This week in the world of self-publishing:
It’s not often that self-publishing makes a mark on a major East Coast newspaper, especially one known for covering international politics and economic affairs, but this week self-publishing is the byword everywhere, including this March 10 article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Felicia Schwartz that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Why the big fuss? Well: “Three major U.S. book publishers, several trade groups and others in the publishing industry have signed a petition urging the White House and Congress to end the Cuba trade embargo for books and educational materials.” So far you might be forgiven for thinking that the Big Five were the driving force behind this petition, but bear with me for a minute. “The petition,” write Trachtenberg and Schwartz, “argues that the embargo ‘runs counter to American ideals of free expression’ and lifting it would be ‘consistent with the will of the American people.'” This, of course, is fully in line with the independent streak so fiercely guarded by the anti-gatekeeping indie publishing movement, and as it turns out, self-publishing authors have come out in force to support the petition.
While only WSJ subscribers can read the full article, the story has been picked up by a variety of other news outlets, including the Huffington Post, specifically this HuffPost Books article by Mark Coker, the founder of SmashWords––a distributer of independently published ebooks––and a driving force behind the petition. As he earlier wrote on the SmashWords blog, Coker says the petition was inspired by a visit to Cuba, where he discovered that “it’s extraordinarily expensive and difficult for Cuban publishers to gain access to even the simplest raw materials of bookmaking, such as paper and ink. And for self-published authors, even if they had access to self-publishing services or book printers, the set-up fees of such print services would be prohibitively expensive.” Says Coker, “Cuba has an adult literacy rate that is nearly 100%. Compare that to the the US where adult literacy is only about 80%. Cuba has a rich literary heritage. They value books.” To deliberately quash literary entrepreneurship in Cuba is to suppress a priceless literary heritage––as well as future potential. To read more about the petition, you can visit the WSJ article here, the HuffPost Books article here, the SmashWords blog here, and the corresponding public White House petition here.
“Independent publishing doesn’t mean what it used to,” writes Brooke Warner in this March 11 for Publisher’s Weekly. She goes on to explain that today, “when people talk about ‘indie’ authors, they’re talking not about authors published on small presses but about a thriving movement of self-published authors who are green-lighting their own work and riding the wave of a movement that’s far from peaking.” This movement is so distinct, she argues, that it well deserves the title of “revolution”! “Self-published authors have been working for years to improve their own standards, and the results are impressive,” writes Warner, who publishes via She Writes Press and SparkPress, is president of Warner Coaching Inc., as well as an independently published author herself. As such, she’s perfectly positioned to declare with authority: “If the past 16 years are any indicator of what’s to come, we better hold on. We’re in the middle of a sea change, and indie authors and publishers are not only forging new territory, they’re leading the way.” For the rest of her piece, visit the original article here.
You might have heard the name “Data Guy” floating around during conversations about the digital book market, particularly in the context of Author Earnings, an annual report and nonprofit organization run by said Data Guy. Well, in this March 13th article by Michael Kozlowski for the Good e-Reader, Kozlowski records the keynote presentation to the 2016 Digital Book World conference as given by the heretofore anonymous Data Guy, including screenshots of each slide. (You can also view the original presentation on the Author Earnings webpage.) Aside from some necessary boilerplate material and a couple of unabashed slides dedicated to justifying the work done by AE, Data Guy spent the vast majority of the presentation focusing on how the current market statistics on ebook sales as given by Amazon and other retailers skew indie authors’ expectations and, possibly, undercuts their ability to contextualize their experiences within the framework of a larger, more realistic, picture. As it turns out, the shift from print to digital poses a significant challenge to data collection, given that sales have largely shifted from the Big Five traditional publishing houses to a new monopoly held by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store, and Kobo … or so they would have us think. As it turns out, a large proportion of ebook sales and distribution is now happening independently of these sites, and these sites are famous for underreporting relevant information to begin with. Data Guy demonstrated how greater transparency and advocacy can do a world of good for indie authors, and I highly recommend reading his full keynote at the link!
As a counterpoint to certain points made by Data Guy in his keynote presentation as reported above, Ángel González of the Seattle Times reports in this March 9th article that “Sales of e-books from major publishers have waned since 2014, the year in which many of them gained the right to price their digital titles sold through Amazon—and jacked up prices.” Says González, “Those moves suddenly made books printed on dead trees a better deal. But that doesn’t mean the e-book market is stagnant. Far from it.” As González goes on to say, many of the Big Five traditional publishers are publishing their quarterly sales figures along with announcements that they are seeing a drop in digital sales after Amazon and Hachette resolved their price-fixing dispute last year, and as a result print sales are up. The general consensus seems to be that if you can buy a book in physical form off of a bookstore shelf for roughly the same price as purchasing an ebook online, why not cave to the superior attractions of a full bookshelf over a full iPad? And while many indie authors do sell their books in multiple formats, including print, many focus their efforts on the digital market for obvious reasons of economy of launch funds and ease of distribution. In short, these sales figures have great significance for many indie authors. Somewhere between the Data Guy’s optimistic keynote and González’s report on the dire predictions out of the traditional sector, we must be able to find a balance.
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.
ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.