Sunday, May 18, 2014

Smashwords Introduces Faster Deliveries to iBooks

In recent weeks, many Smashwords authors have noticed that our deliveries to iBooks have become remarkably faster, and iBooks is listing the books faster. 

Some authors have seen their books appear for sale at iBooks the same day they upload to Smashwords.

Price changes and other metadata updates made in the Smashwords Dashboard for Premium Catalog-approved books are often reflected within hours at iBooks.

The new lightning-fast listings represent a welcome milestone in a multi-year initiative here at Smashwords to continually improve every aspect of our distribution systems.

We’re working to provide our authors and publishers faster retailer deliveries and faster metadata updates with the highest possible accuracy and reliability. We’re now shipping five times daily seven days per week to iBooks, and in the months ahead we’ll push that envelope further.

The faster listings at iBooks are also due in great part to iBooks recognizing the continuous improvements, both from an efficiency and accuracy perspective, of our vetting team here in Los Gatos.

Our vetting team manually inspects thousands of new titles and updates each week to ensure they meet the requirements of our retail partners and the expectations of readers.  We vet the titles so our retailer and library partners don’t have to.  We view our vetting as an important value-add that helps produce higher-quality books for the benefit of our authors, readers and retailers.  A key dividend for our authors is lightning-fast listings at iBooks (erotica titles go through additional manual review by Apple, so they won’t list as quickly).

iBooks has been an amazing partner to Smashwords authors over the last four years, ever since they selected us to serve among a small handful of authorized aggregators to supply ebooks to what was then known as the iBookstore.  On day one of the launch of the iPad, over 2,000 Smashwords titles graced their maiden iBooks catalog.

In the four years since, the iBooks team has encouraged us to push the envelope in all aspects of our business, from technology to operations to new feature development.  We readily embraced these challenges because Apple inspires us to do really cool projects that help our author reach more readers. 

It’s thanks to iBooks that we made preorder distribution one of our biggest developmental priorities of the last 12 months, and our efforts have paid off by helping numerous Smashwords authors top the charts at iBooks and elsewhere.

We launched the Smashwords Series Manager tool last September with iBooks expressly in mind.  When I announced Series Manager here at the blog and urged our authors to adopt it with gusto, I speculated how the tool would give our retail partners greater flexibility to promote Smashwords titles.  I wrote,
"Let's say, for example, a retailer wants to do a merchandising promotion of the top 50 bestselling Smashwords series that have a free series starter.  Without the series metadata, it would be nearly impossible for Smashwords or our retailer to accurately identify which books are in a series, and in which order."

I’m sure a few healthy skeptics read my imaginings above as vaguely plausible, but 50 authors receiving feature promotion?  Really?  And then, as readers of this blog know, last month iBooks launched a massive FREE series starter promotion that featured 80 Smashwords authors.  Cool beans! 

I think this only scratches the surface of how Series Manager can empower retailers to create new and innovative promotions that help readers discover and enjoy Smashwords authors. 

These and other capabilities have reaped measurable rewards for Smashwords authors, and not just at iBooks but across our entire distribution network. 

These tools empower indie authors with powerful capabilities and discoverability that heretofore weren’t possible in the days of print publishing.

Thanks in part to the assisting power of preorders and the enhanced series listings enabled by Series Manager, many Smashwords authors have built massive readership at iBooks over the last year.

Tools like preorders and Series Manager alone do not create bestsellers.  Everything starts with a super-awesome author producing a super-awesome book adorned by a super-awesome cover.  Authors supply their incredible books, and these tools provide incremental advantage.  In the game of publishing, everything is about incremental advantage.  One step at a time, building and building.

April 2014 marked a record month for Smashwords preorders at iBooks

Last month (April) was a record month for Smashwords preorders at iBooks, due in part to a number of amazing authors executing a steady stream of successful preorder-assisted book launches.

Let’s name names and celebrate a few of these talented authors, alpha-arranged by first name: Alexia Praks, Alyssa Rose Ivy, Amanda Heath, Ava Stone, C.J Duggan, Callie Hart, Chanda Hahn, Chase Walden, Cheryl McIntyre, Edie Claire, Elizabeth Hunter, Emma Hart, Erica Stevens, Frankie Rose, Gemma Halliday, GJ Walker-Smith, Jamie McGuire, Karina Halle, Kendall Ryan (Kendall’s release on Friday of When We Fall hit #1 at iBooks AU, NZ, CAN and UK, and #4 in the US), Kirsty Moseley, Kristen Ashley, Lacey Weatherford, Lauren Blakely, Lexi Ryan, Lili St. Germain, Lilliana Anderson, Lynda Chance, Melody Grace, Nashoda Rose, Natasha Preston, Nicky Charles, Quinn Loftis, R.E. Butler, Rachel van Dyken, Rebecca Ethington, Rita Hestand, Rucy Ban, Russell Blake, Sarah Tork, Steve Genis and Tillie Cole.  Keep an eye on these authors!

Our overriding objective here at Smashwords is to give our authors competitive advantage in the marketplace.  We realize you have a choice of partners.  We realize you have the option to upload direct to many retailers. We’re working to make distributing through Smashwords more advantageous for our authors than uploading direct.

Authors who distribute through Smashwords have more time to write because they’re spending less time managing multiple upload platforms.  We give our authors single-upload access to a broad and growing network of sales outlets, centralized metadata management and book updates, and access to exclusive sales and merchandising tools. If we can give you more time to write and empower you with professional-grade tools that give you incremental advantage, over the long run you'll out-perform other authors.

Every new author at Smashwords benefits the entire worldwide community of Smashwords authors. I want every writer in the world to someday choose to publish and distribute their book with Smashwords.  That’s my dream at least, and I’m sticking to it!  To reach this goal, we’ll never stop innovating on your behalf.

Thank you, iBooks team, for helping us push the envelope so we can serve the common interests of iBooks customers and Smashwords authors. Thanks also and always to Smashwords authors and publishers who support us in every way.

More cool tools on the way!


Stephen Leather said...

Brilliant news, Mark, well done and thanks!

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

Worth sharing the news, have tweeted. Nice job you guys! (think i posted this one right ;-)

Unknown said...

Yes I've noticed faster uploads and much better metadata outcomes. The Smashwords staff is awesome. Now if Apple would only step up their sales reporting and payments. They're stuck in the 50's as far as that goes--and they weren't even around then. Are they going to ever develop a book ranking system? Right now you have to guess by seeing how high or low your books are on the listing page.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi Charles, Apple pays us monthly and we pay quarterly, so any delay there is on Smashwords (and we always pay on time!). Same thing with sales reporting. But stay tuned. Faster Apple sales reporting is just around the corner!

Anonymous said...

My first ever self-publishing experience was through Smashwords, and I've never regretted taking that step. The way that the Smashwords team opens roads and builds bridges is amazing, and I'm here to stay and walk all those roads and bridges.

Jason Matthews said...

I noticed how much faster Premium Status can be had too compared to the past. Recently I changed some back matter information for all of my books and re-uploaded to SW. Was amazed that they all went Premium that same day and had shipped to retailers within another day. Fantastic!

David Sheppard said...

Mark, thank you for all your hard work. It's certainly gratifying to see Smashwords charging ahead into the future. You are an inspiration to all of us. Like Kristen Ashley, I had written for decades without any luck with the publishing establishment. And then Smashwords came along. My novels haven't sold as well as hers, but Novelsmithing and Story Alchemy are now being used as textbooks to both young adults and adults in the Seattle area, and no telling where else that I don't even know about. For a while I taught novel writing at a university, but now that I'm retired, I'm making even more of a difference by self publishing, and Smashwords is a big part of that.

Anna_esq said...

I was amazed at how fast my latest book loaded at Apple. Thanks!

Now if only we could get faster reporting and sales ranking so I can figure out how to better target advertising traffic towards them. Amazon built their empire upon the backs of Indie authors paying out of their own pockets to build Amazon's site. We just need a little encouragement and information to know what works, which Amazon gives us. If Apple did the same, we'd do the rest. All we need to know is where we stand, in close to real-time, and we'll knock ourselves out to promote iBooks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this information, Mark, and for the incremental improvements at Smashwords. I published my first book in 2010 and 3 others in the series in 2012. Recently I upgraded my cover images. My books are finally beginning to sell, which is a real thrill. However, I notice that the vast majority of my sales are with B&N and almost none with Apple. I wonder if that's the case with other authors and what the reason might be. If you have any thoughts on this, I would certainly appreciate seeing them in the Smashwords blog. thanks again.

Annemarie Nikolaus said...

You write "I want every writer in the world to someday choose to publish and distribute their book with Smashwords."

Well, that won't happen. Smashwords is completely focused at the English-speaking book market. And does little to encourage the retail partners to consider and promote books in other languages.
Flipkart for example: though it has my German PRINT books, it didn't take my German e-books, because Smashwords made the contract only for English e-books.

I know quite a lot of German authors who walked away from Smashwords or have left just their first books there and take the new ones to other distributors.

Yet there would be great potential: The flatrate thing probably has a future. But those platforms also favor the English books. Thus there is no motivation for foreign language authors to have their books there; thus they don't feel as if they needed Smashwords to access the flatrate retailers.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi Annemarie, we've done a lot of work to open up markets in multiple languages, and we're not done yet. There are thousands of valid reasons we won't achieve my goal (I've been an entrepreneur long enough to know nothing is ever certain, most businesses fail, and the best laid plans seldom come to pass), but goal achievement is not a binary success/fail result. Like most things in life, there's a spectrum of achievement. Every day for the last six years, many intelligent people have doubted Smashwords or doubted our authors and, by making a snapshot-in-time judgement of our strengths, weaknesses and competitive threats, concluded we were toast. The risk of such thinking is that we are ever-evolving and we never stop marching toward our goals. What you see today is not what you'll see in the future. I consider it a competitive advantage to be so routinely underestimated and misunderstood (and this despite the fact that we're probably the most transparent company in the business). All the most plausible and realistic scenarios say we will fail, but I can promise we will be more successful for trying. :)

Annemarie Nikolaus said...

Mark, youare now going to distribute to txtr. Really great, because it could help in the European non-English markets - but we're all most probably going to break the law, as long as we can't set the Euro price, because Germany, France, Italy, Spain require fixed book prices and the official interpretation of those laws consider e-books to be books.
Therefore, not being able to control the price is a major reason why authors walk away from Smashwords. Or don't dare to use all distribution channels.

K.C. Taylor said...

Annemarie, I don't get where you're coming from re: Smashwords authors not controlling pricing. Um, yeah, we do. And Apple has been in those countries you cite since 2010 and we've never had a problem with the Smashwords catalog going to all those. Amazon also has some dedicated foreign stores and authors control the price...but only to a point, because of currency conversion and taxes. I can input 2.99 Euros on a dashboard, but that's not the price the native shopper sees on any given day and probably never will be.

millie said...

Mark, you continue to amaze us. Like you said, getting Smashwords authors noticed in other book markets leave more time for the author to write rather than worry about marketing. Thanks for your continued endeavors!
We appreciate it! Submitted for author William Wayne Dicksion.

Unknown said...

Thanks Mark & the team. I enjoy reading your updates and very excited that my Books have been embraced by iBooks through your continued hard work. I look forward to a very long relationship with the Smashwords team.