Matthias Matting: Surveying Germany's digital indie scene

Matthias Matting: Surveying Germany's digital indie scene

Long understood as forming a third and growing market in self-publishing, German-language indie authors again will find programming at Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and were highlighted in author Kathrin Passig's keynote comments at Klopotek's Publishers' Forum in April. Munich's editor and journalist Matthias Matting has made a third annual survey of German-language indies. In highlighting some of the results for us, Matting says he sees a maturing community. In 2013, 28 percent of the responding authors said they'd been self-publishing for less than six months. This year, only 16 percent said that. Are they adamantly opposed to traditional publishing? "Eighty percent tell us, 'Yes, under the right conditions,' they would be interested in traditional publishing."  And Matting says "right conditions" means access to physical bookstores. -- Porter Anderson

How do German authors see their chances in self publishing? 

And did their mindset change with all the new tools and developments?

In June, again presented a large catalogue of 50 questions to authors in German speaking countries. 906 participants made the effort and invested at least half-an-hour in responding.

As the third edition of the survey, this round is interesting not only for its new answers but also for comparisons to earlier answers that show how things may have changed since 2012. (We have kept about two-thirds of the questions in each survey.)

There is one general trend — more and more professionalism.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they have published more than 10 books.

While the median income from books has improved from around €300 in 2013 to €500 in 2015, about eight percent of the authors said they are earning more than €2000 per month from their books.

Four of 10 writers (median age: 47, the majority is female) have been working without a publisher for more than two years. 

Those who are paying third-party services to help with editing, cover design, and so on, pay around €464 per book, while in 2014 it was €216.

The number of authors who tell us they never went the traditional way grows year on year.

In 2015, we see it reaching 60 percent.

But respondents say this is not because they dislike traditional publishing. Only one of 20 says she or he would never go to a publisher, while 80 percent tell us, "Yes, under the right conditions," they would be interested in traditional publishing.

What are those conditions? Interestingly, it is not, at least not mainly, the money. Authors like self-publishing because of the control and creative freedom they keep during the whole process.

On the other hand, what they do like from publishing houses is the option to sell in traditional bookstores. 

With roughly a 10-percent ebook market share, print obviously still has much more traction in Germany.

If a publisher gets a book onto these shelves, as Piper Verlag did in the spring with the self-published hit Honigtod by Hanni Münzer — which made it to the No. 10 spot on the SPIEGEL bestseller list — authors are more than happy to go with them.

For ebooks in general, the German market is shared between Amazon and Tolino (each having around 45 percent), with the rest going to Apple etc.

For self publishers however, things look different. For most of them, Amazon is way ahead of Tolino.

That , of course, has something to do with the fact that Tolino only started its self-publishing platform in late April.

Approximately one-third of our surveyed authors say they are using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, Amazon's programme, which requires exclusivity.

Amazon invests in it with their "All-Star" programme, in which the 150 bestselling Select authors are paid extra.

Flat-rate ebook subscription programmes currently are mostly ignored by these authors

Interestingly, of those who do show an interest in subscription schemes, the public libraries' system "Onleihe" — or eLibrary — comes second in terms of user favourites, right behind Kindle Unlimited. 

Concerning ebook prices, there is a trend to start higher.

Sixty-one percent of our respondents report that they are setting prices above €2.99, while only five percent go for 99 cents.

In general, the surveyed authors tell us they're pretty optimistic – more than half say they assume that it will get better or much better in the future while less than five percent see their own position worsening as time goes on.

Main image - iStockphoto: 4maksym

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Matthias Matting will be a speaker on the 1st of October in the Novelists Inc. First Word programme on international issues for authors at St. Pete Beach, Florida.