Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Introducing Smashwords Presales

Smashwords today unveiled Smashwords Presales, a new book launch tool that will thrill your readers.

Smashwords Presales leverages patent-pending technology to enable the creation, management and merchandising of ebook presales.  An ebook presale allows readers to purchase and read a new book before the public release date.

Presales are different than preorders.  Presales provide readers early and immediate access to an upcoming book release, whereas preorders merely act as product reservations where the customer must wait until the public release date to read a preordered book.

Several New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors have already expressed interest in running Smashwords Presales for future book launches.

“I'm planning to use Smashwords Presales to offer early releases to subscribers of my newsletter,” said R.L. Mathewson, a New York Times bestselling author of romance novels.  “When I asked my readers how'd they feel if I were to begin offering presale access as a perk for signing up for my newsletter, the response was overwhelmingly positive. My readers want this.”

How to Run an eBook Presale at Smashwords

The Smashwords Presales tool is available now to all authors and publishers that have upcoming releases on preorder.

When you’re ready to activate your presale, go to your Smashwords Dashboard, click the Presale Dashboard link, then click  “Create Presale” to configure and preview the elements of your presale.

You can start and stop presales at any time in advance of your general release date.  Your presale doesn’t impact your general release dates at retailers and library platforms supplied by Smashwords.

10 Reasons to Run a Presale

  1. Thrill your readers - Your most enthusiastic readers will go wild over the opportunity to purchase and read your next release early, before its official publication date.
     
  2. Run private or public presales - Smashwords Presales supports both private and public presales.  With a private presale, Smashwords issues the author a private hyperlink to share with select readers or groups.  The hyperlink leads to a secret landing page from which the reader can make their purchase.  With a public presale, the presale is merchandised in the Smashwords Store and available to any reader.
     
  3. Turbocharge newsletter signups - Offer presale access as a loyalty reward for readers who subscribe to your private newsletter.  Your private newsletter is where most of your presales will come from.  Build a marketing platform you control!
     
  4. Capture customer email addresses – Wouldn’t it be cool if ebook retailers gave customers the option to subscribe to the mailing lists of their favorite authors and publishers?  Now it’s possible at the Smashwords Store thanks to Smashwords Presales. To take advantage of this capability, authors and publishers must first digitally sign a Smashwords Customer Email Privacy Pledge.  The customer is then presented with the option to subscribe to your private newsletter.  Or, if they don’t want to share their email, they can add the author to their Smashwords Alerts subscription, which notifies the reader whenever the author releases a new book at Smashwords.  Captured email addresses can be downloaded any time from the Presale Dashboard and then imported into your private mailing list.  Email capture is only available during the book’s presale period.
     
  5. Incentives for email sharing – We’re going the extra mile to help you build your mailing list.  Smashwords Presales enables authors and publishers to offer optional discount incentives to entice customers to share their email address.  Authors can configure a custom, pre-set discount offer that is presented to the customer at checkout.  Once the customer agrees to share their email with a specific author or publisher, they won’t be presented the incentive offer again for future releases from the same author.
     
  6. Compatible with KDP Select/KU Book Launches – Authors who plan to make their next ebook release exclusive to Amazon via KDP Select can satisfy a wider audience of readers by running a private or public presale at Smashwords BEFORE they enroll their ebook in KDP Select.  Here’s how:  1.  Upload your book to Smashwords as a preorder with a future release date, then immediately click to your Dashboard’s Channel Manager and opt the book out of all distribution channels (this will prevent your preorder listing from appearing at other retailers if that's your goal).  2.  Click to your Dashboard’s “Presale Dashboard” and follow the simple instructions to create and launch your public or private presale.  3.  When you’re ready to end your presale and enroll in KDP Select, click back to your main Dashboard, click unpublish and confirm, and voila, your book disappears from the Smashwords Store in seconds.  This same technique can be used by authors that distribute wide but prefer to upload direct to the major retailers.
     
  7. Works with Smashwords Coupons – Smashwords offers the industry’s broadest array of customizable coupon creation options for authors and publishers.  Authors can create custom coupon codes for cents-off, dollars-off, percentage-off, metered (limited redemption), public coupons, private coupons, time-limited coupons, and coupons that work across multiple books.  These features can be mixed and matched to create myriad customizable promotional options.  Using the metered coupons, for example, an author of a highly anticipated new release could create additional launch buzz by creating a coupon code that would entitle the first 1,000 presale customers to receive a dollar off, after which the coupon expires and the next presale customers would pay the regular price.  After you create your presale, click to your Dashboard’s Coupon Manager to create the coupon code.
     
  8. Satisfy readers on all e-reading devices – A popular feature of the Smashwords Store is that one purchase gives the customer access to multiple ebook file types (if authorized by the author/publisher), thereby allowing authors to satisfy readers on any e-reading device.  The author can use Smashwords-generated files by uploading their book as a Microsoft Word file or they can upload custom-designed .epub or .mobi files.
     
  9. Earn higher royalties – The Smashwords Store pays royalty rates of up to 80%, based on the checkout amount of the customer’s shopping cart.  Among common pricing sweet spots, a checkout amount of $2.99 earns 74% list; $3.99 earns 75% list, $4.99 earns 76% list and $5.99 earns 78% list.  Book or shopping cart totals at or above $7.99 earn 80% list or more.
     
  10. Option to require customers to sign anti-piracy pledge - One of the most common forms of ebook piracy is accidental piracy, which is when an enthusiastic reader shares a great ebook with a friend.  Authors and publishers have the option to require presale customers to digitally sign an anti-piracy pledge in which the customer must affirmatively agree that the book is licensed for their personal enjoyment only and they may not illegally share the ebook with anyone.  The pledge acts as a gentle reminder to customers of their legal and ethical obligation to respect the author’s intellectual property.

The Patent-Pending Technology Behind Smashwords Presales

The technology, systems and methods behind Smashwords Presales are patent pending.  This is the first time in our 11-year history that Smashwords filed to protect one of our many inventions.

The features revealed today within the Smashwords Presales tool barely scratch the surface of the innovations covered within the 65-page patent filing.  Smashwords submitted its patent filing to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on October 22, 2019 under the title, “A PRODUCT RELEASE SYSTEM, METHOD AND DEVICE HAVING A CUSTOMIZABLE PREPURCHASE FUNCTION.”  I’m a co-inventor along with Smashwords CTO Bill Kendrick.  An amended filing was made November 20 to consolidate claims and request fast-tracked review by the USPTO.  The USPTO, per law, publicly discloses and publishes patent filings 18 months after the filing date.  This means the general public can read the full patent filing starting around March 20, 2021.  International filings are planned.

To be clear, presales, alternately known as pre-purchases or exclusive early releases, are not a Smashwords invention.  Since the dawn of time, and before there were labels for such product release events, product creators have enjoyed varying degrees of freedom to launch their product when and where they choose.

When most people think of presales, they think of ticketed events.

What Smashwords has invented, as documented in the patent filing, takes the concept of presales to an entirely new level.

Unlike ticket presales where the customer must wait until the public performance to enjoy that performance, the Smashwords patent application covers products and services that are released early to select customers or affinity groups.

The Smashwords patent application describes a networked system that redefines the conventional temporal timeline for how online retailers and distributors collaborate with product creators to bring new products to market.

The patent application covers the creation, management, distribution, and merchandising of presale product listings across the ecommerce supply chain.  It covers physical and digital products and services sold over ecommerce, as well as the early release of products and services fulfilled to customers via subscription, streaming media, in-store customer pickups at brick and mortar retailers, and other methods.

We developed Smashwords Presales to address some of the most critical marketing and platform-building challenges faced by authors and publishers.  The same product marketing challenges faced by indie authors and publishers are shared by any individual or company that utilizes ecommerce to bring new products and services to market.

When shelf space moves from the physical to the virtual, it fundamentally changes everything for authors, publishers, any product creator, and customers.  Online retailers enable product creators to reach customers that were previously inaccessible to them, but it also creates new challenges.  Online shelf space is infinitely scalable, which means there’s no theoretical limit to the number of products that can be listed.  Retailers can list and stock an ever-increasing selection of products, and they’re able to keep those products in stock longer if not forever.  This creates a glut of millions of product listings crowding the virtual shelves of retailers, making new product launch discoverability more and more challenging with every day that passes.

For the last 30 years that I’ve been involved in helping companies and individuals bring new products to market, the conventional approach to product launches has always revolved a single product release date.  This single release date serves as the focal point around which all product development, production, distribution, marketing, merchandising and customer fulfillment revolves.  The product’s public release date also typically marks the point of peak customer demand and sales.

Tremendous energy and excitement
builds in advance of a release.
Harness the energy with presales.
There’s a tremendous amount of built-up energy tied to that single product release date.  Think of that single product release date as an atom.  Our invention splits the atom to unleash that energy for the product creator’s benefit.

In the features of Smashwords Presales launched today, for example, the author has the option to create a private presale they can choose to make available only to subscribers of their private newsletter.  This gives readers a strong incentive to subscribe, and when readers subscribe the author gains a double benefit – not only do they gain a high-margin sale, they’re also building an author- or publisher-controlled marketing platform where their relationship with the reader is no longer mediated by a retailer.  The option to require the customer to digitally sign an anti-piracy pledge illustrates another positive implication - the opportunity for the product creator to exchange one thing of value to the customer (early access to a book) for something that's of value to the author (customer email address, reduced piracy).  The patent envisions myriad conditional access requirements that can be applied for the mutual benefit of customers, product creators and retailers.

The Smashwords patent application envisions a future ecommerce where product creators, and the retailers and distributors that support them, can collaborate on the launch of new products where, in addition to the public release date, there can be one or more early release dates, referred to in the patent application as prepurchase events.  It fundamentally transforms the conventional temporal timeline for new product introductions, and along with that transformation comes exciting new opportunities for product creators and retailers to generate greater customer excitement, target different customer segments more effectively with custom marketing campaigns, and to raise the visibility of new product launches.

Although the patent application – if granted – would provide Smashwords the exclusive right to exploit the invention as described in the application for a period of 20 years, it is not our intention to keep this to ourselves.  Smashwords is but a small fish in the small ocean that is book publishing.

Millions of new products and services are brought to market each year via ecommerce.  The invention raises the prospect that each of those new product introductions could sport multiple, customizable public or private product launch events.  We’re confident that such orchestrated presale events will eventually be recognized as an essential best practice for all new product launches, just as preorders are today.  We think readers will find presales more exciting than preorders.

What’s good for the creators of ebooks is also good for the creators of audiobooks, print books, digital music, games, software applications, art, consumer electronics, apparel, financial services, hospitality services and any other new product or service that can be listed, marketed, launched, and released early via online retail.

The global market for ecommerce, measured by the value of products and services sold online, is over $4 trillion annually.  In the U.S. alone, the market is nearly $600 billion.  A sizable percentage of these annual sales are derived from new product introductions that can directly benefit from our invention.

Smashwords Patent Licensing

We want to accelerate the adoption and commercialization of the invention across the industry so every product creator, retailer, distributor and customer can benefit from this.  This means that in addition to our desire to make this invention available to Smashwords partners, competitors and others in the book publishing industry, we also want to make the invention available to product creators, retailers and distributors outside of publishing.

Therefore, effective immediately, we’ll begin opening up licensing discussions with online retailers inside and outside of book publishing.  Since the patent has not been granted yet, it means we’ll be licensing trade secrets, technology and know-how to help retailers build elements of the invention into their platforms so product creators can take advantage of it.

As described in great detail in the patent filing, retailers and distributors have enormous flexibility to build the invention into their existing platforms, and then to use it as a foundation for further innovation and collaboration across the supply chain.

Retailer licensees will be offered the ability to issue limited sublicenses of the invention to their distributors, aggregators and product suppliers. Licensing inquiries can be directed to my attention at presales@smashwords.com

What Comes Next

The first major retailer or subscription service to adopt this will gain the ability to onboard a lot of exclusive product listings, and to harness the energy and excitement of early access.

In the meantime, we’re not waiting for potential licensees to recognize the potential and build this into their platforms.  Smashwords Presales is available today in the Smashwords Store.  In the months and years ahead you’ll see Smashwords continue to build out Smashwords Presales with additional first-of-their-kind capabilities covered within the patent application.

Enjoy!