Here are some other fun facts I can share:
As of today, Smashwords publishes 5,979 original ebooks.We're now publishing and distributing the works of 2,700 authors and 100 small independent publishers.
The number of titles published at Smashwords has doubled in the last 90 days.What's next for Smashwords?
To put the numbers in further perspective, at this time last year, after eight full months of operation, we were publishing 100 authors and under 160 titles. And we thought that was great.
In the last four months, we've opened up new distribution channels for our indie authors and publishers with the world's largest ebook retailers. We're just getting started.
Salacious sidenote: Every once in a while, I'll receive an email (from my father or wife, for example) that all we publish at Smashwords is erotica. How much erotica do we really publish? See the chart at left. We publish a lot, but not as much as people might think. Only 14 percent of our content is categorized as erotica.
How do we break down across fiction and non-fiction? 74 percent of our titles are fiction, 25 percent are non-fiction, and under one percent are screenplays or plays.
We've had record traffic for each of the last 15 months.
Sales for December are already a record, handily beating November, another record. Despite the sales increases, our sales are still very low. Results don't include results from retail partners, of which B&N is the furthest along.
The average Smashwords author sells more now than they did last year, likely due to our increased traffic.
We're not profitable, yet. We could be profitable next month if, like other self-publishing services or distributors, we charged setup fees, sold packages, or charged for access to our distribution channel, but none of that is in our business model. Instead, we want our interests aligned with the authors, publishers, retailers and readers we serve. Because we only take 15-18.5% of the net, we'll grow our revenues as our authors, publishers and retail partners grow theirs.
Here are the priorities I see:
Develop new distribution channels for our authors and publishers - We're building the distribution infrastructure to help authors and publishers get their ebooks out to readers. We'll continue adding new distribution partners in 2010. But first, we're going to focus on completing the technical integrations of our current retail partners. We're furthest along with Barnes & Noble, and we're moving forward with Amazon, Sony and Kobo, although we're behind schedule. This is our highest priority for the next couple months.
Improve customer service - We go out of our way to provide responsive customer service. Unlike most businesses, we make it easy for you to contact us by offering a customer support and feedback link at the top of every Smashwords page. We aim to answer support inquiries within 24 hours during normal business days, and when we can, we enjoy shaving that down to mere minutes. Going forward, as we continue to grow, we want to make Smashwords so intuitive that fewer authors, publishers and customers find it necessary to contact us with support questions. We want to help you find answers to your own questions faster than the time it takes you to email us. We want to make things so obvious there's no need to ask a question.
Improve ease of publishing - We think we provide the industry's easiest to use publishing and distribution platform, but we want to make it faster and easier.
Improve site performance - We know, we know, the Smashwords web site has been pretty slow lately. Several weeks back, we doubled the capacity of our servers, but it made absolutely no difference the next day.
Improve the quality of our ebook outputs - It's a huge challenge to take an author's single source file and convert it into nine reasonably good quality ebook formats. In order to accomplish this, we require authors and publishers to upload simpler files, and simple often means fewer features, like tables of contents that don't support internal links. In the coming year, working in partnership with our authors, publishers, technology providers and formatting partners, we plan to continue raising the quality of our ebook files so together, we can better serve our customers.
Build greater respect for indie authors and publishers - I've noticed a dramatic change among authors and industry watchers over last two years. Self-publishing, indie publishing or whatever you want to call it, is finally starting to earn the respect it deserves. We have a long way to go, however. There are still quite a few naysaying anklebiters and loud pundits who continue to diss and dismiss the the very idea of an independently published ebook. Join with me as we either help to open their eyes to the indie publishing revolution, or show them the path to the tar pits.
Bring reverted-rights books back to life at Smashwords - Several well-known authors, including some best-sellers such as Anne Frasier and Mark Sullivan, have published their reverted rights books on Smashwords. Each time a well-respected author - indie or traditionally published - publishes and distributes with Smashwords, it brings further legitimacy to the indie author movement.
Attract more authors and publishers to the Smashwords community - Every new author or publisher brings with them more readers which benefit all other Smashwords authors and publishers. I like virtuous cycles. Therefore, to best serve our current authors, publishers and readers, it's important we attract more authors, publishers and readers. This brings me to my next item...
Do a better job of getting the word out - The blogosphere has been incredibly supportive of Smashwords this year, and as a result we're fairly well known among the digerati of tech savvy authors and publishers (though just because people have heard about us, doesn't mean they understand us). Yet Smashwords is still relatively unknown to the vast majority of the world's authors and publishers. One reason, I suspect, is that we've received essentially no press coverage from the mainstream media. Smashwords has never been covered or even mentioned by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Associated Press, Time Magazine or Newsweek. Why not? Simply put, we need to do a better job of getting the story out there. From my perspective, there's a massive yet quiet revolution taking place, driven by the simultaneous rise of indie publishing and the rise of ebooks. Smashwords is but one small piece of the story. We'll do our best to help the story break into the mainstream this year, for the benefit of our authors, publishers and readers.
Help publishing save itself? - When I first started Smashwords, I had this crazy idea that Smashwords could help large, established publishers survive and thrive in the coming ebook revolution. Based on continued missteps among large publishers, I'm beginning to question whether or not these publishers can be saved, or should be saved. It's sad, really, because I'm continually impressed by the smart, generous and passionate professionals I meet in publishing and I'd hate to see them working their next jobs as greeters at Walmart. But when the senior corporate executives of these publishers continue to handcuff their customers with DRM-infected ebooks; withhold ebook releases to protect hardcover sales; and continue to artificially inflate ebook prices above what customers want to pay; it makes me question whether or not publishing can right its wayward ship before it capsizes. I'm an eternal optimist, so I'm hopeful the big whigs in NY can turn course in 2010 before it's too late.
When we launched 19 months ago, a lot of people didn't know what to make of us. Because we initially focused exclusively on serving self-published authors, some doubters tried to tar us with the same brush as some of the other companies who came before us. I hope some of the initial skeptics are coming around now.
2009 was a great year for Smashwords. We launched our affiliate program, we expanded our platform to support publishers, and we opened up new retail distribution opportunities for our authors and publishers. But our work is just beginning. I'm looking ahead two, five and ten years, and I see much opportunity to better serve our authors, publishers and partners.
My warm thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers and other publishing industry friends who supported us this year and honored us with their faith and trust.
Last but not least, my sincere thanks to Bill Kendrick, our CTO. Bill is a magician, and we could not have accomplished everything in 2009 without his brilliant wizardry.
Happy new year, everyone!