Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Indie Author Manifesto

Over the last six years since founding Smashwords, I've witnessed a dramatic change in attitudes regarding self publishing.  I'm pleased that much of this transformation has been led by the professional example of Smashwords authors.

Where once self publishing was viewed as the option of last resort - the option for failed writers and an option marked by stigma and shame - self publishing is increasingly viewed as the option of first choice for many writers.  Over the next couple years I think we'll reach a point where more first-time writers aspire to indie-publish than traditionally publish.  Indie authors are the cool kids club.

All writers possess unrealized potential, and indie authors understand that.  Ebook self publishing provides the mechanism by which every writer's true potential can be realized.

At writers conferences I've met numerous Smashwords authors who are moved to happy tears when they describe how self publishing has transformed their lives.  I've lost track of the number of times I've felt a lump grow in my throat as I hear their inspiring stories.  These encounters are deeply moving to me, and I trust that you too have experienced the same.

Outside observers might counter that of course the bestsellers feel this way.  Yes, that's true, but as any indie author will tell you, the joy of self publishing cannot be distilled to dollar metrics alone.  How does one describe the importance of independence, freedom and self-determination? 

Critics say self publishing is causing a tsunami of drek that will destroy book culture and render the best books undiscoverable.  Not true.  Yes, self publishing will enable more horrible books to be published than ever before, but it will also enable more better books to be published, discoverable and enjoyable than ever before.  There's a yin and yang to this.

It's not an exaggeration to describe the indie author revolution as a global cultural movement.   I think we're witnessing something profound here as we transition from a publisher-centric world to an author-centric world.  The rise of indie authorship as a global cultural movement is driven by profound changes in social norms, ethical values, customs, belief systems, technology and business practices.

With this radical change in mind, today I attempt to describe the movement and motivations of its drivers - the indie authors - in the form of my Indie Author Manifesto.

I attempt to answer a simple question:  What does it mean to be an indie author?  I've distilled the movement down to ten principles that I think capture the mindset of indie authors.

I tip my hat to the many great manifestos that have come before my own meager attempt, including the  US Declaration of Independence, the 10 Commandments and Martin Luther's 95 Thesis among others.


We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore and realize their potential through the freedom of publication.

I hold these truths to be self-evident:
  1. I am an indie author
  2. I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing
  3. I have a right to publish
  4. My creative control is important to me.  I decide when, where and how my writing graduates to become a published book. 
  5. Indie does not mean “alone.”  I choose my partners.
  6. I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I seek partnership, fairness, equity and mutually aligned interests.
  7. We indie authors comprise diverse writers unified by a common purpose to advance, empower and celebrate writers everywhere. 
  8. I am a professional.  I take pride in my work, and I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors and the culture of books
  9. My writing is valuable and important.  This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.
  10. I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine, and mine theirs. Together we are pioneering a better future for books marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability and accessibility.

Derek Murphy (@creativindie  / graciously created this infographic of the manifesto.  Click to download, print or share!

I also wrote a version of the Indie Author Manifesto over at the Huffington Post.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Smashwords at uPublishU at BEA - Ebook Preorder Strategy and iBooks Merchandising Secrets

If you live within reach of New York City, don't miss the uPublishU self-publishing conference taking place Saturday, May 31 2014 at the Javits Center between 9am and 4pm.

40 speakers will share their smarts to help indie authors take their publishing to the next the level.  Register before May 15 for $115 and save $100 off of the regular $215 registration fee.  You'll find the registration link on the uPublishU landing page.

Smashwords will be there in force as a sponsor so I hope you can make it.  We'll also have a table so please stop by and say hello.

The conference this year promises to be their best yet.  They've broken the sessions into three concurrent tracks so you can choose the topics that best meet your goals and objectives.  The three tracks include Bringing Your First Book to Market, Tools & Marketing Mania, and Publishing at the Next Level.

For a full list of sessions and workshops, click here.

I'm presenting two workshops:

1.  10:00 am – 10:50 am

Hit the Bestseller Lists with Ebook Preorders: Preorder Strategy A-Z
Track: Tools & Marketing Mania
Room: 1E10

Learn how to make your book launch more successfully with ebook preorders. Preorders represent one of the most exciting new book launch tools for self-published ebook authors. In this session, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker will help unlock the secrets to preorder success. He’ll describe how preorders work, and will teach authors how to plan, stage and execute a successful preorder strategy. Using Mark’s methods, multiple Smashwords authors have hit the retailer bestseller lists. The recommended preorder strategies are grounded in professional publishing best practices that will help make any ebook launch more successful. Mark will share recent case study examples of how indie authors have used preorders to increase sales rank, sales and visibility.

2.  11:30 am – 12:20 pm
Apple iBooks Merchandising Strategies
Track: Publishing at the Next Level
Room: 1E11

Learn how to reach more readers at Apple' iBooks!  iBooks is the world's second largest ebook retailer, and operates in 51 countries. In this session, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker will teach authors how to stand out in this fast-growing, indie-friendly ebook store where self-published titles regularly top the charts. Mark will teach attendees how books are merchandised at Apple, how ebook merchandising works, how merchandisers select titles for promotion, and what authors can do to maximize their odds of merchandising love. Although the session will focus on iBooks, the lessons learned are universal. Learn how to make your books stand out at every retailer.
uPublishU is one of several sister conferences taking place during BEA, North America's largest book conference.  BEA is one of my favorite conferences, and it's been cool to see how self publishing is becoming a bigger piece of each year's conference.

Click here to learn more about uPublishU
Click here to learn more about BEA and its many sister conferences occuring concurrently during the week.

See you in New York!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Female Authors Dominating Smashwords Ebook Bestseller Lists

Each month, Publishers Weekly publishes the Smashwords Self-Published Ebook Bestseller List.  We report our bestsellers based on dollar sales aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network which includes retailers such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Smashwords store and others.

The other day I was browsing our February 2014 Smashwords bestseller list at Publishers Weekly and realized that all the top 25 bestsellers were written by women.  Cool beans.

Wondering if this was a fluke, I looked at our December 2013 Smashwords bestseller list at PW and bingo, same thing.  All 25 books were written by women.

Then I looked at the bestseller list for November 2013.   Same thing again.  100% women.

Our ebook bestsellers for October 2013?  You guessed it, 100% women.

If you're wondering why I skipped January in the examples above, it's because we and PW decided to shift the publication schedule to increase timeliness, so we skipped January and published February in March.

Why are women dominating the Smashwords bestseller lists, other than the fact that these women are all super-awesome writers?  One likely factor is that romance is the #1 bestselling genre at Smashwords, and romance is overwhelmingly written by women.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I'm constantly blown away the smarts, savvy and sophistication of romance authors.  These ladies have pioneered many of the ebook publishing and distribution best practices that so many indies take for granted today.

But strong romance performance doesn't fully explain the story.  While 2/3 of our February bestseller list was romance, 1/3 was not, with the remaining categories including historical fiction, fantasy and mystery.

Could it be that there are more female writers than male writers?  I don't know the industry-wide or Smashwords-specific gender breakdowns.

Could it be fiction readers, which skew female, prefer books written by women because the authors are women, or because women write stories that are most appealing to women?  I don't know.

For another reference point, I looked at today's top 25 bestsellers at the US iBooks store.  64% written by women.  At Amazon US, 56% of today's top 25 bestsellers are written by women.

There's a pattern here, but my data points above are too limited to draw a statistically significant conclusion.  For now, file the above under curious and unexplained observations.

Keep up the great work ladies!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Free Series Starter Promotion at iBooks Features Dozens of Smashwords Authors

Apple iBooks this week introduced an international merchandising promotion in the US, Australia and New Zealand spotlighting free series starters.  Smashwords-distributed books make over 80 appearances in the promotion.

All featured Smashwords authors are taking advantage of Smashwords' new Series Manager merchandising tool, which we launched back in September.  As I mentioned in September, Series Manager enables authors to attach their titles to series, which makes it easy for readers to easily identify books within a series, or across related series.  Just as importantly, series metadata gives Smashwords retailers greater flexibility to promote books within a series.  Apple's FIRST IN A SERIES promotion is one such manifestation of the new merchandising opportunities now available to Smashwords authors thanks to Series Manager.

In the US iBooks store, featured Smashwords titles are organized under categories of Mysteries and Thrillers, Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Teen Fiction.  Please join me in congratulating the following Smashwords authors for their inclusion in this special merchandising feature:

Mysteries & Thrillers
Russell Blake - Night of the Assassin
Stephen Leather - Natural Selection
Mike Wells - Passion, Power & Sin
JD Nixon - Heller
Al Rennie - Clearwater Journals
Odette C. Bell - Trouble & Treasure

Lacey Weatherford - Crush
Lili St. Germain - Seven Sons
Lauren Blakely - The Start of Us
DW Cee - Emily's Story
Melody Grace - Untouched
Lisa Scott - Flirts! 5 Romantic Short Stories
Callie Hart - Deviant
Erica Stevens - Kindred
Rucy Ban - All My Life
Danelle Harmon - The Wild One
Abigail Strom - Cross My Heart
Lilianna Anderson - Too Close
Lily Graison - The Lawman
Anne Marie Novark - The Doctor Wears a Stetson

Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Frankie Rose - Sovereign Hope
Jason Halstead - Child of Fate
T.M. Nielsen - Dimension Shifter
John H. Carroll - Rojuun
G.P. Ching - The Soulkeepers
Jeffrey A. Carver - Neptune Crossing
Odette C. Bell - A Plain Jane
Joseph Lallo - Bypass Gemini
Randolph Lalond - Origins
Edward Crichton - The Last Roman
Jonathan Moeller - The Tower of Endless Worlds
Maree Anderson - Seer's Hope
Joseph Lallo - The Book of Deacon
TC Southwell - The Queen's Blade
Brian S. Pratt - The Unsuspecting Mage
Richard L. Sanders - The Phoenix Conspiracy
Sarah Woodbury - Daughter in Time
Michael Wallace - The Dark Citadel
TC Southwell - The Queen of Arlin
TC Southwell - The Broken World
Tara Brown - Cursed
Jessica Sorensen - Darkness Falls
Michael R. Hicks - First Contact (In Her Name: The Last War)

Paranormal Romance
Nicky Charles - Bonded
Erica Stevens - Captured
Kira Saito - Bound
Jessica Sorensen - Shattered Promises
Addison Moore - Ethereal
Rebecca Ethington - Kiss of Fire
Tenaya Jayne - Forbidden Forest
Claudy Conn - ShadowLove Stalkers
Maree Anderson - The Crystal Warrior
Lacey Weatherford - Of Witches and Warlocks: The Trouble with Spells
Kristen Middleton - Blur (Night Roamers)
Tara Brown - Cursed (Book 1 of the Devil's Roses)
M. Leighton - Madly
Rachel Higginson - Love and Decay

Teen Fiction
Chanda Hahn - UnEnchanted
GJ Walker-Smith - Saving Wishes
Quinn Loftis - Prince of Wolves
Amy Miles - Forbidden
Tracie Puckett - The New Girl
Jessica Sorenson - The Fallen Star
Julia Templeton - The Deepest Cut
Penelope Fletcher - Glamour
Kira Saito - Bound
Shelly Crane - Significance
Erica Stevens - Kindred
Melanie Nilles -  Starfire Angels
Kaitlyn Davis - Ignite
Christie Anderson - Deep Blue Secret
K.A. Tucker - Anathema
Devyn Dawson -  The Light Tamer
M. Leighton - Blood Like Poison: For The Love of a Vampire
Sophie Davis - Talented
India Lee - Hidden Gem
Elaine Pierson - Growl
Claire Farrell - Verity
M. Leighton - Madly
Jessica Sorenson - Ember
Jamie Campbell - Ignite
Sandra Thompson -  The Ghostly Grammar Boy
Alicia Michaels - The Bionics
Ashlyn Daube - The Circle

Most of the titles above are also featured in Australia's and New Zealand's FIRST IN A SERIES FREE promotion.  As a bonus, Australia/NZ features an additional category for Fiction, which includes the following Smashwords authors:

Free Series Starters - Fiction

Shayne Parkinson - Sentence of Marriage
Brian K. Larson -  The Secret of Crystal

Congratulations to all featured authors, and thanks to the great team at Apple for their tremendous support of Smashwords authors!

If you're one of the lucky authors above, be sure to celebrate with your fans.  Right mouse click the titles above to copy the direct hyperlink to the book.   Just a quick reminder also to refer to the store as either iBooks (‘Download on iBooks’) or the iBooks Store (‘Available on the iBooks Store’), and not iTunes.