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 Sony has a terrible domestic (US) presence and has withdrawn devices sales from the US market, instead concentrating overseas.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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