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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