When the Self-Published Authors Take Over, What Will Publishers Do?


Self-publishing has grown a lot in the last few years. Working in the publishing industry, I’ve seen the self-publishing side take some massive leaps forward. The two major changes I’ve seen are the number of great writers taking the self-publishing route and traditional media’s view of self publishing.

In the first four months of the year, there has been four weeks where a self-published title was number one best-seller for ebooks. A few weeks ago, the top two spots were self-published ebooks.

When the top-two ebooks were self-published, publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin said, “This is another benchmark moment. The number of small- and self-published books achieving real commercial success will continue to rise; the gatekeeping role of established publishers will continue — gradually and then, sooner or later, suddenly — to fade to relative irrelevance.”

Perhaps the question is, are we in the “gradual” phase or the “sudden” phase in this transition? And what does this mean for publishers? We’ve seen a lot of the larger traditional publishers make moves to get involved in the self-publishing revenue streams:

– Offering their own self-publishing services (Simon & Schuster, Penguin, F+W Media [my employer], to name three).
– Buying books by self-published authors that have already shown strong sales in an attempt to boost them to even higher sales (See Hugh Howey’s Wool, Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Wait for You).
– Offering new business models for authors (Random House’s new suite of imprints, including the controversial Hydra, show that publishers are still figuring this out).

But what does this all mean? I believe we’ll continue to see self-published authors on best selling lists. We’ll also continue to see the traditional side of our business try to figure out how to incorporate self-publishing in their business models. Eventually, I see the line between self and traditionally published completely being blurred and the only thing that will matter is the best books with the best PR plans rising to the top.

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Filed under Book PR, News

2 responses to “When the Self-Published Authors Take Over, What Will Publishers Do?

  1. I think there is always going to be a place for formal publishers but perhaps not a place at the top of the pile. The big winner is going to be writers, the ability to reach a wide audience without the assistance of a publisher has definitely moved the advantage over to the author. It will all be interesting to watch over the next few years.

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