Smashwords 2015 Annual Survey Reveals That Freebies Still Work, and Other Insights

8556682467_f650f29803_bFor the past several years, Smashwords has released an annual report which summarizes the state of indie ebook scene, as seen through the ebooks distributed by Smashwords. Past reports have helped identify the shifting ebook price sweet spotdemonstrated the value of pre-orders, and offered other insight into the ever-changing ebook market.

The report is usually released in the summer about the same time as the RT Booklovers conference. This year’s report is about 6 months late, but the data hasn’t grown stale due to the delay.

The report has been released on Slideshare as a set of slides, and I have embedded it below. Some of the highlights include:

  • Pre-orders are still important (two thirds of SW’s top-selling titles started as pre-orders).
  • $3.99 is still the pricing sweet spot (for the third year running) and
  • $1.99 is the poison pill of sales (for the fourth year in a row, $1.99 was a black hole in terms of overall earnings)
  • Freebies still work to build readership (especially when the first book in a series is free)
  • Social media is a great way to connect with readers.

All in all, this report should be useful to new authors, but it won’t have quite the same value as its predecessors.

This being 2015, many indie authors are closing on a decade or more of self-publishing, and they’ve been learning and sharing info all that time. Between forums like KBoards and Absolute Write, and blogs like The Book Designer, Joanna Penn, and Jane Friedman (just to name five sites), authors have access to far more resources and a far larger community now then ever before.

Do you think the time will come when this report will be redundant?

image by MuseScore

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Sonya Mann8 December, 2015

    Yup, I think some of these insights are common knowledge by now.

  2. […] The Smashwords annual report shows that, in indie ebooks, preorders matter and $3.99 is the ideal price point for readers. […]

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