Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Smashwords Alert

Just received this email from Mark Coker at Smashwords.


Smashwords today announced a new distribution partner: Page Foundry. Page Foundry has created mobile ebook store apps for Android smart phones and tablets. This is a standard agency pricing relationship, so 60% list price to the author, no discounting. This deal will lead to distribution at the following four places:

A. Cricket Wireless: Cricket Wireless is the leading mobile operator of pre-paid smart phones you can purchase in places like Target and Best Buy. Cricket has roughly 2.5 million monthly smart phone subscribers, and Page Foundry is powering the ebook store app available to all existing and new smart phone customers. Starting this summer, new Cricket subscriber phones will ship pre-loaded with the Page Foundry app (previously, subscribers had to manually download the app from the Cricket app store).

B. ASUS: Asus, a leading manufacturer of netbooks, notebooks and tablets, currently has about 8 million devices here in the US pre-loaded with the Page Foundry ebook store app, all part of their @Vibe media store. Page Foundry is one of two pre-loaded ebook store apps on the Asus devices.

C. VERSENT and INKTERA: These are two sister e-reader apps, available for download to Android devices from Google Play (formerly known as the Android Market). Versent and Inktera also sell books through their websites at http://www.versentbooks.com andhttp://www.inktera.com Page Foundry set up these two sites as experimental showcases of their platform, though they've also started attracting some customers so they plan to continue operating the sites as independent ebook retailers.

The distribution above is currently US-only. Page Foundry plans to add additional mobile operators and device-makers in the future, and further international distribution is possible.

Like any new distribution channel, I expect the Page Foundry partnership to start small and then grow over time as their business grows.

I added a short post at the Smashwords blog about this, where you'll find screen shots of their app: http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/06/smashwords-adds-page-foundry-as-new.html

As with all new Smashwords distribution partners, all Premium Catalog books will automatically go to Page Foundry unless you opt out, or unless the title is unpublished. You have 48 hrs to opt out of the channel if you don't want a book going to the new partner. Click to your Dashboard's Channel Manager to adjust distribution settings.

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2. NEW COVER IMAGE REQUIREMENTS STARTING JULY 15
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On June 14, we announced over at the Smashwords Blog -http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/06/new-ebook-cover-image-requirements.html - and at Site Updates - https://www.smashwords.com/about/beta - that starting around July 15, we'll require larger cover images for new Premium Catalog titles. Also that week, I updated the Smashwords Style Guide and Smashwords FAQs to reflect the new requirements.

Your current Premium Catalog titles, even if they have smaller cover images, are NOT affected by the new guidelines unless you update the cover image.

This change is prompted by new requirements at Apple that go into effect in August. The new requirements are also consistent with updated recommendations by Amazon (some day, Amazon-willing, we'll distribute to Amazon!), which also now recommends larger cover images. We think the new recommendations make good common sense because they create a more satisfying customer experience for readers who use the newer high resolution screens such as Apple's amazing Retina display.

Starting July 15, cover images for new titles, and cover image updates for existing titles, should be at least 1,400 pixels wide. Please see the Smashwords blog for full details and suggest width/height ratios and options - http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/06/new-ebook-cover-image-requirements.html

If your book is among the tens of thousands at Smashwords that have the smaller covers, and you're already Premium Catalog-distributed, you can leave your cover as-is for now. Better yet, consider this a good time to update your cover. As I mention in my new best practices book, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, the cover image is the first impression your book makes on a prospective reader. If your cover image doesn't look as good or better than the covers put out by big New York publishers, you're at a disadvantage. Make the effort to upgrade to a professional cover image. Professional cover design is very affordable. Most of the cover designers on my "Mark's List" (send a blank email tolist@smashwords.com and you'll receive it via instant autoresponder) charge between $40 and $100 for a cover. They all have online portfolios, so you can decide if their work matches your vision. We don't get a commission if you hire them, though all the folks there are on the list because they've done good work for your fellow Smashwords authors and publishers. If their portfolios don't match what you're looking for, ask your favorite indie authors for references. There are many great cover designers out there for under $300. *Always* review an artist's online portfolio before signing on with them, and try to work directly with the artist rather than through an intermediary.


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3. FASTER SHIPMENTS TO APPLE AND KOBO
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For most Smashwords retail partners, we ship new books and metadata updates once per week. As promised, we're working to speed deliveries for all retailers that can support faster shipments. On June 4, we announced faster shipments to Apple and Kobo.

APPLE: For Apple, we're now shipping near-real-time (about every 15-20 minutes). This means immediately after receiving Premium Catalog approval, your book will ship to Apple. Metadata updates ship at the same speed. If your book is already Premium-catalog approved, it's possible to see price changes at Smashwords reflected within an hour or two at Apple.

A few months ago Apple implemented their own manual vetting process for all incoming titles from all publishers and distributors (previously, they only inspected erotica). At first, this created a multi-week lag time on their end, but now they've cut the lag down to only a few days so it's not too bad.

As with any new system, we're still working out kinks. Most shipments are flowing through great, but some aren't landing on the first shipment attempt, and until we improve reliability we won't be satisfied.  We've already proactively identified and reshipped most missing titles.

Some Apple shipment issues are unrelated to bugs mentioned above, such as if your book mentions competitive ebook retailers, or if cover images are blurry, or if NCX navigation isn't working properly, or if they deem the book too obscene. For a more complete list items that can delay Apple distribution, see the fourth FAQ here, "My book shipped to the Apple iBookstore but it's still not showing in the store. Why?" -https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#error

If you're writing non-erotic books, and your book doesn't appear within ten days days of shipment to Apple (check your Dashboard's Channel Manager for ship dates), then please contact our support team at "comments/questions." Our support team is aggregating daily bug reports and working with our tech team to diagnose issues and reship books where necessary. 

KOBO: Around June 4, we began shipping daily to Kobo. This integration appears to be working much more smoothly. As I mentioned above for Apple, if your book or metadata update doesn't appear at Kobo within ten days (like Apple, most are appearing much quicker), please contact our support team at the "Comments/questions" link at the top of any Smashwords page.

See the Smashwords blog for my post on the Apple/Kobo news:http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/06/smashwords-delivers-faster-shipments-to.html

Here's some cool Apple news I haven't reported: We've seen a dramatic sales increase at Apple over the last five weeks. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's a result of summer vacation reading, or the faster shipments, or a big increase in multiple strong sellers (several Smashwords authors are selling thousands of copies a week there), or maybe iPad and iPhone sales are especially strong, or maybe a combination of all the above plus mysterious pixie dust. Regardless, the results are impressive and the upward trend is pronounced. If you're not on Apple, Smashwords can get you there. Apple distributes to 32 countries. For the month of may, 44% of our Apple sales were from outside the U.S. Go global!


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4. SNEAK PEEK: SMASHWORDS TO DO DEAL WITH CALIFA, CONSORTIUM OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARIES
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This news just broke last night. Califa, a consortium of 220 California libraries, is creating an ebook aggregation service modeled after a similar system created by Douglas County Libraries in Colorado. The service will deliver ebooks to California libraries, and to other states as well. They plan to establish an "opening collection" of ebooks by purchasing the top 10,000 best-selling Smashwords titles. We'll also work with California libraries to create local publishing portals, where local authors can upload ebooks to Smashwords that can then be purchased by their local libraries. Library Journal has the scoop (we didn't intend for this story to leak out so soon!): http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/06/ebooks/califa-lands-325000-in-funding-for-ebook-ownership-project-deal-close-with-smashwords/

A few months ago, we announced a distribution deal with Baker & Taylor's Axis360 library service, and two weeks ago 3M announced Smashwords will supply titles for their Cloud Library service (we'll formally announce the 3M deal once we get further along with integration). We're talking with other library aggregators as well.

I expect Smashwords will become the largest single supplier (by title count) of ebooks to public libraries by the end of this year. If your books aren't fully distributed at Smashwords, please consider getting them on asap so you don't miss out. I think from a sales perspective, the library channel will start off small this year, but then become increasingly significant over the next couple years. Authors and publishers who embrace libraries early will receive the most benefit two or three years from now (much in the same way that the first indie authors to get distribution through Smashwords a few years ago are reaping the greatest benefit today). Smashwords was the first to open distribution of self-published ebooks to B&N, Sony and Kobo back in 2009, and now we're going to do it again with libraries.

Last week, I conducted a flash survey at Site Updates to understand how Smashwords authors and publishers view the library opportunity. 150 of you responded (thank you!), and 82% of you said you think libraries can help increase your overall book sales.

Most large NY publishers have been unfriendly to libraries, and some won't even sell ebooks to them. I think this presents a great opportunity for progressive indies to step in and satisfy the demand.

In the next few weeks, we plan to add a new library-specific pricing option so you can control the price at which libraries acquire your books. Some of you want to price lower than retail, some want to price higher, and some want to make their books available for free to libraries. We'll give you the choice because Smashwords is all about putting you in control.

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5. SMASHWORDS FEATURED IN FORBES MAGAZINE
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Thanks to you and your support, Smashwords is a thriving, profitable business. Thanks to your support, we're helping tens of thousands of writers and small presses achieve their publishing dreams.

Forbes Magazine has a feature story on us this month, and for the first time ever, I revealed our revenue numbers. In 2012, Smashwords authors and publishers will earn over $10 million. The Forbes story is on newsstands now. Read it online here:http://www.forbes.com/sites/jjcolao/2012/06/07/apples-biggest-unknown-supplier-of-e-books/

Unlike other self-publishing services that earn most of their money by selling you service packages, we only earn money if we help you sell books. We give you the flexibility to control your destiny. Thanks to the sales success of our 45,000 authors and publishers, and the tremendous support of our retail partners, Smashwords has now been profitable for 22 months straight. We've done this entirely without venture capitalists. This means we have the independence to do what's right for you without the distraction of outside investors.

We've reinvested our profits in the business to further improve our services and our ability to help you achieve your objectives. One year ago we were about five people. Now we're fourteen going on fifteen. As we grow the business, we're growing our capability to serve you.

Four years in to this, I still feel like we're only now getting started. I'm really excited about our roadmap for new service enhancements, and new distribution partners. We've got a great team in place, all of whom are sincerely committed to serving you. With your help, we'll change the face of publishing one indie ebook at a time.


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6. SMASHWORDS SUMMER/WINTER SALE KICKS OFF JULY 1
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Our annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale kicks off in a few days. Why Summer/Winter? Because it's summer here in the northern hemisphere, and winter in the southern hemisphere. Enrollment is optional. If you enroll, you can choose coupon codes to make your books 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off, or FREE. Past Summer/Winter promotions have been great successes and a lot of fun. To enroll now, visit the Smashwords home page. Here's a direct link to the enrollment form: https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/sitewidePromos The promotion goes live one minute past midnight July 1.


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7. ON BUGS, HICCUPS, STUMBLES AND THE PATH AHEAD
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Smashwords now publishes over 130,000 ebooks. Over 100,000 are in the Premium Catalog. Although the vast majority of time our distribution systems perform reliably as intended, there are always glitches, and when glitches hit they can hurt our authors.

As we have for the last four years, we will always push the envelope of what's possible. We will make mistakes. There will be glitches and bugs (witness our Apple glitches mentioned above). Our retail partners will make mistakes too, mistakes for which we'll often get the blame. We accept that.

The world of e-publishing is in a constant state of change. It's a world increasingly driven by computer software, and since software is created by humans, it's not infallible. We and our retail partners are always striving to move forward and improve. We don't like system glitches, and we will never stop working to remedy them, but we will also not allow the fear of mistakes to stop us from innovating. Despite the hiccups along the way, they're mere bumps along the long term road we're heading. Those who have stuck by us and our retail partners for several years know we always persevere and come out stronger the other end.

I created Smashwords to serve my fellow authors. Nothing is more important to us. With your continued support, trust and goodwill, we will be here to serve you and authors/publishers like you for many years to come.

In my survey last week, I asked authors what they liked most about Smashwords, and where they think we can improve. I'm happy to say that the suggestions and requests are very much aligned with where we're going. You want faster Premium Catalog approvals, faster shipments and faster reporting. You want faster, more accurate metadata updates at our retail partners. You want us to improve the look of the Smashwords retail store. All this and more is coming in the months and years ahead. It won't come all at once, and it may not come as fast as we would prefer. Thank you for your patience as we work to take you there.


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8. HELPFUL AUTHOR/PUBLISHER RESOURCES
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Frequently asked questions: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq
Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of best-selling authors):https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431
Smashwords Site Updates: https://www.smashwords.com/about/beta
Smashwords blog (subscribe via the email option!): http://blog.smashwords.com
Data on ebook pricing, word counts and more: http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/04/can-ebook-data-reveal-new-viral.html
How to publish and distribute ebooks with Smashwords:https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords
Connect with fellow Smashwords readers and authors at Facebook:http://facebook.com/Smashwords
Mark's List - Low cost cover designers and ebook formaters. Email list@smashwords.com
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Do you know authors, publishers and literary agents not yet on Smashwords? Invite them to join our 45,000+ strong worldwide community.

Together, we're changing the world of publishing one indie ebook at a time. Every new author, publisher and literary agent brings new readers who can then discover your books too!

Best wishes,

Mark

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords
http://www.smashwords.com
twitter: http://twitter.com/markcoker



Norm Applegate author of: 
The Prisoner


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