Friday, December 10, 2010


The publishing world has two paths right now. The first is tradition, with PW reporting ebook growth slowed in October (but overall sales still grew) and Huffington Post lamenting the closing of bookstores.

Then there's the path taken by J.A. Konrath and an accelerating number of authors--the indie way. Or self-publishing. Or vanity press. Whatever.

Joe loves to delve into numbers, and rightly so, given his success and his platform that feeds on being a center of the indie world. It's a smart business, and he's interested, and he's always gone the extra mile to be out front on promotion and the future. And, rightfully, bunches of successful authors chime in with their own numbers. So both paths look a little skewed--New York is shrinking and indie is growing, suggests these two groups of data.

I have no doubt indie is growing, but when I posted on Joe's blog, I didn't see anybody in there saying "I only sold 12 copies that month." But there are hundreds of thousands of authors who sold only that many or less. I know, because I have rankings all over the map for my 18 or so books. I know roughly how many sales will get you at a certain rank, and it's pretty easy to get "locked in" at a certain level. Success breeds success, and not selling makes it harder to sell.

So, really, there's not enough evidence to make a comprehensive analysis, and I don't think the data will ever exist, because few indies will report their numbers, most don't use ISBNs to track sales, and PW will always get a very myopic and limited view of the market. It's simple enough to look at the Kindle bestseller list, which is, for all intents and purposes, the overall e-book bestseller list (though the UK Kindle market is expanding). Bestsellers still sell the best, and that hasn't changed.

What has changed, and what affects me happily, is that books stay in print and available and continue to reach new readers. I love expanding--getting emails, blogging, and even reading my one-star reviews. I say the customer is always right and I stand by it, even when the customer doesn't like my product.

But I've learned that people often take personal truth as a universal truth. For Joe and many authors, it's the best of times and the future looks bright. For an editor who just lost a publishing job, the future looks gray. But 99.9 percent of the readers don't care which view is right.

They want content how and when they want it, at a price they are willing to pay. That's pretty much the X factor to which all surrounding conditions respond. It's not indie success or publishing-industry failure shaping the landscape. Readers are tugging this tide. And it's absolutely cool.

Digital Drive-In flirts with Speed Dating with the Dead

Free multi-author sampler download Just In Time For The Holidays


author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Yes, and if you are an Indie author who sold "only" 12 copies a month (or fewer), that means you sold 12 copies MORE than if you had not published at all. So, you are a success. It's all relative, isn't it?

author Scott Nicholson said...

Absolutely, Christa. If you want to be happy, don't worry about anyone else's definition of "success."



I took that terrifying first step into the world of Indie a couple of months ago and I've sold 44 books on Amazon and 59 on Smashwords. I'm jubilant at that amount! It may not be a massive quantity but as Christa rightfully said - It's more than if you had not published at all.
Just ask yourself - Who's going to read the words when they are gathering virtual dust on your hard-drive?

author Scott Nicholson said...

Good point, JPS--that's what I always say!