'The author services crowd is loving these big numbers!'
That was author Abby Quillen during our #FutureChat of Friday (12th June). And she's right. The blind man on the team who's in the author services biz is sure to be happy with the size of whatever chunk he encounters. Everybody agrees that self-publishing is big. Very big.
But, of course, these big numbers are all guesswork, some educated, some not so much. We've spent almost a week at The FutureBook focused on what #FutureChat-er Tim Lewis reminded us might be called self-publishing's "known unknowns," Secy. Rumsfeld. With sales numbers unreported by leading retailers and much independent content produced without the ISBN that analysis services like Nielsen use to "see" and quantify the market, answering my Bookseller colleague Philip Jones' question — how big is the market for self-published titles? — is, at least in part, conjecture.
Our special survey on estimates of the size of self-publishing in the US and UK closes Tuesday morning (16th June). Hurry to get your responses in. And join us each Friday at 4:00 p.m. London (BST), 3:00 p.m. GMT, 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11:00 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).
To review our coverage:
- Jones kicked us off in his excellent context-setting essay, How big is the market for self-published titles?
- I followed this with our #FutureChat walkup, Data-Dancing: How big is self-publishing? with input from Hugh Howey and Data Guy, Jane Friedman and Bowker's Beat Barblan.
- Jones then posted agent Toby Mundy's interesting workup on the question, How big is self-publishing now? An agent's view.
- I followed with input from several self-publishing platform chiefs, Smashwords' Mark Coker, Kobo Writing Life's Mark Lefebvre, and Draft2Digital's Dan Wood, in How big is self-publishing? Data-Dancing on the platforms.
- This story is a recap of selected tweeted commentary from #FutureChat.
- And we're hoping you'll jump onto our quick and short-lived (by design) survey to give us your own ideas of the size of self-publishing. It closes early Tuesday (16th June), so don't wait.
- Tomorrow, Tuesday (16th June), Jones will give us a look at what survey respondents are saying.
Another platform heard from
On the way into our review of #FutureChat, I'd like to give you this input from Ingram Content's public relations folks, courtesy of IngramSpark's Robin Cutler. As you may know, IngramSpark is a platform that charges a fee (£29 or $49US, $53AUS or €36) for which it will set up your title for both ebook and print delivery, offering a wide range of production — including hardback — and distribution directly into bookstore channels in what the company says is 87 percent of the world's nations, a purported 39,000 booksellers, libraries, and online retail settings. Physical-store access is one of Ingram's strongest plays for indie business because Amazon CreateSpace products aren't welcome in many brick-and-mortar retail emporia.
Here's what Ingram's offices had to say to our three questions.
Question: What is your estimate for how big the US market for self-published books is (value and volume)?
Ingram Content's PR team: We know that the US market for self-published titles is big and it's healthy. The most recent numbers available show that there were more than 450,000 new self-published titles in 2013. This was an increase of 17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008. Already this year, through the end of May, we have added thousands of self-published titles through our IngramSpark program, as well as from our author services partners into their Lightning Source accounts.
Question: Can you detail (in brief) how you came to these numbers?
Ingram Content's PR team: We track content by publisher segments (Author Services, Micro publishers and IngramSpark).
Question: What in your view is the main hindrance to working out the market size, and how would you suggest resolving that?
Ingram Content's PR team: We only know about titles that are placed in the Ingram catalog either directly or indirectly through our publishing partners. ISBNs are another way to track but outside of the US this is problematic. Also on the E-side there is content being distributed directly into channels like Kindle and Smashwords without identifiers so that content is being universally counted at all...To get a full picture, you would need all channels to report out.
Coming to this Friday's #FutureChat
Come along this week (the 19th) for a special #FutureChat conversation with Rohan Gunatillake, creator of the Buddhify app and director of Mindfulness Everywhere. He'll be chatting with us ahead of The Bookseller's very knees-up Marketing and Publicity Conference programmed by the ever-witty Miriam Robinson. If you'll be in London on the 30th of the month, that's where to be and this is where to register.
Selected tweets from 12th June's #FutureChat
As you might expect, it was less a session of folks calling out their favorite guesses for how many self-published books are out there, and more a round of comments on many of the issues connected to the task of trying to sort what's out there. Our thanks to all who joined us. The group included Howey and, briefly, John Milton series author Mark Dawson.
Join us Friday for #FutureChat meditation on what Robinson sweetly calls "pressures" in marketing.
In non-fiction there is a whole hidden area of authors with companion books to courses. Doubt they get counted in most stats. #futurechat— Tim @ Stoneham Press (@StonehamPress) June 12, 2015
Once there was a clear line between books in a store, and mimeographed zine sold out of trunk. #futurechat— Camille LaGuire (@camillelaguire) June 12, 2015
My gut feeling is that 2 years ago, it hit $1 billion in author earnings. And global distr. of SelfPub is about to hit China. #FutureChat— David Rozansky (@DavidRozansky) June 12, 2015
I worry looking at US & UK markets does not paint the full picture, a key part of the digital revolution is international #FutureChat— Dan Wood (@DanWoodOk) June 12, 2015
A key question (too muddy the waters) is where do you draw the line? Are free books any different from long blog posts? #futurechat— Tim @ Stoneham Press (@StonehamPress) June 12, 2015
..and do we include free ebook giveaways on websites? In which case the number of self-publishers balloons... #futurechat— Tim @ Stoneham Press (@StonehamPress) June 12, 2015
What I'm saying here is that self-publishing is much MUCH bigger than just those things sold through traditional channels. #futurechat— Camille LaGuire (@camillelaguire) June 12, 2015
Big publishers should be dominant on ebooks because of their enormous back catalogues. #futurechat— Tim @ Stoneham Press (@StonehamPress) June 12, 2015
The lines for episodic entertainment are blurring. Just look at what Netflix did with Daredevil this year #FutureChat— Alan Tucker (@TuckerAuthor) June 12, 2015
Good trad numbers are difficult too, how many print copies sold to bookstores never end up in the hands of readers? #Futurechat— Dan Wood (@DanWoodOk) June 12, 2015
On Marketing, just waiting for publishing to jump on Meerkat and Periscope bandwagon sweeping marketing... #futurechat— Tim @ Stoneham Press (@StonehamPress) June 12, 2015
I thought writing compelling books was the number one thing we had to do to sell books... #FutureChat— Thaddeus Howze (@ebonstorm) June 12, 2015
Book publishing is a moving target. Few books on marketing can keep up with the innovations. #FutureChat— Thaddeus Howze (@ebonstorm) June 12, 2015
One thing's for sure, the Author Services crowd is loving these big numbers! #FutureChat— Abby Quillen (@abbyquillen) June 12, 2015
Join us each Friday at 4:00 p.m. London (BST), 3:00 p.m. GMT, 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11:00 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).
Main image - Shutterstock: Marco Poplasen