9 Signs Self-Publishing Is Out of Control?

Here at Yaminatoday.com, I actually hope to encourage writers to self-publish, provided we do it properly and with an eye toward excellence. At the least, I hope to provide writers with the information needed to succeed in their ventures.

But not everyone agrees that self-publishing is a good thing – at least, not for the masses.

And so it is with some trepidation that I present the following article, which in some ways ridicules the notion of self-publishing. Nonetheless, I thought it might be interesting to present another world view on self-pubbing.

Let me know what you think.

“To paraphrase the immortal words of Truman Capote, there’s a difference between writing and typing. And, to put it gently, we can say with a good amount of confidence that most self-published books were typed, not written. Because communicating with letters assembled into words is a skill most learn by the age of 5, and because written communication has become so ubiquitous in American life, everyone now thinks he’s a writer. Until recently, the publishing industry had been our sea wall, protecting us from a tidal wave of boring life stories and dreadful novels. But now, the ease of self-publishing threatens to drown us all in mediocrity. Here are nine signs the situation is out of control.”



  1. The estimated 700,000 self-publishing authors around the world

    In a world of 6.8 billion people, 700,000 trying to make it big by self-publishing may not seem very significant. But compare it to the number of books traditionally published in America each year: 80,000. Of those, one author says, “most of them [are] not needed, not wanted, not in any way remotely necessary.” Assuming the U.S. makes up just one-tenth of the market (almost certainly a low estimate), AND assuming each author has the decency to self-publish only one title, that means self-publishers stand to nearly double the number of books published in the world every year.

  2. The 20,000 titles Lulu adds each month

    Lulu is a self-publishing company that has been in business since 2002 and is generally regarded as the leader in the field. One need look no further for proof that self-publishing is getting out of hand than the Lulu web site that reveals the company publishes 20,000 titles for unpublished authors every single month. The site shows no signs of slowing, as 12,000 new “creators” sign up every week, and the number of titles is growing about 10% each month. But as the founder of the company says, the average run is “less than two.”

  3. The many seriously considering whether self-publishing is a bubble on the verge of popping

    Basically, an economic bubble is created when a good is bought and sold at a much higher price than it is really worth. For example, the dot-com bubble burst when traders realized Internet companies had no way to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars at which their worth was being valued. Pundits are now looking hard at the massive popularity of self-publishing and asking: How long until self-publishers realize tens of thousands of them have grossly overvalued their products and the market crashes?

  4. The huge influx of companies to the industry

    The dilemma of finding a publisher is no more; say hello to the dilemma of choosing which publisher is right for you. From Author Solutions to Author House, from Booktango to BookSurge, there is a plenitude of publishers from which to choose to help you produce your book. But there’s also an entire sub-industry that has sprung into being from the self-publishing movement: the “how to self-publish” manual industry. Like any “get-rich-quick“-style book, these books will always sell better than the vast majority of the books they encourage people to self-publish.

  5. The giant number of ebooks available for free

    Millions of titles are available for free download in various formats. The average price of a self-published Kindle ebook for titles in the Top 100 on Amazon was $1.40, and this price is trending downward. Although many of the free titles hosted by companies like Amazon are books in the public domain, a huge mass of them are self-published titles that first-time authors are giving away for free in the hopes of receiving exposure. This means that deserving works are buried in the pile, and there is just too much for customers to sort through.

6.    The respected voices advising everyone to self-publish

As if self-publishers needed any more encouragement, many visible commentators are using their platforms to breathlessly urge everyone who considers themselves a writer (which is basically everyone) to self-publish. On Dec. 13, 2011, USA Today featured a story about self-publishing success story Michael Prescott, who is “threatening to change the face of publishing” with his enormous success. “It’s a gold rush out there,” Prescott proclaims in the article. Over at Techcrunch.com six weeks later, traditionally-published and self-published author, blogger, and investment guru James Altucher was advising every entrepreneur to self-publish a book, basically anointing books the new business cards in the process.

7.  The 4.2 billion words published by Smashwords

As one of the first comers to the new self-publisher industry, Smashwords alone has published more than 80,000 books since being created in 2008. It took one company less than four years to match the annual total of traditionally-published books in the U.S. To date, authors have smashed a whopping 4,242,989,557 words into their self-published books.

8. The number of copies of self-published books that are selling

On average, authors who self-publish sell 100-150 copies of their book. Considering the average Facebook user has 130 friends, this is right in the wheelhouse for explaining who is buying most self-published books: friends and family of the author. Of course, as this is an average, there are a handful of breakout self-publishing authors who are keeping the number elevated and making up for the thousands of writers who sell 50 or 25 copies, or worse.

9. The eight out of 10 people who think they have a book in them

If there’s any doubt self-publishing is already out of control, millions of books could potentially be in the pipeline for self-publishing in the near future. The New York Times has reported that 81% of Americans think they have the makings of a book in their brains, and that they should publish that book. An estimated 25 million novels and how-to books have already been written by Internet users in the U.S. but have yet to be published. If just 1% of those authors self-publish, the country’s annual book publishing by traditional means would be instantly tripled.

This article was originally posted at onlineaccreditedcolleges. Thanks to Emma Taylor for the piece.


leave a comment


Marie says: May 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I do agree, there’s a lot of rubbish and mediocrity out there. If I see another vampire or werewolf love story, I’ll seriously think about banging some writers’ heads against the wall. However, along with the dross are some truly deserving authors who CAN write. Those with the talent and dedication will rise while the others will slip out of existence. Some of us do actually take it seriously and are in it for the long haul. Everything finds a balance in the end.

    yammsy says: May 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Well said Marie. I think it’s easy to forget that in any industry you will have those who take it seriously and those who don’t. Let everyone have their say. The truly committed ones will prevail.

Karen S. Elliott says: May 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Very well presented. Though it has gotten a smidge better, there is still a lot of drivel in the self-published arena. Instead of being in a rush to self-publish, most of these “writers” need to work a little harder on learning how to draft a story.

Charmaine Clancy says: May 15, 2012 at 6:42 am

This is an issue raised quite often, about the quality and quantity of self-published work flooding the online stores. I would like to see someone address the possible solutions. Which I can only see involving some kind of gatekeeper – and wasn’t that one of the key reasons we booed the traditional big 6 in the first place?
Indie publishing needs a voice and there is a yearning from the consumers (and serious Indie publishers) for a standard to be adhered to. I’m tired of hearing authors posting on forums that formatting and spelling are not important to a story. It’s all important, the whole experience.
I don’t know the solution, but I hope someone stumbles upon one soon.
Excellent post for keeping the subject in the spotlight.

Jennifer Froelich (@jenfroelich) says: May 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

As a reader, I find self-published titles generally frustrating. Ratings help a little, but not as much as I would like, since it seems people are inclined to give their friends 5-star ratings.

As a writer (a self-published, indie writer) I have to simply work within the system as it exists. The “Big-Six” publishers are floundering — and were rejecting my work even back when they were not. But I STILL HOLD MYSELF TO THEIR STANDARDS OF EXCELLENT WRITING. That might seem paradoxical,but it’s the truth.

The readers — assuming they can find my book amid the stacks — will decide whether I am talented enough to merit their support. My only means of controlling the market is to write the best book I can.

I publish as an indie, but write as if all of NY was watching.

    yammsy says: May 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Well said.

Mark King says: June 08, 2012 at 8:00 am

I appreciate the opportunity that self – publishing gives to writers.
It scares me to read this as I’m embarking on releasing my first children’s book, ‘ THE BOMBAY BEAR’ by the way 🙂 everyone deserves the same opportunity to get started in this tough market. I attend a writers club , I show random customers who all give positive feedback to my work, it’s the public,s opinion that counts. (Freedom of creativity) if it’s good it will sell if it’s not then I will take pleasure in knowing family and friends can see me trying to achive my dream of becoming a writer. I did not choose to go conventional I chose self-publishing so I control my destiney .

    yammsy says: June 08, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Mark, I don’t think there is anything to fear as you go along on your self-publishing journey.

    I don’t honestly think self-publishing is out of control anyway. The competition for quality books with great stories, cover design and excellent editing are fewer and far between than you might think.

    Concentrate on making your book excellent, and then take the right steps to market it, and I’m willing to be than more than just your family and friends will be reading it.


    Yamina Collins

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