I bop around the MobileRead, Kindleboards and Amazon message boards whenever I get a chance, and it's always fun to read what people are saying or speculating about Smashwords.
We have a lot of loyal fans out there, and for that I am grateful beyond words. Though sometimes, it can be tough to read the comments.
A few times during the last couple months I've run across authors complaining they don't sell many books on Smashwords compared to Amazon. I've seen authors pull their titles for this reason. Or there will be authors considering publishing on Amazon instead of Smashwords.
There's some fallacious thinking going on here, so I'll address a few points.
1. If you're publishing a print book, would you refuse to sell your book at Borders or your local indie bookstore because B&N is so much larger? Of course not. Then why would anyone think Amazon/Smashwords is an either/or situation? It's not. As an author, you should maximize your distribution points, not minimize them.So bottom line, if you're not working with Smashwords, I hope you at least find another route to get your books to additional points. If not, you're selling yourself short.
2. AMZN vs. SW sales: It shouldn't really be a surprise that most authors who publish in both places sell more on Amazon. After all, according to Alexa, the traffic ranking service (owned by Amazon), Amazon's traffic is 720 times greater than Smashwords, and of course Kindle customers can purchase books wirelessly there so it's more convenient. Therefore, if you're selling 720 books at Amazon for every book you sell at Smashwords, I'd conclude we're keeping pace. Or maybe a better number is 300 to 1, since Amazon sells toaster ovens, refrigerator water filters and underwear too (I get mine at Amazon, don't you?) If these or similar ratios always held true, it would mean many Smashwords authors who publish in both places should be selling millions of dollars worth of books on Amazon. But they're not. Why? Because some authors on Smashwords are getting a better yield (sales per X number of visitors) on Smashwords than on Amazon. My point isn't to knock Amazon. They're awesome, and every author should be there, either directly or through us (our books aren't there yet). My point is math. The next time someone pontificates their great epiphany that they're selling more at Amazon than anywhere else, offer them a math lesson.
3. As one smart poster pointed out, when you put your book on Smashwords, you're also distributing it to many other retailers. We're currently distributing to B&N, the Apple iBookstore, Aldiko, Stanza and Kobo, and our Sony feed is (hopefully) mere days from going live (yes, we're behind schedule!). In the next 12 months, you'll see many more retailers added to our roster of distribution points.
Oh, and for loyal readers who read this far, a teaser treat: I analyzed our Apple sales yesterday and was pleased how the sales are trending for each of the first seven weeks. Chart at left. Not included are the free book downloads. A handful of Smashwords authors are getting thousands of downloads a week. We'll start adding this data into the sales dashboards in the next couple months.
Speaking of trending, Smashwords titles are starting to climb the charts elsewhere in the ebookosphere. Congratulations to Smashwords author Ruth Ann Nordin, whose novel, An Inconvenient Marriage, is the #4 best-selling book at Kobo today. She's beating out titles from Harlequin, St. Martin's Press, Penguin, Little, Brown and HarperCollins. Sure, her list price is only $.99, but at that price her 47 cent royalty is probably equal or higher than what the #5 Harlequin author is getting for their $7.99 list price book. Also congratulations to Smashwords author Bill Clem, whose $1.99 book, Microbe, is at #12 on the list (was #10 minutes ago).
Folks, a quiet revolution is taking place here.
Image source for scale: Wikipedia Commons