How Is Self-Publishing Maturing?

Image - iStockphoto: PacaYPalla / Marsala, Sicily
Image – iStockphoto: PacaYPalla / Marsala, Sicily

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson
How Is Self-Publishing Maturing? – Issues on the Ether

[su_dropcap size=”4″]W[/su_dropcap]e hear a lot about self-publishing “maturing,” are you getting that? Here’s a good example:

As self-publishing matures further, industry watchers expect that authors are going to have to raise the bar on their own offerings, collaborating with editors and designers while taking a more entrepreneurial approach to their work.


At the same time, as technology makes self-publishing ever easier, the industry will hear new voices from around the globe and from places that have been underrepresented in the past, giving readers a greater variety of indie titles than ever before, but making it more vital for authors to find a way to stand out from the pack.

Publishers Weekly PWThis is Alex Palmer writing at Publishers Weekly in PW Select January 2014: A Look Ahead to Self-Publishing in 2014.

To those working close to the trade, these may seem to be the most obvious of statements about the development of self-publishing in the industry! the industry! And thus, they’re a good place to start today’s consideration.

Palmer quotes the very capable Beat Barblan, who directs Bowker’s identifier services (the ISBNs), this way:

Beat Barblan
Beat Barblan

“It’s almost been a giddy feeling about all the new opportunities, but I think we’ve reached a slightly more mature period. We are seeing more authors who say they want to be an author beyond just a hobby, and recognize that they have to be much more entrepreneurial.”

One quick aside here to keep some pitchforks in the garage where they belong: Our purpose here today is not to get back into the swamp of the ISBN debate. When Palmer uses Bowker’s figures to suggest that self-published ISBNs were up by some 60 percent in 2012, what we know, of course—and what Bowker is the first to say—is that many more self-published works are out there than are being tracked by ISBNs.

The problem of what an ISBN costs a self-publishing author vs. what it costs a publishing house is one of those pack-a-lunch debates for another day (or maybe for every day), but not our task at hand.

In this #EtherIssue focus, what we’re interested in, instead, is a parallel discussion going on within the author corps.

After all, the business structure of publishing sees self-publishing as just that, a business development. Rightly so, from the corporate viewpoint. And it’s right that the main impetus of this debate be centered in the North American market. Indeed, Barblan goes on to tell Palmer, that the US “is ahead of every other place in the world” in self-published ISBNs, with Australia, he says, coming in strongly in self-publishing.

Die Self-Publisher-Bibel BibleIntriguingly, Palmer’s story ran five days before Munich-based journalist and authorMatthias Matting in his The Self Publisher’s Bible reported in Ein Tag für die Geschichtsbücher: Die Amazon-Kindle-Top-10 komplett von Self Publishern belegt that every one of Germany’s Top 10 Kindle sellers on Amazon were self-published book on January 29, a first.

And it was reported Monday that the University of Central Lancashire in the UK is opening the country’s first MA program in self-publishing?

Univeristy of Lancashire UCLanThe Bookseller’s report from Sarah Shaffi may have raised some eyebrows in quoting the university’s announcement. The UCLan goal, we’re told, is “to help writers gain the skills they need to ‘become the next E.L. James.’”

These and many other indications, of course, tell us that despite our inability to measure the true breadth of self-publishing—as long as the key metric, the ISBN, depends on authors to pay much more for their identifiers than the industry does—we know that self-publishing is growing.

What comes across as a more volatile debate, in some ways, is the question being asked among some authors themselves about their goals.

Why are self-publishers self-publishing? Seems a crazy question, doesn’t it? But maybe not.

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