July 28, 2014 - Box sets: Back in December in my 2014 annual book publishing predictions, I predicted we'd see a lot more multi-author box sets in 2014, and we certainly have.  Box sets, especially when combined with a preorder, are a great way for multiple authors to combine marketing and promotion efforts with great effect.  Several Smashwords authors have already hit nationwide bestseller lists this year with their collaborations.  With a box set, the ebook's navigation is of paramount importance because you want to make it easy for readers to click to the start of each book, or click to learn more about each participating author.  With this in mind, today I added some box set navigation tips in a special section of my 2013 blog post, How to Add Navigation to a Smashwords Ebook.  As you may recall, there's also an accompanying YouTube video that shows you how to add navigation to a Smashwords ebook (Some writers mistakenly believe that linked Table of Contents only make sense for Non Fiction. If you write fiction, your readers will appreciate a great linked Table of Contents and NCX featuring sections such as "About Jane Smith," "Other books by Jane Smith," and "Connect with Jane Smith").  Even if you're not planning a box set, check out the blog post and accompanying video for a quick refresher course on how to offer your readers enhanced navigation.

July 24, 2014 - Starting today, we're limiting the number of tags to ten to reduce the incidence of tag spam.  Tag spam harms other authors by making their tags less relevant and less discoverable.  Tag spam is also not appreciated by Google's search engine which could potentially reduce a page's or web site's search ranking if it suspects the page contains spam meant to subvert search algorithms.  Tags are meant to aid supplemental discovery.  Please choose tag words that go above and beyond your book's categorization, and that tell your prospective reader something special about the book.  We apologize if the new limit causes inconvenience for any authors but we're confident the the change will result in more accurate keyword targeting for the benefit of readers, authors and search engines alike.

July 18, 2014 - Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited today, their answer to ebook subscription services Scribd and Oyster.  At first I thought it was good news, until I read the fine print.  It requires KDP Select exclusivity, which means the author would need to pull their books from all retailers.  Exclusivity is good for Amazon but not good for authors and the future of books.  More thoughts at the Smashwords blog.

July 16, 2014 - Tip of the day:  Did you know that most authors aren't taking full opportunity to add backmatter sections at the end of their book?  The moment the reader reads the last sentence of your book, you have them in your hands.  They loved your writing and want to read more.  They want to learn more about you.  They want to connect with you.  Make it easy for them.  This is why you need backmatter.  Add at least these three sections at the end of every book, and then link the sections via your linked Table of Contents:  About Jane Smith (short short bio); Other books by Jane Smith (list all your other titles); Connect with Jane Smith (social media links so fans can connect with you.  Learn how to do this, and view my video at http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/11/how-to-add-navigation-to-smashwords.html

July 6, 2014 - I've published the results of the 2014 Smashwords Survey.  This year's survey is bigger and better than ever, and for the first time includes data on the performance of series and preorders.  Lots of useful findings.  More at the Smashwords blog.  Please share with your writer friends!  Thanks to Bill and the Smashwords engineering team for their hard work in assembling the data for my analysis.

July 3, 2014 - A server upgrade glitch at Smashwords introduced a bug that caused the discoloration of several thousand ebook covers at iBooks.  The glitch started late last week.  The source of the problem was identified last night and fixed today.  We're now reshipping the affected covers.  Many covers have already been repaired.  We expect the to fully complete the repair by tomorrow morning Pacific time if not much earlier.  Authors don't need to take any steps.  Thanks for your bug reports, and thanks to our friends at iBooks for assisting our investigation which helped isolate the problem at Smashwords!

June 30, 2014 - The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale kicks off tomorrow.  For the entire month of July, thousands of authors will offer special deals to readers.  You can enroll your books now at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos  Please tell friends!

June 29, 2014 - Greetings from the ALA 2014 (American Library Association) conference in Las Vegas.  We're meeting with librarians to promote indie authorship and our OverDrive buylists.  If you're at ALA, stop by our booth #1976 and say hello. If you know a librarian friend who's here, invite them to stop by too!  We love libriarians and enjoy hearing how we can help them.

June 13, 2014 - From the department of interesting insights.  Hachette has been in the news over the contentious contract negotiation they're having with Amazon.  I blogged about it the other week.  Hachette is the world's third largest trade book publisher, and the fourth largest in the US.  A couple weeks ago they held their annual investor meeting.  I've got a link to their investor presentation (click here, opens a PDF).  It's full of interesting insights about their business strategy, the competitive landscape, their transition to digital, their author strategy, their thinking and much more.  Since publishers are potential partners and competitors to every indie author, the presentation makes for a great read.

June 11, 2014 - You asked, we delivered.  Smashwords now offers daily sales reports and aggregated charts from iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and OverDrive.  We also now report accumulated preorders at iBooks!  You'll find the new charting feature in your Dashboard.  Learn more at the Smashwords Blog.  If you're uploading direct to iBooks, B&N or Kobo, consider consolidating your distribution via Smashwords to get the full benefit of these new charts and their analytic capabilities.  Spend more time writing and less time fussing with managing multiple platforms.  When you distribute via Smashwords, you're also directly supporting our development of more new cool sales and merchandising features, all of which are designed to give you competitive advantage.  Thanks for your support, and thank you thank you for your feature requests which led to this new feature!

June 3, 2014 - An ebook retailing game-changer.  Apple yesterday unveilled their new iOS 8 operating system, which powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.  Buried in fine print on a presentation slide was a bombshell of an announcement that most people missed:  iOS 8 will come pre-loaded with the iBooks app.  This will put a bookstore in the hands and purses of nearly one billion Apple customers.  More at the Smashwords blog.

May 26, 2014 - You may have heard about the big conflaguration going on between Amazon and Hachette Book Group (the country's fourth largest publisher).  What at first looks like an isolated but tempestuous contract renegotation is actually the first shot heard around the world in what will become an ongoing battle by Amazon to dismantle its agency pricing agreements with the Big 5 publishers.  Regardless of how the negotiations proceed, the outcome will have significant implications for authors, publishers and retailers.  Over at the Smashwords Blog I tried to make sense of it all.  How would indies feels if Amazon moved KDP royalty rates from 70% to 50%? Or to 35%?  I imagine something closer to 50% is what Hachette is now trying to resist.  Since I'm not a fly on the wall (I'm reading press reports like everyone else), I can only speculate what's happening behind closed doors.  But between press reports (and some great insight over at Publishers Weekly), the pieces of the story start falling into place.  It's about agency pricing.  As you may know, I'm a big fan of agency pricing.  I think a return to wholesale pricing, where retailers can discount and compete on price, would cause more retailers to go out of business and force authors to become more dependent on Amazon.  Read my complete analysis along with four things indies can do to ensure independence at the Smashwords Blog.

May 22, 2014 - Scribd sales reporting.  We are very close to reporting Scribd sales for March and April in your Sales & Payments report.  We were a bit delayed reporting the sales because we needed to tweak the reporting format to accomodate Scribd's unique payment options.  Unlike any other outlet, as we shared when we announced the Scribd relationship in December, you have three different ways to earn income from Scribd.  1.  A reader purchases a single copy of your book, just like they would at any retailer.  You earn 60% of your list price.  2.  From their ebook subscription service, where most earnings orginate, you earn a full 60% list when the reader reads more than 30% of the book.  3.  The third option, which is quite innovative, pays the author for "browses."  A browse is when the reader reads past the first 10% but doesn't read beyond 30%.  For a "browse," you earn 1/10 of a full sale, or 6% of list.  Browses will appear in your sales report labeled as browse.  So, for example, if your book is priced at $9.99, a browse will earn you 1/10th of the 60% list price that you normally earn for a sale, or about $.60.  In other Scribd news, last week when I blogged how Scribd is running an exclusive promotion featuring 18 Smashwords authors, I shared some insight into Scribd's sales ramp.  I told you how their first full month (March) earned more than any other first month for a new Smashwords retailer, and I shared how April's sales were up 50%.  Well, I was slightly wrong.  April's final sales came in up 60%.  It's a great start.  We're seeing strong month over month growth with Oyster as well.  Each month their Smashwords sales have increased 40-50%.  Impressive.  Scribd is larger than Oyster, but both appear to be getting good traction in the market.  I'm eager to see where these two can grow over the next two to three years.  Right now, Smashwords titles account for over 50% of their catalogs.  As they add new publishers, competition will increase.  Smashwords authors who remained opted in right out of the gate will reap the most benefit because they're reaching new readership first.

May 20, 2014 - Smashwords is now distributing to OverDrive, the world's largest library ebook platform.  OverDrive serves over 20,000 public libraries around the world.  OverDrive is taking the entire Smashwords Premium Catalog EXCEPT erotica.  Learn more over at the Smashwords blog.  All Smashwords authors should have also received an email alert about OverDrive the evening of May 20.  If you didn't receive the alert, please make sure you're subscribed to receive them by clicking to Account: Communications Settings. 

May 19, 2014 - Smashwords has signed a distribution agreement with 'txtr, a global ebook retailing and e-reading platform based in Germany.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog.  I expect this will be a smaller retailer, but reach is the name of the game and every sale you get through smaller retailes is a sale you would not have otherwise received.

May 18, 2014 - Items.  1.  Many Smashwords authors have noticed over the last few weeks that our deliveries of new books, preorders and metadata updates to iBooks are now lightning-fast.  A few Smashwords authors have even seen their books appear for sale at iBooks the same day they upload to Smashwords (this is more likely to happen on Thursdays and Fridays when our vetting queue is the shortest).  Today at the Smashwords blog I reveal how these improvements came to be.  2. As I write this, I'm getting ready to check out of the hotel in New Orleans where I just wrapped up an incredible week of meeting dozens of Smashwords authors at Romance Slam Jam and RT Booklovers.  My head is still swimming.  There was a tremendous amount of excitement around Smashwords preorders, both during my preorder strategy workshop and in the hallways and elevators.  It's so much fun to meet Smashwords authors at these conferences and hear their stories. During another workshop, I revealed the preliminary results of our annual Smashwords Survey (I have so much interesting new data to share and will do so on the blog in the next few weeks).  For the third or fourth year in a row I sat on Sylvia Day's self publishing panel (she's amazing and the panel was great!).  In another session, Smashwords bestseller Kristen Ashley and I did a panel where Kristen explained her journey of becoming a six-time NY Times bestseller.  Wow, she's incredible.  So inspiring.  For 15 years she tried to find an agent and publisher, and for 15 years she got nothing but rejection.  Despite the rejection, she continued to write while holding down a full-time career as a top executive at a non-profit.  She eventually decided to quit her job to pursue her dream of publishing by self-publishing (I don't recommend you quit your day job, but then I don't recommend mortgaging your house to start a ebook publishing platform like I did - some of us get lucky!).  She has 23 novels completed when she made this decision (wow, she kept writing throughout all the rejection!).  She uploaded them over the course of five months to Smashwords and Amazon.  At first, sales were meager.  It didn't look good.  She kept at it.  She and her husband were literally eating ramen noodles to cut down on living expenses.   It was an amazing session and it's too bad it wasn't videotaped or recorded.  In a sense, hearing Kristen speak, and witnessing the admiration of her fans in the audience, brought everything full-circle for me.  I created Smashwords to give every writer a chance.  I knew there were writers in the world like Kristen who needed a Smashwords, so it's always great to hear such inspiring stories of success.  These stories are becoming more common as the indie author revolution takes root.  Yay!  I never tire of hearing about our authors' success, and as I've previously written elsewhere, success isn't just about sales and dollars.  There were a lot of bloggers in the audience so hopefully some of them will share their notes.  3.  This coming week is going to be a very big week, some of which we'll reveal this week and some we'll save for weeks ahead. Stay tuned to this channel!

May 12, 2014.  - UPDATED  - Three new items at the Smashwords Blog from last night and today.  1.  This week at the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, 349 Smashwords romance authors will be promoted in 2,000 thumb drives included in the goodie bags of attendees.  Learn more hereThis is our way of saying THANK YOU for publishing and distributing with Smashwords!  3.  Scribd is making good headway removing unauthorized content from their site for the benefit of indie authors everywhere.  Learn how their new and improved BookID copyright protection system helps prevent unauthorized uploads at Scribd.  For the first time ever, I share removal numbers.  Learn more here.  3.  Eighteen Smashwords authors are featured in this exclusive Scribd merchandising promotion.  I also talk about the rapid sales ramp we're seeing at Scribd.  If you're not fully opted in to Scribd, you're missing out.  Although their sales are still smaller than Apple, B&N, Kobo and the Smashwords, they're off to the fastest start I've seen of any retailer in the last five years.  I'm excited to see where they can grow long term.  More at the Smashwords blog.

May 9, 2014.  Items:  1.  Big news for those of us who didn't realize this until today:  Barnes & Noble - like Apple and Kobo - credits your accumulated preorders all at once when you book goes onsale, causing your book to pop in the bestseller charts.  Bottom line, if you're not distributing your next release to B&N via Smashwords as a preorder, you're missing out.  More at the Smashwords blog.   2.  Here's something I did know but forgot to share here on Site Updates.  Earlier this week, 120 poetry students at Los Gatos High School published an amazing poetry anthology titled Windows to the Teenage Soul (learn more at the Smashwords Blog).  Not only is this a super-awesome poetry anthology, and not only did it hit #1 at Apple on launch day in the poetry category (yay), but the coolest thing about this book is that it contains a comprehensive Teacher's Guide in which we share how the class wrote, produced and published this professional ebook in under 5 weeks.  If you're a parent, educator or librarian, buy this book to learn how to incorporate ebook publishing into the class curriculum in your local community.  This project can be replicated at elementary schools, high schools and colleges.  Help inspire the next generation of indie authors!

April 23, 2014.  What does it mean to be an indie author?  Today, I published the INDIE AUTHOR MANIFESTO, my attempt to distill in 10 principles the belief system behind the indie author movement.  Hopefully it'll help others outside the movement appreciate what's driving this revolution.  At the Smashwords blog.

April 19, 2014.  Smashwords on the road in May.  Come say hello!  Here are some upcoming events for authors near Denver, New Orleans and New York City.  May 1-3, AuthorU Extravaganza in Denver.  I'm giving a keynote and will spend a lot of time hanging out with attending authors.    May 10, Romancing the Big Easy & Romance Slam Jam in New Orleans.  I'm giving a 1/2 day multi-part crash course in ebook self publishing on Saturday May 10.     May 13-18, RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans.  I'm participating in four sessions.  On May 14 at noon, I'm presenting the third annual results of our Smashwords Survey in a session titled, MONEY MONEY MONEY.  On May 15, I'm giving a session on preorder strategy.  On May 16 at 12:15 I'm on Sylvia Day's self publishing panel and at 1:30pm I'm doing a panel with Smashwords mega-bestseller, Kristen Ashley.  My complete RT schedule is listed here.  On May 29 in New York City, as part of the big BEA conference, I'm speaking at 9:30 on a metadata panel organized by our friends at Bowker.  I think Scribd and Chegg will join me on the panel.  At 2:25pm the same day at the BISG Making Information Pay sub-conference, I'm on a panel talking about subscription ebook services.  On May 31, I'm presenting two workshops at the wonderful uPublishU subconference of BEA.  The first talk is on strategies for successful ebook preorders, and the second talk is all about iBooks merchandising strategies.  Register for uPublishU before May 15 and save $100 off of the normal $215 rate.  Joining me at BEA and uPublishU will be Jim Azevedo, Smashwords' marketing director.  More about uPublishU at the Smashwords blog.

April 17, 2014. Great start at Scribd.  February 28, the last day of February, was the first day Smashwords titles appeared for sale at Scribd, and based on that first day's sales, I was cautiously optimistic. A few days ago we received the first full month's sales report from Scribd for the subscription side of the relationship and wow - what a great first month (we'll load these sales once we complete some report ingestion prep work).  Exciting start for such a new distribution relationship.  They're still much smaller than B&N or Kobo, but they've already trounced the combined loss of Sony and Diesel last month.  What I'm most eager to see is where they grow to in the next year or two.  At a time when most retailers are showing slowing growth, it's exciting to see this early traction among the subscription players.  Oyster, too, has shown a nice sales ramp every single month.  In case you missed them, I wrote a two-part blog series a few months back examining the subscription business model, and what it might mean for Smashwords authors.  Read the first installment here.  Like any new sales channel, authors who are at Scribd first will have an advantage over those who are late to the party, and an advantage over those who are taking a "wait and see" approach, or those who cannot distribute to Scribd because they have books stuck in KDP Select.  We saw the same thing happen with the first books we distributed to Apple, B&N and Kobo many years ago.  Every new retail partner represents its own unique micro-market.  Author platform building at every retailer is a multi-year endeavor.  Some new retailers blossom to become big future players (like Apple, B&N and Kobo), and others fail to gain significant traction (like Diesel or Sony).  I think Scribd is in the former category.

April 10, 2014 update on Heartbleed Bug mentioned earlier today.  Starting at approximately midnight Pacific tonight, all registered users of Smashwords will be logged out of their accounts and asked to log back in again.  We also recommend you update your password at that time.   As they advise in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, DON'T PANIC.  To date, experts in the computer security community believe there's scant evidence cybercriminals have exploited the Heartbleed Bug vulnerability anywhere, and we believe the same holds true for Smashwords.  Consider this a routine fire drill intended to provide an added layer of protection.  For the most comprehensive protection, remember to change your password at other sites too!

April 10, 2014 - Items.  1.  This just out.  I was perusing the Smashwords bestseller list we produce each month for Publishers Weekly, and stumbled across an interesting fun fact.  Female authors dominate the Smashwords bestseller lists.  I'm not entirely certain why, but I have some theories.  Congrats ladies!  More at the Smashwords blog.   2.  Heartbleed Bug.  There's been a lot of international press attention about the Heartbleed Bug, a major security vulnerability that affected possibly millions of web sites.  Smashwords is now patched to protect against this vulnerability.  It's likely that every Internet user has visited multiple web sites over the last two years now known to have had the vulnerability, including major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Yahoo and Pinterest.  The recommended preventative medicine is to change your passwords everywhere, including Smashwords.  This is actually a best practice anyway.  It's a good idea to change your passwords from time to time, and don't use the same passwords for every site you visit.  Learn more about the Heartbleed Bug in this Mashable story.   To change your password at Smashwords, visit Account->Edit Account Information, and update your password from there.  Then please repeat a similar process at all the other sites you regularly visit. 

April 6, 2014 - Smashwords UK authors, I'm in London for the next couple days!  I'm presenting at two events.  I'm not in London often, so I hope I can meet some of you (always my favorite part of attending these conferences).  On Monday April 7 between 5 and 7pm, I'll be at Kingston University.  It's a two-hour ebook publishing event, in two parts:  1.  An Introduction to Ebook Publishing.  2. The 16 Best Practices of Ebook Self Publishing.  Please bring a writer friend with you!  Refreshments will be served.  Register at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-to-publish-an-ebook-a-unique-lecture-by-mark-coker-smashwords-tickets-10892677291  Registration is 10 pounds.  The event will be in the John Galsworthy Building, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston KT1 2EE.  On Tuesday April 8 I'm at the London Book Fair at the Earls Court Convention Hall in London participating in their Author HQ event.  I'm doing three different sessions#1:  12:00-12-45pm – Book Discovery for Authors.  I’m sitting on a panel with Joanna Penn and Andrew Rhomberg talking about how authors can make their books more discoverable and more desirable to readers.  #2:    2-3pm – Introduction to Ebook Publishing.  I’m giving this one-hour workshop on how to prepare, publish, price, distribute and market an ebook.  It'll be similar to what I'm doing the night before at Kingston University.  #3:  3:30-4:30pm – Ebook Publishing Best Practices.  I'll share the 16 best practices of the most successful indie ebook authors.   Also similar to what I'm doing at Kingston.  Although I've given these two presentations many times, I'm constantly updating them and they're always different from day to day and month to month.  My goal with each talk is to arm writers with best practices knowledge. 

April 4, 2014 - Three items.  1.  Q1 payments go out this month!  Reminder:  Before April 15, please click to your Account tab, then click to Payment Settings and make sure your payment settings are correct.  Changes made after April 15 won't be reflected in this payment round.  If you live in the US and you're set up to receive paper checks, make sure the mailing address is correct.  Each quarter, checks get lost or delayed due to incorrect mailing addresses.  If you're new to Smashwords and configured to be paid by PayPal, make sure your PayPal account is activated.  PayPal is a free service.  If you've received prior payments from Smashwords via PayPal, then your account is activated.    2.  Kobo delays.  Kobo is experiencing a multi-week backlog loading new titles.  Please expect delays.   You can partially minimize the delay by taking advantage of Smashwords preorder distribution.  When you distribute a preorder with Smashwords, it gives the retailer extra time to load your title in advance of your onsale date.  Please note, however, that their backlog applies to preorders as well, but at least an early delivery of a preorder gets you in line earlier.  Learn more about preorders at our Preorder Help page.   3.  Apple iBooks in the US and Australia this week are running a major promotion featuring free series starters.  Multiple Smashwords authors are featured prominently.  Back when we launched Series Manager in September, this was exactly the type of promotion I knew would be enabled once Smashwords captured this enhanced series metadata.  It's why we've been urging our series authors to take advantage of this important new tool in your Dashboard.  Series Manager makes it possible for retailers to provide your series titles increased discoverability.  It makes it possible for us to actively promote our bestselling series to our retail partners.  I think we've only just scratched the surface of what's possible with Series Manager.  If you write series and haven't yet attached your book to a series, please do it now.  You'll find Series Manager in your Dashboard.  If you have writer friends who write series and their books aren't yet on Smashwords, please urge them to join now.  Series Manager gives series books a discoverability advantage.  With the growth of the ebook market cooling, indies need every advantage they can get.  Series Manager is one of many exclusive benefits indies earn by distributing to the major retailers with Smashwords.

March 25, 2014 - Items.  1.  Scribd update on free Scribd subscriptions!  As promised in the original Scribd announcement on December 19, authors with books opted in to Scribd by January 1 were to receive a free one-year Scribd subscription valued at $100.  Considering that the Smashwords catalog didn't go live in their system until February 28, some additional authors made it in after the January 1 cutoff so that's great. The first 1,000 authors will receive emails today from Smashwords that contain activation hyperlinks.  It's actually proven to be quite a complex task of issuing these activation links (a big thanks to our friends at Scribd for all their great work here!).  Assuming the first 1,000 recipients are able to successfully redeem their subscriptions without difficulty, we'll send out the rest.  If you receive the email, please follow the instructions carefully.  If you have difficulty, contact Scribd via the email address included in your email.  I'll post an update here when we send out the second batch.   2.  Diesel eBook Store no more?  Diesel posted a page on their website that says they will close their store at the end of the month.  Read their notice here.  I've asked Diesel to provide me additional information on their plans to unwind the store, so once I learn more I'll report back to our authors here.

March 5, 2014 - No one knows the future, but it's fun to guess.  Put on your pundit hat and head on over to the Smashwords blog to download my spreadsheet that will help you predict the future of indie ebook publishing.  See why I'm predicting 50% of all ebook sales will be earned by indie ebook authors within seven years.  

March 4, 2014 - W8BEN form processing is delayed.  W8BEN forms allow authors outside the US to attain reduced tax withholdings.  We're revamping our tax reporting systems, so this will cause a delay in our processing of the WBEN forms received during February and March.  All received forms will be processed in early April in advance of the next payment period which is scheduled for the second half of April.  As a reminder, when you send in your W8BEN form, be sure to include your email address and Smashwords screen name so we can contact you if there are any problems with your form.

February 27, 2014 - Read an Ebook Week 2014! - Enroll your books today in the Smashwords' sixth annual Read an Ebook Week celebration.  Enroll on the Smashwords home page, or click here for the direct link to the enrollment page.

February 24, 2014.  Two items.  1.  Check out my blog post and corresponding slide deck on ebook preorder strategy.  Many Smashwords authors have hit the genre and store-wide bestseller lists with the assistance of preorders.  But simply doing a preorder isn't enough.  I requires proper strategy and planning.  This presentation will teach you how to get the most from preorders.  2.  A Smashwords author today published the 10 Billionth Word at Smashwords!!!!  Yay.  Read the blog post here. Congrats Smashwords authors!  You're changing the world of publishing for the better.

February 20, 2014 - Publisher's Weekly asked me to write an opinion piece on the controversy surrounding Hugh Howey's AuthorEarnings website.  Critics have attacked his methodology and conclusions.  As I argue in my story, critics are missing the greater point.  There's a growing rift between authors and publishers, and it won't end well unless publishers start listening to authors' legitimate wants and needs.  Read it here (Although this story was available visible by now, it now requires registration).

February 13, 2014 - Items.  1.  Smashwords is at the San Francisco Writers Conference Friday through Sunday.  Stop by and say hi!  2.  We updated our eDelivery features!  Hot on the heels of new Dropbox eDelivery feature from a few weeks back, this week we enhanced eDelivery again by adding email delivery of purchased ebooks.  The goal here is to create the shortest possible path between the purchased book and the reader's eyeballs.  It's great for iPhone and iPad users, as well as for Android tablet users, because moments after purchase, you'll find the ebook files in your email.  Just click and launch the book in your favorite e-reading app.  You can now choose the formats you want to receive via email or Dropbox.  In addition, you can now also send free books, book samples, or books you have purchased directly from the book's book page.  You can even designate a special email address for the delivery of your files.  Smashwords members who signed on or after February 12 are automatically enrolled in email eDelivery.  Members who registered prior to this date can opt in.  Learn more about eDelivery at https://www.smashwords.com/edelivery/info or visit your eDelivery Manager (found under the Account tab) at https://www.smashwords.com/edelivery/ to configure your settings.  Enjoy!

February 6, 2014 - Goodbye to our friends at Sony.  Sony today announced the imminent closure of its Sony Reader Store in the US and Canada.  The store will remain in operation until March 20, after which it will cease ebook sales.  Effective immediately, Smashwords will cease delivery of new titles.   We will continue to deliver metadata updates and takedowns.  What this means for authors:  Any time any retailer closes - especially one such as Sony who pioneered the ebook market - it's a sad day.  Along with Barnes & Noble, Sony was one of the first major retailers to embrace self-published ebooks by partnering with Smashwords in 2009.  Sony's devices and ebook store predated Amazon's, so when the history books of the indie author revolution are written I hope historians give Sony the credit they deserve as a true pioneer.  My sentiments and appreciation for Sony aside, the impact on Smashwords authors today will be minimal.  The Sony store, as most authors know, is one of the smallest retailers in the Smashwords distribution network.  To put this in perspective, on a typical month, less than 2% of our authors' monthly sales come from Sony.  Next steps for Smashwords authors:  If your books are already listed at Sony, there's nothing you need to do.  On or around March 20, your book's listing at Sony should disappear.  Your customers at Sony will have ample opportunity to backup their purchases.  Kobo, a Smashwords partner, will assume control over Sony's customers' libraries, enabling Sony customers to move to Kobo and maintain access to their books.  Since Smashwords already distributes to Kobo, the book product listings at Sony will not transfer to Kobo.   More at the Smashwords blog.

January 30, 2014 - Download your 2013 tax forms at https://www.smashwords.com/account/docs

January 28, 2014 - Items.  1.  Save the date.  If you live near Portland Oregon, on February 25 I'm speaking at a one-day conference at Portland University titled, Self Publishing in the Digital Age.  Reserve a spot at https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/services/publishing-route.   2.  Q4 Payments are in process this week.  PayPal payments have gone out and paper checks should arrive soon.  3.  The San Francisco Writers Conference goes February 13 - 16.  We'll be there doing panels and workshops.  I'm also doing a keynote talk.  SFWC is always a great conference, and it sells out every year.   4.  Silicon Valley Reads.  January through March is the Silicon Valley Reads series of events for those of you who live in the Bay Area.  The events are free and feature a bunch of great speakers and topics.  I'm speaking on two ebook panels.  The first is February 15 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and the second is on the 19th at the Downtown Palo Alto Library as part of the annual Silicon Valley Reads event.  The event on the 19th features someone from Scribd.  The full SV Reads schedule is here.  Last weekend I attended an interesting talk by Nicolas Carr and learned what he thinks the Internet is doing to our brains.  [His big message: Remember to get outside and unplug, or sit down and focus on reading a book, because constant shallow surfacy online stimulation might be rewiring the neural connections in our brains and diminishing our capacity for deep thought.]  

January 15, 2013 - I trust everyone is recovered from the holidays.  Smashwords authors experienced solid post-holiday sales at most retailers.  Apple did well, and so did B&N despite the negative press and FUD showered upon them daily by industry pundits.  Kobo hasn't reported yet, but I expect they had a solid post-holiday boost as well.  With the holiday rush behind us, we turn our attention to the future.  2014 will be a challenging and exciting year for most authors.  As I mentioned in my predictions post, I think industry-wide unit sales of ebooks will increase, but there's a risk that sales measured in dollars will be flat to down.  The heady go-go days of exponential growth are behind the industry, but this in no way diminishes the incredible opportunity faced by indie authors.  Indie authors still enjoy significant competitive advantages in this market.  You enjoy faster time-to-market, greater creative control, a direct relationship with your fans, higher margins at lower price points, non-stop dedication to your books, and unmatched flexibility to iterate and evolve your book to make it more accessible and more desireable to readers.  There are millions of readers out there spending billions of dollars to read great books.  These readers are more reachable than ever thanks to global retailers and the distribution systems that serve them such as Smashwords.  It's all about you, your book and the reader.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - the best books market themselves on the wings of reader word of mouth.  Write a great book, give it great editing, a great cover and a fair price, and then get to work on the next book.   At Smashwords, we're at work on what comes next.  We're working to make this an up year for our authors, and with your help we'll succeed together.  In 2014 we'll continue to innovate by bringing our authors new tools and broader distribution.  In New York this week, publishers are convened at the annual Digital Book World conference.  If you get a chance, check out the tweetstream of the conference at hash tag #DBW14.   There were some fascinating discussions this morning about Amazon from the session featuring Brad Stone and Joe Esposito.  I'm not there, so it's difficult to gauge the mood in the room.  The tweets make for thought-provoking reading.  I can only imagine some of the publishers are experiencing that deer in the headlights sensation.   My view:  The future is what indie authors make it.  Indie authors are ascendant, and will continue to ascend as the future of publishing.  Indie authors will decide the fate of Amazon and its competitors.  Decide well because you - not Amazon - are the most powerful force in publishing today.

December 31, 2013 - Happy New Year everyone!  I just posted my annual Smashwords Year in Review at the blog.  Thank you for your support in 2013.  On behalf of everyone at Smashwords, it has been our pleasure to serve you this year.  We're looking forward to 2014!

December 30, 2013 - I posted my 2014 book publishing industry predictions at the blog.  Big theme:  The easy days are behind indie authors with more price competition coming from large publishers.  2014 might be the first year that overall dollar sales fall for ebooks, yet unit volume will be up.  If you follow best practices and publish like a pro, readers will find you.

December 21, 2013 - A few Smashwords authors have expressed concern about piracy at Scribd (and some have expressed disappointment that their books haven't been pirated at Scribd!).  As a site that enables quick and easy upload of content by anyone, unauthorized publication of pirated works is an issue every publishing platform must struggle with.  We deal with it at Smashwords, as does Amazon and even YouTube.  Earlier today I updated the Smashwords blog post to share what Scribd is doing to reduce the incidence of unauthorized uploads.  Here you go:  December 21 Update on Piracy Prevention: By distributing your book to Scribd via Smashwords, you'll also help prevent and remove unauthorized versions of your work at Scribd. To protect the intellectual property of authors and publishers, Scribd has developed and is continuing to enhance a Copyright Management System (CMS) that takes a digital fingerprint of all authorized uploads from Smashwords, and will use the Smashwords version as the authorized version of record. So not only will the Scribd CMS help protect Smashwords authors against unauthorized uploads in the future, it will also trigger retroactive and automated takedowns of unauthorized versions. If you ever discover an unauthorized version of your work at Scribd, visit the the Scribd DMCA takedown page and provide them a direct hyperlink to the offender's upload. 

December 19, 2013 - I'm excited to announce a new global distribution agreement today with Scribd, an online reading community that boasts 10 million readers visiting their site each month.  There are two parts to the agreement.  The first part is for Smashwords to distribute books to their subscription ebook service.  The second part is for Smashwords to sell books on their site.  The terms of the agreement are great for our authors.  60% list for all sales for their bookstore, and 60% list for all qualifying full reads in their subscription service.  The trigger points for "full read" credit are when a reader reads more than 20% of the book, not counting the first 10% of the book starting at page one which is considered the free sample.  They also pay for partial reads, which is a cool bonus and unlike any other retailer.  If a reader reads 5% beyond the 10% sample, but less than 20% beyond, you receive a "browse" credit.  10 browse credits equal one full sale.  Also very cool:  As if you didn't already have reason to distribute every book to them, Scribd is offering all participating Smashwords authors who distribute through Smashwords a one-year free subscription to their subscription service valued at over $100.  Make sure your books are opted in by January 1 to be eligible, because this is a limited time offer.  They've also got some cool merchandising plans, as well as plans to share enhanced analytics with authors.  In my several months of conversations with them, I'm impressed by their enthusism and commitment to support Smashwords authors.  Test shipments have begun, though books will likely not begin appearing in their store or subscription service until sometime in January.  The Scribd channel was activated in the Channel Manager this morning.  If you see a notation that your book has shipped, it's only a test shipment.  For authors who want to opt out (NOT RECOMMENDED!), you can opt out.  More details at the Smashwords blog.

December 18, 2013 - Glitch in support form discovered and fixed.  We discovered and repaired a glitch in our support form that caused us to lose some number of support inquiries.  We believe the glitch primarily affected folks who contacted us between yesterday morning and 2:40pm today via the "?" button at the top of the page.  It appears that most of the inquiries received through the form at the bottom of the page came through.  If more than 24 hours have passed since you made an inquiry and you made an inquiry prior to 2:40pm Pacific today, please contact us again so we can address your question or comment.  Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

December 17, 2013 - The new site is launched!  Thank you to Smashwords authors, publishers, customers, critics and the Smashwords team for your feedback and ideas.  We're really excited about the improvements, and we're even more excited about the foundation we're building for ongoing improvements and new features you'll see in the months ahead.  For a rundown of what's new, check out my post at the Smashwords Blog.

December 16, 2013 - Can you keep a secret?  The look of the Smashwords website, which has barely changed since we launched in early 2008, is about to get a refresh.  Sometime on Tuesday December 17, the look will change with more home page categories, more home page books, improved support for mobile browsers, redesigned book pages and much more. It'll be the first iteration of many enhancements to come.

December 5, 2013 - Apple tickets!  Your Smashwords Dashboard now includes a new column labeled Retailer Tickets.  This new feature, now in live beta, reports notes directly from Apple if their Quality Assurance team requests changes to your book.  This new feature will help you quickly identify and remedy issues that could prevent your book from appearing for sale at Apple iBooks.  Check out your Dashboard for the new feature.  If you have a ticket, please fix it asap.  You can learn more by visiting our Ticket help page

 

~~~~  HOLIDAY PLANNING ~~~~

November 29, 2013 (updated with new Kobo information covered in item #9 below) - Preparing for the holidays.  This holiday season promises to be another record for Smashwords retailers.  If you have new releases or promotions planned between now and January 1, now is the time to check your calendar and make adjustments as necessary.  Each year during the Thanksgiving (US) and Christmas holidays, our retail partners operate under holiday schedules.  This can impact their ability to load new titles or make metadata updates. At Smashwords, we're staffed up and ready to help you (welcome to Elizabeth and Matt, the newest members of the Smashwords vetting team!).  The tips below will help you maximize the success of your new releases and will also minimize your holiday stress.

Apple, the largest sales channel for Smashwords authors, goes into lockdown mode between December 20 and December 27, and during this time no new titles will be loaded into their store, no price changes can be made, no updates can be made, and no preorders will activate.  Since Apple manually reviews and approves all books before listing them, it means we want to deliver your books well in advance of the lockdown to allow plenty of time for them to receive, approve and list the book. 

Here's what you need to know, along with my recommendations:  

1.  The earlier you upload new releases to Smashwords, the better.  Aim to get your book uploaded to Smashwords by December 2 to ensure your book is listed before the Apple lockdown.  If you upload to Smashwords the week of December 9, your book will probably still make it to Apple assuming there are no formatting problems, but get it to us the week before to be safe.  If you upload your book as late as December 16 or later, we'll still do everything we can to expedite the approval and delivery of your book to Apple and others, but understand there's a much greater risk your book isn't listed in time for Christmas.

2.  If your manuscript is ready for publication but your release date is still a few weeks out, take advantage of our preorder feature today to upload it now so Apple/B&N/Kobo have plenty of time to load your title in advance of the holiday rush.  Even if your release is a few days away, upload it asap as a preorder so you can get a head start on the delivery process.  Preorders receive priority review!  

3. Upload a book our vetting team can approve on their first review!  The moment you upload your book to Smashwords, check your confirmation email.  It will summarize AutoVetter errors, if any.  Repair them on the spot.  Even if you have no AutoVetter errors, open your .epub file in Adobe Digital Editions and make sure the formatting looks great.  Make sure your linked table of contents is functional in your .epub, and test all the links in your NCX (See Step 20 in the newly revised Style Guide for tips).  Make sure your book doesn't contain links to other ebook retailers (Apple will reject).  If your book is formatted to the Style Guide, we can expedite your approval and distribution.  

4. Between November 23 and November 30, expect a longer wait time following the time we ship to Apple and the time they approve the listing.  This is due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  If you have  a release scheduled during this period, upload it asap as a preorder so we can deliver it in advance.  Unlike the Christmas lockdown, Apple-approved preorders will continue to activate during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

5.  If you have a preorder at Apple with an onsale date between December 20 and December 27, please click the "?" question mark button if you want a different release date, otherwise the book won't activate until December 28. December 28, by the way, is not a bad day for a release, especially for highly anticipated releases, because that's during a big ebook buying period that will extend through New Years and into early January.

6.  Sony recommends we deliver books to them by November 29 to ensure listing in advance of their Christmas lockdown, which means your book would need to be Premium Catalog approved no later than November 22.  We will, of course, continue shipping after November 22, and Sony will do everything they can to load late shipments, but try not to push it.  The preorder trick mentioned above won't help with Sony unless your onsale date is on or before November 22.

7.  Barnes & Noble will be processing updates throughout the holidays, but please expect delays.  They recommend, as do we, Apple and Kobo, that we deliver new titles and metadata updates early. 

8.  Now's a good time to check your book at every retailer to make sure the retailer's listings are correct.  If you find errors, email a direct hyperlink to the book's listing at the retailer to our support team via the "?" question mark button.  If your Channel Manager says your book or your update shipped more than two weeks ago, and the retailer still hasn't made the update, contact us via the same process.  Now's also a good time to check your website or blog and make sure you're providing your readers direct hyperlinks to your books at every retailer.  Make it easy for them to purchase your book at their favorite retailer.

9.  Kobo is in lockdown mode between December 20 and January 3.  Unlike Apple which will not activate preorders with dates that fall during the lockdown period, Kobo will activate peorders provided the title has been delivered and processed in advance of their December 20 lockdown.  Similar to Apple, please deliver your books early, the first week of December if possible.  Take advantage of the preorder feature, even if you're only uploading your title a few days before the official release date.
 

~~~~  END HOLIDAY PLANNING ~~~~

November 20, 2013 - I recorded and uploaded a tutorial video today that teaches authors how to add navigation to their Smashwords ebooks.  Learn how to create a Linked Table of Contents, and how to use this to guide the creation of your ebook's NCX.  Consider it supplementary material to what you already know from Step 20 in the Smashwords Style Guide.  I also used the occassion of this video's release to blog about how you can leverage end matter to sell more books.  More at the Smashwords blog

November 12, 2013 - Bowker issued a report on self publishing and ranked Smashwords the #1 indie ebook producer for 2012.  Congrats Smashwords authors!  More at the Smashwords blog, which links to where you can download the full report.

November 11, 2013 - We reloaded sales data today for free downloads at Apple for the month of October.  The previous reports included erroneous "free" sales of books that carried a price.  After inquiring with Apple, we learned today that these were not actually new purchases, nor did they represent priced books distributed for free.  Instead, the line item we reported actually reflected Apple customers who upgraded to Apple's new iOS 7 operating system and then accessed previously purchased books contained in their personal iBooks library.  Thanks to all the authors who alerted us to these strange line items in the Apple reports.

November 8, 2013 - Updated November 12:  Thank you to everyone who nominated their books as reference examples of great formatting.  I received many great submissions, and now face the dauting challenge of selecting only a very few.

October 30, 2013 - We're in the process of updating Sales and Payments reports to reflect the Q3 earnings payments that went out last week.  Please note that if your account is subject to tax withholdings, those withholdings may not have been reflected in your account immediately. Update: The reports have been fully updated.

October 29, 2013 - Items.  1.  I published a two part series of blog posts examing the business models of the ebook subscription services (part I) and how ebook subscription services may change how we value books (part II).  As Smashwords authors learned earlier this week, the compensation model is author-friendly, at least for Oyster which is the first out of the Smashwords gate.  I think as authors consider the future of retailing, these subscription services deserve the support of the indie author community because if they're successful, they could help authors reach a new generation of readers that can't be reached at conventional retailers alone.  Yes, the growth of indie ebooks is increasing, yet books of all shapes and sizes will face increased competion from non-book media forms.  2.  A Smashwords author yesterday published the 9 BILLIONTH word at Smashwords.  WOW WOW WOW.   Ya'll are awesome.

October 27, 2013 - More clarification on the Oyster terms.  In the email blast that went out to authors, I wrote, "you’ll earn 60% of your book’s retail list price whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than 10% of your book, starting from the beginning of the book forward."  I made a slight error in the last part of that sentence, "starting from the beginning of the book forward."  Unlike ebook retailers that usually only sample the beginning of the book, an Oyster reader can sample the book from any point of the book, much as a reader of a print book can open it to any page.  For the 70% or more of you who write fiction or narrative non-fiction, your readers are still most likely to engage with your book starting at page one and then read forward, sequentially because that's how we read fiction.  For those of you who write nonfiction that can be consumed non-sequentially, this abilility for Oyster subscribers to dive into your book at any point has a positive benefit for you.  The reader can read non-sequentially, which could help increase the odds that the reader triggers the 10% sample threshold that leads to a sale.  For example, if you've written a book about tomato gardening, and they read chapter 1 (an introduction), then chapter 5 (pest control) and chapter 10 (watering), and these three non-sequential chapters add up to 10% or more of the book, then it triggers a sale.  Whatever you write, I think this ability to dive in anywhere will make your book more accessible and more desirable to readers.  I think it also increases the importance of equipping your book with good navigation in the form of both intra-book hyperlinks via a linked Table of Contents, and also a great NCX.  Navigation makes all the parts of your book more accessible to readers.  Step 20 in the Style Guide shows how to create linked ToCs which Meatgrinder uses to generate your NCX.

October 25, 2013 - The long-awaited email regarding the financial details of our new distribution agreement with Oyster is now pulsing its way to inboxes.  Back when I announced the deal, I also mentioned that the financial terms would be annouced at a later date.  Today is that day!  Smashwords authors will earn 60% of the list price whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than the first 10% of their book.  Shipments will commence either the evening of October 28 or on October 29.  If you previously opted out of Oyster pending the deal terms, please go back in now!  These are great terms, the same as you earn at our major retailers.  More in the email which should arrive in your inbox before 6pm Pacific time.  If the email doesn't arrive, please click to your Communications Prefences under the Account tab and make sure you're opted in to receive these alerts in the future.

October 24, 2013 - Smashwords completed the purchase and integration of 200,000 more ISBNs.  Have at 'em!

October 23, 2013 - We're temporarily out of free ISBNs.  We're in the process of procuring more.  We'll update here once they become available.
 
October 22, 2013 - Congrats to Smashwords author G.J. Walker-Smith.  Her Saving Wishes has been selected by Apple as its Book of the Week.  Over at the Smashwords Blog, I share more information on the promotion along with merchandising tips for Apple.  In GJ's case, a free series starter, a successful preorder, great covers and rave reviews from Apple's customers are but a few of the factors that helped G.J. and Saving Wishes earn this awesome promotion.
 
October 20, 2013 - I produced a series of five ebook publishing workshops and posted them to Youtube.  These five workshops are based on presentations I've given at various writers conferences around the country (greetings today from the Emerald City Writers Conference in Seattle).  In total, they run over 8 hours.  It's like attending a full-day intensive seminar on ebook publishing, though you can watch or listen in any order or at your leisure.  Find them all at the Smashwords blog.
 
October 15, 2013 - Kobo powers multiple retailers around the world.  One of those retailers in the UK, WH Smith, woke up the other day and realized they were carrying a lot of racy erotica when a British tabloid embarassed them publicly with this fact.  What a surprise.  WH Smith, in what appears to have been a nonsensical panic, took their entire store down, pinned the blame on self-published books, and replaced the home page with an over-the-top anti-self-publishing rant that will not soon be forgotten by indies.  That's what you call, "thowing the baby out with the bathwater."  Kobo is now racing to put together all the pieces.  From what I'm told, all or most Smashwords titles are not available in the UK through the Kobo-branded store as well as through WH Smith.   Most Smashwords titles continue to appear internationally through Kobo, but not all.   I spoke with Kobo today and they're working to restore as many blocked titles as possible as soon as possible.  However, not all titles will reappear.  Similar to Apple, Smashwords erotica authors can now assume that erotic fiction where the predominant theme, focus, title, cover image or book description is targeted at readers who seek erotic stories of incest, pseudo-incest or rape will find that their content is not welcome at the Kobo store.  I've heard multiple reports that Amazon is cracking down on the same.  Going forward, I think we can expect this to become the new reality as major retailers set their sights on a global market where the cultural, religious or political norms in some countries will find certain categories of erotica too objectionable, or might find non-erotic categories that most western cultures consider mainstream as too objectionable.  This means we can expect more mess to come in the years ahead as the industry navigates ebook globalization.  Improved metadata, in the form of more granular categorization, will go a long way toward helping authors, publishers and retailers respect cultural norms while also enabling access to those who want it.  All titles that meet the Smashwords Terms of Service are available for worldwide purchase at the Smashwords store.  As we did with Paypal, we'll always do what we can to protect the ability of writers to publish legal fiction at Smashwords.  In the meantime, Smashwords will work closely with Kobo to get as many titles restored as possible.  Most of the most eggregious content - the type that any retailer would most fear such as underage erotica - is already blocked by Smashwords.  However, much of what Kobo now finds too objectionable is still accepted by Smashwords.  Kobo is going to begin increasing their internal vetting procedures, much as Apple began doing over a year ago.  This will likely introduce new delays in terms of the speed at which Kobo loads titles, regardless of whether a title is uploaded direct or delivered through Smashwords.  That said, Kobo appreciates that Smashwords has always had strict vetting standards for our Premium Catalog, so we expect with some process and metadata enhancements at Smashwords, we can maintain preferential delivery and listing speeds at Kobo while respecting Kobo's right to sell and distribute what they please.  We want to do this in partnership with our erotica authors through better metadata which will lead to greater transparency for customers and retailers alike.  As a first step, Smashwords is considering adding new metadata fields for erotica authors so they can voluntarily tag their books as NSFAK (not safe for Apple/Kobo), but because these titles meet the Smashwords Terms of Service they are allowed at Smashwords and other Smashwords retailers.  This will allow us to omit certain books from certain distribution channels while maintaining the flow to the Smashwords store and others.  Please keep in mind that we're still very early in the planning stages of this, and a lot needs to happen before we get there.  I realize there are members of the author community who would prefer we throw our bodies upon swords to protect the ability of Smashwords authors to distribute the now restricted categories to Kobo.  That's not going to happen.  We will continue to engage with them in the spirit of partnership as we always have with every Smashwords retailer, working to protect the best interests of all Smashwords authors, and working to help Kobo and every other Smashwords retailer evolve their systems to adapt to the brave new realities of a multi-cultural world that changes every day.  I don't expect everyone to be happy with how things turn out.  I'm not happy about it, because such limitations lead to slippery slopes and subjective judgments that can be harmful to authors, readers and the culture of books.  I expect this story to develop over time.  In the meantime, if you feel your title has been inappropriately blocked by Kobo, please contact the Smashwords support team via the "?" question mark button at the top of the page and provide the following information: 1.  Your book title.  2.  A direct hyperlink to your Smashwords book page at Smashwords. 3.  Your ISBN.  4.  A short one-sentence note that clearly states your book does not fall within the prohibited characteristics as I described above in bold italics.  Kobo wants our help to do the right thing, which means we need your help.  Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding.
 
October 5, 2013 - Charles Dickens is smiling. We updated our Terms of Service yesterday to allow short serials.  We had already relaxed the prior prohibition quite a bit over the last year, because we never felt comfortable making subjective judgements between what was a serial and what was a series.  The original policy was put in place based on reader feedback, and out of a desire to prevent specific types of abuses, such as a writer taking a full length novel and releasing it as 50 serialized ebooks one 2,000-word chapter at a time.  Or writers releasing unedited works-in-progress that were never completed.  Although rare, we have seen writers do both of these things, and it's clearly not a good customer experience.  However, I do think serializations have their place in the hands of responsible writers, and I believe 99.9% of writers are responsible and do want to serve their readers with a high-value experience.  So after much contemplation, it became clear that we were unfairly limiting the flexibilility of the many to protect readers from the few.  In in end, the decision was easy.  Our motto is, "Your ebook your way."  I created Smashwords to open doors, not close doors.  I created Smashwords to give writers the freedom to publish what they want, and give readers the freedom to read what they want.  The Smashwords author is the publisher.  The author is responsible for reader experience, and will be held accountable by their readers.  If they serve their readers well with great, well-packaged writing - whether it's a serial, series, short story or full-length book - then we're all the better for it.  This decision was also made easier by the launch last month of the Smashwords Series Manager, a great tool for authors that helps readers identify all the books in a serial or series.  If you write serials, each episode's cover should be different, even if the only difference is a numeric label such as, "Episode 5."  Beyond that, recommended best practices include:  1. Link your serials within the Smashwords Series Manager.  2.  Clearly identify in your description that it's a serial so you avoid disappointing customers who might think they're purchasing a full length book.  3.  In your book title, consider mentioning the episode or part number, such as "Episode 5," or "Part II," etc.  4.  Decide in advance how many episodes you'll be releasing.  Make a schedule, communicate the schedule to your fans, and stick to it.  5.  Release multiple episodes at once to kick start your readership.  6.  Use our new Preorder feature so your fans can purchase upcoming episodes now, at the moment you have their attention and interest.  If you want a great example of preorder serials, check out Ella Ardent's new Dangerous serial, three parts of which are now available on preorder at Apple and others.
 
September 25, 2013 - Yesterday we introduced a bug in Series Manager that temporarily prevented authors from attaching new books to series.  The problem was fixed and the Series Manager is operating normally again.  If you had trouble attaching a book yesterday, please try again and if you continue to have trouble, contact the support team via the "?" question mark button.  Thanks.
 
September 19, 2013 - On June 28, we loaded sales reports for Barnes & Noble.  For authors who sold books at B&N on the dates of either June 24 or June 25, we over-reported your sales.  If you noticed an unusual spike in sales those two days, this is the reason.  Rather than reporting your sales once, we accidentally triple-reported.  For example, this means if you sold one book, we incorrectly reported three sales, or if you sold 5, we incorrectly reported your sales as 15.  If you're one of the many authors or publishers affected by this glitch, you'll receive an email in the next couple days from me notifying you of our error, and reporting the correct amount of sales.  You'll also see the amount in your "Accrued Sales" column drop correspondingly.  Once we send out the email and correct the reports, all Smashwords authors with payable B&N sales will see their balances increase to acknowledge our receipt of B&N's payment (they paid us on time, and correctly).  We apologize to all our authors who were concerned that they hadn't yet been credited for their B&N sales, and we're sorry that some of you experienced this over-reporting.  Although this delayed some of our B&N reporting, it will not cause delayed payments.  Everything should be sorted out by the middle of next week, if not earlier.  As always, all authors will be paid on time.  Next month is our Q3 earnings payment month!
 
September 13, 2013 - Oops.   Last night, I sent out an email alert to all Smashwords authors and publishers to inform everyone about Series Manager tool and the enhancements to Smashwords Interviews.  When I send out these emails, I auto-insert a direct link to your Smashwords profile page so it's a convenient click away for you.  Last night, the email I sent out accidentally swapped your author name for your screen name. This broke the links so they didn't link properly.  For example, my author name is "Mark Coker".  My screen name is "mc".  If you look at the link to your profile page (find it by clicking "My Smashwords) you'll see the address goes "https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/YourScreenName."  When I received my own email, my profile address was listed as https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Mark Coker when it should have been https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mc   Sorry about the confusion!  No worries.
 
September 11, 2013 - Items.   1.  Smashwords Interviews now supports Publisher and Agent accounts.  This means you can now compose interviews for all your authors or pen names.  2.  Smashwords Series Manager is a big hit.  In less than 24 hours, 700 series have been created and over 2,200 books have been linked.  Be sure to link your series asap.  You'll find the Series Manager in your Dashboard.
 
September 10, 2013 - Series writers rejoice.  This afternoon we launched a new merchandising tool called Series Manager.  Series Manager allows you to improve the discoverability of your series books by attaching your books to one or more series groups.  Details over at the Smashwords Blog.  You can access the feature in your Dashboard by clicking Series Manager.  Please report any bugs to the support team via the "?" question mark button at the top of the page. 
 
September 5, 2013 - Two pieces of big news.  1.  Smashwords hit 250,000 published titles yesterday.  Thank you Smashwords authors!  You're changing the future of publishing one indie ebook at a time.  Five years ago, indie authors were ridiculed.  Today, indie authorship is a movement.  It's the cool kids club, and with every passing month the advantages of indie authorship over traditional authorship are becoming more apparent.  I tip my hat to every Smashwords author who had the courage to set their own course.  You made this happen.  You're the future.  The world is just now starting to wake to this fact.  More at the blog2.  We signed a new distribution deal with Oyster, an innovative ebook subscription service.  We'll announce the specifics of the deal in a few weeks, at least 72 hours before we begin shipping so you have the information you need to make a decision if you want to participate.  If you want in, there's nothing you need to do other than make sure all your books are Premium Catalog-approved. I trust every Smashwords author and publisher will smile when they see the terms.  The rest of the news at the Smashwords Blog.
 
August 31, 2013 - Wow what a crazy busy week between the Flipkart announcement, the Apple Breakout Books promotion, a flood of amazing Smashwords Interviews (keep them coming, your stories are great!), and progress on some exciting initiatives involving new author and reader tools, and enhanced metadata management.  Items.   1.  It's Labor Day weekend here in the US.  This means the Smashwords staff will have the day off Monday.  To our US authors, have a safe holiday weekend.  2.  To read some of the press reports about B&N, one might think the company was in its death throes.  While they've got some legitimate challenges ahead, they continue to be a powerhouse in ebook sales.  I checked our authors' sales today at B&N with one day remaining, and it'll be another solid month.  With our new preorder distribution to B&N, there's never been a better time to reach B&N via Smashwords.
 
August 29, 2013 - India here we come!  Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Flipkart, India's #1 online bookseller.  They have 80% marketshare in India, and 80% of their book sales are in English.  They've taken several steps recently to enter the ebook market in a big way.  Did you know India has more English speakers than the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined?  Learn more at the Smashwords blog, where I share copious details about the Indian book market and the opportunity for our authors.  If for some reason you don't want to distribute to India, you can opt out via the Dashboard's Channel Manager (not recommended!).  The Indian ebook market is going to grow dramatically over the next few years, for the reasons I outline at the blog.  This is a great opportunity for Smashwords authors to be there first, building platforms and fan bases ahead of all other authors.
 
August 27, 2013 - It's a banner day for Smashwords authors at Apple.  1.  Chanda Hahn, who I predicted last week at Huffington Post would hit Apple's bestseller lists, today with her preorder landed high in multiple bestseller lists.  As of this moment, she's the #2 bestseller at Apple's US store, #2 in Australia, #4 in Canada and #45 in the UK.  2.  In the US store today, Smashwords authors are holding three of the top five bestseller spots (Congrats Chanda Hahn, Justine Elvira and Melody Grace!).  In the UK store, Smashwords authors are holding five of the top 10 spots (congrats Justine Elvira, Melody Grace, Samantha Young and JD Nixon!).  3.  Apple today launched a refreshed and updated Breakout Books feature with multiple Smashwords authors featured.  It's their top-of-the-store home page promo on the top.  This time around, they're also featuring multiple books that are on preorder (as I've mentioned in my posts about preorders, one big benefit of preorders is that it makes it easier for retailers to identify strong titles and give them extra merchandising love!).  Here's a *partial* sampling of featured Smashwords authors:  Under the Romance category, there's GJ Walker Smith, Kirsty Moseley, Abbi Glines, Katie Ashley, Chanda Hahn, Kelly Mooney, Erica Stevens, Quinn Loftis, Shayne Parkinson, Samantha Young, Marquita Valentine, Lisa Plumely, Kahlen Aymes, Shelly Crane, S.C. Stephens and Merry Farmer.  Under Mysteries & Thrillers, there's Claude Bouchard, JD Nixon, Paul Pilkington, E.L. Henry, Maggie Shayne, G.P. Ching, Mike Wells, Claude Bouchard again (yay!), Edie Claire, Dana Donovan, Harrison Drake, John O'Brien, L.L. Bartlett and George Wier.  Under Sci-fi and Fantasy, there's Dione Lister, Caroline Hansen, Hadleigh O'Charles, Joseph Lallo, Valmore Daniels, TC Southwell, Brian S. Pratt, Jeffrey Poole, Claire Farrell, Lindsay Buroker, Sarah Woodbury, TC Southwell (again, yay!), Joseph Lallo (again, yay!), Randolph Lalonde, Penelope Fletcher, and T.M. Nielsen.  Under the catch-all of "More to Explore," there's Linda Gillard (twice!), Mike Wells (second appearance), William Wayne Dicksion, Shayne Parkinson (second appearance!), Kaitlyn Davis, Sarah Burleton, Kim Richardson, and Alison Pensy.  I think I'll go blog about this.  Okay, DONE!  Please join me in celebrating the success of these awesome authors.
 
August 21, 2013 - Late yesterday we launched an exciting new author marketing tool, Smashwords Interviews.  Smashwords Interviews makes it easy to create and publish a Q&A interview so readers and prospective readers learn the story behind the author.  Share your story!  Learn more over at the Smashwords Blog, or click here to see some of the fabulous interviews already published.
 
August 20, 2013 - Items.  1. My latest post over at the Huffington Post is titled, eBook Preorders Help Indie Authors Hit Bestseller Lists.  It's an updated version of what I wrote for the Smashwords blog last week with some new information.  2.  Congrats to Smashwords authors Abbi Glines (Fallen Too Far), Katie Ashley (Music of the Heart), Quinn Loftis (Just One Drop) and Erica Stevens (Ashes).  Apple today launched a one-week promotional feature called "Five Star Romances" in the US and Canada stores.  Each book has a special promotional price.  The books were selected based on customer ratings at Apple.
 
August 13, 2013 - Items.  1.  Check out the Smashwords blog today.  Three Smashwords authors doing preorders - JD Nixon, Kristen Ashley and Elizabeth Reyes - had their official releases today, and they each yielded some fantastic results including several top 10 store-wide bestsellers at top Apple iBookstores around the world.  2.  Speaking of Apple and preorders, if you're planning a preorder release immediately before Christmas, Apple recommends you set a release date on or before December 20.  Why?  Apple, like other retailers, goes into a lockdown period in the days before Christmas where they don't add new titles or accept metadata updates.  If you're doing a preorder, and you've got it set up several weeks in advance as we recommend on our Preorder Help page, you'll be good to go.
 
August 6, 2013 - Two pieces of exciting news.  1.  In the past, we shipped books and metadata updates to Barnes & Noble twice-weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Starting Monday, we initiated daily shipments five days a week to B&N.  The shipments are usually delivered in the middle of the night, which means some updates to Premium Catalog-approved books made today will be delivered before the start of the next business day.  This means we now ship daily to Apple, B&N and Kobo, which means faster loading of your books, and faster pricing and metadata updates.   Thank you to our friends at B&N for accomodating faster shipments!  2.  We're now reporting FREE download data from Apple.  We'll be loading the data monthly, usually by the end of the first week of each month.  We've also gone back and retroactively populated your Sales & Payments report with this information for prior months and years.   Many Smashwords authors will be pleasantly surprised by their download data for free books.  As we revealed in our 2013 metrics survey, free ebooks at Apple get about 94 times more downloads than books at any price.  Multiple Smashwords authors have broken out at Apple simply by pricing a series starter at FREE.  If you haven't tried FREE on your series starter yet, give it a try, if even for a month or two.
 
July 26, 2013 - This might be our most significant new feature in the last three years - preorders!  Minutes ago, we added support for preorders.  Smashwords can now distribute your ebook as a preorder to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  We've been conducting private beta tests over the last few months with a number of Smashwords authors with great results.  Now it's in public beta.  Every one of our 70,000+ authors is now invited to use this powerful new tool for their next release.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog and then also visit our Preorder Help page
 
July 25, 2013 - Last week we introduced and then fixed a minor glitch in Meatgrinder that caused some .epub, .mobi and .lrf files to omit either author names or cover images.  This afternoon we identified the affected files and automatically repaired them.  If you received an email confirmation of a completed file conversion, don't worry.
 
July 23, 2013 - Congrats to Smashwords author JD Nixon!  Apple today began promoting her free series starter, Heller, as Book of the Week at their US and Canada iBookstores.  Last week, she was Book of the Week for their stores in Australia and New Zealand.  Learn at the Smashwords blog how the promo in Australia catapulted her six priced titles to the top of the charts in Australia.  Let's hope it it does the same now for the US and Canada!  Apple has been an amazing friend to Smashwords authors.  JD, too, has been an amazing friend of Smashwords.  She has been publishing at Smashwords since 2011, and distributes via Smashwords to Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony.  Thanks JD!  Thanks also to JD's fans, 500 of whom have favorited her author page at Smashwords.
 
July 12, 2013 - Items.  1.  More thoughts on the DoJ case.  I'm interviewed today on NPR's Morning Edition about the DoJ case against Apple.  It's difficult to convey my thoughts on this complex issue in a 10 second sound bite.  In the interview, they quoted me talking about what the DoJ's case meant to consumers and publishers.  The media I speak with are always surprised when I tell them I opposed the DoJ's actions against the publishers, and I've tried to defend the publishers against the allegations.  "Why," they ask, "would you defend them when they're your competition?"  My answer is complex, but boils down to my belief that the agency model is a better model for authors and publishers, and will lead to more better lower-cost books for readers.  Every author or publisher should have the right to determine the price of their product. I also believe that the future of publishing (and therefore the future of indies) is best served if there's a diverse and thriving ecosystem of multiple publishing methods and multiple retailers.  The problem for big publishers, however, is that they took this awesome tool we call Agency and they used it to raise prices.  Their greed backfired and had two bad effects for them:  1.  It raised the suspicion of the DoJ that the industry was illegally conspiring to raise prices.  2.  They raised prices, which handed the sub $5.00 ebook market to the indies.  This was a win for indies, because indies used agency pricing, and its higher earnings percentage, to lower prices.   In all this discussion, the DoJ didn't consider indies, and didn't consider that Apple's agency model is a tool, but the tool's intent was not to raise prices.  The DoJ appeared so hell-bent on nailing Apple and publishers to the wall it failed to consider the finer nuance of how indies deployed the model.  And then the bumbling publishers threw Apple under the bus.  2. And now for something cheery.  It always makes me smile when I see smart indies using ebooks and the power of words to promote the public good.  Recently, WaterAid, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone in the world has clean water to drink, published a multi-author anthology at Smashwords that celebrates water.  Download their free ebook, Of Words and Water, for free.  We've seen cause-related anthologies before, but they usually carry a price, with the good intent of raising funds.  Unfortunately, cause-related books don't sell well.  With Of Words and Water, I like that they recognize that their ideas are more valuable than money, and by spreading their ideas it'll lead to more support for their cause.  Food for thought!
 
July 11, 2013 - What a wild week it has been for the budding ebook world.  A few days ago, B&N's CEO abruptly resigned.  Of course, the punditry are quick to print premature epitaphs, which is unfortunate because it'll rattle customers' cages and make them wonder if they should keep their wagons hitched to B&N's horse.  No doubt, B&N faces challenges, but it's too soon to count them out.  Despite the reported troubles in B&N's Nook division and their announcement that they're ceasing development of tablets in favor of focusing on dedicated e-ink e-readers, Smashwords sales through B&N remain strong and we remain pleased with our long term partnership.  In other big ebook news, judge Cote yesterday ruled against Apple in the DoJ's price-fixing case.  Boggles my mind.  I continue to believe Apple did nothing wrong.  They introduced a superior ebook pricing and selling model (Agency pricing where the author/publisher sets the price), they did a good job of selling it to the Big NY publishers, and the Big NY publishers jumped at it, desperate for Apple to play the white night counterbalance against their feared Amazon boogeyman.  The New York Times did a front page story on how the DoJ win hands competitive advantage to Amazon.  I'm quoted in it, talking about how the DoJ case will hasten industry consolidation.  Read the story here.  I've seen some authors celebrating Apple's loss, and I don't get it.  Apple brought much-needed competition to the ebook world. Their support for indies over the last three years has been nothing short of incredible. It was Apple's entry to the ebook market that caused Amazon to double their royalty rates.  Apple has said they're going to appeal the decision. Who knows, this might go all the way to the Supreme Court.  My understanding from press reports is that the next stage of the case is the penalty phase where the government will decide the form of punishment to levy on Apple.  Will they fine Apple, or force them to offer vouchers to customers?  If that's the punishment, it should have little to no impact on indies.  However, if the government somehow tries to clamp down upon or limit the agency model, that would be bad for all indies.  I think the big losers in this case have been the large publishers.  They've bumbled their way through the last few years.  Amazon was right to push publishers to sell ebooks under $10.00, and when publishers were given the agency tool and its superior earnings power, they should have priced lower instead of higher.  If they had priced lower, there'd be no DoJ case and publishers wouldn't have ceded so much market share to indies.  Too late now.  Whatever happens, the world will go on and indies will still inherit the future of this wild, wacky and lucrative new world of publishing.  Don't let the soap opera news distract you from your mission, which is to write and publish the very best books you can, and make them as widely available to as many readers as possible.  The future is brighter than ever.
 
July 9, 2013 - There was a glitch that was preventing some authors from changing their Summer/Winter promotion prices and other promotional settings.  Now fixed.  To manage your promotion enrollment, click here.
 
July 8, 2013 - Items.  1.  There's a new Facebook group dedicated to Smashwords authors and readers called "A Smashwords Book for Everyone."  According to the group's founder, Smashwords author Vanessa Finaughty, the group aims to promote Smashwords books and authors, and provide a forum to help authors help each other. Self-promotion welcome!   Click here to join. The group already has over 500 members.  This new group joins the official Smashwords Facebook page run by the fabulous John Low, also a volunteer.  It's great to see forums like this sprout up to support Smashwords authors and publishers!  2.  We're nearing Q2 payments.  Each quarter, I like to remind authors to doublecheck their Smashwords Payment Settings (Click to Account, then Payment Settings) to make sure their settings are correct.  Each quarter, dozens of authors go unpaid simply because their settings are incorrect, or they forgot to set up their PayPal account.  If you think you've ever missed a payment, please click here to the FAQ to learn the most common reasons authors miss payments.  We want to pay you!  Please make your corrections before July 15, otherwise your changes won't be reflected in this payment cycle.
 
July 3, 2013 - July 4 is a holiday here in the US so the Smashwords team will have the day off, as will most of our retail partners.  Everyone stay safe!
 
July 1, 2013 - A couple smart people have asked us what the Twitter hashtag is for the Summer/Winter sale.  Good question!  How about simply, #smashwords   I see several Summer/Winter authors are already using that tag to promote their coupons, and it's also commonly used when people promote their custom coupon codes.
 
July 1, 2013 - Items.  1.  Publishers Weekly has launched an indie ebook bestseller list in partnership with Smashwords.  The debut list appeared online today, featuring the top 25 Smashwords ebooks for the month of May.  I think it markets a real milestone for Smashwords authors that Publishers Weekly, known as "the bible of the publishing industry," will print and promote our list every month.  Congrats Smashwords authors, you made this happen!  It goes without saying that authors featured on this list will gain career-advancing recognition.  I'm thrilled by that.  More at the Smashwords blog2.  The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale kicked off today, and already the Smashwords site is getting slammed with high traffic.  These sales are always a good test of our infrastructure.  Be sure to enroll your books and promote often.  New books are added every few minutes, and each book brings more readers for everyone. Click here to enroll your books.
 
June 28, 2013 - It's that time of year again for our annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale promotion, running July 1 through July 31!  It's summer here in the northern hemisphere, and winter for our reader friends south of the equator. The promotion's cheeky "Summer/Winter" name acknowledges the fact that there's a global market for ebooks, and your books can be purchased and enjoyed from every corner of the globe.  The sale is a collaborative event because each author drives fans to the promotion, and these fans can then discover and download the books from fellow indies.  Do you have a favorite indie participating?  Promote them to your fans!  Each year, thousands of Smashwords authors participate by selecting discount levels of 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off and FREE. The promotion is exclusive to the Smashwords store. Click here to enroll your books now.  Have fun!
 
June 25, 2013 - Barnes & Noble announced its quarterly earnings this morning. The news adds to the growing cloud of bad press that started in earnest when Christmas holiday sales didn't meet Wall Street analyst expectations.  Some in the indie author community for the last six months have been doing a lot of hand-wringing, worry-warting and premature grave dancing over B&N.  I think much of this has been overdone and unfortunate.  The danger: perception can lead to reality when fear is allowed to run rampant.  When someone yells "fire" in a crowded amphitheater, people get hurt.  Here's what you need to know:  1. B&N is not going out of business.  They've built a valuable franchise with millions of ebook buyers, and they continue to sell a lot of ebooks.  2.  Our sales through B&N have been strong and steady since Christmas.  Our sales through B&N are almost triple Kobo's, and Kobo has been strong and on the rise (yay for Kobo!).  3.  B&N has always paid on time, and they continue to do so.  4.  They announced today they're going to continue manufacturing, designing and selling their popular Simple Touch and Glowlight E-Ink e-reading devices.  These are single-purpose e-reading devices.  5.  They're going to stop designing and manufacturing their own tablets.  Instead, they'll farm out manufacturing to another manufacturer.  One rumor is they'll partner with Microsoft for this.  By focusing on E-ink devices instead, they're abandoning the losing battle of trying to create a better tablet than Apple.  Noone designs hardware/software ecosystems like Apple.  I wonder if Amazon is feeling the same pressure.  6.  They're going to continue focusing on the business of selling ebooks.  Ebook sales for their recently completed fiscal year were up 16% over the same period a year ago.  This means they've grown, but not as quickly as Apple and Kobo.  How should indies respond to the news? Continue business as usual.  B&N remains the #2 or #3 largest ebook retailer in the US.  Continue to support them by promoting direct links to your B&N books through your website and blog, just as you should be providing direct links to every Smashwords retailer.  It's in every author's best interest that B&N survive and thrive so that we can maintain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem of multiple competitive retailers.  To a great extent, indie authors will determine the future of B&N.  If you're one of the many authors who uses or dabbles in Amazon's KDP Select program which requires exclusivity, realize that each time you do that you're weakening B&N. You're giving your fans another reason to shop elsewhere, or purchase other devices.  Some authors get mad at me when I say that, but it's the truth. Indies have more power over the future of book business than they realize (well, if you've been following my writing at the Smashwords blog or attended my talks or read my free ebooks, you already know you are the FUTURE!). Indie ebooks are accounting for an ever-greater percentage of every retailer's ebook sales, so when authors withhold their books from any retailer, they're hurting the retailer.  This is not to say that B&N has their own issues or self-inflicted wounds to sort out.  They've been slow to expand internationally.  It's self-serving for me to say this, but although their Pubit (now called Nook Press) direct platform has been successful, I wonder if the millions of dollars and thousands of hours of attention invested in their direct platform would have been better focused on the business of selling and merchandising books.  I have the same concern for Kobo, who has also launched their own direct platform. I want B&N and Kobo to be successful because they're important partners and help our authors sell a lot of books, yet I can't help questioning resource allocation when Amazon - their primary competition - runs such a fantastic bookstore.  Amid all this ebook competition, you might wonder how Smashwords is doing?  We're doing well, thank you. We're on track for another record year, both in terms of sales and profitability.  Profitability is important because it enables us to invest in you.  We're adding staff, and we've got a number of exciting development initiatives underway that will give authors who use our distribution services advantages in the marketplace over those who don't.  With your continued support, we'll never stop working to create new opportunities for you. We'll never stop working to improve every facet of our business.  How can you support us?  Publish with us.  Distribute with us to all our channels.  Tell a friend!  Keep writing!  Thank you for honoring us with the opportunity to serve you.
 
June 23, 2013 - Congrats to R.L. Mathewson for the successful release of her new contemporary romance, Black Heart.  As of this moment (and since yesterday) at Apple, it's been holding steady as the #6 store-wide bestseller in the US, #2 in the UK, #1 in Canada, and #1 in Australia.
 
June 13, 2013 - Greetings from Edinburgh.  Heading home Friday.  I gave a talk on the 10 Trends Driving the Future of Publishing (Powerpoint available here:  http://www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/10-trends-shaping-the-future-of-publishing).  You can find the video archive of the conference here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD1p-w21d0Y  At the 28 minute marker is a super-inspirational talk (to me, at least!) about the indie author journey of Linda Gillard, a UK author (and hopefully soon, she'll become a Smashwords author).  My talk follows her talk.  There were a lot of other great talks throughout the day on topics such as the challenges newspapers face in the new digital age.   Find the full set of at least four videos here (pubconf 1-4):  https://www.youtube.com/user/steelgraham?feature=watch
 
June 8, 2013 - Please join me in welcoming Case Talbot as the newest member of our engineering and development team.  Case is already fast at work helping to design a fun new promotional tool for Smashwords authors.  I'll share more once we launch it.  Oh, and we've also opened a small development office in Seattle, Washington, which is where Case is located.  The office is led by Doug Coker (my brother).  Doug is a former engineer at Google, and the former CTO of my last startup, Bestcalls.com.  I hear the Seattle area is rich in ebook talent.  :)
 
June 4, 2013 - Items.  I've been on the road between speaking gigs and a 10-year wedding anniversary vacation, so have been remiss in my postings here.  1.  Congrats to about 20 Smashwords authors featured in a 10-day FREE promotion at the Apple iBookstores in Australia and New Zealand.  They're featuring FREE series starters and special limited time-only FREE books from several of our authors.  My thanks to the great folks at Apple who do so much to promote the books of Smashwords authors!   2.  If you're interested in the backstory of Smashwords, Karl Webster published an in-depth interview with me.  He asked questions noone else has ever asked, which made it all the more fun.  Read it here.   3.  Coming to Edinburgh, Scottland.  On June 12, I'll be speaking at the Edinburgh Publishing Conference.  I think admission is FREE.  Topic:  Publishing evolution and disruption.  Come if you can!
 
May 8, 2013 - Items.  1.  Last week in Kansas City I gave my second annual MONEY MONEY MONEY presentation at RT Booklovers.  This year, we analyzed sales data for 120,000 books over an 11-month period, aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network.  It was a monster effort to pull all the numbers together (thanks Henry, Bill and Dmitriy on our engineering team!), but I think the result was well-worth the effort.  Some of the findings were surprising.  Many of the findings will help Smashwords authors make more informed decisions about pricing and a wide range of other issues.  See the presentation and my analysis over at the Smashwords Blog.  Please share the blog post and the accompanying presentation with all your friends.   Upload the images to Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter if you think your fellow indies will benefit from our findings.  2.  Also at RT Booklovers, I gave a presentation on how to sell and merchandise your books at the Apple iBookstore.  If I have time in the next couple days, I'll post that presentation online later and will mention the link here.
 
April 23, 2013 [Edited 6/23/2014]- Items.  1.  If you live near NY, don't miss uPublishU, BEA's one-day self-publishing conference June 1.  Jim Azevedo of Smashords will be presenting two workshops.  More at the Smashwords Blog2.  When I started Smashwords, I always wanted us to serve the world's authors, not just American authors.  With your support, Smashwords now serves over 60,000 authors around the world.  The US IRS has always made it difficult for our authors to avoid tax withholding.  This week, we made the all-important process of obtaining the required ITIN request letter that much easier.  In the past, you had to wait until your Smashwords account had an accrued balance of $10 before you could contact us and request a signed ITIN request letter on Smashwords letterhead, which we would then sign and mail you.  Now, you no longer need to have a minimum balance.  Just enter your relevant Payee Information at Account > Payment Settings, make sure you have an uploaded book for sale, and then contact our Support Team with your letter request.  3.  Congrats to Smashwords authors Abbi Glines (#3), Rachel Van Dyken (#10), Katie Evans (#16) and Monica Murphy (#33) who are each among the top bestsellers at the US Apple iBookstore now.
 
April 11, 2013 - My "Mark's List" of ebook formatters and cover designers is slowly migrating to the web.  The updated list is available at http://smashwords.com/list, where you'll find a few new additions.  If you're on the list and have corrections, email me.  If you're getting great reviews but your book is selling poorly, your cover image might be the issue.  Take a look at my post from the other week, Six Tips to Bring Your Book out of the Doldrums, and if you decide your cover might be the problem, check out the expanded list of cover designers.  As a reminder, we don't earn a commission if you hire any of these folks.  They're all freelancers.
 
April 8, 2013 - We processed and credited a Library Direct sales report today for a large sale made to Douglas County Libraries in Colorado.  The order was delivered in late December, and paid for in Q1 so the payments will go out later this month as part of our Q1 payment period.  Unlike sales through our library aggregators such as Baker & Taylor that earn the author about 45% list, Library Direct sales earn 70% list.  This is our first completed Library Direct order.  Learn more about Library Direct here.
 
April 1, 2013 - Items.  1.  Nothing makes us happier than paying our authors and publishers each quarter.  Reminder:  Q1 earnings payments go out later this month.  Thousands of authors are new to Smashwords, so this will be your first quarterly payment.   Please click to Account: Edit/update payee information to make sure your payment settings are correct.  Each quarter, dozens of authors go unpaid because their settings were out of date or incorrect. Per the instructions on that page, it's very important that you make any changes on that page before the 15th of each quarterly payment month.  On April 15, we take a snapshot of the settings and start the multi-day process of processing payments, so if you make a change after that date it'll be too late.   For a full summary of the payment process, as well as common reasons authors miss their payments, please see our FAQ here.  We want to pay you!   2.  Here in the U.S., today is known as April Fools Day.  It's a day that pranksters do pranks, often of the written and ridiculously untrue form.  An important feature of these pranks is that they contain a thread of implausibility, but also a thread of something believable.  This year, I considered us doing a spoof of the Goodreads acquistion (Goodreads accepting a lower counteroffer by Smashwords so they could remain independent), or a coalition of Big New York publishers acquiring Smashwords (would they ever be so smart to try?), but in the end I decided I'd rather spend the day getting real work done.  Maybe next year.  If you were expecting a prank and missed our silliness this year, my apologies.  Until next year, I invite you to view our past pranks.  Here are the links:  2012 (Smashwords WEED service)  2011 (Smashwords acquires Amazon to create Smashazon)  2010 (skipped this year)  2009 (Harry Potter).
 
March 28, 2013 - Items.   1.  I'll be presenting two workshops at the Dallas Area Romance Authors conference on Saturday.  The first is an introduction to ebook publishing, and the second is best practices.  If you're there (conference is sold out), stop by and say hi!   2.  Thanks to everyone who applied for the new spots on my "Mark's List" of low cost formatters and cover designers.  I'm reviewing the applications.  3.  Fun stats.  For Smashwords authors and publishers, these were the top-10 highest-selling countries, measured in dollars, for the the month of February at the Apple iBookstore:  USA, Australia, U.K., Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, Germany, Denmark and Norway.   However, if we look at the unit volume of free downloads only, the list is different (interesting!):  USA, U.K., Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand and Germany.  4.  I posted an updated library ebooks post over at Huffington Post, where I add some additional ideas for how indie authors can partner with their local libraries.
 
March 23, 2013 - I was in Michigan last week to meet with librarians and discuss the opportunity for them to develop community publishing initiatives for their local writers. Libraries could become publishing hubs. Indie authors have an opportunity to mentor the next generation of indie authors, working in partnership with their local community library.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog.
 
March 17, 2013 - We reorganized the Smashwords FAQ.  Same great information, but now a more logical organization.  Click here to visit.
 
March 5, 2013 - Apple rolled out a big Breakout Books promotion in the U.K. and Ireland today.  About 40 Smashwords books were featured, which means ya'll comprised 70% of the featured books.  Congrats Smashwords authors and publishers!  More at the Smashwords Blog.
 
March 3, 2013 - Is your book not selling as well as expected?  This weekend, I blogged six tips to help you bring your book out of the doldrums.  If your book isn't selling well, this post will walk you through some simple steps to help you honestly evaluate how readers are responding to your book.
 
March 1, 2013 - Read an Ebook Week kicks off this Sunday, March 3.  Enroll your books now at the home page link.  Each year during RAEW, Smashwords hits all-time records in terms of traffic, book sales and revenue for our authors.  It promises to be the biggest RAEW ever. Participating RAEW authors benefit from a concept known as network effects (more at Wikipedia).  In systems where network effects are at play, every new participant to the network increases the value for all participants.  Every author adding a book to the catalog makes the catalog more useful to more readers, and every author promoting their RAEW participating drives more readers into our RAEW catalog, and more readers means more books discovered, sampled and purchased for the benefit of all authors and publishers.  It's a positive feedback loop where the more you put into it, the more you and your fellow authors receive.  Contribute!  At a minimum, it's an opportunity to get out there and mobilize your fans to spread the word about your books.
 
February 22, 2013 - Apple's US iBookstore today sent out a big email blast to iBookstore customers.  11 of the 16 featured titles were delivered to Apple by Smashwords.  Congrats everyone!  More at the Smashwords Blog.  The success of each and every one of these authors will open new doors for all Smashwords authors, so please do what you can to join me in celebrating their success.
 
February 21, 2013 - Today I released an updated 2013 edition of The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  It's free.  Since people have volunteered to translate it, I decided to give it a refresh.  It includes a new secret on pricing strategy.  I've discussed this over at the blog a couple times, but it was missing from the Secrets.  Numerous other updates throughout.  Next project, an update on the Style Guide.  This will also help the translation volunteers work from the latest information.
 
February 19, 2013 - Items.   1.  I just returned from the San Francisco Writers Conference.  I shared my observations and two presentations over at the Smashwords blog.  If you find the information useful, please consider sharing the presentations with your friends on social media, embed them in your blog or website, or email the presentation to your writer friends.   2.  Several volunteers have come forward so far for Italian, Spanish and Norwegian.  Thank you!  You'll hear from me soon.  Many more opportunities available.  Please consider volunteering to translate these guides and help your fellow writers.  See Feb 17 post below for more.
 
February 17, 2013 - The Smashwords Guides (The Smashwords Style Guide, Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success) have been downloaded over 300,000 times, which probably makes them the world's most popular series of e-publishing guides.  With the global retail distribution enabled by our retail partners Apple and Kobo, as well as the Smashwords.com store which has always sold globally, we're looking for volunteers who would like to translate some the Smashwords guides into their native languages.  This is a chance for you to help bring the joys of ebook self-publishing to more writers.  You'll also stand to earn the goodwill and recognition of thousands of authors in your native language who will use your translations to maximize the success of their ebooks.  Volunteers will receive translator credit on the cover and inside the book, recognition here and at the Smashwords Blog, and the opportunity (if they wish) be be listed in the Mark's List directory of formatters and cover designers. The books will be priced at FREE.  We're looking for volunteers who can expertly translate the following guides into the following languages:
 
Smashwords Style Guide - Portuguese (Brazilian), Czech, Polish, Swedish, Norweigian, others (feel free to suggest your favorite language!). It's currently available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Bengali, Dutch, and Danish.
 
Smashwords Book Marketing Guide - Portuguese (Brazilian), German, Spanish, Czech, Polish, Swedish, Norweigian, others. It's currently only available in English and Italian.
 
Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success - Portuguese, Spanish, German, French, others.  It's currently only available in English.
 
If you don't see your native language listed, and you want to contribute to this effort, volunteer for your language anyway.  The more languages the better.  The Style Guide is our highest priority, because with this guide alone authors can get published.  The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is relatively short, so it should be a quicker job than the others.  The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success is longer, but the benefit it'll provide writers is significant.  Help us spread the best practices of these three books around the globe!  To volunteer, email me, Mark Coker, at mc at smashwords dot com.   I'll send volunteers the original Microsoft Word Source file to work from.  I look forward to working with you!
 
February 5, 2013 - Breakout Books!  Apple today launched Breakout Books, a high-profile front-and-center iBookstore merchandising feature celebrating some of the best indie authors.  Most of the authors profiled are Smashwords authors.  More at the Smashwords blog.   The story was also picked up today online by The New York Times.  Congrats to the ~50 Smashwords authors featured, a list of which you'll find on the blog.  Also thanks to the iBookstore team for giving indie authors a seat at the merchandising table. 
 
February 4, 2013 (updated) - 1.  Two fun interviews out today.  The first this morning was a Q&A with David Sterry over at The Huffington Post.  We talked about how to attract readers to your books, and much more.   Last but not least, this afternoon NPR ran an interview of me for an All Things Considered segment.  Topic:  The future of publishing.  I mentioned something about how publishers may become less relevant in the future.  I'm sure I'll catch hell for that comment somewhere.  I also blogged more about the NPR interview over the Smashwords Blog.   2.  If you or someone you know is considering purchasing a Nook HD or HD+, here's a special offer from our friends at B&N that will earn the purchaser a $30 B&N eGift card from now through February 14.  Go to nook.com and enter the code  M9Y9T9V when you're purchasing your Nook HD or HD+.  We're passing along this code on behalf of our friends at B&N.  We do not earn a commission if you use it.  3.  While I'm out there blabbering on about ebooks, our engineering team is hard at work searching out and eliminating bugs in our distribution systems.  If your book is appearing incorrectly at any retailer, or the metadata updates aren't reflected within a week of shipment, please click here for instructions on how to notify our support team (which, by the way, has done an awesome job improving service inquiry response times in recent weeks!).
 
January 30, 2013 - Items.  1.  Smashwords will soon send out an email providing access to 1099-MISC tax reports.  The email will come from a non-Smashwords email address, info@ruthtechnology.  This company is a Smashwords service provider, the same company we used last year for these forms.  Before March 15, we'll send out 1042 forms for non-US authors and publishers.  2.  Q4 earnings payments will start going out today.  All paper checks will go in the mail today.  PayPal payments start going out today and will be completed over the next few days.  I'll post a note here when all payment processing has been completed.
 
January 16, 2013 - Last month, Apple's stores in Australia and New Zealand did a massive "Breakout Books" promotion featuring only Smashwords authors.  The promotion was such a success for Apple (and our authors too!) that their iBookstore in Canada this week launched the same promotion featuring 500+ Smashwords titles.  The promo is already reaping rewards for several Smashwords authors.  10 of the top 40 bestselling titles at the Canada iBookstore at this moment are Smashwords books.  Congrats to Abbi Glines (#1), Isabelle Rae (#7), Colleen Hoover (#12), Kirsty Mosely (#21), Lexi Ryan (#27), Denise Grover Swank (#31), Jami Alden (#33), Ruth Cardello (#34), and M. Leighton (#36 and #38).  I just tweeted the news HERE.  If you're on Twitter, consider retweeting my tweet to celebrate this promotion.  These Apple promotions are precedent setting.  Indies are gaining a seat at the merchandising table - a table that in the old world of publishing was only open to large publishers.  See my November 1 tip below to learn how to view the promotion on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.  For Apple merchandising tips you can implement going forward, see my post on the blog from November.
 
January 12, 2013 - Tip of the day.  The Apple iBookstore is the only Smashwords retailer that runs its own manual review operation.  Just because a book passes the Smashwords Premium Catalog process doesn't mean it'll pass the Apple review (Smashwords Style Guide and ToS standards are more permissive than Apple's).  The most common reason a Smashwords title will be denied listing at Apple is for objectionable content.  Here are the criteria Apple uses:
 
Books must not contain prohibited explicit or objectionable content, which includes but is not limited to:

    *Depiction (photo or drawing) of a child in a sexual situation, even without contact
    *Photographs of penetrative sex, oral/genital contact, or genitals.
    *Textual encouragement to commit a crime (e.g. books supporting, encouraging or defending rape, pedophilia, incest, or bestiality or books detailing how to commit a sexual crime).
    *Photographic content intended for the sole purpose of sexual arousal.
    *Excessively objectionable or crude content.
 
The Smashwords ToS covers most of this.  Under "Excessively objectionable or crude content," they usually block incest and pseudo-incest.  If you're publishing I or PI,  don't expect a listing at Apple. 
 
Smashwords titles usually appear at Apple within a week, but usually much faster.  If you've been waiting over 10 days for your book to appear at Apple, please contact the Smashwords support team at the "?" question mark button so they can investigate why your book isn't appearing.
 
January 8, 2013 - Today we sent out an author/publisher update to all Smashwords authors, publishers and literary agents.  If you haven't received it yet, you'll find an archived version here in the Press Room. I shared early sales numbers from the retailers that have shared data with us.  Apple, as expected, had a strong post-holiday surge in sales.  B&N was also strong.  For the ~200 titles we distribute to Amazon, sales were flat and steady with little to no discernable sales bump.  This is a BIG surprise.  The scuttlebutt over at Kindleboards seems to also indicate a mostly disappointing holiday season for Amazon.  It'll be interesting to see if any large publishers comment on their retailer-by-retailer results, and until then, I'd consider our experience and the experience of the Kindleboarders as annecdotal only.  Kobo and others haven't reported yet.
 
January 6, 2013 - Amid the year-end scramble to complete the launch of Smashwords Direct, we also delivered our first Library Direct order.  As you'll recall, Library Direct allows public libraries that operate their own ebook checkout systems to purchase large opening collections directly from Smashwords.  The amazing Peter Brantley covered the story today for Publishers Weekly, and moments ago the also amazing Tim O'Reilly tweeted the story to his 1.6 million followers.  It's some incredible publicity for progressive-thinking library-friendly Smashwords authors and publishers that money can't buy.  We should have more cool Library Direct news in the next couple months.
 
December 31, 2012 - Smashwords Direct is now launched and announced!  Read the details at the Smashwords Blog.  Read the initial documentation here.  Please report bugs and feedback via email at beta@smashwords.com.
 
December 30, 2012 - (Updated) We're preparing to launch Smashwords Direct, our direct .epub upload option.  One year ago in my 2011 annual year-in-review over at the Smashwords Blog, we made a commitment to launch SWD in the second half of 2012.  We're working to fulfill that commitment.  We're nearing the beta launch of SWD.  The first iteration will enable those of you with professionally designed .epub files to replace your current Smashwords-generated .epub with another .epub.  It'll also allow authors to upload .epub files instead of Word .doc files.  Thank you to all the Smashwords authors who provided .epub files for our internal testing.  Update from engineering 3:45pm pacific: We introduced a bug that affected how we stored HTML and ebook files generated by Meatgrinder, which affected conversions for a few hours this afternoon.  We hope to be able to re-grind affected books.  In the meantime, if your book is not viewable in HTML Reader, please re-upload your DOC to have it re-ground. Update: As of earlier today, you may now upload an EPUB to supplement your DOC-based book (replacing its EPUB with your own), as well as create new books using only an EPUB. (Note: We do not currently produce sample files, online HTML reader content, or other ebook formats based on EPUBs.)
 
December 21, 2012 - Items. 1.  My 2013 book publishing predictions are up at the Smashwords blog.  21 of them.  2.  Holiday schedules.  Please expect slow responses to support inquiries as Smashwords staffers take a well-deserved holiday break.  Everyone please have a safe and happy holiday!
 
December 16, 2012 - Items.  1.  Email marketing etiquette tip.  Today, I received a plea from a gentleman who used LinkedIn's messaging system to spam his closest however-many-hundred-closest-friends.  He says he needs me to buy his book at Amazon, and wants me spread the word to as many people as possible, because he's gotten himself $800,000 in debt due to falling prey to a scam that originated in the Middle East (I assume it's one of those scams offering you a big cut of a $20 million ill-gotten fortune from a corrupt politician, if only you'll front a few hundred thousand dollars in goodwill money).  He said if he can sell 500,000 copies, it'll get him out of his mess.  Seriously.  Yeah, okay.  We've all made mistakes in the past, but that doesn't give us permission to make a bigger marketing mistake, which is to send out unsolicited bulk emails.  Unless someone has given you permission to send them a bulk email (such as them requesting to be added to your mailing list for fans), don't send the email.  Your immediate family and closest true friends will put up with an unsolicited bulk email, but the rest of the world will not.  Almost every day I receive bulk email solitications from authors, simply because I'm in their address book because I responded to an email months or years ago, or I agreed to connect to them on LinkedIn or Facebook.  When I receive these bulk solicitations, I unfriend these people from my connections, or I'll politely ask them to remove me from all future communications.  It saddens me to see such emails, especially the case of the man above we'll call Mr. Pickle. I'm going to remember him and his book for the wrong reasons.  The author is the brand, and this type of email is not good brand-building.  I've noticed a marked increase in such emails originating from my connections on LinkedIn.  If you face the same issue, LinkedIn makes it easy to remove these people from your connections.  Here's how:  Log into LinkedIn, click connections, then click the link at right that says "remove connections," then click the checkbox of the user and click remove.  If someone's spamming you on Facebook, like tagging you in posts for which you have no connection, or posting spam on your wall, it's easy to unfriend them.  Click to their Facebook page, and float your mouse over the box that shows a checkmark and the word "Friends," and then click the "unfriend" option that pops up below.  2.  Speaking of spam, almost every day I receive spam emails offering to sell me access to huge mailing lists of hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes over a million people, for as little as a couple hundred dollars, or less.  All these emails claim they're "100%-opt in," but 99.99999% of the time, they're not.  They're spam lists.  They're scams.  We've seen multiple Smashwords authors fall for these scams in the past. Please don't. Some have even complained to us, "I sent out a million emails, I got 900 page views at Smashwords, but not a single sample download or sale.  What's wrong?"  Spam doesn't work. It's a sucker's bet. It's also violation of the Smashwords Terms of Service to engage in spam marketing.  There are no easy shortcuts to book selling.  It's incredibly tough, hard work.  Realize that most books don't sell well.  Focus your attention on your craft, and on producing books that are as good or better than what the big NY publishers are putting out.  Give readers great, professional-looking book covers.  Price your books competitively.  Study the best practices in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Then get to work writing the next book.  The best marketing you can do for you book is to write a book that markets itself on the wings of reader word of mouth.
 
December 13, 2012 - Items.  1.  Paul Martone of Late Night Library interviews me about Smashwords, the ebook retailing landscape, the agency bookselling model, Amazon and their exclusivity strategy, the history of Smashwords, and more.  In the setup piece to the interview, he calls for an Amazon boycott (wow).  http://latenightlibrary.org/mark-coker-from-smashwords/  2.  Vetting at the speed of light.  We hit zero-queue today, meaning most books that were uploaded today were reviewed for the Premium Catalog same-day.  Congrats to our vetting team for their great work during this *very* busy holiday season.
 
December 12, 2012 - Interesting seismic shift in devices.  iSuppli, an analysis firm perhaps best known for deconstructing consumer electronics devices to estimate the materials cost (like, for example, what does it cost Amazon to manufacture a Kindle device, or what does it cost Apple to manufacture an iPhone), issued a report the other day that says shipments of dedicated e-reading devices will show a decline of about 36% in 2012 compared to their peak in 2011. Wow.  I wasn't expecting that at all.  Where are the eyeballs going?  They're going to multifunction tablets, like the iPad, which dominate tablet sales, and to a lesser extent other tablets.  What does this mean for indie authors?  It means he or she who puts the most tablets into the hands of the most readers will have the capability to connect your books with the most eyeballs in the future.  Click here to read the news from iSuppli.  Not mentioned in the report is the smart phone.  I'd be curious to see a recent study that examines consumer e-reading preferences across all devices.  All tablets aren't created equal.  A NOOK tablet owner, for example, probably purchases and reads more books on their device than would an iPad owner, since there are so many other reasons in addition to books to own an iPad.  Same thing with Kindle Fire.  The average KF user is probably a more active book buyer than an iPad user.  That said, over the long term, tablet market share will become a leading indicator of where the eyeballs are going. I'll be watching tablet market share this holiday season, especially Apple vs. Amazon, because it could foreshadow which company is poised to take market share for ebook sales (what you and I care about) in 2013 and beyond.
 
December 11, 2012 - Yesterday I participated in one of Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" events.  I answered dozens of questions about the future of book publishing, ebooks, ebook retailers, Smashwords and more.  You can access the the full transcript here:  http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/14l2z3/i_am_mark_coker_founder_of_smashwords_ama  If you're interested to be the subject of a similar AMA event, you can learn more in this post over at Kindleboards.  They've been featuring a lot of indie authors recently.  The events take place in the "writing" subreddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/  The moderator in charge is Douglas Lance.  If you're interested in the event, first check out some of the other AMA events (or my own) so you can get a feel for them.  If you click to my event up above, on the right side of the screen you'll see links to an archive of previous AMA events.  If they do select you for event, keep in mind the audience is fellow writers, not necessarily readers.  Another tip:  Whenever I post a marketing opportunity here at Site Updates, the subjects are often overwhelmed with dozens if not hundreds of inquiries.  Be respectful.  Study the opportunity before you express interest, and have a firm idea of what you can share with your fellow writers about your own indie adventure that would be informative.  It's a chance to give back to your fellow writers.  Good luck!
 
December 9, 2012 - I updated the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide today with some new tips, some of which were first revealed earlier here on Site Updates.
 
December 2, 2012 - Apple has launched a special "Breakout Books" promotion in their Australia and New Zealand stores.  Thousands of Smashwords authors included.  Very exciting.  If you have writer friends who are wondering if they should use Smashwords to distribute to Apple, they just got one more great reason.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog.
 
November 29, 2012 - (UPDATED with new items #4 and #5).   1.  The ebook wars heat up, and indies are caught in the middle.  Back on October 5 (see item below), I wondered if Amazon would pull a December surprise to try to entice authors to remove their books from Amazon competitors in advance of what will be a record holiday ebook season at Apple, Kobo, B&N, Sony and others.  Sure enough, today they doubled down on their exclusivity strategy by offering authors new incentives to go direct.  Writers beware.  I blogged about it today in a post titled, Amazon the Grinch who Stole Christmas?  2.  Greetings from The Hague in the Netherlands.  I just completed two days of exciting meetings with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA.org).  They're an umbrella organization that advocates on behalf of a worldwide community of thousands of libraries.  The meetings, which included representatives from around the world, were designed to help IFLA plot the future of libraries and ebooks.  I expect they'll issue public statements and recommendations for member libraries in the next few weeks.  3.  Speaking of libraries, we're making progress on Smashwords Library Direct, which allows libraries to purchase large opening collections of ebooks from Smashwords.  We provided a proposed list of titles to Douglas County a few days ago.  4.  Tip for finding your books at Kobo.  It can be tricky finding your books at Kobo.  If you update your .epub file for a title that is already at Kobo, Kobo creates a completely new listing and web address for the book (and you'll lose your reviews too).  It's an odd quirk we don't see with other sites.  However, there is a trick for finding your book.  The permanent link to your book, which will never change when you update the title, is http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=ISBN where ISBN = your 13 digit ISBN without spaces or dashes.  So, for example, the link for The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, which has the ISBN, 9781476000411, is http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781476000411  By knowing how to create a perma-URL, you can link to your books at Kobo with confidence from you blog, website or other social media links.  5.  If you click through to the Secrets book today, you'll see it's missing a cover image.  Kobo recently experienced a big cover glitch that caused many covers to disappear.  They're aware of the issue and are working to fix it asap, possibly as soon as today or tomorrow.
 
November 22, 2012 - Here in the U.S. today is Thanksgiving. Like most of our retail partners, the Smashwords staff has the next four days off.  I'm thankful for much this year.  I'm thankful to our authors, publishers, retail partners, customers and supporters whose trust and partnership allow me to enjoy the coolest, funnest, most exciting work I've ever done. I'm equally thankful to those who underestimate us as I am for those who believe in us. It takes both, because both challenge us in different ways to focus on continuous improvement and growth.  I'm thankful to the Smashwords team of nearly 20 amazing people who share my passion for serving the cause of writers, readers and books.  Peace all.
 
November 17, 2012 - Items:  1.  Reminder about holiday prep.  Previously in the October 5 update I shared how  we're encouraging our authors and publishers to upload new titles asap in advance of what will certainly be a record holiday season for ebooks.  All the retailers will be on holiday schedules, which means you'll want to get your new titles or metadata updates delivered early, before they go on vacation.  Early deliveries will also give you time to report listing errors, if any, so our support team can get them corrected for you (Click here to learn how to report retailer errors).  As mentioned earlier, Apple wants new titles and metadata updates uploaded by December 7, which is why we're recommending you aim to upload new books and changes by December 2 to give yourself time to make corrections if necessary, achieve Premium Catalog approval, and avoid stress.  Earlier is always better!  Kobo notified us this week that they want us to deliver all new titles and metadata changes no later than December 20, but of course that's drop dead latest.  Since it typically takes all the retailers anywhere from one to five days to process new titles, and you can expect some of the retailers will face holiday backlogs, the December 2 date is still a good target to give you plenty of time to reach Kobo and others.  Of course, we will continue delivering up until the last moment to get as many titles on store shelves in time for discovery by millions of new readers who will get e-reading devices as stocking stuffers.  2.  Book description listings at Apple improved!  We recently improved the quality of our book descriptions we deliver to Apple, so that the description does a better job on honoring line breaks.  Most of the descriptions at Apple have been corrected.  If your description hasn't been corrected by Monday, November 26, please click the "?" question mark button at the top of any page to email our support team a hyperlink to your book's listing at Apple so we can get it improved for you.  3.  Greetings from the Miami Book Fair.  I'm on a self-publishing panel this afternoon.  Stop by and say if you're one of the many Smashwords authors and publishers located near Miami.
 
November 4, 2012 - Items.  1.  How to sell books at AppleNew post at the Smashwords blog.  R.L. Mathewson hit #1 at the Apple iBookstores in the US, Canada, Australia and UK on Friday, and continues to hold the #1 or #2 spots at the stores today. Several other Smashwords authors occupying the top 10s at various big Apple iBookstores, including Marie Kelly, S.H. Kolee, Kirsty Moseley, Shayne Parkinson and Isabelle Rae.   Congrats all!!!!  Yesterday, I wrote a post at the Smashwords blog to celebrate the recent successes of our authors, and to share some tips on how to maximize your success at Apple.  As I wrote it, I realized that the strategies that work at Apple are nearly identical to what works at every retailer.  Get there, stay there, cultivate your audience, serve your audience with more books.  Every retailer represents it's own micro-market, and with separate international stores, each store represents a micro market (or is that a micro-micro?).  These separate stores are big.  The Australian iBookstore is the #2 dollar-maker for Smashwords-distributed authors at the iBookstore.  Close behind is the U.K., also very large.  We've got different books breaking into the top 10 at each of the different Apple stores.  My tip below from Nov. 1 will show you how to poke around and study them (fun!).  2.  On Friday, I sent out an Author/Publisher alert to notify everyone about the new Apple territories, B&N's launch to the U.K., new developments at Smashwords, a link to the 5-hr ebook self-publishing workshop (click here to view/download) I gave in Sacramento (if you like it, please share it with a writer friend, or embed it in your blog and help us spread the knowledge), and other rabble rousing.  If you didn't get the email alert, you can now access it in the Smashwords Press Room.
 
November 1, 2012 - Fun tip for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch owners.  If you have one of these devices, it's easy to view your book in your country's store, but not easy to view your books in other countries.  Until now, that is.  I'm going to share a little trick that will allow you to view your book in any country's store.  Let's say you live in the US, and want to view your book in the Australia store (which is the #2 Apple store for Smashwords authors, just barely ahead of the U.K. which curiously sells slightly more units but at a lower dollar level).  Here's how to check another country.  1.  Click to open the iBooks app (of course, if you don't have the iBooks app, download it for free from the App Store).  2.  Swipe down to the bottom of the screen.  You'll see a button, "Sign in."  Click it.  3.  The screen will pop up a message asking if you want to "Use an Existing Apple ID," or "Create a New Apple ID."  Click the latter one, "Create a New Apple ID."  4.  Next, it'll ask you to select the country or region.  The default you see is the country you're registered for, which is likely the country you live in.  For me, it says United States.  If I want to view Australia, I select Australia, then the blue "Done" button.  Next, click the "Next" button.  5.  The next page shows the agreement.  Ignore that, and click the "Cancel" button in the upper left portion of the screen.  A pop up box appears, asking if you're sure you want to cancel the creation of a new Apple ID.  Click "Yes" to cancel.  6.  Voila, you're in the Australian store.  As of this second, Smashwords authors dominate the three top-selling spots (R.L. Mathewson's Checkmate, Marie Kelly's Billionaire's Revenge, S.H. Kolee's Love Left Behind).
 
October 30, 2012 - Barnes and Noble opened their store to U.K. customers on Monday, and over 110,000 Smashwords books are there.  B&N had some early pricing bugs yesterday, but they quickly moved to repair them.  Some in the industry have criticized B&N's entry as too little, too late.  I disagree.  I think they've struck on a model for global expansion that will help them further accelerate the global growth of the ebook market, and in turn will create exciting opportunities for Smashwords authors and publishers.  I blogged my thoughts over at the Smashwords blog.
 
October 26, 2012 - Congrats to Smashwords author Shayne Parkinson!  Her novel, Sentence of Marriage, was selected by Apple for promotion as their "Book of the Week" in both Australia and New Zealand this week.  I updated the blog post from yesterday about Apple's news.
 
October 25, 2012 - Apple has expanded the global reach of the iBookstore to 50 countries, including Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, and most of Central and South America.  The news is at the Smashwords Blog.  As a Smashwords author, there's nothing you need to do other than make sure you're opted in to our Apple distribution channel.
 
October 25, 2012 - Items.  1.  Bowker, the big US ISBN registrar, came out with research yesterday that named Smashwords the largest producer of ebooks for 2011.  Pretty cool.  They say we did a little over 40,000 titles last year (Smashwords authors and publishers actually released about 65,000 books through our platform last year, but who's counting?).  Read the story at Publishers Weekly.  My thanks to every one of you who partnered with us for some or all of these last four and a half years.  It's been a wild and sometimes bumpy ride.  This has been another record year for us and our authors, and thanks to your support we've now grown to 19 staffers.  Our capacity to serve you is now greater than ever.  2.  I'm speaking in New York this coming Saturday at the Self Publishing Book Expo, and then on Sunday I'm speaking at the Emerald City Writers Conference in Belleview, Washington near Seattle.   If you're attending, please stop by and say hello.
 
October 21, 2012 - Congrats to Smashwords author, S.H. Kolee, whose Love Left Behind has broken out big at the Apple iBookstore, now the #10 store-wide bestseller in the US store as of 10am Eastern.
 
October 13, 2012 - In observance of National Coming Out Day which was October 11, Smashwords author Matthew Grant organized a sale with several authors of gay-themed books.  The sale runs through Friday, October 19.  Each of the participating authors posted 50%-off Smashwords coupon codes on the promo page on his website that Matthew created to showcase participating titles.  I think what Matthew is doing here is cool, for a couple reasons:  1.  It's a great example of how communities of authors can join together in partnership to create flash promotions and sales around themes or events using Smashwords tools. It's an opportunity for multiple authors to join together to introduce their fan bases to the books of their fellow authors, and vice versa.  It's why sales such as our annual Read an Ebook Week are so successful.  It's all about authors working together to drive eyeballs to ebooks.    2.  I support recognition of this day, and all who celebrate it.  Click here to visit his promotional page to access coupon codes.  Click here for Matthew's contact information if you have a book you'd like to enroll in his promotion.
 
October 12, 2012 - Q3 payments are just around the corner.  It was another record quarter.  We're sending out an email reminder tonight to all authors and publishers to check their payment profile (under Account: Edit/Update Payee Information) to ensure all the information is accurate before the end of this weekend.  Each quarter, multiple authors go unpaid because they moved and didn't update their mailing address, or they gave us the wrong PayPal address, or they never activated their PayPal account, or the information they provided us doesn't match what the IRS has on file for them.  We want to pay everyone every penny earned asap, so please make sure your information is up to date.  We cannot issue mid-quarter payments for authors who miss the deadline.
 
October 5, 2012 - Items.  1.  Planning for the holiday rush.  This Christmas season promises to be the biggest ebook buying event ever.  We're staffed up in preparation for it.  Each of the retailers goes on holiday schedules around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for a period of days it's fair to expect that they will not be processing new book additions or metadata updates.  If you want to ensure that your book or new titles are on all the virtual shelves before Christmas, please make sure they are uploaded early so there's plenty of time.  I'd recommend giving yourself a deadline of December 2 for the upload of new titles.  Of course, we'll be able to get most books uploaded and out the following week and into distribution, but if you want to guarantee placement, earlier is better.  Apple, for example, recommends we deliver titles by December 7 in order to ensure store placement before the Christmas rush.   2.  Will there be a December surprise from Amazon?  Last year, just weeks before Christmas, Amazon launched KDP-Select, and convinced thousands of authors to pull their books from distribution at Amazon competitors.  I spoke out against KDP Select  here, and warned authors to avoid the temptation.  Will Amazon pull a similar stunt this year, or will they surprise us all and drop the exclusity requirement for KDP-Select?  Let's hope they do the right thing and drop exclusivity, rather than playing authors like pawns in their bigger long term chess match against their retail competitors.  In recent weeks, the tea leaves point to more exclusivity.  With the recent launch of their distribution to India, they added a requirement that if you want 70% royalties on India sales, you must enroll in KDP-Select and remove books from all other retailers.  It seems they've also stepped up the aggressiveness of their automated price-matching.  Their emails now threaten authors with account termination if they're enrolled in the 70% royalty rate (this is independent of KDP-Select) and another retailer is offering a lower price.  No other retailer tightens the screws upon the knuckles of authors like Amazon.  It's so unnecessary.  I for one hope for a kinder, gentler Amazon in the future.  I think it's in their best interest.  Amazon has a brilliant retail platform, great discovery, and smart people working there.  Why treat authors like such pawns?  And why do so many authors fall prey and willingly submit to such oppressive policies?  Of course, part of the answer is that Amazon is still the largest retailer.  But that may not always be the case.  B&N, Apple and Kobo are on the rise.  Amazon's market share has dropped from 90% a few years ago to something closer to 60% today, if the estimates are to be believed.  I know we're hearing from an increasing number of authors who tell us they're earning more through the Smashwords distribution network than they earn at Amazon.  It's all anecdotal at this point.  Every author's mileage will vary.
 
October 3, 2012 - Cool platform building opportunity.  MediaBistro is organizing a crowdsourced/crowdwritten rewrite of a Victorian-era vampire novel, and they're inviting talented writers just like you to contribute a page.  In the words of editor Jason Boog, they're looking for, "star-crossed romance, vampire action and purple prose."  The deadline for registration is October 8.  The project will be published and distributed at Smashwords as a free book, and will go to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore, Blio.com, and other Smashwords distribution points.  Click here for more information or to register.  Their favorite submissions will be reprinted at GalleyCat.  There are also a couple non-cash prizes.  Have fun!
 
October 2, 2012 - In the last couple days we reversed a large batch of fraudulent purchases that were made with stolen credit cards.  Several Smashwords eagle-eyed authors and publishers alerted us to the suspicious purchases where someone was purchasing up to 999 copies of a single book, with purchase amounts ranging from $.99 to over $2,000.  We suspect this was a case of a criminal testing the credit limits of stolen credit cards, because if their intention was to steal a book, one copy would suffice.  The affected authors will see the line items for the reversed sales in their Sales and Payments report.
 
September 27, 2012 - Apple iBookstore marketing resources.  Apple has an affiliate program that allows you to point your fans to your book at Apple and receive a 5% commission on all purchases within 72 hours.  Click here to learn about the Apple Affiliate program.  Apple has created a cool "Linkmaker" that makes it easy to find the hyperlink to your book at Apple.  Visit LinkMaker here:  http://itunes.apple.com/linkmaker/  Once you've got your affiliate code and your hyperlink, add the Apple logo to your website or blog.  Click here for instructions on how to access Apple badges.  Finally, how about a widget for your website or blog featuring a few of your titles?  Click here for WidgetBuilder:  http://widgets.itunes.apple.com/builder  I tried it myself for my three free ebooks over at my image repository blog and found it works quite well for listing one to three books.  View it here: Free Ebook Publishing Guides at Apple.
 
September 22, 2012 - Save the Dates!  1.  SACRAMENTO.  I'm presenting a 5 hour intensive workshop of ebook publishing in Sacramento next Saturday, September 29, produced by the Sacramento chapter of the California Writers Club.  I'll cover the introductory basics through the latest best practices.  If you know fellow writers who are new to ebooks, or considering making the leap to enlightened self-publishing, please invite them to come. Register here.  Registration is $55, $45 for CWC members.   As a fun bonus to attendees, we're going to give away a free 4 Gigabyte thumb drive to each person.  It'll have the Smashwords logo and comes pre-loaded with the Smashwords Style Guide, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  2.  LOS GATOS.  Save the date part II.  This Tuesday evening at the Los Gatos Public Library, our very own Angela will give an "Introduction to Ebooks" presentation.  It won't be an ebook publishing presentation per se, but more of a general overview for library patrons and aspiring authors. I'll be there to cheer her on.  3.  SARASOTA FLORIDA.  Jim Azevedo, Smashwords' marketing manager, is headlining at the Florida Publisher's Association Fall conference on September 28 and 29 in Sarasota, Florida.  Click here for more information or to register.  I'll bet you didn't know Jim is a star drummer for the headbanging rock band, Rivals.  Check out their Facebook page here. They're playing a big Halloween show in GILROY.  A little birdie tells me Jim is writing his first book.  It'll be a marketing and promotion guide for indie bands.  Cool beans.  4.  Weekend reading.  I'm interviewed Down Under this week by Julian Thumm over at Speakeasy, a blog operated by the The Australian Writer's Marketplace. He asked me a lot of great questions so I covered some important ground.   Check it out here.  If you like the interview, please share it with a writer friend!
 
September 18, 2012 - Items.  1.  Congrats to Smashwords author JD Nixon, who has been selected by Apple for inclusion in a special "Five Star Books for $5.99 or Less" promotion that launched today in the US Apple iBookstore.  Working with our friends at Apple, we nominated several books, and JD was selected.  If you're an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch user in the US, click here to purchase book two in JD's popular Heller series for $1.99 (the first title in the Heller series is free).  If you missed our Smashwords blog interview with JD, you'll find it here.   2.  Please join me in welcoming Aaron to the Smashwords service team.  Aaron is a veteran of our vetting team, and he'll now be applying his talents to the service team as we work to provide faster responses to author and customer inquiries sent in over the "?" question mark button.
 
September 17, 2012 - We've got an excellent interview today over at the Smashwords blog with NY Times bestselling author, Lyla Sinclair.  One of the things I love about these interviews is how each and every one of our interview subjects has added new depth and understanding to best practices.  For example, in the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, I write at length about the importance of cover images.  Every reader of Site Updates understands that (you are the Smashwords power authors!).  Read Lyla's cogent and insightful comments on covers, and you'll understand this best practices nugget on a deeper level.  Elsewhere in the interview, she talks about the interplay of price and unit volume (something I examined in my RWA Future of Publishing presentation and blogged about here).  I found her comments about the prejudice women erotica writers (and readers too) face particularly illuminating (and I agree), and of course it was interesting to hear her views on how 50 Shades of Grey has brought erotica and erotic romance into the mainstream, and in the process has helped eliminate much of the stigma.  Even if you don't write erotica or romance, there's much great information in this interview.
 
September 13, 2012 - Over the last few days, we had some intermittent problem delivering email from one of our webservers. Delivery of some sign-up confirmations, purchase receipts, and gift emails may have been delayed.
 
September 12, 2012 - Items.  1.  Please join me in welcoming Marcus as the newest member of our support team.  His training started a few weeks ago.  This week, he began answering inquiries.  With Marcus' help, we expect the support queue backlog will begin to slowly decline over the next few weeks.  At present, it's taking up to 12 days for some people to receive a response.  This is unacceptable to us, and we apologize for the inconvenience.  To help us help more people faster, please remember to review the FAQ first before submitting a question.  If a retailer is listing your book incorrectly, see the FAQ item on How to Correct Retailer Listing Errors2.  Update on Premium Catalog Approval times. Most authors have been getting same-day Premium Catalog approvals, thanks to our increased staffing of our vetting team.  A few months ago, approvals took up to 14 days.  We hope to bring the same level of service quality response times to the support department.   3.  There was a bug that surfaced in the last couple days that caused our services to incorrectly identify the file types of cover images.  We think this issue was fixed today.  If you're receiving the "octect" error message, please contact the support team at the "?" question mark button and tell us which browser you're using.
 
September 11, 2012 - Free ISBNs are once again available.
 
September 9, 2012 - ISBN update.  We're aiming to restore the FREE ISBNs by Friday, September 14.  If this schedule changes, we'll update here.  Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.  Shortly after we ran out of FREE ISBNs, we also ran out of our allocation of Premium ISBNs, the ones that carried a $9.95 special processng fee which was debited from account balances.  We're not planning to restore the Premium ISBN option immediately at this time, pending an internal review of whether or not it makes sense for us to continue offering it.   As we mention at the ISBN Manager, although $9.95 is a great quantity-one price for an ISBN that registers the author/publisher as the Publisher in the Bowker record (the similar form of ISBN would cost about $100 if purchased direct from Bowker), we've always discouraged people from using it because it's not free, the true value of being registered in the Bowker record as "Publisher" is questionable, authors have reported that the "Publisher" listing generated unwanted postal junk mail solications (the Bowker database is publicly available to marketers and to be listed as a "publisher" you must disclose your mailing address; people who opt for our FREE ISBN have their personal private contact information shielded), and the ISBN is no better than the FREE ISBN.  There's always been a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about ISBNs.  Here's a quick review of what ISBNs are and are not:   ISBNs are unique digital identifiers.  They help Smashwords and our retailer partners keep track of your book listing, and for Apple/Kobo/Sony, they're required for distribution.  For these reasons, we like ISBNs and we strongly encourage every Smashwords book to have one.  Beyond that, contrary to often-repeated misinformation, they don't provide copyright protection, they're not a primary method of consumer book discovery, consumers don't look at the ISBN prefix to determine if you're self-published or not, ISBNs don't impact who controls the rights to your book (it's your book, you own it and control it!), and they don't confer any other magical benefits that make a book appear more professional.  If you've spent any amount of time on author message boards, you've probably run across those who confer such mystical properties to ISBNs. At Smashwords, we don't care if you get the ISBN direct from Bowker or from us.  We only require that the ISBN you give us is unique to the .epub version of your book (meaning, you're not using it for a print edition, or a Kindle edition).  As a reminder, we ask that the FREE ISBNs are to be used at Smashwords only.  We provide them as a free service benefit for authors and publishers who distribute through Smashwords to Smashwords-authorized retailers.  They should not be used on any other version of your book, per guidelines of the International ISBN agency and Bowker.
 
September 6, 2012 - We've exhausted our supply of ISBNs, but are in the process of ordering more. Thanks for your patience!
 
August 27, 2012 - Today we have an interview with Rachel Higginson, a YA author who faced hundreds of rejections before deciding to self-publish.  One of the things I really like about this interview - other than hearing her story of success - is the honesty with with she discusses how even successful authors must learn to overcome ever-present self-doubt.  Congrats Rachel!
 
August 20, 2012 - B&N confirmed this morning they'll enter the UK market in October.  Great news.  We expect our books to be there too.  More in the weeks to come.
 
August 18, 2012 - We discovered a series of fraudulent purchases that took place over the last 48 hours, amounting to approximately $1,300 affecting about 190 authors and publishers.  The purchases were made with multiple stolen credit cards and involved fake customer accounts and was perpetrated by someone who created at least two affiliate accounts then tried to funnel sales through their affiliate accounts to earn the 11% commission.  They obviously weren't interested in the books, judging from the eccectic tastes that ranged from books on weight loss to computer programming to paranormal romance to airplanes - they were trying to earn affiliate fees.  They sure went to a lot of work to earn about $200, money that has now been removed from their accounts and their accounts disabled.  We refunded all the charges at PayPal to make the victims whole, and we reversed the sales at Smashwords.  We'll probably send out a short email notification to the 190 affected authors/publishers later today so they understand why they'll find reversed sales in their Sales and Payments report.  As most Smashwords authors and publishers who've been with us for a long time know, reversals are quite rare at Smashwords, and most are concentrated around these larger criminal exploits.
 
August 17, 2012 - Items.  1.  Premium Catalog approval times.  On May 11 (see May 11 update below), our Premium Catalog review times were running an unacceptable 15 days.  As promised, we've staffed up to provide faster approvals.  Early yesterday evening, we achieved a 0-queue state, where all books waiting to be reviewed had been reviewed.  This means some people yesterday received Premium Catalog approval within minutes of uploading.  Very cool.  Our next target for improvement:  Our service and support queue.  It's been ranging from 4-7 days lately, which we consider unacceptable.  We're now training the next addition to the service team, Mark Vogel.  Training for this position takes months.  In the short term, the queue may lengthen, but within a few weeks it should start coming down.  Goal:  Same day responses.  Reminder on how you can help us serve more Smashwords members faster:  If you if you have the direct email addresses of our support staffers or myself, don't try to jump the queue by contacting us direct.  The benefit of contacting us over the support form at the "?" question mark button is that it attaches your account information to your query, and helps us quickly investigate your issue and take steps to resolve it.  It also protects your security.  2.  We've received and confirmed a few reports of titles mysteriously disappearing from the Sony store.  Investigating.  3.  Kobo.  They're experiencing chronic difficulties maintaining proper prices.  Although they're much improved over a year ago, much improvement is still needed.  We're working with them to understand how we can help.  If you changed your price more than two weeks ago, and it's still not reflected at Kobo, please report it to us per the instructions here in the FAQ:  http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#error  (please bookmark this link.  Refer to it whenever you find any Smashwords retailer is not updating your book in a timely manner).
 
August 14, 2012 - Items.  1.  We have an interview over at the Smashwords blog with scifi and epic fantasy author Joseph Lallo.  With Joseph's permission, we share his sales numbers.  In 2010, his first year at Smashwords, he earned only $15.00.  In his most recent quarter, he earned over $15,000.  He talks about the journey that led him to here.  Great interview, and he gives kudos to Brian S. Pratt for helping to inspire steps that led to the breakout.  Also interesting: The main character in his trilogy is a woman, so it might not come as a surprise that women make up the majority of his fans.  2.  Huge month of July at Apple for Smashwords authors.  The sales reports are loaded.  It was an unusually strong month for romance, with several Smashwords authors dominating the bestseller lists for several weeks, as previously mentioned here.  3.  Kobo has had some delays updating pricing data.  They're aware of the problem and they hope to have it resolved in the next couple days.
 
August 9, 2012 - Items:  1.  We have a great interview with JD Nixon over at the Smashwords Blog.  She sold almost 10,000 ebooks last month at Barnes & Noble.  She writes mystery & detective novels, but as you'll see in the interview, her books defy such simple categorization because they're actually a fusion of much more.  Doesn't matter what you call them, though reader-pleasers might be a good place to start.  2.  Save the date.  On September 6 at 9:30 am Eastern, I'm doing a two-part teleseminar with the International Association of Conscious and Creative Writers, based in the U.K. The first part, which is free, will be a primer introduction to ebook publishing. I don't know how accessible this call will be for those of you in North America or outside Europe, though if you're in the U.K. I imagine it'll be more accessible.  All registrants will have access to both the live and recorded call.  The second part, which will focus on best practices, is only available to their paid members.  Click here to register for the free portion of the event.  If you decide to join the organization, that's up to you.  I don't earn a fee either way.   3. Starting Monday, Smashwords becomes 18 people.  Welcome to Doug (started Monday) and Daphne (starting this coming Monday), both of whom join our engineering team.  4.  Our multiple recent new hires in our vetting team are making great progress on the wait-time for Premium Catalog reviews.  We're down to three to four days, compared with 10-12 days the other month, and within the next couple weeks we should get closer to one-day turnarounds in some cases.  5.  A lot of excitement around the Pricing Manager and our new Library Direct channel.  Please keep your sales expectations for libraries low.  I'm excited about the future, but we haven't arrived to the future yet.  These are still the early days of ebooks and libraries.  I added links to the two announcements for Pricing Manager and Library Direct in the August 7 update below.
 
August 7, 2012 - Updated.  Big news on the library front.  Smashwords today launched two new features that will create new opportunities to get your books in front of library patrons.  There are two components to what we're rolling out:
 
  1. The FIRST COMPONENT of this initiative is our new Pricing Manager (click here to read the announcement at the SW blog).  This new feature is accessible from your Dashboard, and will allow you to easily set special pricing for libraries.  As I shared earlier in my June 28 update below, when I surveyed Smashwords authors and publishers, 82% said you believe libraries offer the potential to build your sales (we agree!!).  About 2/3 of you said you'd want to encourage library adoption of your books by pricing your books at or below the regular retail price.  The new Pricing Manager will make it easy to control your prices.  The new feature will also make it incredibly easy to control your retail pricing as well.  You'll no longer need to click to Dashboard: Settings: Change Pricing... simply to change a price (though you're welcome to continue doing that as well).  The Pricing Manager feature will allow you to view up to 50 books on a single screen, where you can manage both retail and library pricing.  We're excited about this new feature, and we hope you like it too. 

  2. THE SECOND COMPONENT is our new Library Direct channel (click here to read the full announcement at the SW blog), accessible from your Channel Manager.  Library Direct will allow libraries and library consortiums to place large "opening collection" orders with Smashwords.  Smashwords has received purchase commitments from three large library systems, each of which expect to order approximately $30,000 each of Smashwords ebooks for their opening collections.  The Library Direct channel is only available to libraries that are able to place large opening orders, and that operate their own hosting and DRM systems (typically Adobe Content Server) to control checkouts.  This new channel will complement our existing relationships with library aggregators such as Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and 3M's Cloud Library.  Our goal is to make our books as available and accessible to libraries as possible, and for the small subset of libraries who want to host and manage their own ebooks, Library Direct is yet another option to acquire your books.  Library Direct sales will earn authors and publishers 70% of the library price, which is significantly higher than the 45% earned through our aggregator partners.  If you don't want to participate in Library Direct, you can opt out from your Channel Manager, just as you do from any other distribution channel.
 
As you work with the new Pricing Manager page, please send bug reports to gift@smashwords.com.  We've already performed a lot of testing, but like any major new feature, we expect there will be bugs.  Over the next 24 hours, we'll update all the site resources, the Smashwords Terms of Service(updated), and we'll also send out an author/publisher alert via email.  We expect the first sales from Library Direct will occur as early as next week.  Three library networks have already expressed firm commitments that combined will total nearly $100,000 in sales, spread across several thousand Smashwords authors and publishers. For each author, it will mean minimal sales, but across our community of authors, it represents a lot of sales and a lot of expanded reach.  This project required a massive multi-week development undertaking to pull off, with much work remaining.  Unlike our retail distribution, these are large one-time distributions of approximately 10,000 titles each.  I'll blog more about this tomorrow.
 
 
August 3, 2012 -  Items.  1.  Smitten with romance. Over at the blog I share some thoughts on my experience at RWA last week, including pictures of the kiss with Smashwords author Diane Farr.  I had a great time meeting so many Smashwords authors.  The self-publishing vibe was really strong.  I'm tickled pink at how self-publishing is helping so many writers realize dreams they never never thought possible.  2.  Speaking of dreams, I think every single one of us would would love to experience what comes with having our book hit the NY Times Bestseller list.  As you all know, four Smashwords authors are hitting it this Sunday.  I asked three of the four what it felt like.  At RWA, Bella described something about feeling like she was being showered by all kinds of happy glitter (sorry, I'm not doing her description justice.  If you heard her describe it, you'd go "wow").  When I asked R.L., she said she hadn't had time to think about it, because she was too busy working on her books and preparing for print runs (indie authors are hard working!).  Lyla described how she's got a daughter going to college soon, so she appreciates the money that's flowing in.  We'll have an interview with Lyla over at the Smashwords blog in the next few weeks.  Although few us are likely to ever experience the NYT list, I'm so happy these four will experience it, and I'm even happier to know that it's certain more Smashwords authors will experience it in the future (when you do, let me know what it feels like!).  3.  Several media outlets picked up on the Smashwords/NY Times story after I posted it on the blog, including Teleread, GoodEreader and GalleyCat.  The story was also picked up in the U.K. by the Guardian, where a lively discussion ensued.  Click over there if you want to add your two cents.  4.  Suw Charman-Anderson, a writer for Forbes.com, posted her third and final interview with me today titled, Indie Authors Are Underpricing Their Books. I made the point that based on the data we revealed at the RT Booklovers convention in April, we found that the $.99 and $1.99 price points actually underperformed from the standpoint of total earnings to the author, and authors pricing in that range - especially those selling well at those prices - might want to consider moving to $2.99.  But this doesn't fully explain the range of options.  If you're writing series, then I think $.99 is worthwhile for series starters, and then you can price the other books at $2.99 or above.  Or, you can price the series starter at free, which would be my choice if I had a series of three books or more.  As I mention in my SECRETS ebook, many of our highest-earning authors are doing series with free series-starters.  5.  If all goes well, we'll have a fun announcement next week regarding new features and libraries!
 
August 2, 2012 - Items.  1.  IRS fun.  This quarter, we paid out earnings about a week earlier than usual.  On July 15, for the first time ever we sent an email to all authors and publishers to remind them to make sure their payee information was correct, because each quarter many authors go unpaid simply because the information they provided us is out of date or incorrect.  Also for the first time, we didn't pay folks whose payee information didn't match what the IRS has on file for them. Smashwords faces IRS fines if we pay people we know have incorrect information.  The IRS requires us to validate these TIN/Payee Name combinations for payees benefiting from reduced or eliminated tax withholdings.  The most common error was if the combination of payee name and tax ID didn't match what the IRS had on file.  Individuals recently married or divorced, or people operating under business names (DBA) are most susceptible to the mismatches.  The second most common error was an incorrectly entered tax ID.  This caused a few hundred authors and publishers to go unpaid in the first round.  Last night and this morning, we send out another email to authors and publishers who weren't paid, offering them an extended deadline to repair their tax ID information so they can receive payment.  Bottom line, if we notifed you a few days ago that your tax ID info was incorrect, check your email today, call the IRS, share the error code information we emailed you, and ask the IRS to confirm the proper tax ID and payee name.  Once you confirm you have the proper information, enter it at your payee profile page before this coming Monday, August 6 at 12 noon pacific.  If you miss this deadline, or your the IRS reports the data is still incorrect, then you'll miss the payment and the next possible payment will be in the October Q3 payment period.  We want to pay you, but we need your help.  Payments will be based on the balance you should have received had your tax ID info been correct the week of July 16, which may be less than the balance reflecting in your account near the time we process this special round of payments on or near August 10.  As a reminder, each quarterly payment covers proceeds received on your behalf as of the last day of each quarter.  2.  Yesterday Smashwords updated sales results for Barnes & Noble for the months of June and July.  Several authors have contacted us in recent days to understand the cause of the delay.  As is often the case, FUD runs rampant in information vacuums, so here for your elucidation is the answer:  Smashwords discovered a minor bug in the reports provided by B&N that caused B&N to overstate quantities sold in very rare instances. We reported the bug to them, they thanked us and confirmed it, but they haven't fixed it yet.  We're still able to load the reports, but only after we subject them to manual, time-consuming correction, because the bug is so rare it's like finding a needle in a haystack.  The good news is that B&N has been accurately paying everything they owe, so that was never in doubt, and of course they always pay on time.  Also, for the especially nervous out there, this bug never caused our authors to miss payments they would have otherwise received.  In other words, it was non-event in terms of authors getting paid what's owed.  It did have two negative impacts, though.  First, it caused us to overpay approximately 30 authors and publishers before we discovered it, in payments spread out over the last five to six months.  In some cases, the overpayments amounted to a few thousand of dollars.  Since we're working with tens of thousands of authors who are selling many books at B&N, rare bugs have a way of rearing their ugly heads in unexpected ways.  Several weeks ago when we discovered the bug, we adjusted the balances of the affected authors.  Perhaps the biggest problem was that the delayed reporting.  The delay for June reporting left many authors wondering how they were performing at B&N.  With the new results loaded, that question is now answered, and the answer for many was quite positive.  June was a strong month, and July was a record month.  Since the bug is still unresolved, in the last couple days we developed new tools to validate the B&N reports, so whether they fix their glitch or not, faster B&N reporting at Smashwords should resume going forward.  3.  Here's some fun data. Fun in a truly fun way, not fun in the IRS sarcasm sense.  Can you guess which coupon codes yielded Smashwords authors the greatest downloads during the just-completed Summer/Winter promotion?  Drum roll please...   77% of coupon redemptions went to the code SSWIN, which allowed the reader to download a priced book for free.  12.5% went to SSW50, the 50%-off coupon.  5.8% went to SSW25, the 25%-off coupon, and 5% went to SSW75, the 75%-off coupon.  People in the SSW50 category brought in the most dollars, but on a dollars-per-download basis, the 25%-off people outperformed.  For platform-building (which authors exposed their brand to the most readers), SSWIN took the prize, though the SSW50 group did reasonably well too.  The promotion increased overall Smashwords store sales by almost 20% for the month, which is very cool, and increased transaction counts by 37%.  This means the sale brought in more dollars to our authors, and the increased transaction counts reflect the greater platform-building and brand-building exposure.  As I mentioned in my recent blog post (How a Traditional Publisher Can Harm an Author's Career) about the interplay between unit volume and dollar sales, as an author/publisher, you want to maximize both.  Dollars give you immediate benefit to pay bills or whatever, yet the unit volume provides the longer term benefit of greater exposure to more readers (remember, the author is the brand!) who then become future customers of your other works.  I'd argue that s/he who builds the biggest platform the fastest will become tomorrow's best-selling author.
 
July 31, 2012 - Items. 1.  Busy day over at the Smashwords blog with two posts.   Four authors who publish at Smashwords have landed in this week's New York Times Bestseller list.  Congrats all!  Read the full story here.  We also have an interview with Sylvia Hubbard, the founder of the Motown Writers Network.  Sylvia has done a lot of great work to promote authorship and literacy in her community.  I was particularly struck by her vision of creating a colorblind world. Click here to read her interview2.  Today's the last day of the July Summer/Winter sale.  If you have items in your shopping cart, be sure to check out before midnight Pacific time.  It was a record month for sales, measured in both absolute dollars and unit downloads.  I hope everyone had fun.  3.  Please join me in welcoming Kevin Shlosberg, the latest addition to the Smashwords vetting team.  Kevin's the third person to join our Premium Catalog vetting team in last two months.  Already, the vetting queue is dropping rapidly.  The Smashwords team is now up to 16 people, and we'll probably be at 18 by the middle of next month.  4.  Please expect wait time for support emails to increase a bit over the next week.  1/3 of the support team is on vacation.
 
July 26, 2012 - 1.  Greetings from the RWA conference, where folks are all abuzz over self-publishing.  This is my first RWA conference, though attendees tell me that what they're talking about now in the sessions would have been blasphemy at RWA just a couple years ago.  My, how things have changed the last few years.  I enjoyed meeting several Smashwords authors after my talk this morning.  Tomorrow I'm doing a workshop on best practices.  2. Payments went out yesterday and today, ahead of schedule. Go team!  3.  I just received an interesting scam email that I thought I should mention, since thousands of you are receiving payment notifications from PayPal on our behalf.  If you receive an email from PayPal that reads, "Your account has been limited until we hear from you," it's NOT FROM PAYPAL.  The scammers are trying to get you to click a link, most likely so they can steal your PayPal log in information.  I just received one.  I've been collecting these scam emails and will probably do a mini-tutorial on how to spot scams over at the Smashwords blog one of these weeks.  In the meantime, if you'd like to educate yourself more about these types of scams, read this Wikipedia entry on Phishing.
 
July 25, 2012 - Stirring things up a bit.  1.  Suw Charman-Anderson of Forbes has the first of a new three-part interview with me posted at Forbes.com.  I talk about how traditional publishers might find it difficult to keep their best authors from jumping ship and going indie.  One of the commenters mentions how he finds the names "Smashwords" and "Meatgrinder" scary and off-putting.  I selected the names with deliberate tongue-in-cheekiness.  No worries, it's all fun.  2.  I'm at the RWA conference in Anaheim.  I'm doing a keynote tomorrow (Thursday) for their PAN (Published Authors Network) group, followed by a best practices workshop on Friday.  Stop by and say hi!  I should have been working on my presentations this morning, but given the option to stare at PowerPoint or procrastinate by blogging, I chose blogging.  I started writing a post about Suw Charman Anderson's Forbes interview, but it became something entirely different.  I argue that if author success is determined by earnings and author platform (the ability to reach readers and build your brand), indie authors have the upper hand if current trends continue, and soon traditionally published authors will start concluding that traditional publishing could be harmful to their careers. Oh, and I also question what Pearson/Penguin was thinking when it acquired Author Solutions.  Yes, it's all related.  Click here to read it and share your thoughts 3.  Earnings payments are going out this week, a few days earlier than usual.  Wow.  Big numbers.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Thank you for allowing Smashwords to be your publishing and distribution partner.  We realize you have choices, so we appreciate you chose us.  On behalf of all 16 of us here at Smashwords, we appreciate your partnership and support, and we look forward to serving you for many years to come.  4.  If all goes as planned, we'll have a fun library announcement Friday or early next week.  It's not earth-shattering, but it is consistent with our ongoing commitment to serving the library market.  If you're not subscribed to my exclusive author/publisher alerts, you can manage your communications settings under the Account tab.
 
July 21, 2012 - S.C. Stephens is interviewed today at the Smashwords blog talking about what makes her romance readers click.  As you'll learn in the interview, she's one of a growing number of talented indies who leveraged FREE for platform building, then transitioned to a price.  All three of her novels are priced at $3.99.  As of this second, she occupies the #13 and #15 bestseller slots and Apple, and two of her titles are hovering near the top 200 at Barnes & Noble.  Read the interview here.  Oh, as a reminder, when you visit the Smashwords blog, click the link in the right column to subscribe to receive next-day email alerts whenever a new post appears at the blog.  Never miss another post.
 
July 20, 2012 - Big industry news.  Author Solutions, one of the companies that put the "V" in "Vanity," was acquired yesterday by Pearson, and will be operated within their Penguin imprint.  Read the story here.    It's cool traditional publishers are starting to recognize the importance of self-publishing within the overall publishing ecosystem, but Author Solutions?  I'm scratching my head.  They're well known for some questionable business practices, particularly around their aggressive sales tactics.  They earn over 2/3 of their income selling services and packages to authors, not selling books to consumers.  When I read this story here - http://www.business2community.com/books/publishing-predator-creep-0212342 - my blood boiled.  Blogger Emily Suess has been maintaining a fascinating collection of stories about Author Solutions on her blog at http://blog.emilysuess.com/tag/author-solutions/.  Will Penguin clean up Author Solutions' act, and start focusing on helping authors sell books, as opposed to selling services to authors?  Let's hope so.  If not, Penguin just wrapped an albatross around its neck.
 
July 18, 2012 - Items.  1.  Stephen Hise of Indies Unlimited has a long Q&A interview with me. He asked some excellent questions.  Click here to read it or comment.   2.  Barnes & Noble yesterday announced a cool new browser-based e-reading app called Nook for Web.  I think it's exciting because it makes your books more available and more discoverable to more readers.  Readers can read straight from their browser.  There's no software to download. Click here to check it out3.  Kobo announced this week that they'll soon open up new stores in Japan and Italy.  I'm excited about the Japanese market.  I think Japan will represent a large market for English language books.  If you're opted in to our Kobo channel (and everyone should be!), your books will automatically flow to these new stores after they launch.  4.  I'm really excited about the opportunity for our distribution partners to take our books further into global markets.  Apple's done a great job of getting our books into 32 countries.  Looking ahead, I expect it's only a matter of time before Apple, B&N, Sony and Kobo expand to China, India (350 million English Speakers), Pakistan (88 million English speakers), South Korea, the Philippeans (76 million English speakers), and other Asian countries (no, I don't have inside knowledge when this will happen, though I do like to tease our partners that I'm waiting for them to send me more contracts to sign!).  And then there's South America, Africa and the Middle East, and everything in between.  It's pretty cool to think that already today, via Smashwords.com, your books are available for purchase from any corner of the Internet-connected globe.
 
July 17, 2012 - Congrats again to Smashwords author R.L. Mathewson.  Apple today launched a week-long promotion of her eight books, and they named her a "break out" author.  Read more at the Smashwords blog.  Interested to learn more about how ebook retailers select titles for promotion?  I've got a chapter on this in the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  As we mentioned in our interview with R.L. on July 7, she initially broke out at Apple without the assistance of any promotional love by the Apple merchandising team.  Apple customers propelled her books forward.  Her breakout was organic.  Her sales were driven by new cover images, powerful word-of-mouth and strong customer reviews (her eight books at Apple have received thousands of reviews, averaging 4.5 stars out of 5).  Also worthy of note:  Her breakout didn't happen overnight.  If you haven't read her interview yet, read it here. In our next interview at the Smashwords blog, we speak with S.C. Stephens, author of Thoughtless, Effortless and Collision Course.  Stay tuned!  Smashwords romance authors are really ripping things up.  Even if you don't write romance, keep an eye on the indie romance authors.  Romance authors and their readers have really spearheaded the indie ebook revolution.  I'll be speaking at the RWA conference next week.  If you're there, stop by and say hi.
 
July 14, 2012 - Check out the interview with NYT bestseller Jonathan Maberry at the Smashword Blog.  Lots of great insight and advice for indie authors.  
 
July 13, 2012 - Items.  1.  Greetings from NYC, where I'm sitting on a panel this afternoon at ThrillerFest moderated by MJ Rose.  Topic:  How authors can maximize the monetization of their rights.  Looking forward to it.  Starts at 4pm Eastern.  If you're around, stop by and say hi.  2. Our tech team has made a series of updates to our distribution systems in the last few days.  If your book shipped more than two weeks ago to a retailer (check your Channel Manager), and it doesn't appear by Monday or Tuesday, please click the "?" question mark button at the top of the page and report the title to our support team.  Please also include a hyperlink to the book at Smashwords (will help us expedite investigation).  3.  Sales at Apple and Barnes & Noble have been trending strong the last few weeks.  Looking forward to watching how things develop heading into December, especially with the rumors circulating about new devices coming from the majors.  It can take months before titles hit their stride in terms of retailer sales ranks (so important for visibility) so get your titles into full distribution asap.  Avoid exclusivity so you can gain full exposure to all retailers.
 
July 11, 2012 - Items.  1.  Smashwords today released the 5 billionth word.  Read more at the Smashwords blog.  BTW, have you subscribed to receive the Smashwords blog by email?  Subscribe over at the blog (see the subscription box at right).  You can opt out at any time, and we don't share email addresses with anyone.  2.  Please join me in welcoming three new members to the Smashwords vetting team - Ian, Adric and Kevin.  Ian started a couple weeks ago.  Adric starts Monday, and Kevin starts August 1.  3. In the Smashwords author alert I sent out June 28, I talked about how our engineering team has been working to identify bugs in our shipping systems that have prevented some books from appearing at Apple.  They believe they discovered and repaired a big bug today.  It's too soon to tell if this returns everything to normal, though we are encouraged by this breakthrough.  I'll report more later as we continue testing.
 
July 7, 2012 - Congrats to R.L. Mathewson!!.  She's got two titles in Apple's top 10 store-wide bestseller list!  Minutes ago we posted an exclusive interview with R.L. over at the Smashwords blog.  As of this moment (4:30pm Pacific), R.L. is holding the 5th and 9th positions in the U.S. bestseller list, with Playing for Keeps and Perfection: Neighbor from Hell.  For many months, her titles were selling respectably at five or more copies a day, and then starting around June 1, sales suddenly started taking off.  Playing for Keeps has sold almost 7,000 copies at Apple in the last week.  The spark?  R.L. credits her updated cover images.  My take:  In The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, I talk about the importance of ebook covers.  The cover image is the first impression you make on a reader.  A great ebook cover image makes a promise to the reader.  It helps connect your target audience to your book.  Annecdotally, I've heard many stories of indie authors updating their cover image, and then sales increase.  In R.L.'s case, her cover image certainly played a role, as did the fact that she's writing great romance novels that her readers LOVE.  As of this moment, Playing for Keeps has 2,195 reader ratings at Apple, averaging about 4.5 stars out of 5.   If you think your cover image doesn't resonate with your target audience, create a new cover then click Dashboard: Settings to upload the new cover image.  This will spawn a regrind of your epub and mobi files, and then we'll distribute the new .epub out to our retailer network.  I should also point out that two other authors in Apple's Top 10 bestseller list also publish on Smashwords!  Sylvia Day, at #7, has several titles at Smashwords, though her current bestseller, Bared to You, is published by Penguin USA (and not available at Smashwords.  Hey Penguin, you should sell your titles at Smashwords.com!).  At #10 is Jamie McGuire with her incredible Beautiful Disaster, distributed to Apple via Smashwords. Congrats to Sylvia, Jamie and R.L.!
 
July 1, 2012 - Items.  1.  Congrats to Smashwords authors R.L. Mathewson and Jamie McGuire, who as of this moment (7:15am Pacific time) are occupying the Apple iBookstore bestseller list.  R.L.'s Playing for Keeps is #4 in the iBookstore, immediately after the three titles in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.  Jamie McGuire's Beautiful Disaster is #7.  Impressive.   2.  The Smashwords Summer Winter Sale kicked off today.  If you're not yet enrolled, enroll on the home page.  Have fun!
 
June 29, 2012 - Review opportunity for romance novelists with forthcoming releases.  Back in the dark ages of publishing (two or three years ago), most major magazines would not publish reviews of self-published titles.  This is now changing with some of the more forward-looking magazines.  Library Journal, the bible of book acquisitions for librarians (there are nearly 10,000 public libraries in the US), now considers self-published romance titles for review consideration.  The reviews appear online-only in their "Xpress Reviews" section.  At the American Library Association conference in Anaheim last weekend, I met with Bette-Lee Fox, the managing editor in charge of romance reviews.  She welcomes review inquiries from Smashwords romance authors, publishers and literary agents.  She kindly shared their review criteria, which I will embellish here with my own recommendations I think you can apply to virtually any book review pitch: 1.  Compose a *short* email pitch addressed to Bette-Lee (her first name).  She assigns the reviews to professional reviewers.  2.  They're interested in new releases of all categories of romance fiction, and also do some mainstream erotic romance.  3.  They publish four online romance reviews each week, and if your book is accepted, the review may appear online within two weeks.  4.  They want to receive the pitch the same day your book goes live at Smashwords.  If the book was published weeks or months ago, they're unlikely to consider it because timeliness is important to their readership.  5.  Include a direct hyperlink to your book page at Smashwords, along with a Smashwords coupon code that the reviewer can redeem to download the ebook for free.   Set the expiration date a few months out to ensure the code is good.  6.  Assume your pitch is one of hundreds crossing Bette-Lee's inbox each week, so it needs to stand out.  A good pitch should include a brief, engaging synopsis of the book, and a brief mention of your credentials.  7.  If your book has been professionally edited and proofed, mention that, because it will give your book a leg up.  The biggest criticism of self-published ebooks is that they're rarely professionally edited and proofed.  The most successful self-publishers publish books that are as good or better than what's coming out of New York.  8. If you have been previously published by a large traditional NY publisher, mention the publisher.  If you have previously won awards for your writing, mention that.  If you're a member of RWA, NINC or a similar professional author organization, mention it, because that's another indication you approach your writing like a professional.  If your previous titles have sold well, or appeared in the bestseller lists of major media (NYT, USA Today) or major retailers (Apple, B&N, Amazon, etc.), mention that.  If this is your first book, they will still consider it (let your pitch and your cover image show you're a professional!).  9.  They will occasionally consider new releases of reverted-rights works that were once published by traditional publishers.  10.  Due the the volume of pitches she receives, do not attempt to call her, or send followup emails.  Your one chance to grab her is with your first pitch.  11.  In my previous conversations with book reviewers, I've often heard that due to the volume of review requests, reviewers are looking for quick reasons to say no.  If your pitch is not courteous and professional, it's a quick delete.  If you have typos in your pitch, delete.  If you pitch a genre other than romance, delete.  Common sense prevails.  12.  Bette-Lee's email address is blfox at mediasourceinc.com    * Good luck! * I trust these tips above will help you maximize your odds of success.  A positive review from a respected publication like Library Journal will reap you dividends for years to come.  Also remember that even if they choose to review your book, a positive review is by no means guaranteed.  Your book needs to earn and deserve it!
 

June 28, 2012 - Items:  1.  Yesterday we announced a new distribution relationship with Page Foundry, a developer of ebookstore apps for Android devices.  The author/publisher alert I sent out last night has full details.  See screen shots of the e-reading app in action over at the Smashwords blog2.  Library patrons and book-buying.  Based on my flash survey last week, 82% of Smashwords authors and publishers believe that by exposing their books at libraries, they'll sell more books overall.  12% of you responded that you had no opinion, or were on the fence.  4.7% of you answered you thought libraries would cannibalize your overall sales.  My personal opinion is that libraries represent a tremendous untapped opportunty for all authors and publishers.  If you disagree or are unsure, I completely respect your opinion, because the truth is, none of us know for sure.  We will all place our bets as business people (indies are business people!) and then the winners will become known in the the months and years ahead.  It helps to have data, and some of it is starting to trickle out.  The Pew Research Center released a fascinating study last week that examined book buying habits of library patrons.  Some of the key findings:  A. Library patrons read more books than bookbuyers who don't use libraries.  B.  Library patrons are just as likely to have purchased their most recently read book as readers who don't use libraries.  C.  Among those who read ebooks, 41% of those who borrow ebooks from libraries purchased their most recently read ebook.  D.  Library card holders are more than twice as likely to have bought their most recent book than to have borrowed it from a library.  E.  Library as a discovery nexus: 47% of those who borrow ebooks from libraries say for book discovery, they first look at online bookstores and websites and 41% say they start at their public library. F.  42% of ebook borrowers say they get recommendations from librarians.  What to make of the data?  The data can be viewed from multiple perspectives, glass half full or half empty.  My simplified take:  Since library ebook borrowers are voracious readers and active book-buyers, and since I believe obscurity is the biggest hurdle all of us authors face, I think an indie's distribution strategy is incomplete without broad library exposure.  Your take may differ.  If there are some statistics junkies out there who can make spatially accurate venn diagrams of the Pew data, post the charts on your blog and drop me an email and I'll link to it here.  This data really calls for graphic visualization.  There's much more data than I can relay here.  Read the Pew study here.   For more data, check out Patron Profiles, maintained by Library Journal magazine.

June 26, 2012 - Smashwords plans to sign a deal with Califa, a consortium of California libraries, to purchase the top 10,000 best-selling Smashwords ebooks. Califa is establishing their own ebook aggregation service to provide ebooks to participating member libraries.  Library Journal caught wind of the planned deal (it was a surprise to see it leaked so soon), and reported it tonight.  In preparation for this and other library initiatives, sometime in the next few weeks we'll add a new pricing option to Dashboard: Settings that will allow Smashwords authors and publishers set special pricing for libraries.  In my flash survey last week completed by 150 of you (thanks!!), 24% of you said you'd offer your books for free to any library that wanted them, 32% of you said you'd offer libraries lower pricing than retailers, 29% of you said you'd price higher than retail, and 10% said you'd price the same. To support your wishes, sometime in the next few weeks we'll create a new pricing option for you that will allow you to control the price at which libraries purchase your books.  Once the Califa deal gets further along, I'll share more specifics.

June 22, 2012 - Items.  1.  Back in April, I did a fun presentation at the RT Booklovers convention in Chicago in which I shared a lot of data based on some analysis we did about what price points work best, what word counts, etc.  On April 25, I embedded the Slideshare presentation at the Smashwords blog.  As I recall, one or two people at the time asked if there was an audio recording for the benefit of some of our vision-impaired authors, not to mention it's impossible to place all the spoken words on paper (though I do break PowerPoint rules by placing more words on there than pros would advise).  There isn't that I'm aware of.  However, the good folks at RT Book Review just posted an edited video interview with me from the conference, and in the chat I talk about some of the data. One thing I forgot to mention at the time, but will mention here...  Our data indicated that the sweet spot for pricing was between $2.99 and $5.99, if your goal is to maximize income.  What I forgot to mention is if you find you're earning about the same amount of money at a lower price point than a higher price point (or whatever), then consider pricing at the lower price point because you'll probably gain the additional benefit of more readers (the data in the presentation at the blog link above indicates that lower prices get more sales, in most but not all cases).  Remember that every book is different, your best pricing points may very well differ from the averages, and price is only one of several factors driving purchase decisions (See my Secrets book for more).  2.  Speaking of Slideshare, check out my old update from August 7, 2011 way down below. I'm still convinced there's opportunity for authors to use Slideshare as an additional means to connect with prospective readers and tell your story.  My 20 or so Smashwords Slideshare presentations have received about 130,000 views, which just blows me away.  Who would have thought people would enjoy receiving information via PowerPoint?  People mock PowerPoint all the time, yet there's probably an untapped audience for you out there if you put your information in a form they want to consume.  Slideshare is a cool, free service.  LinkedIn acquired them a few months ago.  3.  Meatgrinder was taking a nap earlier, but appears to be working normally now.

June 20, 2012 - Two items.  1.  Thanks everyone for partipating in my flash survey on libraries.  Excellent feedback that I'll put to immediate use as we build out library distribution. This weekend I'm headed down to Anaheim for the American Library Association conference.  I'm there to learn and meet prospective partners.  Thanks also for the great feedback on what we're doing right, and what we need to improve.  I was pleased to see that our current development initiatives are closely aligned with the most-requested areas of improvement (faster sales reporting, faster vetting, faster shipments, more accurate retailer listings).  Many people also requested the Smashwords website receive a user interface facelift.  Agreed!  2.  I updated the Smashwords blog item about the new cover image requirements that go into effect in mid-July.  The updated post includes a few new sample images to help authors understand how the different height/width ratios look.

June 15, 2012 - Fun with ISBNs:  ISBNs are now listed on book pages.  Most people don't search for books via ISBN, but on the rare instance they do, your book might come up in Google search results.  Based on our cursory testing, it seems if you quickly attach your ISBN after your book goes live on the home page, the Google search engine will index the ISBN within a couple hours.  Yet the ISBNs of some older books(well, only a couple months old), such as the my ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, aren't yet indexed by Google (go to Google and search on 9781476000411).  Other fun tricks:  1.  If you enter your ISBN into the search box and click search, it'll jump you to your book page.  2.  Your book page URL (web address) can also be constructed using your ISBN. Enter www.smashwords.com/isbn/[enter ISBN here without brackets]  For example, my SECRETS ebook's web address is http://www.smashwords.com/isbn/9781476000411. I'm sure some smart software developers out there might find the above interesting or useful.  I can see how it'll be useful for a new distribution partner we're negotiating with.  For example, all we have to do is supply them ISBNs and they can create buy links to these pages (or the pages of our retail partners who make ISBNs searchable).

June 14, 2012 - Heads up, eyes open.  New cover image requirements are coming!  Starting in August, Apple will require that your cover image be at least 1400 pixels wide.  Apple previously required a minimum height of 600 pixels. Since Smashwords requires vertical rectangle (height greater than width) images, please start planning accordingly.  A new recommended ebook cover might be about 1600 pixels wide by 2400 pixels tall, which means your height is about 50% more than your width.  Pull out a ruler and measure just about any print book and you'll get a ratio close to that.  A few months ago, I noticed Amazon started recommending larger covers too. They recommend a 1.6 width/height ratio (height 60% more than your width), and their recommended height is 2,500 pixels. Some of this is personal preference.  If you aim for the height to be 30 to 60% greater than your width, it should look good.  Do what you think looks best, but aim for the width to be greater than 1400 pixes.   Why Apple's change?  We can only speculate, but it's probably safe to assume we can expect iPad, iPhone and Mac screens will continue to enjoy higher and higher resolutions in the future.   Since we think the Apple and Amazon guidelines are reasonable (they help readers with next-generation screens enjoy your covers in all their glory), we'll adopt Apple's requirements as our new minimum standards for cover images.  What happens next? Apple's new requirement applies to new books, and new cover updates.  If your book is already in the Apple iBookstore with a smaller cover image, you're grandfathered in, UNLESS you try to update your cover image in the future, in which case they'll reject it.  Smashwords will make the 1400 pixel minimum a Premium Catalog requirement starting on or around July 15.  Like Apple, we'll apply the standard to new titles and cover image updates.  The Smashwords FAQ is now updated to reflect the new recommendations and requirements and I'll update the Smashwords Style Guide in the next day or two so one month from now this won't come as a shock to people. I also blogged it (please share with friends!).  If we previously shipped your smaller cover to retailers, we won't require the new cover image size unless you update your cover image. The minimum dimensions do not apply to the images or cover image inside your .epub file.  How NOT to create a new cover image:  Don't use a photo or image editing program to stretch out the size of your image.  That will cause pixelation (blur).   How to create your cover image:  Hire a professional.  Unless you're a professional graphic artist, it's best to hire a cover image designer. Send an email to list@smashwords.com to obtain my list of low cost cover designers (We don't receive a commission or referral fee). Their rates range from about $40 to $100, a range I consider very reasonable.  Most have online portfolios.  If their style doesn't match what you're looking for, there are many others out there, and most are very affordable.  See my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, for comments on why a professional ebook cover image is so critical to a book's success.

June 8, 2012 - Updates.  1.  I just finished an Amazing week at BEA here in NY.  Over 20 meetings, several of which will lead to exciting new distribution opportunities for our authors and publishers.  2.  We're in Forbes magazine!  Click here to read.  The story is online and should hit print any day now.  For the first time ever, we revealed our revenues (a requirement for Forbes features).  Do the math and you'll see we're on track to pay out over $10 million this year to our authors and publishers.  The growth of Smashwords has been amazing.  I still feel like we're only just getting started.  As I look at our development roadmap for the next couple years, it's exciting to think that what we've done to date represents only the first steps of where we're going.  Our mission, simplified, is to connect readers to your books.  With your continued support, much is possible.  Thanks for your continued trust, support, friendship and partnership.

June 4, 2012 - Cool news.  Smashwords today commenced near-real-time shipments to Apple, and daily shipments to Kobo.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog.   Faster shipments mean faster time-to-market and more control over pricing promotions.  We hope to increase the frequency of shipments to some of our other retailers in the months ahead once they give us the green light.

June 4, 2012 - Two items:  1.  Kindle users:  The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success is now FREE at Amazon.  They previously listed it at $.99.  2.  Each day, our development team is busy creating both major and incremental updates.  We never stop iterating and moving the platform forward to make it more useful to our authors, publishers, agents, retailers and customers.  A quick summary of a few recent improvements you may have noticed:  A.  Faster shipments.  We're now shipping daily to Kobo, rather than the previous once per week.  For Apple, we'll soon unveil near-real-time-shipments of new books and metadata updates (very very cool.  More soon on this).  B.  A few days ago, we reactived the "People who bought this also bought these other titles," both on the book page and in the shopping cart.  C.  Authors/publishers with lot of books published now have their author/publisher pages paginated.  D.  Quick access buttons in the Library enable faster, simpler book downloads, or for books you've bookmarked, faster adds to your shopping cart. 

June 1, 2012 - For authors and publishers outside the US, 1042-S email notifications went out this week with the subject line, "Your 2011 1042-S from Smashwords, Inc. is ready!"

May 29, 2012 - More distribution updates and misc.  1. We're working with Bowker to update how we transmit metadata updates to them.  The ultimate goal:  whenever you make changes at Smashwords, these updates will flow to Bowker.  The integration work is still underway, and it will lead to a one week delay in shipments to Sony, the only Smashwords retailer that polls Bowker for metadata.  Normal shipments to Sony should resume at the end of this week.  2.  Kobo and B&N are up to date per notes below about missing titles.  3.  Amazon is sending out automated emails to authors who have books listed elsewhere for free.  They're trying to root out PLR and plagiarized books, so this is a good development.  Ironically, they emailed me and asked me to prove that I'm the author of the Smashwords Style Guide and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  I emailed them links to the books at Smashwords, and they were satisfied.  You can do the same if you receive such an email.  4.  We're working to bring three new distribution partners online.  One of them was leaked at the London Book Fair, and another is a library partner that will revealed next week by the partner at Book Expo America.  We'll hold off on our own formal announcements until we're further along with the technical integration.  As is our standard practice, we'll notify you of the new partners then give you 48 hours advance notice to opt out, if you choose, before we commence shipments.  I expect all three of these to start small. 5.  Wondering where our biggest sales channels are?  Here they are, ranked in order:  1.  Apple iBookstore.  2.  Barnes & Noble.  3.  Smashwords store.  4.  Kobo.  5.  Sony.  6.  Diesel.  7.  Baker & Taylor (new).

May 18, 2012 - Distribution items.  1.  Sony is now selling Smashwords ebooks in Canada.  Between early April and up until 1-2 weeks ago, Sony had a pricing glitch that caused Canadian dollar mispricings affecting 204 Smashwords books (out of over 80,000).  After an eagle-eyed Smashwords author pointed out the error (their book had been mispriced to $.99), we contacted Sony and learned the glitch had already been fixed.  2. Several thousand missing titles were re-shipped to B&N this week, and are now being ingested by B&N.  We and B&N will audit the shipment early next week to ensure things are flowing properly again. 3.  We've been re-shipping missing titles to Kobo as well, per the update last week.  At the current rate, they should be up to date within two weeks.  We'll update as progress warrants.

May 11, 2012 - What a week.  Items.  1.  Putting everything in a new light.  Meet Phyllis Campbell, my new hero, profiled over at the Smashwords blog.  When I first met Phyllis over email, I was immediately struck by her courage and self-reliance.  I offered her special help and she declined.  She's blind.  Read her story.  I can't imagine being without sight, but after reading her interview I'm convinced the blind can see things us sighted folks cannot, and thanks to technology and indie ebooks, their writing talent can now see the light of day.  2.  Our tech team is busy ironing out some distribution issues between B&N and Kobo.  At B&N, several shipments failed or partially failed over the last two months.  As of this evening, the team is completing an audit and will soon reship titles.  If your book is showing as shipped but has not appeared there yet (and ironically, this affects my latest ebook too, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success which should have appeared at B&N a month ago.  Yes, I can laugh at myself.), this is probably the reason.  At Kobo, this week we reshipped several thousand titles, and will ramp up reshipments next week.  If all goes well, missing titles should reappear soon.  Also behind the scenes, we're putting some very exciting pieces in place that will allow us to increase the frequency of shipments and metadata updates to retailers that can support it.  Imagine a day where you update the price at Smashwords and the new price reflects at Apple within a couple hours, or faster.  That's the direction we're headed, one step at a time.  For takedowns at Apple, that day is already here (thank you Amazon, that which won't kill us [KDP-S] is ultimately making us stronger.  When we first started designing our distribution systems three years ago, we never imagined authors would willingly remove their books from retailers.  My opinion on KDP-S is known, and hasn't changed). Stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead.  3.  I was interviewed over at Digital Book World this week.  I talk about how indie authors are poised to inherit the future of publishing, and a lot more.  Find the interview here4.  Progress on support backlogs and vetting backlogs.  The support queue response time is down to about 4 days (not counting weekends), much improved over the 10-11 days we were running for awhile.  Still not acceptable, but progress in the right direction.  On the vetting backlog (currently running about 15 days), we'll soon have new staffers on board to start attacking that.  In the meantime, thank you for your patience.  I'm excited by the direction we're headed on service levels.

April 30, 2012 - Two items.  1. Microsoft made a $300 million investment in Barnes & Noble.  This is good news.  It lifts a cloud that was hanging over B&N because some industry watchers questioned they had the financial wherewithal to battle Amazon.  Question no more.  Congrats to our friends at B&N!  Here's the story from Publishers Weekly.  2.  Testing direct deposit.  We invited a very small number of Smashwords authors to participate in a one-time direct deposit test for Q1 payments.  Emails went out this afternoon.  It was a record quarter.  Payment processing is underway.

April 25, 2012 - The other day I mentioned the new research we conducted to identify such metrics as ideal pricing and ideal word count.  Now posted over at the Smashwords blog.  We conducted the research in preparation for a presentation I gave at the RT Booklovers convention in Chicago.  Fun stuff!

April 22, 2012 - Two items:  1.  Check out the latest Smashwords author interview over at the blog.  Following a heart attack, Bill Dicksion's family purchased him a computer, and as Bill says, this allowed him to take his passion for storytelling to an entirely new level.  Bill writes authentic Westerns.  His sales are doing really well, growing each quarter.  Are we looking at a future Smashwords bestseller?  Oh, his age.  He's 87 and his mind is so sharp it puts the rest of us to shame (I've met him).  2.  Reminder.  Earnings go out at the end of this month.  Make sure your payment preferences (especially postal mailing addresses, for US authors who want to be paid by check) are up to date, otherwise you'll delay your payment until the next quarter.  Click to Account then click Edit/update Payment Information.

April 20, 2012 - Greetings from Colorado Springs, where I'm at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference for the next few days.  I'm giving two workshops and participating in a panel.  Two items:  1.  Thanks to the keen eye of Smashwords author Elaine Shuel, we discovered an obscure reporting glitch that caused the sales reports of 350 authors (out of 40,000) to appear as if we overpaid the author for sales related to about 500 titles sold at Kobo between July and December 2011.  We corrected the reports so all the sales appear properly as paid. Thanks, Elaine!  2.  PayPal retrospective.  The PayPal censorship victory marked a watershed event for indie authors.  Indie authors and their readers rose up and spoke out with a unified voice against censorship.  Smashwords authors and publishers drove the campaign.  Today, FastCompany published the condensed transcript of an interview with yours truly that took place yesterday, in which the reporter examined some aspects of the battle (we also talk about the DoJ lawsuit).  For more details on how the PayPal censorship saga unfolded behind the scenes, listen to my two part audio interview conducted by erotica author Alex Anders, in which we explored everything in great detail. Links:  Part I (PayPal) and Part II (ebook publishing best practices).

April 18, 2012 - Smashwords is growing.  To keep up with the growth, and help us reduce the backlog in our vetting and support queues, Smashwords is hiring for our vetting team.  All Smashwords employees (other than our software developers) start in the vetting team. It's a tough job.  South Bay/Silicon Valley applicants only, please.  The job listing is here.

April 15, 2012 - Three items.  1.  Next week, I'm in Colorado Springs at the Pike's Peak Writers conference. I'm doing a primer on ebook publishing, and then a session on best practices. Come say hi!  2. Great meeting so many Smashwords authors at the RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago and at the Nebraska Writer's Guilld conference in Omaha over the last five days.  You're all awesome.  At both conferences I presented new data that answers a bunch of questions such as, "What word lenghts to readers prefer," "what prices move the most units," and "what prices yield the most author profit."  In the next week or two I'll probably start sharing this information at the blog.  I'll also upload the presentation soon.    3.  CNN asked me to write an opinion piece for them on my views regarding the Department of Justice's lawsuit against Apple and five big publishers.  It's causing quite a debate, much of it... uhm... interesting.  Read it here.

April 8, 2012 - Items.  1.  For anyone who followed my previous warning about KDP Select at the Smashwords blog, or who has read my new Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, you know I'm not a fan of Amazon's KDP Select program because of its exclusivity requirements.  In the last week, Amazon started enforcing the exclusivity requirements.  If you're in the KDP Select program, and you've been waiting longer than three weeks for a Smashwords retailer to process your removal request, see the Smashwords FAQ on how to correct retailer listing errors.  Although we're always sorry to see any author remove any book from any retailer, if you want your book gone and it's not disappearing we want to help you.  Don't email our staffers direct because it'll delay or prevent correction.  Please always contact us over the "?" question mark button.  And please note I am not an appropriate support contact.  Due to the volume of emails I receive, I'm unable to respond to every email, and I miss many.  Although our support team may take several days to respond, they do respond to every email.  2. On the road.  Jim Azevedo (our marketing manager) and I are in Chicago for most of the week ahead for the RT Booklovers convention.  Looking forward to seeing many Smashwords authors there.  Next weekend, I'm in Omaha for the Spring convention of the Nebraska Writers Guild.  Looking forward to seeing Ruth Ann Nordin there!  3.  We've signed a new retail distribution agreement that will be disclosed shortly, this time with a mobile retailing platform.  News of this deal will probably be disclosed by the partner as early as this week at the London Book Fair, but we'll hold off on a formal announcement until we get further along with the technical integration.

April 7, 2012 - Paranormal romance author Nicky Charles is interviewed over at the Smashwords blog.  All her books are priced at free.  Over at the Apple iBookstore, her books have received nearly 25,000 ratings, averaging over four of five stars.  Here at Smashwords, her author profile has been favorited over 450 times, making her one of our most popular authors.  Although (in my opinion) she could be earning a healthy living selling her books, she would prefer readers support charities instead. 

April 4, 2012 - Our ISP (not Smashwords) experienced a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, which affected one of their data centers.  This caused Meatgrinder conversions to fail for a period of time.  By the late afternoon the same day, Meatgrinder service was restored and the temporary backlog processed.

April 3, 2012 - Smashwords author Claire Farrell from Ireland is the latest author profiled over at the Smashwords blog.  In a message I think will resonate with many authors, she eschews most marketing.  She speaks of the importance of patience, hard work, broad distribution across all retailers, and writing every day.  In my new free ebook, the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, I write that the most important marketing you can do is to write a book that markets itself.  If readers love your writing, it will eventually spread if you have all your other viral catalysts in place.

April 2, 2012 - Items.  1.  Cool widget for WordPress users allows you to create a slideshow of your book covers:  http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/smashwords-book-widget/  Developed as a community service by Sherrie and Patrick McCarthy.  You can find their blog here and their Smashwords publisher page here.  Tell 'em thanks by buying their books!   2.  We had a site outage that hit in the early morning hours Pacific time and was fixed this morning. 

March 29, 2012 - Are you writing (or have written) a memoir?  If so, don't miss the National  Association of Memoir Writers' Telesummit on Friday.  It's FREE.  Register at http://www.namw.org/tele-summit-call-in-information/  I'm doing a one hour chat on ebook publishing best practices (10am Pacific), and then the panelists who follow include Dan Blank (Build Your Audience Before Your Book is Published), Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers (Write Your Book Fast in the Digital Age), Tessa Smith McGovern (Digital Age Secrets to Write, Publish, and Promote your Memoir) and Lynn Serafinn (How Authors Can Find Loyal Fans: Blogging & Social Media Strategies While Writing a Book).

March 28, 2012 - I had a conversation with the Department of Justice yesterday.  Question: Does agency pricing lead to higher prices?  Answers in the Smashwords blog.  Thanks to Henry for crunching the numbers, and thanks to Jim for setting up the conference call.

March 28, 2012 - From the Department of "Don't Let This Happen to You," a cautionary tale.  Several Smashwords authors (as well as at least one author not on Smashwords) received spam emails from a "Mogoli Angelberg" over the last two days promoting a book by Jeff Rivera for sale at Amazon.  This person apparently looked for email addresses on the blogs and websites of Smashwords authors then sent them all the following poorly written spam (I left all typos and bad grammar in their original glory):  "Just checked out your book on Smashwords and you're so so talented. Do you have any suggestions for a budding writer like me?  What has worked and what hasn't? Tried FB, Twitter, even book marks. I just don't want to waste my time on things that don't work. I just read a couple EXCELLENT books on it. One was recommended by my friend called "Effortless Marketing": {link removed} I got it cause Mark Coker the Smashwords guy endorsed it and cause it's free for the next 24 hours anyway. And it was surprisingly really, really good."   For those who don't know Jeff, he's a publishing consultant and a writer for MediaBistro's GalleyCat blog.  Jeff showed me the book before publication and asked me for a blurb, which I provided.  His book explores how authors can use message boards to build their platforms.  Then the spam went out, and as you might imagine I'm not terribly pleased to see my name used in a promotion like this.  I forwarded the spam to Jeff, along with some evidence that this Mogoli person travels in close orbit to him.  I asked him to clarify what happened.  You'll find his response here:  http://jeffrivera.com/index.php/component/content/article/583-an-update.html.  I doubt Jeff's initial response will be satisfying to most people.  For the record, I like Jeff and think he's an honorable guy.  If we take him at his word (and I do), I think the big cautionary lesson learned here is that if you're going to hire others to do your marketing for you, you better be prepared to step up and own their actions because such bad marketing will harm your reputation as I expect it has harmed Jeff's.  I've always encouraged authors to do their own marketing to the extent possible, though my advice was based on the cost of outside marketing.  Now you have another reason to do it yourself, or, at least now you've got reason to approach such campaigns with new precautions.  Make sure you pre-approve all aspects of your marketing consultant's proposed campaign because you own it, and your personal brand is at stake.  For more on the reaction to this misadventure in marketing, see the Catherine, Caffeinated blog, where Jeff has now personally responded in greater detail. 

March 26, 2012 - The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success is now out!  Download it now (and forever) at the super-affordable price of FREE. Learn the best practices of the most successful indie authors. If you enjoy the book, please help spread the word by sharing the book with all your writer friends.  More at the Smashwords blog.  A big thanks to my beta readers who provided feedback, all of whom are credited in the book (if you emailed me feedback and I missed it, let me know!).

March 22, 2012 - Items:  1.  This week we've got an interview with romance novelist Ruth Ann Nordin over at the Smashwords blog.  She speaks about the importance of patience and perseverence, and above all, writing because you love to write.  She's one of an increasing number of authors who now earn more through the Smashwords distribution network than they earn through Amazon.  She shares her numbers.  2.  FREE ISBNs are available again!

March 15, 2012 - Items:  1.  We have an interview by David Weir at the Smashwords blog with best-selling erotica author, Selena Kitt. Even if you don't read or write erotica, she provides a facinating peek into this enormously popular yet controversial genre.  Next week we'll have an interview with best-selling romance author, Ruth Ann Nordin.  2.  We've been making multiple updates to the Smashwords Dashboard.  The underlying code that communicates the status of a book (pending review, awaiting modification, etc.) is being completely rewritten to eliminate a series of recent bugs that caused the Dashboard and Channel Manager to incorrectly label the book's Premium Catalog status.  The glitch didn't affect distribution, but it was understandably unnerving to many.  3. Today we introduced a much-requested "Are you sure?" question that displays if you click the unpublish button.  In the past, many authors accidentally unpublished their books by clicking the wrong link.  4.  Reminder:  If a Smashwords retailer is listing your book incorrectly, view our FAQ on how to correct retailer errors5.  Reminder II:  Although I try to make myself accessible to all Smashwords authors, and I try to personally respond to every email, I receive over 500 emails every day and I invariably miss many.  As much as I want to help everyone, please don't contact me for support inquiries.  Instead, contact the support team by clicking the "?" question mark button. They're backlogged now, so it make take several days for them to respond. They do respond to everyone.  When you contact them via the "?" question mark button, your account information is attached to the email, which makes it faster for us to respond to your questions or concerns.  If you have a question about a particular title, please help us by providing a hyperlink to your book at Smashwords.  If your inquiry involves your book at one of our retailers (see #4 above), remember to send us hyperlinks to the retailer's listing of your book.  And above all, please read our helpful FAQ before you contact us.  Most questions are answered there, including questions you haven't even thought to ask yet.  Thanks!  6.  When we display ISBNs, we no longer display the hyphens.  This is because the hyphens are superfluous, the retailers don't use the hyphens, and for some reason (for which I'm not qualified to explain because I don't understand the reason myself), hyphens generate about 50 times more database load than a simple number.  We're always looking for opportunities to make the site faster.  It's been really zippy in recent months, even though we're achieving record traffic each month. Kudos to our engineering team!

March 13, 2012 - Two items:  1. EOPCS (end of PayPal censorship saga) - It's official.  Today's a very good day for indies.  Indies stood up, spoke with common purpose, and together we moved mountains.  More in the Smashwords Blog.  Now, I look forward to some sleep followed by getting back to business.  2.  This Friday and Saturday I'm in Witchita, Kansas for the KWA Scene conference.   Next Tuesday, I'm speaking in Monterey, CA at the Central Coast California Writers Club

March 12, 2012 - PayPal update:  I met with PayPal this afternoon at their office in San Jose.  They will soon announce revised content policies that I expect will please the Smashwords community.  Effective immediately, we are returning our Terms of Service to back to its pre-February 24 state.  Beyond that, our friends at PayPal have asked me to hold off sharing additional details until they've had a chance to finalize their new policies. Thank you for your patience and support during this crazy last few weeks.

March 12, 2012 - Items:  1.  We ran out of FREE ISBNs today.  A new batch of 50,000 have been ordered so as soon as we receive them, we'll make them available from your ISBN Manager screen.  2. Many authors (including myself!) were surprised to look at their Dashboards this weekend and see that previously approved titles were suddenly listed as "Pending Approval."  If you click through on the link, however, you'll see the true status of the book.  Rather than patch the bug with bubblegum, the tech team is rewriting the underlying code.  There are also cases where books appear as if they've been rejected from the Premium Catalog, but the notes field is blank.  In both cases, this is simply an error of labeling.  The actual status of the book hasn't changed, and this will not impact your distribution.  Sorry for the confusion!

March 11, 2012 - Two items.  1.  Censorship - A representative from Visa has strongly denied they have pressured PayPal to censor legal fiction.  Read the letter the here. Now it's time for Mastercard, American Express, Discover and the major banks to speak out again censorship as well.  As previously mentioned in my dispatches (see PayPal #1, #2, #3, #4 in Press Room), PayPal communicated to us that their policies were necessary to maintain compliance with the credit cards and banks upon which PayPal's services depend.  If we can get these companies to back away from censorship of legal fiction, this will give PayPal the room it needs to update their policies.   2.  Smashwords Premium Catalog status.  A new bug is causing the Dashboard to incorrectly identify the status of a book.  Several authors have reported that their previously-approved titles suddenly appear as "Pending Review."  Investigating...

March 8, 2012 - PayPal today made what I believe is their first public written statement regarding the censorship saga, here:  https://www.thepaypalblog.com/2012/03/paypals-acceptable-use-policy-on-sale-of-certain-erotica/   I read it four or five times.  My overall sense is that PayPal is doing their best to responsibly and carefully re-evaluate PayPal content policies that have been in place for many years - content policies that probably could not have anticipated the rise of self-publishing, the rise of indie ebooks (the rise of Smashwords and its authors and publishers!), or the incredible explosion of content availability, diversity and choice enabled by the indie ebook revolution.  Prior to this indie ebook revolution, books not selected for publication and distribution by publishers had limited commercial outlet.  Long story made short, I'm cautiously encouraged by PayPal's statements.  We're not yet where we want to be (we want no censorship of legal fiction), but I sense we're a lot closer now than if we had simply packed up our marbles, flipped 'em the bird and quit PayPal for an alternative as many encouraged us to do.  I think their statements today give them the flexibility to do the right thing.  They say they understand many people believe PayPal is moralizing and restricting free speech (this is a reasonable conclusion for reasonable people to reach based on PayPal's actions up until two weeks ago), and they seek to assure everyone that is not the case (now the onus is on PayPal to show you, rather than tell you).  Possibly, I'm reading too much between the lines of their carefully worded post.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, please continue doing your part to move this campaign forward.  Tweet, Facebook, blog.  Call your credit card company, or the bank issuing your credit card, and tell them you want them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.  If you haven't done so already, also be sure to add your name to the EFF petition.  The blog post by PayPal today has a comments section, but it doesn't appear to accept comments.

March 7, 2012 - Censorship update items.  1.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted an action letter at their web site.  Multiple new organizations have signed on in support of EFF's call on PayPal to prevent the censorship of ebooks, including the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, Feminists for Free Expression, ACLU of Northern California, Internet Archive and several others.  All that's missing is your name.  CLICK HERE to read the letter and send it to PayPal and encourage your friends to do the same.  2.  Major media began picking up on the story today, starting with a story from Publishers Weekly and followed soon after by Reuters, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal and CNET3.  Smashwords author LC Cooper complied some interesting research that analyzes some of the "objectionable" content on eBay, PayPal's parent.  View it here.

March 5, 2012 - This afternoon, we started sending out an email to hundreds of thousands of registered Smashwords members.  The email went primarily to customers to promote Read an Ebook Week and update customers on the PayPal situation (authors/publishers were not included in the mailing because you received substantially the same update a couple days ago.  Archived in the Press Room. Mentioned in the email is a book that represents the best $.99 you can spend anywhere - a parody on the PayPal drama titled, Two People Having Sex.  Brilliant brilliant.  Buy it.

March 4, 2012 - Tidbits.  1.  Randolph Lalonde is profiled at the Smashwords blog today.  He's got the #1 bestseller in the Smashwords store with The Expendable Few, the latest in his super-popular Spinward Fringe series of sci-fi soap opera novels.  2.  Good story in the Sunday issue of The Independent, a large U.K. newspaper.  Two Smashwords authors are quoted - Andrea Juillerat-Olvera and Vella Munn3.  Read an Ebook Week kicked off today. 10 hours in, we're seeing some great sales volume.  Might be an all-time record sales day.  There was a glitch in the catalog page that was causing it to not correctly display the books by discount categories.  Investigating and will fix.  The coupons appear correctly on your book pages.  Now fixed.  When you promote your participating books, link directly to either your author page or your books page so readers aren't distracted by all the other great participating books.  4. The Atlantic has a story titled, Digital Self Publishing: Should Publishers be Worried.  I commented.  If you'd like to share your own experience, chime in.  Be polite.

March 2, 2012 - Evening update.  A Smashwords author/publisher update email is now bouncing its way through the Internet on the way to your inbox.  It notifies all authors of the Baker & Taylor news, prompts people to enroll their books in the Read an Ebook Week promotion that begins Sunday, and provides an update to the latest developments in the PayPal case.  You'll find an archived version of it in the Press Room.

March 2, 2012 - Smashwords today announced a two-part distribution agreement with Baker & Taylor that will expand distribution of Smashwords ebooks to the Blio e-reading app and online store (reaches millions of devices) as well distribution to public libraries via Baker & Taylor's Access360 library platform.  The Blio e-reading app comes pre-installed on millions of personal computers from major manufacturers.  This is also our first full foray into the public library market.  The Access360 platform was launched last year and is now being rolled out to several libraries.  More at the Smashwords Blog. If for some reason you don't want your books distributed to Baker & Taylor, you've got until Monday to opt out.  I don't recommend opting out.  We always give you at least 48 hours advance notice before activating your books at a new channel.  Both Blio and Access360 are relatively new, so I would expect low sales at first.  Remember, every incremental sale represents a sale you would not have earned otherwise. 

March 1, 2012 - Censorship update:  1.  My thanks to all of who who have written in to support us as we try to work in good faith with PayPal to reach a better outcome. Your kind words of encouragement mean a lot especially after the weekend of hate.  2.  Wow, I don't know how I missed this until this morning:  The Electronic Frontier Foundation blogged about our case yesterday.  I'll have a conversation with them tomorrow.  I look forward to brainstorming how we can work together toward common cause.

February 28, 2012 - Multiple items (updated):  1.  You can now enroll in our annual Read an Ebook Week promotion.  Enroll on the home page.  The sale kicks off March 4.  It's only one of two regular sales we do each year (the other is the annual Summer/Winter sale in July).  Previous sales have been known to crash the Smashwords web site from the flood of customers.  Enroll today and then do your part to help celebrate the joy of ebooks!   2.  We kicked off the first in a new author profile serices at the Smashwords blog featuring an interview with Shayne Parkinson, a best-selling Smashwords author from New Zealand who writes historical fiction.  The interviews are conducted by David Weir, a veteran reporter who previously has written for The Economist, The New York Times and Rolling Stone Magazine.  You might wonder, how can you be considered for an interview?  Unfortunately, we're not considering nominations or pitches at this time.  We hope to make this a weekly series, and even if we manage to 52 interviews over the next year, we'll only be able to interview about one in one thousand of our authors.  If you have a favorite author at Smashwords, consider interviewing them for your blog and then share the interview over at the official Smashwords Facebook page, which gets thousands of visitors each month.  It's a great way to support your fellow indies.  3.  Censorship update.  I've read that various petitions are popping up, but so far have only found this one at Change.org: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-censorship-2

February 27, 2012 - Censorship update.  I had another call with PayPal this morning, and as a result of that conversation I extended the deadline (previously set for tonight) by which authors, publishers and agents should voluntarily remove content that no longer fits the PayPal guidelines.  When there's a new deadline, I'll communicate it here and via email.  

My dialogue is continuing with them as I seek to achieve a less onerous, more sensible result.  Today, they hinted at a willingness to consider a more relaxed definition of prohibited content as [I'm somewhat paraphrasing], "books for which rape, bestiality and incest are the major theme.  If rape, bestiality and incest are incidental plot points, then that content might be allowable."  This is a significant clarification in my ongoing attempt to delineate the gray areas and push back the onerous, unfair and restrictive definitions as they now stand.  It's an opening, but not the final word from PayPal.  It also opens up new gray area.  How does one judge whether incidents of the taboo subjects are incidental instances or major themes?  Where does one draw the line?  We agreed our discussion will continue, and they sought to assure me our services will not be cut off as we continue our discussions.  Smashwords and myself particularly have take a lot of heat over the past few days for our willingness to work with PayPal.  If authors don't agree with our approach, they have other options.  I want all our authors to know that we're working on your behalf.  We may not get the result you want, but we're working for you.  I just emailed out a new update to all Smashwords erotica authors, publishers and agents.  You can find an archived version in the press room, along with information about where we go from here and how you can help.

February 26, 2012 - The censorship saga continues.  TechCrunch picked up on the story today.  I've spent all weekend doing my best to personally reply to those who are both attacking us and thanking us.  There's not much in between.  The flood of emails has been overwhelming.  One angry author wrote me on Facebook to inform me she is now a former Smashwords author now that we have "caved in to PayPal's policies."  I'll share my response here so you know where my head is at:  "Hello,  . We have of course given very serious thought. I'm sorry to learn of your decision. We are not happy with what is happening. As I mentioned in my letter, it marks a dark hour for free speech and the rights of writers and readers to explore their own imaginations. I did not make the decision lightly, and those who attack us for this decision have no idea how I have lobbied on their behalf over the last week. It's not so simple to just unplug PayPal. Their policy originates with the banks and credit card companies that power them, and if we want to continue accepting credit cards either with PayPal or any other payment provider, we need to understand from where this originates. I'll continue to work on behalf of all our authors to stand up against this, but I'm unwilling to martyr our business for the sake of one day's battle. We live to continue the fight on another day."

Februaru 24. 2012 - Special update:  We modified our Terms of Service tonight to clarify our policies related to bestiality, rape and incest in erotica.  This move was forced by PayPal, the payment processor that drives transactions at Smashwords.com, and that we use to pay our authors/publishers.   Although this news may come as sudden, I've been in conversation with them all week about it, trying to strike a reasonable middle ground.  The folks at PayPal have listened, and they support our mission, but they're simply unable to allow certain types of content to be transacted through their payment processing platform.  All authors, publishers and agents who have published erotica at Smashwords received an email notice.  I also posted the email publicly in our Press Room.  The slipperly slope is indeed slipperly.  Let's hope the slippage is done and this can be the end of it.  If you publish erotica under themes of rape, bestiality or incest, please read the new policies carefully, and unpublish/archive books that no longer meet our Terms of Service.

February 24, 2012 - Save the date.  On Monday, I'm the guest on a live 60-minute teleconference with Florrie Binford Kichler of the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Assn.).  The call is free.  Topic:  Ebook Publishing Best Practices.  Register here to attend:  http://www.ibpa-online.org/conferencecall.aspx  Speaking of best practices, I'm almost finished with my next book.  The previous working title was The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  Now that I'm up to about 25 secrets, the title is simply, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  It's all about best practices to help you reach more readers with your words.  The best practices I share were all inspired by my observations of Smashwords authors and publishers.  Want to be a beta reader?  Stay tuned to this space.  I'll post information here at Site Updates about how you can be the first to read it.  Your feedback will guide my final revision before I release it for public consumption. 

February 19, 2012 - Two items.  1.  It's the last day of the San Francisco Writers Conference.  It's been great fun meeting with so many current and future Smashwords authors.  I'm doing an "Introduction to Ebooks" primer this morning followed by a two hour panel moderated by the super-awesome Carla King 2.  NPR did a story today on how ebooks are democratizing the world of publishing. Give it a listen and Tweet it/Facebook it/share it with a friend!  Listen to it here

February 17, 2012 - Four items.  1.  We discovered a new bug in Meatgrinder that was introduced during the recovery from the Slicehost/Rackspace outage.  The bug caused some new epub files created after February 14 to not include embedded cover images in the epub and mobi files.  The cause was identified and repaired today.  We're now in the process of regrinding all 2,200 affected books.  This will not affect Premium review status or anything else, though you will notice that the "date last updated" will reflect today or tomorrow.  This is one cool advantage of Meatgrinder.  2,200 files automatically repaired with no need for affected authors to lift a finger.   2.  Greetings from the first day of The San Francisco Writers Conference, which goes through Sunday.  I'm on several panels and then will do an ebook publishing primer Sunday morning.  Lots of good sessions today.  Dan Poynter gave a great talk on self-publishing where he shared a great marketing tip:  Sign up for multiple Google Alerts on keywords and genre categories related to your writing so you can identify bloggers who might represent publicity opportunities for you (guest posts and book reviews).  After his talk, I sat down with Dan to learn more about his second annual Global EBook Awards.  The deadline for award entry is coming up - March 10.  There's a $79.00 entry fee.   They don't automatically accept all applications.  The awards are only open to authors with books at Smashwords because they're using the Smashwords Coupon feature (you supply them the coupon) so their reviewers can obtain a copy.   They also want to see that the book has complete metadata (title, description, etc.) and a good cover.  After the book is accepted for consideration, the author receives a 6-week mini-course in the form of once-weekly emails covering six foundational topics related to self-publishing, marketing and promotion.  Think of the mini-course as an unexpected bonus.  To learn more about Dan's Global Ebook Awards, visit http://globalebookawards.com (NOTE:  Smashwords does not earn a referral fee if you sign up.  I generally never mention paid marketing opportunities but I make an exception for Dan because he's always been a great friend of Smashwords and all self-published authors.  For many of us, myself included, our first exposure to self-publishing was Dan's classic book, Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual).    3.  If you want to follow the Twitterstream for the San Francisco Writers Conference, click here for the Twitter hashtag SFWC2012.   4.  Just two days ago I was at the Tools of Change conference in New York.  You can watch several of the keynotes and presentations for free on YouTube here.  One of my favorites was Clay Johnson's, "Is SEO Killing America?"  Access many of the Powerpoints here.

February 14, 2012 - Systems have been restored after a major outtage caused by our hosting provider Slicehost, a division of Rackspace (one of the largest hosting providers in the US).  The outtage caused the Smashwords site to become inaccessible.  The site has been unstable since restoration.  Meatgrinder is offline.  No need to contact the support team about the glitches.

February 9, 2012 - Updated.     1.  1099 tax forms went out today via email to all US authors/publishers who received over $10 in payments.  Since we don't do withholdings for US authors/publishers, the amount in your form will match the payments you received from us in 2011.  You'll receive an email with a subject line of "ShareFile Login Information" with instructions on how to view and print out the 1099.  Unfortunately, our service provider used an incorrect subject line and body text, so as a result it has caused some authors to express concern about the legitimacy of the emails.  Yes, it's a trusted service. It's the same service we used last year, though last year these forms were sent out via snail mail, and only to people who earned over $600.   Please accept our apologies for the confusion.  The emails they sent out were ugly, embarassing and confusing.  We will develop our own solution for these next year.   1042 forms will go out in the next couple weeks for authors/publishers outside the U.S.      2.  Florian Rochat, a journalist, writer and Smashwords author living in Switzerland, published an interview with me today in French.  We spoke extensively about how indie ebook publishing creates unprecedented opportunities for European writers to reach a worldwide market.  I also talked about how the European market will develop over the next few years.  Read the interview in French here.  If you have friends who read French, please share a link with them.  Click here to read the interview in English courtesy of Google's English language translation.  If you use the Google Chrome browser (I'm starting to love this browser!), it will automatically translate the interview into any language.  The English-language translation is surprisingly accurate and readable.  My thanks to Florian for helping to spread the word about Smashwords to a global market. 

February 4, 2012 - Two items.  1.  A different look at copyright.  When author Penelope Farmer discovered a huge rock band had written a song inspired by her novel, and the song's title and even full phrases were lifted without permission, she was understandably upset.  But then something unexpected happened.  Read the story in the Smashwords Blog.     2.  Bug.  We have a relatively new bug affecting some authors that causes the Dashboard to state your book "Needs submission" yet when you click through to the Premium Status page, it tells you the book is Pending Approval.  We've been wrangling with the bug for a few days and will continue wrangling until it's fixed. 

January 31, 2012 (updated) - Payments went out tonight via PayPal.  As a refresher (since we've already received dozens of questions asking how payments work), here's the *** FAQ on payments.***  Please review it before contacting the support team.  Congrats to everyone, and thanks for your continued support and partnership. Update Feb. 1: Payments have been recorded in your Sales and Payments Report, and Quarterly Earnings Mapping Report. 

January 24, 2012 - Additional new discovery features added today.  You can now sort by Unit Best Sellers (most units sold carrying a price) in addition to Best Sellers (dollar volume).  We also added new price range filters, and new book length filters (Short, Medium, Full and Epic).  Also effective tonight, books uploaded without covers no longer appear on the home page, although they will appear elsewhere on the site.  The special beta testing email address we set up for the gifting feature is still active, so please send feedback or bug reports related to these new discovery featuers to gift@smashwords.com.

January 22, 2012 - Three items: New staffing, check your payments settings, bestseller list revamped.  1.  Please join me in welcoming Valerie Medeiros as the newest member of our support team, joining Raylene and Angela.  These are the great people you reach when you click the "?" question mark button.  Our support team is backlogged, so please expect delays as we slowly eliminate the backlog and work toward faster response times.  To help us help you, please carefully review our FAQ before you contact the support team.   2. Record Q4 payments should go the last day of this January.  Reminder:  Please click to your payee profile and make sure your information is correct and you're set to be paid.  Each quarter, authors miss payments because the mailing address or paypal address is incorrect.  We want to pay you!  Click here to review payment policies in the FAQ.  3.  In my annual year-in-review, I mentioned how we'll improve discovery in 2012 for the Smashwords retail site.  Already this month, we've made two important improvements.  We upgraded our categorization options to the support all the latest BISAC codes, and last week we revamped our bestseller algorithms.  The bestseller lists are now based on actual dollar sales and can no longer be gamed by free coupon redemptions.  The new lists provide customers a more honest, accurate and trustworthy representation of how their fellow readers are voting with their dollars. More changes coming this week, all designed to help readers discover books they'll enjoy reading.

January 19, 2012 - SOPA and PIPA got a good spanking yesterday as Internet users spoke out in force against these ill-conceived attempts to protect intellectual property.  There are a lot of good stories out today on the topic.  Click here for a good analysis by Clay Shirky on why SOPA/PIPA were so dangerous, and why we'll see more attempts at the same.  His view is that SOPA/PIPA are really about getting people back on the couch to consume Big Corporate Media content as opposed to allowing you to participate in social media (or blogging, or indie publishing, etc.) as a content creator.

January 18, 2012 - Kobo reported December sales results to us today.  December sales up 159% over November, likely a combination of strong Kobo holiday results and thousands of new Smashwords titles arriving at Kobo as part of Operation Floodgates.  Cool beans, and congrats all.

January 13, 2012 - Meatgrinder got backed up the last three days due to an unusual (but welcome) spike in uploads and some web server gremlins.  We upgraded capacity 67% and now she's merrily chopping away at the conversion backlog.  If all goes well, conversions should be faster than ever within 24 hours.  Happy weekend all. Update: We've now doubled it! Update 9:50pm PST: The Meatgrinders have already caught up with the backlog!  Update 10:10pm PST:  Over 414 new titles added today.  I think that's is an all time record.  Welcome new Smashwords authors and publishers!

January 11, 2012 - The good folks at Dan Poynter's Global eBook Awards are preparing their second annual awards nomination process, and they're looking for volunteer judges who would like to read ebooks in any of the 76 award categories.  In exchange for your volunteer contribution, they will feature you as a judge and promote a link to your website, blog or Smashwords author page.  They also will provide judge logos if you wish to promote your participation.  Although your participation in the judging is public (unless you choose to remain anonymous), you will not be identified as the judge of particular titles.  To apply, visit their application page for judges.  Smashwords is a sponsor of the Dan Poynter Global eBook Awards, but we do not receive compensation from them.  To learn more about Dan Poynter, see my interview with him at the Smashwords blog (the interview is three years old but his comments are just as prophetic and timely today as they were then).

January 9, 2012 - Congrats to Smashwords author Darcie Chan, author of The Mill River Recluse, who today hit #1 in the Apple iBookstore.  That's right, the #1 best-seller.  More at the Smashwords blog.

January 7, 2012 - Widgets, buttons!  An independent software developer has created some cool widgets for use by Smashwords authors.  Access them here.  These widgets make it easier for you promote your Smashowords books and author page on your personal blog or web site.  Some of the widgets contain affiliate links so the developer can earn an affiliate commission.  I think this is *really cool.*  I like the idea that independent developers might create useful tools for the Smashwords community, and in return they can earn a small cut (The affiliate earns 11% net, the author earns 70.5% net).  If you're a software developer, you might consider the same, either with or without the affiliate links.  If you're a Smashwords author or publisher, give the widgets and test spin and provide the developer your feedback on their feedback page.  

January 4, 2012 - Ebook buyers prefer full length.  Smashwords author Gene Grossman emailed me a word count analysis of the top 20 Smashwords ebook performers at Barnes & Noble from my December 27 blog post and found they averaged about 105,000 words each.

December 31, 2011 - Happy New Year's eve to Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers, agents and customers (!!) around the world.  Read the Smashwords 2011 year in review and 2012 preview over at the Smashwords blog.  Looking forward to 2012.  With your continued support, great things are possible.  Peace all.

December 29, 2011 - Apple experienced a post-holiday sales boom.  Sales the last three days are running about a 75% higher than the prior 30-day daily average.  While this isn't as much of an increase at B&N, Apple, unlike B&N, had a big surge during the two months leading up to Christmas whereas B&N was basically flat leading in to Christmas (in other words, Apple was growing off of a larger base).  All in all, this appears to have been a much much stronger post-holiday sales increase for Smashwords retailers compared to last year, both in percentage terms and absolute dollars.  No data yet from Sony, Kobo or Diesel.  The numbers will become more clear in the next few weeks.  Many of these numbers will start reflecting in your Sales and Payments report after the new year (I'm looking at unaudited trending information).

December 27, 2011 - Early sales results from Barnes & Noble signal a blowout holiday ebook shopping season for Smashwords authors and publishers.  More at the Smashwords blog, along with a list of the top 20 bestselling Smashwords authors for December 25 and 26 at B&N.  Once I see Apple sales in the next couple days, I might do an update.  Congrats authors!!

December 23, 2011 - We launched a new beta feature tonight - gifting.  The feature allows you to purchase any ebook with a price and give it as a gift.  Visit any Smashwords book page and below the shopping cart icon you'll see the "Give as a gift" button.  Enter the recipient's name and email address and purchase like normal.  The recipient will receive an email with a hyperlink that allows them to claim the gift.  Please report bugs to gift@smashwords.com.  Thanks to Henry, Bill and Dmitriy (our ace tech team!) for creating this new feature.  Until tonight, it wasn't possible for an author to purchase their own book, or for customers to purchase additional copies of books they enjoyed for their friends.  Authors, unless you want pay for copies of your own book, the Coupon Manager is the still the best way to distribute free copies of your book.

December 13, 2011 - Our hosting provider had a network outage at their datacenter, which took us offline for a few minutes earlier today. Sorry for any inconvenience! -Bill and the tech team

December 10, 2011 - Fun with data.  The top 10 iBookstore markets, ranked by unit sales, for the week ending December 4:  1. USA  2. UK 3. Australia  4. Canada 5. Spain 6. Italy 7. Germany 8. France 9. Netherlands 10. Ireland

December 9, 2011 - Three items (updated).  1.  I updated yesterday's blog post for a new column over at the Huffington Post.  Check it out and share your thoughts.  It's my first column there in several months.  Please share it with a friend if you feel so inclined.  If you haven't read the comments over at the Smashwords blog, I'd recommend it.  I was especially struck by comments from Ruth Ann Nordin and Randolph Lalonde, two successful long-time Smashwords authors who are case studies for the power of patience, and how diversified uninterrupted distribution pays off over the long term. Many other insightful comments too numerous to mention here.  My thanks to everyone for contributing their comments, even if they don't agree with me.  2.  Kobo update:  Kobo is still processing "operation floodgate" titles but has asked we continue shipping new titles, so things are progressing there.  3.  The holiday rush is upon us.  Please expect delays in customer service response times and Premium Catalog approvals as we work overtime to process as many books as possible in advance of retailers' post-Christmas rush.  Please carefully review the FAQs and the Smashwords Style Guide before requesting help.  If you book is listed in your Dashboard as "Pending Approval" and you have AutoVetter errors, fix those errors now so we can approve your book on the first review.

December 8, 2011 - Amazon announced their new KDP Select program today.  My take:  Writer Beware.  I blogged about it at the Smashwords Blog in a post titled, Amazon Shows Predatory Spots with KDP Select.  They're making a power play for indie authors and forcing exclusivity.  Already a few Smashwords authors have fallen for it.  Some will probably disregard my warning since Smashwords has a vested interest in distributing these books to all retailers.  Talk to your author friends and remind them of the danger of becoming wholly beholden to a single ebook retailer.  Not good for authors, books or readers.

December 1, 2011 - Yeah!  Two updates from today.  1.  Operation Floodgates with Kobo is well underway.  All 25,000+ backlogged titles have been shipped, as has all recent metadata updates.  Next, we will work with Kobo to cross check and validate as we look for errors.  I'll report back here once we complete validation.  Backlogged books should start appearing there now, and most should appear there within the next few days if all goes well.  Kobo shipments should progress normally in the future as they already do for Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Diesel.   2.  We fixed a bug in our categorization engine that was causing some Romance and Fantasy books (among other categories) to not appear properly in the home page search filters.  If you want to check or modify your categorization, go to Dashboard: Settings.

November 29, 2011 - A few updates.  1.  Operation Floodgates at Kobo is underway.  We shipped over 12,000 new titles yesterday, will take a pause today, then ship another 12,000 to 15,000 Wednesday.  In parallel, we'll be doing metadata refreshes to make sure pricing, covers, etc are up to date.  We'll also be doing a lot of testing with our friends at Kobo to ensure ingestion accuracy of their new systems. If all goes well, going forward, regular weekly shipments of new titles will resume after this week of updates.  Please hold off reporting any errors or out of date or missing books until next Tuesday or Wednesday, because refreshes will continue throughout this week.  2.  Holiday planning.  If you plan to release new titles to get in stores by Christmas, please get them uploaded by the end of this week if possible.  The Smashwords team is working overtime to approve titles for distribution, though there is a backlog so the sooner you get in the queue the better, and most retailers will stop accepting new titles a few days before Christmas.  If you don't upload this week, we'll still do everything we can to get you in (we've expanded our vetting team in the last few weeks and most team members are working extra hours to help you).  Also, per the reminders in the email confirmations you receive upon conversion completion, be sure to carefully review your .epub once it's live, and make any necessary corrections immediately so our vetting team can approve it on the first review.  3.  Rethinking marketing.  My background in marketing goes back 20 years, so you might be surprised to hear me say that marketing isn't as important as people think.  Discoverability and book quality is more important.  I wrote a guest blog post on this topic over at Nina Amir's Write Non Fiction in November Blog, Rethinking Book Marketing: Why Discovery is More Important4.  Yesterday I had a guest blog post published over at Publishing Perspectives.  Although the post summarizes the proceedings of a Scandinavian book conference I attended two weeks ago in Copenhagen, the broader message is about the new global opportunities available to all authors and publishers.  Your market is worldwide.  More over at the Smashwords blog, which provides a jump to the post at Publishing Perspectives5.  Oh the irony.  Some scammer using stolen credit cards purchased $808 worth of self-help and self-improvement books.  The orders have been reversed and the affected authors/publishers received an email from me today informing them of the amount of reversal.  Some day, karma will catch up with this person and everything they learned from these books will be for naught.

November 24, 2011 - Thanksgiving schedule.  The Smashwords team is off Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.  On behalf of all 12 of us here at Smashwords, thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you.  With your continued support, the best is yet to come.  Safe holidays all.

November 22, 2011 - Kobo update:  Kobo has given us the green like to commence test shipments on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  We'll ship a few thousand, then we and Kobo will check the results.  Assuming the first shipments look solid, then floodgates will open next week.  I'll update progress here.

November 18, 2011 - This evening at 11pm Pacific (2011-11-19 07:00 UTC), we'll be performing some site maintenance. Expected down-time should be less than 2 hours. -Bill and the development team.

November 14, 2011 - Several items.  1.  I'll be speaking Thursday at the Schilling Scandinavian Publishing Executives meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.  They invited me to speak about the philosophy and business model behind Smashwords.  The timing is good considering we're now distributing into Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland though Apple.  2.  Speaking of Apple, yesterday was a blowout record day in terms of single-day books sales.  Apple has sped ahead of Barnes & Noble as our #1 retail sales partner in the last 60 days.  Previously, they were usually neck and neck.  The 26 new Apple iBookstores are definitely adding some incremental sales for Smashwords authors, even English language books, though the US market has been strong too (possibly a kick from the release of the new iPhone?  Yes, that must be it.).   3.  Premium Catalog approvals.  The vetting team is a few days backlogged.  Over 7,600 new titles have been uploaded in the last 30 days, an all time record.  With that, please join me in welcoming Mark Vogel as our latest addition to the Smashwords vetting team.  He started training last week.  This brings Smashwords to 12 people, up from about three one year ago.  4.  Still in a holding pattern with Kobo.

November 11, 2011 - A few updates.  1.  French and German translations of the Smashwords Style Guide have been published, thanks to the generous volunteer efforts of Anne-Sophie Gomez and Annemarie Nikolaus.  I wrote about the new Guides, and what they mean for our mission to help writers around the world, over at the Smashwords Blog.  Translations are already in the works for Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.  If your native language isn't covered, and you'd like to help introduce the joys of indie ebook publishing to writers in your language, volunteer to translate the Smashwords Style Guide.  Click the link above to visit the Smashwords Blog, and post a hyperlink to your Smashwords author page to volunteer. Our immediate priority is to cover all the countries (and corresponding languages) we're reaching now that Smashwords ebooks go to 32 different Apple iBookstores including the US.  2.  Speaking of Apple's international stores, congratulations to Smashwords author Giorgio Massa.  He landed in Apple's Italian iBookstore just last week, and already his two books have raced to the top of the bestseller charts.  As of yesterday, he held the #4 and #23 spots in the bestseller list.  3.  Kobo is still finalizing their new ingestion system, so early next week now becomes the best case scenario for operation floodgate, though additional delays are possible.

November 10, 2011 - Update on "operation floodgate" at Kobo.  We're still in a holding pattern, waiting for Kobo to give us the green light to ship the entire backlog.  Thank you for your patience.

November 8, 2011 - Wow.  Congrats to our friends at Kobo, who were acquired today for $315 million by Japanese e-commerce powerhouse Rakuten.  Click here to read the story and the press release.  Who is Rakuten, you ask?  They're like Japan's version of Amazon, with annual sales of over $4 billion and a market cap of over $15 billion.  They operate Japan's #1 ecommerce site.  They're one of the top 10 internet companies in the world, according to their Wikipedia entry.  Here in the US, they own Buy.com, and internationally they operate ecommerce companies in Brazil, Germany, China and elsewhere.  I look forward to learning what new avenues of distribution are opened up to Smashwords authors and publishers.

November 4, 2011 - Cool tool.  Smashwords author Russell Phillips, last mentioned in my October 10 update below for creating a neat tool that makes it easy to generate Apple iBookstore URLs (web addresses) of your book, has now created another neat tool that will be useful for Smashwords affiliate marketers (authors, publishers, marketers who add affiliate codes to Smashwords URLs so they can earn 11% or more commissions on sales).  His new tool, available at his Tools for Authors page, asks you to type in your Smashwords screen name and then it generates a link which you then drag and drop into your Web browser's bookmarks.  Then, whenever you're on any Smashwords page for which you want to generate a hyperlink with your affiliate code, you simply click on your "Smashwords Affiliate" bookmark and it pops up a little dialog box from which you can copy the URL.  Should be a great little timesaver for creating affiliate hyperlinks.  Thanks, Russell, for creating these cool tools for fellow Smashwords users.

November 3, 2011 - Two items.  1.  Mapping reports for Q3 earnings are ready now in your Dashboard's Sales and Payments History.  2.  New post and Slideshare presentation over at the Smashwords Blog:  In Praise of Simple Ebooks.

November 2, 2011 - If you had difficulty uploading a book for NaNoWriMo, we've fixed the glitch! If you uploaded your NaNo book as a standard Smashwords book, please drop us a line so we can convert it over for you. Thanks! -Bill

October 31, 2011 - Q3 payments now scheduled for November 1.  We're quadruple checking some reports from Amazon (related to previous August 25 Site Update).

October 29, 2011 - Update on ScrollMotion:  Last month I provided a brief update about the ScrollMotion relationship (September 19 Site Updates update below) where I linked to an interview I did at The Savvy Book Marketer. In that interview, I commented about the delays ScrollMotion faced in distributing Smashwords ebooks as apps.  Despite the fact they completed thousands of apps,  last week we ended the project.  The app world has changed dramatically in the last few months and it no longer makes sense for either of us to continue pursuing it.  They originally planned to distribute the apps to the HP TouchPad tablet (HP canceled its TouchPad tablet August 24), to the Apple app store (their partner couldn't make this happen) and the Android store.  We were holding out for Android, though they tell us there are so many devices powered by Android now that it's really difficult (read: expensive) to make a single app look good across multiple devices.  My thanks to ScrollMotion for taking a valiant stab at this interesting opportunity and investing many months of effort on our authors' behalf, and my apologies to Smashwords authors who were looking forward to this interesting opportunity.  In the next week expect to see mention of ScrollMotion removed from your Channel Manager.  We and ScrollMotion have agreed to reengage discussions if they can surface a sensible opportunity in the future.  Until then, I decided it's best we make a clean break so we can focus resources on more immediate opportunities.

October 28, 2011 - Three items:  1.  Kobo has postponed "operation floodgate" (see updates below from October 18 and October 2) until next week.  While there is no guarantee all books ship next week, we're ready to go as soon as they give us the green light.  I'll provide further updates as things progress.  2.  If you're near the San Francisco Bay Area, tomorrow I'm giving a four-hour workshop on ebook publishing in Sunnyvale.  Learn more or register by clicking here (opens a PDF flyer) or click here for the South Bay Writers website.  3.  Q3 payments go on or before October 31.  If you haven't already done so, please check your Payee profile to confirm your PayPal address is correct (if you selected the PayPal option) or for paper check payments (US authors/publishers/agents only), make sure your postal mailing address is correct.  If you miss a payment because this information is incorrect, your payment will be delayed three months.  Please help us pay you now.

October 24, 2011 - This Thursday morning 12 midnight Pacific (2011-10-27 08:00 UTC), we'll be performing some site maintenance. Expected down-time should be less than 2 hours. -Bill and the development team.

October 24, 2011 - Trip report from NINC.  I just returned from the Novelists, Inc. conference in St. Pete, Florida.  Wow, what a great conference.  I participated in two panels on Thursday and then gave the closing keynote Saturday.  The Novelists, Inc association is made up of hundreds (thousands?) of authors, all of whom must have at least two traditionally published books under their belt to gain entry into the group.  These are the bread and butter authors who fuel the traditional publishing industry.  On the first day of the conference during my opening panel, an audience member commented that it was tougher to sell books to publishers because acquisition editors at publishers were losing power, and could no longer acquire books without first running a gauntlet of committees staffed by sales and marketing people and finance people who had the power to kill a deal if they couldn't all agree on the book's commercial potential.  From the podium I could see 1/3 of the authors nodding their heads in tense agreement - they too had experienced the same thing.  There was a palpable vibe of anger among the audience that the editors who believed in their books - the editors that these authors wanted to work with because these authors recognize the value a great editor can add -  had lost the power to make the acquisition decisions.  A fellow panelist from Penguin defended the presence of sales & marketing people in the acquisition decision-making process, and he said something about publishers in their ivory towers.  The comment struck a nerve with me, so I commented that Smashwords authors are the barbarians at the gate of the ivory towers.  I said authors need to understand publishers aren't in the business of publishing books, they're in the business of selling books.  When publishers acquire books based solely on perceived commercial merit (i.e., they GUESS because they really don't know what will sell until readers make the decision), they by definition say no to thousands of extremely talented writers.  This sparked a pretty intense debate (argument?) between me and the Penguin guy, some of which was captured here in this blog, Lousiana Liar.  Things got a little heated so afterward I apologized to the Penguin guy if I had offended him by questioning the value of publishers, because that certainly wasn't my intent.  We left on good terms and participated together on another panel that same day.  The next day, I recorded an interview with the awesome Christopher Kennealy of the Copyright Clearance Center for his series, Beyond the Book (click here to listen to the podcast), and he asked me some questions about that heated exchange, among other topics.  I talked about how self-publishing has changed from the option of last resort for authors who couldn't get a traditional book deal to the option of first choice for many authors.  I also talked about how many of the authors in attendance were openly expressing concern that Amazon was amassing too much power, and the authors feared becoming wholly dependent tenant farmers tilling Amazon soil.  On Saturday, I gave the closing keynote where I talked about how the power of publishing is shifting to authors and authors are now gaining increased control, freedom and choice.  I talked more about how it's very important that authors support all their retailers lest they become tenant farmers to Amazon, and I drew parallels to what happened in the Irish Potato Famine in the mid 1800s when farmers became too dependent farming a single crop (potatoes) on land owned by someone else (I visited Ireland this summer and toured some of the worst sites of the famine.  It was heartbreaking to learn how entire families were dependent upon potatoes grown on a small plot of not much more than one acre of land owned by far-away landlords, and when the crops failed from the potato blight and the farmers began starving and couldn't pay rent, they were evicted.  Many families had their homes [basically rock huts] pulled down upon them when the landlords evicted them).  I told folks that if they want to plant potatoes at Amazon, by all means diversify and plant other crops (sell their ebooks) at the other retailers as well.  During the Q&A, I asked how many NINC authors were on Smashwords.  Usually at writers conferences, there will be about five in an audience this size of about 150.  Nearly half of the audience raised their hand.  Wow (I had no idea), and I think it speaks to how these professional authors are leading the charge to self-publishing, and in the process they're bringing much-deserved respect to the indie movement for all self-published authors.  When we launched Smashwords in early 2008, our primary audience was self-published authors who were unable to get a traditional book deal.  Many of you went on to achieve great commercial success here at Smashwords, which only served to prove that publishers missed an opportunity when they said no to you.  By 2009, we started seeing a few traditionally published authors bringing their reverted-rights works back to life as Smashwords ebooks, and by 2010 the practice became more common.  2010 is also when we began hearing from a small number of previously traditionally-published authors who said they'd never go back to traditional.  This year, we're hearing that sentiment even more, and the attidude was definitely reaching the boiling point at the NINC conference.  I don't think Big Publishers realize what's about to happen here.  Publishers face a mass exodus of their best past, present and future authors as more of you decide to bypass publishers entirely and publish your books directly to readers on your own terms.  After the presentation, Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly asked me to sum up 90 minutes of presentation in a two minute video interview (impossible, but click here to view the video). Fun fact about Ms. Vey - she was the first Publishers Weekly reporter to write about Smashwords  two years ago, back when were were only publishing 2,000 titles and few took us seriously.  Now we're 80,000+.  If you'd like to view the Twittersteam of what came out of the NINC conference (worth a browse!), click here.

October 18, 2011 - Kobo updates.  1.  Reminder:  If you're currently distributed to Kobo, and your book doesn't have an ISBN attached in the Smashwords ISBN Manager, please go there now and attach an ISBN, otherwise the book will be removed from Kobo.  We'll send out an email reminder to folks affected by this later this week.  2.  We shipped a test shipment yesterday to Kobo in preparation for opening the floodgates (see October 2 update) to send them all 10,000+ backlogged titles.  If all goes well, Kobo is aiming for us to do the full shipment next week on October 26.  3.  Just viewed a sales report today from Kobo for the month of September.  Record month!   4.  In the last week, Kobo announced a couple new big distribution deals that will benefit Smashwords authors, publishers and agents.  On October 10 they signed a deal to power the ebook store for FNAC, the largest French bookseller, and a few days ago it was revealed that Kobo signed a big deal with WH Smith in the U.K., which will begin selling Kobo ebook readers at its 750 UK retail locations and will also scrap its own ebookstore in favor of a new store powered by Kobo.

October 14, 2011 - The Sales and Payments Report no longer shows sales, affiliate earnings, and payments for all-time. For users with very high volume (e.g., publishers with many dozens of books, and/or authors with very popular titles), the report was beginning to fail -- and as time goes on and sales increase, that problem could affect more and more users. To make the report faster, smaller and simpler, we divided into years.  Click a year, and you'll see the sales and payments for that year. As before, a link will appear allowing you to download that year's report as a spreadsheet. -Bill from the development team.

October 10, 2011 - Multiple tidbits.  1.  Happy Columbus Day.  The Smashwords team has the day off.  For our friends outside the US interested in this odd holiday, the Christian Science Monitor has an interesting story on it.  2.  Q3 payments go out at the end of this month. Another record quarter for Smashwords authors, publishers and agents.  Each quarter, we have multiple authors who write to complain they didn't receive their payments, and 99% of the time it's because they had the wrong mailing address listed in their Payee profile (click Account: Edit/update payee information), or the wrong PayPal email address, or they hadn't reached the accrued payment threshold ($10 for Paypal, $75 for paper checks), or they never claimed their payments from PayPal.  Please please check your payee profile to confirm your payment settings are accurate and up to date.  We want to pay you!   If by chance you miss a payment, your unclaimed payment will credit back to your account by the next quarterly payment period.  Click here to review how earnings are calculated and paid.  3.  Milestones.  We surpassed the 7,000-mark in terms of the number of books published in the last 30 days, an all-time record.  Yesterday we sold an all-time record number of books in a single day at Apple.  4.  Bugs and critters.  A bug was reported today where multiple reviews were appearing from a single reviewer (it was an honest mistake of the reviewer), which indicates two problems for us to fix:  A.  Reviews should appear instantly, the moment the reviewer posts it.  B.  We need to prevent multiple reviews from appearing from the same person.   A bug was reported last week that caused the wrong tags to appear alongside an author's books.  We think it's corrected, though if you notice the same, please click the "?" question mark button to report.  Please also note that if you have more than 10 tags attached to a single book, you have too many.  At some point in the future we will automatically truncate to 10, so please be judicious.  There are some authors using dozens, hundreds, even thousands of tags, and this wreaks havoc on database queries and can slow site performance.  It's also spammy.  We have an item on the development roadmap to prevent this.  5.  Critters of the cockroach variety.  If you see books at Smashwords that violate the Smashwords Terms of Service, please click the "Report This Book" link you'll find at the bottom of any book page.  With your help, we're able to quickly eradicate spam books, Private Label Rights books, incomplete books, and illegal content.  Thanks!  6.  Cool tool.  I think I might have mentioned it before, but it's worth mentioning again.  Bookmark this in your browser.  Smashwords author Russell Phillips has created a neat tool that makes it easy to generate the URLs (web address) of your book in all the Apple iBookstores around the world that we distribute to.  Simply enter your ISBN on his Tools for Authors web page.

October 5, 2011 - Apple this week expanded the distribution of Smashwords ebooks to 26 new countries across Europe and Scandinavia.  For the full list of countries, see my post at the Smashwords Blog.  Great news for indie authors and publishers everywhere.  If Smashwords already distributes your book to Apple, you're available in all these countries automatically.  Most of these countries will have lower sales than the current iBookstore countries previously reached, but in aggregate they should add a good incremental boost to sales.  It's also heartening to know that these new markets will grow faster on a percentage basis since they're in the very early stages of their growth, whereas the US market is more mature.

October 3, 2011 -  Kobo update.  As mentioned back in August, Kobo has been backlogged on Smashwords titles for several months.  Kobo has given us the green light to open up the floodgates on or after October 17, at which point we will begin shipping all backlogged titles.  As part of a rework of our mutual technical integration, the new system we're implementing with them should eventually lead to faster and more accurate metadata updates.  Starting around October 17, ISBNs will be required for distribution to Kobo.  If you have one or more titles listed at Kobo, make sure each book at Smashwords has an ISBN attached via your ISBN Manager.  Books without ISBNs will be removed from Kobo sometime after October 17.  Since Smashwords provides FREE ISBNs, there's really no reason not to have an ISBN.  Apple and Sony also require ISBNs.  Learn more about ISBNs by clicking to your Dashboard's ISBN Manager.

September 30, 2011 - Next Monday evening at 11pm Pacific (2011-10-04 07:00 UTC), we'll be performing some server maintenance. Expected down-time should be less than 2 hours. -Bill and the development team.

September 23, 2011 - Updated.  1.  New beta feature for Literary Agents.  This afternoon we introduced a new variant of the Publisher account designed to better serve literary agents.  Several of our literary agent clients told us they don't want to be identified as a publisher, since they're technically not publishers (they consider their indie author clients to be the publishers).  The new feature allows books to appear at Smashwords as "written by AuthorName, agented by AgencyName."  Literary agents can easily switch from their current Publisher status to Agent status (or can upgrade to Agent status) at the click of  a button by visiting their Account page and then clicking on "Manage Publisher or Agent Status."  We invite Smashwords literary agents to test the feature and report bugs.  If you're not sure if you're a literary agent, then the answer is probably no.  :)   To learn more about literary agents, visit the website for the Association of Author's Representatives.  If you're one of the hundreds (thousands?) of Smashwords authors represented by a literary agency, and your agency isn't yet on Smashwords, invite them to read my presentation and blog post, The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap.  As I mention in the post, I think agents have an exciting opportunity to serve their clients by assisting their clients' indie ebook publishing efforts.    2.  Cool marketing tool (and your opportunity to help improve it for fellow Smashwords authors and publishers!).  About.me is a free, fast-growing service that allows you to create a simple online bio.  Advertise your Smashwords books, or your Facebook page, your personal web site or blog, or any of your online presences.  Here's what my page looks like:  http://about.me/markcoker.   I can see some potentially interesting uses for it.  You might add a link to your about.me page in your email signature.  If you don't have a web site, this could conceivably serve some of the basics, and it's so simple to use (just fiddle with it and experiment) you can probably finish in 10 minutes, as I did.  If you already have a web site, you might want to link to your about.me bio simply because it's probably a better bio than you have on your current web site.  If you have printed business cards (something every author should have), consider adding your About.me web address on it, since it's a short address.  It's also cool that you can add hyperlinks.  As I mention in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, hyperlinks are incredibly important for online discovery.  The more hyperlinks sprinkled around the web pointing to your books or web site, the more discoverable you become to readers who are searching for you or your book (search engines such as Google will look at the number and quality of hyperlinks pointing to you and use this data as one of many determinants of relevance).  They have some other neat features too, like statistics for the number of times your bio has been viewed, and the average number of minutes your visitors spend on your page.  They let you create a free and optional email account that ends with about.me (they're owned by AOL) if you want it.  Once you create your free profile at About.me, click to their Edit Profile link, then click Services, and you'll see various services you can add so these services' buttons appear at the bottom of your profile.  I added buttons to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogger pages.  Here's where you can help your fellow Smashwords authors and publishers:  Wouldn't it be cool if they added a button for Smashwords on that Services page?  Once you sign up for an account, click to their Feedback page here where you can vote to make this happen.  If enough Smashers vote, who knows, they might add us.  Oh, and they allow you to apply up to three votes, so vote your max allotment of three.  Will your About.me bio page help you sell thousands of books?  Probably not.  It's simply one of many social media tools (along with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, etc.) you should consider as you build your platform, and since it's free there's really no reason not to try it.  Platform building (i.e. developing the ability to reach and influence readers) is a long term exercise of comprised of multiple baby steps.  As your platform grows, you'll find all these different tools can start working together to make it easier for your audience to reach you.

September 22, 2011 - My second of three guest posts is now up at Dana Lynn Smith's The Savvy Book Marketer.  This installment examines ebook pricing strategies, as well as other factors that influence purchase decisions beyond price. If you find it useful, please share it with your friends.

September 21, 2011 - Ask any reader how they decide what to purchase, and you'll hear myriad answers.  I posted a survey over at MobileRead to ask this very question.  The results are interesting.  A couple primary methods are earning the most votes, but it's interesting to see that the top two most commonly cited methods combined account for just shy of 50% of votes, with the remaining votes distributed across the other nine options.  Click here to cast your vote and then view the results.

September 19, 2011 - Three items(updated).  1.  Do you think your ebook cover image is so awesome it deserves to win awards?  Then enter your cover in Joel Friedlander's ebook cover design contest 2.  Author Anne R. Allen has coined a hilarious new term, Snookiebooks, to describe celebrity books.  Read her original blog post here3.  Several folks have asked what's happening with ScrollMotion.  So far, not much.  For the full run-down, Dana Lynn Smith of Savvy Book Marketer asked me this question in an interview last week where I provided a detailed answer.  Once there are further updates, I'll add them here.

September 18, 2011 - Greetings from Morro Bay, CA, where I just wrapped up three panels and one keynote at the 27th Annual Central Coast Writer's Conference.  Great conference.  Met hundreds of fabulous writers, including many current and future Smashwords authors.  It's really interesting to see how opinions about self publishing have evolved over the last three or so years since I've been attending writers conferences.  A few years ago, conferences tended to approach self-publishing topics with trepidation or disdain.  My sense now is enthusiasm and optimism, not just among new authors but traditionally published authors as well.  Traditionally published best-sellers like Jonathan Maberry (he was the event's star keynote on the opening day) are jazzed about the new opportunities.  Jonathan loves his editors at his multiple publishers (this, btw, is what all Big Publishers must do to earn and deserve their relationships with authors), yet he sees an opportunity to straddle both worlds of traditional and indie, and use his indie efforts to support his traditional.  That's the way I see it as well.  The two worlds aren't necessarily an either/or proposition.  The most important thing is that the power in the publishing industry is shifting to authors.  It's the author's choice.  Authors can now focus their energies on writing the best work they can, and no longer need lose sleep over whether or not their work will see the light of day.  The writer has the power, thanks to the self-publishing option, to decide when they graduate from writer to published author.  Very exciting.  I uploaded my presentation to Slideshare.  It's titled, Five Big Trends to Rock Your World.  As you'll see, it draws upon some of my previous presentations and adds some new material.  Interesting note:  One multi-published author told me she attended a writers conference in Tennessee the other week where one of the speakers called ebooks a "passing fad."  Ha!  She said she couldn't believe her ears.  Change is fun.  Next up on the schedule:  Two events in Los Angeles.  Oh, and one more note about Jonathan Maberry.  In his keynote, he shared an important aspect of his social media strategy: maintain positivity.  He's out there to support his fellow writers, not rip them down.  Brilliant.  You'd think this is plain common sense, yet all too often I see writers engaged in online spats, or worse, you'll see cowards hiding behind the cloak of anonymity to cast aspersions against others.  Negativity is poison, so avoid it.  The most inspiring thing for me about these writers conferences is the positive energy.  It's all about writers helping writers.

September 14, 2011 -  Two items.  1.  NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry ran an interview with me yesterday on his blog, which you can access here.  He's also now a Smashwords author (view his author page here), which is totally cool.   Jonathan is the keynote speaker at this weekend's big Central Coast Writers' Conference in San Luis Obispo, CA.  2.  On the road again.  I'm kicking off a crazy run of conferences and workshops.  The list follows.  I look forward to seeing some of you on the road.  First off, I'll be at the aforementioned Central Coast Writers' conference this weekend.  I'm participating in two panels, giving my Seven Secrets talk, and then doing a wrap up keynote where I'll talk about some the topics I summarized in the interview above.  From SLO, I'm headed to Los Angeles to speak at a Writer's Guide of America workshop next Tuesday alongside authors Lee Goldberg (on Smashwords) and Alexandra Sokoloff (also on Smashwords).  Then the following night, I'm doing an ebook publishing seminar sponsored by the Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance.  The following week I'm in New York to speak at the Ebooks for Everyone Else conference which is produced by Mike Shatzkin of IdeaLogical and Michael Cader of PublishersLunch.  For the remainder of the week I'm meeting with literary agents and maybe some media to spread the word about indie ebooks and why ya'll are so dang awesome that you're the future captains of publishing.  If you're not dizzy from my schedule yet, I am because it's not over.  After NY, I take a break for leaf-peeping in Vermont (happy to connect with any writers groups if you're within the triangle of Warren, Burlington and Montpelier!), and then it's off to Florida to speak at the Novelists, Inc. Annual Conference.  Then it's back to the Bay Area where I'll be doing a four-hour workshop on ebook publishing sponsored by South Bay Writers (view the PDF here) on October 29.  Two days later, the Ebooks for Everyone Else conference comes to San Francisco, so I'll be a panelist at that event as well.   Lest I forget, don't miss Bill Kendrick, our brave CTO, who will speak at  LitQuake in San Francisco on October 10 starting at 5:00pm titled, Want That Book Published? How to Navigate the New World of Publishing.

September 11, 2011 - Three items.  1.  Our retail partner Diesel has launched a new ebook retailer, eBook Eros, now in beta, where they focus exclusively on romance and erotica.  If you're already opted in to Diesel, your books will automatically flow to them.  If not, opt in to Diesel and reach two for one.  Same earnings-share level as all other Smashwords retailers - 60% to you - and no discounting.  Sales from them will show up in your Sales & Payments report as Diesel sales.  I often hear complaints from Smashwords authors about the low sales at Diesel.  They're a small independent retailer, so yes, their sales are low, but they've been steadily trending higher each month.  Although they have a long way to go before they're the size of a Sony or Kobo, that's not really the point.  The benefit of broad distribution to multiple large, mid-size and smaller retailers is that sales add up in the aggregate.  Each sale at each retailer is usually a sale you would not have had otherwise.   2.  A Smashwords author published the three billionth word yesterday.  I posted some thoughts on this over at the Smashwords Blog.  My thanks to all of you for making this happen.  Congrats.  3.  On this ten year anniversary of 9/11, here's wishing peace, prosperity and happiness for everyone around the globe.  Over at the Smashwords Facebook page, there's a post where folks are sharing their thoughts on 9/11.  Feel free to join the thread at http://www.facebook.com/Smashwords

September 10, 2011 - Two and a half items.  1.  Thanks to all the Smashwords authors and publishers who kindly took the time to write blog posts sharing their Smashwords publishing tips and tricks for the benefit of fellow authors.  The collection of 31 posts is now up at the Smashwords Blog.  Please take a moment to review and comment on some of the submissions.  If you know fellow authors who might benefit from the collection, please pass it along to them.  I enjoyed reading the posts, some of which were quite funny.  It was also interesting to learn more about some of the amazing authors at Smashwords.  For example, check out the story of Dennis Blanchard who, after hiking 600 miles of the Appalachian trail (I've always dreamed of doing this!), stopped to have heart surgery on six valves.  After 300 days of recovery, he got back on the trail and finished it.  And then he wrote a book titled, Three Hundred Zeros, which you'll find on Smashwords.  Oh, and you'll find his post in my collection.  2.  Find Smashwords logos, buttons and banner ads over at the Smashwords Image Repository (fancy name for a blog).  I posted some old banner ads this morning from a couple years ago.  Use 'em on your blog or web site if you like.  My favorite:  "Reject the Rejection Letter."   2.5  Have you watched Melissa Conway's video yet, mentioned in my September 4 update below?  I've had her lyrics, "Buy my book!  Buy my book!  On Smashwords, Kindle, iPad and Nook," stuck in my head all week.  It's a catchy ditty!

September 4, 2011 - Update:  Must watch.  Smashwords author Melissa Conway made this hilarious video, The Self-Publishers Lament.  Happy Labor Day Weekend to our American authors, publishers and customers.  To those of you around the world who have entrusted your publishing and distribution to Smashwords, we honor your hard work and hope you enjoy a safe and happy weekend.  The Smashwords team will return to the office on Tuesday.

September 3, 2011 - We made a minor update to our Apple pricing algorithms so they better reflect the author's pricing intentions.  As most Smashwords authors and publishers know, Apple prices in $.99 increments for US, Canadian and Australian dollars, and in .49 and .99 increments for Pounds and Euros.  These increments map to tiers, and then each tier (Tier 1, Tier 2, etc.) maps to a specific price in each Apple store.   If you price your book in USD outside a $.99 increment, we've always increased your price at Apple to next highest .99 increment, and then we mapped that to one of Apple's pricing tiers.  Our new algorithms now look for those cases where the new foreign currency price was lower than the USD price, were you to translate the pounds or Euros back to dollars, and in such instances we step you up to a higher price point.   This new feature will help prevent Amazon price-matching and ensure that the price is never lower than your USD price.  This is the first small step in several planned enhancements to give authors and publishers more control over their foreign currency pricing.  A future iteration of this will allow you to set the price in each individual currency or market, based on the rules of the retailers.  If you'd like to view your book in the different international Apple stores, you'll find the trick here:  https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#apple

September 2, 2011 - Two items:   1.  Please join me in welcoming the newest member to the Smashwords team, Henry House!  Henry joins the tech team working with Bill and Dmitriy.  These guys are the software programming magicians who create, manage and maintain the complex technology that powers everything about the Smashwords platform.  We have over 400 items on our development roadmap, and our expanded development team will help us accelerate some of our development plans.  Immediate priorities over the next few months:  a.  Faster sales reporting.  b.  Improved web site performance.  c.  Multiple new distribution partners and sales geographies.  d.  Revamp of our home page search options (Romance and Fantasy search options are buggy, for example).   It's tough to believe that Smashwords has grown to 11 employees now, up from three a year ago.   2.  Deadline is tomorrow (Saturday) to participate in our "Share Your Smashwords Smarts" promotion over at the Smashwords blog.  Simply write a blog post to help fellow writers publish faster and easier with Smashwords.  Earn yourself one of our limited edition cobalt blue Smashwords mugs.  Click here to learn more.

August 26, 2011 - Share your Smashwords smarts and earn a cool shiny Smashwords coffee mug for your trouble.  See my post over at the Smashwords Blog for how to participate.  Write a blog post to help fellow authors publish quickly and easily publish at Smashwords and earn yourself a collectors edition mug, commemorating our 65,000th title published.  If it's a quality post, I'll feature it in future Smashwords blog post where I'll list your blog post in a collection of posts titled, "Smashwords Authors and Publishers Share their Ebook Publishing Tips and Tricks."

August 25, 2011 - Three items:  1.  Amazon update.  Amazon's previous target to start accepting our books was September.  The new date is "end of year." Why the delay?  Amazon is developing a bulk upload facility that will allow Smashwords to create a tight integration between our systems, similar to what we already have in place with all our other retailers.  Since the development effort is on Amazon's side, it's subject to further delays that are outside our control.  Obviously, it's frustrating for us because we have thousands of books ready to ship to them once they can support such large quanties and automated updating.  In the meantime, rather than waiting forever, we have begun doing manual test uploads of a small set of brave Smashwords authors, mostly best-sellers.  The test has worked reasonably well, though early participants may see delayed sales reporting (though they will not experience delayed payments, since this we hold as our sacred trust to always pay what's owed and on time) and metadata updates.  We're considering expanding this program further in late September.  We'll probably roll it out in tiers.  Since it's a slow, manual process (read: Expensive) on our end, we'll roll out this offering in waves.  The first wave will be offered to Smashwords authors who have earned over $2,000 across our distribution network since first publishing at Smashwords.  Subsequent waves may offer lower thresholds.  The terms will be essentially the same as for our other retailers - 85% of what Amazon pays us we'll pay you.  They pay us 70% for books priced $2.99-$9.99, and 35% for other points, so we'll pay 60% and 30%.  If you're a member of the $2,000+ club, and you'd prefer to consolidate your Amazon distribution through Smashwords, please click the "?" question mark button and the support team of Raylene/Angela will forward your message to me.  2.  The tech team has been making various database tweaks over the last few days to increase site performance.  3.  As a follow-up to my June 25 update, if you're using more than 12 tags per book, please reduce your number of tags down to no more than 12.  Tags are intended to provide readers and search engines additional discovery opportunities.  Choose discovery terms not already covered by your book's metadata (categorization, title, author name, or book description).  Each tag should consist of a single word, or a two or three word term, but should not include multiple tags or long strings of words.  Adjust your tags at Dashboard: Settings.  We may soon start enforcing this by limiting tags to 12.  Why?  1.  We want to discourage tag spam so that readers have more relevant search results.  2.  We don't want Google to penalize all Smashwords authors for the actions of a spammy few.  3.  This will help us further optimize site performance (search speed and page load performance).  Thanks for your help.

August 13, 2011 - We've been discouraging people for a long time from choosing the Premium ISBN in the ISBN Manager.   It's $9.95, and although it's much cheaper than purchasing a single ISBN at Bowker, the only benefit is it lists your name in the Bowker Books In Print Database.  But is that really a benefit?  As we've mentioned before, most of the benefit is limited to vanity, primarily because customers don't use the database for book discovery.  Only one of our retailers (Sony) even looks at the Bowker data.  Now comes another reason not to choose it.  A few Smashwords authors who selected the Premium ISBN have reported to us that once they're in the Bowker database, they begin receiving direct mail solicitations from publishing services companies. A couple authors throught the solicitations were coming from Smashwords.  They weren't.  They were coming from direct marketers scraping the information from the public Bowker database.  We have a strict privacy policy at Smashwords, and we don't sell or rent your contact information to anyone.  We do, however, collect your postal mailing address if you choose the Premium ISBN so that information can complete of your Bowker publisher record.  On my suggestion, the most recent author contacted Bowker and asked if they could remove their mailing address from the Bowker database.  She was told the only way to erase the mailing address from the record was for her to either unpublish the book or tell Bowker she had gone out of business (!!!).  Neither is a satisfactory solution.  If you choose the FREE ISBN, we don't collect your mailing address and therefore you avoid becoming the target of direct marketers.  I added a note about this in the ISBN Manager.

August 11, 2011 - Our hosting service had a few hours of network trouble late last night (Pacific time). Our servers were humming along, with noone to talk to. Sorry for the inconvenience! -bill! (CTO)

August 7, 2011 - Two more marketing ideas, both of which I'll probably add to a future edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.  1. Yesterday, I mentioned how LinkedIn allows you add links to your ebooks in your LinkedIn profile under "Publications."  I forgot to mention that Google+, Google's hot new social network, also allows you to list publications in your profile, though they don't call it such.  If you're on Google+, click to your profile, then click to edit your "About" page and it'll let you create such a listing.  Here's how I did it for my Google+ profile:  https://plus.google.com/104004113006827265832/about    Separately, they have a "Custom Links" feature where you can add links to your other online presences, so I added my direct links for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the Smashwords Blog and my Smashwords author page.  All these links make you and your books more accessible and discoverable.  2.  Are you familiar with SlideShare.net?  I LOVE Slideshare.  They're somewhat similar to Smashwords, but for Powerpoint presentations and other documents.  I started using them two years ago to publicly share the PowerPoints from the talks and workshops I do at conferences.  I've also used them occassionally for PowerPoints created for the sole purpose of sharing on SlideShare and to embed in the Smashwords Blog.  You can access the complete library of my Smashwords presentations on the Smashwords SlideShare page.  One of the cool things about Slideshare is that not only does the site itself get a fair amount of traffic, it has a cool embed feature that allows your friends and fans to embed your presentation on their websites and blogs (much in the same way people can embed YouTube videos).  Here's my idea on how Smashwords authors and publishers can take advantage of SlideShare:  Consider creating multiple PowerPoint decks that offer fans and potential readers additional insight into you and your books.  Imagine you're doing a presentation about you and your books at your local library, then create that presentation and put it up.  At the end of each of my presentations, I add hyperlinks to where viewers can learn more about Smashwords, or connect with me via the various social networks, or email me direct.  Obviously, I'm out there promoting ebooks, ebook education and Smashwords, but you can promote yourself and your books.  Or, share what you've learned about e-publishing and share it with your fellow writers.  Maybe create a presentation on ebook formatting tips, or how to design a great cover, or share your own ebook marketing tips.  The point is, just get yourself out there in as many places as possible.  Share your smarts.  Ebook buyers (or whomever you want to reach or help) consume all forms of media.  These SlideShare presentations are just another form of media.  Once you get your presentation up and out there, it's a perpetual calling card, waiting to be stumbled upon by someone looking to consume the information you presented.  Over time, it's likely you'll get dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of views (Slideshare tracks the views for you) depending on the quality of your content and how well you promote it (Hmmm, just like ebooks!).  You could even consider it a poor-man's version of a video book trailer.  Do a PowerPoint book trailer for your book, embed it in your blog or website, promote it across your social networks, and at the end of the book offer a Smashwords coupon code (set an expiration date that's far in the future if you want it available for a long time).  Have fun!  The presentation I posted yesterday titled, The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap has already had over 1,600 views in about 30 hours.  I'm blown away by that.  It's tough to wrap my head around the idea that 1,600 people looked at presentation intended for literary agents.  I would have been thrilled if only 100 people viewed it.  How many of us would jump at the opportunity to give a presentation before 100 people?  SlideShare lets you do it without the stage fright.  SlideShare also tells you which other sites or blogs have embeded your presentation, and how many views they've generated.  I see Smashwords author J. Alexander Greenwood did a blog post at his blog, AlexanderG Whiz PR Blog referencing my blog post, and he embeded the presentation.  It's generated 28 views as of this moment.  Thanks, Alex!  By embedding the presentation, Alex also gains his blog a small amount of reciprocal exposure on my SlideShare page because the page shows all the blogs that embedded the presentation.  Last November (see the November 21, 2010 post below), I did an impromptu promotion for another Smashwords SlideShare presentation that was a simple eight page backgrounder on Smashwords.  For every Smashwords author who embedded the presentation in their blog or website, I offered to add a reciprocol link to their site in the Smashwords blog.  88 authors participated (click here to see them).  That presentation, thanks to the efforts of Smashwords authors, has been viewed over 7,000 times.  Wow.  Consider how you might involve your readers to help spread the word about your books.  This tip won't singlehandedly turn you into a bestseller, but it will help build your platform.  Some of the readers you reach might become lifelong fans, and your fellow authors you help may become a long term friends who will want to help you in the future as well.  We're all in this together.  Connect with readers and help your fellow authors.

August 6, 2011 - Two items.  1.  The new adult filter is live and operational.  First time visitors to the site will be automatically opted out of content labeled "Adult" by the author/publisher.  Visitors can easily opt-in by clicking the ON/OFF toggle link in the upper right corner of the page.  This replaces the previous "Prude Filter."   For the many tens of thousands of registered users of Smashwords, the new filter doesn't affect their previous filter settings.  I posted about the new Adult Filter at the Smashwords Blog2.  Marketing opportunity.  Do you use LinkedIn?  If so, log in to your LinkedIn account, click "Profile," then click "Edit Profile," and then see option for "Publications" which lets you add listings and hyperlinks to your Smashwords ebooks.  It's easiest if you open up two browser windows, so one is open to your LinkedIn profile and the other is open to your Smashwords Author/Publisher page (click "My Smashwords") and then you can copy and paste the info from Smashwords to LinkedIn one by one.  The easy way to copy over the hyperlink to your book page is to right mouse click on your Smashwords book page's title listing, then click "copy hyperlink."  To see how it appears on your LinkedIn profile, you can view my LinkedIn profile here:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/markcoker

August 5, 2011 - Several literary agencies have begun using Smashwords for ebook publishing and distribution.  Today, I posted a new SlideShare presentation titled The Literary Agent's Indie Ebook Roadmap.  See the Smashwords blog post for more, and to learn why this trend is good news for all indies.

August 4, 2011 - Per August 1 update below, we sent out an additional round of PayPal payments today.  Checks go out next.

August 3, 2011 - Five items.  1.  Welcome Jim Azevedo to the Smashwords team!  Jim will head up our marketing and PR activities.  2.  The Smashwords Style Guide has been updated with improved instructions for ToC-building, controlling your NCX, and building intra-book links for footnotes and endnotes.  3.  Kobo is still very backlogged.  Expect multi-week delays for new books to appear there.  All other retail channels are operating normally. For Apple, we're beginning to experiment with more frequent shipments.  4.  Speaking of backlog, the Premium Catalog review process which was running a 2 1/2 week backlog a month ago is now back under one week (Congrats to our new vetting team hires, they're doing great!).  Our next goal is to shrink the time-to-review down to 2-4 days.  5.  Expect continued delays in support inquiry responses as we train new staffers.  Please don't email me direct for support help because my personal email box is even more backlogged since I'm focused on training.  I'm preparing to leave on vacation next week which is all more reason not to contact me direct if you need urgent help.  Our support is provided by live people in our Los Gatos office (not outsourced) and the training is a months-long process.  Once the team is fully up and running, we'll be able to provide faster responses than ever to your support inquiries.  Thanks for your patience as we grow our capability to serve you!

August 1, 2011 - Two items.  1. Payments have gone out, but we made a mistake.  Apple sales for May, which we intended to include in these payments, weren't included.  We're recalculating what's due and will issue supplemental payments asap.  2.  (This item removed.  I received overwhelming response to my offer to consider more folks for my "Mark's List" list of Smashwords formatters.  Unable to accomodate them all.  Will consider adding more in a few months).

July 30, 2011 - Prequel backfires.  I was browsing over at Amazon this morning and was surprised to run across a hoard of scathing reviews for Jason Pinter's The Hunter.  Pinter's a well-respected indie author, yet readers were merciless on him.  Reviewers there were incensed that his book is labeled a novella only to discover after downloading it that it's an incomplete teaser "prequel" for another book.  Even though it's a free download, they're angry.  Sample reviews:  1.  "This is a sample passed as the full thing. I will never buy from this shady author."  2.  "Misrepresentation of a real book. If I want a sample, I can do that with any kindle book. I don't want a sneak sample. If the real version of this book becomes a NY Times best seller, I will still NEVER BUY IT. This practice really irks me." We hear the same thing from customers at Smashwords.  They value their time more than their money, and when they download an ebook they expect it to be complete with a beginning, middle and end.   If they see an author trying to divide a novel in multiple serialized $.99 chunks, they feel as if the author's trying to take advantage.   Do ebook buyers prefer full length books?  The two highest-earning authors this quarter at Smashwords are Amanda Hocking, who writes paranormal romance, and Brian S. Pratt, who writes epic fantasy.  Both of them write full-length books.   Amanda's titles average 80,000 words or more.  The seven titles in Brian's epic Morcyth Saga series average 145,000 each.  Each.  You might call Brian's books double full-length.  It's paying off for him.  If you missed my interview with Brian last December, check it out here.  In that interview, I predicted he was on track to earn over $100,000 in 2011 at Smashwords.  I was wrong.  It'll be a lot more.  He prices his series starter at FREE and the other six titles go for $5.95.  Financial success isn't the only measure of success, yet it is a good measure for reader satisfaction and reader excitement.  As I peruse the list of highest grossing authors this quarter, a strong trend emerges:  Ebook buyers prefer full-length.  In the months ahead, I plan to crunch the numbers and share more granular sales data broken down by book length and price.   The exception to this potential long-book rule:  Erotica. 

July 29, 2011 - Five items.  1.  Author/publisher payments are almost ready to go out, on schedule.  My thanks to Bill and Keri for their herculean effort.  Each quarter, the numbers get bigger and bigger, and more complex.  This quarter, we're actually paying some retailer proceeds earlier than promised.  2.  These are the last three days of the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale.  Now's the time to do your final marketing push to fans and friends across your social networks.  3.  Our expanded vetting team is doing great.  Have I mentioned we've increased Smashwords employees to nine from six in the last 40 days?  The Premium Catalog backlog has dropped from 2 1/2 weeks to under a week, and we're going to drop it even further.  Our theme for the next six months:  faster-faster-faster.  4.  Please expect continued delays on some support inquiries over the next couple months as I transition this responsibility to Raylene and Angela.   Here's how you can help us:  Before you write us, please carefully check the FAQ and Style Guide because 99% of what we know and what we can tell you is captured in those two resources. When you do write us, make sure you're logged in to your account and you click the "?" question mark button at the top of every page.  This attaches your account info and protects your security.   5.  Coming to the Style Guide:  new tips on how to prevent footnote/endnote/intra-book links from being picked up in the EPUB's NCX.  If you name your bookmarks starting with ref_xxx where "xxx" = your bookmark name, Meatgrinder will ignore the link when constructing the EPUB's NCX file.  When Meatgrinder sees a bookmark name that stars with "ref_" it ignores it for the NCX, but still activates it as a working intra-book link.  I'll add further details in a Style Guide update in the next week.

July 25, 2011 - Three items.  1.  We're preparing record quarterly payments that will go out at the end of this month.  Gobs of virtual cash are now in transit from our bank to PayPal in preparation for payments.  Every quarter, a few authors don't receive their checks or Paypal payments because their payment information is out of date.  Please click to your Payee profile now to ensure your payee information is accurate.  The threshold for PayPal payment is only $10.00, and the threshold for paper checks (available to US authors/publishers only) is still $75.00.  For a refresher on how your earnings are calculated, see our Royalty FAQ.    2. Adult filter imminent.  Very soon, we will activate adult filtering as the default site setting for the home page and search listings pages.  Essentially, what you now know as the Prude Filter will became the default setting, and we'll call it the Adult Filter.  "Prude Filter" has always been an inadequate label because it has always filtered out all adult content, not just erotica content.  Why are we doing this? Children and teens visit Smashwords.com, and the reason our authors voluntarily label their books as Adult is that this content and cover imagery is inappropriate for kids.  Some of our adult books and cover images are also offensive to some, even to non-prudes such as myself.  Although we're huge believers in free speech, we don't believe every person has an obligation to have someone else's free speech forced upon them.  Adult content will still be available.  Simply opt in if you haven't already opted in.  Make sure your browser allows cookies, otherwise your setting will not be remembered on subsequent visits.  3.  There's a big kerfluffle in the news today about Apple forcing competing ebook stores to remove their "buy" links from their Apple ebook apps.   It's a punch in the gut for our partners Kobo and B&N who have apps on Apple devices, but it's unlikely to significantly harm their businesses.  Amazon is more likely the primary target of Apple's rule anyway.   I can understand why Apple would do this.  Apple invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create, market and support their amazing devices, and they want to operate their own bookstore on their device, and they want these competitiors to pay rent.  I admit, I feel the same way when I see an author publish a free book on Smashwords and then try to link all their readers to Amazon to purchase their paid books (put the paid books on Smashwords so customers can purchase them here!).  I don't hear anyone asking if Amazon would gladly allow Apple to sell books on the Kindle (ok, there, I just heard myself ask it).  If anyone ever doubted Apple's desire to become a major player in ebook retailing, doubt no more.  What does it mean for Smashwords authors and publishers?  There's a captive audience of approximately 200 million Apple iOS (iOS is Apple's operating system that powers the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices) users.  The news means that the Apple iBookstore just became a lot more important to the distribution strategies of indie authors and publishers.  Smashwords distributes over 40,000 titles to Apple.  They've been a great friend to our authors and publishers.  Do you have an author friend with books not yet on Apple?  Click the "Invite Friends" link in the upper right corner of your screen and invite them to join Smashwords today. 

July 21, 2011 - Three items.  1.  Only ten more days left in the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale.  The sale has driven record sales and made a lot of readers happy.  Congrats to everyone doing such a great job promoting their titles.  2.  Style Guide humor.  Smashwords authors are a creative bunch.  I enjoyed Smashwords author Brian Meek's fun blog post where he urges his fellow authors to follow the Smashwords Style Guide.  In his post, he shares his interpretation of the Style Guide's message:  Follow our instructions.  Seriously, I’m not kidding.  I don’t care if you are a publishing expert with 20 years experience, follow the damn instructions.  There is one exception.  For those who want to fail, spend 300% more time on the formatting, and have no fear of being driven terminally insane, and are generally narcissistic bastards, you may do as you please.  For the rest of you, follow the instructions. Repeat after me, “I will follow the instructions in the style guide or have a pox upon my house.”  Now say it 37 times, turn around and hop on one leg.   3.   Changes are afoot at Smashwords.  The training for the vetting team is proceeding well.  The Premium Catalog backlog is dropping, even though over 6,500 new titles have been released on Smashwords in the last 30 days (yay!!!).   I'm also training Raylene and Angela to manage the "?" question mark button where we field support inquiries that until now have been managed by yours truly.  I'll always continue to jump in there and answer questions myself because your questions and comments help me identify areas where we can improve the Smashwords experience.  We listen very carefully to your kudos, suggestions and complaints, even if we're unable to act on them immediately.  Reminder:  Even though you know our direct email addresses, it's always best to log in to your account and then contact us over the "?" question mark button, because this attaches your account information to the inquiry and help us address your issue.  It also protects the security of your account by preventing unauthorized persons from requesting changes to your account.

July 19, 2011 - Carpet bombing.  We've seen a few instances over the last couple days where authors' book pages have been carpet bombed by swarms of one-star reviews obviously intended to damage the book's overall ratings.  We have deleted the offender's accounts.   See the Terms of Service for review guidelines.  Some of the victims have been concerned that these reviews are sponsored by fellow authors who are trying to get a leg up in the highest-rated reviews listings.  It's also possible these reviews were perpetrated by over-zealous fans who are trying to harm one author for the benefit of another.  If we discover that an author or associates of an author are creating strawman accounts for the sole purpose of harming fellow authors' rankings with malicious reviews, we'll delete their books and accounts.  No tolerance for such shenanigans. Folks, we're all in this together.  Be nice, stay ethical.

July 17, 2011 - A few weekend updates:  1.  I'm thrilled with the quick progress our new vetting team trainees are making.  The backlog is declining.  Soon, we'll have the capability to manually review over 1,000 books a day.  It'll probably still be a few weeks before the backlog is eliminated, but you should see steady progress.  2.  The Thurs/Fri shipment to B&N was delayed until Mon/Tues as we await some information from B&N.  3.  There was a 25 minute site outage last night from around 12:20am to 1:00am Pacific.  4.  Trust issues.  Last September, I did a blog post titled, The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Failure.  Yes, Failure.  It's just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do.  Secret #7 was, failing to trust your partners.  Every week, I see authors shoot themselves in the foot and limit their future sales opportunities simply due to trust issues.  Some recent examples of why authors have unpublished their books from Smashwords, or removed them from certain BIG retailers like Apple or B&N:  My book had 25 sample downloads in two weeks but no sales; my friend bought my book last week at [insert BIG retailer here] and the sale isn't reported in my Dashboard; I've been on Smashwords for six months, you owe me $7.00 and you've never paid me; I'm selling five copies of my book a month at Amazon so there's no way I haven't sold any at Smashwords.  If these self-destructive decisions weren't so common, I wouldn't mention them here.  Yet I'm a believer in the old maxim that says for every support email we receive, 10 or 20 other people are wondering the same thing.  Maybe they haven't yet progressed to front-of-mind paranoid obsession.  Yet the seeds are lingering there dormant, waiting for the slightest provocation to push the concerned author over the edge to self-immolation.  My advice:  Drop the paranoia.  Few of us will sell as many books as we think we deserve to sell (I think my novel Boob Tube deserves to be read by one million people, but I'm probably wrong).  Trust but verify.  If it helps you sleep better at night, be a mystery shopper.  Once a quarter or once a year, buy your book at one of our retailers and wait for the sales reports to flow through to us.  Read the instructions in the Sales and Payments report and understand that some sales reports are delayed.  Trust that you will always be paid what you're owed and when you're owed it. This is our sacred trust, and it's a sacred trust shared by all our retail partners.  None of us would stay in business very long if we breached the trust.  Of course, if you possess hard evidence (a purchase receipt) of an unreported sale, present it to us so we can investigate it.  If you can trust and have confidence that your partners are here to help you, you can focus your mental energies on more productive endeavors like implementing the Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.

July 14, 2011 - We acquired 50,000 ISBNs, available FREE in the ISBN Manager as an exclusive service to authors, publishers and agents who publish and distribute their ebooks with Smashwords.  More at the Smashwords Blog.

July 11, 2011 - Please expect slower than normal response times over the next couple weeks to the "?" question mark button inquiries as we train new staff.  Thanks for your patience.

July 8, 2011 - Two updates:  1.  Please join me in welcoming two new vetters to the team who start on Monday, Angela and Aaron.  The Premium Catalog review queue is backlogged, so over the next two months you'll see that backlog diminish as we train the new team. It's a long training process, so the queue may get worse before it gets better.   2.  ISBN update.  We're awaiting final sign-off on our new contract with Bowker.  Early next week is the new target for the new FREE ISBNs to be available.  I don't recommend the "Premium" ISBNs, they're not worth it.  I'll update here when I have more news.

July 2, 2011 - Email glitch.  Yesterday I mentioned we're re-grinding MOBI files to take advantage of the recent Meatgrinder improvements.  There was a glitch yesterday that apparently caused Meatgrinder to send out conversion failure notices to many authors.  Many of you were surprised to receive the messages because you hadn't uploaded new files for conversion.  Please disregard the messages unless you were actually uploading new files for conversion yesterday.  Sorry for the confusion.  You can always check the status of your book, and identify any next steps, by clicking the link under the "Premium Status" column in your Dashboard.

July 1, 2011 - Two items:  1.  Bowker expects to have a signed contract to us by Tuesday (Monday is the July 4 holiday here in the US), at which point we should be able to receive and integrate the new batch of FREE ISBNs by next Thursday.  I'll update further if things change.  2.  We're regrinding many MOBI files to take advantage of the new and improved Meatgrinder blades. 

June 30, 2011 - We're kicking off our annual July Summer/Winter sale tomorrow.  It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter on the southern end of the globe, so what better excuse than to have a sale for beach reads and fireplace reads.   There will be four coupon categories:  free, 25%-off, 50%-off and 75%-off.  Enroll here

June 27, 2011 - A few items:  1.  Site performance:  We improved it a few notches today, but we're still working to improve things further.  Between 2am and 3am Pacific time tonight (technically tomorrow) we'll have a brief outage for maintenance, during which time we might show you a cute kitten napping.  Twitter has their Fail Whale, so why not a cuddly kitten?  2.  Meatgrinder updates:  We made some tweaks to Meatgrinder today that fixed bugs and make Meatgrinder's automatic NCX generation more robust.  3.  ISBNs: We're acquiring 50,000 new ISBNs and hope to have them integrated and ready for assignment within seven days.  4.  Several authors emailed us plaintive messages such as, "will performance ever get better, or is this the way it'll always be?"  No worries.  We hit a wall, and if you browse through the last couple years of Site Updates below, you'll see we've hit and successfully surpassed many walls.  As our catalog and traffic continues to grow, we'll likely hit many more bumps along the road.  Growth is a good problem to have.  Thanks for your patience, and thanks for coming along for the ride.

June 25, 2011 - Six items:  1.  Our FREE ISBNs are sold out (or, I should say, all given away) so we'll work with Bowker to acquire another allotment asap.  In the meantime, you can continue to attach ISBNs you purchased independently from Bowker, or you can acquire our $9.95 "Premium ISBN" which, btw, I don't recommend since our free ones are FREE.  Save your money and wait for the free ones to return.   2.  The site has been super-slow now for about six days.  We're working on it.   3.  The vetting team is backlogged so please expect delays as we staff up and train.  To maximize your odds of approval on the first review, please download your .epub and open it in Adobe Digital Editions.  Fix problems you identify so your file is completely clean by the time the vetting team looks at it.  You will not lose your place in the queue when you make such updates and corrections.  4.  For those of us who keep track, Smashwords authors and publishers have released 6,400 ebooks in the last 30 days.  The catalog now stands at 56,543 titles.  5.  Tip:  If you have more than 10 tags attached to your book, you're probably tag spamming.  Google doesn't like that, and it also makes your book page look ugly.   Please limit your tags to no more than 10.  Adjust at Dashboard: Settings.  6.  Speaking of spam, there has been a lot in the news lately about spam books appearing at Amazon (see stories here, here and here).  It's a challenge not only at Amazon, but for all of us.  At Smashwords, we're always on the lookout for PLR spam and other works that don't meet our originality requirements.  Between AutoVetter and our vetting team, we catch most of it, yet the best line of defense is you, the Smashwords author, publisher or reader.  If you spot suspicious books, click the "Report Book" link.  What's suspicious?  Here's what to look for:  PLR books typically have common "signatures," or, possibly a better way to look at is that they have a stench about them.  Common characteristics usually (but not always) include:  Pseudo 3-D cover images, covers without author names, poor formatting, sloppy metadata and generic non-fiction topics.  To confirm it's PLR, copy a short but unique text string out of the book, such as, "Mary had a purple lamb," and then paste it in quotes into Google and do a search.  If the same sentence fragment appears at multiple other non-book sites or article sites, click the Google cache link to determine if the surrounding content is also word per word the same or similar.  If it's the same content, and the writer name on the web site doesn't match the author name at Smashwords, you probably found PLR.   We have zero tolerance for books derived from PLR, and that includes books that utilize even a single paragraph of PLR for source material.  We delete such accounts without warning and per the Terms of Service, any earnings are forfeited.  Another problem we've seen is people who steal free erotica stories from sites such as Literotica and then post the stories at Smashwords under their own name.  This is similarly simple to catch using the Google tricks above.  PLR content, and other undifferentiated non-original content represent a threat to every legitimate indie author because PLR devalues books, and clutters retailer shelves with mediocre content.  Often, I've observed that we'll delete PLR content and the scammers will simply upload it direct to Amazon or Pubit.  I'd like to give a shout out to soon-to-be-Smashwords-author Catana who wins the prize for helping us spot and eliminate the most Private Label Rights spam.  Working together, we can make PLR unprofitable for the scammers.

June 21, 2011 - Kobo update:  Continuing my notes below, Kobo has asked us to throttle (limit) the shipments to only a few thousand new titles per week until they're caught up because they're unable to deal with the volume.  Considering their multi-month backlog of unloaded titles prior to the complete catalog regrind, it means a small number of books will face shipment delays of up to eight or nine weeks, and half of the books will ship within 4-5 weeks.  We're shipping three times a week to them, 1,000 at a time, so some of you are already starting to appear there.   For the intermediate term, this means newly approved Premium Catalog titles are likely to appear at Kobo much later than other retailers.  Apple is the fastest retailer to load our titles (usually within hours of our shipment for non-erotica books).  B&N, Sony and Diesel usually load quite quickly after we ship.

June 21, 2011 - Conversations...  Michael Wolf of GigaOm interviewed me for his Elitzer podcast at http://elitzr.com/elitzr-13-mark-coker/  We talked about a wide range of issues. The general theme was how the power of publishing is shifting to indie authors and small publishers, and how the indies can out-compete the legacy publishers.  Smashwords authors Brian S. Pratt, Ruth Ann Nordin, Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler all mentioned during the discussion.  SAVE THE DATE:   This Thursday at 10am Pacific, I'm participating in a free O'Reilly webcast titled, What Big Publishers can Learn from Self-Publishers.  Learn more over at the Smashwords Blog.

June 18, 2011 - Security tips of the day:  Smashwords author Mary Anne Graham passed along this news story on the dangers of reusing passwords.    Recently an online writers community called Writerspace was hacked, and the criminals stole 62,000 email addresses and passwords and posted them online.  The hacking group, which calles itself Lulzsec, challenged other hackers to investigate if these people were using the same email address/password combinations at other services.  It's fairly common for people to use the same password at every site or service.  However, this is not a smart or secure thing to do.  Thus, my security tips of the day:  1.  If you're using the same email address/password combination everywhere, don't.  Use different passwords everywhere.  2.  It's a good idea to change your passwords every six months or so.  To change your password at Smashwords, click the "logout" button at the bottom of any page, then on the upper right portion of the page you'll see a "forgot password?" link.  Click it, and it'll give you the option to create a new password.  3.  If you don't have a good security software package installed, do it now.  There are various good free offerings that provide solid basic protection, with options to upgrade to paid versions (not necessary).  Some good options are AVG Free or Avast! I like AVG Free because it has a cool feature called LinkScanner that warns you of dangerous hyperlinks in search engine results or on other websites.  Another good one is called Malwarebytes.  It's important to remember that the only way to achieve 100% security is live in a cave without Internet access, but since that's not an option the above basic steps plus common sense will keep you safe most of the time.  4.  If you're working on your next book, remember to make backups.  At a minimum, buy a cheap USB thumb drive (under $30) and back up your work in progress at least once a week.  Another, cheaper backup option for your books and works-in-progress:  Get a free email account at Gmail and email yourself your backups.  5.  Store your backups in a different location.  If your home floods or burns down, it's not useful to have your backup files sitting beside your computer. 

June 16, 2011 - A couple items.  1.  I'm a big fan of Smashwords author Dan Poynter. I interviewed him a couple years ago for the Smashwords blog, and I've had the honor to co-present a few conference workshops with him as well.  He also publishes a great free newsletter called Publishing Poynters worth subscribing to if your not already subscribed (click here to subscribe).   Dan has launched a new business venture called the Global eBook Awards.  The deadline for submissions is June 30. The judges will consider such factors as cover design, content quality and originality.  There's a $59 entry fee, in exchange for which they promise various marketing benefits such as a social media-enabled directory listing, and of course the chance to win your category.  I'm generally skeptical of paid contests that charge fees to enter, yet Dan's a stand-up guy who has committed his life to helping writers, and anytime a contest (free or otherwise) can help separate the wheat from the chaff, there's value in it for readers.  I'll leave it to you to decide if there's value in it for you (no, I don't earn a referral fee if you sign up!).  Check it out at www.awardsforebooks.com  2.  Reuters has story out today about the rising incidence of spam books, a.ka. Private Label Rights (PLR), showing up at Amazon.  I know some authors and publishers complain that Smashwords' Premium Catalog review requirements are stricter than other retailer-direct platforms like Amazon, though I think it's inevitable such requirements get stricter across the board.  It's simply too easy to publish a spam book, and these types of books represent a threat to all legitimate indie authors because the books undermine consumer confidence and clog the virtual shelves.  It's one of the important value-adds that Smashwords offers our retail partners.  When they get a Smashwords book, they know it's been carefully vetted.  Thanks to the great efforts of Smashwords authors/publishers/readers who report suspicious books to us, as well as our vetting team, very few get through.  If we discover PLR content at Smashwords, we terminate the account and the the uploader forfeits their earnings.  To learn more about PLR, read my blog post from last year titled, The Scam of Private Label Rights.

June 10, 2011 - Four items:  1.  As mentioned previously, we reconverted the entire Smashwords Premium Catalog to take advantage of improved NCX features.  A couple days ago, we began reshipping books to Kobo, placing a priority on books that have been awaiting their first shipment.  Due to the volume of titles, Kobo has asked us to throttle the shipments (not ship them all at once), so please expect it may take up to four weeks for shipments to complete.  We're also shipping updates to other retailers, and some have asked to throttle as well.  2.  We are backlogged on Premium Catalog reviews. We plan to hire additional vetting team members in the next 30 days.  The training takes a lot of time, so expect further delays as we staff up.  Currently the vetting queue is running about a week longer than planned, so about two weeks.  Our goal, post-staffing, once the new team is trained, is to get review cycle times down to 3-5 days.  3.  Tip:  If your book is waiting in the review queue, have you opened your .epub file in Adobe Digital Editions, as we recommend in the Style Guide, to ensure the NCX is properly formed?  See the new and improved Step 20 in the Style Guide for more.  Your assistance will help us speed the approvals process so you're approved on the first review.  4. Why the backlog?  A few reasons:  A.  Smashwords authors and publishers have released 6,300+ new titles in the 30 days (wow).  B.  In the past, the Premium Catalog review process didn't look at the book's NCX.  Now we're looking, and so it's taking some time for our authors and publishers to iterate and get their NCXes working properly.  C.  In the last few weeks, we started reporting EPUBCHECK status.  This too has caused many authors and publishers to upload new revisions for review.  Thanks for your patience as together we improve the capabilities of all Smashwords ebooks for the benefit of you and your readers.

June 5, 2011 - I posted a chart last night at the Smashwords Blog that shows the weekly traffic to Smashwords.com over the last three years.  What the chart doesn't reveal is the even greater exposure Smashwords authors and publishers receive from our retail distribution network partners Apple, Sony, B&N, Kobo, Diesel, Aldiko and Stanza. 

June 4, 2011 - Smashwords authors hit another milestone.  Over 6,000 new titles released in the last 30 days.

June 2, 2011 - As mentioned in the May 20 update below, we're re-converting the entire Premium Catalog to take advantage of Meatgrinder's new and improved features and to enable resumed shipments to Kobo.   We completed the regrind earlier today.  In a few instances, Meatgrinder's new and improved automatic NCX generation feature caused the NCX to list a single item labeled "Missing Table of Contents."  We think we've caught and corrected most of these, though if you have that error after inspecting your .epub, one solution is to simply click "upload new version" from the Dashboard and upload it again.  Download the free Adobe Digital Editions to inspect your .epub files and view your NCXes.  If you're getting an EPUBCHECK error, visit our EPUBCHECK Help page at http://smashwords.com/epubcheck  Learn more about the NCX in Step 20 of the Style Guide.

May 28, 2011 - Tip of the day.  We often receive complaints from customers that the book they purchased isn't complete, yet after much investigation we learn the book is complete, it's just that the customer couldn't tell.  As we recommend in the Style Guide, NEVER end the book with a period then nothing.  Provide some clear notation the book is finished.  One option is to center "###" without the quotes after the last line.  Or, insert additional content like an "About the Author" bio, or take advantage of this special moment (the reader finished your book, they love you, they want more) and add "Other books by this author" with a link back to your Smashwords author or publisher page (find the link by clicking My Smashwords).  See the Style Guide and the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for additional end-of-book options that can not only help the reader know the story's over, but also help them read more from you.

May 25, 2011 - More authors helping authors, BarCamp style.  Kate Harper, a professional greeting card designer and Smashwords author based in Berkeley, is organizing a San Francisco Bay Area indie author group.  She invites Smashwords authors to contact her at kateharp@aol.com. High on her list of priorities is to organize a BarCamp for indie authors.  It's a cool idea, and I'd encourage other Smashwords authors around the globe to consider organizing similar local events.  BarCamps are ad hoc conferences where birds of a feather get together face-to-face and discuss topics of common interest, share information, engage in conversation, and learn from one another.  If you're in a writer's or publisher's group (or even if you're not), organizing a BarCamp is a great way to reach out and connect with fellow indie authors and publishers in your area.  Learn more about BarCamps at Wikipedia.  Be sure to promote your BarCamp events to local newspapers, event calendars, and of course social media (and don't forget to post notices at the Smashwords Facebook page).  When authors work together toward common interest and purpose, anything is possible.  If you've organized BarCamps before, contact Kate and share your tips, and share information on the Smashwords Facebook page.  Have fun!

May 24, 2011 - Updated (see #2).  1.  Smashwords has achieved two important milestones, thanks to our amazing authors and publishers.  In the last few days, our catalog grew to over 50,000 ebooks from over 20,000 authors and publishers around the world.  More at the Smashwords blog.  If you're a Smashwords author, publisher or customer, this is your accomplishment.  Thank you.  Thanks also to Bill, Dmitriy, Keri, Raylene and Rob for the people power behind the scenes.  2.  Authors helping authors.  Smashwords author Wilson James has started a blog at http://freeyoungadultsebooks.blogspot.com/ that focuses on, you guessed it, free YA ebooks.  If you have a title that targets young adults and it's free, or you want to share a limited-time coupon code, check out his site.  Click here for submission instructions.

May 23, 2011 - Greetings from NY.  Yesterday I participated in two panels at IBPA Publishing University.  The first was a debate, titled, THE GREAT DEBATE, where we argued whether or not publishers are relevant, or whether it's all about authors and readers.  Listen to the audio recording here:  http://beyondthebookcast.com/the-great-debate  The second panel offered an overview of ebook trends.  Once that one is posted as an audio recording, I'll add a link here.

May 21, 2011 - Tips of the day: #1:   Is your book categorized as Fiction: Drama:  [something else]?  If so, that category maps to theater.  Choose Fiction: Literature: Drama [or other subcategory] if you don't want your book categorized as a theater title.  #2:  Are you taking full advantage of our multi-format options?  Many authors who publish direct at Amazon mistakenly disable their MOBI option at Smashwords, which limits sales opportunities here at Smashwords.com.  Activate MOBI and opt out of our Amazon channel via your Dashboard's Channel Manager if you don't want to double distribute (Amazon's most recent guidance is that they "may" start accepting our books in September).  #3:  Download a free copy of Adobe Digital Editions to inspect your .epub files.  ADE makes it easy to check your .NCX.   Download links here in FAQ#4.  New to e-publishing?  Check out the Smashwords Glossary of E-Publishing Terms in the FAQ.

May 20, 2011 - Multiple items (Updated).  1.  We've made numerous updates to Meatgrinder in the last two weeks, including many changes in the last five days.  Most folks have noticed that most conversions take minutes now, rather than the 24+ hours of a week ago.  Just as importantly, we made multiple updates to Meatgrinder's NCX detection.  NEW: If Meatgrinder detects a linked TOC, it'll use that to guide creation of your NCX.  If it doesn't find a linked TOC, it'll auto-detect your Chapter XX headings.  If it's unable to auto-detect a Chapter heading, it'll auto-insert a two-part NCX where the first item is the book's title and the second item is "Midpoint" that will point to an approximate midpoint in the book.  An NCX is necessary for the books to flow properly to Kobo, thus our three-step process.  2.  Last night, we did a test regrind of 1,000 books, mostly books that have been at Smashwords for a long time.  For those who have their books regrinded, you may see new AutoVetter errors appear in your Dashboard.  If your book is already distributed through the Premium Catalog, no worries, your book will continue to ship.  The AutoVetter errors will give you suggestions to upgrade and improve your books.  3.  In the next ten days, we plan do a complete regrind of the entire Smashwords Premium Catalog, which will upgrade thousands of books without requiring authors and publishers to lift a finger.  Following the great regrind, by the second week of June, books should begin flowing to Kobo again.  At present, we're only shipping them metadata updates.  4.  Also in the last two weeks, you may have noticed that we improved our on-screen communications to you so you always know which steps remain in order for your books to achieve full distribution.  In the last week, we added on-screen prompts so that if your book is failing EPUBCHECK, you know about it instantly.  We created a new help page at http://smashwords.com/epubcheck.  EPUBCHECK compliance is required for distribution to Apple.  5.  Headed to Publishing University and BEA.  On Sunday I'm speaking at the IBPA's Publishing University.  In the first panel, I'm participating in something called The Great Debate.  Daphne Kis (of Shewrites.com) and I will argue that Big NY Publishers are becoming irrelevant and that the future is all about authors and their readers.  On the opposing side, Richard Nash of Cursor and Randy Shur of Square One Publishers will tell us we're wrong.  The debate and the sides we're taking are somewhat manufactured.  Like all things in life, the future of publishing represents a broad spectrum of opportunities in which both self-publishing and Big Publishing might co-exist.  I obviously believe the advantage lies in the hands of Smashwords authors and publishers.  The opportunity for publishers (including the many valued publishers who use Smashwords) is to do for authors what authors cannot or will not do for themselves.  If publishing partners add value, then they deserve their place in the book supply chain.  This will be the second Great Debate.  The first one, upon which our debate is based, featured Cory Doctorow at the London Book Fair.  It makes for an interesting view/listen.  Click here to view the first debate6.  Bug fixed in the "?" question mark button form.  Many Smashwords members were complaining that we never responded to their support inquiries.  Despite disabling our spam filters, the problem persisted.  Some folks' inquiries just never made it through.  Two days ago we determined the cause:  We had a bug in our comment form that was dumping support inquiries from some users of the Google Chrome browser.  Now fixed.  Please carefully study our FAQ before contacting us for general issues, or study the Style Guide for formatting issues.  Although we strive to respond to everyone, a great percentage of inbound inquiries are for questions already answered in these two resources.  7.  What's coming next in site improvements?  Following the big regrind and reship to Kobo, we plan to tackle discovery and categorization at Smashwords.com, our retail operation.  Our categorization systems and search filters are in need of a major revamp.  We need to make it easier for customers to discover and purchase.  Although close to 80 percent of our sales come from the Smashwords retail distribution network, many customers still prefer purchasing at Smashwords.  We need to do a better job serving them, because by serving them we serve our authors and publishers.  8.  We're hoping to load new sales reports by end of day today.  Despite the multi-month delay of new titles arriving at Kobo, Kobo turned in an impressive record month in April (I received the report yesterday).  Apple, too, had an all-time record month.  In order of sales volume ranking for April, here's how it looks:  1.  Apple.  2.  B&N.  3.  Smashwords.com.  4. Kobo.  5. *Sony (*Estimate.  I haven't seen Sony numbers for April yet, so there's a chance Sony flips to #4).  6.  Diesel.  Interesting observation:  Most months, sales at Smashwords.com+Sony+Kobo+Diesel are greater than or equal to Apple or B&N alone.  This underscores the importance of broad distribution.  Many small and midsize retailers can collectively contribute greater sales than a single large retailer.  Every retailer, large and small, broadens your ability to reach readers.  Every retailer is important, which is why we continue to devote great resources to help each retail partner be as successful as possible.

May 17, 2011 - Web sightings.  Just stumbed across this new blog, www.ilovesmashwords.com.  Anything or anyone that helps Smashwords authors connect and help each other is a good thing in my book.  It has some articles, a forum, and it's looking for contributors.

May 16, 2011 - Updated.  Two posts in a day, now back to work.  1.  New Smashwords blog post, inspired by my presentation in Berkeley yesterday where I drew parallels between the Free Speech Movement and book publishing.  2.  Backlist eBooks, a private initiative of previous print-published authors, has orchestrated a sale for its members at Smashwords this week.  Over 50 participating authors representing nearly 200 books.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog.   It makes me wonder, now that we're in the age of ebooks, if we're not about to see a bigger e-rights grab among major publishers who don't want to lose lucrative digital rights for books no longer selling in print.  Such a rights grab will only make these authors less willing to sell out to New York.  Some day, "published author" will no longer mean "published by a big NY publisher." "Published" will equal published on the author's terms, not NY's terms.  The readers won't care.  Publisher name is less important to them than the name of the author, and whether or not they trust that author to give them a good read.  Authors are the brand.

May 15, 2011 - Notes...  1.  Meatgrinder is now producing near real-time ebook conversions.  I admit, it's almost unsettling to view the Smashwords queue now and see no books in the queue, but that's how fast we're processing new uploads and updates now.  I added a post on this at the Smashwords Blog2.  Had a great time yesterday in San Rafael speaking at the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association meeting, followed by a fun lunch with Joel Friedlander.  I posted the Seven Secrets presentation at SlideShare.  Many Smashwords authors have already seen most of this in my original Seven Secrets blog post from October.  The presentation captures the best practices of the most successful Smashwords authors.  I've made minor tweaks since, and added updated front matter.  I'm in Berkeley later today to sit on an ASJA panel at 2:30pm at the Berkeley Public Library.

May 13, 2011 - 11pm update.  Say goodbye to long conversion queues.  As I type, the conversion queue is down to 650 conversions representing 99 books.   By morning, the queue may essentially be eliminated.  Meatgrinder's conversion throughput has now been quadrupled.     Two items:  1.  Many authors were reporting an erroneous "Tasks Awaiting Completion" message in the red box that says you've made modifications (and you haven't).  Please ignore for now.  We think it's fixed now.     2.    Meatgrinder was offline from about midnight to 9am, taking a nap (without our permission, I might add).  We're upgrading Meatgrinder's capacity so we can perform the conversions faster than ever.  In recent weeks, the conversion times have increased to 24 hours or more, which is obviously unacceptable.  The goal is to get back to 5-10 minute conversions.  Late yesterday afternoon we doubled Meatgrinder's capacity, and later today if all goes well we'll quadruple it.  We've adopted a new, more scalable architecture for Meatgrinder that will allow us to increase Meatgrinder's throughput.  It involves multiple Meatgrinder drones, working in parallel.  The initial implementation worked swimmingly last night until it unexpectedly went into to nap mode.  Expect intermittent Meatgrinder outages over the next few days as we work out the kinks.  Also expect to see the queue, which stood at over 6,000 last night, drop dramatically in the next 48 hours as we bring the drones on line.

May 11, 2011 - Notes...  1.  We've been making multiple improvements to Meatgrinder's NCX generation (see Step 20 in the Style Guide) over the last three days.  The NCX is the external navigation that sits outside your book.  Many Smashwords authors are now upgrading their books to offer this improved navigation.  2.  A lot of work and updates with Kobo today.  We're getting closer to addressing some opportunities to improve the speed and accuracy of their book ingestions.  For now, new book shipments are on hold.  I'll share more as there's more to report in the next few days.  We will likely apply some of our new NCX magic and regrind the entire catalog so books can ship more reliably to Kobo.  Kobo, unlike other retailers, has an ingestion system that relies upon the NCX file having at least two items it's pointing to.  For books that are too short to have two items, Bill and I have a plan to auto-generate a two-part NCX for you.  We're also putting together a plan to start shipping books to Borders USA through Kobo (these things always take longer than expected).  More later.  3.  The full San Francisco Chronicle Story is up.  Interesting discussion going on in the comments.  Several people who don't "get" the power and potential of indie publishing.  Join in and share your two cents.

May 9, 2011 - Quick notes.  1.  The San Francisco Chronicle did a big feature on Smashwords today.  The full story is only available in print.  The online teaser is here and the full story will go online for free May 11.   2.  Two talks coming up this coming weekend.  On Saturday, I'm speaking at the Bay Area Independent Publishers Assoc. meeting in San Rafael at 11am ($5.00), and on Sunday at I'm on an ASJA panel discussion at the Berkeley Public Library at 2:30pm (free), organized by D. Patrick Miller3.  Balances in your Sales and Payments report should be updated in the next day or two.

May 7, 2011 - Several people have pointed out that the balances haven't been updated to reflect payments, concerned we thought we owed them more than was really due (good folks, Smashwords authors!).  Here's the (true) story of the delay.  Our finance manager, moments after processing the near final round of payments, wrote me to report the payments were out and her water just broke.  Then she headed off to the hospital to give birth.  Rather than update what we *think* was paid, Bill's going to wait a few more days to receive the data from Keri so she can tell us what was paid.  Oh, and welcome to this world, Grace Caroline McKie, my new niece.

May 5, 2011 - (Updated) Three items:  1.  Countdown to 2 billion words.  The "Smashers" (that's what they call themselves) over at the official Smashwords Facebook page have started a countdown to 2 billion words.  As I write this (at 12:50pm Pacific) we have only about 1.5 million words to go.   Authors have been uploading about 7 million words a day lately in new releases, so it won't take long.  2.  Dan Poytner, whom I refer to as the father of self-publishing, has always been a huge supporter of Smashwords.  The other weekend when I was in NY, I had a long conversation with Sam Horn about Dan's underappreciated role in this amazing self-publishing revolution.  She wrote up a blog post over at her blog, SerenDestiny.  Speaking of Dan, he's doing a flight around world to promote his new title, The Air Travel Handbook.  Follow his travels by clicking here.  Read my interview with Dan over at the Smashwords Blog from two years ago.  3.  Big story in the Washington Post on the ebook gold rush.  Smashwords author Nyree Belleville, who writes under the pen names Bella Andre and Lucy Kevin, is featured prominently with a picture.  Other Smashwords authors like Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler are also mentioned.

May 4, 2011 - Smashwords today announced a distribution deal that will bring Smashwords Premium Catalog titles to the largest app marketplaces.  More in the Smashwords Blog.  Opt in is automatic.  If for any reason you don't want this distribution (I can't think of a single reason why you wouldn't want it!), please opt out from your Channel Manager (opt out will be available later today).  Will this lead to a lot of sales?  We have no idea.  These app marketplaces are growing quickly, and if you believe in the value of distribution, then it's smart to make your book available in as many different formats and stores as possible.  A book as an app is just another format for customers. Smashwords authors and publishers will earn 60 percent of the list price, as they do for all Smashwords retailers.

May 3, 2011 - A couple notes.  1.  Good news for Open Office users.  Open Office has a longstanding bug that causes it to corrupt the line spacing when you save to the Word .doc format.  It'll often save your line spacing as "at least at 10pt" or "at least at 5pt," or even "exactly at 5pt."  This corrupts your file and can cause your lines of text to overlap.  Yesterday we implement a new auto-fix routine in Meatgrinder.  Meatgrinder now looks for such corrupted line spacing and automatically fixes it for you.  This means one less worry for Open Office users and also one less thing our vetting team needs to review for (which means faster approvals!).  2.  Tip of the day.  Don't over-use the Header paragraph style in your Word .doc.  As we mention in the Style Guide, Meatgrinder auto-inserts a preceding page break before all paragraphs created with the Heading paragraph style.  This is a nice touch for those of you who want your chapters to begin at the top of a page in the e-reading device.  However, if you flag multiple paragraphs in a row with the Heading style (that's a no-no!), you can create blank pages, or one line pages.  One easy way to spot this is to activate show/hide in your Word document.  With show/hide activated, you'll often see a square next to all instances of the Heading style.  You can also view your usage of the Heading style by opening up your style settings in Word (see Step 7 of the Style Guide).  3.  Observation.  We've seen a surge in sales at Apple the last few weeks. Not sure why.  Although several Smashwords authors have been ripping up the charts over there, this appears to be a broader increase across the entire catalog.

May 2, 2011 - All payments are out now.  Congrats to Smashwords authors and publishers for a record quarter.  Thank you for working with Smashwords.

May 1, 2011 - Most quarterly payments went out in the last couple days .  About 20 Paypal folks are yet to be paid.  These payments should go out tomorrow, Tuesday morning latest California time.  We hope to release a beta of our new quarterly sales reports spreadsheet in the next couple days.  As mentioned previously, it'll help you map your just-received payments to the books that sold.  Since it'll be beta and beta often means buggy, we look forward to feedback, bug reports and suggestions.

April 28, 2011 - Tip of the day.  Back in January, Smashwords introduced long book descriptions.  If you haven't upgraded your metadata with a long description, do it now by clicking to Dashboard: Settings.  If you have a long description, then that's what we'll ship to retailers.  Some authors mistakenly assume that we will ship both the short description + the long description, so they add the first part of their description in the short description and finish the description in the long description.  It doesn't work that way, and the result is like we're shipping chapter two without the benefit of chapter one.   Make each description complete in its own right.  If you do make changes to the book description, and your book is already approved for the Premium Catalog, your changes will be fast tracked for approval (usually less than 24 hours during normal business days).

April 25, 2011 - A few items.  1.  Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 26) at 10am Pacific I'm doing a FREE online conference call hosted by the upcoming Self Publishing Online Conference.  The topic is How to Produce, Publish and Distribute an EbookRegister for free here.   2.  I updated the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide with a few new ideas, and with improved navigation.    When I uploaded, I was #2,900 in the queue, and it took almost 24 hours before it converted.  Ugh, yes, I know, we need to build out more virtual blades as I've mentioned before.  But first, our biggest priority over the next few days is...  3.  Payments are scheduled to go out the last day of this month.  Bill has been busily banging his brain to create our new quarterly sales reports I mentioned previously.  We're hoping to roll them out concurrently with payments, at least on a beta basis so we can gather your feedback.   4.  Reminder for any of you who might be going to the 40th Annual ASJA Writers Conference in NY at the end of this week:  I'm sitting on the ebook panel Saturday morning.  Looking at the session description, you can tell I committed to this a long time ago because it mentions how Smashwords has helped 9,000 authors and publishers publish more than 20,000 titles.  That's an impressive number, but it's dated.  As of today, we're helping over 18,000 authors and publishers publish over 45,000 titles.  I see we're also approaching 2 billion words.  Thanks to you, the indie author, small press and Smashwords customers for making this all possible.  We built this for you. 

April 20, 2011 - Cyber criminals stealing free ebooks, reselling them on Amazon.  I've written about this before (see March 22 and Jan 31 updates below).  Smashwords author David Alexander, who writes under the pen name of David Grace (he discloses this in his books) reports that his title, A Death in Beverly Hills, which was priced for a short period of time as FREE at Smashwords, has appeared on Amazon (click here to see it) published by a criminal who simply created a green and black cover image, and rather than using his pen name of David Grace as he does on Smashwords, the criminal used David Alexander.  If you have free books on Smashwords, do a vanity search on Amazon and Google to make sure your books haven't been stolen, repriced and republished by another person.  If you discover unauthorized versions of your book at Amazon, contact Amazon and also let me know by clicking the "?" question mark button above.  I think this is a rare problem, but it's smart to remain vigilant.  If you don't already have Google Alerts set for your name and book title, set them up for free at www.google.com/alert

April 19, 2011 - Congrats to our partners at Kobo.  They today announced a $53 million funding.  I wrote a short post about it over at the Smashwords Blog.

April 18, 2011 - Updates.  1.  The Smashwords Style Guide was updated today.  It includes a couple new screen shots, including one that shows how to find and delete hidden bookmarks.  It also features improved navigation and an updated table of contents so it's easier to click to specific sections.  Speaking of hidden bookmarks, after my rework on this, Word inserted over 70 (!!) hidden bookmarks.  Watch out for those little buggers, because they can corrupt your navigation.  2.  How to estimate the conversion queue time.  We've helped authors release over 5,500 titles in the last 30 days, and these new releases, combined with uploads of new revisions, have caused the conversion queue to get longer and longer.  At the moment I uploaded the new version of the Style Guide yesterday evening, I was #1,999 in the queue.  This doesn't mean there were 1,999 books ahead of me.  Instead, it means there were that many conversions ahead of me, since each book usually has anywhere from three to nine file formats it's being converted to.  Based on my conversion time, it worked out to about 140 conversions per hour.  This means if you're 1,400 in the queue and divide by 140, you've got about a ten hour wait time.  Yes, it's frustratingly slow compared to two years ago when complete multi-format conversions often took five minutes or less, though it's still much faster than most alternatives.  Nevertheless, as mentioned previously, we will speed this up in the months ahead.  Our priority for the next ten days, however, is to process and pay out record quarterly payments.  3.  Speaking of payments, as a reminder, the new threshold for paper checks is $75.00.  If you're not already set up to receive payments via PayPal, do that now by clicking to your payee profile.  Sign up for the free personal PayPal account.  Once you sign up, you can link it to your bank account.  Payments will go out on or before April 30.  4.  In preparation for payments, we reversed sales today related to fraudulent orders.  Only about $300 in sales affected, so not nearly on the scale of the big March 22 reversal.  Although the stated policy to customers is no refunds, we do make exceptions in the case of corrupted files or incomplete books (rare; we always try to contact the author/publisher and give them a chance to correct the issue first), or honest mistakes, usually by elderly customers who for some reason believed they purchased a print book.  To date, however, 98% of reversals are due to people purchasing books with stolen credit cards, such as a ring of scamsters in Vietnam who signed up for affiliate accounts and then either purchase garbage books of their own using stolen credit cards (a form of money laundering), or they'll run purchases through an affiliate marketer account in the hope of scraping 50 cents here and there.  We have the ability to lock payments on these scamsters.  Each time PayPal reverses a charge, they hit Smashwords with a penalty fee.  We do not pass on this fee to the author.  We feel your pain on these, literally.

April 16, 2011 - Weekend updates.    1.  New free marketing opportunity.  The folks over at Double Edge press, a small publisher of Christian Fiction, have created a new free marketing opportunity that fits my favorite theme of "authors helping authors."  They're launching a free weekly newsletter where they'll feature books priced at $2.99 or less from indie authors.  To participate, all they ask is that you join in and help promote some of your fellow authors.  The service is new and just now taking shape, so go help shape it.  Learn more at "E"ndependent Publishers2.  Our friends at Kobo quickly fixed the repricing error Thurs evening, thanks to some major overtime hours from their development team.  The glitch caused affected books to revert to a previous price, so in some cases prices dropped and in other cases prices increased.  It's too bad some authors over-reacted to the glitch (a few dozen Smashwords authors opted out of Kobo last week as a result).  Yes, I know Amazon's price matching is painful to those affected, and you don't need to be a big name indie to feel the pinch.  If you're relying on Amazon for that extra $25 or $50 a month, believe me, I respect that.  But it's really important to keep things in perspective.   In the long run, it's a bump in the road.  It won't be the last time this happens, somewhere.  Our Kobo sales have exploded over the last 12 months, so authors who quit Kobo for their (or our) glitches nine or 12 months ago missed out on a lot of sales through today.  It's really important for authors to get out there, get widely distributed, and reduce your dependence on Amazon.  A vibrant ecosystem of multiple competing retailers is in every author's best interest (It's in Smashwords' best interest too, because we supply multiple retailers).  If only one or two major retailers end up dominating the ebook game, then that would be bad.  Multiple competing retailers means they're also competing to serve you, the indie author or publisher.  I know some indies have already gotten spoiled by their new found power in the industry.  Don't let it go to your head.  Protect yourself, because as Amazon reminded some big authors last week, they're happy to slap you down if you don't follow their rules.   As an indie author or small press at the forefront of this ebook publishing revolution, you have an opportunity to help shape the future of ebook retailing.  Support all your retailers.  Diversify.  Add links on your blog or website to your books at every retailer they appear.   Amazon's market share is declining and will likely continue to decline thanks the rapid growth of Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and others.  3.  Lost amid the Kobo news last week was this exciting tidbit worthy of celebration for Smashwords authors at Kobo - they announced a European expansion (click here to read the press release).  They also revealed some interesting metrics that were news to me:  Kobo now has three million users, up 1/3 in the last 90 days [I assume "users" are a combination of real paid customers and free downloaders].  4.  What's next for Smashwords an Kobo?:  Kobo's doing a revamp of their ingestion systems (how they receive our books and updates), and for the time being they're VERY backlogged on recent shipments.  Expect a few weeks delay if you recently shipped to them.  If your book hasn't appeared, this is why.  We're going to speak with them about how we can modify our shipment systems to better match the needs of their new ingestion systems.  I'm looking forward to this, because in the last 12 months we've overhauled our shipment systems multiple times for  Apple, B&N and Sony, and as a result things are flowing much faster and more accurately than before (yes, there's always room for improvement).  Also as part of Kobo's new systems, and concurrent with some other plans we have to provide our authors and publishers greater control over non-US dollar-denominated sales listings, we're examining now some options to start feeding our retail partners more accurate prices in Pounds Sterling, Euros, and Australian and New Zealand dollars.  This will happen in slow iterative phases.   5.  Asleep at the switch (those not reading these Smashwords Site Updates, or our FAQs, or the Style Guide, or the Smashwords Distribution Information Page, or the Apple Checklist).  As of yesterday morning, over 4,000 Smashwords books were Premium Catalog approved and opted in to both Apple and Sony, yet they weren't shipping to these two important retailers because the authors and publishers hadn't attached ISBNs to their books via the ISBN Manager.  Obviously, we need to do a better job of alerting these sleepy authors and publishers to remind them their books aren't fully distributed.  We sent these folks an email reminder yesterday.   As a reminder, if you don't attach and record your ISBN in the ISBN Manager we don't know your book has an ISBN.  It's not enough to place your ISBN in the book because we and our retailers can't access it there (it's not even necessary to place in your book).  6.  Last week we revamped the purchase receipts and automated book sale alerts, and so far feedback has been great.  Next up, we're going to do a complete revamp of the Sales and Payments report.  The information there is accurate, but we realize it's difficult for publishers (and authors too) who are selling hundreds or thousands of books to easily correlate sales to each quarterly payment.  The new reports will allow you to identify which book sales are connected to each pay period.  Given the record sales payouts we're making by the end of this month, we figured now would be a good time to make your job easier.  Stay tuned.

April 15, 2011 - Two quick items:  1.  EFINDs, run by Ficbot, was the first review blog to focus exclusively on Smashwords ebooks.  I've mentioned her great review site a few times before.  Today she published helpful review guidelines.  Some of it is common sense, but you'd be surprised (or maybe not) how often authors, in their enthusiasm to get reviewed, don't follow the rules of common sense.  I sat on a panel with the incredible Jane Litte of Dear Author and Smashwords author HP Mallory last week in LA, and we spoke at length about the tricks to getting your book reviewed.  It boils down to:  1.  Write a great book and get it professionally edited (reviewers appreciate knowing it was professionally edited); 2. Before you pitch a reviewer, first be certain your book fits the reviewer's focus; 3. Keep your pitch short and succinct; 4. Make it easy for the reviewer to read a free copy (Smashwords Coupons work great here), or offer to email a free copy in whatever format they want (but don't send it without asking first); 5.  If the reviewer declines your request, don't give them any lip (apparently, some indies go ballistic when rejected.  Don't).  2.  Yesterday we rolled out new purchase confirmation emails for authors/publishers and customers.  We put more information in them so you can better separate coupon transactions from paid transactions.  Comments welcome.

April 13, 2011 - Bugs of another species.  There was a bug that surfaced in the Smashwords.com site load late last night that for the last 10 hours was giving "Fatal Error" messages on multiple web pages (including Site Updates!).  Now fixed.

April 12, 2011 - Bugs of a different variety.  Kobo has experienced a glitch that in the last two days that has caused an automatic repricing of some number of Smashwords titles.  We don't know how many are affected yet, but I've personally confirmed about 20 books affected in the last two days.  I have noticed an initial pattern that in some cases, the prices reverted back to a previous list price, so it might only be affecting authors who raised their prices after first landing at Kobo.  Kobo is aware of the problem, and they've escalated it to the highest priority.  If you discover your books are affected, click the "?" question mark button and send us a direct hyperlink to your book at Kobo, along with a notation of the proper price, and we'll forward the information to Kobo in case they're not aware of it already.  Whatever you do, DO NOT opt out.  I expect this to be resolved shortly because Kobo doesn't want this error taking place any more than we do.

April 11, 2011 - Road to recovery.  Thanks for your outpouring of well wishes.  I was blown away by the comments over at the Smashwords Facebook page.  I'm starting to feel semi-human again with a touch of amphibian.  I sound like a frog, only not so pretty.  I literally have been unable to speak for the last three days.  Oh, the cruel irony.  1.  Speaking of frogs, against common sense I participated in a webinar about libraries and ebooks  today (click here to listen for free!) sponsored by Infopeople, a cool pro-library initiative.  I've been thinking a lot over the last year about how Smashwords authors could help libraries participate in the ebook revolution.  We and a small number of Smashwords authors are involved in a beta test across 150 libraries in the US and Canada (hopefully their press release will be ready soon so I can do a blog post to celebrate the ~13 Smashwords authors who donated about 80 books).  Big publishers don't treat libraries well.  Some big publishers refuse to sell to libraries.  That's sad, because libraries perform a critically important social mission of making books available and accessible to anyone.  They also buy over $2 billion worth of books each year.  As you'll learn in the webinar, there's a growing body of evidence that library lending actually helps spur commercial book sales.  In addition to recalcitrant publishers, the leading library aggregator, Overdrive, has a near monopoly on library ebook distribution.  They're fleecing libraries, many of which have to pay $25,000 or more up front for the privilege of using Overdrive's system, and this is before they've spent a penny on a single book.  The primary purpose of Overdrive's platform is to satisfy the paranoid publisher desires for DRM and lending limits.  Here's an interesting (maddening) article in Library Journal about how Overdrive has been treating the Kansas State Library System.  I see an opportunity for indie authors to find mutually beneficial common ground with libraries.  Enough said.

April 10, 2011 - Feverish midnight scribbles.  I finally went to the doctor today, and after a chest xray they think I have pneumonia.  The doctor chastised me for not running to the doctor when the fever first hit Tuesday.  They have powerful anti-viral drugs now that only work if you catch the bug in the first two days.  Lesson learned.  Five days of fever = not fun.  A couple items.  1.  Congrats to Smashwords author Julie Ortolon, who only a week ago shipped her new Just Perfect trilogy to Apple, and as of this moment her title Just Perfect ($2.99) is #1 in Romance at Apple, and her Too Perfect ($3.99) is #2.  Her free series-starter, Almost Perfect, is the #1 free download in Romance.  She's selling essentially the same number of units for both paid versions, which tells me fans are snapping up everything at once, possibly after reading the free book.  The books are 83,000-87,000 words each, another point of evidence that ebook buyers appreciate full-length content.  Take note, Smashwords authors.  The average Smashwords book is around 45,000 words.  One of these days we'll crunch some data to analyze where the word-count sweet spot is for different categories.  My theory is that other than erotica, where a quickie meets the readers needs, customers of most other books appreciate full length.  2.  Smashwords author Stefan Eckert in Germany has volunteered to help Annemarie Nikolaus with screen shots for the German edition of the Smashwords Style Guide.  Thanks Stefan!

April 7, 2011 - Two items:  1.  German and French tranlations of the Smashwords Style Guide in the works!  - Smashwords author Annemarie Nikolaus has volunteered to translate the Smashwords Style Guide into German.  She'd appreciate another co-contributor to sign on to help since she doesn't have a German version of Microsoft Word, and she'd like to capture screen shots in German.  If you're willing to help, contact me and I'll connect you with Annemarie.  Anne-Sophie Gomez, one of the formatters on Mark's List, has volunteered to translate the Style Guide into French.  This means we now have versions in the works for French, German, Spanish and Italian.  Is your native language not represented?  Volunteer!  In exchange for your services, you'll receive translation credit, a hyperlink to your author page, infinite positive karma, and recognition among those who write in your mother tongue.  2.  New sales reports have been loaded.  All retailers updated through at least March 26.  Thanks, Bill!

April 6, 2011 - Feverish scribbles.  Greetings from LA, where I'm locked in my hotel room with a lovely 101+ degree fever.  Missed my panel today, but I'm hoping to recuperate in time for my panels Thursday and Friday.  Updates:  1.  On Apple's prompting, the Apple iBookstore distribution channel is now automatic opted-in, just like our other retailers.  They decided that our Terms of Service adequately covers what they wanted authors/publishers to agree to, and they also want to make it that much easier for our authors and publishers to get their books in the iBookstore.  As of today, over 2,800 titles aren't shipping to Apple because the author hasn't opted in to Apple, and another 4,000 aren't shipping because the books don't have ISBNs (attach those ISBNs in the ISBN Manager!).  We sent out an email blast to all authors notifying about this change, so those of you who want to opt out (not sure why anyone would want to do that) can do so.  2.  The Sales and Payments report now breaks out the most recent load dates for free and paid books.  3.  Another Amazon update.  They've delayed our integration for about five months.  It's interesting.  As our relationships with the other retailers grow stronger and deeper, Amazon has become more standoffish.  We want to be a good partner for them, but they're not making it easy.  Did you know that Amazon's KDP platform agreement is a traditional wholesale agreement?  This means they can discount prices at any time they see fit, and not just for price matching. If they never discounted, whether it's wholesale or not would be a moot point.  But do they intend to start discounting more?  I asked how often they discount and my contact refused to answer.  Odd.  Why such a secret?  I see this as a ticking time bomb in the future as KDP gains more titles along with the rise of indie publishing.  Of course, if this happens, authors and small publishers will get caught in the crossfire because other retailers will be forced to price match.  Maybe it's part of Amazon's long term strategy to dismantle agency pricing.

April 4, 2011 - A few items.  1.  IndieBookLounge is a new service that provides indie authors free directory listings for their books.  You can upload covers, book descriptions, bios and add direct purchase links to your books at Smashwords, B&N and elsewhere.  Free services like this make your books more discoverable, so show 'em some Smashwords love and list your titles.   2.  Our friend Greg, the proprietor of Ereader News Today, invites Smashwords authors to send him limited-time coupon codes for Smashwords books.  Since he focuses on books for the Kindle, make sure you have your MOBI activated at Smashwords.  For consideration, email him (click here for his email address) a direct hyperlink to your Smashwords book page, along with the free coupon code, coupon code expiration date, and a short synopsis.  I first wrote about his site back in February.  Several Smashwords authors generated hundreds of downloads.  3.  I'm heading to the RT Booklover's Convention in Los Angeles tomorrow through Friday.  If any Smashwords authors are attending, stop by and say hi at one of the three panels/workshops I'm doing (Wednesday - "Digital DIY" - 3:30pm; Thursday - "The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success" - 2:45pm; Friday - "Ebook Self-Publishing Revolution" - 1:30pm.

April 2, 2011 - A few weekend updates.  1.  Q1 payments will go out at the very end of this month.  See the FAQ for a refresher on Smashwords earnings and payment schedules2.  Reminder:  The threshold for check payments (available to US authors/publishers only) increased to $75.00.  If your balance is under $75.00, please go to your Payee profile and sign up to receive payments via PayPal.  PayPal people are paid first, receive their money the moment we send it, and the threshold is only $10.00.  Paypal accounts are free.  Paper checks are an expensive pain in the derriere for us.  Yeah, they're time-consuming to print, stuff, stamp and mail, but that's not the biggest problem.  The biggest problem is dealing with the authors who write days or weeks (or months!) later, asking why they haven't received their check, only to discover their mailing address changed, or, believe it or not, sometimes the post office actually loses mail.  We then need to call the bank, stop payment on the check, reissue the check, etc etc.  UGH.  I know several of you have suggested electronic bank transfers, though our bank, BofA, doesn't offer a good solution here.  If anyone knows of a large California bank that does large scale EFTs for less cost than PayPal, drop me a note.  3.  We loaded new sales and payments data into your Sales and Payments reports last week.   Check it out.  Next up, we're going to give that page a refresh with some new downloadable spreadsheets that make it easier to understand the sales reports.  4.  Thanks all for participating in our April Fools prank yesterday.  I was surprised at the number of people who wished it was true.  I'm already thinking of 2012's.  5. I forgot to mention this earlier.  Last week (or was it the week before?), we added a new directory on the home page called "Smashwords users on Facebook."  If a registered Smashwords member entered their Facebook address into their profile, they're on the list.   Go connect with your fellow authors and readers.  Make new friends and open doors for one another.  6.  A warm thank you to you, the Smashwords author/publisher/reader, for being part of the Smashwords community.  Someone wrote me today with a kind note that Smashwords was really "kicking ass." The kicking is really being done by our authors and publishers.  There are a lot of super high quality authors on Smashwords, and you're making the indie author movement proud.  Readers (customers!) are taking notice.  7.  Speaking of readers, we hit a big traffic milestone yesterday in terms of 30-day page views (each time someone clicks to a page, that's a page view).  I've never disclosed the numbers before, but let's just say it's in the millions.  Smashwords authors, publishers and customers rock.  8.  We signed an agreement a few weeks back with a new mobile retail partner.  Testing has proceeded well so far.  Once we get ready to launch, we'll issue a press release and I'll do an email blast to everyone who's subscribed to receive my exclusive author/publisher updates.  Are you one of the very few people not on the list?  Check your Communications Preferences under the Account tab.  9.  Kobo and Sony showed solid sales growth for the month of February.  Folks, if you're not fully opted in to these channels, you might be missing out.  10.  Speaking of opting in, Apple has given us permission to make their channel automatic opt-in, just as it is with all our other retail partners.  Coming soon.  11.  ISBN doubleplusungood.  ISBNs are another pain in the patootie, in case you didn't know that already.  They're one of the most misunderstood aspects of publishing.  ISBNs do not connote copyright ownership, and despite the fact that ISBNs capture information that ostensibly makes your book more discoverable, few of the retailers take advantage of that information, and readers don't shop at Bowker's Books in Print database.  It's essentially a waste to pay money for ISBNs when you can get them for free from Smashwords (we pay for them so you don't have to).   Even our super-cheap "Premium ISBN," at $9.95, is not money well-spent IMHO.  I'm tempted to rename the Premium ISBN the "Vanity ISBN."  :)  It's for authors and publishers who feel it's important to be identified in the Bowker record as the publisher.  With the exception of Sony (the only retailer that polls Bowker for ISBN information), ISBNs do not influence how your book appears at retailers.  So why are ISBNs important?  The answer is because Apple and Sony require them.  They're a unique digital identifier that never changes (this, btw, is also why once we ship your book, we cannot change your ISBN).  ISBNs are great in theory because unique digital identifiers are important, but they don't live up to their promise, primarily because so much ISBN information at Bowker is incorrect, out of date and never accessed by the people looking for your book.  One Smashwords author had his book appear at Sony as "written by" his cover designer and editor.  Why?  Because the metadata in his ISBN, purchased at Bowker, was incorrect.  Most retailers have their own proprietary digital identifiers.  Amazon has the ASIN.  B&N has what they call their EAN.  We have what we internally refer to as the SWID which is the book number in your book's URL.  Apple and Sony have their own ID numbers as well.  ISBNs worked well in the old static print world, but I wonder if they'll survive the ebook revolution where books are ever-changing.

April 1, 2011 -  * April 1 PRANK*  April 1.  April 1.  April 1.  Smashwords has acquired Amazon.  Learn more over at the Smashwords Blog.   April 1.  April 1.  April 1.

March 30, 2011 - 1.  The verdict is in.  Smashwords authors and readers over at the Smashwords Facebook page have voted to call themselves Smashers.  Quite a lively, passionate community has developed over there.   All in good fun.  2.  I reposted my research over at the Huffington Post about where ebook buyers live.  My editors at HuffPo, who are usually quite excellent at dressing up my headlines, mistook "AK" for Arkansas so I woke up this morning to view the headline over there reading that Arkansas was #1 in the nation for ebooks.  Ooops.  AK=Alaska.  I fixed it.  Even editors can make mistakes.  The conversation at HuffPo is interesting.  Some great theories on why consumers in some states buy more ebooks per capita than others.  3.  Great 1/2 day meeting with our Apple friends today at the Smashwords office.  They're totally awesome.  Very supportive of Smashwords authors and publishers.  They presented the results of a super-intensive audit in which they examined every nitty gritty detail of our business.  Things are going well.  4.  April 1 is ... that time of year.  We'll be making an announcement.

March 29, 2011 - Have you ever wondered where ebook buyers in the US live?  I wondered.  Here's the answer, at the Smashwords blog, drawing upon our sales data from Barnes & Noble.

March 28, 2011 - The great Joe Konrath interviews me today over at his blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.  Join the conversation.

March 27, 2011 - I posted news of the 40,000 milestone over at the Smashwords blog.  I added some thoughts on what it means to have a free and open printing press in the sky.  Add your own thoughts.  The comments Smashwords authors/publishers/readers make on these posts, and the conversation that ensues, is usually more enlightening that the original post.  I learn from you, and we all learn from each other.  And that's the idea.  The original post is the seed for the conversation.  Do you have a favorite author friend who's not yet publishing at Smashwords?  Give 'em a kick in the derriere.  :)

March 25, 2011 - Friday tidbits.  I meant to just do one item but somehow it became fourteen.  So much going on.   1.  We surpassed 40,000 books at Smashwords yesterday.  I might do a blog post on it.  2.  Smashwords vs. Pubit.  I love B&N - I even jumped to their defense the other day when authors over at Kindleboards started some unwarranted rumors about them - though as you might imagine I wasn't thrilled when they launched Pubit.  But hey, they probably had their eye on Amazon, not their partner Smashwords.  There's a subset of authors who jump at any opportunity to go direct.  This isn't always the wisest decision.  If your book is priced under $2.99 at Pubit, or over $9.99, they pay you 40% list, vs. the 60% list you earn going through Smashwords.   I didn't realize this differential until yesterday.  For books priced $2.99 to $9.99, they pay you 65%, just 5% more than what you earn from Smashwords.  To put that 5% in perspective, it means if you earn $5,000 in a year at B&N (and most authors don't), you're only giving up $250 by distributing through Smashwords.  Sure, we don't provide the instant ADHD buzz of seeing your numbers updated in real time (or the buzzkill of watching them not move), but in my own little world I'd like to think we more than earn our keep for that  5% at B&N, so my thanks to the many Smashwords authors who've stuck with us.  Is raises the interesting question, what is your time worth, and how should authors and publishers best spend their time? Should everyone try to be their own distributor and get rid of Smashwords, or is the author/publisher's time better spent focused on marketing their book or developing the next book?  That's for you to decide.  I'm biased.  On that note, my next item...  3.  Congrats to Amanda Hocking who earlier this week announced she sold her one millionth book (any yay, Smashwords helped distribute some of those) and then yesterday announced a four-book deal for $2 million with St. Martins.  A great example of how indie authorship and traditional publishing can co-exist.  I've been impressed by how Amanda goes out of her way to caution fellow authors that her success came as a result of a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and yes luck.  Most authors will never achieve this level of success, so write because you love writing and because you know success is not always measured in dollars.  If dollars come your way, consider it icing on your cake.  On the flip side, Barry Eisler, a recent addition to the Smashwords family (but definitely not new to his many fans) turned down a $500,000 advance for his next title in favor of taking it indie.  My thanks to our buddy Joe Konrath for introducing Barry to Smashwords. Smashwords author Dean Wesley Smith (also with traditional bestseller credentials) has an interesting analysis and lively discussion over at his blog, Dean Wesley Smith4.  I had a great conversation yesterday with Smashwords author Julie Ortolon (yet another USA Today bestseller) who's been helping many traditionally published authors make the transition to indie.  I'll be doing an interview with her soon for the Smashwords blog so stay tuned on that.   5.  More Smashwords authors helping fellow Smashwords authors.  Smashwords author Patricia Rachal has launched a blog to profile indie ebooks from Christian authors.  Says Pat, "I would like to spotlight Indie authors who meet the criteria: Christian; pro God, pro Jesus, pro Bible; published eBook; writing is based on Biblical principles or about the Bible and what it teaches."  Authors may send Patricia their bio (with or without headshot) and a link to their Smashwords author page at ewordwriters@hotmail.com.   6.  Amazon update.  They have delayed the project, so we're exploring alternative options that might work to the mutual benefit of Amazon and our authors/publishers.  If B&N, Sony, Apple, Kobo and Diesel can accept bulk uploads of our books, a reasonable person might wonder, why not Amazon?  Biting my tongue.  I'll just say I'm glad our profitability is not dependent upon the world's largest retailer yet.  The day we do get this done, it'll be a happy day.  Until then, we're in a holding pattern and it makes me appreciate our current retail partners all the more.  7.  Speaking of retail partners, we signed a new distribution deal that will increase our presence on mobile platforms.  We began integration testing this week.  8. Smashwords for Libraries.  We also shipped about 80 books to participate in a US and Canadian library lending beta test sponsored by the Internet Archive.  More on that another day, probably on the Smashwords blog.  9.  Also on the library front, I'm sitting on an online panel sponsored by Infopeople to explore ebooks and library lending. The webinar happens April 11 at 12 noon Pacific.  More information here, once it's available.  10.  Digital Romance.  I'll be presenting or participating in three different ebook-related workshops at the upcoming annual RT Booklovers convention in Los Angeles, April 6, 7 and 8.  Some of my fellow panelists include Smashwords authors Sylvia Day, HP Mallory, Gennita Low, and Delilah Devlin.  I look forward to meeting them!  11.  Did you know you can subscribe to the Smashwords blog via email?  You'll find the subscription option along the right side of the blog.  12.  Reminder:  The fun stats chart on your book page that shows paid downloads (as well as sample downloads and page views) is not an accurate measure of your sales.  See your Sales and Payments report for a full accounting of all reported sales.  The paid download chart shows when a paid (or free-couponed) customer downloads your book, and since one price provides perpetual access, a single customer may download your book multiple times as they try different formats, or, they might download the file each time they sit down to read.  13.  Post Read-an-Ebook hangover?  After a week of unbridled ebook downloading gluttony, one would think people might stop buying books for a few months.  Au contraire.  Although daily sales numbers dropped from their record RAEW levels, the sales numbers, like the traffic, have settled in at a stepped up level compared to the days and weeks before the RAEW event launched.  Conclusion:  the promotion brought some new book buyers to Smashwords.  14.  Do you have a favorite author on Smashwords that deserves some recognition?  Make their day by showing them some social media love.  Tweet 'em, Facebook 'em, write a blog post about them, or leave a review on their book page or at our Smashwords retailers.  Have a great weekend.

March 23, 2011 - 5,126.  That's the number of new books released at Smashwords in the last 30 days.  As a result of that, plus a multiple of that number in terms of people clicking "upload new version" to update and upgrade their books (which we encourage you to do!), Meatgrinder conversions are taking 4-8 hours.  The good news:  Meatgrinder is operating more reliably than ever before.  Knock on wood, the days of all-night outages on Meatgrinder are months behind us.  The bad news:  We're not doing the 5-10 minutes insta-conversions we did in the past before this surge in volume.   Just a few years ago, authors would happily wait years before their book appeared in print.  Now we all want now.  I want now too.  We have plans in the works to rearchitect Meatgrinder with parallel processing so we can get these conversion times down to something reasonable.  In the meantime, we'll likely see the conversion times stretch out even longer as our volume grows.  Some other good news:  The Premium Catalag backlog has come down significantly, despite this growth in new titles.  We're almost at about a week now for new titles.  Still much improvement to be made, but we're getting back to normal.

March 22, 2011 - Scamsters.  Back in February, we observed a large number of very large orders that occurred over a period of a few days.  A single customer purchased a single copy of over 2,000 books across a series of large purchases.  Given the unusual size of the orders, we contacted the customer, and they claimed it was a legit order.  Yet something didn't smell right.  Finally, we received further evidence it was a scam order.  Today we reversed the orders and pulled the books from the scamster's account.  If you're one of the hundreds of Smashwords authors or publishers affected, you'll see one or more purchases reversed within your Sales and Payments account, for sales that were originally reported February 18-February 21.  Why someone would go to so much trouble to steal so many books, we don't know.  There are certainly easier methods of amassing a large collection of ebooks (Read an Ebook week comes to mind, or illegal pirate torrent sites).  Ebooks are not easily resellable, though we have seen some of that happening recently, as reported below in my January 31st update where books previously distributed for free were stolen by scamsters and sold online at Amazon.  How can you protect yourself?  Do vanity searches on Google for your book titles and your author name.  Set up a Google alert (www.google.com/alerts) on your name and book title, so you're alerted whenever your book appears anywhere on the Internet.  One site, called They Stole My Book, allows authors to post notices of their stolen books.  While it's disturbing to any author that their book is accessed by a scamster, it's important to keep in mind that these criminals never would have purchased your book to begin with, and their attempts to sell stolen books are usually thwarted quickly by the transparency enabled by the Internet.  Don't allow such criminals deter your publishing efforts.  Karma will catch up with them.

March 21, 2011 - Facebook day.  1.  Kudos to Smashwords author John Low, who's doing a stellar job building community among Smashwords authors and readers over at the official Smashwords Facebook page.  2.  We added the the Facebook "Like" button to all 39,346 Smashwords book pages.  Check it out, "Like" your books, and encourage your fans, friends and supporters to do the same.  3.  We added a new link to the Smashwords Facebook page on the home page, underneath the section previously known as Twitterbuzz (now SocialBuzz).  We hope to have a new link there soon showcasing Smashwords authors on Facebook, just as we do for Smashwords members on Twitter.  To ensure you're in there when it launches,  click to your Edit Profile page under the Account tab, and add your URLs for your Facebook address.  To locate the hyperlink to your Facebook page, log in to your Facebook account and then click "Profile," and the address you see in your browser's address field is the address you enter on your Smahwords Edit Profile page.

March 17, 2011 - Indie authors give back.  Support our friends in Japan.  Participate in the Indie Authors Relief Fund, organized by Smashwords author Kristie Cook.  Smashwords authors, I bow before you.

March 16, 2011 - Two items:  1.  Sprinkle a little DRM-free joy - a new post on DRM over at the Smashwords Blog.  2.  Welcome College Prowler, the new alpha-tester guinnea pig publisher for our Smashwords Direct service, which will allow large publishers to bulk-upload books to Smashwords hundreds-or-thousands-at-a-time, as opposed to one by one. 290 books uploaded and ingested in one fell swoop on one day (yesterday), live in the Apple iBookstore the next day (today).  Yay!

March 12, 2011 - Two items.  1.  Blow out end to Read an Ebook Week, which ends in two minutes.  This final day had the highest dollar sales volume of the week.  A warm thank you (and congrats!) to participating Smashwords authors, publishers and readers.  My thanks also to John Low who's been doing a great job moderating the official Smashwords Facebook page where he's faciliated RAEW promotions this week.   2.  Congrats to Smashwords author Steve Hermanos, who tomorrow is the subject of a New York Times story.  His book is profiled!  It's also the *first* time Smashwords has been mentioned in the New York Times.  Somehow the NYT managed to ignore us for three years until now.  Funny, our first mention is in the sports section.  Thanks for making it happen, Steve!   Have a good weekend all.

March 11, 2011 - Quick updates.  1.  More retailer sales loaded today.  See your Sales and Payments report for what was loaded when.  2.  Our performance tweaks appear to be working.  Site much zippier today.  Sales today were the highest yet during the promotion.  3.  This tweet by one happy Canadian Read an Ebook Week customer tonight, @Ren_Thompson, sums up the orgy of ebook downloads we've witnessed the last few days:   I have no more money. I cannot buy any more ebooks. I can't download any more. I'm tired. Thank you, you wonderful authors at #smashwords.    4.  Had a thread yesterday with a new publisher who refused to distribute on Smashwords because we're DRM-free. They'd rather give up distribution and exposure (and sales!) rather than trust customers not to pirate their books.  Today, one customer purchased 12 copies of a $9.95 ebook to share with employees at their company.  Sure, they could have purchased one copy and illegally copied it.  But they didn't, and now this author is about $100 better off.  Score one for trust and availability.  5.  Read an Ebook Week ends Saturday night at midnight Pacific.

March 10, 2011 - A few updates.  1.  Viva Español.   Mario Carrasco Teja of Mexican publisher Tártaro has volunteered to translate the Smashwords Style Guide into ISO Spanish ("español neutral").   ISO Spanish overcomes local nuances which may render communication difficult for readers in some Spanish speaking nations.  For example, [if the Style Guide used the word "kid,"] they would use the word "niño" instead of the Mexican "escuincle," or the Spanish "chaval," or the Argentinian "pibe."   Spanish is the second spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese.  This Wikipedia page has an interesting overview of where Spanish speakers reside.  15% of the US population speaks Spanish.  Smashwords is based in Los Gatos, which means "The Cats" en Español.  2.  I spoke last night in San Francisco at the Mechanics Institute.  It's fun to see more an more Smashwords authors attending these talks.  Smashwords author Alessa Adamo was there, showing her book, Night Flight as it appears on the iPad (download it for free as part of the Read an Ebook Week promotion).  3.  Amazon update:  We had a good conference call with Amazon on Tuesday.  In two weeks they'll give us another update on the planned rollout schedule, so we're in a holding pattern until then.  This means our integration is still multiple weeks out.  I can't go into all the details because we're under NDA, though I can tell you Amazon's commitment to author experience is admirable.  They want to make sure that once they go live with our titles, they can quickly and accurately process the flood of metadata updates we'll be sending them, just as we send our other retailers each week.  4.  RAEW update - another busy day yesterday with strong traffic and sales.  Yes, the site is still slow from the surge in traffic.  

March 8, 2011 - The world is your stage.  In the last 30 days, people have visited Smashwords from 218 countries and territories.  Help us spread the power of ebook publishing to every corner of the globe.  Our friend Giuseppe Meligrana of Italian Smashwords publisher Meligrana Giuseppe Editore has volunteered to help translate the Smashwords Style Guide into Italian.  Very cool.  If you want to volunteer to translate the Style Guide into your native language, drop me at note at the "?" question mark button above.  I'd like to assemble small teams of two or more translators each who can work together to translate, edit and proof these new editions.  You'll receive translation credit inside the Style Guide, loads of good karma, plus an opportunity to help authors and publishers in your native language or country benefit from Smashwords. We have the opportunity to help authors reach readers in their local markets, as well as anywhere else their language is read.  Update 11:30pm:  Another busy day.  Site was sluggish most of the day.  We continue to tweak things for incremental improvements.  Over 1,000 people registered for new Smashwords accounts today.  Welcome!  We added a new search filter in the Read an Ebook Week catalog so readers can search by coupon categories (25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off, FREE).  Traffic was a tad down from yesterday, but it looks like today's sales might beat yesterday by a whisker.

March 7, 2011 - Day two of Read an Ebook Week.  Of course, after I commented below last night that the site was performing well under the heavy load, we experienced an outage this morning starting at around 6:15am Pacific through 7:45 am.   Page views (the number of unique Smashwords pages loaded) were up 58% yesterday compared to the same day one week ago.  If last year's RAEW was any indication, the first day of the sale was the busiest.  Let's see if it plays out similarly this year.  Update 11pm:  Another strong day for sales, new customer registrations, and traffic.  The traffic today will come very close to yesterday's all-time record, but probably won't beat it.  The site performed a bit on the sluggish side today.  The great thing about these bursts of activity is that they help us identify new areas to optimize database performance.  After all, Smashwords is one massive, highly complex database of 37,000 (oh, we passed 37k today) books.  All the books are presented in relation to other books, so, for example, when we bring up one book we're also bring up books purchased by customers who purchased this book, or other books by this author or publisher, etc.  Other news:  1.  IRS tax forms were mailed out last week for 2010 earnings.  1099s to all US residents who earned over $600, and [another form number I forget] mailed to our many international authors for any amount paid.  2.  Retailer sales reports loaded today for Kobo, Sony and Diesel.  All three showing good growth on a percentage basis.  More to come. 

March 6, 2011 - Read an Ebook is off to a strong start.  Several bugs were reported on the coupon codes, but we're stomping them out one at a time so things are almost fixed.  Looks like we're on track to book record sales today, both in terms of number of books purchased and also sales.  Also on track to blow away previous records on number of page views and unique visitors.  The site is holding up okay under the heavy traffc, though it is sluggish.  I'll update some of the metrics above later today.  Update 11pm:  Blowout day.  Record traffic.  Record # of visits, page views, orders, and sales.  Knock on wood, the site is performing well under the record load.  Things are swimming over at the Smashwords Facebook page.  Authors are advertising their RAEW books and connecting with one another.

March 4, 2011 - A few things.  1.  Sending out a Smashwords Author/Publisher alert to remind folks that Read an Ebook Week starts Sunday, and you can enroll your books now from the link on the home page.  It also includes other Smashwords-related updates, few of which will be new to Smashwords power authors who follow this page.  :)    2.  Our friend Nan Hawthorne runs Medieval-Novels.com, a cool directory listing novels that are set in the time period between 400 and 1600 AD.  If this matches your book, email her a hyperlink to your Smashwords book page.  Her email is hawthorne@nanhawthorne.com.  She'll add a link to your book to the site, and she'll attach an affiliate code so she can earn 11% of any sales she generates (she deserves it!).  I think what Nan's doing with her site - creating a hyper-focused directory for fans of Medieval novels - is a great example of how people who are passionate about books can help spread the joy of books while benefiting readers and authors alike.  Support her if you can.  3.  The discussion over at the Smashwords Blog for my uprising post is incredible.   The comments there are much cooler and insightful than my original post. Ya'll are some smart cookies.   I revised the story for the Huffington Post, based on my editor's feedbackClick here to see the HuffPo version.  Go comment, Tweet it and Facebook it.  Share the love.  I imagine the Big 6 publishers are not terribly pleased with me today.  Sorry.  Three years ago when I launched Smashwords, I tried to tell them this would happen.  Few paid attention as brave Smashwords authors blazed new ground. Self-publishing is gaining new respect, thanks to a lot of you who are showing what good books are made of.   4.  Speaking of Facebook, Smashwords has a proper Facebook page now at http://facebook.com/Smashwords.   Smashwords publisher John Low of Yellow Dog ePublishers volunteered to moderate the page over there, and at his prompting I reserved us the proper web address.  If you're on Facebook, check it out, "favorite" it, and spread the news.

March 3, 2011 - Two things.  1.  The uprising.  My revolution post, which I mentioned a couple days back, is now up at the Smashwords blog.  It was a challenging post because I take on big topics that won't sit too well with Big Publishing in New York.  There's an accompanying PowerPoint embedded in the blog.  If you like it, share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter, or embed it in your own blog.  Viva the revolution.  2.  If you sent in a question over the "?" question mark button form yesterday between 7:30 am Pacific and 3:30 pm, and you didn't receive a response, please contact us again.

February 28, 2011 - Whirlwind.  Four conferences in two weeks.  Met scores of fabulous people, partners and supporters.  Some updates on what's happening.  1.  Flew down to LA Friday to speak at the LA Bookwoman's Festival on Saturday in Marina Del Rey.   Had a great dinner with Gene Grossman of Magic Lamp Press on Friday. Gene is the unofficial copy editor for this Site Updates page.  I count on him to flag my ever-so-copious typos.  For my talk in LA, I shared some parallels between the Egyptian revolution and the coming revolution in publishing.  I don't specifically mean the revolution in ebooks, or self-publishing, although those two smaller revolutions play a part in the bigger revolution to come.  I'm referring to a revolution in thinking.  I touched on some of the same themes last week at the San Francisco Writers Conference (btw, save the date for next year - it's an excellent conference.  My head is still spinning from all the great speakers).  If I can find a few moments over the next couple weeks I'll develop some of these new ideas into a blog post and Huffington Post column.  2.  YouTube updated the embed code for its videos, and Smashwords doesn't yet support the new code.  If you're embedding a video to your author page or book page, select YouTube's older original embed code (they give you a choice) before you add it to your pages at Smashwords.  3.  Patronage of the virtual sort.  Patrons of the arts have supported starving artists through the ages.  Now there's an online site called KickStarter that helps artists of all sorts solicit backers for their projects from ordinary patrons like you and me who might kick in a dollar here and there.  One Smashwords author, Scott Semegran, is seeking $5,000 to support the completion of his book.  Donate a few dollars and he'll reward you with some post-publication goodies.  He put together a very cool video (mesmerizing, if you ask me) in which he types out (on a typewriter, remember those?!) his passionate plea for patrons.  He launched his Kickstarter page earlier today, and so far he's $0.00 toward his $5,000 goal with only 39 days left to go.  Consider dropping some change into his can. I just tweeted his project here.   4.  Chicken littles.  One concerned author posted speculation the other day over at Kindleboards that Smashwords was in some kind of trouble, pointing to our current 2+ week backlog in Premium Catalog approvals as an ominous sign.  Ugh.  Authors are an imaginative bunch.  Luckily, one long-time Smashwords publisher tipped me off to the post so I dropped by to address his concerns.  Was also great to see several Smashwords authors jump in and set the record straight.  To anyone who follows this Site Updates page, you know we're backlogged, you know why we're backlogged (4,000+ new titles in the last 30 days), and you know our plan to address the problem (we added new staff on the vetting and technology teams).  As I mentioned over at Kindleboards (and as I mentioned in the Smashwords Year in Review blog post), Smashwords is profitable.   This means we're here to stay.  It also means Smashwords' financial backers (me, me and me) stopped hemmhoraging cash around last September after four years of heavy funding. Because we eschewed VC backing (tanamount to selling your soul to the devil IMHO), we're accountable only to our authors, publishers, readers and retailers.  In our three years since launch, we've contended with multiple challenges to our business, the most significant of which has been scaling the business amid torrid growth.  It's a challenge we relish because profitable growth is the best possible problem to have.  As we grow, we're reinvesting the profits back into the business to better serve you.  We will continue to trip and stumble, but with your support we'll always get up and move forward.  5.  Speaking of challenges, next week is the annual Read an Ebook Week, so stay tuned for more information.  We will again participate in this massive promotion.  Last year, the traffic spike from RAEW caused our worst site outage ever (and caused some Chicken Littles to leave Smashwords, which means they missed out on our growth since then.  That which didn't kill us made us stronger. The huge traffic surge helped us identify necessary infrastructure improvements which led to increased site performance and reliability, and those improvements allowed us to quadruple our traffic in the 12 months since (Update: ironically, hours after I posted this the site crashed. All part of the iterative process).   6.  Are you fully distributed?  Smashwords is an ebook distributor.  About 80% of our authors' sales come from our retail distribution network.  If your book isn't in the Premium Catalog, you're missing out.  All too often, I still see authors on message boards talking about how the Smashwords Style Guide was too much effort for them so they gave up (hello hello, we understand Microsoft Word formatting isn't a favorite leisure activity for most of us, but if you spent a lifetime writing your opus, why not spend a few hours to master the Style Guide, or consider spending $40 to hire a fellow Smashwords author to do your formatting for you [send an email to list@smashwords.com to get my list via instant autoresponder], or contact me on the "?" question mark button above for some free support.  We're here to help.).  Back to my main point:  After your book is in the Premium Catalog, make sure you go to your ISBN Manager and attach an ISBN to your book so we can ship it to Sony and Apple.  Also remember to go to your Channel Manager and opt in to the Apple Channel.  Thousands of Smashwords authors are mere clicks away from getting their books fully distributed to Sony and Apple.  We'll probably send out an email reminder to the stragglers (who I assume may not be reading this Site Updates page).  7.  Speaking of message boards and misconceptions, let's clear up a couple counterproductive tidbits.  a.   I'll often read on the message boards that Smashwords is only for free books, or authors will complain they don't want to compete against free books.  Hey, we love free books because we know they help sell books (shhh... it's a secret, so don't tell anyone except your fellow Smashwords authors).  As most of our best-selling, highest-earning authors will tell you, free (especially a full-length free series-starter) is the marketing secret that helps them attract readership for their paid books.  b.  Some authors complain that Smashwords has too many books, so it's too difficult to stand out from the crowd.  Using this reasoning, you'd never want your book listed at a major online bookstore, where they have hundreds of thousands of titles listed.  The reality of the matter is that more books at Smashwords attracts more readers for all our authors' books.  Our growing traffic, page views and Smashwords.com retail sales support this conclusion.  If you see your fellow authors shooting themselves in the head with such counterproductive ideas, do them a favor and lend them a hand before Darwin gets ahold of them.  As marketing guru Penny Sansieveri said at the San Francisco Writer's Conference, authors should treat their fellow authors as partners, not competitors.   8.  Numbers numbers.  We topped 36,000 books today, up 4,367 books in the last 30 days.  That works out to about 4,500 words a minute.   We're on track to hit our end-of-year goal of 75,000 books.  9.  I'm not the only person with revolution on his mind.  Smashwords author David Dvorkin shared some interesting thoughts in this post on his blog titled, Liber-ation.  

February 21, 2011 - Three quick updates.  1.  Congrats to Smashwords author Ruth Ann Nordin, who today is dominating the best-seller list in the romance category at the Apple iBookstore here in the US.  Her Inconvenience Marriage is at #1 for paid books, and What Nathan Wants is at #4.  It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway:  She's beating every other big NY romance publisher.  The news is equally great for Smashwords authors in the top free books in the romance category, with 10 of the top 10 most downloaded free romance books published by Smashwords authors.  Another interesting observation:  Ruth Ann had some of her first big breakouts at Kobo last year.  It's really interesting how an author can break out at different retailers at different times, and often the breakouts come out of nowhere, suddenly and without any explicable reason.  She's also started breaking out at Sony, where she is listed among the top 10 most popular authors.  Very cool.   2.  We're still running a backlog with Premium Catalog reviews, though we're working through it as quickly as we can.  We expanded the vetting team last week and as training progresses, we should see throughput increase.  Thank you for your patience.  To help us help you, and to maximize the odds that your book is approved on the first pass, double and triple check that your book is formatted to the Style Guide.  If you click on the Premium Status link in your Dashboard, if you scroll down the page you'll find a good summary of the most common reasons books don't make the initial cut (improper line spacing, tabs, space bar errors, missing the recommended copyright page, floating images, separating indented paragraphs with additional space between paragraphs, and missing proper first line indents). 3. Greetings from San Francisco, where yesterday the fantastic San Francisco Writers Conference concluded, and today is Self Publishing Bootcamp. The SFWC is a great conference, and I'm sure the many who flew in from across the country and around the world left energized and enlightened.  One key theme that emerged (one that many Smashwords authors have heard me preach now for a long time) is that you shouldn't be deterred by the increasing number of ebook titles you compete against out in the marketplace.  Good books rise like cream to the top, and books that don't resonate with the reader drop out of sight.  There's nothing standing between you and your reader but a good book.  If you honor your reader with a great, well-edited story, you will rise above the crowd.  Another theme - one with which I wholeheartedly agree with - is that your fellow authors are not your competition.  They're your partners. Share secrets and learn from one another, because the rising tide of indie author professionalism and accomplishment lifts all of us.

February 13, 2011 - A few updates:  1.  Meatgrinder was stalled overnight.  Now operational again, but still many books in the queue.  2.  Last weekend I reported that some books weren't loading into the Kobo store.  In the last couple days, I've received multiple reports of previously loaded books disappearing.  Kobo is aware of the issues.  I'll learn more in a few days when I meet with them in NY (see below).   3. The Smashwords Terms of Service has been updated to better accommodate literary agents, and also to clarify that third party ebook sites are not permitted to host and redistribute Smashwords books priced at FREE unless they receive prior written contractual permission from us (you'd think this is a no-brainer, though a web site in India thought it was okay to redistribute some of our books priced at free.  Thanks to an eagle-eyed author at Smashwords, we notified the site and they're taking the titles down). If you haven't read the TOS recently (or if you've never read it!), I encourage you to read it now because it represents our contract with Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.   4.  On the road, spreading the word about indie ebook publishing and meeting with Smashwords partners and authors.  I'll be in NY for the annual Tools of Change conference (1,200 attendees will be wearing our popular Smashwords lanyard), then this Friday I'm speaking at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference (more lanyards!), followed by a panel presentation Monday February 21, also in San Francisco, at Self Publishing Boot Camp, produced by Smashwords' wonderful Carla King.  The following weekend, I'm on a panel at the Los Angeles BookWoman Conference in Marina Del Rey.  On March 9, I'm back up in San Francisco to speak that evening at the Mechanics Institute to a self-publishing writers group.  The event starts at 6:30pm.  Further out, I'm speaking on an ebook panel in NY at the 40th Annual ASJA Writers Conference on April 30.  And for those of you who really like to plan ahead, I'm speaking at the Central Coast Writer's Conference in San Luis Obispo September 16, keynoted by former agent Nathan Bransford.  5.  Speaking of Tools of Change, it's one of my favorite publishing industry conferences, because it does a great job of examining how technology will impact the future of publishing for publishers.  Several of the presentations from last year and even previous years can be downloaded, and also viewed as videos, at http://www.toccon.com/toc2010/public/schedule/proceedings.  As I attend the presentations this week, I'll live Tweet things of interest starting Tuesday.  Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/markcoker.

February 10, 2011 - Two new marketing opportunities.  1.  Smashwords members Bill & Davilynn Furlow have started a new book review blog called Great Books Under $5.00.  They kicked off the new blog with reviews of a three Smashwords titles, The Defector by Mark Chisnell, The Bird Menders by Marian Van Eyk McCain, and Lost to the World by Libby Sternberg.  Their primary interest is novels, especially mysteries or thrillers, though they'll also consider good memoirs, business books, humor and other non-fiction works.  Have you read a Smashwords book you absolutely love?  They're also willing to consider quality reviews from volunteer contributors (not marketing puff pieces, or reviews of your friends' books).  Contact them at wafurlow@cableone.net after reviewing their site.  2.  Anyone who's read the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, or these Site Updates, knows I encourage Smashwords authors to participate in the various retailer-specific and independent ebook-related forums.  It's a great opportunity to connect directly with readers and other authors.  If you want to reach readers of the Sony Reader, here's a new (well, new to me at least) message board that I see a few other Smashwords authors have already discovered:  The Sony Reader Forum

February 7, 2011 - Another book marketing opportunity for Smashwords authors - Ereader News Today.  They're an up-and-coming free ebooks site, similar to GetFreeEbooks.com (see the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for more on them and similar sites), a favorite of Smashwords authors.  By doing a limited time free promo, you can potentially introduce your book to hundreds of new readers.  Greg, the proprietor of Ereader News Today, invites Smashwords authors to send him limited-time coupon codes for Smashwords books.  For consideration, email him (click here for his email address) a direct hyperlink to your Smashwords book page, along with the free coupon code, coupon code expiration date, and a short synopsis.  Since they specialize in books for Kindles, make sure you have the MOBI file option activated for your book (Reminder:  If you don't have MOBI activated for all your books, go do it now at Dashboard: Settings.  Thousands of Kindle users come directly to Smashwords to purchase books for their Kindles, so if you don't have MOBI you're losing customers).

February 5, 2011 - Multiple updates (much to cover!).  1.  Payment processing went off with relatively few glitches.  We mistakenly withheld IRS taxes from six author/publishers outside the US, even though they had submitted a valid W8-BEN form, so we reversed the withholding, fixed the glitch that caused it, and paid them the balance yesterday. Thanks to the two of you who reported it.   2. We loaded new sales reports yesterday in your Sales & Payments screen.  We're eager for January reports to come in, especially from B&N, because the preliminary sales data I see for the first 23 days at B&N shows a sizable increase for Smashwords authors over December, possibly a result of our new and improved data feed to them, started right before the holidays, in which we now provide longer descriptions, author bios and dual BISAC category codes.   3.  This holiday period completely reset the map for ebook sales across all retailers.  I'm pleased with how sales at every retailer are progressing.  From largest to smallest, here's how the retailers now stack up in terms of December sales:  1.  B&N; 2. Apple (a close second); 3. Smashwords.com (sales here have really spiked here); 4 & 5 (virtual tie):  Sony and Kobo (both showing impressive growth).  6.  Diesel.  Your results may vary.  It's not uncommon for some authors to sell more at a smaller retailer than they do at a larger retailer.  I've heard authors complain about their sales at Diesel, and some have even opted out.  Not smart.  Folks, they're a smaller retailer, so don't be surprised by low or no sales.  The distribution costs you nothing.  They're growing, and they give our titles good promotion so please support them as you do all our retail partners.  A year ago, some trigger happy authors opted out of Kobo, B&N and Sony for their low sales, and now each of these have grown to become can't-miss retailers.  Think long term.  A thriving ecosystem of ebook retailers large and small is good for authors and readers alike, and indie authors, as the captains of the future of publishing, have an opportunity to support such a future.  Add links from your web site or blog to your books at every retailer.  Let customers decide where to shop.   4.  Several times a week we receive an email from an author who tells us their friend bought their book at Apple (or B&N or another retailer) yesterday or last week and they want to know why the sale isn't showing up in the Sales & Payments report.  As a reminder, retailer reports are not real-time.  I think we've spoiled people with our real-time sales reporting for Smashwords.com sales.  Nevertheless, we know you want it, and we want it too, so we do plan to increase the frequency of reporting later this year, as I mentioned in the annual Smashwords year-in-review post.  It'll happen as we add more staff (it's like neurosurgery to accurately process, slice and dice these disparate sales reports, and very time-consuming).  Even unreasonable requests give us motivation to improve things.  5.  Speaking of improvements, or lack thereof, we're still backlogged on Premium Catalog approvals. We're bringing another Premium Catalog vetting team staffer on board in the next few days, though it may be a couple more weeks yet before they're trained and productive (it's a tough job!).  6.  The Sony shipment is late.  We're completely rebuilding our shipping mechanisms for them and hope to have that completed by early next week.  The new system should help us help Sony provide faster and more accurate updates.  7.  We've received a small number of reports over the last two weeks that some authors aren't seeing their books appear at Kobo.  We're in discussion with them to understand if this is an isolated problem, or if it's a larger issue.  8.  Amazon, the big kahuna several thousand of you are waiting for, is proceeding along.  They've asked us not to publicly estimate a completion date.  What we're doing with them is pretty cool, so we're the willing guinea pigs.  And no, I don't know when this joint development will be completed, though rest assured things are happening, however slow and behind schedule we may be.  9.  Google Ebooks = perplexing.  Almost a year ago, we signed an agreement with Google for what was then known as Google Editions.  We negotiated good terms for our authors, but it was a traditional wholesale agreement, which meant they and their retailers could discount the books.  Then the world changed and by June we were no longer signing wholesale agreements.  Instead, we switched to doing only agency or agency-like, meaning we wanted our authors and publishers to have the power to decide the retail price.  By December 1, as we announced on the Smashwords Blog (click if you want to review the differences between wholesale and agency, and why we switched), we successfully transitioned all our retail partners to agency or agency-like.  All, that is, except Google.  Fast forward to present, and here we are, eager to distribute over 20,000 Premium Catalog books to Google, yet (so far at least) they're reluctant to do agency with us.  All our other retailers were reluctant at first as well, though they eventually decided on their own to move us there.  To me, it says that Sony, Kobo, B&N and Diesel really value indie authors and publishers.  I'm not sure what Google's reticence signals.  If you want your books distributed to Google via Smashwords, send Google a friendly and polite email and tell them.  Let them know it's important to you that they receive your books through Smashwords so you can centrally control all your pricing and distribution from your Smashwords Dashboard, and so you can honor your agency pricing relationships with other Smashwords retailers.  If your book is selling well at other major retailers, let them know what they and their customers are missing.  Click this link for their Google Contact Form.  Have a great weekend everyone.

February 3, 2011 - Following up on my January 16-22 post below, two more marketing opportunities for Smashwords authors.  1.  Albert Rollins runs a review site called Free Book Reviews, and he invites authors of all topics and genres to pitch him. Free coupons are welcome, but not necessary.  If he's sufficiently interested in your book, he may purchase it (I say anyone willing to help you promote your book deserves a free coupon!).  2.  Smashwords author George Straatman invites fellow fantasy authors to email him a cover image, a synopis and hyperlinks to your Smashwords book page and/or personal web site and he'll promote your book in his blog and web site.  Contact him at geolouicewind@yahoo.ca

February 2, 2011 - Paypal payments went out tonight.  Yikes, that was a lot of cash we just blasted into the aether.  Checks will be cut and mailed tomorrow.  Likely by end of day tomorrow, your balances will be updated to reflect the payments.  If the amount you received tonight doesn't match the amount you see in your Sales and Payments report, it's probably a result of either VAT or your IRS withholdings.  Reminder:  On your Sales and Payments page you can download a spreadsheet that captures all your sales results. 

February 1, 2011 - We're almost finished untangling of the VAT issue mentioned in my January 27 update below, so we're now aiming to process payments tomorrow.  Australia is now added to the VAT mix as well.  As we've worked today to adjust VAT, we unloaded Apple U.K., France, Germany and Australia sales, then reloaded them adjusted for VAT.  We made the adjustments real-time, so some eagle-eyed authors noticed dramatic variations in their Sales & Payments report's balance between loads and adjustments.  Everything is now reloaded.  If you had sales in these countries credited during the Q4 payment period, you will see your balance payable for those sales decrease by approximately 8-10% for VAT.  We're going to comb through the numbers and fact check tonight and tomorrow morning and then will process payments before end of day tomorrow Pacific time.  As a reminder, authors/publishers set up for PayPal payments will receive their payments first.  Add your PayPal address in your Payee Profile.  If you're not yet a PayPal user, you can sign up for free, and then you can link your PayPal account to your bank account.  I'll add a note here once the PayPal round goes out tomorrow because I know many of you are waiting to receive some VERY big payments.

January 31, 2011 - They say even paranoid people get it right sometimes, and today offers further confirmation.  Two items to share.  1.  Some eagle-eyed Smashwords authors have detected a scam in which cybercriminal scum-o-the-earth types are stealing free books and republishing them on Amazon for a price.  One author, Drew Wagar, created a site to document their initial findings over at the blog, Drew Wagar.  In Drew's case, the criminal apparently republished his free books at Amazon but misspelled his name Drew Wager.  I did some poking around based on their initial research and found a scamster, going by the name of Peter Michelsen, who has posted over 57 books at Amazon, including a mix of both stolen and Private Label Rights scam books.  One book in particular, The Unearthing (not a Smashwords title), apparently was really published by author Steve Karmazenuk. If you look closely at the book cover image at Amazon, it shows his author name smudged out. Now you know why Smashwords requires author names on book cover images and copyright statements.  What can an author do to protect her/himself from such scamsters?  First, it's a good idea to do vanity searches at Google on your name and book titles.  If your book is appearing anywhere that Smashwords doesn't distribute to (see our distribution points here), then take a closer look.  In the case above, the scamsters are publishing directly at Amazon to reach Amazon's large customer base. Second, there's no need to panic or change your publishing strategy, because although the above is immensely disturbing, it's still very rare and isolated, and the scamsters will eventually be caught and shut down (at least until they pop up again).  Don't allow these parasitic vermin to scare you or deter you from publishing.  We can expect more of this as ebook sales continue to grow.  I've been in touch with Amazon and they've escalated this investigation.  I imagine it's only a matter of time before these books start appearing via other direct publishing platforms such as B&N's Pubit.  I don't think these other platforms subject their books to the same level of scrutiny as we do in our Premium Catalog vetting process.  2.  Speaking of scamsters, as I mentioned the other day, we're processing credit card chargebacks in advance of paying out our Q4 earnings to our authors and publishers. I've detected some scams taking place here at Smashwords.  We see signs of affiliate marketers based in Asia who are using stolen credit cards to purchase books, we assume with the intention of collecting the 11% affiliate marketing fee.  In another scam, scamsters have uploaded garbage books and then have used stolen credit cards to, I assume, launder money through Smashwords by ordering these garbage books.  Again, the incidence of these scams is rare, but we're watching it closely and freezing the accounts of suspected scamsters.  If you see a reversal in your Sales & Payments report, it means the credit card holder claimed they didn't make the purchase.  PayPal and the credit card companies always side with the customer, not the seller of the product.  Of course, not all reversals are the result of scams.  In some instances, it's a computer neophyte who, despite being subjected to multiple reminders at Smashwords that they were purchasing an electronic book, still believed they were purchasing a print book.  As I've mentioned previously here, about once a month we'll get an email from someone saying, "I ordered my book three months ago but it still hasn't arrived in the mail."  We've also seen customer's demand - and receive - reversals from their credit card companies when the book wasn't available in the formats they expected (always make sure you have PDF, MOBI and EPUB activated at Smashwords). 

January 29, 2011 - Smashwords has published over 4,000 new titles in the last 30 days(yay!).  We're backlogged on Premium Catalog approvals (boo hiss!), so the time has come to hire an additional team member to join our Premium Catalog vetting team in Los Gatos (yay!).  Eligibility Requirements (NO EXCEPTIONS):  Must reside near our Los Gatos, CA office; four-year college degree; strong written communications skills; expert at Microsoft Word and the Smashwords Style Guide; can comfortably work in front of a computer eight hours per day; excellent vision; strong attention to detail; fast fast fast, can analyze hundreds of books each day and make accurate decisions regarding eligibility for Smashwords Premium Catalog; works well under pressure (Smashwords authors are an impatient bunch!); positive attitude; loves ebooks; and honest to a fault. Customer service and/or author services experience a plus.  To apply, email me your resume and a couple *short* paragraphs on why you want to be on the Smashwords team, and include hyperlinks to any works you have published or formatted on Smashwords.  Include salary expectations. No phone calls or stop-bys.  My email address can be found at the very bottom of this page.

January 27, 2011 - Multiple items.  1.  A lot of site instability today.  Although we've had all-time record traffic this month and this week, we think the issue today is not directly correlated.   2.  We're prepping record quarterly payments.  We're untangling some complicated VAT tax issues and will revise the Sales and Payments reports to reflect impact of VAT on Apple sales in UK and Europe.  The VAT tax comes out of the sales price.  We're aiming to process all payments on Monday.  3.  In preparation for payments, we're also processing credit card chargebacks.  When the credit cards reverse a charge, usually due to the cardholder claiming their card was stolen, it can remove a sale from your Sales and Payments report.

January 23, 2011 (Updated January 29) - Several miscellaneous items.  1.  Tip of the day.  Is your title/copyright page too long?  If it goes on and on, you might be losing readers.  Some retailers, such as B&N, only provide short samples, and I've seen instances where the entire sample is only the copyright page.  If your title and copyright pages go on and on with superfluous informational relics of traditional print books, consider doing shorter front matter so the reader can get into your book faster.  Four short lines and the license statement is all you need.  For examples of super-short title/copyright pages, see the suggested title/copyright and License Statement FAQs2.  Message boards offer a great opportunity for indie authors to network with other authors and connect directly with readers.  Later this year, Smashwords will probably launch its own forum.  Even after we launch our own, you should still participate in others.  The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide mentions a few of the larger ones, such as MobileRead and Kindleboards.  Recently a couple new boards have launched.  One, called Ebooksamples.net, is operated by Smashwords author Carl East.  Another I learned of this morning is called The Indie Spot.  Another, called Smashwords Forum, was launched by Smashwords author Ted Summerfield3.  Speaking of message boards, like all things on the Internet, they can also be breeding grounds for misinformation, rumormongering, negativity and cluelessness, so remember, just because you read it on the Internet doesn't mean it's true.  A few days ago over at Kindleboards, an author posted about how they don't publish at Smashwords because we don't support hyperlinked TOCs (ahem.. we've supported these for almost a year).  Luckily, another Smashwords author set them straight.  This happens a lot over at Kindleboards, so thanks to  those of you who help set records straight.  And then there's one individual - an author banned from Smashwords a year ago - who spreads insidious poison at every opportunity on different boards.  If you follow my Site Updates, you can count yourself as a Smashwords insider.  You're more informed than the average author.  If you see folks spreading misinformation, please do us all a favor and set them straight with the truth.  4.  In my annual year-in-review-and-look-ahead post over at the Smashwords blog, I mentioned one of my big goals for 2011 is to work more closely with our retail partners to help them identify Smashwords titles worthy of special promotion.  Along these lines, I had a good meeting Friday with a large Smashwords retailer, and they want to start considering more Smashwords titles for features in their email promotions and prominent on-site merchandising.  Because we aggregate sales data from multiple retailers, we're able to spot promising titles.  My recommendations to them will be driven by what's selling across the Smashwords distribution network, or what's popping at individual retailers, because I view these highest grossing titles as vetted by readers who are voting with their wallets.  Authors who opt out of one or more of our retailers may inadvertently disadvantage themselves if their strong sales might otherwise warrant placement in our top sellers.  This isn't due to any discrimination or spite on our part - it's simply because when I run my analytics against either our aggregated sales data, or against our retailer-specific sales data, your sales are missing.  5.  We're backlogged and running about three days late on Premium Catalog approvals.  As a reminder, if you click the link under your Dashboard's "Premium Status" column and discover AutoVetter errors, you should correct those errors now, otherwise those errors will prevent or delay your review.  6.  Speaking of AutoVetter, we're working on what we call AutoVetter III, which will help accelerate approval cycle times.  More later once we're ready to roll it out.

January 16-22, 2011 - (Updated with 10th opportunity) Free marketing opportunities - Smashwords Authors Helping Smashwords Authors  (updated).  I ran some of this list on Saturday, but have added more listings as they come in.  Do you run a web site or blog that reviews Smashwords books, or runs directory listings from Smashwords authors?  If so, let me know and I'll add them to the list.   I'm particularly interested in sites run by Smashwords authors.  If you support Smashwords authors, we want to support you!  Several of these sites are new and have low traffic, yet any time an author can obtain listings and hyperlinks on book-related blogs and websites that point to your Smashwords book pages, you're creating a trail of digital breadcrumbs that make your books more discoverable to readers.  Authors:  Please be considerate of your fellow authors' time.  Most on this list are running their sites on a volunteer basis, so do them the courtesy of studying their site before you contact them, and if they're kind enough to promote you, recipricate by celebrating that promotion across your own social networks so you drive your fans to their sites.  When you contact them, include the direct hyperlink to your author page or book page at Smashwords to make it easier for them.  As a bonus, include a free coupon code so they can download the book for free.    THE LIST:  1.  Looking for a review?  Check out Ficbot's E-Finds blog.  She usually reviews one Smashwords book every week.  Study her past reviews, and if you think your book matches her interests, send her a pitch to review it (include a free coupon code so she can download it for free).  Her contact information is on her site.  2.  A Smashwords author writing under the pen name of Lana Hughes has created a blog called Free eBooks where she's showcasing free Smashwords books.  I found her on Twitter.  I'm a big believer in free as a marketing tool to help introduce readers to your priced books.  Her contact info is on her blog.  3.  Smashwords author Dodge Winston has launch a new book marketing directory called Book Barista, where indie authors can get free advertising simply by entering hyperlinks to their Smashwords books.  Yes, free, as in you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by entering your book information there.  Since he just launched, he only has a dozen books listed.  Let's see if Smashworders can help him out (Update: Ya'll have caused his listings to go through the roof.  Good job!).  4.  Smashwords author Massimo Bolognino has launched a new blog called Ebook Italiani where he profiles Smashwords books written in Italian.  5.  Smashwords author Neil Crabtree runs a blog called Smashwords Books Reviewed, where he does book reviews and author interviews.  I mentioned both his and Ficbot's blogs in one of my September posts below, but I'm adding him to this list so we can keep them together.  6.  Smashwords author and publisher Jacob Drake tells us he's going to start promoting Smashwords titles on his blog, Crescent Suns Publishing.  His contact information is at the bottom of his January 2, 2011 post.  7.  Smashwords author Saffina Desforges in the U.K. runs her Sapphicscribe's Musings blog, and invites fellow Smashwords authors to contact her at saffinadesforges at gmx dot com for free listings on her blog.  This week she featured Smashwords author Karly Kirkpatrick and next week is Smashwords author Ellison James8.  Smashwords author Red Haircrow runs Flying with Red Haircrow, a great-looking blog that runs book reviews and interviews with indie authors.  To have your book considered, visit his contact page for tips on genres and topics of interest.  He syndicates his reviews to other review sites, so a single review on Flying with Red Haircrow could land you reviews in multiple venues.  He recently ran reviews on Smashwords authors Maureen Mullis and Lizzy Ford9.  Smashwords author William Butler runs Bang Noir, a blog where he regularly runs reviews of Smashwords books.  William reads a wide range of genres and topics, and will only select books for which he thinks he can write an honest and positive review (BTW, I think this is a good approach.  All of us indie authors suffer from obscurity, so there's little benefit to writing negative reviews about books noone's ever heard of), and he runs the review by the author for their comment prior to publishing.  Contact him at alfred687 at aol dot com.  He's currently working on reviews for Smashwords authors Claude Bouchard (Vigilante) and Carole Gill (The House on Blackstone Moor).  10.  Smashwords author Matt Williams has great interviews with fellow Smashwords authors Brian S. Pratt and Mike Dion (pen name:  Dodge Winston), the man behind BookBarista (mentioned above) over at his site, The Jak Phoenix Universe.  Matt invites Smashwords authors of Action, Adventure, Fantasy or Sci-fi books send him a message through the contact link at www.jakphoenix.com.  He asks you send him a blurb or description of what you've got and a link to your Smashwords book page. He'll look through the submissions and once a week post either an interview, blurb, suggestion or maybe the text you send him.  He also asks that if he covers you, you reciprocate by promoting your mention on your social networks (as I suggest everyone does up above).  His offer is only open to readers of these Smashwords Site Updates, so please don't repost his information elsewhere because he's busy with his own writing projects and doesn't want to be inundated with requests.

January 19, 2011 - Romance authors/publishers and cover designers.  Jason Baca, a professional model, is offering free photographs for ebook covers for use in straight romance novels.  All he asks in return is that you give him modeling credit inside the book, and you email him a hyperlink to the book once it's published.  It's smart marketing, if you think about it.  He helps you, and you help him build a larger portfolio.  Many of our romance books get thousands of downloads and a multiple of that in terms of views and exposure.  You can view some of his work at http://jasonaaronbaca.deviantart.com/  For licensing permission, contact him first at  jasonbaca09@gmail.com  This is a limited time offer, he says.

January 15, 2011 - I presented an updated version of my Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success presentation today over at the Tri-Valley chapter of the California Writers Club in Pleasanton, CA.  We had a great time, and as always, I enjoy meeting with current and future indie ebook authors who share my love for books and authorship.

January 14, 2011 - Two items.  1.  We updated the shopping cart today so when a reader adds one book, it recommends up to 12 other books by the same author.  Previously, the shopping cart recommended only up to three other titles.  2.  Congrats to Smashwords author Amanda Hocking. Her paranormal romance novel, Switched, was featured today in a big email promotion by Apple.  It's very cool to see an indie author's book heavily promoted alongside books from the world's best-selling authors.  If this isn't a harbinger of the positive change to come for indies, I don't know what is.  A retailer doesn't care what publisher is listed in on the virtual spine of a book.  They care about the book.  I think we'll see more of this in the future as we work closer with our retail partners to help them identify and feature Smashwords books with commerical potential, or free books we know will serve as strong marketing tools for follow-on series.  And speaking of Ms. Hocking, her newest title, Ascent (Trylle Trilogy #3) went on sale today at Smashwords. 

January 13, 2011 - Smashwords adds support for longer book descriptions.  Click to your Dashboard, then click Settings to take advantage of our new 4,000 character book descriptions.  If your book is already in the Premium Catalog, after you click save you'll see the "Resubmit" button appear for premium catalog consideration.  Click it.  Previously approved books are fast-tracked for review.  Learn more, and learn the "dos" and "don'ts" for your book description in my post at the Smashwords Blog.  Over the next couple weeks, the longer descriptions will start appearing at Smashwords retailers such as Barnes & Noble, with more on the way as we enhance our retailer metadata feeds.

January 9, 2011 - Tip of the day.  A lot of Smashwords authors use aol email addresses (including my wife).  AOL's email is retarded.  If you're using AOL's email, it doesn't make you retarded, but it does make it a little more difficult for you to fully experience the joys of hyperlinks, or the joys of a full-function email program.  For example, if you're a Smashwords author or customer, and we send you a confirmation email of any sort, it usually contains a hyperlink that takes you to the specific location of interest at Smashwords.  Hyperlinks don't always activate in AOL's email software (one Smashwords author reports you need to add Smashwords.com, or other senders, to your safe list in order for hyperlinks to activate), which therefore makes it difficult for you to have one-click access to resources on the web.  AOL configures their software that way because they figure their users aren't smart enough to distinguish between dangerous hyperlinks and safe hyperlinks.  Be smart, use another email program.  There are other free alternatives.  Consider Gmail, operated by Google.  You can even set up a free Gmail account, and then install Thunderbird (my absolute favorite email software), and then configure Thunderbird to pick up and send the Gmail mail.  This is a little more complicated (read their online documentation) than just using Gmail's web interface for mail, though the advantage is much faster email composition and responding.  You also enjoy the benefit of local email storage of all your emails on your desktop, while still having the email archived and available to you at Gmail.  Second tip of the day.  This is more of a reminder.  Every month we hear from Smashwords authors whose computers have been hacked (usually from clicking viruses, trojans or exploits in spam email).  Protect yourself so this doesn't happen to you.  Use security software.  Avast and AVG are good free anti-virus security solutions.  AVG has a cool program in their software called LinkScanner which will make sure that the web sites you visit are safe.  The downside of antivirus programs is they can slow your computer down.  The upside is safer computing piece of mind.  The free programs aren't completely full-featured, but something is better than nothing if you're currently doing nothing.  Both have paid options if you want to upgrade.  Third tip of the day.  Back up your works in progress.  Wouldn't it suck if your computer crashed and you lost your manuscript?  One poor-man's manuscript backup solution is to email your work-in-progress to your own cloud-based email address (like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, AOL, etc).

January 8, 2011 - The Smashwords FAQ attempts to answer the most important, most commonly asked questions from authors and readers.  Are we missing any important Qs and As you think would help us help make Smashwords more accessible to readers and authors?  Let us know.  Thanks!

January 7, 2011 - Two things.  1.  The month is off to a strong start with record number of new releases in a one-week period, record traffic for 30-day period, and record sales at the Smashwords.com site for a seven day period.  Must be the millions of new e-reading devices that landed in holiday stockings.  Welcome new readers, authors, publishers!  With so many new ebook customers coming online every month, now's a great time to launch new marketing campaigns, even for previously published books.  Every day is a new day and a new world.  See the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for 25+ free ideas.  I posted a minor update to it the other day. 2.  I posted a poll over at Mobileread this morning that asks a simple question, "What's your favorite word processor?"  Go answer it and see what other writers are saying.  While you're at it, create a Mobileread account if you don't have one already.  It's a great site to connect with ebook readers, share coupon promotions, and share ideas.

January 6, 2011 - Our friends at Diesel have run into a number of glitches as part of a complete revamp of their ebook store and a migration to a new and improved platform.  Things are now improving as I type.  They did their migration before the holiday, and during the migration a number of Smashwords books disappeared from their catalog.  They're working to reload the missing books.  On a related note, several authors have asked why their Diesel sales are lower than other retailers, and the more creatively minded ones have questioned the veracity of Diesel's sales reports.  I'll answer these questions one at a time.  1.  Diesel is a small indie retailer, and because they're a fraction of the size of our other retailers, you should expect lower sales.  This is okay.  Every sale at Diesel is probably a sale you would never have received elsewhere, so everything is gravy.  2.  We trust every one of our retailers, otherwise we wouldn't distribute to them.  However, there's no harm in an author or publisher employing a "trust but verify" approach by testing the reporting systems of our retailers.  Purchase your book from every Smashwords retailer.  Note the time and date of your purchase, and save your receipt.  Then wait as these reports flow back into your Sales and Payments report (remember, retailer reports are not reported to your Sales and Payments report in real time, unlike sales at Smashwords.com).  If this "secret shopper" approach quells the demons of doubt, then it's a small price to pay for sanity.

January 5, 2011 - Its that time of month when new authors, and long-time authors who've forgetten, write in to ask when they're going to be paid.  Payments will go out on the last day of this month if not earlier, as they always do.  Click here now to read our Royalty FAQ, which is always here to help you.  GET PAID FASTER: Authors/publishers who choose the PayPal payment method get paid first, and we pay at a lower threshold ($10+ vs. $25+), so please click to your Payee Profile now and give us your PayPal address.  Also, a heads up for you pay-by-check holdouts.  Starting next April, the minimum threshold for check payments will go to either $75 or $100 (TBD).  It's really a pain for us to process paper checks.  Since we send out so many, every quarter like clockwork a few people never receive their checks, and this causes a time-consuming costly expense for us to have to stop payments, reissue checks, answer emails, etc.  Help us help you get your earnings asap.  Go electronic.

January 1, 2011 - Happy New Year!!!  I'm on vacation for the next 10 days, though that means "working vacation."  Yesterday I wrote my annual Smashwords Year in Review post.  Safe holidays, everyone.

December 28, 2010 - Tis the season for pontification.  Jeff Rivera of  Mediabistro's GalleyCat interviewed me for my 2011 publishing predictions, and then I wrote an abbreviated top 5 for the Huffington Post and the Smashwords BlogTeleRead re-ran the Smashwords blog version.  Then Diana Dilworth, a reporter for Ebooknewser, a sister site of GalleyCat, wrote a short news story on the ten predictions titled, Smashwords Founder Thinks 2011 is the Year for Indie Authors.  It's pretty cool how a single interview can be redistributed and reconstituted into so many forms, so quickly, with so little effort.  It's also really interesting to see how each of the above blogs encourages their readers to participate in the conversation and share the story with others.  At the Huffington Post, simply by leaving a comment not only do you get your name exposed to potentially hundreds or thousands of readers for years to come, but they also put a handy little "follow this person on Twitter" link beside the commenter's name.  In other words, you join the conversation, enrich the conversation, and earn Twitter followers at the same time.  At GalleyCat and Ebooknewser, if you tweet the story your face and tweet appear directly underneath the story.  Again, more promotion for the commenter or tweeter.  This social media revolution is fascinating to me.  I love the win-win-win situation it creates by rewarding people for adding value to the story.  Over at the Smashwords blog, I often feel like the comments are more interesting than my actual posts.  Indie publishers helping indie publishers.  Now back to work.  Oh, P.S.  If you run your own blog and would like to syndicate posts from the Smashwords blog, be my guest.  I only ask that you leave the hyperlinks intact and reference the Smashwords blog as the original source.

December 27, 2010 - Misc. tidbits.  1.  We just hit 1.25 billion words a few minutes ago.  I underestimated our growth by a quarter billion words for the Billion Word March2.  We updated the FAQ today with a new glossary of ebook publishing terms.  Although the terms are of little use to most current Smashwords authors/publishers who are already far ahead of the curve compared to the general public, I hope it's of benefit to the next wave of ebook publishers.  Our goal is make ebook publishing as accessible as possible, so that means we have to be as inclusive as possible with our own language.  For example, many people new to ebook publishing don't understand the difference between "upload" and "download."  While such a definition is trivial to early adopters, it can be a stumbling block for the new folks.  Take a look, and feel free to suggest additional words or terms I'm missing.  3.  Record traffic yesterday.  Strong sales day, but not an all-time single day record.  It's already a record sales month for our small Smashwords.com retail operation, though.  4.  Is your ebook fully distributed?  Most Smashwords sales happen through our retail distribution network, not at Smashwords.com.  Make sure all your books are accepted into the Premium Catalog, and then opt in to the Apple channel.  Next, attach an ISBN via the ISBN Manager to every Premium Catalog book.  As a reminder, ISBNs are required if you want distribution to Apple, Sony and Borders.

December 24, 2010 - Happy holidays.   A few items.  1.  Sony shipment.  Bill was up until almost 3am last night doing a big shipment to Sony.  Now he settles in for a much-deserved holiday break.  2.  Smashwords holiday schedule.  The content teams at most of our retail partners are on vacation until the first week of January,  so please hold off on retailer error reports until then.  3. Millions of new e-reading devices unwrapped in next two days.  The next several days should be the biggest ebook sales days ever, so now's a great time brush up on the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide and get out there and do some marketing for your books.  Many authors have created Smashwords coupon codes they're promoting on Facebook, Twitter and major online message boards such as MobileRead and Kindleboards and Nookboards.  The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide lists some free press releases services you can use to promote your coupons.  Coupons + press releases married with promotion on your personal blog are a great way to aid your discovery in search engines as millions of new ebook customers search for their next read.  4.  Long tail as dragon's tail to Big 6 publishers. Smashwords author Djelloul Marbrook is one of many well-respected writers turning to Smashwords and self-publishing to reach new readers.  The award-winning poet and novelist wrote a thought-provoking blog post today in which he talks about the publishing revolution.  Some great thoughts on how Big 6 New York publishers dread the democratization of publishing.  He says the long tail is the "dragon's tail" for big NY publishers.  Read his post, titled, Jameses, Daltons—and small presses - The Net is a publishing game-changer

December 23, 2010 - Busy week leading up to holidays.  1.  The FREE ISBNs are flowing again at your ISBN Manager.  2.  Had a great conference call this week with our friends at Kobo and Borders.  Our books weren't flowing from Kobo to Borders, and we Borders and Kobo uncovered the cause and then we jointly worked out a solution.  We have a plan to start shipping over 15,000 of our books to Borders through Kobo by the end of January.  To get your books to Borders, make sure you're opted in to Kobo (Kobo powers Borders) at your Dashboard's Channel Manager and also make sure you've attached an ISBN via your Dashboard's ISBN Manager.  Kobo also powers Borders Australia and Whitcouls in New Zealand, and our books have already been flowing there for many months.  Borders in the U.S. requires an ISBN, unlike the other two which are owned an operated by the Red Group, an indepedent company Down Under.  3.  Greater discovery coming to B&N.  Up until recently, we supplied B&N with one BISAC code per title (see the November 6 update below for a primer on BISACs).  Soon, we'll supply two if you have dual categories set for you book.  If your book is only categorized to a single category, go to Dashboard: Settings and add a second category tree (Reminder:  When you modify categories, the "resumbit" button will appear.  Click it.  This is your way of telling us you want us to add these changes to the Premium Catalog feed to the retailers.  Category changes are fast-tracked for Premium Catalog titles).  The dual categories will effectively double your discovery opportunities at B&N.  Very exciting.  We're also going to start supplying B&N with your author bio.  Make sure you do not list your email address in your bio, otherwise we can't supply it to them because they do not allow email addresses in bios.  More on the way in the new year as we also plan to add support for longer book descriptions.  4.  We shipped early this week to all retailers except Sony (we actually shipped three times to Apple in five days).  Sony's shipment is delayed until we update our shipment systems to satisfy some new Sony requirements.  5. Smashwords Direct.  We're beta testing a new book distribution system for large publishers where we can ingest thousands of files at once.  Our first client is a large publisher of public domain titles, for which we provided automated conversion for 10,000+ .txt and .doc source files, and automated ebook cover creation, of which nearly 7,000 titles shipped to Apple this week.  Obviously, we don't accept public domain titles at Smashwords.com so these titles will flow only to our Smashwords distribution network retailers.  It's a big move for us, though, because it opens up the opportunity for us to serve larger publishers.  6.  Neighborhood watch.We're always on the watch for Private Label Rights ebooks that crop up like cockroaches from time to time.  If you spot them at Smashwords, click the "report book" link and let us know.  We have zero tolerance policy for this garbage from Internet scamsters.  7.  Fun stats:  Sales at Apple have always been strong for us, and as one of only a small handful of Apple-authorized global aggregators, Smashwords is seeing good across-the-board global sales growth in the Apple iBookstores in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and France.  Over 60% of sales are now coming outside of the U.S.  Cool.  For you numbers junkies like me, here are the percentage sales breakdowns for the last five weeks:

39% - U.S.

33% - UK

14% - Australia

10% - Canada

3% - Germany

1% - France

 

December 20, 2010 - Formatting tip of the day:  Avoid red fonts.  Often, authors and publishers will use red fonts to call out really important words or sentences.  Ironically, red is virtually invisble when rendered on an e-ink screen (Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader, Nook, etc).

December 20, 2010 - A couple updates:  1.  We worked through most of the Premium Catalog backlog.  yay!  With Xmas holiday coming, we'll ship early where possible.  2.  ISBNs.  Contract received, signed and delivered back to Bowker for more FREE ISBNs.  They're not actually free - we have to pay thousands of dollars for them, but they're free to you as a Smashwords author/publisher benefit.  3.  Speaking of free benefits, as a gentle reminder, the ebook conversions at Smashwords are not to be re-distributed or re-sold elsewhere, per the Terms of Service.  Why?  Our free conversion services are provided to authors and publishers as a benefit of our ebook distribution services.  It's bad karma to take the files we create and upload or sell them elsewhere.  Of course, you can do anything you want with the Microsoft Word source file you create.  Just as our books are DRM-free and you're trusting readers to honor your copyright, we trust our authors and publishers to respect our terms of service.

December 17, 2010 - To .docx or not to docx, that is the question.  The answer is no.  We're now blocking .docx uploads in favor of .doc.  Although the Style Guide only recommends .doc files, until this week we still allowed .docx files through.  .Docx (note the "x" at the end) is the default format for Microsoft Word 2007 and later versions.  As I mentioned in the December 10 update, we found that .docx files cannot take advantage of our upgraded Meatgrinder EPUB and MOBI blades which now produce higher quality hyperlinked Tables of Contents.  Before you upload your book, choose the "File: Save As:" option and then select "Word 97-2003" option to save as a .doc file.

December 16, 2010 - ISBNs.  We ran out of the free ISBNs a couple days ago.  Now working with Bowker to obtain another block.  In the meantime, we still have more of the Premium ISBNs, which you can obtain in the ISBN Manager.  We reluctantly adopted ISBNs back in April because they're required by Apple and Sony.  They've been a headache for us, mostly because a small percentage of Smashwords authors and publishers have implemented them incorrectly.  As a reminder, the ISBNs you obtain from Smashwords are only for use with your Smashwords ebook, and you should not use the same ISBN on a print book later on.  Additionally, you should NEVER NEVER (!!!) assign a print ISBN to a Smashwords ebook.  Bill, our brilliant CTO, just analyzed 550 Smashwords ebooks that one of our retailers was unable to list because the ISBN provided to Smashwords was previously used for another book.  If delayed or prevented distribution isn't enough incentive to follow the ISBN guidelines created by Bowker as explained in the ISBN Manager, consider this:  We get inquiries from traditional bookstores, and college bookstores, looking to acquire XX number of printed books because they think Smashwords is the publisher of the printed version.  Why do they think that?  You guessed it, the author didn't follow the ISBN guidelines above.  Those are lost sales to you, because our reply to them is, "sorry, we only distribute ebooks."  Yes, ISBNs are confusing.  For a refresher on ISBN facts, myths and best practices, see our ISBN FAQ.

December 14, 2010 - Bugs.  Several bugs reported in the new summary table of earnings launched yesterday.  Have confirmed instances of the table's fifth column reporting numbers that don't match up with the rest of the report.  We're working to iron out the kinks.  Have temporary removed the fifth column.

December 13, 2010 - We rolled out a new and improved Sales and Payments report, designed to provide you even greater visibility into your quarterly sales.  You can now view which retailer sales reports we loaded and when, which payments we've loaded from retailers, accrued earnings that aren't yet payable, and estimated earnings payable for the current quarterly period.  Every time we add a new level of transparency, it enlightens some and confuses others, so please take a few moments to carefully study the online documentation at the top of the new Sales and Payments page.

December 12, 2010 - Helpful ebook for the formatting geek inside all of us.  Author Emma Wayne Porter has published an ebook at Smashwords titled, The Nuclear Method for Smashwords Authors.  For only $.99 it's a steal, and the cover image alone is worth the price if you dislike Microsoft's little animated paperclip man as much as I do.  He's so cheery and unhelpful in his disruptive attempts to provide helpful on-screen tips.  Ms. Porter has smartly positioned the paperclip man inside a nuclear mushroom cloud.  Back to her book:  She's written a great - at times snarky and humorous - companion piece to the Smashwords Style Guide that explores the Nuclear Method in greater detail, and then she throws in several other helpful, time-saving formatting tips.  It's a worthwhile read for any Smashwords author who wants to take their formatting skills to the next level.  Update:  Separately, Smashwords author Sami Salkosuo has provided some good-looking templates to assist first-time Smashwords formatters.  Click here for instructions.

December 11, 2010 - Outage tonight between 9:20pm and 11:10pm Pacific time.  Up and running now.

December 10, 2010 - A few items at the close of a very busy week.  1.  We updated the retailer sales reports today.  Very pleased with the progress many of our authors and publishers are making at retail.  Visit your Dashboard's Sales & Payments report for more.  Sales at Smashwords.com have been quite strong.   2.  .doc files work better than .docx with our upgraded MOBI and EPUB converters, we've discovered.  Always save as a .doc  instead as a .docx before you upload, otherwise your linked Table of Contents won't be as spiffy.  3.  We're working through a big backlog of books to be vetted for the Premium Catalog.  We've noticed some sneaky shenanigans with some free books, where the authors are trying to point potential buyers to particular retailers.  Per the Style Guide, don't do this, because if we catch it we'll reject the book.  Out of consideration to each retailer, it's not fair to B&N, for example, for them to carry the expense of hosting a free ebook that advertises books at another retailer.  You can link to your Smashwords author page, because this is your publishing platform, or you can use a statement such as "Available at leading ebook retailers."  That's fair.  4.  More on vetting.  After you upload a book, check it out in the different ereading apps like Adobe Digital Editions and Kindle for PC.  Meatgrinder now produces some really high quality outputs, so by checking the actual ereading apps above, you can identify areas of improvement to make it look great.  If you click the link in your Dashboard under "Premium Status," and you see an AutoVetter error, correct it now before we review it.  AV errors will prevent or delay your review.  5.  Oh wow.  Just checked.  In the last couple hours, for the first time ever, we surpassed over 3,000 new books published in a 30-day period.  That works out to 100 per day and almost exactly one new release every 15 minutes.  Considering the thousands of hours Lesleyann and I spent writing Boob Tube, I know these books represent the precious embodiment of a lot of love and life.   Will go pinch myself now.  Welcome, all.

December 8, 2010 - Smashwords author Brian S. Pratt is profiled today over at the Smashwords Blog.  For his first quarter at Smashwords in Q1 '09, he earned a whopping $7.82.  So how is it that now, almost two years later, he's on track to earn $25,000 this quarter?  My thanks to Brian for sharing his secrets, and for allowing me to share his earnings numbers with fellow Smashwords authors.  Brian serves as a testament to the power of patience, perseverence, hard work and of course, talent.

December 6, 2010 - Google Editions (Now called Google eBooks) launched today.  Although we signed a contract with them almost six months ago, in light of our recent shift to the agency model on all retailers, we cannot commence Google eBooks distribution until we renegotiate the agreement to agency terms.  We're in discussions with them on an asap schedule, but since some of this is not in our hands, I cannot definitively predict when agreement will be reached and distribution can commence.  As we learn more I'll report here.  UPDATE:  One Smashwords author uploaded his book directly to Google and Google discounted it.  Discounting could cause conflict with your books elsewhere on the Smashwords network should Smashwords retailers decide to price match.  The only way to prevent such discounting at Google is to negotiate an agency agreement, which is what we're trying to do for you now.

December 3, 2010 - If it rhymes with Tomato, beware.  Numerous Smashwords authors and publishers contacted me about an upstart ebook retailer that wants to list their books, and have asked if Smashwords is working with them, or planning to work them.  The answer is, "no, never worked with them, don't plan to work with them."  While Smashwords authors and publishers know I am extremely supportive of ebook retailers, the company in question has engaged in a number of questionable practices that lead me to conclude they would not make a trustworthy partner.  Trust is everything in this business, and if we don't trust a retailer, we will not distribute to them.

December 1, 2010 -  The big news of the day, as hinted yesterday:  We renegotiated our distribution contracts with Kobo, B&N and Sony and effective today, Smashwords authors and publishers control the pricing of their books at retail.  No more discounting.  For those of you who follow this updates page, you already knew about Kobo.  We trust B&N and Sony are a pleasant surprise.  Oh, and we increased earnings rates for sales through Kobo, B&N and Sony to 60% of your list price.   Read the post over at the Smashwords Blog, and do your fellow author a favor and tell a friend.  Also, please show your love to Kobo, B&N and Sony.  They didn't have to do this.  Each went above and beyond to make this happen for Smashwords authors and publishers, so please do thank them on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else.  Smashwords retailers have shown their love to indie authors and publishers, and I'm tickled pink for what it means about the future of publishing.  Very exciting.

November 30, 2010 - We'll have some pretty big news to share tomorrow.  If you're a Smashwords author or publisher, click to your Communications Preferences to make sure you're opted in to receive my exclusive author-only email alerts.

November 29, 2010 - On August 2, posted below about a low-cost book scanning service called Blue Leaf Book Scanning, which, for about $25, would scan your out of print print book and return it to you as a Word file.  Today, one Smashwords author reports Blue Leaf is not replying to emails.  I clicked to their website and it redirects to a parked page.  Update:  Their web site is back in business.  Good news for authors who want to bring their out of print, reverted-rights books back to life as ebooks.

November 28, 2010 - Tips of the day.  Click to the Smashwords Coupon Generator to create your own custom coupon codes, then run holiday promotions on Facebook, Twitter and your favorite ebook forums like MobileRead, Kindleboards and Nookboards.  Second tip:  If your book doesn't have any reviews, readers will be less willing to even download a free sample.  Offer free coupons to readers who are willing to give you *honest* reviews.  An honest three our four star review is much more powerful in the long run that a false 5-star, because you never want to mislead your readers.  Third tip:  Don't just promote reviews on Smashwords.  Encourage your fans to review you at all the Premium Catalog Smashwords retailers.  A good review will pay dividends for months and years to come, and will help you start to build sales rank at each retailer.  Fourth tip:  Make marketing a part of your daily routine.  Each day, do something to get your name or your title out there in front of people.  Write a blog post, comment on another person's blog, join a social network for authors, participate in an online forum, or share a useful hyperlink to a story on Facebook or Twitter.  Successful social networking is all about giving more than you take.  See the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for other ideas you can start integrating into your daily routine, all free.

November 24, 2010 - The "Spread the Word about Smashwords" campaign has taken on a life of its own.  As of this moment, the Smashwords blog now links to 36 participating Smashwords authors.  Here's a choice quote from Smashwords author Dodge Winston, one of the participants:  "No longer must we send out query letters to New York literary agents who keep the keys to the masterful publishing houses tucked away for a select few. You and I, mere mortals of grammatical prose, can now bypass the entire, long-winded, life-sucking process of asking permission and take the world by storm with the Smashwords battering-ram."  Check out the link to Dodge's blog plus 35 other fellow authors listed over at the Smashwords Blog (**and get yourself listed too!**)

November 21, 2010 - Spreading the love.  As promised, my sincere thanks to the following Smashwords authors participating in this impromptu "spread the word about Smashwords" promotion which grew out of my Introduction to Smashwords presentation posted at the Smashwords blog.  To join this list all you need to do is embed the presentation into your blog or website, then drop us a note to tell us.   Here's the current list of participants:  Shayne Parkinson at her blog, Shayne Parkinson's Writing; J. Alexander Greenwood wrote a blog post titled, "Ladies and Gentleman, the Future of Publishing" (thanks Alex!!); Linda Nelson embedded the presentation on her home page at Young Adult Books by Linda Nelson; Oliver Frances added a link to the blog post at his blog, Oliver Francis; Toni Leland wrote a fantastic post at her Toni's Manuscript Musings blog titled, Digital Publishing for Everyone (Wow, thanks Toni!); AJ Davidson added a link to the Slideshare presentation at his blog, AJ Davidson's Blog; Sarah Ettrich did a great post over at her Self-Publishing Adventure Blog (thanks, Sarah!)   I'll update this list as more come in.  Thank you for sharing the links on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.  If I'm missing anyone, let me know.  I'll also cross post these names over the Smashwords blog so ya'll can get some additional publicity for your efforts.  Update:  The list is growing too large.  I'll maintain it over at the blog, so feel free to join in!

November 20, 2010 - The Rising Tide.  1.  New post over at the Smashword blog, including a brief online presentation that provides a snapshot of where Smashwords is today, and where we're going.  Please share it with a friend.  Smashwords has grown like gangbusters over the last couple years, and it's thanks to your word of mouth (and word-of-mouse!).  If we serve you well, you recommend us to your friends.  If we fail to serve you, you go elsewhere and don't recommend us.  If you have a favorite author friend, or you belong to a writers group, consider passing along the Slideshare presentation to your Facebook or Twitter friends, or embed it in your blog.  Each new book at Smashwords brings new readers that then have an opportunity to discover and enjoy other Smashwords authors.  When Smashwords authors and publishers join together to spread the word about Smashwords, the rising tide lifts all our boats.  For example, thanks to your support, Smashwords now publishes over 24,000 ebooks from over 10,000 authors around the world.  Retailers want these books, so it helps us open new doors of opportunity for the Smashwords collective that might not otherwise be available to an author or small publisher on their own.  The news I mentioned earlier about Kobo is but one example of more news on the way.   We're not perfect, but with your continued trust and confidence we will continue to improve all facets of our business in the months and years to come so we can better fulfill our mission of connecting indie ebooks with readers. Thank you for your support!  Special thanks to Smashwords author Wayne Watson (a.k.a. Oswald Bastable) in New Zealand for being the first person to embed the Slideshare presentation in his blog, Meddlers in Time.  If you embed it in your own blog, drop us a note via the "?" question mark button above and I'll link to your blog tomorrow.   To embed the presentation, click the "menu" button in the lower left hand corner of the presentation over at the Smashwords blog, or go to Slideshare via this link where you'll find the code at the top of the presentation, then copy and paste the code into your blog.    2.  Meatgrinder update.  For much of last week, Meatgrinder was overwhelmed with a backlog of conversions in the queue.  The problem was a series of books that didn't follow the Style Guide, exacerbated by how Meatgrinder handles such books.  Like any computer program with multiple moving virtual parts, all lashed together with spit and pixie dust, Meatgrinder can be at once brilliant and dumb, and sometimes dumb is good.  Meatgrinder has shown a remarkable adeptness at choking on books that stray significantly from the Style Guide.  If you get a failed conversion message, it probably means you have unnecessary complexity or corruption in your file, or you're using funky fonts, kerning (never use!), custom character spacing (never do this), strange custom font colors, or your images stretch beyond your page margins.  So in one sense, Meatgrinder's failure to chew on these books is a good thing.  The downside is that Meatgrinder can be stubborn and has a tendency to keep banging its virtual blades against the files until it stalls and takes a nap.  These naps usually happen at night when we're not awake to perform a Heimlich maneuver.  On Friday, we updated Meatgrinder to make it more self-aware.  Think of it as a gag reflex.  If a file takes too long to convert, Meatgrinder spits it out and moves on to next tasty morsel.  If your book has been in the queue for more than 24 hours, and you see that some of your file formats have converted but others haven't, it's a pretty good sign Meatgrinder has given up on your book.  Go ahead and reformat it per the Style Guide and then click "upload new version" in your Dashboard. 

November 19, 2010 - Two items: 1. Kobo reports it has completed transitioning all 16,000 of their Smashwords titles to author-set pricing today. This is for all Canadian and US dollar-denominated sales around the world. It does not cover pricing in other currencies, where discounting will persist, at least for now. I will probably blog this later, and will also do an email alert to all Smashwords authors and publishers next week. My thanks again to Kobo for their willingness to honor the pricing set by Smashwords authors and publishers. Please show your thanks by making sure all your titles are fully distributed to Kobo. We've see some good sales increases lately a Kobo, so don't miss out. 2. Bill has made multiple major improvements to our EPUB and MOBI Meatgrinder blades over the last few months, including new updates in the last few days. One significant enhancement is our ability to auto-generate a Table of Contents if you didn't include your own. If you did include your own linked TOC, then the new Meatgrinder blade is intelligent enough to know to use your TOC and not an auto-generated version. These new enhancements make our books more valuable to readers by improving navigation. Please view your EPUBs and MOBIs and share bug discoveries via the "?" question mark button above. If you don't know how to view EPUBs and MOBIs on your personal computer or Mac, see this link in the FAQ Support Center: How to Read Ebooks on Your Personal Computer

November 18, 2010 - Greetings from the Seattle/Tacoma airport, where WIFI is free (yay!) and my flight back to San Jose is delayed (boo!). Great two-day visit to Seattle, and no, I wasn't here for the fabulous weather, unless fab by your definition is a cold front barreling down from Alaska. Had a good meeting yesterday with a distribution partner. Updates and reminders: 1. Record backlog in the conversion queue. Sorry about that. No need to watch the spinning wheel. Meatgrinder's blades are busily grinding away as I type. 2. If you're waiting for your book to be evaluated for the Premium Catalog, click on the "Pending approval" link under the "Premium Status" column in your Dashboard to make sure there are no AutoVetter error messages. If your book has one or more AutoVetter messages, it will delay or even prevent us from evaluating it. Of all the AutoVetter messages, only one is frequently prone to erroneous conclusion: the "Printed in" error. You can ignore that error message if the words, "printed in" appear after your copyright page. For a refresher on the Premium Catalog review process, and learn tips to fast track your book, visit the Distribution Information page. Remember, books that are formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide will be reviewed faster and get distributed faster than those which are not.

November 16, 2010 - November 17 is the day Kobo plans to flick the switch and migrate all Smashwords titles to fixed pricing. Kudos to Kobo for honoring the requests of Smashwords authors and publishers who asked for, and will now receive, greater control over how their books are priced in the channel. If you previously opted out of Kobo due to discounting, visit your Channel Manager to opt back in. See the October 21 update below for a refresher on why this is significant news for Smashwords authors and publishers. Your earnings rate for U.S. and Canadian dollar-denominated sales at Kobo will increase from 46.75% list to 60% list. Sales in other currencies will still be subject to discounting and a lower earnings-share rate.

November 10, 2010 - Meatgrinder is taking a nap. Sorry, we'll get it restarted a bit later. No need to watch the spinning wheel unless you're trying to make yourself dizzy.

November 6, 2010 - Feeling romantic but your BISACs are leaving you feeling unfulfilled and undiscovered? We added a dozen new romance categories today, all mapped to BISAC codes. To add better classifications to your romance book, click to Dashboard: Settings then select from the new categories under Fiction: Literature: Romance - (new categories = Adult, Contemporary, Gothic, Historical, Paranormal, Regency, Short Stories, Time Travel, Western). After you select the new categories, click save and then don't forget to click the Resubmit button, which is your way of telling us you're ready for us to approve your updates for the Premium Catalog's next shipment. We fast track category changes if you're already in the Premium Catalog, and in the meantime your previous version will continue to ship.

Quick primer on BISAC codes: BISAC is the standard book categorycoding system. Authors select categories for their books at Smashwords using plain English words in our category selector, and thesecategories are automatically mapped to corresponding BISAC codes. Wethen communicate this code to our retailers and the code tells them,for example, that a "FIC027120" title should be listed in the"Paranormal Fiction" shelf at the retailer. In other words, BISACsmake your book discoverable in category searches at retailers.)

November 5, 2010 - New MOBI conversion blade implemented tonight, all as part of our ongoing commitment to improve the quality of our conversions. The new blade should also get us closer to satisfying Amazon's technical requirements so we can start distributing to them. Several Smashwords authors and publishers have asked when we think we'll first ship. It's still too soon to tell, and since we're already embarassingly behind schedule on this, I'm not going to guess. Assuming the results this weekend look good, we'll then present a new batch to Amazon for their review. They're holding our files to pretty high standard given the volume we'll be shipping. There are other contractual details we must work out with them as well. All in due course, one step at a time. Once the new blades are fully tested and approved, we'll re-grind all EPUBs and MOBIs in the 23,000+ Smashwords catalog so all our authors and publishers can benefit from recent improvements over the last couple months.

November 3, 2010 - An ounce of prevention... The other day I wrote about how if you contact us via the "?" question mark button it helps us protect your security because it helps us verify your identity. On the topic of security, we often hear from authors who have had their computer infected by computer viruses, spyware or drive-by downloads, or have had their email addresses compromised by one of the many dangerous botnets out there (botnets basically enslave your computer without your knowledge, and use your computer to send out spam emails in your name). Luckily, I haven't heard of anyone who has lost their book or a work in progress to a virus, but I know it happens all the time. Computer criminals are so sneaky now that your computer can get infected simply by visiting Google search results or infected web pages. If your computer isn't protected by anti-virus security, stop everything now and get some protection so you can practice safe surfing. There are many good free computer security products. Consider Avast, AVG, Malwarebytes or Spybot. The only downside of a good security program is that it can slow down your computer, but it's a price worth paying.

November 2, 2010 - Two items. 1. Retailer listing errors. If your book is listed incorrectly at a Smashwords retailer, such as missing a cover image, please click the "?" question mark button above and email us a direct hyperlink to your book at the retailer's web site, along with a clear explanation of the error, and we will ask the retailer to fix it. The retailers do not want you to contact them directly. If your book is mis-priced, and you changed the price at Smashwords within the last week or two, then please wait another week or two for the retailer to update the price. Most retailers process our price updates within a few days of receive, but sometimes they get backlogged. We ship out updates automatically to retailers, usually once per week, so only request a manual change if you've checked your Channel Manager's latest ship date, and you're sure it's been more than two weeks. 2. Sales rank at Diesel. One observant Smashwords author noticed that their "sales rank" at Diesel has fluctuated over the last couple months, even though they haven't sold any books. So we asked our friends at Diesel for more information on their sales rank algorithm, and we learned that more goes into sales rank than just sales. It's possible for your sales rank to change, even if you haven't sold a book. Multiple factors can influence your sales rank there, including (of course) sales or lack thereof, page views, search engine searches, the number of titles in their catalog, and the books above you that are selling. Every retailer has their own proprietary method of determining sales rank, and most keep the exact formula secret because if they release the full formula, enterprising authors may try to game the system.

November 1, 2010 - Back in the USA. Misc. notes: 1. Many Smashwords authors have asked us to increase the frequency of our sales reporting from retailers, and we've made improvement here, but this improvement seems to have caused some confusion when authors start seeing recent sales that are not yet due to them. We received a couple emails today from authors upset that the amounts theywere paid were less than what they thought they were owed. As areminder, Smashwords pays quarterly, based on the funds we received onyour behalf as the end of each calendar quarter. See your Sales and Payments report or our Royalty FAQ for more information. As we increase the frequency of reporting, we will report salesfor which the retailer hasn't paid us, and for which you are thereforenot owed yet, so please keep an eye on your Sales and Payments report because it offers you a full accounting of every sale, and will give you an idea of when your sales will become payable to you. 2. We're open to suggestions on how we can make the Sales & Payments report's downloadable spreadsheet more useful to you. We're especially eager to hear from our publishers who must manage earnings-share tracking for multiple authors. Click the "?" question mark button above. Some of the best ideas for features come from our members, and even if someone else has already suggested the improvement, your suggestion serves as another vote in its favor. 3. Payment glitches. A human glitch caused some Smashwords authors who were owed between $10 and $24.99 to not receive their PayPal payments. We're fixing this and will process the payment soon (if we haven't already). Another glitch caused some B&N sales to not be paid properly, even though these sales are reported properly in your Sales and Payments report. Thanks to Brian S. Pratt for discovering this. If you were one of the few dozen authors affected, you'll see more funds appear in your account, or via PayPal. 4. Reminder: If you ever have a question regarding your account, please ALWAYS submit the question through the "?" question mark button at the top of every page. There are two reasons for this: 1: For your own security, it verifies your identity to us, so that unauthorized persons cannot request changes to your account. 2. When you contact us via the form above, the email we receive contains your account information, which makes it faster and easier for us to address your question. Please don't email me direct, because, for the same reasons listed above, it's not secure and it may slow our response to you. If it's a general question or comment not specifically linked to your book, then by all means contact me directly at first initial second initial at you know where dot com. We aim to make the people behind Smashwords completely accessible to you, so please help us help you. Oh, and if you contact us via the form and we don't reply after a few days, feel free to contact us again.

October 30, 2010 - Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand. A few updates for today: 1. We processed record quarterly payments today for Smashwords authors and publishers. As I mentioned earlier on this page, we paid people via PayPal first, and only those who have completed their Payee page. There are several hundred Smashwords authors and publisher who we want to pay, but who have not completed their payment information. I imagine these folks aren't reading this updates page, so we'll probably send out emails in the next week asking them to complete their payment details. For example, if you're an author outside the US, you either need to submit a completed W8-BEN form, or click the "Pay me now and withhold 30%" button if you want to be paid now. Otherwise, if you want us to defer payment until you've had time to jump through the IRS hoops to obtain your ITIN/EIN and send in your W8BEN form to us, then you should click the deferral option. This weekend, we'll process check payments. Some of you are doing quite well, so congrats!! 2. I wrapped up a great multi-country speaking tour yesterday with a big event in Auckland. Thanks to Martin Taylor at the New Zealand Digital Publishers Association and Maggie Tarver at the New Zealand Society of Authors for pulling together a successful sold-out event. After 18 plane flights for 10+ presentations in five weeks covering Brazil, NYC, Australia and New Zealand, I can say indie authors around the world face remarkably similar challenges. In each country, it's getting tougher and tougher to sell your book to a traditional book publisher. Local retailers are feeling the effects of increased competition from non-book alternatives, and are feeling the pinch from customers who are reluctant to pay high print prices for books. In Brazil, Australia and New New Zealand, print book store customers must routinely pay 50-100% more for the same print books available in the US, and 2-4 times more than what the same books can be purchased for as an ebook (assuming the books are available as ebooks). Authors are fed up with waiting to be discovered by publishers who are in the business of saying "no" to authors. Big traditional print publishers often tell Aussie and Kiwi authors that their stories are of no interest to readers outside their own country. These publishers are often wrong, as one Smashwords author from New Zealand, Shayne Parkinson, has proven. Nearly 30 years ago, Shayne started writing her first book, and then that book languished in dusty drawer most of that time. She'd pull it out from time to time to update and revise it. On the urging of a friend, she shopped it to a publisher. The publisher told her readers outside New Zealand would never buy her books, which are historical fiction set in New Zealand. As one of the better-selling authors at Smashwords, Shayne is proving those publishers wrong. Each quarter, she's selling more and more books at Smashwords. Shayne's story proves that a great story, backed with smart pricing, marketing and distribution, can have universal appeal to a global market. The problem with traditional publishers, as I've stated in every presentation, is that they view the value of a book through a myopic lens of perceived commercial potential. Yet every publisher is clueless about the true commercial potential of a book, because only readers have the power to decide commercial success. Publishers have their sights stuck in the rear view mirror, looking at what's selling today or what sold yesterday, then they try to acquire like books that they will then publish 12-18 months from now. Does this sound broken? 3. I'll be back to California before election day, then on Friday, November 12 I'm speaking at the All About Ebooks Symposium in San Francisco, and then the next day I'm appearing via Skype at the St. Louis Publisher Association's Annual Conference, and then later that same day I'm appearing in person at the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference. I'll have no voice by the end of that day. On November 15, I'll be the online forum guest for the Sisters in Crime association of professional mystery authors. If you're a member, log in, ask questions, and join the conversation.

October 24, 2010 - A couple items: 1. Q3 payments are going out at the end of next week. US authors, make sure you've completed your Payee page so we can pay you (if you've previously received payments from us, you're all set). If you're registered to receive payments via PayPal instead of paper checks, you'll be paid faster. If you're outside the US, and you haven't yet submitted the W8-BEN form to us so you can take advantage of your country's tax treaty with the US so you can receive reduced withholdings, consider clicking to your Payee page and choose the option to defer your payments until you've had time to complete the convoluted IRS paperwork. Uncle Sam doesn't need your money. More instructions under the fourth item of the Royalties FAQ here. 2. Greetings from Rotorua, New Zealand, where I'm taking a few days off to enjoy this gorgeous country in advance of my ebook presentation October 29 in Auckland, hosted by the New Zealand Society of Authors (opens a PDF). My mini world tour has almost come to an end. It's been an eye-opening experience to meet with authors and publishers from outside the U.S. Last week, the AAP announced that for the first nine months of 2010, ebooks accounted for nine percent of the overall US trade book market. Most folks agree the U.S. market for ebooks has outpaced all other countries, as measured by the percentage of ebooks sold compared to print books. What most industry pundits don't talk about, however, is the likelihood that some of these international markets will probably grow faster than the U.S. did. This is great news for all indie authors and publishers, especially those of you publishing and distributing with Smashwords, because we've established retailer relationships (Kobo, Apple, others coming), that give you exposure to these markets outside the US. Last night I walked by a book store here in Roturua run by Whitcoulls. Whitcoulls carries Smashwords ebooks because their ebook store is powered by Kobo. Exciting times ahead. Thank you for entrusting your books to Smashwords. 3. Yesterday we hit over one billion words published at Smashwords. I posted something over at the Smashwords Blog on this. My thanks to you, our loyal author, publisher and reader, for making this possible. Now to break more records.

October 21, 2010 - Greetings from Sydney, Australia. Much going on behind the scenes to better serve our authors and publishers amid my travels. In my September 11 update below (see item #9), I detailed how ebook retailers are in this gawky teenager phase where the market is trying to sort out the complexities of two competing and very different ebook retailing models. The first model, wholesaling, is the traditional model. Under the wholesaling model, a retailer can discount your book. Historically, such discounting has been advantageous to authors and publishers because discounting gives the retailer the flexibility to leverage their intimate knowledge of customer behavior and real-time trends to price your book in such a manner that they (and you, the author publisher) can reap the greatest sales possible. When a retailer discounts your book, you still make the same amount on every sale. The retailer voluntarily decides to earn less per copy so they sell more copies, and thereby earn themselves and the autho/publisher more income. Smashwords has three legancy wholesale relationships - B&N, Sony and Kobo. The newer retailing model, which came to the fore when Apple launched it in April, is called agency. Under agency pricing, the author/publisher sets the price and there is no discounting. Back in July when Amazon launched their agency-like direct selling option, they began auto-price-matching Smashwords authors who had books at our wholesale retailers that were being priced at less than the Amazon prices. As I explained in the 9/11 post, I think price parity is a good thing. Amazon's price matching, however, caused a lot of grief for our authors and publishers, many of whom had never really paid attention (or cared) about the discounting under the wholesale model. Now, thanks to Amazon's price matching robots, authors and publishers do care, which means we care too. We've been working behind the scenes to encourage our retailers to transition to the agency model, because the wholesale and agency models do not play well together. I'm pleased to report today that Smashwords has signed a revised agreement with our retail partner Kobo to transition Smashwords titles over to the agency model. Like with Apple, this will eliminate discounting and give you, the author/publisher, true control over pricing at Kobo and the several Kobo-powered retailers. Kobo expects the new pricing to activate in early November. The rates Smashwords pays for Kobo sales will also change. For books that meet the pricing requirements (must be priced under $12.99), you'll earn 60% of the retail price distributing through Smashwords for sales made in the US and Canada. For books priced higher, or for books that are sold outside the US, you'll earn 38% of the suggested retail price. Bottom line, if you're one of the approximate 95% or so of our authors/publishers with books priced under $12.99, you'll see your per-unit earnings rates jump significantly. If your books are priced over $12.99, your rate will drop from 46.75% to 38%. If you're one of the many Smashwords authors and publishers who pulled your books from the Kobo channel because of Kobo's prior discounting, don't opt back in until the new system goes live (I'll post a note here when it goes live). Kobo anticipates early November, but such transitions are complicated for the retailers and prone to delay, so don't jump the gun now unless you're willing to tolerate some discounting between now and the activation date. My kudos to our good partner Kobo for responding so positively to the wishes of Smashwords authors and publishers. We're in discussions with our remaining wholesale relationships to make the same transition, though I can't guarantee the same outcome. Unlike the big 5 publishers who forced retailers to accept agency pricing back in April, that's not our style and we won't force the remaining two retailers to transition. We think it's in their best interest because it makes them competitive with Amazon in terms of being able to attract indie author/publisher books. That said, for the last five months we have stopped offering wholesale agreements to new Smashwords retailers. We'll have new retail relationships under the agency model to announce in the next couple months. Exciting times. Please be patient because it's a challenge for any retailer to make such a significant transition.

October 17, 2010 - A couple items. 1. Royalties will go out at the end of the this month. If you haven't already transitioned from paper check to PayPal payments, please do it now in your Payee Profile. PayPal folks receive their earnings first, because there's no snail mail involved. 2. Just arrived to Perth, Australia for the final two presentations of our multi-city Australian tour. For tomorrow's event, I'm doing a primer on ebook publishing followed by a session on how to maximize the success of your publishing venture. The event is presented by if:book Australia and the Australia Council for the Arts in association with writingWA and the State Library of Western Australia. More information here. 3. On October 29, I'm speaking at a one-day seminar in Auckland New Zealand titled, Publishing for Authors - The Whole Picture, sponsored by the New Zealand Society of Authors. Would love to meet some of our New Zealand authors and publishers if you can make it! 4. We've hit 980 million words published, now fast closing in on our end-of-year target of one billion words. Looks like we're going to hit it a month early. We first set out on our Billion Word March challenge 12 months ago, back when we only published 150 million words.

October 11, 2010 - Fun facts. Record traffic last 30 days. According to Google Analytics, in the last 30 days Smashwords received visitors from 210 different countries. 44% of all Smashwords visitors come from outside the United States. Here's the Smashwords top 25 list:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. Australia (I'm here for another two weeks. Next event: Byron Bay)
  6. Philippines
  7. Germany
  8. Italy
  9. Malaysia
  10. France
  11. Netherlands
  12. New Zealand (I'm here October 29 for an event in Auckland!)
  13. Spain
  14. South Africa
  15. Japan
  16. Brazil (Events completed in Rio and Sao Paulo earlier this month)
  17. Ireland
  18. Singapore
  19. Indonesia
  20. Pakistan
  21. Sweden
  22. Mexico
  23. Poland
  24. United Arab Emirates
  25. China

 

October 10, 2010 - Greetings from Bribane, Australia. That's pronounced "Brisbin" for my fellow Americans. We completed two if:book events in Adelaide a couple days ago. Met some great writers. Almost a week ago, I was in Brazil. It's cool how authors around the globe are bound together by a common goal of wanting to reach the world's readers with their words. Ebooks make the world a smaller place. The first Adelaide event, hosted at the South Australia Writers Centre office, was a primer on ebook publishing, and the second focused on how authors can maximize the success of their publishing ventures. At 2pm today at the State Library of Queensland in downtown Brisbane, we're doing a "Conversation with Mark Coker," moderated by Kate Eltham, head of the Queensland Writers' Center. The event is free. More information here. Kate also leads the if:book (stands for the Institute for the future of the book) Australia initiatiative. Here in Australia, the state and federal goverments join together to actively support authors and literacy by funding these Writers Centres around the country. The Writers Centres are staffed by professional writers and administrators who offer free services to help support writers writing books. It's a great system, and I'm surprise we don't have such a similar public service in the United States. We have public libraries which make reading and literacy accessible to all, but why not centers to promote writing and authorship?

October 1, 2010 - Three items: 1. In New York to speak at Self Publishing Expo tomorrow. I'm giving one presentation on the Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, and then I'm on a panel with Danny Snow of Unlimited Publishing, moderated by Jon Fine of Amazon, to talk about the future of publishing. If you live in the NY area, come over and say hi. 2. Meatgrinder is still backed up, but is working through the backlog as I type. Why does Meatgrinder jam up like this? Meatgrinder performs a series of conversions for each file. Although Meatgrinder has a lot of intelligence, it's only as smart as we can program it which means it doesn't always know a piece of poison when it sees it. If a book's formatting strays too far from the Style Guide, or if it contains hidden styling or corruption (which it wont contain if you follow the Style Guide), the Meatgrinder blades can literally jam up and stop working. We're considering multiple options to minimize the odds of a stall, but don't expect a fix overnight. Ifyou follow the Guide, your book will convert. However, if your book is stuck in the queue, please accept our apologies. We know it's backlogged. No need to watch the wheel spin or upload a new version. If we report to you that your book failed any of theconversions, it means your formatting strayed from the Style Guide. Likemost things at Smashwords, you can expect to see iterative improvementover time. Rather than upload the same bad file again, use the Nuclearmethod described in the Style Guide to fix your book. 3. Fun (or not so fun) fact: What does it really mean if the conversion screen says you're #850 in the queue? Is means there are 850 conversions ahead you. Each book can have anywhere from three conversions scheduled to nine, depending on the output formats selected by the author, so the number of actual books in front of could be around 100.

September 30, 2010 - Miscellaneous updates. Day 6 in Brazil, now in São Paulo, flying to NYC late tonight. Meatgrinder is stalled at the moment (3:00 am Pacific time). If your book is the queue, no need to reload it. It'll process as soon as we get it going again. At the seminar I spoke at yesterday in São Paulo, Rodrigo Velloso, director of Google Latin America, was there to speak as well. He made a brilliant observation about DRM. He said when a publisher DRMs their content, they make non-DRM'd versions of their content more valuable. Where do readers find non-DRM'd content? Pirate sites. He cautioned publishers that if they DRM their content, they will encourage piracy. Here in Brazil, the publishers are very new to the ebook game, and they face many of the same fears American publishers have faced for the last several years about piracy. Ironically, it's the boogeyman that scared publishers congure into reality by their own actions. There's a very exciting optimism here in Brazil about self-publishing, which is still a very new concept. More later.

September 26, 2010 - Day two in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as part of a Smashwords mini-World tour over the next month that will bring me to NY, to Australia, and then to New Zealand. I'm here to speak about the indie ebook revolution at two seminars sponsored by Singular, the digital division of Ediouru, Brazil's largest publisher. First event is in Rio and second event is in São Paulo. Large market opportunity for ebooks here in Brazil. Brazil has a population 2/3 the size of the US (~200 million), a fast-growing middle class, high literacy rates, a proud literary heritage, and more cell phones than people. Brazil is hosting the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, and in preparation the government is pushing for more English-language instruction in schools. In addition to the opportunity to bring English-language books to Brazil, there's also an opportunity for Brazilian indie authors to publish books for the Brazilian market, and also reach the millions of Brazilian diaspora in the US and Europe. And don't forget 10 million Portuguese-speaking Portuguese in Portugal. Hmmm... I wonder how we might help? Smashwords ebooks shatter the geographic limitations of print books and make the world a smaller place (speaking of diaspora, Tony Williams over at the Caribbean Book Blog ran an interview with me today where I addressed ebooks and geography). Fun Fact: Did you know Brazilian Portuguese is different from Portuguese Portuguese? An effort is underway to unify the languages. You'll be hearing more about Brazil.

September 22, 2010 - Two things: 1. We hit 20,000 books yesterday. More over at the Smashwords blog. Yay! Now back to work. 2. Make way for the scammers. This disturbs me to no end. A Smashwords author found their book mentioned on this site - http://best1[link removed]ebooks.com/ - and wrote us to ask if we're distributing to them. Definitely not. They appear to be scraping Smashwords book covers and book descriptions and then selling [who knows what, but definitely not our books] at marked up prices. The site is designed to trick customers. It features false logos to make it look like the shopping experience is a safe one, but odds are if you enter your credit card information (don't!) you just gave your information to a criminal. Whatever they're doing is certainly illegal. The domain name appears to be registered to a company in Germany - http://reports.internic.net/cgi/whois?whois_nic=best1ebooks.com&type=domain I contacted the domain registrar and asked them to disable the domain, which forwards to a store powered by a template driven shopping cart system called QuickCart - http://shop.1asecure.com/index.cfm?DeptNo=5&StID=11305. I left a message for the operators of Quickcart to take down the store. Sadly, I think we'll see more of this in the future. These fly by night outfits erect search engine optimized web sites that pull in traffic, they steal the customer's money, and then they disappear. September 26 update: The site has changed and is scammy as ever, but without Smashwords ebooks. I really wish Google could learn to ignore these fly-by-night sites. Now they're hawking PLR articles. Of course.

September 19, 2010 - 1. The hills are alive with the sound of music. 30+ new categories added today related to music, music appreciation, and musical instruction. 2. Hot seller today: Glimpses by Lynn Flewelling

September 17, 2010 - Word of the day: Orthography. It's an exciting word for people who like words. Second word of the day: Crack. One popular Smashwords author said the partial updates to the Sales and Payments reports are like crack. We gave her a partial fix, and she wants more. More coming next week.

September 16, 2010 - We started loading a new batch of retailer sales today. Please note they're only partially loaded, so some retailers are still missing their full reports. B&N sales may not be fully loaded for all authors. For Apple, we loaded US dollar-denominated sales first. We are still yet to load Apple's UK, Germany, France and Canada sales since those are made in local currencies. Sony doesn't report until next month. The amount due payable in the Q3 payment round (payments will go out at the end of October!) will update as we complete processing, and as we credit all payments received from retailers in the next two weeks. As a reminder, the third quarter ends September 30. For folks who want a refresher on how your earnings are calculated, see http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#Royalties

September 15, 2010 - Naomi Down Under reminds me tonight we missed my target today of integrating new retail sales reports. We'll integrate them very soon, one at a time in waves. Some Smashwords authors will receive some pleasant surprises. More updates here, as we make progress. Back to work, Naomi.

September 12, 2010 - 11:58pm. Just checked Google Analytics. Wow. All time record traffic today. No big news to account for it, other than the official release of the updated Style Guide yesterday, which readers of this page learned about last week. I blogged about it yesterday over at the Smashwords Blog. I think the new Style Guide, with its improved tips and instructions, combined with our new EPUB and MOBI Meatgrinder blades (you also learned about those here first), might cause some authors and publishers to take a second look at Smashwords. For those of you who've been with us a long time, thank you for believing in us. For those of you new to Smashwords, thanks for entrusting your publishing, distribution and reading to us. We're still just getting started, 2 1/2 years later. We're on track to hit 20,000 books before the end of the month. Each new book, and each new author, brings more readers to the Smashwords community, benefiting all Smashwords authors, pubishers, readers and retail partners.

September 11, 2010 - Glad the book burning isn't taking place in FL today. What will extremists of the future do when paper is a quaint memory? Burn ebook devices? Celebrate mass deletion days? On with the updates: 1. We'll update Sales & Payments reports before Wednesday for B&N, Kobo and Apple. 2. Site performance. Major breakthrough 10 days ago. We discovered and fixed an inefficient query that was getting hit repeatedly by search engine spiders. Site performance much improved. Record traffic last 30 days(!!). 3. Amazon update. Amazon is now reviewing a random sample of our new MOBI files. Once we receive their blessing, we'll move forward with our long-delayed technical integration for the thousands of Smaswords authors who want to distribute to Amazon through Smashwords as opposed to going direct. 4. Milestones. Over 19,000 books published at Smashwords now, with over 14,000 in the Premium Catalog. Eleven months ago, after we hit 150 million words published, I outlined a crazy goal in a post over at the Smashwords blog to reach one billion words by December 31, 2010. We're at 873 million today. 127 million to go in the next 110 days! If my math is correct, that works out to 48,106 words per hour, 802 words per minute and 13.36 words per second. 5. Quality update. Thanks to improved formatting from our authors/publishers, updated Meatgrinder blades, updated Style Guide instructions in March and again last month, and stricter manual vetting for Premium Catalog approvals, our retail partners are having an easier time loading our books. A B&N audit last week found that only about 10 of over 10,000 books had formatting issues that prevented their ingestion to B&N (that's a failure rate of only 1/10th of 1%). A similar audit with Apple last week found a similar rate. The most common cause of failure at retailers, as I mentioned below in my June 21 update, is improper line spacing. If you right mouse click on any paragraph, then click paragraph, and you see the line spacing is set to "at least" or "exactly" "at" "XX pt." then it'll cause your book to fail. We usually catch this error in the manual vetting. The problem appears to only affect authors who write in word processors other than Microsoft Word. 6. Speaking of quality, our new EPUBs and MOBIs are looking better than ever. Our automated Meatgrinder technology will never be perfect, and will probably never match the precision of a hand-coded ebook file, though for fiction, the difference between hand-coded ebook file and Meatgrinder-generated is becoming more difficult to distinguish. 7. The Apple shipment has been delayed for a few weeks now, though we're aiming to get that out asap. Apple upgraded their file ingestion system late last week so we're hoping this will help us expedite our next shipment of 2,000+ books (yeah!). 8. My thanks to Smashwords author Shayne Parkinson in New Zealand who helped me identify and fix multiple typos in the latest (major) revision of the Smashwords Style Guide. I'll upload a new version today incorporating her edits. 9. From the department of Biting the Hand that can Feed You, there was an interesting discussion last week over at Self Publishing Review regarding how Amazon enforces price parity for authors who publish direct with them. Amazon's enforcement has caused quite a bit of confusion and hand-wringing among Smashwords authors who publish direct with Amazon (not via Smashwords) yet also distribute to Smashwords retailers. Some Smashwords retailers discount the books. This always worked to the author's benefit, at least until July when Amazon announced a new earnings program that enforces strict price parity requirements. The ensuing confusion caused a small number of Smashwords authors to pull their books from the retailers who still discount (Kobo, B&N and Sony), and some (in apparent panic) pulled them from all retailers, including those that don't discount (Apple and Diesel). Personally, I think it's a big mistake for any author to deliberately limit their distribution, yet some of these authors were essentially forced to do it to preserve their short term income from Amazon considering Amazon still controls upwards of 80% of the ebook market. So the problem put authors, Smashwords and Smashwords retailers between a rock and a hard spot. It's a complicated problem, and for authors affected (those who publish directly with Amazon in addition to Smashwords), the best temporary solution is probably to raise their prices at Smashwords so that the after-discount price at our retailers doesn't upset their Amazon gravy train. For the last five months all new Smashwords retailer agreements have been under the so-called agency model, where retailers don't discount. For the record, I think price parity is a good goal and I don't fault Amazon for wanting it. I like the idea of authors and publishers determining what their book sells for. It's how we've always sold books in our own Smashwords.com retail operation. Yet as I mentioned over at SPR, I think Amazon's strict enforcement causes some authors to limit their distribution which makes them more dependent on Amazon at time when other retailers are opening up exciting new selling opportunities. Not everyone agrees with me, which is fine, and the issue is so complex there's no single best answer. It's not my place to tell you what's right for you. Only you can decide that. At Smashwords, you have the power to make your own distribution decisions, even decisions that harm you. It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out. In the wise words of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Don't Panic.

September 2, 2010 - A new book review site called Smashwords Books Reviewed, started by Smashwords author Neil Crabtree, is now accepting review pitches from Smashwords authors. He has submission instructions posted on the site. Pitch away! This is the second review site I'm aware of that is either entirely or partially commited to reviewing Smashwords authors. The first was EFINDS, a book review blog run by Ficbot, who pledged to publish one Smashwords book review each week. Both blogs are independent of Smashwords. I'm excited to support them and anyone else who adds value to the Smashwords ecosystem by helping to draw attention to the best indie ebook and authors at Smashwords. They're offering a valuable service to readers, so please support them. Neil, for example, is looking for volunteer reviewers. You'll find his contact information on his blog.

August 30, 2010 - Very cool. Mike Shatzkin suggests authors and agents take a close look at Smashwords as a potentially more lucrative route for professional authors. Traditional publishers are trying to pay only 25% of the net sales proceeds from ebooks, whereas Smashwords pays more than triple that amount. He notes that as print sales decline and ebook sales increase as a percentage of overall books sales, this disparity between Smashwords earnings sharing and traditional royalties will cause agents and authors to view traditional publishing less favorably. Click here to read his post.

August 30, 2010 - Two items: 1. In case you missed it, check out the audio essay by Smashwords author David Robinson over at the Smashwords blog. I'm always impressed by the incredible talent that pops up at Smashwords. 2. Reminder: Don't disable the sampling on your Smashwords books. If you do this, not only will this reduce your sales, it'll also automatically pull you from the native Smashwords catalogs on Aldiko, Stanza, Word-Player and FBReader. These catalogs collectively provide your samples exposure to millions of potential readers.

August 28, 2010 - A few updates. 1. From the Department of Formatting Bliss: I released a new version of the Smashwords Style Guide. It's probably the most significant update ever, which means I'm sure it has typos and factual inaccuracies. Take a peek and please email me with typo discoveries, corrections, or tips I'm missing. It's longer, though mostly because of all the new pictures. I added expanded sections to help with paragraph construction, line spacing, ToC-building and paragraph style modification. These are the areas where Smashwords authors and publishers struggle the most. 2. From the Department of Meatgrinding. We're really excited about the improvements made to our EPUB and MOBI blades in the last few weeks. The conversions are looking better than ever. All part of our commitment to continually improve every aspect of the Smashwords experience. 3. From the Department of Drum Beating. I appeared yesterday in an online interview with Fox Business. Access the video here - http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/4322944 4. From the department of bug production. Yesterday for several hours some people were unable to activate their new accounts. If this affected you, please go back to the account activation hyperlink you received via email and try again. Problem is fixed. Today, the site was logging people out of their accounts each time they closed their web browser. We think this is fixed now. 5. From the Department of OMG. Passed another milestone - 2,500 new ebooks added to Smashwords in the last 30 days. This partially (but not completely) explains why we're backlogged again on Premium Catalog approvals, even though we recently hired a new full-time person dedicated entirely to vetting. I've developed a rough plan to accelerate the cycles. If you want to get a head start on it now, here's what you can do if you're waiting for review: Click to your Dashboard, and then click on the hyperlink for "pending review," if you see unresolved AutoVetter errors, fix them now. You'd be surprised how much time we spend manually telling authors what AutoVetter already told them. To help with the most common critical areas, the new Style Guide above is our first step to help you help yourself, and the second step will be to add new AutoVetter filters to detect more of these complex errors so you can quickly fix them, and thereby gain faster entry into the Premium Catalog, and faster shipments out to the channel. Quick is good for you and good for Smashwords, and should help reduce the backlog and increase our review turnaround. We'll also try to improve our on-screen communication to you, so you have a clearer picture what steps you need to take next.

August 25, 2010 - Two earnings updates: 1. Human glitch. In the last round of earnings payments, we erroneously reported to dozens of authors and publishers - all of whom had opted to be paid by check - that they were paid an amount less than $25.00, even though we're not supposed to pay by check for amounts less than $25.00. After some sleuthing, we realized the system correctly didn't pay them. Yesterday, we refreshed the balances of these authors and publishers. Sorry for the confusion. 2. (updated with new info) Tax Grab. In April, we reluctantly started withholding taxes for our authors and publisher outside the US. As I mentioned at the time in the author alert, as well as in my May 4 and June 18 updates below, we planned to appeal that requirement with the IRS on the grounds that Smashwords is a distributor, not a publisher. Our CPA had a conversation with the IRS last week, and they arrived at a solution that may relieve us and our international authors/publishers from some of the burden of withholdings. What a nightmare it's been. All prior withholdings were credited back to authors and publishers in July in anticipation of last week's decision. We are still recommending non-US authors submit W-8BEN forms to us, because this will help ensure you qualify for the greatest possible relief from withholdings, especially if the IRS ultimately rules against our desires.  UPDATE:  The IRS has made it clear we must obtain a signed and completed form W8-BEN from authors/publishers outside the US, otherwise we are legally obligated to withold 30% of your earnings.  To receive your full tax treaty benefit of reduced or eliminated withholdings, see our FAQ and checklist in the Support Center.

August 24, 2010 - Miscellaneous miscellany: 1. Marketing guru Seth Godin announced yesterday he's turning his back on traditional publishers. The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Trachtenberg has the scoop here, along with some comments by some guy with a name remarkably similar to my own. 2. On a related topic, Kelley Allen at Diesel eBooks and I are hoping to do a panel at the March, 2011 South by Southwest conference about the Indie Ebook Revolution, and what this means for authors and traditional publishers. Click here to vote for the panel if you think it's an important topic because judges will consider votes in addition to merit when they select their final panels. 3. Multiple incremental updates the last couple days. The search box is now a bit smarter. Also, thanks to a good suggestion from Smashwords author Gerald Weinberg, when you're looking at a book page, it now lists up to ten "other books by this author," vs. the prior six, and for lists longer than six, it includes an additional link for "See more by [author name]. See one of Jerry's book pages for an example here. And finally, book listings now give readers more insight into the starred ratings relevance by listing the average star rating alongside the number of reviews. See it in action here. 4. Prepping the release of a new Smashwords Style Guide with beefed up instructions and pictures to address the biggest challenges facing most Smashwords authors and publishers: paragraph construction (first line indents vs. block paragraphs), how to modify paragraph styles for proper line spacing, how to build linked ToCs, and dozens of other minor updates.

August 23, 2010 - On July 6 I floated a crazy idea of doing a North American Smashwords road show. The response was terrific, and many of you offered to help coordinate meetings with your local libraries, Rotary Clubs and writers' clubs. While we were contemplating the best route, a couple other opportunities landed on our doorstep, so the plans have changed. It's going to be a Southern Hemisphere trip instead to Brazil and Australia. Current itinerary: Fly to Brazil last week of September, meetings and two ebook self-publishing events with our new partner (stay tuned for more!), then fly straight to NY for the Self Publishing Expo conference to give a solo presentation on the seven secrets to ebook publishing success, and then also sit on a panel about the future of publishing. At the end of that day, or early the next, I'm on a plane to Australia. Yeah! Many Smashwords authors and publishers Down Under. Doing about seven events for the NextText Seminar Series titled, "Everything Australian Authors Need to Know about Digital Publishing but Were Afraid to Google." Cities on the tour include Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Bryon Bay and Brisbane. After Australia, we'll try to visit New Zealand (many great Smashwords authors there too!). No events planned there yet.

August 20, 2010 - Author/publisher tip of the day. Your customers have ADHD. In fact, everyone on the Internet has ADHD. Another distracting shiney hyperlink is always one click away. If you read the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, you understand how important the hyperlink is to your book marketing efforts. Rather than pointing your fans and prospective readers to the Smashwords home page, point them directly to your author/publisher page, or to the specific book page you're promoting. Why? You want to put your reader as close to your book as possible with their first click. If you send them to the Smashwords home page at www.smashwords.com, there's a high probability they get distracted and click on another book, or forget why they came here. Or, they may misspell or forget your book title, or misspell or forget your author name. To identify the web address for your author/publisher page, click on the My Smashwords link above. To find the direct web address to your book, click on the book page. The link you see is the link your customer needs. Remember, since you're the author/publisher, we show you stuff on that page that other visitors cannot see, such as downloads, links to account settings and sales reports. Happy hyperlinking!

August 17, 2010 - Had a fascinating conversation with the operations chief of a potential new Smashwords ebook retailer today. He was pleased to learn Smashwords books are DRM-free. He told me 80% of their customer service burden is caused by their customers struggling to deal with DRM protection (I call it "infection"). Customers shouldn't have to register their device or book just to read a book. One of his customers purchased a book one day, then lost it the next day when the publisher decided to change its territorial rights. DRM adds unnecessary complexity that gets in the way of a customer enjoying a book, and also adds unnecessary expense that leeches off all those who deserve to benefit from the book - the author, the retailer and most importantly, the customer. In the years ahead, assuming the big NY publishers continue to DRM-infect their books, DRM-free will become an increasingly important strategic advantage for indie authors.

August 15, 2010 - 1. We migrated everything to brand spankin' new servers today. 2. As a followup to yesterday's note on covers, Smashwords author Zacharias O'Bryan writes us: "Theoretically, visual art should be irrelevant on any bookcover or music DVD cover; but language via the written word engagesonly part of the brain. When we add imagery, we instantly allow theshopper to grok something deeper about the work's contents."

August 14, 2010 - 1. Performing additional server and performance upgrades this weekend. Making many small incremental tweaks to the underlying gutts of the beast. 2. Still wondering if ebook covers really matter? One Smashwords customer shares his view: "I really have to complain ... i think it is awful that you sell [some of your] ebooks without any covers ... that is like selling a paperback without a cover."

August 10, 2010 - At the risk of declaring "Mission Accomplished" and repeating the mistake of our term-limited may-he-enjoy-his-brush-cutting-days-on-the-ranch former president from the great state of Texas, it appears our midnight upgrade to larger (and more expensive!) servers has, for the time being at least, increased the reliability and performance of the site. Time will tell. The fun (and terrifying) thing about our growth is that we never know what lies around the corner. As our traffic and usage grows, the load exposes new limitations we didn't know we had until it hits us smack in the face. For those of you freaked by the inevitable and (we promise) forthcoming stutters and stumbles, rest assured we have 2.5 years experience navigating these uncharted waters of tomorrow, so we're confident we'll continue to work through these welcome challenges. Stat for you: Our page views (measured in millions) for July were 3.5 times greater than January, which was itself an all time record. Do you have a friend not yet on Smashwords? Invite them to publish or read with us. Every new reader, author and publisher enriches the entire Smashwords community.

August 9, 2010 - 11:30pm Pacific. Smashwords will be offline for almost an hour tonight as we upgrade our servers to better serve you.

August 7, 2010 - 12:16am Pacific - 1. Meatgrinder has been back online for a few hours and is chugging though a large backlog of new releases and book updates. Both the EPUB and MOBI converters were upgraded today with enhancements that will give Smashwords authors and publishers more control over the final look of their ebooks. For the EPUBs, we've improved the quality of the files by fixing a problem with our previous EPUB blade that inserted unwanted spacing between some paragraphs. For the MOBIs (for Kindle), we're now automatically inserting your cover image into the MOBI file, and improving paragraph formatting. We think both files are looking much better, though we haven't worked out all the bugs yet so we'll continue our tests and validations. Once we think they look solid, we'll automatically regrind all 16,000 + Smashwords books so all Smashwords authors and publishers can benefit from the improvements. 2. Carefully check the hyperlinks in your books. If you float your mouse pointer over the hyperlink, you can often see where it points to. Or, right mouse click on a hyperlink, click "edit hyperlink," then view the hyperlink. Make sure if you're pointing to web addresses they should begin with http:// in front the www.website.com web address, otherwise not only will your book fail the EPUBCHECK validation (See July 26, #9 update below, as well as June 18 #4) which will prevent shipment to Apple, it'll also cause your MOBI conversion to fail. 3. Our Premium Catalog reviews are still backlogged. Per the author alert the other day, we're working through them as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.

August 6, 2010 - 4:46pm Pacific - Meatgrinder is temporarily unplugged and taking a nap as we experiment with some new EPUB and MOBI conversion blades. Goal: Create better EPUBs and better MOBIs. If you already uploaded your book and it's in the queue, it'll process once we restart Meatgrinder. It's safe to upload new books and new versions, but don't upload duplicates of what is already in the queue. We know it's tempting the stare at the spinning wheel for hours on end, but we don't recommend it unless you find it relaxing.

August 5, 2010 - Smashwords announced a two-part distribution agreement today with the Diesel eBook Store, a leading independent ebook retailer. More at the Smashwords blog. An exclusive Smashwords author/publisher alert is going out at this second to all Smashwords authors/publishers. If you're one of the few dozen folks who opted out in your communications preferences (note, you shouldn't opt out of any of our emails) at https://www.smashwords.com/account/comm, you'll miss it. If you're registered at Smashwords with an earthlink.net email address, their anti-spam feature appears to be malfunctioning today. Unless you put Smashwords.com on your safe list, you probably won't receive the alert. Regardless of the email system you're using, please make sure smashwords.com is listed as a trusted email source, because otherwise you'll miss important sales alerts, review notifications, and my occassional author/publisher alerts.

August 4, 2010 - Two Smashwords interviews out today. One is by John Sundman at Wetmachine and the other is by Dara Girard over at her Novelists blog. Learn more about Smashwords.

August 4, 2010 - Multiple intermittent outages last night, and periods of super-slow performance. The cause? We've been experiencing record traffic each month, so as we reach certain usage thresholds, it exposes new limitations in our architecture. The bad part of this is that it can lead to outages (often in the middle of the night California time). The good part of this is that each time it happens, we investigate, learn from it, and make the necessary modifications that enable our next phase of growth. The recent late night/early morning outages appear to have been caused by normal database queries in certain combinations that stack up and then drag the database to a slow crawl. We're working on a plan to address this. I know some authors are concerned these outages harm sales. Yes, for the last few nights, these 1-3 hour outages have prevented sales transactions and frustrated customers, which is why we will fix it. Though to keep this in perspective, the overall site availability is still excellent, and luckily most of the outages have occurred in the middle of the night when two thirds of our customers (North America) are asleep. Another stat to share... Although we've been achieving record sales each month at the Smashwords.com retail operation, our Premium Catalog retail partners are doing well too. Over 70% of our book sales are now originated by our valued retailer partners. Going forward, I expect this number to increase, even as Smashwords.com sales increase. And on that note, we'll announce a new retail partner tomorrow. :)

August 2, 2010 - Reincarnate your print book - Have you written a print book for which you don't have the digital file, yet you want to bring the book back to life as a Smashwords ebook? Maybe you're a previously published print author and the rights have reverted? Check out this very affordable book scanning service - Blue Leaf Book Scanning. You mail them your print book, and they scan it and return it to you as a Microsoft Word .doc file. I've asked a few Smashwords authors to check them out, and the first report just came in. She mailed Blue Leaf her 250 page out-of-print novel (the rights have reverted), and for only $25.00 received a Word .doc in amazingly good condition. Next, she'll need to proof the book for minor errors. Next, she'll spend under 10 minutes to update the title and copyright page (remove that big NY publisher, because it's her book now!), add links to her Smashwords author page, and then she's ready to upload it to Smashwords.

July 31, 2010 - 11:59pm. Farewell to the July Summer/Winter sale! Record sales this month, so thanks to all the readers and authors who participated! Let's do another sale soon. Authors - if customers redeemed their coupons before the expiration of the sale, but don't click the checkout button until tomorrow or next week, you may see coupon sales come in after the fact. Just know that these late checkouts got your book before the end of the sale.

July 30, 2010 - How to find your book in the Apple iBookstore - Unless you own an iPad or an iPhone/iPod Touch, it can be tough to see your book in the iBookstore. But now you can, thanks to this handy dandy trick. Take a look at this (study the URL before you click):

http://itunes.apple.com/fr/book/isbn9781452300030

It's the hyperlink to the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide in the France iBookstore. Let's deconstruct the URL ("URL" stands for "Uniform Resource Locator," a fancy word for "web address") so you too can find and link to your books at the various iBookstores around the world.

The link begins with http://itunes.apple.com followed by the two letter code for the country. The US is "us," Canada = CA, UK = GB, France = FR and Germany = DE. After the country code, add the "/book/isbn[then enter your ISBN without dashes. To find your ISBN, click to your Dashboard's ISBN Manager.

If your book is on the other side, the book page will come up in the local language of that country. If your book isn't there, your web browser will pause, your computer will load iTunes, and then you'll get a harmless error message. I first learned about this tip from this website in the U.K.

July 29, 2010 - Miscellaneous notes: 1. Smashwords author Chrystine Julian asks and answers, "Why Publish an Ebook?" Worth reading. She urges professional authors to go indie. When we first launched Smashwords 2.5 years ago, I heard from many so-called "professional writers" who refused to publish at Smashwords because they didn't want their books appearing alongside the works of "amateur authors." These authors sat on the sidelines, missing this incredible opportunity to reach readers with ebooks. I rarely hear this anymore. However, I still see many smart authors and publishers (who should know better) sitting on the sidelines over fears that their DRM-free ebooks at Smashwords would be pirated by millions of people (gosh, if a million people pirated my Smashwords book, Boob Tube, I think I'd throw a celebration). JK Rowling, you out there? Email me. Don't get me wrong, I think authors deserve to be paid for their hard work (thus the Smashwords License Statement), I'm just not convinced that a pirated book always equals a lost sale. I'd like to do a blog post on this topic of missed opportunities, though the next few days are a bit too busy. 2. Record traffic yesterday, for no apparent reason other than our traffic has grown every month for two years because Smashwords authors are kick-*ss awesome and we love you. 3. We're in the process of loading more retailer reports into your sales reports later today. We're going to start reporting retailer sales more quickly, even before the retailers pay Smashwords for the sales. The upside: Greater visibility into your channel performance. The downside: I dread the number of emails we'll receive from authors that run along the lines of, "how come you didn't pay me in July for $2.49 I earned at B&N in June? I've unpublished my books until you pay me." Answer: Because B&N pays us 45 days after the close of each month. Seriously, we get emails like this at least once a month from suspicious, overly imaginative authors who believe everyone is trying to rip them off. They think they're punishing us for our alleged offense, yet they're only just shooting themselves in the foot, because unpublishing removes their books from retail and destroys their sales ranking. We'll do our best to proactively mitigate said urges for self-immolation by providing clear on-screen instructions, and we'll try to clearly distinguish between what you've accrued, and what's owed when. It'll probably take multiple iterations to get the wording just right, so suggestions (after Friday) are welcome. 4. We added a handy downloadable spreadsheet in your Sales & Payments reports screen. For you techies out there, it's a .csv file renamed as an .xls file, so when you go to open it you may see browser notice that tells you the file is not what it appears to be. This is okay - it should open fine in all spreadsheets. 5. Payday is coming in the next two days. We're going to pay out a record sum this quarter, and the next quarter is already on track for another record. One metric I watch is the average sales per title published, which has grown significantly over the last six or nine months. It's being driven by our expanded distribution channels. It's also skewed a bit because we're starting to see some breakout hits from a growing number of authors. 6. Reminder: Are Apple shipments passing your Premium Catalog-approved book by? If your approved book hasn't shipped to Apple after two weeks, and you know you followed the Apple Checklist, see the June 18 updated below, item #4. Your book may not be passing EPUBCHECK.

July 28, 2010 - Support tips: 1. We make it really easy to contact us for support, and as any long time Smashwords author, publisher or reader can appreciate, we don't send out canned, automated responses to your questions. As we grow (we just hired a new addition to the team!), we're committed to preserving this level of personal service. But we need your help to maintain this level of service. Please do us (and yourself) a favor by carefully studying our Support FAQ page before you contact us, because most questions are answered there. To the extent you can save us time by not asking repetitive questions that have already been answered for months on the FAQ page, it allows us to focus our time on serving you better by opening up more distribution channels for you, developing new tools to connect books with readers, or fixing issues we already know need to be fixed. 2. With the exception of the rare irate or irrational person, I enjoy answering many of the support inquiries myself. It helps me understand how well (or poorly) we're serving you, and where our development priorities should be. All 7,000+ Smashwords authors and hundreds of thousands of customers and site visitors haveeasy access to my personal email address, and of course you're welcome to contact me. However, if you want faster responses to questions you don't find answered in the Support FAQ, Terms of Service, Style Guide or Distribution Information Page, poseyour question via the feedback/customer support link at the top of every page. This is better thanemailing our staff direct, because when you click the support link above, theemail we receive comes pre-loaded with your account information. If wereceive a long email with a lot of questions (or worse, with vague pleas for help like "I'm so frustrated. It's not working!" (Yes, we get these) and no hyperlink to youraccount, we'll often put it aside for later, and unfortunately latersometimes becomes never, not because we're ignoring you, but because you got lost in the volume of email. 3. Yes, sometimes even if you contacted us via the support link, we might miss your inquiry. In those cases, feel free to contact us again after a couple days.

July 27, 2010 - Items of note: 1. New audio interview of yours truly over at Elizr, where I talk about how Smashwords got started, where we're going, where we're at with Amazon, and mention success of a couple Smashwords authors, Brian S. Pratt and Carl East. Click here to listen. I look forward to talking more about some of the other Smashwords breakouts such as Randolph Lalonde and Rebecca Forster in the months ahead. 2. In case you missed it, over at the Smashwords blog I posted a presentation I gave a couple weeks ago at NYU on how indie ebooks will transform the future of publishing. Click here to view the post and the presentation. Please share it with an author friend, and invite them to join the indie ebook revolution at Smashwords. 3. Royalties will be processed end of this week. If you haven't done so already, visit your Payee Profile and sign up to receive your payment via PayPal. You'll receive your money faster. Paypal is free (don't sign up for the paid version, you don't need it). If you don't already have a Paypal account, go to www.paypal.com and sign up for the "Personal" account. After you sign up, return to your Payee Profile and enter your Paypal address. Do it before today to ensure we receive your info in time. 4. There was an issue yesterday at the Apple U.K. iBookstore that caused all Smashwords titles to mysteriously disappear for multiple hours, though Apple worked quickly to restore the catalog and it looks like we're fully operational there now. It didn't affect the other Apple iBookstores in the U.S., Canada, France and Germany where our books are now appearing.

July 20, 2010 - Reminders: 1. Apple Pages bug. As reported in April below, if you created your book in Apple Pages, it has a bug that may cause Meatgrinder to insert a page break after every paragraph (ugly ugly bad) in your .EPUB version. To fix, save your file as a Word .doc, and then open it in Word or Open Office (free word processor that works pretty well with Smashwords), then save the file again as a Word .doc. Most authors report this fixes the problem easily. 2. Please remember all books at Apple must have prices that end with 99 cents. If you price differently, Smashwords will automatically increase the price to the nearest X.99 when we send the book to Apple. This means a $2.00 book becomes $2.99. Therefore, if you want your book at Apple, it's best you price all your Smashwords books to end with .99.

July 18, 2010 - A few thoughts, updates, notes: 1. We're all going to die. The New York Times has an interesting story about the challenge Facebook faces with all the Facebook members who pass away, leaving ghosts of profile pages. Click here to read the story. This is actually something we've thought about ever since I wrote the business plan for Smashwords. Authors are uploading their life's works, and sadly, we're all going to pass on some day. We need to create an advance directive feature within Smashwords so you can tell us what you want us to do with your book. Do you want it unpublished, do you want earnings donated to charity, forwarded to your heirs, book given away for free, something else? We're not set up to capture such information, at least not yet. In the meantime, do this: If you have a will (or even if you don't), write down on paper how you want your heirs to deal with your books at Smashwords. Give them your account name, your email address, and your password, and leave clear instructions for them, and then attach the document to your will and keep it in a safe place. 2. We're backlogged on Premium Catalog vetting, so please remain patient as we work through all the reviews. 3. See the June 27 update below for a reminder reminder (yes, this is a reminder about a reminder) on some of the most common formatting problems we're seeing related to paragraph construction and line spacing. If you right mouse click on your paragraphs, and you see your paragraph style isn't defining line spacing of single or 1.5 spaced lines with the "at" field blank, then odds are you have not formatted your line spacing correctly. For example, if you have line spacing coded for "at least" "at" "5pt," then your lines will overlap in the HTML Reader.

July 15, 2010 - Per June 28 update, earnings payments will be processed at the end of the month. For fastest payment go now to your payee page and opt to receive payments electronically via PayPal. We process PayPal payments before paper checks (no check printing, envelope stuffing, stamp licking, snail mail), and the threshold is only $10.00 vs. $25.00 for paper checks.

July 12, 2010 - A few notes: 1. MOBI Bug workaround: There's a minor bug in our MOBI converter that can cause MOBI files to appear on the Kindle improperly labeled with a file name that starts with something confusing like "tmp_09384...." or with the wrong author name. The bug doesn't affect the quality or readability of the book, although it can confuse readers to see such an odd name. Authors, here's the workaround solution to fix the problem: Open your source document in Microsoft Word. For Word 2000 and 2003, go to File: Properties, and for Word 2007, click the Office button (upper left): Prepare: Properties. Make sure the Title and Author name fields match what you want. While you're at it, consider importing your book cover image into the top of your book. Kindle users appreciate this, because unlike the EPUB file, MOBIs don'tpackage the cover into the book. The downside of the importing thecover in, though, is that it will cause the cover image to appear twicein EPUBs. After you import the image, right mouse click on it, click format picture, then click Layout, then click In Line with Text, then click save. Then from within your Word document, click the image, then click the Center button. These steps will prevent your image from floating around on the page. Once your updated file is ready to upload, return to your Dashboard and click "upload new version." 2. After the July 6 update, I received a lot of great notes of encouragement from Smashwords authors encouraging us to do the indie ebook tour, and volunteering to help set up events. We're leaning toward "yes." 3. We hit 700 million words today, or I should say, "you, our cherished Smashwords authors and publishers, hit 700 million words today." That's a lot of words, liberated into the ebooksophere, ready to connect with readers. 4. Saving the best for last. Sneak peek: We'll issue a press release tomorrow announcing ya'll hit a milestone over the weekend. On Sunday night, we surpassed 15,000 indie ebooks published and live at Smashwords. Absolutely wow amazing. Contrary to prevailing misconceptions, some indie ebooks sell quite well. The press release will include the story of one Smashwords author whose books earned him over $4,000 in the month of June alone, and that's from just one Smashwords retailer, Barnes & Noble. Before visions of cherry plumbs cloud your vision, remember this is atypical, but it's a sign that some of you are starting to earn some real income from this ebook thing, and some of you will be the breakout bestsellers of the future. I have no doubt that five years from now, several NY Times bestsellers will have gotten their start here on Smashwords (and let's hope they stick with Smashwords when they're big and famous!). Tune in tomorrow to learn the identity of our ace author. His achievement is cause for celebration among all indie authors, because it means retailers are starting to make real money off of our books, and this is a good thing because retailers help us reach readers and are therefore worth every percentage point they earn. Every once in while I'll see authors griping about a retailer's cut of the pie. Wrong attitude. Retailers are our friends, and we plan to announce the addition of more friends to the Smashwords distribution network soon.

July 6, 2010 - From the dept. of crazy ideas: Smashwords North American Ebook Tour 2010 - Should we take the Smashwords show on the road and visit your home town? Lesleyann (my wife) and I are considering doing a two monthSmashwords road trip across North America starting in September whereI'd do talks at libraries, rotary clubs, writers groups, community centers, churches, bookstores, college writing classes, oranywhere a group of book lovers want to meet to hear a free presentation onebooks. I generally talk from 20 to 45 minutes, and then weopen it up for Q&A discussion, which is always my favorite part. We'd start here in Silicon Valley in early September, drive North towardSeattle/Vancouver, then across Southern Canada/Northern US, down to NYC to speak October 2 at Self Publishing Book Expo, then up toVermont/Montreal by October 5th or 6th, make Warren, VT our home base for a week or two, then down the Eastern seaboard to Florida, thenmeander through the South, midsouth and midwest, then down to Texas, Arizona and Los Angeles, and then back home to Northern California. The inspiration: I've been doing a lot of speaking the last year at conferences, writers group meetings, and even a Rotary club and library, and it's been a blast meeting face to face with authors and readers. Feedback from the presentations has been great, probably because my presentations aren't sales pitches for Smashwords. When I meet with writers, I generally do a slide or two about my background and Smashwords, and then the other 95% of the presentation is all about what's an ebook, and how to produce, publish, distribute and promote an ebook. For more general audiences like libraries and Rotary clubs, I focus more on what ebooks mean for the future of books, literacy and authorship. So tell me, what do you think? Should we do it? If we do it, we'll be looking for volunteers across North America to help organize, host and promote each event in their home town. All we'd need is a room or auditorium with a wall (if folks want to view slides) and electricity. These volunteer organizers will influence our route as we zigzag our way from town to town. Would be especially fun to do gigs in small towns in addition to major metro areas. The overriding goal here is to get more people reading ebooks, and more authors publishing them. Click the "?" question mark button above to share your thoughts and suggestions.

July 5, 2010 - Important reminder: Two authors made this mistake in the span of a couple hours this morning, thus this reminder. If you want to upload an updated version of your book, NEVER NEVER unpublish it and then click to the Publish page link above to republish it again. Instead, the correct way to upload a new version is to go to your Dashboard and click "upload new version" beside the title. There are multiple reasons you should never make the mistake above: 1. If you remove the original version and publish it again, it generates a completely new book page with a different web address, and you will break all the inbound hyperlinks from fans, customers and affiliate marketers who previously linked to your book. This will also destroy your SEO rating with Google. 2. You'll lose your sales ranking at Smashwords, and you'll lose all your reviews, and all the library bookmarks your fans created that point to your book. 3. If your book was previously accepted into the Premium Catalog and distributed to retailers, when you unpublish it causes your book to be automatically removed from retail distribution. This will cause your book to lose not only distribution, but it'll also lose the sales ranking and all customer reviews you earned at the retailers. These things are precious and valuable to you, and they only become more valuable over time, so don't shoot yourself in the foot. 4. If we think an author is trying to game the system to make their book appear on the home page as a new release again, or to gain the benefit of home page traffic, this is a violation of the Terms of Service and the account may be deleted and all earnings forfeited. This is only fair to fellow authors and publishers.

July 3, 2010 - Tip of the Day - Word of mouth has always been the most powerful driver determining which books are purchased, and which books languish in obscurity. Reviews are the ultimate form of permanent word of mouth. Does your Smashwords book have multiple starred reviews on your book page? If not, readers will be wary to even download a free sample if they're not confident your book will honor their time with a good read. One way to get your first reviews is to participate in online communities where authors and readers meet. See the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for a partial list of the best communities. Consider posting a note in these communities (or on Twitter, Facebook or your blog) to describe your book, and offer a limited number of free coupons to readers interested in your subject and who are willing to provide you an honest review. See your Dashboard for the link to the Coupon Manager.

June 30, 2010 - Join our big sale! Enroll your books now in the second annual Smashwords July Summer/Winter Sale! Starting July 1 though July 31, we're offering a special promotion that's easy for authors and publishers to enroll in, and also a great chance for readers to load up on thousands of great reads. The special promotion catalog will be promoted on the Smashwords home page, and in the Stanza and Aldiko e-reading apps. Just click a few buttons and enroll your book at one of the following levels: 25% off, 50% off, 75% off (we've never offered this level, so we'll see how customers respond to it) and 100% off (FREE). Click here to view your enrollment options: https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos After you enroll, you'll receive an email confirmation.

June 28, 2010 - A few items: 1. Royalties will go out at the end of next month, so the last week of July. As a reminder for Smashwords newbies, Smashwords pays quarterly, within 40 days after the end of each quarter. We always aim to pay early. You're paid for all monies received on your behalf from the sale of books at Smashwords and our retailers, minus chargebacks. The operative word is "receipts." Retailers pay us 30-60 days after the month in which a book sale occurs, so receipts for Q2 will cover retail sales from late January through April or May. A day or two before we process your payment, we will aggregate and report on retail sales across the channels. This will be our first update to you since late January, which is when we last reported B&N sales to our authors and publishers. All receipts received before this Friday will be reported and paid to you. If you're new to Smashwords and how and when we pay, read the earnings FAQ for a refresher. 2. Fun fact - $4.66. That's the average author-set list price of a Smashwords book, based on a quick analysis of 1,442 titles at one Smashwords retailer. 3. 1,000. That's the number of additional Smashwords titles slated to ship to Sony tonight. We're taking this shipment slowly. We ship, test, review, tweak, then ship again. 4. Ebooks across the globe. Smashwords books are starting to appear in the iPad iBookstore in Canada, France, the U.K., and elsewhere. It'll probably be another week or two before all 5,000+ titles go completely global. 5. Don't own an iPad yet? How about an iPhone or iPod Touch? If you own one of the latter two devices, go right now to the app store and download the free app for Apple's iBookstore. I downloaded it today and looked at a few Smashwords books. They looked great. Several Smashwords authors will be pleasantly surprised by sales, and some of you with free books might have your socks knocked off. 6. Speaking of the iPad, we've been upgrading the systems we use to transfer books and metadata to Apple. This has delayed some of the most recently shipped books from appearing in the store. If all goes well, 1,000+ new Smashwords books should appear by Wednesday or Thursday. 7. More upgrades coming. We're moving to Onix for more retailers. You publishing geeks out there know what that is. For the rest of us, ONIX is simply an international standard for electronically transmitting information about books. If you want to become a publishing geek and impress your friends with your ONIX smarts, here's a good place to start: http://www.editeur.org/83/Overview/ What's the benefit to Smashwords authors and publishers? Metadata is data about your books, and as you know, at Smashwords we give you unprecedented control over it. The move to ONIX should help us help our retailers improve the speed and accuracy with which they ingest information about your books, such as price changes, category changes, and updated descriptions.

June 27, 2010 - Notes, reminders, updates and what not: 1. We're getting stricter about enforcing the Style Guide's formatting recommendations. The percentage of books that don't make it into the Premium Catalog on the first (and second and third) attempt is increasing. Today we reviewed several hundred books and for the first time ever rejected more than we approved. If you follow the Style Guide, you'll get quick approval. We're especially scrutinizing line spacing (often determined in the paragraph style coding) because this is one of the most common reasons our retailers are unable to list books as quickly as we and our authors would like. Line spacing formatting problems are often invisible on screen unless you dig into Word's paragraph coding with a right-mouse click, followed by a click on "paragraph." See the June 21 update below for more. 2. We're also cracking down on paragraph return abuse. Be kind to your paragraph returns! Don't use paragraph returns to create a blank line between two paragraphs, because this creates excessive spacing between paragraphs. If you're using more than two or three paragraph returns in a row to separate text on the page, you're uglifying (is that a word?) your ebook, because some of the most popular ebook reading devices add extra spacing after each paragraph return. 3. Reminder - the following items cannot go in your book description: Smashwords coupon codes; web addresses; notices of promotions or sales; ALL CAPS words; promises that all proceeds will be donated to charity (while you may donate your proceeds to charity, the retailer will not); and promises of money back guarantees. Why all these rules? Because these descriptions ship out to retailers, and retailers cannot honor your promises or promotions. Web addresses aren't allowed because the goal of the description is to motivate the retailer's customer to sample or purchase your book at the retailer's store, and hyperlinks only send the reader away. ALL CAPS aren't allowed because they're unprofessional and mean YOU'RE SCREAMING. 4. Common sense reminder: If you're getting four, five, six or seven automated AutoVetter errors at once, it's a sign you didn't read the Smashwords Style Guide. If you're having trouble getting into the Premium Catalog, take a deep breath, download the Guide, and read it again. If your book is taking you hours to format, it's taking you too long. If you don't have the time, patience or skills to do the job (it's okay, we're not all geeky Word experts and even I think Microsoft Word 2007 is an abomination), ask for a low cost referral to a formatter. 5. On a related topic, covers. The quality of book covers on Smashwords is higher than ever. Many indie authors are raising their game here (great news) with covers that are indistinguishable or better than what traditional publishers are putting out. Yet there are exceptions which challenge all reason. Why do some authors spend a lifetime writing their book yet skimp on the cover? Blurry text on a white background is not a cover. Folks on my list do covers for as low as $35.00, and no, we're not paid to refer you to them. Odds are, unless you're a graphic artist, they'll help you raise your game a couple notches. 6. Happy 14,000. A few days ago, we listed our 14,000th ebook. Our indie authors and publishers have now liberated over 660 million words from the tyranny of paper. :-) We're on track to hit a billion words published by the end of the year, per our the crazy Billion Word March challenge we gave ourselves last October. Back then, we were thrilled to hit 150 million words. Fun fact: the average words-per-book is actually increasing. It's at 46,800 words per book as of this moment, up from 40,000 or 42,000 the last time we checked. We've all heard ebooks are great for short form writing (true!) but they're also great for long form too. Viva la books. 7. The week ahead: If all goes well, we'll finish our huge Sony shipment (fingers crossed) and do fresh shipments to Apple, B&N and Kobo. Plus other top secret projects, and maybe a news announcement come Tuesday.

June 23, 2010 - More Smashwords books appearing at Sony. Cool. Shipments are proceeding, though it'll likely be a few more days before all 6,900 of the books currently slotted for Sony arrive. Fun stuff. Once we complete the shipments, we'll reflect them in the Channel Manager. In the meantime, if you haven't attached an ISBN to your ebook, do it now in the ISBN Manager. You can't ship to Sony or Apple without an ISBN.

June 21, 2010 - Tip of the day: One of the most common formatting problems that will cause a retailer to refuse to list your book is line spacing. If you followed the Smashwords Style Guide, you know that your Normal paragraph style should be set to single spaced lines (1.5 spaced is okay too) with the "at" field left blank. Here's how to quickly check your book's line spacing: Right mouse click on a body paragraph, then click Paragraph. If the "Line Spacing" field says anything other than "Single" or "1.5 lines," and if the "at" field has anything in it, then you should correct the style and apply it to the entire book. In some cases, the right mouse click trick won't work, and you'll need to look at your list of master styles and make sure your paragraphs are properly coded. Bonus tip: If you've got good first line paragraph indents, then don't code your paragraph to have a trailing 6pt or 10pt or any point space, because it's not necessary.

June 18, 2010 - Misc. updates, notes, reminders, etc from the JFK terminal: 1. The Sony shipment is progressing, step by step. Once we confirm everything is in order, we'll reflect it in the Channel Manager. No horrible glitches yet, but like death and taxes, we always expect them and will work through them as they arise. 2. Speaking of the Channel Manager, it's in need of an overhaul. We know, it can be confusing, even to the tech savvy crowd. The top table shows our next ship dates, if we know them. If your book already shipped, and you haven't made any new updates, you can ignore future ship dates because they don't apply to you. 3. We're working with retailers to get a better understanding of why some books we ship never appear, or appear later than expected. We'll be making some minor incremental changes in the next couple weeks that should speed some things along, and eventually we hope to provide you better feedback as to why your book is being delayed (often, it's due to formatting issues). 4. Apple shipments passing you by? If you're missing the Apple shipments, and you know you manually opted each title into the Apple channel, and you assigned an ISBN via the ISBN Manager, then most likely the problem is that your book is not passing EPUBCHECK. When this is the cause, it's always due to a problem in your source file, such as mal-formed hyperlinks, missing images, or stray HTML code. Unfortunately, most human beings find it nearly impossible to decipher the EPUBCHECK error messages, so we're not yet reporting these errors. If you're a techie and willing to brave said error messages, do a Google search on 'epub validator' and find a free epub validation service that will tell you whether or not your EPUB file is affected. Here's a list of some of the common EPUB error codes for after you run your EPUB through a validator: http://code.google.com/p/epubcheck/wiki/Errors With luck, it'll help you identify what you need to do to fix your source file. Eventually, we'll provide you a more elegant solution. 5. Converting samplers to buyers: Like clockwork, at least once every couple weeks we receive inquiries from authors or publishers who look at their download counts, and then compute their sales conversion ratio (the percentage of sample downloads that convert to sales), and then they suspect something is wrong. Concerns run the entire spectrum from authors asking us if we think their formatting can be improved or if we can suggest ideas to achieve better sales, to authors concerned their sales aren't recording properly, to the extra-paranoid (and thankfully, rare!!!) case where the author accuses Smashwords of stealing their money. If you think your sales aren't being recorded, ask a friend to be your mystery shopper. Pick a date and time for them to purchase your book, and then confirm the sale is recorded properly. As a somewhat related aside, at lunch yesterday at the Untethered conference in NY where I was speaking, I met a nice lady who happened to be the president of a big division of one of the top five NY publishers, and she lamented how authors often blame the publisher if the book doesn't sell well. I told her I could feel her pain, even though I consider Smashwords more of a distributor than a publisher. 6. Reminder: Please don't pester the retailers if you want a price changed, or you want your book unpublished. Do this from your Dashboard only. We will update them automatically. If the updates don't occur with four weeks from the date we ship the update to them (see your Channel Manager), then please do let us know so we can investigate. 7. Coming next from Smashwords, so you know... Here's what we're working on next: Completing Sony integration, completing multiple mystery projects (including multiple new distribution deals to announce over next few months), integrating recent retail sales into your Dashboard's sales reports, working with our friends at Amazon to get our Amazon channel up and running (way behind schedule, sorry!), dealing with the IRS on behalf of our international authors (who, we think, should not have to be subjected to IRS withholdings, even though the IRS thinks differently), and of course by the end of next month, we will yet again pay out record earnings shares (YAY!!!!).

June 15, 2010 - Oh mon dieu, the horror. An eagle-eyed Smashwords author discovered our category selector was missing an option for Fiction: Horror. Fixed. The tree is Fiction: Literature: Horror. Previously, the only alternative was juvenile horror. If you want this category, go to Dashboard: Settings. Make the selection, click save. You'll see the option to resubmit to the Premium Catalog. Don't panic. Click the button. Category changes on Premium Catalog titles are fast tracked, and while you wait your previously accepted book will continue to ship.

June 15, 2010 - Two notes: 1. Sony update - getting very close to shipping thousands of books to Sony. A shipment to Sony involves two steps. First, we ship ISBN metadata to Bowker approximately one week before we ship the books to Sony. Then we ship to Sony and they pull metadata from Bowker. The last few days we've been working with Bowker and Sony to conduct final data integration testing. As a reminder, you cannot ship to Sony (or Apple) unless you have attached your ISBN number via the ISBN Manager tool in your Dashboard. Your ebook ISBN must be different than your print ISBN. 2. Live TOCs. Have you upgraded your book yet with a clickable Table of Contents? See the Style Guide for step by step instructions.

June 11, 2010 - Our mission is to unleash the creative potential of indie authors around the world, so I'm always gratified to see unexpected gems like https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/15507. Cool artwork, inside and out, by childrens' author/artist Ora Munter.

June 10, 2010 - Multi-hour outage between around 2am and 7:45am Pacific time. Investigating why our auto restart failsafes failed. We've experienced record traffic last 30 days, though since it occured during our lowest-traffic hours, I suspect it was some other glitch.

June 9, 2010 - If you're a Smashwords author and you've had success promoting your Smashwords book on GoodReads, LibaryThing or Shelfari, please click the feedback link above and share your tips. How did you do it? I'd like to add a new item to the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, offering authors a simple step by step, how-to. Also good to know what not to do, so please include pitfalls or mistakes to avoid. If I get great info, I'll aggregate your responses and upload an update to the Marketing Guide in the next few days. Thanks for sharing your smarts for the benefit of your fellow indie authors and publishers.

June 7, 2010 - Serialized books. Thanks to everyone who emailed us with their opinions about serialized ebooks, per my query here yesterday. The verdict is in. The vast majority of ebook buyers don't like serialized ebooks. They'd rather purchase a complete book. I summarized some of the findings over at the Smashwords blog, in my post, Are Serialized Ebooks a Bad Idea?. Bottom line for Smashwords authors: we'll continue to discourage serials. Not only do your readers not want them, its fair to say most readers actually despise them and will go out of their way to avoid them. This is the loud and clear message I heard yesterday from most of the Smashwords customers who responded to my query yesterday, and it's the conclusion of a poll I posted over at MobileRead. Click here to cast your vote in my MobileRead Serial Ebooks Poll, and don't miss the fascinating reader discussion there. As of this moment, 93% of MobileReaders say they try to avoid serialized ebooks.

June 5, 2010 - Tips for the day: 1. If you're waiting for your book to be added to the Premium Catalog, click to your Dashboard and look under the Premium Status column, then click that link for your next steps. 2. After you make your updates, don't forget to click the button to resubmit your book for consideration (otherwise we don't know you're done making your changes and your book won't appear in our review queue). Every few weeks, we go through and message the authors who have books in "Limbo," meaning they haven't clicked the resubmit button yet. 3. If your book is flagged with AutoVetter errors, fix them asap, because these errors will delay or even prevent us from considering your book for the Premium Catalog. The most critical errors are copyright error (see step 21b in Style Guide), too many consecutive paragraph returns, the tab error, the space bar error and the TOC/footnote errors. 4. Broken record tip of the day: People who carefully follow the Style Guide save themselves a lot of time and get fast tracked into distribution. It's really fast and easy if you follow steps in the Style Guide. If you need help, don't hesitate to ask!

June 2, 2010 - Two bits of great news. 1. For the first time ever, Smashwords is featured in a Wall Street Journal story about how digital self publishing is shaking up the traditional book industry. It's great to finally receive such mainstream recognition, because there are hundreds of thousands of authors out there who still don't know about Smashwords and the ebook publishing opportunity. Most of the buzz about Smashwords to date has been from author-to-author word-of-mouth, and we've also been fortunate to receive generous buzz from the digital publishing blogosphere. Still no coverage yet from the NYT, though hope springs eternal. 2. Sony shipment imminent. After many delays, it looks like we're on track to ship several thousand books to Sony next week. We've had a couple hundred books at Sony for several months, though this will finally mark full scale distribution into this very important retail partner's store. More announcements forthcoming as we work to open up new distribution outlets for Smashwords authors and publishers.

June 1, 2010 - Author/publisher reminders: 1. We're mere days from shipping to Sony, yet hundreds of books will not ship because the authors have not yet attached ISBNs to their books. Sony, like Apple, requires an ISBN in order for us to distribute your book to them. If you haven't already done so, please click to your ISBN Manager and make sure you have attached ISBNs to your books. 2. Have you opted in to the Smashwords-Apple distribution channel? Unlike all other Smashwords distribution channels, we require you to manually opt in to the Apple channel. Each book is opted in separately. Check your Channel Manager for status, or to opt in. 3. When you're logged into your Smashwords account, you see information about your books and about your account that others cannot see. Download counts and sales figures, for example, are only available to the author/publisher. Similarly, when you're signed in, you can download your entire book for free (because it's your book!). We often receive emails from new Smashwords authors/publishers complaining that their sampling percentages are not being enforced. Once we ask them to log out of their account to view their page as any other visitor would, they see the percentages are enforced and their private information is... private, as it should be. As we update the site in the future, we'll consider ways we can make the above distinctions more apparent to the hundreds of new authors and publishers who join Smashwords each week. 4. When you upload a book to Smashwords, is it failing to convert to one or more of the formats? If so, it's a sure sign you haven't carefully followed the Smashwords Style Guide. If nothing else works, consider the Nuclear option to purge all corruption and formatting so you can reformat. Click here for the FAQ.

May 26, 2010 - Minor but worthwhile enhancement: Previously, publishers had to enter their Publisher Name in the Firstname Lastname fields of the Account: Edit Account Information page. As of one hour ago, if you're a publisher it knows you're a publisher and presents you with a single field for Publisher Name. Feel free to check your name, though if you previously entered it via the former method, we've converted it for you to the new format.

May 21, 2010 - Two new posts over at the Smashwords blog. Weighing Ebook Distribution Options, and Are Copyright Statement Copyrightable? Both started out as updates for this page, but developed into longer posts so I put them on the blog. Congrats to Smashwords authors Ruth Ann Nordin and Bill Clem, who for some time yesterday occupied the #4 and #10 best-selling spots over at Kobo Books, a Smashwords retailer. Today, at this moment, they're holding the #5 and #10 spots, respectively. More on this in the "Weighing Ebook Distribution Options" blog post. Very cool!

May 18, 2010 - We're sporting a new "?" question mark button at the top of every page. Why? With our torrid growth over the last several months, the number of support emails we receive has exploded. About 85% of the authors, publishers and readers who click those links ask questions that are already answered somewhere on the site, such as on our FAQ page, the How to Publish at Smashwords page, the Smashwords Distribution Information page, or, in the grand mother of them all, the Smashwords Style Guide. The new links offer folks a shortcut to the most common questions and answers, and, we hope, will allow them to get instant answers to their questions rather than waiting for us to respond. We also hope it'll free up our time to focus more on more important stuff, like helping people with more challenging problems not addressed in our FAQs, or freeing our time to focus on the many exciting items on our development roadmap. Several of you have suggested we create an online forum for Smashwords authors and readers, so you all can interact and help each other. I love the idea, and I'm sure we'll do that eventually.

May 17, 2010 - Special thanks to our friend Gene Grossman of Magic Lamp Press, my unofficial after-the-fact copy editor who's so good at catching my many typoesz. :) Typo reports, like bug reports, are always welcome. Thanks all.

May 15, 2010 - A couple random tips-of-the-day. 1. Your book description: Next to a great cover image and a compelling title, the book description is your next most important marketing tool. If your book description doesn't connect with your prospective reader, they'll never click to read the first few pages online, or download a book sample, or purchase your book. Take a look at your book description. If you're writing non-fiction, does your description give the reader a compelling reason to click and read? Does it answer the question, "why should I (the reader) care?" Does is offer a compelling value proposition? If you write fiction or poetry, describe the book. Entice the reader. I'm often surprised at how many authors do awful descriptions along the lines of "This is my ebook, I hope you like it," or, "This is my poetry." Don't squander your opportunity to pull the reader in, otherwise they'll never discover your wonderful words. 2. Thinking about security. Most authors know another author who lost their entire manuscript either due to a hard drive crash or a computer virus. Did you know that when you upload your book to Smashwords, you're actually creating a backup of your book? We maintain your most recent source files, so they're always available to you (download the RTF version). If you're not currently using anti-virus software, go get some today. There are many good free programs, such as AVG Free and Avast. Download them at CNET's Download.com. If by chance your hard drive crashes, or you're hit by a nasty virus, and you lose your work in progress, don't give up. There are many data recovery services who, for a STEEP fee, can recover your hard drive, even if it fell in the hot tub. Ontrack is one of the oldest and most respected. Also check out Drive Savers.

May 13, 2010 - A couple reminders (sorry if some of this is getting repetitive, but these are the problems we're seeing today as we review books for the Premium Catalog): 1. White makes for a really poor background color your ebook covers. It bleeds into the background and often screams "amateur." If your cover is nothing more than text on a white background, you're probably doing yourself a disservice. Invest effort to create a professional-looking cover that inspires your reader to click and discover your writing. Email us for my list of fellow Smashwords authors who design good covers for as low as $35 (a steal), or ask your fellow author friends how they created their covers. You needn't spend a fortune to create a good cover. 2. It's possible that your book is accepted for the Premium Catalog but its status may later change to "requires modification" after you make a minor, unrelated modification. Why? Three reasons: A. We may have missed the problems on the first review. B. You may have introduced a new error (such as adding a coupon code to your book description, or your latest edit to your book was done in a different paragraph style than the rest of your book (common, especially if you cut and paste the new text into your manuscript). C. Over the last two years, we have steadily modified our formatting requirements to help our authors and publishers create a higher quality book. The biggest most common formatting issue that needs to be corrected is poor paragraph spacing (see item #2 in May 5 update below). We may create an AutoVetter filter in the future that will auto-reject previously accepted Premium Catalog titles if they have some of these problems. If you haven't looked at the Style Guide in the last month, do yourself a favor and give it a fresh read to make sure your paragraph spacing is well-formed (and while you're at it, add a linked ToC or linked footnotes/endnotes with our new instructions!).

May 11, 2010 - 11:54am Pacific - Meatgrinder has been stalled for several hours. Nothing you need to do. Just wait until we get it restarted and your books will process normally. Please do not attempt to upload your book again. It will only result in multiple copies of the same book (BAD BAD).

May 8, 2010 - For those who are interested, here's some additional insight into the reviews process for the Premium Catalog. 1. You upload your book and our automated filter, AutoVetter, looks at the book and gives you error messages if it thinks you have formatting problems. AutoVetter is your friend, because if you fix the issues it flags your book will be fast tracked for approval. If you ignore AV's error messages, your book will likely be rejected during the next phase of the review process, the manual review. When we reject the book, we provide you notes on how to fix the problem. To access the notes, go to your Dashboard and click the status links under "Premium Status." If your book is approved during the manual review, it's instantly added to the Premium Catalog, and queued for distribution in our next shipments to retailers. 2. Manual review: A live human looks at your book. The first books we review are those that have minor updates to previously approved books. 3. Next, we review books that have zero AutoVetter errors. 4. Next, we review books that occupy "Limbo," which is our label for the situation when authors have made updates to their books but have not yet submitted them for review. Remember to click the "submit for review" button after you make changes, otherwise we don't know to review your book and you can sit in Limbo for days or weeks. We typically clean out the Limbo books by flagging them with a reminder message which instructs the author/publisher to submit them for review once they're ready for review. We also ask the author/publisher to ask us for help if they need help, because the last thing we want is for you to waste time banging your head against the wall. 5. The last books to be reviewed are those that have multiple AutoVetter errors. If an author or publisher has four or more AutoVetter errors, we're tempted to delete your account on the spot, because it means they didn't even bother to try to read the formatting instructions in the Style Guide. I can count on only one hand the number of times we've done this, because we're inclinded to give new authors the benefit of the doubt, especially those for which English might be a second language. However, since 95% of the errors are being made by authors who write in English, I think the next version of AutoVetter will probably refuse to allow books with two or more errors to be submitted for review, because these books waste our time by clogging the review queue (it's tiresome to have to tell folks the secret to fixing their AutoVetter errors is to read the Style Guide, when all the instructions point to the Guide already. AutoVetter can tell you this. ). These lazy books prevent us from spending time with those of you who, for example, are reading this update and who make a sincere effort. You folks are the real professionals and I sincereley appreciate you taking the time to understand the inner workings of Smashwords by reading this update page. Although we think AutoVetter is great, we're also the first to tell you AutoVetter isn't perfect. The "Printed In" error, for example, is often erroneous because it'll flag your book if it contains those words anywhere in the body. We plan to fix that.

May 5, 2010 - A few notes: 1. Great to see so many Smashwords authors improving their books by adding linked Tables of Contents (ToCs), using the newly updated Style Guide. 2. Many authors still struggling to create proper paragraphs. Use either first line paragraph indents OR block paragraphs, but not both. If you have indents, you don't need extra separation before or after your paragraph. 3. Hint of the day: After you publish or update your book, check it in our Online HTML Reader. If you see funky inconsistent font sizes or styles, it's a sign your book has errors that will make it display poorly on most e-reading devices (it's also a hint your book won't pass our manual inspection for Premium Catalog approval). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, people who carefully follow and implement the Style Guide not only sail through Meatgrinder and AutoVetter without a scratch, they're also the first to get approved for the Premium Catalog and their books invariably look the best across all e-reading devices. If you haven't read the Style Guide in the last month, check out the new and improved version. As we move toward addressing the formatting requirements set by Amazon, some of these recommendations (such as the new paragraph styling tips and for some books, linked ToCs) may become requirements. Make the effort now to upgrade your books not only for Amazon, but to help them look their very best for your readers.

May 4, 2010 - Sales reporting update: This pay period was more challenging than all the others because we simultaneously rolled out IRS withholdings for non-US publishers (horrendously confusing and unfair, thank you IRS) and for the first time we paid out retail partner proceeds from B&N (Sony, Kobo sales integration not complete. Maybe some day I'll go into detail about the challenge of correlating thousands of dissimilar retailer sales reports and inconsistent book IDs with the proper title, author, publisher, sales date, etc into our Dashboard.) Although our TOS says we pay within 40 days of close of quarter, we'vealways paid early since we opened for business two years ago. On Saturday, given the option of paying all earnings at the 31-day mark or delaying two days (still before 40-day cut-off) to properly incorporate the retail sales into your Dashboard, we opted to pay early, even though it meant that hundreds of authors received more money than their Dashboard showed them they were due (this is because we hadn't integrated the B&N sales reports into the Dashboard yet). Today, the B&N results for sales through the end of January are now in the Dashboard's sales reports. In the weeks ahead, we'll work to further improve the layout and analytics, so please pardon our dust. As a reminder, all retailers pay Smashwords on a time delay, so we pay what is received on your behalf by the end of each quarterly pay period. Although not apparent with this quarter's retail sales, since Jan was still early in the B&N relationship, the sales trending for Feb/March/April is encouraging. On a related note, we process PayPal payments first, so if you reside in the US and want to receive your proceeds the quickest, please provide your PayPal address.

May 1, 2010 - We've been preparing earnings payments the last few days. First payments will be in the virtual hands of authors/publishers via Paypal today. Cutting paper checks this weekend, so checks should be in the mail starting this weekend and completing by Monday, Tuesday latest. Retail sales data will include B&N only through January 31 because as of March 31 this is what Smashwords has received payment for on your behalf. Since these numbers represent the early days of B&N and few titles, numbers are small, except for small number of Smashwords bestsellers. Kobo and Sony data is not ready yet, so we will integrate this into sales reports has soon as possible. Looking ahead to unreported B&N sales, the numbers are ramping nicely.

April 25, 2010 - Two things. 1. IRS Saga. We rolled out the new and improved Payee page yesterday. It guides the author/publisher, especially international authors, step by step, through the mindfield of the IRS money grab. Feedback from authors outside the US has been the full spectrum of anger, confusion, acceptance and thankfulness. Interestingly, some responses have also carried political overtones, and the fair (I think) assertion that this amounts to taxation without representation. A few publishers have shared their own personal experiences navigating the IRS mindfield, and these experiences confirm that the top indie publishing shops all deal with the issues differently. It appears our approach to withholding is most similar to that of CreateSpace. I suspect noone really knows the correct way to implement the IRS' opaque guidelines. The IRS itself, when asked anything about ecommerce, will refuse to speak with you (see item #3 yesterday), and will instead tell you to speak with your tax attorney or CPA. But whom do they speak with, and what if their advice conflicts with what the IRS is telling us? One publisher in Australia shared her story about how she was able to get an EIN within days of requesting one (don't ask me if you qualify because I haven't had a few extra hours to investigate the process or qualifications). 2. The Waggle Dance. I have honeybees on my mind. A hive of several thousand just moved in under my roof shingles, and are happily drilling into my roof as I type, building honeycombs and making babies (a third-generation beekeeper is coming to carefully remove and relocate them today so they can make their home elsewhere!). Bees have a unique method of communicating with one another, and this has me thinking about these exclusive author/publisher alerts I mail out, such as the one yesterday that announced our new withholding policies, and also updated everyone on our intention to pay earnings this coming week. We've always supported an opt-out for this alert via Account: Communications Preferences. I'm wondering if I should make it a mandatory opt-in for the ~100 authors/publishers who have opted out. Many of those folks were the same people who emailed, after our successful Apple iPad launch, asking if we were going to try to do a deal with Apple. They obviously missed the launch completely because they didn't receive the three important emails in the week leading up to the launch. And today, I received an email from a concerned author who asked when we're going to pay earnings. I'm inclined to continue allowing the opt-out, though it is a burden to field these redundant questions. It's a constant challenge, communicating with people who shut doors. Bees communicate with one another by flapping their wings and wiggling their bodies. It's called the waggle dance. Maybe I should try that? :)

April 24, 2010 - Busy week. Two updates, plus a diversion: 1. New Payee page will arrive this weekend at https://www.smashwords.com/account/payee. All part of our multi-week effort (struggle) to rationalize IRS withholding rules. As mentioned in previous updates, this will be the first quarterly payout period where we do withholdings for some authors. I'll email all Smashwords authors/publishers an update, probably this weekend, to explain what's happening. All I can say now is that the IRS is making it very difficult for authors/publishers outside the U.S. to avoid tax withholdings on their earnings. We will do withholdings this quarter for the first time ever, though as you'll see in my email, we and our accountants plan to petition the IRS for a more sensible, less burdensome approach. It's a long shot, so wish us luck. Americans have it easy. No policy changes for American authors/publishers. 2. Yesterday we expanded your fiction categorization options by under Fiction: Literature: with more precise options for science fiction, African American, and Christian fiction, as well as breakouts for Thriller and Suspense. Numerous other updates elsewhere in the categorization tree. All these categories are tied to BISAC codes. BISAC is the industry-standard book classification system that helps retailers accurately display your books on the correct digital shelf. To review or update your categories, go to Dashboard: Settings, and after you make your changes be sure to click the "resubmit for Premium Catalog" button. Although we allow you to add two category strings, most retailers will key off of your first one. 3. Looking for some mindless entertainment mixed with sorrow and angst? Call the IRS (they pick up the phone quickly, which is good), ask to speak with an international tax expert, and then mention the word, "ecommerce." Their response would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad. The IRS has a policy of NOT providing any guidance whatsoever if your question regards selling stuff online.

April 21, 2010 - Seeing Red. No, I'm not talking about the IRS and how they're making life difficult for authors outside the US. I'm referring to the color red, in ebooks. If you have red fonts, you should change them to black. We received a note this morning from a Smashwords customer who downloaded a book with red fonts in the body of the book. Apparently, red is impossible to read on his black and white e-reader because it translates to very pale grey on a white background. It's another valuable reminder to design your books with black and white simplicity, because you never know how some artsy flourish will turn to a bomb down the line. In the case of the book in question above, I don't think the author meant to design the entire book in red. Instead, they meant to put their license statement in red, but somehow, probably through corruption, the red was inherited throughout. So ironically, what was meant as a bold statement was instead rendered invisible. Luckily, the author's publisher uploaded a corrected version within seconds of us contacting them so the customer will soon receive the new version at no additional charge.

April 19, 2010 - Glitches, bugs and boogeymen. Last week we delivered a batch of books to Apple, but due to an error on our part, the pricing information wasn't passed along properly, and all the books defaulted to $9.99. We and Apple are working to correct it asap (CORRECTED). Bugs: As reported earlier below, there appears to be a bug in Apple Pages that causes documents created in Apple Pages and saved as Word .docs to contain some form of corruption that causes Meatgrinder to insert page breaks at the end of every paragraph. One Smashwords author reported an easy fix: Open your Pages-created file in Microsoft Word, save it as a Word .doc from Word, then upload that version to Smashwords. Here's another option: consider investing $100 or so in a copy of Microsoft Word. We hear complaints all the time from frustrated authors who are getting odd results with Meatgrinder, only to discover later that the vast majority of these problems are caused when people don't use Microsoft Word, as recommended by the Style Guide, or, worse yet, didn't follow the Style Guide. If you refuse to spend your dollars on Microsoft products (silly, but then Bill, our CTO, is a proud Linux hippie so what can I say?), consider downloading the free Open Office (though remember, OO, which was owned by Sun Microsystems, is now owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle, the ultimate prince of darkness. At least Bill Gates is redistributing his money on good causes.). Pick your poison, but whatever you do, if you want to save yourself grief, follow the Style Guide. Oh, and a final note. A couple days back I deleted the account of someone who uploaded about a dozen books, all with god-awful covers that didn't follow the dimensional requirements, and ALL CAPS titles (also a no-no) and sloppy looking metadata. When I see stuff like this I get suspicious. Sure enough, after some quick text string searches on Google, I discovered some of the books were lifted right out of public domain Wikibooks. Where do these people come from? Account deleted, along with 100,000 or so useless words. If you see useless stuff like this before we spot it, email us so we can investigate.

April 15, 2010 - Performing IRS tax code gymnastics today. Trying to make the new Payee Profile page, where we collect tax and payment information, as easy as possible for international and US authors. The IRS sure tries to make things difficult for people.

April 14, 2010 - Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news: Smashwords will pay out record earnings this month. The bad news? Uncle Sam wants his piece of the action. The IRS is requiring Smashwords to enforce mandatory tax withholding for US and non-US residents who have not submitted the IRS-required tax ID information. Therefore, this will be the first quarterly earnings payment period where Smashwords withholds taxes in certain instances.

US Residents: If you have not provided us your SSN (or tax id) and postal mailing address, then please go to your Payee profile and provide it. We cannot pay you without it, unless you want to subject yourself to automatic 28% tax withholding.

Non-US Residents: If you reside outside the US, the IRS requires that we withhold 30% of your earnings for the benefit of the IRS, which Smashwords must remit to the IRS within days of paying you your share. However, the good news is that most non-US Smashwords authors reside in countries that have tax treaties with the US which entitle you to full or partial exemption from US tax withholding. To qualify, you must apply for and obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. If you have not yet applied, please do it now because the IRS cautions it can take 6-10 weeks for them to process your application. We will give you the option to defer your earnings payment until the next quarterly payment period if you need more time to obtain your ITIN. Once you obtain the ITIN, you must fill out another IRS form, the W8-BEN, and provide the signed form to Smashwords.

You cannot complete the W8-BEN form without an ITIN, and if you work with any other publisher who accepted your W8-BEN without an ITIN, you might want to suggest they call the IRS. We quadruple-checked this requirement in multiple conversations with the IRS because we know it's a pain to obtain, and we wanted to help you avoid this burden. Unfortunately, it's a requirement.

For the last couple months, we've listed this ITIN requirement in the Support Center. Tonight, we updated the Support Center's information with additional links to helpful information.

If you do not provide Smashwords the W8-BEN form, or your country does not have a tax treaty arrangement with the US, then your Smashwords earnings will be subject to the IRS-mandated 30% withholding. Learn more by clicking to the Support Center.

We'll send out an email to all international Smashwords authors and publishers in the next few days with further information. Please do not send us your W8-BEN forms yet. We'll provide more instructions in the next few days.

April 11, 2010 - All books have been vetted for the Premium Catalog. Backlog flushed. Over 400 rejected for modifications. Some folks out there are definitely struggling. Several authors are getting five, six or seven AutoVetter errors per upload. A sure sign they didn't take the time to study the Style Guide. These folks make it tougher for us to service those of you who are really trying to make your books look as good as possible. If someone's really trying, our patience is virtually unlimited. We're here to help if you're struggling. Just ask!

April 10, 2010 - Items for today: 1. A couple thousand Premium Catalog books still don't have ISBNs. See your ISBN Manager in your Dashboard for information on how to attach ISBNs. The ISBN will make your books eligible for distribution to Sony and the Apple iPad. 2. We're a little backlogged on Premium Catalog reviews. We aim to get caught up by Monday or Tuesday. 3. Almost ready to ship big batch to Sony. Very excited about this. 4. Big priorities for the next week: a. Simplifying tax form guidance for authors outside the U.S. b. Integrating retail sales data into your Dashboard. c. After A & B, pay out record earnings to Smashwords authors and publishers by end of month! d. Upgrading Smashwords Style Guide to support greater book navigation and new paragraph construction recommendations to improve book rendering across all devices (will take a couple weeks). This gets us closer to shipping to Amazon.

April 8, 2010 - Two things: 1. Have received and confirmed several reports from authors with books on the iPad that they're getting page breaks inserted after *each* paragraph. Based on the reports, there appears to be one common thread - all of them are using Apple Pages, and then exporting to Word .doc. If you're using Apple Pages, please check the Smashwords HTML Reader version of your book. If you have this problem, we're considering it a bug of Pages until we learn more. Per the Style Guide, you'll get best results if you compose with Microsoft Word. 2. Style Guide updated today. More incremental updates coming. We have revised our recommendations on how to create block paragraphs. Moving more toward a styles-based approach, largely to counter the problem identified in yesterday's "Tighten it up" note. You professional formatting purists out there will like this move. :) Don't get too excited, I expect we will always learn toward a "less is more" approach.

April 7, 2010 - A few items. 1. Tighten it up. We're seeing a lot of books where the authors are putting too much space between paragraphs. If you have your paragraph coded for a trailing 10pt space, don't add an extra paragraph return between paragraphs. It will create an UGLY reading experience. Tighter construction is better. Use first line paragraph indents with no trailing space after paragraphs for the best look. 2. Check the HTML Reader for your books. As we mention in the Style Guide, our HTML Reader is a great canary in the coal mine for formatting problems, and this is especially true for the new iPad. If your book has serious formatting issues in our HTML Reader, it's probably not going to look good on the iPad or other devices either. If, for example, in your body text, viewing from the HTML Reader, you see multiple font sizes or styles, that's a problem with your source document - you're using multiple inconsistent or conflicting paragraph styles. If you only see one paragraph per page on the HTML Reader, that's another problem with your document. We're seeing this happen especially with folks who aren't using Microsoft Word, such as those using Apple Pages and then exporting to Word. 3. We shipped over 1,300 new books to Apple last night. Looks like our B&N shipment slipped, but should go out today. 4. Oh, we hit 10,000 books yesterday. You heard it here first. I need to do a blog post on that!

April 6, 2010 - A few items. 1. Thought of the day - Always a challenge to balance what an author/publisher wants vs. what's in their best interest. Since we give authors/publishers near-total control over their publishing, we also give them ability to stab themselves in the foot with abandon. Tough to watch sometimes. Considering doing a blog post titled, "The Seven Bad Habits of Unsuccessful Ebook Authors." And of course, to balance that out, I'd follow it with, "The Seven Habits of Successful Ebook Authors." 2. We're prepping new shipments to B&N, Kobo and Apple. Still working to complete Sony shipment. Then next up, we turn sights on developing new formatting standards to conform with Amazon's requirements. 3. Sending out earnings payments this month.

April 4, 2010 - The photos of some of the first iPad ebooks (and their rightfully proud parents) are on the Smashwords blog now. Tomorrow we'll issue our formal press release.

April 3, 2010 - Received this great picture from Smashwords author Susan Klopfer of her posting with Smashwords book on the iPad: http://twitpic.com/1czijf If you have a similar shot of you and your Smashwords iPad ebook, email me because I'd like to post photos on the Smashwords blog. If your book isn't yet ready to ship to Apple, please review this handy checklist at http://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_ipad_ebooks. If you missed the first shipment, don't fret, there will be more!

April 1, 2010 - Receiving reports that some authors who had their books flagged for small covers (see update from yesterday) are also seeing old error messages resurrected - errors that they have long since corrected. If this is the case, ignore the old message and just focus on the new message related to the cover image.

March 31, 2010 - We're running an AutoVett against all Smashwords books, flagging books that don't have the new minimum 600 pixel high height requirement we mentioned in the alert we emailed all authors on Sunday. If your book is affected, check the Dashboard's "Premium Status" column, and you'll see status changed to "Requires modification." Click the link to confirm what modification is required. Folks, if you don't miss the first shipments, don't fret. Once things are up and running, we'll do frequent shipments.

March 31, 2010 - For a checklist of iPad publishing steps, see How to Publish an iPad Ebook with Smashwords.

March 31, 2010 - A few updates: 1. The Apple opt-in went live last night. Visit your Dashboard now and click on Channel Manager. You agree to the terms once, then opt in each title individually. 2. To help us do the work we need to do, please don't email us asking if you're going to make the launch, or when your book will be approved. If your book is in the catalog and you have applied an ISBN and your cover image meets the 600 pixel high requirements and have opted in, then you've done all you can do and the rest is up to the mystical whims of fate. If for any reason you miss the launch, don't worry, we plan to do frequent ships to Apple once things are rolling. 3. The new ISBN Manager feature is working great. However, many authors are entering incorrect ISBNs. Please be extra careful. In order for us to undo these mistakes, it pulls us from our more important tasks such as finishing the Sony and Apple integrations. It's much easier if you allow us to assign you one. Also, several authors have expressed concern about the location of the dashes in the ISBNs. Don't worry, it doesn't matter. Some of the retailers have us strip the dashes out anyway.

March 29, 2010 - New ISBN Manager seems is performing quite well. People seem to like it. Biggest problem so far has been authors and publishers incorrectly entering their own ISBNs. It's a long number. Record traffic today and the day's not even over yet. Also looks like record number of books published in a single day. People are going ga ga over a certain device out of Cupertino. We hope to have the opt-in in place by tomorrow.

March 28, 2010 - Our new ISBN Manager feature is live! Sending out an exclusive email alert momentarily to all Smashwords authors and publishers regarding the new ISBN manager and tasty fruit.

March 27, 2010 - Update. ISBNs probably rolled out tomorrow.

March 27, 2010 - We plan to roll out ISBN support later today. Thank you to everyone who responded to my survey the other day. Your feedback was instrumental in helping us craft policies and prices we think will thrill the vast majority of you. I'm going to send out a special Smashwords author/publisher alert later today with details of our new ISBN offerings. Make sure you're subscribed in your Communications Preferences and you have added smashwords.com to your email system's safe list, because the email will contain an exciting surprise. ISBNs, exciting? You'll see...

March 27, 2010 - Royalty payments for the first quarter of 2010 will go out the middle of April. If you're a Smashwords author or publisher residing outside the United States, and you haven't yet applied for and received a US Tax Identification number from the United States Internal Revenue Service, please apply for one now so we can pay you in a timely manner. Once you have it, youi can enter into your Payee Profile. Find the link to the IRS website as the second item here: http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#Publishing

March 26, 2010 - We're backlogged on Premium Catalog reviews. Will get through most in next few days.

March 24, 2010 - Thanks to everyone who shared their feedback on our ISBN survey. We're in the process of adding the ability to issue ISBNs. This is due to Sony and one other retailer requiring them. I should have mentioned earlier that the ISBNs will be optional. If you want to opt out of the current or future retailers who require them, you will have this option. The feedback you provided will help us structure the new system in a way that satisfies the greatest number of you. Don't rush out to purchase any ISBNs due to this upcoming option. To learn more about ISBNs, visit this Wikipedia ISBN primer.

March 23, 2010 - Per item number 2 of the March 20 update (scrubbers), we're in the process of regrinding thousands of epub files. Due to a late night configuration error on our part, many Smashwords authors last night received automated emails from Meatgrinder informing them that their conversion failed. Please accept our apologies for this glitch. No need for you to do anything. We have reset the status of the failed files from "failed," to "to be grinded," so they will now go through again. No intervention on your part is necessary. Again, sorry for the confusion. It's fun making sausage.

March 21, 2010 - Two important Premium Catalog updates regarding ISBNs and ebook covers: 1. ISBNs are coming. We're being dragged kicking and grumbling to support ISBNs. Soon, we will add a field that will allow you to attach your own e-ISBN to your book. Your ebook ISBN must be different from your print book ISBN. Once thisfeature is added, hopefully in the next few days, I'll send out an email alert to our exclusiveSmashwords Author/Publisher list. Check your Communications Preferences to make sure you're subscribed (the option only appears if you have published a book) and make sure smashwords.com is on your email's "safe list." We'll probably also give you the option for us to assign you one at very low cost (whatever you do, don't rush out and buy any until we announce our plans). Our original plan was to offer ISBNs listing you, the author or publisher, as the official publisher in the ISBN record. If Bowker is unable to do this for us soon, then the only option, if you don't purchase your own from Bowker (or your country's ISBN agency if you're outside the US), is for us to issue you an ISBN listing Smashwords as your publisher. Most of you won't care and would welcome Smashwords listed as your publisher, though some publishers are militant about receiving proper recognition in the ISBN, and we respect that too so we're not going to force anything on anyone. Sony's an example of one retailer (and there are others) that requires an ISBN. We hope to ship our 6,000+ Premium Catalog titles to Sony very soon once we have the ISBN issue ironed out. 2. Covers. We added updated guidance on ebook cover design in the Support center. Change coming for all Smashwords Premium Catalog titles - your book cover must have a height of at least 600 pixels. If your cover doesn't comply, don't worry, you won't be dropped from the catalog. However, it will impact your ability to distribute to future retail partners. Learn more here: http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#covers

March 20, 2010 - New IDPF study indicates dramatic growth for ebook market. Read our analysis at the Smashwords Blog.

March 20, 2010 - Several miscellaneous updates. 1. Quiz: What milestone did Smashwords hit today, thanks to you, our valued Smashwords authors and publishers? Make your wild guess then click here to learn the answer. 2. The last few days, we've created scrubbers that automagically clean up our EPUB files so they're more compliant than ever with the EPUB standard. Why is this important? EPUB is the standard format used by non-Amazon retailers. 3. Eleven more selling days before we close out the first quarter of 2010. That means (record) earnings payments go out next month. This will also be the first month Smashwords authors and publishers receive sales reports and earnings made from our Premium Catalog retailers. Keep earnings expectations low, especially for this round, because retail partners pay us about 2 months after the close of a given month, which means what we've received to pay you may only be from January or before. No, we have not integrated this data into your Dashboard yet. Once we do, we'll let you know. 4. Cutting your nose to spite your face. Looking at the B&N sales reports, I was surprised to see one particularly unpleasant author sold a bunch of books and earned $100+. This same author unpublished all her books at Smashwords in a huff last week, partly because she hadn't sold a single copy ever at Smashwords, and mostly because she was upset we asked her to remove the thousands of tabs in her books she insisted didn't exist. Now, unfortunately, her books will be removed from B&N and our other retailers because when you unpublish at Smashwords, you, well... you unpublish. She was the third author alluded to but not described in the March 15 update below. I hate to see anyone - noxious or not - make such dumb moves, but we allow that freedom so it happens. Why would any author in their right mind not want retailers selling their books? Wacky. Just for the record, lest you think we think unpleantantness and insanity is a common affliction among Smashwords authors, it's not. 99.96% of you (yes, I just did the math based on item #1's answer above) are seriously kick *ss awesome, sane and we love you. Some of you are so gracious and polite you even preface your bug discoveries with apologies for reporting them. :) We love bug reports, we consider them gifts. 5. Speaking of bug reports, someone reported yesterday that some of our epubs were stripping the trailing space following italicized words. We confirmed and fixed it same day, so thank you for that report! 6. Not quite a bug, but understandably confusing: Several of you reported that customers were continuing to use your now-expired Read an Ebook Week coupons. It's not really a bug, though it happened in cases where customers redeemed your coupons in their shopping cart while the promotion was in effect, but didn't complete the checkout process until after the promotion ended.

March 19, 2010 - Glitch with some of our .mobi files. When you download some newer .mobi files, the book appears in your Kindle library with a confusing title such as "tmp_09384...." The author name appears correctly. We haven't fixed it yet.

March 17, 2010 - We added several new fantasy-specific book categories. If you wrote a book that's really fantasy, but coded "fantasy and sci-fi," please go to Dashboard: Settings to recode your book in the right fantasy category. This will help ensure you book appears in the correct category at retail. Thanks to Smashwords author Brian Pratt for suggesting. If your book is more scifi than fantasy, you can leave your coding as it is.

March 15, 2010 - Several updates: Paranoid delusions part II - For you super-creative types who are prone to imagining things that don't exist, a present for you (to prove you're not crazy and confirm your suspicion that suspicion pays off every once in a while): Today, for the first time ever, we confirmed a real honest-to-goodness case of plagiarism affecting a Smashwords author. That's right, every author's worst fear. Your book stolen and then resold with someone else's name. Only, in this instance, the so-called Smashwords author was the plagiarizer. He stole another person's story that was available free on the web, put his name as the author, formatted it nicely to the Style Guide (nice touch!), and then even sold a few copies. Needless to say, a good samaritan caught him in the act and we've taken the book down and should be able to divert the ill-gotten profits to the real author. Paranoid delusions part III - Three times in the last week, authors have accused us, or our retail partners, of discriminating against them based on the content of their book. One lady, who had an awful tendency of composing the bulk of her email in her subject line, accused us of refusing to add her title because it contained biblical references (No, we welcome religious-themed content, right alongside everthing else). She luckily requested we delete her account. Please remember we don't have time to read your books, and neither do our retailers. To date, we're not aware of any Smashwords retailer ever rejecting a book based on its content. Yes, we've rejected a couple here and there for flagrant violations of the TOS, but most of the time, if you want to learn why your book isn't making it into the catalog after repeated attempts, read our notes in the "Premium Status" column of the Dashboard. Or, read the Style Guide and the distribution requirements. Or, ask us for help. We're here to help you because we want your book in the catalog. Non-delusions - Back in December when we first announced the Amazon relationship, we had a bug that caused some authors who opted out of the Amazon channel to also be opted out of the B&N channel. We fixed the bug months ago, yet it did cause some titles to disappear from B&N which have not yet returned. We're working to set this straight for a few Smashwords authors who are still affected. Sorry about that. Our fault, not B&N's. Bug confirmed: The Smashwords 100 listing is all screwed up. It's on our fixit list.

March 15, 2010 - White book covers - White is generally a really bad background color for your book cover. It tends to bleed into the background of our pages, or retailer pages, and it's also a difficult cover image for you to crop (trim) properly. I sometimes find it surprising that some authors will spend years of blood, sweat and tears writing their book, yet won't invest $35 for a decent book cover. If you want a book cover reference, request my list by clicking the customer support link at the top of the page. No, we don't earn a commission!

March 14, 2010 - 12:07am - Whew! Read an Ebook Week is over. What a great week for Smashwords authors, publishers and customers. Thousands of books downloaded every day. Records sales for Smashwords authors. Too bad we can't have promotions like that every week!

March 13, 2010 - Meatgrinder is still misbehaving with RTF file uploads. If you're working in RTF, please save as a Word doc before you upload.

March 12, 2010 - Three things. 1. Performance is improved, though occassionally, usually for spans of 1-4 minutes, things slow. We still have additional tweaks to make so database queries are efficient as possible. This is the fun part. 2. John Buffalo Mailer, the son of Norman Mailer, has published his new ebook exclusively on Smashwords. Get it here now before Saturday for free as part of the Read an Ebook Week promotion. Come Sunday, it's $1.99 (still a great price for some quality writing). I'm doing a two-installment exclusive interview with John Buffalo over at the Huffington Post. I also blogged about it over at the Smashwords Blog. I'm super-impressed by him. I'm sure we'll all be hearing more about John Buffalo Mailer in the years ahead. I think many people will be blown away by the second installment of my interview, in which he talks about how his father influence him as a writer. Not to be missed. It runs Monday at HuffPo Books. 3. Read an Ebook Week ends tomorrow night (Saturday) at midnight. Now's your last chance to download thousands of deep-discounted and free ebooks. If you enjoy a read, please remember to show your appreciation to the author by purchasing their other works. These folks are working their souls off for you, so please show them some love.

March 9, 2010 - Through the Meatgrinder - 10:46pm - Wow, what a day. The Smashwords web site was essentially offline all day. Each time we tried to bring it up, it was clobbered back down by the traffic. Late this afternoon, we performed major surgery. We decoupled the database from the main web server, and then made a series of other tweaks to make all the interlocking gadgets, gears and guts of the Smashwords platform more resilient under heavy load. At around 6pm tonight, we flipped the switch and Smashwords hummed back to life. I think we smashed through a major wall today and came through bruised and bloodied but stronger than before. The site is faster now (for the moment at least) than it was a week ago and, we hope, better prepared for our next stage of growth. Are we out of the woods yet? It's too soon to tell. We'll see how we do tomorrow.

March 9, 2010 - Head banging - 1pm - We experienced significant downtime this morning. We know this inconvenienced thousands of you, and for this we sincerely apologize. Probably our worst outage ever. We're still determining the exact causes, but it was precipitated by the flood of traffic due to Read an Ebook Week. The last two days of record visitors/page views/downloads have stress-tested every inch of our infrastructure. We've definitely learned much that will help us architect the Smashwords backend for greater scalability in the future. It's not the first time we hit a wall in the last two years as our traffic and usage increased. Along the way, there were always those who stomped away in frustration or who wrote us off. In each instance, we learned from it, adapted and grew beyond it. Smashwords is now, and will always be, in constant beta. The Smashwords you see today is the not the Smashwords you'll see tomorrow or next month or next year. We're constantly evolving, constantly looking for ways to better serve you and to better prepare for future growth. This won't be the last wall we hit, but rest assured we welcome these unpleasant tests because they only make us stronger in the long term. Thank you for your trust and patience. I expect the current instability will not disappear overnight. ~mark.

March 8, 2010 - Coupon glitch update. The problem was fixed at 8:15am Pacific. It was a simple programming error that caused certain coupons to stop functioning. Some customers proceeded to check out and pay the full amount, even though their cart told them they were not receiving the discount they expected. We issued refunds to all customers who purchased ebooks between midnight and 8am Pacific. Because the glitch did not affect all purchases, this means that a large number of customers received refunds to which they were not entitled. We issued the refunds anyway, though, because it would have been more time-consuming for us to manually determine whether a customer in this time period was entitled to a refund, and if so how much. So, bottom line, here's what it means for customers and authors/publishers affected:

Customers who received refunds - If you received a refund to which you were entitled, please accept our apologies for our programming error. If you received a refund to which you weren't entitled, consider it our gift to you. If you'd like to return the gift, consider spreading the ebook love by buying some additional books from your favorite Smashwords authors.

Smashwords authors/publishers affected by this: You will receive full credit for the sales, even if you expected to give the books away for free, or at a discount. Consider it a gift from Smashwords. Feel free to return the favor by purchasing some books from your fellow authors.

 

March 8, 2010 - 8am Pacific: The shopping cart is malfunctioning. Looks like it started malfuncting just after midnight Pacific time. If the cart doesn't reflect the total price you expect to pay, then PLEASE DON'T complete the purchase. We're investigating the cause of the bug and will fix asap.

March 7, 2010 - Authors, even if you already sell on the Kindle, don't deactivate your MOBI format on Smashwords. Many Kindle customers shop on Smashwords, and the format is also used in non-Kindle e-reading apps. You will sell fewer books and reach fewer readers if you restrict your formats.

March 7, 2010 - Read an Ebook Week kicked off today. Our servers are getting slammed with record traffic. Page loads slow.

March 6, 2010 - Several updates: 1. We mailed out our exclusive author/publisher update yesterday afternoon (last one was in late November). If you didn't receive it, it means you probably need to update your communications preferences at https://www.smashwords.com/account/comm. 2. New feature - As you know, if you select the "Reader Sets the Price" pricing option, this option isn't supported by any Premium Catalog retailers, so we automatically default your price to $4.95 when it goes to the channel. Two days ago we added the ability for you to select "Reader Sets the Price" for sales at the Smashwords web site, and then set a price other than $4.95 for retailers. This gives you better control, especially for shorter stories where you might want to charge, say $1.99. Try it by clicking to Dashboard: Settings. 3. Meatgrinder is gobbed up this morning. Boo! 4. We shipped ~1,000 new books and updates to B&N last night. Yeah! 5. Have you enrolled your books in the Read an Ebook Week promotion? RAEW kicks off tomorrow so don't miss out on the fun. Enroll now. I interviewed the creator of Read an Ebook Week yesterday for the Huffington Post. Read it here. 6. More writing. I wrote a guest post yesterday for Writer Beware about these slimey "Private Label Rights" outfits that pollute the internet with recycled garbage. A good reminder there's no quick buck in publishing. I first wrote about this for the Smashwords blog, though the Writer Beware piece is updated and names names.

March 3, 2010 - The 100 Stories for Haiti ebook is now live and available for sale at Smashwords, reader sets the price. This is a really cool book orchestrated by Smashwords author Greg McQueen in Denmark. 100 authors from around the world (including many Smashwords authors) contributed stories to the book. 100% of the net proceeds go to the Red Cross. Mark Coker blogged about it today over at the Huffington Post. Click here to buy it now. Contribute as little or as much as you can afford.

March 1, 2010 - From the department of war wounds and paranoid delusions: We writers are a creative bunch. We hear voices in our heads we translate into great fiction. However, sometimes in real life we imagine things that aren't real. For example, twice in the last five months, authors who were having trouble getting their books accepted into the Premium Catalog due to formatting problems complained we were only trying to make money by pushing our formatting services on them. First of all, Smashwords doesn't provide formatting services, or paid services of any kind. We maintain a private list of independent contractors - all fellow Smashwords authors - who have volunteered to provide low cost formatting services for as little as $35 a book. As we clearly disclose whereever we mention this list, Smashwords doesn't earn a commission if you hire them. Nothing. We provide the list as a service to you. We clearly tell you in the Style Guide, on the Distribution information page, and everywhere else that we don't earn a commission. Yet one author, after we politely reminded him we don't earn a commission, told us he still didn't believe us. Yet another author with an overly-creative imagination accused us of trying to steal his copyright when we informed him that our retailers require (as does the Smashwords TOS) authors to assert their copyright in their book. Seriously, folks, we understand there are people out there who want to rip you off. We're not them.

February 27, 2010 - We've now completed reviewing the backlog of titles "Pending Review" for the Premium Catalog. Approximately 400 new titles added to the catalog in the last few days (yeah!). Nearly 100 rejected (boo!). Why? These authors didn't carefully follow the Style Guide, or they ignored AutoVetter suggestions. If you received the "Possible Copyright" error from AutoVetter when you upload your title, it will delay your approval into the Premium Catalog, even if you do in fact control the copyright. The secret is to emulate the title page and copyright statement in Style Guide. We've discovered a high degree of correlation between the AutoVetter copyright error and authors who didn't carefully follow the Style Guide in other areas. Therefore, if you want fast track approval, follow the Style Guide and study the distribution requirements at http://smashwords.com/distribution

February 27, 2010 - Tip of the day - If you're not receiving email notiifications for reviews or for sales, check your communications preferences at https://www.smashwords.com/account/comm - you might have accidentally unsubscribed. Please also check to make sure all emails originating from smashwords.com are on your "safe list."

February 25, 2010 - Bug reported tonight: Ebook sample corrupted on Stanza - only contains cover image and last page. Confirmed. It seems to randomly affect all downloadable sampleable formats of EPUB, LRF, PDB and MOBI published after February 5. We believe we've identified and fixed the bug, though it will take a few days for us to regrind and regenerate the affected files. No need for affected authors to do anything. Thanks to Smashwords author Jerry Bruce for discovering and reporting this!

February 24, 2010 - A couple updates. 1. We're backlogged on Premium Catalog approvals. Sorry. We plan to catch up within the next several days. 2. As part of the Meatgrinder upgrade, we upgraded our EPUB conversion blade. We're now re-grinding over 5,000 ebooks in the background. Following the regrind, we'll ship over 5,000 titles to Sony and, if all goes well, to Kobo.

February 20, 2010 - Progress! Breakthrough on site performance today. Pages load much faster. Still want to make faster.

February 20, 2010 - A few things. #1 - Heads up: The Style Guide's requirements will change over the next couple months, part of our ongoing commitment to help authors and publishers create higher quality ebooks. Stay tuned. Once we have new requirements finalized, we'll carefully roll them out so Premium Catalog titles can start upgrading their formatting. We'll work to give you ample warning and as-simple-as-possible instructions in the Style Guide so the change is not too burdensome. This also means we'll start getting even stricter with formatting requirements for the Premium Catalog. Nothing for you to do now, other than to become better acquainted with Microsoft Word. :) #2 - We're receiving reports following the Meatgrinder upgrade the otherweek that if you upload an RTF source file, some of the output formats are failing to convert. Best solution:Upload as a Word .doc file instead. In Word, go to File: Save as: filetype: Word document. #3 - We're still working on performance issues. Many page load times are now noticibly faster, though we still need much more improvement. One step at a time.

February 18, 2010 - As we continue to perform performance tweaks to the Smashwords backend, it's possible you encounter bugs or error messages along the way. If you encounter an on-screen error message, please click the customer support link at the top of the affected page and then copy and paste the error message into the comment field to notify us. Your reports help us quickly identify and fix the problems. Thanks for your help!

February 17, 2010 - Update on the slow performance: We're starting to identify a clearer path to overcoming the unacceptably slow web site performance. I'm reluctant to even refer to Smashwords as a "web site," because it's really much more than that. The "site" is only the outward-facing representation of what is actually an extremely complicated (in a good way) and dynamic software application under the hood. Here's an example of the dynamic nature: Every time a reader visits any page, or clicks on anything, or downloads anything, that click or view causes a flurry of database queries and database updates affecting not only the page they're viewing, but also every other book or dynamic item on that page. A good example of this is the feature "People who viewed this book viewed this other book." And of course, that's only one small feature of hundreds. This dynamic nature, which underlies what we call the Smashwords Community Filter, is why Smashwords gets better and smarter over time at helping readers find books they'll enjoy reading. What caused the slow performance? It's actually a combination of factors, all of which conspire to amplify each other: 1. We're receiving record traffic every month (yeah!). 2. Each month, Smashwords authors publish over 1,000 new titles, and all these titles (as mentioned above) collectively spawn millions of new database queries, table look-ups and interactions. 3. Search engine crawlers like Google, Yahoo and others do a great job of quickly indexing our dynamically changing content. As they scan the site, they're adding additional load to the database. We're not complaining because we want them to crawl the site, though it does give us the opportunity to optimize their efforts. As mentioned previously, the simple solution to improving performance is not to just double our servers, storage and memory. We tried that already with zero impact. The solution is for us to carefully analyze our database architecture to make Smashwords stronger, smarter and more optimized than ever before. Some pages are already showing faster performance, though we still have a long way to go before we can complete queries in micro-seconds instead of multi-seconds. As they always say, before you can solve a problem, you must understand the problem, and I'm happy to report our understanding is improving step by step. Thank you for your patience!

February 12, 2010 - Two items of interest:

1. B&N sales reports: We have access to B&N sales data now, but it will take us a few weeks to integrate into your Dashboards in a way that doesn't confuse. We'll make sure we accrue to you all B&N earnings in the next quarterly pay period (early April) for which B&N has paid Smashwords. They pay us approximately 60 days after the end of each sales month. Sorry, please do not ask to receive your sales reports early, we cannot do it (if we did this, we'd get nothing else done). We've seen the numbers - they're small but growing but small, so keep your expectations low, okay?

2. Site performance: VERY slow. We're working on a plan to re-architect our backend. As mentioned previously, it's not a matter of simply getting bigger servers or more memory, because if that was the solution we would have done that already. Several weeks back we doubled servers/memory/storage and it made no difference the next day. We now have good idea how to fix. The solution is how we conduct the database queries and other technical geeky stuff involving PHP, caching, etc. Progress won't happen overnight. Sorry for the slow site performance - remember, it annoys us more than it annoys you!

February 9, 2010 - The new Meatgrinder III is operational. It's not converting .RTF files reliability. Please upload .doc files for best results until we create a fix. And yes, we know the site is unacceptably slow. We're working on a plan to fix, though it may take a while.

February 6, 2010 - De-coupling progress. Bill completed the alpha of the new Meatgrinder III, which will operate separately from the main Smashwords web site. Once implemented, it should improve site performance and availability. Also includes new and improved Meatgrinder conversion blades. We tested and confirmed late yesterday that the new MOBI blade solves the previous bug (mentioned January 22 below) regarding dropped images in MOBI files. Yeah! We'll do more testing, and then hopefully in the next week or two we'll re-grind tens of thousands of files.

February 2, 2010 - Fun fun. Per development of the item below, Meatgrinder when nuts today starting at 1:11pm Pacific and kindly decided to regurgitate multiple books. Now re-grinding. If your book was affected, no need to do anything. You're back in the queue.

February 2, 2010 - As we mentioned in item #3 of the January 22 update below, we're in the process of de-coupling the Meatgrinder from the main Smashwords.com web site. This is a backend architectural thing only - how you interface with Smashwords will not change. However, the change, once we complete it, should help increase overall performance and reliability of the Smashwords web site. Concurrently, we're also upgrading some of Meatgrinder's conversion blades.

January 30, 2010 - Meatgrinder stalled 11:00pm Pacific. Gobbed up by an exotic footer, the likes of which we haven't seen before. The footer is a text box graphic with auto-page-numbering embedded. Meatgrinder thinks it's been fed poison. Authors: please please follow formatting instructions in the Style Guide. People who follow the Style Guide don't crash Meatgrinder. May be down for the night. If your book is already queued, your book is safe. Conversion will commence once we get it up again.

January 27, 2010 - Greetings from the Digital Book World conference in New York (wrapped up tonight). Two notes today: 1. Several authors have asked when they'll get paid for B&N sales. B&N reports sales to us quarterly, and as of yet we haven't received a sales report and of course haven't received payments either. Once we receive the report, we'll reflect the data in your Dashboard. Funds received from B&N or other retailers on your behalf through the end of March will be included in your Q1 earnings payment, assuming your accrued earnings exceed $10 for PayPal payments and $25.00 for authors/publishers in the U.S. who want to be paid by paper check. We're just as eager as you to understand how well the books sold. Keep your expectations realistic, though, we don't expect this to be a pot of gold. 2. Today was Apple's IPad announcement. No, we don't yet have a deal to distribute Smashwords books to Apple. Yes, we plan to pursue a relationship with them. Stay tuned.

January 24, 2010 - Is your book languishing in the state of "Pending Approval" for a week or longer? It may mean you ignored some of AutoVetter's error messages. The Copyright page error, for example, can prevent your book from being fast tracked for quick addition to the Premium Catalog. The error can be generated by one of the following easily fixed issues: 1. Book should clearly mention you are copyright holder, such as... Copyright Joe Smith 2010 2 (Optional, but will help you get fast tracked for faster review and addition into the Catalog). Title page or copyright statement should mention Smashwords, such as... Smashwords Edition -or- Published by [insert your author name or publisher name] at Smashword

January 23, 2010 - Meatgrinder gobbed up. Working to clean blades. Books in the queue will be grinded (ground?) once MG restarts.

January 22, 2010 - Lots of stuff to share: 1. Check out the handy dandy linked TOC on our support page for answers to frequently asked questions (yes, yes, we know, we need to support linked TOCs in our ebooks too!). 2. Bug confirmed in our .MOBI files is preventing images from appearing. See next item... 3. We're in the process of de-coupling Meatgrinder from the main Smashwords platform. As part of this Meatgrinder III upgrade, we'll also upgrade the blades that chop your source files into all their juicy bits. The MG III upgrade may help solve our .MOBI bug. If not, we'll continue banging our heads against it until we fix. 4. Reminder: Smashwords only accepts Word .docs and .RTF files. A couple folks this week have suffered immeasurable frustration trying to upload improper files. Word files are created in the Microsoft Word application. If you're not using Microsoft Word, consider it a worthwhile investment to purchase a copy. It'll make it easier for you to better control the quality of your ebook outputs because you can better follow the Smashwords Style Guide. It also makes it easier for us to provide you better support because we can tell you how to overcome quirks in Microsoft Word, but not other programs. 5. If you're finding yourself wasting hours and hours formatting your book (and getting really frustrated in the process, contact us for help or ask for a referral to a low cost formatter who can probably save you all that grief for anywhere from $30 to $50 (though remember, the simple answer to most questions is to carefully read the Style Guide because if you're having a problem, odds are someone else already had the same problem and we updated the Style Guide to address it). However, if you read the Guide and you're still having a problem, contact us by clicking the customer support link at the top of any page. 6. Reminder (from the department of broken records): If you want to update your book, do it via the Dashboard's "upload new version" link. If you're clicking the Publish button at the top of the page to update and old version, it means: A. You're doing it all wrong. B. You're ignoring the instructions at the top of the page that remind you NOT to do it. C. You're creating an entirely new book page with a new web address, thereby destroying all the SEO benefit you built up over time by allowing blogs and web sites to link to your old book page address. D. You're violating the Terms of Service. E. You're risking us banning you from the Premium Catalog. F. You're asking us to delete your account without warning because maybe we think you're trying to game the system to the disadvantage of your fellow Smashwords authors. 7. When AutoVetter suggests corrections to your book, please pay attention to them. Yes, AutoVetter makes erroneous suggestions from time to time, but most often it's a correct suggestion, and if you don't fix the problem your book may be rejected from the Premium Catalog. We're trying to help you create a quality book! 8. We love you and think you're wonderful. We also think you're smart, so if you ever find any instructions that are lacking, confusing or contradictory, let us know so me can fix the problem.

January 16, 2010 - We didn't ship to B&N on Friday. Getting lots of emails from authors asking if something is wrong with their book. Nothing's wrong. B&N will probably ship Monday or Tuesday. Other expected ship dates listed in your Channel Manager will remain TBD until we have firm dates for you. As we mentioned previously, we're behind schedule on completing the technical integrations with several of our new retail partners, but rest assured we're moving as quickly as possible to get each partner operational.

January 10, 2010 - If you send us an email or make a support inquiry, and we don't answer within 48 hours, please don't hesitate to re-send. Occassionally we'll miss stuff and we don't mean to ignore you.

January 9, 2010 - Vote for Smashwords as the "Best E-Publisher" in the annual Predators & Editors poll at http://www.critters.org/predpoll/ebookpublisher.shtml Several e-publishers that use Smashwords as their distributor are also nominated, so if you don't want to vote for us, vote for them! If you're a Smashwords author, artist or other writing-related person, there are categories for you too. Visit http://www.critters.org/predpoll/ Thanks to Smashwords author Rebecca Vickery for alerting us to the above.

January 8, 2010 - MediaBistro asks: Who's got the best vision for the future of publishing? Vote for Mark Coker (or anyone else, they're all great!). Learn more at http://blog.smashwords.com/2010/01/mediabistro-asks-whos-got-best-vision.html

January 7, 2010 - 9:50pm Pacific: Meatgrinder is gummed up again for last few hours. It's okay to upload titles tonight, but only upload your book once and if the queue doesn't move, don't worry about it. We'll grind it once we've sandblasted the gunky blades. 9:54pm - powerful Meatgrinder spirits interceded. While I was typing away, Meatgrinder sprung to life again. Bring on more books! Only 684 million words to go before he hit our goal of one billion words for the Smashwords Billion Word March.

January 7, 2010 - We've started processing earnings payments early (a record amount!). Authors/publishers in US have option of paper checks or Paypal. Authors/publishers outside US are Paypal only. Set your preferences at https://www.smashwords.com/account/payee Please note we have not yet received reports from retailers for Premium Catalog titles, so retail sales, if any, will be reflected in your sales report as soon as we receive them, with accrued earnings paid next quarter.

January 6, 2010 - Some down time today, which may or may not be related to a new feature we're testing. What's the new feature, you ask? We're developing a filter that will prevent authors from accidentally republishing the same title multiple times. Authors - remember, if you want to upload a new version of your book, the proper method is to go to your Dashboard, and beside the title in question, click "upload new version." Do not go back to the Publish page to re-upload the entire book and re-enter its associated metadata. Why? Several reasons: 1. Each time you re-publish a book via the Publish (upload) page, you create a new book, a new ID number, and a new URL (web address) for the book, which then means you have duplicate books published. 2. You'll destroy all the benefit you accrue over time related to the search engine optimization of the original book. This will harm the discoverability of your book. 3. If your book has been previously accepted to the Premium Catalog, we may ban you from the Premium Catalog. 4. If we think you're trying to game the system by making your book "new" again to appear on the home page, we might delete your account without telling you. Such attempts to game the system are a violation of the TOS, and in fairness to all our authors and publishers, we have little tolerance.

January 3, 2010 - Meatgrinder is gummed up. Working to restart her. Conversions are delayed. Remember to study and implement the Smashwords Style Guide prior to uploading.

December 29, 2009 - We're live beta testing an updated Channel Manager. The previous Channel Manager had a poor layout and was confusing to many authors/publishers because it didn't answer the questions you needed answered, such as status of Premium Catalog books, when will (or when did) books ship, and which retail partners are "live" or "pending technical integration." Check it out - feedback welcome as we iterate and tweak.

December 27, 2009 - Over at the Smashwords Blog, we share Smashwords Year in Review, Plans for 2010.

December 26, 2009 - Happy holidays, everyone. Wow, what an incredible year. In the relative quiet of the holidays, we're taking a fresh look at development priorities for the new year. Please email specific new feature requests to Mark Coker, or click the "?" question mark button at the top of any page and preface your note with the words, "Feature request:"

December 18, 2009 - We're almost finished re-grinding over 5,000 EPUB files to make our books more easily consumed by Adobe Digital Editions, which has the bad bad habit of crashing on some of our previous EPUB files. The issue was related to design flaw in ADE in which it crashes when it doesn't recognize a certain HTML tag.

December 15, 2009 - Receiving many reports starting late afternoon yesterday of wrong book covers appearning at B&N. Confirmed. Corrected. Please report any anomalies.

November 28, 2009 - Meatgrinder's blades choked on a couple exotically formatted books. Uploaded books are queuing normally, but won't grind until we get blades cleaned and oiled. In the meantime, we wait.

November 8, 2009 - If we discover a book that fails to adhere to the Smashwords Terms of Service, or for which the author was too lazy to follow the Smashwords Style Guide, we may delete your account without any notification. One account deleted today.

October 26, 2009 - Upgrading Smashwords servers tonight with twice the capacity and memory. We'd like to say the new servers required a convoy of five tractor trailer trucks of equipment, but the reality isn't quite so dramatic. Lights out at 11:00pm Pacific time and until ????.

October 13, 2009 - Minor bug reported and confirmed that prevents authors from opting out of some formats in cases where their book has gone through multiple revisions. Will fix soon. Fixed.

October 10, 2009 - Bug reported that was allowing some expired coupons to remain functional. Confirmed. Fixed.

October 7, 2009 - Royalty payments out early again. Record payments this quarter! Now to add a few more zeros.

September 29, 2009 - Record traffic today. Relationship with Sony announced. Site performed well, though intermittent glitches reported with some account activation emails. Investigating.

September 27, 2009 - Meatgrinder failed twice, possibly our longest outage ever at about 12 hours. Problem idenfied. Caused by a single odd book. That which temporarily kills the site only makes it stronger. We learn from every glitch discovered. Traffic only dropped 18% from the previous day.

September 20, 2009 - Meatgrinder choked for several hours on a backlog of delicious books. Up and running again by Sunday evening.

September 19, 2009 - Bug reported and confirmed that prevents users of the Internet Explorer browser from downloading free ebooks. Until we fix, please use an alternative browser, such as Firefox. Fixed!

August 28, 2009 - We signed an agreement for Barnes & Noble to distribute Smashwords books. Looking forward to working with them!

August 21, 2009 - Outage today for a little under an hour. Hamsters back in the cage. Investigating.

August 15, 2009 - New Smashwords Style Guide uploaded. Numerous small but important changes.

August 10, 2009 - It wasn't exactly a bug, but we fixed it anyway. Authors, your "download" stats previously only covered actual sales, if you book had a price, or actual downloads if your book was free. Today we updated the download stats to capture sample downloads as well. This change will give authors more accurate visibility into how potential readers are interacting with their content.

August 6, 2009 - Bug discovered and repaired. Book buyers, including those who download free books, were supposed to have been receiving automated email reminders to review their books. Due to a bug, the reminders weren't going out. They should start going out tonight.

August 3, 2009 - Improved error reporting on the Publish page so authors/publishers, especially first-time Smashworders, can more easily identify the most common errors they make.

July 16, 2009 - Discovered a bug that allowed about five publishers to review their own books. Reviews will be purged. Thinking of an an alternative mechanism by which we can allow authors and publishers to showcase reviews they've received from elsewhere.

July 3, 2009 - Royalty checks mailed out early. Thank you Smashwords customers, authors and publishers!

June 30, 2009 - Smashwords is for you, the ebook reader, author and publisher. How can we better serve you? Email our founder, Mark Coker at first initial second initial at you know where dot com.

June 21, 2009 - Smashwords Terms of Service updated to impose stricter guidelines for content originality. If your content is scraped from Wikipedia or a third party "Private Label" content licensor (meaning, others will republish the same content under their own name), such content is not allowed on Smashwords. We will also no longer accept public domain works unless the publisher is the original author. Today's change affects only three of the nearly 1,000 Smashwords publishers. Even if you're the original author, if your work appears under other people's names (as is common with get-rich-quick Internet money making ebooks, such content is not welcome on Smashwords).

June 8, 2009 - Smashwords is running a full page ad that will appear on the back cover of an upcoming issue of Writer's Digest Magazine. The ad will feature up to nine Twitter tweets from Smashwords fans. If you're interested to participate, the deadline is tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9am Pacific. Sorry for the short notice. From your Twitter account, just tweet your thoughts about Smashwords. Why do you like or love Smashwords? What do you appreciate about Smashwords as an author or reader?

The rules are simple: The tweet must include the word "Smashwords" (so I can find it!). You can tweet as many different variations as you like. I'll personally select the nine I like the most for inclusion in the ad, with a limit of only one per person. Your tweet will appear in print with your Twitter handle, so if any of Writer's Digest's 100,000+ readers are interested, they'll know how to follow you. Depending on the response, I'll probably post more of the entries online (again, a great way to promote your Twitter handle!). Have fun! If you're not currently a Twitter user, read the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for background on Twitter.

May 22, 2009 - The new Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Partner program is live! Please find and report bugs!

May 4, 2009 - Smashwords and Editor Unleashed co-sponsor a free flash fiction writing contest. 40 winners will be selected. Cash prizes total $1,475. Entries accepted starting May 18. See the contest announcement for details.

May 4, 2009 - Updated the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide with a few new tips related to Smashwords Coupons, Twitter and online community marketing.

April 27, 2009 - Updated Smashwords Style Guide published. Includes new images and improved tips on how to automate the removal of tabs.

April 22, 2009 - Home page search options dramatically expanded today. Thanks to all our members who requested this.

April 18, 2009 - Site performance radically improved. Yay!

April 14, 2009 - User interface on home page and search pages improved. Thanks David Wilbanks from Willo Design for the suggestions.

April 12, 2009 - Quarterly earnings checks mailed out early this month! Authors, be sure your payee profiles are filled out completely.

April 11, 2009 - The search box is broken. Just because you can't find your book there doesn't mean it's not published. As a temporary backup, go to Google, and do a search that combines the book title or author name with "smashwords." We're working on it. Fixed, but flakey.

April 8, 2009 - For member signups, we eliminated the zip code question and replaced it with the option to specify your country. This introduced that made the "join" button disappear. Fixed. The new Meatgrinder rolled out yesterday appears to perform well, though other bug discoveries are inevitable. Still playing whack-a-mole with indexing-related bugs.

April 7, 2009 - We have received multiple reports that the search box isn't properly identifying all relevant titles or author names. Confirmed. Investigating...

April 7, 2009 - Meatgrinder II introduced today. Incorporates a queuing system for greater reliability. Please report bugs and anomalies by clicking on the "?" question mark button at the top of any page.

April 1, 2009 - Today is April Fools day. Read our press release about J.K. Rowling publishing the Harry Potter series on Smashwords by visiting the Smashwords press room.

March 26, 2009 - We're making many changes to Meatgrinder to improve performance and reliability, but with each change comes the possibility of bugs, so please report any problems you have uploading books by clicking on the "?" question mark button at the top of every page.

March 21, 2009 - Smashwords Book Marketing Guide updated.

March 19, 2009 - Meatgrinder acting up today. Grinds are taking too long, or are throwing up error messages. We have a plan in place to rearchitect some aspects of the upload process. Please be patient and pardon the hassle as we create Meatgrinder II.

March 16, 2009 - Rolling out Publisher pages today. Now indie publishers can publish and manage an unlimited number of authors and their authors' books.

March 16, 2009 - Authors: The Smashwords Coupon Generator now allows multiple simultaneous coupons so you can test different promotions.

March 15, 2009 - 12:01am: The Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion ends! What a great week for readers and authors. Smashwords had record traffic and sales. Thanks everyone for participating!

March 11, 2009 - By popular demand, covers are now activated on the home page and search pages, in all their glory. Next up, we're adding the ability to turn off covers for those of you who prefer the home page simplicity of our little blue book buttons.

March 11, 2009 - Just sent out the member newsletter. One Four of our members, all professional copy editors, kindly informed me I misspelled "gnat" in the newsletter. Embarrassing. Folks, this is why you need a good editor, even if you're self-published.

March 10, 2009 - 8am: We've received several unusual reports from authors who claim the sales reports listed in their Dashboards don't match the Sales & Payments History reports. We're investigating. Confirmed. Investigating cause. 5pm update: Cause identified. A bug caused the Dashboards of multiple members, including some members who haven't even published books, to suddenly show they had sold three books on Monday. Bill is now performing brain surgery on the code to roll back the erroneous data. Fixed.

March 8, 2009 - Read an Ebook Week promotion kicks off. Over 500 books participating!

February 27, 2009 - Updated Smashwords Style Guide now available.

February 27, 2009 - Updated Smashwords Book Marketing Guide now available.

February 27, 2009 - Smashwords getting hit with big traffic spikes. Ordinarily, this is great news, but it's slowing the site's performance. As of 10am Pacific, we've had two short outages this morning, one lasting about 25 minutes and another lasting about 5 minutes. Sorry.

February 24, 2009 - Site was down completely from about 5pm Pacific time to 6:10pm. Investigating.

February 20, 2009 - If you haven't received your confirmation email, check your spam box. We've received several reports from aol and gmail users that their confirmation emails are going directly into their spam boxes. Put Smashwords.com on your "safe list."

February 20, 2009 - We've begun alpha testing Publisher pages. Phase I of alpha testing is limited to two to three publishers only. As we work out kinks, we'll gradually add new participants. To request participation for subsequent testing rounds, email Mark.

February 14, 2009 - For the benefit of Smashwords members unable to attend the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference in New York last week, I've shared my personal highlights over at the Smashwords blog.

February 13, 2009 - A few Smashwords authors have written to ask why, after they assign sampling rights to their book, they visit their book page and find the book available for free download. Actually, the book isn't available for free download. Since you're the author, the system treats you as if you already own the book. We're going to add a hyperlink toggle on book pages, visible only to the author, that allows you to view the book as a customer so you can see what your readers see. Apologies for any confusion.

February 10, 2009 - There is apparently a recent bug in the Firefox browser that logs you out of all websites after you close your browser. The bug is completely unrelated to Smashwords, except that it will log you out of Smashwords, which means you can't access the books you've purchased until you have logged back in. Ordinarily, we wouldn't add a note here about a browser bug, but we've received two reports in three days from customers who couldn't access their books (and we can't recall ever having received a similar question in the last 9 months). We suspect Firefox is the problem. To fix the problem, visit the Mozilla support page and follow the instructions. Note: these instructions are best followed by more advanced users. It involves changing a file called cookies.sqlite to cookies.tmp. Only follow the steps if FireFox is logging you out of your favorite websites. We confirmed the fix, and it does work.

February 2, 2009 - Authors: from your book page, you can now add hyperlinks to where your book can be purchased in print. Please test this and report bugs.

February 2, 2009 - New update to The Smashwords Style Guide published.

February 2, 2009 - Smashwords becomes an official sponsor of Read an E-Book Week.

January 29, 2009 - Authors, we updated the "Payee Profile" page to go 100% electronic. No tax forms to fill out and email or snail mail. Be sure your profile is filled out. Royalty checks are being mailed now.

January 28, 2009 - Short outage today around 3pm Pacific for approximately 15 minutes. Meatgrinder apparently choked on a Mobipocket conversion. More reports of Meatgrinder misbehaving again. Confirmed. Fixed around 8:30pm.

January 26, 2009 - Adding cover images to home page. Working out glitches. Looks best in Firefox. IE browser not looking so good. Stay tuned... Turned off for now.

January 20, 2009 - Authors, we're all ears. Tell us, how can we make Smashwords the single best digital publishing platform to help you publish, promote and sell your ebooks? Ebook readers, how can we better serve you? Write Mark Coker at first initial second initial at you know where dot com.

January 15, 2009 - Tag clouds temporarily disabled to improve site performance.

January 14, 2009 - Apologies for the poor web site performance the last couple days. Big spike in traffic last few days starting with the Mercury News article. We just completed upgrading our servers and made some other tweaks.

January 11, 2009 - Elise Ackerman of the San Jose Mercury News publishes Q&A profile of Smashwords founder, Mark Coker

January 9, 2009 - Bug reported and fixed involving embedded YouTube videos.

January 1, 2009 - Happy New Year!! Thank you for providing such excellent feedback and suggestions as we work to make Smashwords the best place to publish and read indie ebooks. Please tell a friend!

December 22, 2008 - Authors, read the new Smashwords Book Marketing Guide for actionable tips on how to maximize the promotion of your Smashwords book.

December 22, 2008 - Vote on your favorite Smashwords ad at the Smashwords blog.

December 16, 2008 - We introduced a coupon generator today! Authors can now generate promotional coupon codes to share on web sites, blogs, social networks and fan email lists. Click Dashboard for details, or read the press release in the press room.

December 2, 2008 - Authors: Make sure you've provided us your mailing address on your Payee Page so we can mail you your checks.

December 1, 2008 - Authors: we're working out a kink in the earnings tracking system. If you received a check in the September/October timeframe for your sales, that amount may not be reflected in your Dashboard. We're working to fix this asap. Fixed December 2.

November 26, 2008 - Smashwords now integrates with the Stanza ereader and is optimized for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Check out the Smashwords blog for more details.

November 14, 2008 - We updated the Smashwords Style Guide, essential reading for all prospective Smashwords authors.

October 30, 2008 - We've added beta support for .epub and .lrf (for Sony Reader) file formats! Please test these formats for bugs and send us your feedback! Authors, you can manually enable these formats from your Dashboard by clicking on Settings, checking the appropriate check boxes under "ebook Formats" and then clicking "Save."

October 28, 2008 - Jennifer Leggio of ZDNet published an in depth Q&A interview with Mark Coker of Smashwords.

October 12, 2008 - Authors, check out the new tagging feature. Make your your books are tagged!

August 25, 2008 - We're adding new features and functionality every day, driven by your feedback. If you have ideas on how Smashwords can better address the needs of readers, authors and publishers, drop us a note by clicking on the "?" question mark button at the top of any page.

August 19, 2008 - Smashwords Terms of Service updated with new section to further clarify Smashwords' strict anti-spam policy which prohibits authors from promoting their works via spam emails.

June 27, 2008 - Support for large quantity orders added today. Great for book clubs, schools, or as way to show that special Smashwords author that you really love them!

May 30, 2008 - Reminder for Smashwords authors and readers: Don't forget to add your personal bio so others can learn more about your interests and inspirations. Just visit "Account" and choose edit profile, or click here.

May 19, 2008 - See Joe Wikert's Q&A interview with Mark Coker

May 18, 2008 - See the Smashwords press room for the latest buzz. Bloggers, if you have written about Smashwords let us know so we can link to you.

May 17, 2008 - An updated Smashwords Style Guide is available. Welcome to our new members in Canada, the U.K. India, Australia and other points around the globe!

May 13, 2008 - Authors, if you haven't seen it, check out the Smashwords Style Guide for tips on how to format your masterpiece for the best possible conversion. Over the last week, it's been interesting to see the myriad ways authors format their books. If your book still isn't converting correctly, email Mark your source file so he can help you diagnose the problem. We'll have an updated version of the Smashwords Style Guide in the next few days, based on what early authors have helped us learn.

May 6, 2008 - Smashwords goes live!:

Thanks to everyone who contributed their generous time and ideas to make the private beta test a success. Today, May 6, marks the start of our public beta.

 

 

_______________

PLEASE NOTE: The instructions below were provided to early beta testers when Smashwords first launched in May 2008. Since we're constantly introducing and testing new features every week, we're leaving the instructions below because we welcome and encourage your feedback, especially when you help us discover bugs!

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Smashwords Beta Tester Instructions

1. We appreciate you taking the time to visit Smashwords, publish your books and browse our titles. We're looking for honest, critical feedback related to usability, interface flow, features and function. Your feedback will help drive the next phase of our development.

2. At the top of every page of the site, there's a message link where you can log your thoughts and experiences for each page. If you like how something works, log it. If you have suggestions for how we can make a certain page, function or process more intuitive, log it. Ideas for cool features? Log 'em. This information goes directly to our founder Mark Coker and our Chief Technology Officer, Bill Kendrick. Or, if you'd prefer to log all your comments in a single Word file or email, you can send them to Mark at first initial second initial at smashwords.com.

3. Smashwords is an online service. There is no software to download,so rest assured if you discover any bugs they will not harm your computer.

4. During the beta testing period, the site is fully functional so you can sample, browse and buy books, or if you're an author you can publish your works

5. File conversions: Smashwords allows an author to upload a single Microsoft Word file that we then automatically convert into multiple DRM-free ebook formats. These file conversions don't always perfectly preserve the author's original formatting. For this reason, books with charts, graphs and images should be formatted simply, such as left-justified, and of course a picture book will never translate into pure text. As a beta tester, we encourage you to experiment and share your tips and tricks. For tips on how to prep your manuscripts for conversion, please read The Smashwords Style Guide.

9. Privacy: You're in complete control over how your information is presented on the site. We'll never sell or rent your contact information to third parties. Want to publish under a pen name? No problem.

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More Background on Smashwords
------------------------------------------

We're excited about the opportunity digital books present to the world's readers and aspiring authors. For centuries, books have remained the gold standard for information dissemination, knowledge sharing and story telling. Books have shaped the course of mankind.

But traditional paper-based book publishing has its limitations - book printing and publishing is expensive, so book publishers are unable to publish all written works, and even if they could publish all written works, the vast majority of literate people in the world would not be able to afford them. Books are simply too expensive when you consider that 86% of the world's population earns a per capita annual income of less than $10,000 (click for source) versus a $30,000-$50,000 per capita income level typical in the US and most European countries. Over one billion of the world's roughly 6.5 billion inhabitants subsist on less than $1 a day. Paper books are simply too expensive for most of the world.

By moving books into the digital realm, we can start to change the economics of book publishing, while at the same time making great independent books available to people of all economic backgrounds from around the world.

Smashwords returns 85% of net proceeds from the sale of each book back to the author or publisher. This means that an author who might otherwise earn a per unit royalty of 40 cents by publishing a $7.95 mass market paperback can make three times as much per unit by selling the ebook on Smashwords for $2.00 (a 75% lower cost). Smashwords economics creates a virtuous cycle: By pricing books low, Smashwords authors will expand the potential audience for their books while at the same time increasing their per-unit margins and overall profits.

We're considering premium membership levels which might offer even better margins for authors. Basic membership will always be free.

Of course, some authors will price their books at ZERO, and this is fine too. We recognize that many authors write because they have a story to tell, information to share or ideas to communicate, and these noble desires may trump the motive for financial gain. If you're a professional writer and derive your income from writing, then Smashwords is the place for you too because our goal is to help you reach your audience.

Thank you again for your kind participation in this beta! We look forward to working with you.

Best wishes,

Mark Coker
Founder and CEO
Smashwords, Inc.
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16
Los Gatos, CA 95032
first initial second initial at smashwords .com