Do the numbers still support a future in self-publishing?
Surprisingly, amidst the woeful stories reported from great swathes of the economy, publishers have positive news. 2020 was a success! Whilst the first part of the year was worrying, the second picked up, and all is well. Logically, this is hardly surprising. What else were we all going to do locked down and furloughed in a pandemic? But is there still a future for self publishing?
Print sales are up a healthy 8% from last year, and despite the reduction in commuting throughout 2020 and according to the N.Y. Times audiobook sales are up too. Both published and self-published books have enjoyed the increased interest, with only independent bookstores suffering. So is this new-found literary interest here to stay? Or when (and if) it all gets ‘back to normal’, will our precious words be abandoned in favour of heaving dancefloors, deafening concerts, and mesmerising cinema?
The last year has demonstrated that people will not stop buying books. They offer pleasure, escape, entertainment, and at the very least distraction. But what is the future of self-publishing?
New Swathes of self-publishing authors!
With many of us forced kicking and screaming into the digital world over the last year, we have as a result become more confident with technology and less like a cat gingerly pawing a keyboard. Whereas the idea of creating an e-book or even formatting a real one may have been previously terrifying, and the thought of on-line marketing debilitation, many of us have newfound skills and confidence. Those who previously would not have considered self-publishing may just have a go.
Furthermore, we have no doubt become more independent and self-motivated. This new self-sufficiency pairs well with the creative control self-publishing gives, unlike traditional publishing.
However, it is almost impossible to self-publish ‘Amazon’ free. With 197 million people visiting Amazon per month, gobbling up 41% of all book sales, and a staggering 67% of e-book purchases, it would be rude not to! (The Atlantic).
Bearing in mind the words of Jeff Bezos himself “Amazon is not too big to fail … In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail,” what will be the fate of self-publishing if (or according to Bezos ‘when’) this happens?
Contrary to popular belief Amazon is not the ‘be all and end all’ of book sales. Whilst 41% is a hefty chunk, by my reckoning that leaves a balance of 59%. So who is selling the rest, and can a self-publisher easily tap into them?
The future of self-publishing rests on demand and supply…
Amazon, although most likely the first that springs to mind, is not the only self-publishing service. There are a plethora of self-publishing companies, e-book platforms, and distribution services. Some, such as Barnes and Noble Press, have developed as a response to the decline of bookstore sales and demand for digital and self-published books. It’s history from the late 19th Century to present day eloquently demonstrates not only how the demand and supply of literature has evolved over time, but also that we respond to these changes very well. This bodes well for self-publishers, and who knows? – they may as a body come up with an even better platform, tailored to efficiency and increased profits (yes, it is a challenge!).
Is there a future in self-publishing? What will it look like in 5 years’ time? 10? 20? Who knows, but it is unlikely we will digress and rely solely on traditionally published works. For individuals, the key is to keep abreast with the changing landscape and follow the hunger of the consumer. After all, it is them we are writing for.