Publishing And Marketing Tips For The Apple iBookstore With Mark Coker From Smashwords

As much as I love Amazon and KDP, it’s important to remember that they are not the only publishing option for authors.

smashwords appleAs ebooks move far beyond the mature markets of the US and UK in 2014, I think all authors should be aware of the other platforms that compete, and in some cases, dominate.

A few weeks ago, Mark Coker did a presentation for the Alliance of Independent Authors on the opportunities for publishing and marketing in the Apple iBookstore.

It’s a long video but well worth watching if you’re not making many sales on iBookstore, because there are things you can do to maximize your chances of sales. I’ll certainly be making some changes myself based on Mark’s talk.

Watch the video below, or here on YouTube.

Here’s some of my key takeaways from the video:

  • On the Apple eco-system, the iBooks app is downloaded more then the Kindle app and the Apple hardware devices have a far more hardware penetration into markets than Amazon’s Kindle. iBookstore is now in 51 countries and on every Apple device.
  • Different books break out at different times on different platforms. Apple has a more human-powered marketing approach vs Amazon’s automated algorithms. This can mean some opportunities for marketing that aren’t just based on sales spikes. Apple’s team are looking to find new books to please their readers and they find them through many different methods.
  • There is no restricted free period on Apple and no price-matching. Free books have 91x more downloads than paid books on Apple and iBookstore promote free more because they are primarily a hardware company, wanting to keep readers in their eco-system.
  • For Apple sales, try using the Widgetbuilder and tools that link directly to your Apple sales page. How do you expect to sell anything if you’re not directing people there.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Coker for years. You can check out an early interview I did with him in 2010 here. We were raving about the exciting times in publishing several years ago, and Mark’s site Smashwords continues to explode with exciting news every few weeks and more opportunities for indies.

I’d love to hear any comments you have about iBookstore. Have you had sales success on iBooks? Have you used any of the Smashwords functionality for Apple? Do you have any iBookstore specific marketing tips? Please do leave a comment below.

What is the Problem with International Ebooks?

This is a bit of a rant from the non-US perspective of ebooks and ebook readers and how crazy it seems to be right now.

On Amazon.com

It is a fantastic development to finally have the International Kindle available. I bought one as soon as it was announced and eagerly await it. I have not even seen a real one yet, and the iPhone is just too small for full on book reading. Books are ridiculously expensive in Australia so I buy mostly from the US Amazon Store anyway (crazy world!). The ebooks are still expensive on the Kindle but a lot cheaper than the print stores.

One example is Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business by Erik Qualman which I have been wanting to read. It is priced AU$42.50 (US$38) at a business bookstore for the print version. The Kindle version will be US$11.99 (AU$13) so I will be waiting to buy it there.

The Kindle Store is now segregated by the country associated with your account, which I understand has something to do with overseas rights. However, the Kindle publishing platform is still only available for those publishers/authors with US address, bank account and tax number. This basically excludes most publishers and authors in other countries. I currently publish on the Kindle through a friend, and the money goes into his bank account – not the best arrangement but all I can manage to be published on the platform.

This is a big criticism of the International Kindle, and one I hope is soon solved. Opening up to non-US publishers will explode the Kindle content and offer the chance for more sales for publishers, more opportunity to sell for authors and more money for Amazon. I would be fine with being paid by Paypal or even by Amazon store credit if the problem is the bank account.

I emailed Amazon Kindle and this was the response (Oct 28, 2009). It looks pretty positive but no date yet.

Thank you for contacting us regarding your interest in selling your title in the Amazon Kindle Store.

We are in the process of expanding our Digital Text Platform to accept international publishers. However, we are not yet accepting publishers through DTP without a U.S. address and bank account.

We will contact you once we have completed our transition. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you, Amazon.com

On Scribd.com

Scribd is driving me totally nuts because they only allow US residents to actually sell AND BUY on the site, although anyone can load free content there (which I do here).

Firstly, I love Scribd. It’s a great platform but why can’t I sell my ebooks there? I own all the rights to my 3 books, there is no foreign rights problem. I have a Scribd account, I have a Paypal account. It has been in Beta for months now. What’s the problem Scribd? I’m still waiting for a response to my questions.

This is even stranger. I can’t even BUY ebooks on Scribd, despite the format being a downloadable file. This is not a foreign rights issue as I can’t buy self-published books either. I wanted to get “The God Patent” by Ransom Stephens (only $3.95) but get a message saying the store is still in Beta and therefore I can’t buy as a non-US resident. Crazy times.

Later addition after reply from Scribd.com

jgoure, Oct 21 11:00 am (PDT):

Hello Joanna,

Many of our international members have expressed interest in the Store. However, there are several important legal and logistical issues to work out first and unfortunately, I honestly cannot estimate when the Store will open to users connecting from outside the USA.

Jerry Goure, Scribd, Inc.
Customer Care Representative

On Smashwords.com

Go Smashwords! It seems to be the only site to allow truly international ebooks from any author globally. You can publish your books in multiple formats and be paid by Paypal. There is even a multi-language option coming I believe. Smashwords books are also sold on the iPhone through Stanza, as well as through Barnes & Noble ebook store and now Sony has also partnered with Smashwords.

I have written a post on how to publish your book on Smashwords here. It is pretty simple and they have many tools to help you publish, so if you want to get started with ebook publishing, definitely start there!

Can you publish on all of these platforms?

I had this question from a reader, and the answer is “Yes, if you have the digital rights to your books”. If you are a self-published author, or if you haven’t sold the digital rights, you can publish your book wherever you like. I currently sell my ebooks from this website as PDF, on Smashwords in multiple formats, and on the Kindle. I will get on Scribd as soon as I am able. You can do the same! This gets your ebook to as wide an audience as possible. Brilliant!

Smashwords is now on Stanza…and on the iPhone

This is an exciting development, and I suspect a landmark for authors everywhere (once they realise the potential!)

Smashwords is a fantastic new site for authors

You can load Microsoft Word documents and have them converted into multiple ebook formats. You sell them from the site for free and Smashwords takes a cut. It’s very easy to use and needs to be a sales channel for all authors with digital rights.

Now Smashwords is now listed as one of the catalogues in Stanza, which is an application available on iPhones and other ebook readers. This means anyone can find your book easily and buy it over their mobile phone.

The picture is my book on Smashwords on an iPhone. Very cool!

This translates into results.

I have sold more ebooks on Smashwords in a week than on Clickbank in 9 months. If you have digital rights to your book, go and have a try on Smashwords! How to use it and my experience here.

*************************************

Like this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed by email or in a RSS reader.

Publish your ebook on Smashwords

Ebooks are taking off in 2009 – with ebook readers, phones with ebook apps and the economy in a spin, you need to jump on the wave!

If you have the digital rights to your book, or if you have something you would like to self-publish, you can publish it as an ebook in a few hours and have it for sale today!

I have been selling my book, “How to Enjoy Your Job” as an ebook in PDF format for the last few months and have sold a few copies. I wanted to get it onto the Amazon Kindle, but they only accept US residents for upload. I also wanted it in other ebook formats but it seemed too complicated.

Smashwords is the answer!

Smashwords is an ebook site where you can buy and sell ebooks in various formats. As an author, you can load your products onto the site for free (Smashwords takes 15% of sales), and it will convert your document into the various formats for you. Brilliant! This takes a lot of time and effort from us creative types who don’t want to spend days reformatting.

You can have an author profile, and it will index your book for SEO and allow customers to sample your text. It has integration with Kindle and Stanza (for the iphone). You can load YouTube videos, and create coupons to allow special offers for your customers. The books can also be tagged on social networking sites so it is a great service.

This is my Smashwords page “How to Enjoy Your Job”

Here is what I learnt from my Smashwords experience this morning which may help you:

  • Read the Smashwords Style Guide first – definitely! Do not assume that your file is ok to load as is!
  • I tried a few variations of formatting but the best one was plain Microsoft Word. Select All and make it Normal text. Then go back through and Bold or Underline or change font size. Delete all pictures and hyperlinks. Make it as basic as possibile and this seemed the best format for conversion. The style guide does not include instructions for Microsoft Vista. Reformatting my original (very well formatted) ebook into plain format took about 1.5 hours including loading and reloading. Take breaks so you don’t get too frustrated!
  • You load on the same page as you fill in all the header data, so if you make a mistake or the format is unable to be loaded, you lose this information. Keep a copy of your blurb text and tags separately so you can just paste it back in. (Recommendation for improvement Smashwords!)
  • Check the HTML and Java versions and make changes, then reload as necessary. It took me a few tries!
  • As a non-US resident I can sell on Smashwords, I just have to email a copy of the with-holding tax form and have 40% with-held. I get this with Lulu.com as well but what can you do! Legality is important! This is much better than the Kindle direct load which does not allow non-US residents.
  • Once you are all set up, use the Smashwords Marketing Guide to see how to broadcast about your book.

To start the Smashwords publishing process, register for an account, and just follow the instructions. You load a profile with your websites and info, and then Publish your ebook. It is still in Beta (improvements are still being made) but you can start selling today!

ADDITIONAL NOTE:

After posting this, I had a great email from Mark Coker, who runs Smashwords. His team are looking into making the loading easier. This is also great customer service! Here is an interview with Mark at Joe Wikert’s blog.

Smashwords is also now a catalogue on Stanza on the iPhone.

*************************************

Like this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed by email or in a RSS reader.