Everybody knows that self-publishing has exploded. In fact, an analysis by ProQuest affiliate Bowker from last fall reveals that the number of self-published titles in 2013 was up 437% over 2008. Not only that, but a small but growing number of indie authors have been making incomes in the high six figures—and sometimes more. But what now? Is the bubble about to burst or will self-published authors continue to thrive?
Bestselling writer Hugh Howey, author of the Wool and the Silo series, believes 2015 will be a quiet year in self-publishing when compared with 2014. “I predict e-book penetration will continue to grow,” he told GalleyCat in December. “Publishers seem to have embraced what digital does for their bottom line.” Additionally, Howey told GalleyCat he feels the future of Barnes & Noble will become clearer in 2015 and that Google and Apple will win market share from Amazon.
Joel Friedlander, the publishing guru who runs the blog the Book Designer, believes that self-publishing will continue to grow, and he says there are two trends for indie authors to watch and take advantage of in 2015. The first is collaboration. “This is already starting to happen with authors cooperating on publishing and marketing tasks, even forming new, small presses to better distribute their work,” he says. “By pooling their energy and knowledge, indie authors can publish more, better, and faster.”
The second trend, according to Friedlander, is the maturing of online bookselling and marketing. “We are seeing and will continue to see new services, new products, and new ways to connect with readers that leverage the broad acceptance of mobile platforms,” he points out. “Tech-savvy publishers will find the Holy Grail of book marketing when they learn to combine the power of social interaction with the intimacy of mobile computing.”
Speaking of mobile computing, it’s interesting to note that publishing analyst Thad McIlroy’s “11 Topmost Digital Book Publishing Trends & Opportunities” report cites data from the Pew Research Center and Nielsen Book Research indicating the following:
● About 70 million people in the U.S. have tablets. Roughly, one-third of these people use their tablet for reading, and they’re the source of 42% of e-book purchases.
● Around 175 million people in the U.S. own cellphones. About 12% of them (that’s 21 million people) read books on their devices. They account for about 7% of e-book purchases.
● Sales of dedicated e-readers are on the decline, but about 50 million people in the U.S. have them, and e-readers are still the source of one-third of e-book purchases.
The lesson here for indie authors is pretty clear: if mobile isn’t already an important part of your strategy, you need to revisit your strategy.
On his website, author and blogger Russell Blake predicts that subscription services, such as Oyster, Scribd, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, will make it harder for indie authors to sell their books in 2015. (The New York Times also covered indie authors’ displeasure with Kindle Unlimited.) Blake also underscores the importance of building your brand and says “exclusivity to any vendor will continue to cost authors more that it earns them over the mid-to-long run,” and he suggests that “diversification across all vendors will continue to be important for smart publishers, indie especially.”
And what do all these advances in technology mean for indie authors? According to an article by technology journalist Jeff Bertolucci in Information Week, almost anyone can be a data scientist. Lukas Biewald, CEO and cofounder of CrowdFlower, a data mining and crowdsourcing service, says, “As data becomes more accessible and analytic tools become easier to use and readily available, data science won’t be limited to those in the technology sector. In 2015, anyone with the right tools can draw powerful insights from data.”
Perhaps most interesting of all is what McIlroy says in his aforementioned report about self-publishing and the publishing industry at large: “Self-publishing represents a creative disruption within the publishing industry. As such, it’s to be embraced. These self-published authors may have much to teach the entire publishing industry; each experiment is an idea that a ‘traditional’ publishing house might adopt.”
Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.