As some of you may have seen in my previous post, I have just published a new book, The Genius Box. I discovered that taking a page – a webpage, I suppose – from the digital disruption of electronic media, books have also seen digitally-instigated upheaval and disintermediation.
The advent of e-books has opened a huge door for authors who come from atypical backgrounds, who want to have more control over the publishing process, or who may not want to be bothered with the time required to find a “legitimate” publisher. In addition to the e-book format, advances in printing mean that publishers can “print-on-demand.” There is no more need to pre-pay for a closet full of 200 copies of a book to fulfill orders. The books are printed as they are individually ordered on Amazon or other bookstores.
These firms are far from the oft-derided “vanity press” firms of the past. Self-publishing firms allow the creation of books with production quality equal of legitimate publishers. These companies offer services that run the gamut of publishing needs. Services offered include editing, internal design, cover design, formatting in print and various e-book formats, the printing of paperback or hardback editions, obtaining of ISBN numbers, liaison with most major online and retail bookstores, and marketing services and advice. They are pretty slick operations and it is amazing what can be done for an investment of only a couple of thousand dollars.
The popularity of self-published books is proven in the marketplace. In 2014, self-published books represented 31% of e-book sales through Amazon’s Kindle Store. While self-published books are generally not on high-profile best seller lists (the exception being USA Today), they are popular enough that The New York Times created e-book categories in addition to its traditional count of printed book sales.
In my case, I wanted to be able to bring a book to market pretty quickly. From the experience of others I know who had gone the traditional publishing route, it can take up to three years to get a book to market – and that’s if you quickly find an interested publisher. Already having the outline of my book in my head, I knew that the dynamic changes in the television space could outpace what I had in mind for the book. I also wanted to get the book to market before everyone forgot me. I’m half joking, but without the nice platform that GfK (and Knowledge Networks before that) gave me for years, it was a consideration. I was also in a fortunate position where I didn’t need a book advance to survive, and could afford to invest the time to write the book and in self-publishing costs.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I found out that Nielsen controls the industry measurement for books (in addition to TV, radio, and seemingly every other medium). Akin to the issues we deal with in television/video, there is no single marketplace measure of both printed books (which Nielsen publishes) and e-books. Sound familiar? Thus while I am able to find out sales of the paperback version of my book on a trailing two-week basis, there is a lag of about three months before e-book sales are reported to authors. So television friends, maybe there is a worse medium for measurement!
Those are a few observations from my experience so far in the self-publishing world. I’ll try and update this as time goes on and I get to see more of the after-sales process. The real moral of the story: publishing is easier than ever; it’s the actual writing that’s the hard part!
David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Get notifications of new posts – sign up at right or at bottom of this page.