The Smashwords annual ebook survey shows how self-published romance ebooks dominate the ebook market.
In short, the romance genre accounts for a staggering 87% of the top 100 bestsellers on Smashwords and their aggregators.
Should I repeat that number? Eighty-seven percent! The number must make all romance authors smile.
While it is impossible to compare this data with sales of self-published romance novels on Amazon Kindle, one could make a logical assumption that romance probably also dominates Kindle ebook sales.
What about other genres?
However, with such a clear dominance of one genre making up such a massive proportion of ebook sales by Smashwords, where does this leave writers of other genres?
This could explain why some authors of genres other than romance, erotica, and YA often find it challenging to gain sales traction on Smashwords.
After romance, the top-selling genres are headed by erotica and YA, with Literary fiction just managing to make it into Smashwords’ top fiction genres.
Romance ebooks account for 70% of the top 10 bestsellers
Not only are self-published romance ebooks dominating Smashwords’ sales, but they are also still increasing in percentage terms. Up from 70% in 2014 to 87% in 2015.
The note on the slide below makes for interesting reading, however. The description of the smartest authors in the business may well be true, but it misses one extremely relevant criterion. They must also write romance.
It seems to matter little from the data if an author is organized, professional, sophisticated, or experimental. Unless you write romance, you have little chance of success.
The last slide I have captured is a graphical breakdown of the best-selling genres. It gives more details as to what is selling and also not selling on Smashwords.
Surprisingly, while romance is so dominant, chick-lit only manages to sneak into the pie chart.
Smashwords have an ebook catalog of about 400,000 compared to Kindle at around 4 million. So in many respects, it is difficult to compare the two retail platforms.
However, from the data they have released, it may explain why many authors struggle to sell ebooks on Smashwords.
Simply put, you write in the wrong genre for ebook buyers, who are buying their ebooks from Smashwords and their aggregators, Apple, B&N, and Kobo.
I know from my experience that I have never had much success on Smashwords, even though my ebooks sell quite well and steadily on Kindle.
Writing self-published romance novels is certainly not my cup of tea. I prefer to write science fiction farce, speculative fiction, or literary fiction.
There is no way in the world I could possibly write for romance readers.
So success on Smashwords seems to be not how well you write, but what you write.
I know there has been a lot of discussion about self-publishing on the available platforms to Indie authors, with a range of views about the relative sales success on each platform.
There is also, of course, the debate about open publishing and making ebooks available to readers on as many platforms as possible, as opposed to exclusivity on Amazon.
However, with this sales data released by Smashwords, it would seem to me that if you are not an author of self-published romance novels, you are probably not having a lot of sales success with Smashwords.
But at least you now know why. You may write very well, but not in one of its popular and saleable genres.
Related reading: Are You Self-Publishing Romance? – Maybe You Should Be