The Rise of Self-Publishing

Until very recently, becoming a published author was fraught with difficulty. Even when an author cleared that hurdle, actually selling a significant number of books presented another steep challenge. Getting published required attracting the attention of an agent or publisher, which meant trying to stand out from the thousands of other neophyte authors looking to do the same.

In the 21st century, technology has leveled the playing field for new writers, and self-publishing is on the rise. With the Amazon Kindle store, an author can take a manuscript from Microsoft Word, format it, upload it and list it for sale, all within about 15 minutes. From there, the author can advertise his or her book using a host of methods, including but not limited to Google AdWords, social media pay-per-click and Amazon’s marketing interface.

With a good enough book and the right marketing savvy, self-publishers can now compete with industry behemoths.

Self-Publishing Stats

The rise of self-publishing has enabled authors to focus on what they do best — writing — and not fret so much about the business side of getting a book published. Moreover, self-published authors enjoy the freedom to write and structure their books as they see fit, as opposed to shoehorning their writing into a particular style for the purpose of appealing to agents.

The following statistics show that self-publishing has proven a boon for independent authors:

  • In 2014, over 31% of e-books sold in the Kindle store were self-published.
  • Even better, self-published e-books account for over 40% of the store’s total revenue.
  • Also in 2014, self-published titles comprised 25% of Amazon’s e-book bestseller list.

There is no need for self-published authors to lowball their e-book prices to make sales. Studies reveal that e-books priced at $0.99 generate only marginally higher sales compared to higher-priced books. In fact, the equilibrium price for maximizing e-book revenue is $2.99 to $3.99. Amazon takes 30% of each sale, leaving 70% for the author. Assuming profit-maximizing pricing, that comes to $2.10 to $2.80 per e-book sale. While traditional authors forfeit a good chunk of this money to publishers and agents, self-published authors get to keep every penny of it.

Not Too Complicated

Self-publishing is quite simple. The first step, not surprisingly, is to write and edit a book. Next, the author should design a cover for his or her book that appears when prospective buyers click on the title in the Kindle store. For authors not keen on graphic design, the website is teeming with artists willing to create attractive book covers for $5.

Once the book is formatted, and the book cover is in place, the author may upload it to the Kindle store and begin to market it. Advertising options abound, with the ideal ones varying based on the author’s niche. One thing holds true across the board, though. Self-publishing has changed the game for writers of all experience levels, and traditional publishing houses are no longer the integral puzzle pieces that they were in decades past.


Clayburn is a writer in NYC. You can find him on Twitter at @Clayburn.