My Scribd sales take a jump

I don’t know why my Scribd sales through Smashwords jumped up during August and up-to-now. I’ve done no advertising or promotion of my ebooks, haven’t published a new ebook lately, and most of my ebooks are priced at 99 cents which is the dead zone on Amazon and I would have though the slow zone on a subscription site like Scribd.

I’m not complaining. I like to see reports showing people are reading my ebooks, as I price my ebooks not to make a lot of money but to make them affordable to many readers. I suggest other Smashwords authors check their Scribd sales and see if there has been a spike in their sales the last 6 or 8 weeks.

E-Book Sales Fell in the U.K. Last Year

The U.K. Publishers Association has released its latest annual sales figures, recording the first fall in e-book sales (at least, those from traditional publishers) in the seven years they’ve been tracked.

E-book sales fell 1.6% from £563 million ($811 million) in 2014 to £554m in 2015. Over the same period, physical sales rose 0.4% from £2,748 million to £2,760 million—the first rise in physical sales in four years.

“Digital continues to be an incredibly important part of the industry, but it would appear there remains a special place in the consumer’s heart for the aesthetic pleasure that printed books can bring,” said Stephen Lotinga, the association’s chief executive.

It seems there was a particular boost in physical sales of non-fiction and reference books. Audiobook downloads rose by 29% year-on-year.

Lotinga told Fortune that digital was “very much here to stay,” and he did not believe the fall—which mirrored figures from the U.S.—showed ebook were “going to go into terminal decline.”

“I believe it’s part of a general settling-down in how people choose to consume literature,” he said.

So why did print sales go up? Lotinga put this down to two factors: The publication last year of blockbusters such as Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and E.L. James’s Grey, and big investments from the publishers into lavishly-designed print books, such as the 150th anniversary edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. 2015 also saw things like so-called adult coloring books become popular, too.

“People want to buy these things,” said Lotinga. “It gives them aesthetic pleasure and they want to buy them as gifts.”

It should also be noted that, at the start of 2015, a change to EU laws on the tax added to digital products meant e-book sellers such as Amazon AMZN -0.87% had to start levying the U.K.’s 20% VAT rate on ebooks sold in that country, rather than the 3% rate they previously charged due to being headquartered in Luxembourg.

Read complete article at Fortune magazine site here.

Two new ebook sales/outlook reports

I recently published on my Smashwords Forum two new reports on ebook sales and ebook sales outlook for 2016. Below is a brief summary.

  1. For Libraries: According to OverDrive, “based on the activities of 50 top circulating public libraries for Q1 (Jan. 1, 2016 – March 31, 2016), eBook, audiobook, and digital magazine checkouts through OverDrive are on track to grow 30-40 percent for 2016 over the record levels achieved for 2015.”
  2. Independent report predicts U.S. ebook market growth leaving print far behind. Technavio Research has just released a report, titled “E-book Market in the US 2016-2020″, which predicts “the e-book market in the US to grow at an impressive CAGR of approximately 14% until 2020,” reaching a striking dollar market size of $13 billion. That’s a dramatic contrast to the Big Five-led narrative of stabilizing or even contracting ebook sales.

Authors interested in joining for free our Smashwords Forum may click here.

Readers wanting more information on this post may do so by following these links:

2) Sources:

Kobo report on using big data to help authors

An opportunity lies among those books that have high completion rates yet suffer low sales. Clearly those readers who have stumbled upon these books have loved them – so while the marketing team or editorial department may not have seen a winner among these titles, the reader did; it may well be worth experimenting with marketing efforts to see if the books catch on with a wider audience once they’ve been surfaced and attention is drawn to them.

Over all, being able to identify true reader engagement allows for more targeted allotment of marketing and publicity resources. For single titles that are over-performing in terms of engagement versus sales, is there potential to create more awareness, a follow-up title, or turn the title into a series of books?

This report from Kobo looks at data in the same manner as Mark Coker has done with his numerous Smashwords ebook reports like those listed here and here, but perhaps making the use of such data more clear to some authors.

Data from subscription services like Scribd and/or Oyster provide valuable information on completion ratios of your ebooks by readers, thus providing more insight for Smashwords authors of which works are consistently attracting readers and which works are not.

Publishing in the Era of Big Data – Kobo Whitepaper Fall 2014

2014 Smashwords Survey Reveals New Opportunties for Indie Authors

2014 Smashwords Survey Reveals New Opportunties for Indie Authors

Key findings in this year’s survey:

The ebook sales power curve is extremely steep – This isn’t a surprise, but for the first time we share some numbers along the curve (see the slides in the Series section).  A few titles sell fabulously well and most sell poorly.  An incremental increase in sales rank is usually matched by an exponential increase in sales.  Despite the steep sales curve, a lot of Smashwords authors are earning good income from their books.  Your opportunity as a Smashwords author or publisher is to do those things that give you an incremental advantage so you can climb in sales rank.

Readers prefer longer ebooks – We observed this in the prior surveys.  Longer books sell better, and when you view the data through the prism of the power curve, it becomes clear why longer books give authors such a huge sales advantage.

Pricing – The highest earning indie authors are utilizing lower average prices than the authors who earn less, but this doesn’t mean that ultra-low prices such as $.99 are the path to riches.  $2.99 and $3.99 are the sweet spots for most of the bestsellers.

FREE still works great, but it’s losing some mojo – Free remains one of the most powerful book marketing tools because it makes it easier for readers to take a risk on an author brand that is unknown or untrusted.  Free ebooks, according to our data derived from iBooks downloads, generated 39 times more downloads on average during our survey period than books at any price.  Yet the effectiveness of free is down dramatically compared to our 2013 (91X) and 2012 (100X) survey results.  While there is still much untapped greenfield opportunity for indies to leverage free, I expect the effectiveness of free will continue to decline as more authors learn to take advantage of it.  If you’ve never utilized free, now’s the time to do so before your window of maximum opportunity closes further.

Preorders yield sales advantage – When we launched preorders in 2013, we knew anecdotally from our early alpha tests that preorders gave authors a sales advantage.  The 2014 Survey is the first time we’re able to share aggregated results, and the results are strongly suggestive that ebooks borne as preorders sell more copies and earn the author more money than books that don’t utilized preorders.  I think preorders today are where free was five years ago.  The first authors to effectively utilize preorders will gain the most advantage, just as the first authors to enter new distribution channels gain the most advantage.  Five years from now once all indies recognize that preorders are a no-brainer essential best practice, the effectiveness of preorders will decline.  Also revealed in the data is the fact that most Smashwords authors (and therefore, most indies) ARE NOT utilizing preorders yet despite our aggressive promotion of this exciting new tool.  The authors who heeded our advice, however, are reaping the rewards.

Series yield sales advantage – For the first time, we examine the performance of series books.  This new analysis is enabled by the fact that in September we launched Smashwords Series Manager which allows us to capture enhanced metadata on series.  The results are interesting!  Series books outsell standalone books.  We also look at the characteristics of series.  I’ll want to do more with series in our 2015 survey.

Best-performing series have longer books – Not a surprise, but the implications are significant.  If you imagine the power curve overlaid on the series data we share, you see why authors who write full-length books in their series have an advantage over authors who break books into smaller chunks.  Also interesting, we found series books under 50,000 words are especially disadvantaged.  This is not to say that you can’t become a bestseller writing shorter novellas.  Multiple Smashwords authors have had success here.  But what the data does tell me is that successful novella writers might achieve even greater success if they write full-length.  The data appears to suggest that series books under 50,000 words might create friction that makes readers incrementally less willing to buy.

FREE series starters pack a punch – This is a big deal.  I suspected this for a long time based on numerous authors’ results going back to Brian S. Pratt who was one of the first Smashwords authors to prove the effectiveness of free series starters, but the aggregated numbers now confirm it.  We found strong evidence that series that have free series starters earn more money for authors than series that do not have free series starters.  For the many Smashwords authors who are reluctant to experiment with free for fear it’ll devalue your books, now you’ve got the kick in the butt you need to give it a try.  All Smashwords retailers support free without restriction.

Author Earnings report on Amazon using 2013 data

Author Earnings has published a report using data gleaned from Amazon by their Internet spider.

From the article, “What is presented here is but one snapshot of the publishing revolution as it stands today. That revolution isn’t over. These reports can be run so long as books are ranked. Our hope is that the future brings more transparency, not less. Other artistic endeavors have far greater data at hand, and practitioners of those arts and those who aspire to follow in their footsteps are able to make better-informed decisions. The expectations of these artists and athletes are couched in realism to a degree that the writing profession does not currently enjoy.” (Bold text highlight by Ted)

Good information on earnings by authors publishing on Amazon. Whether the results can be similar or not at other ebook retailers remains to be seen.

Still, for authors curious about such matters you may read the full report here.

I’m tired of reading about your low book or ebook sales. Do something about it.

crying cat

I want all you new authors out there who aren’t selling any books or ebooks worth a darn and are whining about your low or non-existent sales on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or other online locale to stop crying about it everywhere as the only sympathy you’re going to get is from your mom or your dog.

“I published BLAH BLAH BLAH on This Site or That Site or This Place and That Place and haven’t sold any. They are useless.”

“Blah Blah Blah is useless. I published there months ago and haven’t sold one book. Don’t use them.”

“My book (or substitute with ‘ebook’) took years to write and I haven’t sold one copy. Self-publishing is a waste of time.”


A few questions for all authors of low and non-existent sales:

If you published your work through companies like Smashwords or Amazon did you market links of your works on Smashwords and its affiliate retailers or Amazon on your web site or blog or Facebook or anywhere?

You did? Did you market it just a few times and then sit back waiting for the royalties to pile up in your bank account?

No? Oh, so you promoted your work everywhere and every day along with the millions of other authors promoting their works everywhere and everyday just like it was suggested by marketing pros and other authors on Linkedin (or some other social site). Good idea. Nothing like filling up social media sites with promotions for ebooks nobody reads.

Stop flooding social media sites with ebook or book promotions. Members of those sites are sick and tired of seeing them all the time.

Market yourself, make viewers interested in you, your viewpoint, your pictures, something, anything but just BLAH BLAH BLAH BUY MY BOOK. Or something similarly barf-worthy as “I just got another 5-stars for BLAH BLAH BLAH”. Okay, so who cares? Do you really think telling the world your work got 5 stars is going to convince people to buy your book, let alone even click on the link to see the review? Thousands of authors get 5 star reviews. Some authors even buy them or use phony names when writing a glowing review of their own work.

But you say even your Author Page or author blog doesn’t get much traffic? Gee, who would have guessed that hundreds, thousands, or millions of people wouldn’t flock to a site about a book and author nobody knows about or has heard about.

I hate to tell you this, but Author Pages or author blogs or anything similar only work worth a damn once you have an audience; a significantly large audience. Sure, you might get 50 -200 visitors a week or month to your author page or blog, but those visitors may have just landed there by mistake. Think about it. If you’re not selling any books then who is visiting your site? And if viewers are visiting your site and you’re still not selling any books or ebooks then perhaps there is a lesson there?

Lots of authors whine about low sales. Maybe it was a crappy book in the first place, maybe it had lousy editing, maybe you were charging $9.95 for something people felt was far overpriced, or maybe the ebook cover or description turned off readers.

Instead of whining about low sales or no sales on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace or elsewhere you should stand back and look at your work with fresh eyes and see why it didn’t sell.

Then fix it so it stands a chance to catch a reader and hold their attention long enough to part with their hard earned money.

Here is an idea, and it won’t cost you a cent (unless – shameless plug coming – you want to own your own copy of Buy This Book. Make Me A Millionaire available at all major online retailers for only $0.99)……. WALK IN THE OTHER PERSONS SHOES!

When marketing your work write the promo as you would want to read it. Think of the hundreds of times you bypassed a promo for an ebook and then remember what it was about the promo that caught your eye and held your attention long enough to click on the link to the promo item.

You’re a writer, goddam it, so write interesting marketing blurbs and tweets. And quit whining about your lousy sales because no one cares, probably not even your mom and especially not your dog.

Kindle ebook author on route to 3 million in sales

Soon to join other celebrity ebook authors is renown raconteur Ted Summerfield, who recently sold on Amazon for Kindle devices the first of 3 million ebooks necessary for him to become a millionaire by earning pennies per sale of his latest micro-tome “Buy This Book. Make Me a Millionaire”.

When asked how he felt about this phenomenal achievement which overcame the derision of friends and family for his actually begging people to purchase his latest masterpiece he had this to say, “It proves my point; write something people want, write it well, and offer it at a fair price for its contents.”

When this interviewer pointed out he actually made 3 points instead of the one inferred by his saying “It proves my point”, Mr. Summerfield blew his nose and said “You, sir, would have to make an impossibly large leap upwards in humanity before you could even dream of becoming a mere minion.”

But one cannot deride the success of “Buy This Book. Make Me A Millionaire”. In a matter of hours of being published on Amazon for Kindle devices, one savvy investor took Mr. Summerfield at his word and purchased a copy as an investment in the future wealth of his/her great grandchildren – as clearly explained in the ebook description and the last paragraph of a prior article here.

Available at Amazon and Smashwords now, and soon at all major online retailers, this interviewer urges readers to get their copy before they are all gone.

How can an ebook be ‘gone’? Aren’t they digital and around forever? Well, technically, maybe. However, Mr. Summerfield has promised to unpublish “Buy This Book. Make Me A Millionaire” once the pennies from each sale total one million dollars. No other author makes such a dramatic claim to protect an ebook investment.


Join the other savvy investor and get your copy before it’s too late.

50% of ebook authors earn less than $500 per year

It seems everyone is an author nowadays, what with ebooks being seen as an easy way to get rich. But is writing the road to riches?

Not according to a May, 2012 article in the Guardian newspaper.

A survey of 1,007 self-published writers – one of the most comprehensive insights into the growing market to date (Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis carried out the survey) – found that while a small percentage of authors were bringing in sums of $100,000-plus in 2011, average earnings were just $10,000 a year. This amount, however, is significantly skewed by the top earners, with less than 10% of self-publishing authors earning about 75% of the reported revenue and half of writers earning less than $500.

Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

“It shouldn’t have surprised me that 75% of the royalty pie is going to 10% of authors: that’s life in many industries. If I’m being honest, though, I’d hoped self-publishing might be a bit more democratic. Someone asked me if I thought this might deter authors from self-publishing, but actors don’t stop heading for Hollywood despite the odds against them, Lewis told the Guardian. There’s more to being a successful author than finding the ‘Save and publish’ button on Amazon, but there are a lot of authors who haven’t realized that yet. In that sense, the low earnings were not surprising.”

You may read the full article at the Guardian web site here.

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.


Kobo still struggling to correct ebook pricing problems. Updated.

Update, Jan. 2012:  Borders in Australia now has correct prices for my ebooks. That makes both Borders in Australia and Kobo displaying proper prices.

Back on February 20th I noticed online retailer, Borders in Australia, had priced my ebooks at $4.95 when the actual price should have been $0.99. I contacted Smashwords. A while later the price was reduced to $3.95, where is has remained up to this date. I contacted Smashwords.

Kobo supplies ebooks to Borders in Australia, so getting no reply from Smashwords for 90 days I contacted their Australian retailer directly.

I contacted Borders in Australia about the retail pricing error of my ebooks and got a prompt reply the next day.

Borders AU said in their email to me: “I would ask that you or your publisher take this matter up with Thorpe Bowker ( as information on our website is supplied to us by a third-party and as such we do not have the ability to edit or amend as appropriate the product information shown on our website.” By ‘third-party’ they probably mean Kobo, but I’m not sure.

I contacted Thorpe Bowker, and they responded within minutes: “Thanks for your email.  We don’t actually supply Borders with their e-book data.  However, we will forward your email to the correct person at Borders and ask them to correct the information.”

Within a few minutes I received an email from “Your enquiry was forwarded to me regarding the sell price on your ebooks on our website. We receive our feed of digital content from Kobo Books in Canada but the sell prices are generated by an algorithm that takes into account cost price, the variation of currency exchange, DRM, and service fees. This can make the final sell price higher or lower than the RRP. Due to the nature of the digital feeds and the pricing structure, we are unable to manually change individual pricing on ebooks.

I hope this information is useful and thank you for your enquiry.”

So I checked my current sales report on Smashwords.

Sales report from Smashwords indicates I’m receiving from Borders AU the royalty on the US$0.99 price, and not on the retail price listed on their website of $3.95. Or it might be $4.95 list at the time book was sold, but I’m not sure.

I might be misunderstanding Smashwords Terms of Service on Royalty payments, but the TOS states “Kobo is also 60% for books priced between $.99 and $12.99 for US and Canadian dollar-denominated sales. Sales in other currencies at Kobo are at 38% list.” My list price on Smashwords is US$0.99.

So if ‘list’ price in Smashwords TOS means the retail price on Kobo owned Borders Australia, shouldn’t the royalty on a $3.95 book (at 38% of list) be $1.50? Or does ‘list’ sometimes not mean ‘list’?

If ‘list means the price an author sets on Smashwords or some other ebook distributor, then what happens when an online retailer charges more than the ‘list’ price? Is there a dramatic discount at the checkout? I don’t know.

I know Kobo has been having some difficulties getting their digital systems working properly for pricing books, but their price of my ebooks has been higher for more than 90 days.

Authors may want to check their ebook pricing at Borders Australia.  And then check your sales report at Smashwords. You may also want to join the Smashwords Forum. It’s free.