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View Full Version : Has Self-Publishing Made Limited Market Non-Fiction Hip Again?



WeaselFire
06-17-2015, 01:17 AM
The market for non-fiction, especially as major press imprints have consolidated, has changed dramatically in the last decade (or two). Bob Newhart's character on the old (not the really old) Bob Newhart show was supposedly a writer who wrote simple how-to books like "How to build a shelf" and other books that, in the YouTube days, are now a video posted by amateurs or an article on a blog (Okay, sometimes in a magazine). Does anyone even remember the books that had detailed pictures and walked through projects for the readers? They used to be available from major publishing lines, but now even Good Housekeeping guides are pretty much extinct.

Enter digital self-publishing. There seem to be a million (okay, there are also a bazillion really bad ones) of these simple how-to type of book on Amazon for a few bucks. Few, if any, seem to get professional editing, let alone professional illustration or photography, at least of the type that used to appear in the print books of yesteryear. But, for some reason, people are buying them. Some people are actually earning money off them. And yes, there are many that are shilled with faked five-star reviews and are really making it hard to find the decent works.

But have they actually re-energized this market? Or are they just the domain of the get-rich-quick scammer that also seems to be enjoying a renaissance with the ease of digital self-published works?

I ask because I have at least three book ideas that are too esoteric to attract an agent or traditional publisher but could be viable in this type of market.

Thanks,

Jeff

WriterBN
06-17-2015, 09:59 PM
Are you talking about full-length books? There are lots of very short "how tos" that may soon die a well-deserved death, with the change in payout policy for Kindle Unlimited. I'm guessing that many of these, as with the self-help and recipe scamphlets, were written for the sole purpose of gaming the KU system.

There's probably still a market for good how-to books. I have to admit, though, that when I need to look up something (like how to miter crown molding), I go to Youtube, because a video can demonstrate techniques better than a book can.

frimble3
06-19-2015, 10:08 AM
And for some things a book is simpler: don't have to worry about getting paint or sawdust on your device-of-choice. Big illustrations, that don't get all pixelated if you try to enlarge (if you can enlarge). I've tried instructional stuff from Kindle (viewed on the large screen of my laptop) and it just feels awkward for static use, like following a pattern while crochet or cross-stitching, aside from the inconvenience of having to find a convenient location for the device. But a video is wonderful for showing how something should look as it's being done/happening.

*Also, people who have used books for instruction all their lives are likelier to stick with them, rather than people just starting out. I'm accustomed to re-sizing a pattern with graph-paper, I imagine people used to tech and digital would automatically look for the 'enlarge' button, which is a separate set of issues, if you need an exact size.

Just because there's a lot of bad stuff in a category doesn't mean that there's not a market for something well-done. Especially if you can find a way to target your audience, and give them something that no-one else can afford to.

Once!
06-19-2015, 10:23 AM
At the risk of over-generalising, there are two kinds of self-help non-fiction books. Some are written by people who genuinely know what they are talking about. They give a lot of hard-won experience for not a lot of money. You get a decent-sized book and properly useful information.

At the other end of the scale we have the snake-oil salesmen who write very short books (sub 50 pages) with just enough information in it so that you can't claim you haven't been duped. But what information there is has been culled from the internet. Anyone with a bit of time and access to google could do write one of these books. And they often do.

There is a bit of a fad for recipe books. Pick an obscure ingredient and search for it on Amazon. The chances are that you will find at least one recipe book offering "30 recipes for anchovies" or whatever. The book will be priced at $1.99 or $2.99. It will be less than 100 pages and probably less than 50. All of the recipes will have been lifted from the internet, because some joker has worked out that recipes can't be copyrighted.

Like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVyKVtUMDb4

Eventually either customers or Amazon will get wise to these nefarious practices and they will die out. For now, they are murky waters unsuitable for fishing.

Fruitbat
06-19-2015, 10:45 AM
I wouldn't worry about the junk that's out there. Anyone can slap up anything they want on Amazon and try to sell it, fiction or nonfiction, long or short, but people aren't stupid. Overpriced, poorly done work is pretty easy to spot. I doubt it sells very well at all. There's the "look inside this book" feature, for one thing. And of course buyers aren't shy about saying what they think in the reviews.

As you said, you probably won't have much competition from larger presses but you will have competition from whatever's available for free on the internet. All you can do is research what else is out there on your topic and try to offer something better, then see how it goes. If your guides will be related, they'll help sell each other.

gingerwoman
06-19-2015, 03:22 PM
Are you talking about full-length books? There are lots of very short "how tos" that may soon die a well-deserved death, with the change in payout policy for Kindle Unlimited. .

Please what is the new payout policy?

BenPanced
06-19-2015, 04:07 PM
Rather than paying when a reader reaches 10% of a book, Amazon will be paying based on the number of pages read.

Here are the full details. (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A156OS90J7RDN)

WeaselFire
06-19-2015, 07:03 PM
There is a bit of a fad for recipe books. Pick an obscure ingredient and search for it on Amazon. The chances are that you will find at least one recipe book offering "30 recipes for anchovies" or whatever. The book will be priced at $1.99 or $2.99. It will be less than 100 pages and probably less than 50.

These have actually been around for years. And even more years. I had a friend in the late 1970's that had small ads in the back of the checkout rags like National Enquirer and Weekly World Star that were simply two lines. Something like: "10 Great Brownie Recipes for $1.00 plus SASE" and a PO Box address. It ran for ten years and made him a fair amount of money for two mimeographed pages folded into the SASE and returned. He paid high school students to open the mail, pile up the dollar bills and stuff the envelopes and pocketed about 50 cents on each request. Grossed about $1,000 a month when an average wage was $12,000 a year.

Jeff