Best Practices for Selling eBooks

Smashwords, an ebook self-publishing and distribution platform, analyzes their aggregate ebook sales across their distribution network each year. This analysis of over 450,000 ebooks by 130,000 authors and publishers provides information for best practices for selling ebooks.

The vast majority (87.5%) of Smashword’s sales are fiction titles—well in line with digital book sales trends.

In his 2017 Smashwords Survey, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, provides insights to help authors make their books more accessible, desirable, and enjoyable to readers. Here are three questions the most recent Smashwords survey answers.

1. Should I offer a free promotion of my ebook?

Smashwords survey found that free still draws readership, but that best results come from offering a first in series book free to hook readers on the series.

  • The number of downloads from free ebook offers has declined over the past three years. In 2016, offering an ebook for free produced 33 times more downloads on average compared to priced titles in the past 12 months. However, in 2015, the number was 35 times more and in 2014, that number was 41 time more.
  • Free is still a powerful sales catalyst for series or backlists. Series that offer the first book free earn 55% more on average than series that don’t offer the first book free.

2. What is the best price for an ebook?

On average, nonfiction ebooks sell at a higher price point than fiction titles. The Smashword’s survey found that the most common price point for indie authors fiction ebooks is not the price point that maximizes earnings.

  • The most common price point for indie author selling fiction books is $2.99.
  • The top four price points for maximizing unit sales (other than free) are $3.99, $4.99, $0.99, and $2.99.

3. Do shorter ebooks sell better than longer ones?

On interesting takeaway from the Smashword’s analysis is that the average length of books that are selling the most copies has decreased over the past few years.

  • In 2012, the average wordcount for the top 60 best-selling romance titles was 112,195.
  • In 2016, the average wordcount for the top 70 best-selling titles romance was 92,725.

I would love to see more statistics about Christian ebook sales. Sadly, Smashword’s does not break out statistics by categories. However, they do provide ranking for sales of books by category for overall sales. Smashword’s survey found that Christian fiction ebook sales ranked 14 out of 17 categories. For nonfiction books, the Religion & Spirituality category ranked fourth out of 16 categories.

I think the two most noteworthy takeaways from this study are that the best price points for maximizing earnings for a fiction ebook is $3.99 or $4.99 and that free can still drive discoverability for an author.

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Photo courtesy of Dylan Siebel

Trends in Digital Publishing

For the past few years, Bowker has teamed up with Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc. (DCL) to conduct a Digital Publishing Survey. This year, the two companies surveyed 698 publishers and authors to discovered trends in digital publishing. This year’s survey found that the number of publishers and authors publishing digitally continues to rise.

Here is an infographic with the survey’s findings:

2016-digital-publishing-survey

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Infographic courtesy of Data Conversion Laboratory Inc. and Bowker

Enhanced eBooks: Has Their Time Come?

The ability to embed video and audio into ebooks has been around for a while. However, currently, few ebooks carry this enhancement beyond books in the Children’s category.

Embedding audio or video in an ebook and animated covers or graphics are what usually comprise an animated ebook. Over the years, a few services have sprung up to offer authors the ability to animate their ebooks. However, the concept has yet to truly take hold for authors and readers.

All that may soon change.

kindle-in-motion

Amazon has now entered the animated ebook picture with a new service: Kindle in Motion. This new feature for Kindle ebooks creates another way for authors to enhance the reading experience for their ebooks. Kindle in Motion enhancements include animated covers, picture backgrounds for pages, and video clips. All of these features are embedded within the ebook.

Currently, Amazon’s new Kindle in Motion is only available for a limited number of titles—all from Amazon’s Publishing division. These titles that contain Kindle in Motion are all fiction titles, mostly mystery, thrillers, and children’s stories. It appears that Amazon is testing the service and may open it up to all authors in the near future.

Through adding animation, authors can enhance their stories with pictures and video. Authors can give back stories in videos, and show story setting and character appearances with pictures. Enhancements allow authors to become creative with their stories beyond the written word.

Whether readers will take to these added elements in a book is still yet to be seen. Some readers think the enhancements are distracting, others like them. I suspect that, like all new technological advances, it will take time for readers to begin to embrace new elements in a book.

One drawback with Kindle in Motion is file size. Text does not take much storage space; hence file size is fairly small for most ebooks. However, as animation is added to ebooks, their file size will increase. Increased file size will mean longer download times and more space consumed on reading devices.

I am curious. Are you interested in adding animated enhancements to your ebooks? What do you see as the benefits?

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What You Need to Know About Selling eBooks

Sales of ebooks from major publishers have declined since 2014. At their high, ebooks accounted for about 30% of all book sales. Now they have settled somewhere around 25% of book sales. That means that approximately every one out of four books purchased is an ebook.

selling ebooks

Ebooks are an integral part of a good book sales strategy. As such, authors and publishers should know what drives ebook sales.

Smashwords, the largest self-publishing ebook platform, conducts a survey each year of their sales data to find nuggets of wisdom to pass on to authors and publishers to better understand the ebook market. Following are three takeaways from the most recent survey conducted by Smashwords on the books sold from its platform.

1. Fiction Dominates When it Comes to eBook Sales

More nonfiction books than fiction books are published each year. As a result, nonfiction has greater sales overall than fiction. However, when it comes to buying ebooks, fiction books have dominated this format since the beginning. Almost 90% of Smashwords book sales are fiction books. Romance is the largest seller amounting to half of all books sold by Smashwords.

2. Free Still Drives Discovery

Offering books for free to generate discovery has always been a tactic of authors. However, this practice has grown to a new level with ebooks. Authors can offer a free copy of an ebook at no great personal expense. Many authors are using this tactic to become discovered. One study cited that if readers like what they read in a free book, they are 85% more likely to buy another book from the author.

Smashwords survey found that people do download ebooks when offered for free. On Smashwords, books offered for free get 41 times more downloads than books selling for any other price. Remember, offering a free book is meant to drive discovery, so for authors of single books, this practice does not work as well as for those offering a series (series can be offered in nonfiction books as well as fiction). Smashwords survey found that series books significantly outsell standalone books.

3. Pricing Sweet Spot for eBooks

One perennial question that authors face is: What to price a book? Price a book too high or too low and sales suffer. There is a pricing sweet spot in selling books. Smashwords survey revealed that for fiction ebooks, the price point that maximizes both unit downloads and earnings for authors is between $2.99 and $4.99.

You can view all the results from the Smashwords’ Survey on Slideshare.

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Are You Considering Publishing a Book?

The first self-published author I ever met in person was in the mid-1990s. At that time, becoming an author was one of the items on my bucket list. I was open to exploring all possibilities to make this happen.

Publish Your Book Affordably Cover 2

I inquired of this gentleman how much self-publishing his book had cost him. Fortunately, he was gracious enough to share this information with me. He told me that for $15,000, he had 3,000 copies of his book in his garage. When I heard this figure, I just about had a heart attack. Immediately I ruled out self-publishing as an option for me.

Fast forward ten years to about 2004. The publishing landscape had drastically changed due to rapidly advancing technology. No longer did it cost thousands of dollars to publish a book. Thanks to print-on-demand, publishing a book had become within the reach of most people—including me.

The self-publishing field has grown drastically in the 21st Century. In 2015, author-published books accounted for 18% of the entire book market in the United States.

Consider these additional statistics on independently published books in a recent Author Earnings report:

  • 33% of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are indie self-published ebooks.
  • 20% of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks on Amazon.com are being spent on indie self-published ebooks.
  • 40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by indie self-published ebooks.
  • The Big Five traditional publishers now account for only 16% of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists.

Amazon is the biggest player in the author-published market. Between its three publishing platforms—CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX)—Amazon produces an estimated 85% of self-published titles.

Publishing a book today is within your reach. The self-publishing stigma has faded. Self-published authors now land on the best-seller lists regularly. While publishing your own book can now be done with ease, you do need to educate yourself on the process.

To help aspiring authors who are considering publishing their own book, I have created a FREE online on-demand seminar. You can access this seminar anytime it is convenient for you. You can even watch the seminar multiple times if you need to refresh your memory on any of the information given.

To watch this informative seminar, DIY: Publish Your Book Affordably, simply CLICK HERE. Anyone considering publishing their own book will benefit from this information.

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