Some interesting book data from Smashwords

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, is good at looking at trends in the publishing (and epublishing) world.  He speaks at important conferences on the subject.  He is a champion of indie publishing, and not surprisingly, since Smashwords is founded on the demand for distribution of indie published ebooks.  But I like the way he drills down into the data, analyses the trends, and gives independent authors pointers as to how best to price our books.  Marketing can be summed up as Product, Price, Promotion and Place, not necessarily in that order, so it helps me tackle the issue of pricing.

This year he gave a presentation based on a sample of 120,000 Smashwords published books from April 2012 to March 2013.  There are some interesting stats, and some useful stats.  What I have to bear in mind that best-selling books are generally not in my genre.  So that while it is the case for the sample he had, that longer ebooks perform better in sales terms than shorter ebooks, for children’s books it is generally held that shorter is better.  I suspect this holds until a child gains sufficient confidence to get really stuck into a book.  So I’ll ignore his data for the time being. I also thought the following figure was interesting.

Impact of price on ebook sales (c) smashwords.com

Impact of price on ebook sales (c) smashwords.com

I like to price my ebooks at the $2.99 mark because it seems to me to be a reasonable amount for a middle grade ebook.  It is also a very popular price point, so reader expectations are possibly geared to that amount.  What this graph shows is that readers are equally attracted, or not put off by, a price tag of $3.99.  Compared with sales of ebooks priced $10, ebooks priced at $2.99 and $3.99 sell more than four times as many.  Oh, and free ebooks ‘sell’ 92 times as many. But we don’t know whether they are read as avidly as when someone parts with money for them.

You can read all of Mark’s presentation (with a video too) at the link here. I think he makes some excellent points.  The best point of all, though, is that however cleverly priced, ebooks won’t sell if they aren’t any good.  The product has to be good.  That is why reviews are so important, in my opinion.  They help the casual reader decide whether it’s a good read, and they help me decide whether I’m writing a decent book, and what to change, if anything.

So Price, Product, Place and Promotion.  I’m working on it.

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6 thoughts on “Some interesting book data from Smashwords

  1. Great post Jemima
    Very interesting, I was just thinking yesterday, as I have now priced Forbidden Planet at $2.99 before I release book 2. I am probably going to drop it back to 0.99 then price book 2 at $2.99 so we will see if it works in the sales lol. Thanks for another great insight into publishing, cheers Jules

    • Well, I only changed Princelings of the East recently, having got the four out. I don’t know whether it will make a lot of difference; I think the A to Z Challenge plus lots of reviews this month will obscure the picture. But one of the things these gurus say is that we should experiment more with our prices. I’m not sure I’m up to that. Product is of prime importance – and yours is excellent. (PS check the princelings website for yet another award for you!)

  2. Interesting post. I’ve often wondered if indie authors aren’t underselling themselves by pricing their work at .99, and it looks like this chart says they are.

    • I think it’s a general problem for people who work from home or do something they enjoy. We used to have the same problem when I was in a local art society – for the annual exhibition, some people would put their lovely paintings in for less than the cost of framing them!

    • Well done, Noelle! Do let me know about your book and I’ll try and fit in a post about it!

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