Mark 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.
This 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.