Excerpt for Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

Copyright 2008-2018 Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords (

Version 2.01 Rev 11.29.18


Smashwords Edition

Cover design by PJ Lyon


Other Books by Mark Coker:

Smashwords Style Guide (How to format and publish an ebook)

Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Ebook publishing best practices)

10-Minute PR Checklist – (How to Earn the Publicity You Deserve

Boob Tube (Novel about Hollywood celebrity)


Table of Contents


About the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

Why I wrote this book

What is book marketing?

Writing is marketing

The rise of ebooks

The competitive advantage of indie ebook authors

Setting expectations

Chapter 1. The Free Book Marketing Tools at Smashwords

1. Distribution to retailers and libraries

2. The Smashwords Store

3. Global Pricing Control

4. Daily Sales reporting

5. Multiple ebook file types

6. Author profile pages

7. Book pages

8. Book sampling

9. Smart shopping cart

10. Book reviews

11. Coupons!

12. Promotional widgets

13. Search engine visibility

14. Exclusive “Special Deals” promotions

15. Smashwords Interviews

16. Embeddable YouTube videos

17. Book tagging

18. Tag cloud

19. Other books by this author or publisher

20. Integration with social media sites

21. Smashwords Affiliate Partners program

22. Exclusive site-wide promotions

23. Promotion on Smashwords Satellites

24. Access to retailer merchandising promotions

25. Free author education resources

Chapter 2. 65 MARKETING TIPS


Author Brand-Building

Tip #1 – Visualize your author brand

Tip #2 – Practice ethical marketing

Tip #3 – Act professional

Tip #4 – Be a nice person

Tip #5 – Give back

Knowledge Building

Tip #6 – Subscribe to the Smart Author Podcast

Tip #7 – Join a local writer’s club or critique group

Tip #8 – Subscribe to the Smashwords blog

Tip #9 – Read The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

Tip #10 – Check out the Smashwords Survey

Platform Building

Tip #11 – Join HARO, Help-a-reporter-online for free press leads

Tip #12 – Use Google Alerts to discover where the conversations are taking place

Tip #13 – Create a private email list

Tip #14 – Update your email signature

Tip #15 – Sign up for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, if you haven’t already

Tip #16 – Complete a Smashwords Interview

Tip #17 – Start a blog

Tip #18 – Print business cards

Tip #19 – Create an online calling card and bio at

Tip #20 – Update your social media profiles and message board signatures


Tip #21 – List every new release on preorder

Tip #22 – Distribute to all ebook retailers

Tip #23 – Distribute ebook to public libraries

Autopilot Marketing

Tip #24 – Build hyperlinks

Tip #25 – Don’t publish without editing

Tip #26 – If you can’t afford a professional editor, find an alternative

Tip #27 – Use beta readers to inspire ideas for your final revision

Tip #28 – Three essential sections for your back matter

Tip #29 – Create a discussion guide for your back matter

Tip #30 – Promote preorder books in the back matter of your other books

Tip #31 – Add sample chapters of your other books to your back matter

Tip #32 – Do a sample chapter swap with another author

Tip #33 – Add enhanced navigation to your ebook

Tip #34 – Price at least one book at FREE

Tip #35 – If you write series, price the series starter at FREE

Tip #36 – Practice metadata magic

Tip #37 – Occupy multiple price points to appeal to more readers

Tip #38 – Publish more than one book to create a multiplier effect

Tip #39 – Refresh your cover image

Tip #40 – Tweak and iterate your viral catalysts


Prelaunch Marketing

Tip #41 – It’s all about the next book – get it on preorder now

Tip #42 – Encourage readers to subscribe to your Smashwords Alerts

Tip #43 – Write thoughtful reviews for other ebooks on Smashwords

Tip #44 – Participate in specialized communities where your target readers hang out

Blog Marketing

Tip #45 – Join the conversations on other blogs

Tip #46 – Write guest posts for other blogs

Tip #47 – Conduct Q&A interviews of other authors on your blog

Tip #48 – Invite other authors to write guest posts for your blog

Launch Marketing

Tip #49 – Promote hyperlinks to all your retailers

Tip #50 – Write a press release and promote it to your local newspaper

Tip #51 – Organize a blog tour

Tip #52 – Celebrate your ebook launch on your web site, blog and private mailing list

Tip #53 – Announce your book on social media

Tip #54 – Announce your book to friends, family, co-workers, business associates, and readers

Tip #55 – Encourage readers to leave honest reviews at their favorite retailer

Library Marketing

Tip #56 – Ask your readers to recommend your ebook to their local public library

Tip #57– Orchestrate events at your local library

Post Launch Marketing

Tip #58 – Run promotions with Smashwords Coupons

Tip #59 – Run a price promotion

Tip #60 – Participate in annual Smashwords-exclusive promotions

Tip #61 – Leverage YouTube videos to reach more readers

Tip #62 – Invite readers to become affiliate marketers for your books

Tip #63 – Upload a presentation deck to

Tip #64 – Organize a multi-author box set with your favorite authors

Tip #65 – Invite other authors to join you on your indie author journey

Chapter 3 - DEEP DIVES

Social media strategies for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

How to work with beta readers

How to earn free press coverage

Also by Mark Coker

About the author

Connect with Mark Coker

Connect with fellow Smashwords authors

Connect with Smashwords

Dedication and acknowledgements


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About the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

Since its first publication in 2008, the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has helped thousands of writers, publishers and book marketers reach millions of new readers. The first edition aimed to help Smashwords authors take full advantage of the marketing tools and capabilities of the Smashwords platform.

In the years since, I’ve expanded the scope of the guide with dozens of updates as the industry developed, and as I identified new book marketing opportunities for authors. Today the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has evolved to become an essential resource for all authors and publishers, even if you’re not yet working with Smashwords.

The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide provides practical, proven book-marketing advice. You won’t find gimmicks or shady tricks here. I teach, preach and practice ethical marketing.

Most of the ideas presented here cost nothing to implement other than the investment of your time.

Some of my tips require only a couple of minutes to implement; yet will reap you dividends for years to come. Other tips require a greater ongoing investment of your time and attention. Do the easy things first, and then refer back to the guide as a brainstorming checklist whenever you’re ready to do more.

You’ll find I use the terms “self-published author” and “indie author” interchangeably. They’re the same.

Although this book focuses on ebook marketing, many of the recommendations I’m about to share apply to print book and audiobook marketing as well.

This is the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. It’s the most significant revision yet. It’s been updated with dozens of new marketing tips and new material to help you master your book marketing.

I’ve restructured the order in which I present the tips. They’re now organized in sections under logical categories that map closer to how you’ll plan, launch and sustain your book marketing.

I’ve also added a new chapter titled “Deep Dives,”which offers in-depth sections for developing your social media strategy, how to work with beta readers and how to earn free press coverage.

The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide will continue to evolve over time. Many of the marketing strategies and tactics you’re about to learn were pioneered by your fellow indie authors. I welcome your suggestions for new tips to share in future editions. I also welcome your corrections. Write me (Mark Coker) at first initial second initial at smashwords dot com.

Why I wrote this book

Context is important. Who am I and how did I come to write a book about book marketing?

I’ve been practicing marketing my entire career. I received my degree in marketing from UC Berkeley in 1988, but my best learning has come from real world experience.

My first job out of college was as VP of Marketing for my father’s garage startup. He gave me a big title and zero marketing budget for our little two-man company. Out of necessity I learned how to get free press coverage for our software.

My next big job was working at one of the largest PR firms in Silicon Valley. After a couple of years there, I left to start my own firm. For over 15 years I ran an award-winning Silicon Valley PR firm where I provided strategic communications counsel to – and was mentored by – some of the brightest CEOs and VPs of Marketing from around the globe. It was an amazing educational experience.

Then around 2000, right before the dot com bubble burst, I met my wife, Lesleyann. She’s a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine. She told me head-spinning stories about her experiences reporting on the wild and wacky world of daytime television soap operas. She shared how the soap actors she met were more over-the-top in real life than their fictional soap opera characters. I suggested she write a book about her experiences. She suggested we write that book together.

Ever since I can remember, I dreamed of writing a book. I always assumed I’d write non-fiction about one of my various passions such as gardening, entrepreneurship, stock market investing, or marketing. But a novel about soap operas? I decided why not. I was getting burnt out on the daily grind of running a PR agency and was ready for something different.

The rest is history. I took a sabbatical from my PR agency to research and write the novel with Lesleyann. It was an incredible experience. We explored the dark underbelly of Hollywood celebrity. The book is titled Boob Tube.

Despite representation from an awesome agent at a top literary agency in New York City, we couldn’t get a publishing deal. Previous novels targeting soap opera fans had performed poorly, so publishers were reluctant to take a chance on us.

The experience opened my eyes. I realized that despite their good intentions, publishers are unable to say yes to every author.

I imagined the millions of writers who came before us whose dreams of authorship had been crushed by the benign neglect of publishers.

I thought it would be really cool if someone would create a publishing service that could say yes to every writer in the world. This was in 2005, the early days of blogging and YouTube. I thought if anyone could have the freedom to publish a blog post or video online, and have their work judged by their audience as opposed to a gatekeeper, then why not a book?

I decided to solve the problem myself. I wanted to democratize publishing for the benefit of all writers and readers.

In 2008 I founded an ebook publishing company called Smashwords. Smashwords makes it fast, free and easy for any writer, anywhere in the world, to self-publish an ebook. We created powerful publishing and marketing tools, and we put these tools in the hands of writers for no cost.

In 2009 we broke down the distribution barriers by opening up multiple major ebook retailers to self-published ebooks. Once our authors’ ebooks hit retailers’ virtual shelves, they started selling. We also opened up public libraries to self-published ebooks.

In the years since our founding, Smashwords has grown to become the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks. Throughout our growth and all the ups and downs of this rough and tumble industry, I never lost sight of the fighting spirit upon which I founded the company. We’re here to democratize publishing for the benefit of authors, publishers and readers. That fight continues.

Today we help over 140,000 authors publish and distribute more than 500,000 ebooks.

It’s been my privilege to work with so many bright and amazing authors.

Unlike large publishers, and unlike my former corporate clients in the tech industry, indie authors have never enjoyed the luxury of multi-million dollar marketing budgets.

What indies lack in money, however, they make up one hundred times over with creativity, experimentation and grit. In the fight to reach readers, indie authors pioneered many of the ebook marketing practices I’m about to share with you.

If you’re a writer, author, publisher, book marketer, literary agent, or personal assistant to an author, this guide is for you. I’m here to help you reach more readers.

What is Book Marketing?

Book marketing is more than social media, paid advertising and branded pencils.

Book marketing is everything you do to make your work and your author brand more discoverable, more desirable and more enjoyable for your target reader. This means marketing encompasses everything from book production and pricing to distribution and promotion. Every decision you make will have marketing impact.

Smart marketing starts by understanding your target reader. Who is that reader – more than any other – who will derive the greatest satisfaction from your work?

Your target reader looks to books to satisfy specific emotional and intellectual aspirations. A reader may desire to laugh, cry, learn, escape, contemplate, feel happy, feel scared, feel titillated, or all of the above and more.

Your target reader is a time traveler with split personalities. Your reader has diverse tastes. The same reader might desire a political memoir today, a sweet romance tomorrow, a book on business finance the next day, and a celebrity biography the day after that.

Your reader is a moving target. To reach them, your book needs to be in the right place at the right time with the right message, so the reader is drawn to its gravitational pull the next time their orbit passes by your book.

Smart book marketing works like an ever-present magnet to bridge the gap between a reader’s desire and your book’s ability to satisfy that desire.

Writing is Marketing

Writing is the most important form of marketing because it’s how you produce the product that will satisfy your target reader’s desires.

Your number one priority as an author is to write a super-awesome book that takes your readers to an emotionally satisfying extreme. It doesn’t matter if your book is about real estate investing, political philosophy or romance. The goal is the same: make the target reader go WOW!

Great books become bestsellers when they spread from one reader to another through word-of-mouth.

Good books aren’t good enough anymore. There are millions of good books out there, but only a small number of wow books.

We’ve all read wow books. They’re the books that stick with us forever. They’re the books that inspire us, move us or shake us to our core.

Wow books earn five star reviews. They’re the books readers can’t put down. Wow books are the books that cause readers to become fans, and fans to become superfans.

Superfans buy everything you write. Superfans are your evangelists. They drive word of mouth. They’re the readers that will propel your career forward for decades to come.

Of all your marketing tasks, organize your day to protect and maximize your writing time. Think of your book as the cake. The marketing recommendations in this book are the icing on the cake.

Now let’s turn our attention to the market environment in which you participate. Once you have a lay of the land, you can pursue your marketing campaigns with greater success.

The Rise of eBooks

In 2008 when I launched Smashwords, ebooks accounted for less than one percent of the overall trade book market (so-called “trade books,” if you’re not familiar with the term, are the books consumers purchase in both physical and online book stores).

Today ebooks account for around 25% of overall trade book sales. In genre fiction, ebooks command a larger share.

Since ebooks are priced lower than print books, this 25% market share understates the dramatic shift to digital reading that has occurred over the last decade. From a unit market share perspective, the percentage of words read digitally as ebooks vs. print is probably near or above 50%.

If you want to reach more readers, make ebooks central to your publishing strategy.

Although 75% of trade book sales are still in print, the print market is dominated by traditional publishers. Traditional publishers still control access to physical brick and mortar bookstores. This means that with rare exception, print distribution to physical stores is not an option for most self-published authors.

With ebooks, however, it’s a different story. With ebooks, the shelf space is virtual. Every major ebook retailer wants to carry every self-published ebook. This means your ebook will appear alongside the ebooks published by major publishers. Your ebook, like all ebooks, can occupy that virtual shelf forever, even if your sales are low.

This means your books have the potential to generate an annuity stream of income for you and your heirs for many years to come.

The Competitive Advantage of Indie Ebook Authors

In the digital realm, indie ebook authors enjoy numerous competitive advantages over traditional publishers. You enjoy faster time to market, complete creative control and total promotional flexibility. You control all of your rights and you have the ability to price lower while earning higher royalty rates.

How much higher are the royalties? Authors who work with large traditional publishers typically earn only 12-17% of the ebook’s list price as their royalty, or 11-15% after their agent earns their cut.

Indie ebook authors, by contrast, earn 60-80% of the list price as their royalty. That’s about five times higher.

To put these royalties in practical terms, it means an indie author can price his or her ebook at $3.99 and earn about $2.50 for each book sold. A traditionally published author would earn only 50 to 70 cents at that price. The traditionally published author would have to have their ebook priced at over $14.00 to earn the same $2.50 earned by the indie author at $3.99.

If a reader has the choice between two books of equal perceived quality, and one is priced at $3.99 and the other is $13.99, the $3.99 indie ebook has the advantage. The lower price makes your book more affordable and more desirable to readers.

Each year I publish an annual research report called the Smashwords Survey that examines the impact of book price on an author’s unit sales and overall earnings. Episode 7 of the Smart Author Podcast examined the 2017 Smashwords Survey.

For each of the last several years we’ve found that ebooks of full-length fiction priced at $3.99, earn as much, if not more, than fiction priced over $10 - yet the $3.99 price yields three to five times as many unit sales.

Indie authors are leveraging low prices to build readership faster, and earn more in the process.

Setting Expectations

We all find inspiration from the amazing stories of indie ebook authors who were rejected by traditional publishers, and then went on to become international bestsellers after turning to Smashwords and Amazon to self-publish their ebooks. These rags to riches stories remind us of what’s possible.

Yet the truth of the matter is that most books don’t sell well, whether they’re self-published or traditionally published.

At Smashwords we don’t make promises we can’t keep. I can’t promise your book will sell well, even if you follow all of the tips in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. I want you to know the truth, so you can approach your publishing career with realistic expectations and eyes wide open. You might labor away in obscurity for years before your book breaks out. Or you may never break out.

A new ebook published today will compete against over five million other ebooks already in ebook stores.

There’s a glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks on the market. Hundreds of thousands of new titles come to market each year from traditional publishers and indie authors alike.

Readers turn to books for entertainment, escapism and knowledge. Yet other media forms are competing for your reader’s attention. Witness the amount of time your target readers also spend enjoying social media, television, movies, sports, video games, and podcasts.

The good news is that your book is unique. Since ebooks never go out of print, your book is immortal. It can forever occupy that valuable shelf space.

This permanence is a mixed blessing.

On the positive side, it means your book is forever discoverable and purchasable. On the negative side, it means your competition will increase every day and every year from this day forward.

Smart marketing will help your book rise above the clutter to become more visible, more findable and more desirable to your readers.

The skills you learn in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide will make you a more successful author. That success won’t come overnight. Instead, it’ll come in small increments over time as you learn to adopt, implement and refine the recommendations I’m about to share.

Marketing is a core competency every author must learn. Even traditionally published authors often complain they don’t get enough marketing support from their publisher. This is because publishers cannot sustain the marketing after a book is released. Unless an author’s book sells well right out of the gate, publishers need to shift their marketing resources and attention to the next new releases by other authors.

Successful authors, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, must learn to drive their own marketing.

No publisher will ever share the same lifelong passion for your book as you. It’s your baby. You’re the one who dreams about your book every night. You spend your shower time, your drive time and every other waking moment thinking about your book.

Bottom line, you are your book’s best advocate and best marketer.

In Chapter 1, I’ll provide an overview of the marketing tools at Smashwords, and then in Chapter 2, we’ll dive into my checklist of 65 book marketing tips.

Chapter 1
The Free Book Marketing Tools at Smashwords

Smashwords is a free ebook publishing platform available to all writers.

To publish with Smashwords, you sign up for a free account at and then follow the step-by-step instructions that come in your confirmation email.

Once your book is published at Smashwords, we review it to confirm it meets the distribution requirements of our retailers and library partners. These requirements are mostly mechanical and legal in nature. Assuming you followed our simple publishing instructions, we approve the book for distribution and then we digitally transmit your ebook to the retailers and libraries.

Within minutes of upload to Smashwords, you can start utilizing the marketing tools I’m about to describe one by one:

1. Distribution to Retailers and Libraries

Broad distribution is one of the most important components of your marketing plan. If your book isn’t available in bookstores and at libraries, it’s not discoverable by readers. All online retailers and most libraries carry self-published ebooks.

How do you get your book to these sales outlets? The fastest and simplest route is to partner with a distributor like Smashwords. With a single upload to Smashwords, we’ll distribute your ebook to major retailers such as Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Scribd. We’ll also make it purchasable by over 30,000 public libraries around the world via our distribution to library ebook platforms OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Bibliotheca CloudLibrary, Gardners, and Odilo.

We make it easy for you to manage your book across multiple sales channels. If you want to change your price or update your book description or upload a new cover image, you update your book once at Smashwords. We transmit the update to all the sales channels we serve. It’s not uncommon that you’ll make a price change at Smashwords and see it reflected at iBooks or Kobo within an hour or two.

There’s no cost to distribute with Smashwords. Smashwords earns its income on commission. If your book sells at one of our retailers, the retailer takes 30% of the list price as their commission, Smashwords earns 10% list, and the author earns 60% list.

Most Smashwords authors and publishers derive over 90% of their sales through our global distribution network, with the remainder earned at the Smashwords store.

2. The Smashwords Store, our retail operation

Smashwords is unusual among ebook distributors, in that we also operate our own online ebook store.

Within five minutes of uploading your book to Smashwords, it goes live and is featured at the bottom of the Smashwords home page where it’s available for immediate purchase and download by a worldwide audience.

Millions of readers pass through our virtual doors each month. We make it easy for readers to discover books and authors of interest.

In November, 2018, the Smashwords home page received its most significant update ever. The new home page interface features a curated selection of recommended titles organized under various themes including Featured New Releases, Trending Now, Bestselling Books, Trending Now, Top Series Starters, Bestselling Box Sets, Featured Special Deals, Free Special Deals, Recent Purchases at Smashwords, Most Downloaded, Highest Rated and Newest Arrivals.

Readers can click the category, price and book length filters to drill down to the best of the best books at Smashwords as judged by actual purchases and downloads from across the Smashwords distribution network.

The new interface introduces multiple opportunities for authors to earn home page merchandising based on the performance of their books. To learn more about the new interface, how the underlying algorithms work, and how to raise the visibility of a book within customer searches, check out our announcement at the Smashwords Blog titled, Smashwords Unveils New Book Discovery Inteface.

The Smashwords store pays royalties up to 80% list, among the highest in the industry. Even $.99 ebooks can earn up to 80% list. The royalty is based on the size of the customer’s shopping cart.

3. Global Pricing Control

With the Smashwords Global Pricing Control tool, accessible from your Dashboard, you can control pricing in 246 countries and in 142 different currencies. This is helpful for authors who want to carefully control country-specific pricing and promotions. It’s a popular feature for authors who run BookBub advertisements, since they need to set custom pricing across multiple currencies in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and India.

In Europe, you can even price your book at different Euro prices in different countries. This is helpful when you consider that consumers in some Eurozone countries have widely disparate disposable incomes. A price that’s affordable in one country might be too expensive in another, even though the currency is the same. Citizens of Germany, for example, earn twice the per capita income of citizens in Portugal.

4. Daily Sales Reporting

When you’re out there promoting your books, it’s helpful to gain immediate feedback as to how your marketing campaign is performing. The Daily Sales tool in the Smashwords Dashboard helps you track, at-a-glance, same-day and next-day sales results across iBooks, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive and the Smashwords. Store. You can slice and dice the data, such as to analyze a specific title’s performance over time at a specific retailer, or to compare one retailer’s performance to another.

5. Multiple eBook File Types

You have two options for delivering your book to Smashwords. You can upload your own professionally designed epub file, or you can do what the vast majority of our authors and publishers do – upload a Microsoft Word document of the manuscript.

When you upload a Word document to Smashwords, we automatically convert it into five different ebook file types, including the most popular formats of .epub, .mobi and PDF. These different file types make your book accessible and readable to users of any e-reading device. Customers can purchase the book at Smashwords once, and enjoy it on any of their personal devices in any format. Some of the many devices supported include the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook, Kobo Reader, personal computers, any smart phone, and future devices not even invented yet.

6. Author Profile Pages

When you publish with Smashwords, we create a personal profile page for you with a unique web address. The Smashwords profile page is powerful. Think of it as your personal storefront. It automatically lists all of your published books. You can post your bio and picture, add social media links to Facebook and Twitter, integrate your external blog, embed YouTube videos, which I’ll cover in a moment, provide links to where readers can purchase print versions of your book, and showcase reviews you’ve written of other Smashwords books.

Your profile page also helps you forge a closer relationship with readers. Readers can “favorite” you, which cause links to your profile page to appear on their profile page. Readers can also subscribe to your Smashwords Alerts, so they receive an automatic email whenever you release a new book.

Your profile page also lists your Smashwords Interview (more on this below).

7. Book Pages

For each book you publish with Smashwords, we automatically generate a web page dedicated to that book. You can upload a book cover, upload YouTube book trailers and add a synopsis and descriptive tags to help readers find your book. Prospective readers can access samples of your book in formats readable on any ebook reading device and add your book to their shopping cart with a click.

8. Book Sampling

Smashwords offers the most powerful and flexible sampling system you’ll find anywhere. When you upload your book to Smashwords, you tell us what percentage of your book we should make available as a free sample in the Smashwords store. Sampling allows readers to try your book before they buy. As the author, you determine the sampling percentage, from word one forward. If, for example, you select 15% sampling, the first 15% of your book starting at the beginning is available for free download, so prospective readers can try before they buy. At the end of the sample we prompt them to purchase the full book.

9. Smart Shopping Cart

We help you sell your book. We offer a simple to use shopping cart for your readers, and we make it easy for them to pay via PayPal or any of the most popular credit cards.

Once a customer places your book in their cart, we’ll present them with additional point-of-sale recommendations before they complete the purchase. This makes it easier for customers to purchase more books from their favorite authors.

As mentioned above, 85% of the net sales proceeds from your book go to the person who deserves it most: You, the author or publisher (70.5% for sales generated from affiliate marketers). After all, Smashwords was created by an author to help fellow authors.

10. Book Reviews

Book reviews help sell books, so we make it easy for your customers to review your books. Whenever someone buys your book, they’ll receive an automated reminder several days later that prompts them to review your book if they enjoyed it.

11. Coupons!

One of the most popular features at Smashwords is our Coupon Manager tool, which you’ll find in your Smashwords Dashboard. No other retailer offers anything similar or so powerful. The Coupon Manager makes it easy to generate custom coupon codes to promote to the fans on your email list, web site, blog, social networks, or on printed business cards.

We continue to add new capabilities to the tool. You can create coupon codes for cents off, dollars off or a percentage off, and you control the expiration date. You can also create what we call “metered” coupons where you control the number of redemptions before the coupon expires. There’s also the option to make your coupons private or public. With a private coupon, you control whom you give the code too. With a public coupon, your special sale price is advertised to customers in the Smashwords store and on your book page. I’ll provide ideas on how to leverage our Coupon Manager tool later on in Tip #58.

12. Promotional Widgets

Widgets are image-based advertisements for your book. You and your readers can create beautiful customizable widgets for your book. These widgets can be placed on web sites and blogs to advertise your book. You’ll find our widget builder on your Smashwords book page below the shopping cart. Here’s a link to the widget builder for my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success:

13. Search Engine Visibility

Your Smashwords profile page, book pages and online book samples are designed so search engines can easily discover and index them. By publishing your book on Smashwords, you’ll have dozens of inbound links to your pages from the leading search engines. This allows prospective readers to stumble across your book as they’re performing searches.

14. Exclusive “Special Deals” Promotions

In 2017 Smashwords introduced an exciting new automated merchandising feature at the Smashwords store that showcases books on sale exclusively at Smashwords. These books are included in a permanent home page promotional feature that makes it easy for readers to search for special deals.

Enrollment in this feature is free and easy. Visit the Coupon Manager in your Dashboard, create a coupon and then mark it as a public coupon instead of a private coupon.

Learn more at

15. Smashwords Interviews

How would you like to be interviewed at Smashwords?

Several years ago, we ran a series of author interviews at the Smashwords blog. At first, I conducted the interviews, but I didn’t have enough time to interview all of the authors I wanted to interview. I then hired a former writer for Rolling Stone Magazine to interview our authors. He was awesome, and he did a bunch of great interviews, but we still couldn’t accommodate everyone.

This led us to create a really cool tool called Smashwords Interviews. You’ll find it in your Smashwords Dashboard.

This exclusive author-marketing tool makes it easy to create, publish and promote a self-interview. The interview helps readers and prospective readers learn the story behind the author. It’s a lot of fun. Our system will present you a series of optional questions you can answer, or you can modify our questions or create your own. The resulting interview is promoted on your author profile page at Smashwords.

16. Embeddable YouTube Videos

If you publish videos on YouTube, you can embed them in both your profile page and your book pages. This is great for book trailers or you in front of the camera talking about your book. Video offers you a chance to engage the senses of the prospective reader and entice them to sample and purchase your book.

17. Book tagging

We realize even our extensive hardwired book categories at Smashwords can’t describe all books, so we allow you as the author or publisher to add supplemental tags or keywords. These tags help describe your book and make it easier to connect with prospective readers. The book tags you enter help people discover you when they do a book search from a search engine like Google, or from the Smashwords home page search box. We also use these keywords for the next tool.

18. Tag Cloud

Each time you upload a new book, you can attach up to one dozen supplemental keywords to make your book more discoverable at the Smashwords Store. These keywords then form what’s called a “tag cloud,” which offers readers another way to discover books of interest. The keyword tags for each book appear on that book’s Smashwords book page. On your author or publisher profile page will appear an aggregate list of keywords for all of your books. By clicking on a keyword in the cloud, the reader is presented with all of the books that match that tag.

19. Other books by this Author or Publisher

When you publish multiple books on Smashwords, you amplify the opportunity for readers to discover you and your works. If a reader is browsing one book page, they’ll see a link that reads, “Also by this author” or “Also by this publisher.”

20. Integration with Social Media Sites

Social media is all about ordinary people having conversations online and sharing information and interests. Social media turbocharges word of mouth marketing.

On each book page at Smashwords, you’ll notice links to popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. By clicking on this link, you or your readers can share your book with friends. Each time someone clicks on one of these links, they’re promoting your book by building a virtual pathway (a hyperlink) that leads back to your book page.

21. Smashwords Affiliate Partners Program

The Smashwords Affiliate program provides incentive to third party web sites, blogs and affiliate marketers to link to and promote your books. Your readers can be affiliates too. Affiliates receive a commission in exchange for all book sales they help generate. As a Smashwords author or publisher, your books are automatically enrolled to benefit from this program.

22. Exclusive Site-wide Promotions

A few times each year Smashwords offers exclusive promotions at the Smashwords Store. The most well known promotion is Read an Ebook Week, which usually occurs during the second week of March. Another popular promotion is our annual July Summer/Winter Sale (because it’s summer for our Northern hemisphere customers, and winter for those in the Southern hemisphere). In December 2017 we kicked off a new annual promotion called the Smashwords End of Year Sale.

With each of the promotions, you can enroll your books at different discount levels, and we promote your books within a special promotional catalog on the home page. These are collaborative promotions because the more authors who participate, the more readers are driven into the sale to discover other great books by participating authors.

23. Promotion on Smashwords Satellites

Smashwords Satellites are a collection of about two dozen specialized micro-sites operated by Smashwords. Readers can browse the most recently released Smashwords ebooks by category and topic. For example, some of the satellites are labeled “Ebooks for Kids,” “Biography Ebooks” and “Free Poetry Ebooks.”

The Satellites offer experimental book discovery interfaces that make it easier for customers to discover and sample books of interest. Listing on the satellites is automatic based on book category, length and price. For a complete listing of Satellites, visit

24. Access to retailer merchandising promotions

If you walk into a physical bookstore, the first books you see are on the front tables or in endcaps where you’ll find featured books. Since these are the first books you see, and they’re recommended by the bookseller, you’re more likely to pick them up and purchase them - as opposed to others buried deeper in the store, sitting spine out on a shelf.

The featured books are selected by the merchandising managers of the stores. Often, publishers pay money to the bookstore, or to the bookstore chain, to have their books featured in these prime locations. In the ebook realm, stores also have merchandising managers that select books for features on their home pages. Visit the home page of iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Amazon and you’ll see featured books. Unlike with physical stores, the author or the publisher doesn’t pay for these features.

How does the online retailer select which books will receive feature promotion? It’s usually a collaborative curation effort. The merchandising team features books they’re confident will please their customers. Since retailers can’t read every book, they use other signals to identify the most promising reader-pleasers. These signals may include the author’s past sales track record in their store, the quality of the ebook’s cover image, the number of accumulated preorders for the ebook, or the recommendation from a publisher or a distributor.

This is where Smashwords comes in. As a distributor, Smashwords has a unique vantage point. We can track your actual sales from across our retail and library distribution network. We can spot breakout books early because we’re looking at aggregated sales of a title or aggregated preorder accumulation, across multiple sales channels. We leverage this data to provide merchandising recommendations to our retail and library partners.

By distributing with Smashwords, you’re eligible to receive this merchandising promotion and the benefits that come from it, if you earn it. To keep things fair and impartial, we base our recommendations on the metrics retailers value most – the author’s historical track record, preorder accumulation and aggregate sales across our distribution network. Every week dozens of Smashwords authors receive this incredible merchandising benefit at no cost. Our retailers and library partners appreciate our recommendations because they know they’re based upon actual audited performance data.

This also means that your strong sales at one retailer – say iBooks or Kobo – can help you get merchandising love at another retailer.

25. Free Author Education Resources

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is what separates self-published professionals from self-published amateurs. I want to help you learn to publish like a professional. The secret to professional publishing is best practices.

At Smashwords, we invest significant resources to develop free educational tools to teach you professional publishing best practices.

This Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is one such free resource. My new SMART AUTHOR podcast is another such resource.

When you’re ready to publish your book, download the free Smashwords Style Guide. With over 600,000 downloads and counting, it’s probably the world’s most popular ebook for how to professionally format and design an ebook.

If you’re new to ebook publishing, check out our glossary of ebook publishing terms in our FAQ at

Chapter 2
65 Book Marketing Tips

This 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide offers a checklist of 65 book marketing tips.

The tips are organized under two primary sections, Foundation-Building and Promotion. Each section and its sub-sections are organized to assist writers at all stages of their publishing journey.

As you’ll soon learn, this is no ordinary checklist. I don’t just recommend what you should do; I try to explain why you should do it. These tips form a mosaic of interlocking and interdependent components that work together to take your marketing to the next level.

We’ll tackle Foundation-Building first.


All great buildings and all great enterprises are built on strong foundations designed to stand the test of time.

Your marketing program requires a strong foundation as well.

What are these foundational elements? In this section on foundation-building, we’ll look at author brand-building, knowledge-building, platform-building, and distribution.

To illustrate the importance of foundation-building, I’ll share some wisdom I learned from my mom many years ago. My mom is a master gardener. When I was growing up I’d often help her plant her fruit trees. She’d hand me a pick and shovel and tell me where to dig the holes.

I remember one day I was working through some difficult soil. It was almost as hard as concrete. After considerable back-breaking effort, I dug a hole that was big enough to accommodate the roots of her baby tree.

A tree’s root system is its foundation. It’s what nourishes the tree and prevents it from falling over. With a healthy root system, a tree grows stronger and faster as it grows larger.

My mom took one look at my little hole and shook her head. She told me to make the hole bigger. She said, “If you plant a $15.00 tree in a $5.00 hole, you get a $5.00 tree.” That lesson has always stuck with me.

In other words, without a proper foundation, you’ll squander your potential. You need to think beyond your current state and visualize how you want to grow in the future.

Most indie authors launch their first book without giving their foundation proper consideration. This undermines their potential to stand tall and rise above the crowd. A tree is stuck with the hole you give it.

Book marketing is more forgiving. Although it’s ideal to get your foundational elements in place before you launch your first book, the good news is that it’s never too late to reinforce your foundation.

Whether you’re preparing to launch your first book or your 50th, these foundation-building tips will put your marketing on a more solid footing.

Author Brand-Building

Tip 1 – Visualize your author brand

The number one driver of book sales is when readers seek out the books of authors they know, trust and admire.

As the author, you are the brand. Before you start marketing your books, you should first visualize what you want your brand to represent.

What is your intention? I’m not talking about your intention to sell a lot of books or reach a lot of readers. We all share that intention.

I’m talking about something bigger. Something more important. Because your book is important. What mark do you want to leave on the world with your books? What is your legacy?

Visualize the experience readers can expect from your books. How do you want readers to think of you?

Think of your favorite restaurant. There was a time when you tried it for the first time, and because it was enjoyable you returned to it again. And then you returned again and again. Each time the restaurant met or exceeded your expectations, it earned greater trust and loyalty from you. You take your friends there and recommend it to everyone you know.

Now imagine a restaurant you once loved, but then something changed and you never returned. Maybe you received rude service, or found a hair in the food, or you got food poisoning. That restaurant squandered your trust. You warn your friends to avoid it.

Author brand operates under the same dynamic. You must guard and cultivate your author brand. Your author brand can be found at the intersection of who you are and where you want to want to go.

There are two aspects to author brand-building. The first is awareness, and the second is perception.

Your marketing will drive awareness and initial perception-building. Your reader’s experience with your books will cement their brand perception.

Throughout the course of your marketing, you’ll deliver both implicit and explicit messages to prospective readers. These messages convey information to the reader. Think of these messages as promises.

You will make promises to readers in the form of your book cover, your book title, your book description, your book categorization, and every other aspect of your marketing.

You must deliver on the promises you make when the reader reads the book.

Even if you’re already a New York Times or USA Today bestseller, your awareness building and trust building is never complete. There are still millions of readers out there who haven’t heard of you and haven’t read you. They therefore don’t know you, don’t trust you and will not read you. You must attract their attention and win them over. At the same time, you must continue to meet or exceed the expectations of loyal readers for whom you’ve already built awareness and trust.

As you work your way through the marketing tips that follow, always ask yourself how you can implement the tip to cultivate greater awareness, greater reader satisfaction and greater trust.

Tip 2 – Practice ethical marketing

Ethics and honesty are essential to successful book marketing. If you cut corners, you’ll sully your author brand. Without ethics and honesty, it’s impossible to build reader trust.

We’ve all seen or read authors who promised one thing but delivered another. We remember those authors for the wrong reasons.

We’ve all heard stories of authors who cut ethical corners, like paying shills to give them glowing reviews. We’ve all heard of horrible authors who have carpet-bombed other authors’ books with one-star reviews. Don’t be vile.

The publishing industry is rife with unsavory authors, publishers and book marketers who cut ethical corners, make promises they can’t keep, and who harm others for personal gain.

If a reader reads your book and feels your marketing misled them, the reader will seek their revenge in the form of a scathing review and negative word of mouth.

You have the opportunity to be different. Be the author who deserves admiration and trust.

In my 30 years in the business world, my personal motto has always been, “If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you told people.” I hold to this credo like religion, and it has served me well.

I’m sure there will be skeptics out there who think this approach to ethics and truth telling is naïve. They might argue that if others are lying and cheating, they should too.

Here’s a promise I can make to you: Karma will always reap its revenge.

Tip 3 – Act professional

As a self-published author, you have the choice to act like an amateur or a professional.

Act professional.

If your book cover looks homemade or if your book description is littered with typos, you will project to readers that you’re an amateur. Such sloppiness sends a message that you’re a clueless newbie, your writing sucks and you don’t respect your reader’s time or money.

This may sound like common sense, or sound like someone else’s problem, yet I see these issues all of the time. We will all make mistakes. It takes a keen sense of self-awareness and open-mindedness to recognize the mistakes.

Publish like a pro. Promote like a pro.

Tip 4 – Be a nice person

If you or your marketing come across as mean, disrespectful or annoying, you will scare prospective readers away.

It’s in your selfish best interest to be a nice person.

It takes a village to publish, promote and sell books. Publishing is a people business.

If you’re new to publishing, the industry might feel as if it’s comprised of thousands of faceless participants. I promise you the longer you’re in the business, the more wonderful people you will meet and the smaller the industry will feel.

Your marketing will touch thousands of people who have the power to open doors or close them.

Who are these powerful people of whom I speak? They’re readers. They’re publishers, retailers, distributors, book marketing firms, literary agencies, bloggers, and major media outlets. They’re fellow authors, editors, book designers, formatters, and cover designers. Every single one of these people – even if they aren’t a target reader for your books – has the power to elevate you or harm you.

As you put yourself and your books out there, these people will form impressions about you.

Why then is it so common to see foul-tempered indie authors publicly trashing entire swaths of the publishing industry? You’ve probably seen well-known indies trash publishers, literary agents, fellow authors, retailers, distributors, or the media. Don’t be stupid.

No one likes mean people. No one wants to help mean people. You can still find success as an obnoxious SOB, but you’ll find more success by showing kindness, humility and respect.

Be the person who brings sunshine, rainbows and happiness to the party. I’m not asking you to be fake. Just don’t pee in the pool.

Several years ago at the Smashwords blog, we interviewed New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry. We asked him how indie authors could best utilize social media to promote their work and their author brand. He shared this advice, which I hope you’ll take to heart:

So, what do you put out there? Think about a party. If there’s someone who is bitching and moaning and someone else who’s getting folks to laugh and loosen up, which way do you drift? If a kid in a playground is constantly bitching about the quality of the toys, and another kid has turned a cardboard box into a sideshow funhouse, who’s getting more attention? Who’s going to be remembered in a positive way?

And, even if you are a naturally cranky, snarky, sour-tempered pain in the ass, for God’s sake share that with your therapist or priest. When you go online to promote yourself and therefore your products, try not to actually scare people off your lawn.”

Bottom line, if you’re nasty online, people might fear you, but they won’t respect you. Read the full interview here: Smashwords blog.

Tip 5 – Give back

One day, if you work hard and if fate permits, you will become a wildly successful author. Your author brand will be known far and wide, and fellow writers will look to you for inspiration.

As you climb the ladder of success I want you to pause, reach behind you and extend a helping hand to your fellow authors. Your success is their success, and their success is yours. A journey shared is more enriching than a journey alone.

Give back. Help your fellow authors succeed. As you learn the secrets to success, share those secrets with your fellow authors. Your fellow authors aren’t your competitors; they’re your partners on this wonderful journey.

If you find the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide helpful to your journey, please don’t keep it a secret and share it with your fellow writers.

Knowledge Building

Knowledge is power. It’s not enough that you have the tools of professional publishing. You must learn how to wield them to achieve your strategic goals.

Every author needs to learn publishing best practices and stay abreast of trends.

The challenge is time management.

With the rise of self-publishing over the last ten years, we’ve seen an entire new industry sprout up dedicated to serving the knowledge needs of indie authors.

Many of these experts have great information to share, but at a certain point you begin to feel like you’re spending all of your time chasing someone else’s tail. That new shiny object that’s working this month may not work the month after. Some of these experts have a vested interest in making publishing appear more complicated than it needs to be.

I’ve always guided our authors to focus on evergreen best practices. These are the essential best practices that will work great today, and will still work great ten years from now.

Authors often give best practices short shrift, as if they’re common sense. Your opportunity isn’t just to implement these best practices, it’s to constantly iterate and improve your implementation of them.

In the five tips that follow, I’ll recommend free knowledge-building resources that will give you the intelligence you need to pursue your book marketing campaigns more effectively. These resources will help you stay focused on the most important best practices and trends, without sucking up all of your time.

Tip 6 – Subscribe to the Smart Author Podcast

In October 2017 I introduced the Smart Author podcast. A podcast is an audio recording you can access over any computer or mobile device.

Think of the Smart Author podcast as a free masterclass in ebook publishing. It guides you step-by-step from the very basics of ebook publishing to more advanced best practices.

The podcast focuses on evergreen best practices. It offers practical, no-nonsense advice on how to make your books more discoverable, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers.

Smart Author is available at Apple Podcasts and everywhere fine podcasts are found. Visit where you can listen over the web, access full text transcripts or view a full listing of all the podcast directories that carry it.

Tip 7 – Join a local writer’s club or critique group

Authorship at times can feel like a lonely pursuit. For those of us who are natural introverts, sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get out of the house and meet people who share common passions.

Join a local writer’s club or critique group. It will change your life.

Almost every community around the globe has local writers groups that get together once a month to hear expert guest speakers. You’ll learn about the craft and business of authorship.

There are also many genre-specific national and international writers groups that have local chapters. You’ll find groups for romance, thrillers, mysteries, non-fiction, Christian, horror, sci-fi and fantasy, and more. Whatever your writing interest, you’ll find a writing group that’s right for you.

If you live in California, check out the California Writers Club with multiple chapters around the state.

Outside the US in other English-speaking countries, there are many great groups and clubs in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

If you live too far from the nearest writing group (and even if you don’t), check out the Alliance of Independent Authors, an international group based in the UK that’s dedicated to helping self-published authors publish like professionals. They hold several free online conferences a year where you’ll hear from expert speakers. Check them out at

Tip 8 – Subscribe to the Smashwords Blog

I started the Smashwords Blog in 2008, the same year we launched Smashwords. You’ll find it at I blog about news, trends and best practices of interest to the indie author community.

The blog has an option to sign up to receive future posts via email, so you never miss another post. I respect your inbox if you subscribe. I NEVER share your email address with anyone or use it for any other purpose.

Tip 9 – Read The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

Several years ago I published The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, which identifies over 30 best practices of the most successful ebook authors. Like all of my ebooks on the topic of ebook publishing, it’s available for free download at all major retailers. It’s also available directly from Smashwords at

Tip 10 – Check out the Smashwords Survey

Each year I publish the Smashwords Survey, a comprehensive research report that provides authors a treasure trove of data.

The 2017 Survey shares insights about the top fiction and non-fiction categories, and the pricing sweet spots to maximize readership and earnings. You’ll also learn data about box sets, series, preorders, and the optimal word counts to maximize sales.

Episode 7 of the Smart Author podcast explores the 2017 Smashwords Survey. You can download the full 2017 survey at the Smashwords Blog – You’ll find the prior five Surveys at at

Platform Building

You’ve probably heard the term “author platform,” but may not know what it means. A platform is your ability to reach your audience.

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