2014 Smashwords Site Updates

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

December 31, 2014 - Items (updated):  1.  I published the annual Smashwords Year-in-Review post today, along with hints at what's coming in 2015.  2.  I published my annual predictions over at the blog.  Twelve prognostications.  Most are fairly straightforward and represent continuations of current trends.  One of the most interesting in my opinion is the prospect for traditional publishers to start competing more directly against indie ebooks.  Up until recently, traditional publishers essentially handed the sub-$5.00 ebook market to indies on a silver platter.  Traditional publishers rarely offered free ebooks.  As traditional publishers drop prices and get more aggressive on promotions, indies will face increased competition.  Please feel free to add your own predictions in the comments at the blog. What big trends are you seeing?

December 22, 2014 - Items.  1.  I wrote a post over at the blog that examines the impact Kindle Unlimited is having on the market for ebooks. Throw a rock anywhere on the Internet and you're likely to hit an indie author blogging about how Kindle Unlimited harmed their sales since July.  The crux:  it's stripping pricing control and margin from indie authors, and is having widespread ramifications even for authors who've never gone exclusive at Amazon. The good news: This monster was created by indie authors, and indie authors have the power to fix it.  The bad news:  Can enough indie authors avoid the siren song of exclusivity?  I'm not so confident on this front, given Amazon's enormous success at luring authors into KDP Select.   2.  Nearly 60 Smashwords authors are featured in a massive multi-week, multi-genre free series starter promotion that kicked off this week at iBooks. Thank you iBooks for your awesome support of Smashwords authors this year, and thank you Smashwords authors for entrusting your distribution to Smashwords!  3. Our hosting provider experienced glitches starting last night that oddly made it difficult for users of Verizon internet and possibly other Internet Service Providers to access the site.  It appears to be cleared up now.

December 18, 2014 - A couple updates have been made (included a fix to a fix) to repair the page for the Sales and Payments report summary page.  Please report any anomalies to our service team as we work out the kinks.  Thanks!

December 17, 2014 - If you've had over 1,000 sales or free downloads in 2014, you'll see your Sales & Payments report page is incorrectly summarizing your sales for the year.  If you've had over 1,000 sales this year, and you noticed your accrued earnings are less today than they were a week ago, this is the cause.  We accidentally introduced the glitch as we worked to make this reporting page load faster. Since it's only an error for the summary page, no actual accrued earnings have been harmed or affected.  Our engineering team is now testing a fix they'll deploy in the next several days.  We apologize for any confusion this has caused and are working to fix the summary page asap.

December 12, 2014 - Each year during the Christmas holiday, iBooks goes into lockdown mode where new titles can't be reviewed or loaded in their store, and new metadata updates like price changes will not go through.  This blackout period starts December 22 and runs through December 29.  However, for new releases the blackout starts earlier because iBooks will stop reviewing new titles after next Thursday, December 18.  If you were planning to upload  a new book or preorder between December 17 and December 29, please upload it this coming Monday or Tuesday if possible.  Although Smashwords will continue reviewing and shipping books up until the last minute, and we know our friends at Apple will do everything possible to load titles as quickly as possible before the lockdown, deliveries from Wednesday onward get extra risky because if Apple tickets your book for a simple problem (tickets appear automatically in your Dashboard), you may not have time to fix and redeliver the book before they go on vacation.  There's also always a risk that Apple faces backlogs before they go on vacation so late deliveries may not be reviewed in time by Apple.  This also means that more than ever, over the next few days closely monitor your Dashboard for Apple tickets if you have recently delivered new titles.  If you're planning to deliver a final preorder file to us, please do so no later than Wednesday the 17th, but to be safe deliver earlier.  If there are any updates to schedules, I'll report them here.  If you need any help, please don't hesitate to contact our support team by clicking the "support" link below.  Have a great holiday!

December 8, 2014 - Good news for authors who like the "Reader Sets the Price" pricing option.  As you know, this option is available at the Smashwords store but not supported by retailers.  It allows customers to pay what they want for the book, whether that price is FREE or anything above 99 cents.  Ever since late 2010 when we negotiated our Agency pricing agreement with Barnes & Noble (gave our authors the ability to set the retail price, and also increased the royalty rate from 42.5% to 60%), B&N hasn't allowed Smashwords books priced with the "Reader Sets the Price" option.  For those of you who use this option, you know that all the other retailers take the book at a default price of $4.95 unless you configure an alternate default price from your Settings menu.  The blockage could cause confusion, however.  For example, if your book was conventionally priced at $2.99 at Smashwords and already distributed to B&N, if you later changed the price at Smashwords to "Reader Sets the Price," it triggered an automatic removal of your book from B&N.  Effective this week, B&N will start taking these books just like all the other retailers.  It means hundreds of Premium Catalog-approved books that that use the RSP option and are opted in to B&N will soon flow to B&N.  Ever since 2010, we've encouraged authors not to use the RSP option for the very reason that B&N distribution wasn't available.  Now that this restriction has been removed (thank you B&N friends!), more authors are free to use this unconventional pricing option.  It makes your book affordable to any reader at the Smashwords store while enabling payments on the honor system AND enables traditional distribution to the retailers where most sales occur. Although Reader Sets the Price not a price option I personally favor for my books, I'm glad our authors who want this capability can now use it without disadvantage.

December 6, 2014 - Congrats to the authors who made our monthly Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list for the month of October.  The Smashwords bestsellers for October are up at the Publishers Weekly website now.  The list also usually appears in the print edition, offering great industry-wide exposure for our authors.  It's one of the many benefits for bestsellers to distribute with Smashwords.  Congratulations this month to 17 women who grabbed the top 25 spots.  Please join me in congratulating (in first name alpha-sort order),  Addison Moore, Brenda Kennedy, Chanda Hahn, GJ Walker-Smith, Jamie McGuire, JD Nixon, Jessica Sorensen, Kendall Ryan, Kristen Ashley, Lauren Blakely, Lili Saint Germain, Natasha Preston, Nelle L'Amour, Nicky Charles, R.L. Mathewson, Robyn  Peterman and Roxy Sloane.  All Smashwords authors are eligible to make the list.  Selection is based on aggregate sales across the Smashwords distribution network during the calendar month in question, with sales at Apple iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords store, Scribd and Oyster carrying the most weight since these are our largest channels, in this order.  Preorders help authors make the list because all accumulated orders credit toward earnings rank in the month your book goes onsale.

December 2, 2014 - (updated) On January 1, new VAT (Value Added Tax) rules go into effect in the European Union.  In the past, retailers were able to locate their European headquarters in Luxembourg, and the VAT imposed on ebooks was based on the VAT rate for the country in which the retailer was based.  In Luxembourg, the VAT was only 3%, a rate that was practically negligible.  Effective with the new EU rules that start January 1, VAT is charged based on the customer's geographic location.  This means that effective January 1, myriad tax rates will be applied to your ebooks when sold at Smashwords retailers such as Apple iBooks, B&N, Txtr and Kobo.  What Smashwords authors need to do to prepare:  At present, nothing.  Smashwords has always distributed books through our global retailers at a VAT-inclusive price.  This means that VAT for European sales was deducted from the sales price, and only then did the retailer take their cut before sending the remaining proceeds to Smashwords.  With the new VAT rules, the VAT tax will range from 15% to 25%.  The average across all the countries is 20%.  The UK, a large market for ebooks, is 20%, even though the VAT rate for printed books is 0% (yes, ZERO).  As one Smashwords retailer told me recently, "we're all getting hit with the same stick."  It's a painful stick.  Authors and publishers are left with a difficult decision.  Raise prices on consumers to make up for the tax bite, or eat the higher taxes to preserve low prices?  The VAT change comes at a time when, as I wrote recently in a post at the Smashwords blog, the ebook market is facing slower growth and many indies are facing increased competition and lower sales.  And here's something I haven't heard anyone talk about:  This VAT change also comes at a time when the US dollar is reaching multi-year highs in the currency markets.  Since Smashwords books are originally priced in dollars before we calculate currency conversion rates, it means that dollar-denominated books have already been getting more expensive to European customers since their Pounds and Euros don't stretch as far as they once did.  If you're contemplating holding the line on your prices, you can take some solace that the strong dollar will mitigate some of your pain.  Long term, however, indies will be forced to make that difficult decision:  eat it or pass it on to reader?  We're not contemplating any immediate changes at the Smashwords retail store, though we're investigating options and obligations.  For the time being at least, your highest margins will be at the Smashwords store.

November 19, 2014 - The growth of the ebook market has slowed over the last 12-18 months.  I'm seeing it across all retailers with the exception of Scribd and Oyster which are turning in good numbers and an upward trajectory.  Over at the Smashwords blog I have a new posted titled, Things Get More Difficult from Here - Here's How to Succeed.  Although all authors and publishers will face new challenges, there's still never been a better time for indies to publish.  I share my analysis and guidance to help you keep your eye on the prize.

November 14, 2014 - Items.  1.  If you live in NY, NJ or CT, tomorrow (Saturday Nov 15) I'm the keynote speaker at Self Publishing Book Expo at the Roosevelt Hotel.  The theme is "10 Trends and Contemporary Events Shaping the Future of Publishing."  I've done this keynote theme only a few times and it's different each time because this industry changes every day.  And speaking of big news, my second item of the day ....    2.  Amazon and Hachette yesterday announced they reached an agreement in their multi-month contract dispute.  Great news.   As I've discussed previously, at the heart of their dispute was the question of Agency pricing for ebooks.  Hachette wanted to preserve the Agency pricing model which gives publishers the ability to set pricing and receive 70% list.  Amazon is opposed to Agency and, according to press reports, wanted to pay Hachette a lower margin so that Amazon could discount the books and offer customes lower prices.  As most Smashwords authors know, I'm a big supporter of Agency pricing.  Back in 2012 I blogged how Agency pricing enables lower prices for consumers while allowing authors to earn more.  All Smashwords authors benefit from the Agency terms we've negotated with all our retailers.  Agency puts the author/publisher in control, gives you the freedom to determine the timing and amount of your price promotions, and earns authors a much higher percentage of the list price (60% of list for Smashwords authors/publishers).  By all accounts, Hachette prevailed and preserved Agency.  This element  of the resolution is a win for indie authors.  If Amazon had succeeded in their attempt to destroy Agency, it would have put Agency in jeopardy for all publishers and authors as I blogged all the back in May.  It appears Amazon managed to eke out at least one concession from Hachette in that the agreement incentivizes Hachette to price lower.  It's unknown (to me, at least) if that incentive comes in the form of lower rates if they price higher than $10.00, or greater merchandising promotion if they price lower.  I'm glad the battle is over.  I think the scars of the battle will linger on for some time because it brought out a lot of ugliness, emotion and partisanship in some quarters of the pro-Amazon indie author community.  I talked a bit about this in Part Two of my interview over at the NINC blog last month, in which I said, "... sideshow actors have hijacked the [Amazon/Hachette] debate by fomenting a rage-fest against large publishers, against the media, against fellow authors, and against anyone viewed as a critic of Amazon or a critic of their rage-fest.  It has created a polarization within the indie community where any author or group of authors – notably Authors United – that questions Amazon’s business practices is bullied and shouted down."   I hope we never see this kind of nastiness again.  It created a stain on the indie author movement.  Although it appears Hachette mostly prevailed, there were no winners here.  It bloodied both Amazon and Hachette.

November 6, 2014 - Amazon profiting from the confusion surrounding Amazon KDP Select.  I spend a lot of time each year meeting with writers at conferences and writing club meetings.  I wouldn't be exaggerating to tell you that at nearly every conference, writers come up to me and ask the question, "how do I choose between Amazon and Smashwords?"  Underlying that question is a common misconception that Amazon requires exclusivity.  Although most Smashwords authors and veteran indies understand that KDP Select is optional (and fraught with potentially negative consequences as I warned back in 2011), this isn't the case among the thousands of new authors just getting started each year.  Among newbies, confusion reigns supreme as these newly fledged indies stuggle to learn the ropes of the publishing industry.  Mind you, these newbies aren't stupid, they're just new.  Think back to when you were first getting started.  Everything can feel bewildering at first.  Every single one of us came from a background and industry other than publishing, and then the moment we decide to write a book we discover we need to learn the language and peculiar customs of the publishing industry.  Newbie authors are vulnerable to exploitation as the vanity publishing sock puppets of Author Solutions remind us all too well.  I'd argue that the confusion around KDP Select is deliberately tolerated, encouraged and perpetuated by Amazon, and I base the opinion on the number of authors I meet who felt they enrolled by accident and then felt trapped.  No doubt, Amazon is 100% transparent and forthcoming in their instructions.  That point is not in dispute.  People who felt mislead didn't take the time to read the fine print so shame on them.  But who enjoys feeling trapped by fine print?  How often does anyone really read the fine print?  IBPA (International Book Publishers Assoc.) asked me to contribute a blog post on the topic of optional exclusivity at Amazon.  If you feel it would be helpful to a friend just getting started, please share.  The post is titled, surprise surprise,  Exclusivity is Actually Optional at Amazon

November 1, 2014 - San Francisco Bay Area Authors - Save the date!  -  Next Saturday November 8, I'm speaking at BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn) in Novato (Drive time from San Francisco, 35 min, from Sacramento or San Jose, 1 hr 20 min).  There are two separate sessions and each requires registration.  Advance registration is recommended in case the event sells out.  The first 1 hour session starts at 11am and will examine ten trends and contemporary events shaping the future of publishing and then shares about a dozen steps indie authors can take to maximize success in the environment to come.  The second session runs from 1 pm - 4:15pm and is an intensive afternoon workshop composed of three one-hour segments:  1.  Introduction to Ebook Publishing (a primer for new indies, and a good refresher for veteran indies).  2.  Ebook Publishing Best Practices (one of my most popular presentations because I'm always updating it with new tips and tricks to sell more books).  3.  How to Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Ebook Preorders (In the last few days alone, multiple Smashwords authors hit the top of the charts with the assistance of ebook preorders.  If you've got a new release coming out in the next nine months, this session alone will be worth the price of attendance).   Everyone is invited so bring a friend!  If you're not a member of BAIPA, the morning talk is $15.00 and the afternoon workshop is $40 (or $55 for both).  Links to register for both are at http://baipa.org/ (or here:  10 Trends -- and --  3-Hour Ebook Intensive).

October 24, 2014 - Tip of the day:  Smashwords recently updated the categorization for Fiction: Drama because many authors were mistakenly selecting this category thinking it was for dramatic fiction, when in fact this category mapped to screenplays.  If you previously selected this categorization for your novel, please click to Dashboard: Settings and choose the correct categorization.  We have clarified the labeling in the category selector to make it clear that this is a screenplay category.  Second tip of the day:  Always select the most micro-targeted category you can, because this puts your book on the most targeted virtual shelf.  For example, fiction: romance: general is a poor choice of categorization if your novel is actually a romantic thriller.  The more targeted categorization of fiction: romance: thriller will get you on the romantic thriller shelf (assuming the retailer has such a shelf) and the general shelf (two shelves for the price of one!) while making it easier for fans of romantic thrillers (or whatever category best describes the preference of your target reader) to discover your book.

October 13, 2014 - It's quarterly payment time!  October is a payment month.  Payments will go out at the end of the month. Have you moved?  Do you need to update your payment settings?  As a reminder, it's always smart to check your Payee Settings before the 15th of each payment month to make sure that your PayPal address or postal mailing address (for paper checks for US authors/publishers) are correct.  Every quarter, a small number of authors miss payments because their payee information is not correct.  We want to pay you!  You'll find Payment Settings under the Account tab.  Changes made to your Payee Settings after October 15 won't be received in time for this payment processing period.  Click here to access your Payment Settings.  For new Smashwords authors and publishers (or for long-time authors and publishers who want a refresher), click here to learn how payments work.

October 8, 2014 - Yay!  Smashwords was the #1 producer of ebooks in the latest Bowker survey based on 2013 data.  Access the PDF of the report here.  The Bowker report is one of the most comprehensive reports out there, but it's still not 100% complete because some producers don't report numbers to Bowker.  It paints a picture of continued but moderating growth in self publishing.  Congrats Smashwords authors and publishers!

September 24, 2014.  "Smashwords Edition" - Over the last few years, a small but vocal minority of authors and publishers objected to placing phrases such as "Smashwords Edition," "Distributed by Smashwords," or "Published by [Author or Publisher Name] at Smashwords" in their front matter.  For authors who wrote us and objected, we allowed their books to be distributed because we've always considered this more of a recommendation than a firm requirement.  However, AutoVetter (our automated format-checking technology) continued to flag for it, and this would slow down distribution and cause author frustration. We're here to put smiles on our authors' faces, not frowns so we decided to change things a bit.  A few weeks back we modified AutoVetter to stop flagging for it so these books could pass through our Premium Catalog approval process faster with less friction.  Today we updated the Style Guide to clarify that it's recommended but not required to include one of the above text strings.  Since we've always considered this as strongly recommended but not required, we wanted to clarify its optionality rather than allow it to remain a source of divisiveness among those who prefer not to include such phrases.  Why do we recommend the inclusion of one of the above text strings?  A couple reasons:  1.  It helps retailers and authors know who created and distributed the file, which helps Smashwords be the single throat to choke if a customer ever reports a problem with a file.  I've lost track of the number of times and the many many hours wasted by our support and engineering teams over the last few years as we tried to help customers determine why their ebook file wasn't working only to discover that the faulty file wasn't a Smashwords file.  2.  A book doesn't get distributed by Smashwords unless it meets the requirements of the Smashwords Style Guide.  Although we can't vouch for the quality of writing, we can vouch for the quality of the formatting.  We don't distribute a book unless the formatting is high-quality.  Our formatting requirements are stricter than many retailers and distributors, and as a result we think the average Smashwords-delivered book offers the reader better formatting quality than the average other book. And considering our books - many of which are NY Times and USA Today bestsellers - have brought reading pleasure to tens of millions of readers over the last six years, we think our name sends a positive message to the reader.  I'd never presume that the Smashwords name alone motivates readers to read, but on a certain level we think it's a net positive and gives the book a slight advantage.  Retailers have always appreciated our extremely low failure rates for books, and much of this is a result of Meatgrinder combined with the Style Guide which promotes good practices for formatting.    So to be clear, it's completely optional.  You're the publisher and you decide.  Now back to business.

September 19, 2014.  Two iBooks items.  1.  Congrats to 200+ Smashwords authors participating in 40 box sets that were selected by Apple for major merchandising love in a worldwide "Book Bundle" promotion that kicked off yesterday afternoon.  It's a multi-week promotion, and the timing couldn't be better considering the launch two days ago of iOS8 and the release today of Apple's new iPhone 6 family.  How the titles were selected:  I invited a large number of our bestselling authors to serve as "anchor authors" to compile fiction box sets for this promotion. I encouraged them to partner with their favorite indie authors to create themed box sets.  Smashwords authors created 40 box sets, and I pitched them to iBooks for consideration.  iBooks accepted every box set, a testament to the quality of the authors and their cover art.  Thank you Apple, and thank you Smashwords authors for participating!   You'll find a summary of all the participating box sets and authors over at the Smashwords blog.   You can view the iBooks book bundle promotion here (launches iBooks and/or iTunes store).  You don't need to be part of this promotion to benefit from box sets.  Organize your own!  Check out my blog post from last month titled, How to Do Box Sets at Smashwords for Audience Building, Charity and Profit.    2.  Wow iBooks!  The surge in unit downloads at iBooks continues following Apple's release of iOS8.  Using Tuesday's unit downloads as a baseline, Wednesday's unit downloads as I shared yesterday were up 84%.  Thursday's unit downloads are up 183% from Tuesday.  This is the aggregate average across all Smashwords titles at iBooks.  The surge in downloads these last two days have been almost entirely contained to free books, though we did see a slight uptick in dollar sales at iBooks yesterday but not enough to credit to iOS8.  It wouldn't be an exaggeration for me to state that Smashwords authors are on track to reach millions of new readers in the next two or three weeks.

September 18, 2014 - One day does not make a trend, BUT...  Yesterday was the first day that Apple began rolling out their new iOS8 operating system.  As mentioned below, it's the first time they've preoloaded the iBooks app onto the home screens of every user.  Looking at the sales and download results from yesterday, I see much cause for optimism.  Overall downloads for our authors increased 84% on Wednesday compared to Tuesday.  That's pretty incredible when you consider we're supplying over 250,000 books.  The downloads are concentrated among free books because we did not see a corresponding increase in dollar sales.  However, our most-downloaded free titles are series starters, so I expect an echo effect in the weeks ahead as some of these new readers go on to purchase the priced books from these authors.  I'll share more results in the days and weeks ahead.  Authors who followed my advice below from September 14 were rewarded.  Now's the time to go balls to the wall with free at iBooks.  I'll also be sharing some fun Apple merchandising news later today or tomorrow that affects over 200 Smashwords authors.  Congrats everyone!

September 16, 2014 - The Smashwords site will go offline for system maintenance for approximately five or ten minutes tonight at around midnight Pacific.  Thanks!

September 14, 2014 - iBooks and iOS8.  Apple's launch of their new iOS8 operating system is scheduled for September 17.  Apple revealed the date during their September 12 news conference.    As I blogged on June 3, I think iOS8 is a big deal because for the first time the iBooks app will come preinstalled on all new Apple devices, and preinstalled for everyone who upgrades to the new iOS.  Ebook sales have been relatively anemic across all ebook retailers (with the exception of Scribd and Oyster, which are growing quickly) for most of the last 12-18 months, so the launch of iOS8 should provide iBooks an incremental boost.  There's no way to know how large the boost will be.  I liken the preinstalled iBooks app to having a bookstore open across the street from every Apple customer's home.  At present, only a fraction of Apple device owners have installed the iBooks app.  It puts the store that much closer to all Apple customers, which makes them that much more likely to wander into the store.  The store will be one click away for nearly 1 billion users (keep in mind, however, that not everyone will upgrade to iOS8 all at once, so the adoption cycle is likely to be a multi-month process).  What can you do to prepare?  Now and in the next couple months leading up to the all-important post-Christmas holiday period would be a good time to run some free promotions to rev up your readership and sales rank at iBooks to capture new readers who will be discovering the iBooks store for the first time.  Make sure the backmatter of all your books is updated as I recommended in my blog post, How to Add Navigation to Your Smashwords Ebook.  If you've got new releases scheduled for the next few months, get them up on preorder now.  That will give you an advantage as well.  If you write series and have never experimented with free series starters, now would be a great time to do so.

September 10, 2014 - Items:  1.  Unexpected but welcome surprise.  A small number of Smashwords authors may notice a slight bump in their previously reported Oyster sales, possibly going back as far as November.  In the last couple days Oyster issued us an updated sales report and are mailing us a supplemental payment which we'll disburse in the next regular payment round at the end of next month.  Thanks to our Oyster friends for making this correction.  Oyster's sales have been growing steadily since we launched with them.  At a time when most conventional retail ebook sales are anemic across the board, Oyster and Scribd have grown quickly over the last six months.  I was part of a webinar in Germany earlier this morning and shared a chart of their growth.  I'm looking forward to receiving the August sales reports in the next two weeks from these two, after which I might do a blog post to share the results.  2.  iBooks reminder:  Most non-erotic Smashwords books and updates appear at iBooks within an hour or two of us shipping to iBooks (you can monitor shipments in your Channel Manager).  If the book doesn't appear, it usually means that Apple's QA department has flagged your book with a ticket.  The most common ticket we're seein is for "Competitive Links." As we mention in the Smashwords Style Guide, your Smashwords ebook should not contain hyperlinks or written references that encourage readers to purchase or review your book at specific retailers.  It's not fair to Barnes & Noble or its customers, for example, for the backmatter of the book to encourage the reader to review the book at Amazon, or purchase the next book at Amazon.  During our Premium Catalog reviews, we've always flagged for such competitive references.  We've observed lately that Apple iBooks has enhanced its automated scanning to detect such references.  If they discover such references, they remove the book from sale and you'll see a ticket appear in your Dashboard.  If your previously listed book at iBooks disappears, check your Smashwords Dashboard and look for a ticket.  It's very important to repair the ticket because if the ticket goes unresolved, it can lead to iBooks blocking future updates of your book from review and sale.  Learn more tips for ensuring rapid and reliable listings at iBooks by clicking to http://smashwords.com/tickets. If you need help, don't hesitate to contact the Smashwords Support team by clicking the "support" link at the bottom of any page.

August 21, 2014 - Inc. Magazine named Smashwords to its list of America's fastest growing private companies.  We landed at #122 within their coveted Inc 5000 list.  We were #1 among media companies.  All the credit goes to Smashwords authors and publishers.  Thank you!  I wrote a long post over at the Smashwords Blog, where I also share the 20 principles by which I manage the business.

August 9, 2014 - Amazon sent out a baffling email today to all KDP authors urging them to email the CEO of Hachette.  It feels like Amazon has gone off the reservation with this, and from early reaction in the blogosphere, I think the move may end up backfiring.  I've tweeted a few reactions at http://twitter.com/markcoker Amazon and Hachette are in a business dispute.  According to press accounts, at the heart of the dispute is ebook pricing.  Hachette want's full agency pricing for their ebooks, the same great pricing system that all Smashwords authors enjoy.  Under agency, the author/publisher sets the price, and the retailer earns a fixed 30% commission with other 70% list going to the author/publisher/distributor.  Amazon accuses Hachette of wanting to raise prices.  I find that accusation disingenuous.  How does Amazon know what Hachette's long term goal is?  With agency, Hachette will have greater flexiibility to lower prices, just as Smashwords authors have done.  Amazon supposedly wants to move publishers to the traditional wholesale model for ebooks, where the retailer pays the publisher around 50% list and the retailer prices as they see fit.  My view is that the wholesale model simply shifts profits that belong with the author/publisher to the retailer.  Just because a retailer has wholesale pricing is no guarantee they'll discount the book.  In fact, wholesale shifts the power of choice - and the ability for the author to control their price promotions when they want - from the author/publisher to the retailer.  For this reason, I hope Hachette prevails in their dispute. Every time I share this opinion, I'm accused by Amazon partisans of being an Amazon hater, or of wanting higher prices.  Poppycock. I'm not an Amazon hater.  So please everyone, think for yourselves.  If you're upset with Hachette, by all means write them.  But if you're upset with Jeff Bezos, write him too.  Tell him you think Amazon's draconian price matching stinks to high heaven.  Tell him you think it sucks that authors who *don't* enroll in KDP Select are disadvantaged in the Kindle store, and you can't take advantage of Kindle Unlimited without agreeing to go exclusive. But wait, don't write him because I suggested it.  This is only my opinion.  Do what you think is best for you.  You're the boss.


August 3, 2014  -  Jim Azevedo, our very own marketing director, will be in Australia and New Zealand for the next couple weeks.   Here's his schedule as it stands now:

Sydney August 7-10 - Jim is attending and speaking at the Romance Writers of Australia conference. 

Sydney August 10-11:  OPEN, HELP US SCHEDULE AN EVENT!!!: The evening of Sunday August 10 or anytime Monday August 11, we'd like to arrange a free meetup and/or workshop in Sydney. We're looking for volunteers who could help orchestrate such an event, possibly at a local library or other venue.  Jim could present one, two or three presentations on topics such as 10 Trends Driving the Future of AuthorshipAn Introduction to Ebook PublishingEbook Publishing Best Practices, or Ten Trends Driving the Future of Publishing.  Email me at mc at smashwords dot com if you can help and I'll connect you with Jim (I'm staying here in California).

August 13, Palmerston North, New Zealand - Jim is presenting a two-hour workshop titled, How to E-Publishing Like a Professional at the Palmerston North City Library starting at 7pm.

August 14-17, Auckland, NZ - Jim is attending and speaking at the Romance Writers of Australia conference. 

August 18, Nelson, NZ - Jim is doing a 60-minute talk followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and plenty of time to chat. This event is scheduled for 5:30-7:30pm at The Hearing House, 354 Trafalgar Square.

August 19, Nelson, NZ - Jim is doing a shorter, roundtable style talk during lunch where he promises to answer all your questions. This event is scheduled 10:30am-12:30pm and will be held at The Function Room, Prince Albert Hotel, 113 Nile Street.

August 19, Christchurch, NZ - Jim is speaking at 6:30pm at the Learning Centre’s Sydenham Room, City South Library, Colombo St. Doors open at 6:10. Jim's presentation will last an hour with plenty of time for Q&A.

August 21, Oamaru, NZ - Jim is speaking at 6pm (details on venue coming soon).

August 22, Dunedin, NZ - Dunedin Writers Group and Otago/Southland Branch of New Zealand Society of Authors are hosting Jim for a talk beginning at 7pm. The meeting will take place at Blind Foundation Hall, 458 Hillside Rd South Dunedin.


August 2, 2014 - As a follow-up to my July 28 note below, today I published a post at the Smashwords blog titled, How to do a Box Set at Smashwords for Audience-Building, Charity and Profit.  Check it out and start colloborating today with your fellow indies!  We also updated the Smashwords FAQ with notes on box set sets and how to get multiple authors credited in the metadata.

July 28, 2014 - Box sets: Back in December in my 2014 annual book publishing predictions, I predicted we'd see a lot more multi-author box sets in 2014, and we certainly have.  Box sets, especially when combined with a preorder, are a great way for multiple authors to combine marketing and promotion efforts with great effect.  Several Smashwords authors have already hit nationwide bestseller lists this year with their collaborations.  With a box set, the ebook's navigation is of paramount importance because you want to make it easy for readers to click to the start of each book, or click to learn more about each participating author.  With this in mind, today I added some box set navigation tips in a special section of my 2013 blog post, How to Add Navigation to a Smashwords Ebook.  As you may recall, there's also an accompanying YouTube video that shows you how to add navigation to a Smashwords ebook (Some writers mistakenly believe that linked Table of Contents only make sense for Non Fiction. If you write fiction, your readers will appreciate a great linked Table of Contents and NCX featuring sections such as "About Jane Smith," "Other books by Jane Smith," and "Connect with Jane Smith").  Even if you're not planning a box set, check out the blog post and accompanying video for a quick refresher course on how to offer your readers enhanced navigation.

July 24, 2014 - Starting today, we're limiting the number of tags to ten to reduce the incidence of tag spam.  Tag spam harms other authors by making their tags less relevant and less discoverable.  Tag spam is also not appreciated by Google's search engine which could potentially reduce a page's or web site's search ranking if it suspects the page contains spam meant to subvert search algorithms.  Tags are meant to aid supplemental discovery.  Please choose tag words that go above and beyond your book's categorization, and that tell your prospective reader something special about the book.  We apologize if the new limit causes inconvenience for any authors but we're confident the the change will result in more accurate keyword targeting for the benefit of readers, authors and search engines alike.

July 18, 2014 - Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited today, their answer to ebook subscription services Scribd and Oyster.  At first I thought it was good news, until I read the fine print.  It requires KDP Select exclusivity, which means the author would need to pull their books from all retailers.  Exclusivity is good for Amazon but not good for authors and the future of books.  More thoughts at the Smashwords blog.

July 16, 2014 - Tip of the day:  Did you know that most authors aren't taking full opportunity to add backmatter sections at the end of their book?  The moment the reader reads the last sentence of your book, you have them in your hands.  They loved your writing and want to read more.  They want to learn more about you.  They want to connect with you.  Make it easy for them.  This is why you need backmatter.  Add at least these three sections at the end of every book, and then link the sections via your linked Table of Contents:  About Jane Smith (short short bio); Other books by Jane Smith (list all your other titles); Connect with Jane Smith (social media links so fans can connect with you.  Learn how to do this, and view my video at http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/11/how-to-add-navigation-to-smashwords.html

July 6, 2014 - I've published the results of the 2014 Smashwords Survey.  This year's survey is bigger and better than ever, and for the first time includes data on the performance of series and preorders.  Lots of useful findings.  More at the Smashwords blog.  Please share with your writer friends!  Thanks to Bill and the Smashwords engineering team for their hard work in assembling the data for my analysis.

July 3, 2014 - A server upgrade glitch at Smashwords introduced a bug that caused the discoloration of several thousand ebook covers at iBooks.  The glitch started late last week.  The source of the problem was identified last night and fixed today.  We're now reshipping the affected covers.  Many covers have already been repaired.  We expect the to fully complete the repair by tomorrow morning Pacific time if not much earlier.  Authors don't need to take any steps.  Thanks for your bug reports, and thanks to our friends at iBooks for assisting our investigation which helped isolate the problem at Smashwords!

June 30, 2014 - The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale kicks off tomorrow.  For the entire month of July, thousands of authors will offer special deals to readers.  You can enroll your books now at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos  Please tell friends!

June 29, 2014 - Greetings from the ALA 2014 (American Library Association) conference in Las Vegas.  We're meeting with librarians to promote indie authorship and our OverDrive buylists.  If you're at ALA, stop by our booth #1976 and say hello. If you know a librarian friend who's here, invite them to stop by too!  We love libriarians and enjoy hearing how we can help them.

June 13, 2014 - From the department of interesting insights.  Hachette has been in the news over the contentious contract negotiation they're having with Amazon.  I blogged about it the other week.  Hachette is the world's third largest trade book publisher, and the fourth largest in the US.  A couple weeks ago they held their annual investor meeting.  I've got a link to their investor presentation (click here, opens a PDF).  It's full of interesting insights about their business strategy, the competitive landscape, their transition to digital, their author strategy, their thinking and much more.  Since publishers are potential partners and competitors to every indie author, the presentation makes for a great read.

June 11, 2014 - You asked, we delivered.  Smashwords now offers daily sales reports and aggregated charts from iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and OverDrive.  We also now report accumulated preorders at iBooks!  You'll find the new charting feature in your Dashboard.  Learn more at the Smashwords Blog.  If you're uploading direct to iBooks, B&N or Kobo, consider consolidating your distribution via Smashwords to get the full benefit of these new charts and their analytic capabilities.  Spend more time writing and less time fussing with managing multiple platforms.  When you distribute via Smashwords, you're also directly supporting our development of more new cool sales and merchandising features, all of which are designed to give you competitive advantage.  Thanks for your support, and thank you thank you for your feature requests which led to this new feature!

June 3, 2014 - An ebook retailing game-changer.  Apple yesterday unveilled their new iOS 8 operating system, which powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.  Buried in fine print on a presentation slide was a bombshell of an announcement that most people missed:  iOS 8 will come pre-loaded with the iBooks app.  This will put a bookstore in the hands and purses of nearly one billion Apple customers.  More at the Smashwords blog.

May 26, 2014 - You may have heard about the big conflaguration going on between Amazon and Hachette Book Group (the country's fourth largest publisher).  What at first looks like an isolated but tempestuous contract renegotation is actually the first shot heard around the world in what will become an ongoing battle by Amazon to dismantle its agency pricing agreements with the Big 5 publishers.  Regardless of how the negotiations proceed, the outcome will have significant implications for authors, publishers and retailers.  Over at the Smashwords Blog I tried to make sense of it all.  How would indies feels if Amazon moved KDP royalty rates from 70% to 50%? Or to 35%?  I imagine something closer to 50% is what Hachette is now trying to resist.  Since I'm not a fly on the wall (I'm reading press reports like everyone else), I can only speculate what's happening behind closed doors.  But between press reports (and some great insight over at Publishers Weekly), the pieces of the story start falling into place.  It's about agency pricing.  As you may know, I'm a big fan of agency pricing.  I think a return to wholesale pricing, where retailers can discount and compete on price, would cause more retailers to go out of business and force authors to become more dependent on Amazon.  Read my complete analysis along with four things indies can do to ensure independence at the Smashwords Blog.

May 22, 2014 - Scribd sales reporting.  We are very close to reporting Scribd sales for March and April in your Sales & Payments report.  We were a bit delayed reporting the sales because we needed to tweak the reporting format to accomodate Scribd's unique payment options.  Unlike any other outlet, as we shared when we announced the Scribd relationship in December, you have three different ways to earn income from Scribd.  1.  A reader purchases a single copy of your book, just like they would at any retailer.  You earn 60% of your list price.  2.  From their ebook subscription service, where most earnings orginate, you earn a full 60% list when the reader reads more than 30% of the book.  3.  The third option, which is quite innovative, pays the author for "browses."  A browse is when the reader reads past the first 10% but doesn't read beyond 30%.  For a "browse," you earn 1/10 of a full sale, or 6% of list.  Browses will appear in your sales report labeled as browse.  So, for example, if your book is priced at $9.99, a browse will earn you 1/10th of the 60% list price that you normally earn for a sale, or about $.60.  In other Scribd news, last week when I blogged how Scribd is running an exclusive promotion featuring 18 Smashwords authors, I shared some insight into Scribd's sales ramp.  I told you how their first full month (March) earned more than any other first month for a new Smashwords retailer, and I shared how April's sales were up 50%.  Well, I was slightly wrong.  April's final sales came in up 60%.  It's a great start.  We're seeing strong month over month growth with Oyster as well.  Each month their Smashwords sales have increased 40-50%.  Impressive.  Scribd is larger than Oyster, but both appear to be getting good traction in the market.  I'm eager to see where these two can grow over the next two to three years.  Right now, Smashwords titles account for over 50% of their catalogs.  As they add new publishers, competition will increase.  Smashwords authors who remained opted in right out of the gate will reap the most benefit because they're reaching new readership first.

May 20, 2014 - Smashwords is now distributing to OverDrive, the world's largest library ebook platform.  OverDrive serves over 20,000 public libraries around the world.  OverDrive is taking the entire Smashwords Premium Catalog EXCEPT erotica.  Learn more over at the Smashwords blog.  All Smashwords authors should have also received an email alert about OverDrive the evening of May 20.  If you didn't receive the alert, please make sure you're subscribed to receive them by clicking to Account: Communications Settings. 

May 19, 2014 - Smashwords has signed a distribution agreement with 'txtr, a global ebook retailing and e-reading platform based in Germany.  Learn more at the Smashwords blog.  I expect this will be a smaller retailer, but reach is the name of the game and every sale you get through smaller retailes is a sale you would not have otherwise received.

May 18, 2014 - Items.  1.  Many Smashwords authors have noticed over the last few weeks that our deliveries of new books, preorders and metadata updates to iBooks are now lightning-fast.  A few Smashwords authors have even seen their books appear for sale at iBooks the same day they upload to Smashwords (this is more likely to happen on Thursdays and Fridays when our vetting queue is the shortest).  Today at the Smashwords blog I reveal how these improvements came to be.  2. As I write this, I'm getting ready to check out of the hotel in New Orleans where I just wrapped up an incredible week of meeting dozens of Smashwords authors at Romance Slam Jam and RT Booklovers.  My head is still swimming.  There was a tremendous amount of excitement around Smashwords preorders, both during my preorder strategy workshop and in the hallways and elevators.  It's so much fun to meet Smashwords authors at these conferences and hear their stories. During another workshop, I revealed the preliminary results of our annual Smashwords Survey (I have so much interesting new data to share and will do so on the blog in the next few weeks).  For the third or fourth year in a row I sat on Sylvia Day's self publishing panel (she's amazing and the panel was great!).  In another session, Smashwords bestseller Kristen Ashley and I did a panel where Kristen explained her journey of becoming a six-time NY Times bestseller.  Wow, she's incredible.  So inspiring.  For 15 years she tried to find an agent and publisher, and for 15 years she got nothing but rejection.  Despite the rejection, she continued to write while holding down a full-time career as a top executive at a non-profit.  She eventually decided to quit her job to pursue her dream of publishing by self-publishing (I don't recommend you quit your day job, but then I don't recommend mortgaging your house to start a ebook publishing platform like I did - some of us get lucky!).  She has 23 novels completed when she made this decision (wow, she kept writing throughout all the rejection!).  She uploaded them over the course of five months to Smashwords and Amazon.  At first, sales were meager.  It didn't look good.  She kept at it.  She and her husband were literally eating ramen noodles to cut down on living expenses.   It was an amazing session and it's too bad it wasn't videotaped or recorded.  In a sense, hearing Kristen speak, and witnessing the admiration of her fans in the audience, brought everything full-circle for me.  I created Smashwords to give every writer a chance.  I knew there were writers in the world like Kristen who needed a Smashwords, so it's always great to hear such inspiring stories of success.  These stories are becoming more common as the indie author revolution takes root.  Yay!  I never tire of hearing about our authors' success, and as I've previously written elsewhere, success isn't just about sales and dollars.  There were a lot of bloggers in the audience so hopefully some of them will share their notes.  3.  This coming week is going to be a very big week, some of which we'll reveal this week and some we'll save for weeks ahead. Stay tuned to this channel!

May 12, 2014.  UPDATED  - Three new items at the Smashwords Blog from last night and today.  1.  This week at the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, 349 Smashwords romance authors will be promoted in 2,000 thumb drives included in the goodie bags of attendees.  Learn more here.  This is our way of saying THANK YOU for publishing and distributing with Smashwords!  3.  Scribd is making good headway removing unauthorized content from their site for the benefit of indie authors everywhere.  Learn how their new and improved BookID copyright protection system helps prevent unauthorized uploads at Scribd.  For the first time ever, I share removal numbers.  Learn more here.  3.  Eighteen Smashwords authors are featured in this exclusive Scribd merchandising promotion.  I also talk about the rapid sales ramp we're seeing at Scribd.  If you're not fully opted in to Scribd, you're missing out.  Although their sales are still smaller than Apple, B&N, Kobo and the Smashwords, they're off to the fastest start I've seen of any retailer in the last five years.  I'm excited to see where they can grow long term.  More at the Smashwords blog.

May 9, 2014.  Items:  1.  Big news for those of us who didn't realize this until today:  Barnes & Noble - like Apple and Kobo - credits your accumulated preorders all at once when you book goes onsale, causing your book to pop in the bestseller charts.  Bottom line, if you're not distributing your next release to B&N via Smashwords as a preorder, you're missing out.  More at the Smashwords blog.   2.  Here's something I did know but forgot to share here on Site Updates.  Earlier this week, 120 poetry students at Los Gatos High School published an amazing poetry anthology titled Windows to the Teenage Soul (learn more at the Smashwords Blog).  Not only is this a super-awesome poetry anthology, and not only did it hit #1 at Apple on launch day in the poetry category (yay), but the coolest thing about this book is that it contains a comprehensive Teacher's Guide in which we share how the class wrote, produced and published this professional ebook in under 5 weeks.  If you're a parent, educator or librarian, buy this book to learn how to incorporate ebook publishing into the class curriculum in your local community.  This project can be replicated at elementary schools, high schools and colleges.  Help inspire the next generation of indie authors!

April 23, 2014.  What does it mean to be an indie author?  Today, I published the INDIE AUTHOR MANIFESTO, my attempt to distill in 10 principles the belief system behind the indie author movement.  Hopefully it'll help others outside the movement appreciate what's driving this revolution.  At the Smashwords blog.

April 19, 2014.  Smashwords on the road in May.  Come say hello!  Here are some upcoming events for authors near Denver, New Orleans and New York City.  May 1-3AuthorU Extravaganza in Denver.  I'm giving a keynote and will spend a lot of time hanging out with attending authors.    May 10Romancing the Big Easy & Romance Slam Jam in New Orleans.  I'm giving a 1/2 day multi-part crash course in ebook self publishing on Saturday May 10.     May 13-18, RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans.  I'm participating in four sessions.  On May 14 at noon, I'm presenting the third annual results of our Smashwords Survey in a session titled, MONEY MONEY MONEY.  On May 15, I'm giving a session on preorder strategy.  On May 16 at 12:15 I'm on Sylvia Day's self publishing panel and at 1:30pm I'm doing a panel with Smashwords mega-bestseller, Kristen Ashley.  My complete RT schedule is listed here.  On May 29 in New York City, as part of the big BEA conference, I'm speaking at 9:30 on a metadata panel organized by our friends at Bowker.  I think Scribd and Chegg will join me on the panel.  At 2:25pm the same day at the BISG Making Information Pay sub-conference, I'm on a panel talking about subscription ebook services.  On May 31, I'm presenting two workshops at the wonderful uPublishU subconference of BEA.  The first talk is on strategies for successful ebook preorders, and the second talk is all about iBooks merchandising strategies.  Register for uPublishU before May 15 and save $100 off of the normal $215 rate.  Joining me at BEA and uPublishU will be Jim Azevedo, Smashwords' marketing director.  More about uPublishU at the Smashwords blog.

April 17, 2014. Great start at Scribd.  February 28, the last day of February, was the first day Smashwords titles appeared for sale at Scribd, and based on that first day's sales, I was cautiously optimistic. A few days ago we received the first full month's sales report from Scribd for the subscription side of the relationship and wow - what a great first month (we'll load these sales once we complete some report ingestion prep work).  Exciting start for such a new distribution relationship.  They're still much smaller than B&N or Kobo, but they've already trounced the combined loss of Sony and Diesel last month.  What I'm most eager to see is where they grow to in the next year or two.  At a time when most retailers are showing slowing growth, it's exciting to see this early traction among the subscription players.  Oyster, too, has shown a nice sales ramp every single month.  In case you missed them, I wrote a two-part blog series a few months back examining the subscription business model, and what it might mean for Smashwords authors.  Read the first installment here.  Like any new sales channel, authors who are at Scribd first will have an advantage over those who are late to the party, and an advantage over those who are taking a "wait and see" approach, or those who cannot distribute to Scribd because they have books stuck in KDP Select.  We saw the same thing happen with the first books we distributed to Apple, B&N and Kobo many years ago.  Every new retail partner represents its own unique micro-market.  Author platform building at every retailer is a multi-year endeavor.  Some new retailers blossom to become big future players (like Apple, B&N and Kobo), and others fail to gain significant traction (like Diesel or Sony).  I think Scribd is in the former category.

April 10, 2014 update on Heartbleed Bug mentioned earlier today.  Starting at approximately midnight Pacific tonight, all registered users of Smashwords will be logged out of their accounts and asked to log back in again.  We also recommend you update your password at that time.   As they advise in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, DON'T PANIC.  To date, experts in the computer security community believe there's scant evidence cybercriminals have exploited the Heartbleed Bug vulnerability anywhere, and we believe the same holds true for Smashwords.  Consider this a routine fire drill intended to provide an added layer of protection.  For the most comprehensive protection, remember to change your password at other sites too!

April 10, 2014 - Items.  1.  This just out.  I was perusing the Smashwords bestseller list we produce each month for Publishers Weekly, and stumbled across an interesting fun fact.  Female authors dominate the Smashwords bestseller lists.  I'm not entirely certain why, but I have some theories.  Congrats ladies!  More at the Smashwords blog.   2.  Heartbleed Bug.  There's been a lot of international press attention about the Heartbleed Bug, a major security vulnerability that affected possibly millions of web sites.  Smashwords is now patched to protect against this vulnerability.  It's likely that every Internet user has visited multiple web sites over the last two years now known to have had the vulnerability, including major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Yahoo and Pinterest.  The recommended preventative medicine is to change your passwords everywhere, including Smashwords.  This is actually a best practice anyway.  It's a good idea to change your passwords from time to time, and don't use the same passwords for every site you visit.  Learn more about the Heartbleed Bug in this Mashable story.   To change your password at Smashwords, visit Account->Edit Account Information, and update your password from there.  Then please repeat a similar process at all the other sites you regularly visit. 

April 6, 2014 - Smashwords UK authors, I'm in London for the next couple days!  I'm presenting at two events.  I'm not in London often, so I hope I can meet some of you (always my favorite part of attending these conferences).  On Monday April 7 between 5 and 7pm, I'll be at Kingston University.  It's a two-hour ebook publishing event, in two parts:  1.  An Introduction to Ebook Publishing.  2. The 16 Best Practices of Ebook Self Publishing.  Please bring a writer friend with you!  Refreshments will be served.  Register at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-to-publish-an-ebook-a-unique-lecture-by-mark-coker-smashwords-tickets-10892677291  Registration is 10 pounds.  The event will be in the John Galsworthy Building, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston KT1 2EE.  On Tuesday April 8 I'm at the London Book Fair at the Earls Court Convention Hall in London participating in their Author HQ event.  I'm doing three different sessions.  #1:  12:00-12-45pm – Book Discovery for Authors.  I’m sitting on a panel with Joanna Penn and Andrew Rhomberg talking about how authors can make their books more discoverable and more desirable to readers.  #2:    2-3pm – Introduction to Ebook Publishing.  I’m giving this one-hour workshop on how to prepare, publish, price, distribute and market an ebook.  It'll be similar to what I'm doing the night before at Kingston University.  #3:  3:30-4:30pm – Ebook Publishing Best Practices.  I'll share the 16 best practices of the most successful indie ebook authors.   Also similar to what I'm doing at Kingston.  Although I've given these two presentations many times, I'm constantly updating them and they're always different from day to day and month to month.  My goal with each talk is to arm writers with best practices knowledge. 

April 4, 2014 - Three items.  1.  Q1 payments go out this month!  Reminder:  Before April 15, please click to your Account tab, then click to Payment Settings and make sure your payment settings are correct.  Changes made after April 15 won't be reflected in this payment round.  If you live in the US and you're set up to receive paper checks, make sure the mailing address is correct.  Each quarter, checks get lost or delayed due to incorrect mailing addresses.  If you're new to Smashwords and configured to be paid by PayPal, make sure your PayPal account is activated.  PayPal is a free service.  If you've received prior payments from Smashwords via PayPal, then your account is activated.    2.  Kobo delays.  Kobo is experiencing a multi-week backlog loading new titles.  Please expect delays.   You can partially minimize the delay by taking advantage of Smashwords preorder distribution.  When you distribute a preorder with Smashwords, it gives the retailer extra time to load your title in advance of your onsale date.  Please note, however, that their backlog applies to preorders as well, but at least an early delivery of a preorder gets you in line earlier.  Learn more about preorders at our Preorder Help page.   3.  Apple iBooks in the US and Australia this week are running a major promotion featuring free series starters.  Multiple Smashwords authors are featured prominently.  Back when we launched Series Manager in September, this was exactly the type of promotion I knew would be enabled once Smashwords captured this enhanced series metadata.  It's why we've been urging our series authors to take advantage of this important new tool in your Dashboard.  Series Manager makes it possible for retailers to provide your series titles increased discoverability.  It makes it possible for us to actively promote our bestselling series to our retail partners.  I think we've only just scratched the surface of what's possible with Series Manager.  If you write series and haven't yet attached your book to a series, please do it now.  You'll find Series Manager in your Dashboard.  If you have writer friends who write series and their books aren't yet on Smashwords, please urge them to join now.  Series Manager gives series books a discoverability advantage.  With the growth of the ebook market cooling, indies need every advantage they can get.  Series Manager is one of many exclusive benefits indies earn by distributing to the major retailers with Smashwords.

March 25, 2014 - Items.  1.  Scribd update on free Scribd subscriptions!  As promised in the original Scribd announcement on December 19, authors with books opted in to Scribd by January 1 were to receive a free one-year Scribd subscription valued at $100.  Considering that the Smashwords catalog didn't go live in their system until February 28, some additional authors made it in after the January 1 cutoff so that's great. The first 1,000 authors will receive emails today from Smashwords that contain activation hyperlinks.  It's actually proven to be quite a complex task of issuing these activation links (a big thanks to our friends at Scribd for all their great work here!).  Assuming the first 1,000 recipients are able to successfully redeem their subscriptions without difficulty, we'll send out the rest.  If you receive the email, please follow the instructions carefully.  If you have difficulty, contact Scribd via the email address included in your email.  I'll post an update here when we send out the second batch.   2.  Diesel eBook Store no more?  Diesel posted a page on their website that says they will close their store at the end of the month.  Read their notice here.  I've asked Diesel to provide me additional information on their plans to unwind the store, so once I learn more I'll report back to our authors here.

March 5, 2014 - No one knows the future, but it's fun to guess.  Put on your pundit hat and head on over to the Smashwords blog to download my spreadsheet that will help you predict the future of indie ebook publishing.  See why I'm predicting 50% of all ebook sales will be earned by indie ebook authors within seven years.  

March 4, 2014 - W8BEN form processing is delayed.  W8BEN forms allow authors outside the US to attain reduced tax withholdings.  We're revamping our tax reporting systems, so this will cause a delay in our processing of the WBEN forms received during February and March.  All received forms will be processed in early April in advance of the next payment period which is scheduled for the second half of April.  As a reminder, when you send in your W8BEN form, be sure to include your email address and Smashwords screen name so we can contact you if there are any problems with your form.

February 27, 2014 - Read an Ebook Week 2014! - Enroll your books today in the Smashwords' sixth annual Read an Ebook Week celebration.  Enroll on the Smashwords home page, or click here for the direct link to the enrollment page.

February 24, 2014.  Two items.  1.  Check out my blog post and corresponding slide deck on ebook preorder strategy.  Many Smashwords authors have hit the genre and store-wide bestseller lists with the assistance of preorders.  But simply doing a preorder isn't enough.  I requires proper strategy and planning.  This presentation will teach you how to get the most from preorders.  2.  A Smashwords author today published the 10 Billionth Word at Smashwords!!!!  Yay.  Read the blog post here. Congrats Smashwords authors!  You're changing the world of publishing for the better.

February 20, 2014 - Publisher's Weekly asked me to write an opinion piece on the controversy surrounding Hugh Howey's AuthorEarnings website.  Critics have attacked his methodology and conclusions.  As I argue in my story, critics are missing the greater point.  There's a growing rift between authors and publishers, and it won't end well unless publishers start listening to authors' legitimate wants and needs.  Read it here (Although this story was available visible by now, it now requires registration).

February 13, 2014 - Items.  1.  Smashwords is at the San Francisco Writers Conference Friday through Sunday.  Stop by and say hi!  2.  We updated our eDelivery features!  Hot on the heels of new Dropbox eDelivery feature from a few weeks back, this week we enhanced eDelivery again by adding email delivery of purchased ebooks.  The goal here is to create the shortest possible path between the purchased book and the reader's eyeballs.  It's great for iPhone and iPad users, as well as for Android tablet users, because moments after purchase, you'll find the ebook files in your email.  Just click and launch the book in your favorite e-reading app.  You can now choose the formats you want to receive via email or Dropbox.  In addition, you can now also send free books, book samples, or books you have purchased directly from the book's book page.  You can even designate a special email address for the delivery of your files.  Smashwords members who signed on or after February 12 are automatically enrolled in email eDelivery.  Members who registered prior to this date can opt in.  Learn more about eDelivery at https://www.smashwords.com/edelivery/info or visit your eDelivery Manager (found under the Account tab) at https://www.smashwords.com/edelivery/ to configure your settings.  Enjoy!

February 6, 2014 - Goodbye to our friends at Sony.  Sony today announced the imminent closure of its Sony Reader Store in the US and Canada.  The store will remain in operation until March 20, after which it will cease ebook sales.  Effective immediately, Smashwords will cease delivery of new titles.   We will continue to deliver metadata updates and takedowns.  What this means for authors:  Any time any retailer closes - especially one such as Sony who pioneered the ebook market - it's a sad day.  Along with Barnes & Noble, Sony was one of the first major retailers to embrace self-published ebooks by partnering with Smashwords in 2009.  Sony's devices and ebook store predated Amazon's, so when the history books of the indie author revolution are written I hope historians give Sony the credit they deserve as a true pioneer.  My sentiments and appreciation for Sony aside, the impact on Smashwords authors today will be minimal.  The Sony store, as most authors know, is one of the smallest retailers in the Smashwords distribution network.  To put this in perspective, on a typical month, less than 2% of our authors' monthly sales come from Sony.  Next steps for Smashwords authors:  If your books are already listed at Sony, there's nothing you need to do.  On or around March 20, your book's listing at Sony should disappear.  Your customers at Sony will have ample opportunity to backup their purchases.  Kobo, a Smashwords partner, will assume control over Sony's customers' libraries, enabling Sony customers to move to Kobo and maintain access to their books.  Since Smashwords already distributes to Kobo, the book product listings at Sony will not transfer to Kobo.   More at the Smashwords blog.

January 30, 2014 - Download your 2013 tax forms at https://www.smashwords.com/account/docs

January 28, 2014 - Items.  1.  Save the date.  If you live near Portland Oregon, on February 25 I'm speaking at a one-day conference at Portland University titled, Self Publishing in the Digital Age.  Reserve a spot at https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/services/publishing-route.   2.  Q4 Payments are in process this week.  PayPal payments have gone out and paper checks should arrive soon.  3.  The San Francisco Writers Conference goes February 13 - 16.  We'll be there doing panels and workshops.  I'm also doing a keynote talk.  SFWC is always a great conference, and it sells out every year.   4.  Silicon Valley Reads.  January through March is the Silicon Valley Reads series of events for those of you who live in the Bay Area.  The events are free and feature a bunch of great speakers and topics.  I'm speaking on two ebook panels.  The first is February 15 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and the second is on the 19th at the Downtown Palo Alto Library as part of the annual Silicon Valley Reads event.  The event on the 19th features someone from Scribd.  The full SV Reads schedule is here.  Last weekend I attended an interesting talk by Nicolas Carr and learned what he thinks the Internet is doing to our brains.  [His big message: Remember to get outside and unplug, or sit down and focus on reading a book, because constant shallow surfacy online stimulation might be rewiring the neural connections in our brains and diminishing our capacity for deep thought.]  

January 15, 2014 - I trust everyone is recovered from the holidays.  Smashwords authors experienced solid post-holiday sales at most retailers.  Apple did well, and so did B&N despite the negative press and FUD showered upon them daily by industry pundits.  Kobo hasn't reported yet, but I expect they had a solid post-holiday boost as well.  With the holiday rush behind us, we turn our attention to the future.  2014 will be a challenging and exciting year for most authors.  As I mentioned in my predictions post, I think industry-wide unit sales of ebooks will increase, but there's a risk that sales measured in dollars will be flat to down.  The heady go-go days of exponential growth are behind the industry, but this in no way diminishes the incredible opportunity faced by indie authors.  Indie authors still enjoy significant competitive advantages in this market.  You enjoy faster time-to-market, greater creative control, a direct relationship with your fans, higher margins at lower price points, non-stop dedication to your books, and unmatched flexibility to iterate and evolve your book to make it more accessible and more desireable to readers.  There are millions of readers out there spending billions of dollars to read great books.  These readers are more reachable than ever thanks to global retailers and the distribution systems that serve them such as Smashwords.  It's all about you, your book and the reader.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - the best books market themselves on the wings of reader word of mouth.  Write a great book, give it great editing, a great cover and a fair price, and then get to work on the next book.   At Smashwords, we're at work on what comes next.  We're working to make this an up year for our authors, and with your help we'll succeed together.  In 2014 we'll continue to innovate by bringing our authors new tools and broader distribution.  In New York this week, publishers are convened at the annual Digital Book World conference.  If you get a chance, check out the tweetstream of the conference at hash tag #DBW14.   There were some fascinating discussions this morning about Amazon from the session featuring Brad Stone and Joe Esposito.  I'm not there, so it's difficult to gauge the mood in the room.  The tweets make for thought-provoking reading.  I can only imagine some of the publishers are experiencing that deer in the headlights sensation.   My view:  The future is what indie authors make it.  Indie authors are ascendant, and will continue to ascend as the future of publishing.  Indie authors will decide the fate of Amazon and its competitors.  Decide well because you - not Amazon - are the most powerful force in publishing today.