Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Smashwords Publishes 20,000th Indie Ebook

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.

15 comments:

Gary Baker said...

On the one hand, congratulations, Mark. Your site is very straight forward and easy to use. You deserve your success. On the other hand, seeing my small tomes disappear under a mass of 20,000, 25,000, soon 100's of thousands of books is a little daunting. Standing out from the crowd is getting harder and harder for those of us with few resources. Nevertheless, well done and good luck to you.

Scott Marlowe said...

The growth is great, but as Gary points out it's getting harder and harder to stand out amidst the ever-increasing crowd.

Mark Coker said...

Hi Scott and Gary, prepare for the crowd to get even bigger. The challenge of standing out isn't about how you stand out amid 20,000 or (some day) 100,000 books at Smashwords. It's how do you stand out elsewhere. The average B&N brick and mortar store probably holds 200,000 books. Amazon.com and Bn.com offer probably a million plus. There's a huge wave of additional book content coming. In my presentation at http://blog.smashwords.com/2010/07/how-indie-ebooks-will-transform-future.html I talked about all these out of print paper books that will be resurrected as ebooks. Amid the crush of new competitive content from books, you also have to compete against alternative non-book content.

In this new world of unlimited content choice, you as the publisher have unprecedented opportunity to reach readers through all these new Internet distribution points, but you also have the opportunity to get lost. Welcome to the brave new world of democratized publishing. :)

Des Greene said...

One mustn't forget that these 20,000 odd titles are vying for the attention of a market numbered in the tens of millions and growing.

Take heart!

missymaxim said...

Yay for as-yet-unnamed new distributor. Have to say as a romance/erotic romance writer it'd be great to get on Fictionwise if possible.

Gray and Scott - I keep hearing from authors doing this a while that building a backlist is some of your best advertising for keeping those sales coming in, so write those books!

sgoldin said...

Standing out from the crowd has, and always will be, a problem throughout the history of publishing. But there's another factor to consider as well:

Publishing with a traditional hardcover publisher got you 10-15% royalties. With a paperback publisher, that was 6-10%. With Smashwords, you get 85% (or 40-60% through their distribution partners). You can make the same amount of money selling fewer copies. That's an important point to consider.

(Plus, traditional paper publishers play all sorts of games with "reserves against returns" to withhold your money and cheat you with accounting tricks that I've seen no sign of [so far] at Smashwords.)

Shayne Parkinson said...

Thanks, Mark, I'm delighted to see my name in such fine company!

When I first joined Smashwords, as an unknown writer from a fairly obscure part of the world, I certainly didn't imagine that 18 months later I'd be looking at thousands of sales. I still have to pinch myself. :-)

Maureen Mullis said...

I am so happy to see the success of Smashwords! More readers will be drawn to the site by this accomplishment and more readers is what I, as a writer, want to see!

Yes, it means the competition is tough, but it always is in the book world. The happy news is that there is room for all of us. Lots of readers out there, and with the competitive pricing of ebooks and the growing numbers of e-reading devices it's making the options for book lovers greater.

Congratulations and here's to much more success!

Germiux said...

Oh, how grand!
A great thing you've helped build, Mark!
I'm happy to see my titles among the 20 thousand+ books!
Yes, it's a bit unsettling to see the competition's hand around your neck, but so has it been in publishing for decades! Print or E-ink it'll always be a struggle to be found! Just hope your name sounds better or your book cover pulls more attention (Don't think I use Paint to make my covers for my health! Colors draw you in).
Congrats, Mark, and whoever else works up in Smashwords!

Simon said...

This is fantastic Mark. As an enthusiastic CEO of my book, I am trying to get as much as I can out of the progress you have made on our behalf. I think I'm heading for a Podiobook next!

P.S. Well done to Shayne for making so many sales. Shayne is one of my favourite authors :)

Simon said...

Whoops - my comment above registered under my husband's name!

Best regards
Catherine Condie

Simon said...

Whoops - my comment above registered under my husband's name!

Best regards
Catherine Condie

JoeKeppler said...

Proud to have my titles be a part of this site as well. And not only that, it's just so refreshing to receive so much help and and blissfully direct guidance on what would otherwise be an incredibly daunting task as e-book publishing, formatting and promoting truly is.
Thanks for all you've done for us authors, Mark! Very excited to see where all this goes!

Ryan said...

I think it's great, I appreciate how much Smashwords has done for authors — but especially for readers that benefit from all this wealth of reading material!

Oswald Bastable said...

That 'words published' counter on the front page is turning over faster and faster.

I have a look every time I check my downloads numbers.

The billion mark is coming up very soon!