Self-publishing is dead and the gold rush is well and truly over.
For those who are closely connected to self-publishing, there is no doubt that the last year and a half to two years have proven that the self-publishing bubble has well and truly burst, and that self-publishing is dead. Well, not very well anyway.
Plummeting sales, along with increasing competition from free ebooks has made making a living from self-publishing increasingly difficult.
I have heard from a few authors that they have decided to throw in the towel. While I can’t say, this is representative of all self-published authors, other indicators tell me that times are getting very tough.
One of these is the slowing of activity on Twitter by new and established authors. Twitter has, over the last few years been the social media platform of choice for self-published authors. I have a number of Twitter accounts related to self-publishing and ebooks and all of them now have a long and ever growing list of inactive users. When I scan through these lists, a vast number are authors and small independent press. These accounts, which used to attract new followers in droves, signal to me that for some, self-publishing is dead.
Another measure I can use is from a book promotion site I own. It has been running successfully and profitably for over five years, but in the last year, sales have been slowly waning.
As far as my own book and ebook sales are concerned, I can attest that from 2009 to 2012, my sales and earnings were fantastic. But from the beginning of 2103, sales started to decline alarmingly.
I read a post by Mark Coker from Smashwords recently, which confirmed my observations. Here are a couple of quotes from his article.
We’ve moved from a world of artificial scarcity to organic abundance. Readers now enjoy a virtually unlimited selection of low-cost, high quality works, and these books will become ever-more plentiful and ever-more higher-quality in the years ahead thanks to self-publishing.
….. it means that every year there will be more and more books for readers to choose from. Unless the number of readers and the number of books read by readers grows faster than the number of titles released and ever-present, there will be fewer eyeballs split across more books. This means the average number of book sales for each new release will decline over time ….
Times are tough for self-publishing
While Mark tries to put a good spin on bad news in his post, because it is in the interest of Smashwords to continue to distribute thousands of ebooks, there is no doubt that times are tough, and can only get tougher. Although he tries to be optimistic, at the end of the day, he is saying that it will become increasingly difficult to be a writer and make a return on your work.
If you’re relying on your earnings to put food on your family’s table, a career as an indie author feels all the more precarious.
But in digesting all of this, I am quite content, and even confident. The gold rush is over and those who thought self-publishing was a gold mine and a rags to riches freeway will now gradually fade away. Those who thought that giving away thousands of free ebooks was a route to success will have learned their lesson, and over the next couple of years, one can hope that sanity will return, and self-publishing once again becomes the province of the dedicated authors who understand what self-publishing really is.
Self-publishing is all about the artistic pursuit of writing, and has nothing at all to do with becoming rich. This is how writing has always been, and should be again.
Self-Publishing for the wrong reasons is rightfully dying, if not dead.
But one can hope that in the near future, the right reasons to leverage self-publishing will enable a renewal and the establishment of a vibrant, and profitable, Indie publishing industry. However, without major innovation, new ideas and new players in the online retail book and ebook market, I fear that self-publishing is dead. Or at least as we have known it.