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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More Self-Published Titles Published... But Are They Selling

This interesting tidbit crossed my in-box yesterday, from Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly:

A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of "nontraditional" titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.

According to Bowker, the largest producer of nontraditional books last year was BiblioBazaar which produced 272,930 titles, followed by Books LLC and Kessinger Publishing LLC which produced 224,460 and 190,175 titles, respectively. The Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace produced 21,819 books in 2009, while Lulu.com released 10,386. Xlibris and AuthorHouse, two imprints of AuthorSolutions, produced 10,161 and 9,445, title respectively.

Only 45,181 fiction titles were published last year. Which makes self-publishing look like the best thing since man discovered fire (and laser guns), but I'm skeptical.

Out of those 764,448 titles, how many were NaNo novels, genealogies, grandma's cookbook, or an author's editing copy? I know several authors who use lulu.com for getting a full draft in their hands. It's one book, one title, and that's all they intend to print.

I want to see the numbers. What kind of sales are those 764,448 books producing? What kind of books are they? Is this really a jump created by authors choosing to go it alone as Mr. Milliot suggests, or is this the result of new technology being readily available. How many of those titles are novels that could have been traditionally published, and how many are drafts printed by Authorhouse rather than Kinkos?

What do you think it all means? Is this a good thing, bad thing, or irrelevant to publishing?


  1. I think like most numbers, that's all these are without more information. For these to actually have meaning, they'd have to be split out into "newbies" vs. "trad-published authors going self-pub.", and as you say, what kind of books (fiction? Non-fic? Niche? Genre?) they are.

    I'm all for both self and traditional publishing, and am a huge fan of Bob Mayer & Joe Konrath, both breaking the self-pub. world wide open in different ways. But the numbers you have here are largely irrelevant without more information, in my opinion...

  2. I think that the numbers need to be seen to really know how much of an impact self- and niche-pubbing really have on the industry. Like you said, so many of these could be intended for free distribution among family or church friends, or just an editing copy to spice up the format and help you catch new issues.

  3. Very good points. With Create Space offering free prints to thousands NaNo particpants, how many of those are included? I can totally see a large number of these a print or two for family and friends or cookbooks instead of actual works with the intent to sell.

  4. I agree, the numbers are interesting, without more data I don't think they mean anything. I am curious what percentage of those titles were books that could have been queried and published in a traditional fashion.