Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smashwords Authors Experience Blowout Christmas at Barnes & Noble

It looks like it was a blowout Christmas for Smashwords authors at Barnes & Noble.

I'm looking at the early sales results for December 25 and December 26 for the titles Smashwords distributes to Barnes & Noble. For these first two days, sales are running about 225% (125% higher) of the daily sales average for November through mid-December (12/29 update: sales are remaining strong. 12/28 sales, three days after Christmas, were 260% of previous 30 day rate, or up 160%).

While it's too early to draw definitive conclusions, I think the numbers speak well for B&N headed into January.

FREE Smashwords books were also popular with B&N customers, racking up hundreds of thousands of downloads in two days. At the current download rate, our authors with free books will yield close to 10 million downloads in the next 30 days from B&N alone.

In the next couple days I should have sales results from the Apple iBookstore, where Smashwords authors were already enjoying a surge in sales over the last two months. Early reports of iOS activations (the operating system for the Apple iPhone and iPad) indicate Santa stuffed a lot of stockings with iPhones and iPads too.

The numbers also speak well for the importance of authors maintaining broad, uninterrupted distribution to multiple ebook retailers. Earlier this month, Amazon played the Grinch who stole Christmas when it convinced thousands of authors to remove approximately 65,000 books from Amazon's competing retailers two weeks before Christmas. Thankfully, only about 5,000 of those books came from Smashwords authors, with most Smashwords authors heeding my warnings (here at the Smashwords blog and also at the Huffington Post) and their own gut instinct that exclusivity is generally a dangerous idea. I wonder how many of these authors will feel duped? I imagine some will do well by their decision, but I suspect most will have shot themselves in the foot.

If the patterns we observed last year hold true again, we'll see a massive stepping up of the sales rates across all retailers in the first few days following Christmas, followed by a week or so of moderation, and then a new normal going forward that is significantly higher than the sales rate for the weeks and months immediately preceding Christmas.

Here are the top 20 Smashwords bestsellers at Barnes and Noble for the two day period of December 25 and 26:

Smashwords Top 20 at B&N (total dollars), December 25-26

  1. Demon Dark - Penelope Fletcher
  2. Fate (My Blood Approves Series #2) - Amanda Hocking
  3. Wisdom (My Blood Approves Series #4) - Amanda Hocking
  4. Arousing Love - M. H. Strom
  5. My Blood Approves (My Blood Approves Series #1) - Amanda Hocking
  6. Mud and Gold - Shayne Parkinson
  7. Voodoo Kiss (Ancient Legends) - Jayde Scott
  8. Shotgun Groom - Ruth Ann Nordin
  9. Fires of Prophecy: The Morcyth Saga Book Two - Brian S. Pratt
  10. The Witch's Ladder - Dana Donovan
  11. A Job From Hell (Ancient Legends) - Jayde Scott
  12. The Queen's Blade II - Sacrifice - T C Southwell
  13. Immortal - Lauren Burd
  14. Demon Day - Penelope Fletcher
  15. Settling the Account - Shayne Parkinson
  16. Doomed (Ancient Legends) - Jayde Scott
  17. A Second Chance - Shayne Parkinson
  18. Warrior Priest of Dmon-Li: The Morcyth Saga Book Three - Brian S. Pratt
  19. The Mists of Sorrow: The Morcyth Saga Book Seven - Brian S. Pratt
  20. The Queen's Blade III - Invisible Assassin - T C Southwell
Congrats authors, and a warm welcome to the millions of readers who will discover and enjoy Smashwords books this holiday season.


Action Writer said...

KUDOS and ^5 to the top twenty. What a nice Christmas present to see your name on that list!!

Kate Burns said...

Seconded! Merry Christmas to all my fellow Smashers, and to Mark Coker and all you wonderful staff.

Elena DeRosa said...

I had just tweeted today that my December B&N sales, for "Fractured Facade" were running twice that of Amazon's. Glad I didn't shut out all those Nook readers.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I don't feel duped because I WASN"T.

Do I regret having sold a thousand more novels as an Amazon Select author than I could have even hoped to sell with Smashwords?

Short answer.


Dovetail Public Relations said...

JR, glad it's working for you. As I mentioned in the post, I'm sure some authors will do well. I'm happy for you and the others who benefit. In the aggregate, however, with a $500,000 pot carved 100,000 ways, and with small number of authors accruing the most benefit, I question if it's going to help most participating authors. Those 100,000 books in the aggregate would have earned more if they we're fully distributed to all the retailers. I understand there are other benefits such as pricing books at free, yet every other retailer except Amazon allows this already, yet Amazon demands exclusivity. Other Amazon authors get pricing at free via price matching. Once thousands of authors are doing free at Amazon, the benefits will dilute. Grab it while you can.

Shayne Parkinson said...

Wonderful news, Mark.

Barnes & Noble readers have been very good to me - seeing all three of my non-free books on that list makes me realise just how good!

Roger said...

Good to see the Smashwords approach holding up so well.

Mine aren't anywhere near the top 20 but with more sales on B&N than anywhere else the Amazon exclusive option was a non starter for me.

You and the team are doing great work there, Mark.

V.A. Jeffrey said...

B&N has definitely been good to me this month! Nook owners rock!

Lindsay Buroker said...

I upload most of my ebooks directly to PubIt, because I like having stats updated daily and money paid every month, but I've definitely had an uptick in sales at B&N this month too (despite raising prices on my novels). I've been wondering if there's less competition over there now that so many have pulled out.

I'm having my best month ever at Amazon too. It can be done without joining KDP Select.

(As far as I can tell, the KDP Select success stories come from a loophole that's being exploited right now -- ebooks downloaded when free get counted as sales when Amazon is calculating its rankings for paid books. So ebooks that get thousands of free downloads go off free and skyrocket up the paid charts, as if all those free downloads had been actual purchases. This gives us previously unknown books suddenly popping into the Top 500 where they get a ton of visibility (and sales). I'll be shocked if Amazon doesn't fix that soon.)

Nancy Peske said...

Anyone else notice that there's no nonfiction on the list?
I think it's helpful to separate out fiction from nonfiction as we look at eBooks and their platforms. The strategies for success may need to be different.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Mark: Hmm. First off, there are only 65,000 books in the Prime Lending Library, and not all of those are there through the Select program. So I'm not sure where the 100,000 number you've cited a couple of times is coming from.

I'm also a bit surprised that Smashwords, especially being used as an aggregator, has such a small market share if only 5% of the books being pulled are coming from Smashwords authors. What venues are all these other 95,000 books being sold through that they aren't represented through Smashwords as well? I want in on those!

Plus, carving the pot across the entire cross-section of the Library is not how the program works. You seem to be deliberately disseminating false information to try to hoodwink your readers. The distribution funds will be shared equally across all the books that have been borrowed based on the number of times each book is borrowed. Some indie authors are reporting borrows in the 100s. My own Select book has been borrowed 83 times. A large number of books will likely not be borrowed at all as there are only a finite number of Prime members, and books that weren't selling well before being put into the Select program aren't going to entice people to borrow them either. All to say we don't yet know what the final payout will be.

To say "those 100,000 books in the aggregate would have earned more if they we're fully distributed to all the retailers" is a terribly premature statement to be making. Historical sales, price, velocity and the ultimate compensation payment are the only indicators that will determine on a book-by-book basis whether being exclusive in the Select program is more or less successful than being distributed across multiple channels.

I respect what Smashwords has done, and I will continue to use Smashwords for the books in my inventory where it makes sense. But ultimately, this is a business decision that we all must make, and for some books the right decision, for now, is to be with Select.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Phoenix, I corrected the number to show 65,000. I recall reading a number somewhere else a number near 100,000, but since I'm unable to recall the source or verify it, I'll go with 65,000 until corrected otherwise. My mistake. I'm trying to help people, not mislead them. I think Amazon's playing the Pied Piper here. You're welcome to disagree.

The pot is $500,000. Even if you divide that between 65,000 books, you'll still come up with a power curve distribution of funds where a small number of authors do insanely well and a large number do less well. Nothing wrong with that - it's the marketplace in action. Yes, there are possible other benefits more difficult to predict such as sales rank authors might accrue, yet the only basis of lost opportunity authors can utilize is backward looking, not forward looking because they can't measure what might have happened if they remained fully distributed.

We know from our experience that books break out at different retailers at different times, and often without reason. Lost opportunity.

I wonder how the booming sales at B&N would change the cost/benefit calculus of the authors who enrolled? For the third day running, B&N sales are running more than double the preceding 30-day runrate. KDP Select books are missing out on this.

I don't know where Amazon's other 60,000 books are coming from. Only Amazon and the authors know that. I don't know what our market share is as a distributor. We're the most transparent of any distributor with our numbers. If anyone questions our numbers, the books are live and countable from the home page. As of this moment, we have over 92,000 titles live in our catalog.

I stand by my contention that exclusivity is a bad idea in the long run. It saps indies of their independence. In the short run, I'm sure some authors will benefit.

Also keep in mind my only beef with the Amazon program is its exclusivity requirement. I'm not criticizing the authors who are experimenting with it. I've shared my reservations, and folks are welcome to act as they choose. Browsing the Kindleboards, it's clear that this is a contentious subject and some of the authors who enrolled in KDP Select somehow believe I think they're idiots. Not the case.

Kyle W. Bell said...

I briefly considered joining the Select program for two of my new books. $500,000 seems like a lot of money until it gets divided by tens of thousands of authors. Ultimately, it makes little sense to give up Apple distribution (my top-selling channel ahead of even Amazon) in favor of a program that tries to monopolize the market.


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Such great news!

Vanessa Finaughty said...

Well done to everyone! I'm not surprised to see T.C. Southwell's books amongst the top 20!

Julie P said...

Having a house full of nooks, if it isn't in epub format, I won't buy it. Of course an author needs to do what is best for them, but, to not offer it in anything but Amazon's format stinks for those of us who'd like to read the books.

Thank you Smashwords. I am a loyal subscriber, book buyer both from you and B&N. I bought 6 books last week from B&N as the titles I wanted went on sale!

Unknown said...

Great post, Mark!

And thanks for this scoop!

No KDP Select Exclusivity for this chick!!!

I'm also doing over the moon superfab on Nook, Sony, and iPad via Smashwords!!!

And was also a B&N Top 100 via PubIt for almost three weeks this month!!!

In fact, this last quarter I've broken into the multiple thousands of dollars earned via Smashwords Channels, and I'm thrilled!

Happy New Year, Y'All!!!

Scott Price said...

Wow what a list of words from the top selling titles; demon, blood, priest, hell, witch and voodoo! I guess we know what is hot these days... I stand by my project and its uniqueness and benevolence ;-)


Hanz Medina said...

Since you said the download will be reaching 10 million in 30 days, should it be a good time to ride and go crazy with marketing?

Hanz Medina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Blandly said...

thanks, Mark
and Happy New Year to all my fellow smashword authors--good luck with the mistletoe--me new resolution--write more books

John Blandly said...

Happy New Year fellow/felliste ebooksters

DesGreene said...

Well done Mark and all staff at Smashwords! Another good year! Wishing you and all indies a great 2012!

jambalian said...

I for one have decided not to use the Select option simply because it meant pulling out of the other markets. My solitary book (so far) isn't wooing the crowds with Smashwords distributors, but then I haven't been marketing it as much as I could. That changed with Mark's post, and I will be pushing for sales on Apple and B & N as much as I have been on Amazon.

Smahswords gave me the initial step into the eBook market, and for that I will be eternally grateful - and loyal!

Conrad Powell said...

Mr. Coker:
I am an author with smashwords. In 2011 I sold 471 books through Smashwords distribution to Barnes and Nobles. I have yet to receive payment and it appears a disregard for my attempts to get a proper answer from the Smashwords team. On my reports it only says N/A under the columns for pricing and accrued royalties. I would like my royalties.
Conrad Milton Powell (email contactmylawyer@gmail.com)

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Conrad, you're counting free ebook downloads as sales. If you click to your Dashboard's Sales and Payments report, you'll find a full accounting of what's been sold or downloaded where. You currently have a payable balance of $24.84, which may increase as sales reports come in from retailers. For more on how to track sales, view what's owed, and to view payment schedules and terms, see our Royalties & Payment Schedules FAQ.

John Dwyer said...

Great to see Smashwords authors on the B&N Bestsellers list. I'd love to know how Penelope and other writers do so well on the Nook? My book High Road to Tibet is doing very well on Amazon but not getting much love on Nook. Any tips on promoting Smashwords books on Nook?
Thanks and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Anonymous said...

To date I have sold more ebooks through Smashwords' distribution to other sites in three months than all year on Amazon. I about ready to close my Amazon account. My future titles may be available only on my site and SW markets, as it looks like PubIt has tanked, too.

Giselle London said...

I don't know why so many people are jumping on Mark--he's trying to give us an alternate view of Amazon's Select program. Yes, he has a horse in this race, but I think he's being fairly even-handed in his treatment of the issue.

I think the authors who do well on Select will be the same authors who were already doing well. And after going free with a book and seeing zero benefits (no sales bump, no reviews, nothing) and seeing some authors suffer various problems after going free, I've decided no more going free for me.

And if you don't want to go free, Select has no benefits. If they threw in something else, like a bump in royalties, maybe I'd reconsider.

My sales from Amazon are only about 35% of my sales, so I'm not interested in killing off 65% of my income. And before you think I'm in love with SW because most of my sales are there...they're not. I only see about 10% of my sales from SW (still waiting to hear from premium distributors, but I doubt that will change SW's position in last place for sales).

But even though SW is my least-selling outlet, I still love SW. Why? The meatgrinder, the ability to distribute to other outlets, and the more welcoming "feel" that you get as an author. I feel like SW cares about and respects its authors far more than any other retailer.

Now if only SW had a better reporting setup, like All Romance Ebooks (the one thing they do best) then I'd really be in love with Smashwords. *cough* Hint, hint. *cough* You know, like the ability to see how many PAID sales, how many free, and how many free samples--all separate.


dana e donovan said...

I only briefly considered Amazon's offer. My books are doing well there now, and with one of them offered free (4500 + downloaded in the last 7 days) I suspect I would have done okay in the shared 500K pot. But as I said, they're doing well there and also doing well at Smashwords. (See # 10 in the top 20 B&N list on this blog)

Mark and the rest of the team at SM have done a good job helping me navigate the ebook publishing world, so I figure why rock the boat? I'm making money at SM. I'm making money at Amazon. It's all good. Thanks Mark!

Oh, and if it's not too shameless a plug, why don't you all see why my Detective Marcella Witch's series is doing so well. Download book one in the series, The Witch's Ladder, free with promo code JV92A available, of course, on Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/5845

Book two, Eye Of The Witch, is already free. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/5897