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A review of the 2012 publishing predictions

Image via BigStock Photo

Image via BigStock Photo

Last January I made 10 publishing predictions. I thought it would be fun to review these predictions. Next week I’ll post my 2013 publishing predictions.

1. (TRUE) More authors will self publish than in 2011.

I promise that this was more amazing at the end of 2011 than it seems now because there was still a lot of resistance to self publishing, as if it wasn’t a serious publishing career path.

Self publishing came of age in 2012, with traditionally published authors seeking to dabble in self publishing while also keeping one foot in the mainstream. Successful self published authors are doing the reverse, dabbling in mainstream publishing while releasing subsequent self published titles.  Colleen Hoover, for example, self published Slammed and Point of Retreat.  Those books were picked up by Simon & Schuster. Instead of signing another traditional publishing contract, Hoover self published her third book, Hopeless, which was the NYTimes bestselling ebook for this past week.

E.L. James’ 50 Shades trilogy will soon be released in hardcover making it a complete inverse of the traditional publishing process which used to be hardcover, trade, mass market, and ebook.

I also predicted that we would see the rise of publishing service companies and indie communities that provide publishing services.

While there have been a few new publishing services companies, most of the self publishers are do it yourself-ers, preferring to either use friends or people through the word of mouth. I think that there is a big space in the market for low cost, quality self publishing services and a centralized location to find cover artists, copyeditors, proofreaders, and content editors.

2. (FALSE) In an effort to capture the attention of talented authors, the digital rate of books at the big six will rise to 30-35% off the net with higher figures being offered to backlist only titles in exchange for nominal to no advances. And/or more tiered royalty structures will appear similar to the Avon Impulse and Samhain Retro Romance line.

Digital royalties have not risen with the mainstream publishers. However, other publishers like Carina Press, Amazon Montlake, and Entangled Publishing have increased the digital royalty rates. Maybe I could call this half true and half false?

Mainstream publishers have all launched a digital first arm and it is through this arm that they are experimenting with serials and lower cost digital only books.

3. (TRUE) Readers will gravitate to lower priced books, those priced 3.99 and under, so long as the book has a good hook and a decent cover. These books will be substitutes for traditionally priced books. … Breaking out as a new author is more difficult than ever, particularly from traditional publishers. I suspect the new books that readers will be talking about will come from the $3.99 and under price range and those books will be available to readers around the world. That’s the discovery price range.

The average price of the bestseller has fallen and other than 50 Shades, the new successful authors are primarily pricing their books at $3.99 and under. While readers will buy their favorites, publishers are beginning to recognize that low prices can be used to drive discovery and pricing the start of series at $2.99 or $3.99 and under.

4. (TRUE) I think the price of most digital books will be $3.99 and that $.99 fiction will fall into either short fiction price (under 25K words) or will be promotional. Publishers will experiment with book pricing and readers will be more hesitant to buy older titles at full price, hoping for a lower price deal.

In 2012, we saw mainstream publishers like HarperCollins, Macmillan and Hachette experiment with promotional pricing at a rate we had not seen previously.  I hear many people say that they aren’t willing to take chances on new authors at high prices but they will buy favorites at retail list price.

5. (FALSE) There will be a Steam-like publisher offering resellable digital books, available only in the cloud. This is being experimented with by Austrialian publishers Book.ish and ReadCloud. This might be offered by a romance publisher, but I suspect it will be a small press publisher for SFF or maybe comic books or a textbook publisher that would allow students resell ability of their digital texts.

The closest to this would be Sourcebooks subscription service.

6. (SEMI TRUE) Sites like Goodreads will become more popular and thus more powerful. Goodreads currently has over 6 million users… My boldest prediction is that Amazon will purchase Goodreads for the community and its recommendation engine.

Goodreads is more popular than ever. It currently has 13 million readers, nearly double in size.  Amazon did not purchase it. I still think Goodreads is ripe for acquisition.  Maybe Random House + Penguin will buy it.

7. (FALSE) Digital book sales will represent 50% of trade sales by the end of 2012.

Interestingly, it seems like digital book portion of the market is leveling off around 30%.

8. (FALSE) BN will offer an iTunes matching service for books which scans your hard drive for books and then offers you a matching book in Nook compatible format for no extra charge (this might be cloud available only). This will be a move that will encourage Kindle users to trade in their Kindles in exchange for a nook.

Barnes & Noble did none of these things and after this year’s disappointing sales, there are some who believe B&N is about three years from closing its doors altogether.  B&N won’t close its doors, but it likely will continue to close locations and transform from book selling into other retailing.  It has a strong consumer brand name that may be transferable to other retail consumer goods.

9. (TRUE) BN will continue to move toward offering non book content. BN will allow large store leases to expire and relocate into smaller locations. The larger locations will decrease the book content to half of the retail contents.

While books maintain a big part of B&N’s focus now, increasing space is given over to technology items, games, and other non book goods.  But store closings occurred all over the country from Texas to Minnesota to New York to Illinois.

10. (FALSE) There will be an innovative print on demand machine that non bookstores will install. Maybe it will be something you see in department stores. The new print on demand machine will print mass market or trade versions of books.

Apparently 3M is working with Readerlink and Txtr to bring digital books to grocery stores, convenience stores and other retailers.  There may be an attempt to bring print on demand to those stores as well; however there has been no announcements about innovation in the print on demand market.

Things that happened in 2012 that I didn’t anticipate:

  1. Rise of fan fiction (or pulled to publish)
  2. Increase in cliffhanger books and ongoing series with the same characters. No one really did this better than Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb in her first three In Death books.  I would like to see authors copy that pattern if they want to do series books and by that I mean have some type of conclusion even if the story / plot / relationship isn’t fully concluded at the end of the book.
  3. Decline in quality.  For some reason I thought that the influx of self publishing titles would raise the bar, but instead it feels like it was lowered. This depresses me but I find myself willing to overlook mistakes in favor of a strong storyteller.
  4. New Adult.  I had been skeptical of New Adult when St. Martin’s began asking for submissions back in 2009 and apparently they weren’t able to find the right titles. Ultimately I think what stalled the New Adult market back in 2009 was that young adult agents couldn’t sell these titles to the young adult editors.  Instead, the YA agents should have sold these to the adult editors but that never happened.  I recall getting into an argument on Twitter with a YA agent who said no one was buying NA books.  This was right on the cusp of Hoover, Glines, and the like getting bought.  I argued that the editorial market for these authors were with the adult romance editors.  Instead, self published authors filled the niche and created a brand new sub genre.  Whether this survives remains to be seen but I really am enjoying these stories.
  5. Self publishing as a method of discovering new authors.  If you look at my deal tracking for the last six months, previously self published authors dominate the acquisitions.  The easiest way to a big traditional publishing contract is to crack the Kindle top 100.

What did you think would happen in 2012? What did happen? What surprised you?

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. Deb Nam-Krane
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 05:09:09

    5 out of 10- better than some futurists!

    I had been convinced for years that my t0-be-self-published series about a group of young women moving on from college into “the real world” was New Adult Romance/Women’s Fiction. But having read your piece from a few weeks ago about what is actually getting published under that umbrella, I think I’m “just” Women’s Fiction/Romance- and funnily enough, that’s what I thought I was writing when I started writing this a few years ago.

    Which is all to say: yes, I agree with your position.

  2. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 10:04:08

    Well done; half your predictions were correct! Even the ones which didn’t pan out were reasonable assumptions a year ago. I look forward to seeing your predictions for next year, and finding out which ones come true.

    Re B&N closing stores, and perhaps fodder for your predictions next year: apparently B&N has also been opening at least a few stores. They have moved into the old Borders in our nearest small city; we didn’t used to have a B&N within an hour’s drive. I will admit that although I’m glad they’re there, I wonder how long they can survive. Living a good half-hour away from any bookstores at all, I’ve grown very accustomed to buying online and having books delivered. As book prices have risen, I’ve also adjusted to getting more of my books from the library, or used. I save my new-book purchases for books I know I’ll treasure for years, gifts, and the occasional book I can neither borrow nor find used at a significant discount. And I buy ebooks, but almost never at full agency prices; if it’s a title I really want, I wait for it to go on sale. I think I’ve bought 3 ebooks at the full agency price in the last two years, as opposed to over 50 at lower prices (under $5, and mostly under $4.) Otherwise, I choose less-expensive titles, or do without. There are titles and series in my bound-book library that I would love to have for my e-reader, but can’t justify the $8 or $10 to purchase — especially since I already own a hard copy.

  3. carmen webster buxton
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 10:04:38

    Very interesting list. You did very well on your predictions, I think. But do you really think Amazon might buy Goodreads when they already own Shelfari? Would they then merge to two sites?

    On last comment:

    “The easiest way to a big traditional publishing contract is to crack the Kindle top 100.”

    It might be the easiest way, but it’s still not easy to do!

  4. Ridley
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 10:33:35

    My boldest prediction is that Amazon will purchase Goodreads for the community and its recommendation engine.

    Oh, how did I miss this last year? This was a… cute idea. Goodreads’ recommendation engine can’t hold a candle to Amazon’s.

    I’m sure Goodreads could be acquired in the near future, but why do you think a publisher would buy it? What would they want with a site like that? How would they make any money with it?

    If anyone buys them, it’s going to be some large media company, or someone like Google.

  5. JenM
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 12:33:11

    I love New Adult, but I’m worried that the message that Big Publishing has gotten from its success is that it’s just YA with sex. The best NA is filled with characters that are balancing on that knife edge of breaking away from their families and establishing their own identities. They remind those of us who are a bit past that part of our lives (LOL) of the amazing sense of infinite possibilities that we felt at that age. The sex (or lack thereof) is incidental in my opinion. On the other hand, if all the Big Publishers do is churn out stories that are just sexed up versions of YA, once again, I suppose self-publishing will step in and fill the breach with the stories we really want to read.

  6. KT Grant
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 12:39:22

    I really don’t think Goodreads would allow a traditional publisher to buy them. If a traditional publisher bought Goodreads, what would they do with it? I can see Goodreads partnering with either Amazon or Smashwords in some way but they will remain their own entity.

    It’s funny how St. Martin’s coined the phrase New Adult and yet never published any New Adult books (that I can think of).

    I also wonder how much longer digital books priced at $9.99 or more will be around since self publishing has become successful at pricing their books at under $4.99 or less.

  7. Lada
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 15:55:10

    For some reason I thought that the influx of self publishing titles would raise the bar, but instead it feels like it was lowered. This depresses me but I find myself willing to overlook mistakes in favor of a strong storyteller.

    I’m sad to say I expected the opposite and it’s playing out just as I thought. Why bother with seeking editing help when writers can get even someone like you to overlook mistakes? Even more sadly, I think fewer readers realize the mistakes are there to begin with. I know my vocabulary and grammer skills improved because of my lifelong love of reading. I wonder if that will be true for readers exposed to a surfeit of lower quality self-published books.

  8. Caffey
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 01:33:26

    Its my understanding that Amazon hooked up with Shelfari last year (if you look at the bottom of the Amazon page of the book after reviews, for example THE SOLDIER by Grace Burrowes, it will say ” Book Extras from the Shelfari Community (What’s this?) Series This is book 2 of 3 in The Duke’s Obession series. It is preceeded by The Heir, and followed by The Virtuoso. (Link below).”
    I remember when Goodreads sent the memo/newsletter to the members last year that they took down kindle books in the database and I lost all those books that I had listed that way. As for Shelfari I find it very limited and disappointed Amazon went with Shelfari for some reason and not Goodreads which I love.
    Link as example of above book:

  9. carmen webster buxton
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 07:44:07

    Amazon bought Shelfari in 2008.

    In KDP, authors have the option of adding characters’ names, quotes from the book, and other “extras” that will show on the product page. Which reminds me I need to do this for my last book. :)

    When Goodreads lost access to Amazon data you could no longer identify a book in your collection merely by linking to it from Amazon. Also, authors who wanted to add their books to Goodreads often had to load the covers separately. I assumed that was because Amazon cut off Goodreads trying to push folks to Shelfari, but I wonder if it might also be because Goodreads now lets authors provide a copy of the book for users to download; in effect, Goodreads is a book retailer, although almost no authors have taken advantage of this outlet– mostly I think because the terms are very restrictive.

  10. Fbone
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 12:00:18

    Amazon ended Goodread’s access to their API because GR has links to other retailers. If you want to use Amazon’s data, then you must be an exclusive affiliate.

  11. Caffey
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 14:46:49

    Thanks Carmen. Knew I read it somewhere but couldn’t remember the details. I usually use Goodreads for the series info and all. They have much more up there for me.

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