The following update was sent to all Smashwords authors, publishers and agents with books published at Smashwords.
Smashwords Author/Publisher Alert - January 8, 2013
1. Smashwords Year-in-Review, 2012 Milestones and a Look at What's Coming in 2013
2. 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions (21 of them!)
3. Smashwords Introduces Direct EPUB Upload with Smashwords Direct
4. Distribute to Amazon through Smashwords' "$2,000 club"
5. Post-holiday sales analysis: Apple and B&N strong. Amazon flat?
6. Helpful Smashwords Resources
Your Smashwords page: [Link to profile page]
Smashwords account created: [Date]
1. SMASHWORDS YEAR-IN-REVIEW, 2013 LOOK-AHEAD
2012 was a great year for Smashwords authors and publishers. Nearly 100,000 new titles were published at Smashwords, bringing our catalog to nearly 200,000 titles. Our books are now pleasing millions of readers each month.
Over at the Smashwords Blog, I reviewed our milestones from 2012, and outlined our plans for 2013. I also outlined the driving forces behind the rise of indie ebooks, and how Smashwords authors and publishers stand poised to captain the future of book publishing.
Click here to read the post: http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/smashwords-year-in-review-2012-power-in.html
2. 2013 BOOK PUBLISHING PREDICTIONS (21 of them!)
When I started composing my 2013 publishing industry predictions, I thought I'd be hard-pressed to come up with eight or ten. When all was said and done, I identifed 21.
I wrote these to spur your imagination about the exciting possibilities that lie ahead for all Smashwords authors and publishers. You, my dear Smashwords author and publisher, are the future of publishing. You have the power to steer the course of the book publishing industry. You have the power to promote a culture of reading that makes books enjoyable and accessible to billions of new readers. You have the power - by your example and your willingness to share your experiences - to promote a culture of authorship by mentoring the next generation of writers.
I believe that the future of any industry, art or practice is guided by the collective and often competing hopes, dreams and aspirations of market participants. As a writer and reader, you're the most powerful of the participants. If we work toward common cause, anything is possible.
My 21 predictions aren't simply predictions. Many of them are aspirational. All human progress starts with a dream. Once we start working to achieve our collective dreams, these dreams can become reality.
If you enjoy my predictions (link is below), please share them with your fellow writers on Facebook, Twitter and via email. Start a conversation. At your next writers group meeting, discuss and debate them. You have my permission to repost the predictions on your blog or website. Post them all, or just post those you agree or disagree with.
Let's start a global discussion about the future, because once we're all conscious of the possibilities, the path ahead becomes illuminated for all.
Click here to read my 21 predictions for 2013: http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/mark-cokers-2013-book-publishing.html
3. NEW SMASHWORDS DIRECT OPTION ALLOWS DIRECT EPUB UPLOADS
Over the last two years, one of the most common feature requests we received was for Smashwords to allow direct uploads of professionally designed .epub files. As you know, .epub is the open industry standard ebook format that is sold by every major ebook retailer except Amazon.
When you upload a Microsoft Word .doc file to Smashwords, formatted per the instructions of the Smashwords Style Guide, our free Meatgrinder conversion system automatically transforms your manuscript into up to nine different ebook formats, including .epub. Our multi-format approach makes your book accessible to readers of any e-reading device.
If you carefully follow the instructions in the Style Guide, you'll produce a professional quality ebook for your readers. Meatgrinder's Word .doc conversion works great on most books, especially fiction and narrative non-fiction. Although Meatgrinder supports a wide range of professional styling, some of our authors and publishers wanted the ability to upload their own hand-coded, professionally designed .epubs.
This is what Smashwords Direct now allows.
Although Smashwords Direct opens up new possibilities for some authors and publishers, I expect the majority of the Smashwords community will continue to favor Meatgrinder's Word .doc conversion system as their preferred publishing workflow. It's fast, free, easy and flexible. You don't need to be a programmer or computer nerd to produce a high-quality ebook with Meatgrinder.
Smashwords Direct is exciting to me because it allows Smashwords to accept and distribute books with more sophisticated formatting than is possible with Meatgrinder. It also sets the stage for us to one day accept future file formats that simply aren't possible with Meatgrinder.
Smashwords Direct is now in live beta. This first iteration of Smashwords Direct supports two methods of direct .epub upload:
1. You can replace your Smashwords-generated epub with your own epub. To do this, click to your Dashboard, then click "Upload New Version," then upload your file.
2. If you're preparing to publish a new book not yet at Smashwords, sign in to your Smashwords account, click the regular Publish link, then fill out the publish page as you would normally, but upload your EPUB instead of a Word .doc. Later, if you wish, you can add more ebook formats to your book page by uploading a Word .doc, formatted to the Style Guide.
It's important to note that if you upload a direct .epub, we do not yet use it to produce other formats. We will likely add this capability in future iterations of Smashwords Direct (most likely for Kindle .mobi) although I don't expect we'll ever be able to match the broad multi-format options already possible when you feed Meatgrinder a Word .doc.
If you're interested to learn more about the Smashwords Direct feature, here are two pages to study first:
1. The original blog post, announcing SWD: http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/smashwords-supports-epub-uploads-with.html
2. The online documentation for SWD: https://www.smashwords.com/swdirect
We will continue to enhance Smashwords Direct based on your feedback and suggestions.
4. LIMITED DISTRIBUTION AVAILABLE TO AMAZON
As we mention at the Smashwords Distribution Information page at http://smashwords.com/distribution we offer limited distribution to Amazon. At present, we're only distributing around 200 titles to Amazon, whereas we're distributing nearly 150,000 titles to most of our other major retail partners such as Apple and Barnes & Noble.
If your book has earned over $2,000 across the Smashwords distribution network, we invite you to join other bestsellers such as JD Nixon, Shayne Parkinson and Mia Dymond who have consolidated all their distribution through Smashwords. This service is best for writers of genre fiction and series, and for authors who don't update their pricing frequently. We limit the Amazon distribution to Smashwords bestsellers because the uploading and management is completely manual for us, just as it would be if you upload direct to Amazon.
The royalty terms are somewhat similar to other retailers. Amazon has two royalty tiers, 70% and 35%, depending on the price and geography of sale. This means we pay 60% list and 30% list depending on the applicable tier (so we earn either 10% or 5% of list price as our commission).
The sales and payments will flow through to your Dashboard's Sales & Payments Reports screen just as they do for other retailers.
Please click the "comments/questions" link at the Smashwords web site and let us know you're in the $2,000 club and would like to be considered for distribution to Amazon.
5. POST HOLIDAY SALES ANALYSIS: A RECORD, BUT A CLOSER LOOK REVEALS MIXED RESULTS
As expected, it was another record holiday season for Smashwords authors and publishers. The initial sales data reveals some mixed results, and possible bad news for Amazon. Before I share these numbers, I caution you that the data below is preliminary.
In the days following Christmas, unit sales at the Apple iBookstore surged. In the 13 days since Christmas (12/25 through 1/6), average daily unit sales at the iBookstore are running 55% higher than the average daily sales for the immediately prior 28 days. These are big, impressive numbers, growing off of an already large base. In my 2013 predictions at http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/mark-cokers-2013-book-publishing.html I predicted that the Apple iBookstore would be the big breakout ebook retailing story of 2013, and now I'm even more confident of the projection. Apple appears to have trounced the other retailers this season.
At B&N, average daily unit sales for the same 13 days after Christmas are up 33% over the average daily unit sales for the prior 28 days. Measured in dollars, the sales increase is 35%. This is a great performance by B&N, and runs counter to the hand-wringing in the media, investor and author community recently regarding B&N's supposedly poor holiday performance. B&N has legs, and they're growing at a respectable rate.
I don't have the same full data for Sony, but my partial data suggests a 5-10% sales increase post Christmas.
Kobo hasn't reported December or January sales to us yet, so I don't know how they performed.
Here's the potential shocker. We distribute about 200 titles to Amazon. Based on what I'm seeing in our trailing 6-week reports from Amazon, Amazon's dollar sales were FLAT post-Christmas. Another word of caution, however. Unlike the sales data from Apple and B&N where we're looking at results across a catalog of around 140,000 titles, our sample size at Amazon is much smaller. However, 200 is a reasonably large sample representing a good mix of strong sellers and poor sellers. The lack of a post-holiday bump would tend to validate my 2013 prediction that Amazon will lose market share in the coming year. My estimate was largely based on the growth I'm seeing from Amazon's competitors, which we supply. If Amazon did in fact experience a busted Christmas in terms of ebook sales, it would signify a weakening of the Kindle e-reading platform.
A lot of people have attacked me over the last year for speaking out against Amazon's KDP Select service. For anyone who's been following the debate, I've cautioned authors not to put any eggs in Amazon's exclusive KDP-Select basket. By all means, publish at KDP, but don't opt-in for their Select option, which requires exclusivity for a minimum of three months. Some might attack me yet again for sharing these poor Amazon numbers. Don't shoot the messenger. Over at Kindleboards, where Amazon boosters reign supreme, several (but not all) individual authors have reported weak holiday sales at Amazon as well (http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,138469.0.html).
It's too soon to label Amazon's season a bust though, despite the Smashwords data and the anecdotal reports from Kindleboards. I'd like to see some large NY publishers reveal their sales data across the major retailers. If they do that, a clearer picture of Amazon's position will emerge.
One of the advantages of maintaining a diversified distribution portfolio is that you're not forced to play the retailing game like a horse race - you don't have to pick winners and losers. Maintain full distribution for you books and then focus your energy on completing the next book. Full distribution to all retailers allows you to reap the growth wherever and whenever it may occur. It diversifies your exposure, so a poor month at a single retailer is less likely to cause you miss your mortgage payment. It appears that most authors who followed this strategy were rewarded by Apple and B&N, and I wouldn't be surprised if Kobo put in strong numbers as well. Remember, every author's experience will vary, and most indie ebooks don't sell well regardless of the retailer.
6. HELPFUL SMASHWORDS RESOURCES
Frequently asked questions
Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of best-selling authors)
Smashwords Site Updates
Smashwords blog (subscribe via the email option!)
Data on ebook pricing, word counts and more
How to publish and distribute ebooks with Smashwords
Connect with fellow Smashwords readers and authors at Facebook
Mark's List - Low cost cover designers and ebook formaters. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you know authors, publishers and literary agents not yet on Smashwords? Invite them to join our 55,000+ strong worldwide community.
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