Is There a Self-Publishing Bubble?

by | Mar 7, 2012 | Uncategorized | 68 comments

There has been a lot of talk lately about a self-publishing “bubble.” There was the Guardian article in January, a response by Melville House, and the idea has been percolating around the Internet ever since.

Having emerged from a decade of bubbles in our economy, it may be natural to see some parallels between the self-publishing revolution and a new gold rush. There were a few early people striking the mother lode, a rush of excitement, and now it’s off to the races.

So is it a bubble? Is all the initial enthusiasm about self-publishing going to wear off? Is the bubble going to burst?

Shifting Attention

There’s another parallel that comes to mind, and that’s the blog bubble. A couple of years ago you weren’t a living breathing human if you didn’t have a blog. Everyone was blogging, everyone was commenting, blogging was the way people connected with each other and promoted their work. It was new and fun and exciting.

Now… not so much. There are definitely still people in the blogging game (as you well know since you’re reading one right now), but blogging has seemingly peaked, replaced by activity on other social media.

Is the same thing going to happen with e-publishing? Will people put their book out there, struggle to build a following, and then have their attention diverted elsewhere?

What’s Permanent About Writing

I say no. We’re not in a bubble. This is not a temporary blip.

There are sooo many people who are writing books out there. There even more who want to write a book and believe they have a book in them. There are thousands upon thousands of unpublished manuscripts out there and even more in progress.

And it’s not new. People have been writing books for years.

Blogging was a blip. Books are far more central to our culture and are far, far more glamorized than blogs. Lots of people want to grow up and be a famous author. Fewer want to be a famous blogger.

And the ease of entry into the self-publishing game is only getting smoother. Right now it’s still somewhat challenging to make your book available in all channels, but those barriers are coming down. There is a massive supply of books in the pipeline.

Get used to the self-publishing boom. We’re just getting started.

Art: Soap Bubbles by
Jean Siméon Chardin


  1. Jesse

    Hear, hear…and amen. This genie is out of the bottle and it's not going back in. And that's a very good thing. Too many wonderful authors out there that keep getting kicked to the curb — and now have their own voice, their own platform, and are doing quite well. We may never be rich, but then being trad published isn't a guarantee of steady money coming in either. I'm happy with my choice and I'll take my chances. I've nothing to lose and everything to gain. And Indie Publishing is not going to go away or lose the respect that it's been owed for a very long time.

  2. Richard Gibson

    Yup. It's cheap and easy and getting cheaper and easier, and the stigma that once went with "self-publishing" is diminishing, not because there's no trash coming out, but because good things are.

  3. Gracielou

    I think self-publishing is here to stay. To many agents and publishers are not giving new authors a chance. And so more and more people have to do the self-publishing route. Which isn't a bad thing I don't think. It gets their names out there, it gets their stories out there. It gives us as readers new and wonderful stories.

  4. Jory

    They said the same thing about web-serial shows, that they would eventually lose their popularity, and with Hulu and YouTube they are actually more popular than ever. I think people are essentially pragmatic and will continue to use what mediums are available and effective.

  5. Hektor Karl

    We're still a long way from e-reader saturation, so there's still room for growth. It feels more like the rocky early stages.

  6. Mr. D

    eBooks are the future, and the future has arrived. As for self=publishing, the Amanda Hawkings of the world have proven it is a viable option.

  7. kathie

    Thanks Nathan! I self-published last year and have a new book coming out soon. I certainly hope you're right. I guess we never know what will happen in the future, but I know that after a long haul with an agent/without an agent and no sales with the big 6, I was ready to self-publish and see if my books with "no market," actually had a market.

    So far the answer is yes. But, I realize things could change…for now, it feels good to write and get my work out there. I couldn't have imagined how good the "stamp of approval," from readers buying and liking my book would feel. That was always the end goal for me, to have readers, not just to have books that had run the trad. pub. gauntlet. Thank you, Readers! That's my mantra these days.

  8. Gloria Attar RN BSN

    That felt like a warm hug…. so needed on today, my half-century mark. Gives me the kick I need to drag out all my notes on my life in Italy and get to work. Thanks!

  9. LM Preston

    I call it choices. Now authors have many more.

  10. Lisa Yarde

    Amen, Nathan. Books are part of our culture. As e-reader technology and deliver ability modes expand, books will remain with us. So will the self-published authors who are willing and able to work steadily on their books and take advantage of easy upload and distribution processes. I do believe there are some who wish there would be a bubble…but that's a comment for another blog post.

  11. E.J. Wesley

    More than folks writing books, there is no end to readers! People don't have a threshold for the number of books they're willing to read in a lifetime … well, people who aren't Seinfeld characters don't anyway.

    No one reads a single book in their lifetime. If JK Rowling writes 100 books, I'll read every one so long as I have eyes. Self-published, big-published or no. Same goes for any author I enjoy.

    So why then, should there be a cap on the number books that can be written if there is no cap on the number of books that can be consumed?

  12. Rick Daley

    Your logic makes sense to me. I think blogs are quite different from books, and some of the decline in the blogoshpere can probably be attributed to repetition of content (especially in writing blogs) as much as other social media siphoning away readers. Can we have just one more post about dialogue tags and adverbs? (NOTE: You do a good job at keeping things fresh here, Nathan, which may explain your loyal following.)

    Many authors are taking the indie route seriously; self-publishing is not as much a vanity project anymore as it is an entrepreneurial effort. Indie authors are a new wave of small business owners. I think it's a great representation of the American dream. What's even greater is that the traditional route still exists for those that prefer it.

    Opportunities, people. They are everywhere if you look for them.

    Check out my blog.

    Check out my book.

    Follow me on Twitter

  13. Dara Young

    There may not be a bubble in the sense that writers are going to get bored and go do something else, but there may be one in the receptiveness of the reader. As the glut of self-published books continues to grow (and I agree it will!) I think the reader will become more discerning out of nessecity. It is a buyers market if you will.

    I, as a reader, do not have to spend my time reading a poorly edited book. So as my demand decreases due to a natural desire to be selective about what I spend my valuable time reading. Wouldn't it naturally cause a slow down in self publishing as only those commited to producing a quality product will continue to self publish? It seems to me readers will begin to sift the chafe from the wheat causing fewer dreamers to spew out a book and post it for the world to read.

    I agree self-publishing is here to stay, but I highly doubt that the market will continue to support the glut of books we are currently seeing. I hope not, as it would be nice to see self-publishing recieve its rightful place as one of three platforms for any successful author in any genre.

  14. Susan

    I think self-publishing is here to stay, but I still believe 99% of the people who try it will make absolutely nothing. And these same people would have made absolutely nothing in traditional publishing, either, but will probably have put out less money up front to try. There is no evidence people are willing to read twice as much all of a sudden. There's a limited supply of eyeballs.

  15. Mira

    "Get used to the self-publishing boom. We're just getting started."

    I completely agree!

    I scanned the Guardian article and the response, and although I do think there are some who are jumping on the self-pubishing band wagon as a "get rick" thing, I think those articles are missing the point of what is happening in the world right now.

    We are not seeing a "gold rush" boom, we are seeing a re-distribution of the labor force.

    As we move from paper to digital, labor is moving with it.

    With paper, the only "employment" available to authors was to "sell" their work to publishers who then sold it to distributors.

    With digital, the options of "employment" for authors have opened up. Authors can choose to continue the old model, or they can sell directly to the distributors (Amazon, etc.), or they can even go it on their own, if they want.

    I think there is a natural tendency for labor to move in the direction of the best working conditions and compensation model.

    As long as Amazon continues to offer the best "employment" options, the movement of authors to that labor model (self-publishing) is pretty much assured.

    Whether that continues, will really depend. If legacy publishers matched or exceeded Amazon's terms, the movement toward self-publishing might signifantly slow.

    This part is hard to predict, since it depends on what they major players decide to do.

    Although I will say that I think self-publishing is here to stay, regardless. There are some authors who may value freedom over any other working condition, and they will most likely keep self-publishing alive and thriving, even if legacy publishers step up their game.

  16. Steven J. Wangsness

    What may be needed for the successful future of epublishing is some system to weed out all the "noise" in the ebook world — in other words, the mountains of crap that crowd out the well-written books. There will need to be some sort of gatekeepers to divert the crap to the dungheap. Traditional publishing has agents and editors and marketing gurus; epublishing is going to have to come up with something that produces a similar result. Otherwise, breaking out your ebook from the pack is only going to get harder than it already is, as those of us who have epublished have already experienced.

  17. Mira

    Sorry to add to my post, but the other thing that will keep self-publishing alive is unlimited access. There is no cap on how many people can publish. This is what you talked about, Nathan, and I completely agree.

  18. Ranae Rose

    I agree, Nathan. It perplexes me when people talk about a 'self-publishing bubble', because clearly, books aren't going anywhere. And with e-books (also not going anywhere), self-publishing is the most accessible form of publishing for many people.

  19. Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

    I agree that self-publishing is here to stay.

    But I think those who self-publish just because they think it's an easy way of making money will realize it's not so, and give up.

    That will leave the rest of us, too many still, who are cursed with the need to write.

    And as Susan put it, the problem is there are not more readers than before. And those who read won't read more.

    So self-publishing is here to stay, but, unfortunately, that doesn't mean writers can make a living this way.

  20. L. Shanna

    I want to agree with you, Nathan, but I have to be honest and say that I have never bought a self-published book. I'm sure I'm missing out on some great works, but my (wrong? outdated? uneducated?) assumption when an author self-publishes is that they have done so because they grew tired of rejections from the traditional publishing world. Until that stigma changes for the general public, I'm afraid the majority of self-published writers will continue to struggle to be taken seriously.

  21. D.G. Hudson

    Bubble = Marketing term.

    Usually when too many people rush to board a ship, it sinks. If the bubble bursts, some other latest trend will replace it.

    I like choices.

    As for the blog bubble, some will survive, some won't. I agree with Rick D.'s comments about repetition.

  22. Janiel Miller

    I don't believe self-publishing is a bubble. Blogging was just the next new toy. Self-publishing is where writers have increasingly had to go as publishers narrow their sights tighter around the Next Sure Thing.
    Publishing has been shaken up and is trying to figure itself out. To that end, I hope self-publishing matures quickly and finds a process that creates credibility. I find myself nervous to purchase self-published books. Which makes me nervous to publish one.

  23. Stephen Parrish

    I agree with you. We're not in a bubble. We're at the beginning of a revolution.

  24. Maya

    I agree with Nathan — self-publishing is no bubble. Plenty of authors take self-publishing very seriously, and the process is similar to setting up your own business. You don't need to go through traditional publishing houses to create a professional product. You can hire your own cover designer, and actually control how your novel is portrayed artistically. You can hire an editor, and because of recent cutbacks you may well hire someone who has worked for the big six. You can even pay to get on blog tours or handle other marketing aspects. The difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing is about control. You control how much you invest in yourself, and as a reward you also reap the profits. Nathan has done the math before, there's a good chance that a mid-list author would come out ahead. Self-pubbing allows writing to have an entrepreneurial spirit!

  25. Taylor Napolsky

    I feel this blog has changed directions. I remember when it was more partisan for traditionally published.

  26. Rashad Pharaon

    I respectfully disagree.

    I think we are about to see a boom indeed. A cataclysmic explosion of desperate e-authors in the next couple of years–who will ultimately exit the business when they realize no money is to be had.

    I find it hard to believe most writers are not fame and money motivated.

    If you are not, I congratulate you. You are amongst the 1% of us who do it freely and without expectation.

    As I peruse my Twitter followers' posts, nearly EVERY one of the ebooks I see mentioned are a giveaway. Not a one-hour, or a one-day giveaway, but weeks on end.

    The VAST abundance of free material is encroaching rapidly on the living of the few who are trying to actually make money.

    I am an economist. I realize we use loss-leaders to generate enthusiasm, but we are not doing this. Loss-leaders still have a price, albeit at a loss to the producer. But this is making no business sense.

    When was the last time you stepped into the cereal aisle of the supermarket and saw half of them being given away? Why should I bother buying?

    We are creating a free book landscape where one can accept any number of books, at any time, thus creating a highly unlikely branding of authors. This, in other industries, is referred to as price-fixing–but at what price? Zero!

    Allow me to share this link from a literary agent:

    This is exactly what is happening.

    I am getting bombarded by free ebooks. Why should I pay for ebooks anymore?

    I ask you, yes you, since when did we stop competing on quality, and started selling based on price?

    Promotion is a silver bullet, not a religion.



  27. Rusty Biesele

    I think of the flood of self publishing as equivalent to the sudden flood of personal computers. What happened there was that when critical mass was reached, the buzz became "customization". I think that is what will happen with respect to self publishing. For many, the cost barriers are coming down, so you don't have to write a mass market novel to be successful. You just have to identify a group of people that you speak to and publish customized work for your particular group. You will still make money—a reasonable amount but not the runaway riches of a mass market blockbuster. It will be a living, and readers will be happy because they will be getting books closer to what they want.

  28. Vera Soroka

    This is a great time for writers. They finally have control over their careers and are not at the mercy of the old ways. It's great and it will only get better as time goes.

  29. Natalie Aguirre

    So agree with you. And there's nothing wrong with people independently publishing their stories.

    Some stories are good that just don't make it the traditional way. And if people have the time and money to get their story published and market it, that's great. Because they are just actualizing their dream a different way. We have to be careful not be prejudiced against anyone path to publication.

  30. Vanessa Eccles

    I'm on the fence about how I feel about self-publishing. I've self-published two collection books, but I only put them out there for mainly friends and family to read. My novels, I hold securely and have been patiently waiting for a publisher/agent to embrace them. I know self-publishing has come a long way and is continuing to grow, but something old-fashioned in me still clings to the traditional route. Give me another three years with no agent and/or no publisher, and I may be singing a different tune, though.

  31. Anne-Marie

    i think we're at the beginning of something new, much like musicians were when they realized that they didn't record labels and could do their own thing about 5 years ago. I've just self-published my first book, not because I didn't think it wasn't good enough to go the traditional route, but because I wanted the control of doing it myself, on my own time, and with my own ideas. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But so far, it has been immensely rewarding and I'm looking forward to being an indie entrepreneur.

  32. Beth Dolgner

    I agree that it's not a bubble, but I do think that self/indie publishing is going to go through a lot of changes in the next few years. A lot of authors seem to think they will be the next Amanda Hocking with one book. Most of those authors will quietly go back to their day jobs, and we'll never hear from them again. The authors who will find self-publishing success will be the ones who have the patience and work ethic to stick with it for the long haul, producing book after book with great content (and great editing). There is plenty of talent out there, and this really is an exciting time to be a writer.

  33. Gael McCarte

    Self publishing has offered writers a fantastic, not hitherto experienced opportunity. Especially self publishing ebooks. This is the dawn of the age of selfpublisharius.

  34. J.S. Schley

    I'm not sure I'd call it a "bubble," but I do agree with others who've posted that many will try it and only try it once.

    SP takes a lot of work to do well. Those who look to it as a business endeavor will find it easier and easier and increasingly welcoming. Those who are hoping for a get rich quick scheme, or a way to suddenly have millions read their novel…eh. They'll probably decide their energy is best spent elsewhere.

    So, I'm not sure it will just keep increasing and increasing. Sooner or later, enough people will have self-published that the stories people are hearing aren't the Amanda Hockings but the Jane Smith from their church group who put out her NaNoWriMo fictionalized memoir and didn't make back the cost she paid for her goodreads ad. So perhaps then folks will step back, think, and see self-publishing as the business it really is and think for a moment about whether they want to get involved.

  35. Diana

    I think it is great that self publishing is so easily accessible and affordable, however I wish authors would spend money on better covers and editing. I just downloaded five self published books on my kindle and only one of them is polished enough. The rest are formatted poorly, have horrible covers, and desperately in need of editing.

  36. angela

    I loved reading this today. It's something I'm considering doing for a few shorter pieces of work, more for the personal satisfaction than anything else.

  37. Anonymous

    Agree that technological model (or "platform" or "channel" or "market") has changed forever. However, there is and will be a bubble effect in volume of content and players. New players will come and go quickly. Some old players will go, slowly or quickly.

    At end of day, the lucrative end of the industry is the same: GREAT PRODUCT + GREAT MARKETING. How the product looks, how the product is marketed, and who shares the rewards are all in flux.

  38. Matthew J. Beier

    Great post, and I fully agree with you, Nathan. I did the unthinkable one year ago and decided to start a publishing company (under a brand I have always dreamed of building), publish my first novel THE BREEDERS, and see where the experience took me. Man oh man, it has been incredible. Not only did I learn more about publishing than I ever thought I would know, but I now have a new day job because of it (at a small indie/hybrid press here in Minneapolis). I will be building their eBook department, designing print books, and teaching authors social media. I would never have come to this point had I still been twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my dream agent to take me on.

    A few things: self-publishers absolutely must invest in their books to make them matter and to keep this machine rolling. I think true self-publishers will only get smarter and savvier, and it really will change this industry. Two years ago, I never would have considered self-publishing. Now, I'm hard-pressed to pursue the "normal" option for my next projects. That said, the process of self-publishing was so extremely taxing, and it isn't for people who don't have the ambition or ability to grab it by the balls and run with it. I think there will eventually be a perfectly-accepted "breed" of self-published author who can gain respect on par with any other traditionally published author–the one who spends his or her time and money to do it right.

  39. Anonymous

    I'd like to see some stats that confirm the blog bubble is deflating. I have five and plan to have about 50 by the end of this year. What a great device to practice writing and hear how much you suck from people you don't know! Every writer should have at least one blog if not many of them.

    But please don't confuse blooks, I mean blocks, I mean books and blogs. A book you spend a lot of time working on so it is ready to be seen for others, a blog you spit out in chunks and hope each post is worth reading. If not that's ok, you just post again tomorrow. A book can cost you some money to publish on your own, where a blog can be done for #10 a year for hosting, $100 a year for hosting, and 15 minutes of your time each day.

    You'll be lucky if your SP book breaks even, where putting ads on your blog can earn you some extra cash each month.

    My point is that most writers will want to do both and they should. But talk to writers about self-publishing, and talk to an Internet consultant about blogging. Then talk to other writers about blogging so you get both sides of the story. 🙂

  40. JDuncan

    I'm not sure I agree with a bubble, as in it's not something that's going to burst. I do believe we'll peak at some point, reach a saturation point, where the perception develops that self-publishing is not the viable career/make-a-living option they had thought. That 1% success rate will become common knowledge and become a deterrant. At this point, self-publishing is too new to have reached that.

    Another aspect that I think will happen is that there will just be so many choices out there that it will overwhelm and readers will funnel to places where books have some curation value attached to them. In the end, we may just see things become much like publishing has been. If your work doesn't end up in a curated location, you will be ignored. Come to think of it, publishers might do well to really embrace the digital content and become curators beyond the limits of their contracted authors.

    I don't have an ereader at this point, but I can say now that I won't wade through the thousands of choices on Amazon looking for something to read or B&N for that matter. I will got to places that I can trust to have pulled in books that are worth my time and money. If I want a new thriller to read, I'd want to go to Joe's Crime Shack site where they don't have everything under the sun, thrown up there by anyone who thinks they can write crime fiction. I'll go to the reviewers who are thoughtful in their choices. To me, places like Amazon are not ideal places for curation. There's no control over the process, as anyone can toss up a 5-star review or a 1-star one for that matter, who haven't even read the book. There's no trust there.

    So, in the end I guess, I think this change in the industry will settle itself out. The bubble won't burst, but will probably gradually bleed out to a point of stability, and though the players may change, I'm not sure the structure will be a whole lot different. Because as wonderful as the rise of the amatuer is in the world of writing for people who want to write, readers will get to a point where they can't handle the flood. They'll want structure. They'll want the stability and convenience of trusted places to find stories that are worth their while. In the end, quality plus convenience will trump quantity. At least I hope so.

  41. Anonymous

    Anything that reaches outrageous proportions usually does, indeed, burst eventually. In the past few years I've seen more self-published authors give up and move on to something else than I've seen continue.

    It was the same with the housing bubble. The hobby flippers lost and jumped ship. The serious investors bought with care, did not over-extend, and are sticking it out for the long haul.

    I'm more curious about the social media bubble, based on ads. I have no idea whether or not it will last. (As I sit waiting for my invitation to join pinterest 🙂

  42. Anonymous


    Is a publishing civilian a failed literary agent?


  43. Nathan Bransford


    Totally, everyone who changes jobs failed at the last one, amiright?


  44. Terin Tashi Miller

    Nathan: I couldn't possibly agree with you more.

    And Mira: I sort of agree with you, except I don't think a distribution of labor is exactly the right description.

    Again, a brief history:

    Prior to Guttenburg's invention of the printing press, Bibles were painstakingly reproduced by hand (and with illumination).

    After the invention of the printing press, Bibles could be reproduced with less time and effort and on a much greater scale.

    In 1920s Paris, a guy named Robert McAlmon and some friends purchased a printing press. McAlmon's "Contact Press" was born. On that press, he published a 300-copy run of "three stories and ten poems," Ernest Hemingway's first book–a collection. He also published Hemingway's "in our time," which was then handed to friends to bring to New York to try and find a "major" "traditional" publisher for it.

    Boni & Liveright, a small printing partnership, agreed and signed Hemingway on–for an advance of $200, maybe something like $2,000 in today's dollars.

    Not everyone has friends like Robert McAlmon. But no one else was publishing Hemingway, as he was too unknown, too young, too whatever it was that caused the majority of "traditional" publishers to not take a risk on him.

    In short, if Hemingway had not had McAlmon as a friend, he might never have been published. If he'd never been published by McAlmon's Contact Press, he might never have come to Boni & Liveright's attention. If he'd never come to Boni & Liveright's attention, he might never have come to F. Scott Fitzgerald's attention…need I go on?

    As the publicist for Melville House notes, tons of people have an idea they have a book in them, or that a book is their way to make their mark or leave something behind. It is an ego trip. Just like blogs, or social networking, or the idea that anyone actually might be interested in something you might have to say.

    But the possibility exists–remote as it might be–that someone REALLY good, or maybe even new, inventive, creative, engaging and inspirational or merely emotionally moving MIGHT have been overlooked by traditional publishers because they could not take a risk or thought at the very least, this writer is not going to make a lot or enough money for us to justify the contract.

    And for that writer, self-publishing, if you can't get a friend to publish you, has reached the point of virtually having a printing press in your home at your disposal. Painters don't need approval of someone to put their ideas on canvass. They just need to sell their paintings.

    Book selling is, of course, another matter.

    • Marilyn Peake

      I agree with you that self-publishing isn't a bubble. Readers love it too much. 🙂

  45. Anonymous

    A bubble? Sounds like fear mongering.

    What we are in is a time when folks don't need to lug around books that weight a ton. Electronic books are awesome!

    As for this self-publishing thing, I think a lot of this has been caused by the publishers–changing up their advance payment schedules, paying less via the agency model, and holding off on purchasing new books while Borders imploded last year.

    Plus, it's not incredibly difficult to produce an eBook with InDesign and some freelance artwork via artists found on Deviant Art.

  46. London Crockett

    I suspect we are in the midst of a bubble. It may be cheap and easy to self-publish, but it's difficult to make any real money from self-publishing. As more books flood the market, readers will become increasingly intolerant of poor editing, design and layout.

    Some of those things will be made cheaper by software or online services, but good editing won't get any cheaper; the time spend starting to master the craft won't get shorter.

    Just like the blogging boom, people are finding a reason to write and discovering some joy in it. However, many of the people who are excited by it now—when tales of million dollar sales are in the air and the sense that anybody and everybody is doing it—will find the limited returns (few readers, little or no money) outweigh their desire to keep at it.

    I wonder how many blogs that came and went were full of poems and short stories? I know a lot of people who were writers who aren't now. Not a single one of them is less happy as a result.

  47. Diana

    I do think that in the next year or so that we will see the number of writers self-publishing books diminish. As people realize that it isn't easy and that it takes a lot of work to be successful going the self-publishing route, those writers who were only in it for the money will give up and go do something else.

    Is it a bubble? Well it isn't like the dot com bubble or the housing bubble. It won't have a negative impact on the economy when the dilettantes go do something else.

    I think the overall publishing scene both traditional and self-published will get better once those less serious writers give up and move on.

  48. S.P. Bowers

    I don't think epublishing will go away. I don't think the bubble will burst but I do think there will be a pendulum swing. It will settle into a pattern but that first swing may be a doozy. Blogging may not be the craze like it was but I don't think blogging is going anywhere either, it's just settled into it's groove. Hope I wasn't too confusing. If not ignore me, I'm on pain medicine.

  49. John Stanton

    I had to laugh at the Guardian article.
    There may be a bubble of these companies that make money on the hype of epublishing, but the idea that books and reading are part of a bubble ready to burst is silly.
    I know lots of writers, some published and some unpublished, who work hard at writing. Some have been doing it for decades and some are new. They are driven by artistic passion not millions of dollars. They spend those long hours laboring over their manuscript because they are writers and it doesn't matter if they use a pen, typewriter, computer or stylus on clay tablet.

    They people who read books want good books with no regard for any bubble.
    The bursting epub bubble will only affect people who are moved by or invested in the hype. A perfect example is people who spend time writing about how it's all just a bubble ready to pop.

  50. Whirlochre

    After the froth of every man jack horse writing his/her/its dream horror chick lit fantasy and the inevitable shenanigannery twixt trad and indie, the future for writers and writing (and readers and reading) can only be advanced by this new-found means of allowing people to do stuff.

    It's messy right now, and as bubbles are inflated and burst there will be bizarre gains and losses on all sides.

    One thing is certain: like the very best friendship cakes, there can be no unmixing of the ingredients.

    Interesting times for all.

  51. Catherine Stine

    In the last 8 months, I've read a lot of great indie pubbed books. I only choose ones that have compelling covers, some good reviews and that have a killer premise. And I made sure that the first novel that I published this way, was flawless, a page-turner, and written well. I loved that I could art direct it, and illustrate it, as I am also a published illustrator.
    Is self publishing a bubble? No. Will the cream rise to the top. Yes. The filters will be online indie publishers and collectives that promote only the best of the genres they like.

  52. Cheryl

    I agree completely. All those people frequenting used bookstores and taking home sacks of books? They're turning to cheaper ebooks now and still buying, still reading. Most of us can read more than we can afford.

    I do think the bubble bursting will be that of traditional pubs who are trying to market and price ebooks like print books. You know, the pubs who can only do so many books a year costwise. The ones who once picked and chose the authors to be published.

  53. M.P. McDonald

    Two years ago, I saw self-publishing as a last resort, but right about then, I started reading Konrath's blog. In fact, I think I first linked to it from here, so I should be thanking you. Anyway, I don't think there is a bubble. Like any venture, some will succeed and continue, some will find it's not for them and stop writing/publishing.

    I've been at it 20 months now, and can't foresee quitting anytime soon. In fact, I'm doing well enough to cut down on my day job hours to part-time.

  54. Susan Kaye Quinn

    It's tempting to look at times of rapid change as a "bubble" but what's happening is essentially a technology revolution touching the book industry. Every industry that technology has "touched" hasn't been a bubble – it's been a fundamental change in how business is done. That's what I see happening here.

    And I think we're a long ways from done. Self-pub (and the rest of the industry) is still evolving rapidly. 2012 still has many changes ahead of us.

  55. Kelly Barnes

    Why did Mary's garden grow? Because she was quite contrary and she uprooted everything that wasn't a silverbell, a cockle shell, or a pretty maid.

    Economies are the same way. I think the self epub trend is more of a rush than it is a bubble.

    It's new and there IS a lot of profit (insert your definition here) to be had. When the dust settles, the successful will have elbow room and the others will move on to other things.

  56. Dara Beevas

    As someone who works with indie authors, I have to agree that self-publishing isn't going anywhere. Where traditional publishers are reshaping and adjusting with sales numbers declining, our business is thriving. The desire to become an author is a dream for so many that I can't see the self-publishing trend as going away.

    Terrific post!

  57. Sheila Cull

    Blogging a blip! Maybe everybody did it at first but I think, hope, that a market for it will remain. I recently turned my daily (except for the break to learn more about computers because I was touting e friendly books but wasn't doing it and for a short time turned into a hypocrite)blog into a Podcast and that's absolutely a proliferating market. And hey! Bransford, I grew as a blogger because of your steady advice and I also decided, per you, that I'm a writer, not an author.

    Although I absolutely agree with you about the value of a book!

    But when something bursts,it's a pretty final event so I don't think burst is appropriate. What it boils down to is that the better the material, the better chance of success, no?

    Sheila Cull

  58. Marion Gropen

    The rush of people who think that they can write a manuscript feed it into some sort of conversion program, for little or no money, and publish for fame and fortune will fade.

    The fame and fortune that a few lucky folks found is never going to happen for most self-publishers.

    BUT, those who choose to learn how to publish their own books WELL, those types of self-publishers will continue to do well, as a group. And they will do better because of the ongoing digital revolution.

    There's a lot that happens between the manuscript and the publication IF YOU DO IT RIGHT. And if you do it right, your readers will be more likely to find your book, and will enjoy it more when they do.

    Publishing well is complex, and requires skill and hard work, just as writing well does.

  59. Jules Hojnacki

    I'm working on the final draft of my first book and eagerly tip-toeing into the query and publishing process. If anything, the ability and option to self-publish gives optimistic, yet easily discouraged writers like myself, hope that one day a stranger will read their creation and enjoy it. But the various and non-uniform options of self-publishing websites currently poses a major problem for writers and readers. Just being able to find self-published books on the major sites, like barnes and nobles for example, is like mining HTML for the first time. There is no guidance for which books are really good in and of themselves, or any indication on how these books are promoted by the site. That being said, as a novice to the self-publishing world, which sites are recommended for publishing, and which for buying?

  60. K. C. Blake

    One of the problems with self-publishing is that a lot of people rush to put their books out. They don't edit enough. It's too easy to put their stuff out there. I've run across quite a few people who say they won't ever read a self-published book again because of a few bad apples. That's what concerns me most. I think a lot of people will stop buying self-published books because they spend their money on the wrong ones and get burned.

    Also, I think a lot of 'writers' will quit once they see they aren't going to make a million dollars. Those of us who write because we love it and because we can't stop will continue on.

  61. Peter Dudley


    Another difference between blogs and books: There was a time when you couldn't turn around without someone telling you "you must have a blog!" When friends found out I had a blog, they always said, "Yeah, I really should do that, too." My response was always, "Why?" They never had a good answer.

    Books are the opposite. When I tell people I've written a book, they say, "Wow, I don't think I could do that." They never say, "I really need to do that, too."

    Blogs have zero barrier to entry. You can be blog-curious and get all experimental, then wake up the next day and realize it was just a phase you were going through.

    Self-publishing, while shockingly easy, still requires that you first write a book.

    Certainly there's a bit of a mania right now, but I believe that will settle out over time. It's not a bubble; it's a change in the market.

  62. Janice Seagraves

    I think too many authors are frustrated by the slush pile and self-publishing is their way out of the slush pile and it gets they're book out there.


  63. Judith Briles

    I agree. I don't think self-publishing will ever be gone in this world. Many people in this generation continue hoping on having their books published and they are not giving up. Future generations will, in fact, be inspired by such persistent process and somehow give them hope that someday, their books too will be distributed out there.

  64. Bryce Anderson

    The implication here is that we can't be in a bubble if the underlying phenomenon isn't going away. This is wrong.

    There are plenty of examples to choose from. When a real estate bubble collapses, the underlying land and buildings don't disappear. They just get devalued to reflect their actual importance within the economy.

    When the dot com crash hit, wiping out trillions in paper wealth, the Internet didn't disappear. Society as a whole didn't stop writing web apps, the tools that made the rise possible (programming languages, web standards, web server programs, etc.) didn't go anywhere. The hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber that was put down in anticipation of a sharp spike in web traffic didn't dig itself back up, and in fact came in handy once everyone got a Netflix account.

    Nathan Bransford even mentions a recent bubble: the blogging bubble. Blogging didn't disappear. It just got its hype stolen by the social media trend. A lot of people stopped blogging, as their blog-ish activity moved to Facebook. But blogs still remain a vital part of our Internet cultural life.

    The only evidence presented against the idea that we're in a bubble is that the underlying trend is not illusory. But even in the 17th century, there was a legitimate underlying demand for tulip bulbs.

    Even if this is a bubble that's destined to crash, we can still come out on top. As long as a few of the players in this space survive the crash and keep their sites running, self-publishers will continue to have powerful tools for making their creative works available to the public.

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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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