10 Predictions for the Future of Self-Publishing
It’s always valuable to review the past and take stock of the present in order to prepare for the future.
This is especially true in the rapidly changing world of self-publishing.
As Authority Pub partner Barrie Davenport writes, “Self-publishing has changed the entire playing field, and now anyone who has a book inside of them can get it out, publish it, and sell it.”
That’s great news for self-published authors who are choosing to take matters into their own hands without waiting for a traditional publishing house to give them permission.
However, indie authors are required to learn a lot about the industry and take on new roles and responsibilities — including staying on top of how the industry is evolving. At Authority.Pub, we are here to help guide you through the pertinent information.
Before we review the trends for the future, let’s take a look at how the self-publishing industry has grown and changed — and how the perception of self-published authors is evolving for the better.
Not too many years ago, self-publishers were perceived as “the poor relations” in the eyes of the industry and with readers. It was the last resort for authors who couldn’t make it with traditional publishers.
But now even some bestselling authors from the big 5 publishing houses have jumped on the bandwagon, as self-publishing has become much more accepted and commonplace.
The old stigmas attached to self-publishing are falling away, especially as Amazon is tightening the rules to ensure better quality books from indie authors and legitimate reviews from readers. As a self-published author, you will find yourself in excellent company.
Here is a quick look at some of the important people and events involved in the recent explosion of self-publishing.
- Stephen King is one of the first well-known authors to self-publish on the internet in 2000.
- The first Espresso Book Machine can print a book in minutes at the point of sale in 2006.
- Crowdfunding websites become popular for writers and artists of all kinds in 2008.
- Ebooks gain increasing popularity in 2011.
- The Martian was originally self-published in 2011 by Andy Weir, then re-released traditionally in 2014, and went on to be the basis for an Oscar nominated blockbuster film in 2015.
- According to Bowker, 458,000 books were self-published in 2013 in the US, up 437% from 2008.
- Author Earnings reported that from 2014 through 2016, independently published ebooks accounted for nearly 45% of ebook sales on Amazon, while those published by the big 5 publishing companies are producing less than 25% of sales.
If you want a checklist for self-publishing your bestseller then click here to check out our 46-point guide.
(Image courtesy of AuthorEarnings.com)
This is an exciting time for writers who are interested in self-publishing.
It has opened up the opportunity for you to build a real business around your books if you create a catalog of books and stay on top of the trends and industry changes.
In addition to developing a daily writing habit to build your catalog, you will need to be proficient in everything from cover design and copywriting to building your email list of followers.
As a self-published author, you can choose to take on the additional skills generally performed by a traditional publisher or find freelancers to take over those duties.
At Authority Pub, we recommend you hire a professional editor, book cover designer, and formatter to ensure you produce the bests possible product and to maximize your opportunity for sales. This also gives you more time to focus on what you do best — write books.
There are a variety of author service providers who can help authors connect with suitable freelancers (like Upwork or Elance) or even provide a full range of services under one roof (like ArchangelInk). You can find great talent for these services at reasonable prices that you can eventually recoup with more sales of your books.
There are so many different of options out there for writers looking to independently publish their work. Understanding these options and your self-publishing goals can help you better navigate the emerging trends in the industry.
Here is a quick overview of some of the ways indie authors can structure their self-publishing efforts:
- Acting as writer and publisher and treating it all as a business by building a catalog of books and developing a platform to build a following and promote your books. This is the model that Steve Scott and Barrie Davenport follow here at Authority Pub.
- Self-publishing your work in an ebook format to sell as a Kindle book on Amazon or other ebook sellers — or offer independently to your blog, social media, and email followers.
- Printing at per-book costs through Kindle Direct Printing or other on-demand printers and selling through Amazon and other booksellers.
Serialization and Fan Fiction
- Releasing shorter stories or individual chapters one at a time, and potentially making more income by selling each chapter separately. Fan fiction has been the fastest growing category on Wattpad, the world’s largest community for readers and writers.
- Incorporating both traditional and self-publishing methods where you might self-publish first, then re-release your book through traditional publishing. Or you might choose traditional or self-publishing on an individual basis for each book. According to Digital Book World, “hybrid authors, who combined both traditional and indie publishing methods, were more likely to report higher annual income than those who published exclusively under traditional or self-publishing models.”
At Authority.Pub, we believe that self-publishing and traditional publishing can coexist and each still flourish. However, the self-publishing model, particularly for ebooks, should not be left out of the equation.
According to Dana Beth Weinberg in an article for Digital Book World, “The past few years have seen the remarkable rise and expansion of a community of authors whose work has met with tremendous success in the marketplace without any support from traditional publishers but with an enormous boost from Amazon, the business partner-cum-distruptor of the traditional publishing establishment.”
Self-publishing websites such as Blurb, Kindle Direct Printing, Lulu, Smashwords, and Wattpad are continuing to gain users. There is even a children’s version of book making which has started up with Lulu Jr.
In spite of the explosive growth of self-publishing, there are still challenges for indie authors with regard to getting your work discovered by the right audience.
Traditional media coverage does not usually include self-published books, and it is more difficult for self-published books to get into brick-and-mortar stores. The growing competition and growth in self-publishing makes it harder and harder to get noticed.
Most catalogues that physical stores use to order their books do not include independently published works. Also, it’s more risky for stores to take on self-published books because these authors typically cannot offer the same discounts or return policies as traditional publishing companies.
As the self-publishing industry continues to grow and evolve, you’ll see more and more changes that benefit indie authors. Here are the top 10 predictions for the future of self-publishing :
1. Authorpreneurs will be on the rise. Writers will learn and take on the responsibilities and corresponding skills of a traditional publisher and will learn how to use their books as a foundation for building multiple streams of income.
2. The services available to indie authors will grow and become more accessible. More author service companies are popping up to connect writers with freelancers to fulfill the roles that the writer may not be able or want to perform, such as design, editing, formatting, and promotion.
3. Readers will want and expect to be able to be in communication with authors more. This can be achieved online through personal websites, different social media platforms, and book-related sites such as Goodreads. Readers need the assurance that the self-published author is legitimate and connected with the readers’ needs.
4. Online subscription platforms will become irrelevant. Oyster, which was highly talked-about when it started, has since shut down and Scribd is being forced to reduce its offerings.
According to Bill Rosenblatt writing for Forbes, these platforms “attract ‘grazers’ who want to sample a wide variety of content at a fixed price.” And they are “much more likely to read portions of several books and not finish some of them.”
5. Subscription boxes, however, will continue to grow in popularity. According to Hello Subscription, “These curated subscription boxes are an amazing way to have books you want to read selected for you monthly. Many of the subscriptions are themed, also delivering ‘bookish’ literary items or extras that go along with the theme, creating a great reading experience.”
Authors who want to participate in the service can donate signed books, creating an opportunity for exposure with with thousands of new readers.
6. There will be an increase in the implementation and promotion of pre-orders. These have not been used by many authors so far, yet out of the top 200 best sellers on Smashwords, two-thirds of them had implemented pre-orders
7. Self-published books will be found more in public libraries. According to Bob Nardini, Vice President, Library Services for ProQuest (a global information-content and technology company), “In the past, libraries dismissed self-published books as ‘vanity’ publications and safely ignored them. Today that’s become harder to do.”
More and more libraries are acquiring self-published books, and writers can use social media and their online presence to encourage fans to request their books at their local libraries.
8. There will be a move toward serialization. A serialized book is delivered to readers in installments over time. Each installment is a satisfying read alone, but it also leaves the reader wanting more. Serialized fiction is gaining traction as readers are eager to get the next installment. Since people are reading more and more on their phones and in shorter bursts, this method of publishing is a great fit.
9. Series writers will offer the first book in a series for free to create a relationship and build their readership. Once you have a reader hooked with your story or writing style, they will be willing to pay for subsequent books.
10. Authors will employ micro-targeting to get noticed in a smaller pool of choices. This is a strategy that utilizes reader data and demographics to identify their interests so you can write and market to unique groups of likeminded people. This will help you acquire passionate fans with an authentic interest in your genre or topic.
As you create your own self-publishing goals and plans, keep these predictions in mind and challenge yourself to try something new and trending with your book business. With some hard work and intentionality you can get ahead of the curve and build a solid business with your books that has longevity.