Author Review: Smashwords’ Mark Coker

Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, by Mark Coker. Both of these are free ebooks.

MARK COKERMark Coker is the founder and current head guy at Smashwords. He started Smashwords when he and his wife had written the book Boob Tube, but–despite obvious promise–could not get an editor interested enough to publish it. He is now very involved in indie-publishing promotion and education, the entire process of Smashwords (which has grown exponentially the last few years), with writing self-publishing books and PR books, and in speaking engagements.

So what is Smashwords? It seems that many of you would know what Smashwords is, by the sheer number of their customers, and yet I rarely if ever hear anyone reference it like they do Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Smashwords is an ebook “printer,” retailer, and distributor, probably the biggest and most active of its type. I used them in publishing the e-version of my first novel, Benevolent, and they act as my distributor to the likes of Barnes and Noble, iBook, Kobo, etc. To be completely honest, I have undervalued their services for the past year-and-a-half and viewed them primarily as a way to dole out free copies of my book for giveaways, but no longer. They are an extremely valuable distributor and promoter of indie books, and I plan to honor them and use them more than I have in the past. If you like ebooks, you should probably check them out. Just don’t mind the slightly clunky interface… concentrate on all the great books (and many for free).

SECRETS TO EBOOK PUBLISHING SUCCESSA few months ago, I ran aground of a copy of the free ebook, Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Since I value constant research into my field as part of my day job, I decided to insert this into my ever-growing list of TBRs. I was not disappointed. Now, it’s not exactly gripping prose, maybe more of a manual. And I was already aware of many things that it told me because, like I said, I do my homework. But there were some amazing golden nuggets of indie publishing in there. And it doesn’t just have to apply to ebooks in every circumstance (in other words, PODs as well). You can see my list of notes below, but I found this book illuminating and extremely useful. I would recommend it to all self-publishers. Nay, more than recommend; encourage.

SMASHWORDS BOOK MARKETING GUIDEThe previous book mentioned the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide many times, and since that was free as well, I read straight into that one. It really is a manual, and most of the text is a list of forty-one free marketing tools. It was not nearly as riveting a read (for a publishing geek such as I), but I can’t overemphasize the practicality of those tips and Coker’s perspective. Again, I recommend for all self-publishers, even if you don’t think you are going to use Smashwords as a distributor.


Somewhat random notes from Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide:

  • My writing = creativity + intellect + talent + experience + sacrifice
  • Never stop working to earn every page turn.
  • Book descriptions don’t summarize the whole book, they tantalize the potential reader.
  • Jealously guard your time from inefficiency and distraction.
  • Invest your time, not food or shelter money.
  • Book retailing is basically a consignment business.
  • My Kindle royalties have halved since I published in 2013, because I refuse to give Kindle exclusivity.
  • Giving books away for free is a best-kept secret of best-selling authors.
  • Get to that deep backlist!
  • A publication date used to mean one foot in the grave, now it means the beginning of a journey. Practice the never-ending book launch.
  • Continue “rolling thunder” after the initial promotion.
  • Trust your customers and supply chain partners.
  • Remain positive, especially in your platform. In fact, project brand positivity.
  • If your ebook’s pirated, consider it low-cost publicity.
  • Ask yourself, “How can I make my book as easy as possible to discover, purchase, and enjoy?”
  • Spend money editing, not marketing.
  • Consider your beta readers as an aggregate.
  • Negatives affect your negatively, not neutrally.
  • Think permanent marketing infrastructure, like thousands of paths leading to your books.
  • It can be beneficial to publish a series all at once.
  • Full-length series perform best as ebooks.
  • Marketing should feed a strong desire + urgency. Readers want emotional engagement.
  • Switching a bestseller from indie to traditional publishing often results in a higher pricing and plummeting sales.
  • Most overnight indie successes labored away for years in obscurity.
  • Do the easy and quick thing first. Put your work into the 20% with the 80% of the returns.

5 thoughts on “Author Review: Smashwords’ Mark Coker

  1. “Jealously guard your time from inefficiency and distraction.”
    I should not be blogging, but writing! However, if I call it my author platform, I’m actually working.:) I’m going to go through Smashwords when I publish. I’ve already downloaded their ebooks manuals, very handy information to have.

  2. Most helpful. Having been published and discovering that it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, I intend to go this route next time. I’d far rather have control; and I couldn’t have less sales ! :-\

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