Friday, December 31, 2021

Smashwords 2021 End of Year Review and 2022 Preview

Welcome to my 2021 Smashwords year in review and 2022 preview.  

Wow.  Our 14th year of business operation.  Thank you Smashwords authors, publishers, readers, and channel partners!

Don't miss my annual companion post, 2022 Publishing Predictions – Indies Take Center Stage.

As I mentioned in my predictions post today, 2021 was another good year to be an indie publisher, due in part to pandemic-inspired changes to reading habits.  The higher sales levels many authors experienced in 2020 continued into 2021, and will likely continue into 2022 for the reasons I outline in the other post. 

What have we been up to at Smashwords in 2021?  Here are some highlights, as well as some broad stroke hints of where we’re focused for 2022.

Smashwords 2021 Milestones

Books published – We now publish 590,200 books; up 6.0% from 556,800 books at the end of 2020.

Words published – We now publish 20.8 billion words, up 1.1 billion from 19.7 billion a year ago; representing a 5.5% increase.

Authors served – We’re now serving 160,568 authors and publishers; up 4.2% from 154,100 a year ago.

Smashwords Presales - Our patent-pending Smashwords Presales feature, which we launched in December 2019, continues to gain traction with early adopters.  The number of presale events we hosted increased 25% in 2021 compared to the full year of 2020, and dollar sales volume increased 49%.  This growth is off of a relatively small base, but I like the direction things are headed and look forward to growing this further in 2022.  Thank you Smashwords authors for your feedback on those automated surveys we send you each time you set up and complete your presale event.  Your feedback will guide future development.

Smashwords Store – Even though it’s a small portion of our business, our store recorded its fifth consecutive year of increased sales.  Thank you authors and customers!

Smashwords Highlights for 2021

Series promotion – In February, we added a new email alert that allows customers of the Smashwords Store to be notified when a new book is published into a series they’ve previously expressed interest in (purchasing an earlier book of the series, or by adding one or more books in that series to their Wishlist in their Smashwords Library).

Sales reporting – In March, we introduced weekly email alerts to inform authors and publishers about new sales reports from the retailers.  In October, based on author feedback, we updated the emails to link to a pre-sorted version of our Sales & Payments Report page, making it easy to identify the recent sales.  Also in October, we updated the sales reports to display the country location (anonymized to protect customer privacy, of course!) of Smashwords Store customers, when known.

More book categories – Throughout the year, we added many more book subcategory options for romance and erotica authors.  The new subcategories increase discoverability.

Faster deliveries to OverDrive – At Smashwords, we often deliver you book updates to retailers and library partners within minutes of you making an update, assuming the channel partner is able to accept updates at such frequency.  In March, following OverDrive’s green light, we moved from a once-weekly delivery schedule to one per day.

New tutorial videos – In the last quarter of this year, we began rolling out new tutorial videos to make the tools and capabilities of the Smashwords Store and publishing platform more accessible to authors and customers.  For an example, check out the tutorial you'll find within your Dashboard's Series Manager tool (labeled “tutorial” over to the right).  More tutorials are planned for 2022.

More control over series pages – One of the neat things about publishing a series at Smashwords is that we create a dedicated sales page for your series in the Smashwords Store.  In October, we updated the series pages so authors and publishers can control the default sort order of how their titles are displayed to customers.  For example, if the series books can be read in any order, some authors may choose to list their newest book first.  This feature was suggested by a Smashwords author.  Keep those suggestions coming!

New upload interface – After almost 14 years with the same single-page upload form for publishing ebooks, in October we began beta testing an all-new upload interface.  It adopts a more modern, multi-step approach.  It’s more intuitive, and it integrates ISBN assignment into the publishing process so you don’t need to do that as a second step after you publish.  Most exciting to us is what’s beneath the surface.  The new publishing interface’s back end is completely redesigned, and sets the foundation for us to add additional cool features in the future.  The new interface is now live and available to everyone.  We will maintain access to the original classic interface for a period of time so Smashwords authors and publishers have time to  transition their customary workflow to the new interface.

What’s Coming in 2022

Preorders coming to the Smashwords Store – This is big news for us, and this here is my first public disclosure of it.  As most Smashwords authors and publishers know, we’ve been huge advocates of preorders as an essential best practice ever since we introduced the option back in 2013.  Books that are listed first as preorders sell significantly more copies!  Yet we never had the ability to accept preorder orders from customers at the Smashwords Store.  That will change in 2022.  We’re aiming for a Q2 launch.  If we complete the project earlier we’ll certainly try to get it to you sooner.

eBook Publishing - On the ebook publishing side of things, we’ll continue to direct our energy toward initiatives we believe will yield our authors and publishers the greatest gains in terms of sales opportunity, time-savings, and ease of use. 

Distribution - On the distribution side of our business, we’re always looking for opportunities to help our retail and library partners sell more of your books.  We’re also always looking for opportunities to expand your distribution.

Smashwords Store - We're planning to make the store more store-like.  Right now the Smashwords website serves as the front end to both a publishing platform and a store.  We know this is confusing to customers of the store – the people who buy books – so we’re planning to streamline the experience in 2022.  

Surprises - Surprises are fun, so we'll have a big surprise or two planned for 2022.


Thank you Smashwords authors, publishers, readers, retailers, libraries, and industry friends for your continued trust, support, and partnership.  It’s our sincere honor to work with you.

Happy New Year!


Inkstain said...

We hope everything you're working on delivers for Smashwords and authors alike, and we look forward to a fresh-looking 'storefront' that allows readers of all tastes to see more than the bestselling romance covers, (which sad to say, puts off other people who buy books from independent stores and not grocery shelves.) Sincerely, all kudos and admiration to the romance authors who've paved the way for so many of us, we have romance titles ourselves up here, but it would be fairer and in the long run, build a broader reputation for Smashwords, to have a storefront page that didn't require other readers to hunt and peck down narrowing trails before they even realized all the treasure waiting to be found in other categories besides romance.
Thanks to Matt T for special attention this year!!! Ten years on from being a Smashwords author, we offer our deepest thanks again to Mark Coker for giving all of us an Amazon free option.

Eamonn Murphy (Writer) said...

I think you could increase business considerably - and stop losing authors - by updating the Meatgrinder to something more user friendly, like the system they have at Draft2Digital, for example. Apart from that, good show.

Unknown said...

Great to see all these improvements. Well done and keep soaring high.
During the beta testing of the new publish workflow, I saw something like opting out of the SW storefront for a given title (?). The final version does not have this. This would be great for some of us.
On the daily sale report dashboard, I would have to see a month-to-date and year-to-date filter. This is great for quick reporting for us.
Otherwise, we love SW and all the awesome services provided!!

George Phillies said...

Perhaps it is a secret, but how many copies of your half-million+ books are being sold. I see people claiming that ebook sales in copy count are collapsing, but do not see that with my admittedly miniscule sales here and elsewhere.

Ruth Ann Nordin said...

I love the pre-order announcement! Thanks for working on it!