I've been an admirer of Mark Coker—who founded Smashwords.com in 2008—ever since I became a Smashwords user and content provider in 2009. His business is author-centric, and he is a stalwart supporter of indie authors and their issues.
Recently he did a blog post about the reasons, as he sees them, why indie authors are headed toward taking a larger share of the ebook market. This upward surge is in the nature of a revolution beneficial to independently publishing writers and authors. I share those with ten points with you here.
- Print will continue to decline as a book-reading format as more readers transition to screens. The transition to screens will be driven by the low prices, selection, exceptional discoverability and instant reading pleasure delivered by ebooks.
- Brick and mortar bookstores will continue their march into the sunset with more store closures. I'm not happy about this, but I don't see the trend reversing unless bookstores start serving wine and pot brownies in their cafes.
- The perceived value of publishers will decline in the eyes of writers as the importance of print distribution declines. Print distribution is an important glue that holds many writers to their traditional publishers. When publisher stickiness decreases, writers will be tempted to explore the indie author camp.
- Indie authors have learned to publish like professionals, which means self publishing will lead to more better books, and more diversity of better books. The professionalism and sophistication of indie authors has increased dramatically in the six years since we launched Smashwords, and this professionalism will increase in the future as indies pioneer tomorrow's best practices. These authors are publishing books that are quality-competitive with traditionally published books, but priced dramatically lower. As a result, these authors have the ability to under-price, outsell and out-compete the ebooks from traditional publishers. It means indie authors will have platform-building advantages over traditionally published authors.
- The number of self-published ebooks will explode, and these ebooks will continue to enjoy democratized access to professional publishing and distribution tools such as Smashwords, and democratized access to global online retail distribution (every major ebook store wants to carry self-published ebooks). Every author - even indie authors - will face increased competition from the glut of high quality works that never go out of print.
- The most successful indie authors are mentoring the next generation of authors. Indie authors act like a vast publishing collective of writers helping writers.
- The stigma once associated with self publishing is melting away at the same time the stigma of traditional publishing is on the rise. Indie authors are in the cool kids club now. They know they can publish with pride and professionalism, and they're developing teflon skin that deflects the once ego-bruising criticism levied by self publishing naysayers. If you haven't been to a writers conference lately, go to one. A few years ago, writers would leave conferences depressed in the knowledge that their dream agent only accepts one in 10,000 queries. Today, writers attend conferences and learn to self publish like a pro. They leave the conference upbeat in the knowledge that one way or another, they'll publish their book their way.
- Writers are discovering the joy of self publishing. If publishers are from Mars, authors are from Venus. They speak different languages and hold different values. The rewards of self publishing transcend the conventional and myopic commercial metric value systems of publishers. Indie authors are enjoying total creative control, faster time to market, ownership over their publishing future, and the flexibility to innovate and evolve their immortal ebooks which will never go out of print. Indie authors enjoy the freedom to serve their fans as they want to serve them. Icing on the indie author's cake: Indie ebook authors earn royalty rates 4-5 times higher than they'd earn from traditional publishers.
- Readers don't care about the publisher name on the ebook's virtual spine. The brand they care about is the author brand. Indie authors are learning to build their own brands.
- The growing rift between writers and publishers will cause the next generation of writers to avoid shopping their books to publishers, and will undermine the goodwill of writers who until now have been loyal to their traditional publishers. Writers are angry. After centuries of living on the bottom rung of the publishing ladder, they're feeling their oats and relishing their new-found power and respect.
Thank you, Mark Coker, for your foresight and willingness to create a business that is helping to bring an Indie Author Revolution to pass.