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Mark Coker
Works at Smashwords
Attended University of California, Berkeley
Lives in Silicon Valley
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Ebook distribution
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  • Smashwords
    Founder, 2008 - present
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Silicon Valley
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Bedford, NY 10506 - Berkeley, CA
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Founder of Smashwords, an ebook distributor. Also angel investor, gardener, hiker, battler of squirrels, dreamer, doer, co-author of Boob Tube
Introduction
Founder of Smashwords, a distributor of ebooks serving 50,000+ indie authors and publishers.  We publish over 200,000 ebooks, and distribute them to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, libraries and multiple mobile platforms.

Quick links to my ebooks:
The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of the most commercially successful ebook authors)
The Smashwords Style Guide
(how to produce, publish and distribute an ebook)
The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (market any book for free)
The 10-Minute PR Checklist (earn the publicity you deserve)
Boob Tube (a novel about soap operas.  this is the book that spawned my Smashwords adventure)

Connect with me:
Blog:  http://blog.smashwords.com
Twitter:  @markcoker
Facebook:  facebook.com/markcoker
Bragging rights
Climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro
Education
  • University of California, Berkeley
    Marketing
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Mark Coker

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For indie authors:  The Ebook as Annuity

In this blog post, I examine how the earnings from an indie ebook are very much like a variable annuity.  Unlike traditionally published print books in which the author earns most of their income up front in the form of a lump sum advance, indie ebooks pay a variable income stream for years, allowing authors and their heirs to harvest value for many decades to come.  When indie authors view their books as long term income-producing assets, it completely changes how authors measure their book's financial performance and value.  The annuity analysis also helps authors better negotiate the sale of their rights to traditional publishers, and to know when to walk away from an offer.  More at the SW blog.
As a self-published author, your book is your asset.  It’s something of value you own and control. Like the orange tree pictured at left that bears fruit year round, your ebook promises to yield you, your family and your heir...
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For all authors and publishers, things get more difficult from here.  There's a glut of high-quality books.  The once-exponential growth of the ebook market is now slowing.  This is normal.   Yet for indie ebook authors, there's still never been a better time to publish.

Over at the Smashwords blog, I examine the three drivers for the slowdown and then provide tips on how every author can maximize their success in this new environment.
First the good news.  For indie authors, there’s never been a better time to self-publish an ebook.  Thanks to an ever-growing global market for your ebooks, your books are a couple clicks away from over one billion potential...
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+JM Davis, or perhaps has not learned a darn thing. The ability of people to only see what they want to see seems particularly prevalent in publishing at present. 
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Mark Coker

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San Francisco Bay Area Authors:  If you're around Saturday, come on up to Novato for the monthly meeting of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assoc) where I'm doing a keynote plus a three-hour workshop on ebook publishing best practices, including a session on ebook preorder strategy.  Advance registration recommended in case it sells out.  See you there!
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Ah how I wish I couldbe there.
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Today I published the annual Smashwords Survey where we analyzed over $25 million in ebook purchases as retail and shared the results.

Key findings in this year's survey:

The ebook sales power curve is extremely steep - This isn't a surprise, but for the first time we share some numbers along the curve (see the slides in the Series section).  A few titles sell fabulously well and most sell poorly.  An incremental increase is sales rank is usually matched by an exponential increase is sales.  Despite the steep sales curve, a lot of Smashwords authors are earning good income from their books.  Your opportunity as a Smashwords author or publisher is to do those things that give you an incremental advantage so you can climb in sales rank.
Readers prefer longer ebooks - We observed this in the prior surveys.  Longer books sell better, and when you view the data through the prism of the power curve, it becomes clear why longer books give authors such a huge sales advantage.

Pricing - The highest earning indie authors are utilizing lower average prices than the authors who earn less, but this doesn't mean that ultra-low prices such as $.99 are the path to riches.  $2.99 and $3.99 are the sweet spots for most of the bestsellers.

FREE still works great, but it's losing some mojo - Free remains one of the most powerful book marketing tools because it makes it easier for readers to take a risk on an author brand that is unknown or untrusted.  Free ebooks, according to our data derived from iBooks downloads, generated 39 times more downloads on average during our survey period than books at any price.  Yet the effectiveness of free is down dramatically compared to our 2013 (91X) and 2012 (100X) survey results.  While there is still much untapped greenfield opportunity for indies to leverage free, I expect the effectiveness of free will continue to decline as more authors learn to take advantage of it.  If you've never utilized free, now's the time to do so before your window of maximum opportunity closes further.

Preorders yield sales advantage - When we launched preorders in 2013, we knew anecdotally from our early alpha tests that preorders gave authors a sales advantage.  The 2014 Survey is the first time we're able to share aggregated results, and the results are strongly suggestive that ebooks borne as preorders sell more copies and earn the author more money than books that don't utilized preorders.  I think preorders today are where free was five years ago.  The first authors to effectively utilize preorders will gain the most advantage, just as the first authors to enter new distribution channels gain the most advantage.  Five years from now once all indies recognize that preorders are a no-brainer essential best practice, the effectiveness of preorders will decline.  Also revealed in the data is the fact that most Smashwords authors (and therefore, most indies) ARE NOT utilizing preorders yet despite our aggressive promotion of this exciting new tool.  The authors who heeded our advice, however, are reaping the rewards.

Series yield sales advantage - For the first time, we examine the performance of series books.  This new analysis is enabled by the fact that in September we launched Smashwords Series Manager which allows us to capture enhanced metadata on series.  The results are interesting!  Series books outsell standalone books.  We also look at the characteristics of series.  I'll want to do more with series in our 2015 survey.

Best-performing series have longer books - Not a surprise, but the implications are significant.  If you imagine the power curve overlaid on the series data we share, you see why authors who write full-length books in their series have an advantage over authors who break books into smaller chunks.  Also interesting, we found series books under 50,000 words are especially disadvantaged.  This is not to say that you can't become a bestseller writing shorter novellas.  Multiple Smashwords authors have had success here.  But what the data does tell me is that successful novella writers might achieve even greater success if they write full-length.  The data appears to suggest that series books under 50,000 words might create friction that makes readers incrementally less willing to buy.

FREE series starters pack a punch - This is a big deal.  I suspected this for a long time based on numerous authors' results going back to Brian S. Pratt who was one of the first Smashwords authors to prove the effectiveness of free series starters, but the aggregated numbers now confirm it.  We found strong evidence that series that have free series starters earn more money for authors than series that do not have free series starters.  For the many Smashwords authors who are reluctant to experiment with free for fear it'll devalue your books, now you've got the kick in the butt you need to give it a try.  All Smashwords retailers support free without restriction.
Welcome to the 2014 Smashwords Survey, our third annual survey that reveals new opportunities for indie ebook authors to sell more books. As in prior surveys (view the 2013 Smashwords Survey here and 2012 Smashwords Survey he...
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very helpful.
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Mark Coker

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Buried in Apple's iOS 8 announcement yesterday, in barely legible fine print on a presentation slide was an ebook retailing bombshell:  Apple will soon preinstall their iBooks app on all new devices. 

The free upgrade is also available to hundreds of millions of current users of the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display.

This is like putting a bookstore in the pockets of nearly one billion customers.
Yesterday Apple unveiled iOS 8, the new Apple operating system upgrade that will come out this fall.  Buried in a slide during the live demo event referenced as "iOS 8 features we didn’t have time to talk about" was an ebook ...
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That's great Mark. Thanks for the update. As per Paolo Amorose, I know what he means since my Nexus 7 2013 Google Play Books is always genius wonder.
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Many Smashwords authors have noticed in recent weeks that their books are appearing much faster at iBooks, the world's second largest ebook seller.  Some authors have even seen their books and preorders appear for sale at iBooks the same day they uploaded to Smashwords.

Today at the Smashwords blog I opened the curtain a bit to help our authors understand how we enabled these faster deliveries and listings.  I also reveal the amazing role the team at iBooks has played in helping us push the envelope with every aspect of our business.  iBooks was the primary impetus behind our introduction of preorder distribution and enhanced series metadata last year. 

I didn't mention this in the blog post (it's long enough already!), but these innovations, in turn, have helped our other retailers - especially Barnes & Noble and Kobo - become more competitive against the increasing pressures placed upon them by Amazon.  Barnes & Noble and Kobo carry Smashwords preorders which gives them the opportunity to better serve their customers.

I also shared some proof-points of how new tools at Smashwords, such as ebook preorders and enhanced series metadata with our SERIES MANAGER tool have enabled our authors to gain competitive advantage in the increasingly competitive ebook market place.

My thanks to iBooks and Smashwords authors and publishers for making these improvements possible!  More at the Smashwords blog.
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Mark Coker

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Kindle Unlimited, Amazon's controversial ebook subscription offering, has been out since July.  Many authors claim the introduction of the service caused their sales to plummet.  Over at the Smashwords blog today, I analyze why Kindle Unlimited is different from other subscription services, and why it's devaluing books.

The tl;dr version is that KU was built from KDP Select (Amazon's self publishing option that requires exclusivity), and the most of the 700,000+ books were supplied by Indie authors.  This means indie authors created the monster that became Kindle Unlimited, which means only indie authors have the power to kill it.  Will they?
In my previous post, I examined how authors can succeed despite the challenging sales environment for ebooks.  Today, I examine how Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited could jeopardize the independence of indie authors. Budget-minded ...
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Amazon and Hachette reached agreement after six months of brutal negotiation that spilled out into public view. Authors took sides and things turned ugly.  Who were the winners and losers?  That's the question I attempted to answer.
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Thanks for the thoughts, Mark. It's been interesting to read all the different interpretations. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
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Today at the Smashwords blog I explore ebook box sets.

For readers, box sets are a great and convenient way to discover multiple great books and authors at one low price.

For authors, ebook box sets are a great way to build readership, collaborate with fellow indie authors, and raise money for charity.
If you haven't yet planned a box set, now is the time to start planning for one.  This post will show you how. The two most common types of box set are single-author and multi-author. For a single-author box set, an author mi...
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Mark Coker

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Lesleyann has a new story on HuffPost where she covers the travesty that has become the Daytime Television Emmy awards.
How far the mighty have fallen. The 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards this weekend were regulated to nothing more than a live stream on the Internet....
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Smashwords today released daily sales reporting for iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and OverDrive.  Our new charts and graphs make it easier for authors to spot trends, monitor progress across multiple channels, and make faster marketing and promotion decisions.  We're also now reporting accumulate preorders from iBooks!
Smashwords today added daily sales reporting and interactive charting for sales at iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive and the Smashwords store. The reports include daily and total order accumulation numbers for iBooks pr...
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WONDERFUL!!!!!
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Most indie authors are probably not paying close enough attention to the dispute now raging between Amazon and Hachette.

The dispute's outcome will have significant implications for indie authors because the very survivability of the agency pricing model hangs in the balance, and with it, the future of publishers, retailers and indie authors.

I examined the implications today over at the Smashwords Blog, and provided four tips indies can employ to preserve their independence and help shape future outcomes.
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It's interesting to see what happens!
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