Since 1975 the Book Industry Standard Group (BISG) has been at the forefront producing quality research about the publishing industry. Since many consider the business model of the industry to be antiquated and inadequate, this is not an easy job to accomplish. However, they have had a number of successes in moving this gnarly behemoth from the 18th and 19th centuries toward the 20th with perhaps a glimpse of the 21st in its future. In addition to studying expected subjects such as consumer book-buying habits and independent publishers, BSIG has had an immediate impact on e-books and on the publishing-wide ISBN anticipated move from ten digits to thirteen. With the increase in book publishing, the industry must move to the ISBN-13 program to be sure each and every book published has its own unique number. Just the simple necessity of having to increase all database fields throughout the retail, wholesale, and manufacturing communities is a huge endeavor. For authors who will publish books after the ten digit numbering system has fulfilled its mandate, the ISBN-13 is a necessity if their books are to make it into the data inventory systems of bookstores throughout the world.
In "Under the Radar," a recent BSIG study detailing books published "under the radar" via small publishing companies, often referred to as regional and "niche" publishers, is a myth-buster and should be of interest to many authors. Conventional wisdom decreed that these regional and niche publishers had limited sales and their efforts only accounted for a small piece of the publishing pie. Not so, says BSIG. The 63,000 small press publishers who report annual revenues of less than 50 million dollars generate $14.2 billion in aggregate sales. Within those sales, a small population of 3,600 publishers account for 11.5 billion of the total reported. In contrast the "big" traditional publishers tend to report between $23.7 billion and $28.5 billion in sales–depending on sources.
Here’s a couple more things from the BSIG report to mull over:
- small and midsize publishers have been multiplying, and often prospering, while the largest publishing companies have been consolidating.
- small and midsize publishers have been using routes to readers beyond the bookstore world, and often selling more books outside trade channels than within them, while the largest booksellers have been claiming more of the traditional bookstore market. More specifically, the study findings indicate that small and midsize publishers do more than 50% of their business outside book-trade channels and inside sales channels designed mainly to serve other industries that the book industry has not monitored.
However you frame the size of the pie, the report makes it clear that these so-called "niche" publishers have moved into the billion-dollar arena and are clearly worth considering when an author begins to consider the many roads to publishing that exist within and without the industry.