***Bonus prediction one from the Crossroad Press Organic Shredder – Gizzy Momo – pictured left … Thunder & Lightning All Day long…***
I’ve seen some other folks making predictions about publishing and eBooks. Some of them seem pretty obvious, others show some insight, and still others seem kind of self-serving and more wishful than anything else. Crossroad Press has been in business for going on five years now (seriously, and a bit longer as a hobby). We’ve grown, made some mistakes, had some huge successes, expanded, and paid attention, and I thought, just for fun, I would make some predictions of my own for 2014. Some will be in direct disagreement with those of others…but all will be just me, talking about what I’ve seen, and what I know…
***BONUS PREDICTION FOR 2014: Neil Gaiman will continue to be wildly popular because he is an incredible storyteller ***
1) Print book sales are actually up. I see Barnes and Noble pointed out as about to flounder time and again, but here’s my prediction. Come next year, though people will probably still be predicting their demise, they’ll be right here. Nook book sales are steady for those who don’t spend as much time bashing Barnes & Noble as they do promoting books there, and working on sales. They lost the tablet war, but that was a war that no one should have started. Nooks are fine, and ePub books work on many devices. So, prediction #1, B&N will be in at least as good a shape this time next year as it is now. Probably better.
2) Audiobooks are going to start playing a bigger part in total sales, as systems like Audible’s ACX continue to make more titles accessible. With Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice program – something other eBook retailers can’t match – more readers will be able to pick up audiobooks at very reasonable prices, and more audiobook listeners will be picking up eBooks in order to get the bargain price on the audiobooks. The percentage of titles that make it to audio is already much higher than it was five years ago, and will continue to grow.
3) Content in eBooks that is video, enhanced, full of programmed features, will not do any better this year than in previous years, because they simply require people to read on tablets, not readers, and the trend (currently) seems to be (among serious readers) back toward simpler devices that are mostly good just for eBooks. If people want to watch a movie, they will download one – but books are not going to evolve into some new meta-entertainment system. At least not in 2014.
4) Libraries will continue to grow their downloadable content, and will embrace the new technologies and systems put in place to assist them. Overdrive will start to lose its market share because of simple greed – if it’s as expensive, or more expensive, to provide eBooks to readers, it isn’t going to help already suffering library budgets evolve and sustain. From personal contact with many librarians and buyers for libraries, I can state that there are a number of independent systems buying now directly from publishers, and more coming in the future. While I have seen people saying libraries will be buying directly from authors, don’t fool yourself. There will be an aggregator, and whoever that is is going to take a cut. Libraries don’t have the manpower or overhead to sift through hundreds of thousands of solicitations from authors to carry their individual books. In 2014, libraries will buy a lot more eBooks, but they will buy directly from publishers, or distribution systems.
5) Promotion of eBooks will continue to evolve. What works today will probably be on the wane by 2015 because it will become bloated, too many people will copy it, and the effectiveness will be diluted. Companies who succeed in weathering the storm will be those that keep their prices reasonable, pre-screen their titles to keep the quality as steady as possible, and change with the market. I expect that at least one of the big promoting machines will pick up on my earlier comment about Whispersync and audiobooks. I know from our own statistics that during really successful eBook promotions, we sell a ton of audiobooks on titles that are part of the Whispersync program.
6) It will not be any easier for a new author to promote or sell their books in 2014 than it was in 2013. Famous authors will continue to sell crazy numbers of books. Retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble will continue to announce books as best-sellers before they even go into pre-order. NYC will pump in the money that ensures millions of sales for books by tried-and-true authors. Most of the “Best of the Year” lists will ignore about 95 percent of the best of the year in favor of the Best of the Year published in high profile. The game, in other words, is just a modified version of the old game. The Catch-22 is that if you haven’t got a lot of money and aren’t fairly famous, the odds are stacked against you. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buck those odds, just stating a fact. A new cover, better description – .99 bargain price? They just don’t matter unless something causes readers to SEE YOUR BOOK. That is the key. The people who see it should not be your family, friends, and a thousand other authors…they should be people who don’t know you from Adam, but like to read.
7) Gurus will continue to tell you they know all the answers. I will continue to say – if that was really true, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to do things other than write, they would be using their secrets and making millions. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Pay attention to what successful authors say, watch what they do, but don’t try to be them, and try to find ways to use what you learn in your own way. “The next…” anyone will never be more than a dim shadow of the original, so why strive to be that?
8) Smaller print publishers will continue to be treated by bookstores as if they are big publishers, and many of both will fail because of this. Unless independent bookstores find ways to embrace Print on Demand publishers and distance themselves from the big distributors, they will continue to disappear and by 2015 there will be considerably fewer of them, shifting most print book sales to Amazon and B&N online. The old model of buying a bunch of books and then returning half of them will disintegrate as independent publishers flourish, and NYC slowly decays.
9) The age-old practice of looking at what’s hot and trying to copy it really fast will proliferate in 2014, continuing the spiral into that nonsense generated by successes in 2013, such as every variation of a shade of gray that can be applied to any sort of title being used to bump sales. You will continue to see people go on and on about thousands of “sales” that were free giveaways, best-seller lists that are meaningless, and piles of five-star reviews that don’t actually equate in any way to quality or sales. This is why – as stated above – the very popular authors will continue to be popular, and it will be hard to break in. For every book someone spent time and effort on, there are fifty crap titles with nothing in mind but ‘cranking them out’. This makes people gunshy about buying from new authors, and is also why the legit, careful promotional services will continue to draw actual readers.
10) The traditional author / agent / editor / publisher role will continue to morph. Agents are now admittedly scraping new clients off the self-published best-seller lists (probably from a lot of people they ignored when the books were originally submitted) and all this can do is lengthen the already ridiculous lag time between submitting a manuscript and hearing back. As more and more successful authors begin to see the huge profit margin shift of more independent publishing, more of their peers will begin to experiment and follow suit. Agents have a tiny number of slots they can fill these days, and the advances against royalties that almost never sell-through, according to statements, have grown so small that no one could possibly live off of them without selling five to ten novels a year. A steady income earned through solid, quality output and direct royalties back on a regular basis will win the day. Companies paying a fair amount to the authors and taking over responsibilities authors should NOT have to learn to do (despite what gurus tell them) will do well in 2014 will flourish, as will rip-off groups charging authors an arm and a leg for scanning, formatting, promotion, etc. and keeping huge percentages – something that sadly a number of literary agents seem to have indulged in. New models will emerge. Subscription based reading services like ScribD and NokBoks will test new waters.
I know a lot of this is kind of vague, and in several of these single predictions, I predict a bunch of things, and even offer possible alternative outcomes. The thing is, it’s fluid. No one knows everything, and new technology, players, and talent emerge every day. Keep an open mind, write… always be writing… and pay attention.
And from all of us at Crossroad Press, have a great New Year…