Over 1 million self-published books in 2017!

Image: Pixabay

Did you know that the number of self-published books in the United States grew to over 1 million in 2017? That’s a 28% rise. I’m not surprised, are you? Publishers Weekly posted an article this week with all the numbers. Click here to read the full article, but here’s a rundown of the report, compiled by Bowker.

But first, I didn’t know what Bowker was, so I had to look it up. The company is the exclusive U.S. agent for issuing International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs). They also compile a lot of data, including bibliographic information on published books. Their statistical reports which include publishing trends are free and you can download them here.

Here’s where the data is a little tricky to understand. The increase was mostly due to rise in the number of print books issued ISBNs. The number of ISBNs for e-books decreased, but that is likely because authors are switching to Amazon’s KDP self-publishing platform. KDP doesn’t use ISBNs, so Bowker’s data doesn’t include this segment of e-books and Amazon does not make these numbers public.

Amazon’s Create Space is going strong too, with a 50% rise in title output of print books in 2017. These numbers are part of Bowker’s data. Smashwords and Lulu are still in the e-book game, but their numbers fell in 2017.

What’s interesting is that the number of print ISBNs issued by Author Solutions dropped 19% in 2017. Their numbers have fallen every year since 2012. Author Solutions is the parent company of a bunch of self-publishing companies, including AuthorHouse. They also have partnerships with several traditional publishing houses.

Numbers a year ago, showing only an 8% gain in self-published books, suggested that maybe the self-published market was reaching maturity. Maybe not now!

Image: Pixabay

So those are a lot of numbers to digest, but the story behind the data is that the self-publishing segment is a significant player in the publishing market.

Are you a self-published author? Do these numbers confirm what you already know? How did you get your book out there?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

28 thoughts on “Over 1 million self-published books in 2017!

  1. Barbara, an interesting dissection of their report and very informative. Even though I published my book with KDP I hadn’t realised that it doesn’t have an ISBN number … just assumed since the paperback does have one. Not being able to include KDP numbers must skewer the figures quite I bit! Still a LOT of books … sigh!

    1. Hi Annika! Thanks for reading and sharing your info. How did you publish your print version? That’s confusing that the print has an ISBN but your e-book doesn’t. I guess that the fact that the KDP numbers are not included makes the total number lower than the actual number of self-published books. But the stats still point to a rapidly changing market that is a little hard to figure out, but I think, ultimately better for writers and readers! Hope you have a great weekend, reading and writing!

    1. Hi Jill, yes I think the self-publishing option is a win-win for authors and readers. After helping my father with two self-published books, I can tell you that it was a lot of work, even after purchasing a package from Simon and Schuster. We were very happy with the results, but there were a lot of administrative tasks throughout the process. It was slightly easier the second time around, because I knew the ropes a bit, but it was like a second job while we were going through it. Totally worth it, of course! Thanks for stopping in to Book Club Mom! 🙂

  2. Thanks Barb. For a long time I was of the camp that viewed self publishing as vanity press, but that has changed. It is a good option, just like there are great ways for bands to self record nowadays. The times they are a changin.

    1. That’s a good analogy, Jeff. My dad published his books through Archway which is a partnership with Author House and Simon and Schuster. I was very satisfied with the product and thought they did an excellent job. That’s why I was surprised that this segment decreased. I think many self published authors want more control over their product, including publishing costs. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. This is interesting and confirms my feeling that self-publishing is a trend that here to stay. It might be because authors want to have more influence over their finished books? Who knows, eh? I mean from a readers point of view it doesn’t matter to me where or how the book is published, just that I can find it and read a good story!

    1. Hi Ally – yes this is a trend that will continue to change, too, with many options opening up for both writers and people in the book business. It’s kind of freeing, I think, because readers get to choose from many more books and writers have many ways to get their books in print. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  4. Self-publishing is the great equalizer. You are correct, it is ‘work’, like any business. More and more traditionally published authors are having to share marketing too. Facebook has genre groups, promo groups, there is Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, library events etc. Certain genres do best on Facebook, such as mystery, thriller, fantasy. With 70% royalty via Amazon (which publishes 70% of all books), it is a good option for those for whom other publishing options are cost-inhibitive. Thanks for the article Barb, I can update my stats for a library talk tomorrow.

    1. Hi and thanks so much for stopping by. I think it’s a very exciting time to be in the indie book business, as a writer or marketer. Everything is changing as we speak and you’re right, the social media piece means that writers and promoters and publicists have to be up to date with all these forms to take advantage of the exposure they can get. Indie authors have a lot more choices now, not just with the publishing but with marketing their books. Have a great weekend!

  5. Hi Barbara, Thanks. This is interesting. But do you realize the number may be much higher if you consider all books self-published in 2017 around the world? This article is only about books that have ISBNs from Bowker. There are more writers, like me, who get ISBNs from the country we reside in and not from Bowker. This could mean that there may be millions published worldwide. Yay for self-publishing.

    1. Hello Shirani, thanks so much for reading and commenting. You are right, these numbers are only for the U.S. and it’s good of you to clarify that. The other good thing is, as you say, the number of self-published books, print and e-book is probably much higher when you consider the worldwide market. An excellent point! Have a great weekend!

  6. Self publishing is giving people with a desire to write and print an option that never existed before. Prior to self publishing, someone else had to like and decide you were worthy to be printed. I have used self publishing. What I have chosen to publish is for fun and has a message. But I do not have the time or know how to pursue the traditional route of publishing. That route has become more about the business than the written word. You have to get “A” to get “B” before you can even think of “C”. Self publishing….you do what you want to do with it. I suspect when I have more ‘free’ time, I will put more energy into publishing and promoting through self publishing.

    1. You’re so right – self-publishing has many advantages and gives all kinds of writers the opportunity to put quality books out there. Traditional publishers seem to be so closed to emerging authors, unless you’re on a certain track. I can’t tell you how much great writing I’ve come across that is self-published. This market is developing and changing and that’s a great thing for indie authors. Thanks so much for stopping by and “chatting” 🙂 Have a great day!

  7. I’m not to surprised to see the numbers dropping for Smashwords. The company was once a great distributer to work with, but Mark Coker has refused to upgrade and innovate and so Smashwords has been completely swamped by Draft2Digtial who regularly offer their authors new services and are excellent to work with. Bowker does seem to be missing the full scope of things by not considering how many books have only an ASIN, but there’s no doubt self-publishing is on the rise and many traditionally published authors are jumping on the indie bandwagon because of the many benefits self-publishing offers.

    1. Hi Tammie, thanks for adding your comments. I don’t know a lot about Smashwords, so it’s good to get some background. You’re right that the numbers are only as accurate as what goes into them, so the fact that the ASIN books are not included makes the number incomplete. My understanding is that Amazon doesn’t share that number, so it’s unavailable to add. So I’m guessing the number is even larger. I think traditional publishers, as you say, are scrambling to get a piece of the indie market. This is an emerging market with many opportunities for both writers and book promoters. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  8. I’m self-published and when you think about how much work it all entails, 1 million is certainly a high number. It makes me wonder as to just who all those people are, what they’ve written and who they’ve reached. I suppose that’s more statistics.

    1. Oh, I didn’t know you could do that. My dad and I bought a package through Archway Publishing and they took care of the ISBN. There is competition all around, on the writers’ side as well as publishers. The market is changing faster than ever. It’s a little intimidating, but I think there are a lot of opportunities out there. Thanks for reading, Noelle!

  9. Fascinating information included in this article. I have 7 books published with a small publisher and am getting ready to self-publish a poetry book with help from Moyhill Publishers. I also contributed to Dark Visions anthology which is self published by a group of 27 authors.

    1. Hi Robbie – there are so many ways to get work published now. It’s very freeing in many ways, but also confusing. Such a big learning curve when you choose to do it yourself. Congratulations on the publication of your books and thanks for reading!

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