PubIt vs. Smashwords, now with numbers

First of all, sorry for the hit and run posts lately. I know I’ve been dropping these posts and then running off and not being good about responding to comments. It’s rude and I apologize. I want to thank everyone who reassured me about that email/article the other day, especially. And I’m claiming “silly season” for the rest of it.

And, not to be all about the apologies, but this is another post that’s very indie-author oriented and of limited interest to readers.

So today I found that I finally have actual numbers for my sales at Barnes and Noble through Smashwords, so that I can give a more accurate picture.

I wish I’d kept better records of this stuff, but it’s hard to keep up with everything. Hush Money was published via Smashwords on August 3rd, but I don’t think it caught a ship date to BN until the end of the month. Then it takes a while for the book to actually show up at BN. So I don’t remember the date it actually showed up at BN, but it was sometime in September.

I published via PubIt on October 14. The book went live quickly, within a day, I think, and the Smashwords version was taken down within a week.

Anyway, sales at BN via Smashwords were actually better than I thought. For the period ending October 31, I sold 13 copies and estimate royalties (because they just gave me sales, not royalties yet) at $5.59.

These last two months with PubIt I’ve sold over 1800 copies and they tell me they owe me over $700.

(Since we never get paid until 2 months after these sales, I still haven’t actually received more than $150 for my work, so all this discussion of royalties still feels very theoretical for me. Theoretically cool, but still like Monopoly money.)

Why some authors took off at PubIt right away and some haven’t is something we’ve been trying to figure out. And it’s not just one thing. I’m pretty sure price has something to do with it, as some readers have told me they picked up Hush Money because it’s cheap. It’s possible there was a problem with the searchability of the Smashwords listings and they weren’t being categorized and sorted when NOOK users wanted to search by price.

But it seems unlikely that price, and searching by price, could be all of it, since Zoe Winters’ sales make mine look like peanuts, and her work starts at $2.99.

It’s possible that BN chose to promote some authors on some kind of a “Deals” list or something of that nature, but I’ve no idea if that happened, nor how they would have selected.

But I think the point is that BN just hadn’t gotten behind the indie books until PubIt. It doesn’t seem like they took care of the Smashwords listings. Many authors have complained about not being searchable by category, and I think browsability must be an issue. Essentially, it seemed that we just weren’t being found on BN unless someone searched for our book specifically or followed a direct link. Until PubIt.

It should be noted that the royalty rate for titles under $2.99 is going to be significantly higher via Smashwords, as Kait recently explained to us so clearly in this article. However, this is like my arguments about the 99cent price point for new indies: a higher royalty on significantly fewer sales doesn’t benefit you.

And I say this loving Smashwords, and Mark, the vision of it, and what it tries to do for us. I hope we’ll come to a point where indies will have enough of the market that our listings will be treated as valuable commodities no matter how we choose to publish, and that Smashwords will gain the power to assure us of proper categorization, browsing, and searchability with other retailers, more reasonable and certain stocking times (I’m STILL not stocked at Diesel), faster reporting and payment. Because the one-stop, multiformat publishing and distribution they offer really is a great service. The ebook thing, as a whole, is still very new. Everyone’s still scrabbling to try to figure it out, and just starting to realize that it’s worth doing well.

(I mean, look, if I just made $700 at BN at 40%, that means they made $1050. Which is not huge, but I’m sure they’ve got plenty of listings that didn’t make that for them in these last two months. And I’m not Zoe Winters, Amanda Hocking, or HP Mallory who are making me look like adorable baby indie isn’t that cute. Is Borders wondering if maybe now it’s time to get a piece of these indie sales yet?)

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you who might be trying to make the decision about whether to go with Smashwords to get into BN–which I believe Konrath said he was sticking with a few weeks ago–or whether to go with PubIt. And if anyone’s still on the fence about whether they should bother with anything outside of Amazon, I hope this helps you realize the potential of sales at Barnes and Noble.


Filed under PubIt

21 responses to “PubIt vs. Smashwords, now with numbers

  1. I would go with PubIt if I could.

    I thought it was genre making a difference over there. The only people I’ve noticed doing well seem to all be in the young adult and/or paranormal genre. Those who are really successful on the Apple ibookstore aren’t getting a look in at B&N.

    This is limited to writers I know of so I could be way off but it seems like different “types” of readers shop at different places.

  2. This whole Smashwords and PubIt thing is making me say Grrrrrrr! Both versions are still up at B & N. B & N won’t take them down because they say Smashwords has to do it. And Smashwords won’t take them down until they “ship” to B & N again (I’m assuming). I just don’t know what to do. Leave them both up? Take off the PubIt version? I’m actually selling both versions, it just depends which one the customer clicks on. When I bring up my author name, the books aren’t always in the same order. Which is really weird.

    You mentioned you weren’t stocked at Diesel. I’m going to tell you something that you’re probably not going to believe. One time I looked on Diesel and found my books, but the category was blank. Now they aren’t there. I know that sounds like I’m crazy, but I’m not. I distinctly remember being annoyed because the category was blank. But how did they disappear?

    Sorry to rant about my stuff, but it all pertains. Ebook publishing can be frustrating, and sometimes it’s hard to make decisions about what to do. When all this is happening, it really makes me love Amazon.

    • I would guess that there was a time when BN was just automatically removing the Smashwords listings when people published through PubIt, but that there were complaints, perhaps by authors who were losing reviews in the deletions, so BN decided authors who didn’t want their rankings diluted by having two listings would have to be responsible for taking their own stuff down through Smashwords. And yes, it would be great if that were a faster process, and I hope that time comes.

      I don’t know what is up with Diesel. I’ve searched by title, author, and ISBN, and it’s never been there. I wrote to Mark and he said he would check on that for me. Kait got in there in the first shipment (which I missed by a hair), finally got stocked, but still doesn’t sell much, so I don’t think we’re missing out on much. It’s mostly just annoying. And I’d believe they had it up and then it disappeared. Who knows what’s going on over there?

      But back to BN, yes, I would leave them both up. It’s annoying and it’s diluting your ranking some, but it’s still sales, it’s still exposure, and I believe you’ll be better off with PubIt in the long run. The opt-out from BN may take some time, and that’s annoying, but it’s not worth taking down the PubIt, deleting the progress you’ve made there, and starting over from scratch, IMO.

  3. The Smashwords versus PubIt thing has me so confused. Both get you into BN, right? But the difference is PubIt is faster? Also, Smashwords does the shipping date thing. Does that mean if it ships 1 eBook, and it sells, your book goes out of stock? It’s a virtual copy. If so, I just don’t get it. How does an eBook go out of stock?

    • No, it doesn’t go out of stock.
      What we mean is, when you put your book up on Smashwords, you opt in to the Premium program, get approved (this is easy and is mostly about some formatting rules and license statements), and then you opt into being distributed to other retailers: BN, Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc.

      But they don’t send your book as soon as it’s approved. They have these “shipments” in which they send a bunch of work at once. This includes new works, revisions of previously published works, and requests to opt out and have your material removed from that store. It’s hard to know when a shipment will happen right now.

      Once the other retailers received your book, they don’t put them out right away. That’s what we mean when we say “stock them.” They don’t make listings for your books the minute they come out of the ether. They take from 2-8 weeks, depending on the retailer, or, it seems in the case of Diesel, possibly never. Once your book is stocked/listed, it should be fine and continue to sell until you tell Smashwords to have it removed.

      The difference between Smashwords and PubIt is essentially the difference between Smashwords and Amazon DTP. By going through the retailer directly, you have a lot more control. Besides the fact that we’re still only allowed a 400 character description via Smashwords and you get a lot more space with PubIt, any changes you make, including changes to price, categorization, keywords, blurb, or even revisions to the work itself, have to wait for a “shipment” from Smashwords in order to even reach BN, whereas with PubIt you can make those changes directly and get them in effect in what is usually a much shorter period of time.

      Does that clear it up?

      • Absolutely. Thanks for the breakdown. I can see why folks are going directly to PubIt. Royalty wise, it does seem like a small price to pay for having more control. On the other hand, having a centralized place to track work is nice also. Pros and cons.

  4. LOLz… but I was an adorable baby indie once, too (and in many ways I still see myself that way. I have a long way to go to reach my goals!) Also, you are making a LOT more than me selling a LOT more than me at the place you are now compared to where I was at the same amount of months out. So seriously, don’t knock your success. You’ll zoom right past me in the end, I bet!

    And I know what you mean about theoretical money. The first time I made enough money that it felt like something to talk about was when I made $2300 in one month. That was in June and I was still selling at 99 cents for everything. It was my highest month. Though if I had a $2300 month now, I wouldn’t be jumping up and down because perspective shifts over time. I’d be depressed if I made that now!

    But the FIRST time you make more than you expect, it kind of blows your mind, and it DOES feel like monopoly money. I was convinced somehow I would never be paid that money until it was actually sitting in my bank because it felt too surreal.

    • Aw, it’s nice of you to come by and say that. I think I’ve said this to you before: the more we learn and share what works, the easier it will be for the indies who come after us to hit those numbers faster. (Although it will also be harder on them as more people decide to try their luck and join us, including previously vetted authors putting out their backlists or going all independent, so maybe it will even out.)

  5. Interesting info. My experience with B&N has been… annoying. I’m talking hard copies (my ebook efforts at Smashwords et al have been stymied for reasons I won’t get into). B&N is slow to order, slow to respond. They lose my listing–sometimes you have to know the ISBN to find it; sometimes, not. As a result, I sell 100x as many books on Amazon as B&N. I can’t believe they let that much business slip through their old-line business fingers.

    I guess what I’m saying is, it’s probably B&N and not you.

    • What you’re saying doesn’t really surprise me. BN seems really slow on a lot of things. Nook finally came, after some delays, the ebook store, how it worked, and why other EPUB readers aren’t supported…lots of things were unclear and their customer service reps were completely uneducated in that area. PubIt was announced, then delayed, and it’s had its problems.

      Amazon has been working consistently and well in this area, in the technology and in developing their customer base. They seem to feel it’s their job to push ebooks and the technology forward, rather than try to catch up to it. For that reason, there will probably always be more sales at Amazon.

      Part of what I was trying to get across, though, was that just because there are more customers at Amazon, doesn’t mean we don’t need to be at BN also. There may be indies out there who dismiss the Nook market because they get less than something like 5% of their sales at BN through Smashwords, so why bother with PubIt? Yes, PubIt’s new and a little buggy, and authors can wait until everything’s all smoothed out (optimism) to use the service, but it’s only going to get harder to be noticed as the number of listings grows.

  6. Hi, Susan! Thanks for writing about this. I posted a few weeks ago about being disappointed with B&N’s insignificance in my Smashwords sales report, but found out later that my book never really got there. When PubIt came out I tried to go that route but since I’m not from the US (and don’t have a US bank account), Smashwords is my only way into that store.

    Your post makes me want to do more to reach out to Nook owners. I hope PubIt eventually makes it easier for international authors to get in. 🙂

  7. Hi, this is really helpful, thanks.
    My main thing here is that being a non us citizen, and NOT living in the US, I cannot signup at Pubit, cause it requires a Bank Account in the US.

    Mind you, I think I have a good advantage… the available fantasy novels in spanish are way LESS than the ones in english 🙂

    So, I want to be everywhere, with all formats. Thus, I need the bank account. I would say this is the first step to foreign authors.

  8. Thanks for your comments, Mina and Victoria. It’s always interesting to get the perspective of non-US authors. I hope BN finds a way to make it easier for you.

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