What's Ahead in 2013–Predictions for the Future of Publishing and Authors of the Digital Age
Ah, 2012 is coming to a close and the world did not end. The Mayans were wrong *shocked face* which kinda sucks because I was looking forward to not having to clean out the garage after all. But, in keeping with tradition, I am going to make my predictions for the coming year. Using a
magic eight-ball and alcohol a highly scientific method, I will postulate what I believe will happen in the publishing world in the next 12 months.
Yes, I am posting this blog on a Saturday. Gives us time for a healthy (and courteous) debate before the ball drops. That and I plan on sleeping most of Monday and Tuesday before I have to go back to being an adult :P.
So what’s in store for 2013? I have a lot of predictions, but you guys only have so much time, so we will only hit the big ones.
2013 and Traditional Publishing
Too little too late. Sorry. I believe that traditional publishing has maybe another five years, but lot of the implosion will be seen this year. They could have been AT&T, but they made choices that doomed them to be MCI or Sprint if they are lucky.
Before anyone gets mad at me, I am very sad about this. Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time, know that I was rooting for NY to get with the changing paradigm and remain a viable force. The problem is multifaceted, but here is some of what I believe we will see in 2013 (and I will pick on the indies equally later in the post):
a) Too Much Overhead Catches Up
Traditional publishing is centered in the beating heart of Manhattan, which would be great if that wasn’t some of the priciest real estate in the world. NY publishing is carrying a crap load of overhead their competition doesn’t have. There are high rents, salaries, and electric bills all being 1) factored into the price of the book and 2) taken out of the author’s pocket.
This wasn’t an issue so long as digital publishing was in its infancy and there were no other viable options for authors. Unfortunately for NY, now there are other options and these options are leaner, meaner, and faster. This means that consumers get good books cheaper and the writers get paid better (and faster). This all adds up for a WIN for authors and consumers, but NY is finding itself less and less competitive. The market is in a recession and most consumers cannot justify $24 for a hard cover book, when they can get digital books for $4.99.
Expect traditional publishing to continue to merge, shrink and downsize. We saw the Big Six go to the Big Five to the Not Too Shabby Four in the span of six weeks. This trend will continue. It has to for them to have any hope of taking on Amazon.
Again, this all reminds me of all the little phone companies back in the 90s that eventually all folded against the onslaught of AT&T. Who remembers MCI? Anyone?
To take on a giant, NY will need to become a giant. I mentioned this type of consolidation in my July post Big Six Publishing is Dead—Welcome the Massive Three.
b) Hemorrhaging the Mid-List
Mid-list authors have always been where traditional publishing groomed the next mega author. The mega authors are who help pay the bills. Yet, mid-list authors have had a heck of a time even making a living. I have met NYTBSAs who still weren’t making enough money to write full-time.
These types of authors are already accustomed to being very self-sufficient, expecting very little support from NY. These authors blog, tweet, run contests, have a social platform, and do everything an indie author does…except make money. As I have said before, writers are bad at math, but we aren’t that bad. Hungry small presses are going after these authors and luring them away, leaving NY with less and less emerging talent.
c) Bookstores are Losing Power
Bookstores have light bills, rent, and employees to pay. Yes, we will still have bookstores, just not on every corner. NY’s ability to get an author into bookstores was one of its aces in the hole, but now that ace doesn’t go as far as it used to. Authors are making six and seven figures selling indie and on-line. Sure, we writers would love to see our books at a Barnes & Noble, but most of us would trade that warm fuzzy for the ability to actually make money.
Also as more talent goes indie (Barry Eisler, Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath) and more true indie authors gain huge followings (Theresa Ragan, Aaron Patterson), bookstores will become increasingly friendly to those who are not traditionally published, because, again, money talks. Bookstores want to stock books that sell, so eventually they won’t be as picky. Also, as better writers emerge from the indie ranks, the stigma of self-publishing will grow fainter until it disappears.
I see more bookstores closing and being replaced by machines like these (image below). Yeah, Blockbuster thought people would always want to browse a video store, and they were wrong, too. For more about this, I recommend my post The WANA Plan to Save Bookstores and Revive Publishing. I think kiosks like these and creative independent bookstores (with Espresso Machines) will pick up traction in the new paradigm.
d) Partnering with Crooks
I’ve been on the bandwagon for traditional publishing to open divisions for self-publishing for YEARS, and, because I don’t believe in criticizing without offering solutions, I even offered a plan to do it in such a way that it would not tarnish their brand. NY apparently has been hesitant to enter the emerging market in self-publishing out of concern for their brand. That is a viable argument and I can definitely appreciate their reticence.
But then Simon & Schuster partners with
Jimmy the Tire Iron AUTHOR HOUSE? This company has a long history of ripping authors off, and it doesn’t look like much has changed. According to a recent New York Times article about the new partnership:
Authors can buy packages ranging from $1,599 for the least expensive children’s package, to $24,999 for the most expensive business book package.
All I have to ask is, “What are these people smoking?”
Any author who’s taken more than a minute to do her homework knows those prices are RIDICULOUS. That might have been competitive pricing…in 1994! Now? This is just…just…insulting.
Author House has a long history of complaints, so I find it interesting that traditional publishing would not delve into self-publishing because it was worried about tarnishing its brand, but once it finally decides to join the 21st century, it partners with AUTHOR HOUSE.
Writers, do your homework! Come join WANATribe. Make an educated decision about your career. If you want to be traditionally published, do so, but do it for the right reasons and be informed. WANATribe has plenty of professionals who can offer sound guidance.
Those of you who want to self-publish or go indie, we also have all kinds of tribes dedicated to indie and self-publishing. Network with people who know the ropes and who can mentor you about all your options. The cool thing about indie authors is we are all about the love. We are not alone! Most indies are generous with time and advice. There is no reason you can’t have a professionally edited book that is designed beautifully with a cover as good as anything out of NY for a fraction of that $25,000 dollars.
For further analysis about the problems traditional publishing is facing, read Bracing for Impact—The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm and An Industry on the Brink—5 Mistakes that are KILLING Traditional Publishing.
2013 and Indie Publishing
Meets the Threshing Floor
I feel we are going through a time which is very similar to the dot.com boom in the 90s. Everyone suddenly was a dot.com, but most were paper giants. Time weeded out the weak, and the same thing will happen here.
We have seen an explosion of indie publishers in the past two years. Everyone is a publisher. Like the dot.coms, a lot of these “publishers” won’t last. Too many people think being a publisher is easy, or they are in this business to make a quick buck. Yet, being a publisher is A TON of work and requires a certain level of commitment, education, capital and sweat equity.
Human nature dictates that most will quit in the next year.
As better books emerge out of the indie ranks, the competition will grow steeper. Sure, two years ago people were downloading all kinds of FREE! books and .99 books, but consumers have grown tired of downloading crap they never read. Gatekeepers exist for a reason, and throwing out a bunch of cheap books no longer works as well when everyone does it. The good news is that consumers are willing to pay more for e-books, but the bad news is that people won’t just download anything these days. Writers will have to write better books and be active on social media creating relationships.
As far as 2013, I don’t see the number of indie publishers shrinking. If anything, we might have even MORE of these publishers. As some close, new ones will quickly fill the vacuum. But, we will see a trend toward consumers not just buying anything, and this will bankrupt/discourage those who thought their fortunes would be made .99 at a time.
The Strong Will Survive…then Start Recruiting
Those indie publishers who rise to the top will be on the lookout for new talent. I predict that they will go after mid-list authors and make them offers they can’t refuse. These publishers will also be on the lookout for authors with extensive back-lists. Old books will be given new life and writers who were barely scraping out a living will now be able to enjoy new fruits of their labors, as in ALL of them.
Traditional publishing continues to grab up author’s rights to back-lists…only to sit on them and do nothing. This only makes authors even more willing to defect, and frankly, can we blame them?
Scams Will Abound for the Foolish
Do your homework. Author House is a racket, but it ain’t the only racket in town. I see all kinds of new services popping up to help new writers…as in help themselves to a bunch of your cash. Ripoff publishers, scammy social media “gurus”, PR phoneys, and fake “editors” will be popping up everywhere.
These days, with the Internet, there is no reason to be taken for a ride. Vet people first. Ask around for recommendations. Part of why I created WANA International is so that you guys could have access to the best services from legitimate sources. Being a writer is stressful enough without worrying about being conned.
2013 and Amazon
E-Books Go Mainstream
Amazon reported record sales of the Kindle Fire this Christmas. Tablet sales have exploded and as the price point drops, this trend is likely to continue. Remember, cell phones were once considered a luxury item, too. Digital reading devices crossed from the Early Adopters into the Early Majority this year (as I predicted this past summer) on the Diffusion of Innovations Curve. This means the fat part of the bell curve owns or wants to own one of these devices. This is AWESOME news for writers, in that people who normally would not consider themselves readers are now buying books.
Every publishing mega-success has been created by the fat part of the bell curve falling in love with a book or author.
J.K. Rowling became a billionaire selling books to people who normally don’t read. The fact that the fat part of the bell curve is now plugged in and looking for good books is SUPER exciting.
E-Readers are now going mainstream. Even my 87-year-old grandfather asked for a Kindle Fire for his birthday. He loves the convenience (not so easy to browse a bookstore when you’re almost 90) and he also loves that he can make the font larger. Baby Boomers are older, have more time, more disposable income, and are becoming more and more tech-savvy as interfaces become more user-friendly.
Amazon banked on e-readers becoming a staple item and that gamble has paid off.
Amazon Will Get Into the Brick and Mortar Business
Amazon has become a name to be feared when it comes to e-commerce, but there are still limitations to selling on-line. Also, in my opinion, Amazon Publishing is the woman in the red dress who finally wants a ring. She wants to be legit, and the only way to do this is to have a physical presence in a bookstore. Back in the summer, I predicted that Amazon would get into the brick-and-mortar biz.
The age of bookstores all selling the same books is over. Amazon has a wealth of new talent along with a treasure trove of back-list to offer. I feel Amazon redefined publishing in the Digital Age, and they will also reinvent the bookstore. Give us a B. Dalton for the 21st century. I feel they will learn from the mistakes of their competition and bring a leaner, meaner bookstore to consumers. This physical space is ideal for selling their Kindle Fire and for taking on Apple.
This is all good news for consumers and authors, but there are dangers with Amazon. Amazon is NOT a panacea. For more about this, read Amazon–Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.
Amazon Will Move More into Being a “Legitimate” Publisher
Amazon wanted NY to burn, but namely so it could take the Big Six’s place. This trend will continue and Amazon will keep signing bigger and bigger names. The traditional publishers have cut the size of their sales force, have radically cut author advances and they are taking on fewer new authors. Thing is, agents need to eat, too. Thus, I believe that agents will become more open to pursuing non-traditional publishing paths for their clients, which means Amazon wins.
2013 and Authors
Good Times Ahead
More readers, more options, and better pay. Sure there is more work, but suck it up, Buttercup. We all want to “Just write” but that isn’t reality and it really never has been. Authors who “just wrote” historically had a 93% failure rate (according to BEA statistics). Nowadays we have a lot better odds of success. Great writing combined with a solid work ethic is a ticket to being able to do what we love…and get PAID.
Writers—More of Them
This new explosion of self-published authors will continue. It is estimated that 75% of all Americans believe they want to write a book, and now they are doing it. The new paradigm makes it possible for all writers to share the stories they have inside of them. The downside is that “inside” is exactly where a lot of these books should remain, sealed behind some Aztec seal foretelling doom if opened. To be blunt, a lot of amateurs are entering the market with no clue how to write a novel. For more about this, I recommend my post, Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors.
WARNING!!! Bad Books Ahead
Just because we have command of our native tongue in no way means we possess the skill to craft a work spanning 60-100,000+ words. It is shocking to me how many writers publish their books, but they can’t even define “antagonist” or “POV.” There are a lot of people interested in shortcuts these days, and unfortunately they are dumping countless bad books in the laps of consumers. Terrible writing, no understanding of narrative structure or POV, poor formatting, major typos, grammar issues, the list goes on. The poor reader has been handed the slush pile.
This deluge of bad books will necessitate the rise of new gatekeepers. In the face of sock puppets, phoney reviews, endless spam, and fake recommendations, we need some form of a legitimate resource to act as a guide in this information glut. Book bloggers and authentic social media word of mouth helps, but the need for effective gate-keeping grows by the day.
I feel that the growing indie presses will help. Eventually readers will catch on to what presses offer quality books and they will stick to favorite presses and favorite authors like glue. Thus in 2013, I see the successful small indie presses enjoying more success simply because consumers are using them as gatekeepers.
Surge in New Types of Writing
In the new paradigm, we will see a surge in works that traditionally could not be published due to the depressing ROI (return on investment). We will see more short stories, novellas, books of poems, memoirs, screenplays, etc. We will also see the creation of new genres, such as fiction targeted specifically to Baby Boomers (I have seen this recently and it is brilliant). Instead of YA, BBA.
Additionally, the technology affords us the ability to offer books of different ratings. Say I write a romantic thriller that has lots of cursing and sex and is easily an NC-17. I can offer that book to an adult market, but I can easily create a PG-13 version. Do a word search for profanity and edit it out. Instead of hard core sex scenes, do a “cut-to.” Now my fans can read the version they feel most comfortable reading. Also, if they like the book, they can feel good about sharing the story with teenage children.
The technology allows books to be longer, offer a “director’s cut” and even offer up alternate endings. Technology offers a lot of creative ways to get our product to consumers the way they want to have it.
2013—The Year of the Writer
Overall this is an AMAZING time to be a writer. Writers aren’t all the same, so why should our career path be the same? We all have different goals, different works, different dreams and finally we have a paradigm that is favorable to our kind. Our kind has been telling stories and teaching since humans huddled in caves, but now we are finally being rewarded for our hard work.
In 2013, we will see an emerging “creative middle class” as the old paradigm fades away. In the old days, a handful of creative aristocrats held most of the wealth while the “creative majority” lived a starving life of artistic serfdom. That is going away.
There are good things ahead. The world is uncertain. The world is scary. But, just remember…
We are not alone.
So what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Why? I don’t mind people disagreeing with me so long as you are polite :D. Remember, guessing is NOT science. What are your predictions? What did I miss?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of December I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.