7 publishing trends that could impact your career

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The stunning increases in ebook sales from 2012
to 2014 led many to wonder if print books were
about to become obsolete. Some predicted ebooks would soon represent 50% to 70% of all
book sales? Then late in the first quarter of 2014,
the growth rates slowed. After years of double and triple-digit increases, ebooks remain at
around 30% of revenues for the publishers who
report their sales through the Association of
American Publishers.
Rise of the Machine
With dedicated e-readers, consumers could only
do one thing – read. But with tablets and phones,
the distractions of email, social media updates,
and video on demand, pull casual readers away
from ebooks.
An estimated 80 percent of 18 to 24 year olds
own a smartphone.
The growth in smartphone and tablet use offers
more eReading opportunities but also more
Apple Owns the Tablet / Smartphone Market
In tablets, Apple continues to dominate the
U.S. market with about 80 million users.
• A third of tablet owners use them for
• Tablet owners are the source of 42%
of ebook purchases.
• An estimated 21 million people read
books on their phones but account for
only 7% of ebook purchases.
So Where Do eBooks Go in 2015
The biggest threat to new authors and new titles is
the glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks. The
quality ebooks – especially self-published ebooks
- has dramatically increased competition. A
decade ago, publishers constrained book supply
by publishing a limited number of new titles each
year. Not anymore. With the introduction of
ebooks, every author can be found on Amazon.
This rapid growth in the supply of ebooks has
eclipsed demand. This means most new ebooks
will sell substantially fewer copies than previous
new releases.
Where Does eBook Pricing Go in 2015
Down. During the first years of the ebook revolution,
large publishers refused to discount their ebooks. Most
tried to sell in the $14.95 to $19.95 range. Meanwhile,
small publishers and self-published authors were
happy to earn royalty rates of 70% and budgetconscious consumers loved the low prices. FREE and
99 cent ebooks allowed unknown authors to gain new
readers and establish careers. No more. In the last
year, large publishers have stepped up their pricecutting and begun offering temporary promotions on
titles from big-name authors. In 2015 these temporary
promotions will give way to permanent lower prices on
backlist titles from big names and more aggressive
discounting on recently released titles.
Will Free work in 2015
As the market becomes flooded with free ebooks
FREE will lose influence. With the glut of FREE,
high-quality books, good isn’t good enough
anymore. To reach readers, an author must
deliver an emotionally satisfying read. This holds
true for both fiction and non-fiction. If readers
aren’t giving your book four or five star reviews
and using words in their reviews like, “wow,”
“incredible” and “amazing,” your book probably
won’t stick and sell long term. Books that wow
readers turn consumers into evangelists.
While ebook sales plateaued in 2014, print books
staged a comeback. According to Nielsen BookScan,
print sales rose 2.4% in 2014, with total units topping
635 million. The 2014 figures provide evidence that
print books are selling better than they have since
sales of e-books took off in 2010 and Borders closed
its doors in 2011.
• Trade Paperback increased 4.3%
• Hardcover increased 3%
• Mass Market Paperback declined -10.3
• Audio remained flat at 0.2
• The mystery and romance categories had the
largest market shares at 32% and 36%
The Revival of Bookstores
After several solid years, independents are
beginning to add locations and taking back some
of the physical bookshelf space they lost during
the Great Recession and the ebook explosion.
Some are focusing on underserved towns where
Borders once flourished. Other stores are creating
reading environments by partnering with local
restaurants and coffee shop in order to increase
foot traffic. Used bookstores fill a void by offering
popular titles and discounted prices. For the
author, local bookstores remain a bright spot and
many will find their local bookstore eager to host
an author event.
Print and ebook Live On
Declines in print revenues will slow over the next
five years and, in the long term, the market will
plateau, with printed books still seen as desirable
to own. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
As the economy continues to improve, consumers
have demonstrated a willingness to spend money
on print books. That said, the struggles at Barnes
and Noble might continue to drive consumers
towards online sales and independent bookstores.
Publishers have considered direct-toconsumer sales for years but the Amazon /
Hachette dispute of 2014, combined with
continuing concerns regarding Barnes and
Noble and independent bookstores, has
prompted many publishers to take a fresh
look at these new sales channels.
Last year HarperCollins relaunched its website
to sell its books, e-books and audiobooks
directly to the consumer. Meanwhile Hachette
partnered with Gumroad to see if the Twitter
platform could sell books direct via social
media. For publishers the benefits are
obvious: greater control of profit margins, a
database of customer profiles, customer
contact information, and the ability to data
mine (learn insights into consumer buying
What Does This Mean for the Author?
Direct-to-consumer sales will allow publishers
to focus more on mobile marketing where the
emphasis is on the author and less on the
publisher behind the author.
For years trade and academic publishers have
used online communities to market and sell to
consumers. Expect this trend towards social
engagement to continue. A recent study
commissioned by Bowker Market Research
(BMR) reveals that:
84% of publishers plan to expand their online
community involvement
64% of publishers with online communities felt
their investment paid for itself
73% of publishers interviewed felt that online
communities helped or would help them to engage
better with their audiences
72% of trade publishers said their online
communities helped or would help to increase
direct relationships with customers
45% claimed they provided or would provide good
marketing support to sales channels
How Can Authors Take Advantage Of This
Sales Shift?
By signing with a house that
understands the importance of
a strong online community, and
remaining socially engaged –
even if you’re a social media
Not long ago, literary agents sold books to
publishers, publishers sold books to booksellers,
and booksellers sold books to the reading
public. But as the book publishing industry
continues to consolidate and contract, mid-list
authors find it increasingly difficult to land
contracts with their previous publisher. Enter the
new hybrid author. While the definition of hybrid
author remains fluid, the term generally means a
traditionally published author who occasionally
self-publishes when the project is served best
by taking full ownership.
When To Go Hybrid
First, make sure you have a platform to sell
your books. Successful hybrid authors
know their readers, have access to their
reader’s contact information via
newsletters, emails, fan mail, and usually
have an extensive social media reach. If,
as an author, you are doing the bulk of the
marketing and moving the majority of the
books, hybrid may be a good option for
you. Here are three publishing options for
hybrid authors.
What Is A Traditional Publisher
• Large advance (any figure over $1000)
• Heavily invested in bookstore distribution
• Submits your work to prestigious review
• Physical location with salaried employees
• Prints books offset press and stores
them in distribution centers
• Pay royalties on a quarter or semi-annual
Advantages of a Traditional Publisher
Traditional publishing remains the gold
standard. Often you receive an advance,
validation or your work (the house is
paying you to write), and the prestige of
reviews, bookstore distribution, and hope
that your book will become a best seller.
While the number of slots continues to
dwindle, remaining loyal to a house (and
waiting longer for a contract) may pay
dividends later.
Small Press
None or a very small advance ($50 to $200)
Very little bookstore and library exposure
Few salaried employees
Virtual staff
Ability to adjust or adapt a title after its release
Agile marketing
Treat imprints as consumer brands
Use print–on-demand
Heavily promotes ebooks
Higher royalty percentages than with traditional
Advantages of a Small Press
Small press publishing gives debut and
mid-list authors the chance to write and
sell more books  provided their titles sell
a reasonable number of copies. With a
lower overhead, a small press doesn’t
need to sell as many copies to recoup its
investment. Many mid-list authors find that
a small press is the best option since the
author does not pay for the book’s
production yet still retains some input in
the book’s title, cover, and marketing.
Self Publishing Company
You pay for the production of your book,
marketing services, and / or may be required to
purchase a certain number of books.
According to Bowker, the number of self-published
titles in 2013 “increased to more than 458,564, up
17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008.”
Bowker’s data is based on ISBNs issued. It’s
widely acknowledged that self-published authors
frequently avoid buying an ISBN, so the number of
titles is certainly larger.
Advantages of a Self Publishing
Self-publishing give authors the most
control over their books. Authors can often
buy books for much lower than what a
small press might offer. This is important if
you are a speaker and expect to move
most of your books at the back of the
room. Many self-pub firms offer extensive
marketing for a fee. With self-pub, you risk
your money but have more control and
receive a greater share of the profits.
In 2014 Amazon launched its subscription service,
Kindle Unlimited, joining ebook subscription services
like Oyster, Scribd, 24Symbols, Mofibo and others.
With so much of our lives tied to subscriptions —
newspapers, magazines, gym memberships,
streaming media  the opportunity to deliver ebooks
on a weekly or monthly basis may seem like a
logical step. From the content standpoint, publishers
have been slow to partner with subscription services
for fear of cannibalizing their title list.
Will this trend benefit authors? First, let’s explore
how ebook subscriptions work.
How Do Ebook Subscriptions Work?
With an e-book subscription, you get
unlimited access to a library of books for a
monthly fee. You can read as many books
as you want, for as long as you want.
Unlike a traditional library, there are no due
dates. But like a library, you do not own the
books you read. If you cancel your
subscription, you lose access to any titles
you saved. Now let’s look at three of the
most popular ebook subscription services.
Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, and offers around
600,000 books. KDP Select authors and publishers
supply many of these books. You will also find many
popular and best-selling books, including the "Hunger
Games" and "Harry Potter" series. There are also plenty
of classics, such as "Animal Farm," "Moby Dick" and
Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." In order
to read a book, you download it to your Kindle device.
One of the biggest drawbacks to Unlimited is that you
will have to search the Amazon's website for all books
and select those designated as Unlimited titles. This can
become tedious. Unlimited works great if you already
have an Amazon device and don’t mind wading through
thousands of titles to find the book you want.
Oyster's main selling point is its legacy of
being an early entry into ebook
subscriptions. Oyster has a library of
around 500,000 titles, few of which are
from self-published, Amazon Kindle
authors. Since it’s a dedicated ebook
subscription service, searching for and
finding a particular author or title is faster
than Unlimited. Oyster is a great option for
your iPad, Android tablet or smartphone.
Scribd is similar to Oyster, with a catalog of more
than 500,000 books that you can borrow for just
$9 per month, one dollar cheaper than Kindle
Unlimited and Oyster. The app is simply designed,
with books organized into genres and categories.
Scribd recently added around 15,000 new e-books
from publisher Harlequin, which is best known for
its romance novels. With Scribd you also have
access to thousands of documents, from court
cases to scientific studies. Scribd is a great choice
if you want to read books on your computer, as
well as an Android or iOS device.
How Does This Help the Author?
By signing with a house that participates in
ebook subscription service, your name and
books may be seen by thousands of new
readers. While an author may not see
substantial royalty checks from ebook
subscription “loans,” the exposure could
lead to increased print sales.
Look for Oyster and Scribd to merge in
2015 or 2016 as they battle Kindle
Unlimited for dominance.
Of all the categories in publishing, print book sales of Christian
Fiction declined 25% from 2012-2014. This follows recent
announcements that:
• Abingdon Press suspended fiction acquisitions,
(removing 25-35 titles per year from the market)
• River North (Moody Publishing’s fiction imprint) will
reduce its title offerings to 3-5 books per year
• B&H Publishing Group has “realigned” its fiction strategy
to only publish novels tied to its films
• And Harlequin’s “Heartsong Presents” closed its doors in
Combine that with news that Family Christian Bookstores, the
nation's largest Christian retail outlet, has filed for bankruptcy,
and you have a perfect storm of catastrophic proportions for
Christian Fiction authors.
What Is Christian Fiction
[Christian Fiction] is a genre of books [that] typically
promotes values, teaches a lesson, always has a happy
ending (good prevails over evil in all books), [and] adheres
to a decency code (certain boundaries such as sexuality,
strong language, and topics of such cannot be crossed).
Deborah Bryan of the Kansas Library Association
Bryan also notes that a Christian Fiction author must comply
with certain restraints such as:
• Accept the truthful authority of the Bible
• Address dilemmas through faith in Jesus
• Believe that Jesus died and rose for sins of all people
• Avoid writing about certain ‘taboo’ topics.
Christian Fiction’s Narrow Market
As Ron Benrey notes in his book, The Complete
Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction, “Readers of
Christian fiction in America are Caucasian women,
of childbearing through "empty nester" age, who
identify themselves as evangelical Christians.”
Given that this demographic represents such a
narrow slice of the reading public and the recent
decline in sales, Christian authors may ask: Are we
witnessing the end of the inspirational genre? Before
we answer, let’s consider the obstacles Christian
authors face (and at least one advantage).
Can Christian Authors Relate?
First, too many Christian authors cannot relate to (or in some
cases even tolerate) secular readers.
From an agent’s perspective, many faith-based writers simply
don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to writing for nonChristian readers. They aren’t part of the non-faith world, they
don’t hang out with non-Christian people, and they don’t watch
non-religious TV shows. In essence, they CAN’T speak to that
group, because they don’t know the language.
Literary agent Chip MacGregor
To reach readers in “Samaria”, Christian authors need to spend
more time at the well in the heat of the day.
Write Stories – Not Sermons
Second, too many Christian authors would rather
preach than teach. Judging from Amazon reviews,
large numbers of readers - even Christian readers
- are turned off by such words as, “prayer, pray,
Jesus, Christ, conversion, salvation, and sin.”
Stories that emphasize a conversion experience
may come across as manipulative and “preachy.”
On the other hand, those same readers express
similar discomfort with stories that overtly include
and promote violence, promiscuity, and profanity.
Regardless of the message and author’s agenda,
it seems most readers want a story, not a sermon.
Christian Authors Have an Advantage
Third, Christian authors have an advantage over secular writers.
We already have plenty of examples of great stories that move
readers to action and leave them pondering God’s truths and
challenge us to change.
The Prodigal Son – a story of a parent’s unconditional, longsuffering love. Themes: trust, hope, and the importance of home
and family.
The Good Samaritan – a story of inclusiveness. Themes:
tolerance, institutional pride, religious hypocrisy, service, and
generous giving.
The Hidden Treasure – a story of one individual’s journey to find
his purpose. Themes: Passion, perseverance, risk and commitment
to a noble cause.
I’m sure you can think of other ways to spin Jesus’ parables. The
point is, a great writer can shape the story to move the reader
without relying on “Christian” words.
Will Christian Fiction Go Away?
Probably not. But if you want to write to a
larger market and expand your chances of
publication, consider focusing on story
above all else. Do that and you may find
God’s Spirit working in the hearts of
readers eager for your stories.
Writing a book is hard work. Writing a great book is really,
really hard work and requires a team of editors. Turing a
manuscript into a best selling book demands a detailed
marketing plan and word-of-mouth buzz. Most authors
don’t want to work that hard, become discouraged by
weak or slumping sales and give up.
This is good news for those authors who recognize that
writing isn’t a game of chance but a game of change –
that as an author you must adapt or die. If you write for
the joy of writing, focus less on the sales numbers, and
understand that “instant” successes is rare, you may find
God speaking readers through their words for years to