So remember when I said that there was a whole boatload of self-publishing going on in 2012? Turns out there are a lot more best-sellers than you might think. Self-published books distributed through Amazon KDP made up a quarter of the top 100 titles on Amazon last year, The Guardian reports, which is a pretty clear indicator that indie authors are entirely capable of putting out quality content that people want to read. And they’re not doing it for the money, either. Only 10% of self-pubbed authors publish books purely to rake in the dough. Mostly they just want to be heard.
The data is pretty interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it proves fairly conclusively that self-publishing is not a bubble that’s going to pop any time soon. People are interested in indie authors. Readers are buying indie books. Given the choice between a Big Six production and a novel published from the comfort of a local Starbucks, one in four will go with the unknown imprint. That’s huge.
At the same time, a survey conducted by Digital Book World found that just about 60% of self-published authors make between $1 and $5000 a year. I strongly suspect that if you broke it down further, at least half of those would make less than $500 a year – and they don’t seem to mind. Self-pubbers are in it for the glory, mostly, and to provide readers with something they will enjoy. That pretty great news, too. While there’s certainly a big market for formulaic romance and thriller money-makers to read at the laundromat, authors get a lot more creative and interesting when they’re not thinking about smooshing their stories into the bland, repetitive mold often necessary for commercial success.
One fifth of self-pubbers do it to satisfy their own ambitions, and 20% want to produce something that people are willing to buy, which is sort of the same thing in my opinion. A little more than ten percent think they have an experience or expertise to share with an audience, but only 2% publish a book in order to promote their brand for something other than writing (think sales people and consultants).
Both readers and writers are going to benefit from these trends. Readers only want to buy good things, and self-publishers are capable of producing them on a large scale, even if the industry will always throw out any number of poorly-edited stinkers. The cream is rising, and it will continue to do so no matter how much skim milk lies underneath. It’s time to drink up.