Porter Anderson has a great post on Writing on the Ether today about surveys, bias, and what can be counted (and what can't), based on a Twitter conversation with Hugh Howey.
Howey and I differ, to some degree, on the question of ISBNs, by the way. In his tweet exchange Wednesday with Greenfield, he pointed out something we’ve gone over many times here and at Publishing Perspectives: we’re dependent on the ISBN as the standard identifier sold and tracked in the United States by Bowker.
One of my favorite parts of my job is speaking with independent authors and listening to the challenges they face on their paths to success. It’s interesting to hear their perspectives on the tools available to them and what they need to be more successful. One of the most common questions during these discussions is how can I sell more books? As the holidays approached, my colleagues and I began hearing it more regularly and began asking ourselves how can we help them sell more books?
To answer this question, we asked 4,000 of Lulu’s best-selling authors to share the best practices that they've learned on their path to book marketing and sales success. Both the eagerness with which the authors replied to our request and what their responses revealed were eye-opening.
A new analysis of U.S. ISBN data by ProQuest affiliate Bowker reveals that the number of self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up 59 percent over 2011 and 422 percent over 2007. Ebooks continue to gain on print, comprising 40 percent of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11 percent in 2007.
“The most successful self-publishers don’t view themselves as writers only, but as business owners,” said Beat Barblan, Bowker Director of Identifier Services. “They invest in their businesses, hiring experts to fill skill gaps and that’s building a thriving new service infrastructure in publishing.”
Once upon a time, self publishing print books was a costly and risky endeavor. Minimum orders, inventory risks, and lengthy lead times were not self-publisher friendly. Then, print on demand came along. POD creates one-off and entire print runs of bookstore-worthy hard copies from a “print-ready PDF” hours after an order is placed (i.e. when you place an order with the printer or when a customer purchases a copy on Amazon).
The ease and affordability of digital publishing makes for a great starting point for self publishers, but there are plenty of reasons to go print as well. To name a few...
Not everyone has an e-reader
Nielsen - which tracks media and information consumption around the world - has just purchased Bowker's PubTrack business intelligence unit, as well as the commerce solutions PubEasy and PubNet.
Bowker remains the US ISBN Agency, one of two registration agencies for ISNI, and the source of the Books in Print database. Library solutions Summon and Syndetics also remain at Bowker.
From the press release:
Bowker will focus on facilitating and enhancing book discovery through technology solutions, such as Syndetic Solutions™ and Summon®, and through identifier services (including ISBNs and ISNIs).
Our self-publishing efforts continue apace!
In computer software engineering, "dogfooding" means using your own product. At Bowker, we've been doing that ourselves - I'm the product manager for SelfPublishedAuthor.com, and I'm using our services to publish a short story cycle called The Place Where I Come From. The reason for this is because we really want to understand what indie publishers and self-published authors are going through, and make sure that the tools we offer are actually helpful.
In addition to being a registration agent for ISBNs, Bowker is also a registration agent for ISNI. This is a new identifier - the standard was published in 2012 - for people and organizations. The mission of ISNI is (from the ISNI website):
- Assign to the public name of a writer, artist, performer, researcher, publisher, etc. a persistent unique identifying number in order to resolve the problem of name ambiguity in search and discovery.
- Diffuse each assigned ISNI across all repertoires in the global supply chain so that every creative work is unambiguously attributed to its creator or publisher wherever that work is described.
By achieving these goals the ISNI will act as a bridge identifier across multiple domains and become a critical component in Linked Data and Semantic Web applications.
Most self-publishers are concerned with book design for a few months during the production of their book. Book design is a specialty within the field of graphic design, in the same way that packaging design, or the design of signs are specialties. What this means is that there are a lot of conventions, a vocabulary and a set of practices and assumptions that underlie most professional book design. Since self-publishers only need to navigate this territory once in a while, I've frequently maintained that it's better to learn how to hire a book designer than it is to learn book design yourself. But since design is important to the eventual success of your book whether you attempt to do it yourself or hire it out, it pays to know something about those conventions and assumptions. After all, we don't want anything getting in the way of your communication with your readers.