Sales Data Worth Mining

Smashwords, the largest ebook self-publishing and distribution platform for independent authors, has access to a large chunk of sales data for ebooks that the company shares each year. The company examines real sales data each year to extract potential insights about best practices to indie authors and publishers improve their practices to reach more readers and increase sales.

data-miningIf you are an independently published author or small publisher producing and selling ebooks, you can use the information in Smashwords’ yearly report to improve your strategies. After reading the report, I found four nuggets that I think are worth sharing.

1. The Power of Free has Fallen
In the four years that Smashwords has conducted an annual study of sales figures, free downloads decreased dramatically. In 2012, Smashwords found that free books were downloaded 100 times more than paid books. In 2013, free books were only downloaded 91 times more than paid books. In 2013 that number was down to 39 times, and in 2015, the result was up to 41 times. Blame the glut of free ebooks. However, free is still an option when trying to reach new readers for your books, especially if you have a series.

2. Best Price
Smashwords reports that $3.99 is the sweet spot for fiction ebooks. For the third year in a row, authors sold more units and earned more overall income with books priced at $3.99. However, if you are going to price your ebook below $5.00, then avoid the $1.99 price. Pricing at $2.99 or $.99 is better. You will reach more readers and sell more books.

3. Building Sales
Smashwords found two powerful tools for building sales: preorders and offering the first book in a series free. While not many Smashwords’ authors offered preorders, those that did earned the about three and one-half times more income than those authors who simply put a book up for sale the day of its release. Preorders with an aggressive marketing campaign are a powerful tool for building sales. Smashwords also found that those authors offering the first book in a series free to readers earned 66% more than those who did not. So, if you have a series of books, offer the first one free to hook readers.

4. Building Readership
All the best-selling authors on Smashwords are active on Facebook and Twitter and have a blog. Enough said.

As we move into 2016. Consider how you can begin incorporating free offers, pricing, preorders, and more social media presence into your overall marketing strategies for your ebooks.

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Are You Selling or Connecting?

Most people hate selling. They also hate being sold to. So, stop trying to sell your book and start trying to connect with your potential readers.


The most powerful connection is an emotional connection. Focusing on making an emotional connection, especially a positive emotional connection, will increase your sales better than trying to persuade your customers why they should read your book. Studies show that positive emotions increase the odds that you will turn a potential customer into a buying customer.

Creating an emotional connection helps you engage and motivate your potential customers. Emotions drive people to act. After all, there are many books available on your topic. However, it is an emotional value that differentiates your book from the competition.

Any good sales pitch provides people with the facts. The facts alone are not enough to convince readers to buy your book. You must also appeal to their emotions. When crafting the sales pitch for your book—whether this is your 30 minute elevator speech, your back cover copy, or advertising text—make sure you include an emotional element.

For example, if you are selling a book on forgiveness, you can include a fact in your sales pitch: The Bible talks about forgiveness 105 times. But, don’t leave out the emotional appeal: Experience peace beyond belief with The Forgiveness Factor. Or, if you have a book on discipleship, leave in the fact of what the book will do for the reader: Learn how to become a true disciple of Jesus. But, also include the emotional appeal: Hear Jesus say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

In his book Persuasion Equation, Mark Rodgers lists seven types of emotional objectives in persuading people to do something.

  1. Provoke: a strong reaction.
  2. Inspire: hope. Let people know how your book will improve their lives.
  3. Invoke: a vision for a better life.
  4. Awaken: a new feeling or emotional experience.
  5. Arouse: an excitement to new possibilities or potential.
  6. Touch: a raw emotion like sadness or sympathy.
  7. Ignite: feelings of success or accomplishment.

Decide which emotional appeal works best with your book. Does it invoke a vision for a better life? Does it touch a raw emotion that people can relate to? Then use that emotion to connect with your potential readers in all your marketing activities.

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Is Multitasking Harming Your Productivity?

In high school, I rode the bus to and from school for a year. I loved the bus ride and the social time with other teenagers. On the bus, I often participated in multiple conversations at once. I attempted to listen and respond to two or three different subjects being discussed. Of course, I was fooling myself. In my effort to not miss out on anything, I was multitasking and actually missing quite a bit of each conversation.


Multitasking is when you try to accomplish two or more things at once that require mental concentration. Do you try to accomplish more by multitasking? Maybe you try to talk on the phone while you check your emails. Or, maybe you listen to a podcast while you catch up on your social media networking.

Did you know that multitasking actually leads to less productivity? According to Harvard Business Review, studies have found:

  • Multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity.
  • Multitaskers make up to 50% more errors.
  • Multitasking causes a 10% drop in IQ.

In actuality, the human brain can’t handle more than one task at a time. Even though we think we are doing two tasks, our brain is really switching back and forth between the tasks. In his book, Brain Rules, Brian Medina points out that it takes more time to get things done when you try to multitask. People who are interrupted—and therefore have to switch their attention back and forth—take 50% longer to accomplish a task.

So, how can you improve your productivity? Stop multitasking. Instead, chunk your tasks.

Chunking involves working on one thing at a time for short periods of time. Set aside time each day to do specific tasks. So, instead of constantly checking your email or social media sites while attempting to write a chapter in your next book or work on advertising text, plan to check email and social media a few times a day—maybe at 9:00am, 1:00pm, and 5:00pm. Decide to spend a limited amount of time on these tasks, maybe 20 to 30 minutes, then switch to another task that requires your attention.

Don’t waste precious time on multitasking. As an independently published author or small publisher, you wear many hats and have numerous tasks that you must accomplish each day. Instead of trying to do two or three things at once, spend highly concentrated time on specific tasks and you will find that you become more productive.

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