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The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices tips for authors)


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This presentation, given June 21 2013 at the Crested Butte Writers Conference, identifies the best practices of the most commercially successful ebook authors. Learn how to make your ebook stand out from the crowd by making your book more discoverable, more enjoyable, and more desirable to readers.

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The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices tips for authors)

  1. 1. The Secrets to Ebook Publishing SuccessEbook Publishing Best PracticesJune 21, 2013Mark CokerFounder, SmashwordsTwitter: @markcoker
  2. 2. My Backstory
  3. 3. My wife, a bookworm, is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly. Wewrote a novel together about the soap opera industry.
  4. 4. Beta readers, especially soap fans, told us they loved it. We found agreat agent at a top literary agency who loved it too.
  5. 5. Publishers Said “No”• Despite great efforts of ouragent, every major NYpublisher said NO (TWICE!)
  6. 6. I evaluated our options1. The rational option Give up and admit we suck1. The irrational option Find a solution that saves the world fromthe tyranny of a broken publishing model
  7. 7. My Answer: Smashwords• * FREE * eBook Publishing Platform• Free ebook printing press• Distribution to major ebook retailers andlibraries• Free learning materials help writersbecome professional publishers
  8. 8. 050,000100,000150,000200,000250,0002008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013Ebooks published at Smashwords1406,00028,80092,000191,000230,000June 2013
  9. 9. How Smashwords Works• UPLOAD• Author uploads their manuscript toSmashwords (Word .doc or epub)• Instant, free ebook conversion• For sale within 3 minutes• DISTRIBUTE• Distribution to retailers andlibraries• GET PAID• Author earns 60-80% list• Quarterly payments
  10. 10. Let’s talk best practices
  11. 11. Self-publishing platforms likeSmashwords make ePublishing andeDistribution Easy…
  12. 12. Reaching Readers is Still Difficult ** but achievable if you emulate best practices
  13. 13. Let’s review the best practices ofthe best-selling indie authors
  14. 14. Secret One
  15. 15. #1 Your best marketing is agreat book• With the power to publish comes theresponsibility 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
  16. 16. Secret Two
  17. 17. #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
  18. 18. Don’t create an ebook cover imageby photographing your print book_
  19. 19. What’s this book about?Le Peuple de L’Etat de New York Contre Dominique Strauss-Khan
  20. 20. Great covers make a promise
  21. 21. Case study: Look what happenedwhen this romance author wentfrom this cover…
  22. 22. … to this cover…
  23. 23. The cover sparked a breakout atApple
  24. 24. It landed her on the NY Times BestsellerList
  25. 25. Secret Three
  26. 26. #3 Publish Another Great Book• The best-selling authors onSmashwords offer deep backlists• Each new ebook offersopportunity to• cross-promote other titles• build trust with your reader• build your brand
  27. 27. Secret Four
  28. 28. #4 Give (some of) Your Booksaway for Free• Most effective marketing tool• If you have a deep backlist, offer atleast one full-length book for free• Eliminates financial risk for first-timereaders• Turbocharges a series• The highest grossing authors atSmashwords offer at least one freebook
  29. 29. Secret Five
  30. 30. #5 Patience is a Virtue• Ebooks are immortal• Never go out of print• When your book lands at retailer, it’s aseedling, nourish it• Never pull out by the roots• Ebooks develop differently• Traditional print books – big sell-in, then yankedfrom shelves, then sales go to zero• Ebooks – can start small and grow slowly beforebreakout• Let’s look at some examples…
  31. 31. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil,bigger breakout
  32. 32. Slow boil, slow build, breakout,slow boil
  33. 33. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil,smaller breakouts
  34. 34. Slow boil to breakoutRuth Ann Nordin’s An Inconvenient Marriage
  35. 35. Secret Six
  36. 36. #6 Maximize Availability, AvoidExclusivity• Ebook retailing is not like sports, religion orpolitics• 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 singlesales outlet• Retailers, libraries & device-makers investmillions of dollars to attract readers to yourbooks• Maximize availability at retailers ANDlibraries
  37. 37. Ebook retailers want indieebooks
  38. 38. Secret Seven
  39. 39. #7 Trust Your Readers andPartners• Don’t worry about piracy• Copy protection is counterproductive• If you don’t trust your readers to honor yourcopyright, 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
  40. 40. Secret Eight
  41. 41. Secret #8 Architect for Virality• Books have always been a word ofmouth business• Your readers determine your success• Understand the power of your “FirstReader”• Reach First Readers with marketing
  42. 42. The Viral DreamFirst readerMore Readers
  43. 43. Viral Decay, The RealityFirst readerReaders
  44. 44. Negative ViralityFirst readerThis booksucks!!!!= Last readerFun fact: 29 of 30 Apple bestsellershad rating of 4.5 stars
  45. 45. How to Architect for Virality• Implement the Secrets• Eliminate friction that limits• availability• sampling• purchasing• enjoyment• The answer:Leverage viral catalysts
  46. 46. What’s a Viral Catalyst?• A viral catalyst is something that makes yourbook more available, accessible, desirableand enjoyable to readers• Read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (it’s
  47. 47. Viral Catalysts• Every thing you do right increasesviralityGreat coverGreat storyProfessionally editedGreat titleGreat book descriptionGreat bookGreat marketingFair priceSocial media enabledSampling enabledMultiple formatsBroad distributionGood formattingGood categorizationLUCK!
  48. 48. Secret Nine
  49. 49. Secret #9 Unit Volume is Leverfor Success• Unit volume (sales and downloads)increase platform, drives readers toyour backlist• Unit sales X royalty per unit = profit• Pricing strategy essential to maximizeboth
  50. 50. How Price Impacts Units Sold
  51. 51. What Price Yields the GreatestAuthor Earnings?
  52. 52. Making use of the previous two slides:Q: If given the choice of a low price or a highprice, and you’ll net essentially the sameearnings, which price is best?A: The lower price is better, because at $2.99 or$3.99, you’ll reach four times as many readers as$10+. A reader is a potential fan, and fan is apotential super fan. Super fans market yourbooks to other readers. This is why indie ebookauthors have significant competitive advantageover traditionally published ebook authors. Indiesare building fan bases faster at lower prices.
  53. 53. Secret Ten
  54. 54. Secret #10 Practice Partnershipand Positivity• Your fellow authors and serviceproviders 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
  55. 55. Secret Eleven
  56. 56. Secret #11 Think Globally
  57. 57. Apple, B&N, Kobo, Amazon andothers are going globalYou Have the Tools to Reach aWorldwide Market TodayThe tools are FREE
  58. 58. The market for your English-language booksoutside the US will soon dwarf the US marketApple operates iBookstores in 51 countries.We distribute to Apple. In January 2013,~48% of Smashwords Apple iBookstore saleswere outside the US
  59. 59. Secret Twelve
  60. 60. 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 abook• NEVER spend or invest money youneed for food and shelter• DIY then reinvest
  61. 61. Thanks for Listening, and Good Luck!
  62. 62. Free Ebook Publishing Resources• NEW! Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (bestpractices of successful authors)• Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market anybook)• Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook)
  63. 63. Q&AConnect with Mark Coker and Smashwords:Web: www.smashwords.comBlog: blog.smashwords.comLinkedIn: @markcoker