Speaker: Mark Coker, Smashwords

Ebooks risen to 8.5% of trade market. A lot of authors they work with see more sales from ebooks than print books. Print won’t go away, but should use ebooks to make your work more accessible.

Advantages of ebooks: changeable font size, portable, huge selection, convenient sampling, lower cost. Easier to publish an ebook than a print book and don’t have to pay anyone to do it. Can get higher profits. Publishers pay around 25%, but self-published ebook can get 75 to 1000%. Can price lower and still make more than a traditional publisher. Even though services are out there to publish an ebook, doesn’t mean you will sell anything.

Ebooks have democratized publishing. All the retailers want your ebooks because don’t have to deal with shelf space.

Three trends reshaping the industry: bookselling moving to the web (price, convenience and selection), ebooks will overtake print, authors become publishers.

Traditional publishers have reacted inappropriately to today’s changes: costs to high, author’s advances too high and loose money if books fail, supply chain broken, Amazon not only eating the publishers’ lunch it is eating the publishers. As publishers trying to mitigate the new risks they are adopting customer-unfriendly policies and author-unfriendly policies: publishing fewer books, scarcity tactics to maintain higher prices, limiting worldwide distribution, DRM, reluctant to acquire books from unproven authors, providing less marketing and editing support.

Summary of indie author advantages: internet book buying levels playing field for indies, both print and ebook; self published authors are closer to customers, have lower expenses, earn more per book can’t go out of print.

Secret #1: write a great book. One of the biggest problems at Smashwords is poor books (poor quality, editing, proofing and cover images). Book covers are still very important in the ebook world.

Secret #2: Write another great book. A backlist is important.

Secret #3: Maximize your distribution. Take advantage of retailers and distributors.

Secret #4: Give some of your books away for free. On Smashwords over 2,000 books are free. Think of free books as a marketing tool – first book in a series, for example. Highest grossing authors on Smashwords offer at least one free ebook.

Secret #5: Trust your readers and partners. DRM is counterproductive and limiting distribution chain because of lack of trust will severely limit sales.

Secret #6: Have patience. Ebooks never go out of print so the author can take the long view. Best author stared out with $200/quarter and now is up to $15,000/quarter

Secret #7: Marketing starts yesterday. Marketing should be a daily activity and start before the book is published.

Secret #8: Architect your books for virality – takes steps necessary so that word of your book can be spread easily.

Impression: the typical excellent Coker presentation. Nothing new for our readers, but the room was packed and people were listening intently. What’s nice about Mark’s presentations is that he doesn’t hype Smashwords, but sticks to the meat of the topic. Seemed to be a large amount of ignorance about ebooks in the audience – not only about ebooks, but also about the internet and all topics related to it.


  1. You say, “but self-published ebook can get 75 to 1000%.”

    Wow! Where to I go to sell an ebook for $1 that’ll give me $10 in royalties? I wouldn’t even have to write something anyone would want to read. Just buy 100 copies a day myself and I’d earn $1,000 a day. I’d be rich in no time. As they used to say, “Great work if you can find it.”

    I assume you meant 100%.

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