The Future of Books Is Digital, On-Demand and Indie

The Future of Books

Earlier this month, I had the good fortune to attend Digital Book World 2013. DBW is the premiere educational event for publishers, editors, agents, production managers and high-level publishing execs. Attendees spend three days learning how to make the industry stronger by embracing new technologies and publishing strategies, learning about new publishing options (and what authors think about them), and thinking ahead to anticipate changing reader habits.

It would be well worth your time to visit the DBW website and sign up for their daily newsletter.  Though the conference itself is geared more toward the publishing industry, the daily newsletter provides readers with a ton of great information about what’s happening in the world of publishing, including self-publishing.

Sessions this year covered e-book pricing, e-book piracy, digital marketing, self-publishing (AKA indie publishing) and more. It also included a case study of Hugh Howey, one of the most successful self-published authors of the past year. His book, Wool, has broken the mold for how successful self-published authors can work with agents and publishing houses to get the best deal possible for one’s work.

I was thrilled to present a keynote based on a survey that we submitted to aspiring, self-published and traditionally published authors. Our goal was to learn what they thought about editors, social media, the state of publishing today  and much more. Nearly 5,000 authors responded, and there were a few fun statistics that I thought you might enjoy reading:

  • Only 18% of aspiring authors maintain a Facebook page about their writing, while 56% of self-published authors do. That’s good to see. However, 68% of traditionally published authors do the same. Similar increases can be seen in the use of Twitter, Goodreads and blogs.  This suggests that traditionally published authors are putting more effort into promoting their work. Don’t let that be the case! As a self-published author, you need to promote yourself and your work even harder. The data shows that as you do so, books sales will increase.
  • Authors who have only self-published are 73% more likely to want to self-publish again. Authors who have only traditionally published are 36% more likely to want to self-publish. However, when you ask those authors who have published both ways — and therefore have a basis for comparison — which way they’d like to publish in the future, nearly 70% would choose self-publishing. My, how the world has changed!

We might wonder what’s driving this high interest in self-publishing, even amongst traditionally published authors. The data clarifies:

  • 84% of traditionally published authors think that publishers are important to the editing and design of a book. But only 62% of authors who have both self-published and traditionally published agree.
  • 55% of traditionally published authors believe that publishing a book involves a lot of complexity that is best run by a traditional publisher. Only 27% of authors who have published both ways agree.  
  • 46% of traditionally published authors think that publishers add value to the positioning of a book in the marketplace. Only 31% of authors who have published both ways agree.

So what does all of this suggest? If you’ve ever had doubts about the decision to self-publish, take heart! The data shows that those authors who have experienced both types of publishing don’t really think that highly of what traditional publishers are bringing to the table. And it was clear at DBW that much of the conversation revolved around how publishers can make themselves more relevant in a time when self-published authors are learning how to market themselves more effectively and put out a finished product that rivals the quality of any traditionally published book.

The self-publishing revolution is here to stay. Of that there’s no doubt. If you’re self-published, or thinking about it, take a minute to congratulate yourself for being on the industry’s leading edge.

What’s your take on the state of publishing today?