Today I'm delighted to have Mark Coker, author and founder of ebook publisher Smashwords, visit The Savvy Book Marketer to talk about ebooks.
Welcome Mark. These are exciting times for independent authors, with so many ways to publish and distribute their work. Smashwords makes books available in a variety of ebook formats, including those compatible with popular ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Nook, and Sony eReader. Can you tell us briefly how Smashwords works and what the fees are?
Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform. Authors simply upload their finished manuscript as a Microsoft Word document, formatted to the requirements described in our Smashwords Style Guide, and then we convert it into multiple ebook formats and make it available for immediate online sale at a price set by the author. Since we publish multi-format, our books are readable on any e-reading device. All of our services are free. We earn our income by taking a 15% commission on the net. 85% of the net goes to the author.
I was excited to learn that some ebooks published through Smashwords are eligible to be listed in some of the largest ebookstores, giving authors tremendous exposure. What does it take to get onto that distribution list?
Once a book is published at Smashwords, we evaluate it for inclusion in our Premium Catalog. The requirements are strictly mechanical to match what our retailers want, so we’re looking for a good book cover image, good formatting, a clear copyright statement, and complete metadata. Once the book is accepted into the Premium Catalog, we distribute it to Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo. Our books sit on the same virtual shelves as those by the major publishers.
What are some other reasons for authors to publish in ebook format?
Ebooks are fastest growing segment of the book publishing industry. Based on recent sales data published by the IDPF, for the months of January and February, ebooks now account for just over 7% of wholesale book sales in the U.S., up from about one half of one percent just a couple years ago. Within three to five years, it’s likely this number will approach or surpass 50%.
Ebooks are a powerful force for democratization in publishing. Publishing platforms such as Smashwords make it possible for any author, anywhere in the world, to instantly publish their book and reach a vast worldwide market. Authors can bypass traditional publishing industry gatekeepers and sell direct to consumers via the largest online book retailers. In the old print world, you needed to publish with a big traditional publisher if you wanted distribution to major brick and mortar book stores. With book buying shifting to the Web, access to physical distribution matters less, both for ebooks and print on demand books. This shift levels the playing field for indie authors.
What are some of the most common mistakes that you see authors make in publishing and marketing?
Most common ebook publishing mistakes:
1. Sloppy editing.
2. Sloppy book covers.
3. Failure to understand that ebooks are formatted differently from print books.
Most common marketing mistakes:
1. Beginning the marketing process too late.
2. Failure to make marketing a daily priority.
3. Spamming social network followers.
Can you tell us what motivated you to found Smashwords? And I just have to ask where the catchy name came from.
I chose “Smashwords” because the word “smash” has multiple, almost diametrically opposed meanings. The word, “smash” connotes both destruction and success. Writing, to me, is a process of creative destruction. You write, rewrite, revise, edit, cut and paste, cut, and generally wrangle with your words until you get them to behave properly. Editing and revision can be an extremely destructive, painful process. It’s tough to give up that which you hold dear (your words!), but in the end the work gets better with every revision. I see this same creative destruction happening in publishing. A massive forest fire is about to sweep through publishing, and out of the ashes of destruction will come the nutrients for publishing’s renewal.
I love how the word “smash” connotes success or a job well done, such as “smash hit,” or “absolutely smashing!” I’d like to think Smashwords gives great authors the chance they deserve to get their work out to readers.
Thanks for sharing, Mark. I'm looking forward to your upcoming guest post on The Savvy Book Marketer where you elaborate on the common book publishing and marketing mistakes cited above.
Can you tell us what motivated you to found Smashwords? And I just have to ask where the catchy name came from.My wife and I wrote a novel a few years ago, and despite representation from one of the top literary agencies in New York, we were unable to sell it. The experience helped me realize there were potentially millions of authors, just like my wife and me, who were being denied the opportunity to reach readers simply because some ivory tower publisher didn’t see a large enough commercial market for the book. What about works of brilliance with a target market of only 500 readers? Is that book any less valuable? I decided the commercial filter is fundamentally flawed, so I decided to create an online platform that would give authors to the freedom to publish what they want and then we’d let the readers judge what’s worth reading.
I encourage all authors to download Mark's free Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for some great book promotion tips. For information about publishing ebooks through Smashwords, see How to Publish at Smashwords. You can follow @MarkCoker on Twitter.
For a real-world look at one indie publisher's experience in publishing through Smashwords, see this terrific series of articles by James Byrd of Logical Expressions:
Adventures with Smashwords - Publishing an E-Book
Adventures in Smashwords - Getting Premium Distribution
For a real-world look at one indie publisher's experience in publishing through Smashwords, see this terrific series of articles by James Byrd of Logical Expressions:Adventures with Smashwords - Signing Up as a Small Publisher