Selling Ebooks with Smashwords: An Interview with Mark Coker

You can’t sell ebooks out of the trunk of your car. They don’t work as back-of-the-room sales. So what’s the best way to increase your ebook sales? Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has a few ideas.

Smashwords is the author-friendly ebook distributor that, along with Kindle, sells nearly all of my ebooks. The Smashwords website is loaded with free tools to help authors publish, distribute, manage, market, and sell ebooks.

A Few Free Smashwords Tools

To name just a few:

  • Your author profile page links all of your books to an individual page for each book. You can post your bio, picture, and Smashwords interview; connect to Facebook and Twitter, your blog, and YouTube videos; and direct readers to the page where they can purchase the print version of your book.

  • Reviews you write of other Smashwords books show up on your page, while readers who “favorite” you connect your page to theirs. Readers can sign up to receive automatic notices whenever you release a new book.
  • Coupon Manager allows you to create coupons that
    • are automatically merchandised in the Smashwords Store:
    • you share with your fans and reviewers;
    • expire after the first x number are redeemed; and
    • work across your entire catalog of books.

And more. I especially liked the coupon for anyone who signs up for your private email list or reviews your book.

  • Daily Sales gives you an at-a-glance-view of how your book sales are trending across different sales channels, along with detailed and downloadable sales reports that enable you to compare sales among retailers.

Coker’s Favorite Promotional Tool

And then there’s the tool that Coker proclaims his favorite easy-to-implement idea that most authors ignore or don’t know about: the ebook preorder.

“Based on our data, fewer than 20% of authors take advantage of preorders,” he laments during our informative email interview. “This is unfortunate, because the small fraction of authors who do release their books as preorders earn significantly more sales.”

With a preorder campaign, you announce that the ebook version of your book will be available for sale on Smashwords at a certain date but “If you buy now you will save 25% off the cover price” or some such promotion to attract early, cumulative sales. The moment your book goes live on Smashwords, the preorders are fulfilled and your account shows huge opening-day sales.

You can put your book on preorder twelve months in advance of launch date, as compared to Kindle, which gives you only three months. Your listing is then sent to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Selling Your Books with Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

The free tools are spelled out in Coker’s Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, a goldmine of free marketing tools; tips on foundation building and book promotion; and deep dives into the topics of

  • social media strategies for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn;
  • how to work with beta readers; and
  • how to earn free press coverage.

The latest edition, which came out in 2020, “focuses on evergreen best practices that should work as well five years from now as they do today,” says Coker. “Master the foundational basics before you transition to the shiny objects.”

Distributing Your Ebooks with Smashwords

When you upload your ebook files to Smashwords, your book is listed automatically throughout the Smashwords distribution network, which includes Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Scribd. It is made available to over 30,000 public libraries around the world through Overdrive, Odillo, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Bibliotheca cloudLibrary, and other library platforms.

It also becomes available for sale at the Smashwords Store, the central repository for tools to manage and promote your books.

The secret to becoming a Smashwords bestseller is to remember that bestseller success depends on cumulative sales. Pay attention to sales across the Smashwords distribution network including the store.

Give Away Your Books for Fun and Profit

At the same time, Coker believes in the value of giveaways to attract new readers and build your platform. “Once the reader trusts that you’re a great writer or subject matter expert, they’ll be more willing to shell out money for your other books. Free works especially well for series starters.”

But be real: “Do your own social media. Don’t hire others to pose as you because such practices are disingenuous and inauthentic. Your participation in social media is a great opportunity for you to communicate directly with your readers, and for them to communicate with you.”


Finally, he offers his Smart Author podcast to help authors make their books “more discoverable, desirable, and enjoyable.” The podcast is a step-by-step guide from the basics of ebook publishing to advanced best practices.

So Many Options

You have so many ways to make money with ebooks it’s e-mazing, whether you give away your book or sell it.

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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at [email protected].

Schedule your complimentary 30-minute coaching and editing session now.

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