Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Future Of Self Publishing

Hi Guys,

This time I think it's time for me to apologise for a whole new mistake - posting blogs too often! (Yeah I know - it's never happened before and it probably won't happen again!)


However I felt inspired by a number of questions that have been asked on some of the writing fora to which I belong, and I thought I might take a stab at answering them. Or mostly just answering one question - where is self publishing going in the next few years?

Obviously trying to guess what's going to happen in even the next five years in this field is rather like trying to shoot a moving target with a bow and arrow while blind folded, but still it occurs to me that there are some trends that we can see happening already.

1. The first of them is that the age of the free ebooks, and perhaps even the 99c ones is probably going to come to if not an end then a slow down.

The reason for this is simple marketing. For a couple of years now Amazon has been happy to have books sold for nix. To take a minor hit on each sale. And the reason for this is simple. They want to sell their ebook reader, the Kindle. The loss they take on giving away books has been more than offset by the additional kindle sales. However this can't last.

Already we saw earlier this year the change in the Amazon algorhythms such that every free book 'sale' counted for only one tenth as much of a bump in the sales / author rankings as before. While dearer books gained an increased bump. The reason for this? Amazon makes money from selling books for money, not giving them away. And at some point they clearly decided that the value they were getting from the giveaways in terms of kindle sales was losing out to the losses they were taking in terms of gaining no revenue from the freebies and the hits they were taking when readers chose free books over ones they had to pay for.

My thought is that this trend will continue. Freebies will still exist in some form or another, and certainly on other sites, but the big online retailers will continue to move away from them. In the end there are only so many kindles you can sell, and when Amazon's competition for ebook readers includes not just other ebook readers but pads, laptops and now phones, that limit will be reached.

2. My next prediction is that there will be a rise in the numbers of people and organisations providing services for indie authors. It is inevitable that as more and more people realise that they can write books and publish them, the demand for these services will increase. So that's editors, cover artists, promoters, reviewers etc.

But to balance the good with the bad, as well as these there will also be those rip off artists I mentioned in a previous post - the vanity publishers as they were once known. (And probably still are.) As more and more people discover that they can write a book and then become desperate to publish them, the sharks will find more to feed on.

And I urge you all to remember the golden rule, as an author the money should always flow to you. You should never have to pay to be published. If someone says they will publish your book for x dollars, walk away.

3. The numbers of both authors and books both will increase. This is inevitable as more people decide that they can write a book and publish it, and those already in the business write and publish more, while at the same time everything that's digitally published remains out there for potentially centuries.

So what does this mean for those who want to write? It means more competition. More books out there in the same genre's competing with whatever they put out. It means that average incomes for indie authors (and trade published authors) will sooner or later fall. They have to as readers spend more money across a wider range of books, the amount that goes on each will decrease. There is only so much money to spend after all.

And what does it mean for readers? Greater choice than ever before - which is great. But at the same time greater difficulty finding books worth reading.

The solution for both however is the same. Those authors who want to sell more will have to concentrate on producing better quality books. This means better editing, better cover design, more professional formatting etc. More and more quality will have to become the indie author's byword. And the hope is that those authors who produce works of higher quality will find greater readership and gain a fan base.

The days I think when marketing campaigns, adds in various media etc, dropping prices and dumping huge loads of spam in peoples' in boxes will bring in large jumps in sales are numbered. In the end you can't sell a turd. (Although from Mythbusters we now know that you can polish one!) Already we are seeing that the numbers of pick ups of free books are declining. Readers are starting to realise that even free is sometimes too high a price to pay for a book. Readers are smart and it would be a foolish author who forgets that and tries to publish something that isn't ready.

Anyhow, those are my predictions.

Cheers, Greg.