I’m amazed by the ever-growing number of new authors.
In the U.S. alone, reports range from 250,000 to more than 500,000 new book titles published each year. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported 305,000 titles published in 2013, with a growing percentage of these books being self-published.
The growth in the number of authors and new books seems to defy trends in the book publishing industry. A Pew Research survey of U.S. adults indicates those reading a book in the previous 12 months decreased from 79% to 72% between 2011 and 2015. A July 2016 report from the American Association of Publishers indicates revenue from U.S. book sales was nearly flat from 2013 through 2015. Competition is fierce. Some genres and markets are saturated to the point it’s nearly impossible for new authors to be noticed by readers. A writer self-publishing his/her first novel can expect to sell fewer than 1,000 copies.
So, why do more and more self-published authors elect to spend hundreds (if not thousands) of hours writing, editing, publishing, and marketing their novels? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times, but here I am, writing my seventh self-published book. I don’t have a concise answer, but for me, it boils down to the following:
- FLEXIBILITY - Writing is exhausting, but it can be done at a time and pace to fit most schedules.
- MINIMAL BARRIERS - The cost of entry is minimal. All you need is a PC, printer and access to the Internet to begin. For those serious about being successful, a professional cover and editor are a must, and neither is cheap.
- SELF-PUBLISHING TECHNOLOGY - The availability, simplicity and low cost of self-publishing make it easy for new authors. The number of offerings and quality of tools continue to improve.
- SOCIAL MEDIA - Goodreads, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other social media sites offer writing groups for new authors to share ideas and market their books. A new writer never needs to feel alone in the process, and for those wanting to learn, educational offerings are endless.
- HOPE – Optimism is a trait writers must possess. At times, our views of success are blind to reality, not unlike Jim Carrey’s view in Dumb and Dumber. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX5jNnDMfxA
- IT’S A CREATIVE OUTLET - I’d love to sell thousands of books, but I also write for me. I enjoy writing. My primary goal is to make each short story and novel better than my last. It’s an objective that keeps me moving forward. I think most aspiring authors feel the same way.
I started writing books in 2010. I’m not sure I would have made the effort 30 years earlier. I don’t know if I could have sat at a typewriter, feeding in one sheet at a time, unable to share my progress in real time with other writers, and not knowing if my manuscript would ever be read, let alone published.
A lot has been written about the evils of self-publishing, claiming it’s watered down the quality of books by allowing less-skilled writers to be published. This negativity isn’t likely to alter the growth in self-published authors. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my three decades in business, it’s that you can’t fight technology or the role it plays in creating and satisfying markets. Self-publishing companies serve two markets: writers and readers. They generate revenue from authors by providing services beyond publishing (editing, cover design, marketing, etc.). Many such companies also get a percentage of sales from every book sold. Self-publishing is a business designed to make a profit.
I’m thankful for self-publishers. They came along at a time when I was ready to test my creative skills. I expect we both will be around for a long time, although for different reasons. Their longevity is tied to profitability, while mine only requires hard work and hope. And that’s why there are so many new authors.