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Self-publishing booms in the US

26 November 2012

Recent figures from Bowker show self-publishing continuing its rapid growth in the US. The number of self-published books coming out has nearly tripled since 2006, with 235,625 new print and ebook titles published in 2011.

The 148,424 self-published print titles published in 2011 constituted 43% of the total number of print books published in the States, but ebooks are growing even faster. Ebook production is up to 87,201 new titles, an increase of 129% over 2006. This high growth figure is less surprising, given that ebooks have only taken off relatively recently.

Although self-publishing seems like a cottage industry, the production side of it is dominated by large firms. Between them CreateSpace, Smashwords, Author Solutions (now owned by Penguin) and Lulu Enterprises accounted for most of the 148,424 self-published print titles.

It's harder to establish how self-published authors it has worked for them personally. In some cases the numbers of books sold must be small but clearly some authors prefer to take control of their own destiny, rather than go on struggling to find a publisher. There are certainly a number of high-profile authors who have managed to promote themselves, mostly through the web, and who have sold in large numbers. Most of them then seem to have been taken up by publishers, often with great success, as M L James has shown with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Perhaps the most important question to ask, when thinking about self-publishing, is how good a marketer you are and how much time and energy you are prepared to spend in promoting and selling your book. It's also a question of whether it has any eye-catching feature in terms of content, genre or your own experience which will help it to stand out from the crowd. But self-publishing does at least offer you the chance to take control and to get your book into print or ebook form.