The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Smashwords tutorial series #2)


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Learn the best practices of the bestselling ebook authors. This comprehensive tutorial, presented by Mark Coker of Smashwords, teaches authors 16 best practices for reaching more readers. Topics covered include book marketing, cover design, how to use FREE ebooks to draw more readers to priced books, how book sales develop over time, retail distribution strategy, platform building, maximizing viral word-of-mouth with Viral Catalysts, pricing strategy, piracy, preorders, how to collaborate with other authors to build readership, global book markets, connecting with fans, and tips to build a more profitable self publishing business. View the video of this presentation at

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  • The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Smashwords tutorial series #2)

    1. 1. The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success Ebook Publishing Best Practices 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 • 16 best practices tips for reaching more readers • Topics covered include book marketing, retail distribution strategy, pricing strategy, cover design, author platform building, preorders and more • Who this video is for • Writers, aspiring authors, published authors • No technical experience required! • If you’re new to ebooks, check out our Introduction to Ebook Publishing video on Youtube
    4. 4. This is me
    5. 5. My Backstory
    6. 6. In 2002, we decided to write a satire about the daytime television soap opera industry
    7. 7. 2004-2005: 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  Accept failure 1. The irrational option  Believe in ourselves  Mortgage our home and try to fix the problem
    9. 9. The problem • The publishing industry was failing to serve  Authors  Readers  The future of books • Publishers could only guess what readers wanted to buy • Throwing spaghetti against the wall
    10. 10. I imagined a publishing revolution where writers would rise up and take control
    11. 11. Writers needed the tools for revolution.. .. tools that would enable them to professionally publish without publishers
    12. 12. 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
    13. 13. The Smashwords Mission • The goal: • Make it fast, free and easy to publish an ebook • Give writers the freedom to publish what they want • Give readers the freedom to decide what’s worth reading
    14. 14. How Smashwords Works • UPLOAD • Author uploads their manuscript to Smashwords (Word .doc or epub) • Instant, free ebook conversion • For sale within 3 minutes • DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to retailers and libraries • GET PAID • Author earns 60-80% list • Quarterly payments
    15. 15. 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
    16. 16. Let’s talk best practices
    17. 17. Smashwords make ePublishing and eDistribution Easy…
    18. 18. Reaching Readers is Still Difficult * but achievable if you emulate best practices *
    19. 19. Let’s review 16 best practices of the best-selling indie authors FREE at all major ebook retailers Download to learn all 30 best practices
    20. 20. Secret One
    21. 21. #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 • Move reader to a satisfying emotional extreme • Turns readers into evangelists • Be fanatical about quality • Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat, proof • Leverage beta readers
    22. 22. Secret Two
    23. 23. #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 Check out “Mark’s List” of low cost cover designers. Email
    24. 24. What’s this book about?
    25. 25. Don’t do this
    26. 26. Don’t do this either
    27. 27. Great covers make a promise
    28. 28. Great covers make a promise
    29. 29. Great covers make a promise
    30. 30. Great covers make a promise
    31. 31. Great covers make a promise
    32. 32. Great covers make a promise
    33. 33. A case study: Look what happened when the author went from this cover
    34. 34. … to this cover…
    35. 35. The cover sparked a breakout at Apple
    36. 36. And landed her on the NY Times Bestseller List
    37. 37. Secret Three
    38. 38. #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
    39. 39. Secret Four
    40. 40. #4 Give (some of) Your Books away for Free • If you have a deep backlist, offer at least one full-length book for free • Eliminates financial risk for first-time readers • ~91X more downloads • Turbocharges a series • Free works for standalone promos too • The highest grossing authors at Smashwords offer at least one free book
    41. 41. Secret Five
    42. 42. #5 Patience is a Virtue • Ebooks are immortal • • When your book lands at retailer, it’s a seedling, nourish it • • Never go out of print 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 • Let’s look at some examples…
    43. 43. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, bigger breakout
    44. 44. Slow boil, slow build, breakout, slow boil
    45. 45. Slow boil, breakout, slow boil, smaller breakouts
    46. 46. Slow boil to breakout Ruth Ann Nordin’s An Inconvenient Marriage
    47. 47. Secret Six
    48. 48. #6 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 • limits merchandising opportunities • increases your dependence upon a single sales outlet
    49. 49. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks
    50. 50. Secret Seven
    51. 51. #7 Build your Platform • Platform gives you control, leverage • Platform is your ability to reach and cultivate fans • Let fans decide how to connect • • Mailing list subscription • Facebook • • Blog and/or website Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn Include “Connect with the author” links at the end of every book
    52. 52. Secret Eight
    53. 53. 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
    54. 54. The Viral Dream First reader More Readers
    55. 55. Viral Decay, The Reality First reader Readers
    56. 56. Negative Virality This book sucks!!!! First reader = Last reader Fun fact: 29 of 30 Apple bestsellers had rating of 4.5 stars
    57. 57. How to Architect for Virality • Implement best practices • Avoid mistakes that undermine • Eliminate friction that limits • availability • discoverability • sampling • purchasing • enjoyment • Leverage viral catalysts
    58. 58. What’s a Viral Catalyst? • A viral catalyst is anything 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
    59. 59. 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
    60. 60. Secret Nine
    61. 61. Secret #9 Pricing Strategy is Lever for Success • Pricing strategy impacts unit sales • Unit volume (sales and downloads) builds author platform, drives readers to your backlist • Unit sales X royalty per unit = profit • Pricing strategy essential to maximize both
    62. 62. How Price Impacts Units Sold
    63. 63. What Price Yields the Greatest Author Earnings?
    64. 64. Secret Ten
    65. 65. Secret 10: Don’t Worry about Piracy
    66. 66. Everything you need to know about piracy • Obscurity is bigger risk • Black hat pirates who steal your book wouldn’t have purchased it anyway • Most piracy is accidental – it’s an enthusiastic fan marketing your book for you
    67. 67. 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 (they create FRICTION) • Combat piracy by making your book easier to purchase than steal • Low, fair price • Broad distribution
    68. 68. Secret Eleven
    69. 69. Secret #11 Leverage Preorders! • Catalyst for increased sales • At Apple and Kobo, accumulated sales credit all at once on “onsale” date • Increased visibility leads to virtuous, selfreinforcing cycle of sales, also boughts • Capture the reader’s order • Budget 4-6 week preorder “runway” • Execute multi-part advance marketing plan • Increases retailer merchandising opps • NEW! - Smashwords delivers preorders to Apple, B&N and Kobo!
    70. 70. Secret Twelve
    71. 71. Secret #12 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 keep no secrets
    72. 72. Secret Thirteen
    73. 73. Secret #13 Collaborate with Fellow Authors • Identify authors you love and your fans will love • Publish collaborations • Short story collections • Box sets • Joint promos • They have fans you don’t reach, you have fans they don’t reach • Everyone wins
    74. 74. Secret Fourteen
    75. 75. Secret #14 Think Globally
    76. 76. You Have the Tools to Reach a Worldwide Market Today The tools are FREE
    77. 77. 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
    78. 78. Secret Fifteen
    79. 79. Secret #15 Add three sections to backmatter • About the Yourname Lastname • • Short bio Other books by Yourname Lastname • • • Title 1 Title 2 Connect with Yourname Lastname • Facebook: • Twitter: • Web site: • Blog: • Smashwords author page:
    80. 80. Secret Sixteen
    81. 81. Secret #16 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
    82. 82. Thanks for Listening, and Good Luck!
    83. 83. 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)
    84. 84. Connect with Smashwords Connect with Smashwords: Web: Smashwords FAQ: Connect with Mark Coker: Blog: LinkedIn: Facebook: HuffPo: Twitter: @markcoker