eBook Self-Publishers, the new market Game-Changers

MUSO goes down the rabbit hole for a closer look at the online strategies employed by a new wave of self-published authors in growing sales and fighting online piracy.

Before the Amazon and Publish-on-Demand (POD) age, self-publishing had traditionally been a surefire way to obscurity and single-digit sales. But with the rising popularity of the eReader (penetration rate in the UK currently at 21% and predicted to increase to 22.5% by 2017) and platforms such as Smashwords to publish and distribute eBooks directly to a new global market, self-published authors are setting out to prove the naysayers wrong. MUSO is a big supporter of the self-publishing boom, with hundreds of authors utilising our online tools every day. We’re taking a closer look at how a new wave of digital services, as well as online piracy, has impacted this diverse group of often-unheard creatives.

In the top 20 author rank on Amazon you’ll currently find two self-published authors holding their ground with their books primarily listed on Kindle. Now with imagination, initiative and inspiration, it is becoming a reality for many to bypass the odyssey of traditional publishing and become a best-seller. But exactly how has this market for independent publishing developed so quickly?

The Kindle Store (owned by Amazon) launched in August 2010 with 400,000 titles. Today that figure is close to 4 million, firmly established as the Ali baba’s Cave of self-published authors. 2013 saw the UK market for self-published books grow by 79% with 18 million bought by UK readers, despite print sales falling 10%. The big five Publishers-Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon&Schuster-only accounted for 16% of eBooks on Amazon while self-published authors presented 31% sales on Kindle. So what has inspired so many authors to turn self-publisher? Foremost is cost; it’s free to set-up, payments are more generous and frequent. An author currently earns up to 35% royalty rate for books below £1.99 or 70% of books priced between £1.99 and £9.99, as oppose to the 10% base royalty for hardbacks and 7.5% for paperbacks in traditional publishing.

Secondly, publishing happens in real-time, it’s available internationally and easily translated in several languages. Amanda Hocking, one of the poster-children of lucrative self-publishing, found out recently how well it can pay off, leading her to a $2.1M (£1.3M) book deal with St. Martin’s Press in the US after selling over 150,000 copies online. The success of the self-publishing industry can be accounted to the easy accessibility of the distribution platforms such as Kindle and Smashwords and the fact that they are readily available to anyone with a computer. They’re giving a voice to all the authors previously shut out from traditional publishing with the tools to connect to an audience thirsty for niche independent content.

Despite the runaway success of authors such as T. S Joyce and Bella Forrest, MUSO understands the disadvantage of self-publishing digital eBooks, speaking daily with the many hundreds of authors using the MUSO online tools globally about how piracy affects their work and their livelihood. In the UK online book piracy is at a low 11% (comparatively to film at 25% and music at 26%) however overseas it’s proving a much bigger issue; US publishers across all genres are estimated to lose $80-$100 million annually to piracy. S. E Smith, New York Times and USA Today bestseller, tells MUSO how “online piracy is an on-going battle” and how personal it can be when it’s your livelihood and career at stake.

Ana E Ross, New York Times and USA Today bestseller, specifically notes that some of her books, despite being free, are being taken by the pirates and re-sold at a profit. H. D’Agostino, author of the book series The Broken Series, agrees adding that “piracy is always going to be an issue” whether it be in the self-publishing sector or traditional publishing. Digging deeper and speaking to the wider self-publishing community, there’s also anger that little seems to have changed at legislative level to protect their IP.

“Even ‘The Doctor’s Secret Bride’ that’s on perma-free status is being sold by pirates. They-re making money on my book and I’m not. Go figure. We, the self-pub authors, are small fish in a giant pond.”- Ana E Ross, author of Billionaire Brides of Granite Falls, told MUSO

Underpinning the overriding sentiment in the self-published sector is an ongoing need for authors to equate themselves with anti-piracy strategies and tools. MUSO’s analysis on search results for a range of current popular eBook titles not using anti-piracy tools, and their ease of availability highlights a need for a more aggressive, proactive approach. Helping to make audiences more likely to find authors licensed content, rather than a piracy site, is always a crucial first step in any effective digital strategy for both major publishers and the self-publishing community alike.

Authors Ross, Smith and D’Agostino all use MUSO’s online tools as a part of their daily routine to optimise their online space and “free-up a self-published author’s time to write”, while “cutting down the number of piracy sites.” By shutting down illegal links in real-time from notorious sites such as Mobilism.org, readers who have already been hooked by the book are pushed into legal online downloads. Each reader that downloads a book legally is vital in sustaining the ecosystem of a self-published author. Each word deserves to be protected from the pirates.

To find out more about MUSO’s suite of piracy solutions, please visit Products.

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