Natalie Bright

For the past six years, Mark Coker with Smashwords has shared results of their readers survey. Several of the topics covered include pricing, box sets, word count, social media, genres. The results of the 2017 Smashwords Survey can be viewed in total, see links below.

The Smashwords catalog offers over 450,000 titles and is fiction heavy. 87.5% of Smashwords’ sales during this survey period were for fiction. Romance, including YA romance, accounted for almost 50% of total sales.

Listen to the Podcast #7 here:

Watch his complete RWA slideshow presentation here:

Here are a few of the major points that I found interesting:

Top Selling Genre

According to the 2017 Smashwords survey, the top selling genres for fiction were Romance, Erotica, Fantasy, Young Adult & Teen, and Science Fiction. The top five for non-fiction were Self Improvement at #1, Health, Well-Being and Medicine #2, Business and Economics, Religion and Spirituality, and Relationships and Family.  Obviously romance readers are the most veracious, and are loyal fans.

Presence on Social Media

Of the top 1000 bestsellers, close to 75% of these authors have a website or a blog. Over 60% of the bestselling authors are on Facebook and on Twitter. Readers like connecting with their favorite authors

Book Pricing

Books that are priced at free, on average, get about 33 times more downloads then books at any other price. More proof that FREE for a first book in your series is a powerful way to introduce readers to your work. By pricing your book at free, you make it easy for new readers to take a chance on you. Many authors write a shorter novella priced as free or as a give-away in newsletters, as an introduction to their series. The survey definitely shows that series with free first book earn more than series without that starter incentive book. I’m torn on this topic, because I wonder if our hard work has been devalued. Everybody thinks they can write a book, and it’s so easy to publish these days. The profession of writing has shifted away from the craft of writing a great story to publish your work now. As you all know, writing and editing is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do, and it has to be done first before you can have a book in hand. Then comes the publishing and promotion.

It’s Still about the Story

After last week’s critique meeting with the WordsmithSix gang, I can tell you that quality continues to be our focus. We are working on stories for a Route 66 themed anthology, and from what I read last week, readers are in for a treat. We leave no stone unturned when we critique each other’s work. We talk about character motivation, plot structure, and setting descriptions. Our meetings usually run about three hours, and we don’t waste much time on spelling and grammar issues. We really try to dig deep to assure that readers discover an entertaining story.


“If you want to be a successful professional writer, you need to learn business.”

Kristine Katherine Rusch

THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION, And How It Harms Writers, WMG Publishing, 2013.


Rusch makes a strong argument for writers to take control of their own careers in her book THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

She points out that the business side of what we do is not a part of an MFA degree. We are often told that most writers can’t make a living. Writing is a labor of the heart, and we’re reminded that very few authors reach the level of earning potential that we all dream of. We pour our hearts and souls into our stories, and then we willingly hand over our creations and financial control to complete strangers without a second thought.

There’s no doubt that writing is hard work and long hours, and it is a business after all. All industries experience cycles of downturn. Smart business owners know how to survive through the lean times and make smart investments during the surplus years.

A writer needs to understand the publishing world and that sometimes sales slack off. If you understand your chosen profession, it might be a tweak of your writing or a new cover design is the answer. Or not. Maybe you’ve signed a bad contract.

The main point that I learned from Rusch’s book is that writers must have a grasp of the options and take control. For a new perspective on the business side of publishing, you might give this book a try. I found it to be an interesting read and an eye-opener.


Personally, I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of person. In today’s publishing world where everything is undoubtly changing, why can’t we have it all?

If you’ve ever read much about the halo marketing theory, it stands to reason that every piece of writing we tag our name to helps promote ALL of our projects. Bios in freelance articles and blog posts can include your other book titles for sale. Books published can lead to speaking invitations and booths at library fairs. Everything we tag can help drive readers to our website where they can find out more.

Set aside your dreamy, creative selves for a second and put on your business caps. If you want to control the content, put your book up for pre-sale, create a little buzz and save money to self-publish. You can make it happen.

If your book doesn’t have a universal appeal, but it’s near and dear to your heart, find a small press. Develop a killer marketing plan for your region and sell the heck out of your book. Do it now.

Should you ever write a book extraordinary enough to snag an agent resulting in a huge print run from a major house, wouldn’t that be great too?

I agree with the simple business theory that can apply to writers too: produce a quality product worth paying for.


Agents: What They’re Good For

Agents: What They’re Good For

by Natalie Bright

Agent, editor, publisher, market researcher, promoter, bookstore seller, book author relations manager, graphic artist, publicist, website designer, book reviewer, marketing exec, critique partner, event scheduler: do you have an understanding of the work done by each of these people?

If you’re a writer, these folks are important. They are your team of professionals in the publishing industry. If you’re a published author, you’re probably doing one or most of these jobs yourself.

At a BookFair event, I was asked “Where do I find my agent? I probably should get one.”  No, this author didn’t have the book finished, and no, they couldn’t identify the genre. But, they wanted their book on the New York Times list and that’s what an agent does. These types of conversations always leave me surprised at how confusing the world of publishing can be. So, let’s talk about agents.

Agents bring people together: the publishing house and the author; the story idea and the screenplay writers; the artists and the book designers; the dreamers and the publishing executives.

The Hard Sale

When I consider all of the jobs listed above, I think the most difficult is the literary agent based on my experience as a licensed real estate agent.

A real estate salesman brings people together; the buyer and the seller. The frustrating part is we’re not privy to any insider information that might help us close the deal. The homeowner has done everything right. The property is in pristine condition. What are the potential buyers whispering about in the back yard? The wife tells me she loves the house, but hates that color of beige in the kitchen. I point out that walls can be painted. She just can’t envision it, which makes we wonder what’s the real reason? I haven’t a clue what to say or how to reach a compromise. No sale.

I gave up my real estate license years ago because I did not have the patience for the business. And then I changed my focus to a career in writing (talk about a test of patience).

Bringing People Together

Even though authors are the creative energy behind this whole process, we can’t know exactly what editors and publishing houses are really looking for.  We’ll never be invited to the internal team meetings. We’re not privy to the insider buzz about long-term business plans or the new imprints, but literary agents are the people with an inside track to this information. Editors say “we’re looking for” and literary agents work to fill those slots.

I can’t imagine getting hundreds of queries every week. How do you know which ones have the potential for greatness? Which manuscript is worth an agent’s time to provide direction with revisions? How can they determine which story a particular editor will feel a connection to? How can they decide whose career has the greatest longevity? And remember, agents don’t get paid until there’s a contract.

Literary agents have the ability to bring all of the players to the table and if a publishing contract is signed, the result is something magical, or that’s how I feel about books anyway (when I finish reading a great story it’s like magic to me). What a satisfying feeling that must be for agents knowing that they are the key to who knows who.

Publishing in an Uproar

As I read the news and deals on Writers Marketplace, I’ve come to realize how much the industry is changing. Yes, there are many opportunities out there for agented and un-agented authors, but the playing field is in an uproar. I think having a literary agent on your side is a good thing. Who knows if your story will find a home? It might not. Who knows what the next hottest genre will be? That’s impossible to predict.

When you read the list of industry professionals above, you might have noticed I left one person off of the list: writer. That would be you – the only thing you can completely control is getting words on the page and it’s the hardest work you’ll ever do. And in today’s world, the options are mind blowing for writers who have a good understanding of who’s sitting at the table and the roles they play in building a career. I have a self-pub book, an inspirational eBook on Smashwords that will be a softcover soon, and I have a knowledgeable, capable literary agent who is shopping a middle grade novel. We can have it all, I think, if you’re willing to work 24/7 to reach your goals.

Whatever your goals, go for it, have confidence in the story that only you can tell, and good luck in reaching your dreams! Thanks for being a part of WordsmithSix.