I want to start with a big THANK YOU to Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers, library partners, industry friends, and Smashwords employees.
Thanks to your trust, partnership and overall awesomeness, in 2017 we will celebrate our ten year anniversary in business. Thank you for honoring us with your support, hard work and friendship.
2016 was a challenging year in publishing for anyone with a pulse and a book to sell.
The evidence is pretty compelling that most ebook retailers again suffered flat to declining ebook sales. For some analysis regarding the driving factors behind the market conditions, check out my annual 2017 publishing predictions post, also published today I share ten publishing industry predictions for 2016 and do a deep dive on some contentious topics.
Each year thousands of new authors and publishers join the Smashwords community, so for those of you who are new to Smashwords, welcome! We look forward to supporting you for many years to come.
For our new friends, a quick introduction is in order before we get started. I founded Smashwords almost ten years ago to make it fast, free and easy for writers to self publish ebooks. Our mission back then, as it still is today, is to provide authors and small publishers with the tools, knowledge and distribution relationships to reach more readers. In the nine years since our launch we’ve grown to become the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks with over 400,000 books published.
At Smashwords, we love our authors and publishers. Many of us here are authors. We respect your hard work and we understand the tremendous passion and commitment that makes your publishing possible.
Unlike vanity presses and even some of our contemporaries among ebook distributors, we don’t sell services, publishing packages or charge setup fees. We don’t accept payments from authors because we think the money should flow in your direction.
We’re all about relationships at Smashwords, and I’ve always believed relationships are built on trust. We’ll never stop working to earn and deserve your trust and confidence.
Let's get started.
Smashwords 2016 Year in Review
Business MilestonesBooks published - Smashwords now publishes 437,000 books, up 12.6% from 388,000, this same time last year.
Words published - Smashwords now publishes 15.6 billion words, up 1.6 billion from the same time last year.
Authors/pen names published - Smashwords now publishes 127,500 authors, up 10 percent from 116,000 authors a year ago.
Profitability - Despite a challenging business environment, Smashwords had another profitable year. As I’ve mentioned in previous years, I view profitability a big plus for our authors because profitable companies are lasting companies. As a small company, our profits are modest by any measure, but I’ve always believed we should invest as much as possible back into the business for the long term. Smashwords is debt free and we’ve got a solid, fully funded balance sheet to cushion us and our authors against the inevitable ups and down of this hypercompetitive industry.
Library ebooks a bright light – We’ve been working the last six years to open up libraries to Smashwords ebooks, and this work is beginning to pay dividends to our authors. We now reach most of the major library ebook platforms with OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners UK, and Odilo. In 2016 despite lackluster retail sales, our library business showed promising progress with good sales increases over the prior year. Although library sales represent a small fraction of our retailer sales, I’m pleased to see the growth and I’m optimistic we can continue to grow our authors’ library business in 2017, especially as our newest partners hit their stride.
Service MilestonesSmashwords Alerts – In August we introduced Smashwords Alerts, a cool feature we’ve been developing for a long time that allows your readers to sign up for automated email alerts notifying them whenever you publish a new title.
Revamped Payment Settings Page Enables Streamlined Tax Compliance – In what was probably our biggest development project of the year, we redesigned our payment settings page. It enables improved tax compliance for the large number of Smashwords authors and publishers who reside outside the United States. These authors and publishers no longer need to endure the US IRS’ convoluted process for obtaining IRS-issued tax identification numbers in order to obtain the tax treaty benefits of reduced tax withholdings. We also built and deployed systems to automate other tax compliance monitoring so authors and publishers are quickly notified if the IRS deems their tax ID information incomplete or inaccurate.
Smashwords Coupons Gain Exciting New Features – One of the most popular tools is our Smashwords Coupon feature. For the last nine years, this industry-exclusive marketing tool makes it easy for authors to create custom coupon codes that readers, bloggers and book reviewers can redeem in the Smashwords Store. In 2016 we made a series of exciting enhancements including the introduction of metered coupons so you can set redemption limits (for example, to increase promotional urgency, you can configure your coupon to automatically expire after you’ve received a predetermined number of redemptions). We introduced descriptive campaign labels (makes it easier to track the performance of different campaigns), and this month we introduced another really cool feature that we haven’t even announced yet - public coupons where with a single click of a button you can publish your coupon codes directly to your Smashwords book page so readers are instantly aware of the opportunity to get a special deal. Give it a try!
New retailer and library partners brought online – In Q4 of 2015 we announced new relationships with Gardners (a large retailer and library platform operator based in the U.K), Tolino (an operator of a large network of German retailers), and Odilo (an ebook platform for libraries). In 2016 all of these retailers came online with our books, albeit behind schedule. Now that these three new partners are up and running, we’re looking forward to working with them to grow sales in 2017.
Improved Dashboard – We made updates to the Smashwords Dashboard to help you more easily identify ebook cover problems that can delay or prevent distribution. For example, cover issues are now clearly marked, at-a-glance, in the Dashboard’s Premium Status column. And in support of the new Smashwords Alerts feature, you can also easily monitor from your Dashboard the number of customers at the Smashwords store that have favorited you and the number that have subscribed to your automated new release alerts.
Daily Sales Reports enhanced – We get great feedback on our Daily Sales reports, which presents attractive and easily customizable same-day and next-day sales charts aggregated across multiple retailers. In 2016 we enhanced the reports to capture a full 12 months worth of sales data, a big improvement over the prior 6-month data range. The charts make it easy to track and compare your performance across multiple retailers, and to track the effectiveness of promotional campaigns.
Retailer Merchandising ramped up – We ramped up our retailer merchandising support to make it easier for the merchandising managers at our largest retailers to identify the hottest Smashwords titles and most anticipated new releases. By distributing a preorder with Smashwords, your book is eligible if it’s performing well. Hundreds of Smashwords authors benefited from our merchandising collaborations with retailers this year, and all without lifting a finger other than to distribute with Smashwords.
Smashwords Enters Relationship with Happy Ever After blog at USA Today – To further support the success of our romance authors, Smashwords has formed a relationship with the Happy Ever After blog hosted by USA Today. Each week, Smashwords will supply HEA with the “Smashwords Hotlist,” featuring a selection of our bestselling romance titles, as well as our most anticipated upcoming romance releases. The titles are selected by the Smashwords merchandising team. Selections based on merit as measured by aggregated sales results across our distribution network. For a chance to make the list, publish and distribute with Smashwords so we can count your sales! This week’s installment of the Smashwords Hotlist, fresh out yesterday, features Jamie McGuire, Quinn Loftis, May McGoldrick, Cora Reilly, Chloe Walsh, Katy Regnery writing as K.P. Kelley, Justine Elvira, Ivy Smoak and Carole Mortimer. Check out HEA's 'Related' stories at the end of each weekly Smashwords Hotlist to view previous Smashwords Hotlists.
Smashwords Plans for 2017In broad strokes, below is what you can expect from Smashwords in the coming year. If some of this looks familiar to our goals for 2016 (most of which we met), it’s because some of these items below will remain persistent themes for us for many years to come:
- Faster payment cycles – January will be our last quarterly payment round, after which Smashwords is going monthly starting in February. Yay!
- New distribution to global retailers and libraries
- New tools to help authors connect with readers
- New partnerships with friends in the industry that share our love of indie authors
- New enhancements to Smashwords Coupons
- New minor and major improvements to make our tools easier to use
- More tools to help authors manage pricing and promotions
- More training and educational resources to help our authors tap into the full potential of best practices
- More surprises
Happy New Year! We look forward to working with you in 2017.