The E-Book Era Expands

More and more e-books are eating into sales of traditional books.

Although this might be evident to anyone who owns an e-reader or tablet, or who’s been even casually following publishing-industry news, it’s still worth noting. E-books will be preferred over traditional books some time soon. For the second quarter of this year, e-books made up 22% of book sales, an increase of 14% for the comparable period in 2011, according to figures from Bowker Market Research.

This means that the toehold that traditional publishers have on what actually gets to market is more tenuous. Certainly paper-and-cardboard books aren’t yet going away, and traditional publishers are doing what they can to stay relevant as the world changes around them. But the rise of e-books, and of self-publishing – thanks to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other outlets – is a sign that authors may be gaining, or re-gaining, control over their careers.

It used to be, and not too long ago, that you’d fret over finding an agent, and if you did, then you’d fret over whether that agent could find you a book deal with a publisher, then you’d fret over how the book would look, how it would be marketed, how it would be received. An author might have felt like a cog in a publishing machine, and a small one at that. And he or she would worry about the long-term prospects for a career with a publishing house – you were just as likely to be dumped if you didn’t meet the demands of the marketplace.

But the rise of e-publishing, and the growing use of social media among authors, and their continuing sophistication in the use of a platform to market themselves and their works, is a good thing. Authors need to market themselves anyway – publishers rely on authors who are self-starters, since publishing publicity departments are short-staffed and overwhelmed, even as fewer traditional books are printed by traditional publishers (at the same time, something like a million books a year are printed).

You can speak directly to the marketplace now, and engage with your readers as never before. It isn’t easy – that is, it takes effort, time, commitment – but it did even when traditional publishers ruled. It’s a rare book that finds an audience just like that.  But know that you have more power than you think. Use it.

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