BEA 2013-Smashwords uPublishU at BEA 2013


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A Crash Course in E-book Self-Publishing: How to Do It Fast, Free & Easy AND How to Become a Bestselling E-book Author - from Smashwords!
E-books are the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry, and self-published authors are in the lead. This introduction to e-book self-publishing will teach you how to publish like a professional and reach a global market. Learn the top trends in e-publishing, followed by a step-by-step checklist of what’s involved to produce, publish, price, distribute, and market your e-book. This session addresses every author’s most common questions about e-book formatting, conversion, cover images, ISBNs, copyright, piracy, pricing, and distribution. The panel will give you the foundational knowledge you need to become a more professional, more successful author, regardless of your publishing experience, without technical jargon—all terms are defined in plain English.

Self-published e-book authors are hitting all the bestseller lists. Nearly every week, self-published e-books are featured on the New York Times bestseller list and in the top-10 bestseller lists at every major retailer. What are these authors doing to make their books stand out from the million-plus books crowding online e-book shelves? What can you do as a self-published author to take your e-book to the next level of success?
This session identifies the best practices of the most commercially successful self-published e-book authors. Session attendees will hear real-life examples of how many self-published authors broke out to become bestsellers. Among the many secrets in this presentation are best practice strategies for cover design (including examples and a cool case study), pricing, platform-building, distribution, how to turbo-charge word-of-mouth with viral catalysts and how to tap into the global market.

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BEA 2013-Smashwords uPublishU at BEA 2013

  1. 1. A Crash Course in Ebook Self-Publishing: How to do it Fast, Free and Easy Jim Azevedo, Smashwords June 1, 2013
  2. 2. My Backstory
  3. 3. Jim meets Mark Coker at Dovetail PR 18 years ago
  4. 4. Mark launches, levels investor playing field
  5. 5. Creative Pursuits
  6. 6. I join an indie metal band
  7. 7. People seem to like us
  8. 8. It’s very glamorous!!
  9. 9. Mark writes a book
  10. 10. Publishers Said “No” • Despite great efforts by his agent, every major publisher said NO! (TWICE!!)
  11. 11. Mark Decided Big Publishing was Broken • Books judged on perceived commercial merit • Difficult to identify potential bestsellers • Cannot take a risk on every book • Reject many great authors • Hundreds of thousands of writers silenced
  12. 12. Mark’s Answer: Smashwords  Democratize ebook publishing & distro • Free ebook publishing tools • Distribution to major ebook stores • Shared best practices knowledge
  13. 13. Enough about me and Smashwords Let’s talk about you and ebooks
  14. 14. Let’s bust a dangerous myth
  15. 15. What myth should we bust?
  16. 16. The Myth of Big Publishing
  17. 17. Writers who dreamed of becoming published authors felt they needed to bow down to Big Publishing
  18. 18. They felt they weren’t *really* authors until accepted by a publisher … and until they were accepted, their dreams had to wait
  19. 19. Publishers Controlled Dreams • Promised Perks of Reaching Our Dreams • editing • printing press • distribution • marketing • royalties • fame and respect • readers • “published author” inscribed on your tombstone
  20. 20. … and if you even considered the idea of self-publishing...
  21. 21. You were told to keep toiling and waiting. And waiting…. … you’d get a deal when you’ve sacrificed enough of your soul like these other great writers…
  22. 22. Justin Bieber got a book deal
  23. 23. Snooki got a book deal
  24. 24. Kourtney, Kim and Khloe got a book deal
  25. 25. Don’t sacrifice your soul! (or your hair!!)
  28. 28. Here comes technology
  30. 30. TREND ONE Bookselling moving to the Web
  31. 31. Bookselling moves to the Web • The decline of brick and mortar • Consumer drivers:  Price  Convenience  Selection • Self-published books displayed side by side with traditional books • Big publishers no longer control distribution
  32. 32. TREND TWO: Reading Moving to Screens
  33. 33. Screens are the new paper
  34. 34. Ebooks as percentage of US wholesale trade market 0 10 20 30 40 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 1%.5% 3% 8% 19% >30% Source: Association of American Publishers; 2012 Smashwords estimate
  35. 35. Why ebooks are hot • Screens offer better reading experience than paper • Changeable font size • Portable and compact • Screens will get better/faster/cheaper • Ebooks offer better consumption experience • Lower cost than print • Convenient sampling and purchasing • Huge selection A B C D
  36. 36. TREND THREE The Rise of Ebook Self-Publishing (a.k.a indie ebook publishing)
  37. 37. Indie Ebooks Released via Smashwords 0 75000 150000 225000 300000 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Today 6,000 28,000 92,000 190,500 140 ~230,000
  38. 38. Why is this happening so quickly??
  39. 39. Artwork by Chuck Ingwerson
  40. 40. New tools open book publishing and distribution to all • Authors and small presses now empowered to professionally publish • Printing press in the cloud • Distribution to major online retailers, libraries • Knowledge of best practices freely accessible to all
  41. 41. TREND FOUR Content Explosion Leads to Downward Pressure on Prices
  42. 42. Glut leads to ebook price competition December 2012October 2010 $4.25 $3.00 Average price of Smashwords ebooks
  43. 43. TREND FIVE Publishers Losing Primacy as Stigma of Self-Publishing Disappears
  44. 44. Publishers losing their primacy • Writers no longer need publishers to publish, distribute and sell • Writers starting to ask: • “What can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?” • “Can a publisher actually harm my ability to reach readers (by pricing too high)?”
  45. 45. Indies are Now Out-Publishing Big Publishers • Indies scaling all the bestseller lists • Retailer and traditional media lists • Indie ebook author advantages • faster time to market • better distribution to global market • never go out of print • greater creative control • lower expenses • lower prices to consumers • earn more per book
  46. 46. Indie Ebook Authors Earn Higher Percentage of List Price • Indies earn more at lower prices • Indies earn more selling a $.99 ebook ($.60-$.70) than a traditional $8.00 MMP ($.40) • At $2.99, indies earn $1.80. Trad. author would have to sell at $10+ • Lower price = reach more readers = more sales at higher profits per sale • Higher price = less readers 60-80% 5-17% Indie Traditional
  47. 47. Planning your move to ebooks
  48. 48. Checklist for Publishing an Ebook  Finish a super-awesome book  Format the book prior to conversion  Prepare cover image  Ebook conversion to multiple formats  Pricing  ISBNs  Copyright  Distribution
  49. 49. Finish Your Super-Awesome Book • Ebook publishing tools make publishing fast, free and easy, but… • They don’t make it easy to write a great book • You’re the publisher, act like one • Edit, edit, edit, revise, revise, revise • Involve beta readers (then revise again) • Hire professional editor if necessary
  50. 50. Ebook Formatting
  51. 51. Formatting is the layout and design process to prepare your book for ebook conversion
  52. 52. Formatting Secrets • Forget (some of) what you know • Don’t try to make e- look like p- • Ebooks consumed differently than print • Design for reflowability, small screens • Less = more with ebooks
  53. 53. Ebook devices (and customers) shape shift text • Example of Smashwords novel, All Good Things Die in L.A. by Anhoni Patel • iPhone, using the Stanza reader with user- selected options
  54. 54. Cover Image
  55. 55. Create Your Ebook Cover • Covers are important • First impression • Covers are both marketing and content • Should look • engaging, matched to target audience • professional • good as thumbnail • good as B&W, greyscale
  56. 56. My Backstory
  57. 57. DIY Cover, or Hire Professional? • Good covers make a promise (so do bad covers) • Unless you’re an expert graphic designer or cover designer, it’s best to hire
  58. 58. Don’t be Lazy
  59. 59. Don’t be Dim Le Peuple de L’Etat de New York Contre Dominique Strauss-Khan
  60. 60. Most of us design poor covers
  61. 61. So Mark Hired a Pro for $45.00 Send email to: for “Mark’s List”
  62. 62. Ebook Conversion
  63. 63. Conversion = Turning your formatted manuscript into an ebook file readable on multiple ebook reading devices
  64. 64. E-reading Devices
  65. 65. Pricing
  66. 66. Pricing • Determine objective • Platform building, sales, or both? • Think like a fisherman • Blended strategy of chum and hooks, low prices and higher prices • Investigate • Check out what others are doing. Don’t over/under price your books.
  67. 67. Considerations Beyond Price • Quality, reader (fan) passion • Length • Author platform/brand • Marketing that builds urgency • Series or not • Non-fiction supports higher prices
  68. 68. ISBN
  69. 69. What’s an ISBN? • What it is: • Unique digital identifier • A 13-digit number • Helps supply chain communicate about book • Required for distribution to Apple, Sony, Kobo • What it is NOT: • Does not connote ownership or copyright • Does not imply “professional” or “real” • Not a common discovery method
  70. 70. Where to Obtain an ISBN • Go to • Expensive unless you purchase blocks of 10+ • Lists you as “publisher” in Books in Print • Go to Smashwords • FREE ISBNs
  71. 71. Copyright
  72. 72. Copyright Simplified • By publishing something you created, you have copyright • Copyright entitles you to an exclusive bundle of rights • The notation of © is optional • For best legal protection, go to and register copyright online • Learn more at the Copyright Clearance Center at
  73. 73. Distribution to Retailers
  74. 74. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
  75. 75. Q&A Break Next up, we’ll investigate ebook best practices...
  76. 76. How to Become A Bestselling Ebook Author! Jim Azevedo, Smashwords June 1, 2013
  77. 77. …By reviewing the secrets of the best-selling indie authors
  78. 78. ePublishing and eDistribution Is Easy
  79. 79. Reaching Readers is Still Difficult * * but achievable if you emulate best practices
  80. 80. Secret One
  81. 81. #1 Write a great book • Honor your reader with a great book • Turn readers into evangelists • With the power to publish comes the responsibility to be a superb publisher • Be fanatical about quality • Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat • Leverage beta readers Super Awesome ^
  82. 82. Secret Two
  83. 83. #2 Create a Great Cover image • Invest in a quality cover image • Your first impression on path to discovery • Look professional • Resonate with target audience • Makes a promise to the reader • Should arrest reader with thumb nail
  84. 84. Would You Buy This Book?
  85. 85. Great covers make a promise
  86. 86. Here’s another promise
  87. 87. And now a case study… The evolution of one cover
  88. 88. Slightly better
  89. 89. … and better yet
  90. 90. Improving the cover image From this... To this...
  91. 91. Sparked this: A breakout at Apple
  92. 92. And then there are the rule breakers … Ebook cover for Why Me? by Sarah Burleton
  93. 93. Landed on NY Times Ebook Bestseller List
  94. 94. 21+ Weeks on NY Times Bestseller List
  95. 95. Secret Three
  96. 96. #3 Publish Another Great Book • Best-selling authors and publishers at Smashwords offer deep backlists • Each ebook offers the opportunity to cross-promote other titles • Build trust with your reader • You’re the brand
  97. 97. Secret Four
  98. 98. #4 Maximize Distribution and Avoid Exclusivity
  99. 99. #4 Maximize Distribution, Avoid Exclusivity • Ebook retailing is not like sports, religion or politics • If your book is not available everywhere, it’s not discoverable or purchasable • Retailers & device-makers invest millions of dollars to attract readers to your books • Consider using a distributor to get your book sold in as many ebook stores as possible • Spend your time writing, producing, marketing
  100. 100. Secret Five
  101. 101. #5 Give (some of) Your Books away for Free • Most misunderstood, underutilized market development tool • If you have a deep backlist, offer at least one full-length book for free • Eliminates financial risk for first-time readers • Turbo charges a series • The highest grossing authors/publishers at Smashwords offer at least one free book
  102. 102. Secret Six
  103. 103. #6 Patience is a Virtue • Ebooks sales develop differently • Traditional print books – big sell-in, then yanked from shelves, then sales go to zero • Ebooks – can start small and grow slowly before breakout • Ebooks are immortal • Never go out of print • When your book lands at retailer, it’s a seedling, nourish it • An asset – a fruit tree – that will yield fruit over the long term • Never pull out by the roots
  104. 104. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, bigger breakout
  105. 105. Slow boil, slow build, breakout, slow boil
  106. 106. Slow boil to breakout Ruth Ann Nordin’s An Inconvenient Marriage
  107. 107. Secret Seven
  108. 108. #7 Trust Your Readers and Partners • Don’t worry so much about piracy • DRM copy protection is counterproductive • If you don’t trust your readers to honor your copyright, you’ll reach fewer paid readers • Trust your supply chain partners • If you limit distribution due to lack of trust, you’ll limit your sales
  109. 109. Secret Eight
  110. 110. #8 Platform Building Starts Yesterday • Platform = your ability to reach readers • Utilize multiple tools • Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus • Book sales, free downloads • Cultivate your social network • Contribute, share ideas, support your fellow writers and publishers • Don’t spam your network
  111. 111. Secret Nine
  112. 112. #9 Architect for Virality • Books have always been a word of mouth business • Your readers determine your success • Understand the power of your “First Reader” • Reach “First Readers” with marketing, social media, networking
  113. 113. The Viral Dream First reader More Readers
  114. 114. Viral Decay, The Reality First reader Readers
  115. 115. Negative Virality First reader This book sucks!!!! = Last reader Fun fact: 29 of 30 Apple bestsellers had rating of 4.5 stars
  116. 116. How to Architect for Virality • Implement the Secrets • Eliminate friction that limits • availability • sampling • purchasing • enjoyment Additional resource: Read The Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg
  117. 117. Viral Catalysts • Every thing you do right increases virality Great cover Great story Professionally edited Great title Great book description Great book Great marketing Fair price Social media enabled Sampling enabled Multiple formats Broad distribution Good formatting Good categorization LUCK!
  118. 118. Secret Ten
  119. 119. #10 Unit Volume and Royalty Rate are Levers for Success • Unit volume (sales and downloads) increase platform, drives readers to your backlist • Unit sales X royalty rate = profit • Pricing strategy essential to maximize both
  120. 120. How Price and Royalty Impact Success
  121. 121. Q: What impact does price have on unit sales?
  122. 122. How Price Impacts Units Sold Our reference point is $10+. So, looking back to the left, books priced at $.99 sell 3.9x more than books that sell at $10 and above. $1.99 is a black hole, but $3.99, we’ve learned, has become a sweet spot. Currently, $2.99 seems the most popular price point, and authors may even be under pricing their books.We suspect that $3.99 may become “the new $2.99” once authors discover they’re selling $4.3 times as many books. You might conclude, correctly, by a simple glance that chart that as prices go up, unit sales decrease. But what price nets the author the most earnings? -- • This set of data examines how price impacts unit sales • 1.0 = normalized reference point. For example, books priced in $3.00-$3.99 price band, on average sell 4.3 times more units than books priced $10.00+ • Key findings: • Low prices tend to sell more units (not a surprise) • $1.99 price point dramatically underperforms (surprise) • Is $3.99 the new $2.99? I see untapped opportunity there, where indies may be able to raise prices but not suffer unit volume decline.
  123. 123. Q: What prices earn the author the greatest amount of money?
  124. 124. What Price Yields the Greatest Author Earnings? Again, using $10.00+ as our reference point, and 100% as our average, we can see that $3.99 books, on average, netted the authors more earnings (profit per unit, multiplied by units sold) than the average book at any price. When we look at the $3.99 price point compared to the average @ 100%, that price earned the author about %55 more. So if you’re trying to make a decision about how to price your book in order to attract readers and still get a respectable earning, now you know that an ebook priced at $3.99 will produce more earnings for you AND enable you to reach >4X the amount of readers that a book priced at $10+. The lower-priced books are building author brand faster. Never mind that an indie author earns more per $3.99 unit sold than a traditionally published author earns at $10. If an author can earn the same or greater income selling lower cost books, yet reach significantly more readers, then, drum roll please, it means the authors who are selling higher priced books through traditional publishers are at an extreme disadvantage to indie authors in terms of long term platform building.
  125. 125. The Interplay Between Unit Volume and Dollar Volume Implications • Lower priced books sell more units • Ebooks priced @ $3.99 EARN MORE and REACH 4X MORE READERS than ebooks priced @ $10+. • Indie ebook authors’ long-term advantage over traditionally published authors
  126. 126. Secret Eleven
  127. 127. #11 Pinch Your Pennies • You’re running a business • Profit = Sales minus Expenses • Most books don’t sell well (!!!!) • NEVER borrow money to publish a book • NEVER spend or invest money you need for food and shelter • DIY then reinvest
  128. 128. Secret Twelve
  129. 129. #12 Think Globally
  130. 130. Apple, B&N, Kobo, Amazon and others are going global You Have the Tools to Reach a Worldwide Market Today, and The Tools are FREE
  131. 131. Apple operates iBookstores in 51 countries. In Sept 2012, ~46% of Smashwords Apple iBookstore sales were outside the US. The market for your books outside the US will soon dwarf the US market.
  132. 132. When You Leave Today...
  133. 133. DON’T FORGET • Your opportunity to reach readers has never been greater • Free tools make it fast, free and easy to publish a book • A great book is your best marketing
  134. 134. YOU are the future of publishing
  135. 135. YOU are your own gatekeeper
  136. 136. YOU decide when your manuscript graduates to PUBLISHED BOOK
  137. 137. Take risks, experiment and share your experiences
  138. 138. Free Ebook Publishing Resources • NEW! Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success • Smashwords Book Marketing Guide • Smashwords Style Guide
  139. 139. Thank you for listening! Connect: Twitter: @jazzervedo Web: Blog: Email: