To paraphrase the immortal words of Truman Capote, there’s a difference between writing and typing. And, to put it gently, we can say with a good amount of confidence that most self-published books were typed, not written. Because communicating with letters assembled into words is a skill most learn by the age of 5, and because written communication has become so ubiquitous in American life, everyone now thinks he’s a writer. Until recently, the publishing industry had been our sea wall, protecting us from a tidal wave of boring life stories and dreadful novels. But now, the ease of self-publishing threatens to drown us all in mediocrity. Here are nine signs the situation is out of control.
In a world of 6.8 billion people, 700,000 trying to make it big by self-publishing may not seem very significant. But compare it to the number of books traditionally published in America each year: 80,000. Of those, one author says, “most of them [are] not needed, not wanted, not in any way remotely necessary.” Assuming the U.S. makes up just one-tenth of the market (almost certainly a low estimate), AND assuming each author has the decency to self-publish only one title, that means self-publishers stand to nearly double the number of books published in the world every year.
Lulu is a self-publishing company that has been in business since 2002 and is generally regarded as the leader in the field. One need look no further for proof that self-publishing is getting out of hand than the Lulu web site that reveals the company publishes 20,000 titles for unpublished authors every single month. The site shows no signs of slowing, as 12,000 new “creators” sign up every week, and the number of titles is growing about 10% each month. But as the founder of the company says, the average run is “less than two.”
Basically, an economic bubble is created when a good is bought and sold at a much higher price than it is really worth. For example, the dot-com bubble burst when traders realized Internet companies had no way to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars at which their worth was being valued. Pundits are now looking hard at the massive popularity of self-publishing and asking: How long until self-publishers realize tens of thousands of them have grossly overvalued their products and the market crashes?
The dilemma of finding a publisher is no more; say hello to the dilemma of choosing which publisher is right for you. From Author Solutions to Author House, from Booktango to BookSurge, there is a plenitude of publishers from which to choose to help you produce your book. But there’s also an entire sub-industry that has sprung into being from the self-publishing movement: the “how to self-publish” manual industry. Like any “get-rich-quick“-style book, these books will always sell better than the vast majority of the books they encourage people to self-publish.
Millions of titles are available for free download in various formats. The average price of a self-published Kindle ebook for titles in the Top 100 on Amazon was $1.40, and this price is trending downward. Although many of the free titles hosted by companies like Amazon are books in the public domain, a huge mass of them are self-published titles that first-time authors are giving away for free in the hopes of receiving exposure. This means that deserving works are buried in the pile, and there is just too much for customers to sort through.
As if self-publishers needed any more encouragement, many visible commentators are using their platforms to breathlessly urge everyone who considers themselves a writer (which is basically everyone) to self-publish. On Dec. 13, 2011, USA Today featured a story about self-publishing success story Michael Prescott, who is “threatening to change the face of publishing” with his enormous success. “It’s a gold rush out there,” Prescott proclaims in the article. Over at Techcrunch.com six weeks later, traditionally-published and self-published author, blogger, and investment guru James Altucher was advising every entrepreneur to self-publish a book, basically anointing books the new business cards in the process.
As one of the first comers to the new self-publisher industry, Smashwords alone has published more than 80,000 books since being created in 2008. It took one company less than four years to match the annual total of traditionally-published books in the U.S. To date, authors have smashed a whopping 4,242,989,557 words into their self-published books.
On average, authors who self-publish sell 100-150 copies of their book. Considering the average Facebook user has 130 friends, this is right in the wheelhouse for explaining who is buying most self-published books: friends and family of the author. Of course, as this is an average, there are a handful of breakout self-publishing authors who are keeping the number elevated and making up for the thousands of writers who sell 50 or 25 copies, or worse.
If there’s any doubt self-publishing is already out of control, millions of books could potentially be in the pipeline for self-publishing in the near future. The New York Times has reported that 81% of Americans think they have the makings of a book in their brains, and that they should publish that book. An estimated 25 million novels and how-to books have already been written by Internet users in the U.S. but have yet to be published. If just 1% of those authors self-publish, the country’s annual book publishing by traditional means would be instantly tripled.
*Today’s article was written and brought to you by the staff at www.accreditedonlinecolleges.com
* * *
So, writers, what’s your take on the topic? Do you agree with the author of this article? Is self-publishing really out of control?
Note – Today’s article does not necessarily reflect the views of The Graveyard Shift. However, we do believe in giving all sides of any topic a fair shot at having their voice(s) heard…within reason.