Thursday, April 24, 2014

Will Self-Publishing Exist in 10 Years?

Back in the days before the Internet made it possible to publish ebooks, self-publishing meant printing your own book and warehousing thousands of copies in your garage while you shopped them to local bookstores. It was tedious, expensive, and time-consuming.

Times have changed. Now you can self-publish on a number of platforms, advertise your book online, and choose whether you want it to appear in electronic or print-on-demand format - or both. And because of the success of self-published books like Wool, both agents and publishers are now interested in taking advantage of the new ebook-reading market.

Will the success and ease of different platforms - such as Amazon and Smashwords - mean that self-publishing will disappear as an independent entity in ten years? Will it merge seamlessly with traditional publishing until "self" publishing is subsumed within a larger framework?

My guess is probably not. Unlike Jon Fine (see below), I can't see a near future in which the largest publishing houses in the world will give up the ghost. Nor can I see a near future in which every self-published book has a chance to compete with the books backed by Random/Penguin. The problem is not just that the major publishers won't pick up the vast majority of self-published books, it's that the avenues for getting the word out on self-published books, even on Amazon, are becoming increasingly saturated.

No matter what the platform is, or how books are published, there will always be a great divide between those who have self-published and those who have the backing of university presses, well-established niche publishers, or major houses, with their access to national and international media networks. For as long as access to global advertising is restricted to the select few, those who go it alone will have to scramble to get noticed.

Amazon’s Vision for the Future of Self-Publishing

Digital Book World, April 7, 2014

The term “self-publishing” may have outlived its usefulness, according to Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon, speaking at the Publishing for Digital Minds conference this week in London.

When asked at a recent past conference what “self-publishing” looked like in ten years, Fine, who is intimately involved in that business at Amazon, said that it probably won’t be called that anymore. In the future, authors will publish in a number of ways.

“If you’re an author in ten years, you’re going to have an array of options,” said Fine. “What we’ve done is provide the tools that make it possible to take a story and make it available to hundreds of millions of people around the world…and do it in multiple formats.”

Best-selling hybrid author Hugh Howey shared the stage with Fine. Howey could be an author from Fine’s future. He has self-published ebooks and audiobooks, traditionally published print books and translations, and has no definite plans in the future as to how he will publish his next title.

“Do you want to be a small business owner or work for a corporation?” asked Howey, referring to the difference between self-publishing, where authors are also entrepreneurs (the former) and traditional publishing, adding, “and there are advantages and disadvantages for both.”

In a typical example of the flexibility afforded authors today, Orna Ross, a hybrid author and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, who was also on the conference panel mentioned that she is publishing nine short books this year, about one every month, “and that’s not something a publisher would ever do.”

According to Fine, the next challenge facing authors, publishers and distributors like Amazon is how readers will discover the right books for them.

“We’ve created this tsunami of content,” said Fine. “It’s a high class problem to have too many stories. We, as tech companies, publishers, authors, service providers, have to find ways to help stories find the right audience. This discoverability problem is the next big challenge.”


  1. In the few short years I've been writing, the "book world" has change dramatically. As is currently the case, if you want to publish, you take advantage of what's happening at that time. If anyone has a solid hold on what publishing will look like in 10 years, invest in them now.

  2. Amazon and similar platforms will try to crawl up the value chain and promote additional services to authors (editing, promotion etc). They are offering these services already, but they will push further until they probably will be very close to a traditional publisher (Kobo seems to be a step ahead there). I'm convinced, self-publishing will still exist, but I'm not so sure if it will be distinguishable from a Amazon-Published book.

  3. You both have a point. Amazon is taking over the world (they now own Alexa as well as Goodreads), and I am sure that as time goes on, publishing with Amazon will resemble publishing with a traditional house - with slightly higher royalties and minus the advance.(Epublishing with the big houses will be much the same.) The only feasible route I see for successful self-publishing is to form a publishing company. That way, you gain access to the big book fairs.

  4. There will always be avenues to self-publish and both good and bad authors will be at in 10 years or 20 years time. The key factor that has changed is that we can all market our goods more easily now with the help of social networking and a smartphone. If we become good at it, we can make a go of it.


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