Sunday, June 09, 2013

Consumers Discover Self-Publishing

All Media sectors are having to adapt to changing and often disruptive markets. The once predictable economies of scale and scope that kept order are being challenged by the lack economic rules, where anyone and everyone can reach for their 15 minutes of fame. Creators are becoming increasingly independent of the big studio and production model and consumers are increasingly accepting rough cuts alongside the traditional polished diamonds.

These changes are feeding each other. We find ourselves moving from the polished and expensive MTV video to the amateur and cheap YouTube self made live recording, from the highly literate and proof read novel to the often unedited self-published work, from the multi million pound concept album to the one produced in a studio in the shed. The consumer is no longer expecting everything to be perfect and packaged and also want to discover material and artists for themselves. The reality shows have feed the growing perception that there is a lot more talent out there than yesterday’s media producers would have ever discovered, invested in, let alone marketed.

Self-publishing has gone beyond yesterday’s all too often ridiculed ‘slush pile’ and has started to free itself from those that once exploited and fed on the vanity of the authors who wanted to be published. Digital has democratised the process of getting published and the likes of Amazon, Lulu, YouTube, Facebook and others have created the channels and made it easy. Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions was a wake-up call as to the valuation of this business and also demonstrated the perceived threat to the old factory model poised by the self-published.

Bowker Market Research (BMR) have this week claimed in their research Books and Consumers, that self-published titles now make up 12% of all ebook sales in UK and in some genre crime, science fiction and fantasy, romance and humour, the market share may be as high as 20%. They also claim that in genres such as graphic novels, food and drink, and children's non-fiction e-books, the self-published share is no more than 5% of volume sales. These observations are logical because the development and presentation aspect of these genres are more complex and therefore not so easy to self-publish to a quality standard. They also find that online browsing is the biggest driver for self-published titles, which again is to be expected given that online browsing and social networking are the discover channels open to those who self-publish often on limited budgets. .

We could not help be wonder how the consumers surveyed knew what was self-published and what wasn’t and also how BMR were able to cross reference the 12% to sales when the much of the sales data is not openly available? Maybe their research panel is telling us that consumers actually know the difference between publisher and self-published material even though they hardly recognise brands other than authors. If this is true then this a significant finding as it would dispute all previous assumptions on publisher brand recognition.

BMR also claim that heavy readers, who are likely to read every day, are more likely to buy self-published books (61%) compared to 37% of all book buyers and 36% of self-published book buyers are females over 45, who make up 24% of all book buyers.

There are lots of unanswered questions about the ratio of sales achieved to titles published, the cost to publish versus the earnings received, the number of channels used, the usage of metadata and standards and much more. However, the BMR survey was about consumers and irrespective of whether the findings are correct or incorrect, the conclusion that the self-publishing market is growing is clearly reality. 


Anonymous said...

Most consumers don't consider whether a book is self-published or not, and it's not easy to tell on sites like Amazon. They either don't care or don't know the difference and are far more concerned with what their fellow readers thought of the book - something Amazon is very good at sharing.

Martyn Daniels said...

Recieved this update from Bowker which explains how they identify published and self published works.

Thanks Steve

From Steve Bohme, Research Director at Bowker Market Research: Martyn, happy to shed light on the way that Bowker Market Research derived the self-published figures that we delivered to last Friday's The Literary Consultancy Conference. The Books & Consumers survey records the ISBN, title and author (or at least some of these elements) for each book purchased in the month prior to survey by our representative sample of c3000 buyers per month. The data are matched against bibliographic databases to generate information about the publisher, and this helps us identify some instances where the book is self-published. In addition, we painstakingly check through the list of purchases which we can't match bibliographically to identify other purchases which are self-published. It is not an exact science, of course, but when we look at the data against price, discover, choice factors, etc it is clear that we are getting a pretty good handle on this growing market. So, no evidence that consumers are wise to whether they are buying a self-published author or not, although that's an interesting question we are sure to explore in more detail going forward!

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Sharon Rose said...
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