How to Sell Ebooks at the Apple iBookstore

This post, by Mark Coker, originally appeared on the Smashwords blog on 11/3/12.

The Apple iBookstore, which last week expanded its global reach to 50 countries, has always been kind to Smashwords authors.  Numerous Smashwords authors have graced Apple’s bestseller lists over the last two years, and this week is no different.

Four days ago, R.L. Mathewson uploaded Checkmate to Smashwords.  In under 24 hours, we distributed it to Apple and it went live worldwide in 50 stores.  Yesterday, this contemporary romance hit #1 in Apple’s US, Australia, U.K. and Canada stores.  As I write this, it remains #1 at these same stores.

Three days ago, Kirsty Moseley uploaded Always You to Smashwords.  The next day, we distributed it to Apple and it went live worldwide in 50 stores.  Today, Always You is the #7 bestseller in Australia, #20 in the U.S. and #20 in the U.K.

Last week, the US Apple iBookstore ran a special promotion of romance titles priced $1.99 and below.  We suggested they consider Mia Dymond’s Playing with Fire, and they included it.

Last week, in conjunction with Apple’s iBookstore launch in New Zealand, they named Shayne Parkinson’s Sentence of Marriage their "Book of the Week" for both their New Zealand and Australian stores.  

Sentence of Marriage is a free series starter.  Shayne’s next book in the series, Mud and Gold, priced at $3.99 (NZ dollars), is today the #8 bestseller in the New Zealand store, and #54 in Australia (after the U.S. store, Australia is the next highest earner for Smashwords authors, just edging out the U.K., which is also big for us).  I suggested they consider promoting Shayne because she’s one of our bestselling authors at Barnes & Noble.  She’s also one of the few authors we distribute to Amazon, where she sells well. I suspected that since she was performing well at our other retailers but hadn’t yet broken out at Apple, a dose of pixie dust merchandising love could help launch her to a new audience.  That’s what’s happening.

The Smashwords authors above aren’t the only ones doing well at Apple.  Other notable standouts now in the top 10 store-wide bestsellers include Jillian Holmes, author of Temporary Kiss (#7 in the U.K. iBookstore), Isabelle Rae, author of When Summer Ends (#8 U.K.), S.H. Kolee, author of Love Left Behind (#5 Australia, #10 Canada), and Marie Kelly, author of Billionaire’s Revenge (#2 Australia, #8 Canada).

Apple is today the largest retailer for Smashwords authors.  The chart here shows the growth in monthly dollar sales for Smashwords books at Apple.  I omitted the dollar figures, but you get the idea how Apple has grown.  For all its incredible growth in ebooks, Apple is conspicuously mum when it comes to talking about their accomplishments.  Did they do a press release or a press conference on their launch of 18 new stores last week?  I don’t think so.  Most authors I meet have no idea Apple is distributing to 50 countries.

I think their low key approach has led many in the industry to underestimate their progress.  My advice to authors:  don’t underestimate Apple.  If you’re not there, you’re missing out.  Every new country they launch represents a new micro-market, an opportunity for you to become a big fish in a small but growing pond. The authors who get out there first and establish footholds today will become the bestsellers of tomorrow.  

All the authors mentioned above?  Keep an eye on them.  They’re all headed toward the New York Times bestseller list in the months and years to come if they keep up their great work.

Our relationship with Apple started prior to launch of the iPad in early 2010.  I, like the rest of the world, had heard rumors that Apple was preparing to launch a bookstore, so I got on the phone and called their main switchboard.  Within about a week, I met with a senior executive at our office in Los Gatos.



Read the rest of the post on the Smashwords blog.