The Self-Publishing Shadow Industry

publishing, self-publishingYou still see publishing trend reports that claim that e-book sales are flattening. But these trend reports ignore the shadow industry of the self-published author.

People aren’t buying fewer e-books. They’re buying fewer e-books from traditional publishers and instead choosing more e-books books from self-published authors.

Because so many books are now being published by authors themselves, sales of these books are underreported. Or ignored. Or not factored into stories about the actual state of publishing.

For a long time now, the self-published author hasn’t been the one who isn’t good enough to make it with a “real” publishing firm (whatever that is). No, it’s someone who’s decided to take it on himself or herself to put the work out. Writers such as Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath – both with long careers as traditionally published authors – decided to self-publish, and have done extremely well on their own.

Konrath has said he doesn’t bother with ISBN numbers for his self-published books – those codes that help keep track of sales at booksellers. And so his books aren’t counted by whatever tracking firm keeps abreast of his sales. He doesn’t care: he’s sold a million of his e-books without them.   That’s the point, isn’t it? Reaching readers. (Some authors would like to reach readers and receive widespread recognition but that’s another story.)

Anyway, this isn’t about the relative merits of self-publishing or what’s now called traditional publishing. It’s about an industry in flux. Publishing is grappling with self-publishing and newspaper articles tend to overlook self-publishing as a force in publishing overall. But self-publishing isn’t going away, and thankfully such sites as provide an idea of sales of self-published books so that those who are truly interested in how the market is doing can see that e-book sales aren’t flat, but bustling.

Read what you want – traditional books, e-books, whatever – but don’t believe everything you read about the state of publishing when it ignores the shadow industry of self-published authors.

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