How to Reach More Readers with Self-Published Ebooks


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This presentation was given by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, at Self Publishing Boot Camp in San Francisco on February 18. The presentation summarizes the best practices of the most successful self-published ebook authors.

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How to Reach More Readers with Self-Published Ebooks

  1. 1. How to Reach More Readers with February 18, 2013 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  2. 2. My Backstory
  3. 3. I met Lesleyann
  4. 4. We made wrote a book together
  5. 5. Publishers Said “No”• Every major publisher said NO (TWICE!)
  6. 6. I evaluated our options1. The rational option  Acknowledge we sucked and weren’t good enough to be a published author  Curl up in fetal position and cry  Give up1. The irrational option  Believe in ourselves  Get mad  Try to fix the problem
  7. 7. How to fix a problem1. Identify the problem  Big 6 Publishers!!!  Toxic to the future of publishing  Don’t value all writers  Unable to take a risk on all writers1. Visualize the utopian solution  Every writer should have the right and the ability to publish  Readers should have the power to judge what’s worth reading1. Create the Solution
  8. 8. My Answer: Smashwords• Free Ebook Publishing Platform • Provide writers free tools so they can become their own ebook publishers • Open up the printing press to all • Open up distribution to major ebook stores
  9. 9. Indie ebooks published at Smashwords 191,000 92,000 28,800 6,000 140
  10. 10. Ebooks as a percentage of US wholesale trade market 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012Source: Association of American Publishers, 2012 Smashwords estimate
  11. 11. How Smashwords Works• UPLOAD • Author follows our Style Guide, uploads a Word .doc file … or (NEW), upload .epub • Instant, free ebook conversion • Sell today to global audience• DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to major retailers• GET PAID • Earn 60% list for books sold at retail • Quarterly payments
  12. 12. Smashwords offers Free publishing and distribution 85% net royalties (commission of 10% list price at retailers. Author earns 60% list on prices $.99 and up) Unlimited free updates Centralized metadata management Aggregated sales reports Free marketing tools (Coupons!) Global community of 50,000+ fellow Smashwords authors, publishers, agents Professional development resources
  13. 13. Learn (for FREE!) to Become a Professional Self-Publisher• Smashwords Style Guide (how to create and publish an ebook)• Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book)• Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of successful authors)
  14. 14. Let’s review the best practices of the best-selling indie authors
  15. 15. Secret One
  16. 16. #1 Your best marketing is a great book• Honor your reader with a great book • If your book doesn’t make readers go, “WOW!” you’re not done yet • Must turn readers into evangelists• Be fanatical about quality • Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat, proof • Leverage beta readers
  17. 17. Secret Two
  18. 18. #2 Adorn your book with a GREAT cover image• Invest in a quality cover image • Your first impression • Look professional • Should arrest reader with thumb nail • Visual • Genre/category appropriate • Makes a promise to the reader
  19. 19. Here’s a promise
  20. 20. Here’s another promise
  21. 21. Look what happened when the author went from this cover
  22. 22. … to this cover…
  23. 23. The cover sparked a breakout at Apple
  24. 24. And landed her on the NY Times Bestseller List
  25. 25. Secret Three
  26. 26. #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
  27. 27. Secret Four
  28. 28. #4 Give (some of) Your Books away for Free• After book quality & cover image, FREE is the next most powerful marketing tool• If you have a deep backlist, offer at least one full-length book for free • Eliminates financial risk for first-time readers • Turbocharges a series• The highest grossing authors/publishers at Smashwords offer at least one free book
  29. 29. Secret Five
  30. 30. #5 Maximize Availability, Avoid Exclusivity• Exclusivity • angers fans • limits audience • increases your dependence upon a single retailer• Ebook retailing is not like sports, religion or politics• If your book is not available at every retailer, it’s not discoverable or purchasable
  31. 31. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
  32. 32. Secret Six
  33. 33. #6 Patience is a Virtue• When your book lands at retailer, it’s a seedling, nourish it • Never pull out by the roots, never remove• 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 • Breakouts are unpredictable • Let’s look at some examples…
  34. 34. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, bigger breakout
  35. 35. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, smaller breakouts
  36. 36. Slow boil to breakoutRuth Ann Nordin’s An Inconvenient Marriage
  37. 37. Secret Seven
  38. 38. Don’t Worry about Piracy
  39. 39. Everything you need to know about piracy• Obscurity is your biggest risk• Black hat pirates who steal your book wouldn’t have purchased it anyway• Most piracy is accidental – it’s enthusiastic fans marketing your book for you• Combat piracy by making your book easier to purchase than steal
  40. 40. Irrational fear of piracy leads leads to obscurity• The only reliable method of avoiding piracy is to NEVER PUBLISH• Anti-piracy measures such as DRM only limit availability, accessibility and enjoyment• Fear gone too far will scare readers: • Bio: Dear all, Mohammad Nashir is a poet, foreign language poet and writer. Laws: If you have been found stealing or maintaining theft of any of this material you will be taken to court, have an injunction be contacted by fraud squads or have the police at your door.
  41. 41. Secret Eight
  42. 42. Leverage Viral Catalysts
  43. 43. What’s a Viral Catalyst?• A viral catalyst is something that makes your book more available, accessible, desirable and enjoyable to readers
  44. 44. Viral Catalysts• Every thing you do right increases virality. Iterate until you get right formula Great cover Social media enabled Great story Sampling enabled Professionally edited Multiple formats Great title Good formatting Broad distribution Good categorization Competitive price LUCK! Great book description Great marketing
  45. 45. Secret Nine
  46. 46. Secret #9 Unit Volume is Lever for Success• Unit volume (sales and downloads) increase platform, drives readers to your backlist• Unit sales X royalty per unit = profit• Pricing strategy essential to maximize both
  47. 47. How Price Impacts Units SoldData source:
  48. 48. What Price Yields Highest Earnings?Data source:
  49. 49. Secret Ten
  50. 50. Secret #10 Practice Partnership and Positivity• Your fellow authors and service providers are your partners • Help them be successful • Learn from them • Share your secrets• Positivity trumps negativity • Relationships give you upper hand • Internet rants are permanent • Google alerts keeps no secrets
  51. 51. Secret Eleven
  52. 52. Secret #11 Think Globally Retailers are going global. AppleiBookstore (50 countries), Kobo (15/180), B&N (2), Amazon (~12) Nearly 50% of Smashwords iBookstore sales outside the US
  53. 53. Secret Twelve
  54. 54. Secret #12 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
  55. 55. Free Ebook Publishing Resources• NEW! 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)
  56. 56. Thank you! Q&AConnect with Mark Coker and Smashwords: Web: Blog: LinkedIn: Facebook: Twitter: @markcoker