Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Self Publishing Is Going to Just Get Bigger, Embrace It
Today we face the prospect of drowning in tidal wave self-published eBooks, YouTube videos, photos, independent music videos and tracks etc which are loaded onto sites alongside and often more frequently than traditionally produced works. Historically these self-published works have been regarded by many as substandard works, looked down upon by the traditional marketplace who referred to them by the term ‘vanity publishing’. Some would even still argue that if you can’t get a publisher, producer or third party to publish your work, then it must be of questionable quality and of little value.
Some claim that by 2020 50% of all eBooks will be self-published. We would question that and suggest that it is probably a huge understatement and the figure is more likely to be 75%. However, we have to acknowledge that establishing what is self-published and what isn’t is likely to become even harder as digital tools to create, promote and produce quality layouts become cheaper and easier to use. We also have to accept that there will be a number of new third parties who will assist the creator to be published and although these are not necessarily publishers as we knew them, they are effectively publishers.
Some will point to Anderson’s ‘Long Tail’ economics and say it doesn't work and the head is getting smaller in number and larger in slice of the pie and the tail is now just too long and they will be right MIDiA Consulting have published a new report on the music business titled‘The Death of the Long Tail: The Superstar Music Economy’. The report states that the total global artist income from recorded music in 2013 was $2.8 billion, down from $3.8 billion in 2000 but up slightly on 2012 and that artists’ share of total income grew from 14% in 2000 to 17% in 2013. It claims that 1% of the total artists and works account for 77% of all artist recorded music income. This reinforced by the ‘Cowell factor’ of manufactured new stars and the charts, but is music just about charts and recorded music or should also not take in music publishing, performing rights and royalties and merchandising. We often just see music through the eyes of the record producers and not the industry and rarely the musicians.
Others will complain that in the book industry earnings for the mid and back list are being decimated by the introduction of masses of self-published material. The earnings will increasingly be different to those enjoyed yesterday and many will not match the author’s expectations. Michael Kozlowski’s recently advocated that in order to address this that ‘Indie eBooks Need to beSegregated’. We would strongly disagree with this reactive and somewhat naïve approach which is aimed at suppressing creativity. Segregation is a false economics move aimed not at segregating good and bad but at protecting yesterday’s financial model and its bets from the new offerings.
The world has changed and the true democratisation of creativity is upon us and this has been enabled by the internet and means that we can all write, make videos, take pictures, create games and make music. Forget the quality issue the fact is that this explosion of material is changing the way we now create, develop, market and value stuff. This genie is not going back in the lamp and we now have to realise that there will be more not less and that new consumer values will change all and that the creator rewards will be different.
Some state that the consumer demands quality and that this can only be achieved through the editorial development process. However there are now many consumer viewpoints and values and these often clash with these traditional binary beliefs. Who would have believed that some low quality YouTube videos would receive the number of viewings they have and gone on to spawn new stars of their own. Who would have expected the global sensation of ’50 Shades of Grey’ and it now being adapted to mainstream film? Would we have ever heard ‘Gangnam Style’ without YouTube? Would performers such as Lilly Allen or the Arctic Monkeys have made it if left to the traditional music business?
We accept that there are millions who don’t make it in both the traditional and self-publishing models but that is no reason to not move on and accept that we are now moving into an era of free expression, creativity and democratisation.