Smashwords author Charlene Bays Rothenberger yesterday published the 20,000th book at Smashwords at 8:23pm Pacific time.
Two months ago we reached 15,000 books and five months ago we hit 10,000.
To put the growth in context, we published 140 books in 2008, our first year of operation. By the end of 2009, we reached 6,000. We're on track to surpass 25,000 by the end of the year.
Do numbers matter? Yes. Each new author at Smashwords brings more books, and more books bring more readers and more readers bring more authors who bring more books. It's a virtuous flywheel, catalyzed by the word of mouth of authors and readers who mutually benefit from the dynamic.
The strength of numbers helps Smashwords open up new distribution opportunities for all authors participating in the Smashwords collective (Btw, we signed a new retailer yesterday. We'll announce them in a few weeks after we complete the technical integrations).
Our catalog features many strong sellers including Brian S. Pratt, Ruth Ann Nordin, Randolph Lalonde, J.A. Konrath, P.B. Ryan, Shayne Parkinson, Rebecca Forster, Janice Daugharty, Jack Gregory, Ann Somerville, Lynn Flewelling and Carl East. I could list dozens more showing promise to become tomorrow's big indie names. In the months ahead, we'll work to showcase some of these authors at Smashwords by introducing new lists and ranking filters.
A growing number of our authors, including some on the short list above, have been previously published - or are currently published - by large traditional publishers.
Until recently, most authors aspired to land a traditional book deal. That sentiment is changing, judging from the emails I receive each week from authors who are done waiting months or years for a publisher to discover them. These authors have decided to turn their backs on traditional publishing because they recognize the creative, economic and time-to-market advantages of indie ebook publishing.
Self-publishing is shedding the negative stigma it once held as successful indie authors bring new credibility and respect to self publishing.
The Magic of Distribution
Although we've seen traffic and sales climb each month at our small Smashwords.com retail operation, the greatest sales growth is coming from our distribution network. The growth is driven by the addition of new retailers, the organic growth at retailers as they grow their businesses, and the sales rank effect as our books build sales, readership and reviews at each retailer.
Our distribution network includes the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo (in addition to operating its own retail store, Kobo also powers Borders in the US and Australia, Whitcoulls in New Zealand, Samsung and others), the Diesel eBook Store, and more on the way. On the moblile apps front, our books are in the native catalogs of Stanza on the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, and in Aldiko for Android devices.
To keep your salivary glands in check, it's important to note that not all Smashwords authors are participating in this growth. We create the opportunity for discovery, sales and readership, though it's the author's responsibility to write and market a great book that resonates with readers, and then they must have the patience it takes to plant and cultivate seeds for the future harvest.
As I blogged earlier this week in The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Failure post, authors must also be careful to avoid poor decisions that might limit their success.
Success Comes in Multiple Forms
Success isn't measured by financial performance alone. For some authors, success is defined not by monetary gain, but by reaching readers with their words. Smashwords authors now publish over 2,000 free ebooks, and some of these books reach thousands of readers. They too are successes.
Congrats to all 8,798 pioneering Smashwords authors and publishers who inspire us every day.