In November, 1644, at the height of the English Civil War, John Milton self published ‘Areopagitica’ which was distributed via pamphlet, defying the censorship he argued against. In the Fifties Howard Fast, who was then blacklisted under the ‘McCarthy era’, self published his epic novel Spartacus. There are many stories where the author had no choice and many more where the author merely couldn’t get the attention of the publisher and was forced to self publish. Although many have self published the real success story are rare.
As today’s slush pile gets ever bigger and getting a first time novel often comes down to who you know, more than what is, self publishing is becoming big business. This has been assisted by technology such as print on demand, which has removed the need to engage in expensive print runs and inventory and of course the Internet, which has made it easier for anyone to sell anything from anywhere.
One of the major self publishing marketplace players Authors Solutions, has continued to consolidate its positioning by acquiring this week one of its major competitors, Xlibris, for an undisclosed price. Xlibris, founded in 1997 was one of the first companies to use the emerging digital technology to create a new and appealing offer to aspiring authors. In September 2007 Authors Solutions also bought another competitor, iUniverse and now has some 100,000 titles within its catalogue, the equivalent of UK’s new titles annual output. Author Solutions are reported to have published 12,000 titles last year and sold more than 2.5 million copies of its books. This would now rise to 19,000 new titles under the new combined company.
The interesting issue continues to be where an author’s and consumer’s best interest lie and where the greatest value is perceived by these two parties. The self publishing operators now offer the author a full range of services; editorial, design, marketing and not just print and dispatch. Obviously the more services that are used the greater the author investment and risk. However as publishers grapple with a tight market and become more selective will they drive more authors to seek the DIY route? Will copy editing and design services that have long been outsourced by many merely service whoever pays? As some publishers cull their backlist to focus on front list, will this drive established authors to revert rights and also seek a second self published life? We can guarantee is that the number of titles produced or available within the total market will not fall, as more authors self publish then the operator’s model can only improve and technology can only improve the visibility of all titles.
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