Until a decade ago, the world of publishing was a closed-door club where a few publishing houses decided which author, and which work would be published. Such publishing houses ran a business model wherein they patronized a handful of authors and promoted a very limited range of titles by them, to generate high volumes per title. This severely limited the number of authors, while almost wholly excluding mid-level authors with a limited appeal from mainstream publishing. They based this model on their assumption of the book industry being a finite market, where only “x” number of books would sell.
Of late, indie authors have shaken this cozy, closed-door ecosystem built up by traditional publishing houses that saw most writers excluded from mainstream publishing. Indie publishing has gone on to become popular to such an extent, that indie authors have now started outselling traditional publishing houses.
There are several reasons for the success of the indie revolution.
Technological advancements that makes POD printing viable, the rise and popularity of ebook readers and other digital readers, and the increasing popularity of Internet for retail use has fuelled indie publishing. Indie authors can easily print their own books, with little or no investment and distribute it to a wide audience through the internet. Indie authors who have exercised this option have got widespread sales, proving that the assumption that the book market is finite, is grossly wrong.
With more and more people now preferring to buy books through online channels, and the quality of ebooks remaining the same regardless of the publisher, indie authors compete with traditional publishers on an equal footing. The widespread transition from print to ebooks makes print distribution to physical bookstores less important, thereby weakening the grip of traditional publishing houses considerably. This after all, was their key USP.
Ebooks, more than POD, drives indie sales. Bowker estimates that in 2011, online book retail eclipsed physical book retail for the first time. Ebooks account for 44% of all spending by consumers on books in the U.S. The sales of ebooks are expected to rise to 47 million units in 2014, way ahead of their print equivalents.
Traditional publishing houses printed books mainly on commercial considerations. Indie publishing makes talent the key differentiator between books. This throws open publishing vistas for a big number of authors, especially in the mid-segment, who otherwise remained excluded from the publishing process. These sales, based on talent, far overwhelm the sales generated by traditional marketing channels.
The best writers have the option to publish independently or traditionally, and more and more of them now choose the indie option. Indie publishing offers authors better royalties, the ability to control prices and have the final say in other key elements of the book. Many talented authors have already earned more through ebook royalties than they would even if they had featured on the NYT or USA Today Bestseller lists of traditional books. In 2013, some 150+ indie authors sold more than 100,000 ebooks on Amazon alone. As things stand, many established publishing companies place the onus of promoting their books on new authors anyway, making it worthwhile for them to take the indie route.
Although Nielsen reports a slight fall in the sales of ebooks in 2013 compared to previous years, and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) reports a modest 5% growth for ebooks in 2013, these stats indicate the ebook market stabilizing after years of double and triple digit growth. AAP pegs total sales of ebooks at $393.6 million for the first quarter of 2013.
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