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Boom in Independent Publishing

1 July 2002

A recent article in the Washington Post has drawn attention to the explosion of publishing from small independent publishers. This is the other side of the coin to the increasing domination of American consumer publishing by the big publishers. The top ten publishers are now thought to account for no less than 80% of domestic consumer publishing revenue, which amounts to a total of $6.5 billion. The giant Random House contributes $2 billion of this, with its massive range of 125 publishing imprints. However, the Book Industry Study Group, which carried out the study, estimates that the entire publishing industry may be producing total annual domestic revenues amounting to an astounding $25 billion. So where is all this publishing coming from?

Many small independents are not registered as publishers and so their output is not counted in the figures. An increasing number are individuals self-publishing their own work. According to Bowker there were 6,981 publishers in the US in 1997 and this figure had already rocketed up to 9,982 by 1999. By now, it is probably considerably higher. In the main though, what seems to be happening is a rapid increase in the number of small specialist publishers, who are flourishing through their ability to target and reach a specific market. They have been helped by the boom in online bookselling and by the other advances in technology which have led to desktop publishing, print on demand, Internet distribution and growing direct sales. All of these changes have made it easier to set up as a publisher, to target a particular market and to publish books without a high overhead. It's good news for writers, as it decreases their reliance on the big publishers as the only way to get their work published.