There's been a lot of panic in the publishing world over the last few days thanks to Bowker's report that self-published authors now hold 12% of the total e-book market and 20% of certain popular genres, such as romance.
"Don't look, Ethel!"
I'm under no illusion that the e-book market is a miniscule percentage of the total publishing market. I also know that Bowker can only report on books that have ISBNs and that most indie writers don't bother with ISBNs on their e-books. (I'm one of those writers that bought ISBNs back in the day when it was the only way to get books into certain e-tailers like Apple. And dammit, since I bought them, I'm going to use them!) So deep down, most industry professionals realize the total indie numbers are much greater than what Bowker is reporting. We simply don't know by how much.
Bowker's report and the trad industry's subconsciously acknowledged indie growth has prompted a spate of elitist diabtribes on the web, the worst of which I will not link to because of the author's obvious attempt at troll-baiting. The one person who surprised me was trad publishing guru Mike Shatzkin. Granted, his back-handed compliment regarding Anybody Press as the newest member of the Six Horsemen was probably the nicest thing he's ever said about indies. The rest of the article turned into an advertisement of his upcoming seminar on how to fight our growing market threat.
"It was too late. She'd been done incensed."
Except I don't think the trad pubs know what they're really fighting. Indies offer a wider range of selection at a lower price than they do. A lot of writers are now making a living wage as indies compared to the paltry advances and royalties offered by the trad pubs. On top of everything else are the draconian clauses and shitty treatment aimed at writers by what are essentially middle-men(women). The trad pubs really don't understand why experienced writers are leaving in droves.
"She done got a free shot!"
I'm not one of those writers who believes print will go away. Hell, Target is selling LP's again. Granted, as a specialty item, but it was weird seeing the cover of The Dark Side of the Moon again. What I'm saying is down the road, print will be the specialty collector's item that an LP is now. Right now though, publishers haven't hit that stage, and they still need source material. They think they can rest on their ability to distribute to bookstores.
"Get you clothes on!"
But what bookstores are they distributing to? Borders is officially gone. Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million are barely hanging on and have been closing stores as leases end. Costco, Target and Wal-Mart only care if the books are the NYT's top twenty. Indie bookstores are slowly making a comeback, but the owners are much more selective in their inventory, pleasing their customers rather than shoving the latest Grisham down every person's throat.
"He likes to turn the other cheek."
So what happens next? Who knows. But even the trad publishing people are seeing the writing on the walls. Indie publishing is not going away. What each side morphs into over the next couple of years is the real question.
And for your viewing pleasure (and the source of my quotes), here's Ray Stevens: