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Self-publishing and Amazon

19 September 2016

The growth in self-published books reported last week comes from Amazon, whose DIY print business CreateSpace has become far and away the biggest self-publishing platform in the United States. In a week when the Association of American PublishersThe national trade association of the American book publishing industry; AAP has more than 300 members, including most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies reported major declines in sales of trade books, there's also been talk about whether depressed digital sales are hurting Amazon. The theory goes that the big trade publishers are intentionally jacking up the prices of digital books.

Adult trade book sales declined by 10.3% in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the first quarter of 2015, but ebook sales declined by a much bigger 19% and children's/YA titles in ebook fell by a massive 40.5%. Parents and schools are showing a clear preference for print, but so are the older children who constitute the YA market.

In Talking Mew Media, D B Hebbard suggested that:

‘The reason for the fall in digital, of course, is the rise in pricing for digital being employed by the major publishers. The industry is trying, somewhat desperately, to drive up print. Why? The reason, I believe, is that this remains the segment they dominate. If books remain mostly in print, the threats from Amazon and others diminish - or so the hope goes.

But look at any time inside Amazon's Kindle store and you see something that would worry me if I were employing this strategy. The top NYT bestseller is selling at $14.99, but one can buy the hardcover version of the same book through Amazon for $12.99. It comes from a major book publisher, one that is a member of the AAP.'

This is bound to be affecting the ratio of ebook sales to print, as book-buyers will perceive the hardback to be much better value.

So what does all this have to do with self-publishers and Amazon? The internet retailer has created a powerful and effective way of enabling self-publishing writers to reach an international audience and when they do so Amazon gradually increases its hold over self-publishing, So, if you're thinking about self-publishing, rather than being engaged in it already, does that still mean Amazon is the logical place to go?

Well, yes and no. CreateSpace has been criticised to me just this week for being impersonal to use, and you have to be prepared for the idea that your book's promotion and the likely degree of success depends on you and your own efforts.

More on this next week.