PG missed this one a few days ago.
From the Smashwords blog:
For the study this year, we analyzed over $12 million in sales for a collection of 120,000 Smashwords ebooks from May 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013. We aggregated our sales data from across our retail distribution network, which includes the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Amazon (only about 200 of our 200,000 titles are at Amazon). As the world’s largest indie ebook distributor, I think our study represents the most comprehensive analysis ever of how ebooks from self-published authors and small independent presses are behaving in the marketplace.
. . . .
1. Ebook Sales Conform to a Power Curve
Most books don’t sell well, but those that do sell well sell really well. This finding wasn’t a surprise. Just as in traditional publishing, very few books become bestsellers.
However, the underlying dynamic of the power curve is extremely significant, especially when you consider it as a framework for evaluating the survey’s findings. As a title moves up in sales rank, its sales grow exponentially. We see this in our sales results all the time. On any given day, a #1 bestseller in an ebook store might be selling twice the number copies as the #5-ranked title on that day, and triple or quadruple the number of copies as the #10 bestseller. In our data over this 11-month period, the #1 Smashwords bestseller, measured in dollars, sold 37 times more than the book ranked #500, and #500′s sales would put a smile on most authors’ faces.
The opportunity for every Smashwords author and publisher is to make decisions that cause their books to move up in sales rank. This is power of my Viral Catalyst concept. When you consider that there are potentially dozens if not hundreds of factors that can make your book more (or less) discoverable, desirable and enjoyable, then you realize that you – the author/publisher – have more control over your book’s destiny than previously thought. Your opportunity is to make dozens of correct decisions – big and small – while avoiding the poor decisions that will undermine your success.
. . . .
2. Viva Long Form Reading: Longer Books Sell Better
For the second year running, we found definitive evidence that ebook readers – voting with their Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Krone, Krona and Koruna – overwhelmingly prefer longer books over shorter books.
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 115,000 words. When we examined the word counts of books in other sales rank bands, we found the lower the word count, the lower the sales.
Now consider how authors can use this finding, combined with the knowledge of the power curve, to make smarter publishing decisions, and to avoid poor decisions. Often, we’ll see an authors with a single full-length novel break the novel into chunks to create a series of novellas, or worse – they’ll try to serialize it as dozens of short pieces. When you consider that readers overwhelmingly prefer longer works, and you consider that bestselling titles sell exponentially more copies, reach more readers and earn more money than the non-bestsellers, you can understand how some authors might be undermining their book’s true potential.
Like every finding from this survey, you should use this information as one data point. There will always be exceptions to any rule. If your story deserves 50,000 words – nothing more and nothing less – because this is the length packs the biggest pleasure punch for readers, then by all means don’t bloat your perfect story with extra words just because the data shows that longer books, on average, sell more. Do what’s right for your story because that’s what’s right for your reader.
Link to the rest at Smashwords