Over the summer I've been unusually busy with the business and technical side of publishing. I've reformatted all my books behind the scenes and I've moved up a level from starter self-publishing and am just beginning to move beyond the basic retailers (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple, Kobo) to a broader worldwide market. This has required my learning a great deal more about worldwide aggregators and distributors, as well as professionalizing (further) my use of metadata in the trade channels.
For those of you who aren't doing self-publishing, let me give you a quick overview. It's quite straightforward today to take your book, apply professional assistance in areas such as editing and cover design, and produce a product that is indistinguishable from the work of traditional publishing. Yes, the devil's in the details — you have to write reasonably well, too — but that's a given. There are no artificial barriers in the way of doing this.
The big difference is in the area of distribution. The US market is the furthest along, and ebooks are perhaps 20-30% of the US market. (Independent publishing is not well captured by book trade statistics, so there's a lot of speculation about the actual numbers). That number is still growing though the speed has slowed down and, of course, print isn't going away. Still, in fiction particularly, it's clear that ebooks will likely eventually approach 50%. The rest of the world is just getting started, but ebook adoption rates there might surprise you — remember, many third world countries went straight to cell phones without bothering with landlines much, so technology adoption rates do vary.
The part of the market an independent author can easily reach through the four retailers above is, today, perhaps 80% of the online ebook market, or 80% (marketshare) of 30% (ebook vs print) of 50% (US vs lagging world — complete guess), or 12% of the total market (ebook & print worldwide). The sample percentages I'm using are very crude, but I think you get the idea.
Many independent authors post their ebook on Amazon and stop there. Where you really want to be is in all of the market: all worldwide online retailers for ebooks and print, and all physical retailers for print. (The big advantage that traditional publishing still retains is print presence in physical bookstores.)
The first step to achieving visibility worldwide in all channels is to be available everywhere, and that means looking at distribution like a traditional publisher does. I'll skip the details to keep this update brief, but for me that means adding a worldwide ebook distributor to the “big four” above, instead of trying to go after a rapidly growing list of retailers directly. Perkunas Press has just started doing that.
It also means getting more deeply into the trade print distribution channels and coming up to speed on the whole industry. Since independent publishing today is focused on the “newbies” and on writing-as-craft issues, it can be challenging to even get information that is intelligible to industry outsiders, both on the theory and on the less successful practices. On the other hand, I've been an IT entrepreneur all my career, so this is nothing new to me, and I enjoy the (sometimes frustrating) business challenges of coming up to speed.
Soon I expect there will be new channels for my print books. That may include matte covers for the paperbacks, though since I must be careful to make sure that anyone looking to buy, say, the fourth book in The Hounds of Annwn, won't have to worry about matching the three previous books, matte covers might not happen until the next series.
I will be releasing audiobooks soon, too, to offer another class of products to my readers. More on that in another post.