In this episode I talk to Mark Coker who is the head of Smashwords, the biggest and longest-established of the eBook aggregators. It is the last (for now) of the eBook aggregator interview series. It’s been a long ride. I’ve you’ve missed the other shows here are the links to them:
Tim Lewis: [00:01:21] Hi Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark Coker: [00:01:23] Hi Tim. Great to be here.
Tim Lewis: [00:01:25] My understanding is that Smashwords is basically the longest established eBook aggregator – is that true? How did you kind of end up starting Smashwords?
The History of Smashwords
Mark Coker: [00:01:35] Well I don’t know if we are the longest established but we probably were first to market as an e-book aggregator focused on self published authors and small independent presses.
Mark Coker: [00:01:47] So the story is Smashwords really started about 12 years ago. My wife is a former reporter for a soap opera magazine here in the United States called Soap Opera Weekly.
Mark Coker: [00:01:59] And when I met her she was telling me these incredible stories of how the soap opera actors that she had to interview were more over the top crazy than the soap opera storylines themselves. And I suggested she should write a book about her experiences and she said well why don’t we write a book together.
Mark Coker: [00:02:16] And I thought well what the heck. You know I had always dreamed of writing a book. I never dreamed I’d write a book about soap operas but I thought you know this would be really fun.
Mark Coker: [00:02:25] And so we wrote a book together and we wrote a novel together that novel is boob tube and we finished the book about 10 or 11 years ago and we went through the experience that I think every first time author experiences you know that first draft that you finish you think it’s brilliant and it’s perfect.
Mark Coker: [00:02:44] And then you come to learn that it’s absolutely horrible and it needs a lot of editing and revision and that’s what we did. Finally we got our book into shape. We shopped around the literary agents.
Mark Coker: [00:02:54] We were represented by one of the top literary agencies in New York, Dystel Goderich and for two more years they tried to sell the book to all the major publishers of commercial women’s fiction in New York and they got nothing but rejection.
Mark Coker: [00:03:10] And the common thread of feedback from the publishers was that previous soap opera themed books hadn’t sold well on the market. So they were reluctant to take a chance on the book and it was that experience that really opened my eyes to what I consider a horrible problem.
Mark Coker: [00:03:28] A problem that didn’t just affect our dreams and aspirations but could potentially affect book culture and the future of books. And it’s important to understand that traditional publishers aren’t necessarily in the business of selling books they’re in the biz.
Mark Coker: [00:03:46] Well they’re in the business of selling books not necessarily publishing books. So the publishing is kind of the means to the ends of selling books if they don’t think your book has commercial potential, they’re reluctant to take a chance on it.
Mark Coker: [00:03:59] And my view then as it is now is that you can’t judge the value of a book by commercial merit alone. There are many great books out there that will never have strong commercial potential yet these books have the potential to touch the souls of readers to change readers lives to contribute to greater cross-cultural understanding and contribute to greater knowledge in the world.
Mark Coker: [00:04:23] And you know all these great things for which books are this magical vehicle. And so I thought well obviously the problem that publishers face, the challenge they face is that they’re unable to invest in every single book and every single author.
Mark Coker: [00:04:40] And so I got this crazy idea I thought wouldn’t it be cool if someone out there could make it possible for any writer anywhere in the world to self-publish a book and to self-publish a book at no cost so that every writer could publish a book and then let the readers decide which books were worth reading.
Mark Coker: [00:05:01] So let the readers become the gatekeepers and the more I thought about it the more I realized that the way to do that was with digital books with e-books. And then I thought well I could do this.
Mark Coker: [00:05:14] What if I created a free ebook publishing platform to make it fast and easy for any writer anywhere in the world to publish a book. A platform that would allow me to say yes to every author in the world and allow me to invest in every author and then let the marketplace decide what they want to read.
Mark Coker: [00:05:33] And so that was the genesis of Smashwords So I started working on the Smashwords business plan probably around 2005. By 2008, we launched it publicly and the initial idea was just to make it possible for someone to upload a Microsoft Word document.
Mark Coker: [00:05:50] We created the conversion technology so that we could convert that into multiple ebook formats so that the book could be read on a Kindle or any kind of digital device.
Mark Coker: [00:06:01] We output in Mobi format, PDF, ePub, a whole bunch of different formats and so that was the general idea of the original Smashwords. And we created a store so that our authors could sell their books to the public. So that was 2008.
Mark Coker: [00:06:21] By the end of 2008 we were publishing about 90 different authors and on a good day we were selling about $10 worth of books in our little store. And keep in mind that our commission is really low.
Mark Coker: [00:06:36] It’s only about 10 percent of the retail price. So we’re raking in a whopping dollar a day in income. Yet this business was costing me over $10000 a month and I was the primary, I was the only investor in this business.
Mark Coker: [00:06:52] And through some discussions with some of our authors and publishers I finally came to the realization that no one had ever heard of Smashwords. We weren’t a large bookstore.
Mark Coker: [00:07:02] Readers go to stores to buy books and so I thought OK we need to get our books into stores, large stores where readers are going to find their books.
Mark Coker: [00:07:10] And so I opened up discussions with some of the major e-book retailers at that time: Barnes and Noble and Sony. They were the first two that I spoke with and to my surprise both of them wanted all of our books.
Mark Coker: [00:07:26] And so it was in early 2009 that we got this crazy idea to become an e-book distributor. Now in 2009 I was very aware of Ingram, the world’s largest distributor, and I was aware that they were distributing e-books but that they were distributing the books of large traditional publishers and they didn’t really have a good offering for self-published authors.
Mark Coker: [00:07:50] So I thought maybe there’s an opportunity for us to become the Ingram of e-book self publishing. And so that was like the second crazy idea and I remember when I shared this idea with my staff which was just my one employee I laughed. You know this was crazy.
Mark Coker: [00:08:10] We didn’t know anything about distribution but there was this opportunity and we decided to go for it and that changed everything for us once we got our books into the stores.
Mark Coker: [00:08:20] Our book started selling and we started growing our business. So Smashwords wasn’t the first e-book aggregator but we are probably the first to focus exclusively on self-published books and then later we expanded that beyond just self published books but also to support the needs of small independent presses.
Mark Coker: [00:08:43] There are thousands of small independent presses out there that face the same publishing challenges and same distribution challenges that the independent authors face. So that’s the background on how we got started.
Tim Lewis: [00:08:56] OK so presumably you’re making more than ten dollars a month for the moment!
Mark Coker: [00:09:01] Yes yes.
Tim Lewis: [00:09:03] OK. So obviously as I discussed in the pre-chat you are the fifth of the eBook aggregators I’ve interviewed recently on the show.
Mark Coker: [00:09:12] Well yes. Thank you Tim for your usual fascination with eBook aggregators.
Tim Lewis: [00:09:18] It’s one of those, it’s a completionist thing I started off I started off with one and then I thought it’s only fair to have some of the other ones on and then it’s like well we’ll have everybody on.
Mark Coker: [00:09:28] Yeah well I’m honored that you chose to speak with us.
Why use Smashwords?
Tim Lewis: [00:09:32] What do you say to people who say there are all these other eBook aggregators out now, new ones based in different places and maybe go to slightly different stores or have a lower sort of rates? What is unique about Smashwords that the other eBook aggregators don’t offer? What would you say is your sort of unique selling point, so to speak?
Mark Coker: [00:09:54] Well you know that’s a really difficult question because the truth of the matter is I don’t spend very much time thinking about our competitors.
Mark Coker: [00:10:01] In the last nine years that we’ve been in business now I have seen dozens if not hundreds of companies come and go, you know trying to do what we’re doing. This is a very difficult business to operate in, a difficult business to stay in business.
Mark Coker: [00:10:19] Margins are low. Lot of competition. And you know I’ve always throughout my business career you know my attitude has always been you’ve got to look forward not backward.
Mark Coker: [00:10:30] So I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our competitors. But I do spend a lot of time thinking about and listening to our authors. What do our authors want from us?
Mark Coker: [00:10:39] So when someone asked me why should I work with Smashwords? Well, Smashwords was first to market with an e-book aggregation service, we think we are one of the most authors friendly services out there.
Mark Coker: [00:10:53] Our ethos is all about serving authors. Leveling the playing field giving small independent presses and self-published authors the tools that they need to make their books more available and more discoverable and more desirable to readers and everything about our business is in my opinion aligned with the best interests of authors.
Mark Coker: [00:11:19] So there are a lot of services out there that can only stay in business by selling things to authors: selling services, selling publishing packages, marketing packages, trailers, publicity services.
Mark Coker: [00:11:34] And I decided very early on when I was working on the Smashwords business plan that we were going to do any of that.
Mark Coker: [00:11:41] There were already a lot of vanity presses out there that were in my view exploiting authors and I actually looked to the example of publishers so traditional publishers when they’re at their best they invest in their authors and invest in their books and the money only flows in one direction it flows to the author, the author gets the advance, the author gets the royalty check.
Mark Coker: [00:12:09] Authors of traditional publishers don’t have to pay the publisher for the privilege of getting published and so it’s very important to me that we’re going to build a business that was focused on helping authors and publishers sell books.
Mark Coker: [00:12:21] We only make money if the books that we’re distributing sell. So to support this effort over the last nine years we have continuously created some really innovative tools that help level the playing field and provide authors professional grade tools that help them publish like a professional.
Mark Coker: [00:12:48] So the way Smashwords works is you sign up for a free account. Everything’s free. The confirmation email that we send you tells you what your next steps are to get your book published at Smashwords.
Mark Coker: [00:13:00] The moment you create an account at Smashwords we create an author profile page for you automatically and then as soon as you upload a book to Smashwords we create automatic book pages that are linked to your author page so it’s like you’ve got your own personal store at Smashwords that you can control.
Mark Coker: [00:13:20] You’ve got the ability to add your author bio to upload videos to do an author interview, tell readers the story behind the author. You can price your books any price you want. We’ve got coupon features so you can create custom coupon codes to promote your books.
Mark Coker: [00:13:38] We’ve got widgets to help assist with your online marketing so that not just you but your fans as well can share these little widgets on the web sites on their blogs and help you promote your books. We’ve got an ever increasing distribution network.
Mark Coker: [00:13:55] We’ve got I think one of the broadest distribution networks out there for self-published authors. If you look at our history over the last nine years we have been the first to open up many major retailers and other sales outlets to self-published authors.
Mark Coker: [00:14:11] We were the first to open up Barnes and Noble for self-published e-books. We were the first to open up Sony to self-published e-books.
Mark Coker: [00:14:18] We were there on day one at the launch of the Apple iBooks store with over 2000 books in their store and we did one of their authorized global aggregators from day one.
Mark Coker: [00:14:30] We’ve got great relationships with the retailers. We’ve done a lot of work to open up the library market so we are one of the first aggregators to open up Overdrive which is the world’s largest library platform for e-books.
Mark Coker: [00:14:45] And in the years since we’ve added Baker and Taylor, Axis 360, Odeo, Gardner’s UK and their Askews and Holts platform. We’ve added Biblioteca.
Mark Coker: [00:14:56] So we’ve got great distribution to public libraries and this is global distribution around the world. So we’re very focused on building author friendly tools that give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace and focused on building out the distribution because I’ve always believed that distribution is one of the critical success factors for an author.
Mark Coker: [00:15:19] If you look back in the dark ages of publishing so prior to 10 years ago when publishing was a print-centric business controlled by large publishers mostly in New York and London, in that old world distribution was key.
Mark Coker: [00:15:36] You had to work with a publisher to get your book into bookstores because if you couldn’t get your book into bookstores you couldn’t sell your book, readers couldn’t find it and it was nearly impossible to keep your book in stores because there were too many books for the bookstores to carry in their physical stores which meant that they constantly had to remove poor selling inventory to make room for new books which meant that many great books were forced out of print before they had a chance to find their audience.
Mark Coker: [00:16:08] So with the advent of e-books it fundamentally changed the distribution landscape. Suddenly it was possible for every major retailer to carry every single book and books no longer had to go out of print.
Mark Coker: [00:16:24] And so this opened up the opportunity for self published authors to have their e-books listed side by side with the books from the large traditional publishers and once self published author has achieved this distribution into the major stores something magical happened.
Mark Coker: [00:16:41] Their books started selling because readers don’t care if a book is self-published or traditionally published. Readers are going to judge the book based on the book’s merits.
Mark Coker: [00:16:52] You know, is this book worth reading or not? That’s all that matters to the reader. Does this book bring me joy or not? So that’s our focus in the market.
Mark Coker: [00:17:02] Every single day our engineering team is working to develop new tools, new systems, new opportunities for authors and we will never stop doing that.
Uploading to Smashwords
Tim Lewis: [00:17:15] So one thing but it’s not totally unique to Smashwords but you require basically a word document, I think you have got an option to accept an ePub document but what advantages is there for people for the fact that you do require that Word document. Why do have that requirement?
Mark Coker: [00:17:36] Yeah Tim actually we don’t require a Word document. We can take your book either as a Microsoft Word document or we can take your book as an ePub file. We’ve been accepting directly uploaded ePub files for three or four years now. But true. You know we did start with Microsoft Word as the source document.
Tim Lewis: [00:17:57] O.K I mean it was just on I was reading the documentation on your Web site. I think it’s still that’s the word “beta service” around the ePub thing. It maybe just not been updated for a while.
Mark Coker: [00:18:10] I think you’re right. Yeah I think we might still have some of that old text lingering on the site. But you know most of our authors choose to upload a Microsoft Word document.
Mark Coker: [00:18:22] There are a lot of advantages that come with that. Both authors are working with some word processor. Most word processors can output into the Microsoft Word format.
Mark Coker: [00:18:32] And one of the great benefits of working with a word processor is that it makes it really easy for you to customize your book to update your book. If you find a typo fix it upload the new version to Smashwords and get that new version out to everyone.
Mark Coker: [00:18:48] It’s a really easy way to publish. But you know there are a lot of authors and publishers out there that have the technical capability to design their own ePub files.
Mark Coker: [00:19:01] Or maybe they prefer to hire a professional designer to create their file because there are things that you can do with a custom designed ePub file that aren’t very easy to do with a Microsoft Word file.
Mark Coker: [00:19:12] So you know we’re generally agnostic. We will take your file however you bring it to us whether it’s in an ePub or a Microsoft Word document.
Mark Coker: [00:19:22] I believe that the vast majority of authors probably 90 percent of authors are probably best served by starting with Microsoft Word. I see a lot of authors who think that if they go off and spend five hundred or a thousand dollars to a professional e-book designer to design their ePub that somehow that’s going to give them a tremendous competitive advantage in the marketplace and that’s not the case.
Mark Coker: [00:19:46] The magic of your book is in the words not some of the frilly bells and whistles that you can do. Like if we look at a novel and you look at what you can do with a custom designed ePub that you can’t do with Microsoft Word.
Mark Coker: [00:20:00] You know one example is with a custom designed ePub you can do drop caps. Well that’s a really nice touch to add to your book but it’s not going to make or break the success of your book.
Tim Lewis: [00:20:11] I mean I was thinking more people for people like me who use products like Scrivener where it’s fairly easy to produce an ePub but it’s a lot harder to actually be produce a Word document.
Mark Coker: [00:20:20] So for books like you who are using Scrivener just output it as an ePub. And we’re happy to take that.
Tim Lewis: [00:20:26] One of the reasons for asking this question was on the documentation it said that you create book summaries for the author pages and you couldn’t do that from an ePub I don’t know if that’s correct.
Mark Coker: [00:20:38] Right. So yeah I think I know what you’re talking about. So when you when you upload is a Microsoft Word document, you as you’re uploading, it will ask you what percentage of the book do you want to make available as a free sample.
Mark Coker: [00:20:49] And when we get the word document from you we can turn that word document into six or seven different ebook file formats as well as sample files for ePub, Mobi and I think PDF as well.
Mark Coker: [00:21:04] So yeah if you upload as Microsoft Word you’ve you’ve got more flexibility, more options to connect with readers because we’re able to output it into multiple formats.
Mark Coker: [00:21:14] If you upload just an ePub file to Smashwords then you don’t get the sampling in our store and you don’t get the other formats.
Tim Lewis: [00:21:21] O.k so there is a reason for maybe some people if they’ve got the choice of Word or ePub then they should go for the Word option.
Mark Coker: [00:21:29] I would recommend that. We also allow you to do both.
Mark Coker: [00:21:32] So let’s say you want you want your book in as many different formats as possible. Upload your Microsoft Word document and we’ll get it into all the different formats and then if you also have your custom designed Epub that has the drop caps and the fancy stuff then you can also upload that to Smashwords and we will use that file instead of our our generated file.
Mark Coker: [00:21:57] That’s a great option. A lot of authors don’t really realize that but you can get the best of both worlds that way if you do that.
Mark Coker: [00:22:05] I should probably clarify one other thing. Our business is eBook distribution that’s our primary business that’s where 94-95 percent of our sales come from.
Mark Coker: [00:22:17] We are unusual in the sense that we also operate our own store. Our store is kind of a vestige of you know that first year of business in 2008 when we weren’t even thinking of becoming a distributor.
Tim Lewis: [00:22:31] You were thinking you were going to be the Sony or the Kindle and you ended up distributing to all these other companies as well.
Tim Lewis: [00:22:39] Going back to the issue of distribution. Are there any eBook stores that only Smashwords distributes too? I mean I know you’ve got an awful lot of stores that you do go to?
Mark Coker: [00:22:49] I imagine they are. You know because they don’t spend a lot of time focused on their competitors. I can’t tell you you know who’s where I can’t go you know aggregator by aggregator who’s where but I’m not aware of any other aggregators that have as broad of a library distribution network as we do.
Mark Coker: [00:23:08] I don’t think most aggregators are distributing to Gardners UK. That’s certainly a channel that I think we opened up pretty early.
Mark Coker: [00:23:17] You know we should probably talk a little bit about where we go because that might not be immediately apparent.
Mark Coker: [00:23:25] So when you upload your book to Smashwords the process is that we will manually review your book we’ll make sure that your book meets the distribution requirements of our retailers and library partners.
Mark Coker: [00:23:35] And then if it meets those requirements we accept the book into what we call our premium catalog and it’s our premium catalog that we distribute out to the retailers.
Mark Coker: [00:23:45] So once we start distributing your book it can go to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Gardners UK which operates both retail platforms and library platforms.
Mark Coker: [00:24:01] It can go to Overdrive, Baker and Taylor I mentioned earlier you can reach a lot of different sales channels with a single upload.
Tim Lewis: [00:24:10] And you can choose which stores? Say if you are using a different aggregator for some of the stores you could choose not to go to them via Smashwords. Is that correct?
Mark Coker: [00:24:22] Certainly. So you control your distribution at Smashwords from your Smashwords dashboard. So from your dashboard you click on a link to your channel manager and you can opt in and opt out of different channels.
Tim Lewis: [00:24:35] Can you get to Amazon through Smashwords?
Mark Coker: [00:24:38] Well if you didn’t know the answer I wouldn’t blame you. We don’t advertise distribution to Amazon although we do distribute about 200 books there.
Mark Coker: [00:24:46] So we only do it on special request and typically only for authors who shown a good track record of sales.
Tim Lewis: [00:24:55] Is there any particular reason for that? Do you should be using the KDP interface? Or is it some contractual issue?
Mark Coker: [00:25:02] Well there is a reason for it. Amazon is not terribly friendly to aggregators. I don’t want to go down too much of a rat hole with this but we only work with retailers that offer our authors agency terms.
Mark Coker: [00:25:18] This is what this is what allows us to pay our authors 60 percent of the list price as the royalty. A lot of other aggregators can’t match those rates because they haven’t negotiated the same agreements that we’ve negotiated.
Mark Coker: [00:25:33] Amazon is not a believer in agency pricing doesn’t like to give the author or publisher the power to price their own books and as a result Amazon is unwilling to accept all of our books as all the other major retailers do.
Mark Coker: [00:25:47] You know we’re publishing over 400,000 books from over 100,000 different authors and because of the volume of our titles and because our titles are so dynamic.
Mark Coker: [00:25:58] You know we allow our authors to change anything about their titles: change the prices, change the covers, change the descriptions and then we take all of this chaotic ever changing metadata and then pump it back up to the retailers.
Mark Coker: [00:26:11] The only way that our business is possible given this volume of titles is for us to work with the retailers in partnership to create these highly automated integrations between us and the retailers.
Mark Coker: [00:26:24] So Amazon gave us the option to do an integration with them but only under the wholesale terms. So that would be you know where they’re paying us whatever 50 percent of the list price but they didn’t give us the ability to do agency pricing.
Mark Coker: [00:26:41] So what Amazon proposed to us and we agreed to it is that they were going to create a bulk congestion system that would allow us to pump our books into KDP but they never delivered on that.
Mark Coker: [00:26:52] So as a result if we distribute books to Amazon we distribute them to the same way that you would as a self published author. We manually upload them into KDP.
Mark Coker: [00:27:03] That’s why we have to be selective about the number of titles that we upload to them. Now you know I don’t know if Amazon is ever going to come around.
Mark Coker: [00:27:12] We would love to make all of our books available to Amazon. I know we have tens of thousands of authors who would prefer to consolidate their distribution with us as opposed to having to upload directly to Amazon.
Mark Coker: [00:27:26] But that’s the way Amazon is. It’s their store. They get to decide how things are run. You know in the meantime we recommend that all authors should have their books at Amazon. Upload them directly.
Mark Coker: [00:27:38] We just recommend that you don’t involve them in KDP Select which is the exclusive option at Amazon.
Marketing Options provided by Smashwords
Tim Lewis: [00:27:44] So you’ve mentioned this before but what marketing options do you provide for authors as part of the package when they apply to Smashwords?
Mark Coker: [00:27:53] Well the moment your book is uploaded to Smashwords we generate that selling page for you and the Smashwords store. So your book is instantly visible to millions of readers who are coming to the Smashwords store looking to purchase books.
Mark Coker: [00:28:08] We offer the Smashwords coupon feature which I mentioned that allows you to create custom coupon codes so that you can offer your book for free or at a discount to readers to bloggers.
Mark Coker: [00:28:20] We offer this cool tool called Smashwords interviews where you can create your own custom interview you basically self interview yourself and can share the story behind the author.
Mark Coker: [00:28:32] This is a unique feature. I don’t think anyone in the industry has anything like it but even our coupon feature is still fairly unique in the market.
Mark Coker: [00:28:40] I don’t know of anyone else who’s doing anything like we’re doing with coupons and we continue to update these features.
Mark Coker: [00:28:47] We also do a lot of work with the merchandising teams at the major retailers. Every single week we are in communication with the merchandising teams that the major retailers so Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and recommending titles to them that they should consider for extra promotion within their stores.
Mark Coker: [00:29:05] So every week dozens of our books are getting recommended and often promoted within the stores and that is a benefit of using Smashwords that we don’t typically talk about because our merchandising recommendations are based on merit and we measure merit based on the authors or books performance across our distribution network.
Mark Coker: [00:29:33] So if you’ve been working with Smashwords and you’ve got a good track record, your last book sold really well then the moment you upload your new book we’re going to start promoting it to the retailers if you’re one of our top sellers.
Mark Coker: [00:29:45] You know even if that book isn’t for sale yet. So even if your book is just on preorder. If your book is on preorder and you’ve got a strong track record we’re going to be promoting that book to the retailers.
Mark Coker: [00:29:56] That’s a benefit that many authors aren’t necessarily going to get if they just upload directly to a retailer or possibly if they use one of the other aggregators.
Mark Coker: [00:30:06] I can’t comment on the merchandising efforts of the other aggregators and I’m sure many other aggregators listen to this interview they’ll all think oh what are we doing on merchandising maybe we need to do more.
Mark Coker: [00:30:16] But you know these are the types of things that we’re always focused on. How can we give our authors a competitive advantage in the marketplace so that their books can be more visible to readers?
What’s new in Smashwords?
Tim Lewis: [00:30:27] Ok so you’re probably on the path to developing new features or adding new stores. What have you got coming up people can look forward to in terms of the new things coming in the world of Smashwords in the next couple of years?
Mark Coker: [00:30:40] Well we’ve got we did a lot of really cool things in 2016. We’ve got more cool things planned for 2017.
Mark Coker: [00:30:46] One of the most immediate things that I’m most excited about here is that starting in February we’re going to start paying authors monthly prior to this we paid quarterly.
Mark Coker: [00:30:56] And we’re also eliminating the payment threshold for PayPal. So previously you had to earn $10 to get paid to trigger a payment. We’re eliminating that threshold so you know if we owe you a penny we’re going to pay you a penny and we’re going to pay you monthly.
Mark Coker: [00:31:12] So I know a lot of authors are really excited about this. This has been one of the most requested features over the last few years that we pay more frequently.
Mark Coker: [00:31:20] So we’re going to do that. In 2017 you’re going to see more enhancements to our coupon system. We think there’s a lot of really neat things that we can do with that.
Mark Coker: [00:31:30] As you saw in 2016 some of the enhancements that we made was making it easier for your coupons to be promoted on the Smashwords website. Previously coupons were private so they would only be seen by readers if the author put that coupon in front of the reader.
Mark Coker: [00:31:47] But now those coupons can be promoted directly on the Smashwords Web sites so customers browsing the Smashwords store. They can see that your book is available and it’s on sale with this coupon code.
Mark Coker: [00:31:59] In 2016 we introduced time limited, what we call metered coupons, so you can create a coupon and say all right this coupon my dear readers is only available to the first 500 people who redeem it or the first 10 people or first 20 people. That was a cool feature.
Mark Coker: [00:32:16] We are going to be doing more things around coupons in 2017. You know on the distribution front you’re going to see us selectively add more retailers.
Mark Coker: [00:32:25] So you and I are talking here in early February and the next couple of weeks we’re going to announce a new distribution deal with Biblioteca which is a library aggregator reaches over 3000 public libraries mostly in North America.
Mark Coker: [00:32:39] So we’re about ready to announce that and by the time this podcast appears it will have already been announced. We’ll have some other distribution announcements to announce later in the year.
Mark Coker: [00:32:49] We’re working on systems to give our authors more control, more granular control over pricing in different markets and different currencies.
Mark Coker: [00:32:58] We’ve done a little bit there kind of behind the scenes. We’re supporting a lot of authors behind the scenes with that but we’re going to add more features to make that easier to do and more intuitive.
Mark Coker: [00:33:08] You know generally our enhancements fall within different themes. We’re always looking to make our site easier to use to make our tools easier to use more accessible.
Mark Coker: [00:33:21] We’re always working to build out the distribution network that’s critical to the success of our authors and we’re always working to develop new tools that help them do things that they can’t do anywhere else.
Find out more about Smashwords
Tim Lewis: [00:33:34] I think if we had quite a long conversation about Smashwords! How can people find out about you and Smashwords and anything that you’ve got coming up or going on in the future?
Mark Coker: [00:33:46] Well you know I would encourage anyone who is listening to sign up for an account at Smashwords.
Mark Coker: [00:33:51] Odds are that even if you’re working with another distributor you’re probably not reaching as many sales channels as we’re reaching and certainly you’re not reaching the customers in our small Smashwords store.
Mark Coker: [00:34:03] So I encourage you to sign up for an account at www.Smashwords.com. Check out the Smashwords blog. Got really a great archive of blog posts over the last five, six, seven years that I’ve done it.
Mark Coker: [00:34:17] We’ve got author interviews on there are a lot of best practices information but I encourage people to read some of the books that I’ve written on ebook publishing.
Mark Coker: [00:34:25] I’ve written three books on e-book publishing best practices. There’s the Secrets of E-book Publishing Success where I identify over 30 best practice secrets of the best selling authors and this book is priced at free.
Mark Coker: [00:34:39] There’s the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, even if you’re only publishing in print the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has about 40 or 50 free book marketing ideas to get your books out there to sell your books more effectively and a lot of great ideas.
Mark Coker: [00:34:55] You know how to get the most use out of Smashwords but you don’t need to be a Smashwords author to benefit from that book.
Mark Coker: [00:35:02] Now of course there’s a Smashwords Style Guide which teaches you how to format your own book for free. A lot of authors read the style guide even authors that don’t use us because it teaches you how to professionally design reflowable eBook.
Tim Lewis: [00:35:18] Yeah you say something that some people go wrong with when they think that the ePub is the same as a PDF when it isn’t really.
Mark Coker: [00:35:26] Right.
Tim Lewis: [00:35:26] Anyway it was great to talk to you to Mark. Thank you very much for coming on the show.
Mark Coker: [00:35:32] My pleasure. Tim.
If you liked this interview then you might like my interviews with the other eBook aggregators: