At RWA 2016 (That’s author code for the national convention of Romance Writers of America this year) I enjoyed listening to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords in 2008. This amazing man has had his problems, certainly, but I learned a bunch from his speech.

Here’s a quick look at how it all began. Ten years ago, an author had these options for being published: Traditional. Nothing. Vanity Press which would cost way too much and not be considered a real book. E-books were just starting to be a reality. Traditional publishers had so many limits on the number of books they could put out in a year that they couldn’t say yet to most authors.

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Mark and his wife, Lesleyann, wrote a book set in the world of Daytime Soap Operas called Boob Tube. Their experiences with trying to get that book published led directly to Mark’s founding of Smashwords. By the way, Mark is also the author of The Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook), The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book) and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices of the most commercially successful ebook authors). This dude knows his Ebook stuff.

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The following trends in Ebooks created the world we now live in, where there is little or no stigma attached to self-publishing.

  1. The rise of Ebooks
  2. Led to the democratized distribution on-line, with free shelf space
  3. Caused the rise of Indy author-ships, judged by readers.
  4. Self-published authors hit mainstream Best Selling lists.
  5. Today, the stigma is nothing to worry about. It’s almost totally gone.
  6. There’s now a glut of low-cost, high-quality Ebooks available to lots of readers. They are immortal, they will never go out of print. Think about that!

This may come as a complete surprise, but Romance authors are the leading edge of the trend. Mark has seen a new trend in Ebooks of which he hopes we will take advantage. There’s a power curve you can tap into when releasing a new Ebook. It’s the advance listing for sale before the release date. Or pre-orders. It’s all about an advantage to reach more readers.

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The Benefits:

  1. Enables more effective advance marketing and excites fans.
  2. Signals a commitment and discipline on the part of the author. For a series writer, it relieves fans.
  3. The number of pre-sales can fast track you to the Best Seller List. However, Amazon subtracts the number of pre-sales from the release day numbers. Smashwords does not.
  4. Same Day availability on release day at all retailers on-line.
  5. Increased merchandising opportunities. When you have older books up, put them at a discount. Readers will see pre-order information when searching for your books. Run Sneak Peek promotions. You could get into the Most Popular Upcoming releases lists.
  6. Books born as pre-orders sell better. Mark has seen it over and over. Pre-orders are the most underutilized best practice.

How do you plan your pre-order? Think of the length of time that your book will be available for pre-order as the Runway. The longer the lead time, the better you can do. Mark suggests a minimum of 4 to 12 weeks. But even 5 days will help.

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Pick the day for release very carefully. Large publishing houses release their books on Tuesdays. You don’t need that extra competition. Saturday and Sunday are the best Ebook buying days. Early in the month will get you on the Smashwords Best Seller list.

Avoid Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the day after those holidays are excellent. In fact, the day after Christmas is the best day of the year.

Marketing and Promotion

  1. You need to build an active street team. Find your fans and Super Fans.
  2. Offer them incentives, something no other fan will have
  3. Leverage your other titles to the pre-order book, charge a dollar less for them
  4. Offer something free – Bookmarks, pens, pins, something.

Uploading your pre-order can be an assetless process now at Smashwords. You can upload the metadata only. You must be confident that you will meet the commitment. Establish without a cover if you need to. The best selling pre-orders almost always are Romance. Smashwords has no issue if you need to change your release day. Amazon will apply a penalty if you miss the date. Amazon also wants the finished book 10 days in advance, 11 is better.

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You can find more help than you will ever need here: https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords  including a tutorial or two on YouTube. So what are you waiting for? Get that book up for sale today!

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