A lot of money was lost by independent producers and distributors in that period, as they tried to duplicate the success of those three films. The producers of "The Blair Witch Project" even made a sequel with a much bigger budget, but it grossed only a tiny fraction of what the original film took in. A second sequel was planned but never made.
History is repeating itself in the world of self-publishing. Amanda Hocking and John Locke are both said to have sold more than a million copies of their self-published works. As a result of their success, many other authors have decided to go the self-publishing route. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of self-publishing success stories to point to beyond Hocking and Locke. There are some self-publishers who make a nice living from a series of titles, or who have one particular title that does well, but the vast majority of self-published titles sell few, or even no, copies.
Self publishers start with several strikes against them:
- They have to bear the expense of hiring an editor and designer or do the tasks themselves and risk releasing a book with typos, an amateurish cover and poor layout.
- They also have to pay for a book publicist or do the work themselves.
- Self-publishers also have to get (and pay for) ISBN numbers in order to sell their books through most retailers.
- If they're selling print books as well as eBooks, self-publishers have very limited ways of selling to retail bookstores, and they don't have salespeople who are regularly calling on bookstore buyers.
I'm a fan of self-publishing, and I don't want to discourage you from considering it. However, keep in mind that you'll have to bear a lot of costs and do a lot of work that a publisher would do for you (albeit at a high cost, especially if your book is very successful). One final point: Both Amanda Hocking and John Locke are now working with publishers: Hocking with St. Martin's Press, and Locke with Simon & Schuster.