9 Self-publishing

Kosie Eloff

Class slides for background on self-publishing and Smashwords. Available: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B91wtoGJRjZLdy1iS3lnWl9LSGc/edit?usp=sharing

Vanity publishing is traditionally the term used for self-publishing – referring to the practice of printing and distributing a title that has been rejected by traditional publishers. While this attitude still exists in the publishing world it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is no longer valid. Authors are choosing to publish by themselves in stead if going through traditional publishers, a great example of this is 50 Shades of Gray.

With the growth in the digital publishing space there has been a corresponding rise in the amount, use and availability of self-published works. The following stats from 2014 will give you a good impression of what the marketplace look like:

  • The Big Five traditional publishers now account for only 16% of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists.
  • Self-published books now represent 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store.
  • Indie authors are earning nearly 40% of the e-book dollars going to authors.
  • Readers prefer longer e-books. The bestselling books tend to be over 100,000 words.
  • Series books outsell standalone books.
  • Pre-orders give authors a sales advantage.
  • Non-fiction earns more at higher prices.
  • The number of self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up 59 percent over 2011 and 422 percent over 2007.
  • Ebooks continue to gain on print, comprising 40 percent of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11 percent in 2007.
  • Self-published books’ share of the UK market grew by 79% in 2013.
  • In the UK, print sales fell by 10% last year and book purchasing as a whole was down 4%,  but ebook sales continue to grow

Traditionally options for self-publishing have been limited, rendering publishing through a traditional publishing house preferable. However, with increased tools available to authors this is no longer true.

Book design has always been a major expense for publishing – especially because of the traditional “low-quality look” of self-published works. With the increased access to desktop publishing software that authors have this need no longer be true. Companies like Book Design Templates (http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/services/) are delivering formatting and book design services on a template basis. What does this mean for authors?

Lots of authors today have decided to take charge of their own publishing journey, and that’s great. But these authors don’t want to compromise on how good their books look. And they don’t want any of those “newbie” mistakes that make books look bad when compared to those from traditional publishers.

Their sister company The Book Makers (http://thebookmakers.com/) specifically specialises in the creation of books, including layout and typography. The use of these services, and other companies offering similar services changes the implication of self-publishing and makes it a viable alternative.

Publishing companies like Vook are placing the self-published author that uses their services in complete control of all aspects of their titles. These self-published authors reserve many of the rights traditionally signed over to publishers – making it a very attractive alternative.

Even traditionally print-allied companies such as Bowker (the US and AUS ISBN distribution company) are allying with the self-publishing movement by creating their Self Published Author division to offer advice, guidance and tips for the influx of self-published authors that are buying ISBN’s from them. Everything from editing to marketing and distribution is covered on the site, which again empowers self-published authors beyond the publishing house.

Association and support for self-publisher authors is also increasingly visible in the digital world. Groups such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli)  are increasing awareness and support for the development of self publishing, you can check out their website here:


And interesting articles here:



As self publishing becomes more and more acceptable we can expect more associations and support sites like these.

Smashwords, Createspace and Lulu were the 3 biggest contributors to the ebook market in the US and AUS in 2014 according to Bowker, the continued growth of the self-published market indicates a maturation of the market. Read more about the growth and trends here:


So what is encouraging the growth of self-published books? Why are they gaining such popularity now?

  1. Consumers are becoming much more price-sensitive, and often authors do not care about making money from their books (at least not in the same way as publishers do).
  2. Big money is investing in self-publishing. Penguin acquired Author Solutions in 2012, a very successful self-publishing platform. With increased development in the quality and functionality of self-publishing services more people will use these platforms.
  3. Self-publishing platforms are traditionally associated with increased awareness, promotion and development of ebooks, likely due to the slow uptake of the technology in traditional publishing.
  4. With the globalisation of the book market due to increased international sales platforms (such as Amazon) traditional rights issues (territorial rights) have no more importance to the modern author. In fact, the great lengths to which traditional publishers go to protect their interests (not distributing to certain countries, and insisting on DRM) are often seen as a hindrance in the new marketplace.


Publishing in the Digital Environment Copyright © 2013 by Kosie Eloff. All Rights Reserved.