Conversation with Mark Coker

Joe Konrath had a great conversation with Mark Coker about the creation of Smashwords. I am a major fan of Smashwords and Mark’s work. But there are a few complainers out there that voiced their complaints after this column with Mark. Mark answered every one of them in a clear and concise form. So read all the comments as well. And if you have some of the same complaints, you just might get your answer.

Every quarter the money Kris and I get from Smashwords just keeps growing. So I have the bottom-line reasons to like Smashwords. (grin) And I love how our books sell all over the world through iPad and others.

So right here, right now, I want to personally thank Mark Coker again for giving all of us a shot, and how he’s worked for years to help us all. We indie writers are damned lucky he’s around at the moment and I told him once personally that I hope he gets as rich as Bill Gates, because that means all the rest of us are doing really, really well. You may not like everything Smashwords is doing, but go ahead, try to go direct to Apple or Sony or Kobo. It’s possible. Just very, very difficult at best. So Smashwords is opening up the world for a lot of us. Thanks, Mark.

Now, Mark, get your head out of the clouds from the complements and go back to work. (grin)

The rest of you, read the interview. Worth your time I promise.

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11 Responses to Conversation with Mark Coker

  1. B.C. Young says:

    I personally am glad Smashwords is out there. I only heard about it a month and a half ago and now my ebooks are all over the place and not just stuck on Amazon. I can’t wait to see how Smashwords evolves over time.

  2. I dig Smashwords as a concept, but the reality, so far, bugs me. And here’s why.

    I write in Scrivener. I can compile a nice epub-format file in under a minute using Scrivener’s compiler. Same for mobi for Kindle. I did that and easily posted a couple short stories on Kindle and PubIt to learn how it works. No sweat.

    With Smashwords, I have to compile to .doc. Then do all the chicanery with formatting it in Word. Then, I uploaded it, and some of the formats meatgrinder put out had some issues like the title page going left-justified instead of centered, my company’s logo not showing up. Things like that. But other formats are fine. Ugh.

    Now I only started playing with Smashwords this weekend, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but at least so far, I’m not feeling it. Mark, in the comments, said they’ve got a direct epub upload feature in beta testing. I’m looking forward to that coming online. Because, at least for the way I do business, that’ll make things a lot easier.

  3. J Killick says:

    I agree that Smashwords is doing a great job. I’m very impressed with Mark Coker who’s clearly a hard-working businessman. I emailed a support question to SM once – and got a reply back from Mark himself within an hour! And it was a very helpful reply too.

    I only have one little niggle – and this is just as much to do with Amazon as it is with SM – and it’s to do with VAT (sales tax) in the UK. SM prodcuts at Apple’s UK store get VAT at 20% taken off the sale price (ie, if selling at $2.99, 20% of that goes to the UK govt), so the author gets less of the proceeds. On Kindle UK, however, the author will get the full 70% of 2.99 in revenue, as the VAT is added ON TOP of the price (the buyer pays $2.99 + VAT (about $3.50)).

    I keep meaning to write to Mark about this. It’s something he may want to address when talking to Apple etc. But, then, that’s just a niggle.

    Thanks for the link, Dean – great stuff! Mark definitely has to stay on his nose with this rapidly changing environment.

  4. J Killick says:

    Er… that should say “stay on his toes”. He can stay on his nose too if he wants;-)

  5. Mark says:

    Yes, Smashword’s meatgrinder can be a problem. I agree.

    What I’d really like to see Smashwords do is figure out how to generate sales for books listed on Smashwords. Right now it’s chief value is that it pushes books to other platforms. At some point that may not be of much value.

    It already makes sense to publish directly to Amazon and B&N — why give up a percentage of those sames for something you can do on your own in minutes?

    So if publishing direct to Kobo, Diesel, and iBooks ever becomes as easy, then the value of Smashwords will be the sales that can be generated on Smashwords itself. Right now, they fall down a bit in that regard.

  6. Ty Johnston says:

    I’ve had a couple of minor nitpicks with Smashwords over the last year or so, but Mark Coker has always answered me professionally, succinctly and fairly swiftly. I still have those nitpicks (mainly technical issues), and I don’t agree with Coker about everything, but he’s proven to me he’s worth working with.

    I’m not getting rich on Smashwords, but each quarter my earnings are more or less doubling from what they were at the end of the last quarter. Those are numbers I like.

  7. Camille says:

    IMHO, the chief value of Smashwords is that they negotiate a better deal than you can get by yourself for many books (especially cheaper short stories), as well as Mark Coker being great at sorting out problems you have with the other vendor.

    It’s also a “neutral” place you can send your customers and have them guaranteed to get a format they can read on their device of choice.

    I wish they’d take HTML rather than a word file, but nobody’s perfect (as Joe. E. Brown said at the end of SOME LIKE IT HOT….)

  8. John Walters says:

    As a result of studying Mark Coker’s formatting guide and the other material at Smashwords, as well as reading this interview, I have the feeling that he is sincerely interesting in helping writers and not just in it to make a quick buck at our expense. From what I have come to understand this is an uncommon thing in the publishing world. I hope Smashwords makes him a bundle. When I was starting out it was his formatting guide that helped me prepare my first stories for e-publication and POD; it is clear and easy if you follow it step by step. I have no problem working in Word; it’s fairly easy and straightforward. As far as distribution is concerned, Amazon may be more lucrative but I don’t want to put all my eggs in the same basket – I’m a Smashwords fan too.

  9. Read it. Loved it. Doing it. Nuff said.

  10. Richard says:

    I’ve got two books and a short story up on Smashwords and while I’m certainly no threat to D. W. Smith, Joe Konrath or anyone else, I’m happy that Mark Coker is around. I did have a problem with the cover of my first book and even after reading the Styleguide and everything else I could get my hands on I couldn’t solve it so I wrote to Mark directly. It took longer than an hour to get a response but I DID get one on the SAME DAY which I found helpful and refreshing.

    I agree with Mark, above, that it would be helpful to everyone if Smashwords did more to promote itself to readers. I might even be able to afford a Happy Meal every now and then if it did.

  11. AE Ryne says:

    I think people get upset that Mark is making so much money for the same reason they get upset that professional athletes, actors, singers, and so on are wealthy: they don’t understand what they’re paying for. What I mean by that is, Average Joe buys an e-book. So do tens of thousands of other people. Author of said book now has a lot more money than Average Joe (AJ) and AJ doesn’t understand why said author got paid so much money for one book.

    But that’s not my said author got the money. Author writes a book, author is compensated by each person who purchases the book for the book’s entertainment value. Each download translates to hours of entertainment while the readers read and (hopefully) enjoy what they are reading. AJ paid say, $2.99 to be entertained for a couple hours or more. That’s not a bad deal at all in my opinion. Same thing with Mark: he’s providing a service and lots of people are benefiting from that service. I have no problem with that and, as you say, I hope he’s rich as all hell because I have some of my writing on Smashwords!

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