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 Blog. TeleRead 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 March. 2. 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:
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 - 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):
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.