Why did self-publishing drop 46%?

file000532567424Over the years, people have claimed that traditional publishing is a dinosaur, eBooks are the future, and self-publishing is taking over. However, the facts don’t support those theories.

Before moving on, the purpose of any blog on UP Authors is to help you make decisions and move forward productively. We don’t guess at UP Authors, nor do we give you our opinion. We stick with reality and leave the fiction to the writing of stories.

Traditional Publishing Update

Traditional publishing has taken a small dip…1.6%. In terms of business, that’s “Holding steady.”

Traditional publishing isn’t growing. It’s not failing. It’s holding steady.

Han Huang, Director of Product Management for Data Licensing at Bowker said, “Traditional print production is holding up relatively well…industry reports that eBook sales growth has been slowing.”

eBook Update

Remember that traditional publishing doesn’t put a lot of funding into eBooks. This is why they can raise the prices to $14.99. If they sell eBooks, it’s a bonus.

Traditional publishers use statistics to make business and marketing choices. It’s a fact that 6% of readers prefer only eBooks and 46% of readers prefer only printed books. (Wall Street Journal) There are some readers that purchase both eBooks and printed books, but the numbers are low.

Yes, there are 200% more published eBooks than last year, but only 6% of readers are interested in buying those eBooks. Do you see the difference?

Self-Publishing Update

In 2010, there were 3,844,278 self-published books. It was a time when people started going on their own to find other sources of income. They put up their own website, uploaded a book to Amazon, signed up for Facebook, and realized that publishing and marketing was cheap.

That turned out to be the problem with self-publishing…cheap.

Books were rushed and poorly written.

Publishing was rushed, which flooded the markets with first-time authors.

Marketing was rushed, producing low results.

In 2012, self-publishing dropped to 2,042,840 titles and in 2013, self-publishing dropped to 1,108,183.

I’m not great at math, but that’s about a 50% drop each year, which means by 2016, there may only be 130,000 self-published books.

What’s the main reason self-publishing is fading away?

Huang, an expert in product management said that self-published books are, “Marketed almost exclusively online.”

Traditional publishing uses multiple ways to market, along with focusing on specific areas to market which is based on the author’s genre, storyline, and characters.

Self-published authors attempt to market books to the entire world via Amazon, social media, and their website.

Here’s the good news!

Every self-published author that continues on this trend will fade away. It’s not my opinion…it’s a fact.

For those of you that want to succeed at self-publishing, then you can succeed by following traditional marketing methods.

Here’s a list of traditional ways to market. Remember that you don’t have to do all of this at once. Mix and match, invest what you can, but this is your only way to survive and eventually sell millions of books.

~ Target Market Research (Knowing which cities would purchase your book. Also, which cities have the highest income and education rates.)

~ Book Conferences

~ Events

~ Book Signings

~ Book Clubs

~ Media Coverage

~ Advertisements (Billboards, Newspapers, Commercials, Movie Theatres)

~ Press Kits

~ Book Reviews

~ Reading Samples/Serialization

~ Speaking Engagements

The next stage should be…

~ Placement of books in big box stores

~ Placement in bookstores, both chain and local (Especially bookstores that report numbers to the Bestsellers List)

~ Placement of books on the end-caps of bookstores and big box stores

~ Film Adaptation (There are resources for film adaptation. See below.)

Some authors feel it’s great news that self-publishing is fading away. This opens the door for authors that are going to stick it out and adjust their marketing. Meanwhile, the authors that rush a book on Amazon will soon fade away.

Start a budget for marketing, even if it’s only $50 a month. This simple adjustment will propel your career, while other authors find a different career…

“There’s a big gap between you and the all-time bestselling authors in the world. Inside that gap are billions of potential readers.” ~ Ron Knight

Do you need 100 ideas to sell books? Check out 12 Month Author Marketing Plan!


Ron Knight

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  1. Ms Kathy Rowe says:

    There’s one problem with the marketing model: nearly all stores- big box and chain bookstores WILL NOT carry self-published books. I’ve tried and tried and tried. No luck, they just won’t have us. The only place one can hope to get books on shelves is an Indie bookstore. And there are none where I live. Being so remote means I have to do my best to market online. Will I survive? Maybe. But I’ll still keep writing.

  2. Ron Knight says:

    Hey Kathy:

    Marketing online is okay, but try to stretch beyond social media and the city that you live. There are local bookstores, book clubs, niche stores, organizations, and schools in cities that would love to read your stories.

    There’s no “maybe” about it. You will survive and thrive.

  3. Hill Kemp says:

    We developed a market niche for relatively unknown authors and it continues with success. I personally sold about 3,000 books with revenue around $35,000. We have had from 6 – 12 authors working at any time. One author had “two pallets” of books in her garage and she ended up having to order more. The arrangement makes money for our hosts and the authors. It’s a personal selling/signing mode and it’s been very helpful for me. I could raise $1,000 per weekend. My novels, Capitol Offense and A Lone Star Special, are available on Amazon but I don’t think I’ve sold more than a few dozen books in 8 years and a lot of those were relatives. My sales in the niche are over 3,000. If you are in the Houston, Texas area I may be able to get you involved. Or I can help you set up the operation where you are. My book writing/selling work has been shelved for another venture (www.suns-river.com) but I look to get back to it.

  4. Thanks for the analysis. The drop in self published book, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the model is fading. It could also mean that not every indie is staying the distance. It may well result in an upswing I quality by those who do, and who may benefit by the trimmer market.

  5. Where does the 46% figure come from and what is it a percentage of? Without that sort of information, the number doesn’t mean much.

  6. Ron Knight says:

    Hey Diana:

    Thanks for the question on UP Authors. The 46% of readers that prefer printed books is based on a study done by Wall Street Journal. (I actually found similar studies with same results, but chose Wall Street Journal.)

    The study asked a straightforward question, “What type of books do you prefer to read? eBooks or printed books?”

    6% responded eBooks.
    46% responded printed books.
    The study then showed percentages of readers that used both, but given the choice, would choose a printed book.

    If you have any other questions, or need help with something, please ask.

  7. Ron Knight says:

    Awesome point Stavros. I hope you’re right!

  8. Thanks for the reply, Ron. However, I was asking about the 46% drop in self-published books that’s mentioned in the title. That’s got nothing to do with the survey you’re talking about. I’m not sure anyone knows for sure how many books are self-published every year, especially as ebooks often don’t have ISBNs and many self-publishing authors have created their own imprints. So what’s the source of the numbers you have quoted in your article?

  9. I read recently that 86% of Americans want to write a book. So if all of them do, and it’s a one time endeavour, I can believe that self-publishing numbers will eventually fall off. But I think that those of us who are savvy will continue to use this model, as it really does benefit authors–as long as you get the marketing and distribution figured out.

  10. I’d love to read that study. I wonder, of the 46% who prefer to read physical books, how many usually BUY physical books? Seems that there could be a difference between those numbers. At any rate, I’ve hoped that the market would self-correct after a time, when readers got tired of sometimes barely literate material (certainly not all of it) and writers realized that it’s a long, tough road to success (depending on what you consider success). Fewer titles = less noise in the marketplace.


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