(Metadata Only) Preorders Now Available at Smashwords

Big news from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker:

Ebook preorders are the single most important new tool for indie authors who want to improve the visibility, desirability and sales of their new releases.

Over the last 12 months, ebooks born as preorders at Smashwords earned more than triple the earnings of books that were simply uploaded the day of release.

Ever since we announced preorder distribution two years ago for iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, I’ve been advocating preorders as an essential best practice for all indies.

Yet despite the amazing power of preorders, and despite the copious evidence that preorders can work miracles, most indie authors don’t use them today. Fewer than 10 percent of books released at Smashwords over the last 12 months were released as preorders.

(Read full article)


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Self-Publishing with Smashwords

Self-Publishing with SmashwordsSelf-Publishing with Smashwords has just been released as my latest video course at Udemy. New to the formatting game or having trouble with your NCX file? No more worries, never fear Meatgrinder again. And the best part–for a limited time the course is available at 100% off with

coupon code: June2015

Hope you enjoy it and please leave a review 🙂

Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, making it fast, free and easy for authors to sell at major retailers around the globe. 350,000 authors have published with Smashwords and enjoy total control over the sampling, pricing and marketing of their books.

Smashwords has many unique features that set it apart from other major retailers:

1. Pays you 85% royalties on direct sales.

2. Converts your ebook into every file type for any possible e-reading device.

3. Distributes your ebook for sale to other retailers like Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor, Library Direct, Oyster, Scribd, Flipkart and OverDrive while handling the finances.

4. Allows you to generate ebook coupons for any amount and time frame.

5. Create an author profile with photos, videos, links to your print books and sites, interview and more.

You can always publish at Smashwords even if you publish at other retailers like Amazon. However, if you are enrolled in KDP Select then you’ll need to wait for the 90-day exclusive period to be over. Then you can opt-out of KDP Select and continue to sell at Amazon plus Smashwords, Apple, Google, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and many more!

Hurry while this coupon offer lasts. And it will be good karma if you leave a review.


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Smashwords or Draft2Digital for Ebook Distributor?

smashwords or draft2digitalThis article by Jason Matthews first appeared on The Book Designer.

You’re selling ebooks on Amazon. Where else? The options keep expanding as a rising global market embraces digital books. There are dozens of potential retailers, but only a few of the big sellers have enabled indie authors to directly upload in do-it-yourself fashion. KDP Amazon was the first to offer that. In recent years, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Google Play have followed suit. Apple iTunes allows DIY uploading too, if you’re a Mac user.

Beyond those options, other retailers exist that are only available through a distributor. Since 2008, Smashwords (SW) has been the established solution, where authors can upload for sales and also distribution to many retailers that don’t enable direct uploading. Smashwords admits it is primarily a distributor, where most authors will make about 90% of their earnings via the SW distribution partners and not direct sales from the SW bookstore.

Lately more distributors have emerged, some charging upfront for their services and others free of cost with their earnings made on a cut of any sales, usually around 10% of the retail price like with SW. I prefer the no-cost-up-front companies. One choice is Draft2Digital (D2D), and it’s often compared to SW. Each distributor has pros and cons, but is this just a case of apples and oranges or is there a frontrunner? I’ve written on this in the past as have many others, but since e-publishing is an ever-changing industry, it’s nice to reevaluate some of the deciding factors.

Fear the Meatgrinder?

The most obvious difference is the formatting to be done before uploading. SW CEO, Mark Coker, is an expert on formatting that will be compatible for all reading devices. The Smashwords Style Guide, is a 27,000 word manual explaining the majority of requirements for the average ebook. Its length and scope have been reported to cause hair-loss, migraines and contemplated suicides for tech-challenged authors. In contrast, Draft2Digital doesn’t have a style guide. Their goal is “to support your style guide.” Just send them your Word doc, RTF or EPUB file and they’ll convert it.

An intriguing contrast: do we trust D2D’s program as an intuitive ebook formatter or do we buckle down and learn to do it ourselves? Not surprisingly, this factor alone divides the masses. Some writers (like me) appreciate the knowledge to upload with their own personal touches, while others love skipping that learning curve altogether. Would you prefer not to learn how to create an NCX file or even know what an NCX file is? Would you prefer not to be subject to the rigid requirements of the Meatgrinder, the endearing name given to the SW file converter and spell-check software on steroids? You don’t have to worry about that with D2D. Hey, if Google can build a car that drives on autopilot, D2D can probably design a program to format ebooks.

I wonder if quality is compromised. Are aesthetically unpleasing ebooks getting published more by D2D than SW? I believe that’s probably true, but I also think the quality is getting better all the time.

Sales Potential

This is what matters to me: who are the distribution partners? Presently D2D will get your ebook into

  • Apple
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Scribd
  • Page Foundry

(Recognize that all of those except PF can be done on a DIY basis, though it’s harder for PC owners to get into Apple. Still, there’s value in doing things once and having it relayed to all channels, or after the inevitable updates happen when a reader points out a typo or you decide to add your latest link to the About the Author page.)

Outside of Amazon, those first three retailers are the main players. Apple is now my second biggest seller. But those retailers aren’t exclusive to D2D.

SW distributes to

  • Apple
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Scribd
  • Page Foundry

In fact, SW has been doing it longer and also distributes to

  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Flipkart (India)
  • Oyster
  • txtr (Germany)

plus three channels to libraries

  • Library Direct
  • Baker & Taylor Axis 360
  • Overdrive

Note that India represents a ton of potential readers, and as the digital age matures Flipkart could be a great source of sales. For current ebook distribution partners and sales potential, the advantage clearly goes to SW.

Paperbacks

Want your book in print with the same ease of skipping the format learning curve? D2D also enables a paperback version to be uploaded to CreateSpace (CS), Amazon’s print-on-demand company. Again, I prefer to upload directly, but formatting books for CS can be a Herculean task for newbies, known to drive even pacifists to seek gun applications and home addresses for Microsoft Word designers. Interior templates exist and formatters too, but D2D is offering an attractive option for CS paperbacks. I haven’t tested their system to comment on performance, though I admit being a fan of the concept. Can you envision being chauffeured to a book signing in a Google car while D2D formats your next release in paperback? It’s a nice thought. Fortunately CS has an excellent digital previewer for analyzing results and determining what changes need to be made. Advantage for paperbacks goes to D2D.

(As an update to using D2D for paperbacks at CreateSpace: don’t do it unless you already know how to perfectly format a CreateSpace PDF. And if that’s the case, why not upload your PDF directly to CS? What D2D sends to CS is pretty much a joke from what I’ve seen.)

Small Victories

Another bonus with D2D is monthly payments compared to quarterly payments from SW. D2D also doesn’t stamp their edition with their name as SW does (Smashwords Edition), making it a more attractive copyright page for those who feel the self-publishing stigma is a factor. I’ve also checked my titles at B&N online and noticed the D2D book description displays entirely while the SW description is limited to the short version. Small advantages to D2D.

Leveled Playing Field: Sales Reports, Speed, Preorders

In recent times D2D had much faster sales reporting and speed of uploading to retailers, especially after updates were made (price change, newer version, metadata, etc.), but SW has evolved and caught up in both regards. I believe the speed for updates taking effect at retailers still leans to D2D, but the new sales data from SW is more detailed and appealing.

Another SW special has been setting up a book for preorders before publishing. The benefit: on the day of release the retailers will count all of the preorder sales as if they happened in one day, which can result in your book showing up at the top of popular charts, thus resulting in even more sales. Recently D2D set up preorders too, and it works in the same way. Just publish your book with a firm future date listed for release.

Price Points

At SW you can create coupons to make your book available at any discount, even for 100% off. This is handy in case you’d like to advertise specials for things like gifting copies or generating reviews. At both vendors you can set your price to always be free, but the coupon option is a bonus for authors who would prefer to charge most of the time. Advantage here to SW.

The Future

Expansion is an important element. SW has been expanding its distribution channels since they began. In the past year SW has added OverDrive, txtr, Scribd, Flipkart and Oyster. Just recently D2D added Scribd and Page Foundry and mentions they have plans in the works to expand. D2D has also seen its titles briefly removed from B&N and Kobo shelves, though they were replaced and that was largely due to retailers taking a stand on adult material. Hopefully that won’t happen again.

I like betting on proven winners, and since Mark Coker has such established history and ongoing presence in the publishing community, my choice is to stick with SW and plan for more expansion.

Decisions

There are a few options that make sense. I recommend always directly uploading to KDP Amazon of course (plus B&N, Kobo and Google Play if you want to).

Option A: Use SW exclusively. Bottom line: it has the most retailers under its belt, and learning basic formatting is good for you and not really that bad, just like eating spinach.

Option B: Use D2D exclusively. It gets you into the most important biggies like SW does, plus it can make CS paperbacks. And it’s as simple as sending them whatever you have.

Option C: Use a combination. Decide which one for Apple, B&N, Kobo, Scribd and Page Foundry based on the personal preferences. Consider D2D for CS paperbacks and rest assured that Smashwords will get you into FlipKart, Oyster, txrt, Baker & Taylor, the library channels and the new set of retailers destined to join the field.

Ultimately it boils down to your skill sets, your time and your needs.

Have a comment? Please share them in the comments section.


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Smashwords Defines Indie Author Manifesto

I love Indie Authors indie booksMark Coker of Smashwords has released an Indie Author Manifesto, right in line with my beliefs and those of most writers I work with. See the highlights below or read the entire blog post here.

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 author 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.

What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments section.


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Smashwords Predictions for 2014

When Mark Coker speaks about e-publishing, writers listen. Or they should; the Smashwords CEO has done as much for indie authors as anyone. The following are highlights from his annual industry predictions. To see the entire article, visit the Smashwords blog post.

Highlights of Mark’s predictions:

  1. Big publishers lower prices – 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 2013.
  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 – After a decade of exponential growth in ebooks with indies partying like it was 1999, growth is slowing. […] A normal cyclical shakeout is coming.
  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.
  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.  […]  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.
  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.
  8. It’s all about the writing – 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.
  9. All authors become indie authors – The best writers will have the option to publish independently AND traditionally, or do one or the other.
  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. […] 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.
  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.  […]  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.
  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.
  13. Multi-author collaborations will become more common – 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.
  14. Production takes on increased importance in 2014 – Organize your time to spend more time writing and less time on everything else.

Great predictions and advice. One of my questions not addressed above: what will happen to Barnes & Noble and its Nook? Feels like they’ve been sinking fast over the past two years. What are your thoughts about this list or 2014 in general?


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