Desktop Publishing grows up
It is easier to publish a book today than ever before. Desktop publishing is a consolidated trend within the volatile world of publishing. The use of new technologies, print-on-demand, internet as a sales channel and e-books have torn down the barriers to entry to the market for a growing number of independent authors who assume the cost of publishing their own works. Liber, this October, has a place for them.
It is difficult to calculate the true number of books that are self-published in Spain. The ISBN Agency counted 5,310 in 2015, but this figure is not reliable because this payment code, which serves as the ID of the book, is not mandatory. In fact, most of the books by independent authors do not use it, especially when using digital format, which is where desktop publishing is booming. The recent Global eBook Report calculates that one in four ebooks sold in Spain was self-published and that between 40% and 45% of digital sales of this type of book takes place in Amazon, the world’s biggest bookshop.
Desktop publishing disrupts the whole traditional value chain of publishing by removing all intermediaries: the author and the reader are the only essential elements. However, the high sales of self-published titles, aided by free editing tools and content distribution platforms such as Amazon and Google have spurred the publishing houses into reacting, as they also want to take advantage of this emerging batch of enterprising authors.
New and established authors
There are different types of writer within this phenomenon, each with different requirements: amateur authors with no desire for fame who see their dream of being published and shared among their circle come true; novice writers who were rejected by the publishing houses, and professional writers who earn their living by writing and want to become entrepreneurs by taking control of the profits of their works. Even so, only a few have managed to prosper through self-publishing. Major authors have tried it too: Paulo Coelho used desktop publishing to revive two books from his back catalogue. Other authors doing this have been Rosa Regàs, Rosa Montero, Matilde Asensi and Alberto Vázquez Figueroa publishing past works of theirs that are not under copyright.
Success in this business requires a strategy and confident use of the tools offered by the web 2.0 for production, promotion and sales, which few independent authors can claim to manage. This is where publishers, bookshops and even libraries are adopting desktop publishing as a supplement to their traditional business model by offering specialist services.
Penguin Random House (PRH), for example has Megustaescribirlibros.com which allows books to be self-published (in paper or digital format) from 300 euros, while it builds up a stable, creating a selection of books where one can find talent and potential best sellers. There have been cases of self-published authors who have been signed up by traditional publishing houses. There is the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James. Or in Spain Eva García Saenz, who has had three novels published by Planeta in the wake of her enormous success in 2012 with La Saga de los Longevos.
The boom of desktop publishing has also opened the doors of the sector to new entities with a more technological approach that help put independent authors in contact with their readers. They are consultants and professional service providers who help with the launch and market presence of this type of work.
There is yet another emerging force, publishing crowdfunding, which we can see several examples of in Liber and which represents more variations in the business model. For example Libros.com offers a new relation, with the publisher and the author taking an equal share of the royalties. The publication of a new book is accompanied by a public call for investment to find patrons, and the book is published when the money needed has been raised.
But what about the readers?
It is certainly true that readers are buying self-published books without paying much attention to whether they come from a publisher or directly from the author. Price may be a decisive factor in this decision, but readers can appreciate quality books and stories that move them, which makes it so important for these novice writers to take the utmost care with the works they publish. Amazon indicates that most ebooks that are self-published are romances, thrillers and mystery novels. It is also clear that specialist books that are self-published by acknowledged experts in their fields are also particularly well-received.