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Mark Coker's Ebook Self Publishing Workshop


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This is the slide deck of a 5-hour comprehensive workshop on ebook self-publishing, presented by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. The live presentation occurred September 29, 2012 in Sacramento, CA. Learn how to publish an ebook, and how to reach more readers with your words. Topics covered include: trends in book publishing; the rise of ebooks; a comprehensive checklist to publish, price and distribute an ebook; how to make your ebook more discoverable; characteristics of an effective ebook cover image; how to price an ebook; how to leverage price for maximum platform building; why you want your books fully distributed to multiple retailers; the growth of the global ebook market; the ideal word count for an ebook (readers prefer longer ebooks!); and many more best practices.

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Mark Coker's Ebook Self Publishing Workshop

  1. 1. EBOOK WORKSHOP: EBOOKS AND THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING California Writers Club Sacramento September 29, 2012 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  2. 2. Notes for this Slideshare EditionThis 5-hour workshop was presented September29, 2012 to members of the Sacramento chapterof the California Writers Club. For thisSlideshare edition, for some slides I have toadded additional notes, modified headings andadded hyperlinks to make this more online-friendly.The goal of the workshop was to arm writerswith professional best practices knowledge.Informed authors become more successfulauthors.If you find this presentation helpful, pleaseshare it with a writer friend.
  3. 3. Today’s Agenda1. The Future of Publishing2. How to Publish: An introduction to ebook self- publishing --- LUNCH ---3. How to Sell: Best practices for commercial success4. Data Data Data: Knowledge is power5. Let’s publish an ebook!!!!! (Removed from Slideshare presentation, since this segment featured a live demo)
  4. 4. PART I The Future of PublishingCalifornia Writers Club Sacramento September 29, 2012 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  5. 5. I bring you a message “a message of hope forthose who choose to hear it, and warning to those who do not”~ Lyrics from Rosetta Stoned by Tool
  6. 6. My Backstory
  7. 7. My wife is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine. Wewrote a novel together that explores the wild and wacky world ofdaytime television soap operas.
  8. 8. We were repped by one of the top NY literary agencies
  9. 9. Publishers Said “No”• Despite the great efforts of our agent, every major publisher said NO (TWICE!)
  10. 10. I imagined hundreds of thousands of other writers like us Silenced
  11. 11. Is it possible our book sucks? Do we suck?I decided that traditional systemof book publishing was broken. A newer, better system was needed. One that was more author-centric
  12. 12. The Problem with Traditional Publishing1. Publishers control * the printing press * the distribution * the knowledge to professionally publish2. Publishers reject most authors3. Publishers judge books on perceived commercial merit4. Publishers decide what readers can read5. Slow production cycles (12-18 mo)6. Print books too expensive7. Books forced out of print early8. Authors earn only 5-17% of list price
  13. 13. I Envisioned a More Democratic Form of Publishing1. Authors gain access to: * the printing press * the distribution * the knowledge to professionally publish2. Authors free to publish what they want3. Instant publishing4. Readers choose what they want to read5. Immortal ebooks, never go out of print6. Low cost ebooks could increase affordability7. Authors should earn most of the proceeds
  14. 14. My Answer: Smashwords• Ebook publishing & distribution platform • Free ebook publishing tools • Distribution to major ebook stores • Promote publishing best-practices
  15. 15. How Smashwords Works1. UPLOAD • Upload a Microsoft Word file, formatted to our Style Guide • Ready for immediate sale online1. DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to major retailers1. GET PAID • Author receives 85% of net = 60% list from major retailers
  16. 16. Indie ebooks published at Smashwords 169,000 +180000 (September 29)160000140000120000 92,000100000 80000 28,800 60000 40000 6,000 20000 140 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
  17. 17. Enough about me.Let’s talk about you and your future.
  18. 18. Let’s bust a dangerous myth
  19. 19. What myth should we bust?
  20. 20. The Myth of Big Publishing
  21. 21. You were taught to bow subservient before the altar of Big Publishing
  22. 22. … taught you weren’t an author until a publisher blessed you as such… and until you were blessed, you were a failure
  23. 23. Publishers were the bouncers at the pearly gates• You were told a publishing contract would confer… • blessing • acceptance • validation • entry into the afterlife as a “published author”
  24. 24. Publishers controlled Heaven• Promised Perks of the Afterlife • editing • printing press • distribution • marketing • royalties • fame and respect • readers • “published author” inscribed on your tombstone
  25. 25. … and if you dared indulge in the carnal pleasures of self-publishing...
  26. 26. You were told to keep toiling and waiting. And waiting…. … you’d get a deal when you sacrificedenough of your soul like these other great writers…
  27. 27. Justin Bieber got a book deal
  28. 28. Snooki got a book deal
  29. 29. Kourtney, Kim and Khloe got a book deal
  30. 30. StopDon’t sell your soul
  32. 32. “GOD IS DEAD” Friedrich Nietzsche Implication: Nietzche wasn’t talking about a religious god, per se. He was talking about how all institutions are powered by their believers. If people stop believing in an institution, it will wither and die. My contemporary take: All of us in the business of serving authors must earn anddeserve the faith of the authors we serve, otherwise we will cease to exist.
  34. 34. No, though it has lost its wayYou will decide the fate of Big Publishing
  39. 39. Here comes technology
  40. 40. Let’s examine the important changes, andwhat these changes mean for your future
  42. 42. TREND ONEBookselling moving to the Web
  43. 43. Percentage of book purchasesmade online vs B&M, Print and E- Web Brick & Mortar Today?
  44. 44. 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
  45. 45. TREND TWO:Reading Moving to Screens
  46. 46. Screens are the new paper
  47. 47. 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
  48. 48. Ebooks to overtake print. Dollarsales underestimate unit sales and downloads, a leading indicator of where the eyeballs are going Ebooks Print books Dollars Units
  49. 49. Why ebooks are hot• Screens offer better reading experience than paper • Changeable font size A B C D • Portable and compact • Screens will get better/faster/cheaper• Ebooks offer better consumption experience • Lower cost than print • Convenient sampling and purchasing • Huge selection
  50. 50. TREND THREEThe Rise of Ebook Self-Publishing (a.k.a indie ebook publishing)
  51. 51. Number of books published indie vs. traditional Indie books New trad. books Today?
  52. 52. Indies are Now Out-Publishing Big Publishers• Indies scaling all the bestseller lists • Four Smashwords authors in August 5 NY Times Bestseller list.• Indie author advantages • faster time to market • greater creative control • lower prices to consumers • lower expenses • better distribution to global market • never go out of print • earn more per book
  53. 53. QUADRUPLE +
  54. 54. Indie Ebook Authors Earn 4 to 5 Times Greater Percentage of List Price Indie Traditional 60-85% 5-12-17%• 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 $10.25 • Lower price = reach more readers = more sales at higher profits per sale
  55. 55. TREND FOUR Content Explosion Leads toDownward Pressure on Prices
  56. 56. Glut leads to price competition $4.25 $3.15 October 2010 March 2012Average price of Smashwords ebooks
  57. 57. ... Impact of content explosion• Excess supply leads to price competition• Lower prices increase affordability and accessibility • More books will be read than ever before • Readers will still pay for books• Can publishers compete?
  58. 58. TREND FIVEPublishers Losing Primacy as Stigma of Self-Publishing Disappears
  59. 59. Big Publishers Have Lost Their Monopoly• Printing press is free to all• Distribution free to all• Knowledge to publish, distribute and market high-quality, professional books is free to all• Professional authors asking: • “What can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?” • “Will a publisher actually limit my ability to reach readers?” • Publishers overprice
  60. 60. Stigmas to reverse? Aspire AspireTraditional IndieAspire Indie Aspire Traditional 4 yrs ago Today? Future?
  61. 61. The Plan Forward
  62. 62. The 5 Trends Create a Future that will… Benefit Indie AuthorsDisadvantage Some Traditional Authors
  63. 63. You are the future of publishing
  64. 64. Your words have value
  65. 65. You possess stories and knowledge that deserve to be shared You have a right to publish
  66. 66. You are your own gatekeeper
  67. 67. YOU decide when your manuscript graduates to PUBLISHED BOOK
  68. 68. Honor your readers
  69. 69. Give readers great books that are as good or better than those released by Big Publishers(and do it faster with lower prices)
  70. 70. The task before you is not easy, yet…
  71. 71. The Opportunity to Reach Readers Has Never Been Greater
  72. 72. You’re in charge now.
  73. 73. Free Ebook Publishing Resources (All on your thumb drive!!)• 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)
  74. 74. Thank you for considering the future! Q&AConnect with Mark Coker and Smashwords:Web: www.smashwords.comBlog: blog.smashwords.comLinkedIn: @markcoker
  75. 75. ! Q&A - BREAK !Next up: Ebook publishing checklist– How to Produce, Publish, Price and Distribute an Ebook
  76. 76. PART IIIntroduction to Ebook Publishing * A Checklist * California Writers Club Sacramento September 29, 2012 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  77. 77. Planning your move to ebooks
  78. 78. Checklist for Publishing an Ebook Glossary of terms 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 Distribution to libraries Piracy Marketing *
  79. 79. The Lingo of E-Publishing
  80. 80. Key E-Publishing Terms• Click to the Smashwords FAQ for a full glossary of ebook publishing terminology
  81. 81. 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
  82. 82. Ebook Formatting
  83. 83. Formatting is the layout and design process to prepare your book for ebook conversion
  84. 84. Formatting for Smashwords200,000+Downloads!
  85. 85. Formatting Secrets• Forget (some of) what you know • Don’t try to make e- look like p- • Ebooks consumed differently than print • Less = more with ebooks • Remove narrative from images • Liberate text from complex formatting and layout • Design for reflowability, small screens
  86. 86. Reflowability: 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. User- selected options: Font: Verdana; Background pattern: Stone carving; text color: Dark Violet; Font size: larger than normal
  87. 87. Cover Image
  88. 88. 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
  89. 89. 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-$100 (Mark’s list) or $100-$200 elsewhere (still cheap!)
  90. 90. Most of us design terrible coversAs an experiment, I tried to design my own cover. It was anembarrassing abomination, so I didn’t use it. Don’t try this athome unless you’re a professional graphic designer.
  91. 91. So I Hired a Pro for $45.00Send email to:list@smashwords.comfor “Mark’s List”
  92. 92. Metadata
  93. 93. Metadata is information about your book• Metadata enables • Categorization • Discovery • Sales reporting • Author payments• Some metadata you or your publisher will create • Some is auto-generated
  94. 94. Metadata = Data About Your Book• You Determine: • Auto-generated post- publication: • Book title • Publication date • Contributors • Sales rank • Book description • People who bought X bought Y • Tags • People who viewed X viewed Y • Category • Reviews • Price • Page views • Cover image • Sales data • ISBN • Language • Formats
  95. 95. Ebook Conversion
  96. 96. Conversion = Turning your formattedmanuscript into an ebook file readable on multiple ebook reading devices
  97. 97. E-reading Devices
  98. 98. Ebook Conversion Options Conversion Options 1. Automated (Smashwords, Amazon) 2. DIY conversion tools (Calibre, Sigil: Google ‘ebook conversion tools’) 3. Hire ebook formatter/ designer/coder (Complex books)
  99. 99. Pricing
  100. 100. Pricing• Determine objective • Platform building, sales, or both?• Think like a fisherman • Blended strategy of chum and hooks, low prices and higher prices• Non-fiction supports higher prices than fiction
  101. 101. Considerations Beyond Price
  102. 102. Considerations Beyond Price• Quality, reader passion• Length• Author platform/brand• Earn reader trust at each step?• Marketing that builds urgency• Series or not• Perceived valueMore info: Download The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
  103. 103. ISBN
  104. 104. 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
  105. 105. Where to Obtain an ISBN• Go to • Expensive to purchase just one. Blocks of 10+ run about $15/each. • Lists you as “publisher” in Books in Print• Go to Smashwords • FREE ISBNs (we recently purchased a block of 100,000, and we give them away as a free benefit for authors who use our ebook distribution services).
  106. 106. Copyright
  107. 107. 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
  108. 108. Distribution to retailers
  109. 109. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
  110. 110. Support ALL your retailersDiversify your exposure, avoid exclusivity, think globally
  111. 111. Two options for getting your book on a retailer’s virtual shelves1. Use a Distributor • Upload one file, distribute to many retailers • Benefits: Centralized sales reporting and payments; simplified tax reporting; and time savings enabled by centralized publishing, distribution and metadata management (spend your time writing instead!).1. Direct to Retailers • Format for each specific retailer • Upload to, and manage each retailer separately • Apple, Amazon, Pubit offer direct platforms • Sony, Diesel, Libraries usually require distributor
  112. 112. Distribution to libraries
  113. 113. Libraries and ebooks• Libraries are important to the future of books. Libraries… • Make books available and accessible to everyone • Help kids develop a love for books • Promote literacy • Facilitate community around books • Bring readers face to face with authors • Beginning to offer ebook lending
  114. 114. Libraries Drive Discovery• Libraries help reach new readers • 41% of library cardholders who read ebooks purchased their most recently read ebook (Pew) • 50% of library card holders go on to purchase books by authors they discovered at the library ( Library Journal, Bowker)
  115. 115. Big publishers are not friendly to libraries• Big publishers refuse to sell ebooks, or charging up to triple the print price• Publishers fear • Library ebooks will cannibalize print books • Library ebooks will cannibalize retail ebook sales • Library ebooks don’t wear out
  116. 116. Smashwords and our 50,000+ authors and publishers see opportunity• Smashwords library initiatives: • Custom library pricing • Smashwords Direct (direct sales to libraries) • Library aggregators • Baker & Taylor Axis 360 • 3M Cloud Library • Overdrive (coming soon!)
  117. 117. Piracy
  118. 118. 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• Combat piracy by making your book easier to purchase than steal
  119. 119. 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 (this was an actual bio. Most authors use bios to attract readers, not repel them): • Bio: Dear all, [name removed] 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.
  120. 120. Marketing
  121. 121. Traditional marketing isn’t as important as you think it is• Your book is your best marketing • Reader word of mouth determines your success • Viral catalysts amplify word of mouth• Build permanence • Platform building • Platform is your ability to reach readers, or people who can help you reach readers
  122. 122. Final Thoughts• Free tools make ebook publishing fast, free and easy to publish a book • If someone tells you it’s difficult to publish an ebook, they’re probably trying to sell you something (or they haven’t discovered Smashwords yet!)• Although it’s easy to publish, it’s difficult to write a great book • Honor your readers with a great book! • A great book is your best marketing • Learn to become a professional self-publisher (the topic of the next segment of this workshop)
  123. 123. ! Q&A – LUNCH BREAK !After Lunch: The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
  124. 124. PART IIIEbook Publishing Best Practices (how to reach readers!) California Writers Club Sacramento September 29, 2012 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  125. 125. Self-publishing platforms likeSmashwords make ePublishing and eDistribution Easy…
  126. 126. Reaching Readers is Still Difficult * * but achievable if you emulate best practices
  127. 127. Let’s review the best practices of the best-selling indie authors
  128. 128. Secret One
  129. 129. #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 • Turn readers into evangelists• Be fanatical about quality • Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat, proof • Leverage beta readers
  130. 130. Secret Two
  131. 131. #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
  132. 132. Don’t create an ebook coverimage by photographing your print book on a window sill.
  133. 133. Don’t be Dim. Where’s the title and author name?Yes, this is an actual book cover image. Sometimes, examples like this are helpful to because they show what *NOT* to do
  134. 134. Another photograph. Pleaseinvest in a professional cover image. It’s not expensive
  135. 135. Great covers make a promise
  136. 136. Here’s another promise
  137. 137. Look what happened when theauthor upgraded this cover to…
  138. 138. … to this cover…
  139. 139. The cover sparked a breakout at Apple
  140. 140. And landed her on the NY Times Bestseller List
  141. 141. Secret Three
  142. 142. #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
  143. 143. Secret Four
  144. 144. #4 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• Retailers & device-makers invest millions of dollars to attract readers to your books• You have the option to use a distributor like Smashwords, or upload direct to retailers, or use both methods• Exclusivity angers fans, limits audience, increases your dependence upon a single retailer
  145. 145. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
  146. 146. Secret Five
  147. 147. #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 • Turbocharges a series• The highest grossing authors/publishers at Smashwords offer at least one free book
  148. 148. Secret Six
  149. 149. #6 Patience is a Virtue• Ebooks are immortal • Never go out of print• When your book lands at retailer, it’s a seedling, nourish it • Never pull out by the roots• 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 • Let’s look at some examples…
  150. 150. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, bigger breakout
  151. 151. Slow boil, slow build, breakout, slow boil
  152. 152. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, smaller breakouts
  153. 153. Slow boil to breakoutRuth Ann Nordin’s An Inconvenient Marriage. Prior to thisbook breaking out at Apple, it was a top-10 bestseller atanother retailer one year earlier. Books break out atdifferent retailers at different times. See theSecrets of Ebook Publishing Success for more information onthe story of this breakout
  154. 154. Secret Seven
  155. 155. #7 Trust Your Readers and Partners• Don’t worry about piracy • 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
  156. 156. Secret Eight
  157. 157. Secret #8 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
  158. 158. The Viral DreamFirst reader More Readers
  159. 159. Viral Decay, The RealityFirst reader Readers
  160. 160. Negative Virality This book sucks!!!!First reader= Last reader Fun fact: 29 of 30 Apple bestsellers had rating of 4.5 stars
  161. 161. How to Architect for Virality • Implement the Secrets • Eliminate friction that limits • availability • sampling • purchasing • enjoyment • Leverage viral catalystsAdditional resource: Read The Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg
  162. 162. Viral Catalysts• Every thing you do right increases virality Great cover Social media enabled Great story Sampling enabled Professionally edited Multiple formats Great title Broad distribution Great book description Good formatting Great book Good categorization Great marketing LUCK! Fair price
  163. 163. Secret Ten
  164. 164. Secret #10 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• If you can earn the same amount of income by selling more units at a lower price, the lower price gives you the benefit of faster platform building
  165. 165. How Price Impacts Units Sold
  166. 166. What Price Yields Highest Earnings?Q: If a $2.99 ebook gets 6X the downloads of a $10+ book, yet earns the sameor more money, would you price at $2.99 or $10+. A: Simple, the lower priceyields you 6 times the platform building (more sales = more readers = morefans). This is why traditional authors, suffering from overpriced books, aredisadvantaged compared to indie authors who can price lower
  167. 167. Secret Eleven
  168. 168. Secret #11 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
  169. 169. Secret Twelve
  170. 170. Secret #12 Think Globally
  171. 171. The market for your books outside the US will soon dwarf the US marketApple operates iBookstores in 50 countries.We distribute to Apple. In September 2012, ~46% of Smashwords Apple iBookstore Sales were outside the US
  172. 172. You Have the Tools to Reach a Worldwide Market Today The Tools are FREE
  173. 173. Secret Thirteen
  174. 174. Secret #13 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
  175. 175. Secret Fourteen
  176. 176. Secret #14 Earn reader trust• You, the author, are the brand• It’s easier to lose reader trust than earn it • Readers are looking for reasons to ignore you• Earn and deserve trust at every step: • First impression (the cover) • Next impression, and next, and next
  177. 177. ! Q&A – BREAK !Next up: Data data data!
  178. 178. PART IV Data Data Data * Knowledge is Power *California Writers Club Sacramento September 29, 2012 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  179. 179. This data was first presented April 11, 2012 at the Chicago RT Booklovers convention
  180. 180. WRITING A GREAT BOOK IS DIFFICULT(and nothing is more important than a great book)
  182. 182. Let’s Examine Data That Provides Clues to Possible Viral Catalysts
  183. 183. 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
  184. 184. Navigating Data-speak (the dangers of “average”)
  185. 185. ???Useful (and not-so-useful) discoveries start with simple questions
  186. 186. ??? So I asked questionsWe looked at about nine months of sales data, millions of dollars in sales, aggregated across theSmashwords distribution networkSome findings are useful, some are
  187. 187. Smashwords Distribution Network
  188. 188. Q:Do authors who change prices frequently sell more books?
  189. 189. Impact of Price Changes• Conclusions not clear cut • Small sample sizes of Top 10, Top 40 not statistically significant • Not a clear cause and effect of price changes to increased sales • Quite possible authors who change prices frequently are also promoting their books more actively
  190. 190. Impact of Price Changes
  191. 191. Q:If ebooks are immortal, how do sales develop over time?
  192. 192. How Sales Develop• This set of data looks at aggegrated “Classes” of all titles published in a certain month, are still published, and how their sales developed from month one to month two to (etc…)• Key findings: • Strong overall growth as ebook market develops and some titles achieve viral word of mouth • A lot of randomness: Different classes, even separated by one month, exhibit dramatically different growth patterns • Could speak to the outsize influence of a small number of breakout hits in each class
  193. 193. Smashwords Class of June 2009
  194. 194. Smashwords Class of July 2009
  195. 195. Smashwords Class of August 2009
  196. 196. Smashwords Class of January 2009
  197. 197. Q:What’s the ideal word length for ebooks?
  198. 198. Do Readers Prefer Longer Books?• For the average book, yes
  199. 199. Do Readers Prefer Longer Books?• Data indicates that longer books sell better
  200. 200. 60% of Top 20 Bestsellers Longer than 100K Words
  201. 201. 53% of Top 40 Longer than 100K
  202. 202. Q:Do Romance Readers Prefer Different Lengths?
  203. 203. Yes. 90% of Top 10 RomanceBestsellers under 100,000 words
  204. 204. 78% of top 40 Run under 100K
  205. 205. Romance Readers Prefer ~80,000 Words
  206. 206. Q:Do erotica readers prefer longer or shorter?
  207. 207. Average Word Count for Bestselling Erotica
  208. 208. Q:How are Smashwords authors pricing their books?
  209. 209. Prices are slowly trending downwardSource:
  210. 210. Q:What are the most common price points?
  211. 211. How Many Books are Priced at Each Price Point?
  212. 212. Q:What price moves the most units?
  213. 213. FREE• FREE moves more ebooks • ~102X more downloads on average • Powerful platform builder • Powerful sales catalyst for series or deep backlists
  214. 214. Q:What impact does price have on unit sales?
  215. 215. Impact of Price on Unit Sales• This set of data examines how price impacts unit sales• 1.0 = normalized reference point. For example, books priced in $2.00-$2.99 price band sell 6.2 times more units than books priced $10.00+• Key findings: • Low prices sell more units • $.99 to $1.99 price points underperform
  216. 216. How Price Impacts Units Sold
  217. 217. Q:What prices earn the author the greatest amount of money?
  218. 218. What Price Earns the Author the Greatest Yield?• We know low price yields more unit sales, but what price yields the greatest profit for the author?• Key findings: • $.99 to $1.99 underperforms, about 60% below average • $2.99 to $5.99 appears to be sweet spot for indie authors and small presses (though your results may vary because your book is unique!) • Data indicates that some authors are probably underpricing their works, and might want to experiment with slightly higher prices
  219. 219. What Price Yields Highest Earnings?
  220. 220. Q:How many books sell well?
  221. 221. How Many Indie Ebooks Sell Well?• Sales distribution is a “power curve”• Key findings: • Most books do not sell well (very important for authors to set realistic expectations, and take long term approach to platform building) • Sales distribution characterized by small minority of titles selling extremely well, thousands of moderate sellers, and then a long tail of poor sellers • Authors should implement best practices (read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success for ideas!) to drive their performance to the left of the curve • As books move to the left in sales rank, their actual sales increase quickly, especially in top 1,000
  222. 222. Sales Distribution Across Smashwords Network(Normalized to 1.0 = average)
  223. 223. Slice: Top 100-10,000
  224. 224. Slice: Top 100-20,000
  225. 225. Romance Sales Across Smashwords Network• Romance, on average, sells 2.2 times better than the average indie ebook at Smashwords (interesting!)
  226. 226. Erotica Relative Sales Performance
  227. 227. Q:What’s the optimal price per word?
  228. 228. ~ 3 cents per 1,000 words• The outlier is a 27,000 word ebook priced at $2.99. Indicates that some authors might have ability to price popular shorter works higher
  229. 229. Final Thoughts• Data-driven publishing decisions are irrelevant without a great book• Numbers provide hints at reader preferences • Don’t write a longer (bloated) or shorter book unless that’s what the story demands • If your story demands 200,000 words, go for it!• Information, properly applied, can become a viral catalyst • Read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success for other viral catalysts
  230. 230. Free Ebook Publishing Resources• NEW! Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of successful authors)• Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book at no cost)• Smashwords Style Guide (how to format and
  231. 231. ! Q&A – BREAK !Next up: Let’s Publish an Ebook!
  232. 232. PART VHow to Publish an Ebook at Smashwords * Live and Uncensored * California Writers Club Sacramento September 29, 2012 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  233. 233. How Smashwords Works1. UPLOAD • Upload a Microsoft Word file, formatted to our Style Guide • Ready for immediate sale online1. DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to major retailers1. GET PAID • Author receives 85% of net = 60% list from major retailers
  234. 234. What is Smashwords?• FREE ebook publishing and distribution platform  Author maintains all rights to work  Free ebook conversion  We don’t sell services or packages (!)  Distribution to most major ebook retailers (Apple, B&N, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, more on the way). A small number to Amazon.  High royalties  retail store pays 85% net  Earn 60% list at major retailers  Earn 45-70% at libraries
  235. 235. Getting started with Smashwords Sign up for free account Confirmation email gives next steps  Read and implement Smashwords Style Guide or hire someone from Mark’s List (  Create a high-quality ebook cover image (Mark’s List, or hire another pro)  Upload to Smashwords  Check your quality  Market, write next book, repeat
  236. 236. How about a live demo?
  237. 237. Let’s Publish a Book about Squirrels
  238. 238. What we’ll cover How to format a manuscript  Managing styles  Paragraph construction  Inserting images  Adding navigation (linked TOC, NCX) Creating a (poor) cover image How to Upload to Smashwords  Entering metadata  Checking conversion quality The Smashwords Dashboard
  239. 239. Formatting for Smashwords
  240. 240. Smashwords Demo
  241. 241. ! C’est tout ! THE END
  242. 242. Thank you for considering the future! Q&AConnect with Mark Coker and Smashwords:Web: www.smashwords.comBlog: blog.smashwords.comLinkedIn: @markcoker