The Seven Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success - BAIPA May 14, 2011


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This presentation was given by Mark Coker of Smashwords on May 14, 2011 to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. The presentation begins with discussion of macro trends facing the publishing industry, then provides a summary of how to produce, publish, price and distribute an ebook. It concludes with The Seven Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success, a collection of best-practices gleaned from the best-selling authors at Smashwords.

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  • Just Download a free copy of Mark Coker's Style Guide. After reading through carefully the whole 99 pages, I have self published successfully 4 ebooks on Smashwords. If you follow the guide you will succeed.
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The Seven Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success - BAIPA May 14, 2011

  1. 2. My Backstory
  2. 3. The Problem with Big Publishing <ul><li>Ossified business practices have changed little in 50 years </li></ul><ul><li>Backward looking acquisitions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Books acquired based on perceived commercial potential </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Manhattan sky rise rents add no value to a book </li></ul><ul><li>Requiring authors to take on publisher responsibilities (editing, marketing) </li></ul><ul><li>Unable to take a risk on every deserving author </li></ul><ul><li>Readers shut out </li></ul>
  3. 4. My Answer to the Problem: Smashwords <ul><li>Ebook publishing and distribution platform </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Free ebook publishing tools for authors and publishers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ebook conversion, publishing and distribution </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Marketing tools </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Distribute to Apple, Sony, B&N, Kobo, ScrollMotion, Diesel, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>85% net back to author/publisher </li></ul></ul>
  4. 5. How Smashwords Works <ul><li>UPLOAD </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Author/publisher uploads a Microsoft Word file, formatted to our Style Guide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Free conversion to 9 ebook formats </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ready for immediate sale online </li></ul></ul><ul><li>DISTRIBUTE </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Distribution to major retailers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>GET PAID </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Authors/publishers receive 85% of net = 60% list from major retailers </li></ul></ul>
  5. 6. Indie ebooks published at Smashwords 140 6,000 28,500 75,000 (est)
  7. 8. TREND ONE Bookselling moving to the Web
  8. 9. Bookselling moves to the Web <ul><li>Superior book buying experience </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>Big publishers lose primacy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If brick & mortar disappears, publishers lose key value proposition: exclusive access to distribution and readers </li></ul></ul>
  9. 10. Percentage of book purchases made online vs B&M, P- and E- Brick & Mortar Web Today?
  10. 11. TREND TWO Authors Become Publishers
  11. 12. Authors becoming publishers <ul><ul><li>The power in publishing is shifting to authors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Free and low cost self-publishing allows authors to bypass publishers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Democratized access to distribution </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Favorable economics for indies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>reap up to 100% of retail price, vs. 5-17% </li></ul></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>
  12. 13. Number of books published indie vs. traditional Indie books Today? New trad. books
  13. 14. TREND THREE: As Reading Moves to Screens, Ebooks Will Overtake print
  14. 15. Reading moving to screens
  15. 16. Ebooks as a percentage of US wholesale trade market Source: Association of American Publishers,
  16. 17. Ebooks to overtake print Print books Ebooks Today?
  17. 18. Ebooks replacing print faster than most realize <ul><li>In January 2011, Sourcebooks earned 35% of revenue from ebooks </li></ul><ul><li>Jan-Feb 2011 vs Jan-Feb 2010 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E-Books increased by 169.4% while all categories combined of print trade books declined by 24.8% (Source: AAP press release, April 14, 2011) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ebook unit market share even higher </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some best-selling indies selling 1,000 e- for every p- </li></ul></ul>
  18. 19. 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>
  19. 20. Indie Authors and Small Presses Have Opportunity to Out-Publish Big Publishers <ul><li>Asymmetric competition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>field tilted in indie’s favor </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Smaller indie authors/publishers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>democratized distribution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>instant access to global market </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>lower expenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>closer to customers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>never go out of print </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>earn more per book </li></ul></ul>
  20. 21. Indie ebook economics will drive revolution <ul><li>Higher profits than traditional </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Earn 60-100% list price for indie e- vs. 5-17% traditional </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Price ebooks for less yet still make more per copy than traditionally pubbed print authors </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>$8 indie ebook earns ~ $5.00, vs <$.40 trad MMP </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>$.99 indie ebook earns $.60 - $.70 </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
  21. 22. How to produce and publish an ebook
  22. 23. Planning your move to ebooks <ul><li>Forget (some of) what you know </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t try to make e- look like p- </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ebooks consumed differently than print </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Less = more with ebooks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Liberate text from complex formatting and layout </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Design for reflowability, small screens </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 24. Ebook devices (and customers) shape shift text <ul><li>Example of Smashwords novel, All Good Things Die in L.A. by Anhoni Patel </li></ul><ul><ul><li>iPhone, using the Stanza reader. User-selected options: Font: Verdana; Background pattern: Stone carving; text color: Dark Violet; Font size: larger than normal </li></ul></ul>
  24. 25. Multi-format important <ul><li>PDF does not = ebook any more </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-format lets customer enjoy your book their way </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Top 4: EPUB, MOBI/PRC, PDF, HTML </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expands your selling & distribution options </li></ul></ul>
  25. 26. How to Create an Ebook <ul><li>Preparation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most books originate in Word or other word processor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anticipate the shape shift </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Simplify formatting and layout, see Smashwords Style Guide at </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conversion Options </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Automated (e.g. Smashwords, Amazon) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct from book layout software (e.g. save as PDF, EPUB) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>DIY conversion tools (Google ‘ebook conversion tools’) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hire ebook formatter/designer/coder (Complex books) </li></ul></ul>
  26. 27. Pricing
  27. 28. Pricing <ul><li>Determine objective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maximize readers, profits or both? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Price lower than print </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Low price is marketing tool </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Non-fiction supports higher prices than fiction </li></ul><ul><li>Price is not sole determining factor </li></ul><ul><li>High prices may encourage piracy </li></ul>
  28. 29. Distribution
  29. 30. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks Mobile apps
  30. 31. Content Distribution Options Direct to customer Direct to retailer Distributor Publisher Pros High margin, direct contact with readers, retain all rights Good margin, exposure to millions of readers, real time reporting, retain rights Good margin, time-savings, access to multiple retailers , aggregated reporting and analytics, retain rights, priority support Advance, access to B&M retail, editing and revision, marketing and promotion, prestige Cons Customer service burden, credit card processing fees, tough to attract traffic Time consuming to manage multiple relationships, not all retailers offer direct option, distributors may offer higher margins Delayed reported from retailers (1-4 weeks), takes 7.5-10% commission on retail price Low royalties, reporting delayed up to six months, limited distribution, Lose rights, can go out of print quickly
  31. 32. The Seven Secrets to Indie Ebook Publishing Success (how to participate in the ebook revolution)
  32. 33. Secret #1
  33. 34. #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>
  34. 35. Would You Buy This Book?
  35. 36. Professional Covers Not Expensive (this was $45)
  36. 37. Secret Two
  37. 38. #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/publishers on Smashwords offer deep backlists </li></ul><ul><li>Build trust with your reader </li></ul>
  38. 39. Secret Three
  39. 40. #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, producing, marketing </li></ul></ul>* Smashwords is a distributor, so of course I believe this
  40. 41. Ebook retailers want indie ebooks Mobile apps
  41. 42. Secret Four
  42. 43. #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/publishers at Smashwords offer at least one free book </li></ul>Additional resource: Read FREE, by Chris Anderson
  43. 44. Secret Five
  44. 45. #5 Patience is a Virtue <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 and each retailer as an asset that will yield income over the long term </li></ul><ul><li>Each retailer listing is a seedling, nourish it </li></ul>
  45. 46. Secret Six
  46. 47. #6 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’ll limit your success </li></ul></ul>
  47. 48. Secret Seven
  48. 49. #7 Marketing Starts Yesterday <ul><li>Marketing starts before you write your book </li></ul><ul><li>Cultivate your social network </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Contribute, share ideas, support your fellow writers and publishers </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><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>Resource: Smashwords Book Marketing Guide
  49. 50. BONUS Secret Eight
  50. 51. 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>It’s all about word of mouth (and mouse) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understand the power of your “first reader” </li></ul>
  51. 52. The Viral Dream First reader More Readers
  52. 53. Viral Decay, The Reality First reader Readers
  53. 54. Negative Virality First reader This book sucks!!!! = Last reader
  54. 55. How to Architect for Virality <ul><li>Implement the Seven </li></ul><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>Additional resource: Read The Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg
  55. 56. 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:
  56. 57. Summary <ul><li>With great change comes great risk </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leverage change to your advantage </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Power of publishing is shifting to authors and small publishers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Readers determine your success </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to reach readers has never been greater </li></ul>
  57. 58. Ebook Publishing Resources <ul><li>Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook) </li></ul><ul><li>Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book) </li></ul><ul><li>Mark’s List – Low cost formatters, cover designers [email_address] </li></ul>
  58. 59. Thank you for listening! Q&A Connect with Mark Coker: Web: Blog: HuffPo: Twitter: @markcoker Email: first initial second initial at