What Authors Want: Third of Published Authors Interested in Self-Publishing Next Book

Pre-order the full report on what authors want here. 

The lure of self-publishing is showing that it has some appeal even to authors who have been accepted and invested in by traditional publishing houses.

A third of traditionally published authors are interested in self-publishing their next book, according to a new survey from Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest.

The survey, What Authors Want: A Comprehensive Survey of Authors to Understand Their Priorities in the Self-Publishing Era, queried nearly 5,000 aspiring, self-published, traditionally published and “hybrid” authors (authors who have both self-published and traditionally published). It was presented in a keynote presentation at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo.

This trend should be worrisome for traditional publishers, which are struggling to demonstrate to the marketplace that they add value to the publishing process in an era where anyone can publish a book.

Perhaps of even more concern is that two-thirds of hybrid authors are interested in self-publishing their next book. It’s not surprising given the context of the rest of the survey: Time and again, hybrid authors had relatively negative opinions about publishing companies — that they keep too much money, don’t “get” digital and, generally, don’t add much to their publishing process.

At the same time, when offered the opportunity to publish traditionally, nearly three-quarters of hybrid authors are interested and — also good news for publishers — about two-thirds of self-published authors are interested. Not surprisingly, 92% of traditionally published authors are interested. The prestige of a traditional publisher, the wide distribution a publisher can generate and help with marketing were all reasons cited.

The wide-ranging survey also dived into how authors are building their social media platforms, what they think about advances, royalties, ebook prices, agents, ebooks in libraries and more. A full report will be available on DigitalBookWorld.com in a few weeks.


One Important Conclusion

Aspiring authors seem to be most enamored with the traditional publishing industry and those who have experienced both the publishing industry and self-publishing seem to be least enamored with the publishing industry.

While outsiders who probably have among them the next generation of best-selling authors believe that publishers can help them and have fairly high opinions of publishers, those who have experienced both publishers and the alternative have a very low opinion of publishers, by comparison.

Perhaps it is because those authors who have both self- and traditionally published are unreasonably bitter as a group by some slight they experienced at the hand of a publisher. Or perhaps they have made a reasoned comparison of what the publishing industry offered them and what self-publishing offered them and were more satisfied with the latter. Either way, it would suggest that traditional publishers could do more to woo and impress published authors.

The good news for publishers is that aspiring writers still believe in their ability to help them. It’s not too late for publishers to improve their services to authors to attract and retain the next generation of best-selling authors.

Interested in what you read? Want to learn more? Pre-order the full report on what authors want here. 

19 thoughts on “What Authors Want: Third of Published Authors Interested in Self-Publishing Next Book

  1. Kerry

    It’s all bout consumer awareness, when you’ve got it you don’t need the publisher but when you don’t have it you need the publisher, but if you don’t have it he publisher doesn’t want you. So as a striving author you work to get it and once you’ve got it you don’t need the publisher. I think it’s time the publisher considers changing their business model.

  2. Chris Kanyane

    Sometimes things looks great and fantastic when you are at a distance. This also applies to traditional publishing. Until you actually arrive and within the traditional publishing epicenter you can even write beautiful poetry about how wonderful is traditional publishing. But get there and you will tell another story. There are a lot of issues that repels a true author at heart. The primary passion of born author is to see his ideas spread – but what is happening in traditional publishing is that your ideas – your book is re-arranged to fit a setting organizing whole and with that your original ideas trampled on.

    We in a new era – the era of innovation and authors ideas are pure innovation and should be left at their virgin originality – the way they were conceived in their minds and heart.

  3. Bob Mayer

    The key point here is that those who know, are very leery of traditional publishing. It’s those on the outside who think it looks great. That’s a fundamental problem that traditional publishing needs to address: it’s not enough for them to feel good all these aspiring writers want to be part of it. Their problem is the writers they already have aren’t too thrilled.

  4. Gideon Stevens

    Hi, I’m Gideon, I’m a publisher (hangs head in shame). Try to see this from my point of view. If I buy your manuscript I want to make money from it, so I may need to change it to make it more commercial. That heart-felt philosophical soliloquy that goes on for 73 pages is history, I don’t care how much you’re in love with it. I want to get on with the story, make this thing exciting and fast-paced and other marketing terms. I have a vested interest in making your book the best it can be, so it will sell. The same goes for design. The vested interest ensures my best efforts at pleasing the reader.

    Some suggest I change my model. Okay, you want to self-publish, how can I help? If I market editorial services and you pay me — then that heart-felt philosophical soliloquy that goes on for 73 pages no longer bothers me. In fact, since you are now my client, and I want to do your next book, I think it’s beautifully done, and certainly enhances the reader’s understanding of your story. (grin) In this case, the vested interest ensures my efforts go toward pleasing the author.

    I think the best books are made when the author and the publisher combine their efforts for the benefit of the reader. This collaboration is often a struggle between art and commerce, but it improves and adds value to the final product. I think it makes the process more enjoyable as well. Publishing is like sex, it’s more fun when you’re not by yourself.

  5. Brenda Coulter

    \Perhaps it is because those authors who have both self- and traditionally published are unreasonably bitter as a group by some slight they experienced at the hand of a publisher.\

    No, not at all. As a former Harlequin author, I’m quite REASONABLY bitter!

  6. Michael Hanrahan

    I’ve been helping authors self-publish their books for eight years and I’ve seen a noticeable rise in authors self-publishing their second or third books after poor experiences with publishers. Some have been very successful. Publishers are expecting more and more from their authors these days, which is just pushing them towards self-publishing.

  7. Anna H

    Hi. This headline (intentionally I expect) leads the reader to expect information about how mainstream published authors intend or would like to publish their next works. This would be interesting stuff (as mainstream pub authors have the choice, which aspiring self-pubbed authors don’t necessarily). Anyway, this isn’t the case at all. Headline is misleading.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Apologies that you thought the headline was misleading, Anna. This item does scratch the surface of that but our report dives deeply into it. You’ll have to read it to find out what authors want.

  8. Anna H

    Oops, my mistake – it does offer some info on trad published authors, but not much, and no info on what kind of authors/ what their reasons were for wanting to self-pub…

  9. Peter Turner

    I think the survey may not have put enough focus on the core value proposition of traditional publishers, and it has less to do with print vs. digital, or online vs. in-store–it’s sales. Before the advent of digital books, the ability to get books in stores was fundamental to driving sales. It wasn’t always sufficient, and there are exceptions, but without books in-store you just weren’t going to see sales. And since the number of readers and publishing books were pretty stable, publishers had a pretty good track record of selling almost every book the publishing the at least the thousands.

    The core value proposition traditional publishers provide authors is diminishing because their supply chain and marketing/publicity reach are less relevant to sales. All this has clearly changed, less because of digital, then because of online retailing. If traditional publishers are able to develop online marketing platforms that drive sales more effectively than authors could do on their own then self-published authors will migrate back to traditional publishers. But, these new marketing platforms are going to have to be significantly and demonstrably more effect.

    The other dynamic that doesn’t get enough attention is the effect that the digital and print self-publishing has on sales. As the number of published books go up (print or digital) the average sale of any particular is going to go down, regardless of whether it was published traditionally or self-published (though, the averages are going to be higher with traditional publishers).

  10. Jonathan Winn

    The trend toward self-publishing being considered a viable alternative doesn’t surprise me. For some, the lists of Pros far outweighs the list of Cons.

    Creative freedom, higher royalty rate, being paid monthly instead of quarterly, not being dinged for costs that had little to nothing to do with you (a practice which eats into every traditionally published royalty check and has caused more than one of my Big 6 friends to abandon the traditional and choose self-publishing), control over marketing, control over content. All of those add up to a fairly attractive package.

    The biggest Con, of course, is getting your work noticed in an increasingly crowded sea of sometimes not-so-talented fish. But if you’ve been published before and have an established readership, it’s not as difficult as it is for someone who’s unknown (like me). Your readers will find you and read you regardless of who your publisher is … or isn’t.

    And if you’re a new writer working with a traditional publisher, good luck on getting those marketing dollars funneled your way. More often than not, the budget earmarked for your book won’t be enough to get it the attention it needs and once those low sales numbers start trickling in, well, good luck getting your phone calls returned. Oh, and enjoy your time bundled in the bargain bin.

    Distribution, as well, can be a Con for some. But if you’re not wedded to seeing YOUR book on a bookshelf at B&N, then it’s a con that can be easily overlooked. Besides, newer writers tend to end up on the higher shelf or way, way in the back, in the dark, alone, and easily looked over and lost.

    Being on a shelf isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    But despite all this and despite the ongoing conversation we’re sure to have about this, in the end what will stand out is great work. Those unique, memorable voices who tell their stories and tell them well. Self-pubbed, traditionally pubbed, hybrid … whatever. If you’re good, your readers will find you.

  11. Mike

    The article is about traditional self book publishing for improving the usage of books which are published at market value to improve the services of authors with good news. The number of readers and publishing books were increasing with the gradual increase in books and the authors to improve the art of book publishing process.

  12. Mike

    This article is about self publishing a book with authors intend to publish their own books.It is based on self publishing with the priorities on publishing process with different authors.
    It also values the book with more services on publishing on different categories of books.This article is about building their social media platforms,royalities,agents for self publishing a book.



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