2015 Smashwords Site Updates

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

December 31, 2015 - Happy New Year's eve to Smashwords authors, publishers and readers!  Moments ago I published my annual Smashwords Year in Review at the blog.  Thank you for your continued trust and partnership.   And in case you missed it, last week I also published my 2016 publishing industry predictions at the blog.  Be safe everyone.  We're looking forward to working with you in 2016!

December 11, 2015 - Smashwords adds three new distribution partners!  Today we announced distribution agreements with Odilo, Tolino and Yuzu.  Odilo will add 2,100 new libraries to our library distribution.  Tolino will deliver our books to Germany's largest ebook retailers which collectively control over one third of the German ebook market.  Yuzu is the ebook retailing arm of Barnes & Noble Education which manages 743 college bookstores and serves over 5 million college students and instructors.  The deal will make it easier for college instructors to assign Smashwords books to students.  Initial shipments to all three are slated to begin in January, which means authors have over three weeks to opt out of any of these new channels (not recommended!) unless you're using our "preemptive opt out" feature that lets you opt out of distribution for all future, unannounced channels.  We don't recommend authors and publishers use that feature unless you have specific reasons to limit your global distribution, such as in the case where you've sold off foreign rights to your books.  Otherwise, all Smashwords authors and publishers are automatically opted in.  To manage your opt in/opt out settings, visit your Dashboard's Channel Manager.    We expect books to begin appearing at all three partners at various times during the first quarter of 2016.  Full details about the new partners at the Smashwords Blog.

December 4, 2015 - San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley authors - I'm teaching a 3 1/2 hour ebook publishing intensive this Sunday in Livermore from 1:00pm-4:30pm.  The three modules:  An Introduction to Ebook Publishing;  Ebook Publishing Best Practices and Ebook Preorder Strategy.  It's taking place at the Livermore Public Library.  It's a FREE event!  More info and address here.

December 3, 2015 - Finally!  I posted the fourth annual 2015 Smashwords Survey at the blog.  Sorry for the delay folks.  I hope you agree it was worth the wait for those of you unable to attend the public unveiling back in May in Dallas.  Big important findings, especially on preorders and free series starters.

December 1, 2015 ** Important Notes on Retailer Holiday schedules **  If you have a release planned within the next five weeks, please plan to deliver it to Smashwords early.  As is the case every year, most retailers will be operating on reduced holiday schedules.  Here's what you need to know for iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo:

iBooks - In years past, iBooks had blackout dates for which preorders wouldn't activate and no deliveries were accepted.  This year, they've ramped up their holiday staffing but will still be operating with a smaller crew.  This year, for preorders with onsale activation dates between December 18-31, iBooks recommends we deliver the book before December 14, otherwise iBooks may not have time to review the book in time for it to go onsale.  If you're using our assetless preorder feature (and you should!!), this means you should aim to upload your final manuscript more than the customary 10 days in advance to be safe.  For preorders that have a sales start date between January 1-8, iBooks wants us to deliver before December 18 to allow them plenty of time to review and list the titles.  We ship to iBooks around the clock, but remember to allow time for us to review the book prior to distribution, or to allow time for you to fix issues that might prevent distribution.  Allow even more time if you're uploading on a Friday or weekend, because a weekend upload may not be reviewed by Smashwords until Monday at the earliest.  We give all preorders priority vetting so if you've got a release in the next month or two and it's not yet up on preorder, get it up today, and if you're using our assetless preorder feature I'd recommend you aim to deliver the final manuscript at least 15 days before the release date to be extra safe.  Of course, we'll continue shipping to Apple through the holidays, and we'll do everything we can to help you make your release, but remember that late deliveries can jeopardize your release because they're on reduced schedules.

Barnes & Noble will be receiving and processing new deliveries and updates throughout the holidays with the exception of Christmas day and New Years day.  But again, we recommend early deliveries and the use of preorders so you can control your release date with precision.  B&N has dramatically increased their speed of listings and metadata updates.  As mentioned in your Channel Manager, we ship to B&N five days per week around 2am Pacific time.  This means a Friday afternoon update won't transmit until early morning the next week.  As always, if you plan ahead and deliver early, you'll have no problems.

Kobo will not be accepting deliveries of new titles between December 22, 2015 and December 29, 2015.  This means if you have a book that releases during this blackout timeframe, you should upload it in advance as a preorder with complete assets (final manuscript + cover).  If you plan book updates to existing titles, including price changes, these changes should be made at Smashwords no later than December 21, but to be safe aim for December 17 or 18.  Our final shipments to Kobo in advance of their blackout period will likely go out end of day December 21, but we can't guarantee they'll have time to process late deliveries.  If you publish erotic romance or erotica, keep in mind that these titles are subject to additional review at Kobo which means you should upload your preorders and manuscripts even further in advance

Smashwords accepts uploads 24X7, but keep in mind that we too will be working on reduced holiday schedules with less staff coverage between December 22 and January 1, and we also expect the next 10 days will be especially busy as authors and publishers scramble to upload things early.  More than ever, to help us speed the approvals and shipment process, it's important to follow the Smashwords Style Guide and check your epub immediately upon publication for AutoVetter messages, and check the .epub file's NCX navigation and all the other hallmarks of professional, reader-pleasing formatting.

November 26, 2015 - It's Thanksgiving here in the U.S.  On behalf of the entire team at Smashwords, I want to wish the worldwide Smashwords community of authors, publishers, readers and bookselling partners a safe and enjoyable holiday.  We're thankful for your trust and partnership.  We realize you have many options for book distribution, so we're especially thankful you've chosen Smashwords as your partner.  Peace. ~mark

November 20, 2015 - I wrote an article for Publishers Weekly about how to make your next book launch more successful with ebook preorders.  Here's the link:  How Indie Authors Can Use Preorders to Crack the Bestseller Lists  Please share it with a friend!

November 16, 2015 - Tip of the day.  Is your account registration tied to an old out of date email address you no longer check or can no longer access?  If so, log into your Smashwords account as you normally do, click the "?" at the top of the page (or the Support link at the bottom), and tell us your new, better address.  We'll change it for you.  This way, you won't miss important emails from us such as merchandising opportunities or announcements of new retailing partners.

November 11, 2015 - Heads up.  Kobo plans a short blackout period starting tonight and continuing through to tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, during which they've asked us to pause shipments and metadata updates.  This means if you're planning to make a change to your book (such as price update), or you're planning to upload a new preorder or title late tonight or tomorrow morning or early afternoon, go ahead and do it today so you can get ahead of the pause.  Normal shipments will resume tomorrow around 3pm pacific time.  Thanks.

November 9, 2015 - Minor Scribd news.  As Smashwords authors and publishers know, Scribd is best known for their subscription service, where for $8.95 per month subscribers can enjoy thousands of books.  Unknown to most readers, Scribd also operate a retail store where customers can purchase individual copies.  Effective next Monday, November 16, Scribd is closing the retail single copy sales side so they can focus exclusively on the subscription side of their business.  To prevent any misinterpretation of this move, I want to share some hard numbers to help you put this in perspective.  For the month of September, their retail store accounted for one fifth of one percent (.0002) of Scribd earnings, or essentially nothing.   I think this is a good move for Scribd.  They can now focus 100% of their effort on building the subscription side of their business, which IS a good revenue generator for many Smashwords authors and publishers.

November 5, 2015 - Kobo today launched a massive site-wide promotion featuring 200 Smashwords authors *exclusively*.  The feature is promoted on the home page, in emails to Kobo customers and across the Kobo site.  I blogged about the promotion and the selection process at the Smashwords Blog.  Congrats Smashwords authors, and thanks to our friends at Kobo for collaborating for the multiple months it took to pull this together.   The feature runs through Monday and is available in Kobo's US and Canada stores.  Here's a direct link:  https://store.kobobooks.com/p/SW3f2US

November 4, 2015 - Sad day in indieville.  Dan Poynter, the father of modern day self publishing, has passed away.  He was a kind and generous mentor to tens of thousands of writers, myself included.  I shared my tribute to him over at the Smashwords blog.  If you were ever fortunate enough to meet him or be touched by him, please feel free to share your comments at the blog.

November 3, 2015 - New at the Smashwords blog - Amazon changes payout rates for Kindle Unlimited.  Yet another reminder of what can happen when indies surrender their independence in the form of KDP Select exclusivity.

November 2, 2015 - If you live in the Portand Area, I'm doing a 1/2 day, 4-hour e-publishing intensive on Saturday November 14 at the Multnomah County Library, main branch.  Details here.

October 23, 2015 - Selling ebooks to teen readers.  Smashwords author Eva Pohler wrote an interesting post on the opportunity for YA authors to target teen readers on Facebook.  Read it here.   She writes how many teens don't have credit cards, and this prevents them from downloading free ebooks at most retailers.  So she directs her readers to Smashwords where free ebooks can be downloaded without a credit card, either priced at free or with a Smashwords Coupon.  She also writes that although teens don't have credit cards, they know people who want to purchase books for them (parents and libraries).

October 22, 2015 - Kobo reported monthly sales for September today.  Due to a processing error, we accidentally double-credited the orders when they were loaded into sales reports.  This issue persisted for about three hours before it was fixed.  If you noticed your Kobo September sales dropped 50% from one hour to the next, this is why.  It's all fixed now.  Our apologies for any confusion this might have created.

October 17, 2015 - Publishers Weekly invited me to contribute an opinion piece for the Show Daily at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  You can read it here. The show's audience is primarily traditional publishers, so I aimed the message at publishers. The Big 5 traditional publishers have always considered self-published authors second-class citizens of the publishing world.  Although these large publishers view Amazon as a threat, they're completely oblivious to the true nature of the threat - Amazon's self publishing strategy.  In the piece, I explain Amazon's self-publishing strategy, and describe how Amazon is using self-published authors to marginalize the businesses of traditional publishers.  Although I think indie authors will define the future of publishing, I'm not one of those who relish the prospect of the downfall of traditional publishing.  I think a vibrant and thriving traditional publishing sector is a benefit to indie authors, because publishers - small indie presses and Big 5 publishers alike - create additional opportunities and choices for indies.  But if traditional publishers don't learn to develop service offerings that respect and accomodate indies, the story won't end well for publishers.  Why would Amazon want to destroy large publishers?  Because publishers, which represent the interests of thousands of authors and control hundreds of thousands of bestselling books, weild collective barganing power over Amazon.  Amazon is playing a game of divide and conquer.  By weakening publishers, Amazon can separate more authors from their publishers, draw more authors to publish direct at Amazon via KDP and KDP Select, and thereby strip authors of collective bargaining power.

October 15, 2015 - Smashwords adds distribution to Gardners, the UK's largest book wholesaler.  This exciting agreement, over a year in the making, will dramatically expand the global footprint of the Smashwords distribution network.  There are two primary components to the partnership.  1.  Extended distribution to 400+ small ebook stores, powered by Gardners.  2.  Distribution to 2,000+ public and academic libraries, including to Askews & Holt, a library distributor that reaches about 50% of the UK library ebook market.  Shipments begin in one week.  The deal excludes erotica.  Full details at the Smashwords blog.

October 8, 2015 - Bouchercon 2015, the big mystery and crime fiction fan conference, kicks off today in Raleigh, North Carolina.  250 Smashwords authors and over 400 of their books are featured in a Smashwords thumb drive which is included free in the conference registration bags of an expected 1,500 conference attendees.  Learn more about this promotion over at the Smashwords Blog.  We've done similar promotions at other conferences and they're always a hit.  Titles were selected from among our bestselling crime fiction authors as measured by aggregated sales across the Smashwords distribution network (it pays to distribute with Smashwords so we can count your sales!).  Conference attendees and members of Sisters in Crime were invited to particpate as well.  Congrats Smashwords authors for making this our biggest and best thumb drive promotion ever!

October 1, 2015 - New Email Alert!  A few months ago we created a new automated alert that tells you the moment your book is reviewed for the Premium Catalog.  We've received a lot of positive feedback on this feature.  Authors tell us it gives them greater visibility of their book's Premium Catalog status and helps them correct outstanding issues faster.  Today we launched a new once-monthly automated alert that helps you catch outstanding issues awaiting your attention.  This new alert identifies any action items that are blocking distribution of new titles or updates.  For example, if your book is missing an ISBN, or if your cover or description has a problem that prevents distribution.  We expect the new alert will be especially useful for those of you who manage a lot of titles.  It will help identify simple-to-fix issues that might otherwise fall between the cracks.  I think the ISBN reminder will be especially useful because that's an important, easy-to-miss item.  Although an ISBN isn't required to achieve Premium Catalog approval, it is required to achieve maximum distribution to our retail and library network.  The alert will go out at the beginning of each month, and will only go out to authors and publishers who have one or more books awaiting modification or update.  Like all of our email alerts, you can control your communication settings by clicking to Account and then clicking "Communications Preferences."

September 22, 2015 - Late yesterday afternoon Oyster announced that it's exiting the ebook subscription market.  I spoke with Oyster today and here's the story:  They've been acquired by Google.  They're going to close their service in early 2016, the exact day is TBD.  Until they close, they will continue to sell our books, and will continue to pay for those books as they wind down the business.  We will continue to ship them new books and metadata updates.  If your books are distributed to Oyster, there's nothing you should do.  You can look forward to a few more months of additional sales before they close.  It's a sad day when indies lose yet another sales outlet.  The only silver lining, if there is one, is that Oyster is one of our smaller retailers.  But for the long term, I start to wonder who's the next retailer to fail, and why is the environment becoming increasingly inhospitable to retailers who are trying to sell ebooks?  There's an elephant in the room, and I share my views about it over at the Smashwords blog in a post titled, Oyster and the KDP Select Party Train.

September 20, 2015 - If you're a member of Sisters in Crime, please send an email to Jim Azevedo, our marketing director to learn about a special promotional opportunity for SinC members.  Jim's email is jim at smashwords dot com. Offer expired Sept. 23.

September 17, 2015 Smashwords recently updated our site to avoid counting ebook downloads done by search engines and other web-crawling robots towards the book's count of downloads (sample downloads, for non-free books). If you've noticed a drop in downloads/samples in the Stats section of your Dashboard, this is why. While it's understandably disheartening to see the numbers drop, the numbers you'll see moving forward are more meaningful -- just because Google or Bing slurped a copy of your EPUB doesn't mean anyone's reading it. Now, when you see a bump in your download stats, you can be much more confident that a real, living, breathing human-being is interested in your book! 

September 1, 2015 - Kobo hyperlinks - Two items regarding Kobo book page links.  
1.  Web address changes for some book listings at Kobo.  In recent weeks, the web page addresses (A.k.a. "Urls" in web speak) for some book listings at Kobo have changed.  The reason for the change is that we're working with Kobo to reopen the WHSmith store in the UK to more Smashwords titles so we've modified how we ship to Kobo. The change primarily impacts erotica books as well as romance titles that are categorized as erotic romance and adult romance.  The new address may have a "-1" or "-2" at the end of it to differentiate it from the prior listing which is no longer active, or to differentiate it from books with the same titles.  If you write in these categories, please check the Kobo links you're using to promote your books on your blog, website and other social media sites to ensure you're pointing readers to the correct page.  If your old link isn't working, see the next item for a tip on finding your books (and linking to them) on Kobo.

2.  How to link to (or find) your books at Kobo.  At Kobo, all book pages get an automatically generated web address (the Url).  The web address at Kobo incorporates the title of the book.  If you change your book title at Smashwords, of if your book title is identical to another title already at Kobo, it'll change the web address for your listing page at Kobo by adding a -1, -2 or -{next number} at the end of the address.  When you promote direct links to your books at Kobo (always a good idea!), the best URL to use is as follows:


... where you'll replace the "ISBN" with your book's ISBN at Smashwords.  So, for example, the ISBN for my book, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, is 9781476000411.  So the URL I could promote for Kobo is... 


If you click the link above, you'll see how Kobo's systems automatically resolve that address to https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-secrets-to-ebook-publishing-success which is what customers and search engines will see.  By using the ISBN method of linking to Kobo, you'll always link directly to the correct page, even if your book title changes in the future.

August 25, 2015 - Our distribution agreement with Flipkart is ending.  Although Flipkart's sales were negligible for most authors, I'm more concerned by what this signals for the future of ebook retailing.  It'll be very difficult for future regional ebook retailers to get a foothold in their markets due to Amazon's intolerance, which is manifested by directly punishing authors who did nothing wrong.  The catalyst for this was Amazon's draconian policies regarding exclusivity.  Amazon was harming multiple Smashwords authors simply because Flipkart was slow to remove unpublished books that had been enrolled in KDP Select.  I posted a full analysis over at the Smashwords Blog.  I also share an email I sent Jeff Bezos about a week ago regarding their price-matching policies which have robbed thousands of indie authors of their royalties.  Effective very soon, shipments to Flipkart will cease and all Smashwords titles will be removed from their store.  Amazon now owns the Indian ebook market. 

August 23, 2015 - I'm often asked how authors can get their book priced at free at Amazon without making their book exclusive to Amazon.  Many Smashwords authors know the secret is price-matching.  Distribute a free book with Smashwords and Amazon might price match it.  For the many authors who don't yet know the ins and outs of the process, I posted a step-by-step guide over at the blog titled, How to Price Kindle Books at FREE without Exclusivity.  As some authors will learn, authors who refuse to go exclusive have much more flexibility to fully leverage the power of free, whether it's for longer promotions, more promotions or perma-free.  If you know someone who would benefit, please share.

August 18, 2015 - To support our Portuguese-language authors and publishers, yesterday we released the first Portuguese-language translation of the Smashwords Style Guide, Guia de estilo do Smashwords.  To accompany the translation, we also translated my recent 6-hour e-publishing seminar into Portuguese.  Everything's now at the Smashwords blog at http://blog.smashwords.com/2015/08/como-publicar-os-ebooks-um-seminario.html.  If you have Portuguese-language writer or publisher friends, please give them a heads up that this information is now available to them.  With your help, we want to spread the indie author revolution to every corner of the globe.  The preface to the blog post is written in English for those of you who want to learn more about the initiative. Thanks to Matthew Teplitz on the Smashwords team for the translations!

August 17, 2015 - We discovered a minor glitch that affected about 350 recently published books with co-authors in which the full co-author metadata did not ship out properly to retailers.  This has been corrected.  The lead authors of the affected books will receive the standard "Congrats, your book has been approved for the Smashwords Premium Catalog" email today, so please don't be alarmed.  If you received the email, it means your book is simply re-shipping out to retailers.  If you don't receive the email, great!  It means your books were not affected.  Emails are out.

August 13, 2015 (updated) - Items:  1.  I'm interviewed on the WRITER 2.0 podcast with A.C. Fuller.  We have a wide-ranging conversation talking about proven strategies for author success.  And then it wraps with A.C. asking me about the future for indie authors.  I share some good news for why there's never been a better time to publish, and then I share the not-so-good-news of how Amazon's KDP Select is slowly undermining the indie author movement for all authors, even authors who don't use KDP Select.  I never know what will come out of my mouth when people ask me about Amazon.  I hope you find the discussion thought provoking.  Whether you agree or disagree, share it with your friends and discuss.  Whether writers recognize it or not, the decisions indie authors make today will transform the future of the entire publishing industry for good or bad.  Choose well!  Listen at http://acfuller.com/smashwords-founder-mark-coker-episode-53-august-13-2015-2/.     2. Good news on B&N.  I've observed B&N is processing Smashwords deliveries and metadata updates faster than ever.  Many new titles and preorders are appearing the next business day following our delivery.  We do our deliveries to B&N once a day around 2am Pacific, Monday through Friday.  For most other retailers, we're shipping multiple times daily, seven days per week.  If you're curious to learn the delivery schedules for the various retailers, check out the recently updated chart in your Channel Manager.

July 31, 2015 - Tip of the day:  How good metadata can increase your odds of promotional love at Smashwords retail partners.  Metadata is data about your book that helps retailers make your book more discoverable.  The category of your book is metadata.  It tells the retailer which virtual shelf to place your book in.  Two other important categories of metadata regard series and box sets.  If you write series or publish box sets, please make sure your series books are linked up in your Dashboard's Series Manager tool, and if you publish box sets please click to Dashboard: Settings and then scroll down the page to click the check box that identifies your book as a box set.  Series Manager increases the discoverability of your series books to customers at iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and the Smashwords store.  The box set tag helps us identify box sets for retailer promotions (and in the future, will help make box sets more discoverable in the Smashwords store).  Over the last few days I've been organizing two seperate promotions for two different retailers, and our recommended lists are drawn from this enhanced metadata.  To give you an example of how we use this data, the other week a retailer asked me for a list of titles they can promote that includes our top box sets priced over $3.99.  So we queried our database of over 350,000 books to identify our top books that have been tagged as box sets, priced $3.99 or higher and opted in to this particular retailer.  Dozens of Smashwords authors who have taken advantage of the box set tag will make it in the promotion, but I'm afraid many other deserving authors will miss out simply because the metadata for their books aren't properly set.   Another retailer asked me for our top romance series that have free series starters for authors who live in certain countries (it's like a home grown author feature).  Your enhanced metadata makes it possible for us to identify and recommend our top-performing titles for merchandising to fit any retailer's promotion.  We announced Series Manager in 2013, and in the two years since hundreds of Smashwords authors have received improved discoverability and entry into special retailer promotions.  We announced the new box set metadata field just three months ago, and once this new promotion rolls out, dozens of our authors will gain entry because of it.   Please help us help you.  :)  Thanks!

July 28, 2015 - Items.  1. Kobo today announced a distribution partnership with Orbile, a new Mexican ebook retailer formed out of a partnership between two large Mexican book retailers, Porrúa and Gandhi.  Orbile is one of several ebook retailers powered by Kobo (others include WHSmith in the UK and FNAC in France.  See the Distribution information page for more). The new Orbile bookstore is scheduled to launch in September 2015.  All Smashwords Premium Catalog books that are distributed to Kobo and that meet Kobo's distribution requirements will receive automatic distribution to this new retailer.  Like iBooks, Kobo does not distribute certain categories of taboo erotica.  Learn more about special considerations for erotica authors in the FAQ.  2.  Page Foundry is now called Inktera.  The Smashwords Distribution information page is now updated to include all the various ebook app stores powered by the Inktera platform.

July 23-25, 2015 - Smashwords at Penned Con (St. Louis) and RWA (NYC).  Jim Azevedo, our marketing director, will be manning a table at RWA on Friday from 1-6pm.  If you're attending, stop by and say hello to him.  I'm at Penned Con today through Saturday.  I'm on a panel today at 3pm with Chanda Hahn, LP Dover and Denise Grover Swank, and then tomorrow and Saturday I'm teaching three classes:  An Introduction to Ebook PublishingEbook Publishing Best Practices and How to Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Preorders.  In between sessions I'll be manning a table in the author room.  Jim and I are looking forward to meeting with current and future Smashwords authors!

July 21, 2015 - I taught a four-part e-publishing workshop last week in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference.  I combined all the presentations into one and posted online over at the Smashwords Blog.  It includes four presentations:  1.  Introduction to Ebook Publishing (a primer for beginners).  2.  Ebook Publishing Best Practices (16 secrets of the most successful indie ebook authors).  3. iBooks Merchandising  (how to reach more readers in the world's second largest ebook store).  4.  How to hit the ebook bestseller lists with preorders (ebook preorder strategy).   Please share it with a writer friend!  Also feel free to use Slideshare's cool embed feature to embed the presentation on your blog or website.    Enjoy!

July 8, 2015 - Q2 payments are coming at the end of the month.  A friendly reminder, especially for the thousands of new authors and publishers who are new to Smashwords this year.  Before July 15, please click to your Payment Settings page (Under the Account tab) to check that your payment settings are correct.  Authors and publishers outside the US are paid via PayPal.  If you're located in the U.S., you have the choice of PayPal or paper check payment.  The payment threshold for PayPal is only $10.00.  For US authors and publishers, the threshold for paper checks is $75.00.  If you choose the paper check payment method, please make sure your payment address is current.  Every quarter a small number of authors miss payments because they didn't give us a PayPal address, gave the wrong PayPal address, or they moved and didn't update their physical mailing address.  We want to pay you!  Thanks so much for partnering with Smashwords for your ebook distribution!

July 6, 2015 - Improved erotica guidelines.  Smashwords Terms of Service was updated today with a new section (9e) for erotica authors and publishers.  At Smashwords, we've always been strong advocates for legal erotic literature, and have fought against censorship of any kind.  With the help of the Smashwords community, we fought for the rights of authors, publishers and readers during the PayPal debacle three years ago and prevailed, and we've also frequently advocated for our erotica authors behind closed doors with our retailers.  Despite some fairly clear guidelines on what's acceptable and what's not, from time to time lone wolves in the community have pushed boundaries of acceptability, whether it's with overly explicit covers or gratuitous profanity in book descriptions, deliberate miscategorization, or "barely legal" books that are actually underage.   Line-pushers risk jeopardizing the erotica opportunity for the vast majority of erotica professionals who don't push the boundaries of reasonable limits.  When our vetting team flags a title for modification or removal, it's in the spirit of maintaining the distribution privilege all professional authors at Smashwords who don't push the limits or subvert rules.  We've always known that a single bad seed can ruin the party for everyone (witness the Kobocalypse incident a couple years ago when WH Smith - a bookstore powered by Kobo - discovered miscategorized erotica [not Smashwords titles] in their store and in response removed all indie titles including non-erotic titles).  In recent years, due to the abuses of the few, we've already seen some retailers and library partners pull back on their commitment to erotica by blocking certain subcategories, or blocking all erotica.  In the spirit of full transparency and to help responsible Smashwords authors and publishers maximize their publishing opportunity, today we created a new section in the Smashwords ToS to provide additional guidance to erotic writers and publishers.  I understand that any attempt to add black and white goal posts to situations that are nothing-but-blurry is an excercise fraught with peril (there's a reason nearly every major retailer avoids setting erotica policies in stone, opting instead for a "we'll know what we don't want when we see it" approach).  At a minimum, I trust the improved guidance will be beneficial to authors and publishers who want to understand how we approach the spectrum of acceptability at Smashwords today. You'll see it's not radically different from our prior guidance, there's just more of it.  I don't anticipate that these enhanced guidelines will lead to any dramatic changes at Smashwords.  For the most part, our ongoing processes and policies are unchanged.  We will continue to evaluate titles and publishers under the same case by case basis we always have.  Click here to visit the Terms of Service and review the new Section 9e.  

June 30, 2015 - Scribd cuts romance catalog.  Bad news for romance authors at Scribd.  Effective immediately, Scribd is cutting their catalog of romance and erotica titles across all publishers and distributors.  By end of day today, most romance and erotica titles will disappear at Scribd.  I have a full analysis over at the Smashwords blog, along with comments on how our romance authors can take best advantage of the situation at Scribd going forward.

June 17, 2015 - Assetless Preorders!!!   Today, after over a year of development and beta testing from nearly 300 Smashwords authors, today we're pleased to introduce our new Assetless Preorder feature.  An Assetless Preorder allows you to set up a preorder before the final manuscript is complete.  This allows you to get your preorder up earlier so you can start accumulating more orders.  Read the announcement of the new feature at the Smashwords blog.    Also today at the Smashwords Blog, I posted a new how-to article that teaches you best practice strategies for preorders.  It's titled, How to Reach More Readers with Ebook Preorders.  As we revealed today in the two posts above, preorders give authors a significant advantage in the marketplace.  Over the last 12 months, 7 of our top 10 bestselling titles were born as preorders.  67% of our top 200 bestselling titles were born as preorders.  And then when you realize that only 10% of our titles over the last year were born as preorders, you can appreciate the incredible impact preorders are having for our authors and publishers.  Between the two posts above, you'll learn how to leverage preorders to make your next release more successful.   As you know, I've been encouraging our authors and publishers to take advantage of preorders for two years.  With the introduction of Assetless Preorders, there's no reason not to leverage this incredible tool for your next release.  Take a look at your publishing calendar for the next 12 months, and then work with us to get everything up on preorder ASAP.  Because this is a new feature, we're eager to hear your feedback, suggestions for improvements and bug reports!  Contact our support team by clicking "Support" at the bottom of the page.  We look forward to hearing from you!

May 27, 2015 - Items (w/correction re: uPublishU).  1.  NEW - Premium Catalog status emails.  Now when your book is reviewed by the Smashwords vetting team you'll receive an instant email notifying you that your upload or changes were approved and will be shipped immediately to retailers, or notifying you of requested modifications.  We hope you find these emails alerts useful.  We probably should have done these seven years ago so you'd never have to wonder when or how your book was reviewed.  If you have suggestions for how we can make the emails better, contact the Smashwords Support team.  Your feedback and suggestions help guide our developments.   2.  Facebook milestone!  The official Smashwords Facebook page hit a huge milestone the other day - 100,000 likes.  Thank you so much to Smashwords authors, publishers and readers for your support over at Facebook.  Thanks also to the amazing John Low who manages our Facebook page.  If you don't know John, he also runs Ebook Launch, a cover designer and ebook formatter on Mark's List 3.  I'm in New York this week for the annual BEA conference.  Earlier today I moderated a panel on ebook subscription services featuring Scribd and 24Symbols.  I'll also be at BEA's uPublishU self publishing conference this Saturday.  Stop by and say hello if you're attending.  I'm presenting two sessions.  In the first one I'll do is 20 tips for a more successful publishing career, and then the second session will be on ebook preorder strategy.

May 19, 2015 - I was a guest today on the radio show KQED Forum hosted by Michael Krasny.  Fellow guests included Ted Weinstein (Ted Weinstein Literary Management) and Laura Fraser (editorial director of Shebooks, a publisher of short form ebooks by women).  The topic:  Self publishing.  You can listen to the archived conversation here.  It was a fun hour and a special treat for me to meet Michael Krasny.  If you live in the SF Bay Area, you've probably heard his voice and the unforgetable KQED Forum jingle many times over the last 20 years.  It's cool to see self publishing getting more mainstream attention.

May 13, 2015 - The Smashwords site will go offline for system maintenance for approximately fifteen minutes tomorrow morning at around 1:00am Pacific. Thanks!

May 12, 2015 - Publishing in the classroom.  For the second year in a row, multiple freshman poetry students at Los Gatos High School have collaborated on yet another amazing poetry anthology, this one titled A Cup of Poetea.  Read the news here.  This follows last years debut project, Windows to the Teenage Soul, which I blogged about here.  The projects grew out of a collaboration between Los Gatos High School (thank you amazing teachers Tonya McQuade and Kathleen Wehr), Smashwords and the Los Gatos Public Library.  If you enjoy poetry, or you want to read mind-blowing literature from young adults, or if you want to learn how as a parent or educator or librarian you too can help promote a culture of authorship, please buy these books and share with a friend.  The books go together well as a pair.  The first book contains a comprehensive teacher's guide and guide for librarians.  Tonya McQuade shares her project roadmap and timelines so other educators can build upon her fine organizational work.  The second book, published today, contains additional information on how educators can emmulate this project in their classrooms.  This stuff is truly revolutionary.  What better way to inspire the next generation of writers and thinkers than to let them experience first hand the joy of writing and the thrill of indie ebook publishing?

May 11, 2015 - New option for box sets!  Smashwords today released a new enhanced metadata option for single-author and multi-author box sets. I posted something at the Smashwords blog about it.  The option will pave the way for us to make box sets more discoverable in the Smashwords store, and longer term will enable better merchandising at retailers.  But one step at a time.  The first step is for Smashwords authors and publishers to flag their box sets as box sets.  If you've published either a single-author or multi-author box set in the past, click to your Dashboard, then click to Settings.  At the bottom of the Settings page you'll see a check box to designate your book as a box set.  Click SAVE and you're done.  The next time you upload a new box set to Smashwords, you'll be able to designate it as a box set when you fill out the Publish form (you'll find it at the bottom of Step 3).  If you've never done a box set but are curious to learn more, check out my blog post from last year, How do Box Sets for Audience Building, Charity and Profit.

April 28, 2015 - PayPal, the payment processor for the Smashwords store, has confirmed to us they are experiencing technical difficulties.  We have temporarily disabled some credit card processing until they resolve the issue.  They tell us they hope to have it resolved within a day or two, though this has been going on for several days now so we'll see.  In the meantime, customers with PayPal accounts can continue to purchase with PayPal.  We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our customers and authors.  Authors, if you're planning big promotions this week, it's probably safer to direct your readers to iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Oyster and Scribd.  Thanks. Updated April 30 - PayPal has corrected the problem, and we're once again accepting credit card checkouts. Thank you for your patience!

April 26, 2015 - We're planning a major revamp of the Dashboard's Sales & Payments report (click here to view the current version), and we want your feedback.  I've posted an online survey where you can share you suggestions and feature requests.  Your input is important to us.  Help guide the development of this important project.  Click here to access the survey form.  Thank you!

April 24, 2015 - If you live in the NY area, I'll be speaking at uPublishU which occurs at the tail end of BEA.  The one-day self-publishing conference is on May 30 at the Jacob Javits convention center.  More info at http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/BEA-Conferences/DIY-Authors-Conference/#page=uPublishU and you can register here - http://bit.ly/1CYZR6h.    My first presentation is on how to hit the bestseller lists with ebook preorders.  The second presentation covers how to reach more readers in today's competitive ebook environment.  The early bird registration fee is $121 and good until May 6.  After that, the price goes up to $226.  If you can make it, please stop by and say hello.  My favorite thing about attending conferences is meeting with Smashwords authors!

April 16, 2015 - I'm interviewed in a couple places this week talking about the state of the publishing industry and what indie authors can do to stand out from the crowd.  One interview appeared in the London Book Fair Show Daily, produced by Publishers Weekly.  Access the text of it here.    The second interview was with Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors to kick off their online conference, Indie ReCon.  Access that interview here

April 8, 2015 - Oyster announced a retail store option today which offers titles for single-copy sale featuring a few Big 5 New York publishers.  Smashwords books are not included in that portion of the store, at least not yet.  They plan to activate more suppliers starting around mid-May, at which time we'll work to include Smashwords titles assuming the terms make sense.  My guess is that they launched the new single-title sales option as a way to bring some of the big publishers into their app - publishers that to date have (unwisely IMHO) refused to make their books available under the subscription model.  They're probably also trying to round out their offering because their competitor (and fellow Smashwords partner) Scribd has always offered a single title sales option.  At Scribd, single-title sales represent around 1% of our authors' subscription earnings each month, so not much.  At Scribd, when visitors are given the choice to pay for a single copy or obtain it as part of a subscription, subscription wins.  However, more options are always better which is why we'll pursue single-copy sales with Oyster as well.  I'll post more here in late May once I know firmer schedules.

April 4, 2015 -  Tip of the day - If the email address you use to log into your Smashwords account is out of date and inoperable, please contact the Smashwords Support team by clicking the "?" at the top of the page and we'll update it for you.  A few romance authors missed out on a promotional opportunity today because their email addresses are out of date.

APRIL 1, 2015  - (Note:  This was an April 1 prank.  It's satire).  Has Amazon finally gone too far? New "Kindle Author" service replaces authors with an algorithm (be careful what you read on April 1, okay?).  More at the Smashwords Blog.

March 25, 2015 - There's been a lot of debate in the blogosphere in recent days about a new e-reading app called Clean Reader, which can be downloaded from the app stores of iTunes and Google Play.  The app's default setting automatically identifies and blocks words it considers profane, and if the reader asks for a substitute word one is provided.  But the substitute word is not the author's word.  The app is powered by Smashwords partner Page Foundry in the sense it leverages the PageFoundry catalog of books and underlying app technology, but it is not owned by Page Foundry.  Last week I was surprised to learn that Smashwords books were included in the app.  After a few days of careful consideration, today I requested that all Smashwords titles be removed from Clean Reader.  Under the terms of our agreement with all retailers, retailers don't have permission to alter the words of our books.  In my judgement, by shielding readers from words, it represents a change to the book that neither Smashwords nor our authors have authorized.  Page Foundry responded immediately to my request and agreed to remove our books from the Clean Reader app in the next few hours.    Various interesting articles have been written on Clean Reader debate.  Check out Charlie Stross here, Cory Doctorow here and Joanne Harris here or Google "Clean Reader" for more.  My view:  Although I'm generally supportive of innovations that make books more accessible to new audiences, and I can see some potentially useful application in terms of shielding children from inappropriate content, I think Clean Reader is a step in the wrong direction.  Books are works of art, and the art is manifested by the author's word choice.  You can't block, change or censor words without changing the book.  I also think such an app is counter to the best interests of book culture.  Books should be judged, celebrated and debated in their naked glory as their creators intended.  The sanitization of books IMHO leads to greater ignorance and intolerance in the world. Books don't need sanitization when proper categorization and honest book descriptions will do the trick.

March 25, 2015 - I'm interviewed on the state of the indie ebook market over at  0s & 1s (click here to read), a digital publisher that's doing a series of interesting interviews around the theme of "The Art of Commerce" where they explore different aspects of the publishing market.  The other week they interviewed Richard Nash, a publishing industry visionary who's always been an inspiration to me.  Access their archive of interviews here.

March 17, 2015 - We added multiple new categorization options over the last week.  These categories allow authors to target readers with more granular specifity.  Not all retailers support these categories, though our support of the categories will enable retailers to build out their categorizations in the future.   Here are the paths you'll choose in the category selector either on the Publish page or at Dashboard: Settings, with the underlying BISAC code in parenthesis.   The new category is hyperlinked to display books in that category now in the Smashwords store.  New in romance(1):  FICTION / Romance / New Adult (FIC027240).
FICTION / Romance / Clean & Wholesome (FIC027270).   New in mystery (3):  FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Cozy (FIC022070)   FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Amateur (FIC022100) FICTION / Mystery & Detective / International Mystery & Crime (FIC022080)   New in Fantasy(1):   FICTION / Fantasy / Dark Fantasy (FIC009070)  New in Poetry (1):   POETRY / American / General (POE005010).   New in YA (1):   JUVENILE FICTION / Paranormal (JUV058000).   New in Thrillers(1):    FICTION / Thrillers / Supernatural (FIC031070).     If you think Smashwords is missing an important category that would help you categorize your book more accurately, and you can confirm the missing category has a corresponding BISAC code, please contact our support team to suggest we add it.  You'll find the list of BISAC codes here.  If you want to learn more about BISAC codes, check out our definition in our FAQ's Glossary of Publishing Terms.

February 28, 2015 - Read an Ebook Week kicks off tomorrow and runs March 1 - 7.  Read an Ebook Week is an international celebration of ebooks.  For one week only, thousands of Smashwords authors will enroll their books to offer deep discounts on their titles in the Smashwords store.  The pre-set coupon codes don't affect prices at our retailers.  Enroll your books now at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos.  The official RAEW 2015 hub page is at https://www.smashwords.com/ebookweek where you'll find official banners and buttons you can share in your promotion.  PLEASE NOTE:  The promotion is currently mislabeled on the Smashwords home page.  We're working to fix this.

February 26, 2015 - New York Times bestseller Jamie McGuire started her publishing journey the way many of us did - by querying agents.  When agents rejected her, she self published at Smashwords. After she became a New York Times bestseller as an indie author, she sold her rights to a large New York publisher in a two-book deal. Although her experience with Big Publishing was generally positive, she has now returned to her roots as an indie author.  Last month she self published and distributed Beautiful Redemption with Smashwords, a novel I'm sure traditional publishers would have loved to acquire.  She again hit the New York Times list. Tonight I posted my exclusive interview with Jamie over at the Smashwords blog.  Learn why she returned to indie authorship.

February 25, 2015 - The Smashwords site will go offline for system maintenance for approximately five or ten minutes tonight at around 11:30pm Pacific. Thanks!

February 12, 2015 - Items.  1.  Daily Sales charts improved!  This week we updated the Daily Sales tool in your Dashboard.  You can now track the most recent 90 days of same-day and next-day sales from iBooks, B&N, OverDrive, the Smashwords store and Kobo.  Previously, the chart only went back 30 days.  More at the Smashwords blog.  Or check out our Daily Sales FAQ page.   2.  Tip of the day (useful for geeks and software developers).  Did you know you can enter your book's ISBN into the search box to go straight to your book page? This isn't a terribly useful trick since clicking to your Dashboard or Profile page is easier.  Or, you can use the following schema to construct a URL (web link) that points directly to your book page:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query={insert ISBN here without dashes and without the brackets}.  So, for example, the ISBN for The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success is 9781476000411 so the direct web address would be https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=9781476000411.  This could be useful if you have a spreadsheet of all your Smashwords ISBNs and you want to automate the creation of a bunch of hyperlinks.

February 10, 2015 - Tip of the day:  When you upload a book to Smashwords, you'll use your Dashboard's ISBN Manager feature to attach an ISBN to your book.  An ISBN is a unique digital identifier.  Smashwords will provide you a free ISBN, or you can supply your own.  It's important that if you supply us an ISBN, the ISBN should be unique to the epub edition of your ebook.  You should not provide us an ISBN that is already used for a print edition.  Otherwise, you risk harming the distribution of your book.  Here's a real example:  About a week ago, Baker & Taylor, operators of the Blio ebook store and the Axis 360 library ebook service, provided Smashwords a list of over 700 titles they cannot sell in their store or sell to libraries because the ISBN provided by the author or publisher is the same ISBN used in a print edition.  Affected authors and publishers received an email notification last night with instructions on how to repair the problem.  The repair involves them unpublishing and archiving the book, and then republishing the book from scratch with a new and fresh ISBN.  Learn more about ISBNs in the Smashwords ISBN FAQ.

January 31, 2015 - Congrats to the top 25 Smashwords bestsellers of 2014!  Publishers Weekly is doing a news story on our top sellers in their print edition on Monday.  Click here to view the story now.  The list is heavily dominated by romance (if you don't write romance, there's much to be learned from romance authors - they make the most use of preorders, their covers are among the best and most micro-targeted in the industry, they know how to write great books that leave their readers wanting more from the author, they write series, and they're smart businesswomen).  But they're not all romance. Multiple genres in this list and a single non-fiction title.  To learn the best practices of the bestselling indie authors, check out my free book, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, or check out my best practices video at YouTube.

January 30, 2015 - If you live near Carlsbad, CA (between Los Angeles and San Diego), I'm speaking this Saturday January 31 in Carlsbad at Publishers and Writers San Diego.  Topic:  Best practices.  Register at http://publisherswriters.org/.  If you're there, say hello!

January 27, 2015 - Retailer txtr has gone bankrupt, but is continuing to operate and serve customers for the time being.  Read the story in Publishers Weekly.  Txtr has always been a smaller retailer, but nevertheless the loss of any retailer is always sad news.  In a message to Smashwords from Txtr, they claim they will maintain payment to publishers and distributors for all sales while the company pursues next steps.  Regardless of their ability to pay, Smashwords will guarantee payments for all sales reported by Txtr (ie we will cover for them) so Smashwords authors are protected from any potential payment interruptions.  We will continue to monitor our relationship with them.  If there are any changes, I will report updates here.

January 7, 2015 - Free speech under attack.  Our sympathy goes out today to the friends, families and victims touched today by the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in which 12 innocents were brutally murdered by radical extremists.  The event is especially saddening because it's a free speech issue.  Satire in all its forms is important for the preservation of free speech.  Show your solidarity and prove to the world that the pen is mightier than the sword.  Don't let anyone take away your pen. 

January 7, 2015 - Preemptive opt outs.  A few days ago we added a new feature in the Channel Manager that allows authors and publishers to preemptively opt out of new, as-of-yet unannounced distribution channels.  We do not recommend anyone uses it unless they have strong reasons to limit their global distribution, such as in cases where the author or publisher has sold exclusive digital rights for specific countries to other publishers.  Accessible in your Channel Manager, and full details and instructions at Preemptive Opt Out.  We will be announcing new channel partners this year. 

January 6, 2015 - The Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list for November is out.  Congrats to Chanda Hahn, Kirsty Moseley, Lauren Blakely, R.L. Mathewson, Natasha Preston, JD Nixon, Kendall Ryan, Roxy Sloane, Adrienne Bell, Nashoda Rose, Eve Langlais, Nelle L'Amour, Shayne Parkinson, Quinn Loftis and Kahlen Aymes!  We compile the list each month for Publishers Weekly based on aggregate dollar sales across the Smashwords distribution network.  Each month in addition to featuring the list online Publishers Weekly runs the list as a full-page feature in the print magazine.  Today's list was also promoted to subscribers of their daily email digest.  Fun facts:  1.  Across the top 25 bestsellers for the month, the average price was $3.67 and the median price was $2.99.  2.  Seven of the top 25 titles were released in November.  3.  Nineteen of the top 25 for November were 2014 releases.  4.  100% of the authors are women.  Women always dominate our lists.  It helps that woman write most of the romance, and romance is evergreen popular, but it goes beyond that.  They're writing in multiple genres.  I work personally with many of these writers each month, and I've got to tell you I'm so impressed by their talent, attention to detail, work ethic and business smarts. You won't find harder working, smarter professionals anywhere.  Tips for making the list:  1.  First, understand it's not easy. There are no one-hit wonders on the list.  These authors have written multiple books, have been writing for years and they're often writing series.  2. Release books as preorders, because all accumulated sales leading up to the release credit in the month your book goes onsale.   3.   Distribute to all retailers in the Smashwords network, because this allows us to count more verified sales.  4.  If you write series, price the series starter at free. A lot of the authors on this list have used perma free series starters with great success for years. 5.  Follow best practices.  If you want a refresher on best practices or just some fresh ideas, download The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success or watch my best practices video at YouTube.  Or, if you can stand to listen to my voice for 10+ hours, watch all the videos (or put 'em on in the background and just listen).  All the best practices advice I share is inspired by my observation of the practices of Smashwords bestsellers.

January 5, 2015 - On December 31, Smashwords announced a new VAT Manager tool that allows Smashwords authors and publishers to decide how they want to deal with the new European Union VAT rules.  The tool was announced via an email to all Smashwords authors and publishers.  If you didn't receive the email, please click to Account, then click to Communications Settings and make sure you're not opted out of receiving these exclusive author/publisher alerts.  If anyone missed the email, I loaded an archived version in the Smashwords Press Room.  If you publish at Amazon, you know that Amazon auto-adjusted ebook prices across their European stores to account for the increased VAT taxes.  They also warned that they would begin price-matching books for which the book at Amazon is priced higher than the same title at Amazon's competitors such as iBooks and Barnes & Noble UK.  Authors are now receiving these nasty gram emails from Amazon.  Authors have two choices to comply with Amazon's desires:  1.  Opt your books into the Smashwords VAT Manager tool, which will perform a one-time auto-adjustment of your prices in the European Union countries and will bring them into approximate alignment with Amazon's prices (I stress "approximate" because both we and Amazon translate USD prices into foreign currencies based on current exchange rates, and these rates have experienced volatile day to day changes in recent months).  By opting in to VAT Manager, Smashwords will auto-adjust your book prices higher in all European Union countries.  2.  If you decide you don't want to pass on the increased VAT taxes to customers in the form of higher prices, then you can click to your Amazon Dashboard and adjust your prices at Amazon.     Learn more in your Dashboard's VAT Manager tool.