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Self-Publishing Preview: 2016

17 January 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

In 2015, self-publishing saw a number of high-profile success stories. Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Redemption became the first novel by an indie author to find shelf space at Walmart, and Andy Weir’s The Martian, originally self-published, was released as a major motion picture starring Matt Damon. Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake received major traditional media coverage and was reviewed in the New York Times (albeit after it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014 and picked up by Graywolf Press), and such writers as Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Deborah Bladon, and Tijan saw their indie books reach the New York Times digital bestseller list. Crowdfunding also continued to be a popular platform, with dozens of publishing projects successfully funded on Kickstarter, covering everything from teaching programming to kids to a Lil Bub picture book.

All this came during a general slowdown in e-book sales overall, with a 10% drop in digital sales in 2015, according to the Association of American Publishers. Penguin Random House exited the self-publishing business altogether with the sale of its troubled Author Solutions to a private equity firm, and subscription service Oyster announced that it was closing up shop in early 2016. Despite these shake-ups, many established self-publishing trends in terms of pricing and the popularity of genre fiction continued unchanged from previous years. We talked to some industry experts who discussed what they saw in 2015 and what their predictions are for the industry in the year ahead.

. . . .

A steady stream of authors took publishing deals only to return to self-publishing, while traditional authors, such as bestselling comic book author Warren Ellis (Cunning Plans: Talks by Warren Ellis), continued to explore self-publishing as a supplement to their other work. This makes sense financially: a survey by Digital Book World found that hybrid authors earn the most money, with a median income between $7,500 and $9,999 a year, followed by traditionally published authors ($3,000–$4,999), and indie authors ($500–$999). The assumption that authors only use self-publishing until they can secure a traditional deal bears out less and less.

. . . .

Longtime bestselling romance author Lindsay McKenna left Harlequin for self-publishing in 2014 and then signed with Kensington in 2015—and has a number of indie titles in addition to her Kensington titles slated for 2016. Some authors rejected the traditional deal outright. New York Times bestselling indie authors Keeland and Ward went looking for a traditional deal for their coauthored novel, Cocky Bastard—but the offers they received weren’t in the realm of what they felt they could make publishing it themselves. The novel went on to hit the New York Times bestseller list in 2015. “Many [publishers] are beginning to be understanding of the wish to be hybrid, and the business sense behind it,” McGuire says of the continuing shift toward the hybrid model.

. . . .

There are two main challenges that have yet to be overcome when it comes to self-publishing versus traditional publishing. The first is print distribution and lack of shelf space in bricks-and-mortar stores. While indie authors continued to hit the bestseller lists in 2015, their presence in physical shops was negligible. Coker, the Smashwords founder, predicts that this will change With indie authors consistently hitting the national bestseller lists, he says, booksellers would be wise to carry those titles. Though total digital sales have reached the millions, many readers, even younger readers, still prefer print. In a study conducted by Publishing Technology, 79% of millennials said they read a print book in the last year—nearly double the amount who chose to read an e-book on any device—and 28% have discovered new books at retail stores. Indie authors want to capitalize on this market share.

Though many bookstores have small indie sections or may want to carry more indie titles, it is not always such an easy thing to do. The terms set by self-publishing platforms such as Amazon’s CreateSpace are famously incompatible with the way booksellers operate—that is, with a discount of 40%–55% and the ability to return books.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Self-Publishing

30 Comments to “Self-Publishing Preview: 2016”

  1. Okay, I’m about as nobody as one can get and I’ve made more money than that. Where do they get their numbers?

    • You beat me to it, Stephen. That was my first thought, too!

    • Holy cow! I had a really crappy 2015 due to a lot of family problems, as in I only had one short story published in an trad-pub anthology. I still made more on my older indie titles than PW’s indie maximum. They really need to stop using Whale Math (TM). *smh and going back to the Panthers/Seahawks game*

    • So according to their “scientific” survey the average earnings per year are:

      Hybrid authors: $7,500-$9,999

      Traditionally published: $3,000–$4,999

      Indie authors: $500–$999

      Of course, that’s just an average, many writers make much more. But it does match with my own survey which says that on average:

      Smart, savvy authors: $7,500-$9,999

      Clueless writers terrified of technology and psychologically dependent on validation from gatekeepers: $3,000–$4,999

      Indy writers just starting out: $500–$999

      • Yeah, just an average, and the indie pool is probably much larger than the other two put together. The traditionally published data set is curated, after all. Given that, 3k to 5k is a pretty sad number for the trad side.

        I’m nowhere near the top of the indie pool and I’m easily beating those numbers with two kids at home. That tells me the drop in the trad market doesn’t represent an overall drop but, rather, a shift.

        Off to play Minion Trouble with my 4 year old…

    • The figures are accurate, just misleading. Start typing random words into the Amazon search bar and you’ll get books in the 1m+ sales rank. The vast majority of these are terrible books with terrible covers (or none at all) and terrible blurbs. They aren’t done in what one would ever consider a businesslike manner. Indeed, many aren’t done with any intention of selling, simply so that someone can say they have a book.

      Trad publishing has these as well, but they are rejected and not counted in the figures. We get them hung around our neck like an albatross.

  2. er, a certain anatomical ring

  3. Ha!

    “This makes sense financially: a survey by Digital Book World found that hybrid authors earn the most money, with a median income between $7,500 and $9,999 a year, followed by traditionally published authors ($3,000–$4,999), and indie authors ($500–$999). The assumption that authors only use self-publishing until they can secure a traditional deal bears out less and less.”

    They’re getting more and more desperate to keep writers going to publishers it seems.

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics as they say.

    They had to admit that the hybrid writer was doing better than the traditionally published ones. Then they added the whale math. To make the numbers they wanted to look ‘bigger’ they left out the 99.9% of writers that tried and were rejected by trad-pub — but they used ‘all’ of the self published writers (and there are plenty out there that the cover or first chapter are enough to warn you to not look deeper.)

    So, if we throw in the 99.9% (heck let’s be generous and call it a mere 99%!) they ‘left out’ and counting rejects then the hybrid average is a whooping $75-100 a year and trad-pub only is $30-50 (still want to waste your time for a bit of that pot luck?) Which suddenly make the self-pub’s $500-999 look pretty dang good.

    Sees Publishers Weekly? Me can do whaling math too! 😉

    • Everything you said because there’s a bit of apples to oranges in all this. How many “self-published” authors load their book on Amazon, sell 40 copies to friends and family, and that’s about it. They at least made $150 more than that 99.9%

    • Yep. Every analysis of trad pub seems to leave out the uncomfortable fact that the writers who made *any* money are one in a thousand. Sure, the bottom-of-the-barrel indies (the one with the illiterate text and “look Ma, I haz Photoshop Elements” covers) make dozens of dollars a year from selling to their friends and close relatives – and they are still more successful than 999 out of every thousand hopefuls who send out their beloved mss to the Slush Pile meat-grinder.

      • The books I neither subbed to my publisher nor loaded onto Amazon are making me nothing at all. The money I make on my published titles, of either stripe, is more than that.

        Not even Whale Math ™ can make nothing more than something.

  4. They missed a trailing zero or two on the indie side. 😉

    • Either that or they left off the words “per week.” Most indies I know earn $500 to $999 per week. And that’s just the midlist-level people. The big bestselling indies earn many times that amount.

  5. The article lost all credibility with these two howlers:

    “a general slowdown in e-book sales overall, with a 10% drop in digital sales in 2015, according to the Association of American Publishers.”

    No. A slowdown in traditional publisher ebook sales is not a general slowdown. Try fact-checking instead of regurgitating the APA garbage.

    “Penguin Random House exited the self-publishing business altogether with the sale of its troubled Author Solutions to a private equity firm”

    PRH exited the *vanity press* business, or more accurately, the “defraud wannabe writers” business, which has about as much to do with 21st-century self-publishing as a crack house has to do with the pharmacy business.

    Pathetic.

    • PRH didn’t even leave the vanity press business. They still own the vanity presses Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa, and MeGustaEscribir which will be operated for PRH by… Author Solutions.

  6. I didn’t read the whole article. Did they refer to Authors’ Earnings at all?

    • The word ‘Earning’ doesn’t even come up in a search of their page.

      (And why would they want to mix any facts with their fiction? 😉 )

  7. Jamie McGuire’s “Beautiful Redemption” became the first novel by an indie author to find shelf space at Walmart

    Wait. What? I bought one of John Locke’s novels in paperback at Walmart at least a couple of years ago. I don’t remember what the title was and I have moved since then so it’s packed away somewhere. Does anyone else remember this, and aren’t all of his novels self-published, or would that mass-market paperback version no longer be considered “self” published, even though he did so originally as an e-book.

    Am I missing something?

  8. Oh, wow. A 2016 Self-Pub Preview by no less than Publishers Weekly itself.

    Golly gosh-a-rooties, I can hardly wait…

    Gonna make sure I’m not drinking anything when I read it. My computer and monitor are clean enough already, thank you.

  9. Oh, wow. A 2016 Self-Pub Preview by no less than Publishers Weekly itself.

    I can hardly wait…

    Gonna hafta make sure I’m not drinking anything when I read it. My computer and monitor are clean enough already, thank you.

  10. I used to think it was ford vs chevy trucks, ibm vs apple, indie vs trad fallderoll. In other words, ‘bar talk’ that might raise one’s ire or adrenlin or love or whatever.

    Frankly, every now and then, it all sounds a little fundamentalist –that one has to support, drive, use, one over the other re ebk/print.

    I like asparagus, red meat and ice cream. They all come from the ground or from animals and are made into other forms. I dont want to choose one or two over the other. I dont even want to discuss why I’m a red meat eater, and pick my own wild asparagus [you have not had asparagus until you have picked it fresh… roar…lol], and will taste most any icecream except the c made from milk that tastes like weak ice crystals. Even snow tastes better in the high country.

    I just like to eat it, not talk about whether I should or not, lol

    Just my .02

  11. I can’t decide if I should stop my PW subscription this year. I usually just read it for the book reviews, but the fiction in the first chunk of the magazine has gotten better than the books they’re reviewing. Decisions, decisions…

    • stopped our sub to pw years ago, no point in getting angry first thing in the day, lol. Most of what they offer is free by emails you can sign up for at PW. They’ll mail you 5 days a week.

  12. The comments at PW probably wont last very long. Too many dissenting voices over there.

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