Independent Publishing Continues to Grow

Bowker, the agency that is responsible for distributing ISBN numbers, recently released their report “Self-Publishing in the United States 2010-2015”. The report looks at the amount of ISBN numbers that Bowker assigned and distributed to self-publishing entities, including small publishers.

According to the report, Bowker shows that 727,125 ISBN numbers were assigned to self-published titles in 2015. That is three-quarter of a million self-published titles! Bowker reports that ISBN registrations made by self-publishers have grown more than 375 percent since 2010, climbing from 152,978 then to the 2015 figure of 727,125.

bowker-graph

However, a recent article by Publishing Perspectives cautions that this 727,125 ISBNs assigned in 2015 number should not be taken at face value. The reason for this is that many books tout two ISBN numbers—one for the print version and one for the ebook version. Therefore, the actual number of self-published titles may be a smaller figure.
I agree, that actual number of self-published books may be lower than the stated 727,125. However, I don’t think it is much lower because Bowker states that 573,965 ISBNs were assigned to self-published print books.

According to the report, Createspace alone assigned 423,718 ISBN numbers to print books. That is astounding! Createspace alone published almost half a million books in 2015. Createspace is growing by leaps and bounds. In 2014, Createspace assigned 292,167 ISBN numbers to print books—that is a 45% increase in books published via Createspace in one year.

I began to wonder whether all of Createspace’s business was growth for self-publishing—or, were more authors choosing to use Createspace over the traditional self-publishing houses like Xulon, Westbow, Lulu, and Xlibris. So, I checked the numbers just for print books.

Bowker assigned 573,965 ISBNs for print books to self-publishing entities in 2015. This was an increase of 146,755 over the number they assigned in 2014 for print books, which was 427,210. Hence, Createspace’s increase of 131,551 additional print books produced from 2014 to 2015 was indeed part of self-publishing’s growth.

Clearly, Createspace is far and away the number one producer of self-published titles. This clearly speaks to the power of free entry. After all, to produce a book via Createspace requires no upfront fees, making it feasible for just about anyone to publish a book via Createspace.

If you have independently published via Createspace or another route, the continued increase in self-published books is good news and bad news.

The good news is that self-publishing has become an acceptable way to produce a book. As self-publishing grows, the quality of books produced in this manner grows. It is becoming more difficult to distinguish self-published books from those published by traditional publishing houses. The number of independent authors now showing up on prominent bestseller lists indicates that readers are embracing author-published titles.

The bad news is that the competition gets tougher as more books are published and fight for readers’ attention. Stiffer competition makes it harder for your book to stand out from the pack. As an independently published author, you must take marketing seriously if you want to sell books.

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Are You on Second Shift?

According to author Dr. Harold Arnold, Jr., people on second shift are those who work at their passion after their day job is done. Many authors fit into this category.

Few authors can afford to quit their day jobs to become writer full-time. Hence, they must devote their “second shift” (after a day job) to their writing careers.

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In his book, Second Shift: How to Grow Your Part-Time Passion into Full-Time Influence, Dr. Arnold looks at the frustration that comes from this position. He talks about DRAGONS (doubt, regret, apathy, guilt, obstinance, and narcissism) that can derail you from continuing to pursue your passion that is already marginalized in your life.

Addressing each one of these DRAGONS, and teaching the reader about each one’s antidote that comes from KINGDOM thinking (Knowledge, Insight, Novelty, Grace, Deference, Other-centered, and Much). Dr. Arnold encourages his readers to continue following their GODprint (the calling or passion that God has placed on your heart).

Dr. Arnold speaks from his own personal experience. For years, he has pursued his passion in his second shift, often running into discouragement and frustration with having to pour his “leftover” energy into these projects. I think my favorite quote from Second Shift that is great encouragement for anyone pursuing their passion in their spare time is:

Your obedience to God unlocks doors for someone else. You become the conduit through which God’s blessings flow to another.” (p. 202)

In his book, Dr. Arnold gives his readers four strategies for success in their second shift. They are:

1. Sacrifice security
2. Fail forward
3. Tame time
4. Promote partnerships

If you are a second shifter, take heart. Digital Book World’s 2014 Author survey found that only one in ten (10%) of writers actually make a livable salary ($40,000+) writing full-time. Another study found that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year.

If you are a second-shift author who needs some encouragement to continue on your path, Dr. Arnold’s words might just be the encouragement you need.

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Reading Rates Remain Consistent

Every author needs readers. Without readers, there would be no one to buy books. Every year, the Pew Research Center studies reading rates. Recently, Pew released its newest findings. Here is what they found.

In spite of competition from a vast menu of entertainment choices, the average book readership of Americans is holding steady. In their report “Book Readership 2016”, the Pew Research Center records that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last year. This number remains largely unchanged from 2012 levels (although it is down from 2011 at 79% when Pew began tracking reading habits).

pew-reading-rates

A few of the interesting findings from the survey are:

  • 40% of Americans read print books exclusively.
  • Only 6% read ebooks exclusively.
  • Americans read an average of 12 books per year. However, the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.
  • College graduates are nearly four times as likely to read ebooks, and twice as likely to read print books and listen to audiobooks, compared with those who have not graduated high school.
  • Women (77%) are more likely than men (68%) to read books in general, and are also more likely to read print books (70%).Men and women are equally likely to read ebooks and audiobooks.

One additional piece that this study looked at was why people read. Interestingly, the percentage of people reading for fiction and nonfiction reasons were about the same:

  • 84% read to research specific topics.
  • 80% read for pleasure.

The Pew survey was conducted from March 7 through April 4, and used a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states in the United States.

The fact that reading rates are not declining in the United States is good news for authors and publishers. Better news would be that reading rates are on the upswing.

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Do You Struggle with This?

He sneaks up on you and whispers in your ear:

  • You don’t have anything worthwhile to say.
  • You aren’t good enough.
  • Others are more qualified than you.
  • You can’t make a difference.
  • Nobody will buy your book.

Doubt

His name is Doubt. His agenda is to keep you from doing what God has called you to do.

The antidote: Faith.

When God calls you to act on his behalf, he will equip you to carry out the mission. When God calls you to act on his behalf, he does not call you to do something that is comfortable. He calls you out of your comfort zone so that you have to rely on Him and his strength, and your faith grows.

If God is calling you or has called you to write and publish a book, then:

  • You do have something worthwhile to say.
  • You are good enough.
  • You are the one most qualified to say what God wants said.
  • You can make a difference.
  • If you do the work, God will bring those who need to hear your message to your book.

Have faith. Trust that God is guiding you to proclaim His message as only you can do. Proverbs 3 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths.”

Your path is unique. It is yours alone and no one else has the same path as you. Not everyone responds to the same message in the same way. That is why we need many voices proclaiming truth to draw as many people as possible into a closer relationship with God.

Psalm 37 tell us that “The steps of a good man are order by the Lord, and he delights in his way.” Your job is to follow God and bring glory to his name. You do that by writing, publishing, and promoting your book with quality. Trust God and banish doubt.

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An Interesting Letter

I recently received a snail mail letter from a gentleman who had self-published a book via a large self-publishing press. In the letter, he requested my help with marketing his book.

The letter stated:

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I understand that you help self-published authors market their books…I do not have email, so I have to correspond by postal mail. I have limited funds which is another drawback.

This author reported in his letter that he had done some advertising in Christian magazines with limited results.

Since this author does not have email, I can conclude that he also does not have a blog, nor is he present on any social media sites online. In other words, he is not an Internet user. Therefore, his book promotion efforts are severely limited. He can do the following two things:

  1. Advertising—which can be very expensive and usually has limited results.
  2. In-person marketing efforts such as speaking and book readings—although many of these are scheduled via email (again, the Internet).

In essence, this author is missing out on connecting with potential readers through numerous marketing opportunities that can be done for low- or no-cost using the Internet including:

  • Internet presence through a website
  • Internet presence through blogging and joining blog conversations
  • Connecting with readers via social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
  • Email marketing
  • Internet radio and podcast interviews
  • Video or live broadcasting
  • Connecting with media through press releases and scheduling interviews, since this is now done largely through email.

Self-publishing houses or subsidy presses—like Xulon, Xlibris, and Westbow—receive all their money upfront when publishing a book. The author pays the company to produce the book. Therefore, these publishing houses have no vested interest in helping their authors promote and market their books to produce sales.

The bottom-line is that authors must meet readers where they hang out to promote their books. Since most readers hang-out online, if you are not marketing online, you are missing most of your audience.

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