"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

TIPS: New Smashwords Research Helps Authors and Publishers Sell More Ebooks

Mark Coker Founder, Smashwords

Last year at the 2012 RT Booklovers in Chicago, I released a first-of-its-kind study that analyzed sales data for self-published ebooks. Our goal was to identify potential factors that could help authors sell more ebooks.

Two weeks ago at the 2013 RT Booklovers convention in Kansas City, I shared new, updated data in a session titled, Money, Money, Money -- Facts & Figures for Financial Payoff.

Some of the results were surprising, some were silly, and some I expect will help authors and publishers make their ebooks more appealing to consumers.

2013-05-15-wordcloud.pngFor the study this year, we analyzed over $12 million in sales for a collection of 120,000 Smashwords ebooks between May 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013. We aggregated our sales data from across our retail distribution network, which includes the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Amazon (only about 200 of our 200,000 titles are at Amazon). As the world's largest distributor of self-published ebooks, I think our study represents the most comprehensive analysis ever of how ebooks from self-published authors and small independent presses are behaving in the marketplace.

Imagine dozens of levers and dials attached to a book that the author can twist, turn and tweak. When you get everything just right, your book's sales will increase through viral through word-of-mouth. In my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, I refer to these tweakable levers as Viral Catalysts. A Viral Catalyst is anything that makes a book more available, more accessible, more discoverable, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers.

The survey attempts to identify Viral Catalysts by analyzing the common characteristics of bestselling (and poor-selling) Smashwords ebooks.

We posed a series of questions to our data to reveal answers that might help authors reach more readers.

The questions included:

    Do frequent price changes help authors sell more books?

    Do longer or shorter book titles sell more books?

    Do longer or shorter book descriptions sell more books?

    How do sales develop over time at a retailer, and what factors might spark a breakout?

    Do longer or shorter books sell better?

    What's the average word count for the 60 bestselling Smashwords romance books?

    What does the sales distribution curve look like, and how many books sell well?

    How many words are the bestselling authors selling for a penny?

    What are the most common price points for indie ebooks, and what changed since last year?

    How many more downloads do FREE ebooks get compared to priced ebooks?

    How have Smashwords sales grown at the Apple iBookstore in three years?

    How does price impact unit sales volume?

    What price points yield the greatest overall earnings for authors and publishers?

    What does the Yield Graph portend for the future of publishing?

Read More For Key Findings

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