Self-Publishing Trends: Up, Up and Away

Upward Graph ChalkboardUp, up and away! That pretty well describes self-publishing trends and stats around the world.

According to Bowker, the leading provider of bibliographic information, the number of U.S. self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up 59 percent over 2011 and 422 percent over 2007. In 2011, Bowker found that 148,424 print books were self-published, or 43 percent of all print books published in the United States.

Favorite genres for self-publishing appear to be fiction, inspirational, books for children and biographies. What is driving the trend to self-publish? In 2011, The Wall Street Journal ran an article about Darcie Chan’s debut novel, which sold more than 400,000 copies on Amazon. Rejected by a dozen publishers and more than 100 literary agents, Chan self-published the book digitally and wrapped a savvy marketing plan around its release. She subsequently has attracted bids from foreign imprints, movie studies and audio-book publishers.

Success like that energizes other aspiring writers who have been rejected by traditional publishing houses. It also has created a satellite industry of service providers to assist self-publishing authors post and package their work, companies like Smashwords and CreateSpace being among the first.

BookstoreSelf-published authors do like to see their work in print, and some have signed “unusual” contracts with traditional publishers in order to get into bookstores, Targets Wal-Marts, Costcos, and airports, which they couldn’t do as independent authors.

What all this means for commercial printers is that there is a lot more book printing, but the runs are much shorter.  Initially, some self publishers produce a very short run, 25 to 50 copies called ARC’s (Author’s Review Copies). These are sent to Publishers and reviewers for feedback or possible adoption. There is no difference in the quality of these copies and the final production print run. Once self-publisher decides on a  market strategy they move forward with production. Most initial runs for self-publishers are in the 200 to 500 range. As they get established, they are doing production runs of 1,000 to 2,000. These run lengths are applicable to digital ink jet printing. With the number of new titles emerging, these short runs are forcing many book manufacturers to consider investing in Inkjet technology.

- Rob Malkin

Business Development Executive, Ricoh


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