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Self-Publishing News: How Covid-19 Changed Sales, Supply, And Events

Self-Publishing News: How Covid-19 Changed Sales, Supply, and Events

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at how Covid-19 is changing the supply and sales of books, and Frankfurt's white paper on audio.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

ALLi’s new guidebook, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered: ALLi’s Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Authors and Poets, written by ALLi’s Outreach Manager M.L. Ronn (Michael La Ronn), is available now.  You can read an excerpt in this blog post and you can purchase the book here  As with all our guides, ALLI members can access their complimentary e-book copy in the member zone. Members: just log in and navigate to “Guidebooks”.

Covid-19: What Are the Changes and Who Is Benefitting?

We haven’t been talking about Covid-19 so much of late. In the news at least. But this week has seen a series of really interesting developments. In particular, we are starting to see some real depth to the impact of Covid-19 on the industry. And along with that we are starting to see behind some of the headline figures. Because if there’s one thing we already know publishing is not, that’s homogeneous. So it’s good to start getting some detail on who might be the specific winners and losers, both at present and possibly over the longer term. Let’s have a look at three areas.


Let’s start by looking at the thing that probably affects us most, or at least most immediately: sales. Sales figures haven’t been the disaster we might have thought they would be. The latest figures show both print and digital sales doing OK.

But sales do not represent a single picture. We know that bricks and mortar stores have struggled throughout this period. The one real beneficiary, however, has been Amazon. Latest figures show their sales have grown a whopping 48% as people’s shopping moved online.


We’ve talked about the potential hit to author sales from the lack of in store launches. And book fairs and festivals have also had to think about what it means to move online. This fascinating piece poses the question that so far major players have struggled with. How do you run online events so that instead of being as close to “real” events as possible, they focus on the strengths of what you can do online? It’s a question we should be leading on as indies.


Intimately connected to this is the question of the supply chain. We’ve seen Ingram expand while Bertrams and Gardners have stuttered. And that offers increased print on demand capacity. Which means maybe the new normal will look more friendly for indie print sales. But supply can also mean selling direct, and as we look at what online does best, we need to think how we can go direct to our readers. As ALLi’s self-publishing 3.0 has been advocating for a while. This great piece by Mike Shatzkin covers the many ways in which supply is changing as a result of Covid.

Internet Archive and Controlled Digital Lending

The Internet Archive has been in the news a lot this year. On the positive side, its Wayback Machine has been crucial to journalists’ efforts to unmask political lying. Less positive was the rebranding of its always controversial Open Library as the National Emergency Library. The National Emergency Library suspending the Open Library’s Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) policy. CDL meant that if the Library had a print copy of a book, it would scan it and make the digital copy available, but only as many digital copies as it had print copies. And it would not lend both formats at once.

CDL itself is, Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle contends, the real subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit by publishers against the National Emergency Library. They, and many authors, believe CDL is equivalent to claiming rights for a format of book that the Library has not purchased. Which sounds a lot like the complaint against Audible Captions. Now, Internet Archive has clarified its position.

Kahle does not hold back. He asserts, ““This form of digital book burning is unprecedented and unfairly disadvantages people with print disabilities.”

It’s not my place to comment. I will say, though, that I work in higher education. And most academic libraries have only been able to continue supporting vital research during Covid-19 thanks to CDL.

Amazon in Sweden

I reported recently on Amazon’s new store in Sweden. It has now opened its doors. Howard and I talked about this during our last podcast, because this is a potentially important store. And that’s because Sweden is home to many of the most exciting audio providers, like Bookbeat, Nextory and Storytel. They are very successful, but still small, and thus vulnerable to a concerted move by Audible. And that’s what makes this week’s news from Mark Williams so interesting. Williams notes that, while Amazon is casually talking to publishers, there is no concerted effort to build a business on books. Whether this means Amazon isn’t interested in developing Audible’s monopoly plan, or whether it is gaining a foothold, we’ll see.

The Future of Audio at Frankfurt

Which makes Frankfurt’s focus on audio all the more interesting. Audio has been the main subject for most big Book Fairs recently. This year’s Frankfurt Book fair is no exception. What is interesting is the publication of a white paper on the subject. You can download the paper here. You can also read Publishing Perspectives’ thoughts on it here. The takeaway seems to be that while audio keeps growing, it remains small in terms of literary market share. Maybe that’s why Amazon hasn’t made a big move on the Scandinavian players. Yet.

How Covid is changing the supply and sales of books, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month


Dublin International Writers' Festival, 10-13 Sep


Frankfurter Buchmesse, 14-18 Oct [Frankfurt/online]

Over to You

Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


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