Wheat, Meet Chaff. Chaff, Meet Wheat.

Scott Pack on the influx of self-pub­lished work to ebooks:

So I wel­come this influx, these pre­vi­ously unpub­lished hoards.

There’s more:

And here’s the thing: a ‘tra­di­tion­al’ deal is still the goal of most of these authors. OK, so there are many who have eschewed the sys­tem and will con­tin­ue to do so but the major­ity would love the cred­ib­il­ity, sup­port and, er, lower roy­alty rate that a deal with one of the major pub­lish­ing houses would bring. Most do feel that pub­lish­ers add value and see the self-pub­lish­ing option as a new route to being ‘dis­covered’. And if they remain undis­covered they are still able make a few quid, which can soften the blow.

I guess I’m one of these authors look­ing for a tra­di­tion­al deal. Frankly, I’d rather have pro­fes­sion­als take care of the cov­er, copy­ed­it­ing, and so on. Many e-self-pub­lished writers feel this way. That’s the major plus against the minus of lower roy­al­ties.

★ Is the Kindle Store 1000 Times Better Than Apple’s iBooks and Smashwords?

Probably not.

But the data for sales of my nov­el, Déjà Vu, which I’ve pub­lished on the Kindle, iBooks and Smashwords, point to a sales ratio of about 1000:1.

Kindle Sales

Déjà Vu unit sales per month, begin­ning in March, are: 320, 938, 915, 738, 844, 643 and 581.

Smashwords (this includes Barnes and Noble, and a billion other ebook stores)

For the same peri­od: 4.

iBooks

For the same peri­od: 1.

Overall, then, the ratio of sales Kindle:other is 4979:5. Call it 1000:1. If Déjà Vu is rep­res­ent­at­ive of more gen­er­al trends (it won’t be; but it’s in the ball­park, I expect), the Kindle store could be around 1000 times more suc­cess­ful than the oth­er stores com­bined. Remember that the blurb, cov­er image and price are identic­al across stores.

What Leads to These Differences?

All of my mar­ket­ing — if you can call it that — has poin­ted people to the Kindle store.

Amazon has a lar­ger cus­tom­er base to begin with, so cross-pro­mo­tion will be more effect­ive. That is, when Déjà Vu is recom­men­ded to people who have a his­tory of buy­ing sim­il­ar titles, there are more of those people around to see the recom­mend­a­tion. It could well be that many people see Déjà Vu on Amazon when they’re not look­ing for it; few see my book on Smashwords or iBooks.

Amazon has a mature chart-based shop­front. I don’t think Smashwords does this very well. And when I (rarely) look at iBooks, the charts seem to be full of odd books, and they are all writ­ten by Jeremy Clarkson. Nothing wrong with that; but it sug­gests a smal­ler num­ber of read­ers.

For the ver­sion of Déjà Vu sold on Amazon, I can con­trol the look and feel of the ebook pre­cisely. The ver­sion sold on Smashwords is pro­duced using a Word tem­plate and, frankly, it looks like a piece of crap. Blockquotes don’t work prop­erly; indent­a­tion is shot to hell. Likewise, the ver­sion for iBooks looks awful. Now, ebooks aren’t meant to look beau­ti­ful — but the cre­at­or should be able to provide a well-designed doc­u­ment whose struc­ture melts away so that the read­er can enjoy the story.

A Caveat

It’s worth not­ing that both iBooks and Smashwords are push­ing huge num­bers of books. Scott Pack recently repor­ted large sales num­bers for Confessions of a GP. And my friend Stephen J Sweeney has been selling his Battle for the Solar System books like gang­busters across many plat­forms. But Amazon has the lion’s share of this mar­ket for now.

Thoughts on eBooks

Over the past week or so, I’ve being mak­ing rounds to vari­ous blogs. Over at Scott Pack’s place, I’ve been writ­ing about my exper­i­ences of pub­lish­ing Déjà Vu:

So I’m look­ing at this Amanda Hocking head­line. Flecks of tea are mov­ing down the screen of my laptop like the raw Matrix. The half-formed idea in my head — that I can make a book avail­able and I don’t need to have a pub­lish­er — becomes about three-quar­ters formed. My audi­ence is going to be lim­ited to a few mil­lion Kindle cus­tom­ers, but that’s like say­ing my writ­ing is lim­ited by the alpha­bet; it’s enough, and nobody is going to tell me that only Random House can use the ‘Q’.

More of my epic wis­dom can be found over at Futurismic, where Paul Graham Raven has been ask­ing me ques­tions about the pub­lish­ing industry at large. I have no real basis for my appar­ent expert­ise in this area — which is, of course, part of the fun of inter­views.

Various stat­ist­ics have been ban­died about show­ing that while growth in phys­ic­al book sales is slow­ing, growth in ebooks is accel­er­at­ing. As a per­son who owns a Kindle, it’s easy to see why. The buy­ing is imme­di­ate, cheap, and fric­tion­less; the device weighs less than my watch (so I have a heavy watch).

All good fun.