Thursday, May 23

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, Shares Survey Results: 5 Ways To Sell More eBooks

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, Shares Survey Results: 5 Ways To Sell More Books

I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It's possible I'm being too conservative.
-- Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords
I've been meaning to discuss Mark Coker's analysis of the results from his latest eBook survey but other projects kept intruding.  Finally, I just dove in and did it.

What follows is my condensed version of Mark Coker's post, New Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks.


5 Ways To Sell More eBooks


1. Longer eBooks Sell Better


I was surprised by this, but successful indie author Russell Blake would agree: novels sell better than novellas. MC writes:
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 115,000 words.  When we examined the word counts of books in other sales rank bands, we found the lower the word count, the lower the sales.

2. Shorter book titles have a slight sales advantage


I chuckled when I read this because it's one of the points I included in my blog post about how to choose the perfect title. I have a bias toward books with shorter titles, but this could just be because shorter titles are easier to remember. Mark Coker writes:
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 4.2 words in their book title.

For titles ranked #1,000-#2,000, the average word count was 5.7, or about 36% more words than the top 100.

Books ranked #100,000-#101,000 (not a sales rank any author wants!), the book title word count was 6.0 words.

3. Lower priced books sell more copies


That's not at all surprising. Mark Coker writes:
[B]ooks priced between $1.00 and $1.99 significantly underperform books priced at $2.99 and $3.99. 
It was surprising that books priced at $1.99 sell the most poorly. Mark Coker's advice: Whatever price you put on your book, don't sell it for $1.99.

Free books, of course, are downloaded most often. Basically for every 92 free books downloaded one is sold. Mark Coker writes:
FREE books, on average, earned 92 times more downloads than books at any price. If you've written several books, consider pricing at least one of the books at free. If you write series, consider pricing the series starter at FREE. Nothing attracts reader interest like FREE. But remember, it's one thing to get the reader to download your book. It's an entirely different challenge to get them to read it, finish it and love it.

4. $3.99 is the new sweet spot


Significantly more books were sold at $3.99 than for any other price. Mark Coker writes:
One surprising finding is that, on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE.  I didn't expect this.  Although the general pattern holds that lower priced books tend to sell more units than higher priced books, $3.99 was the rule-breaker.  According to our Yield Graph, $3.99 earned authors total income that was 55% above the average compared to all price points.

The finding runs counter to the meme that ebook prices will only drop lower.  I think it offers encouraging news for authors and publishers alike. It also tells me that some authors who are pricing between $.99 and $2.99 might actually be underpricing. [Emphasis mine]

5. Go indie!


Mark Coker writes:
An indie ebook author earns about $2.00 from the sale of a $2.99 book. That book, on average, will sell four times as many units as a book priced over $10.00. In order for a traditionally published author to earn $2.00 on an ebook sale, the book must be priced at $11.42 (if the publisher has agency terms, as Smashwords does) or $16.00 (if it's a wholesale publisher).
. . . .
If a reader has the choice to purchase one of two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other is priced at $12.99, which will they choose?
. . . .
I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It's possible I'm being too conservative.

Indie ebook authors can publish faster and less expensively, publish globally, enjoy greater creative freedom, earn higher royalties, and have greater flexibility and control. It's not as difficult to successfully self-publish as some people think. The bestselling traditionally published authors already know how to write a super-awesome book. That's the most difficult task of publishing because the best books market themselves on reader word-of-mouth.
I didn't talk about everything Mark Coker wrote, his article is well worth reading.

The upshot: This is a great time to be an indie author!

Photo credit: "hamburger hafengeburtstag (fisheye) wasserschutzpolizei" by fRedi under Creative Commmons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0.

2 comments:

  1. I dare say that Mr. Coker's predictions about ebooks outpacing traditional publishing are exaggerated. Especially given the conditions of the trans-atlantic economies. People without jobs, with austerity shoved down their throats, won't be able to turn to ereaders or reading for that matter.
    I mean, if you're unit of measurement is 50 shades and Locke's How I sold x millions ebooks - then it's not a worthwhile yardstick.
    The major publishing houses still possess the greatest resources marketing wise. And lets not forget that the PR "industry" is seminal in all social phenomenons. And the idea of "Build it and they will come", it's also a myth. It's the failed premise behind supply side economics, and it's confirmed every moment of the day - when people buy and watch crap, because those things are advertised the most. Of course, there are exceptions. But at the end of the day, if people can't find your ebook, they can't read it.
    From my personal experience, the retailers of Smashwords (except Barnes and Noble) have a screwed up updating system. I'll never understand why they can update within days to 1 week opt in/opt out requests and price changes, but fail to update the actual document and description.
    I myself now only work with SW, B&N, and Obooko. I tried putting the ebook on Amazon, but I couldn't make it free. And since I'm a foreigner, Amazon isn't friendly to us vis-a-vis payment methods. So I pulled it out of Amazon as well.

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  2. I love stats, and am always interested in Mark Coker's articles because they have so many stats. However, I think you have to be careful to think that there is causality there.

    For example, putting your book at $3.99 won't necessarily make them sell. It makes more sense to me that books priced at $3.99 have some other factor that contributes both to their price, and to their popularity. Most likely, they're books by more established authors, possibly second or third books in a series (where the first is free!)

    An indie author though, I agree that it's the way to go!

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