Here are some numbers every serious book author should plug into their strategy this year. According to publishing insider Bowker's 2018 report (the latest), the number of books self-published in the US in 2017 broke through
the 1,000,000 mark at 1,009,188. At the average growth clip over the past five years (20.9%), we can estimate the number to reach 1,486,889 by the end of this year. When you consider that in 2002, the number was closer to 80,000—that's a huge number of books! And at that growth rate, the number of books will continue to double every 3.5 years. While continued growth on such a steep incline seems unlikely, the underlying trend is clear and undeniable. Print sales are up 37%; ebook sales are down -12.6%; and audiobook sales are up by 20% or more across the board.
Even more astonishing is the fact that almost every publisher remained flat or declined in output during these years...except one. You guessed it: KDP, Amazon's self-publishing arm, the Kindle Direct Publishing & Createspace combine. In 2012, Amazon was publishing about 33% of all new titles; by 2017, the number soared to 75%. Data on number of titles sold by traditional publishers (TradPub) has been difficult to find and not broken out by title, so I've left it out. Tradpub is a diminishing player in today's publishing world—not least because their sales happen mostly on Amazon. Newer authors are well advised to build up their own platform before going to TradPub, if indeed you choose to go there at all. By self-publishing on Amazon, you control your own destiny. With their new advertising capabilities, you're in charge of how much you sell.
What does this data mean for an aspiring author? I see two takeaways here. First: Amazon is where the action is. Unless you have some special needs for a print book, I'd focus all energy on print & ebooks on KDP and audiobooks on ACX. Second: the need to excel at every aspect of making and delivering a book becomes critical. You need a great cover, a compelling description and professional interior layout. Those are the things people see first. Of course, you need to write a great book. That is, a) you need to have something unique to say and b) you need to say it skillfully. Finally, you need to have the best tools and resources to publish, launch and sell your title. Write, publish, launch, sell: the exact skills you'll learn at Bookgame. You're in the right place! Click here to apply for admission.
Crisman Cooley is an American poet & writer currently living in Santa Barbara, CA. He is founder of Bookgame and author of Alphabet: 26 Tiny Tales to Tickle Your Tongue and of the upcoming epic poem, Ester. He is Editor of Scientific Advertising.
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