Tag Archives: Mark Coker

Comments on Mark Coker’s Smashword Survey

Mark Coker’s Smashwords survey is in. Smashwords is a distribution service for ebooks. You download a Word document and their famous meat grinder formats and distribute your work to a wide variety of vendors. IBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are the bigger names. Smashwords is in competition with Amazon so they distribute very little there. The author gets an 85% royalty. 127,000 authors with 437,200 ebooks comprise the current Smashwords catalog.

Sales of 87.5% make up up the fiction category and of that 45% are romance writers. So, romance dominates Smashword’s sales. Only 3% of the top 200 bestsellers are science fiction while 73% are romance.

Pre-orders appear to be a new marketing tool to use to launch a new book. However, only 12.23% of books released during the survey were born of preorders. In the top 1,000 sellers, 61% used preorders, so this is a marketing tool to consider.

Box sets are also becoming popular. 90% are single author box sets. Multi-author sets are also being used, but I wonder how the royalties are divided out. You can expand your readers through other authors’ promotions, but don’t expect to reap a rich monetary reward. And taxes could be a headache.

When studying pricing, free still gets the most downloads by a wide margin, but $3.99, $9.99 and $4.99 yields the most earnings. It was interesting that $3.99 and $4.99 got more downloads by a slim margin over $.99.

The average word count for the top 70 best selling romance books was 113,803. So the longer book is still popular. That surprised me. This may depend on genre.

Having a series helps sales. Top best sellers show they are likely to come from a series. A series with a free starter book boosts sales of the whole series. In the top 100, a free starter book increased sale of the series by 80%.

Data on title length once again urged authors to keep it fairly short. Twenty-four characters titles are in the top 100 while 37.11 characters were in the wider top 1000 range. So those with less sales had longer titles on average. There are always outliers.

And where did Smashwords sell the most? The United States garnered 69% of the sales, far out-distancing all other countries. Lesser sales were in Great Britain (8%), Canada (11%) and Australia (5%). This jives with my numbers, except that I have a strong Australian contingency.

Hi Ya Mates!

All of this is interesting to me as an author, but I write science fiction. For years, I tried to sell on Smashwords (they call it “going wide”), but I don’t sell there. To be eligible for Amazon Select, you cannot list on Smashwords, or any other platform. This has created tension between Amazon and Smashwords, but I decided to go where I can sell well, and that is Amazon. Amazon helps with innovative marketing and has a bigger pool of readers. The bottomline is that I sell so much better there.

Still, this data gives food for thought on several ways any author can market and provides a good snapshot of one section of the ebook market.

For you data geeks, here’s the link: http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords-survey-2017.html

This week I’m reporting on Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey. While I have been enjoying the Expanse Series, both the books and the television show, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen in this book.

A violent group of Belters called the Free Navy has cobbled together black market spaceships and reigned terror on Earth by throwing rocks that have seriously damaged the planet. In addition, they are attacking colony ships headed out through the gate to the new worlds and plundering their supplies to redistribute to Belter communities. So it is up to James Holden’s crew of the Rocinante to stop them. Politics make former enemies unite (Mars, Earth and others) in order to combat this threat. Be ready for several twists and turns.

In this book, the protomolecule takes a backseat to a Belters and inner system war. It felt like an interlude that cleaned up a problem brought out in the previous book. This was not my favorite book in the series, but still I consider it a good read, considering the dearth of good new science fiction out there. The usual characters appear and a number of other voices are given center stage. Marcos Inarcos, leader of the Free Navy, (and Naomi’s former lover) is seen as one who champions the oppressed Belters, but then turns strident and vicious, not caring who or how many get killed as he grasps for power. Naomi’s son, Carlos, also heads up several chapters. At first, he is his father’s right hand man and believes in the “cause,” but gradually as the losses accumulate, and Marco’s excuses for them sound lame, he begins to wonder if his father really has a plan or the Belter’s welfare at heart.

Orbit has bought three more books for the series, so it should be interesting how Corey (Abraham and Franck) continue the overall plot.

For those readers who want an update on my upcoming book, Somewhat Alien, it is in the works. I’m still waiting on a Beta reader and the delivery of a proof copy. Because of that, my publishing date has been pushed out a week or two. I want to make sure this one is polished and complete as it is one of my favorite stories. Lots of good stuff happens, and I want it to be an exciting adventure for you.

So stay tuned.


Filed under Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Beta Readers, ebook marketing, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, Space opera

Gazing into the Future of Publishing

crystal ball






Recently Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, made several interesting predictions about the future of publishing that I want to share with you. A few of them I mentioned in last weeks’s post and gazing into my crystal ball, I would like to further these comments.

While large traditional publishing houses are rethinking strategy, smaller, nimbler publishers are springing up all over. Because I plan to self publish a number of books, I established my own company, Digital Imagination Publishing. This way I have total control and can change price, product and marketing as I see fit. Total control. Yahoo.

Altered Carbon I can update my books at any time, and if I use CreateSpace as my printer, it’s free. One of the things a new Indie author has to make sure of is that his book looks professional. Please Indie authors take time to study six or seven professionally done books before you throw yours out into the world. The last two books written by Indie authors I have read were embarrassing. This gives Indie authors a bad name, and indeed, I am getting frustrated with the sloppiness.

Having said that, no book is perfect, no matter who publishes it. That includes mine, but I continually polish and perfect them in order to offer the reader the best experience I am able.

What most Indie authors need is a reasonably priced array of services where he or she can select what aspect of the production they most need help with. Does he need an edit? Maybe formatting is her weak spot, or marketing. Some just want to write and let others handle the rest of production.

Unfortunately several big publishers have hurt themselves buying vanity presses. Penguin recently bought Author’s Solutions (AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, BookTango, etc.) These houses offer overpriced services to unwitting authors. They show smiling people who will publish your book and then take your money. Lots of it. Their advertising is compelling, but be careful what you pay for or sign up for.

Publishing “Must become not what can the author do for the publisher, but how can the publisher serve the author, or what can they do that the author cannot do or will not do on his own.”


To this end, Mark suggests free self serve platforms offered by the publishers.

Well…good luck with that.

However, with all this bashing of legacy publishers, the bottom line is well…what keeps the publishers solvent. They are a business. They must make money or go out of business.

And, I think there will always be authors wanting to try the “traditional” way first. The cache is still there, and someone will be close by holding the writer’s hand as they do the work for them. The new “vanity press ” may just be the old traditional houses.

“Platform will be king.” Having a platform is now critical to getting acceptance by most large publishers. Added to signings and known avenues of selling, social media, breath of distribution and collaborations will be key for a successful career.

Finity's EndTo avoid the high cost of services, authors will band together and share the work load, divvying out to each other, according to individual strengths and willingness to do certain work.

As an example: Bookview Cafe is a co-op of authors with varying skill sets. A computer savvy author continually updates the website, a professional editor trades off her editing skills and a known author such as Ursula LeGuin adds her name to attract marketing attention. Books can be bought right off the site. Around forty authors pool together their knowledge and resources helping each other be successful.

Goodreads is another website where authors and readers are brought together.

Coker says in order to be successful, an author will need to “write more books.” A one book author has a hard marketing effort, but if he has several, and especially a series, then if the readers like one, they tend to buy the others.

This is my cunning strategy…besides I love to write about the Alysian Universe and the characters in it.

Caught in Time Cover1.1 2


For in the end, “content trumps all.” No one checks out who published the book when making a buying decision. They check out the lists, blogs, read something on Twitter or Facebook, become attracted by a cover or listen to a friend’s recommendation. They read what it’s about in the summaries and apply their own desires for the type of writing that interests them.

I know that if it’s about golf, then my husband will be interested and look further into what a book may offer.

Image 2If it’s science fiction, then I’m checking out the storyline and evaluating whether it might be something I would like.

Coker calls it “desire and awareness,” saying these are the two key ingredients that will be necessary for future successful sales.


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Filed under ebook marketing, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, Self-publishing, The future of publishing