Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Smashwords and OverDrive to Bring 200,000+ Indie Ebooks to 20,000+ Public Libraries

Imagine if your indie ebook was purchasable by thousands of public libraries around the globe.  Now imagine no more.

Smashwords today announced an agreement to supply more than 200,000 titles to OverDrive, the world’s largest library ebook platform.

OverDrive powers the ebook procurement and checkout systems for 20,000 public libraries around the world, including 90% of US public libraries. 

This agreement marks a watershed moment for indie authors, libraries and library patrons around the world.

It’s also a big deal for thousands of small independent presses around the globe who now have a convenient onramp into the OverDrive network. 

Millions of library patrons will now have access to the amazing diversity and quality of the Smashwords catalog. 

At a time when many large publishers are charging libraries high prices for ebooks (front list ebooks from Big 5 publishers can cost libraries $80, and even backlist ebooks can cost libraries $20-40), Smashwords authors and publishers are stepping in to supply thousands of affordably priced, library-friendly ebooks.  Faced with the option of purchasing a single James Patterson novel for around $40.00, or ten thrillers from today’s most popular indie authors at $4.00 each, libraries now have exciting new options to build patron-pleasing ebook collections.

To help librarians streamline collection development, in the weeks ahead OverDrive and Smashwords will create curated buy-lists lists libraries can use to purchase the most popular indie authors and titles. Libraries will soon have the option, for example, to purchase the top 100 YA fantasy novels (approximate price: ~$400), or the top 1,000 most popular contemporary romances (~$4,000) or top 200 complete series across multiple categories (~$2,000), or the top 200 thrillers, mysteries, epic fantasies or memoirs.  With most of our bestsellers priced priced at or under $4.00, you can do the math to appreciate how incredibly affordable these collections will be.  We’re going to have fun slicing and dicing.

Our lists will measure title popularity by aggregating sales data from across the Smashwords distribution network.  Indie authors: If you needed yet another reason to fully distribute all your titles to all retailers via the Smashwords distribution network, now you have it.  Stand up and have your sales counted because we want to help libraries purchase the greatest diversity of high-quality ebooks across multiple genres and categories.

Here are a couple additional stats to help you appreciate the massive scale of the OverDrive network:
  1. Library patrons borrowed more than 102 million digital titles across the OverDrive network in 2013, up 44% over 2012. 
  2. OverDrive delivered over 1.8 billion cover image impressions to library patrons in 2013, up almost 70% from 2012.  This gives authors incredible exposure and branding to readers searching for their next read.
Per our agreement with OverDrive, libraries will lend purchased ebooks under the one copy/one user model, meaning each copy they purchase can be checked to only one reader at a time.  This is the same licensing arrangement we use for books we distribute via Baker & Taylor's Axis 360 service which we launched two years ago.  Once a patron’s borrowing time expires, the book is ready to be checked out by another patron. 

Library patrons at OverDrive are able to recommend titles to their library from the Smashwords catalog, which will help libraries round out their collections.

Alternately, if a library ebook is already checked out, patrons will be presented with the option to purchase the ebook through a link on participating libraries’ websites through OverDrive’s “Buy It Now” feature. In this sense, the OverDrive library network becomes an ebook retailer for popular books.  The library also earns a commission in the process.

Libraries are engines of book discovery.  Libraries buy ebooks.  Library patrons buy ebooks.  According to a Pew research study in 2012, 41% of library cardholders who read ebooks purchased their most recently read ebook.  Indie authors who distribute to libraries will not only sell books to libraries, but they’ll also sell more books at retail as their readership grows.

Smashwords distributes many of the world’s bestselling indie authors, including numerous New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. Among the many bestselling Smashwords authors available to OverDrive libraries are Amy Miles, Brian S. Pratt, Chanda Hahn (Chanda is a former librarian!  Read her story here), Colleen Hoover, GJ Walker-Smith, Jamie McGuire, JD Nixon, Kirsty Moseley, Kristen Ashley, Lauren Blakely, Melody Grace, Natasha Preston, Quinn Loftis, R.L. Mathewson, Randolph Lalonde, Shayne Parkinson and T.C. Southwell.

The full Smashwords Premium Catalog of non-erotica titles is eligible for the distribution to OverDrive.

Smashwords authors and publishers can set custom library prices through the Smashwords Dashboard’s Pricing Manager feature.  Many Smashwords authors, in a show of support for public libraries, setting lower-than-retail prices for libraries. 

Smashwords authors will earn 45% of the library list price they set.

OverDrive does not support prices under $1.99 due to per-checkout transaction fees OverDrive must pay to their DRM vendor.  Therefore Smashwords books priced under $1.99 – including FREE titles – will be priced at $1.99 at OverDrive.  Even at $1.99, this low price represents a tremendous value for libraries that are accustomed to paying 20-40 times more for a single title.

OverDrive has already completed ingestion of the first 100,000 Smashwords ebooks.  Books will become purchasable by Overdrive libraries as early as this Friday or next week.

All non-erotica Premium Catalog books are automatically opted in to OverDrive distribution.  If any Smashwords authors or publishers wish to opt out of OverDrive distribution (not recommended!), they should do so via their Dashboard's Channel Manager feature before Thursday end of day to prevent titles from appearing for sale at OverDrive.  Of course, authors and publishers have the freedom to opt out at any time.  Later today I’ll send an email to all Smashwords authors and publishers notifying them about this exciting new distribution opportunity.

I anticipate OverDrive will complete loading the remaining 100,000+ titles to over the next 4-8 weeks.

Smashwords Authors, Here’s What you Can Do to Support Your Local Libraries
  1. Distribute your full list of titles to OverDrive
  2. Let your fans know that your books will soon be purchasable by 20,000 libraries around the world (remember, erotica is not distributed to OverDrive). Encourage your fans to contact their local library and ask them to order your books!
  3. In the next few weeks, make a point to visit your local library and introduce yourself.  Let them know you’re a local author, and your books will soon be available on OverDrive (please keep in mind that it'll still be several weeks before OverDrive completes the ingestion of our massive catalog so it's possible not all of your titles are immediately available).
  4. Offer to hold a book reading event at your library.  Or better yet, partner with other local Smashwords authors to collaborate on a multi-author reading event.  If your author friends are not yet distributing via Smashwords, show them how.  Here's a link to my videos on YouTube that will help them learn to publish like a pro at Smashwords - http://youtube.com/user/Smashwords
  5. Offer to present a free workshop at your library on how to professionally self-publish an ebook.  Be sure to promote your workshop to local media and event calendar listings.  Help mentor the next generation of library-friendly authors and have fun in the process!  You’re welcome to take my Powerpoint presentations and customize them for your own purposes.  Here’s a link to the two presentations I gave at the Los Gatos High School, in partnership with the Los Gatos Library, educating the students about ebook publishing for their amazing Windows to the Teenage Soul project (a great example of how libraries can partner with local schools to promote a culture of authorship).  The project has received nationwide press attention (see the story that came out yesterday in School Library Journal or see my write-up here at the Smashwords blog). 
  6. Many libraries face constant budget pressures.  The work they do is important!  Partner with your fellow authors to support your local library.  If you're a member of a writing or critique group, support your library as a group.  Offer to hold book launch parties at the library once they have a copy of your ebook in their OverDrive collection.  Ask your local librarian what you and your fellow indies can do to support their good work.  Maybe a library fund raiser?  Contact your local city's mayor and state political representatives and tell them how vitally important your local library is to your community.

Librarians, Here’s How You Can Support the Indie Author Community

1.  If you’re on OverDrive, check out our books!  Talk with your OverDrive rep.  We'll be building recommended buy-lists in the coming weeks, so let us know your wishlists for categories and list sizes (or leave suggestions below).

2.  Promote indie authorship in your community.  This is your chance to support the next generation of library-friendly authors.  Libraries have always done a fantastic job promoting literacy and a culture of books.  Now's your chance to promote a culture of authorship. Hold ebook publishing workshops.  Read my story at the Huffington Post about how the Los Gatos Public Library held a series of educational workshops for library patrons, aspiring authors and library staff.  Download my Ebook Publishing in the Classroom presentation which I gave as part of Los Gatos High School's Windows to the Teenage Soul project (mentioned above) in partnership with Los Gatos Public Library (and feel free modify these presentations for your patron-training purposes).  Download the presentation I gave last month at the Texas Library Association's annual conference titled, Launch Community Publishing Initiatives with Self-Published Ebooks

3.  Partner with Smashwords to launch your very own co-branded publishing portal.  It’s free.  Click the "support" link at the Smashwords Website to request our fact sheet with instructions. You'll simply provide us two marketing images.  We’ll place one on the Smashwords signup page and the other on the Smashwords Publish page.  We’ll provide you a custom hyperlink to the Smashwords sign-up page that you’ll place on your website.  Every time the author uploads a new title to Smashwords, they’ll be reminded of their association with your library.  Our ebook publishing services are FREE to you and your patrons.  We handle everything via our self-serve platform.  We don’t employ sales people and we don’t sell anything.  We earn 100% of our income on sales commissions which run only 10% of book’s list price for retail and library sales.  Our entire business is oriented around empowering writers with free ebook publishing services, best practices knowledge, and an ever-growing global distribution network of retail outlets and libraries.  Click here to learn why Smashwords is the world’s #1 ebook publishing and distribution platform!

The news of our agreement is getting picked up everywhere.  Here's an alpha-sorted sampling of some of the stories that have appeared in the last few hours (please share on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere!):

Crains Cleveland Business by Scott Suttell - OverDrive in partnership with Smashwords to  add self-published ebooks to public libraries

GalleyCat/MediaBistro by Dianna Dilworth - Smashwords Books Are Coming to a Library Near You

GigaOm by Laura Hazard Owen - Self-published ebook site Smashwords expands to more libraries in deal with Overdrive

GoodEreader by Mercy Pilkington - Smashwords, OverDrive Bring Indie Titles to Libraries

Infodocket by Gary Price - OverDrive and Smashwords Announce Distribution Deal 

Publishers Weekly by Calvin Reid - Smashwords, OverDrive Ink Distribution Deal
Teleread by Susan Lulgjaraj - Smashwords partners with OverDrive
The Digital Reader by Nate  Hoffelder - Self-published eBooks Coming to a Library Near You
Official joint press release by OverDrive/Smashwords - Smashwords and OverDrive in Worldwide Ebook Distribution Agreement

Special Thanks

My thanks to OverDrive founder Steve Potash (uber library ebook pioneer!) and the entire team at Overdrive for their hard work that made this relationship possible. 

Special thanks to Henry Bankhead of the Los Gatos Public Library.  He has served as an incredible mentor to me over the last few years to help me understand the ebook needs of public libraries.  Recently, in honor of his work encouraging libraries to work in partnership with local indie authors, Henry was named a 2014 Mover and Shaker by Library Journal Magazine.  Thanks for supporting indie authors Henry!


David said...

Wonderful! Thanks, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Very cool news! Thanks for all your hard work, Mark. Really appreciate it. :-)
Have a great day!

Martin said...

Thanks Mark, this is exciting news. Will Overdrive also be distributing Smashwords books to any of the retailers they distribute to?
Will we be able to find out if our books are included in any of the curated top 100 or 1000 lists?
Also, will the price used for Overdrive be the retail price or library price? I'm guessing it is the library price.

Megan Bryce said...

This is amazing! I just made a commitment to myself this month to get my books into OverDrive and libraries before the end of the year. I was looking at hundreds of dollars to get my books in through a distributor, so thank you Smashwords. Procrastination (on my part) really pays off! :)

Jordan McCollum said...

This is wonderful! Like Megan, I've had my eye on OverDrive, so I'm very happy to have this happen!

Richard G. Tomkies said...

This is great news for we authors Mark. I am sure that, like other authors, that this move will help increase sales of our books!
It's my turn to say "Thank You!"

Unknown said...

Christmas came on May 20th this year! Thanks for OverDrive, Mark, Jim, and Smashwords.

Wm. L. Hahn said...

Mark, it is great news and I'm as delighted as surprised.
May I take the opportunity to raise again my personal plea? Wouldn't it be possible and better, for us as authors to list our physical location (by zip code or even just state), so that NOW all these local libraries can make a decision based on something other than sales?

I've spoken to local librarians- I'm going to be speaking at their events. They want local authors to be involved. But they have to BUY these books, and right now they cannot make a decision based on anything other than sales.

I'm doomed! No insult intended to Chanda, but by last name I'm two times six feet under! No librarian is going to find me- if I drop by and give them my card, I bet you they still end up downloading her!
The ability to sift the Overdrive catalog, or yours, by location seems to me a very good add that we could give authors the option to include.

Cheryl Denton said...

Mark, this is brilliant! Depending on a distributor to market my titles to librarians through traditional wholesale channels has not been cost-efficient or effective. Thanks to Smashwords and Overdrive, you've cut out the middlemen, given back control of pricing and sales to indie authors, and spared librarians the expense of ordering through an outdated process. Thank you!

Unknown said...

As far as I am aware Overdrive do not operate in the UK or am I wrong? I was under the impression that in the UK libraries operate somewhat differently to those in the US can anyone please confirm otherwise.

adan said...

"Library patrons at OverDrive are able to recommend titles to their library from the Smashwords catalog, which will help libraries round out their collections."

Glad you put that in a separate paragraph. I was skimming the article and this stood out.

Also like the idea of going to one of the libraries nearby and introducing myself. I'd read somewhere else that if an author has a print copy of something also, they could offer to donate a copy to the library, for further exposure.

Anyway, need to return to this later and read more leisurely and completely.

adan said...

ps - forgot say, also like the added list in the article of sites writing about this new deal, very nice touch!

Anonymous said...


Tracy Falbe said...

Thank you for doing this. My applications to Overdrive have been ignored for years -- as in I've had to hound the company just to reject me.

I second Will Hahn's point about giving a regional identifier to our books in the catalog. This will give our local libraries a reason to buy books even if they aren't big sellers.

Jason Matthews said...

Rolling, rolling, rolling... so happy to see the expansion continue. Great job, Mark and team SW!

storyteller said...

What happens if an author isn't on a best sellers list? Do we still get exposure?

Carolyn Chambers Clark said...

I appreciate all you do for us. The OverDrive program sounds like a great opportunity.

I am concerned that only the best sellers will be promoted to libraries.

How can the rest of us get involved in this great opportunity?

Los Gatos Public Library said...

I like the idea about the geographic markers. We at the library are intent upon featuring local authors and this would help us to identify them,

adan said...

Los Gatos Public Library said...

I like the idea about the geographic markers. We at the library are intent upon featuring local authors and this would help us to identify them,

Los Gatos, I'm so glad you posted that. Several folk had expressed that idea, and many times I see what I think are good ideas, am not sure, and see no further responses - so it was good to see that those were ideas good enough for you to express an interest in them.

I don't any experience distributing to libraries, but he simplicity of the request seemed to indicate it was the sort of thing that would be helpful. Thanks so much for commenting :-)

Anonymous said...

How do we non-best-sellers, who are the ones who need the exposure this would give us the most, get in on this? Please tell me there's a way to get in the catalog, at least!

Unknown said...

Blogged it all up and down:


Unknown said...

A great move which brings Smashwords to thousands more e-readers without great cost to readers - very democratic: congratulations

Unknown said...

82243455You did it! Thank you.

amitmajumdarslg.blogspot.com said...

Wonderful! Mark really I appreciate it! Thanks

Unknown said...

This is a wonderful development. Before I go bragging that my books are available on Overdrive how do I verify that they are? Thanks.

Unknown said...

OverDrive has been on my personal wish list for a very long time. Right after I published my first book, I contacted my local library and was told that they'd love to carry my work, if only it was on OverDrive. I half-heartedly looked into it, but decided against going through all the hassle of registering just to get one copy distributed. Instead, I wrote two other books in the series. Looks like I'll be contacting my library again soon. Thanks so much for this!

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi all, thanks so much for your celebration and good wishes. I'm a little slow answering your blog comments because it's been a *crazy* busy week. So let's do it...

Martin, No, it's not currently part of the plan for OverDrive to distribute to the other retailers in their network. We're 100% focused on libraries right now with them.

Wm L. Hahn, yes, we are exploring the option of providing geolocation data.

Pat, OverDrive operates in the UK. You'll need to check with your local library to learn if they use OverDrive.

Storyteller, yes, even if your book isn't on one of our bestselling lists, you'll still have exposure. Libraries can still view and purchase your books, and patrons can also request that their library purchase your book (this is why every Smashwords author should walk into their local library in a few weeks and introduce themselves, ask if the library uses OverDrive, and then... see the blog post for how indies and libraries can partner!

FictionWriter & mmjustus - Libraries face a big challenge to identify titles to purchase. In the past, most of their purchases were guided by mainstream reviews. But most indie ebooks are never reviewed. Our lists will promote thousands of books, and over time we'll build deeper lists for more categories. If your book is selling reasonably well across our network, you'll have a good shot. Also remember that these lists are like gravy. They'll help books and authors with verifiable track records. But every author has the ability to market their books to libraries. In fact, many of the current marketing methods utilized by indies also reach librarians, yet until now they couldn't procure you books. Now procurement is easy. Check out THIS STORY IN LIBRARY JOURNAL It does a great job of illustrating why this deal will make it easier for libraries to acquire all indie books.

Robert, great question. You can view their titles at www.overdrive.com (keep in mind that it will be several more weeks before all titles are loaded at OverDrive).

Annemarie Nikolaus said...

Local references sounds like a good idea. And langauges!
So far, also at the Smashwords site itself, it seems quite impossible to find books by language.
Somehow tagging helps a bit, but as the number of allowed tags is limied ...
As in the metadata the language of the book is asked for, it should be easy to create the possiblity to sort and check by lanuage.

adan said...

Great link to the Library Journal article, Mark, thanks so much. Signed up with OverDrive. Amazing how much they have available for libraries, so am very glad we can choose to be part of that.

Ittyerah, T.P. said...

Thanks a lot.I understand that you shall have new ideas one after another.please do continue new marketing methods mutually beneficial to reader and author.Really appreciate your efforts
Dr. Ittyerah, Tholath

Anonymous said...

My book is not erotica, but it has a small amount of adult content. Is this going to keep it out of OverDrive?

Unknown said...

This is very exciting news, and I am in the process of formatting my book for Smashwords as a direct result of this announcement.

That's right. I have just joined Smashwords because of this announcement. Hello, everyone!

I've spent a bit of time talking to librarians over the past year as basic research, and I have noticed that when I mention my reviews with Kirkus and Midwest Book Review, it seems to make a difference in their perceptions of my book as something worth adding to their collections.

Understanding that this would be much more difficult to implement than a purely sales-based list, has any thought been given to offering curated packages of low-selling but highly-reviewed books?

Willie Wit said...

What Happens with authors books that are set at 'free'?

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi Willie, FREE books are priced at $1.99, as mentioned above. :) They're currently unable to support free due to the transaction fees charged to them by their DRM provider.

Chris Meadows said...

Hey, Mark, your link to the TeleRead story actually links to the Publishers Weekly one instead. It should link here:


Dovetail Public Relations said...

Thank you Chris! Fixed!

Heyoka James said...

I just wanted to let everyone who is still checking this blog post that I am now buying several titles (currently going through westerns and steampunk titles) for the library where I work. So, we are buying your books and, no, I'm not using the curated lists - I prefer to make my own decisions on what to buy and what not.

adan said...


Thank you so much for posting that. I've been trying and trying to find out how I could find out when my ebooks were available on OverDrive so I could let my local librarians (Austin) know.

I was hesitant to bug them before they'd be able to go online and see what I had ((stories set in Austin & Galveston, Vermont, and Paris).

Do you think it's appropriate for me to send a librarian here a sample short story (pdf or such), or can ya'll see the full text as librarians when ya'll browse to purchase?

Again, thanks so much Heyoka,



Heyoka James said...

Adan -

We cannot see samples (at least not currently) so I don't see the harm in sending a PDF. Right now, I'm hoping that Smashwords will eventually make EPUB and/or MOBI downloadable formats available. The Overdrive READ format is nice but is confusing to our older patrons who are used to downloading books to their devices rather than reading them in the app or a web browser (most of them don't have devices that even have web browsers in them)

adan said...


Thanks so much for the info. I'll def contact my local librarian about sending them a pdf.

Best wishes :-)


Unknown said...

Please offer the top 100 in the subcatagories, like the tope 100 cyberpunk novels for choice.

Unknown said...

Please offer by subcatagory- like th top 100 cyberpunk books or top 100 apoc books for libraries to buy.

HHILL said...

This sounds like a great thing overall, but I am very concerned that of all things in the written world - erotica gets nixed. Mark Coker, can you speak to this? I am very interested in understanding this better. Overdrive already has erotica (including tons of Penthouse Letters) and a category of 'erotic literature'. So why is erotica banned?

Anonymous said...

urviving Bigfoot and the Dixie Mafia is a good read from Oklahoma author Dennis "Rooster" Shamblin. The book is free online through many retailers. It is the story about a boy growing up in organized crime, and the creatures who plague them

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

For an article I'm writing, please tell me how many indie ebooks are on Overdrive right now (March 2015). Thanks!

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi Jane, as of today, the current number we've shipped to OverDrive is 227,015.

Unknown said...

Thanks Mark! I was trying to find out on Overdrive, but when you use their publisher filter it only gives the names of major publishers and, oddly, a couple of Russian ones. So I appreciate the reply.

Heyoka James said...

I do the e-book purchasing for my library and I'm currently spending about $500 a month on Smashwords titles... HOWEVER:

1. There are a LOT of missing covers. I don't buy titles with missing covers because patrons won't check them out (or do so at a MUCH lower rate than ones with). This really stinks when there is a series and one (or more) of the titles in the series has missing covers.

2. In series, often it is the first book in the series that is missing, which is an automatic no buy for me.

3. Some of the titles I've bought without covers are now listed as "not for sale" which means they never will or, if they get listed again later, I'll have to buy them again. Unacceptable.

Honestly, I'd love to buy more than I am but I'm fighting an upstream battle.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Heyoka, can you email me with additional details so I can bring this to OverDrive's attention? I want this fixed for you. My email is first initial second initial at smashwords.com

Ebony said...

Hi Mark,

It states that my book downloaded by OverDrive on 09/16 & 10/05. How long does it take to appear in OverDrive catalog?