How to Reach Readers at Apple iBooks - Merchandising Secrets for Indie Authors (Tutorial Series #5)


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This comprehensive online workshop, The Alliance of Independent Authors, teaches authors how to reach more readers at the Apple iBooks Store. Mark Coker of Smashwords teaches authors how to maximize merchandising opportunities and sales at the world's second largest ebook store. This was part II of a two-part ALLi series featuring Mark Coker. View part I at Learn more about ALLi at

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  • How to Reach Readers at Apple iBooks - Merchandising Secrets for Indie Authors (Tutorial Series #5)

    1. 1. How to Reach More Readers at the Apple iBooks Store Maximize Indie Ebook Merchandising Opportunities October 2, 2013 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
    2. 2. Notes for the Slideshare edition of this presentation This presentation was originally presented October 2, 2013, in a live webinar sponsored by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). It was Part II in a two-part live event. Part I, titled, “Self Publishing Strategies for Success,” focused on ebook publishing best practices. View that ALLi presentation here: This presentation, Part II, covers iBooks merchandising strategies. You can view the companion video recording of this presentation at Youtube:
    3. 3. Part II in the two-part SMART PUBLISHING STRATEGIES FOR INDIE AUTHORS series sponsored by Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)
    4. 4. About this presentation • What you’ll learn • Apple’s approach to the ebook business • Apple’s ebook strategy compared to Amazon’s strategy, and what this means for authors • How Apple merchandises books • How indie authors can raise the visibility of their books in the Apple store
    5. 5. Hello
    6. 6. Quick Intro, Mark Coker and Smashwords • Founder of Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks • Smashwords is a * FREE * eBook Publishing Platform • • Distribution to major ebook retailers and libraries • • Free instant ebook conversion and publication Free learning materials help writers become professional publishers Smashwords has been a global authorized Apple iBooks aggregator since the launch of the iBooks store in 2010
    7. 7. The Problem: Publishers Controlled Everything • They controlled the … • printing press • distribution • knowledge to professionally publish
    8. 8. My solution: Smashwords • FREE eBook Publishing Platform  Free ebook printing press  Distribution to major ebook retailers and libraries  Best practices knowledge to help writers become professional publishers
    9. 9. Ebooks published at Smashwords 250,000+ September 2013 250,000 191,000 200,000 150,000 100,000 50,000 92,000 28,800 140 6,000 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
    10. 10. How Smashwords Distribution Works • UPLOAD • • Free conversion to 9 ebook formats • • Upload a Microsoft Word file or .epub Ready for immediate sale online DISTRIBUTE • • Distribution to multiple major retailers GET PAID • Author receives 85%+ of net = 60% list from major retailers
    11. 11. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
    12. 12. LET’S GET STARTED
    14. 14. Quick Introduction to Apple iBooks • Launched in April 2010, concurrent with iPad launch • Millions of customers who only shop here • Over 600 million iOS devices sold • Over 150 million iBooks apps downloaded • Over 2 million books listed • Operates in 51 countries • 45% of sales outside US (Smashwords books) • #2 global ebook seller 2012 • #3 US ebook seller 2012 (will be #2 in 2013)
    15. 15. APPLE’S AMBITION
    16. 16. Apple’s Ambition Don’t underestimate Apple Apple wants to do for digital books what they did for digital music – become #1
    17. 17. Comparing and Contrasting Apple to Amazon
    18. 18. Apple vs. Amazon • What they have in common: • Both are fanatical about customer satisfaction • Both would rather please a customer than make a buck • Both expanding their multi-billion dollar digital media businesses (music, film, television, apps, books!) • Both ridiculously smart and forward looking • Both expanding internationally
    19. 19. Apple vs. Amazon • Where they differ: Hardware • Hardware competency • • • Amazon: The underdog in hardware Apple: No one does hardware like Apple Installed base • • • Amazon: ???? Apple: Over ½ billion devices Watch the hardware battle • Installed base of devices, more than anything else, will determine the winner in Amazon vs. Apple ebook battle
    20. 20. Apple vs. Amazon • Where they differ: Reading Apps • Amazon: • • • Allows reading from Amazon library across multiple devices and platforms Amazon app’s features are limited, but functional Apple: • Better UI/UX: better font options, vertical scrolling, full page, night reading, etc. • Robust and user-friendly support for ePub 3, fixed layout, and embedded media (video and audio)
    21. 21. Apple vs. Amazon • Where they differ: Partnership strategy • Amazon: “A favorite Bezos aphorism is ‘Your margin is my opportunity.’ ” – Fortune Magazine 11/16/2012, story by Adam Lashinsky • • • Vertical disintermediation from book creation to book selling Leverages its power to put squeeze on suppliers (authors/publishers) Apple: Actively engages with partners • Partners closely with distributors like Smashwords and major publishers • Offers suppliers same margins globally, even in markets where Apple is sole major ebook player *
    22. 22. Apple vs. Amazon Where they differ: ebook retailing • • Amazon • Amazon book sales larger than Apple, but market share has dropped from ~90% to ~55% since Apple’s entry in 2010 • Amazon’s retail store is the gold standard for algorithmic book discovery, comes from browser background • Kindle for PC/Mac/Linux apps reading on any device • Apple • gaining market share • merchandising is more editorially focused • store within iBooks app and iTunes on the Web • no apps for browser reading on non-iOS devices • store not as web browser friendly
    23. 23. Apple vs. Amazon • Where they differ: Exclusivity • Amazon: Exclusivity is central to ebook retailing strategy • exclusive content pulls customers away from Amazon’s retail competitors • authors who don’t agree to exclusivity get lower royalties, less discoverability, less pricing flexibility • makes authors more dependent upon Amazon by undermining author’s long term platform building at Amazon’s retail competitors • Apple: Exclusivity not part of strategy • no exclusivity programs • same high royalty rate for all territories without exclusivity • Can price at FREE without exclusivity
    24. 24. Apple vs. Amazon • Where they differ: Author engagement • Engagement style • Amazon: Heavy handed • price matching, sends threatening emails to authors • restricted FREE • Apple: Light touch • enforcement is content-related, and on formatting quality • NOT friendly to erotica • no history of price matching or threatening emails • unrestricted FREE pricing
    25. 25. Let’s learn about merchandising at Apple iBooks
    26. 26. What is Merchandising?
    27. 27. For Authors, Merchandising is a Fast-Track to Visibility • Equivalent to front-of-store placement with a big “Recommended!” sticker • Merchandised books have HUGE discovery and sales advantage • greater visibility to customers • increases sales trigger additional automated discovery advantages (also boughts, bestseller list ranking) • no cost to author, no exclusivity!
    28. 28. The Job of the Apple iBooks Merchandiser • Apple maintains a global team of merchandising professionals • Seeks to feature books that will please readers • Everything else is irrelevant • Must have confidence in the title • They’re agnostic re: traditionallypublished books vs. indie books • Indies have some advantages!
    29. 29. How Apple Promotes Featured Books • Front-of-store promotion on iBooks home page and in sub-catalogs • Often accompanied by custom artwork • Email promotions • Rare to get this: the equivalent of winning the lottery • Social media • Apple’s Twitter account has 200,000+ followers
    30. 30. Merchandising Options • Feature types • Single-title feature • Sneak Peeks (preorders with samples) • Price promos • Topical and themed features • • Holidays and calendar events • Current events • Genre features • Price ranges • • Author-specific features (full or subset of list) What’s hot Breakout Books!
    31. 31. Let’s view some of these merchandising features
    32. 32. How iBooks’ “Shelves” are Organized • Built inside free iBooks app • Front “Featured” page of app shows multiple categories of features • Major features at top • Brick features horizontally • • By genre, author, book, category, price range, topic, etc Quick links to • “Top Charts” bestseller lists, by category • Top authors • Search
    33. 33. Breakout Books: Special Merch Feature for Indie Authors Only • In late 2012, Apple launched an indie-only promotion called Breakout Books, first in Australia, then worldwide • A recurring, regularly updated feature in AU, NZ US, UK, Canada and others • Receives front-page promo • Hundreds of Smashwords authors have been featured!
    34. 34. Top of store rotator Major themed feature Multiple minifeatures “Bricks” iPhone
    35. 35. iPhone
    36. 36. iPad US promo
    37. 37. iPad
    38. 38. Discovery via Bestseller lists Storewide By category
    39. 39. iPad
    40. 40. How to get your book found on iBooks
    41. 41. How to drive discovery in iBooks I’ll share: 1. What the author can do 2. What Apple does for you
    42. 42. 1. What the author can do
    43. 43. What the author can do to get found • Get your books to Apple iBooks! • Complete list • FREE promos and perma-FREE • Free titles yield ~91x more downloads than priced • Author marketing • Promote direct links to your book page at Apple • On blog and web site • On all social media • Apple offers helpful online marketing tools (next slides…)
    44. 44. Apple Tools: Widget Builder • Get at
    45. 45. Apple Tools: Link Maker • Get at
    46. 46. Other tricks for finding your book’s hyperlink at Apple • Google ‘book title Apple iBookstore’ then click on the listing • Use the ISBN: 11 ^ country code ^^ ISBN
    47. 47. Apple Tools: Banner Builder 1 2 3 4 5 6 Go to
    48. 48. Apple Tools: Badges and Buttons • Go to then click Linking Tools, then click “Get badge and art guidelines”
    49. 49. Apple Tools: Join the Apple iBooks Affiliate Program • Join at • Earn extra 7% list on all sales of all digital media products for 24 hours • some geographic restrictions apply
    50. 50. 2. How Apple Helps Authors Get Found
    51. 51. How Apple Helps Readers Find Your Book 1. Automated merchandising 2. Merch team selects titles
    52. 52. 1a. How Apple Gets You Found • Search • • • Customer searches for your title or author name Web search Bestseller lists • Customer-sales driven, unit volume • + Category filters • Also boughts • Other books by this author • “Buy this book” at end of samples • Preorders (next slide)!
    53. 53. 1b. Preorders (Smashwords delivers preorders to Apple, B&N and Kobo!) • Customers reserve copy before book is officially available • Can download free sample • At onsale date, accumulated preorders credit at once, causing spike in sales rank and increased discoverability • Tips for preorder success • Budget 4-8 weeks preorder runway • Promote heavily during preorder period • More at
    54. 54. How Apple Selects Books for Merchandising Love
    55. 55. How Apple Selects Books for Merchandising • Can only feature a small number of books each week (less than 1 in 20,000, or .005%) • Global merch team considers combination of factors to gain confidence to recommend a book • 1. Customer-driven factors • 2. Book/Author-specific factors • 3. Publisher/distributor recommendations
    56. 56. 1. Customer-driven editorial factors
    57. 57. 1a. Customer-driven factors • Leverages customer-driven metrics to identify books worthy of promotion • Sales performance • What’s trending, what’s holding • Preorders - Apple and Smashwords track preorder rates • What’s selling well at other Smashwords retailers? • Customer ratings and reviews • Most downloaded free titles • Does author have priced titles too?
    58. 58. 1b. How to earn the attention of Apple’s customers • Requires a consistent, long term focus • Bestsellers invariably earn 4.5+ stars and “WOW” reviews • Great book + great cover + great price + great promo plan • Promote your Apple titles on your blog, website and in social media • Each of Apple’s 51 territories represents a separate micro-market • It takes time to build readership in each market • Distribute all your titles to Apple, and never remove • A breakout in a smaller market may catch attention of other merch managers (K. Moseley broke out first in AU!) • Pre-orders (now at Smashwords!)
    59. 59. 2. Book/author-specific factors
    60. 60. 2. Book/Author-Specific Factors • Factors for editorial judgment • Apple merch team reads books! • Cover design • Look at author track record, platform • Evaluate author marketing plans and social media platform • Breadth of author list • Series starters
    61. 61. 3. Publisher/distributor recommendations
    62. 62. Smashwords recommendations • Apple makes all merchandising decisions, but they also regularly solicit input from publishers and aggregator partners such as Smashwords • Smashwords aggregates sales data from Smashwords-distributed titles, shares with Apple • Sell at Smashwords store • Distribute with Smashwords! • We track preorder performance • If you have a track record at Apple, provide Smashwords advance notification of new releases
    63. 63. Preorder Case Study
    64. 64. Kirsty Moseley Case Study • April 30, 2012, published this at Smashwords … • Published next title October 31, 2012…
    65. 65. Kirsty Moseley • Limited marketing beyond social media, Wattpad • Maintained pricing at $2.99 • Maintained non-stop distribution everywhere • Sales grew organically, held steady and strong • Great “wow” reviews, 4.5 stars+ • Caught attention of merch mgr in Australia • • • Led to on store promo, which led to greater breakout in AU Titles sold well, caught attention of other merch mgrs, broke out in other countries Alerted Smashwords in advance of next release, FREE FALLING
    66. 66. Kirsty Moseley May 15 Launch of FREE FALLING
    67. 67. FREE FALLING Launch May 15 • Carefully orchestrated multi-stage campaign involving Apple’s global merch team, Smashwords and Kirsty Moseley 1. Pre-order with sample (first for Smashwords!) 2. Front of store promo in multiple countries 3. Inclusion in multiple front-page standalone features and group features in weeks leading to launch 4. Author promotion 5. Multiple email blasts • Hit #2 in US, UK, Australia and Canada on launch day after Dan Brown!
    68. 68. Home Page Merchandising of Free Falling (one of several)
    69. 69. Home Page Merchandising of Free Falling
    70. 70. Book page to sample download
    71. 71. Sample reading to buying preorder
    72. 72. All pre-orders at Apple credit to sales rank on day one
    73. 73. Thanks for watching!
    74. 74. Summary of Key Points • Apple is the world’s second largest ebook retailer • Every week, Apple is providing indie authors highprofile promotion alongside traditional publishers • If a book is selected for merchandising love, it can dramatically increase the author’s sales • Title selection for merchandising love is merit-based • Write a book that WOWS Apple customers • Make sure your marketing supports Apple and their millions of customers • If you’re a Smashwords author, and your book is among our top sellers at other retailers, we’ll advocate for you at Apple (because Apple realizes we can help spot promising titles worthy of promo love).
    75. 75. Free Ebook Publishing Resources • 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)
    76. 76. Connect with Smashwords Web: Blog: (offers email subscription option) Facebook: Twitter: @markcoker