2014 Smashwords Survey - How to Sell More Ebooks

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Mark Coker's third annual 2014 Smashwords Survey. Examines quantifiable characteristics of ebooks that give books an incremental advantage in discoverability and desirability. The 2014 survey attempts to answer such questions as: Do readers prefer longer or shorter ebooks?; Do ebooks that start out as preorders sell better?; How should I price my ebook?; Do series books sell better than standalone books?; do series with FREE series starters earn more money than other series; and many more.

Transcript of 2014 Smashwords Survey - How to Sell More Ebooks

  • MONEY MONEY MONEY: Facts & Figures for Financial Payoff New 2014 Data Originally Presented May 14, 2014 at Slideshare Edition Published July 7, 2014 V1.1 Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  • Introduction to Smashwords Survey 2014 For each of the last three years we released the Smashwords Survey at the RT Booklovers convention. This is the Slideshare edition of the data presented May 14, 2014 in New Orleans. The Slideshare edition adds additional slides and new written analysis, some of which was conveyed verbally during the live presentation. At the end Ive added an appendix with indie author resources
  • My Backstory
  • The Smashwords Backstory My background is tech marketing (UC Berkeley Haas business school) About 10 years ago, along with my wife I co- wrote Boob Tube, a novel about daytime soap operas (wife is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine). Repped by top NY lit agency Book rejected by all NY publishers (twice) Previous soap opera-themed novels had performed poorly, so pubs were reluctant to take a chance I realized publishers were unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a risk on every book Decided to try to fix problem mortgaged house created Smashwords
  • Back in the dark ages of print-centric publishing (10 yrs ago), writers were unable to reach readers on mass scale without a publishers support Writers relied on publishers to provide three essential capabilities. I refer to these capabilities as the three legs to the stool. Remove any leg and the book fails.
  • Three Essential Legs of the Professional Publishing Stool - 1 - Printing Press - 2 - Retail Distribution - 3 - Knowledge: best practices expertise
  • Theres also a fourth leg that builds on a publishers ability to professionally produce and distribute a book #4 = DISCOVERY TOOLS The tools and processes that make books findable and desirable
  • The Fourth Leg: Discovery Tools Printing Press Retail Distribution Discovery Tools (marketing, merchandising, metadata)
  • My solution: Smashwords FREE eBook Publishing Platform Free ebook printing press Distribution to major ebook retailers and libraries Free educational resources best practices knowledge to help writers publish like professionals Free tools to assist Discovery (marketing, merchandising, metadata, preorders, etc)
  • Today, Smashwords is the worlds leading distributor of indie (self- published) ebooks Smashwords provides writers FREE self-serve tools to publish and distribute like a pro It all started with my belief that every writer has something special to share with the world, and every writer deserves the right to publish
  • Ebooks published at Smashwords 140 6,000 28,800 92,000 191,000 276,000
  • How Smashwords Works 1. UPLOAD Upload a Microsoft Word file or epub file, formatted to our Smashwords Style Guide Ready for immediate sale on Smashwords home page 2. DISTRIBUTE Global ebook distribution to major retailers and library platforms such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo and more 3. GET PAID Author earns 60% of list for retail sales (retailer earns 30% list and SW earns 10% list)
  • Welcome to the Third Annual Smashwords Survey Presented first at RT Booklovers New Orleans as MONEY MONEY MONEY
  • Last years study has been viewed 100,000+ times Access the prior study at Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/new- smashwords-survey-helps-authors-sell-more- ebooks
  • The Study is Based upon Actual Ebook Sales Data Aggregated from across the Smashwords Distribution Network
  • Smashwords Distribution Network
  • We looked at 12 months of sales data (April 2013 March 2014) for ~250,000 titles, aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network, totaling over $25 million in global customer purchases Knowledge discovery starts with simple questions ? ? ?
  • Example Qs: Do readers prefer longer or shorter books? Whats the best price for my book? Do preorders help sell more books? Do series books sell better than standalones? Does FREE work? Do series with FREE series starters earn more? AND MUCH MORE
  • Were in Search of Viral Catalysts
  • Whats a Viral Catalyst? A viral catalyst is anything that makes your book more available, accessible, desirable and enjoyable to readers Read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (its FREE!) to learn how viral catalysts spur word-of-mouth
  • A Viral Catalyst Gives a Book an Incremental Advantage Take every incremental advantage you can get There is no single magic bullet for bookselling success. To maximize viral word of mouth, you must do many things right and avoid big mistakes
  • The Challenge Millions of books competing for limited eyeballs Glut of high quality books increases each month (immortal ebooks never go out of print) The secret to reaching more readers is to implement best practices (see The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success) and seize incremental advantages (Viral Catalysts) wherever you can find them. This survey seeks to identify opportunities for incremental advantage
  • Numbers are Dangerous
  • Numbers are Dangerous, But Useful Averages are only averages Not always the typical outcome; big variances in a sample can skew results Median = midpoint of numbers in a range when arranged from lowest to highest. Often a more typical result. Medians not always useful either A million butterflies: Cause and effect is not always provable (forces are often multi-dimensional, synergistic, opaque or delayed) Your book is unique. Consider the information I share as only one of many data points upon which you base your publishing decisions.
  • The Power Curve Book sales are characterized by the Power Curve principle. (next slide) Very few titles sell spectacularly well. As your book moves to the left of the curve (i.e. your sales rank improves), your sales grow exponentially. Your Objective: discover and implement the viral catalysts that give you incremental advantage and nudge your book up and to the left of the curve.
  • The Power Curve: incremental increase in sales rank causes exponential increase in sales Sales rank (Land O Bestsellers) (Land O few eyeballs) $ sales
  • The power curve reveals the key to getting the most out of the findings that follow. Ask yourself, What are the characteristics of the bestselling books and the worst-selling books? Anything that gives your book incremental advantage will move it to the left of the curve, and leftward movement reaps exponential benefit due to the nature of the curve Consider the Power Curve Principle as You Review the Survey Findings
  • The Long Tail of Authordom Author sales rank Author earnings
  • Length Matters
  • Q: Do readers prefer longer or shorter ebooks? A: For the third year in a row we found strong evidence that readers prefer longer ebooks. How to Interpret: Visualize the power curve overlaid on top of the chart that follows to understand how the incremental advantage of higher word count translates into an exponential increase in sales. Tip: Dont write longer or shorter books based on this information. Write the length your book deserves. If your story takes you to epic lengths, go there, and understand that shorter books can put you at a disadvantage. If you split a 100,000 word novel into three novellas of 33,333 words each, the numbers indicate youre likely to earn less overall.
  • Longer Books Sell Better! As word count drops, sales and sales rank drops. Visualize the power curve overlaid on this chart. Books ranked in the top 10, 50 or 100 will sell exponentially more units than books ranked 1,000 or worse
  • Interesting: We observed the same reader preference for longer book in our 2013 and 2012 surveys.
  • (2013) Readers Prefer Longer Books? When we look at various sales rank b