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Smashwords Survey 2017
Slideshare Enhanced Edition
June 23, 2017
First presented May 5, 2017 in Atlanta, GA at
Mark Coker
Founder, Smashwords
Twitter: @markcoker
Notes on this Slideshare Edition
This data was first presented on May 5
2017 at the RT Booklovers Convention
in Atlanta, GA.
This Slideshare edition is enhanced
with supplemental information that was
presented verbally in the live
presentation.
Welcome to the Sixth Annual 2017
Smashwords Survey!
An RT Booklovers Exclusive
Mark Coker is the author of the annual
Smashwords Survey
If you find this survey useful, please
share links to it with a friend
You may reuse the information
contained herein provided you properly
cite the source and link back to either
the Slideshare Edition at Slideshare or
its corresponding post at the
Smashwords blog at
http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords-
Permissions
Last year’s study has been
viewed nearly 30,000 times
• Access the prior study at Slideshare https://
www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/2016-smashword
GOAL:
Identify data-driven insights that can give
indie authors an incremental advantage in
the marketplace
In Search of Viral Catalysts
What’s a Viral Catalyst?
• Viral catalysts drive word of mouth - anything that
makes your book more accessible, discoverable,
desirable and enjoyable to readers
• Read the free Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success to
learn how viral catalysts spur word-of-mouth
Topics we’ll explore
• What’s happening with
• Ideal book length
• Sweet spots for pricing
• Preorders
• Series
• Does FREE still work?
• Box sets?
Based on Real Sales Data from Across the
Smashwords Distribution Network
? ? ?
We asked questions of the data
We looked at 12 months of sales data
(March 2016 – February 2017) for over
250,000 titles, aggregated across the
Smashwords distribution network,
representing $millions in global customer
purchases at retail
Some findings are useful, some not
The Story Behind Smashwords
(Where the data comes from)
130,000 authors and
publishers use
Smashwords to publish
and distribute over
450,000 ebooks
About Smashwords
• World’s largest indie ebook distributor
 We make ebook publishing fast, free and
easy
 Global distribution to major ebook retailers
and libraries
 Powerful tools for managing ebook
distribution, metadata, preorders,
marketing and sales reporting
How Smashwords Works
1. UPLOAD
• Upload a Microsoft Word file or epub
• Free ebook conversion
• Ready for immediate sale online
1. DISTRIBUTE
• Distribution to major retailers
1. MONTHLY PAYMENTS
• Author receives 85% of net (= 60-80% list)
Ebooks published at Smashwords
LET’S GET STARTED
Numbers are
Dangerous
2017 Smashwords Survey of Ebook Trends and Data
The hazards and opportunities of
data driven decision making
• Averages are only averages
• A couple big bestsellers can skew “average”
• Median = midpoint of numbers in a range
when arranged from lowest to highest.
Sometimes it’s a more “typical” result.
• Your book is unique.
• Data alone cannot fully explain the
multivariate factors that motivate a reader to
purchase or enjoy one book over another
The Power
Curve
Each incremental increase in sales rank leads
to a much larger increase in author earnings.
Opportunity: As you evaluate the findings,
consider how each best practice, well-
implemented, can move you up and to the left
of the power curve.
The Power Curve – Sales at Each
Sales Rank
Best practices yield incremental
advantage in sales rank,
exponential advantage in sales
Sales rank
Sales
The Power Curve in Action
During the survey period, the #1 bestselling author
at Smashwords earned 61 times more than what
the #500 bestseller earned. And #500’s earnings
weren’t too shabby to begin with!
Let’s dig in to
the survey
About the
Smashwords
Catalog
(source of these survey results)
Countries of Top 200 Bestselling
Smashwords Authors
Smashwords Catalog is Fiction-
Heavy
• 87.5% of Smashwords sales are
fiction
• Romance (incl YA romance) is
~49% of sales (44% excluding)
• Erotica is 11% of sales
• Non-fiction 12% of sales
Fiction Dominates
Top Fiction Categories
1. Romance
2. Erotica
3. Fantasy
4. Young adult or teen
5. Science fiction
6. Gay and lesbian
fiction
7. Thriller & suspense
8. Historical
9. Adventure
10. Horror
11. Literature
12. Women’s fiction
13. African American
fiction
14. Christian
15. Children’s books
16. Anthologies
17. Human & comedy
Top Non-Fiction Categories 2017
1. Self-Improvement
2. Health, wellbeing, &
Medicine
3. Business & Economics
4. Religion & Spirituality
5. Relationships & Family
6. Sports & outdoor
recreation
7. Education and study
guides
8. History
 
9. Home and garden
10. New Age
11.Travel
12.Sex and relationships
13.Psychology
14.Cooking, food, wine &
spirits
15.Computers & Internet
16.Reference 
How different
categories
perform
Categories of Top 200 Bestsellers
Let’s look closer at
romance
Romance Dominates across
Smashwords network
• Romance titles account for
• 8 of top 10 bestsellers
• 36 of top 50 (72%) bestsellers
• 76% top 100 (vs 75% 2016, 87% 2015, 70% 2014)
• Why Romance Dominates
• The most amazing readers – romance is where you find the
book-a-day readers
• Romance authors usually the first to adopt new best
practices for book marketing (preorders, free series
starters, micro-targeted covers, frequent releases of new
material)
• Romance authors the most organized with strong industry
associations (RWA), conferences (RT, RWA) and a culture
of experimentation and sharing
Which romance and erotica
subcategories most crowded?
Top Selling Romance Categories,
absolute sales
Smashwords 2017 Survey
1. Contemporary
2. Paranormal
3. Erotic
4. New Adult
5. YA romance
6. Historical
7. Suspense
8. Fantasy
9. Sci-fi
10. Adult
11. Regency
12. Western
13. General
14. Action adventure
15. Time travel
16. Clean and wholesome
17. Christian
18. Short story collections
19. Gothic
Absolute sales per romance and
erotica subcategory
Potentially underserved romance
categories - highest yield per title
When we sum up all sales in each subcategory then divide by
the number of titles, these yield above average. Possibly
indicates these categories are the least saturated.
1. New Adult
2. Contemporary
3. YA romance
4. Paranormal
5. Sci-fi
6. Regency
7. Suspense
8. Fantasy
9. Historical
10. Adult
Average Relative Performance,
yield per title per category
Broader look at highest (and
lowest) yielding categories
Social Media
Impact on
Sales?
Bestselling Authors More Likely
to Have Social Media Presence
Box sets
Fun Facts: Box Sets
 Over 4,700 box sets at Smashwords
 Primary reasons authors do box sets:
 Single author value bundles
 Multi-author promotions
 Fund raising for charity
 Top two bestselling boxsets during survey
period were romance, both from NYT
bestselling authors
 #1: Honeymoon from Hell Box Set I by RL
Mathewson ($4.99, 141,000 words)
 #2: The ‘Burg Series by Kristen Ashley priced at
$17.95 and sporting 1.2 million words
 The top 30 bestselling boxsets are single author
Fun Facts II: Box Sets
 Among top 50 highest earning box sets:
 90% (45) are single author box sets, 10% multi-author
 Average price was $7.43 (up slightly from $7.09 in 2016)
 Average word count was 316,644, near 2016’s 328,000
 Among top 50 box sets with most unit sales:
 90% (45) are single author, 10% (5) multi.
 2016 was: 78% (39) are single author, 22% multi-author
 Average price was $2.90 including the 23 free titles.
Excluding free, the average price was $5.37
 Average word count was 232,490, vs 259,000 2016
 Only 3 of top 100 bestselling titles across all
categories were box sets (all single author, all
romance)
Box set participation among top
1,000 bestselling SW authors
Box set participation among top
5,000 bestselling SW authors
Pricing
Q:
What price moves the most units?
DOWNLOAD DATA FROM SMASHWORDS
SALES AT iBooks
FREE
• FREE still draws readership
• 33X more downloads on average
compared to priced titles (last 12 months)
• Was ~35x last year (revising downward over
previously reported 41x), 41x for 2015, and 39x in
2014, but 100x+ in years past
• Powerful platform builder
• Powerful sales catalyst for series or deep
backlists
Supplemental analysis for pricing
graphs (next slides)
• Most common price points
• $2.99 was the most common price point for indie authors
• Maximizing unit sales (readership)
• The top four price points (other than free) that maximized
unit sales were (in order) $3.99, $4.99, $.99, and $2.99
• Maximizing earnings
• The top four price points for maximizing earnings were (in
order) $4.99, $9.99 and $3.99.
• For most authors, the $9.99 is an outlier due to a small number of
bestsellers skewing the sample size
• Possible takeaway: Indies with large readership
at $2.99 should try migrating to $3.99 or $4.99
Most common price points,
excluding box sets
Which Price Points Get the Most
Downloads
Which Price Yields the Most
Earnings?
Note that the higher price points are more reflective of how non-
fiction performs. Fiction authors should look at $3.99 and $4.99
Box set
Pricing
Most common price points for
box sets
Box sets: which price points get
the most unit sales
Average box set word counts at
different price points
Which box set price yields the
most earnings?
Does Length
Still Matter?
Average word count for top 1,000
bestsellers
Average word count for top
10,000 bestsellers
Q:
What’s the average word count for
the top 70 bestselling Smashwords
romance books?
2012 Survey
A:
112,195 words
= average word count of top 60 Smashwords romance
2014 Survey
A:
96,197 words
= average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for
2015 Survey
A:
94,150 words
= average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for
2016 Survey
A:
122,037 words
= average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for
2016 Smashwords Survey
Excluding box sets, the top 70 non-boxset bestsellers
average:
98,680 words
2017 Survey
A:
113,083 words
= average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for
2017 Smashwords Survey
Excluding box sets, the top 70 non-boxset bestsellers
average:
92,735 words
Preorders
Smashwords Launched Preorder
Distribution July 2013
 Preorder distribution to iBooks, Barnes
& Noble and Kobo
 We promised a sales advantage. Did
we deliver?
Fun Facts: Preorders 2017
 Only 12.23% of books released during the survey
period were born as a preorder, vs. 11.7% (note this
has been adjusted downward from the 13.5% we
reported last year). The adoption rate was 9.8% in the
2015 Survey.
 61.7% of top 1,000 highest earning authors released at
least one book as a preorder (38.2% released same
day)
 If the aggregate sales of the top 617 bestsellers who
don’t do preorders = X, then the sales of the top 617
bestsellers who did use preorders were 1.467X
Preorder usage of top 1,000
bestselling titles
Percentage of top 10,000
bestselling titles born as a
preorder
NEW!
Let’s look at preorder
adoption rates across
different categories
Top 10 Bestselling Categories,
Preorder Adoption Rate
Second Level
Category
Preorder Adoption
Romance 25%
Erotica 6%
Fantasy 19%
Mystery & Detective 18%
YA or Teen fiction 25%
Gay & Lesbian fiction 36%
Science Fiction 15%
Thriller & Suspense 18%
Nonfic: Biography 11%
Historical fiction 25%
Preorder adoption among second
level categories/genres
Preorder books capturing outsize
share
Second Level
Category
Preorder
Adoption
% category
sales to
preorder
books
Romance 25% 72%
Erotica 6% 10%
Fantasy 19% 59%
Mystery &
Detective
18% 69%
YA or Teen
fiction
25% 82%
Gay & Lesbian
fiction
36% 49%
Science Fiction 15% 43%
Thriller &
Suspense
18% 41%
Nonfic:
Biography
11% 38%
Historical
fiction
25% 63%
Books born as preorders
capturing outsize share of
category sales
Series!!!
Smashwords Series Manager Tool
Enables Insight into Series
Performance
 Launched September, 2013
 Enhanced discovery at retailers gives
Smashwords authors advantage
 15,000+ series at Smashwords
 We track series performance!
Fun Facts: Series 2017
 Of top 10 bestselling series:
 7 have free series starter
 7 are romance (2 YA)
 Looking at secondary categorization 9 of the top 10 are romance
 4 series did not have a new release during the survey!
 Of top 100 bestselling series:
 67 have a free series starter
 59 are romance
 Average 7.48 titles per series (median is 6)
 Added just over one new title to the series on average (1.03 releases)
 58 series had new releases, 42 did not
 Average word count for all books within top 100 bestselling series: 97,173
Power Curve of the top 200
bestselling series
Are bestsellers more likely to
come from series? Top 1,000
Are bestsellers more likely to
come from a series? Top 10,000
Series starters – most common
price points
Impact of series starter price on
overall series earnings
In parenthesis, the (number of series in each SSP cohort)
Impact of series starter price on
overall series earnings, top 100*
Normalized relative sales for each SSP cohort. Top 100 except
where noted in (parenthesis)
3-5x
Q:
Do series with FREE series starters
earn more sales?
Free vs. Non-free series starters
• We looked at two categories of
bestselling series:
• The 100 highest-earning series that have free series
starters
• The 100 highest-earning series that have non-free
series starters
• Next, we totaled up the sales of each
group and calculated the average
earnings per title, and the median
earnings per title.
• This is the third year of looking at this
(2015 SW Survey)FREE Series
Starters Lead to 66% Boost in
Series Sales
FREE Series Starters Boost
Series (2016 Survey)
FREE Series Starters Boost
Series (2017 Survey)
+49.7%
+55%
Free series starters among top
1,000 bestselling series (2016)
Free series starter usage among
10,000 bestselling series (2016)
Q:
Do books with shorter titles sell
better?
Do books with shorter titles sell
better? Top 1,000 bestsellers
Do books with shorter titles sell
better? Top 10,000 bestsellers
Q:
Do series books earn more than
standalone books?
Series books sell significantly
more than standalone
Summary of Key Takeaways
• Romance authors and readers
dominate
• Climb the power curve incrementally
by implementing no-brainer best
practices
• Always launch with preorder
• Write series + use perma-free series starter
• $4.99 joining $2.99 and $3.99 as sweet spots for full-
length indie fiction
• Single-author box sets grow readership, but not
huge moneymakers
Remember
• Data-driven publishing decisions are
irrelevant without a great book
• Numbers provide hints at opportunities to
engage with more readers
• Dangerous to make decisions on a single metric
alone
• 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
Appendix:
Free resources about
ebook publishing in the
slides that follow …
Learn to Publish Like a Pro with
These FREE Best Practice Guides
• 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 an
Don’t Keep Knowledge a Secret!
For the last ten years I’ve shared the best practices knowledge
that helps writers publish with greater pride, professionalism and
success. I learn from our authors – I learn from you – and I share
it for everyone’s benefit. The secrets I teach are universal. The
knowledge – like Smashwords - is free and available to everyone.
One need not publish with Smashwords to benefit from this
information. I share this information because I believe a rising
tide lifts all boats. I want to help writers everywhere achieve
their dream because dreams are important, and books are
important! Please share these resources with your friends.
As you peruse my free resources, please do your fellow writers a
favor and share what you learn. Blog it, Facebook it, Tweet it and
share hyperlinks to it across social media.
Summary of Smashwords Tools
• Smashwords helps you publish ebooks
with pride, professionalism and
success!
 Upload one file and reach multiple retailers
and libraries
 Consolidated metadata updates, sales
reporting, tax reporting, and monthly
payments
 Preorders, including assetless (metadata-
only)!
 Use Smashwords Coupon Manager for
custom promotions
Checklist for Publishing and
Distributing with Smashwords
1. Sign up for a free account at www.smashwords.com
The confirmation email will walk you through the next steps
2. Prepare your manuscript and cover image. The
Smashwords Style Guide will teach you how to
professionally design and format your ebook -
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52
3. If you want to hire a low-cost expert to format your
book or design your cover, check out Mark’s List at
http://smashwords.com/list
4. Upload your manuscript and cover to Smashwords for
distribution to major retailers.
5. Bonus points: Read the Smashwords FAQ to learn how
to get the most out of the Smashwords platform -
https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq
Have you heard about assetless
(metadata-only) preorders?
• For three years running now, the Smashwords Survey
conclusively proved that books born as preorders sell
better.
• Smashwords is a leader in ebook preorders. We’ll get
your preorder listed at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo
• With assetless preorders, you can get your listing
established up to 12 months before you release your
book.
• Advance listings enable:
• More effective advance marketing
• Higher first-day sales rank at iBooks
• Learn more at
www.smashwords.com/preorder
What does it mean to be an “indie
author”?
• Indie means self-published
• You are the publisher
• Indie authorship is a worldwide cultural
movement
• Three years ago I published the Indie Author
Manifesto at
http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/04/indie-author-m
in which I described the ethos behind the
indie author movement.
• The manifesto explores the mindset, attitudes and
aspirations of indie authors
• Infographic on next slide…
The Indie Author Manifesto
• Read the story behind the manifesto (and download a high-res
poster) at
http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/04/indie-author-manifesto.html
Connect with Mark Coker
Twitter: @markcoker
Blog: blog.smashwords.com (subscribe via email
and never miss another post)
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markcoker
Facebook: facebook.com/markcoker
To learn how to publish at Smashwords, sign up
for a free account: www.smashwords.com

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2017 Smashwords Survey of Ebook Trends and Data

  • 1. Smashwords Survey 2017 Slideshare Enhanced Edition June 23, 2017 First presented May 5, 2017 in Atlanta, GA at Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords Twitter: @markcoker
  • 2. Notes on this Slideshare Edition This data was first presented on May 5 2017 at the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta, GA. This Slideshare edition is enhanced with supplemental information that was presented verbally in the live presentation.
  • 3. Welcome to the Sixth Annual 2017 Smashwords Survey! An RT Booklovers Exclusive
  • 4. Mark Coker is the author of the annual Smashwords Survey If you find this survey useful, please share links to it with a friend You may reuse the information contained herein provided you properly cite the source and link back to either the Slideshare Edition at Slideshare or its corresponding post at the Smashwords blog at http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords- Permissions
  • 5. Last year’s study has been viewed nearly 30,000 times • Access the prior study at Slideshare https:// www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/2016-smashword
  • 6. GOAL: Identify data-driven insights that can give indie authors an incremental advantage in the marketplace
  • 7. In Search of Viral Catalysts
  • 8. What’s a Viral Catalyst? • Viral catalysts drive word of mouth - anything that makes your book more accessible, discoverable, desirable and enjoyable to readers • Read the free Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success to learn how viral catalysts spur word-of-mouth
  • 9. Topics we’ll explore • What’s happening with • Ideal book length • Sweet spots for pricing • Preorders • Series • Does FREE still work? • Box sets?
  • 10. Based on Real Sales Data from Across the Smashwords Distribution Network
  • 11. ? ? ? We asked questions of the data We looked at 12 months of sales data (March 2016 – February 2017) for over 250,000 titles, aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network, representing $millions in global customer purchases at retail Some findings are useful, some not
  • 12. The Story Behind Smashwords (Where the data comes from)
  • 13. 130,000 authors and publishers use Smashwords to publish and distribute over 450,000 ebooks
  • 14. About Smashwords • World’s largest indie ebook distributor  We make ebook publishing fast, free and easy  Global distribution to major ebook retailers and libraries  Powerful tools for managing ebook distribution, metadata, preorders, marketing and sales reporting
  • 15. How Smashwords Works 1. UPLOAD • Upload a Microsoft Word file or epub • Free ebook conversion • Ready for immediate sale online 1. DISTRIBUTE • Distribution to major retailers 1. MONTHLY PAYMENTS • Author receives 85% of net (= 60-80% list)
  • 16. Ebooks published at Smashwords
  • 20. The hazards and opportunities of data driven decision making • Averages are only averages • A couple big bestsellers can skew “average” • Median = midpoint of numbers in a range when arranged from lowest to highest. Sometimes it’s a more “typical” result. • Your book is unique. • Data alone cannot fully explain the multivariate factors that motivate a reader to purchase or enjoy one book over another
  • 22. Each incremental increase in sales rank leads to a much larger increase in author earnings. Opportunity: As you evaluate the findings, consider how each best practice, well- implemented, can move you up and to the left of the power curve.
  • 23. The Power Curve – Sales at Each Sales Rank Best practices yield incremental advantage in sales rank, exponential advantage in sales Sales rank Sales
  • 24. The Power Curve in Action During the survey period, the #1 bestselling author at Smashwords earned 61 times more than what the #500 bestseller earned. And #500’s earnings weren’t too shabby to begin with!
  • 25. Let’s dig in to the survey
  • 27. Countries of Top 200 Bestselling Smashwords Authors
  • 28. Smashwords Catalog is Fiction- Heavy • 87.5% of Smashwords sales are fiction • Romance (incl YA romance) is ~49% of sales (44% excluding) • Erotica is 11% of sales • Non-fiction 12% of sales
  • 29. Fiction Dominates Top Fiction Categories 1. Romance 2. Erotica 3. Fantasy 4. Young adult or teen 5. Science fiction 6. Gay and lesbian fiction 7. Thriller & suspense 8. Historical 9. Adventure 10. Horror 11. Literature 12. Women’s fiction 13. African American fiction 14. Christian 15. Children’s books 16. Anthologies 17. Human & comedy
  • 30. Top Non-Fiction Categories 2017 1. Self-Improvement 2. Health, wellbeing, & Medicine 3. Business & Economics 4. Religion & Spirituality 5. Relationships & Family 6. Sports & outdoor recreation 7. Education and study guides 8. History   9. Home and garden 10. New Age 11.Travel 12.Sex and relationships 13.Psychology 14.Cooking, food, wine & spirits 15.Computers & Internet 16.Reference 
  • 32. Categories of Top 200 Bestsellers
  • 33. Let’s look closer at romance
  • 34. Romance Dominates across Smashwords network • Romance titles account for • 8 of top 10 bestsellers • 36 of top 50 (72%) bestsellers • 76% top 100 (vs 75% 2016, 87% 2015, 70% 2014) • Why Romance Dominates • The most amazing readers – romance is where you find the book-a-day readers • Romance authors usually the first to adopt new best practices for book marketing (preorders, free series starters, micro-targeted covers, frequent releases of new material) • Romance authors the most organized with strong industry associations (RWA), conferences (RT, RWA) and a culture of experimentation and sharing
  • 35. Which romance and erotica subcategories most crowded?
  • 36. Top Selling Romance Categories, absolute sales Smashwords 2017 Survey 1. Contemporary 2. Paranormal 3. Erotic 4. New Adult 5. YA romance 6. Historical 7. Suspense 8. Fantasy 9. Sci-fi 10. Adult 11. Regency 12. Western 13. General 14. Action adventure 15. Time travel 16. Clean and wholesome 17. Christian 18. Short story collections 19. Gothic
  • 37. Absolute sales per romance and erotica subcategory
  • 38. Potentially underserved romance categories - highest yield per title When we sum up all sales in each subcategory then divide by the number of titles, these yield above average. Possibly indicates these categories are the least saturated. 1. New Adult 2. Contemporary 3. YA romance 4. Paranormal 5. Sci-fi 6. Regency 7. Suspense 8. Fantasy 9. Historical 10. Adult
  • 39. Average Relative Performance, yield per title per category
  • 40. Broader look at highest (and lowest) yielding categories
  • 42. Bestselling Authors More Likely to Have Social Media Presence
  • 44. Fun Facts: Box Sets  Over 4,700 box sets at Smashwords  Primary reasons authors do box sets:  Single author value bundles  Multi-author promotions  Fund raising for charity  Top two bestselling boxsets during survey period were romance, both from NYT bestselling authors  #1: Honeymoon from Hell Box Set I by RL Mathewson ($4.99, 141,000 words)  #2: The ‘Burg Series by Kristen Ashley priced at $17.95 and sporting 1.2 million words  The top 30 bestselling boxsets are single author
  • 45. Fun Facts II: Box Sets  Among top 50 highest earning box sets:  90% (45) are single author box sets, 10% multi-author  Average price was $7.43 (up slightly from $7.09 in 2016)  Average word count was 316,644, near 2016’s 328,000  Among top 50 box sets with most unit sales:  90% (45) are single author, 10% (5) multi.  2016 was: 78% (39) are single author, 22% multi-author  Average price was $2.90 including the 23 free titles. Excluding free, the average price was $5.37  Average word count was 232,490, vs 259,000 2016  Only 3 of top 100 bestselling titles across all categories were box sets (all single author, all romance)
  • 46. Box set participation among top 1,000 bestselling SW authors
  • 47. Box set participation among top 5,000 bestselling SW authors
  • 49. Q: What price moves the most units?
  • 50. DOWNLOAD DATA FROM SMASHWORDS SALES AT iBooks
  • 51. FREE • FREE still draws readership • 33X more downloads on average compared to priced titles (last 12 months) • Was ~35x last year (revising downward over previously reported 41x), 41x for 2015, and 39x in 2014, but 100x+ in years past • Powerful platform builder • Powerful sales catalyst for series or deep backlists
  • 52. Supplemental analysis for pricing graphs (next slides) • Most common price points • $2.99 was the most common price point for indie authors • Maximizing unit sales (readership) • The top four price points (other than free) that maximized unit sales were (in order) $3.99, $4.99, $.99, and $2.99 • Maximizing earnings • The top four price points for maximizing earnings were (in order) $4.99, $9.99 and $3.99. • For most authors, the $9.99 is an outlier due to a small number of bestsellers skewing the sample size • Possible takeaway: Indies with large readership at $2.99 should try migrating to $3.99 or $4.99
  • 53. Most common price points, excluding box sets
  • 54. Which Price Points Get the Most Downloads
  • 55. Which Price Yields the Most Earnings? Note that the higher price points are more reflective of how non- fiction performs. Fiction authors should look at $3.99 and $4.99
  • 57. Most common price points for box sets
  • 58. Box sets: which price points get the most unit sales
  • 59. Average box set word counts at different price points
  • 60. Which box set price yields the most earnings?
  • 62. Average word count for top 1,000 bestsellers
  • 63. Average word count for top 10,000 bestsellers
  • 64. Q: What’s the average word count for the top 70 bestselling Smashwords romance books?
  • 65. 2012 Survey A: 112,195 words = average word count of top 60 Smashwords romance
  • 66. 2014 Survey A: 96,197 words = average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for
  • 67. 2015 Survey A: 94,150 words = average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for
  • 68. 2016 Survey A: 122,037 words = average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for 2016 Smashwords Survey Excluding box sets, the top 70 non-boxset bestsellers average: 98,680 words
  • 69. 2017 Survey A: 113,083 words = average word count of top 70 Smashwords romance for 2017 Smashwords Survey Excluding box sets, the top 70 non-boxset bestsellers average: 92,735 words
  • 71. Smashwords Launched Preorder Distribution July 2013  Preorder distribution to iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo  We promised a sales advantage. Did we deliver?
  • 72. Fun Facts: Preorders 2017  Only 12.23% of books released during the survey period were born as a preorder, vs. 11.7% (note this has been adjusted downward from the 13.5% we reported last year). The adoption rate was 9.8% in the 2015 Survey.  61.7% of top 1,000 highest earning authors released at least one book as a preorder (38.2% released same day)  If the aggregate sales of the top 617 bestsellers who don’t do preorders = X, then the sales of the top 617 bestsellers who did use preorders were 1.467X
  • 73. Preorder usage of top 1,000 bestselling titles
  • 74. Percentage of top 10,000 bestselling titles born as a preorder
  • 75. NEW! Let’s look at preorder adoption rates across different categories
  • 76. Top 10 Bestselling Categories, Preorder Adoption Rate Second Level Category Preorder Adoption Romance 25% Erotica 6% Fantasy 19% Mystery & Detective 18% YA or Teen fiction 25% Gay & Lesbian fiction 36% Science Fiction 15% Thriller & Suspense 18% Nonfic: Biography 11% Historical fiction 25%
  • 77. Preorder adoption among second level categories/genres
  • 78. Preorder books capturing outsize share Second Level Category Preorder Adoption % category sales to preorder books Romance 25% 72% Erotica 6% 10% Fantasy 19% 59% Mystery & Detective 18% 69% YA or Teen fiction 25% 82% Gay & Lesbian fiction 36% 49% Science Fiction 15% 43% Thriller & Suspense 18% 41% Nonfic: Biography 11% 38% Historical fiction 25% 63%
  • 79. Books born as preorders capturing outsize share of category sales
  • 81. Smashwords Series Manager Tool Enables Insight into Series Performance  Launched September, 2013  Enhanced discovery at retailers gives Smashwords authors advantage  15,000+ series at Smashwords  We track series performance!
  • 82. Fun Facts: Series 2017  Of top 10 bestselling series:  7 have free series starter  7 are romance (2 YA)  Looking at secondary categorization 9 of the top 10 are romance  4 series did not have a new release during the survey!  Of top 100 bestselling series:  67 have a free series starter  59 are romance  Average 7.48 titles per series (median is 6)  Added just over one new title to the series on average (1.03 releases)  58 series had new releases, 42 did not  Average word count for all books within top 100 bestselling series: 97,173
  • 83. Power Curve of the top 200 bestselling series
  • 84. Are bestsellers more likely to come from series? Top 1,000
  • 85. Are bestsellers more likely to come from a series? Top 10,000
  • 86. Series starters – most common price points
  • 87. Impact of series starter price on overall series earnings In parenthesis, the (number of series in each SSP cohort)
  • 88. Impact of series starter price on overall series earnings, top 100* Normalized relative sales for each SSP cohort. Top 100 except where noted in (parenthesis) 3-5x
  • 89. Q: Do series with FREE series starters earn more sales?
  • 90. Free vs. Non-free series starters • We looked at two categories of bestselling series: • The 100 highest-earning series that have free series starters • The 100 highest-earning series that have non-free series starters • Next, we totaled up the sales of each group and calculated the average earnings per title, and the median earnings per title. • This is the third year of looking at this
  • 91. (2015 SW Survey)FREE Series Starters Lead to 66% Boost in Series Sales
  • 92. FREE Series Starters Boost Series (2016 Survey)
  • 93. FREE Series Starters Boost Series (2017 Survey) +49.7% +55%
  • 94. Free series starters among top 1,000 bestselling series (2016)
  • 95. Free series starter usage among 10,000 bestselling series (2016)
  • 96. Q: Do books with shorter titles sell better?
  • 97. Do books with shorter titles sell better? Top 1,000 bestsellers
  • 98. Do books with shorter titles sell better? Top 10,000 bestsellers
  • 99. Q: Do series books earn more than standalone books?
  • 100. Series books sell significantly more than standalone
  • 101. Summary of Key Takeaways • Romance authors and readers dominate • Climb the power curve incrementally by implementing no-brainer best practices • Always launch with preorder • Write series + use perma-free series starter • $4.99 joining $2.99 and $3.99 as sweet spots for full- length indie fiction • Single-author box sets grow readership, but not huge moneymakers
  • 102. Remember • Data-driven publishing decisions are irrelevant without a great book • Numbers provide hints at opportunities to engage with more readers • Dangerous to make decisions on a single metric alone • 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
  • 103. Appendix: Free resources about ebook publishing in the slides that follow …
  • 104. Learn to Publish Like a Pro with These FREE Best Practice Guides • 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 an
  • 105. Don’t Keep Knowledge a Secret! For the last ten years I’ve shared the best practices knowledge that helps writers publish with greater pride, professionalism and success. I learn from our authors – I learn from you – and I share it for everyone’s benefit. The secrets I teach are universal. The knowledge – like Smashwords - is free and available to everyone. One need not publish with Smashwords to benefit from this information. I share this information because I believe a rising tide lifts all boats. I want to help writers everywhere achieve their dream because dreams are important, and books are important! Please share these resources with your friends. As you peruse my free resources, please do your fellow writers a favor and share what you learn. Blog it, Facebook it, Tweet it and share hyperlinks to it across social media.
  • 106. Summary of Smashwords Tools • Smashwords helps you publish ebooks with pride, professionalism and success!  Upload one file and reach multiple retailers and libraries  Consolidated metadata updates, sales reporting, tax reporting, and monthly payments  Preorders, including assetless (metadata- only)!  Use Smashwords Coupon Manager for custom promotions
  • 107. Checklist for Publishing and Distributing with Smashwords 1. Sign up for a free account at www.smashwords.com The confirmation email will walk you through the next steps 2. Prepare your manuscript and cover image. The Smashwords Style Guide will teach you how to professionally design and format your ebook - http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52 3. If you want to hire a low-cost expert to format your book or design your cover, check out Mark’s List at http://smashwords.com/list 4. Upload your manuscript and cover to Smashwords for distribution to major retailers. 5. Bonus points: Read the Smashwords FAQ to learn how to get the most out of the Smashwords platform - https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq
  • 108. Have you heard about assetless (metadata-only) preorders? • For three years running now, the Smashwords Survey conclusively proved that books born as preorders sell better. • Smashwords is a leader in ebook preorders. We’ll get your preorder listed at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo • With assetless preorders, you can get your listing established up to 12 months before you release your book. • Advance listings enable: • More effective advance marketing • Higher first-day sales rank at iBooks • Learn more at www.smashwords.com/preorder
  • 109. What does it mean to be an “indie author”? • Indie means self-published • You are the publisher • Indie authorship is a worldwide cultural movement • Three years ago I published the Indie Author Manifesto at http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/04/indie-author-m in which I described the ethos behind the indie author movement. • The manifesto explores the mindset, attitudes and aspirations of indie authors • Infographic on next slide…
  • 110. The Indie Author Manifesto • Read the story behind the manifesto (and download a high-res poster) at http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/04/indie-author-manifesto.html
  • 111. Connect with Mark Coker Twitter: @markcoker Blog: blog.smashwords.com (subscribe via email and never miss another post) LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markcoker Facebook: facebook.com/markcoker To learn how to publish at Smashwords, sign up for a free account: www.smashwords.com