Your Self-Publishing Competition

Self-Publishing Competition
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You have self-publishing competition. Bowker, the company that issues International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), reports that 458,564 self-published books were released in 2013, the last year that complete figures were available. This is a 16.5 percent increase from the previous year.

Print books increased by 28.8 percent, but there was a 1.6 percent decline in ebooks according to their figures.

Biggest Player Not Included

This does not tell the full story, however. Ebooks published by Amazon are not included in the numbers because they do not require an ISBN. Ebooks published by Nook, a much smaller player, are also excluded.

Beat Barblan, Director of Identifier Services for Bowker told Publishers Weekly that the figures prove that “self-publishing is maturing into a serious business.”

Using the term “self-publishing” in that way is a concern. Bowker, like many other old-line traditional publishing industry companies, fail to make a distinction between “self-publishing,” and the flowering Indy publishing movement. Pay-to-publish companies like iUniverse, Balboa Press, Westbow and Xulon like to blur the distinction—confusion means more profits for their vanity publishing operations.

I define the differences between what I call the “New Vanity Press,” self-publishing and Indy publishing in my ebook, The Self Publishing Trap.

Major Players Still Don’t Get It

The only way Bowker makes the distinction between self-publishers and Indy publishers is by the number of ISBNs they sell to an account. If you buy one or two ISBNs you are considered a self-publisher. If you buy them in blocks of ten, you are considered a small, or Indy, publisher.

Indy publishers registered 46,654 ISBNs according to the report published in Publishers Weekly. That was 4th Place in the book publishing sweepstakes. The top three ISBN registrants in 2013 were:

  • Amazon’s CreateSpace: 186,926 ISBNs
  • Smashwords: 85,500 ISBNs
  • Lulu: 74,787 ISBNs

Author Solutions, the company that actually publishes the books for nearly all the different New Vanity Press brands, registered 44,574 ISBNs.

What this Competition Means

Before the digital publishing revolution got traction (1995), traditional US publishers released an estimated 125,00 new print titles and zero ebook titles. About 96 percent were published by the “Big 6” mainline publishers of the time.

Today, there are about 1 million new books (print and ebooks), with and without ISBNs, published in the US annually. In addition, there is also a multi-million title back catalog of books, so consumers have vast choices.

This competition means that book authors cannot expect to have bookselling success unless they get visibility for themselves and their book. I highlight that fact is my ebook, Writing Books is Easy, Selling Books is Hard. Authors must heavily promote their books if they expect them to sell. Most think writing a book is the hard part, but in reality it will probably only sell a few dozen copies unless it is heavily promoted.


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