2013 Smashwords Site Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    *Depiction (photo or drawing) of a child in a sexual situation, even without contact
    *Photographs of penetrative sex, oral/genital contact, or genitals.
    *Textual encouragement to commit a crime (e.g. books supporting, encouraging or defending rape, pedophilia, incest, or bestiality or books detailing how to commit a sexual crime).
    *Photographic content intended for the sole purpose of sexual arousal.
    *Excessively objectionable or crude content.
The Smashwords ToS covers most of this.  Under "Excessively objectionable or crude content," they usually block incest and pseudo-incest.  If you're publishing I or PI,  don't expect a listing at Apple. 
Smashwords titles usually appear at Apple within a week, but usually much faster.  If you've been waiting over 10 days for your book to appear at Apple, please contact the Smashwords support team at the "?" question mark button so they can investigate why your book isn't appearing.
January 8, 2013 - Today we sent out an author/publisher update to all Smashwords authors, publishers and literary agents.  If you haven't received it yet, you'll find an archived version here in the Press Room. I shared early sales numbers from the retailers that have shared data with us.  Apple, as expected, had a strong post-holiday surge in sales.  B&N was also strong.  For the ~200 titles we distribute to Amazon, sales were flat and steady with little to no discernable sales bump.  This is a BIG surprise.  The scuttlebutt over at Kindleboards seems to also indicate a mostly disappointing holiday season for Amazon.  It'll be interesting to see if any large publishers comment on their retailer-by-retailer results, and until then, I'd consider our experience and the experience of the Kindleboarders as annecdotal only.  Kobo and others haven't reported yet.
January 6, 2013 - Amid the year-end scramble to complete the launch of Smashwords Direct, we also delivered our first Library Direct order.  As you'll recall, Library Direct allows public libraries that operate their own ebook checkout systems to purchase large opening collections directly from Smashwords.  The amazing Peter Brantley covered the story today for Publishers Weekly, and moments ago the also amazing Tim O'Reilly tweeted the story to his 1.6 million followers.  It's some incredible publicity for progressive-thinking library-friendly Smashwords authors and publishers that money can't buy.  We should have more cool Library Direct news in the next couple months.