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The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success


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This presentation, intended for book authors, summarizes the major macro trends facing book publishing, then reviews what these changes mean to the future of publishing and the future of indie authorship. It offers seven secrets to successful ebook publishing, and ends with one bonus secret that covers how authors can maximize the virality of their ebooks. This presentation was given at the Self Publishing Book Expo Conference in New York City on October 2, 2010 by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Smashwords is the leading distributor of indie ebooks.

Published in: Education

The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

  1. 2. My Background
  2. 3. About me <ul><li>Founder of Smashwords </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Free ebook publishing and distribution platform for indie authors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We distribute ebooks to multiple major retailers (Apple, Sony, B&N, Kobo, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Author of… </li></ul>
  3. 4. Indie ebooks published at Smashwords 140 6,000 20,700
  4. 5. The Ebook Opportunity
  5. 6. Ebooks as a percentage of US wholesale trade market Source: Association of American Publishers,
  6. 7. Reading moving to screens
  7. 8. Why ebooks are hot <ul><li>Screens can offer better reading experience than paper </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Changeable font size A A A A </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Portable and compact </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ebooks offer better purchasing experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Huge selection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Convenient sampling and purchasing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower cost than print </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Impulse buying </li></ul></ul>
  8. 9. Why every indie author should self-publish an ebook <ul><li>Fast, easy, free to e-publish </li></ul><ul><li>Start selling to global market in minutes </li></ul><ul><li>Democratized distribution to all major ebook retailers </li></ul><ul><li>Higher profits – 75%+ net vs. 25% net </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Price ebooks for less yet still make more per copy than traditionally pubbed authors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>$8 indie ebook earns $6.35 at SW, vs <$.40 trad MMP </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>$.99 indie ebook earns more than $8.00 trad MMP </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lower price = reach more readers = more sales at higher profits per sale </li></ul></ul></ul>MMP=Mass market paperback, aka “pocket book” in some countries
  9. 10. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks Mobile apps
  10. 11. FIRST, A BRIEF HISTORY OF PUBLISHING (A Prologue of Sorts)
  11. 12. Before there were words, stories were told with pictures
  12. 13. … and then Words were invented
  13. 14. … and then monastic scribes became the first mass production printing presses
  14. 15. … and then Gutenberg created the printing press with moveable type
  15. 16. … which allowed commercial publishers to develop large mass market businesses
  16. 17. Bookstores made it easy for readers to discover and purchase books
  18. 19. Publishers were in control <ul><li>Publishers decided: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which authors got published </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Which books could </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>get distributed to bookstores </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>receive heavy promotion </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>get read by readers </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 24. TREND ONE: Bookselling moving to the Web
  24. 25. Bookselling moves to the Web <ul><li>Publishers lose control </li></ul><ul><li>Customer drivers: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Price </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Convenience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Selection </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Self-published books (P- & E-) displayed side by side with traditional books </li></ul><ul><li>If brick & mortar disappears, publishers lose key value proposition: exclusive access to distribution and readers </li></ul>
  25. 26. Percentage of book purchases made online vs B&M, P- and E- Brick & Mortar Web Today?
  26. 27. TREND TWO: Ebooks to overtake print
  27. 28. Ebooks to overtake print Print books Ebooks Today?
  28. 29. TREND THREE: Authors Become Publishers
  29. 30. Authors become publishers <ul><ul><li>Self-publishing platforms help authors become their own publishers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Democratized access to distribution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Favorable economics for indies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>reap 40-100% of retail price, vs. 5-12% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More professional authors will go indie </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mass exodus imminent? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  30. 31. Number of books published indie vs. traditional Indie books Today? New trad. books
  31. 32. Publishers Reacting Inappropriately to Change ooh, pretty!
  32. 33. Change is Difficult for Traditional Publishers
  33. 34. … their expenses are too high
  34. 35. … they’re exposed to too much risk <ul><ul><li>Pay author advances </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can’t predict demand </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>many books fail and don’t earn out </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Broken supply chain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>30%+ of printed books returned to publisher unsold </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Amazon is eating publishers for lunch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Vertically integrated from authors to readers </li></ul></ul></ul>
  35. 36. … and as publishers try to mitigate risk, publishers act less like publishers <ul><ul><li>Adopt customer-unfriendly policies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Publish fewer books </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Scarcity tactics to maintain higher prices </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limit worldwide distribution </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>DRM </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adopt author-unfriendly policies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reluctance to acquire books from unproven authors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Provide less marketing, editing support to authors </li></ul></ul></ul>
  36. 37. When publishers act less like publishers, authors start questioning why they need a publisher
  37. 38. The future of publishing belongs to indie authors
  38. 39. Summary of Indie Author Advantages <ul><li>Internet book buying levels playing field for indies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Both print and ebook </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Self published authors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>closer to customers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>have lower expenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>earn more per book </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>never go out of print </li></ul></ul>
  39. 40. The Seven Secrets to Indie Ebook Publishing Success
  40. 41. Secret #1
  41. 42. #1 Write a Great Book <ul><li>With the power to publish comes the responsibility to be a great publisher </li></ul><ul><li>Honor your reader with a great book </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be fanatical about quality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Leverage beta readers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Invest in a great cover image </li></ul></ul>
  42. 43. Would You Buy This Book?
  43. 44. Secret Two
  44. 45. #2 Write Another Great Book <ul><li>Build a backlist </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Each new book offers the opportunity to market your backlist </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The best-selling authors on Smashwords have deep backlists </li></ul><ul><li>Build trust with your reader </li></ul>
  45. 46. Secret Three
  46. 47. #3 Maximize Distribution <ul><li>If your book is not available, it’s not discoverable </li></ul><ul><li>Retailers invest millions of dollars to attract readers to your book </li></ul><ul><li>Consider using a distributor to get your book sold in as many ebook stores as possible * </li></ul><ul><ul><li>spend your time writing </li></ul></ul>* Smashwords is a distributor, so of course I believe this
  47. 48. Secret Four
  48. 49. #4 Give (Some of) Your Books away for Free <ul><li>The most misunderstood, most underutilized market development tool </li></ul><ul><li>If you have a deep backlist, offer at least one book for free </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eliminates financial risk for first-time readers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The highest grossing authors at Smashwords offer at least one free book </li></ul>Additional resource: Read FREE, by Chris Anderson
  49. 50. Secret Five
  50. 51. #5 Trust Your Readers and Partners <ul><li>If you practice paranoia, you and your books might as well live in a cave </li></ul><ul><li>Trust your readers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>DRM is counterproductive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If you don’t trust your readers to honor your copyright, you’ll reach fewer paid readers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Trust your supply chain partners </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If you limit distribution due to lack of trust, you shoot yourself in the foot </li></ul></ul>
  51. 52. Secret Six
  52. 53. #6 Have Patience <ul><li>Rome wasn’t build in a day, and neither will be your publishing empire </li></ul><ul><li>Ebooks can develop differently </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trad. print books – big sell-in, then yanked from shelves, then sales go to near zero </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ebooks – can start small and grow slowly before breakout </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ebooks are immortal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Never go out of print </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Think of each book as an asset that will yield income over the long term </li></ul>
  53. 54. Secret Seven
  54. 55. #7 Marketing Starts Yesterday <ul><li>Marketing starts before you write your book </li></ul><ul><li>Your readers are your sales force </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Give them tools to market your books for you </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Network your books with hyperlinks </li></ul><ul><li>Build your social network </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Contribute, share ideas, support your fellow writers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t spam your network </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your social network will help you reach first readers </li></ul></ul>Resource: Smashwords Book Marketing Guide
  55. 56. BONUS Secret Eight
  56. 57. Secret #8 Architect for Virality <ul><li>Secrets #1 - #7 help maximize virality </li></ul><ul><li>Books have always been a word of mouth business </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Your readers determine your success </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitate frictionless word of mouth </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understand the concept of “first reader” </li></ul>
  57. 58. The Viral Dream First reader Readers
  58. 59. Viral Decay, The Reality First reader Readers
  59. 60. Negative Virality First reader This book sucks!!!! Last reader
  60. 61. How to Architect for Virality <ul><li>Eliminate friction that limits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>availability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sampling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>purchasing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>enjoyment </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Implement the Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success </li></ul>Additional resource: Read The Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg
  61. 62. The 7 8 Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success <ul><li>Write a great book </li></ul><ul><li>Write another great book </li></ul><ul><li>Maximize distribution </li></ul><ul><li>Give (some of) your books away for FREE </li></ul><ul><li>Trust your readers and partners </li></ul><ul><li>Have patience </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing starts yesterday </li></ul><ul><li>Architect for virality </li></ul>Visit the Smashwords Blog, 9/16/2010 for the 7 Secrets to Failure:
  62. 63. Thank you for listening! Q&A Where to find Mark Coker: Web: Blog: HuffPo: Twitter: @ markcoker Email: first initial second initial at