And now for the news.
Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:
- AMERICAN DIRT Fiasco Exposes Publishing Industry That’s Too Consolidated, Too White And Too Selective
The big news of the year is, of course, the rise and fall of one specific title–the much-lauded American Dirt. This book first made headlines after a fierce bidding war propelled it to the top of the list of sought-after books by traditional publishing houses like Hachette and Penguin Random House before landing with Macmillan. Its sympathetic portrayal of cross-border migrants meant that it appealed to the kind of reader who utilizes social media and other platforms for social activism; it came as a surprise to many (but certainly not all) that the book would eventually become something of a hot potato, with Latinx authors, readers, and academics panning its use of stereotypes even while attempting to do good. In a situation that seems like the perfect and utter reverse of the publishing stories of such blockbuster hits as Becoming by Michelle Obama and Educated by Tara Westover, American Dirt has become representative of deeper structural problems pervasive in the self-publishing industry. In this thought-provoking article on Latino USA (a branch of NPR), Christine Larson of UC Boulder attempts to detangle just why traditional publishing has become so difficult to navigate. As you might expect, self-publishing features–although in a nice twist, Larson doesn’t demonize those who seek an alternate path to publishing but rather lays out the facts:
My research has found that romance writers doubled their median income from 2009 to 2014, largely due to self-publishing. Romance authors of color, in particular, found new outlets for books excluded by white publishers. Back in 2009, before self-publishing took off, the Book Industry Study Group identified just six categories of romance novels; by 2015, it tracked 33 categories, largely driven by self-publishing. New categories included African American, multicultural, interracial and LGBT.
By 2018, at least 1.6 million books across all genres had been self-published. Nonetheless, though choice is expanding, readership has stayed flat since 2011. With more books but no more readers, it’s harder than ever to get the attention of potential buyers.
But self-publishing is just one of many factors, writes Larson, in the tangled web of publishing troubles. And when it comes to amplifying the voices of marginalized peoples, social media has become a powerful tool by “offer[ing] a powerful outlet for marginalized voices to hold the publishing industry accountable.” Larson’s entire article is well worth a read.
In this Businesswire article reporting on the findings of a recent Technavio report, things are looking rosy for those of us in the self-publishing industry over the next four years (this will come as an encouragement to those who found the American Dirt story, above, deeply saddening). The report’s findings indicate that while “The emergence of smart devices, e-books, and online subscription models has transformed both the publishing landscape as well as the reading behavior of readers,” and even medical publishing companies have gotten on board, ebooks remain a primary driver in the directions both traditional publishing and self-publishing industries will go in the years to come. A sample of the report is available at the link, and it provides more detail and analysis of both the present and the future.
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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.