Technology has Rocked the Publishing Industry: The Case for Self-Publishing by Todd F. Neva
At some point, the publishing industry ceased to be curators of good literature and instead became evaluators of marketing plans.
The secret to getting published today is to have a platform of thousands of followers on Facebook, a congregation of over five thousand, a famous last name, or prior moderate success at a small publisher.
Small publishers still evaluate the work of first-time authors, but a marketing plan is as important as the writing. Large publishers are mostly concerned that you can sell at least 10,000 books.
And now, after years playing gatekeepers for what ends up on bookstore shelves, major technology changes have rocked the industry.
1) Online sales: In 2015, about 570 million paper book were sold of which about 60% were sold online. Amazon alone sold about 40% of paper books.
2) E-books: It literally takes only hours to format a book for sale for Kindle or Nook readers. E-books make up 30% of all book sales, and Amazon has 65% share of that format.
So all told, online sales make up over 70% of the market, and I suspect well over 95% of book sales from small publishers.
3) Direct print: It takes mere days to format a book for sale as a print on demand paperback, and the quality is outstanding. And no inventory is required.
Publishers used to make metal plates for offset printing, and they had to run thousands of copies to gain economies of scale. But a huge upfront investment is no longer required. With digital print on demand, a reader orders a book, and Amazon literally prints one copy, collating the pages in a massive machine, binding it with a freshly printed cover, and mailing it minutes later.
If self-publishing is so easy given e-books and print on demand, and if the driving factor for getting a publishing contract is your marketing plan, and if you can get virtually the same distribution, why not cut out the middleman and self-publish?
I would say two reasons. First, going through a small publisher forces you to get your book to a standard that at least one other person would accept, and second, you can say you've been published. There's no chance of getting in with the big publishing houses without paying your dues. And once with a big publisher, you'll have access to a large public relations and marketing machine that can sell books.
But interestingly, several well-established authors are leaving the big houses for self-publishing. Why give the publishing houses three-fourths of the royalties when you can sell just as many books without them. Even if self-published authors sell half as many books, they can make twice as much money.
Additionally, self-publishing gives the author more artistic control. Publishing houses, particularly Christian publishers, impose standards on their authors. One literary agent wrote in a blog, "Write by the most conservative standards. . . . Imagine writing for your very strict grandmother or an aunt who's easily shocked."1
If that is indeed your narrow market, then that particular agent and the publishers she represents would be a good fit. Otherwise, you would face different restrictions with another agent or publisher.
Here is the strongest case for self-publishing, if you really think your book is something special, then you should be the first to take a chance on it and reap all of the benefits.
1. http://www.stevelaube.com/whats-wrong-book/#sthash.6OrK9pZr.dpuf, accessed July 22, 2016.
TODD F. NEVA grew up on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota. He earned a BS in Business Marketing and an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. He worked in marketing research, finance, and manufacturing for over 16 years with large, consumer goods companies in the Midwest before becoming permanently disabled with ALS. He co-authored with his wife Kristin Heavy, available in print on demand and e-book through Amazon, and he blogs at NevaStory.com to give hope to those who suffer from ALS as well as all of us who struggle with life's burdens. Todd is a six year survivor of ALS and lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his wife and two children. He speaks occasionally at Evangel Baptist Church in Houghton, Michigan. You can find his sermons by following this link.