It’s that season when people love to post resolutions and predictions for the year ahead. Along with others in the publishing industry I have been reviewing “where we’re at” and “where we’re heading” as an industry in 2015.
When considering where we’re at it’s helpful to remember just how far self-publishing has come in the past decade. It’s just over 7 years since Amazon launched the first Kindle eReader (in November 2007). It’s also more than 11 years since I launched my web site, Publish Your Own Ebooks. What a journey it’s been and what amazing changes we’ve witnessed and been part of!
Self-publishing has experienced a metamorphosis, transforming from an ugly caterpillar that people shy away from, into a beautiful creature that really flies!
Over the past few weeks I’ve read many blog posts from experts summarizing their own thoughts on the state of our industry. A couple of good posts are ‘12 Publishing And Marketing Predictions‘ from Penny Sansevieri at The Future of Ink and Bob Mayer’s ‘16 Thoughts for Authors/Publishing for 2015‘. One of my favorite posts is Joanna Penn’s ‘Back to Basics‘, a post which is closely aligned with my own thinking.
During the years 2010 to 2013, as more people migrated to digital books, we saw very strong growth in digital publishing. With that growth came tremendous opportunities for indie authors, particularly through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) but also through Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Kobo Writing Life. It was a boom time. Some have referred to it as a gold rush.
This strong growth could not continue forever though and 2014 was a very different a year. Many indie authors discovered that they were hitting a wall. High ranks became harder to achieve. Book giveaways no longer yielded results like they had before. Many authors reported their incomes were falling instead of rising. Some indie authors turned their backs on their new writing careers and walked off in dismay.
I think you can safely say that in 2014, for some people, indie publishing ‘lost its mojo’. The magic is gone. The gold rush is now over.
Where do we go from here?
Should we give up writing? Absolutely not! That’s what we do… we write! Should we give up indie publishing? I don’t think so and for a very good reason.
The gold isn’t all gone. Our readers are still out there, looking for good books.
All businesses go through good times and bad times. We knew there would be a boom after the “tipping point was reached” and sales of ebooks passed sales of print books. There is no doubt that early adopters who jumped quickly into independent digital publishing have a good “head start”. There are now more authors and more books to compete with than ever before. It’s not as easy as three years ago but that doesn’t mean that you cannot have a viable writing business as an indie author. It does mean that you need to evaluate the market carefully and have a good business strategy in order to succeed.
Indie publishing is hard work. Many authors have been surprised at the amount of work involved in being an indie author. You are not only writing the book, which is a huge task, but you are also responsible publishing your books and managing the “business end” of promoting and selling them. It’s not too hard to see why some authors who have achieved a level of success have moved to a “hybrid” model using a combination of indie publishing for some books and traditional publishing for others. Their success with indie books is often a key factor in winning a traditional publishing deal.
So what do I think we need to do to succeed as indie authors in 2015? I’ll list a few things below but here’s a hint: like Joanna Penn’s post I’m recommending getting ‘back to basics’ and doing some old-fashioned hard work.
1. You need to work hard. There is still a bright future for indie authors. The easy takings may be gone but those who work hard can still find success in this transformed publishing industry. To those who say it’s harder in 2015 than 2012, I say you still have more chance than you did in 2005 and 1995!
2. Write the very best book you can. It should be a book which you are truly proud of and which ‘does honor’ to the craft of writing.
3. Discoverability will make or break you. The success of your next book depends upon whether your readers can find you or whether you are lost in obscurity. You should already be building your audience and author platform. You should be engaging with your readers. Encourage your readers to sign up to your mailing list. Invite them to follow you on your favorite social media network.
4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t rely on Amazon alone. Sell your ebooks in other ebook stores and at your own web site. Diversifying gives you additional sources of income but it also reduces the risk that one store could cripple your earnings by removing your account, your books, or your current rank.
5. Write more books. Don’t stop at one. Successful indie authors typically have multiple books or a series of books to offer their readers.
6. Collaborate with other authors. One of the fastest ways to build your audience is to work with your fellow authors instead of competing against them. Use social media networks to identify and team up with other authors in your genre. By cross-promoting each other’s work, your audience can grow faster. Readers don’t typically choose one or the other. Chances are they will read books by both of you!
Are you with me? Let’s make 2015 our best writing year ever. More than ever before in this industry your destiny is in your own hands.
All the best for the year ahead,
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