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2014 Publishing Predictions

  1. BN and Sony will partner.  Barnes & Noble will buy back the investment made by Microsoft and will instead sell a huge portion of the Nook business to Sony.  Sony has a terrible domestic (US) presence and has withdrawn devices sales from the US market, instead concentrating overseas.  BN has an abysmal overseas presence. Its plan to expand internationally has been delayed several times.  It’s not very good at selling its devices.  Sony should make the devices and then BN should leverage its ebook store through Sony’s international outreach. Their strengths and weaknesses overlap. I do not see BN closing nor do I see it selling the Nook arm. The Nook arm is worthless without the BN brand.
  2. Penguin and Random will buy a large reading community.  Right now other than streamlined distribution services, the merger hasn’t resulted in much of a change. Each publisher has its own sales, marketing, editing, and acquisition teams. But data about readers is more important than ever and so is the issue of discovery. Traditional publishers need a community of readers already built. They don’t have the time to create it from the bottom up (and their efforts like Bookish and Book Country have been failures).  Their best option is to buy Wattpad or Scribd and given that Wattpad is venture capitalist-backed, Wattpad is the more viable candidate.
  3. Traditional publishing will rise back up in 2014-15. It’s not like traditional publishers have even waned but 2012 and 2013 were really years of the self publishers.  They’ve gained a toehold within the digital reading audience but other than a tiny handful authors (maybe under five), few have made the transition from self pub to traditional publishing with much of any success. The print sales for most authors that have been paid six and seven figures have been abysmal. There is a divide between what digital readers will buy and read and what print readers will buy and read. As the indie market tightens (and it will do so at even a greater rate than it is now), traditional publishing will look more promising with its advance first, low risk business model.  Plus, as we can see in the past three or four months, traditional publishers have really caught onto the pricing game. Harlequin is doing box sets in 2014.  While indies will lead innovation, publishers will be quick to capitalize.
  4. Self pub prices will raise, but sales will dominate.  I expect to see more 3.99, 4.99 and even 5.99 pricing from self published authors in 2014 for books you would once pay only 2.99 or 3.99 for as indies try to compensate for lower unit sales with higher profit margins.  But I also expect that because the indie pace of publishing is so fast (many indies publish 4-6 or more titles per year) that you’ll be able to pick up most, if not all, of these titles at 99c at one point.  I’ve been seeing a lot of on device promotion for Amazon published titles and corresponding appearances on important lists on Amazon’s site.  This along with traditional publishers discount pricing of its extensive catalog will make it harder for self pubs to garner that sales that they once did.
  5. Ebook marketshare will be 50% of all trade sales.  Ebooks, because of the lower price, have to sell 2-3x as many copies as one print book to match up in revenue, but because of the lower price, ebooks will sell more units. Profit resulting from print sales will be larger than profit resulting from digital sales, but the unit volume will be the same.
  6. Authorized fan fiction will be more popular.  A number of big name authors are participating in the Dead But Not Forgotten collection of stories written about the characters that inhabit Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series.  Harris is writing the introduction and authors like Seanan McGuire and MaryJanice Davidson are writing about different characters.  Expect to see more of this in the future.
  7. Collaborations. In 2013, it seemed like the music hits were dominated by singers collaborating with other singers. In an effort to produce more content, I see more collaborations between authors in the future. I’d love to see something like Meljean Brook paired up with Tessa Dare or Courtney Milan and Lisa Kleypas writing together. Or maybe Courtney Milan with Kit Rocha.  Can you imagine the possibilities? Let’s make this happen authors!
  8. Digital audio books will rise in popularity. Saying this is kind of cheating because audiobook sales have increased.  The Wall Street Journal said that they were one bright spot in traditional publishing these days.  Sales have doubled in the past few years. As more and more people get tablets and smartphones, more people will adopt digital audio books. The prices have come down dramatically Some popular self published authors have reported that sales from their self published audio titles have produced significant income. It should be noted that Audible, owned by Amazon, is the largest retailer of digital audio books.
  9. Mass markets will be eliminated. I think I’ve been predicting this for two years and while mass market marketshare has declined, it still hangs on but I think 2014 will be the end of the mass market for the most part. Bookstores don’t want them because the margin of profit is too low per square foot. Publishers won’t want to produce them because the market is very low. Authors will either be digital, trade + digital, hardcover + digital. The demise of the mass market is accelerated not only by digital books but by the popularity of the format for erotic romances and indie publishers.
  10. Digital first publishers not named Samhain or attached to a traditional publisher will go out of business. It used to be that anyone with an idea and access to the internet could set up a digital publisher but with the increase popularity of self publishing, digital first publishers have little appeal.  This is another area where it took traditional publishers some time to make a change but now they all have a digital first arm. Kensington just bought Lyrical Press.  With these smaller digital presses (other than maybe the m/m ones but that could change easily in 2014 as more mainstream trad publishers pick up m/m titles), there seems little advantage for authors to remain with them other than self publish other than, obviously, that self publishing is a helluva lot of work. I also believe that there will be consolidation and mergers in 2014.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

20 Comments

  1. library addict
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 06:12:31

    Your predictions are always fun to read. Some I dread coming true, but have in the past.

    For #7 do you mean co-write one story or each write novellas in some type of themed anthology?

    Do you think pre-orders will still make up as much of sales as they have in the past? I wonder given the latter half of 2013 with so many big author books going on sale the day after or within a week of release.

  2. Holly Bush
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 07:55:58

    I really enjoy your predictions and your focus on the business side of publishing. Curious to hear what you think the future is for agents.

  3. KT Grant
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 10:53:37

    RIP mass market :(.

    I also think boxed sets will become the norm in 2014perhaps more anthologies from popular self published authors. Also more established traditional authors will reject the 5-6 figure advances from their publishers and self publish.

  4. Jane
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 10:54:33

    @library addict: I mean actual collaborations in that two writers will write one story together.

  5. Ros
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 10:54:42

    I would be astonished if collaborations became a big thing. It’s definitely not a time-efficient way of writing, so I’m not sure it will be motivated by a desire to put out more content.

  6. Tabs
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 11:22:57

    I don’t know about the collaborations prediction. I’d bank on seeing more novella anthologies from (mostly) indie authors like the Meljean Brook/Jessica Sims/Carolyn Crane ones or the upcoming Kit Rocha/Lauren Dane/Vivian Arend one than on truly collaborative works.

    Digital first publishers not named Samhain or attached to a traditional publisher will go out of business.

    Do Ellora’s Cave and Loose Id fall under this prediction? Or are they attached the publishers?

  7. Lindsay
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 11:37:47

    Interestingly enough, our bookstore’s entire Erotica section is only trade paperbacks, while Romance, SF and Fantasy all continue to have MM dominate the shelves. Mystery is making the changeover, but thrillers (still in Fiction) are still MM. I definitely agree it’s going away — bookstores just don’t want them, and readership is aging to the point where Trade/Hardcover are easier on the eyes if they don’t want to go digital — but it’s interesting seeing genre fiction still embracing them today.

  8. A.Beth
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 11:44:36

    If the mass market paperback keels over, I wager that ebook share may rise above the 50% mark, as ebooks (if reasonably priced) become more desirable than driving to the store and paying trade paperback prices for POD quality. (Some POD quality is fine. But when I pick up a flimsy-feeling, tacky-covered trade-sized book in the store, I’m pretty sure it’s Cheapest Bidder POD. POD quality is erratic, and the nearest B&N is 20 minutes away.)

    I don’t think #3 will come to pass. Traditional publishing will be competing on price and with sales (at least, some publishers will, since they already are), but to truly “rise up” and dwarf the indie floods, they’d have to take on a lot more risk in the form of new authors. So unless they abandon advances themselves (as some have tried to do with ebook-only, no-advance or low-advance deals, if I recall correctly, and had the authors scream back…), the financial incentives don’t point to the More Variety, or seeking to re-take niche markets where an indie can do quite nicely as a “mid-lister.”

    I predict that instead, traditional publishing will offer more ebook-only imprints, with no advance or very low advances, and poor royalties to the author, and that these imprints will do… about as well as Bookish and Book Country, for the most part, and be derided (justly) by indies and more experienced traditionally-published authors alike.

    Meanwhile, the indie floods will continue, and while Sturgeon’s Law is in effect, 10% of the larger pool will keep enough readers surfing through the flood that indies will not become discouraged. (Besides, the competition is even tougher to try to get traditionally published. A reader can read 1-14 books in a week; multiply that over a year. A publisher can only pick… well, often less than that, over the course of a year.)

    An interesting move by publishers might be a Short Term contract — low advance, and if it doesn’t pan out to the publisher’s satisfaction after 6-12 months (defined as total sales during that time), an option for the author to buy back the rights swiftly. This might snare successful indie authors who have a forthcoming standalone book, that could benefit from publishers’ better distribution abilities; successful alliances could continue, while the unprofitable ones would be slightly less risky on both sides: buying back the rights would probably cost much or all of the advance, so the publisher gets a little something, while the indie isn’t locked up for years, and thus successful indies would be more inclined to relinquish the heady control.

  9. Kate Rothwell
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 13:19:05

    I get the impression that Riptide is doing fine. Of course I get that from looking at amazon stars and rankings, which might not be a real sign of success. They also seem to do a pretty good job of getting their books out to reviewers. . .

    I love co-writing books. It’s like playing a party game only even more fun.

  10. Mandy
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 15:15:51

    Am I understanding correctly that the trade paperback is the larger and more expensive book than the mass market paperback? If so I can’t see mass market paperbacks being phased and replaced by a more expensive style. Everyone’s hip pocket is hurting these days and if cheaper print options are gone then I also think that more people will turn to digital.

  11. Holly Bush
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 16:36:23

    Random thoughts:
    #3 I don’t think the traditional publishers will retake the field so to speak. I do think sales will settle as digital gets comfortable with its market share and the traditional publisher understands that digital is not a trend that will go away. How will the traditional publisher get hold of this mass change? Exactly what Jane predicts in 10. They’ll buy an established digital publisher. Who’s left on the market to buy? Someone mentioned Ellora’s Cave and Loose ID.

    Also from #3 . . . As the indie market tightens (and it will do so at even a greater rate than it is now), traditional publishing will look more promising with its advance first, low risk business model. I’m not sure if you’re saying, @Jane, that traditional publishers will look more attractive to writers, but if you are, I completely disagree. It is still very difficult for a writer to land a contract and it could, literally, be years and years, before the final yes or no is said. I’ll be long dead and in my grave if I waited for a traditional publisher to get my work in the marketplace. I’ve easily sold 10 times the books digitally as an Indie as I’d ever be expected to or could anticipate selling as a trade paperback. It’s a lovely thought having a publisher but for many of us, unrealistic.

    I have to agree with @A. Beth that Indies are the new mid-listers. The short term contract idea is interesting but would require that publishers are flexible and quick to adjust – not their strong suit. But it would lower risk on both sides of the coin. The publisher’s connections and marketing could be enough to push a new book to the front and if it didn’t, the author forfeits the advance but gets the rights back quickly and may be able to ride a good wave of sales and some dollars in the bank.

  12. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 17:52:04

    @A.Beth: I definitely agree. The self-pub market is tightening for those writing to trend, but underserved markets that NY declared “dead” or “unmarketable” will thrive (until it becomes mainstream). And the traditional contract–in romance at least–is practically the Holy Grail. New authors and mid-listers are getting digital-first contracts…which will drive more authors into self-publishing. I see publishers sticking with their higher tier mid-list and their best-sellers for print contracts, and building those mid-listers to become best-sellers. Which is kind of a good thing businesswise–small lists, more cultivation of homegrown talent, more attention paid to each author’s audience instead of loading their frontlist with copycats of their best-sellers, etc. Which in turn means it is imperative for authors in all publishing markets to build and cultivate their own unique audience (and this will likely be a factor in the Big Five acquiring self-pub successes in the coming future).

    I’m actually quite excited.

  13. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 17:57:43

    @Mandy: MMPB is hurting because its typical buyers are shifting to ebooks. I haven’t purchased a MMPB in years, but I do purchase trade paperback and hardcover non-romance titles on a fairly regular basis. The non-voracious reader isn’t spending $1000+ a year on books that a $11-15 trade paperback or a $15-30 hardcover becomes a hardship.

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  15. Laura Florand
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 08:12:13

    I agree with KT Grant’s assessment. This is already happening, and I think we’ll see an exponential increase. I first self-published something (a novella) back in Oct 2012, right after The Chocolate Thief released. That gave me enough knowledge to turn down my publisher’s offer for a full-length book (The Chocolate Rose) just because I was curious to see what a full-length book could do compared to a novella. And that gave me enough knowledge to turn down a four-book contract so that I could do a whole series by myself, because in my personal assessment of the situation that’s the next thing I need to assess (how well does a whole series do?). And people like me are talking to other authors who are frustrated with certain aspects of traditional publishing. There’s a “Come on in, the water is great” effect, or even a, “Are you crazy? Why are you still selling them your books on these terms? Wake up!” effect.

    I think we’re just at the beginning of well-known traditionally published authors shifting into self-publishing. (Thea Harrison just did her first self-published novella. Carly Phillips. Meljean Brook. I’m just naming off the top of my head, but a *lot*.) I think traditional publishing will be drawing on more and more new authors just because the ones already traditionally published are leaving or letting NYC have fewer of their books. And we’re also seeing a lot of brand new authors who have their first traditional books coming out who are going ahead and self-publishing novellas ahead of that traditional release. Often at their agent’s encouragement and, unfortunately in that case, through their agent’s “self-publishing arm”, which means they’re giving up a ridiculous degree of their rights and royalties usually. At least, I think there are so many things wrong with that it’s best not to get me started, but it’s a widespread trend, too.

    But I very definitely think we’ll see more well-known authors self-publishing at least some of their work, and not just their backlist. (But many of them have been learning the ropes through their backlist and are getting ready to apply what they’ve learned to new books.)

  16. Mike Shatzkin
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 08:32:10

    I really enjoyed this post, Jane. Very insightful. Your prediction on RH is actually already true. They acquired the kids community reading site Figment and they’re changing it from a community really open to all to one that will serve Random House’s needs. That doesn’t mean nobody else’s books ever get in because they’re trying to optimize for the community’s benefit, but it does mean the overall enterprise is run with Random House’s best interests in mind.

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  20. Kristen Steele
    Jan 22, 2014 @ 09:25:38

    There is a growing trend to put out as much content as possible within a year in order to improve and maintain exposure. Authors have a limited amount of time, so I agree that we will be seeing more collaborations.

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