During my career in publishing, several factors have led to self-publishing becoming a viable and profitable path for authors. These include:
- The growth of ebook sales, which in some ways replaces the mass-market paperback
- The rise of online retail: the majority of books are now sold online regardless of format—and we all know where, at least in the US
- The advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology and distribution
This last one has been of tremendous benefit to traditional publishers and authors alike. It means that no one has to take a financial risk on a print run when demand is uncertain. Nor does anyone need to worry about warehousing and inventory management. Rather, the book is printed only when an order is placed, then it’s immediately dispatched to the customer.
As of 2021, most readers cannot tell if the paperback they’re holding in their hands is print-on-demand or from a traditional offset printer. Even hardcover print-on-demand is seeing an increase in sales and acceptance by consumers.