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.

Related Posts:
Publishing is Big Business
The Changing Publishing Landscape
No Longer Marginalized

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A Half-Million Self-Published Books

Last week was a week for new book publishing and selling statistics. On Monday, I reported on the Nielson book selling figures that came out for the first half of 2014. Today, I am writing about the new analysis of self-publishing in the United States conducted by Bowker.

raining books

Bowker has released a new Report on Self-Publishing in the United States. In the report, Bowker analyzes the number of self-published titles from 2008 through 2013. Here are some of the findings in Bowker’s report:

  • The number of self-published titles in 2013 increased to 458,564, up 16.5% from 2012.
  • There were 302,622 titles that were self-published as print books in 2013, a 28.8% increase over 2012.
  • On the other hand, the number of self-published ebook titles decreased 1.6% in 2013 to just 155,942.

Interestingly, while Bowker is calling these titles “self-published”, the company is including small publishers in this report. According to the report, small publishers as a whole registered 46,654 ISBNs in 2013, placing them fourth among companies that registered ISBNs.

The top three self-publishing companies registering ISBNs in 2013 with Bowker were (in order): CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Lulu. CreateSpace registered 186,926 ISBNs—all for print books. On the other hand, Smashwords registered 85,500—all for ebooks.

These figures reveal that, for 2013, the growth in self-publishing came not from ebooks, but from print books. These figures compliment the Nielson book sales stats that show that 67% of all books sold in the first six months of 2014 were print books. Many self-publishers understand that it is still by and large a print book world.

Half a million books! That figure is staggering. Self-published authors and small presses produced half a million books in 2013! Remember, Bowker is only counting the books that were registered with ISBNs. I believe that there are many more books that were self-published via the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform that never acquired an ISBN (Amazon does not require an ISBN to publish an ebook via their KDP system). Afterall, a new ebook is added to Amazon just about every five minutes.

Self-publishing has definitely come into its own. If you are considering self-publishing, I encourage you to go for it. Many authors have found it fulfilling and worthwhile to maintain control of the entire process from manuscript to book to marketing.

The other thing these numbers reveal is that competition for books keeps getting stiffer. The more books that are published, the more options people have. Why should they choose your book? Now is the time to hone your pitch. Make sure your message is unique and lets your readers know why they should choose your book over all the other books out there.

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Being Heard Above the Noise

Bowker recently released estimates of print book production for 2013. The company reports that the number of print titles produced in 2013 dipped slightly from 2012 according to Bowker’s annual report on U.S. print book publishing. The year 2013 saw 304,912 print titles published, while the year 2013 saw 309,957 print titles produced.

Noise

Bowker’s figures do not take into consideration ebooks published during the year. So, in just considering how many new books were published in 2013, the figure is higher than 304,912, because a number of books are now being published in digital format only. One statistic shows that 31% of ebooks purchased on Amazon each day are self-published books.

It’s hard to get noticed in a noisy world. Bowker’s statistics show that publishing in the United States is noisy. There are multiple books on almost every subject vying for a consumer’s attention.

Competing in a noisy market is not necessarily about making the most noise. Having a “noisier” marketing campaign than other authors does not guarantee more sales. Sometimes noise is just annoying. Rather, utilizing unique angles and hooking your readers with the “What’s in it for me” angle that they can’t resist seems to bring the best results. Creativity is what gets attention.

Cook up some creative ideas to get your book notice. Here are five to consider:

  1. Host a contest. Make it unusual and unique with an enticing prize. (See “Use a Twitter Contest to Sell More Books” for one idea).
  2. Donate some of your books to local businesses that have reading material in their lobbies and cater to your target audience.
  3. Showcase your book at a local festival (see “What’s Your Marketing Shtick?”).
  4. Put a magnetic sign about your book on your car. (see “One Creative Book Promotion Idea”).
  5. Make your book cover into a cover for your smart phone or tablet for a walking book advertisement (see “A Walking Advertisement” and “Walking Advertisements”).

The book market in the United States is crowded and most likely going to stay that way. Creativity is needed to get noticed above all the noise.

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