Using data to fine-tune ebook sales and reach.

Mark Coker, of Smashwords fame, dug deep into the Smashwords data vault and found some useful ‘stuff’ for authors:

I analyzed a nine-month chunk of Smashwords sales data, aggregated across multiple Smashwords retailers, to determine if there were potential data-driven metrics that might reveal new viral catalysts that authors can put to work.  The data encompassed millions of dollars in book sales for a collection of slightly more than 50,000 books.  My study began with a series of questions that I thought could reveal potentially useful answers.

These questions included:

  • Do authors who change prices frequently sell more books?
  • If ebooks are immortal, how do sales develop over time?
  • How do individual titles develop at a retailer?
  • What’s the ideal word count for ebooks?
  • What word count do romance readers prefer?
  • What word count do erotica readers prefer?
  • What impact does price have on unit sales?
  • How are Smashwords authors pricing their books?
  • What are the most common price points?
  • What price range earns the author the most money?
  • What does the indie ebook sales distribution curve look like?
  • What’s the optimal price per word?

To learn the answers to these questions, I presented Henry House on our technical team with a massive wishlist for data dumps, and then I crunched his numbers in a spreadsheet.  Some of the findings were eye-opening and useful, and others were simply fun.