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Is There a Self-Publishing Bubble?

8 March 2012

From author and former agent Nathan Bransford:

I say no. We’re not in a [self-publishing] bubble. This is not a temporary blip.

There are sooo many people who are writing books out there. There even more who want to write a book and believe they have a book in them. There are thousands upon thousands of unpublished manuscripts out there and even more in progress.

And it’s not new. People have been writing books for years.

Blogging was a blip. Books are far more central to our culture and are far, far more glamorized than blogs. Lots of people want to grow up and be a famous author. Fewer want to be a famous blogger.

And the ease of entry into the self-publishing game is only getting smoother. Right now it’s still somewhat challenging to make your book available in all channels, but those barriers are coming down. There is a massive supply of books in the pipeline.

Get used to the self-publishing boom. We’re just getting started.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford


17 Comments to “Is There a Self-Publishing Bubble?”

  1. Bransford has always been a little ahead of the curve on this. (He was smart enough to get out of agenting and back into writing before it was really clear that the direction of things would be in favor of the writer.)

    However, I think the comparison to blogging is not apt. Blogging is also a part of a long-time ancient tradition: gossip, oracle, and journalism. There are lots and lots more people who would like to be the wise man on the top of the mountain, than who want to write an ebook.

    Self-publishing is not a blip, but neither is blogging.

    • Agreed! I have friends who swear they can’t write a novel but would *love* to be famous for writing stuff, and see blogging as a good way to get there. And as long as establishment media keeps denying it has a bias and trying to spin stories they way they want them spun, blogging will continue to be as relevant (or more relevant) as a source of news and opinion.

      Plus I think we are just beginning to see the first wave of authors who were bloggers (of one stripe or another) first, who use that platform and that built-in audience to make a big enough splash right away to turn themselves into successful authors after just a book or two (versus at #10 or 11). It is a different kind of “I put years into becoming an instant success” than the other, but in some cases just as effective…and I think as we move forward we’ll only see more of it as young writers take up blogging just to have a web presence even as they are writing novels (vs only doing it after they publish). Hell, it’s essentially what I’m doing….

  2. Also, if he’s using bubble in the same sense as, like, housing bubble, the simple answer is “no, because there’s no market manipulation”. 🙂

    • In that sense… I would say that there is more of a “bubble” in the get-rich-quick aspects of blogging.

      Setting up a dozen heavily optimized micro-blogs, all pitched to certain well-searched and high-return keywords — that gets old fast.

      And if he’s responding to people who see ebook publishing that way, then I can see the comparison. I do think there will be a number of people who will read a how-to book (like say, Locke’s — with the keyword “million” in the title) and jump in for all the wrong reasons.

      But fiction in particular is WAY harder to write if you aren’t interested in it for its own sake. I suspect anybody who is writing a novel on that basis will never finish the dang thing.

  3. Since when did Bransford stop becoming a literary agent? It was a good move, but this is the first I’ve heard of it.

  4. Trouble is – ebooks never go away. Bubble or not, they are piling up and piling up, soon we will not be able to findour way in the jungle. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is already nearly impossible, except for the big publishers who can afford to select a few books and promote the hell out of them.

    • Actually, not at all.

      That’s where the comparison to blogs really kicks in. It’ll get better not worse, as people stop trying to find books the way they used to, and start using the tools they’ve been using for years on the web.

      10-15 years ago, everybody was bemoaning how the web would be lost in that sea of pure dreck, and obviously the fact that just anyone could post webpages and blogs would make it impossible to find anything worthwhile, so everybody would just abandon it….

      (Sound familiar?)

      If you knew how much real dreck there was on the web — I don’t just mean badly written and boring, but literally machine written nonsense pages — you’d think think the prediction HAD to have come true and the internet HAD tob e dead. Junk pages vastly outnumber the real pages.

      But we don’t even see them.

      That’s because nobody simply browses them any more. People used to browse them like a bookstore, because there were so few pages. It was worthwhile to use a “pick a random page” algorithm to discover new things. Search engines bothered to have categories, which you could browse, like a bookstore.

      But then folks figured out that it was a lot more efficient to do one of two things: either use a search algorithm (like Google) to find pages on subjects you’re interested in. Or use word of mouth — i.e. things like the “New York Dimes” list on the side of this blog.

      When you stop using the tools which weren’t designed for free choice, and start using the kinds of tools which really help you find cool stuff, you’ll stop thinking about the dreck. You won’t even see it.

      • “10-15 years ago, everybody was bemoaning how the web would be lost in that sea of pure dreck, and obviously the fact that just anyone could post webpages and blogs would make it impossible to find anything worthwhile, so everybody would just abandon it….

        (Sound familiar?)”

        I cracked up when I read that. I remember people saying just that years ago and yes, it does sound familiar. Hmm, interesting …

      • Exactly. There are over 1 trillion web pages and people have little trouble finding stuff they want.

        • Yes, David, but do you find the good things that you don’t know about? That is the question that faces most small authors (like me).

          • That’s the interesting thing about the web. It really is very efficient — but it takes time and persistence on the part of the info providers.

            The system favors those who stick to it for a very long time, and who produce things of interest consistently over that time. Everything is so interconnected that eventually something will connect up with something that becomes the pathway to being better known.

            Will everybody who might like your book find you? No, but over time, more people will have more chances to discover you in the new paradigm than you ever had in the old. It just happens over a longer time.

            Remember, in the old way, a book only had a couple of weeks to make a splash. If someone didn’t happen to find you during that short time you got wide distribution, odds were they’d never have the chance to find you again. On the web, it tends to take years, but those connections build and build over time until it’s almost impossible for someone who is interested in things related to your book NOT to come across you.

    • Another point is that sometimes authors do take e-books off the market when they aren’t selling and either re-write them and re-pub them, or publish something else. So some e-books do go away.

      Also, I take into consideration that it takes much longer for someone to write a book than to read one, so there is no shortage of readers out there.

  5. This will be a bubble for some in this sense: they will get in expecting quick riches and get out when that does not happen.

    However, there will be a new wave to replace them so the bubble will be an individual thing.

    I tell myself every day that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Some days I beleive myself…


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