Self-publishing does well in ebooks sales.
But self-publishers will continue to lose out in real book sales.
There is no doubt that self-publishing has stamped its authority and found its place in book publishing, and is winning on many fronts. However, its success has mostly come in the form of ebooks and through the power of the Internet.
When it comes to ‘dead tree‘ books sales, though, self-publishing has a very long way to go yet. In fact, I would go as far to say that self-publishing will continue to lose, and is a dead loss as far as print on demand paperback and hardcover book sales go.
While the data is a little out of date, the book market sales split reported by Publishing Perspectives for the first half of 2014 is telling.
Ebook sales made up only 23% of book sales during this period, and after meteoric increases following the introduction of the ebook in 2007, sales have now plateaued and are struggling to increase by more than single digits year on year.
This means that the ebook pie won’t get much bigger, while the number of self-published ebooks increases at a hellish pace.
This is very bad news for self-publishers because ebooks are their bread and butter sales.
On the other hand, paperbacks and hardcover books are the bread and butter sales for traditional publishing, and by controlling, manipulating and even owning shelf space in bricks and mortar books stores, the big five have a monopoly on non-ebook sales.
Print On Demand books can’t compete.
This is where self-publishing has made no ground whatsoever in recent years. Sure, self-publishers can offer a paperback version of their book on Amazon, but what about at your local bookstore?
What about at your chain of national bookstores? No way, no hope, and no possibility.
And more importantly, what about the quality of print on demand books? Compared to trade published books, they are a very poor relation.
While ebooks have made huge strides in quality in recent years, print on demand books are still the same as they were in 2002. Poor quality, poor formatting, poor typography and poor paper grades.
This is the real frontier that will for some time yet hold back self-publishing as a challenger to the big five publishers. Sure, there are independent bookshops that stock a few self-published titles, but this is the exception.
The tough truth is that bookstores and bookstore chains still sell a hell of a lot of books, and by using prime store placement, which publishers pay an arm and a leg for, this can turn almost any book into a bestseller.
But it would never, no matter how much money is spent, turn a poor quality print on demand paperback into even a modest seller.
Self-publishing has been a winner, but only on one front. Ebooks. The real challenge now is for self-publishing to aim higher, and challenge real book sales.
The best avenue of attack is of course still through print on demand books because of the economy it offers, but until the likes of Createspace, Lulu and others lift their game and offer paperbacks and hardcovers that are close to trade quality, there is little hope.
But, one can hope.
Or perhaps, is this a real market opportunity for Vanity Press? Although having a bad reputation in the market, they can produce a quality book. As with everything, we’ll see what the future brings.