Monday, May 20, 2013

Smashwords Studies Its Sales

Smashwords logoFor those who don't already know, Smashwords is an all-in-one platform for authors to publish and distribute their e-books. It has its pros and cons for both writers and readers, which I don't have the time to go into right now, but it is very popular in the indie community.

Authors who publish with them are able to track their sales and story sample downloads to gauge how well their works are faring on Smashwords. There's also aggregate reports of daily sales on other platforms that Smashwords distributes your work. But last year, Smashwords began collating all of that data to see if any patterns can be discerned from it or if its random noise.

Every indie author should read the findings for themselves. The data regarding price point, title length, length of book, and sales are definitely very interesting and something to be taken into account when an author publishes their work.

Anyone wishing to discuss it in the comments section, please go ahead! I've always had a fascination with statistics, which is all about finding patterns in what appears to be just random numbers. But I don't have anyone to talk to about this study. That's where you come in. :)



DED said...

Ok, I'll start. The first of the key findings is that ebook sales conform to a power curve. Just like in traditional publishing, a small number of authors sell really well while the vast majority don't sell at all. If all indie books sucked, as the Big 6 Gatekeepers would lead you to believe, then the graph would be flat with a more equal sales distribution. But no, clearly there are some indie authors who are able to connect with a sizable audience and are grabbing the vast majority of sales, while the vast majority of Smashwords authors have to hope for the Long Tail.

DED said...

Ok, let's try something inflammatory: Smashwords customers are a bunch of cheapskates.

The fifth chart depicts sales vs. price. Books at 99 cents, $2.99 and $3.99 sold four times as many books as those priced at $7 or more. That makes sense to me (why $1.99 books only sold double does not), though I thought that number would've been higher.

But that isn't the basis for my accusation. This is: FREE books were downloaded 92 times more than books at any price.

So for every book sold at $7, 4 are sold at $3.99, and 368 FREE books are downloaded. If you take the unit sales volume chart a step further (adding all the relative unit volumes at the prices together), it means that only 7% of the books downloaded on Smashwords at any given time are generating any revenue for their authors.

The only way I'm willing to back away from my accusation is if someone provides data that says the free books led to sales in other books for the author. On the surface, at over 13:1 free vs. sale ratio, I'm not seeing it.