digital self publishing

Are Self-Published E-books a Bubble About to Pop?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

digital self publishingA January article in the Guardian argued that the DIY e-book boom industry is over-hyped, over-leveraged and an e-book “bubble” likely to soon pop (Ewan Morrison, January 2012). In today’s feature story, “Booktango and the Future of DIY E-book Publishing,” Author Solutions’ Keith Ogorek states that, rather than an economic bubble, the current phenomenon is akin to what we saw in the cell phone industry:

“Right now there are a number of people entering the market. But just like you saw with the cell phone market, there were a number of providers—whether they were local, regional, national or even global — and when the business settled out there were only a few large players around the world. I think you’re going to see the same thing in the DIY e-book market.”

The platforms may level out, certainly, but what of the number of authors? And the hype surrounding them? The self-publishing world is producing dozens of bestselling authors — authors who, by many accounts, outearn their traditionally published counterparts. The question is whether or not this is likely to be a short-lived phenomenon, one in which readers — soon accustomed to their new e-readers and better online book discovery tools — will steer readers into increasingly niche markets, with sales spread more evenly across the the full roster of books.

Honestly, I don’t think so. In many ways, the self-publishing world is a mirror image of the traditional publishing world when it comes to sales. It is a hit driven business, one in which authors who develop a brand in the market are able to sustain their success, provided they can feed the needs of readers with an adequate product. A handful of new names will come along, win an audience, and stay on the bestseller lists, pushing off those previous bestsellers who weren’t able to deliver the goods or have fallen off the publishing cycle/treadmill.

The midlist, as always, is likely to languish — they may have some short term success (which is what actually turns them into a “midlist” writer, otherwise, they’re simply an afterthought), but sustaining it will be just as difficult and tricky with traditional publishing. Others will win no readers, like far too many books already do.

Over-hyped, over-leveraged? In publishing that’s all-too-often just business-as-usual.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.