Sell More eBooks – Tips from Smashwords Annual Survey

July 8, 2014

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, the world’s largest eBook distributor, recently presented Smashwords annual survey on eBook sales at the RT Booklovers convention in New Orleans.  In this third annual survey, Coker presented valuable information about eBook trends and sales.  The data included: over $25 million in customer purchases  aggregated across Smashwords retailers including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, the Smashwords.com store, Sony (now closed), Diesel (closed), Oyster, Scribd, Kobo, public libraries and others.

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Key findings in this year’s survey:

The ebook sales power curve is extremely steep – This isn’t a surprise, but for the first time we share some numbers along the curve (see the slides in the Series section).  A few titles sell fabulously well and most sell poorly.  An incremental increase is sales rank is usually matched by an exponential increase is sales.  Despite the steep sales curve, a lot of Smashwords authors are earning good income from their books.  Your opportunity as a Smashwords author or publisher is to do those things that give you an incremental advantage so you can climb in sales rank.

Readers prefer longer ebooks – We observed this in the prior surveys.  Longer books sell better, and when you view the data through the prism of the power curve, it becomes clear why longer books give authors such a huge sales advantage.

Pricing – The highest earning indie authors are utilizing lower average prices than the authors who earn less, but this doesn’t mean that ultra-low prices such as $.99 are the path to riches.  $2.99 and $3.99 are the sweet spots for most of the bestsellers.

FREE still works great, but it’s losing some mojo – Free remains one of the most powerful book marketing tools because it makes it easier for readers to take a risk on an author brand that is unknown or untrusted.  Free ebooks, according to our data derived from iBooks downloads, generated 39 times more downloads on average during our survey period than books at any price.  Yet the effectiveness of free is down dramatically compared to our 2013 (91X) and 2012 (100X) survey results.  While there is still much untapped greenfield opportunity for indies to leverage free, I expect the effectiveness of free will continue to decline as more authors learn to take advantage of it.  If you’ve never utilized free, now’s the time to do so before your window of maximum opportunity closes further.

Preorders yield sales advantage – When we launched preorders in 2013, we knew anecdotally from our early alpha tests that preorders gave authors a sales advantage.  The 2014 Survey is the first time we’re able to share aggregated results, and the results are strongly suggestive that ebooks borne as preorders sell more copies and earn the author more money than books that don’t utilized preorders.  I think preorders today are where free was five years ago.  The first authors to effectively utilize preorders will gain the most advantage, just as the first authors to enter new distribution channels gain the most advantage.  Five years from now once all indies recognize that preorders are a no-brainer essential best practice, the effectiveness of preorders will decline.  Also revealed in the data is the fact that most Smashwords authors (and therefore, most indies) ARE NOT utilizing preorders yet despite our aggressive promotion of this exciting new tool.  The authors who heeded our advice, however, are reaping the rewards.

Series yield sales advantage – For the first time, we examine the performance of series books.  This new analysis is enabled by the fact that in September we launched Smashwords Series Manager which allows us to capture enhanced metadata on series.  The results are interesting!  Series books outsell standalone books.  We also look at the characteristics of series.  I’ll want to do more with series in our 2015 survey.

Best-performing series have longer books – Not a surprise, but the implications are significant.  If you imagine the power curve overlaid on the series data we share, you see why authors who write full-length books in their series have an advantage over authors who break books into smaller chunks.  Also interesting, we found series books under 50,000 words are especially disadvantaged.  This is not to say that you can’t become a bestseller writing shorter novellas.  Multiple Smashwords authors have had success here.  But what the data does tell me is that successful novella writers might achieve even greater success if they write full-length.  The data appears to suggest that series books under 50,000 words might create friction that makes readers incrementally less willing to buy.

FREE series starters pack a punch – This is a big deal.  I suspected this for a long time based on numerous authors’ results going back to Brian S. Pratt who was one of the first Smashwords authors to prove the effectiveness of free series starters, but the aggregated numbers now confirm it.  We found strong evidence that series that have free series starters earn more money for authors than series that do not have free series starters.  For the many Smashwords authors who are reluctant to experiment with free for fear it’ll devalue your books, now you’ve got the kick in the butt you need to give it a try.  All Smashwords retailers support free without restriction.

 

Source: Source of this information: http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/07/2014-smashwords-survey-reveals-new.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29


Memorial Day

May 26, 2014

To many, Memorial Day is a day off work or school, a time for family parties, grilling, and fun. For some, it marks the start of summer vacation season, Let us remember why we really celebrate this holiday.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil war to commemorate fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. By the 20th century, Memorial Day was extended to include all soldiers that died while in military service.

memorial day

Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day – November 11. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, Memorial Day honors the fallen. My family has a history of military service: father, uncle, great uncle were WW II vets, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great uncles were WW I vets, cousins in Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of those, one was lost – great uncle Robert in WW I. I will toast him today.

The United States lost many soldiers during wartime. Below is a list of the fallen in each major conflict. This does not include the unaccounted or small scale actions. Their sacrifice is no less significant than the major wars, but statistics are harder to list.

Major U.S. War U.S. Deaths

Iraq War 4,800
Afganistan 2,229
Gulf War 258
Vietnam War 58,209
Korean War 36,516
World War II 405,399
World War I 116,516
Civil War 625,000
American Revolutionary War 25,000

Total 1,273,927

Reference: http://www.statisticbrain.com/u-s-war-death-statistics/


While you are happy for a day off and enjoying your burgers and beer, remember why you are celebrating. One million two hundred and seventy three thousand, nine hundred and twenty-seven won’t make the party


Dragon’s Loyalty Award

April 21, 2014

Recently, I was given an award from Linda at http://naturerestoresme.wordpress.com – The Dragon’s Loyalty Award. I am touched that Linda thought of me – she is a good friend and wonderful person that I’ve had the fortune of meeting in person more than once – we happen to live 20 minutes or so from each other. Linda is a great nature photographer – something I aspire to be. She has a knack of catching the right shot at opportune moments. From flowers to birds to everything nature, Linda has captured it and shared her talents with us.

naturerestoresme.wordpress.com

I have met some wonderful people in the blogging world, either in-person or online. Linda, April, Mark, Rose, Caroline, and more. Blogging has truly made a difference in my life and opened my eyes to the world’s wonders. I am very thankful to WordPress and all associated with it.

The rules for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award are:

1. Display the award on your blog.

2. Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.

3. Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award.

4. Link your winners in the post and let them know of their being awarded.

5. Present seven interesting things about yourself.

Here are 7 odd things about moi:

Seven interesting things about myself:

1) I am a citizen of the United States and was at birth, but I was born in Dublin, Ireland. My father was teaching at Trinity College in Dublin when I came around.

2) I am not a picky eater at all, but can’t stand beets!

3) I do some things right handed (write, throw a baseball), but some left handed (coil a rope, shoot a rifle, use a keypad mouse on my laptop). When I played little league some years ago, I would bat from both sides.

4) In Chicago-land, one is either a Cubs fan (north side) or a White Sox fan (south side) and never the twain shall meet. I am a Chicago sports fan and am not particular to either side of town.

5) I am the default eulogy writer and giver for friends and family.  Linda helped me with a difficult one last year for a young man.

6) My first big job was as a home furnishings manager at one of the Marshall Field store chain.

7) My taste in music is very diverse. I’ve seen 100 or so major rock concerts, but enjoy classical as well. I’ve seen wonderful performances by the CSO, Eagles, Rolling Stones, and many more!

Thank you, Linda.  Very much.  :)


Windows XP Support Terminated

April 10, 2014

Are you still running Windows XP?  Many people and businesses still are in the U.S.  Microsoft terminated support for Windows XP effective on April 8, 2014.  No more critical updates and no more security patches leaving you potentially vulnerable to hackers.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself…

 

Windows XP Support Terminated.


WordPress.com Business Users: eCommerce Has Arrived!

February 26, 2014

homepreneurs:

This is big news for WordPress.com users!

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

We’re thrilled to announce that, starting today,  WordPress.com Business users can connect their sites to their online stores. With three leading ecommerce partners to choose from — Ecwid , Shopify , and ShopLocket — you can showcase, promote, and sell products to your customers directly from your site.

If you’re already a WordPress.com Business user, or are thinking of becoming one, here’s how the ecommerce feature will power your WordPress.com site.

A simple, hassle-free connection

Users with the WordPress.com Business upgrade already enjoy great features like live-chat support, unlimited storage, and free access to all our premium themes. Now, you can turn your site into a sleek online storefront, and let visitors shop from any post or page. The partners we’ve teamed up with — Ecwid, Shopify, and ShopLocket — all provide a smooth and secure ecommerce experience for you and your customers.

Connecting to your store is…

View original 286 more words


A Call To Arms For Illinois Senators

February 24, 2014

This letter was emailed to Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk, and Representative Duckworth over the weekend.  Neither Senator received the email, though it appears Rep. Duckworth did.  Hard copies are going to the these individuals today in the hope that someone in a position of power will help those of us afflicted with chronic conditions, including multiple sclerosis, ALS, Lupus, and many others.

The Honorable Richard Durbin
United States Senate
711 Hart Senate Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mark Kirk
United States Senate
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

The Honorable Tammy Duckworth
United States Representative
1701 E. Woodfield Rd., Suite 900
Schaumburg, IL 60173

Sirs and Madam:

Sometimes it is difficult to see real-world problems from different viewpoints and circumstances.  If you would indulge me for a moment, I’d like to tell you about my circumstances that affect many others in similar situations.

I live in Schaumburg, Illinois.  I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, attended St. Giles grade school and Oak Park River Forest High School.  My alma mater include College of DuPage and DePaul University.  I graduated with 4.0/4.0, and 3.9/4.0, respectively.  Growing up, our family of 4 (sister included) was an upper middle class family with many advantages: private primary school, nice house, travel, and numerous cultural events.  Both parents are PhDs and my father is a retired university professor and WW II veteran (Army, Pacific Theater).  My parents, even at advanced ages, are active and doing well.

I am not. I was unfortunately diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1991. I was 23.  Though still ambulatory, most of my walking is brief and with a cane.  I have little control over bowel and bladder functions as well as many other typical M.S. symptoms.  I am male and 46.

The last few years have been very difficult: I’ve been laid off twice (4 times total in my life) and unable to work a full-time job in recent years because of M.S.  Further, though I’ve had health insurance, I have paid over $34,000 out of pocket just for medical expenses the past two years.  Last year I made only $26,400 (from Long-Term Disability) – the majority paid for medical expenses.  I’ve had to raid my retirement plans (another $10,000 requested today on top of $25,000 in 2013) and over the weekend I sold much of my AT&T stock (from my days as an employee).   My furniture is either second hand (Craigslist) or ready-to-assemble furniture from IKEA.

Last month I lost my long-term disability plan, carried by The Hartford insurance (adjuster Natalie Bourne), despite my neurologist’s instructions to file for social security disability.  I did so immediately of course (with attorney Jeff Rabin), and my claim is somewhere in process (aka limbo).  The Hartford claims I am able to work full-time, despite my neurologist’s (Dr. Daniel Wynn) assertion to the contrary.  Thus far in 2014, I have earned $600.00.  An attorney (Mark DeBofsky) advised me that The Hartford may be in violation of ERISA but said his costs were more than I would recognize in return.  I am very fortunate to have these fine attorneys on my side.

I also signed up for an Affordable Care Plan in December of 2012 and received a partially subsidized plan with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.  I have since learned that BC/BS will not cover two prescriptions at all and the cost of my catheter supplies has escalated to $900.00 for 90 kits or 4 to 6 weeks supply.  I have zero income, except for a few dollars from published eBooks.  I have yet to fill my two most expensive prescriptions and have no idea if BC/BS will cover them at all.  I was advised not to earn more than $800.00 per month at the risk of losing any chance at SSDI. My mortgage payment is $825.00 on a very modest townhouse/rowhouse.

I was compelled to drop out of my master’s degree program at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.  This is a shame; I am three classes short of a master’s degree in Project Management.  Following a lay-off in 2009 from Wisconsin Tool and Stamping (I was MIS Manager), I volunteered for Illinois Worknet (Mohamed Faheem) and started a blog for the unemployed: http://homepreneurs.net with related social media outlets.  The various sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Twitter, et al. – have well over 100,000 visits, presumably from some of the many millions of unemployed and underemployed.  I have attempted to assist those that I can.

I have enough money to survive for perhaps two more months.  I will then default on all debt.  I do not live frivolously: I drive a 2006 Toyota Matrix and live in a simple townhouse in Schaumburg with a second floor that is useless because of stair climbing issues (falling).

I know I am not nearly the only one in this situation.  Many other friends and acquaintances with M.S. suffer from similar situations.  Several either have gone into bankruptcy, live even at older ages with parents, or are on the precipice of financial ruin every single day.  We have no savings, no cushion, and no room for error.  This is very disturbing for a country that has so many millionaires and other wealthy individuals.  I was born into a solidly upper middle class environment; I am now well below the poverty line.  I am educated, experienced, and intelligent, yet have virtually zero recourse.  Even with SSDI and a part-time job (an extra $1000 per month), I will not survive financially.

I have consulted with a bankruptcy attorney (Nate Pomrenze) and determined that even Ch. 7 bankruptcy (full liquidation) is unrealistic, insufficient, and inadequate.  Basic monthly living expenses – food, shelter, medication – are not wiped out in Ch. 7 and SSDI (even with a part-time job) is simply not enough to survive, given my condition.

In 2012, I attempted and was approved for a stem cell transplant at Northwestern University and Hospital in Chicago with Dr. Richard Burt in the hopes of arresting or reversing my condition.  Cigna medical (my insurance at that time) would not cover this still-experimental treatment and a third-party evaluator (appointed by Cigna) also ruled against my claim.  I would need to pay for the transplant from my own pocket: the cost – $120,000 at minimum.

Why do I send this email?  Each of you has faced difficult medical challenges in life for either yourselves or family members.  You have better coverage of course than I, and the means to pay for better treatments and therapy.  I represent an increasingly frustrated and “dismissed” segment of the population.  We are a growing group of Americans – 400,000 cases in the U.S. (200 new cases per week) with a life expectancy of 6 years less than healthy persons, according to a recent study by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Though we are ever-hopeful of better treatments, most have seen scant progress in 100 years.  We suffer indignities of falls, diapers, and struggle to get dressed and function every damn day.

Our hope for an affordable health care alternative has not occurred: as indicated for me, at least 2 prescribed medications are not covered at all in my Blue Cross “Gold” plan, and medical supplies are more than I can possibly afford (I boil catheters for multiple uses).  Our hope for a faster transition to SSDI or financial assistance is non-existent.  Instead, we spend what little we save over a lifetime with little hope for the future.  Any chance at potentially life-altering treatments is likely impossible with AFA.

I am not asking for your pity, condolences, or sympathy.  I am asking each of you to examine your own past medical situations and realize that millions in the United States are in similar circumstances (with MS, ALS, Lupus, et al.)  You are somewhat fortunate: Annette Funicello, Richard Pryor, David Lander, Montel Williams, Teri Garr, and myself, not as much.  I lay no claim to fame as the named individuals; I am Joe Average.  The Joe Average you represent and I put into office with my votes.  The Joe Average that coached kids’ little league baseball and basketball teams; the Joe Average that serves as an election judge; the Joe Average that worked his tail off to earn college degrees despite medical issues; the Joe Average that is shamed and regarded as irrelevant by society; the Joe Average that is facing homelessness in months.

I ask that you stand up and speak out for Joe Average and that you help me and others afflicted with better financial and medical options.  We are American citizens and we should be afforded the rights and dignity of every citizen and certainly more than non-citizens.  While I cannot speak for others, my father’s North American family history traces back to somewhere around 1790 when a Joseph Shaw arrived on American shores in an unknown ship.  My family fought in WW 1, WW 2, Viet Nam, and Gulf Wars.  We are free because they contributed and in some cases, paid the ultimate price.

There are two choices all face in some way: either we use our power and influence to help others survive and succeed, or dismiss emails, letters, issues and complaints as ranting from the disenfranchised.  It is my hope that my votes over the years were not in vain.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Most Sincerely,

Dion D. Shaw

P.S. Many dozens of people are bcc’d  on this email (lawyers, media, Illinois residents) and I will post it on Facebook and other social media outlets I control as well.  I am not afraid to speak up for myself, but I will not identify other individuals for reasons of privacy and no prior notification.  I attempted to email each of you at the same time, but two of three were returned from servers.  Rep. Duckworth seemed to go through.

P.P.S. This letter was posted on WordPress, Facebook, and Homepreneurs website over the weekend and distributed to various social media outlets as well.

America


Publish eBooks on Kindle – Step By Step Instructions

February 16, 2014

Previously, Homepreneurs detailed steps on how to publish eBooks on Smashwords.  Publishing eBooks is a simple way for a writer to make extra money by exposing their work to hundreds of millions of potential readers and/or buyers.  This is a great home business idea, provides a little extra money, and personal satisfaction too.  The process of self-publishing an eBook through Kindle is very simple.

eBooks will probably not be enough to earn a living.  In a previous post, I detailed the amount of money earned from SmashWords for 2013.  There are of course, exceptions to the rule.  Some authors do make a living from eBooks; are you the next exception?

This post covers publishing on Kindle, step-by-step.  Between SmashWords and Kindle, a large portion of the digital publishing market is available.to you, the writer.  Both services are free, so why not take a chance?  You can always publish under a pseudonym to avoid potential complications or issues.

Kindle Reader

Kindle Reader

Read the rest of this entry »


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