Self Publishing the Talk of Frankfurt Book Fair

Frankfurt, Germany, Frankfurt Book FairThe Frankfurt Book Fair wrapped up last week, touted as the biggest marketplace in publishing. Well, 300,000 attendees must not be wrong! Perhaps the biggest surprise of the conference was the greater role of self-publishing among the traditional publishing giants.

In fact, an editor from Publishers Weekly proclaimed, “The self publishing discussion is the only conversation we need to be having today.”

Here are some of the important discussion points that culminated with a two-hour panel conversation on self-publishing.

Dr. Florian Geuppert, CEO of Books on Demand shared some statistics:

  • Sixty percent of self-published authors see no difference between them and authors of traditional publishing.
  • Authors top reasons for self-publishing: creative freedom, control, ease of process, and time to market.
  • Seventy-five percent indicate that the big advantage to traditional publishing is marketing.

I can relate to the first two bullet points, but the third I would disagree with. In a separate study, and this is where it gets comical, 53% of traditionally published authors have contemplated switching to self-pub …


… lack of marketing and poor communication from their publisher.

Wow. So this really boils down to a lack of education on both sides. Most everyone visiting Indies Unlimited gets it. We understand that as self-published authors, we need to deliver a good product, at the best price possible and we need to figure out how to reach our specific community of readers.

There is no magic bullet. What works for one author may not work for another, but if we continue to share ideas, programs, platforms, success and failures, we’ll be one step closer to success.

Hugh Howey, a speaker on the panel, said it best when referring to that fact that he didn’t break out until his eighth book: “We [as an industry] don’t appreciate yet the long tail of self publishing. Your books are available forever … It’s a marathon. Things go viral over time.”

Nice. There’s hope for us yet. In my opinion, it boils down to ego. Traditionally published authors want what we have, but most won’t let go because of the stigma. Self-published authors want what traditionally published authors have because 1) they have been misled to believe their books will be supported, 2) ego.

Sure, there are times I think about traditional publishing. However, if I can produce good books and reach out to my community of readers, all the reasons for switching go away. Ask Hugh Howey if they did … oh wait, he’s busy speaking to 300,000 people in Germany.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

18 thoughts on “Self Publishing the Talk of Frankfurt Book Fair”

  1. Great report and thanks for sharing Howey comment. Getting viral and becoming an instant success takes years 😉

    I know what a trad-pub will do for me: less than what I do for me every day.

    The only way a trad pub could take me away from being Indie is numbers, not words. And better be 6 digits LOL

        1. I sent Kobo and WHSmith customer services an email applauding the initiative aimed at removing titles that are questionable and to continue with every 50 Shades they might still have on their shelves, just to be on the coherent side of the fence…

  2. Neat summary, Jim, thanks. I think the differences may even be narrower than that. How many trad published authors actually make a living from their books? I recall a famous author (I think it was Steel) who said something like “It took me 20 years to become and overnight success”
    It’s the same for Indies, too.

  3. Ha – I was there last year on the self-publishing discussion panel on the sparks stage of Hall 8 at Frankfurt. I was sitting right next to the rep from Amazon. I was given five minutes to push my own book and then got to be in the panel to take questions. It was a huge buzz.It was the only time in my 61 year life I’ve ever been north of the equator.
    My book was on display in the New Zealand Society of Authors stand for the whole fair. I sold translation rights to a passing publisher who liked the cover.
    Do you know that there are now groups of SPs who get together to hire a stand at Frankfurt? Maybe one year we could have an Indies Unlimited stand. If you share the cost with a group, it’s not too huge. Not everyone needs to go there in person. Some could just send their books. But all help to share the cost.

  4. Great summary, Jim. I think you’ve nailed it — trad-pubbed authors want our autonomy (and royalty rate!) and indies (some of ’em, anyway) want the cachet of “being published”.

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