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Amber Massey is a wordsmith and communications enthusiast with over 10 years of experience. Editing is her passion. New media is her medium. She is currently the CEO of Mellel, a powerful app redefining word processing for Mac.
Self-publishing continues to grow. According to the most recently available ISBN registration numbers, self-published book registrations have jumped by more than 20%. Meanwhile, nearly a third of Amazon’s best-selling ebooks were self-published last year. It’s clear that authors can find a lot of potential in the self-publishing industry, but there are also several distinct challenges, and attendant opportunities, to watch out for in 2018. So, let’s get started.
eBooks are a gamble, but you could win big
If you want to stand out in the adult fiction world, going digital could be your best bet. Approximately 70% of adult fiction sales come in the form of ebooks, according to industry reports. This presents enormous opportunities for self-publishing your ebook through Amazon’s CreateSpace and other outlets. It’s an easier and faster way to quickly stake out your piece of territory in adult fiction.Diversification can help secure enduring sales.Click To Tweet
However, whereas printing through a traditional publishing house can present evergreen sales through bookstores and events, tying your cart to ebooks leaves you open to the fickleness of the digital consumer. Ebook sales skyrocketed in 2016. This summer, those skyrocketing numbers plummeted by 20%, according to CNN Media. Who knows what 2018 could hold? Self-publishing authors may want to keep their focus on diversifying between print and digital, despite the shiny allure of ebooks.
The indie market is hotting up
The Big 5 publishers are losing their grip on the market, and self-publishing is no longer the smallest player in the fiction or nonfiction industries. According to Author Earnings, the market share of self-published authors could be as high as 40% in 2017.
As independent publishing continues to grow, we’re going to see more and more of the market share shift to self-published authors and independent publishing houses. And this means more competition. The larger the self-publishing market becomes, the more work it takes for any individual self-published author to be successful. When the self-publishing market was smaller, it was much easier to stand out and grab some attention, if only as a novelty or as a ‘rebel’ of sorts. But as it becomes mainstream, you need to rely again on more traditional means of getting attention and sales.
“Authors have to find ways to expand their own roles,” warns Publisher’s Weekly. They report that there is a trend of self-published authors moving into marketing and consulting, which will definitely affect you in 2018.
Not only are successful self-published authors spending more of their resources on savvy marketing, but they’re also coaching other indie authors on how to replicate their success. And self-publishing companies are taking note. For example, not so long ago, Ingram purchased a social media marketing company.
Joel Friedlander, a publishing consultant, was interviewed by Publisher’s Weekly. He says it used to be unusual when he told people that he had one foot in the book world and one foot in the online marketing world. “This is getting much more typical now, with authors making their business model turn on a direct-sales approach.”
Keep your eye on Amazon
Not only is Amazon by far the biggest seller of books today, but it is also responsible for an incredible 53% of all online sales in the world. And while it is undisputed that getting your books into Amazon will benefit you, it’s important to note that the retail giant is unpredictable, and its decisions can impact your bottom line.
Take the Kindle Unlimited service, for example. When it first launched, you were paid royalties if someone downloaded your book and read a minimum of 10% of it. Then, in 2015, they changed it to only pay authors for every actual page that a reader read. In addition, you had to agree not to share your work on other platforms. Melville House, an independent publisher, called this unfair and said: “You recognize this is not how royalties usually work. An author with a traditional publisher will receive royalties on each hard copy of the book sold to libraries (or a percentage of the ebook sold at a library rate).”Like any giant, Amazon makes moves that can crush the little guy.Click To Tweet
In 2016, Amazon then capped these already restricted payouts at 3,000 pages. In 2017, they adjusted their algorithms further, and some indie authors said their payments dropped by double-digit percentages. In the same year, they also started a war against all publishers to try and squeeze book prices down even further.
In 2018, they’re bound to update it again. If Amazon continues its trend, authors will need to continue to drive energy and time towards developing independent ways to sell their books to their fans. That way, all of their royalties aren’t tied to an increasingly restricted bookstore platform.
Ignoring audiobooks leaves money on the table
The world is constantly changing, and the realm of self-publishing books is not an exception. A decade ago, we would refer to audio books as books on tape, or books on CD. However, considering the high costs associated with the making of an audiobook, it isn’t surprising that this wasn’t a competitive area. Additionally, the actual recording process implied the use of expensive, state-of-the-art equipment, which further required the assistance of an engineer.
Nevertheless, things have changed considerably. At the moment, the audiobook industry is worth the unexpected sum of $2.8 billion and is anticipated to grow. It could be argued that audiobooks have become an irreplaceable part of the ever-developing digital world. In the US alone, the number of audiobook titles has grown from 4600 to 35 500 between 2009 and 2015.
As a self-published author, you should know that your book is increasingly more visible on audible, as opposed to Amazon. For instance, if you go to Amazon and you search for an ebook on a topic that interests you, you’ll get an overflowing number of finds. Considering that most people simply choose one of the first choices they’re presented with, the likelihood of selling a book organically on Amazon is limited unless you embrace a fruitful marketing technique.
On the other hand, if you were to search for the same topic on Audible, the number of results that will appear will be significantly smaller. In other words, it is much easier to make your book visible on Audible, in comparison to Amazon.Producing an audiobook could make your work more visible.Click To Tweet
So why are audiobooks so popular lately? Distinct from ebooks, audiobooks don’t necessitate your continuous attention. One can listen to an audiobook while running their daily errands. At the same time, many listeners said that they considered the audio version of a book to be much more entertaining and captivating.
Whatever the reason, the demand for audiobooks is on the rise, and it is increasing at an exponential rate. With the implementation of new technologies in smartphones and vehicles, audiobooks are readily accessible to a population whose spare time is limited. Keep this in mind, both in your publishing and your marketing.
Your brand needs deliberate attention
Taking full advantage of the benefits brought by the digital world will be mandatory in 2018. A great way to start your journey to becoming a successful self-published author is to get your name out there by building your brand. Using the digital world in order to increase your visibility isn’t a tactic designated to businesses and companies alone. Authors are expected to take this path, as well.
On that note, social media is one of the most powerful digital tools you can use, and it allows you to start building your brand free of charge, which is more than convenient. Your ultimate goal should be to let people know what you’re doing, your plans for the future, who you are, so on and so forth. At the same time, it’s highly recommended to post updates regarding the progress you’re making with your book writing, to keep your followers interested and intrigued.
As your audience keeps expanding, you can move on to creating an author page on social media, which could help you to reach an even larger audience. It’s worth noting that the way in which you present yourself will influence your success as a self-publisher. And even if, at first, you don’t have a large following, you should stick to delivering information and news concerning the writing process.
Also, having a website is almost mandatory. A site is an ideal place for fans to interact with you as well as discuss your work among themselves.
The international market isn’t outside your grasp
As the self-publishing realm gains momentum and new platforms allow authors to publish their work on a global scale, authors should aim at efficiently selling their books on the international market. Happily, thanks to technology, going global is easier than ever.
Not so long ago, selling rights internationally necessitated a network of publishers, agents, distributors, and translators, which made it almost impossible for self-published authors to enter that market. Nevertheless, thanks to social media, access to email, online licensing, retail platforms, and the advances made in technology, 2018 is a better time in which to exploit international rights.
The international market IS an option for self-publishing authors.Click To Tweet
The most challenging part of the process is the translation. This is the very first aspect you should assess as a self-published author, and freelance culture means you have real options, here. At the same time, you should note that translating can be quite pricey, at least for an entrepreneurial indie author. So, before you dust off your German dictionary, evaluate which markets could be big enough to provide a decent return on your investment.
What will 2018 mean for you?
2018 will be a year of expanding possibilities for authors, especially for those willing to apply elbow grease and a varied skillet. The technical, demographic, and marketing opportunities for self-published authors have never been greater, so make the best of them in the year to come.
What challenges and opportunities do you expect to encounter in 2018? Let me know in the comments. Or, for more great advice, check out Useful Resolutions For A Writerly New Year and There Are Wolves In You! Now, How Can They Help You Write?