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2013 Publishing Predictions

1) Nook Media will be fully divested from Barnes & Noble. Currently the media arm is a subsidiary. Pearson owns 5% with the option of purchasing 5% more. Microsoft owns close to 17%. By the end of 2013, Microsoft will own close to 30% and Pearson will own at least 10%, if not more. B&N will hold a majority interest of 51%.

2) B&N’s retail space devoted to books will continue to shrink. B&N has a strong consumer brand, but it will need to move away from selling books in order to survive as a retailer. Other large retailers have house brands. In the article about Target announcing it would price match any online price in the store, the analysts pointed to Target’s strong house label. Amazon, also, has its own products, both in electronics and in books. B&N has a line of published books but not a strong house brand. Therefore, B&N to compete will need to create a) house brand products including books and outside of books and b) start selling more non book goods. Given that B&N tends not to discount most of its stock, it would need to sell higher end items.

3) Goodreads will be purchased by Random House & Penguin.  Goodreads is one of the fastest growing reader communities on the internet.  Pearson bought Author Solutions in July of 2012 and buying Goodreads, a reader community would make sense as more publishers are trying to sell direct to consumer.  Goodreads has a store like function even though it is rarely used.  (Only DRM free books can be sold through Goodreads).  There is a lot of data that could be mined from the Goodreads backend.

The other purchaser of Goodreads could be Kobo.  Kobo already uses Goodreads to source the review section of its website.  With the added revenue of Ratuken, Kobo would have the money to buy Goodreads and bake it into the Kobo reading devices.  Open a book on the Kobo device and it makes an automatic entry in your Goodreads account.  Make a note and it will post to a Goodread’s status update.

4)  Subscriptions will be offered by Random House & Penguin.  Between the two, they might own 50% of the backlist of books published.  The subscription offerings might be quite high (and I expect that they will be) but it will be offered.  Another option from RH & Penguin are rentals.  If RH/Penguin does this, then expect more subscriptions.

5)  More mergers.  Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins are likely to either be merged or acquired. One might be sold in pieces.    Perhaps Disney would buy HarperCollins if the price was right or maybe Abrams Books (who publishes the Diary of Wimpy Kids books).  Holtzbrinck is large enough that it might buy smaller publishers like Bloomsbury.

6)  Ebook growth will be flat.  I estimated that the ebook market for fiction books would be 50% and while I was wrong, I wasn’t that far off. Toward the second half of 2012, ebooks represented about 40% of fiction sales.  I suspect that it will be at least 50% by the end of 2013, but once it hits 50%, it will stabilize.  At some point, I think that the percentage of books purchased will be 70/30 ebooks and print but actual dollars spent might be 60/40 due to the higher revenue that print books bring in.

7)  More self published “imprints”.  There have been a few authors who banded together to co brand their books in order to elevate sales amongst the other members of the “brand”.  I’ve heard that these haven’t been super successful, but the cross promotional efforts look attractive.

8) Romance covers will become less focused on the man titty.  With the success of 50Shades, the hold the man titty covers have had on romances for more than 20 years has eroded. In 2013, you will see less flesh on the covers in an effort to convince non romance readers that these books can be read in public.  Kristen Ashley’s much anticipated On the Wind has a boot on the cover.

9)  There will be more author events.  John Green, a young adult author, sold out Carnegie Hall in NYC with his brother, Hank Green.  The two have a huge following on YouTube with almost a million subscribers.  HarperCollins has experimented with this by having author teas and lunches for a cost, generally $30 to $40.  While few authors will be able to replicate the Green brothers’ draw, the lure of additional money via appearance fees will increase the number of author appearances.  For big musical artists the primary source of income isn’t album sales but touring.  Based on the Green success, the music business model, there will be more publishers and authors who will launch book “shows.”

10)  Amazon predictions.  Kindle prices will fall below $50. Amazon may offer a free Kindle with an Amazon Prime membership or an eink reader with the purchase of a Tablet.  Amazon will increase the periods of exclusivity in exchange for the higher royalty rate or increased visibility on the Amazon site.  More authors will take advantage of this despite the fact that it will give Amazon greater power over them.

Some other predictions:

  • DRM will hang on despite my belief that removing DRM would be a way publishers can compete directly against Amazon.
  • The margins on short fiction is attractive to authors and publishers.  Serials and singles will increase but because this sort of fiction also can frustrate readers, there will be a portion of the readership that will demand and gravitate toward longer fiction.
  • 40% of the NYT bestseller books for 2013 will be self published titles.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. SAO
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 06:12:42

    I like the idea of book rentals or subscriptions. It all depends on the price, of course.

    I was fascinated by my recent drive through the “West Coast” of Maine. The median per capita income is $21K and the household income is under $40K. There were plenty of “antique” stores which had huge, front-of-the-store used books and DVD sections. Lots of genre fiction, which tends to be read by voracious readers. I didn’t see any bookstores selling new books. It was pretty clear to me that the average reader wasn’t paying new book prices to support their reading.

    By contrast, in the leafy Boston suburb where I grew up, you don’t have far to go to get to B&N, but finding a UBS is quite a trek.

    For most leisure reading, I have no interest in keeping the book. When they are physical books, they get sent to the book swap. So, I wonder, at what point does a rental model cannibalize sales? I’d see no reason to buy most of the books I buy if I could rent them for less.

    It’s an interesting study in how do you get people who can and will pay more to do so, without losing the sales of the people who can’t or won’t.

  2. Joy
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 09:19:46

    I’ve been wondering what will happen with public library offerings – whether they’ll start putting more of their budget toward ebooks.

  3. JD
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 09:58:17

    Less man titty: From your keyboard to the publishers’ ears!

    IMO, mantitty covers reinforce the (false) “porn for women” insinuation. I’m also affected by it personally–the heroes in my books are lovable and attractive, but not beefcakey, so what’s an author to do? Putting a headless sixpack on my covers is false advertising! (I haven’t seen the cover for my first book with a May release date yet. The suspense is killing me!)

  4. KT Grant
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 10:05:06

    I would hate Goodreads to be bought by a publisher.

    I can see more publisher’s merging together and the NYC pubs will try and buy epubs or build partnerships with the epubs like what’s happened with Entangled.

    Also, I think more publishers will have open house events like Random House did in November. I went to their event and it was wonderful.

    All great predictions!

  5. Sunny
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 10:11:44

    For B&N shrinking book space and creating a house brand, that’s what Chapters/Indigo Canada has done for the last two years and it’s been fairly successful. It’s unfortunate because stores want to sell books, but book sales have dropped so drastically in retail that they have to sell other things to keep afloat. Barely. 80 million dollar drop in book sales was apparently too small a prediction, yikes.

  6. Cara
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:14:45

    If Kobo bought Goodreads, they’d become a very serious consideration for my next e-reader.

  7. Ros
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:47:22

    If #8 proves true, I will be SO HAPPY. There’s nothing wrong with a nice naked manly chest, but I don’t need one on every single cover. I don’t need a ton of 50 Shades copycats either (I know, too late) but more variety would be amazing.

  8. CK
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 13:11:57

    I love my Nook and I’m completely digital in my reading, but I still love going to bookstores. And every time I step into my local B&N, I’m willing to purchase but usually come out empty handed. Even digitally.

    I can’t help but wonder if making the back book space into a more ’boutique’ feel wouldn’t convert more sales. Change the display areas to show only covers (because they sell where book spines don’t) and supplement that ‘loss of space’ with catalogs (both digital – look how great and easy to use our tablet is – & paper). Have nice chairs so it’s comfortable to look at the catalogs and use qr codes to make purchasing quick and easy. Use promos: buy three books and get a free latte on your next visit. Make membership worth something for the digital customer: buy x get y free.

    Maybe this is craycray, too expensive and wouldn’t work, but it would be different and right now they need different. Something like ‘Amazon is just a store, we are an experience’. (Or something, I’ve never been good with copy ;)

    Terrific predictions, though I hate the idea of GR being bought by a publisher.

  9. Carolyne
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 13:18:29

    I can’t imagine Disney buying Abrams (which is owned by a French company and makes beaucoup de moolah from Wimpy Kid on its own)–I’d like to see smaller/midsize publisherers keep their individuality. But I don’t really know enough to make these sorts of predictions. I do know that Disney’s a strict boss.

    The more promising mergers would be collectives of self-publishing authors, giving one another moral and editorial support, design resources, marketing power, etc., and helping readers find groups of books that suit their tastes. I’ll be rooting for more of that.

    And I’ll be glad to see the swift decline of headless mantitty. I can’t even scroll through my kindle list in public without cringing. And I just don’t find it aesthetically interesting, never mind whether it stereotypes us as readers who only want to read about heaving manbosoms.

  10. Carolyne
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 13:21:58

    @CK I would ABSOLUTELY shop in that store. Make it easy and rewarding to relax there and shop digitally–sounds like a great formula.Quick, go sell your consumer-experience consultant idea to B&N :)

    (sorry for two in a row, can’t edit my previous post in this browser…)

  11. Ridley
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 14:25:12

    How would a publisher make money if they owned Goodreads? You’re sticking to this one, Jane, and it doesn’t make sense to me. They’d lose out on a ton of ad revenue, and users won’t stick around and provide free content and labor if whatever publisher tries to privilege its own products.

    Now, Kobo makes sense, since they could still sell ad space to everyone and could then tie their reader to Goodreads’ global community, making them a solid competitor to Kindle, especially outside the US.

  12. carmen webster buxton
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 14:26:00

    Wow, some interesting predictions! I agree with those who see a change on the man titty covers as a good thing. It’s particularly egregious when the guy has his shirt off in a situation where he would not be likely to be half undressed, such as a modern day cowboy riding a horse. If we could get similar logic for women in science fiction and fantasy covers, that would be good, too. No one chases bad guys in high heels.

    On the Goodreads thing, I don’t know what to hope for. The thing is, Amazon has so many reviews (for other products as well as books), they don’t really need Shelfari (even though they own it) to get people to post reviews. But other online book vendors really do suffer from a lack of reader reviews. If they’re going to compete, they need to get those reviews going. On the other hand, what makes Goodreads nice is that it’s a dedicated community of readers; I’m not sure how that community would feel about being bought out, so to speak.

    I’ll be watching next year to see how many of these came true!

  13. Carrie G
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 14:29:27

    @CK: I don’t know if you ideas are feasible or not, but they sound very appealing to me. I still do buy some paper books, but rarely from B&N because they rarely have discounts. BUT, that could change if they did a few other things to attract me to their stores. They need to expand the seating in their cafes, and add more comfortable seats around the store. The cafes at both our local B&N stores are cramped and not particularly pleasant places to just chill and drink coffee. I like the idea of catalogs and incentives to buy. Unfortunately, we’re pretty well tied into the Kindle right now, so buying a Nook isn’t in my future.

  14. AlexaB
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 15:19:36

    I, too, cannot see a publisher buying Goodreads, for the very reason that once they do, there goes any advantage to owning it.

    Now, Kobo or Barnes & Noble owning/partnering with Goodreads – that’s a different story. But B&N would need to pull its head out re: digital first. Amazon is light years ahead of B&N in providing a pleasurable digital shopping experience, IMO.

    However, Amazon bought Shefari when it was a much hotter property than it is now, and promptly did very little to leverage/integrate it, so I’m not sure there is any real pressure on Kobo or B&N to own their own reader social network.

    Perhaps the real partner for Goodreads would be Bowker or Nielsen, who could then sell their data and insights to publishers and indie author service providers alike.

    Re: “experience stores:” every six months or so, a new rumor starts that Amazon is looking to get into brick and mortar – but not a traditional store. Rather, to create what sounds to me like the catalog showroom of yore: a place where where customers can walk in, see and handle the products, and then place their orders for delivery. As Internet shopping kills off brick and mortar shops, it’s also killing off discovery, and this would be one way to try and get discovery back.

  15. Stephanie Doyle
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 08:54:46

    “40% of all NYT Bestsellers will be self-published.”

    Okay – what % of that 40% will be books that haven’t been content or copy edited?

    If it’s half – we’re saying that 20% of NYT bestselling books will not have been properly edited. As a reader – that’s a scary thing to me.

  16. First links of 2013 | How To Write Shop
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 07:01:27

    […] * And more predictions …. […]

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