Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Smashwords Year in Review 2013 - Indie Authors the Stewards of Publishing's Future

Welcome to my annual Smashwords year in review.

It was another amazing year.

On behalf of all employees at Smashwords, I want to start by thanking every Smashwords author, publisher and agent that publishes and distributes with Smashwords.  We serve at your pleasure and we appreciate your trust, partnership and support.

I also want to thank the retailers and library aggregators that comprise the Smashwords distribution network.  Every day, you work tirelessly and often without adequate recognition for the amazing service you provide our authors and publishers.  You receive, ingest and merchandise our books to your customers. You introduce our authors' books to tens of millions of readers each year.  We work for our authors by working for you.  Your success is our authors' success, and we will reciprocate your support by working for your continued success. 

The Smashwords Backstory

If you're one of the 25,000 new authors who joined the Smashwords family this year, welcome.  A brief introduction is in order.

Back in 2008, I created Smashwords to give indie authors a seat at the publishing table.  Back then, a time I refer to as the Dark Ages, traditional publishers held oligopolistic control over the
printing, publishing and distribution of books. 

The control was oppressive. Writers were forced to bow subservient to the whims of big publishers.  Publishers decided which writers became published authors. Although they published many great books, over the course of decades they crushed the dreams of thousands great writers whose talent is now lost to humanity.

Publishers decided what readers could read.  Their decisions were guided by the publisher's perception of a book's anticipated commercial merit.  Their decisions were guesses.  When a book hit the bestseller lists, publishers patted themselves on the back for discovering and supporting the author.  When a book failed, the author's future publishing opportunities often failed with it.

The dirty little secret of publishing is that in the end, publishers were simply throwing what they thought was their best spaghetti against the wall.  Readers were the deciders of commercial success, not publishers.

It's not that publishers are bad.  Inside the hallowed halls of their Manhattan and London skyscrapers, publishers are made up of thousands of passionate, intelligent and ethical people who love books and have dedicated their lives to discovering, developing and publishing great books by great authors.  The problem with publishing was not a problem with the people of publishing, it was a problem with the business of publishing.

Back before the time of books as digital bits, most legacy publishing practices made sense.  They were unable to take a risk on every author.

With the advent of ebooks, self publishing platforms such as Smashwords, and democratized distribution to major retailers, a new world order is emerging.  It's a new world order where the power of publishing is shifting from the halls of publishers to the hands of writers.  It's a world where the suffocating gatekeeping mentality  - which once measured a book's worth through the myopic lens of perceived commercial merit - can now be cast away.

Books are worth more than dollars, pounds, euros and yen.  Publishers don't know what readers want to read, and they have no right to control what writers want to imagine, write or publish.  Writers deserve the freedom to publish what they want, and readers deserve the freedom to read what they want.  The new world order is beautifully democratic and fair.

This is an exciting time to be a writer, author, publisher and ebook distributor.  All of us are smack dab in the middle of turbulent cross-currents of change, innovation and opportunity. 

Indie Authors are the Stewards of Publishing's Future

If this new world ever feels scary or uncertain, that's because it is.  But despite the uncertainty, one fact will remain true forever:  Books are magical, writers are the magicians, and as long as great writers continue to write and publish, books have a permanent place in our lives.

You - the indie author - are the future of publishing.  Your publishing, distribution and marketing decisions will determine the course of the publishing industry.  You're in charge now.   Lead us well.

Now on with the Smashwords year in review.

Notable Smashwords Business Milestones for 2013

It was another great year at Smashwords, and a great year for Smashwords authors.  Here are some notable business milestones for the year.
  • Title growth - Smashwords now publishes over 275,000 titles, up 45% from one year ago.
  • Authors - We now support the publishing strategies of over 83,000 authors from every corner of the globe, up 42% year over year.
  • Record revenue - Our authors' sales grew to $20 million, up 33% from $15 million the year before.  We're proud that 100% of our revenue in 2013 came from the sale of books to readers.  We don't sell publishing packages and we don't employ sales people.  Our income is entirely based on our commission on book sales to readers which for most sales is 10% of the retail price.
  • Employee count - The Smashwords team grew to 23 people, up from 19 in 2012, 13 in 2011 and 3 in 2010.  This year we made significant investments in technology, distribution systems and author and customer service.
  • Profitability - Smashwords has been profitable now for three years.  Profitability is important because it means we're here for the long haul and can reinvest in you.  We're self-funded, sustainable and will continue to grow the business on your behalf.  We've grown the business without the assistance or interference of outside venture capital.
  • Bowker named Smashwords #1 ebook producer of 2012 - In Bowker's annual survey of US ebook publishers, Smashwords was named the largest producer of ebooks in 2012 based on ISBN count.  The recognition underscores Smashwords' position as the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks. 

Notable Smashwords Service Milestones for 2013

Smashwords made significant investments in 2013 to better serve the publishing and distribution needs of our authors and publishers.  At Smashwords, we think of our authors and publishers as clients, not customers.  It's a business relationship and we exist to serve you. Here are some notable milestones on the service side of our business.
  • Smashwords website redesign - Earlier this month we launched a new responsive design for the Smashwords website.  The site is now more attractive and mobile-friendly than ever before.  Expect more improvements to the site and publishing platform features and interfaces in 2014!
  • Preorder distribution - After months of testing, in July we introduced preorder distribution to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Preorders are an incredibly powerful sales and merchandising tool.  Many Smashwords authors have leveraged preorders to hit the bestseller lists.
  • Smashwords Interviews - In August, we launched Smashwords Interviews, a fun tool that helps readers discover the story behind the author.  It's a self-interviewing tool.  Already, over 4,000 interviews have been posted.  They're amazing!  Complete your interview today if you haven't done so already.
  • Publishers Weekly/Smashwords Bestseller List - In June, Publishers Weekly magazine started publishing our top 25 bestseller list each month.  The list is based on aggregated sales reports from Smashwords retailers and the Smashwords store.  If you're distributed by Smashwords, you've got a shot at the list!
  • Expanded distribution - We expanded the Smashwords distribution network to include Flipkart (#1 bookseller in India) and two subscription ebook services, Oyster and Scribd.  We've signed additional distribution agreements which we'll announce in the months ahead.
  • Series Manager - In September, we launched Smashwords Series Manager.  Series Manager collects enhanced metadata that makes it easier for readers to identify and discover books in a series.  The data also sets the stage for retailers to improve the discoverability of our series books.  Today, 38,211 books are attached to 10,419 series.  If you haven't attached your series books with Series Manager, do it now!
  • Support for serials - The launch of Series Manager allowed us to modify our Terms of Service to allow serialized publications.
  • YouTube tutorial series - We launched a series of YouTube ebook publishing tutorials and workshops, several of which are narrated versions of recent workshops I've presented at writers conferences.  There's also a helpful video on how to add navigation to your Smashwords ebook, and how to integrate your Smashwords Library with your Dropbox account.  Expect more tutorials in 2014. Is there a topic you'd love see us address?  Suggest it below in the comments.
  • Apple tickets - In December we added a feature in the Smashwords Dashboard that reports Apple's change requests.  If Apple's QA team finds a problem with your book can prevent a listing, you'll find it there.  The feature helps authors correct issues faster so they can get books listed quicker at the world's second largest global seller of ebooks.

What's Coming in 2014
As I mentioned in my 2014 predictions post, indie authors will face significantly increased competition from traditional publishers in the year ahead.  2014 could be the first year where ebook sales, measured in dollars, decrease.  Despite that ominous possibility, unit sales will increase and the opportunities before authors remains greater than ever.  Our job at Smashwords is to provide you the tools and knowledge to compete, and our development roadmap is informed by this goal.

Our development roadmap for 2014 is really exciting. If writers are the magicians behind books, then the engineers at Smashwords are the magicians behind the new enhancements - large and small - that we make at Smashwords every week.  Our authors tell us what they want, I weave the ideas into initiatives and our engineers make these ideas happen.  Without tipping our hand too much, in broad strokes here's a hint of what you can expect to see in 2014:

  • Distribution systems - We'll work to give you improved control over more aspects of your distribution.  We're already shipping daily, at least fives days a week to Apple, B&N and Kobo.  In 2014 we'll increase the shipment frequency further for retailers that can support it.  Faster shipments mean faster time to market and greater, faster control over pricing and metadata updates. 
  • Reporting systems - We'll overhaul our reporting systems so you have faster, more intuitive access to sales data and trending information.  We improved the speed of sales reporting in 2013, and in 2014 we'll improve it even further.
  • New book marketing tools - We'll introduce multiple new tools that will help authors improve the discoverability and sales of their books.
  • Skunk works - There are some projects so secret I won't even give a hint.  Some of the projects are foundational in the sense that their true potential won't be apparent until after we build additional features on top of them.   Rest assured all projects we undertake will be focused on making Smashwords a more powerful publishing and distribution platform that gives our authors real advantage in the marketplace.

Thank you again for your past and future support.

We realize you have many choices for ebook publishing and distribution.  When you work with Smashwords, you are directly supporting our mission to help you reach more readers.  By distributing to major retailers through Smashwords, you further our ability to advocate on your behalf, and to continue investing in tools and services that will benefit the entire indie author community.

We appreciate the opportunity to serve you.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Book Publishing Industry Predictions - Price Drops to Impact Competitive Dynamics

It’s that time of year again when I polish my crystal ball and stick my neck out with predictions for the year ahead.

Last year I went out on a limb with 21 predictions.  Looking back on them now, several were spot on, several were premature but will still play out, and some were dead wrong.  That’s the fun of the prediction game.  Even incorrect predictions, analyzed in retrospect, help shape our understanding of the present and future.

Predictions stir our imagination of what’s possible.  By imagining what’s possible, indie authors can prepare for the future, or take steps to realize the future they desire.

This year, I bring fourteen predictions for 2014.
  1. Big publishers lower prices – Traditional publishers have always fought tooth and nail to hold the line on ebook prices.  By maintaining high prices, they left the sub-$5.99 market for ebooks wide open for indie authors to exploit.  For several years, indies have enjoyed this playground all to themselves.  The results of our 2013 Smashwords survey illustrated the competitive advantage indies received by pricing low.  Our 2013 survey found that books priced $2.99 and $3.99, on average, received about four times as many unit sales as books priced over $7.99.  This pricing advantage helped many indies out-sell and out-compete the traditional publishers.  It helped indies build fan bases at a rapid clip.  For indies who could write and publish low-priced books that were as good or better than what New York was publishing, placement in the bestseller lists became more achievable than ever before.  For much of 2013, it wasn’t uncommon to see indies holding up to half of the top 10 bestseller slots at major retailers on some days.  Big publishers have taken note.  In 2013 big publishers began competing more aggressively on price with temporary price promotions.  Until recently, it was rare to see a traditionally published book priced under $4.00.  In 2014 their temporary price promotions will give way to a new normal.  Discounting is a slippery slope.  Once customers are conditioned to expect big-name authors for $3.99 or less, the entire industry will be forced to go there.  The huge pricing advantage once enjoyed by indies will diminish in 2014.
  2. When everyone is pricing sub $4.00, price promotions will become less effective – If readers have an unlimited supply of high-quality books from their favorite authors at under $4.00, it means factors other than price will gain importance.
  3. Ebook growth slows – Here comes the hangover.  After a decade of exponential growth in ebooks with indies partying like it was 1999, growth is slowing.  We all knew this day was coming.  Year over year growth of 100% to 300% a year could not continue forever.  The hazard of fast-growing market is that it can mask flaws in business models.  It can cause players to misinterpret their success, and the assumptions upon which they credit their success.  It can cause successful players to draw false correlations between cause and effect.  Who are these players?  I’m talking about authors, publishers, retailers, distributors and service providers – all of us.  It’s easy to succeed when everything’s growing.  It’s when things slow-down that your mettle is tested.  The market is slowing.  A normal cyclical shakeout is coming.  Rather than fear the shakeout, embrace it.  Let it spur you on to become a better, more competitive player in 2014.  Players who survive shakeouts usually come out stronger the other end.
  4. Competition increases dramatically – With hundreds of thousands of new books published annually, and with retailer catalogs swelling to carry millions of titles, it may come across as trite for me to predict that completion will increase in 2014 for indies.  Yet in 2014, the competition faced by indies will increase by an order of magnitude, and will make some indies wish it was 2013 again.  The ebook publishing playing field, which until recently was significantly tilted in the indies’ favor, has now leveled a bit.  Yet indies still enjoy a number of competitive advantages, including faster time to market, greater creative freedom, closer relationships with readers and thus a better understanding of reader desires, higher royalties rates and ultra-low pricing flexibility including FREE.
  5. Ebook sales, measured in dollar volume, will decrease in 2014 – Yikes.  I said it.  The nascent ebook market is likely to experience its first annual downturn in sales as measured in dollar volume.  This will be driven by price declines among major publishers and by the slowing transition from print to screens.  Although readers will continue migrating from print to screens, the early adopters have adopted and the laggards will shift more slowly.  Another driver of the drop is that the overall book market growth has been moribund for several years.  As ebooks as a percentage of the overall book market increase, it means the growth of ebooks will become constrained by the growth and/or contraction of the overall book industry.  Global sales in developing countries remain one potential bright spot that could mitigate any sales contraction.
  6. Ebook unit market share will increase – Ebook consumption, measured in unit sales and downloads, and measured in words read digitally, will increase in 2014.  The industry-wide sales slowdown, caused by the drop in average prices, will mask the fact that more books will be read than ever before.  This is great news for book culture, and good news for indies who despite the loss of their once-powerful price advantage, will still be positioned to profit more from low prices, or to compete at ultra-low (sub $3.00) price points than traditionally published authors.
  7. A larger wave of big-name authors will defect to indieville – Multiple market forces will conspire to cause a large number of traditionally published authors to turn their backs on big publishers.  Publishers will try to hold the line on their 25% net ebook royalty structures, which means big authors will see their royalties suffer as prices drop and as the unit sales advantage of low prices decreases, and as the disadvantage of high prices increases.  At the same time, readers will continue to transition from print to ebooks, making the print distribution to physical bookstores less important, and thus weakening the grip big publishers once had on bigger-name authors.  Big authors, eager to maximize their net, will feel greater impetus to emigrate to indieville.
  8. It’s all about the writing – It’s back to basics time.  In a world where readers face an unlimited quantity of high-quality low-cost works, the writers who achieve the most success will be those who take their readers to the most emotionally satisfying extremes.  Books are pleasure-delivery devices.  It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a cookbook, romance novel, gardening how-to, memoir or political treatise.  Your job as the indie author is to write that super-fabulous book.  That involves great writing and professional-quality editing.  It also means avoiding all the mistakes that create unnecessary friction that prevent readers from discovering, desiring and enjoying the book.  To understand these points of friction, and how to avoid them, check out my discussion of Viral Catalysts in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, or in my Youtube video on best practices.
  9. All authors become indie authors - Back in the dark ages of publishing, you were either traditionally published or weren't published.  Writers who couldn't get a publishing deal were seen as failures, because without the access to the publisher's printing press, distribution and professional know-how, it was virtually impossible to reach readers.  Today, failure is not an option.  The next generation of writers can begin writing their book with the full confidence that one way or another, it will get published.  Traditionally published authors now realize they have desirable publishing alternatives they never had before.  Once a writer - any writer - comes to the realization that the power in the publishing industry has transfered from publishers to writers, it opens up a new world of possibilities.  Publishing no longer becomes an either/or question.  The best writers will have the option to publish independently AND traditionally, or do one or the other.  It's their choice.  Both options are worthy of consideration by all writers, and can be mutually complementary.  Even if you're a traditionally published author today, you're an indie author because you decide what happens with your next project.
  10. Subscription ebook services will change the game – If the ebook subscription services – the most notable of which are Scribd and Oyster – can make their business models work, then they’ll drive a game changing shift in how readers value and consume books.  I examined the potential implications of this in my two-part blog post on this model (read part one | read part two) .  For ebook subscription service users, reading will become an abundant resource that feels free.  It’ll become a utility service in the same way that water and electricity are utilities.  When we flip the switch to turn on a light, or when we turn the knob on the faucet to brush our teeth, we’re not thinking about how our next 60 seconds of that service will cost us one or two cents.  We pay our monthly service fee, and for the most part we use the utility as much as we want.  With ebook subscription services, the reader will pay $9 or $10 a month and enjoy virtually limitless reading.  Readers will be relieved of the cognitive load of having to decide if a given book is worth the purchase price.  Instead, they’ll surf and sample books with minimal friction, as if every book is free.  The reader’s attention, and the book’s ability to hold the reader’s attention, will become the new factor in determining a writer’s success.  Even if these subscription services fail, they'll change the future of publishing by giving readers a taste of friction-free reading-as-a-service.  It's a taste readers are unlikely to forget.
  11. Traditional publishers will reevaluate their approach to self-publishing – The vanity approach to self-publishing, as witnessed by Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions (operates AuthorHouse, iUniverse, BookTango, Trafford, Xlibris, Palibrio, others…), has shown itself to be a boondoggle that harmed the brands of all traditional publishers.  I predicted this last year.  The Author Solutions business model is wholly dependent upon making money by selling overpriced services to unwitting authors.  Their business model is expensive at best, and unethical at worst.  It’s about selling $15,000 publishing packages to authors who will never earn the money back.  The model represents the antithesis of what the best and proudest publishers have always represented.  Great publishers invest in their authors.  The money flows from reader to retailer to publisher to author, not from author to publisher.  At the same time Author Solutions has tarnished the reputation of all traditional publishers - even those not engaged in such practices - the indie author revolution has continued in full swing.  Indies are stealing market share.  Indies have learned to publish like professionals.  Many indies no longer shop their books to agents and publishers, and instead choose to publish their books directly to readers using self-serve publishing and distribution platforms such as Smashwords, or KDP, Nook Press, and others.  Publishers are losing access to the critical deal flow that is their lifeblood.  I talked about this in my discussion of black swans in last year’s predictions.  If they lack an effective service offering for indie authors, the big publishers risk finding themselves on the wrong side of history as authors move on without them.  The stigma once associated with self-publishing is melting away as the stigma of traditional publishing grows.  How can publishers stem the bloodletting and recapture relationships with authors?  The answer will come by publishers reevaluating their attitude toward authors.  They must recognize that publishing is a service, and that they serve at the pleasure of authors.  Now that authors have choices, the publishing game can no longer be about, “What can the author do for the publisher?”  Authors no longer need to bow subservient to publishers, so business models based on this old practice and attitude will be rejected.  The new publisher mantra must be, “What can the publisher do for the author that the author cannot or will not do on their own?” 
    Publishers need to broaden their author services menu by creating an inclusive business model that allows them to take a risk on every author, to be able to say “Yes” to every author when the prior attitude was to say “No.”  Authors want a spectrum of options, from self-serve to full-serve, and they shouldn't have to shell out cash to their publisher for any option.   Publishers must abandon the culture of “No,” because authors no longer have the patience or tolerance to hear “No.”  Authors have choices, and they’ve gained a taste for the joys of self-publishing.  What’s this new model, where the publisher can say yes to every author, yet still earn a profit?  The answer: they need to build or acquire their own self-serve publishing platform. A self-serve platform would allow them to take a risk on every author, and to form a relationship with every author.  By operating a free publishing platform, the publishers would have the ability to serve the diverse needs of all authors.  DIY authors would select the self-serve option.  Authors with proven commercial potential who don't want to hassle with the responsibilities of being one's own publisher might opt for a path somewhere along the spectrum between DIY and full-serve (what has been heretofore been known as traditional publishing), assuming both the author and publisher desire that.  The compensation models and level of publisher investment could vary based on the level of publisher service.  Such a full-spectrum approach to publishing, where authors pay nothing, is 100% aligned with the author’s interests, and 100% aligned with the best practices of the best publishers.  A good self-serve platform doesn't employ sales people.  It doesn't take money from authors.  And that’s how it should be.  So the question is, can publishers introduce their own free self-serve platforms to broaden their services offerings?  Time is running out.
  12. Platform is king – Platform is your ability to reach readers.  Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot.  Think of your platform as a multi-layered infrastructure that allows you to reach both new and existing fans.  Elements of this infrastructure include your followings on Twitter, Facebook and the RSS feed of your blog.  It includes the breadth of your distribution (more retailers is better than fewer), your uninterrupted presence at each retailer for every book, and the reviews at those retailers.  It includes the number of authors who have “favorited” you at Smashwords, or who have added your books to their booklists at Goodreads.  It includes subscribers to your private mailing list.  It includes your celebrity, and your ability to leverage social media or traditional media or the love of your fans to get your message out.  There are two primary factors that drive sales of any product or brand.  The first is awareness.  If the consumer is not aware of your product or brand, then they cannot purchase it.  You need to put your product in front of a consumer and gain their attention before they can consider it.  The second is desire.  Once a consumer is aware of your product or brand, they must desire it.  As I talk about in my Secrets book, the author is the brand.  Your job as the author is to build awareness of your brand, and to build, earn and deserve positive desire for your brand.  Awareness plus desire create demand for your product.  This is why platform will become more important than ever in 2014.  Your platform helps you get the message out to existing fans who already know and desire your brand, and helps you reach new fans who will attach their wagons to your horse.  The larger your platform is, the easier it is to grow your platform further, because platforms grow organically.
  13. Multi-author collaborations will become more common – In 2013, I observed a marked increase in the number of multi-author collaborations.  I’ve been encouraging multi-author collaborations for a few years in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, but 2013 was the year the practice really took hold.  Authors are collaborating with fellow authors in their same genre or category on box set compilations of existing and original content.  These collaborations are often competitively priced and offer readers the opportunity to discover multiple new authors in a single book.  The collaborations also enable multiple authors to amplify each other’s marketing efforts by leveraging each other’s platforms.
  14. Production takes on increased importance in 2014 – One of the most important secrets to ebook publishing success is to write more books.  As a writer, your writing is your unique creation.  It’s your product.  Authors who write great books (and produce more of them), are the authors who build sales and platform the fastest, because each new book represents an opportunity to please existing fans and hook new ones.  Organize your time to spend more time writing and less time on everything else.

View some of my previous predictions:
2013 Predictions at the Smashwords blog (published Dec 21, 2012)
2011 Predictions at GalleyCat by Mark Coker (published Dec 28, 2010)
10-Year Predictions at GalleyCat By Mark Coker (published Jan 4, 2010)

Did my crystal ball miss anything?  Please add your own predictions below.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Smashwords Signs Distribution Agreement with Scribd

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Scribd, which operates one of the world’s largest publishing platforms and online reading communities.  Scribd receives over 80 million monthly readers to their platform according to their website.

There are two distribution components to the Smashwords agreement with Scribd.  1.  Smashwords will supply books to Scribd’s new ebook subscription service, where for $8.99 per month subscribers can enjoy unlimited reading.  2.  Smashwords ebooks will also be available for individual sale to Scribd customers under our standard retailer terms.

Ever since Scribd launched in 2007, I’ve admired their publishing platform, their social reading technology and their commitment to content creators.  Scribd has built a massive audience of millions of readers, and these readers are now accessible to the 70,000+ authors and publishers that distribute with Smashwords.

Scribd’s roots are in community publishing. They’ve been a pioneer in user generated content, and in making it possible for content creators to share their works with the world.  Their platform makes it easy for people around the world to upload documents, presentations and books, and they’ve always done a great job of making the content discoverable, readable and sharable.

Back in October, I wrote a two-part blog post in which I named Scribd as one of the leading examples of the new breed of ebook subscription services that aim to do for ebooks what Netflix did for filmed entertainment and what Spotify did for streamed music.

Over the last year, they’ve developed a compelling subscription ebook service.  For a low monthly subscription of only $8.99, readers can enjoy a massive catalog of ebooks, and a frictionless reading environment where book price is not a deciding factor.  Readers can enjoy unlimited reading on-demand.

Visit the Scribd home page and it’s immediately apparent they’re positioning their entire business around ebooks.  They're working to convert their 80 milllion monthly visitors to subscribers for your benefit.

Scribd is going to provide an incredible level of support to Smashwords authors, and I trust every Smashwords author will want to be involved and support their efforts.

Scribd reaches a global audience, serving readers in over 100 countries.

The terms we negotiated with Scribd are author friendly, generous, and closely aligned with our standard retail distribution terms.  But as you’ll see, they’ve thrown in some compelling twists as well. 

For Scribd’s retail store, the terms are identical to our standard retail agreements.  Smashwords authors and publishers will set the price, there will be no discounting, and authors will earn 60% of the list price on all sales.  The first 10% of the book, from the cover image forward, will be the free preview sample, similar to most retailers.

For Scribd’s subscription ebook service, authors will earn 60% of the list price on all qualifying reads, and here they’ve added a cool twist.  With subscription services, the author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read.  The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer.  Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read.  In practice, what this means for most fiction writers is that after the reader reads more than the first 30% of your book, it triggers a full sale.  For some non-fiction writers, where your book’s content is more likely to be read non-sequentially, it means if the reader starts their reading deeper in the book at Chapter 10, a sale could be triggered after reading only 20% of the book (As an aside, this underscores the importance of authors building fully functional navigation into their ebooks so that all their book's content is easily discoverable.  To learn how to upgrade your ebook's navigation, check out my recent blog post and video, How to Add Navigation to a Smashwords Ebook).

Unlike any other subscription service or retailer, Scribd has sweetened the pot by added a secondary sales trigger for the author by providing credit for partial reads.  If the subscriber reads 5% more than the first free 10% but less than the additional 20% necessary to generate a full sale, this triggers a credit for partial read.  For every ten partial reads, which Scribd calls a “browse,” the author earns credit for a full sale.  Since most people read fiction from page one forward, this means if 10 people read just over the first 15% of your book but less than 30%, it’ll generate a full sale.  For non-fiction, where readers are more likely to read non-sequentially, they can read 5% of the middle of the book and trigger a browse credit.

December 21 Update on Piracy Prevention:  By distributing your book to Scribd via Smashwords, you'll also help prevent and remove unauthorized versions of your work at Scribd.  To protect the intellectual property of authors and publishers, Scribd has developed and is continuing to enhance a Copyright Management System (CMS) that takes a digital fingerprint of all authorized uploads from Smashwords, and will use the Smashwords version as the authorized version of record.  So not only will the Scribd CMS help protect Smashwords authors against unauthorized uploads in the future, it will also trigger retroactive and automated takedowns of unauthorized versions.  If you ever discover an unauthorized version of your work at Scribd, visit the the Scribd DMCA takedown page and provide them a direct hyperlink to the offender's upload.

Smashwords and Scribd have begun integrating our respective distribution systems and conducting test shipments.  If all goes as well as we expect, Smashwords books will start appearing during the month of January.

To qualify for Scribd distribution via Smashwords, the book must be Premium Catalog approved.

In addition to the sales opportunity represented by their subscription service and ebook store, Scribd has outlined some exciting plans to take their support of Smashwords authors and publishers to the next level. 

Here's a hint of some of what you’ll see from Scribd in the months ahead: 
  • As part of this relationship, they plan create ongoing merchandising features dedicated to indie authors, showcasing and celebrating the amazing talent of the indie author community.  Smashwords will share our bestseller lists with Scribd, drawing upon our knowledge of your sales through the Smashwords distribution network (yet another reason to maintain full distribution with Smashwords!).
  • For a limited time, they’re planning to offer Smashwords authors who distribute to Scribd via Smashwords a free one-year subscription to the service so you can try it out.  Multiplied by 70,000 Smashwords authors, this is a $100 per author bonus, and an overall potential commitment valued at over $7 million.  Cool beans!  To qualify, make sure your books are opted in to Scribd by January 1.  The Scribd distribution channel will appear in your Smashwords Dashboard's Channel Manager later today.
  • They’re planning to develop author profile pages that Smashwords authors can access and manage.
  • They’re planning to create analytic tools in which they aim to give authors unprecedented data about how readers are engaging with their books.  I’ll share more about that in the months ahead as their plans unfold.   

Please join me in welcoming Scribd as the latest member of the Smashwords distribution network.  I’m looking forward to working with Scribd to grow our authors’ audience and sales in the months and years ahead.  I'll send out an author/publisher alert about the deal later today.

Check out the Scribd blog which quotes Smashwords author Quinn Loftis.
“I’m thrilled to learn about the partnership between Smashwords and Scribd,” said Quinn Loftis, a USA Today bestselling Smashwords author of nine young adult paranormal romance titles, including the seven-book Grey Wolves series. “I look forward to distributing all my titles to Scribd via Smashwords because I appreciate the opportunity to reach more readers.  My fans will appreciate the incredible value represented by Scribd’s subscription service.”
View Scribd's press release here:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/192561226/Scribd-Partners-with-Smashwords

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Smashwords Unveils Major Website Redesign

Smashwords today unveiled our first major website redesign since our launch in 2008.

We made hundreds of changes large and small.  We also made technical changes behind the scenes that will lay the groundwork for us to introduce many new tools and features for authors and readers alike in 2014. 

Among the highlights of the redesign:
  • The Smashwords home page – We doubled the number of books listed on the Smashwords home page from ten to 20, added 27 new book category filters to increase discoverability, added live stats for the number of books published and the number of free books, and organized the navigation elements around logical categories.
  • Responsive design – We adopted what’s called a “responsive design,” which among web designer circles refers to a design approach that optimizes the user’s experience across different browsers, devices and screen sizes.  View the site on your desktop computer and then resize your browser to see how every page’s content resizes and reorients as you make the width narrower or wider.
  • Dramatically enhanced mobile support – Our previous mobile version of the site was, to put it kindly, limited.  The new mobile experience – whether you’re accessing the site from a smart phone or tablet – is darn near beautiful.  Our improved mobile support is enabled by our responsive design.  It preserves user access to nearly all the same features you’d expect from a large browser on a desktop computer, making it easy for mobile users to browse and discover books without pining for a larger screen.
  • Redesigned book pages – The new book pages make it faster and easier for readers to discover, sample and purchase books.  The download links have been moved to the top section of the page to minimize scrolling.  New slider bars display book covers of other books in the same series, other books by the author, and other books by the publisher.
  • Updated Dashboard – The Dashboard features that once occupied the vertical left navigation column have now been moved into grids at the top of the page, organized under categorizes of Sales Reporting, Metadata Management and Marketing & Distribution Tools.
  • Updated Account Page – The Account tab has been reorganized around logical categories to give you quicker access to the controls you want.  The categories include About Me, Buying Books, Selling Books, Payments for Authors and Publishers, and Account Status.
  • Updated Library – We actually rolled this out a couple weeks ago but didn’t announce it.  The library is now faster, prettier and provides better support for power-users with hundreds of books.
Despite all the changes, we took special care to maintain the utility and familiarity of all the main features that our million+ monthly visitors have come to expect. 
Did I write “million+”?  Yes.  The Smashwords site receives millions of visits and over 10 million page views each month. 

Do you know writers who haven’t yet published at Smashwords?  If so, please let them know what they’re missing.

Special thanks to Case Talbot (the fine woman who also created Smashwords Interviews) on our engineering team who led this effort, as well as our design consultants Jami and Bryan at 2Wongs Studios, and Smashwords authors, customers and team members who contributed to this redesign.

Our work is not finished.  We view today’s refresh as the first of many iterative steps that will make it easier for our authors to publish, distribute and manage their books, and make it easier for readers to discover and enjoy them.  We look forward to your comments, suggestions and bug reports.