Writers will learn how to make their books more appealing to readers in this comprehensive (and unconventional) tutorial presented by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Have you ever wondered if readers prefer longer or shorter books? How about pricing? Will you sell more books at a lower price or a higher price? Which price yields you the greatest overall earnings? Which price helps you grow your readership the fastest? How and why might your book sales fluctuate over time? Do books with shorter titles appeal more to readers than long titles? These and many other questions are answered in the annual Smashwords Survey. This video examines the results of the 2013 Smashwords Survey, first published in May 2013. Smashwords analyzed over $12 million in book sales covering over 120,000 books over an 11-month period, and then posed useful (and some not-so-useful) questions at the data, all with the goal of identifying tips and tricks that could help authors make their books more desirable to readers. Some of the results are insightful and other results were just plain silly. Enjoy! View the video of this presentation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rrl4NExo3Y
Helps Authors Sell More
Notes for the Slideshare edition of this
This is the companion deck to a Smashwords video workshop
available on YouTube
Here are links to each video in this 5-part series:
#1 - An Introduction to Ebook Publishing (a primer and e-publishing checklist)
#2 - The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (best practices secrets for reaching more readers)
#3 - Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More Books (pricing strategy and fun metrics)
#4 - 10 Trends Driving the Future of Authorship (indie authors are the future of publishing!)
#5 - How to Reach More Readers at Apple iBooks (merchandising secrets to grow sales!)
The complete video collection is at http://www.youtube.com/user/smashwords
View more Smashwords presentations on Slideshare at
About this Smashwords Survey
• What you’ll learn
Which sells better, shorter or longer books?
Do longer or shorter book titles sell more books?
What does the sales curve look like for indie ebooks?
What are the most common price points for indie ebooks?
Which price sells the most copies?
Which price earns authors the most gross sales?
And MUCH MUCH more!
• Who this video is for
• All authors, both published and aspiring
In 2002, we decided to write a
satire about the daytime
television soap opera industry
Publishers Said “No”
• Despite great efforts of our
agent, every major NY
publisher said NO (TWICE!)
The publishing industry was broken. It was
failing to serve
The future of books
Publishers value books on perceived commercial merit
Publishers unwilling and disinterested to take a
chance on every author
Rejecting most authors!
Publishers guess what readers want to buy
Throw spaghetti against the wall
Publishers Controlled Everything
• They controlled the …
• printing press
• knowledge to professionally publish
I imagined a publishing revolution
where writers would rise up and take
Writers needed the tools for
.. tools that would enable them to
professionally publish without
My solution: Smashwords
• FREE eBook Publishing Platform
Free ebook printing press
Distribution to major ebook retailers and
Best practices knowledge to help writers
become professional publishers
Ebooks published at Smashwords
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
How Smashwords Distribution
Free conversion to 9 ebook formats
Upload a Microsoft Word file or .epub
Ready for immediate sale online
Distribution to multiple major retailers
Author receives 85%+ of net = 60% list from major
Smashwords Ebook Distribution
The Second Annual Smashwords
First released May 2013 at
RT Booklovers in Kansas City
Read the original blog post: Google ‘smashwords survey’
or visit http://bitly.com/smashsurvey13
Last year’s study has been
viewed over 85,000 times
Access the prior study at Slideshare
What’s a Viral Catalyst?
A viral catalyst is something that makes your
book more available, accessible, desirable
and enjoyable to readers
Read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (it’s
FREE!) to learn how viral catalysts spur word-of-mouth
Useful (and not-so-useful) discoveries
start with simple questions
So we asked questions
We looked at 11 months of sales data
for over 120,000 titles, aggregated
across the Smashwords distribution
network, representing over $12
million in global sales
How Many Indie Ebooks Sell
Sales distribution is a “power curve”
Most books do not sell well (very important for authors to
set realistic expectations, and take long term approach to
Sales distribution characterized by small minority of titles
selling extremely well, thousands of moderate sellers, and
then a long tail of poor sellers
Authors should implement best practices (read the
Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success for ideas!) to drive
their performance to the left of the curve
As books move to the left in sales rank, their actual sales
increase quickly, especially in top 1,000
Sales Distribution Across
(½ of sales are to the right of #1,000)
Should I have a long book title, or a
shorter book title?
Do Shorter Book Titles Sell
Better? Let’s look at character
Let’s look at the number of words
in the title. Shorter titles appear
to gain slight advantage
Should my ebook description be short
What’s the right word count for
an ebook product description?
If ebooks are immortal, how do sales
develop over time? Case studies
from Apple iBooks store
How Sales Develop: Single
Retailer, Single Title
This set of data looks at individual titles at
the Apple iBooks store
Books develop differently over time
Sales rise and fall, then rise and fall again, based on
various factors (randomness, luck, author promotions, new
title releases, retailer promos)
Non-stop presence important. Never unpublish!
Unlike print books, which quickly go out of print, ebooks
are immortal and can yield income for years
The immortal indie ebook keeps
This title has been out over a year. A new release in
November caused title to surge anew, followed by
subsequent breakouts as new readers discover this
great author. As shown, still selling over 50 copies a
day on average one year later.
The book that keeps giving
Became immediate bestseller. Months later, still
selling about 100 copies a day. This book will rise
again with new releases by this author as new readers
discover her talent.
Breakout, followed by breakout,
followed by strong daily sales
Wordwide bestseller. Experienced spike in sales with
free promo of different book and series. Not captured
in the data – experienced another spike in May 2013
with new release.
New release sparks new
breakout for older book
This book has been out over a year. Still performing
well. Spiked in October with release of a different
Slow boil, breakout, slow boil,
This title was selling relatively well (5-10 copies a day)
then benefited from major national press cover (spike
#1) then feature placement in Apple email promo (spike
#2). After each spike, sales settled at higher level.
Slow boil to breakout
This is the chart for Ruth Ann Nordin (the only author for which I obtained
permission to reveal her identity) and her book, An Inconvenient Marriage. This
book had already been a bestseller at Kobo 12 months before it suddenly broke
out at Apple to become the #1 romance title in the store. The Apple spike was
prompted by a new title release, and price changes possibly also a free
promotion for a separate title on her list. More discussion in Secrets.
• FREE moves ebooks
• 91X more downloads on average
compared to priced titles (last 12 months)
• Powerful platform builder
• Powerful sales catalyst for series or deep
• Over 35 million free downloads at Apple in
12 months (June 2012-May 2013)
Impact of Price on Unit Sales
This set of data examines how price impacts
1.0 = normalized reference point. For
example, books priced in $3.00-$3.99 price
band sell 4.3 times more units than books
Low prices sell more units
$1.00-$1.99 price point underperforms
$3.99 the new $2.99?
Many authors underpricing!
What prices earn the author the
greatest amount of money?
What Price Earns the Author the
• We know low price yields more unit
sales, but what price yields the
greatest profit for the author?
• Key findings:
$.99 to $1.99 underperforms. $1.99 a black hole.
$2.99 to $6.99 sweet spot for max earnings
$3.99 the new $2.99?
Some authors are underpricing
Two benefits of a sale: 1. $$$. 2. Readers. #2
more important for long term. Choose price that
balances need to maximize readership
What Price Yields the Greatest
Data-driven publishing decisions are
irrelevant without a great book
Numbers provide hints at reader preferences
Dangerous to make decisions on a single metric
If your story demands 200,000 words, go for it!
Your book is immortal
Experiment and iterate until you get viral catalysts
just right. Then iterate some more.
• Read the Secrets to Ebook Publishing
Success for other viral catalysts
Free Ebook Publishing Resources
NEW! Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
(best practices of successful authors)
Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to
market any book at no cost)
Smashwords Style Guide (how to format and
Publish and Distribute with
Learn to publish like a pro
Join Smashwords – www.smashwords.com
Learn the best practices of professional indie e-publishing
Download and read my guides (all FREE!)
Smashwords Book Marketing Guide
Smashwords Style Guide
Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
Watch the Smashwords videos on Youtube
Upload to Smashwords
Stay connected with your fans
Get to work on your next book!
Thank you for watching!