If publishers turned you down, you could always print your own copies, or you could hire a vanity press—but good luck placing your wares in stores. A gifted but frustrated writer with a knack for angel investments and Internet-related PR ran past me a plan to help people get their works into e-book form for distribution on the Internet.
Of all the advice I gave him, this is what most sticks out in my mind. “Mark,” I more or less said, “whatever you do, try to avoid DRM. Your customers will love you and you’ll save a lot of technical hassles.”
Yesterday Mark shared Smashwords’ latest numbers in a blog post. I highly recommend it to the Big Five. They would do well to follow Mark’s example and rethink DRM as well as e-book price gouges: there is life beyond legacy infrastructure that giant legacy publishers are trying to protect. Remember, Mark was starting from scratch. Here are a few stats:
- Books published – Smashwords now publishes 388,100 books, up 15% from 336,400 this same time last year.
- Words published – Smashwords now publishes 14 billion words (we hit this milestone today!!), up about 2 billion words from the same time last year.
- Authors/pen names published – Smashwords now works with over 116,000 authors and small independent presses, up from about 100,000 a year ago.
- Profitability – 2015 will be our fifth consecutive year of profitability. Profitability matters because it means we’ll be around in the future to serve you. We’ve got a solid, debt-free balance sheet giving us the freedom to weather the inevitable ups and downs of a cyclical market.
No, I’m not saying that Mark’s experiences are 100 percent applicable to the Big Five; and we need to consider that Smashwords makes money from services to authors, as opposed to just the usual business models.
Still, I doubt that Smashwords would enjoy the success it has in these difficult times if it didn’t get results for a sufficient number of clients.
Mark’s numbers jibe with reports that small publishers and self-publishers not included in industry stats are faring just fine with e-books even if the big houses aren’t.
Significantly, the recent price gouges from the Big Five have hurt not just e-books but all reading, since books must compete with other forms of entertainment, and E had been growing rapidly. Similarly DRM has retarded growth.
I doubt the above story about Mark can win over the diehard Luds, but perhaps at a time when book readership is slipping, the right people at the Big Five with more open minds will begin to pay attention. Amazon’s e-book are doing ok. And now we saw once again that Mark Coker’s are. A lesson here?
Note: Mark’s post yesterday is the source of the 99 percent figure. I have not vetted it, but find it credible.
Our earlier coverage of Mark and Smashwords: Here.