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Promotional Tips for Smashwords Authors & Publishers

Let my blog publicize your Smashwords ebook!  I am detailing here 5 ways my blog can help. 

Starting November, 2018, this blog will give extra attention to ebook titles published on Smashwords.  This page summarizes what this blog is doing for Smashwords authors and gives a tentative schedule (& deadlines)  for future posts.  Generally 1 out of 3 (or possibly 4) of my ebook roundups will be exclusively about Smashwords titles and authors.  I will  do periodic reviews as time permits.  If you are a SW author and would like to contact me, write smash AT fastmailbox.net

Submission Deadlines for Smashwords Ebook Roundups & Giveaways

  • Tuesday November 27, 2018 11:59 PM CST. Deadline for submitting your announcements of ebook giveaways and coupon codes. (To go live the following  Wednesday or Thursday).
  • Monday December 25, 2018 11:59 CST. Deadline for submitting your announcements of ebook giveaways and coupon codes. (To go live Thursday December 27 — or optimistically Wed Dec 26). This is a little late in the month, but the SW Holiday sale begins on Dec 25, and I want to capture as many of the bargains as I can.  
  • Saturday January 19, 2019  11:59 CST.  Deadline for submitting your announcements of ebook giveaways and coupon codes. (To go live the following Sunday or Monday)

 5 Ways that authors can use this blog to increase sales and publicity

Here’s a summary of  how authors and publishers can participate. Be sure to read the rules and guidelines in the sections below.  

  1. Provide coupon codes about a short-term giveaway. I will post all these giveaways as as batch in a single monthly post. 
  2. Provide info about a major SW  ebook discount. The monthly post will list them as they are received. 
  3. Send me  a review copy to your already published title. (Coupon codes are fine). Note: I can review only a small number of titles.
  4. Send me a pitch for me to run a free ad promoting your SW ebook.  Obviously I have to warm to your title, but it’s also important that you go to your Author Dashboard and  “juice” your SW affiliate payouts so that it’s 25% or more. (Read below to learn how).
  5. Post a comment on the SW post about a special giveaway or discount. 

Rules for what you can submit

Here are some basic  rules about what things I will run in my roundup article.  Use the email smash @ fastmailbox.net

  1. Minimum number of words must be 50K (and 20K for poetry). 
  2. Adult Content.  No taboo themes and/or book titles (more info), and the book cover/description must be semi-classy and more story-oriented than sex-oriented.  Finally,  I’ve arbitrarily decided that no more than 20% of the titles listed can be mainstream erotica in any given month.  
  3. No-preorders.
  4.  If your coupon code is for a certain number of copies, I would recommend a minimum of 3 uses and a maximum of 15 uses.  You should assume that I will download 1 copy and I will subtract 1 from the number of uses that the coupon code is valid for.   In the example above, the submitter said that it was “valid for 6 uses”, but when I posted it, I changed it to “valid for 5 uses”. 
  5. I’ve excluding from consideration certain nonfiction titles unlikely to interest readers of my blog.  Picture books, Foreign Language Books, Textbooks,  business/get rich/bitcoin books,  joke books, home repair general quack/cult stuff.
  6. Normally I will post the giveaway only once.   (So don’t submit the same book for more than one month).
  7. Generally, these titles should not be permanently free.  It’s ok to price them free temporarily, but I want to focus on titles which eventually will be sold for a price.   
  8. Be sure that you look in the section below about the correct format for submitting things. 

Method 1: Short Term Giveaway

Readers always love free stuff — especially when it’s all in one place. A few times I posted a coupon code to a free ebook on my blog, newsletter, Facebook, reddit,  Twitter, etc. Guess how many times the coupon code was used? Zero!   But I quickly saw the problem. First, most authors don’t have huge list of fans they can contact.   Second, even the most rabid fans can miss announcements. Heck, it’s enough of a chore to stay on top of  a Facebook feed! 

Putting the deals in a single blogpost make it easier for readers to find out about your promotion. I’ll be doing it at a minimum of once per month. Because I’m focusing on Smashwords ebooks, it’s safe to assume that people reading this blog already have Smashwords accounts.  

How to  Create a Giveaway on Smashwords

There are 2 (well, actually 3) ways to do this. 

  1. Change the ebook price to free or pay-what you want. 
  2. Don’t change the ebook price, but publicize coupons for 100% off. I would prefer that you give me private coupons exclusive to this site as an incentive for visitors to come to this site.

Many SW authors just price their ebook temporarily at free — usually during special times.  There are two disadvantages with the first method. First,  dropping the price to free propagates to all the other channels (Apple, BN, Overdrive, etc). Another problem with lowering the retail price on Amazon is that authors submitting ebooks to Amazon have agreed that the Amazon price will always remain the lowest.   Amazon probably won’t kick off authors who violate this term, but it’s theoretically possible. 

The second method has certain advantages (and one disadvantage). First, coupon codes keeps the retail price  the same while allowing you to distribute your coupon codes to a certain market segment (i.e. your fans, or litblogs like this one). Second, it allows you to abide by Amazon’s agreement with authors that the Amazon price remain the lowest. 

The other advantage of this second method of offering coupons is that it still allows some customers to pay full price for your ebook while rewarding fans with the coupon.  

Free is always good (to a point), but remember, I want to generate sales for your ebook as much as you do. (I get affiliate payouts from any sales my site brings to SW). It’s good to set limits on freebies — the coupon manager allows you to meter the number or redemptions (“can be redeemed only 5 times”) or set a deadline for its use.  

A request: If you submit your discount, can you please provide a private/exclusive coupon code? (At least for the 2 weeks after the blogpost). I’m looking for things which draw traffic to this blog, and exclusive deals will help do that. I don’t want to require this (not yet at least), but I hope that enough submitters will see the benefits of doing so. (And remember, you can always do other coupons!) 

When you go to the  Coupon Manager on the Smashwords Author dashboard,  you need to decide:

  • What percent discount should the coupon code give?
  • How should you limit its use? For example, should you set an expiration date? Limit the number of redemptions?
  • Should the coupon be public (and visible on the SW site) or private (and visible only to people you have shared the coupon with)? 

The main advantage of a  public coupon  is that  all visitors on Smashwords.com will see the discount, but customers on the channels will still see the original retail price. 

Correct Format for submitting your promotion

If you are doing a short term giveaway, send it to me! Send to smash@fastmailbox.net a description using this format.  Submitting in this format will make my job easier! 

BOOK TITLE by BOOK AUTHOR.  (GENRE) (MENTION IF PART OF A SERIES).. SHORT DESCRIPTION WHICH IS 18 WORDS OR LESS (i.e., less than 90 characters). URL. NORMAL PRICE.   COUPON CODE. WHAT COUPON CODE DOES. (HOW LONG COUPON CODE IS VALID)

Here are 3 examples of what you should send me. Example 1 shows a coupon code for a certain number of uses. Example 2 shows a series title which is valid until a certain date. Example 3 shows a title which has a Pay-what-you-want price.    By the way, the book titles are  real even though the Coupon Codes are fake. 

EX 1: Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War  by Jack Matthews (Short Stories). Philosophical fiction taking place during the US Civil War. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/627752  $2.25 Coupon: MR35T . 100% off. (Valid for 6 uses)

EX 2: Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War  by Jack Matthews (BOOK 1 of 3 PART SERIES). Philosophical fiction taking place during the US Civil War. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/627752  
 $2.25 Coupon: MRPPT . 100% off. (Valid until Jan 1, 2019)

EX 3: Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War  by Jack Matthews (Short Stories). Philosophical fiction taking place during the US Civil War. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/627752  
 Pay-what-you-want.  (Author Site:  http://www.ghostlypopulations.com/2015/11/story-collection-soldier-boys/ )

Here is how both submissions will actually appear on the Smashwords Roundup.

Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War  by Jack Matthews (Short Stories). Philosophical fiction taking place during the US Civil War.  $2.25 Coupon: MR35T . 100% off. (Valid for 5 uses)

Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War  by Jack Matthews (Book 1 of 3 Part Series). Philosophical fiction taking place during the US Civil War.  $2.25 Coupon: MR35T . 100% off. (Valid until Jan 1 2019).

Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War  by Jack Matthews (Short Stories). Philosophical fiction taking place during the US Civil War.  Pay-what-you-want. (Author Site

Q: Can I include a link to my blog or author page in the submission? Answer: Personally, I would prefer that you do not, but if you do, try to use a URL that is a book landing page — and not just your author home page. In Example 3 above, the link in parenthesis has the label “Author Site” but in fact, the link goes not to the home page (http://www.ghostlypopulations.com) but to a landing page specifically for the ebook you are promoting (i.e., http://www.ghostlypopulations.com/2015/11/story-collection-soldier-boys/ ) 

Method 2:  Provide info about a major SW discount

I recognize that many indie titles are already low priced, and that you discount titles often. On this Smashwords roundup I want to highlight titles where the final price is $1.50 or below.

Here are how to submit your major SW discount: 

  1. Submit  to smash@fastmailbox.net by the deadline.
  2. Use the same format as described above. 
  3. Make sure your title follows the same basic rules about content and type that I described above.  
  4. Pay-what-you-want titles are ok, but please be sure to mention this in the submission.
  5. The final price for customer should be $1.50 or less.  I have a slight preference for running coupons that are not public  or that are exclusive to this blog.

Method 3: Send me an ebook for reviewing

If you send me a SW coupon code with your ebook submission, as long as it’s free I’ll probably download it and keep it in mind for a future review. That said,  my time is extremely limited, my tastes are kind of crazy, and it may take a very long time to post a review. You should look at my guidelines for which ebooks I normally like to review).  I say this not to scare you but to lower expectations. 

Even if your book is not the kind of thing I would normally review,  I have no problem with posting it in the monthly SW roundup or letting you mention it in a blog comment.

Method 4: Send me a pitch to run an affiliate marketing ad

Submission Deadline: Generally at the end of any month for next month’s slots.  Give your ebook URL and a short phrase to use as a label (80 characters or less). Also, let me know if you plan to increase the affiliate percent for next month.  

(Dashboard –> Marketing & Distribution Tools (3rd column) –> Affiliate Settings –>Change % Shared with Affiliates (for your title). 

Here’s a description of SW Affiliate Marketing Program and  Affiliate Marketing FAQ

I have started to include ads that directly link to ebook pages on Smashwords. The default payout to affiliates is 11%, but one amazing thing is that authors and publishers can juice the affiliate payouts to a higher percentage to induce websites to promote the SW title more heavily.  

Giving a higher affiliate percentage payout increases the likelihood that I’ll give you a better position, but it’s not guaranteed. For the first month, I’m running ads with affiliate payouts of 25%, 40%  20%, 25%.  

Here’s how to change this percentage: (Dashboard –> Marketing & Distribution Tools (3rd column) –> Affiliate Settings –>Change % Shared with Affiliates (for your title). 

As it happens any modifications to the affiliate percentages take effect on the 1st day of any month. That means I will probably plan ads for the month on Day 1.

Generally I use a long blog home page, posting 2x a week, probably more. So far, my blog has 2900 posts of original content. This  blog could reasonably have 5-6 book ads on the sidebar without seeming too much. 

Method 5: Include an ebook promotion in the comment section 

If  for some reason your announcement doesn’t make it in the main SW roundup, you can mention it in the comment section.  Try to follow the same format and content rules as described above — I may reserve the right not to approve the comment if it’s too long or it’s not the right format.  I know authors often sell  multiple titles, but please limit yourself to a single comment per post — and I use only a single URL. (I will assume that readers know how to click onto your other titles or find your author website.