The dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, sending the economy into a recession. The housing bubble burst in the late 2000s, crippling the U.S. economy. Is self-publishing a bubble? Could it burst? And if so, what effect would it have on the publishing market? These are the questions that have been getting a lot of attention as self-publishing continues to expand in popularity, reaching all-time highs in both books being published and sold.
Obviously a decline in sales wouldn’t create a ripple-effect across other markets like the dot-com and housing bubbles, but the very idea of a “bubble” is being called into question. Industry professional Nathan Bransford declared on his blog, “We’re not in a bubble. This is not a temporary blip.” Just because an industry is seeing record production, doesn’t mean that the upward pattern of production can’t continue.
For starters, authors wrote novels without any kind of insured distribution or compensation well-before self-publishing became so easy. As Nathan Ihara put it on the Melville House blog, “I don’t believe the self-published authors will ever stop writing and publishing their books. These people didn’t start writing because they thought there was money in it.”
The rise in popularity of self-publishing is twofold. Authors look to turn their passion into a lucrative endeavor, but they also write because they are writers. A writer wouldn’t stop writing just because a substantial profit might be difficult to obtain (it takes marketing skills, good networking, the ability to find a market, and sometimes, just plain luck). But with self-publishing, a writer has more of an opportunity than ever to turn their work into something that can help them afford the time and effort to keep writing.
Yes, some writers will look at the slow sales of their brilliant novel and be discouraged. They might never write again. But others will recognize that self-publishing takes a lot more work than simply typing a manuscript. Those that realize this will keep the industry robust and growing. Those that don’t won’t burst a bubble, because there isn’t one.
Put succinctly by Bransford, “Get used to the self-publishing boom. We’re just getting started.”