2011 Smashwords Site Updates

All updates by Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, unless otherwise noted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 29, 2011 - A few updates.  1.  Operation Floodgates at Kobo is underway.  We shipped over 12,000 new titles yesterday, will take a pause today, then ship another 12,000 to 15,000 Wednesday.  In parallel, we'll be doing metadata refreshes to make sure pricing, covers, etc are up to date.  We'll also be doing a lot of testing with our friends at Kobo to ensure ingestion accuracy of their new systems. If all goes well, going forward, regular weekly shipments of new titles will resume after this week of updates.  Please hold off reporting any errors or out of date or missing books until next Tuesday or Wednesday, because refreshes will continue throughout this week.  2.  Holiday planning.  If you plan to release new titles to get in stores by Christmas, please get them uploaded by the end of this week if possible.  The Smashwords team is working overtime to approve titles for distribution, though there is a backlog so the sooner you get in the queue the better, and most retailers will stop accepting new titles a few days before Christmas.  If you don't upload this week, we'll still do everything we can to get you in (we've expanded our vetting team in the last few weeks and most team members are working extra hours to help you).  Also, per the reminders in the email confirmations you receive upon conversion completion, be sure to carefully review your .epub once it's live, and make any necessary corrections immediately so our vetting team can approve it on the first review.  3.  Rethinking marketing.  My background in marketing goes back 20 years, so you might be surprised to hear me say that marketing isn't as important as people think.  Discoverability and book quality is more important.  I wrote a guest blog post on this topic over at Nina Amir's Write Non Fiction in November Blog, Rethinking Book Marketing: Why Discovery is More Important.  4.  Yesterday I had a guest blog post published over at Publishing Perspectives.  Although the post summarizes the proceedings of a Scandinavian book conference I attended two weeks ago in Copenhagen, the broader message is about the new global opportunities available to all authors and publishers.  Your market is worldwide.  More over at the Smashwords blog, which provides a jump to the post at Publishing Perspectives.  5.  Oh the irony.  Some scammer using stolen credit cards purchased $808 worth of self-help and self-improvement books.  The orders have been reversed and the affected authors/publishers received an email from me today informing them of the amount of reversal.  Some day, karma will catch up with this person and everything they learned from these books will be for naught.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2011 - Three items(updated).  1.  Do you think your ebook cover image is so awesome it deserves to win awards?  Then enter your cover in Joel Friedlander's ebook cover design contest 2.  Author Anne R. Allen has coined a hilarious new term, Snookiebooks, to describe celebrity books.  Read her original blog post here.  3.  Several folks have asked what's happening with ScrollMotion.  So far, not much.  For the full run-down, Dana Lynn Smith of Savvy Book Marketer asked me this question in an interview last week where I provided a detailed answer.  Once there are further updates, I'll add them here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 6, 2011 - Two items.  1.  The new adult filter is live and operational.  First time visitors to the site will be automatically opted out of content labeled "Adult" by the author/publisher.  Visitors can easily opt-in by clicking the ON/OFF toggle link in the upper right corner of the page.  This replaces the previous "Prude Filter."   For the many tens of thousands of registered users of Smashwords, the new filter doesn't affect their previous filter settings.  I posted about the new Adult Filter at the Smashwords Blog.  2.  Marketing opportunity.  Do you use LinkedIn?  If so, log in to your LinkedIn account, click "Profile," then click "Edit Profile," and then see option for "Publications" which lets you add listings and hyperlinks to your Smashwords ebooks.  It's easiest if you open up two browser windows, so one is open to your LinkedIn profile and the other is open to your Smashwords Author/Publisher page (click "My Smashwords") and then you can copy and paste the info from Smashwords to LinkedIn one by one.  The easy way to copy over the hyperlink to your book page is to right mouse click on your Smashwords book page's title listing, then click "copy hyperlink."  To see how it appears on your LinkedIn profile, you can view my LinkedIn profile here:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/markcoker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 9, 2011 - Quick notes.  1.  The San Francisco Chronicle did a big feature on Smashwords today.  The full story is only available in print.  The online teaser is here and the full story will go online for free May 11.   2.  Two talks coming up this coming weekend.  On Saturday, I'm speaking at the Bay Area Independent Publishers Assoc. meeting in San Rafael at 11am ($5.00), and on Sunday at I'm on an ASJA panel discussion at the Berkeley Public Library at 2:30pm (free), organized by D. Patrick Miller.  3.  Balances in your Sales and Payments report should be updated in the next day or two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 16, 2011 - Weekend updates.    1.  New free marketing opportunity.  The folks over at Double Edge press, a small publisher of Christian Fiction, have created a new free marketing opportunity that fits my favorite theme of "authors helping authors."  They're launching a free weekly newsletter where they'll feature books priced at $2.99 or less from indie authors.  To participate, all they ask is that you join in and help promote some of your fellow authors.  The service is new and just now taking shape, so go help shape it.  Learn more at "E"ndependent Publishers.  2.  Our friends at Kobo quickly fixed the repricing error Thurs evening, thanks to some major overtime hours from their development team.  The glitch caused affected books to revert to a previous price, so in some cases prices dropped and in other cases prices increased.  It's too bad some authors over-reacted to the glitch (a few dozen Smashwords authors opted out of Kobo last week as a result).  Yes, I know Amazon's price matching is painful to those affected, and you don't need to be a big name indie to feel the pinch.  If you're relying on Amazon for that extra $25 or $50 a month, believe me, I respect that.  But it's really important to keep things in perspective.   In the long run, it's a bump in the road.  It won't be the last time this happens, somewhere.  Our Kobo sales have exploded over the last 12 months, so authors who quit Kobo for their (or our) glitches nine or 12 months ago missed out on a lot of sales through today.  It's really important for authors to get out there, get widely distributed, and reduce your dependence on Amazon.  A vibrant ecosystem of multiple competing retailers is in every author's best interest (It's in Smashwords' best interest too, because we supply multiple retailers).  If only one or two major retailers end up dominating the ebook game, then that would be bad.  Multiple competing retailers means they're also competing to serve you, the indie author or publisher.  I know some indies have already gotten spoiled by their new found power in the industry.  Don't let it go to your head.  Protect yourself, because as Amazon reminded some big authors last week, they're happy to slap you down if you don't follow their rules.   As an indie author or small press at the forefront of this ebook publishing revolution, you have an opportunity to help shape the future of ebook retailing.  Support all your retailers.  Diversify.  Add links on your blog or website to your books at every retailer they appear.   Amazon's market share is declining and will likely continue to decline thanks the rapid growth of Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and others.  3.  Lost amid the Kobo news last week was this exciting tidbit worthy of celebration for Smashwords authors at Kobo - they announced a European expansion (click here to read the press release).  They also revealed some interesting metrics that were news to me:  Kobo now has three million users, up 1/3 in the last 90 days [I assume "users" are a combination of real paid customers and free downloaders].  4.  What's next for Smashwords an Kobo?:  Kobo's doing a revamp of their ingestion systems (how they receive our books and updates), and for the time being they're VERY backlogged on recent shipments.  Expect a few weeks delay if you recently shipped to them.  If your book hasn't appeared, this is why.  We're going to speak with them about how we can modify our shipment systems to better match the needs of their new ingestion systems.  I'm looking forward to this, because in the last 12 months we've overhauled our shipment systems multiple times for  Apple, B&N and Sony, and as a result things are flowing much faster and more accurately than before (yes, there's always room for improvement).  Also as part of Kobo's new systems, and concurrent with some other plans we have to provide our authors and publishers greater control over non-US dollar-denominated sales listings, we're examining now some options to start feeding our retail partners more accurate prices in Pounds Sterling, Euros, and Australian and New Zealand dollars.  This will happen in slow iterative phases.   5.  Asleep at the switch (those not reading these Smashwords Site Updates, or our FAQs, or the Style Guide, or the Smashwords Distribution Information Page, or the Apple Checklist).  As of yesterday morning, over 4,000 Smashwords books were Premium Catalog approved and opted in to both Apple and Sony, yet they weren't shipping to these two important retailers because the authors and publishers hadn't attached ISBNs to their books via the ISBN Manager.  Obviously, we need to do a better job of alerting these sleepy authors and publishers to remind them their books aren't fully distributed.  We sent these folks an email reminder yesterday.   As a reminder, if you don't attach and record your ISBN in the ISBN Manager we don't know your book has an ISBN.  It's not enough to place your ISBN in the book because we and our retailers can't access it there (it's not even necessary to place in your book).  6.  Last week we revamped the purchase receipts and automated book sale alerts, and so far feedback has been great.  Next up, we're going to do a complete revamp of the Sales and Payments report.  The information there is accurate, but we realize it's difficult for publishers (and authors too) who are selling hundreds or thousands of books to easily correlate sales to each quarterly payment.  The new reports will allow you to identify which book sales are connected to each pay period.  Given the record sales payouts we're making by the end of this month, we figured now would be a good time to make your job easier.  Stay tuned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25, 2011 - Friday tidbits.  I meant to just do one item but somehow it became fourteen.  So much going on.   1.  We surpassed 40,000 books at Smashwords yesterday.  I might do a blog post on it.  2.  Smashwords vs. Pubit.  I love B&N - I even jumped to their defense the other day when authors over at Kindleboards started some unwarranted rumors about them - though as you might imagine I wasn't thrilled when they launched Pubit.  But hey, they probably had their eye on Amazon, not their partner Smashwords.  There's a subset of authors who jump at any opportunity to go direct.  This isn't always the wisest decision.  If your book is priced under $2.99 at Pubit, or over $9.99, they pay you 40% list, vs. the 60% list you earn going through Smashwords.   I didn't realize this differential until yesterday.  For books priced $2.99 to $9.99, they pay you 65%, just 5% more than what you earn from Smashwords.  To put that 5% in perspective, it means if you earn $5,000 in a year at B&N (and most authors don't), you're only giving up $250 by distributing through Smashwords.  Sure, we don't provide the instant ADHD buzz of seeing your numbers updated in real time (or the buzzkill of watching them not move), but in my own little world I'd like to think we more than earn our keep for that  5% at B&N, so my thanks to the many Smashwords authors who've stuck with us.  Is raises the interesting question, what is your time worth, and how should authors and publishers best spend their time? Should everyone try to be their own distributor and get rid of Smashwords, or is the author/publisher's time better spent focused on marketing their book or developing the next book?  That's for you to decide.  I'm biased.  On that note, my next item...  3.  Congrats to Amanda Hocking who earlier this week announced she sold her one millionth book (any yay, Smashwords helped distribute some of those) and then yesterday announced a four-book deal for $2 million with St. Martins.  A great example of how indie authorship and traditional publishing can co-exist.  I've been impressed by how Amanda goes out of her way to caution fellow authors that her success came as a result of a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and yes luck.  Most authors will never achieve this level of success, so write because you love writing and because you know success is not always measured in dollars.  If dollars come your way, consider it icing on your cake.  On the flip side, Barry Eisler, a recent addition to the Smashwords family (but definitely not new to his many fans) turned down a $500,000 advance for his next title in favor of taking it indie.  My thanks to our buddy Joe Konrath for introducing Barry to Smashwords. Smashwords author Dean Wesley Smith (also with traditional bestseller credentials) has an interesting analysis and lively discussion over at his blog, Dean Wesley Smith.  4.  I had a great conversation yesterday with Smashwords author Julie Ortolon (yet another USA Today bestseller) who's been helping many traditionally published authors make the transition to indie.  I'll be doing an interview with her soon for the Smashwords blog so stay tuned on that.   5.  More Smashwords authors helping fellow Smashwords authors.  Smashwords author Patricia Rachal has launched a blog to profile indie ebooks from Christian authors.  Says Pat, "I would like to spotlight Indie authors who meet the criteria: Christian; pro God, pro Jesus, pro Bible; published eBook; writing is based on Biblical principles or about the Bible and what it teaches."  Authors may send Patricia their bio (with or without headshot) and a link to their Smashwords author page at ewordwriters@hotmail.com.   6.  Amazon update.  They have delayed the project, so we're exploring alternative options that might work to the mutual benefit of Amazon and our authors/publishers.  If B&N, Sony, Apple, Kobo and Diesel can accept bulk uploads of our books, a reasonable person might wonder, why not Amazon?  Biting my tongue.  I'll just say I'm glad our profitability is not dependent upon the world's largest retailer yet.  The day we do get this done, it'll be a happy day.  Until then, we're in a holding pattern and it makes me appreciate our current retail partners all the more.  7.  Speaking of retail partners, we signed a new distribution deal that will increase our presence on mobile platforms.  We began integration testing this week.  8. Smashwords for Libraries.  We also shipped about 80 books to participate in a US and Canadian library lending beta test sponsored by the Internet Archive.  More on that another day, probably on the Smashwords blog.  9.  Also on the library front, I'm sitting on an online panel sponsored by Infopeople to explore ebooks and library lending. The webinar happens April 11 at 12 noon Pacific.  More information here, once it's available.  10.  Digital Romance.  I'll be presenting or participating in three different ebook-related workshops at the upcoming annual RT Booklovers convention in Los Angeles, April 6, 7 and 8.  Some of my fellow panelists include Smashwords authors Sylvia DayHP MalloryGennita Low, and Delilah Devlin.  I look forward to meeting them!  11.  Did you know you can subscribe to the Smashwords blog via email?  You'll find the subscription option along the right side of the blog.  12.  Reminder:  The fun stats chart on your book page that shows paid downloads (as well as sample downloads and page views) is not an accurate measure of your sales.  See your Sales and Payments report for a full accounting of all reported sales.  The paid download chart shows when a paid (or free-couponed) customer downloads your book, and since one price provides perpetual access, a single customer may download your book multiple times as they try different formats, or, they might download the file each time they sit down to read.  13.  Post Read-an-Ebook hangover?  After a week of unbridled ebook downloading gluttony, one would think people might stop buying books for a few months.  Au contraire.  Although daily sales numbers dropped from their record RAEW levels, the sales numbers, like the traffic, have settled in at a stepped up level compared to the days and weeks before the RAEW event launched.  Conclusion:  the promotion brought some new book buyers to Smashwords.  14.  Do you have a favorite author on Smashwords that deserves some recognition?  Make their day by showing them some social media love.  Tweet 'em, Facebook 'em, write a blog post about them, or leave a review on their book page or at our Smashwords retailers.  Have a great weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2011 (Updated January 29) - Several miscellaneous items.  1.  Tip of the day.  Is your title/copyright page too long?  If it goes on and on, you might be losing readers.  Some retailers, such as B&N, only provide short samples, and I've seen instances where the entire sample is only the copyright page.  If your title and copyright pages go on and on with superfluous informational relics of traditional print books, consider doing shorter front matter so the reader can get into your book faster.  Four short lines and the license statement is all you need.  For examples of super-short title/copyright pages, see the suggested title/copyright and License Statement FAQs.  2.  Message boards offer a great opportunity for indie authors to network with other authors and connect directly with readers.  Later this year, Smashwords will probably launch its own forum.  Even after we launch our own, you should still participate in others.  The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide mentions a few of the larger ones, such as MobileRead and Kindleboards.  Recently a couple new boards have launched.  One, called Ebooksamples.net, is operated by Smashwords author Carl East.  Another I learned of this morning is called The Indie Spot.  Another, called Smashwords Forum, was launched by Smashwords author Ted Summerfield.  3.  Speaking of message boards, like all things on the Internet, they can also be breeding grounds for misinformation, rumormongering, negativity and cluelessness, so remember, just because you read it on the Internet doesn't mean it's true.  A few days ago over at Kindleboards, an author posted about how they don't publish at Smashwords because we don't support hyperlinked TOCs (ahem.. we've supported these for almost a year).  Luckily, another Smashwords author set them straight.  This happens a lot over at Kindleboards, so thanks to  those of you who help set records straight.  And then there's one individual - an author banned from Smashwords a year ago - who spreads insidious poison at every opportunity on different boards.  If you follow my Site Updates, you can count yourself as a Smashwords insider.  You're more informed than the average author.  If you see folks spreading misinformation, please do us all a favor and set them straight with the truth.  4.  In my annual year-in-review-and-look-ahead post over at the Smashwords blog, I mentioned one of my big goals for 2011 is to work more closely with our retail partners to help them identify Smashwords titles worthy of special promotion.  Along these lines, I had a good meeting Friday with a large Smashwords retailer, and they want to start considering more Smashwords titles for features in their email promotions and prominent on-site merchandising.  Because we aggregate sales data from multiple retailers, we're able to spot promising titles.  My recommendations to them will be driven by what's selling across the Smashwords distribution network, or what's popping at individual retailers, because I view these highest grossing titles as vetted by readers who are voting with their wallets.  Authors who opt out of one or more of our retailers may inadvertently disadvantage themselves if their strong sales might otherwise warrant placement in our top sellers.  This isn't due to any discrimination or spite on our part - it's simply because when I run my analytics against either our aggregated sales data, or against our retailer-specific sales data, your sales are missing.  5.  We're backlogged and running about three days late on Premium Catalog approvals.  As a reminder, if you click the link under your Dashboard's "Premium Status" column and discover AutoVetter errors, you should correct those errors now, otherwise those errors will prevent or delay your review.  6.  Speaking of AutoVetter, we're working on what we call AutoVetter III, which will help accelerate approval cycle times.  More later once we're ready to roll it out.

January 16-22, 2011 - (Updated with 10th opportunity) Free marketing opportunities - Smashwords Authors Helping Smashwords Authors  (updated).  I ran some of this list on Saturday, but have added more listings as they come in.  Do you run a web site or blog that reviews Smashwords books, or runs directory listings from Smashwords authors?  If so, let me know and I'll add them to the list.   I'm particularly interested in sites run by Smashwords authors.  If you support Smashwords authors, we want to support you!  Several of these sites are new and have low traffic, yet any time an author can obtain listings and hyperlinks on book-related blogs and websites that point to your Smashwords book pages, you're creating a trail of digital breadcrumbs that make your books more discoverable to readers.  Authors:  Please be considerate of your fellow authors' time.  Most on this list are running their sites on a volunteer basis, so do them the courtesy of studying their site before you contact them, and if they're kind enough to promote you, recipricate by celebrating that promotion across your own social networks so you drive your fans to their sites.  When you contact them, include the direct hyperlink to your author page or book page at Smashwords to make it easier for them.  As a bonus, include a free coupon code so they can download the book for free.    THE LIST:  1.  Looking for a review?  Check out Ficbot's E-Finds blog.  She usually reviews one Smashwords book every week.  Study her past reviews, and if you think your book matches her interests, send her a pitch to review it (include a free coupon code so she can download it for free).  Her contact information is on her site.  2.  A Smashwords author writing under the pen name of Lana Hughes has created a blog called Free eBooks where she's showcasing free Smashwords books.  I found her on Twitter.  I'm a big believer in free as a marketing tool to help introduce readers to your priced books.  Her contact info is on her blog.  3.  Smashwords author Dodge Winston has launch a new book marketing directory called Book Barista, where indie authors can get free advertising simply by entering hyperlinks to their Smashwords books.  Yes, free, as in you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by entering your book information there.  Since he just launched, he only has a dozen books listed.  Let's see if Smashworders can help him out (Update: Ya'll have caused his listings to go through the roof.  Good job!).  4.  Smashwords author Massimo Bolognino has launched a new blog called Ebook Italiani where he profiles Smashwords books written in Italian.  5.  Smashwords author Neil Crabtree runs a blog called Smashwords Books Reviewed, where he does book reviews and author interviews.  I mentioned both his and Ficbot's blogs in one of my September posts below, but I'm adding him to this list so we can keep them together.  6.  Smashwords author and publisher Jacob Drake tells us he's going to start promoting Smashwords titles on his blog, Crescent Suns Publishing.  His contact information is at the bottom of his January 2, 2011 post.  7.  Smashwords author Saffina Desforges in the U.K. runs her Sapphicscribe's Musings blog, and invites fellow Smashwords authors to contact her at saffinadesforges at gmx dot com for free listings on her blog.  This week she featured Smashwords author Karly Kirkpatrick and next week is Smashwords author Ellison James.  8.  Smashwords author Red Haircrow runs Flying with Red Haircrow, a great-looking blog that runs book reviews and interviews with indie authors.  To have your book considered, visit his contact page for tips on genres and topics of interest.  He syndicates his reviews to other review sites, so a single review on Flying with Red Haircrow could land you reviews in multiple venues.  He recently ran reviews on Smashwords authors Maureen Mullis and Lizzy Ford.  9.  Smashwords author William Butler runs Bang Noir, a blog where he regularly runs reviews of Smashwords books.  William reads a wide range of genres and topics, and will only select books for which he thinks he can write an honest and positive review (BTW, I think this is a good approach.  All of us indie authors suffer from obscurity, so there's little benefit to writing negative reviews about books noone's ever heard of), and he runs the review by the author for their comment prior to publishing.  Contact him at alfred687 at aol dot com.  He's currently working on reviews for Smashwords authors Claude Bouchard (Vigilante) and Carole Gill (The House on Blackstone Moor).  10.  Smashwords author Matt Williams has great interviews with fellow Smashwords authors Brian S. Pratt and Mike Dion (pen name:  Dodge Winston), the man behind BookBarista (mentioned above) over at his site, The Jak Phoenix Universe.  Matt invites Smashwords authors of Action, Adventure, Fantasy or Sci-fi books send him a message through the contact link at www.jakphoenix.com.  He asks you send him a blurb or description of what you've got and a link to your Smashwords book page. He'll look through the submissions and once a week post either an interview, blurb, suggestion or maybe the text you send him.  He also asks that if he covers you, you reciprocate by promoting your mention on your social networks (as I suggest everyone does up above).  His offer is only open to readers of these Smashwords Site Updates, so please don't repost his information elsewhere because he's busy with his own writing projects and doesn't want to be inundated with requests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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