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 na├»ve 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. 


Bob said...


Candy Paull said...

Those pesky Gutenberg presses will inundate the world with printed books. Illuminated manuscripts don't have the value they once did, now that the Scriptures are being translated from Latin into native languages. Where are the gatekeepers? Who will arbitrate taste in this strange world of books that can be sold anywhere, to anyone?

The railroads forgot they were transportation, and the automobile (that stinky newfangled contraption that scares the horses) took over.

As an author, I'm only beginning to realize that there are so many ways to create and package a heartfelt work of art, including my books. I have been traditionally published and have self published. I'm preparing to combine the arts I love (books, music, photos, art, performance) to bring a more immersive and diverse experience to those who enjoy what I have to share. I do not believe we yet understand that a whole new world is opening up, and it's uncharted territory.

Print books made available to the masses created the ecosystem we call traditional publishing. The automobile changed the way we live. We are creating the next ecosystem and it will be exciting (and sometimes unnerving) to see how it develops.

Traveling Ed said...

The foolish reference to music is so misguided. Many more musicians are actually earning a decent living today precisely because of this model. My evidence is anecdotal, but I know people in music doing rather well, who wouldn't have stood a chance in the old model. I wonder who they interview or how they collect their information. Maybe someone should tell them about CD Baby.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi Martyn, great post. I think Kozlowski is off his rocker and agree with you that segregation by publisher-type would be nuts. Readers want great books, so I expect retailers will continue focusing on the challenge of surfacing great books independent of pedigree.

If you're referring to my 50% claim, it's a prediction that by 2020 in the US, the indie author community will comprise 50% of the book sales measured in dollars.

I think Bowker has already found that in the US at least, the # of indie ebooks published annually already exceeds those put out by traditional publishers.

I made my 50% prediction last week at the Smashwords blog and then did an updated version but same conclusions for The Huffington Post. I also linked to the spreadsheet I used and encouraged others to develop their own projections. A couple days ago, I looked at the question from another angle. Assuming my original numbers are even close, what would this imply for the actual benefit to authors as measured by dollars in their pocket? Here's the link here Assuming indies are earning 60% list vs 15% list for traditional authors, as we look out to 2020 it develops a massive and fascinating differential in terms of author compensation. For the record, I'm not wedded to my numbers because they'll all estimates, and our estimates tend to reflect our personal word views. My world view is that the winds of favorable change will continue to blow in the indie author community's direction, yet we'll also face a glut of high-quality books that will make it difficult for all writers to stand out.

Renee Charles said...

I do believe self publishing is not going away any time soon. But, the last three books I've read were self pubished and I am ready for a traditionally published book. I have an editor for my own boooks and she pushes me to get the best work possible out of me. I have not enjoyed the recent books I've read that have skipped that step. And from what I have seen so far, it is pretty apparent in the work when it is skipped. The plot may be creative and ground breaking, but with out the polishing the real beauty is covered up by typos and the use of passive voice, and don't even get me started on the head hoping. So, although it is out there, and more than likely here to stay, I think people will get tired of sifting through the dirt to find the gems. I suppose this is where word of mouth will come into play. ANd sites like GoodReads will become more and more powerful in the writer's career. Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

This is so true and it's why people join sites that specialize in what they are looking for in the arts - historical, contemporary or futuristic,(or so far out there it hasn't been labelled yet, lol).
Great post.