Marketing: 24 Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success by Randy Ingermanson

(Editor's note: This is a reprint of an article by Randy Ingermanson)

I'm currently reading a free e-book by Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords. I heard Mark speak last year at the Novelists, Inc. conference, and I was tremendously impressed with him.

Smashwords is an e-book distributor that helps you publish your work and distribute it to most of the major online retailers (all except Amazon).

Mark's new e-book is free. You can get it at The title is THE SECRETS TO EBOOK PUBLISHING SUCCESS. You can get it here:

Here are my thoughts (Randy's) on a few of Mark's secrets:

Secret 1: "Write a great book."

This is the conventional wisdom among publishing professionals, and I agree. One of the linchpins of my own strategy has always been that marketing is easy if you have great craft. So spend your energy developing your craft.

This is why my own teaching focuses so heavily on craft. You might get some short term success by brilliantly marketing a second-rate book. But you'll be forever marked as a "great marketer, lousy writer." Who wants that?

Mark thinks that about 80% of the success of a book is due to its quality. I don't know whether this is true or how one would prove this. It seems plausible, but I'm not married to a number.

The main point is that great marketing starts with a great product. If you want to make your marketing easier, improve your craft.

Secret #5: "Write another great book."

Mark's point here is that every book you write is a marketing platform for every other book you write.

What? Not Facebook? Not Twitter? Not your blog?

Well, no. A post on Facebook or Twitter has a lifetime of about 3 hours and then it's gone. After that, it has no more effect on the world and can't do a blessed thing to help market any of your books.

Whereas a book you wrote ten years ago may very well be the road by which a new reader discovers you today. If you've written another 20 books in those ten years, then that old book now serves as a sample of all 20 of your other books.

And furthermore, each of those 20 serves as marketing for the ten-year-old book. And for each other.

All your books are marketing for all your other books. There is a simple math rule to describe roughly how effectively your books market each other.

Having 2 books published is about 4 times as good as having only 1 book.

Having 3 books published is about 9 times as good.

Having 10 books published is about 100 times as good.

Every book is helping market every other book. (As long as you have followed Secret #1 and written a great book. Bad books don't help each other.)

Yes, it's true that you can get short-term results from Facebook or Twitter. Nobody seems to know how much, but you can get something.

Yes, it's also true that you can get results from your blog. A blog post is forever, and so a blog can give you long-term results.

But e-books are forever too. They never go out of print unless you get embarrassed by them and pull them from the online retailers. The advantage of an e-book is that it's the best indicator of what your other books are like. If a reader likes one of your books, she'll probably like all of them.

So write your best e-book and then write another, and another, and another.

Secret 11: "Give (some of) your books away for free."

I have long been a fan of giving away some things for free. And not your worst stuff, either. I believe in giving away some of your very best stuff. Give away some of your gold.

Just as an example, one of the very best ideas I've ever had was the ten steps for designing a novel that I named the "Snowflake method." I posted an article on the Snowflake on my web site about nine years ago. It has since been viewed over 2.5 million times and it has
made me famous. I constantly hear from people who say that the Snowflake has revolutionized their writing. It's not for everybody, but it's gold for many people.

Giving stuff away free works. Mark Coker does this a lot. You can convert your books to e-books on Smashwords at no cost. You can post them for sale there at no up-front cost. (Smashwords will sell them for you and keep a small percentage as a consignment fee. This
is a great deal for you and it gives Smashwords an incentive to give you great service.)

Mark's e-book is free. Why? It helps authors and it gets the word out about Smashwords. Any writer will benefit from his e-book, and many of them will choose to work with Smashwords, which will then eventually earn him a tidy profit.

I don't think you should give everything away for free. You need to eat and pay your bills. But giving away some of your very best stuff can make good sense.

Mark estimates that free books on Smashwords are downloaded 50 to 100 times more than paid books. This works wonderfully if you have a number of other titles, because the free book acts as marketing for all the others. (Remember Secret #6.)

Secret #17: "Platform building starts yesterday."

Your platform is whatever you have in place that allows you to reach readers. This may be a speaking business, a web site, a blog, a Facebook page or profile, a Twitter presence, an e-mail list, or whatever.

If you don't have a platform today, then you can't use it for marketing your books. But you can use your books to help build your platform. Then tomorrow, your platform may be of some value in promoting your books.

Mark has a simple formula for building a strong platform: Be useful to other people.

By no great coincidence, this is essentially the same as my own formula for building a platform: Say things that are valuable to other people.

You don't actually have to say much about your products when you follow this formula. If you are useful to other people, if you say things they value, then they'll tell other people about you and your platform will grow.

A small fraction of those you reach with your platform will buy your products. It's silly to worry about those who don't buy your stuff. Focus on doing things that make the world a better place and you'll be rewarded financially. Maybe a little; maybe a lot.

I've talked about 4 of Mark's secrets. There are a couple of dozen more. Here are some of the most interesting:
* "Practice metadata magic"
* "Understand the algorithm"
* "How retailers select titles for feature promotion"
* "Architect for virality"
* "Practice the never-ending book launch"
* "Maximize distribution"
* "Think beyond price"

I highly recommend THE SECRETS OF EBOOK PUBLISHING SUCCESS. There is gold in this e-book. And you can't beat the price. Free.

The world would be a better place if all authors took the advice Mark gives in this book. Authors would do better. Readers would have an easier time finding the books they want.

Here's the direct link to Mark's e-book again:

Have fun!

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced
Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 30,000 readers.
If you want to learn the craft and marketing of
fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to
editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing
and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


Deborah H Bateman said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I am always looking for new ways to market my books. Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman-Author

Gina Burgess said...

Deborah, I'm so glad it worked for you! I was amazed at the info, too :)

Get widget