Smashwords Confirms Dramatic Indie Author Rise

Smashwords book chartMark Coker of Smashwords has probably done more for self-publishing than anyone since Dan Poynter. Both of these guys are heroes of mine and deserve to be known by everyone thinking of becoming Indie authors.

Most writers know Smashwords as a place to sell ebooks and enjoy distribution to retailers that otherwise might be difficult to get into (e.g. Apple, Sony and Kobo). What many may not realize is how explosive the participation has become at Smashwords. The graph (top left) is a report from their blog demonstrating the enormous growth of both authors and ebooks in just a few years, numbers that are climbing astronomically. If the rate continues as it has, by the end of 2014, 1 million authors may have published a staggering 6 million books. Even if the growth rate drops off, the future year-end numbers should still be impressive.

Smashwords visitorsThis other chart (on the right) is similarly remarkable. It represents unique weekly visitors to the Smashwords website over the past 3.5 years. The site is much more than just a place to publish–it’s also for readers to sample and buy ebooks. There’s a need to stress the words unique visitors here, as it’s not only the authors checking in multiple times per day skewing the results. Lots of readers love Smashwords too, even if they buy at other venues like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Too bad this chart doesn’t have specific numbers though it’s clearly multiplying by amounts that should make any stockbroker take notice. Can you say Smashwords IPO? Hopefully that will be a reality one day.

This degree of growth encourages some and upsets others. The term, Indie author, is still a polarizing one–often met with mixed emotions among readers, understandably so. Not all Indie books are easy to read and some are just plain awful, but there are plenty of diamonds in the rough. I know because I’ve read many of the hidden gems plus some of the bad apples. My point in republishing these Smashwords graphs is not to debate whether or not to read Indies; it’s just to point out the inevitable changes already happening within the world of publishing. It’s my opinion (and Mark’s) that the power is shifting from the traditional publishing houses to the authors and readers, which we believe is a good thing.

Mark Coker calls the present a “time of Indie adolescence.” Sounds like a fine analogy and a reminder to writers out there that it’s still a great time to join this movement. It’s never too late to self-publish, and there’s never been a better time than right now.

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7 Responses to “Smashwords Confirms Dramatic Indie Author Rise”

  1. Catana Says:

    The irony here is that I read another blog post today (sorry, I don’t remember where), giving Amazon the credit for being the good guy. Considering that Smashwords has admittedly taken a big hit from Amazon’s KDP Select, it will be interesting to see what this year’s stats will look like. I’m betting that Select is going to be very disappointing for all the one-book/$.99 people. Even if they run back to Smashwords they’ll have lost whatever they’d gained by the wider distribution.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Great comments, Catana, and I agree that it will be very interesting to see how much of a hit (if any) KDP Select causes to Smashwords. I’ve always thought of Amazon as a good guy too for self-publishing, although I’m not a fan of KDP Select’s exclusive nature. Feels like that divides the Indie experience into a “with us or against us” mentality, which is not a common sentiment among the Indie world.

      • Catana Says:

        Never thought about it before, but maybe part of Amazon’s strategy is divisiveness. Select has raised questions that people are having to think about, including readers’ “rights.” One blogger suggested that authors have no right to limit readers’ access to books. But price alone has always been a limit. If you can’t afford the price of a hardcover edition and that’s the only one available, you’re not going to be reading that book. It’s fascinating to watch all the implications of Amazon’s moves play themselves out. Like B & N and Indigo’s boycott of Amazon books.

  2. Martyn Tott - English Author Says:

    Enjoyed the article thanks. I am an Indie Author in England with a few paperbacks published through the POD route over recent years. I prefer physical paperbacks personally but wanted to keep up with the e-book market. After researching online I kept seeing ‘Smashwords’ favourably reported in articles so decided to download Mark Coker’s Guide. Within five days I had a book converted and uploaded and learned a lot from the guide in the process. When I uploaded the second book I sold one in five minutes, must have been lucky timing as sadly that hasn’t happened EVERY five minutes since (more like every five days). I still find the toughest part for me is marketing so I will have to check out your book Jason!

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Funny story, Martyn. It’s common to sell more books on Smashwords during the first hours after uploading since that’s when the book appears at the top of the list on the home page. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Rolli (@Rolli9) Says:

    I just recently started putting my series onto Amazon. My first is through KDP Select. While it has been very good for the first chapter set, the second has been a nightmare. My second chapter set is “live” but unavailable to any searches. I have spent the last five days trying to get an answer. Looks like they are so busy over there at Amazon, they can’t reply to inquires in a timely manner to help people. It is frustrating but understandable. I wish I would have gone the Smashwords route and not Select. But life is to live and learn right? Plus, I have only two more months and I can try Smashwords.

    So my advice would be to not limit yourself to KDP Select and try other great venues like Smashwords first.

    Great article BTW.


    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Sometimes the grass is always greener on the other side, Rolli. I’m glad for your perspective as so many authors who are not on KDP Select (including me) are wondering if they should have tried it already.

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