Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Usefulness of Smashwords

Something that has been weighing on my mind recently is the usefulness of using Smashwords for distribution of my self-published works. With Barnes and Noble and Kobo (two of the major distribution channels for Smashwords) both setting up their own avenues for authors to put up their titles, it's something to seriously consider. So, for the past year, I've been tracking the number of sales directly through Smashwords.

The charts below display the trends of Smashwords sales (red lines) compared to the number of Smashwords sample downloads (blue lines) for my three major works.

One thing I notice is that Smashwords users tend to do a lot of downloading, but not a lot of buying. My free download "Entrapment" (only available through Smashwords) just recently passed the 1000-download mark. My hope had been that the free sample would drive users to buy a copy of my other works. That really hasn't panned out as I'd hoped.

Now, for a comparison of sales via Smashwords to the sales made through B&N and Kobo:

For Seeker, the only "sales" made via Smashwords were free giveaways using coupon codes. Kobo sold half as many (but as full price), while no sales were made over at B&N.

 For The Cure, the only "sales" made via Smashwords were free givewaways. Kobo didn't sell a copy, but B&N still made seven times as many sales over Smashwords, and all of them were for money.

 For Death Brings Victory, Smashwords was the only spot that sold copies, and 80% of the sales were for full price. I will point out that it took several months for this title to show up over on B&N, which may be skewing the numbers a bit.

That said, it certainly does look like most Smashwords users are out for free stuff only. So, perhaps the thing to do would be to use them only for the sites where I can't distribute books myself, but go directly through Kobo and B&N myself for each title. In fact, I've recently posted up Death Brings Victory over at B&N using the PubIt we'll see how it does in a head-to-head competition. Someday soon, maybe I'll do the same thing over at Kobo.


Big Mike said...

Excellent and informative info, bud. Like you I've been analyzing the freebie program at amazon (well we are both engineers, g). I had heard so many positive posts on the writer forum networks, and everyone rushed to try the KDP themselves. Unfortunately, now many are reporting dismal results. For example, out of two free story runs, there were about 4K downloads total. After six months, I've noticed no significant increase in site visits or sales. I have a hypothesis I'll share in an upcoming TWV post. Bottomline - You are right on. Letting them sample your voice to perk interest is a good idea, but the perceived results and ROI don't appear to be there. That populace seems to be strictly into freebies. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

T. M. Hunter said...

I've actually done a piece over on my blog that covered my own KDP Select experience. The trouble with KDP Select is that even if you do end up with a number of additional sales, you're cutting out entire segments of readers who may be using their Nooks or Kobo devices. Heck, with The Cure, I ended up selling twice as many copies through Barnes and Noble than I did through Amazon for all of 2012. That would have been dumb to isolate myself only to Amazon's KDP Select program.