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Episode 10:   Book Marketing (Part 1 of 6)

Learn ebook marketing, Part 1. Introduces listeners to this special six-part series on book marketing, which guides writers step-by-step from the basics of book marketing to more advanced topics.  In this SMART AUTHOR podcast exclusive, Mark reads the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.  This episode covers an introduction to book marketing and then concludes by describing 23 free book marketing tools available to Smashwords authors and publishers.  This six-part book marketing series is best listened to serially from Episode 10 onward. 


Supplemental links:

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (New version coming in late January or early February 2018)

Free Marketing Tools at Smashwords

Ebook distribution to retailers and libraries (overview of Smashwords services)

The Smashwords Store (homepage: new books go live here, customers shop here, view "Special Deals" and other promotions)

Author profile page (your personal storefront.  All your books listed here along with social media links, your Smashwords Interview, "other books by this author," and more )

Book page at Smashwords (where customers can buy your ebook, view shopping cart, customer views, widget builder and more)

Coupons announcement (2016 announcement of metered coupons and campaign labels [note:  Campaign labels not mentioned in podcast])

"Special Deals" announcement (our new automated merchandising at Smashwords home page.  To enroll, create a public Coupon)

Smashwords Widget builder (Uses the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide as an example.  Find the widget builder for your book by visiting your book page and looking under the shopping cart)

Smashwords Interviews announcement (our "self-interviewing" tool.  Create your own Q&A interview today!)

Smashwords Satellites (experimental book discovery interfaces for different book categories, slices and dices)

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Welcome to the Smart Author Podcast where you’ll learn to publish ebooks with greater pride, professionalism, and success. I’m your host, Mark Coker. Let’s get started.

In this episode, episode 10, I kick off a six-part series dedicated to book marketing. These six episodes will serialize the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. Think of it as a podcasted audiobook.

After the final part airs in late January 2018, I’ll release the full ebook everywhere for free. Before we get started, let’s review three housekeeping items.

Number one:   I structured prior episodes of the Smart Author Podcast to build on the episodes that preceded them. We started with the foundational basics and then built our way up to more advanced topics. This helped me keep repetition to a minimum. For the next six episodes, we’ll start with the basics of book marketing and then we’ll build. You'll notice overlap with some of the concepts, strategies, and tactics we’ve covered in prior episodes. This can’t be avoided because as you'll soon learn, marketing touches everything.

Housekeeping item number two:  Smashwords. As I mentioned in the series trailer episode zero, the Smart Author Podcast is for all writers. Although my work with Smashwords informs the podcast, this is not a podcast about Smashwords. In today’s episode, you'll learn a detailed description of the free marketing tools at Smashwords. This is because when I first published the first edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide back in 2008, I wrote it for Smashwords authors but even if you're not yet a Smashwords author, I think you'll find the discussion of our tools will give you good ideas for how you can take your marketing to the next level. Of the 65 marketing tips I’ll present from the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, only six of them are exclusive to Smashwords authors. The rest are equally applicable to every author regardless of their choice of distributor.

Then my third and final housekeeping item before we get started:  I’m reading directly from an advanced copy of the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. To the extent possible, I’ll stay true to the text but there will be minor modifications.

The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is organized with an introduction, three main chapters, and dozens of subsections. As I proceed through the book, I may announce "NEXT SECTION" or "NEXT CHAPTER" to signal when I’m about to transition to the next heading or topic.

The ebook version from which I’m reading contains a lot of hyperlink text to make it easy for readers to navigate to various resources. In places where the addresses are short, I’ll probably read the address to you but for longer web addresses, I’ll either direct you to the show notes at, or I’d give you more general instructions on how you can find the resources.

Since we’re on a podcast, I will go off-script from time to time and speak directly to you because hey, we’re friends and we’re on this podcast journey together.

That’s it for housekeeping. Let’s get started with part one of six.


In part one, we’ll cover the introduction to the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. I’ll introduce you to several important book marketing concepts, and then we’ll conclude with Chapter One, which explores the marketing tools at Smashwords. Then, in part two, which will be episode 11 of the Smart Author Podcast, we’ll dive into the first of my 65 book marketing tips. I hope you enjoy it. Here we go.


Title page, Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker, copyright 2008 through 2018 by Mark Coker.


About the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

Since its first publication in 2008, Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has helped thousands of writers, publishers, and book marketers reach millions of new readers. The first edition aim to help Smashwords authors take full advantage of the marketing tools and capabilities of the Smashwords platform. In the year since, I've expanded the scope of the guide with dozens of updates as the industry developed and has identified new book marketing opportunities for authors. Today, the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has evolved to become an essential resource for all authors and publishers even if you're not yet working with Smashwords.

The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide proves practical, proven book marketing advice. You won't find gimmicks or shady tricks here. I teach, preach, and practice ethical marketing.

Most of the ideas presented here cost nothing to implement other than the investment of your time. Some of my tips require only a couple minutes to implement yet will reap you dividends for years to come. Other tips require a greater ongoing investment of your time and attention. Do the easy things first and then refer back to the guide often as a brainstorming checklist whenever you're ready to do more.

You'll find I use the term self-published author and indie author interchangeably. They’re the same.

Although this book focuses on ebook marketing, many of the recommendations I’m about to share apply to print book and audiobook marketing as well.

This is the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. It’s the most significant revision ever. It’s been revised and updated with dozens of new marketing tips and new material to help you master your book marketing. I've completely restructured the order in which I present the tips. They’re now organized in sections under logical categories that map more closely to how you’ll plan, launch, and sustain your book marketing.

I've also added a new chapter titled Deep Dives, which offers in-depth sections for developing your social media strategy, how to work with beta readers, and how to earn free press coverage.

For listeners of the Smart Author Podcast, I’ll skip the section on beta readers since we dedicated all of episode five to that one specific topic.

The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide will continue to evolve over time. Many of the marketing strategies and tactics you're about to learn were pioneered by your fellow indie authors. I welcome your suggestions for new tips I can share in future editions. I also welcome your corrections. Write me, Mark Coker, at first initial second initial at smashwords dot com.

Next section.

Why I wrote this book.

Context is important. Who am I and how did I come to write a book about book marketing? I've been practicing marketing my entire career. I received my degree in marketing from UC Berkeley in 1988 but my best learning has come from real world experience. My first job out of college was as VP of Marketing for my father’s garage startup. He gave me a big title with zero marketing budget for our little two-man company. Out of necessity, I learned how to get free press coverage for our software.

My next big job was working at one of the largest PR firms in Silicon Valley. After a couple of years there, I left to start my own firm. For over 15 years, I ran an award-winning Silicon Valley PR firm where I provided strategic communications counsel to -- and was mentored by -- some of the brightest CEOs and VPs of marketing from around the globe. It was an amazing educational experience.

Then about 15 years ago right before the dotcom bubble burst, I met my wife, Lesleyann. She’s a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine. She told me head spinning stories about her experiences reporting on the wild and wacky world of daytime television soap operas. She shared stories about how some of the actors were more over the top nuts in real life than their fictional soap opera counterparts. I suggested she write a book about her experiences. She suggested we write that book together.

Ever since I can remember, I’d always dreamed of writing a book. I always assumed I’d write non-fiction about one of my various passions such as gardening, entrepreneurship, stock market investing, or marketing but a novel about soap operas? I decided, why not?

I was getting burnt out on the daily grind of running a PR agency and I was ready for something different. The rest is history. I took a sabbatical from my PR agency to research and write the novel with Lesleyann. It was an amazing experience. We explored the dark underbelly of Hollywood celebrity. The book is titled Boob Tube.

Despite representation from an awesome agent at a top literary agent in New York City, we couldn’t get a publishing deal. Previous novels that had targeted soap opera fans had performed poorly on the market, so publishers were reluctant to take a chance on us.

The experience opened my eyes. I realized that despite their good intentions, publishers are unable to say yes to every author. I imagine the millions of writers who came before us whose dreams of authorship had been crushed by the benign neglect of publishers. I thought it’d be really cool if someone could create a publishing service that could say to every writer in the world. This was in 2005, the early days of blogging and of YouTube. I thought if anyone could have the freedom to publish a blog post or a video online and have their work judged directly by their audience as opposed to having to work through a gatekeeper, then why not a book?

I decided to solve the problem myself. I wanted to democratize publishing for the benefit of all writers and readers. In 2008, I founded an ebook publishing company called Smashwords. Smashwords makes it fast, free and easy for any writer anywhere in the world to self-publish an ebook. We created powerful publishing and marketing tools and we put these tools in the hands of writers at no cost. In 2009, we successfully broke down the distribution barriers by opening up multiple major ebook retailers to self-published ebooks for the first time. Once our authors’ books hit retailers’ virtual shelves, they started selling.

We also opened up public libraries for the first time to self-published ebooks.

In the year since our founding, Smashwords has grown to become the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks. Throughout our growth and all the ups and downs of this rough and tumble industry, I never lost sight of the fighting spirit upon which I founded the company. We’re here to democratize publishing for the benefit of all authors, publishers, and readers. That fight continues.

Today, we help over 130,000 authors publish and distribute nearly 500,000 ebooks. It’s been my privilege to work with so many bright and amazing authors. Unlike large publishers and unlike my former corporate clients in the tech industry, indie authors have never enjoyed the luxury of multimillion dollar marketing budgets. What indies lack in money, however, they made up 100 times over with creativity, experimentation, and grit.

In the fight to reach readers, indie authors such as yourself pioneered many of the ebook marketing practices I’m about to share with you. If you're a writer, author, publisher, book marketer, literary agent or personal assistant to an author, this guide is for you. I’m here to help you reach more readers.

Next section.

What is book marketing?

Book marketing is more than social media, paid advertising and branded pencils. Book marketing is everything that you do to make your work and your author brand more discoverable, more desirable, and more enjoyable for your target reader. This means marketing encompasses everything from book production to pricing to distribution and promotion. Every decision you make will have a marketing impact. Smart marketing starts by understanding your target reader. Who is that reader more than any other who will derive the greatest satisfaction from your work?

Your target reader looks to books to satisfy specific emotional and intellectual aspirations. A reader may desire to laugh, cry, learn, escape, contemplate, feel happy, feel scared, feel titillated or all of the above and more. Your target reader is a time traveler with split personalities. Your reader has diverse tastes. The same reader may desire a political memoir today, a sweet romance tomorrow, a book on business finance the next day, and a celebrity biography the day after that. Your reader is a moving target. To reach them, your book needs to be in the right place at the right time with the right message so the reader is drawn to its gravitational pull the next time their orbit passes by your book. Smart book marketing works like an ever present magnet to bridge the gap between a reader’s desire and your book’s ability to satisfy that desire.

Next section, writing is marketing. Writing is the most important form of marketing because it’s how you produce the product that will satisfy your target reader’s desires. Your number one priority as an author is to write a super awesome book that takes your reader to an emotionally satisfying extreme. It doesn’t matter if your book is about real estate investing, political philosophy, or romance. The goal is the same. Make the reader go, “Wow.”

Great books become bestsellers when they spread from one reader to another through word of mouth. As we discussed in prior episodes of the Smart Author Podcast, good books aren’t good enough anymore. There are millions of good books out there but only a small number of wow books. We’ve all read wow books. They’re the books that stick with us forever. They’re the books that inspire us, move us, or shake us to our core. Wow books are in five-star reviews. They’re the books readers can’t put down. Wow books are the books that cost readers to become fans and fans to become super fans. Super fans buy everything you write. Super fans are your evangelists. They drive word of mouth. They’re the readers that will propel your career forward for many decades to come.

Of all marketing tasks, organize your day to protect and maximize your writing time. Think of your book as the cake. The marketing recommendations in this book are the icing on the cake. Now, let’s turn our attention to the market environment in which you participate. Once you have the lay of land, you can prosecute your marketing campaigns with greater success.

Next section, the rise of ebooks. In 2008, when I launched Smashwords, ebooks accounted for less than 1% of the overall trade book market. So called trade books, if you're not familiar with the term, are the books consumers purchase in both physical and online bookstores. Today, ebooks account for around 25% of overall trade book sales. In genre fiction, ebooks command a larger share. Since ebooks are priced lower than print books, this 25% market share underestimates the dramatic shift to digital reading that has occurred over the last decade.

From a unit market share perspective, the percentage of words read digitally as ebooks versus print is probably near or above 50%. If you want to reach more readers, follow the eyeballs and make ebooks central to your publishing strategy. Although 75% of trade book sales are still in print, the print market is dominated by traditional publishers. Traditional publishers still control access to the physical brick and mortar bookstores.

This means that with rare exception, print distribution to physical stores is not an option for most self-published authors. With ebooks, however, it’s a different story. With ebooks, the shelf space is virtual. Every major ebook retailer wants to carry every self-published ebook. This means your book will appear alongside the ebooks published by major publishers. Your book, like all ebooks, can occupy that virtual shelf forever even if your sales are low. This means your book has the potential to generate an annuity stream of income for you and your heirs for many years to come.

Next section, the competitive advantage of indie ebook authors. In the digital realm, indie ebook authors enjoy numerous competitive advantages over traditional publishers. You enjoy faster time to market, complete creative control, and total promotional flexibility. You control all your rights and you have the ability to price lower while earning higher royalty rates. How much higher are the royalties? Authors who work with large traditional publishers typically earn only 12 to 17% of the ebook’s list price as their royalty and that works out to 11 to 15% after their agent takes their cut. Indie ebook authors, by contrast, earn 60 to 80% of the list price as their royalty. That’s about five times higher.

To put these royalties in practical terms, it means an indie author can price his or her ebook at 3.99 and earn about $2.50 for each book sold. A traditionally published author would earn only 50 to 70 cents at that price. The traditionally published author would have to have their ebook priced at over $14 to earn the same $2.50 earned by the indie author at 3.99. If a reader has a choice between two books of equal perceived quality and one is priced at 3.99 and the other is at 13.99, the 3.99 indie ebook has the advantage. The lower price makes your book more affordable and more desirable to readers.

Each year, I publish an annual research report called the Smashwords Survey that examines the impact of book price on an author’s unit sales and overall earnings. Episode seven of the Smart Author Podcast examined the 2017 Smashwords Survey. For each of the last several years, we found that ebooks of full length fiction priced at 3.99 earned as much, if not more, than fiction priced over $10, yet the 3.99 price yields three to five times as many unit sales. Indie authors are leveraging low prices to build readership faster and earn more in the process.

Next section, setting expectations. We all find inspiration from the amazing stories of indie ebook authors who were rejected by traditional publishers and then turned to Smashwords or Amazon to self-publish ebooks and voila, they became international bestsellers. These rags to riches stories remind us of what’s possible, yet the truth of the matter is that most books don’t sell well, whether they’re self-published or traditionally published. At Smashwords, we don’t make promises we can’t keep. I cannot promise you that your book will sell well, even if you follow all the tips here in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. I want you to know the truth, so you approach your publishing career with realistic expectations and eyes wide open.

You might labor away in obscurity for years before your books break out or you may never break out. A new ebook published today will compete against over five million other ebooks already in ebook stores. There’s a [inaudible 00:18:43] of high quality low cost ebooks on the market. Hundreds of thousands of new titles come to market each year from traditional publishers and indie authors alike. Readers turn to ebooks for entertainment, escapism, and knowledge, yet other media forms are competing for your reader’s attention. Witness the amount of time your target readers also spend enjoying social media, television, movies, sports, video games, and podcasts.

The good news is that your book is unique. Since ebooks never go out of print, your book is immortal. It can forever occupy that valuable shelf space. This permanence is a mixed blessing. On the positive side, it means your book is forever discoverable and purchasable. On the negative side, it means your competition will increase every day and every year from this day forward. Smart marketing will help your book rise above the clutter to become more visible, more findable and more desirable to your readers. The skills you learn here in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide will make you more successful author. That success won’t come overnight. Instead, it’ll come in small increments over time as you learn to adopt, implement, and refine the recommendations I’m about to share.

Marketing is a core competency every author must learn. Even traditionally published authors often complain they don’t get enough marketing support from their publisher. This is because publishers cannot sustain the marketing after your book is released. Unless an author’s book sells really well right out of the gate, publishers need to shift their marketing resources and attention to the next new releases by other authors.

Successful authors, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, must learn to drive their own marketing. No publisher will ever share the same lifelong passion for your book as you. It’s your baby. You're the one who dreams about your book every night. You spend your shower time, your drive time, and every other waking moment thinking about your book. Bottom line, you are your book’s best advocate and best marketer.

Coming up in chapter one, I’ll provide an overview of the marketing tools at Smashwords and then in chapter two, which will be next week’s episode 11 of the Smart Author Podcast, we’ll dive into my checklist of 65 book marketing tips.

Chapter One

How Smashwords Assists Book Marketing

Smashwords is a free ebook publishing platform available to all writers. To publish with Smashwords, you sign up for a free account at and then follow the step-by-step instructions that come in your confirmation e-mail.

Once your book is published at Smashwords, we review it to confirm it meets the distribution requirements of our retailers and library partners. These requirements are mostly mechanical and legal in nature. Assuming you followed our simple publishing instructions, we approve the book for distribution and then we digitally transmit your ebook to the retailers and libraries.

Within minutes of upload to Smashwords, you can start benefiting from the marketing tools I’m about to describe. Let’s itemize the tools and their benefits one by one.

Tool number one, distribution to retailers and libraries. Broad distribution is one of the most important components of your marketing plan. If your book isn’t available in bookstores and at libraries, it’s not discoverable by readers. All online retailers and most libraries carry self-published ebooks. How do you get your book into these sales outlets? The simplest route is to partner with a distributor like Smashwords. With a single upload to Smashwords, we’ll distribute it to major retailers such as Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Scribd. We’ll also make it purchasable by over 30,000 public libraries around the world via our distribution to library ebook platforms such as OverDrive, Baker & Taylor, Axis 360, Bibliotecha cloudLibrary, Gardners, and Odilo.

We make it easy for you to manage your book across multiple sales channels. If you want to change the price or update your book description or upload a new cover image, you make the update once at Smashwords and then we transmit the update to all the sales channels we serve. There’s no cost to distribute with Smashwords. Smashwords earns its income on commission. If your book sells at one of our retailers, the retailer takes 30% of the list price as their commission, Smashwords earns 10% of the list price, and the author earns 60% of the list price.

Most Smashwords authors and publishers derive over 90% of their sales through our global distribution network with the remaining 10% or less earned at the Smashwords store, which is the topic of my next item.

Tool number two, the Smashwords store, our retail operation. Smashwords is unusual among ebook distributors in that we also operate our own small online retail store. Within five minutes of uploading your book to Smashwords, it goes live on the Smashwords homepage and is available for immediate purchase and download by a worldwide audience.

Millions of readers pass through our virtual doors each month. We make it easy for readers to discover books and authors of interest. Some of these book discovery features include granular category searches, bestseller lists, highest rated lists, other books by this author, other books in this series, and readers of this book also read that book. Readers can also fine tune their category searches by book length, price, and even by books that are running special sales. The Smashwords store pays royalties up to 80% list, among the highest in the industry. Even 99 cent ebooks can earn up to 80% list at Smashwords. The royalty is based on the size of the customer’s shopping cart.

Tool number three, multiple ebook file types. You have two options for delivering your book to Smashwords. You can upload your own professionally designed EPUB file or you can do what the vast majority of our authors and publishers do. They upload a Microsoft Word document of their manuscript. When you upload a Microsoft Word document to Smashwords, we automatically convert it into five different ebook file types including the most popular formats of EPUB, MOBI, and PDF. These different file types make your book accessible to users of any e-reading device. Customers can purchase the book at Smashwords once and then enjoy it on any of their personal devices in any format. Some of the many devices supported include the Apple iPad, the iPhone, Amazon’s Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo e-reader, personal computers, any smartphone, and any future devices not even invented yet.

Tool number four, author profile pages. When you publish with Smashwords, we create a personal profile page for you with a unique web address. The Smashwords profile page is powerful. Think of it as your personal storefront. It automatically lists all your published books. You can post your bio and picture, add social media links to Facebook and Twitter, integrate your external blog, embed YouTube videos, which I’ll cover in a moment, provide links to where readers can purchase print versions of your books if they’re available, and showcase reviews you've written of other books at the Smashwords store.

Your profile page also helps you forge a closer relationship with readers. Readers can favorite you, which causes links to appear on their profile page. Readers can also subscribe to your Smashwords alerts so they receive automated e-mail notifications whenever you release a new book. Your profile page also lists your Smashwords interview. We’ll talk about that more in a second.

Tool number five, book pages. For each book you publish with Smashwords, we automatically generate a webpage dedicated to that book. You can upload a book cover, upload YouTube book trailers, and add a synopsis and descriptive tags to help readers find your book. Prospective readers can access samples of your book in formats readable on any e-reading device, and add your book to their shopping cart with a click. Book sampling and the shopping cart are the next two items I’ll describe.

Tool number six, book sampling. Smashwords offers the most powerful and flexible sampling system you'll find anywhere. When you upload your book to Smashwords, you'll tell us what percentage of your book we should make available as a free sample in the Smashwords store. Sampling allows readers to try your book before they buy it. As the author, you determine the sampling percentage from word one forward. If, for example, you select 15% sampling, the first 15% of your book starting at the beginning is available for free download so prospective readers can try it before they buy it. At the end of the sample, we prompt them to purchase the full book.

Tool number seven, the shopping cart. We help you sell your book. We offer a simple to use shopping cart for your readers and we make it easy for them to pay via PayPal or any of the most common credit cards. 85% of the net sales proceeds from your book go to the person who deserves it most, you, the author or publisher.

Tool number eight, book reviews. Book reviews help sell books, so we make it easy for your customers to review your books. Whenever someone buys your book, we send them an automated reminder to review your book if they enjoyed it.

Tool number nine, coupons. One of the most popular features at Smashwords is our coupon manager tool, which you'll find in your Smashwords dashboard. No other retailer offers anything similar or so powerful. Coupon manager makes it easy for you to generate custom coupon codes you can promote to your fans on your e-mail list, website, blog, social networks or on printed business cards. We’re continually adding new capabilities to this tool. You can create custom coupon codes for cents off, dollars off or percentage off, or you can control the expiration date.

You can also create what we call metered coupons where you can control the number of redemptions before the coupon expires. There’s also an option to make your coupons public or private. With a private coupon, you control who you give the coupon code to. With a public coupon, your special sales price is advertised to customers in the Smashwords store and on your book page. I’ll provide additional ideas later on in tip 58 on how to use the coupon manager tool.

Tool number 10, promotional widgets. Widgets are image based advertisements for your book. You and your readers can create beautiful, customizable widgets for your book. These widgets can be placed on websites and blogs to advertise your book. You'll find our widget builder on your Smashwords book page right below the shopping cart. In the show notes for the Smart Author Podcast, I’ll post a link to the widget builder for one of my books.

Tool number 11, search engine visibility. Your Smashwords profile page, book pages and online book samples are designed so search engines can easily discover and index them. By publishing your book on Smashwords, you'll have dozens of inbound links to your pages from leading search engines. This allows prospective readers to stumble across your book as they’re performing other web searches.

Tool number 12, exclusive special deals promotions. In 2017, Smashwords introduced an exciting new automated merchandising feature at the Smashwords store that showcases books on sale exclusively at Smashwords. These books are included in a permanent homepage promotional feature that makes it easy for readers to search for special deals. Enrolment in this feature is free and easy. Simply visit the coupon manager in your dashboard, create a coupon, and then mark it as a public coupon instead of a private coupon.

Tool number 13, Smashwords interviews. How would you like to be interviewed on Smashwords? Several years back, we ran a series of author interviews at the Smashwords blog. At first, I conducted the interviews myself but quickly realized I didn’t have enough time to interview all the great authors I wanted to interview so I hired a former writer for Rolling Stone magazine to interview our authors. He was awesome and he did a bunch of great interviews but we still couldn’t accommodate everyone. This led us to create a really cool tool at Smashwords that we call Smashwords Interviews. You'll find it in your Smashwords dashboard.

This exclusive author marketing tool makes it easy to create, publish, and promote a self-interview. The interview helps readers and prospective readers learn the story behind the author. It’s a lot of fun. Our system will present you with a series of optional questions you can answer or you can modify our questions, or create your own questions. The resulting interview is promoted on your author profile page at Smashwords. We’ll touch on this more later in the book.

Tool number 14, embeddable YouTube videos. If you publish videos on YouTube, you can embed these videos on both your profile page and on your book pages. This is great for book trailers or just you in front of the camera talking about your book. Video offers you a chance to engage the senses of the prospective reader and entice them to sample and purchase your book.

Tool number 15, book tagging. We realize even our extensive hardwired book categories at Smashwords can’t describe all books, so we allow you as the author and publisher to add supplemental tags or keywords. These tags and keywords help describe your book and make it easier to connect with prospective readers. The book tags you enter help people discover you when they do a book search from a search engine like Google or from the Smashwords homepage search box. We also use these keywords for the next tool I’m about to discuss.

Tool number 16, the tag cloud. Each time you upload a new book, you can attach up to a dozen supplemental keywords to make that book more discoverable at the Smashwords store. These keywords then form what’s called a tag cloud, which offers readers another way to discover books of interest. The keyword tags for each book appear on the book’s Smashwords book page. On your author and publisher profile page will appear an aggregate list of all the keywords for all your books. By clicking on that keyword in the cloud, the reader is presented with books that match that tag.

Tool number 17, other books by this author or publisher. When you publish multiple books at Smashwords, you amplify the opportunity for readers to discover you and your works. If a reader is browsing one book page, they’ll see a link that reads, “Also by this author,” or, “Also by this publisher.”

Tool number 18, integration with social networking and social book marketing sites. Social media is all about ordinary people having conversations online and sharing information and interests. Social media turbo charges word of mouth. On each book page at Smashwords, you’ll notice links to popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. By clicking on one of these links, you or your reader can share your book with friends. Each time someone clicks on one or more of these links, they’re promoting your book by building a virtual pathway, a hyperlink that leads back to your book page.

Tool number 19, Smashwords affiliate partners program. The Smashwords affiliate program provides incentive to third party websites, blogs, and affiliate marketers to link to and promote your books. Your readers can be affiliates too. Affiliates receive a commission in exchange for all book sales they help generate. As a Smashwords author or publisher, your books are automatically enrolled to benefit from this promotion.

Tool number 20, exclusive site-wide promotions. A few times each year, Smashwords offers exclusive promotions at the Smashwords store. The most well-known promotion is called Read an Ebook Week, which usually occurs the second week of March. Another popular promotion is our annual July Summer/Winter Sale. We call it summer/winter because it’s summer in the Northern hemisphere and winter in the Southern hemisphere. We have customers all around the world. In December 2017, we kicked off a new annual promotion, which we call the Smashwords End of Year Sale. With each of the promotions, you can enroll your books at different discount levels, and we promote your books within a special promotional catalog on the homepage. These are collaborative promotions in that the more authors who participate, the more readers are then driven into the sale to discover other great books by other participating authors.

Tool number 21, promotion on Smashwords satellites. Smashwords satellites are a collection of about two dozen specialized micro-sites operated by Smashwords. Readers can browse the most recently released Smashwords books by category and topic. For example, some of the satellites are labeled ebooks for kids or biography ebooks, or free poetry ebooks. The satellites offer experimental book discovery interfaces that make it easier for customers to discover and sample books of interest. Listing on these satellites is automatic based on your book category, length, and price. For a complete listing of the satellites, visit That’s L-A-B-S, labs.

Tool number 22, access to retailer merchandising promotions. If you walk into a physical bookstore, the first books that you see on the front table or in the end caps are the featured books. Since these are the first books you see and they’re recommended by the book seller, you're more likely to pick them up and purchase them as opposed to the other books that are buried deeper in the store usually sitting spine out on some shelf. The featured books are selected by the merchandising managers of the stores. Often, publishers pay money to the bookstore or to the bookstore chain to have these books featured in prime locations of the store.

In the ebook realm, stores also have merchandising managers that select books for features on their homepages. Visit the homepage of iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, or any other retailer and you will see featured ebooks. Unlike with physical stores, the author or the publisher doesn’t have to pay for these features. How does the online retailers select which books will receive feature promotion? It’s usually a collaborative curation effort. The merchandising team is looking to feature books they’re confident will please their customers. Since retailers can’t read every book, they use other signals to identify the most promising reader pleasers. These signals may include the author’s past sales track record at their store or the quality of the book’s cover image or the number of accumulated pre-orders for the ebook, or recommendations from a publisher or a distributor.

This is where Smashwords comes in. As a distributor, Smashwords has a unique vantage point. We can track your actual sales from across our retailer and library distribution network. We can spot breakout books early because we’re looking at aggregated sales of a title or aggregated pre-order accumulation across multiple sales channels. We leverage this data to provide merchandising recommendations to our retail and library partners. By distributing with Smashwords, you're eligible to receive this merchandising promotion and the benefits that come from it if you earn it.

To keep things fair and impartial, we base our recommendations on the metrics retailers value most, so we’re looking at the author’s historical track record. We’re looking at pre-order accumulation and aggregate sales across our distribution network. Every week, dozens of Smashwords authors receive this incredible merchandising benefit at no cost. Our retailer library partners appreciate our recommendations because they know our recommendations are based on actual audited performance data. This also means that your strong sales at one retailer, say iBooks or Kobo, can help you get merchandising love at another retailer.

Tool number 23, free author education resources. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is what separates self-published professionals from self-published amateurs. I want to help you learn to publish like a professional. The secret to professional publishing is best practices. At Smashwords, we invest significant resources to develop free educational tools to teach you professional publishing best practices. This Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is one such free resource. My new Smart Author Podcast is another such resource.

When you're ready to publish your book, download my free Smashwords Style Guide. With over 600,000 downloads and counting, it’s probably the world’s most popular ebook for how to professionally format and design an ebook.

If you’re new to ebook publishing, check out our glossary of ebook publishing terms in our FAQ. FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. You'll find the FAQ listed at the top of any Smashwords webpage.


That concludes part one of my six-part series on book marketing.

As always, in the show notes at, you'll find supplemental links and a full transcript for this and other episodes.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to the Smart Author Podcast, please do so now at Apple Podcasts or any of the other fine podcast directories we link to over in the show notes. The subscription is free and will prevent you from missing any future episodes.

Coming up next in episode 11 is part two of my marketing series. You'll learn the first 23 book marketing tips from the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. These first 23 tips cover essential marketing preparation for building your author brand and preparing for your next book launch.

Thanks for joining me. Until next time, keep writing. I’m Mark Coker.