Introduction to Ebook Publishing (Smashwords tutorial series, #1)


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Learn how to produce, publish, distribute and sell an ebook. This tutorial, narrated by Mark Coker of Smashwords, offers a comprehensive primer on ebook publishing. No technical experience necessary! After a short personal introduction by Mark, he identifies the top 5 trends shaping the future of authorship, and then provides viewers a step-by-step ebook publishing checklist. Learn the key trends in the ebook market, ebook formatting secrets and how to create a cover that grabs readers. Next, Mark explains what Metadata is, and how authors can use it to increase the discoverability of their books. Additional sections of this tutorial explore and explain ISBNs, copyright, piracy, how to list your book at multiple ebook retailers, and how to market your book. A discussion on Viral Catalysts helps you learn how to increase the desirability of your book and how to maximize reader word of mouth. Be sure to check out other Smashwords tutorials! Learn to publish like a pro! View the video of this presentation at

Introduction to Ebook Publishing (Smashwords tutorial series, #1)

  1. 1. An Introduction to Ebook Publishing September, 2013 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  2. 2. Notes for the Slideshare edition of this presentation This is the companion deck to a Smashwords video workshop available on YouTube Here are links to each video in this 5-part series: #1 - An Introduction to Ebook Publishing (a primer and e-publishing checklist) #2 - The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices secrets for reaching more readers) #3 - Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More Books (pricing strategy and fun metrics) #4 - 10 Trends Driving the Future of Authorship (indie authors are the future of publishing!) #5 - How to Reach More Readers at Apple iBooks (merchandising secrets to grow sales!) The complete video collection is at View more Smashwords presentations on Slideshare at
  3. 3. About this video • What you’ll learn • How to produce, publish, price, distribute and sell an ebook • 5 trends that will transform the future of authorship • Who this video is for • Writers, aspiring authors, published authors • No technical experience required!
  4. 4. My Backstory
  5. 5. This is me
  6. 6. This is my lovely wife
  7. 7. Publishers Said “No” • Despite great efforts of our agent, every major NY publisher said NO (TWICE!)
  8. 8. I evaluated our options 1. The rational option  Admit failure, assume fetal position 1. The irrational option  Believe in ourselves  Mortgage the house and try to fix the problem
  9. 9. My Answer: Smashwords • * FREE * eBook Publishing Platform  Free ebook printing press  Distribution to major ebook retailers and libraries  Free learning materials help writers become professional publishers
  10. 10. Ebooks published at Smashwords 250,000+ September 2013 250,000 191,000 200,000 150,000 92,000 100,000 50,000 28,800 140 6,000 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
  11. 11. How Smashwords Works • UPLOAD • Word .doc or .epub • Instant, free ebook conversion • Instantly for sale • DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to retailers and libraries • GET PAID • Author earns 60-80% list
  13. 13. TREND ONE: Reading Moving to Screens
  14. 14. Screens are the new paper
  15. 15. Ebooks as a percentage of US wholesale trade market 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 Source: Association of American Publishers, 2012 Smashwords estimate
  16. 16. Ebooks to overtake print Print books Ebooks Print books Ebooks Dollars Units
  17. 17. Why ebooks are hot • Many readers prefer reading words on screens • Changeable font size • A B C D Ebooks offer better book-buying experience • Lower cost than print • Convenient sampling and purchasing • Huge selection
  18. 18. TREND TWO Democratization of Publishing
  19. 19. In the Past, Publishers Controlled Everything • They controlled the … • printing press • distribution • knowledge to professionally publish
  20. 20. Today, Authors Have Free Access to the Tools • Authors have … • FREE ebook printing press • Democratized ebook distribution • Access to the knowledge of professional publishing best practices
  21. 21. Publishers losing their monopoly • Writers no longer need publishers to publish, distribute and sell • Writers asking two questions: 1. “What can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?” 2. “Will a publisher actually harm my ability to reach readers?”
  22. 22. TREND THREE Self-published authors hitting all the bestseller lists
  23. 23. Indies are hitting the bestseller lists • Self-published ebooks scaling all the bestseller lists • Retailers giving indies seat at merchandising table
  24. 24. Prediction Within 3 years, most NY Times bestselling ebooks will be from selfpublished authors - September 2013 by Mark Coker
  25. 25. Advantages of Indie Authorship • Indie ebook author advantages • faster time to market • creative control • better distribution to global market • immortal ebooks never go out of print • lower expenses • lower prices to consumers • earn more per book
  26. 26. QUADRUPLE +
  27. 27. Indie Ebook Authors Earn Higher Percentage of List Price Indie 60-80% • Traditional 12-17% Indies earn more at lower prices • At $2.99, indies earn ~$2.00. Traditional author would have to price over $10 to earn $2.00 • Lower price = reach more readers = more sales at higher profits per sale • Traditionally published ebook authors at disadvantage with high prices, low royalties
  28. 28. TREND FOUR The Previous Stigma of SelfPublishing is Disappearing
  29. 29. Self publishing was once seen as the option of last resort for writers. Now it’s increasingly viewed as the option of first choice.
  30. 30. Stigmas to reverse Aspire Traditional Aspire Indie Aspire Indie 5 yrs ago Today? Future? Aspire Traditional
  31. 31. TREND FIVE Ebooks are going global
  32. 32. The Global Ebook Opportunity • Countries outside the US are entering the exponential growth phase of their ebook markets • Ebook retailers going global • • Apple iBooks (51 countries), Amazon (~13), Kobo (14+), B&N (US, U.K.+) ~45% of Smashwords/iBooks sales global
  33. 33. Let’s learn how to publish and distribute an ebook!
  34. 34. Checklist for Publishing an Ebook  Finish a super-awesome book  Format the book prior to conversion  Prepare cover image  Prepare the metadata  Ebook conversion to multiple formats  Pricing  ISBNs  Copyright  Distribution to retailers, libraries  Piracy  Marketing
  35. 35. 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 (the author) are the publisher • Edit, revise, edit, revise • Involve beta readers (then revise again) • Hire professional editor if necessary
  36. 36. Ebook Formatting
  37. 37. Formatting is the layout and design process to prepare your book for publication
  38. 38. Formatting for Smashwords It’s 300,000+ downloads! FRE E!
  39. 39. 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
  40. 40. Reflowability: Ebook devices (and customers) shape shift text Example of Smashwords novel, All Good Things Die in L.A. by Anhoni Patel • • User-selected options: Font: Verdana; Background pattern: Stone carving; text color: Dark Violet; Font size: larger than normal
  41. 41. Cover Image
  42. 42. Create Your Ebook Cover • Covers are important • First impression • Covers are both marketing and content • Make it:  engaging, matched to target audience  professional  good as thumbnail  good as B&W, greyscale
  43. 43. DIY Cover, or Hire Professional? • Unless you’re an expert graphic designer or cover designer, it’s best to hire • Email for low cost cover designers and formatters • It’s inexpensive: $50-$150 (Mark’s list) or under $300 elsewhere (still cheap!)
  44. 44. Most of us design terrible covers As an experiment, I tried to create a cover. It was an embarrassment!
  45. 45. So I Hired a Pro for $45.00 Send email to: for “Mark’s List”
  46. 46. What’s this book about?
  47. 47. Covers should make a promise
  48. 48. Here’s another promise
  49. 49. Here’s another promise
  50. 50. And now a case study… The evolution of one cover
  51. 51. Look what happened when the author went from this cover
  52. 52. … to this cover…
  53. 53. The cover sparked a breakout at Apple
  54. 54. And landed her on the NY Times Bestseller List
  55. 55. Metadata
  56. 56. Metadata is information about your book • Metadata enables • Discovery • Sales reporting • Author payments • Some metadata you or your publisher will create • Some is auto-generated
  57. 57. Metadata is data that makes your book discoverable in a store Price Book title Book category Language ISBN Author name Book description Tags Publication date
  58. 58. Ebook Conversion
  59. 59. Conversion = Turning your formatted manuscript into an ebook file readable on multiple ebook reading devices
  60. 60. E-reading Devices
  61. 61. Ebook Conversion Options Conversion Options 1. Automated (Smashwords, Amazon) 2. DIY conversion tools (Calibre, Sigil, Adobe InDesign) 3. Hire ebook formatter/ designer/coder (Complex books)
  62. 62. Pricing
  63. 63. Pricing • Determine objective • Platform building, sales, or both? • If you publish multiple books, cover multiple price points to capture the most readers • FREE, $.99, $2.99, $3.99, $4.99+ • Non-fiction supports higher prices than fiction
  64. 64. ISBN
  65. 65. What’s an ISBN? • What it is: • Unique digital identifier • A 13-digit number • Helps supply chain communicate about book • Required for Smashwords distribution to Apple, Sony, Kobo, others • What it is NOT: • Does not connote ownership or copyright • Does not imply “professional” or “real” • Not a common discovery method
  66. 66. 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
  67. 67. Copyright
  68. 68. 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
  69. 69. Distribution to retailers
  70. 70. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
  71. 71. Maximize Availability, Avoid Exclusivity • Ebook retailing is not like sports, religion or politics • If your book is not available at every retailer, it’s not discoverable or purchasable • Exclusivity • angers fans • limits audience • increases your dependence upon a single sales outlet
  72. 72. Two options for getting your book on a retailer’s virtual shelves 1. Use a Distributor (such as Smashwords) • Upload one file, reach many retailers • Centralized metadata management • Time-savings, consolidated payments and tax reporting • Preorders to Apple, B&N, Kobo 1. Direct to Retailers • Format for each specific retailer • Upload to, and manage each retailer separately • Sony, Diesel, Flipkart, Libraries require distributor
  73. 73. Piracy
  74. 74. Everything you need to know about piracy • Don’t worry 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
  75. 75. Irrational fear of piracy leads leads to obscurity • The only reliable method of piracy prevention is to NEVER PUBLISH • Anti-piracy measures such as DRM only limit availability, accessibility and enjoyment • Combat piracy by making your book easier to purchase than steal • Low, fair price • Broad distribution
  76. 76. Marketing
  77. 77. Marketing isn’t as important as you think • Marketing is a catalyst, not fuel • Your book is your best marketing • Reader word of mouth determines your success • Focus on discoverability and platform building • Viral catalysts amplify word of mouth
  78. 78. What’s a Viral Catalyst? • A viral catalyst is something 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
  79. 79. 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 Social media enabled Sampling enabled Multiple formats LUCK! • Fall short anywhere and you create unnecessary friction
  80. 80. The Plan Forward
  81. 81. The Publishing Industry is in Flux. These changes will… Benefit Indie Authors Disadvantage Traditionally Published Authors
  82. 82. YOU are the future of publishing
  83. 83. YOU have a right to publish
  84. 84. YOU are your own gatekeeper YOU decide when your manuscript graduates to published book
  85. 85. Honor your readers Give them great books (and do it faster with lower prices)
  86. 86. The task before you is not easy, yet…
  87. 87. The Opportunity to Reach Readers Has Never Been Greater
  88. 88. 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)
  89. 89. Please share this video with a friend! Look for other Smashwords videos coming soon! Connect with Mark Coker and Smashwords: Web: Blog: LinkedIn: Facebook: HuffPo: Twitter: @markcoker