2012 Smashwords Site Updates

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

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

June 28, 2012 - Items:  1.  Yesterday we announced a new distribution relationship with Page Foundry, a developer of ebookstore apps for Android devices.  The author/publisher alert I sent out last night has full details.  See screen shots of the e-reading app in action over at the Smashwords blog.  2.  Library patrons and book-buying.  Based on my flash survey last week, 82% of Smashwords authors and publishers believe that by exposing their books at libraries, they'll sell more books overall.  12% of you responded that you had no opinion, or were on the fence.  4.7% of you answered you thought libraries would cannibalize your overall sales.  My personal opinion is that libraries represent a tremendous untapped opportunty for all authors and publishers.  If you disagree or are unsure, I completely respect your opinion, because the truth is, none of us know for sure.  We will all place our bets as business people (indies are business people!) and then the winners will become known in the the months and years ahead.  It helps to have data, and some of it is starting to trickle out.  The Pew Research Center released a fascinating study last week that examined book buying habits of library patrons.  Some of the key findings:  A. Library patrons read more books than bookbuyers who don't use libraries.  B.  Library patrons are just as likely to have purchased their most recently read book as readers who don't use libraries.  C.  Among those who read ebooks, 41% of those who borrow ebooks from libraries purchased their most recently read ebook.  D.  Library card holders are more than twice as likely to have bought their most recent book than to have borrowed it from a library.  E.  Library as a discovery nexus: 47% of those who borrow ebooks from libraries say for book discovery, they first look at online bookstores and websites and 41% say they start at their public library. F.  42% of ebook borrowers say they get recommendations from librarians.  What to make of the data?  The data can be viewed from multiple perspectives, glass half full or half empty.  My simplified take:  Since library ebook borrowers are voracious readers and active book-buyers, and since I believe obscurity is the biggest hurdle all of us authors face, I think an indie's distribution strategy is incomplete without broad library exposure.  Your take may differ.  If there are some statistics junkies out there who can make spatially accurate venn diagrams of the Pew data, post the charts on your blog and drop me an email and I'll link to it here.  This data really calls for graphic visualization.  There's much more data than I can relay here.  Read the Pew study here.   For more data, check out Patron Profiles, maintained by Library Journal magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 15, 2012 - Items:  1.  We have an interview by David Weir at the Smashwords blog with best-selling erotica author, Selena Kitt. Even if you don't read or write erotica, she provides a facinating peek into this enormously popular yet controversial genre.  Next week we'll have an interview with best-selling romance author, Ruth Ann Nordin.  2.  We've been making multiple updates to the Smashwords Dashboard.  The underlying code that communicates the status of a book (pending review, awaiting modification, etc.) is being completely rewritten to eliminate a series of recent bugs that caused the Dashboard and Channel Manager to incorrectly label the book's Premium Catalog status.  The glitch didn't affect distribution, but it was understandably unnerving to many.  3. Today we introduced a much-requested "Are you sure?" question that displays if you click the unpublish button.  In the past, many authors accidentally unpublished their books by clicking the wrong link.  4.  Reminder:  If a Smashwords retailer is listing your book incorrectly, view our FAQ on how to correct retailer errors.  5.  Reminder II:  Although I try to make myself accessible to all Smashwords authors, and I try to personally respond to every email, I receive over 500 emails every day and I invariably miss many.  As much as I want to help everyone, please don't contact me for support inquiries.  Instead, contact the support team by clicking the "?" question mark button. They're backlogged now, so it make take several days for them to respond. They do respond to everyone.  When you contact them via the "?" question mark button, your account information is attached to the email, which makes it faster for us to respond to your questions or concerns.  If you have a question about a particular title, please help us by providing a hyperlink to your book at Smashwords.  If your inquiry involves your book at one of our retailers (see #4 above), remember to send us hyperlinks to the retailer's listing of your book.  And above all, please read our helpful FAQ before you contact us.  Most questions are answered there, including questions you haven't even thought to ask yet.  Thanks!  6.  When we display ISBNs, we no longer display the hyphens.  This is because the hyphens are superfluous, the retailers don't use the hyphens, and for some reason (for which I'm not qualified to explain because I don't understand the reason myself), hyphens generate about 50 times more database load than a simple number.  We're always looking for opportunities to make the site faster.  It's been really zippy in recent months, even though we're achieving record traffic each month. Kudos to our engineering team!

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2012 - Censorship update items.  1.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted an action letter at their web site.  Multiple new organizations have signed on in support of EFF's call on PayPal to prevent the censorship of ebooks, including the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, Feminists for Free Expression, ACLU of Northern California, Internet Archive and several others.  All that's missing is your name.  CLICK HERE to read the letter and send it to PayPal and encourage your friends to do the same.  2.  Major media began picking up on the story today, starting with a story from Publishers Weekly and followed soon after by ReutersDow Jones/Wall Street Journal and CNET.  3.  Smashwords author LC Cooper complied some interesting research that analyzes some of the "objectionable" content on eBay, PayPal's parent.  View it here.

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

March 4, 2012 - Tidbits.  1.  Randolph Lalonde is profiled at the Smashwords blog today.  He's got the #1 bestseller in the Smashwords store with The Expendable Few, the latest in his super-popular Spinward Fringe series of sci-fi soap opera novels.  2.  Good story in the Sunday issue of The Independent, a large U.K. newspaper.  Two Smashwords authors are quoted - Andrea Juillerat-Olvera and Vella Munn.  3.  Read an Ebook Week kicked off today. 10 hours in, we're seeing some great sales volume.  Might be an all-time record sales day.  There was a glitch in the catalog page that was causing it to not correctly display the books by discount categories.  Investigating and will fix.  The coupons appear correctly on your book pages.  Now fixed.  When you promote your participating books, link directly to either your author page or your books page so readers aren't distracted by all the other great participating books.  4. The Atlantic has a story titled, Digital Self Publishing: Should Publishers be Worried.  I commented.  If you'd like to share your own experience, chime in.  Be polite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 7, 2012 - (UPDATE: This is no longer available) Widgets, buttons!  An independent software developer has created some cool widgets for use by Smashwords authors.  These widgets make it easier for you promote your Smashowords books and author page on your personal blog or web site.  Some of the widgets contain affiliate links so the developer can earn an affiliate commission.  I think this is *really cool.*  I like the idea that independent developers might create useful tools for the Smashwords community, and in return they can earn a small cut (The affiliate earns 11% net, the author earns 70.5% net).  If you're a software developer, you might consider the same, either with or without the affiliate links.  If you're a Smashwords author or publisher, give the widgets and test spin and provide the developer your feedback.  

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