Ingram, the largest book wholesaler in the United States, recently sent out a newsletter with the following startling declaration:
2017 was an important year for self-publishing, when, for the first time ever, self- and indie-published books surpassed the market share of big publishers, with 42% of the market, as compared to 34% held by big publishers.
One caveat: it’s not entirely clear to me why “indie-published” should be bracketed with “self-published,” since there are plenty of medium-sized independent publishers who don’t consider themselves to be vanity operations, and who have had their share of bestsellers. That said, this statistic is a further indicator of the turbulent literary and commercial currents eroding the foundations of Big Publishing, with its large overheads and entrenched business patterns.
The statistic is also a recognition, as Ingram’s newsletter points out, that the stigma that used to adhere to authors who published themselves or who were published by small presses is disappearing, except perhaps within the well-guarded walls of the literary-industrial complex. A minuscule number of people may be able to make a living from their writing (’twas ever thus), but it’s now at least theoretically possible for many more people to try, without having to go through the obstacle course set up by agents, editors, and marketing divisions.
Lower production costs due to technological advancements; many more channels and platforms by which to reach readers; and a communications landscape that allows authors and readers to interact more democratically—all these have made publishing a less intimidating, hierarchical, and culturally niche activity.
As Dorothy found out in The Wizard of Oz, the demystification of pompous glamor and intimidation may lead to disenchantment, but it can also foster self-reliance and help you find your voice.