Self-Publishing News: 1.22.2018 – Publishing Trends Roundup

January, illustrated name of calendar month, illustration

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically regarding publishing trends within the publishing industry, and their implications for all authors!

If there was an article title I thought least likely to ever appear in print or the digital sphere, it was this one: gig economy workers looking to romance writers (including, specifically, self-published authors!) for tips on how to get ahead in the digital age. This fascinating article comes to us from the Associated Press by way of Washington’s Top News (WTOP) and was written by Chris Larson of the University of Colorado and released through The Conversation (“an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts,” according to the article). In short, this has top of the line credentials, and speaks to a felt need in the self-publishing community: to be recognized not just by and within the publishing industry for the many successes and strengths of self-publishing, but also to be recognized by those outside of it–by other professionals in other fields, as a peer among peers. With a caveat to E.L. James (authors of the immensely popular Fifty Shades series), Larson writes that his research indicates that “the median income for romance authors has tripled in the e-book era. And more and more are earning a six-figure income.” This is great news, especially if the reasons why can be extrapolated and translated to other fields. Larson has some thoughts on that, too, and we highly recommend you read the full article at the link!

In another article with shockingly good credentials and authority, New York Times regular contributor Alexandra Alter describes in an interview just how e-books and the digital revolution, self-publishing included, have affected her job. Alter, for context, “covers the book industry” (according to the article) for the Times, and is a regular contributor to their very popular podcast, “The Book Review.” In other words, she’s one of the best-placed individuals to comment upon significant and ongoing trends in publishing at large. Here, Alter writes of how she came to e-books with the birth of her eldest daughter, a familiar tune to many e-book aficionados, all of whom need their hands free for various parenting duties. And despite being deeply vested in traditional publishing and print media, Alter sees value in the self-publishing industry: “Self-publishing has been one of the most fascinating corners of the industry to me,” she writes. “There have been a handful of massively successful self-published authors who have started their own publishing companies, and they’ve started to publish other ‘self-published’ authors. But publishers have survived so far through consolidation, and we’ll probably see more of that.” There’s lots to unpack throughout this article, and we highly recommend you take a look at the original on the Times website!

In one of the more useful trends to arise in the self-publishing industry, companies are now beginning to see the value in providing aspiring authors with tools for taking charge of and organizing their own publication and marketing needs. The latest release comes from Outskirts Press, a self-publishing company with which we are familiar. This month, it released its 2018 book marketing calendar, which comes complete with “valuable book competition deadlines, marketing tips and other up-to-date information they need to successfully promote all year.” If this sounds like the sort of thing which might prove helpful to you (and we’ll be the first to admit that we love bullet journals and budget and daily planners!) we recommend you take a look at the full article on Benzinga.


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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.

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The Face of Book Signings is Changing

As a new author, there is nothing more special than having your first book signing. Seeing the crowd that is anxious to meet you, talking to them about your book, selling copies on the spot — all of these things can cause even a serial author to have butterflies in their stomach. After all, you have worked so hard to write and publish your book. Shouldn’t you be entitled to a bit of celebration?

Book signings are also a rather inexpensive way to connect with your audience. However, according to an article the appeared on the New York Times website yesterday, that’s about to change – for the author’s fans at least. The decline in brick and mortar bookstore sales is forcing store owners to seek out other potential revenue streams. Some of these stores have decided to start charging customers to meet the author. The staff will then require a ticket before they can get in front of an author.

This is a good idea for well-known authors, but what about self-publishing authors who are using this as a publicity move? How many people would pay to see an unknown author? This is going to present a new set of challenges for those who have recently published or are publishing soon as many times this exposure can be critical to reaching interested readers in your community. this is one good reason to keep your marketing online with things such as virtual book tours, Twitter parties, online book signings, etc.

Also, another key point in the article is that neither the author or publisher receive any proceeds from the fee the store is charging consumers. That’s a bit odd, don’t you think?

Self-publishing Tidbits

News today broke of yet another Author Solutions partnership between ‘self empowerment’ publisher, Hay House. As you may recall, this comes after similar partnerships over the past year with Harlequin and Thomas Nelson, which brought on quite a bit of criticism throughout the industry.

Like it or not, self-publishing proves again to be on the move, as reported in a recent New York Times article: “But times have changed, and radically. Last year, according to the Bowker bibliographic company, 764,448 titles were produced by self-publishers and so-called microniche publishers. (A microniche, I imagine, is a shade bigger than a self.) This is up an astonishing 181 percent from the previous year.” Be sure to check out the comments section, beginning with the insightful first response.


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Self-publishing Marketing Tools

Whether you’ve self-published several books or just now penning your first manuscript, elements of book marketing and sales techniques are no doubt on your radar. Quality self-publishing options provide them. It’s never too early, or late, to begin your research into relevant marketing tools and options like:

Amazon Search Inside
Book Video Trailers
Co-op Advertising in places as relevant in as the New York Times Book review.

How are you going to employ those? The possibilities in today’s marketplace are endless.


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Self-publishing, Literature and Pop Culture

I opened the Books section in yesterday’s New York Times Urban Eye to read the headline, “Why Literature Doesn’t Matter.” Really? How sad. It matters to me. It matters to my family, friends, and colleagues. It matters to the self-publishing authors I work with every day. Literature doesn’t matter… I wish someone would have told me.

According to Urban Eye, a recent Sunday Book Review article penned buy novelist Kurt Anderson was to fill me in. Anderson writes, “During the 1960s and ’70s…people who hadn’t read a word of a first-rate contemporary novel — no Cheever, no Bellow, no Salinger, Heller, Styron, Doctorow, Updike or Roth — nevertheless knew the novelists’ names… And then everything changed.”

But book sales in the US have remained strong, and are even growing over previous years in Europe. Despite the current recession effects, statistics show that readers are still buying books. Not matter? Anderson goes on to claim, “But irony of ironies, after literature was evicted from mass culture, pop culture itself began to fragment and lose its heretofore defining quality as the ubiqui­tous stuff that everybody consumed.”

Ah, I’m seeing to whom, or rather to what, Literature doesn’t matter to – pop culture. Wait, then this is a good thing for authors and readers. The fragmentation that Anderson talks about is the segmenting of consumers into smaller, more clearly defined profiles. What that means to self-publishing authors of fiction, non-fiction, etc., is not that your work doesn’t matter, that Literature doesn’t matter, but that it doesn’t matter to everyone. Perfect, now you can coordinate and focus your subject matter and marketing efforts to readers who will benefit from, and buy your books.

Talk to your self-publisher early on about your custom marketing plan.

Karl Schroeder


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SELF-PUBLISHING: THE NEW AMERICAN IDOL

SELF-PUBLISHING: THE NEW AMERICAN IDOL
By Brent Sampson

Seeing Jennifer Hudson sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl reminded me of the recent article in the New York Times about the self-publishing industry, which received a lot of attention and has sparked ongoing controversy.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, it appears conventionally published authors (and those striving to become such) still view self-publishing services with contempt because they feel authors are “cheating” somehow. After all, getting a book published traditionally is “hard work.”  Those who have done it (or long to) perhaps feel as if self-published authors haven’t paid their dues.

But are they really cheating, or are they simply taking advantage of wide-spread changes occurring  throughout the entertainment and business worlds?

Let’s examine other industries:  The same Do-it-Yourself (DIY) fever is sweeping through the music industry. Or, to be more accurate, has already swept through the music industry.  Talented musicians are no longer waiting for acceptance from the “establishment” and instead, are distributing their music through iTunes, finding their audiences through Myspace, and broadcasting their music videos via YouTube.   It is safe to say the music industry has irrevocably changed.  Musicians no longer give 95% of their royalties to the “industry” and customers no longer buy CDs from brick-and-mortar music stores. 

Are these musicians cheating? No. They are still paying their dues, but now the invoice comes after their music has already become available. They still must market aggressively to obtain listeners, but at least they have something to market.   The audience determines which of those musicians succeed and which of them fail. 

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

I think it is safe to say that “becoming a rock star” is a dream that almost everyone can acknowledge, if not personally identify with; although if the ratings for American Idol are any indication, it might actually be a dream nearly everyone can identify with, too.

Other common dreams are “becoming an actor,” “becoming a model,” “becoming a professional athlete,” and yes, even “becoming a published author.”

Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if all that was required to start playing for the New York Knicks was writing a check for $1000 to some internet company? Can you imagine the fervor if all that was required to obtain a recording contract was standing in line at some reality show try-out?  Wait a minute!  That’s already happening. Reality television has altered the search for “talent” and now, in rare instances, getting “discovered” is no harder than filling out an application. Nowadays, instead of submitting audition tapes to countless producers, lyricists stand in line and face the possibility of public humiliation at the hands of Simon, Paula, and Randy.

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

Is this “cheating,” per se, or has the do-it-yourself mentality simply removed unnecessary hurdles that prevented talent from being discovered faster? You see, talent is the one common denominator and talent cannot be purchased. Cast members of Survivor have their fifteen minutes of fame and then disappear back into the abyss. The try-outs for American Idol feature thousands upon thousands of “hopefuls” standing in lines around city blocks and yet the main competition is comprised of just a handful.  Most had their opportunity to shine, and their audience rejected them. But at least they received a shot.

As the New York Times article states, self-publishing companies are thriving, and that is because we give writers their shot, their fifteen minutes, their chance.  We are American Idol for writers. We make it easy to publish a book. If “publishing a book” is your dream, you’re going to be happy with the result.  And if your dream is to be successful, famous, rich, or a combination of the three, you’re going to receive your chance, but just like everyone else who is successful, famous, or rich, you are going to need to bring something special to the table.

Most reasonable people recognize this. Those who don’t may become disillusioned, but listen – if it were easy to become a bestselling author, a multi-platinum recording artist, a player for the New York Knicks, or a highly-sought-after runway model, then everyone would do it. 

Just because iTunes makes the distribution of music easy doesn’t mean every artist is going to become a success overnight. And just because standing in line for American Idol is easy doesn’t mean all those people are going to win an Oscar and sing the National Anthem for the Super Bowl.   Lord knows there is only one Jennifer Hudson.  American Idol didn’t make her a success; talent pours from her soul. She would have found success tripping through the dark blindfolded.  But American Idol shined a light on her, and she reflected back.

Self-publishing companies shine a light on writers.  It is the writer’s job to shine back. Some authors do, like Gang Chen, who earned over $39,000 in royalties from Outskirts Press in the 4th quarter of 2008. That’s $13,000 a month. Has his book sold a million copies? No. Is he making a lot of money as a self-published author?  Yes. By any reasonable benchmark, Gang Chen is a successful self-published author who has given specific permission to have his successes shared. 

And this brings me to my last point.  All publishing companies are different, just like all writers are different, and just like all contestants on American Idol are different.  Success is never guaranteed. But if you are going to self-publish your book, you’re better off publishing with a company where your chances for success increase.  Above all, you have to believe in yourself and you have to work hard. Success rarely comes easily for anyone, but now, thanks to self-publishing companies, everyone has an equal chance. We’ll shine the light on you. What you do with that light is up to you.

About the author

Brent Sampson is the best-selling author of “Sell Your Book on Amazon” and the award-winning “Self-Publishing Simplified.” As the president & CEO of Outskirts Press, Brent offers turn-key, on-demand custom book publishing services to authors seeking a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to publish and distribute their books worldwide. Outskirts Press has helped thousands of authors realize their dreams of publishing profitably and is the third fastest growing privately-held company in Colorado. Visit www.outskirtspress.com for more information.