Smashwords Research 2013 Highlights

Smashwords 2013 sales graphWhen Smashwords CEO Mark Coker talks ebooks and sales, indie authors listen. Here are highlights from a recent study:

  • Most books don’t sell well, but those that do sell really well (how do you get that ball rolling?)
  • Longer Books sell better than shorts (top sellers averaged ~ 115,000 words)
  • books with Shorter Titles sell better than Longer Titles (just slightly)
  • $2.99 most common Price Point (not a surprise since 70% royalties begin there)
  • Low Price sells more (usually, but $1 to $1.99 is an under-performing price range)
  • Free Books still get downloaded like hotcakes
  • $3.99 is surprisingly good price point for sales
  • Indie Author advantages continue to strengthen over traditional model (well, yeah, good)

Mark Coker asks us to share this info. If you found it useful, share it with others. Click for original post.

Thoughts, comments?

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Mark Coker, Smashwords CEO, Ebook Predictions for 2013

Mark CokerI’ve been a huge fan of Mark Coker since the early days of e-publishing (2009)–even asked for his autograph at the SF Writer’s Conference. But this isn’t about my fandom–it’s about Mark’s 2013 predictions for ebooks and the business in general. These are just the bullet points (the actual blog post is longer than some Indie books I’ve read), but you can read the entire article here –

Remember, these are Mark’s predictions, not mine. ( I tend to agree except about #13 because I’ve decided B&N is going down since they sell so few of my books.)

1.  In the US, ebooks sales will reach 45% of US trade book market

2.  Follow the eyeballs:  2013 will be the first year unit volume of ebooks exceeds print

3.  The current glut of books will become even more pronounced

4.  It’ll get tougher to sell books

5.  Publishers, in search of Black Swans, will lose authors to self-publishing platforms

6.  Overall ebook prices will decline, though author brands will retain pricing power

7.  Passive discoverability trumps other book marketing methods

8.  Tablets will become the new paper as E-Ink becomes niche product

9.  Global will be the biggest story of 2013 for indie authors

10.  Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo will redouble global expansion efforts

11.  Apple iBookstore will be the breakout story of 2013 ebook retailing

12.  Amazon’s global ebook market share will decline

13.  Barnes & Noble will rise again like a Phoenix

14.  In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales

15.  Pearson/Penguin/Random House/Simon & Schuster will either cut bait on Author Solutions or ride this anchor to the bottom of the sea

16.  The Big 6 will become the Big 4 as bean counters take over the farm

17.  Stigma of Big 6 (or Big 4 or Big 3) publishers will increase as prior stigma of self-publishing evaporates

18.  EPUB 3 will disappoint

19.  Ebook subscription offerings will face uphill slog

20.  Indie authors poised to capture a growing percentage of library ebook market

21.  Indie ebooks will start driving more film & television projects

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Smashwords Adds Distribution Channels

page foundryIt’s great that Smashwords keeps adding new partners to help Indie authors sell ebooks. Recently it was the addition of Baker-Taylor, the massive distribution center for books and entertainment from Charlotte, NC, in business for nearly 200 years. This alliance will help dramatically with major bookstores and libraries, two areas where Indie authors would like to see more infiltration.

In the past few weeks, Smashwords has added Page Foundry, a company specializing in digital merchandise and delivery. This will help enormously for sales to Android mobile devices like tablets and smart phones, devices that already have a Page Foundry or similar ebook app built in via the manufacturer, a website or application (Asus, Wireless Operation, Versent and Inkterra).

What this will mean to a Smashwords author is the presence of additional sales channels in her/his dashboard and hopefully more money and more readers.

Read the details from Mark Coker in this blog post:

Smashwords Adds Page Foundry as New Mobile Distribution Partner for Android Devices

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Page Foundry, a developer of mobile ebook store apps for Android tablets and smart phones…(keep reading)

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Wow, PayPal Reverses Censorship Policy

Incredible how fast things can change these days. Just got this email from Mark Coker of Smashwords informing us that PayPal has reversed its policy on censoring ebooks that have subject matter deemed to be inappropriate:

March 13, 2012
Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction. 

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.  

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention. 

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies. 

This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. 

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.


Mark Coker


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Smashwords Update on PayPal Censorship

Mark Coker of Smashwords recently published this follow-up on the PayPal censorship situation:

March 8, 2012 – PayPal today made what I believe is their first public written statement regarding the censorship saga, here:  I read it four or five times. My overall sense is that PayPal is doing their best to responsibly and carefully re-evaluate PayPal content policies that have been in place for many years – content policies that probably could not have anticipated the rise of self-publishing, the rise of indie ebooks (the rise of Smashwords and its authors and publishers!), or the incredible explosion of content availability, diversity and choice enabled by the indie ebook revolution. Prior to this indie ebook revolution, books not selected for publication and distribution by publishers had limited commercial outlet. Long story made short, I’m cautiously encouraged by PayPal’s statements. We’re not yet where we want to be (we want no censorship of legal fiction), but I sense we’re a lot closer now than if we had simply packed up our marbles, flipped ’em the bird and quit PayPal for an alternative as many encouraged us to do. I think their statements today give them the flexibility to do the right thing. They say they understand many people believe PayPal is moralizing and restricting free speech (this is a reasonable conclusion for reasonable people to reach based on PayPal’s actions up until two weeks ago), and they seek to assure everyone that is not the case (now the onus is on PayPal to show you, rather than tell you). Possibly, I’m reading too much between the lines of their carefully worded post. Time will tell. In the meantime, please continue doing your part to move this campaign forward. Tweet, Facebook, blog. Call your credit card company, or the bank issuing your credit card, and tell them you want them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. If you haven’t done so already, also be sure to add your name to the EFF petition. The blog post by PayPal today has a comments section, but it doesn’t appear to accept comments.

In a nutshell, PayPal commented further on the rape, incest, bestiality censorship issue by saying; “PayPal does allow its service to be used for the sale of erotic books… …but we draw the line at certain adult content that is extreme or potentially illegal.” Not many people have an issue with taking a stand against publishing/promoting books that are illegal (ala the recent Amazon vs child-molestation-How-To-guide). Where the real problem exists is with the definition of subject matter that is “extreme.” PayPal goes on to say that one of their chief concerns with extreme subjects in books, “is that this category of eBooks often includes images.”

Okay PayPal, most of us get where you’re coming from but censorship is a slippery slope. Who decides where to draw the lines, and how do you expect to read every new book to see if anything bad exists within it. Take for example the most read book of all time, The Bible, which certainly would not pass the litmus test for PayPal’s verdict on incest.

What about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Even though both Roger and Jessica Rabbit are cartoon characters, Jessica is a human married to an animal, so that would definitely be bestiality at some level. The example is something of a joke, but you can see how easy it is to argue what defines an extreme case of bestiality. Similarly, what about famous mythology such as Leda and the Swan or Romulus and Remus suckling from a she-wolf? What if an author wrote a sexual psychology book containing all true events that included a scene with an child innocently rubbing a dog’s belly and the dog experienced an erection, which became the child’s first discovery of a sexual nature? Is that something one could or could not print in PayPal’s brave new world?

Many authors including Mark Coker and me are on the record as saying we don’t necessarily enjoy or condone any of these subjects that PayPal is concerned with, but we do recognize censorship is a slippery slope–a decision not to be moved into as lightly as they have.

This also concerns me because I love using PayPal as both a buyer and a seller. They are my online banker of choice, so I truly hope they can work out a solution here that is in everyone’s best interest.

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