Far be it from us to puff one of the major players in the e-publishing game, but Mark Coker’s Smashwords Surveys are essential. Mark may be opinionated, and have his own his game to talk up, but he has a deep mine of data on self-publishing and e-book sales trends. And when he unearths nuggets from it, they can be pure gold.
Mark has just released his full fourth annual Smashwords Survey, for 2015, in a Pulse post on LinkedIn, and via a Slideshare link. And he apologizes that much of the data was originally shared to the audience “at the RT Booklovers conference in Dallas in May,” and that since then, he’s been “previewing the most important findings here in my regular blog posts since May.” Now, though, the full results are available, “based on over $25 million in actual verified ebook sales data, aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network between April 2014 and March 2015.” As Mark notes, partners contributing sales data included “Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Smashwords Store, Scribd, OverDrive, Amazon (a small subset of our titles), Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Blio, Oyster, Flipkart and Inktera.”
Here’s a very quick runthrough of some of his key findings – though the whole thing is absolutely essential reading. For one, “two thirds of our top 200 bestselling titles were born as preorders … [a] tiny minority of preorder books accounted for the majority of our bestsellers.” For another, “series with free series starters earn more money,” and related to this, “free still works to build readership” – which rather lays to rest the question of whether all those freebies do help build your audience and your sales. Furthermore, “longer books sell better than shorter books,” and “$3.99 remains the sweet spot for full length indie fiction,” but “99 cents is still good for building readership, but not as good as $2.99 and $3.99.”
You can read the full back story and rationale at the links above. And if you’re a writer, especially a self-published author, or an indie or even established publisher, you should. These conclusions may not help you if, for instance, you insist on working only the Amazon ecosystem. But they ought to feed into virtually any marketing or sales strategy across the entire modern publishing industry, or any author’s intentions. It’s a smash. And no, Mark did not pay me a dime to write this. I just know invaluable when I read it.