Your Book: A Needle in a Haystack

The number of self-published titles continues to grow. Bowker, the company that assigns ISBN numbers recently announced that 786,935 ISBN numbers were assigned to self-published titles in 2016. This is an increase of 59,810 titles, an 8.2% increase over 2015.

According to the 2016 Bowker report, ISBNs assigned for print books rose 11.3% to 638,624 titles, while ISBNs assigned to ebooks fell 3.2% to 148,311. Since Bowker measures the number of self-published books by ISBN, its count does not include ebooks released by authors through Amazon’s KDP program, as Amazon Kindle uses ASIN identifiers rather than ISBNs.

Small publishers—defined as those authors and publishers who purchase their own ISBN numbers (rather than using an ISBN number provided by a publishing platform like CreateSpace) and produce 10 or fewer titles—grew by 7.67%, up 3,863 titles to 54,206 from 2015.

These figures indicate that the self-publishing industry is beginning to stabilize as it is growing to maturity. According to Bowker’s report, self-published titles grew 30% from 2013 to 2014 and 21% from 2014 to 2015. Then this past year, from 2015 to 2016, the growth rate of self-published titles slowed to about 8%.

If you released a book in 2016 or 2017, your book is simply one book in a sea of three-quarters of a million other books released the same year. That is a lot of competition. It is much like being a needle in a haystack.

Marketing a book among millions can seem a daunting task. How can you make your book stand out and get noticed? Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help your book get noticed. Here are three.

1. Build a platform.
Building a platform is all about developing an audience of people who trust and listen to what you have to say. You can develop your audience online with a blog, podcast, or video series, or you can develop an audience through speaking engagements. Readers buy books from authors they trust. For more information on building a platform and developing an audience, watch my on-demand seminar Developing an Audience for Your Books.

2. Go Niche.
Niche means a distinct segment of a market. It’s all about narrowing your audience to focus on those most likely to read your book. For example, if you have a book on parenting, instead of targeting all parents, you would refine your target audience. You might refine it to Christian parents and then refine it further to Christian parents of disabled children and then refine it even further to Christian parents of disabled children who need special care. Refining helps you find the best niche audience for your book.

3. Partner with Influencers.
Seek out those who already have influence with your niche audience and partner with them. Influencers can be other authors already writing to your audience. They can be bloggers speaking to these people. They can also be civic leaders, church leaders, educational leaders, or famous personalities. Work with influencers to receive endorsements, reviews, recommendations, and support for your book. Partnering with influencers helps you expand your audience and gives you and your book credibility.

Your book does not need to get lost in the haystack. A little effort on your part can make your book stand out and receive the attention it deserves.

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Are You Developing an Audience?
The Importance of Finding Your Niche
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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.


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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Publishing is Big Business
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No Longer Marginalized

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Self-Publishing Has Become Main Stream

According to Bowker, 40% of all books published in 2012 were self-published. That means that just about the same number of titles that are being produced by traditional publishing houses are now also being produced by self-published authors.


This trend has been on the increase over the past decade, but it grew significantly in 2012. Bowker reported that the number of ISBNs purchased for self-published books rose almost 60% in 2012.

Are you still holding out for a traditional publisher thinking that this will make you an “authentic” author? If so, think again. Times have changed.

No longer do authors need a royalty publishing house to give them the nod of approval. More and more authors are taking the reins in their own hands and publishing their books themselves. A number have even become best-selling authors, while others are making a living selling their self-published books.

Whether self-published or traditionally published the truth is that in today’s book publishing climate the author must do most of the book promotion. That’s where Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) can help you. If you have published or are going to publish a book for the Christian market, CSPA exists to help you market and promote your books. Here are just a few of the membership benefits:

  1. Monthly e-newsletter packed with industry information and tips on marketing your books.
  2. Strategic Book Marketing Plan Kit including consultation with a book marketing expert to help you develop a marketing plan.
  3. Cooperative marketing opportunities.
  4. BookCrash book review program.
  5. Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award.

You can view all of CSPA’s membership benefits here.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has been helping small publishers and independently published authors market their books since 2004. In honor of the organization’s 10th anniversary in January 2014, CSPA is offering a membership special.

Join CSPA for just $85 and receive membership through December 2014. You can join today and start receiving the help you need to marketing and promote your independently published books.

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The Internet is Winning

The reality is that it is hard to get brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores to stock books by small publishers and independent authors. For the past decade, Christian retail stores have been shutting their doors. Many of the remaining stores have reduced the floor space that they devote to books, opting instead to carry more gifts and clothing merchandise.

One of the reasons for the trend toward fewer physical bookstores and less floor space devoted to books in these stores is the Internet. While the Internet has been expanding, physical bookstores have been shrinking.

This past year (2012), for the first time, online retail stores sold more books than brick-and-mortar retail stores in the United States. According to new data from Bowker Market Research, in 2012, 43.8% of books bought by consumers were sold online, while only 31.6% of books were purchased in large retail chains, independent bookstores, other mass merchandisers, and supermarkets.

bowker chartThis is nearly a direct reversal of the previous year (2011) when 35.1% of books were bought online, while 41.7% were sold in stores.

This is big news. It is especially good news for small and independent publishers.
If this trend continues and the percentage of books purchased online continues to grow eight to ten percent each year, as small publishers and independent authors, we will no longer have to expend herculean efforts to get our books into retail stores. Instead, we will be able to concentrate our energies on making sure our books are available in the right places online and then pour our remaining energies into marketing our books.

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A Print-Free World

The world is going digital. I recently had to have my heater fixed. The repair man came out to my house and fixed the broken part. He then went to his truck to “write up” the invoice. Back into the house he came holding an iPad with my invoice in PDF format on the iPad. He showed it to me and I paid him. He then asked if I wanted my receipt emailed. The company no longer gave out paper receipts.  The whole process was digital—except the check I wrote to pay the bill (did I ever feel out-of-fashion).


Everywhere you turn, businesses are pushing digital over paper. Banks and credit card companies are asking their customers to accept digital versions of their statements over printed, mailed versions. Associations are doing away with print newsletters in lieu of digital newsletters. Even many churches are now putting their announcements online and no longer handing out Sunday bulletins.

So, the question lingers in my mind: How long until paper books become an antiquity?

Recently, some statistics were showing ebooks as high as 50% of all book sales. However, when I dug deeper, I discovered that this was a misleading statistic. In actuality, ebook sales do account for 50% of all sales for fiction titles, but for nonfiction, ebooks account for only 25% of sales. Overall, ebooks still only represent about 20% to 25% of all trade book sales.

Each month, Bowker conducts a survey of 6,000 book buyers. One of their recent surveys revealed the following:

  • 23% of all books purchased were ebooks
  • 24% of all book buyers purchased an ebook
  • 29% of ebooks purchased were bought by people under 30
  • 35% of all romance books bought were in e-book format

This leaves two questions:

  1.  When will ebooks outpace print books? In 2014? In 2016?
  2.  Are you ready?

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