  
  2. Increased odds of hitting national bestseller lists? - Preorders can potentially increase an author's odds of hitting one or more of the major bestseller lists such the New York Times or USA Today because the preorder concentrates a greater number of sales into a shorter period of time.  Lest you find yourself salivating uncontrolably, stop!  Keep in mind that most authors will never hit these lists, preorder or not.  Preorders are simply a tool that give you merchandising advantage.  It's up to your book, your fans and your savvy marketing to catapult you onto these lists.
  3. Simultaneous availability - Your book is available on sale at these major retailers on the same day.  No more waiting days for your new release to appear for sale at each store.  With a preorder, we distribute your completed book in advance of the onsale date, and fans will be able to download it at their favorite store on the same day.
  4. Advance marketing - Authors can execute more strategic advance marketing campaigns to build buzz and accumulate orders leading up to their official release date.  Do chapter reveals on your blog or Facebook page.  Hold contests.  Run promotions on your other titles to build readership in advance of your big release.  Encourage your fans to mark their calendars so they can be the first to download and read your book.
  5. Your existing titles help market your preorder - The retailer will display your preorder title alongside your other books in their store.  If you have multiple titles on the market already, update your back-of-the-book "Other titles by" listings to advertise your upcoming release.
  6. Capture the reader's interest at the moment you have their attention  - It's one thing to tell the reader you have a new book coming out in a month or two.  Will they remember to come back then to find and purchase the book?  A preorder enables you to capture the reader's order at that moment they're buying all your books, or all the books in your series, or at the time they've stumbled across your web site or blog.
  7. Increased on-store merchandising - Your advance preorder also makes it easier for retailers to slot your book into special preorder promotions or genre-related merchandising promotions.  If a retailer sees that your book is experiencing a high rate of preorders, they're more likely to select the book for increased merchandising love.
Advance staging of book releases has always been a common best practice in traditional print publishing.  It's interesting now how some of those same best practices are migrating to the digital world.  Now indies can access the same tools.

We began testing preorders a few months ago at Apple, starting with the successful launch of Kirsty Moseley's Free Falling and followed by Abbi Glines' Forever Too Far.  Both titles hit #1 or #2 in Apple's largest markets.

In the last two weeks, following multiple successes with Apple, we expanded our testing to include Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

A partial list of Smashwords authors who have participated in our preorder beta, or who have preorders in process, include for R.L. Mathewson, Emma Hart, Claudia Hall Christian, T.M. Nielsen, Maree Anderson, S.H. Kolee, Lilliana Anderson, JD Nixon, Rebecca Forster, Quinn Loftis, J. S. Scott, Eve Langlais, Ambush Books, Elizabeth Reyes, Kristen Ashley, Marquita Valentine, Joseph Lallo, Ruth Ann Nordin, Chanda Hahn and Camilla Chafer.

Here are Some Quick Start Tips (more tips on our Preorder Help page
  1. The preorder option is available on the normal Smashwords upload page.  Simply select a release date in the future.
  2. The book you upload should be formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide, as usual.  The moment you upload, check for AutoVetter errors, and download your .epub to check the formatting quality. Don't let formatting problems delay your preorder!  If you need to make a correction, simply click Dashboard: Upload New Version  to correct.  If you're new to Smashwords and don't have the time or patience to do your own formatting, get it right the first time by hiring low-cost formatter from Mark's List.
  3. The book should be complete and either a final or a near-final draft, and not a work in progress.  The file you upload will be used to generate a sample of the start of the book which retailer customers will download and read, so make it solid!  
  4. Preorders work best if you select a date that's at least four to six weeks out.  The longer the time out, the greater your runway to accumulate orders.  This also provides ample time for Smashwords to deliver your book, provides time for the retailer to process and load it, and gives you several weeks of runway in which you can point readers to each retailer's preorder page.  A runway of four or more weeks also gives you time to make last-minute corrections (more on this below).  If your release is only a week or two out, you should still load it as a preorder because a couple days of preorder listing is better than none!
  5. Even if you have a release that's a couple days away, or even tomorrow, enter it as a preorder today.  Although the book may not make it to the retailer in advance of the onsale date, you'll at least get a headstart to get your formatting right, achieve Premium Catalog distribution, and allow the retailer time to receive, process and list the book.  Also, once you enter your preorder, you'll have the URL for your Smashwords book page.  Although the Smashwords store doesn't accept preorders, you can start building this URL into your marketing campaign, blog and website.
  6. Since you'll be uploading your book in advance of the onsale date, we expect that you may want to make last minute updates, cover tweaks and typo fixes.  This is fine.  Just make sure you upload your final final at least 10 days in advance of the release date to avoid last minute panics.  In reality, we and our retailers typically process updates much quicker than 10 days, but it's always good for you to budget in a buffer in case you run into unexpected delays with your editors or proof readers.
  7. Your preorder listings will likely appear at each retailer at different times, depending on shipment schedules (we ship daily to Apple and Kobo, twice-weekly to B&N) and vary by the processing speed of each retailer.  As each preorder page appears at each retailer, make it a marketing event and a cause for celebration with your fans, and provide a direct link to your fans on your blog, website and on social media.
I founded Smashwords to democratize publishing and give writers the tools and knowledge they need to become professional publishers.  Preorder capability is one such powerful tool.  I look forward to watching what our authors build with it.

Please share your feedback as you test this new feature.  I'll create a temporary email hotline at where you can contact the development team and myself to report bugs.

My thanks to the many Smashwords authors who participated in our private beta, and my advance thanks to you for participating in this rollout.  Good luck!

August 20 2013 update!  To learn more about ebook preorders, check out my post at The Huffington Post titled, eBook Preorders Help Indie Authors Hit Bestseller lists.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

JD Nixon's Heller Named Book of the Week at Apple iBookstore

A big congrats to Smashwords author JD Nixon.

Heller, book one of her fun and amazing mystery and detective series by the same name, was named Book of the Week this week by the Apple's iBookstores in the US and Canada.

Click here to download Heller for free at the iBookstore.

The free series-starter is receiving heavy promotion on the iBookstore's home page.  As of this writing, 12 hours into the promotion, it's already charting as the #1 most-downloaded mystery and detective title in both the US and Canada.

This is what Apple says about Heller in its Editors' Notes:
Each week, we select a great book and bring it to you, for free, as our Book of the Week.  Sexy, suspenseful, and delightfully snarky, this romantic thriller set in Australia follows Tilly, a young woman whose risky new job comes with an even riskier boss: a demanding, drop-dead-handsome security expert with a wicket protective streak.  Heller is the first novel in an ongoing series.  Its blend of deftly written prose, color characters, and a fast-paced plot make for a sassy story of danger Down Under that'll leave you breathless.
 Last week, Heller was featured as Book of the Week in Apple's iBookstores in Australia and New Zealand.

Two weeks after the Book of the Week
promotion in Australia, JD Nixon's
priced titles dominate six of the top
seven bestseller spots in the crime
and thrillers category.
To give you a sense of the power of such a free promotional feature when combined with a super-awesome series that wows readers, as of yesterday, almost a week after her Book of the Week promotion ended in Australia, JD's six priced titles held six of the seven bestseller spots in Apple's Australia iBookstore in the crime and thrillers category.

JD first published Heller at Smashwords on May 30, 2011, and distributes via Smashwords to Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony.  In the last two years, she has continued to write and release new titles in the Heller series and build a global fan base. In 2011, she also launched her Blood Ties series, which now comprises three titles.

We interviewed JD Nixon last year here on the Smashwords blog.

Book 5 in the Heller series, Heller's Decision, is available for preorder at Apple with a release date of August 13, 2013.  Order it now at Apple!

If you're viewing this blog post from your iPhone or iPad and you have the iBooks app installed, or if you have iTunes installed on your computer, click here to view how Apple is merchandising the feature.

Congrats JD, and thanks to the entire worldwide merchandising team at Apple for their incredible support of Smashwords authors!

Connect with JD Nixon:

Favorite her on Smashwords
Follow her on Twitter
Friend her on Facebook
Read her blog, Tilly and Tess

Monday, July 15, 2013

Smashwords Romance Authors Promoted at RWA Atlanta

Attendees of the Romance Writers of America national convention in Atlanta this week will discover a special treat in their registration goodie bags.

Inside each bag will be a four gigabyte Smashwords USB thumb drive containing 118 free romance ebooks, including titles from many of the world's most popular romance authors.  They're all Smashwords authors.  The books are provided in both .epub and Kindle formats.

Also on the drive are digital handouts for nearly 50 RWA workshops and sessions, as well as a Smashwords ebook publishing kit containing copies of  The Smashwords Style Guide, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.

We're really excited about the drive and trust it'll give our authors some great exposure within the romance community.
I'd like to thank RWA for their incredible support.  Special thanks also to the 100+ Smashwords authors participating in this promotion.  Each author personally selected the title they wanted to share with the 2,000+ attending authors, publishers, agents, media, bloggers and other industry professionals. I'd also like to give a shout out to Angela, Jim, Aaron, Henry, Bill and Raylene on the Smashwords team for their work in pulling together this fun project.

If you're attending RWA, I'll be in two sessions.  The first is a 90-minute PAN (Published Authors Network) panel on Thursday at 10:30am titled, Self-Publishing for Professional Authors.  Also on the panel will be Julia Coblentz from Barnes and Noble, Jon Fine from Amazon, and Mark Lefebvre from Kobo.   

The second session takes place on Saturday at 11am in room A703, where I'll present a one-hour workshop titled, Focus on Smashwords.  Stop by and say hi!

Here's a summary of all the great books included on the drive, alpha-sorted by the author's first name.
Congrats to these fine authors for participating in this promotion, and thanks for publishing and distributing with Smashwords!  

If you're not yet publishing and distributing with Smashwords, click here to get started.  At Smashwords, we make it fast, free and easy to publish an ebook!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Smashwords and Publishers Weekly Launch Ebook Bestseller List

Publishers Weekly magazine today published the debut edition of a new monthly Smashwords bestseller list.  Click here to view the results at Publishers Weekly.

Please join me in congratulating the following authors who made the list (in order of highest rank appearance):  J. S. Scott, Abbi Glines, Kirsty Moseley, Katy Evans, J.M. Stone, Melody Grace, Shayne Parkinson, Pamela Ann, Mia Dymond, Katie Ashley, Quinn Loftis, Madeline Sheehan, Meek Mill, Colleen Hoover, Jon Acuff, and Chanda Hahn.

The list covers the top 25 highest grossing Smashwords ebooks for the month of May 2013.  Sales data is aggregated from across the global Smashwords distribution network.  Our distribution network includes the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Amazon, Diesel, the store, and public libraries.

Publishers Weekly will promote the list both online and in print.  The top 10 from the list will appear each month in the print issue of Publishers Weekly.  This list will appear in the July 8 print issue.  The full list will also be emailed the first Monday of each month to the nearly 4,000 subscribers of their monthly PW Select newsletter (click here to subscribe), which covers self-publishing news, reviews and author interviews.  You can click here to view the list on the PW website.

This will be an ongoing feature.  I'm excited by where we and PW can take this list in the future, and how it will help shine a bright and deserving light on the 60,000+ amazingly talented writers who publish and distribute with Smashwords.  Stay tuned for the our bestseller lists for June, July and beyond!

What can you as a Smashwords author do to maximize your odds of appearing on future lists?  Here are five tips:

  1. The best books market themselves. Write a super-awesome book that delivers extreme reader happiness and turns fans into superfans.  Superfans don't just recommend your book to their fans, they command their friends to read it.  Superfans leave five-star "WOW" reviews at retailers.
  2. Give your book a super-awesome cover.  If your cover image promises and delivers upon the emotional or intellectual promise your target reader desires from their next read, you'll have a big selling advantage.
  3. Price your book competitively.  Your book is competing against higher priced ebooks from the large publishers.  Price your book lower.  This doesn't mean you need to price to FREE or $.99.  If you price at $2.99 or $3.99, your book is priced to sell.
  4. Distribute via Smashwords!  It should go without saying, but if your book isn't delivered to the above retailers via Smashwords, your sales numbers won't get counted in our rankings.  We only report verified sales reported to us by our retailers.
  5. Build your author platform.  At the end of every book you write, create a section titled, "Connect with the Author," and in that section list your Facebook page, Twitter address, blog and website address, along with an offer to sign up for your mailing list if you have one.  This makes it easy for fans to connect with you, which thereby makes it easy for you to alert your fans when you release a new title.
For more tips on how to reach more readers with your words, download my free guides, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book for free) and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of the most commercially successful indie ebook authors).