Foreword by Philip Jones, Editor of The Bookseller
There is no accurate measure of how big this market is now. Estimates suggest that in the UK in volume terms indie-published e-books now make up as much as 20% of the digital book market, and by value between 10 and 15%. That’s a market now worth perhaps £50m—equivalent in number to a small bookshop chain. In the US it is much bigger, where the Author Earnings reports suggest that 20% of all consumer dollars spent on e-books on Amazon.com are being spent on indie self-published e-books. But even these numbers underestimate the amount of publishing taking place independently, with the number of new self-published titles having accelerated as opportunities have developed.
Furthermore, focusing on the figures does not tell the full story. We are in the midst of a market shift, with the centre of ground within publishing moving towards authors. Last year in this slot Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publishers Association, wrote that he saw the two approaches to publishing as “being complementary”. He is right, up to a point. The growth in self-publishing—its evolution from uncommercial vanity books into financially viable independent publishing—has also been a wake-up call for the traditional industry. When publishing chief executives talk of none of their big authors having “jumped ship” to self-publishing, one can almost see the bead of sweat as the word “yet” forms in their minds. The incontestable truth is that in the digital space, publishers are now not only in competition with other book publishers, but also with other authors.
Authors are now in charge of their destinies in ways that were impossible when the routes to market were marshalled by businesses operating only under the old rules. Some authors will continue to publish traditionally, others will mix-and-match, while there are those for whom traditional publishing no longer matches up to the opportunities of being independent. All of this now makes up the modern book business. At The Bookseller we have launched a monthly spotlight on independently-published titles: recognition of how much the market has moved, but also an opportunity for indie-authors to get their titles in front of publishers, agents, and (crucially) booksellers.
What comes next will be equally as interesting as what I have just described. Amazon has led this democratisation and should be applauded for spotting the need among authors, and the demand among readers. But it is now a movement that can flourish outside of Amazon, as other platforms such as Kobo and Nook establish themselves as viable alternative marketplaces, and opportunities around enhanced e-books and print-on-demand broaden what kind of books can be successfully self-produced. We will see more authors self-publish, but also more publishers adapt their businesses to the lessons learnt from successful indie authors. There is no greater compliment.
Good luck to all those featured in this catalogue and part of this year’s Independent Author Fair!
Philip Jones, editor, The Bookseller, March 2015