Self-Published Books Continue Publication at Amazing Rates

Bowker reports in their October 2019 PDF publication, “Self Publishing in the United States, 2013-2018: Print and Ebooks,” that independently published books with ISBNs (not even counting those without!) have continued their incredible rise, with a total of 1,677,781 ISBNs issued in 2018 to independent publishers, a 40.71% rise over 2017. The leader, with 84.4% (1,416,384) of the ISBNs, was “CreateSpace/Independently Published.” They are the clear leader in print ISBNs, but Amazon doesn’t even appear in their eBook statistics, so we are left to assume that those authors who chose to independently register an ISBN for their Kindle eBook must be included in “Small Publishers,” which totaled a mere 14,476. As Amazon, unlike some other companies, does not require ISBNs for Kindle eBooks, this is not surprising.

The publication concludes that self-published print books “continue to show strong growth, up 45% for 2018.” I am, however, concerned that we do not have access to actual sales statistics for print books. I realize it is in my best interest to hype independently published print books, encouraging indie authors to get their word on paper, but I continue to be a skeptic regarding actual sales. Personally, if I were to publish a book, I would want to have a paperback or hardcover copy for myself, and perhaps several to distribute on a small-scale basis, but I think that eBook publication is the place to start for new authors. If you have the budget to produce a paperback, great–I’m always thrilled to format paper books, and enjoy doing so, but if things are tight, go with the eBook over the paperback!

ISBN Output for USA Self-Publishers, 2013-2018 - Both Print & eBooks

That’s 4596.66 ISBNs issued per day in 2018. I would really like to know the legitimacy of these numbers… Are they actual books (whether print or electronic)? If so, the number of books published is even higher, due to those published without ISBNs. Calculated out on an ISBN basis, that’s at least five books published in the United States for every 1000 people in the country. Put another way, in the 2000 Federal Census (the last year for which I can currently obtain data using the Census 2000 EEO Data Tool), 162,155 people reported their occupation as author or writer. If we assume some growth in that occupation, we’re still looking at 10 ISBNs issued per individual who self-identifies as an author or writer enough to record themselves as such on the Census.

My conclusion? Take the numbers with a grain of salt! Not every author is Isaac Asimov. 😉

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