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Old Hack

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Quite often, someone finds an interesting or informative link about self publishing and starts a thread on it in this room. That's great, and I'm glad it happens: but often it means that we have the same conversation over and over again, each time anyone finds a new interesting or informative link. So we're going to try having just one thread those links, and see how it goes.

Feel free to post links and ask your questions about them in this thread. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.
 

Old Hack

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According to this article in Galleycat, Smashwords' CEO Mark Coker has said, "Smashwords retailers will sell $18 to $20 million worth of eBooks this year."

That's a huge turnover, which any business would be proud of.

The article also says that "Smashwords has published more than 138,070 books". Again, that's a huge number which any business would be pleased with.

However, if you divide the money by the number of titles published it doesn't look quite so good.

$20,000,000 divided by 138,070 gives an answer of $145.

And that's the average turnover per title, not the actual amount earned as Smashwords keeps a portion of the money before paying authors their royalties.

I know that there are quite a few writers who are doing very well with self-publishing , but from those figures I'd bet that there are many, many more who are selling hardly any copies and doing really badly.

So what I'd like to know is, how does Smashwords compare to Kindle? Do people here make 10% of their sales through Smashwords and 90% through Kindle sales? What's the balance? (And what royalty level does Smashwords pay, so we can work out what that $145 really represents?)
 
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Norman D Gutter

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Of titles I have on both Kindle and Smashwords, I've sold:

46 Kindle
1 Smashwords

and distributed via Smashwords:

2 B&N
1 Sony

I have another title that has been exclusively on Kindle that sold 72. I'll be putting it on Smashwords soon.
 

Old Hack

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Thanks, Norman.

In general Smashwords does seem to undersell Kindle editions but the factor is very variable: I suspect that if you're a gigantic seller on Kindle your Smashwords sales will represent a larger proportion of all your sales than if you've only sold a relatively small number on Kindle. But that's not based on anything other than my hunches and assumptions, so I'm pleased to see real stats like yours. I hope other people post their numbers too.
 

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Mine are not self-pubbed but published by a smaller indie press under a pseudonym. I checked the online statements for a couple of months to compare numbers. For one title I sold 227 copies through Amazon, 49 through All Romance ebooks, and 3 through Smashwords for the same timespan. Amazon (both US & UK) and ARe were far and away the biggest vendors for my ebooks. Most other sites were in the single digits for me.
 

merrihiatt

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As of the end of June, I've sold roughly 4,220 paperback and e-books (paperback books account for a small portion of my sales). About 400 of these sales were from Smashwords and sales channels they send my e-books to (B&N, Apple, Kobo, Sony, etc.). That makes it about 90% Amazon KDP and 10% Smashwords. Very rough figures on this, but the 90/10 split seems to be on target for my works.
 

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Personally, about 15% or so at Smashwords.

My BN stuff, being short fiction at the $1 price point, is better run through SW than direct so that's going to vary from typical novelests who will make more by putting their books on BN through Pubit (and tend to do so).

Amazon is top dog for almost everyone I've seen post their numbers. There are some romance writers who seem to do better at BN, and a few international writers who report their best sales through Kobo. They seem to be real outliers. 50% to 95% Amazon is the usual story but it's tough to narrow down about where "average" falls in there.
 

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The article also says that "Smashwords has published more than 138,070 books". Again, that's a huge number which any business would be pleased with.

However, if you divide the money by the number of titles published it doesn't look quite so good.

$20,000,000 divided by 138,070 gives an answer of $145.

Note that about 10% or so of the SW catalog is permanently free so the average for paid titles should be slightly better, but nothing that belies your point/question.

I think the more interesting stat would be the average of how books that earned payment in the quarter did. Sturgeon's Law likely applies to the SW catalog and that content likely makes next to nothing leaving the typical results for work of some modest "quality" (definition hazy) looking a bit less bleak. Supposition and all, but that's what we're working with here regardless... (Along those lines, only about 10% of the SW catalog makes the cut with the Units Sold sort. So far, I've been unable to find where the cutoff is for that list but if that info is out there it would give us stat-junkies a significant piece of info to work with.)
 

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Note that about 10% or so of the SW catalog is permanently free so the average for paid titles should be slightly better, but nothing that belies your point/question.

If 10% of the works are free, that gives us this sum:

$20,000,000 divided by (138,070 x 0.9) = $161

That's a bit better: but if, as has been suggested here (admittedly by a tiny sample, but it's all we have right now) Smashwords represents ten per cent of sales then that means that the average self publisher should turn over $1610 total this year, which still isn't great.

It's an amount not to be sniffed at, but I was really hoping the figures would be higher.

I think the more interesting stat would be the average of how books that earned payment in the quarter did. Sturgeon's Law likely applies to the SW catalog and that content likely makes next to nothing leaving the typical results for work of some modest "quality" (definition hazy) looking a bit less bleak. Supposition and all, but that's what we're working with here regardless... (Along those lines, only about 10% of the SW catalog makes the cut with the Units Sold sort. So far, I've been unable to find where the cutoff is for that list but if that info is out there it would give us stat-junkies a significant piece of info to work with.)

Judging by the quality of the books I've seen in the slush pile, assuming that self published works reflect that, and estimating the proportions before I've had my morning cup of tea, I'd guess that 75-90% of self published books are dreadful. If you assume that they aren't going to make money either then the figures begin to look better but I wonder if there is such a direct correlation between quality and royalties. I suspect the sales are spread more widely, but I hope I'm wrong.
 

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Yeah, it's nearly impossible to see the big picture.

If you just consider self-published vs trade-published everything points toward trade publishing with both the financials and quality.

But is that more accurate than comparing everything submitted to trade publishers in the hopes of publication vs what is self-published? Suddenly, self-pub isn't looking so bad from either the financial or quality standpoint. it become a more philosophical concern about the pros and cons of curation.

Another thing about the current e-pub boom is the huge appetite for erotica and the volume of titles chasing that market. The erotica sort shows 23,000 titles so about 18% of the content on SW. I'm not sure how much erotica is published by trade publishers, but that certainly far outstrips the percentage of such content in any physical bookstore I've ever been in. And I wonder if it also generates an even more disproportionate amount of the SW revenue.
 

James D. Macdonald

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And I wonder if it also generates an even more disproportionate amount of the SW revenue.

My guess would be "yes." You can sort Smashwords offerings by units sold. After you get past a couple of soap-opera digests and diet books it's porn for the next dozen (or more) pages.
 

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There's a LOT of erotica out there from small publishers such as Samhain, Carina Press, Loose ID, Ellora's Cave etc.

A lot.

Just sayin'...

Yeah. Aware of the indie presses and their longstanding niche market. Things seem to have gone a bit more mainstream to me with the e-pub explosion of the last few years but it's entirely possible that's perception and might not reflect in the actual numbers (which we'll likely never have access to in any meaningful way regardless.)
 

Norman D Gutter

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Shoot. I thought I was in the Self-publishing forum when I posted this. Would a moderator please move it? Thanks.
 

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From the Forbes article linked to above:

My experience reflects a profound and wrenching transformation of publishing that is shaking the industry to its roots. The beneficiaries of the existing order – major publishers and their most successful authors have become the most visible opponents of the turmoil that these “Indie” authors have introduced.

It's just another article written to criticise trade publishing while promoting self publishing. It's full of errors of logic and fact. And it's encouraging an "us vs them" attitude which in my view doesn't help anyone at all, and it makes the people who indulge in such behaviour look foolish and small-minded.

I hope we can be more positive here, more knowledgeable, more logical, and more accommodating of all authors no matter how they've chosen to publish their work.
 

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Self-Pub or Traditional?

From Mike Wells' blog: one of the best I've seen on the issue - straightforward analysis.

http://ht.ly/cxsXl

"Should You Self-Publish or Go the Traditional Route?"
 
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Old Hack

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Scribble, the interview you linked to there comes from October 2005, and I can find no evidence that Crowswing Books, the publisher he set up, exists now.

On Amazon, the last book published by Crowswing was dated April 2008.
 

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Yes, you're right, Old Hack.

I just went looking as well, and neither the site for crowswing nor Sean Wright as an author comes up after a Google search.

Thanks for flagging that.
 

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Couldn't read the whole thing (guess you have to be a subscriber?) but it sounded more like epublishing than self-publishing. ??
 

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