Some publishing pundits will state that traditional publishing models are broken. I’m not sure if they are correct, but I will say that the publishing business, just like the rest of the communications and entertainment industry, is in transition. The days of the large publishing houses positioning themselves as the arbiters of good literature and bad literature are gone.
Self-publishing is not a fad. It has a long and rich history, and it is entering its glory days. Authors have discovered they can bypass agents and traditional publishing houses and take their books straight to their readers with the hope that the cream will rise to the top: and sometimes it does.
I think the most important trend in self-publishing right now is growth. The number of books self-published seems to increase beyond expectations each year. According to Bowker.com, the number of self-published titles was more than 391,000 in 2012, an increase of 59 percent from 2011 and 422 percent over 2007.
Another interesting trend is the growth of a few companies offering services to self-published authors. According to Bowker.com, more than 80 percent of self-published authors use just eight companies. Smashwords and CreateSpace are two of the largest of these. This leads to mentioning the continuing influence of Amazon, which owns CreateSpace, in the self-publishing world. Amazon now owns Goodreads, the largest social networking site for readers, as well as Shelfari. The Kindle Fire is competing successfully not only with Nook, the Barnes and Noble e-reader, but with a variety of tablet computers and now smart phones, as well.
Amazon is the company we all love to hate. We decry its overwhelming influence in our lives, but as consumers, and particularly as authors, we need it. Amazon will continue to change the face of publishing in the next decade and beyond.
You cannot discuss trends in publishing without mentioning e-books, which also continue to gain in popularity. They now make up 40 percent of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11 percent in 2007, according to Bowker.com.
The prominence of self-publishing has increased the competition in the world of publishing. No longer are a handful of influential publishing houses choosing what we read. Anyone today can publish a book. That means the most successful writers must also view themselves as business owners. To be successful they must first have the confidence in their product to spend enough money on it to make it look professional and read professional, and they must develop enough expertise in marketing to successfully assist their target readers in finding and purchasing their book. To do this, they need to invest in their business and hire experts, just like any other business owner, to fill in the gaps in their production and marketing skills.
Not every author is comfortable with the big box, do-it-yourself self-publishing stores. They are looking for personal assistance and training in every area of publishing. This is giving rise to a new industry of creative professionals who will assist authors with a wide variety of services from website design to book design, from ghost tweeting to marketing and public relations services.
The truth is most books don’t sell many copies and most authors will not get rich, or will not even make a fulltime living, selling their book. But self-publishing offers all writers an equal chance of success. I’ve said often throughout this book that there is no “write it and they will come.” But self-publishing offers all of us the chance to “write it, market it and see if they will come.” There are enough writers out there who are building successful careers self-publishing books to give us hope. That means that self-publishing is here to stay.