When people say there’s stiff competition in the indie publishing world, they usually just mean it as a really ineffectual way to temper a new author’s disappointment at not bursting onto the best-seller lists by day two. But it turns out they’re right. I mean, they’re really right. The sheer massive number of self-published books produced in 2012 alone will stagger you.
391,000. And that’s just indie! Bowker, the ISBN warehouse, took a look at its data and found a 59% increase in DIY book hawking from 2011 – and a 422% increase from 2007. And those are only the books with purchased ISBNs. Some publishers don’t require one for the distribution of e-books.
The most popular category? Fiction. More than 80% of 2012 titles came from just eight big companies, including Smashwords and CreateSpace. I’m guessing Amazon KDP is up there, too, but the full report won’t be released until next week.
And don’t forget, this is in addition to hundreds of thousands of traditionally published volumes. The most recent estimates are from 2010, but UNESCO figured there were about 328,000 new works added to the shelves every year. Self-publishing produced more books in 2012 than the entire established industry did in 2010! Now that’s a number for you.
What does all this mean for the little people? Well, it means we’re getting smaller and smaller as we speak. With the overwhelming number of options for readers, it’s only going to get harder to stand out from the crowd. Most of us already make less than $500 a year, if we’re lucky, and it’s not unrealistic to think that number will shrink as the chaff piles over the wheat.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. The very premise of self-publishing is equality, letting the consumer choose what is worthy of recognition instead of letting an agent decide. It’s a good thing that writers are embracing that. But it can also be tough on the ego when you get drowned out by your fellow hopefuls, and it’s difficult to navigate a market that’s expanding faster than anyone could have imagined.
What do you think? Should we be depressed about this? Or should we embrace the explosion as a sign that self-publishing is becoming a legitimate option for bringing a work to market?