How COVID has made self-publishing even more popular than before

How COVID has made self-publishing even more popular than before. Outskirts Press

Yes, the book industry, in general, is profiting from an explosion of sales. The sudden rise of homebound readers has led to them substituting outdoor activities with books. As a result, while other entertainment industries plummeted, the book industry has rebounded from the initial lockdown dip to levels higher than before!

Self-publishing authors, in particular, have thrived the last two years. The first round of pandemic lockdowns upheaved the job situation of many potential self-publishing writers. The circumstances of these writers varied. Some workers were laid off. Others left their jobs for health or family reasons. Many quit as part of “The Great Resignation.” Countless others remained at their jobs but shifted to a work-at-home environment and filled newfound time by taking up another pursuit, such as book writing.

No matter the reason, a number of aspiring authors faced change during COVID-19 and turned toward self-publishing as an even more desirable career path.

The self-publishing model endured when the pandemic forced most workers out of the office. The self-published author can write, edit, and publish a book—and never have to leave home!

For the self-publishing business, work-at-home is an ideal office. Thanks to modern communication, a self-publishing writer not only can make business calls from home but also engage in Zoom meetings. In the previous century, a manuscript sent by snail mail would’ve taken days, if not weeks. Now, you can also upload a manuscript to a book distribution service within seconds with email and file uploading. Readers can click the “buy” button on your book within minutes. You can even log on to the website of a print-on-demand (POD) distributor and list physical copies without having to negotiate a printing quote.

Work-from-home benefits even extend to the other professionals involved in self-publishing, like editors, proofreaders, and cover design artists. For example, one self-publishing author could assemble an entire team of collaborators that span worldwide without any member ever meeting in person!

The story looks different for the major, traditional publishers. When the pandemic lockdowns began, traditional publishers had to pivot hard to work-at-home. Some publishing houses have yet to return to the office almost two years later. A number of them still feel the pains of switching workplace settings after a decades-long tradition of office work. Other publishing houses had to bend corporate procedures to get work done.

The pandemic also hit the areas where big publishers had an advantage over indie publishers and self-publishers. Even with book sales rising, bookstore sales in 2020 were down compared to the year before because much of the sales surge was from online book sales. Tragically, many indie bookstores closed, like many small businesses that were shuttered by the pandemic.

And as we covered earlier in the blog, the supply chain’s congestion has slowed print book deliveries and frightened large publishers to delay new releases. The supply chain situation has grown only direr since then, with companies unable to ship customers their orders before Christmas. Of course, it doesn’t help that the unpredictability of COVID-19’s variants keeps brick-and-mortar stores on edge.

However, self-publishing authors have been able to fill in the gap left by undelivered physical books through the ebook format. Most self-published books are already digital. For many self-publishers, it was a matter of taking advantage of the rise in ebook sales, with digital sales spiking in 2020, and in 2021 remaining higher than the prepandemic.

Furthermore, the self-publishing author is more adept at adapting to work at home than an organization. As a business of one, a self-publisher can leap over the red tape, starting and finishing projects in months when the same title would take years for a traditional publisher to release.

A self-publishing writer also has some perks over traditionally published authors, such as higher royalty rates and instantaneous publication. Most appealingly, should you decide to go into self-publishing, YOU get to choose what story you create and put out in the world. You don’t have to wait to secure the validation of agents and editors when you can get on a computer and let the readers decide for themselves.

This appeal aligns with the main thrust of The Great Resignation: in the face of catastrophe, many workers have looked at their earlier jobs and decided that their dreams can no longer wait. No wonder lots of workers have decided to pursue their aspirational novel, autobiography, or self-help book by going into self-publishing.

It’s important to remember that for all the benefits self-publishing authors receive, we must still remember the losses from COVID-19. Beyond the closed bookstores and the two years spent indoors, the pandemic has taken a horrendous toll on lives and affected many more people’s health and livelihood.

But if you DO decide to take the plunge and self-publish your book, recognize that you are joining a movement that’s making the best of dire circumstances, sharing stories that will comfort readers during the pandemic, and will hopefully continue to do so post virus.


In Your Corner: Do we still need to talk about the pandemic?

Writing and publishing is difficult enough without added challenges being added on top of the usual brainstorming, crafting, editing, strategizing, and marketing that self-publishing authors take on as a part of the process. (Allowing, of course, for some variation, depending on existing skills and assistance provided by third parties.) We heard a great deal last year about some of the pandemic’s additional challenges last year, particularly during the summer, but much of that conversation has either died down or been reframed as a part of the “new normal.” So I just have to wonder, do we still need to talk about the pandemic outside of its health- and social-specific effects? Is it still worth grappling with the “extras” that COVID-19 has added to our writing and publishing lives?

I, personally, happen to think that we are entering a new phase of this whole thing. By and large, one year in, we’ve figured out how to live with the restrictions and their consequences (eagerly or otherwise). Two vaccines have passed all the standards that need passing in order to achieve wide distribution, and state governors are working on specific distribution plans for each state. Where I am just now, many of the restrictions themselves have begun to loosen, although most people I know are still being fairly cautious. Some schools are back in operation. My favorite bakery reopened! … and then closed again, then reopened again, and so on and so forth a number of times as the occasional worker came down with the virus. By and large, we are now well-acquainted with this open-closed-open-closed-etc cycle, and well-acclimated to last-minute changes in plans as the knock-on effects of the virus continue to manifest.

But what about when it comes to books? I see that the news posts here on the blog have dealt occasionally with the effects of COVID-19 on the publishing industry since March (summary version: book sales are up, particularly in digital, and so too with digital library offerings, as more library users make use of them). Most of the data, however, is coming from traditional publishers and indie bookstores (which are still struggling). Publishers Weekly (and probably many other organizations) keeps an updated list of COVID-19-related cancellations and postponements––again, privileging the traditionally published lineup, which is usually decided years in advance.

Getting a handle on just how this same situation is affecting those who choose to go indie is another matter. For one thing, self-published books don’t require the same long (up to two-years!) run-up to release as their traditionally published cousins, so there are very few compendiums of upcoming indie publications to build buzz. As we’ve seen throughout this last year, it is entirely feasible to progress from initial thoughts through writing and publication within two months with self-publishing, although we don’t recommend that many sleepless nights to everyone who wants to publish in the next year. (Chances are, anyway, that you have already been working on a manuscript before you read this post.)

Where do we look for self-published book statistics these days? Publishing through Amazon might be an indicator (and the company does love to release its self-reported statistics when they’re good news for them), but due to Amazon’s diversification and movement into the traditional publishing sphere with its own imprint and so forth, “publishing through Amazon” can look any one of a hundred different ways. It is not necessarily a good indicator of general self-publishing statistics anymore, in my opinion––the data I’ve seen talks big about the total amount its authors have earned in the last year, but the company hasn’t released any comparative reports to pre-COVID-19 times, or on whether their authorship has remained steady, much less grown.

About the only people reporting on the effects of COVID-19 on self-publishing are individual authors themselves, on their blogs or in their newsletters or social media feeds. To my knowledge, no one has a good handle on how many books are self-published even during a good year, much less this last year (this is because ISBN purchases, while tracked rather well, only apply to those authors who choose them––and they aren’t required for the publication of ebooks). Perhaps I’m so stuck on this because I myself work in the industry, and I want to know just how the virus’ long-term effects will challenge and/or benefit those authors I work with on a daily basis. Do we even know?

I’ve heard by word of mouth and on social media that many authors are struggling to write because of the persistence of work-from-home directives continuing for a large sector of the marketplace, and because many schools are also either working remotely or in hybrid systems. I’ve also heard that there is a huge wave of pandemic-related works in the pipeline for publication in the near future, although most traditional publishers haven’t quite gotten there without cutting corners. I’ve heard a lot of stories involving children’s books, particularly, when it comes to pandemic-related publications this last year, with the first ones appearing within months of the outbreak, published by schoolteachers and grandparents and other caregivers. But these are just the stories that I, Elizabeth, have heard. I am not representative of the entire industry, for sure.

What have you heard? Do you think we still need to talk about the pandemic when it comes to self-publishing, as I do? I’d love to hear your stories. And as always, I’d love to hear about your 2021 writing goals. ♣︎

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Elizabeth
Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Merry Christmas to You and Yours!

Merry Christmas!!

This year, the happy job of posting on Christmas Day has fallen to me, and I couldn’t be more grateful––for you, our readers, and for the chance to share even just a hint of the love and boundless joy at the end of what has been, for many of us, one of if not the most difficult years on record.

I took a moment this morning to think back over what we have already overcome in the last twelve months:

  • COVID-19,
  • Quarantine,
  • Isolation,
  • Separation from friends, family, and loved ones,
  • Intense regulation,
  • Civil unrest and a hotly debated political season,
  • Countless disruptions to routine,
  • Financial hardships, and
  • Loss and grief over all of the above …

And I just have to say, my friends, that you are absolute champions. You’ve made it through so much. And no, I don’t necessarily think that making it through to everyone’s favorite holiday or even turning the calendar page onto a new year will magically ease all of our burdens, but I do truly think we are on the cusp of something new and good. For some of us that may be the comforts that a favorite holiday or a new year will bring, and for others it might be the time to finally work on that next book, and for still others it might just be the space to finally draw breath and think of something other than surviving the next week with food on the table and a loved one to hug.

This has been a long, hard year. But amidst all of the hardship, I have been so very blessed to write to you, read your responses, and work alongside you to make the world just a little bit better, a little bit richer, by having your words and your stories in it.

Thank you.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth
 

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 10.27.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

When it comes to speaking directly to the troubles of the present, one can’t overlook the impact of articles such as this one by Tiffany Johnson for the Spokesman Reporter, in which she records details of a conversation with self-published author W.D. Foster Graham, who is using his experience and voice as a Black author in America to broaden the diversity of local library collections both through the inclusion of his own books as well as by requesting a number of books by other authors be added to their catalogs. Foster Graham is most well know for “Never Give Up and Mark My Words, which are both part of his Christopher Family Novel series.” Writes Johnson, “He used the self-publishing process as an opportunity to care for his project in a way that was relevant to his unique narrative as a Black voice in the United States. “I had to vet editors. I would ask them, ‘What does cultural sensitivity mean to you?’” he said.” Once his books reached publication, he began approaching libraries. The Hennepin County library welcomed his books into their collections, and other libraries began to follow suit.

According to Foster-Graham, now seven counties in the Twin Cities metro area plus St. Paul, Rochester, and St. Cloud, offer his books and other Black authors that he has requested. He urges the Black community to do the same. “You need to come at them with data on how they can access more African American books. I provided them with an alternative [solution],” he said.

We cannot recommend this article highly enough. It’s not too long, so we don’t want to steal too much of the limelight from Johnson’s excellent writing, but suffice it to say this is a positive, proactive approach to improving the quality and quantity of voices represented in a regional way, and it just might offer a roadmap for other authors and readers to assist in starting tough but necessary conversations with their own local libraries.

Alright, now this is interesting––and if the first reviews of the crowdfunding project Spark Books Accelerator Program by the Spark Project come back positive, then this might prove to be an incredibly useful tool for some self-publishing authors who have struggled to raise the money to pay for premium services, like copyediting and illustrations (just to name two). According to Patricia Mirasol of Business World, this “accelerator program uses a similar model as the local crowdfunding platform that matches creators with backers who are willing to pitch in money for ideas they find compelling and worthwhile.” Sounds nice, right? As more details are made public and the Spark Project beta tests its first few crowdfunding attempts, we will report further on this subject! Quoting from one of the project’s founders, Mr. Dulay, Mirasol repeats his words that “The beauty of crowdfunding is that it [offsets expenses]. Our goal is for the whole process to pay for itself.” Nice idea, nice plans, and now we watch and wait for nice test runs.

Prabbhan’s article in The Free Press Journal is something of a wake-up call. Not only do writers struggle with the same COVID-19 inspired challenges that we all face, but they are also struggling with the additional challenge of not being able to access their local libraries and bookstores (or at least, not in the same ways as they did before––most bookish spaces have pretty robust online presences these days). Bookstores offer inspiration, research pathways, and much more, hints Prabbhan, who interviews a number of young writers for the article. That said, one interview––with author Karan Puri––is especially illuminating in a positive sense. Writes Prabbhan:

[Puri] believes that the ‘stay home stay safe’ phase can be a terrific option for those wanting to maximise their side-hustles. “The lockdown gave me the time to complete my book and release it all over the world through Amazon self-publishing. A great platform, I took advantage and first launched the ebook version of the book. I started interviewing a few people who had gone through such issues for my book, and it’s been a worthwhile pursuit.

Whether or not his local bookstore is open for business, Puri sees possibilities. That’s a notion we will keep in mind when the days seem especially hard. There is a silver lining, perhaps, for some authors who never quite found the time in their busy lives to complete their manuscripts!

Every list needs to end with something as pure and sweet as this article from the Green Bay Press-Gazette! As Clough himself puts it in the article’s opening lines, “It’s not often a golden retriever gets a writing credit, but that’s the case on Baby Bumbu, a book from writer John Koski and illustrator Ben Toyne, both of Sturgeon Bay.” The cover is adorable, and the idea is adorable: “tells the fictional story of a puppy taken to join a circus in France and her efforts to return to her Wisconsin home,” writes Clough. Bumbu has been “dognapped”! Obviously we’re going to have to read the book so we find out what happens to poor Bumbu. In addition to the regular edition of the book, a special addition is available for an additional fee that goes directly to a nonprofit. Clough sums up the details: “Those who order directly from Koski can have their books ‘signed’ with a paw print from Grace Ellen.” We don’t know much else about this particular book yet on the blog, but we can’t wait to learn more. Find out more information at the link above!

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.

Self-Publishing News: 9.16.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We’ve written about Technavio reports before; unfortunately most of each of their reports is hidden behind a paywall, but they always create an attractive summary infographic that is useful all on its own. Their timeliness in collecting and publishing data means that they’re often among the first to note new trends and developments in both traditional and self-publishing. Their latest report (and infographic) is out now, and the news is mostly positive: Technavio reports that the data suggests publishing will actually grow in 2020, albeit incrementally and not dramatically all at once. (Which would be fun, but also potentially unsustainable.) They also speculate on possible dates when the market might “normalize” after COVID-19, which ranges from the third quarter of 2021 (at the earliest) to the first quarter of 2022. It’s always worth being reminded to be patient with a market as large as publishing (traditional and self-publishing) when going through something as disruptive as this virus. We can only imagine what’s hidden behind that paywall at present in respect to further information, but even just that news is both encouraging and realistic.

This week in The Arrow, Lucas Irizarry covers the story of Jasmine Jones, a student at Southeast whose first self-published book came out in 2018 when she was, herself, only 18––and who has just released her second and latest book of poems in July. According to Irazarry, Jones “said the process of getting self-published is surprisingly easy, and she learned of the opportunity by watching poetry Youtubers.” That’s not an avenue one might expect, given that most of the stories we’ve heard and reported over the years have focused on careful comparisons of existing self-publishing platforms, and not so much the possibility of discovering a resource by way of YouTube. But Jones’ story is interesting in many ways, not just her source point of discovery; she published through the B&N website, and states that the appeal of self-publishing was in that it “allows the user to decide the color of the pages, if the book will be hardback or paperback and the size of the book. Jones designed the covers for both of her books, but she said authors can hire any designer or illustrator to create them. She said it took about a week for her to perfect each of her covers.” We’re always excited to hear about new young authors embracing the process of publishing, and Jones seems to be emblematic of that particular trend. We’re excited to see what Jones does next!

spa-news

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.