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Ebook Publishing Best Practices - 16 Secrets of the Bestsellers (Part Two of Two in Sunnyvale Public Library series)


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Learn 16 secrets of the bestselling ebook authors. This presentation is Part Two in a two-part ebook publishing seminar series presented by Mark Coker and sponsored by the Sunnyvale Public Library. Learn how to increase the discoverability, desirability and sales of your self-published ebook. The 16 secrets presented here were all inspired by the best selling Smashwords authors, many of whom have hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists using these proven strategies for successful and professional publishing. Part one of this series, also available on Slideshare at provides an introduction to ebook publishing.

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Ebook Publishing Best Practices - 16 Secrets of the Bestsellers (Part Two of Two in Sunnyvale Public Library series)

  1. 1. Ebook Publishing Best Practices 16 Secrets of the Bestselling Indie Ebook Authors PART II – Sunnyvale Public Library January 27, 2015 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  2. 2. Welcome to Part II • What you’ll learn • How to e-publish like a pro • How to reach more readers and sell more books • 16 best practices of the bestselling indie authors • Who this presentation is for • Aspiring authors, published authors, library staff • No technical experience required!
  3. 3. My Backstory
  4. 4. I evaluated our options 1.The rational option  Admit we sucked, give up and accept our fate as failed authors 1. The irrational option  Believe in ourselves  Try to fix the problem
  5. 5. The Three Essential Legs of the Professional Publishing Stool - 1 - Printing Press - 3 - Retail Distribution - 2 - Best practices knowledge
  6. 6. My solution: Smashwords • FREE eBook Publishing Platform  Free ebook printing press  Distribution to major ebook retailers and libraries  Free educational resources – best practices knowledge - to help writers publish like professionals
  7. 7. How Smashwords Works 1. UPLOAD • Upload a Microsoft Word file, formatted to our Smashwords Style Guide • Ready for immediate sale online 1. DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to major retailers 1. GET PAID • Author receives 85% of net
  8. 8. Smashwords Distribution Network Upload/Update Once, Distribute Globally
  9. 9. Ebooks published at Smashwords
  10. 10. Let’s talk best practices
  11. 11. Platforms like Smashwords make ePublishing and eDistribution Easy…
  12. 12. Reaching Readers is Difficult * * most books don’t sell well
  13. 13. The Long Tail of Authordom Author sales rank Author earnings
  14. 14. The Secret to Reaching Readers: Best Practices!
  15. 15. Let’s review the best practices of the best-selling indie authors
  16. 16. Secret One
  17. 17. #1 Your best marketing is a great book • With the power to publish comes the responsibility to be a great publisher • Honor your reader with a great book • Move reader to a satisfying emotional extreme • Turns readers into evangelists • Be fanatical about quality • Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat, proof • Leverage beta readers • Readers prefer L O N G E R books
  18. 18. Longer Books Sell Better! As word count drops, sales and sales rank drops. Visualize the power curve overlaid on this chart. Books ranked in the top 10, 50 or 100 will sell exponentially more units than books ranked 1,000 or worse
  19. 19. Secret Two
  20. 20. #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 • Should arrest reader with thumb nail • Makes a promise to the target reader • You must know your target reader with micro- precision. For example, someone who enjoys romantic suspense is much more targeted that someone who enjoys romance.
  21. 21. What’s this book about?
  22. 22. Don’t be sloppy
  23. 23. Don’t do this either
  24. 24. Great covers make a promise
  25. 25. Great covers make a promise
  26. 26. Great covers make a promise
  27. 27. Great covers make a promise
  28. 28. Great covers make a promise
  29. 29. Great covers make a promise
  30. 30. And now a case study… The evolution of one cover
  31. 31. to this cover
  32. 32. … to this cover…
  33. 33. The cover sparked a breakout at Apple
  34. 34. And landed her on the NY Times Bestseller List
  35. 35. Secret Three
  36. 36. #3 Publish Another Great Book • The best-selling authors on Smashwords offer deep backlists • Each new ebook offers opportunity to • cross-promote other titles • build trust with your reader • build your brand
  37. 37. Bestselling Authors Publish More Books
  38. 38. Secret Four
  39. 39. #4 Give (some of) Your Books away for Free • If you have a deep backlist, offer at least one full-length book for free • Makes it easier for readers to take a chance on an unknown, untrusted author • ~39X more downloads • Turbocharges a series • Free works for standalone promos too • The highest grossing authors at Smashwords offer at least one free book
  40. 40. FREE Series Starters Turbocharge a Series
  41. 41. Secret Five
  42. 42. #5 Patience is a Virtue • Ebooks 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 • Never remove • Let’s look at some examples…
  43. 43. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, bigger breakout
  44. 44. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, smaller breakouts
  45. 45. Slow boil to breakout Ruth Ann Nordin’s An Inconvenient Marriage
  46. 46. Secret Six
  47. 47. #6 Maximize Availability, Avoid Exclusivity • Ebook retailing is not like sports or politics • If your book is not available at every retailer, it’s not discoverable or purchasable • Exclusivity • angers fans • limits audience • limits merchandising opportunities • increases your dependence upon a single sales outlet
  48. 48. Smashwords Distribution Network Upload/Update Once, Distribute Globally
  49. 49. Secret Seven
  50. 50. #7 Build a Platform You Control • Platform is your ability to reach and cultivate fans • Platform gives you control, leverage • Let fans decide how to connect • Facebook • Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn • Blog and/or website • Mailing list subscription • Include “Connect with the author” links at the end of every book (more on this later!)
  51. 51. Secret Eight
  52. 52. Secret #8 Use Viral Catalysts to Drive Word of Mouth • Books have always been a word of mouth business • Your readers determine your success • Leverage viral catalysts
  53. 53. What’s a Viral Catalyst? • A viral catalyst is anything that makes your book more available, accessible, desirable and enjoyable to readers • Read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (it’s FREE!) to learn how viral catalysts spur word-of-mouth
  54. 54. Viral Catalysts • Every thing you do right increases virality Great cover Great book Broad distribution Fair price Good categorization Professionally edited Great formatting Great title Great book description Great marketing Sampling enabled Multiple formats Patience LUCK! • Fall short anywhere, and you undermine true potential
  55. 55. Secret Nine
  56. 56. Secret #9 Pricing Strategy is Lever for Success • Pricing strategy impacts unit sales • Unit volume (sales and downloads) builds author platform, drives readers to your backlist • Unit sales X royalty per unit = profit • Pricing strategy essential to maximize both readership and earnings
  57. 57. Which Price Points for Fiction Get Most Downloads (% over/under average)
  58. 58. Which Price Points Yield Highest Earnings
  59. 59. Secret Ten
  60. 60. Secret 10: Don’t Let Fear of Piracy Paralyze Your Publishing
  61. 61. Everything you need to know about piracy • Obscurity is bigger risk • Black hat pirates who steal your book wouldn’t have purchased it anyway • Most piracy is accidental – it’s an enthusiastic fan marketing your book for you • Combat piracy by making your book easier to purchase than steal • Broad availability at all stores • Low, fair price
  62. 62. Secret Eleven
  63. 63. Secret #11 Leverage Preorders! • What’s a preorder?  Advance book listing at major retailers  Allows readers to reserve a copy in advance of release date  Customer credit card not charged until release date  Fast track to bestseller lists because all accumulated preorders credit all at once toward your first day’s sales rank, causing your book to rise in bestseller lists, which makes your book more visible and desirable to readers  Learn about preorders at
  64. 64. Secret Twelve
  65. 65. Secret #12 Practice Partnership and Positivity • Your fellow authors and service providers are your partners • Develop relationships • Their success is your success • Share your secrets • Positivity trumps negativity • Relationships give you upper hand • Avoid all negativity in social media - Internet rants are permanent, divisive and turn off readers and potential partners • Google alerts keep no secrets
  66. 66. Secret Thirteen
  67. 67. Secret #13 Collaborate with Fellow Authors • Identify authors you love and your fans will love • Publish collaborations • Box sets of full-length • Short story collections • Joint promos • They have fans you don’t reach, you have fans they don’t reach • Everyone wins • Learn how to do box sets: sets-at-smashwords-for.html
  68. 68. Secret Fourteen
  69. 69. Secret #14 Add three sections to backmatter 1. About Yourname Lastname • Short bio 1. Other books by Yourname Lastname • Title 1 • Title 2 1. Connect with Yourname Lastname • Facebook: • Twitter: • Web site: • Blog: • Smashwords author page: Learn how at to-smashwords.html
  70. 70. Secret Fifteen
  71. 71. Secret #15 Think Globally
  72. 72. Apple, B&N, Kobo, Amazon and others are going global You Have the Tools to Reach a Worldwide Market Today The tools are FREE
  73. 73. The market for your English-language books outside the US will soon exceed the US market Apple operates iBooks in 51 countries. We distribute to Apple. In 2014, 45% of Smashwords Apple iBooks sales were outside the US
  74. 74. Secret Sixteen
  75. 75. Secret #16 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 • I want you to succeed. Approach this
  76. 76. That’s it!
  78. 78. Learn Best Practices • Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of successful authors) • Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book) • Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook)
  79. 79. Learn how to e-publish like a pro with Smashwords Tutorials at Youtube at
  80. 80. Q&A Connect with Mark Coker and Smashwords: Web: Blog: LinkedIn: Facebook: HuffPo: Twitter: @markcoker