Interview with Mark Coker

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I never set out to become an "indie" author. I simply wanted to become a published author. Back in 2005, my wife and I co-wrote Boob Tube, a novel that explores the wild and wacky world of daytime television soap operas. My wife is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine. Our dream was to see our novel on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. Even though we were repped by an excellent agent at one of New York's most respected literary agencies, publishers refused to acquire the book because previous soap opera-themed novels had sold poorly.
Is this what led you to create Smashwords?
Yes. It was our agent who suggested we self-publish back in 2007 (he was ahead of his time!). I liked the idea, and had read Dan Poynter's excellent reference, Dan Poynter's Self Publishing Manual, but I realized without the benefit of print distribution - something only a traditional publisher could offer - our self-published print book would go undiscovered and unread. I began to imagine the hundreds of thousands of other writers facing the same dilemma, where traditional publishers had all the power to crush their dreams of publication simply because they didn't see the commercial potential. I began to realize that publishers in the business of selling books, not publishing books. I don't hold this against them. Of course they need to make money to keep the lights on. Yet the value of books to humanity, in my opinion, cannot be measured by dollars alone. If you want to publish a cookbook of your family recipes for the benefit of your children and grand childen, that book in my mind is every bit as valuable as anything put out by New York. I decided that this focus on perceived commercial merit, and the inherent economic inefficiencies of producing, publishing and distributing print books, was threatening the future of books. I felt there needed to be a better way. I decided ebooks might provide the path toward democratized publishing. I thought it would be really cool if there was an ebook self-publishing platform that would make it fast, free and easy to publish an ebook. This was the genesis behind Smashwords. I wanted to create a global publishing platform that would allow *me* to take a chance on every author, at no cost or risk to the author. I wanted to give every writer in the world the freedom and opportunity to publish, and I wanted to give readers the freedom to decide what was worth reading. I believed that if writers were simply given a chance, that the entire world would be surprised by the amazing talent and knowledge locked between the minds and fingertips of ordinary writers around the globe. We launched Smashwords in 2008, and today we help authors publish and distribute over 200,000 titles.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
For my fiction, I enjoyed the creative journey of writing a novel, and especially the opportunity to collaborate with my wife. People who've never written fiction can't imagine the high every writer gets when they plunge their imagination into the process of writing a novel. It was exhilarating and incredibly fun.

On the non-fiction side, I've written three books focused on different aspects of ebook publishing best practices. For these books, the greatest joy for me is in sharing useful knowledge that helps writers become professional publishers. I think there are three essential legs of the professional publishing stool. There's the printing press (provided by the Smashwords Meatgrinder), the access to retail distribution (we distribute to most of the major retailers), and the best practices knowledge of professional publishing. What a writer knows how to publish professionally, there is no limit to their potential. My three ebook publishing books have been downloaded almost a half million times. That blows me away. I feel so honored and gratified to know I've helped so many people, whether or not they publish at Smashwords. In return, I've learned so much from our authors. The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success was entirely inspired by my observations of the tactics and strategies utilized by our most successful authors. If you want to understand the future of publishing, keep an eye on indie authors!
What are you working on next?
I've got several ideas for new novels, and have started a new book on e-publishing, though it's getting tougher for me to find time to write because there are so many exciting projects we're working on at Smashwords. At Smashwords, we wake up every morning asking ourselves what we can do next to connect our authors' books with reader eyeballs.
Who are your favorite authors?
I really like Douglas Adams for his Hitchhiker's books and John Christopher for his Tripods trilogy. These are books I enjoy rereading every few years. Allan Folsom's The Day After Tomorrow (different from the movie of the same name) is one of my favorite thrillers. Someone should make a movie out Folsom's book. I also enjoy Sun Tzu's Art of War.
What books do you collect, and why?
My wife and I collect print books. Not necessary first editions, but just ordinary books. We probably have over 1,000 books. Whenever we go on vacation anywhere around the world, we visit every used bookstore we can find. I collect books about World War II. Both of my grandfathers were in the US Navy so I feel a special connection to the story of WWII. One grandfather was an officer on the USS Arizona. Luckily, he had shore leave the morning of the attack. If he had been on the ship, my father probably would never have been born. That grandfather later participated in several naval battles in the Pacific. One of my great grandfathers sided with the Japanese, while his two sons joined the US Navy. My great-grandfather's surprising story (last name Gorham) was chronicled in David Halberstam's book, THE RECKONING. Just this year, I learned a branch my family in Germany was lost to the concentration camps. I think it's important we never forget the unspeakable horrors humans are capable of inflicting upon one another. I'm also inspired by those who had the courage to stand up for what was right. World War II was the canvas that showed us all the worst of humanity and the best of humanity.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Getting out of bed has always been easy for me. I usually wake up with Smashwords on my mind, and the thoughts are usually about new features we can add, or how we can do something better or faster. My second thought of the day is coffee. Coffee is one of the joys of every day. My other joys include family, friends, my garden and my pets (chickens, homing pigeons, cats).
When you're not working on Smashwords, what are you doing?
I'm always thinking about Smashwords, but when I'm not working on Smashwords I'm hiking, gardening, traveling, reading, daydreaming and hanging out with my wife, family and friends.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
The iPhone.
Do you think print books will ever go away?
I hope not. I love print books. When I first told my wife about my idea to start Smashwords, she said, "you can't do that, you'll kill books!" I never viewed it that way. Ebooks are a format. Print is a format. They're both equally worthwhile methods of consuming words. Both formats in combination make words more accessible to more readers than either format can do in isolation. Although I think more words will be consumed in the future on screens than on paper, I think both formats can coexist.
What do Smashwords authors mean to you?
I love our authors. I think writers are the most amazing, most interesting people anywhere. Writers are the dreamers and doers. I love that we're able to provide them free and simple tools that help them reach readers and achieve their dreams. When I meet with our authors at conferences, it's incredible. In my mind, we're still that tiny, scrappy, invisible startup, but when I go to these conferences and find a roomful of Smashwords authors, I want to pinch myself. It's an emotional experience, especially when an author tells me how Smashwords changed their life. It's so kind and gracious of them to say that, but at the same time it makes me squirm. I'm not comfortable taking that credit. I'd like to think we helped opened doors, but it's the writers who deserve all the credit for their success. They had the courage to walk through the doors and publish directly to their readers. They're the ones wowing readers with such amazing books. I stand in awe of what they do. Every day, I'm thankful our authors have given me the opportunity to have the most incredible job in the world. I think everyone at Smashwords feels that way. We're all book lovers, and you can't love books without loving the authors who created them.
Published 2013-08-16.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Guía de Smashwords para la Mercadotecnia de Libros
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Price: Free! Words: 18,980. Language: Spanish. Published: September 28, 2013. Category: Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing
Este popular manual de mercadotecnia comparte consejos de primera mano que resultan fáciles de implementar para promover y comercializar libros en Smashwords y en las tiendas en línea más importantes. Comienza con un panorama sobre cómo Smashwords ayuda a los autores en la promoción de sus libros electrónicos y después provee 41 sencillos consejos de mercadotecnia.
Smashwords Rachanashaili Nirdeshika (Smashwords Style Guide Bengali)
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Price: Free! Words: 21,500. Language: Bengali. Published: April 22, 2012. Category: Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing
রচনাশৈলী নির্দেশিকার সাহায্যে হাজার হাজার লেখক উন্নত মানের ইবুক নির্মান ও প্রকাশ করেছেন৷ এই বিনামূল্যে লভ্য নির্দেশিকায় সহজ সরল পদক্ষেপে ইবুক সৃষ্টি, বিন্যাস ও প্রকাশনের কলা আলোচিত হয়েছে৷ স্ম্যাশওয়ার্ডস্ দ্বারা অ্যাপ্‌ল্ আইবুকস্টোর, বার্নস্ অ্যান্ড নোব্‌ল্, সনি, কোবো, ডিজেল প্রভৃতি প্রধান ইবুক বিপণিতে পুস্তক পরিবেশনের জন্য যে কোনও লেখকেরই এটা পড়া আবশ্যক৷ সংস্করণ: ০২ আগস্ট ২০১১
Smashwords Formateringsguide
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Series: Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 23,280. Language: Danish. Published: March 31, 2012. Category: Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing
Smashwords Formateringsguide har hjulpet tusindvis af forfattere med at producere og udgive ebøger af høj kvalitet. Denne gratis guide giver dig simple trinvise instruktioner til, hvordan du skaber, formaterer og udgiver en eBog. Det er nødvendig læsning for enhver forfatter, der gerne vil have distribueret deres bog via Smashwords til større forhandlere af ebøger, såsom Apple iBookstore og Kobo
The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
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Series: Smashwords Guides, Book 3. Price: Free! Words: 41,550. Language: English. Published: March 26, 2012. Category: Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing
Learn the 30 best practices of the bestselling self-published ebook authors. This updated January 2014 edition of the The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success has already helped tens of thousands of self-published ebook authors publish more professionally. This ebook is a must-read for every writer, author, publisher and literary agent.
Guida all’Ebook Marketing Smashwords
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Price: Free! Words: 13,290. Language: Italian. Published: December 23, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Marketing
Questa Guida gratuita vuole aiutare autori ed editori a promuovere e vendere i propri ebook su Smashwords ma anche su tutti gli altri negozi virtuali. La Guida, partendo da come Smashwords aiuta gli autori a promuovere l'ebook, dà 30 utilissimi suggerimenti per costruire autonomamente e gratuitamente un ottimo ebook marketing.
Guía de Estilo de Smashwords
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Series: Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 26,470. Language: Spanish. Published: December 22, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Publishing business
La Guía de estilo de Smashwords ha permitido que miles de autores publiquen libros electrónicos de gran calidad. Esta guía gratuita enseña, paso a paso, cómo crear, formatear y publicar un libro electrónico, y su lectura es imprescindible para distribuir vía Smashwords a las tiendas en línea más importantes, como la iBookstore de Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo y Diesel.
De Smashwords Stijlgids
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Series: Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 24,090. Language: Dutch. Published: December 21, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Computers and Internet » Digital publishing
De Smashwords Stijlgids heeft duizenden schrijvers geholpen bij het produceren en publiceren van hoge kwaliteit eboeken. Deze gratis gids biedt eenvoudige stap-voor-stap instructies om eboeken te creëren, opmaken en publiceren. Het is verplicht leesvoer voor elke schrijver die een boek via Smashwords wil distribueren naar de grote eboek verkopers zoals de Apple iBookstore, Sony, B&N en anderen
Guida allo Stile Smashwords
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Series: Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 23,120. Language: Italian. Published: November 26, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Reference » Publishing and books
La "Guida allo stile Smashwords" ha aiutato migliaia di autori ed editori a pubblicare ebook di alta qualità. Questa Guida gratuita offre semplici consigli passo-dopo-passo per creare, formattare e pubblicare un ebook. La Guida deve essere preventivamente letta da ogni autore che voglia distribuire la sua opera, attraverso Smashwords. Traduzione italiana a cura di Giuseppe Meligrana.
Der Smashwords Formatierungs- Leitfaden
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Series: Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 13,190. Language: German. Published: November 5, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Reference » Publishing and books
Der Smashwords Formatierungsleitfaden hat Tausenden von Autorinnen und Autoren geholfen, qualitativ hochstehende E-Books zu produzieren und zu veröffentlichen. Dieser kostenlose Leitfaden bietet einfach gehaltene Schritt-für-Schritt-Anweisungen, um ein E-Book zu erstellen, zu formatieren und zu veröffentlichen. Er ist eine für jeden Autor unabdingbare Lektüre.
Guide des Styles Smashwords
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Series: Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 25,530. Language: French. Published: October 11, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Computers and Internet » Digital publishing
Le Guide des Styles Smashwords a permis à des milliers d'auteurs de produire et de publier des livres numériques de haute qualité. Ce guide vous explique, étape par étape, de manière simple et astucieuse, comment créer et formater un livre électronique. Pour tous les auteurs qui souhaitent que leurs livres soient distribués via Smashwords, par les principaux diffuseurs.
The 10-Minute PR Checklist - Earn the Publicity You Deserve
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Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 7,910. Language: English. Published: May 7, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Public relations
This brainstorming checklist helps entrepreneurs and business managers leverage the power of public relations to earn better press coverage. Learn how to plan and implement a more effective public relations strategy.
Smashwords Book Marketing Guide
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Series: Smashwords Guides, Book 2. Price: Free! Words: 16,060. Language: English. Published: December 22, 2008. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Marketing
This popular book marketing primer shares easy-to-implement advice on how to market books at Smashwords and major ebook retailers. It starts with an overview of how Smashwords helps promote an author's ebook, and then provides 41 simple do-it-yourself marketing tips. The book is useful to all authors, even those who don't yet publish on Smashwords. Updated August 23, 2013.
Smashwords Style Guide
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Series: Smashwords Guides, Book 1 · Smashwords Style Guide Translations. Price: Free! Words: 27,680. Language: English. Published: May 5, 2008. Category: Nonfiction » Computers and Internet » Digital publishing
The Smashwords Style Guide has helped thousands of authors produce and publish high-quality ebooks. This free guide offers simple step-by-step instructions to create, format and publish an ebook. It's required reading for any author who wants to distribute their book via Smashwords to major ebook retailers such as the Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. Revised December 10, 2013
Boob Tube (a Soap Opera Novel)
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 86,550. Language: English. Published: March 7, 2008. Category: Fiction » Women's fiction » Chick lit
Actress Gina Martin lands a role on a top daytime television soap opera, and days later her predecessor is found dead in the Hollywood hills. Will Gina be next? Boob Tube offers readers a fast-paced read filled with intrigue and humor, and a surprise ending that will leave you breathless. Co-written by Lesleyann Coker, a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine.