It seems like everyone has a story to tell these days, doesn’t it? It’s great for the art, don't get me wrong, but with all the crazy competition out there, getting published has become a literal nightmare. With the traditional route of securing a book deal almost out of the question, self-publishing has become a great option. This tends to be especially true, for new and upcoming authors. Also, the whole self-publishing process is getting easier and easier, with the passing of each year. We are at the point now where there is so much help out there, that it’s become almost counterproductive not to give self-publishing a try.
Just look at the success some indie sci-fi and fantasy authors have had in recent years. Andy Weir's “The Martian” hit it out of the park with his movie adaptation. Recently, Ridley Scott also bought the rights to the self-published sci-fi novel, Wool, by Hugh C. Howey. And how could I miss Amanda Hocking, who made millions from her self-published fantasy series? Trust me there are a lot of stories like these. I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that self-publishing can end up being a great option for indie authors.
Some will say the picture might not as pretty as the one I’ve painted for you however. According to Nielsen, e-book sales dropped by almost 16% last year. Also, over the last two years, we’ve seen some big players in the self-publishing arena such as Oyster, close their doors.
And yet, there’s some good news. Many established self-publishing trends continued their rise. The line between traditional and self-publishing keeps getting thinner and thinner. Last year saw tremendous growth in the numbers of 'hybrid' authors who explored both sides. Not only that, but many writers who took publishing deals returned to self-publishing. Hybrid authors tend to earn the most money as well. According to a survey by Digital Book world, the median income of a hybrid author was between $7,500 to $9,999. (£6,200 to £8.200). This was better than both traditional or indie authors. Hence, the notion that traditional publishing is only way to make significant sales, continues to lose ground.
Predictions for 2017
There were a lot of new things that happened in the self-publishing industry during the last year, however the formula for success seems to have remained mostly unchanged. One strategy that continues to effective, is the pre-order strategy. Although most authors fail to take advantage of this, it continues to be effective.
Another trend that is predicted to be robust, is the popularity of targeted subgenres. Average ebook prices are also expected to hold steady with many of the top self-published titles costing between 2.50 – 5.00. Additionally, quite a few authors, especially in the fantasy genre, continue build their respective audiences by giving out the first book in a series for free.
Most people these days also read on their phones or tablets, where short pieces tend to work better. Data from Wattpad confirmed this trend. They found that almost 90% of their users engaged with the site, via their mobile phones.
Amazon's Kindle Unlimited will also probably continue to expand in the coming year. It’s value to authors however is questionable, and many bestselling titles will continue not to enroll in the program.
One very big change that could prove to be a boon for self-published authors is Amazon’s decision to move into the traditional brick and mortar space. The effect that this will have on the self-publishing space however, has yet to be seen. Many of Amazon’s brick and mortar stores have yet to integrate any kind indie presence in their catalog of physical titles (excluding of course big name authors who have gone the hybrid route). That being said, these stores could become a godsend for indie authors, if Amazon ever does decide to dedicate shelf space to self-published writers. Amazon opened its first store in Seattle, in November of 2015 and many stores are expected to follow.
Getting exposure will continue to be a big challenge for indie authors.
Let’s face it, while the self-publishing business is full of opportunity, it is also becoming a very crowded space. As a result, exposure, and audience development are going to be the some of the biggest challenges to confront new and emerging authors. Now more than ever, authors will have to start connecting with their readership early on. In addition to this, authors will also need to continue to go out of their way to engage with their readers. Expect to see polls, forums and newsletters, become key elements in the modern author's arsenal. But keep in mind with these challenges, come new opportunities. Polls and forums can just as easily be used to validate key story ideas and book cover decisions. Also by giving their audience the opportunity to shape or influence a story arc, authors can drive up reader loyalty, and keep their audience engaged during the writing process.
One thing’s for sure, while self-publishing is filled with its fair share of pitfalls, it also comes with its rewards. It’s because of those rewards, that many experts believe the industry is going to grow in the coming years. Some of the effects of this growth can already be seen. Every day, self-published indie authors continue to win over skeptics, and the legitimacy of self-publishing will continue to be recognized by more readers as time goes on.
Thank you for a great post, this is a very interesting and inciteful read. Oliver Thiermann is the founder and CEO at theArcShapeR. Team leader by day and content creator by night, he always keeps an eye out for innovative ways to bring readers and writers together. Ollie is also an epic nerd, who hungers for all things Fantasy and Sci-Fi related.