Those of you who follow Ramblings from a Writers Mind will know this time of year I put my ‘professional neck’ on the line by expressing my prognostications regarding the publishing industry for the coming year.
The first of these predictive posts was made way back in December 2017, when I forecast my assumptions for 2018. Looking back now, you will agree I pretty much nailed it. See for yourself, ‘Insights & Publishing Trends for 2018′
Last year I published, on the 27th of December 2018, my review for this year, 2019. How accurate is this forecast? ‘Publishing Trends & Indie Author Insights for 2019′
This year, I am once again sticking my neck above the parapet by suggesting what will be happening through 2020, regarding the publishing industry worldwide, especially that which affects the Indie Author.
I have been asked why I post this forecast every year.
My answer is simple; if you have an idea of what is happening, going to happen or reasonably likely to happen, you can plan your writing, your genre, your book and cover design, marketing, promotions, and social media content to take full advantage of the markets predicted movements and organic flux.
In simple terms, you can be proactive rather than reactive and keep up, if not stay one step ahead, of the game.
I have not organised the following in any particular order, so scroll down and pick out the areas which interest you the most and then work through the other sections as there is, most definitely, information you really do want, (or need,) to be informed about in each section.
1 – Book Cover Design Trends
2 – Audio/Audiobooks
3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)
4 – Emerging reach methods
5 – Social Media
6 – Telling Stories on social
7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.
8 – India
9 – Authorpreneurs
10 – POD/Inventory
11 – Author Alliances
12 – Crowded Social
13 – Fundamental Shifts
So, without further ado, this is my insight and predictive forecast into the indie book market and international publishing industry worldwide for the year AD 2020.
1 – Book Cover Design Trends
As a digital artist and book cover designer, this is one area I personally enjoy keeping a close eye on.
There are many elements to good design and bringing them all together in a limited space while incorporating all the necessary text elements is an often-underrated skill.
With the lists of newly released and soon to be released books now in the public domain, it is easy to see the prevailing design trends. Many of which, I suggest Indie Authors should take heed of.
- The first is those where the designers create Technicolor covers, washes of psychedelic textured rainbow patterns, which appear to be moving across the cover or jacket. It is their dimensionality that tricks the eye.
- Continuing from 2019 is text and images which overlap images and text, and become interwoven with them, lending an almost 3D effect to the cover.
- Minimalist covers, such as monochrome with basic lettering, will carry over into 2020. The simplicity of such covers, usually using a bold background image, works well against shelves full of multicolour and bright renditions.
- Handwritten style fonts, occasionally used with ‘crossing out’ of bolder texts, do not seem to be going away but are becoming more inventive and eye-catching.
- Staying with text. A resurgence, in a modern form, will be shuddering, shading, glows, bevels and reflections. Big bold typographic statements that ‘jump-right-out’ at you.
2 – Audio/Audiobooks
The audiobook market has grown in double figures for six straight years with a 37.1% growth in the USA in 2018. (latest figures)
The original audiobook provided a way of reading for those with visual problems and the elderly. The CD market for audiobooks formed 54% of sales in 2010 with digital downloads at 42%.
This has changed in recent years, partly because older people tend to be more tech-savvy and partly because the audience is becoming younger. The average listening age has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 now.
As technology advances, so does demand. Smartphones, tablets and more recently, the growth in artificial intelligence have all contributed to the rise and fall of different markets with physical products taking a hit.
2020 will continue to bring a more diverse listener as marketing targets people of all ages from all walks of life.
The rise of the podcast has, in part, been responsible for the popularity and growth of audiobooks and will continue to bring in new listeners (across all ages) as its popularity transfers across to audiobooks.
People utilise the ability to listen to books while doing other things like gardening, travelling, jogging, knitting. Despite advances in screen technology people still drop devices in the bath or struggle with the sun when on holiday, not to mention the need to hold the device while sunbathing. Audiobook offers a solution to these problems with obvious benefits.
The Big Five publishers have only recently recognised that the audiobook market is the only sector demonstrating year on year growth, but boy are they noticing now. They have huge marketing budgets which will have a big impact on future audiobook trends. There is already and will be more aggressive marketing by the big players who will want to dominate and take their share of the pot. Targeting has only just begun to attract under 45s who use smartphones and AI more than older generations.
Indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production is prohibitive. Having said that, many have entered via the royalty share option offered by producers such as ACX. Early adopters found more success with non-fiction books and these are hugely popular with figures for the final quarter of 2018 making up 25-50% of sales in some non-fiction genres.
3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Firstly, I am touching on a subject which is pertinent, but one which I expect will see smaller businesses and Indie Authors woefully trailing behind. It is one, however, which opens new opportunities or expands on the offerings of those already in the market.
This is the new wave of IT, or AI, as this in the next organic technological expansion. This evolution of IT will allow the integration of content, engagement and auto-tagging to scale and create process efficiencies.
While basic SEO will continue for the foreseeable, AI leveraged contributions will be at the forefront of the shift to mobile-first index and aid continued spotlighting of both local and personalised search results.
Publishers will start to create platforms to collect and visualise audience and community data as the focus on segmentation grows even more. This will lead to building branded lean sites featuring authentic storytelling and content native to the digital platform.
While content remains king, site architecture will focus on redistributing the information in forms which ensures easy to find and easy to access content for customers.
None of the above, which may be some time before becoming widespread and accepted, should detract from already accepted processes.
4 – Emerging reach methods
It is important for Indie Authors and small press publishers to monetize traffic whenever possible.
This should not simply be considered a ‘secondary’ income stream but needs to be considered as part of the mainstream income.
Podcasting and 4K video are two areas Indies can consider. Both need a savvy website design and high-speed Internet.
Note: As mobile use continually grows users expect all content to load just as quickly and easily on their phone as on their computer. Since websites play such a vital role, trends surrounding them range from AMP to PWAs to Schema markup.
Okay, let’s get to some facts.
- You will need to leverage podcasting with publishing. In 2018, podcast listeners in the US grew from 40 per cent to 44 per cent of the total population.
- The top revenue stream for worldwide news publisher became digital publishing subscriptions with 44 per cent of the world population reading online.
- Printing is not going anywhere. Most businesses, 64 per cent, told the Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study printing will remain important well into 2025.
- While the global book publishing industry is worth about $103 billion, it has continued to experience 0 per cent annual growth five years running.
- Self-publishing continues to provide an “in” for those who want to publish, but self-published e-books provide better response for the author. On Kindle, 17 of the 100 top-selling books are self-published.
- Publishers report their highest priority in 2020 is audience growth and marketing with 34. 2 per cent placing it at the top. Second priority comes successful SEO, say 25.8 per cent.
- Publishers have deserted traditional media as a source for information and instead, 64.2 per cent say they read blogs with second place going to forums with 11.7 per cent of publishers reporting it as their source for industry news.
- Publishers say their biggest challenges of 2020 include creating unique content that readers want, 23.3 per cent, keeping up with Google algorithm changes, 22.5 per cent, and diversifying website revenue, 20.8 per cent.
Okay. that’s the ‘techy’ stuff and what the larger publishers think. So, what can the Indie do, what are the trends to follow, or even lead on, regarding Social Media?
5 – Social Media
Habits change, platforms evolve, and new platforms come into existence. All this influences how people use and react to social media marketing, as well as how marketers can reach their audience.
What you did last year, or the year before, probably will not give the same results now. Like giving away your books for free… that is a big NO-NO for 2020.
There are now 3.484 billion social media users across the globe, which is a 9% increase compared to last year. This equates to 45% of the world’s population being on social. It also means social media adoption has beaten previous estimates, which estimated 2.82 billion would be using social media in 2019.
Saying that, more people are choosing to “detox” from social media, deleting apps and profiles to step away. This is more than the usual changes seen, in terms of people choosing to use one platform less in favour of another, such as Facebook seeing users decline but Instagram attracting more, this trend is seeing people take a temporary or permanent break from all social media.
One in three adults in the UK are reducing their social media use. Some 6% of users have removed an app from their phone, 6% have permanently deleted their accounts and 8% have deleted their accounts and removed social media mobile apps. A big reason for this is people feel overloaded by social media, with the permeation of social media affecting mental health and wellbeing. Others choose to detox because they don’t trust social media platforms, either due to issues like Fake News or because of privacy and data concerns.
This is not to say social media will become void in terms of digital marketing, but marketers do need to understand the impacts. It’s also vital you ensure your social media presence is as meaningful as possible. Your brand needs to offer more than memes, you need to deliver content which is positive and memorable. Content that makes an impact on your audience and provides as much value as possible.
While sharing posts you believe your target audience will enjoy is part of maintaining your social media presence, but you also need to encourage and cultivate interactions which are more than a simple like or share. Many brands/other authors have large numbers of social media ‘followers’ yet, their engagement levels are almost non-existent. Don’t be them. Be a brand who attracts engagement from their followers by building communities around your content.
Encourage your(self)/team to create their own social presence to promote content and increase overall brand trust. This tactic leads to an authentic voice for your organisation/brand.
Twitter chats help create a strong sense of community through content, bringing thought from all areas together in a real-time conversation. It gives your brand the perfect opportunity to engage directly with current and potential customers/readers.
Building social media communities help with word-of-mouth marketing, which is another big social media marketing trend for 2020. Communities allow engagement with nano and micro-influencers. many who will already be advocating your brand. Give them more reasons to share honest views and experiences of your products/books/author services.
Note: I mention Nano & Micro-influencers above. These are the people you need to create ongoing relationships with, not the ‘big influencers’ ones often associates with that term.
‘Big influencers’ are no longer trusted by consumers as their activity is clearly biased and devised for commercial reward. They no longer have the impact they once did and are seen as disingenuous.
In comparison, smaller influencers, ones who are likely to be part of your communities, tend to have better relationships with their followers, benefiting from a higher level of trust. This can lead to more engagement, thus increasing levels of trust in a brand/author/books which is more likely to culminate in conversion.
The rise of alternative platforms
Whilst Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to be the core platforms, many users are growing fatigued with their continuous ‘moving of the goalposts’ in order to generate even high levels of their already extreme profits, seemingly at the expense, or disadvantage of their users.
This has led to brands, including the individual entrepreneur/author having to fight harder than ever before to achieve good levels of organic reach and engagement. While Twitter has seen some growth during 2019, its active user numbers are far from its all-time 2017 high.
Similarly, Facebook has seen a huge drop in users, especially younger users, over the last two years, with the younger audiences opting to spend time on other platforms. Combine the above with the increasing pay-to-play format of social media channels means brands are not seeing the result from the core platforms.
Be prepared for more changes through 2020 as these core platforms jostle for users and introduce alternative and optional platforms and media channels.
- TikTok, with a younger target audience (41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24) could be a great platform to encourage engagement with users who are stepping away from more traditional social media platforms. TikTok is the destination for short-form mobile videos.
- Although Pinterest is far from new on the scene, it has experienced a recent resurgence. Pinterest has found it fits well into the e-commerce space and has an audience who are engaged with the idea of buying products they see on the platform. 75% of Pinterest users say they are “very interested” in new products compared to just 55% of people on other social media platforms. Brands report success on this platform, reporting 2x higher returns on ad spend from the platform than other forms of social media and a 1.3x higher return than traditional search.
- Consider Virily is a relatively new Blogging Platform which opened its doors in May of 2017. Its offices are located in Estonia and Macedonia.
Virily practices revenue sharing, which for the small publisher and Indie Author, means the content you post and the interactions you make on the site earn you a share of the platform’s income.
So, by simply posting your engaging content via Virily, sharing that to your other social sites, from which your posts will be viewed, you will earn some revenue. Don’t hold your breath though, you will not earn a fortune, but if you are constantly posting engaging content, which you should be, then why not do it via Virily and earn a few cents per post?
The one downside is, you cannot post long/large blogs (like this one). But you could break it down into three or four shorter articles.
Utilizing alternative platforms allows you to engage with an audience who may not be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, as well as providing you with different ways to share your content.
This could help deliver better results and shape your future social media marketing strategy.
6 – Telling Stories on social
I have given this short section space of its own. Although it is still focused on social media, it is also at the core of what we authors do… tell stories.
Allow me to elucidate.
A long time ago I offered my services, on a commercial basis, to companies seeking ‘alternative’ marketing options. By a long time ago I mean the early two-thousands, so around twenty or more years ago.
This involved something I termed, CBNM, or ‘Creative Brand Narrative Marketing’. Not to be confused with ‘Narrative Marketing’.
I promoted the idea thus:
Unlike regular or standard brand narrative, CBNM uses flash fiction, short stories, essays and other narrative mediums to embed brand awareness and responsiveness into the consciousness of the consumer as a cultural and social standard, making it familiar and customary, thus creating longevity of brand loyalty.
CBNM is well suited to the internet; particularly Social Media Platforms, Web Communities, Forums and Blogging chains. Yet can be designed in such a manner that also allows inclusion in traditional and established marketing mediums.
CBNM is pro-active, flexible and adaptive. It can change and adjust your communications to express any modification or revision as and when required.
While I was more focused on the written word at the time than the current fashion for image-led ‘stories’, I see no reason the two cannot be combined and, with the option of linking the message to various other platforms, like Instagram, Amazon or ones own website. I see sharing ‘stories’ is a growth area for engagement.
I was way ahead of the game and now the rest of the world has caught up, as CBNM still holds true today, in fact, even more so. CBNM is all about engaging with one’s audience, about creating great content, about engagement and about eliciting response… the current mantra of all marketing gurus and one of the ‘must do’s’ of 2020.
Since the launch of Snapchat, other social media platforms have rushed to add the Stories format to their offering. The result has been huge growth in the usage of this format for Instagram in particular, which as of January 2019, boasts 500 million daily active Stories users across the globe.
On average, brands are posting Stories on around seven days a month, averaging out to one Story every four days.
- Instagram Stories are more authentic than traditional Instagram posts that allow for heavy editing and altering.
- Content is only available for 24hrs, therefore, it is current and will not become outdated.
- Consumers want live updates and real-time content. Instagram Stories are normally the most up-to-date content a business can offer a consumer.
- Through Instagram Stories, you can share other people’s Instagram posts. This function allows people to connect easily with other accounts and businesses.
Stories are not a suitable option for every brand, but as stories are engaging and seeing increased use, will lead consumers to expect brands to create Stories, it is worth assessing if and how you can utilize them.
An ongoing question I am asked is, “What’s the future of reading regarding eBooks and Print.”
Since the creation of eBooks, reading on the go has become so much easier… or has it?
Whether you daily commute or travel by plane, seeing people with e-reader devices in their sticky paws, rather than a traditional paperback book is not an uncommon sight. The prime difference is most devices avail the user to such a range of activities, it is so simple to flick, slide or click onto the next thing that comes into the user’s mind. From bidding on that must-have from eBay to browsing Amazon, to looking at pictures on Instagram before opening an eBook and reading another chapter, all can be done almost instantaneously.
Oh, for any doubters out there, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Reading a book is alive and well.
A recent Survey Monkey report revealed people have read eleven or more in the last twelve months. Uncategorised fiction came in first at 26%, with mysteries and thrillers coming in at a close second (22%).
What is interesting is the majority preferred to go with a print book when reading, with around 58% saying they purchased books in both formats. It seems people like the e-readers because they can store more, but overall, most people prefer to read a traditional printed tome whenever they can (70%).
Even with so many people liking the smell and feel of a paper book, curling up on a rainy afternoon with a mug of tea and a thriller may become a thing of the past, feared 45% of respondents.
What has not changed is peoples’ love of reading, no matter what shape, size or format the stories come in.
However, the above are just a few results from a relatively small market sample which was mostly based on people opinion rather than die-hard facts.
The following is a look at the state of the book market and takes its lead from industry published facts.
7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.
Two new sets of numbers covering 2017 (latest available figures)show ebook sales are on the decline, both in terms of unit and dollar sales.
NPD’s PubTrack Digital, saw the unit sales of ebooks fall 10 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016. In absolute numbers, that meant the roughly 450 publishers represented saw ebook sales drop from 180 million units to 162 million over a year’s time.
The second, The American Association of Publishers, reported a decline in overall revenue for ebooks, a year-to-year decrease of 4.7 per cent in 2017. AAP tracks sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.
This ebook decline occurred in an overall publisher revenue environment that AAP said was essentially flat in 2017. So, some other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback books, went up as ebooks went down. For its part, NPD says when combining print and ebook unit sales, ebooks’ percentage of the total dropped from 21 per cent in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2017.
Children’s ebooks had the most dramatic decline in unit sales, and children’s/young adult ebooks have suffered double-digital revenue drops ever since the year 2015. Whilst adult fiction remains the most popular ebook category, with 44 per cent of all adult fiction sales in digital form.
However, neither NPD and AAP measure indie sales.
This is simply because centralized reporting of direct-from-author sales is tougher to come by, but by all anecdotal measures the independent market has taken off, notably in the also-still-large category of adult fiction.
One serious source of numbers for online book sales, including for indie ebooks, was the website Author Earnings. (Recently defunct) It estimated that traditional publisher reporting is, “now missing two-thirds of U.S. consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend.”
They say; “Ninety per cent of all romance purchases are ebooks,” the site’s latest report for Q2-Q4 2017 stated. “And we can see that science fiction and fantasy, with roughly 75 per cent of sales now ebooks and audio, is not that far behind.”
For all categories of ebooks, Author Earnings figures purely “indie” publishing accounted for at least 38 per cent of ebook units and 22 per cent of ebook dollars in the last nine months of 2017. And that doesn’t include micro presses, Amazon’s imprints.
“The indie share of the entire U.S. ebook market … now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings concluded. “In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.”
So, you may be wondering: Are people buying more ebooks or more print books, overall? It’s hard to tell, across all kinds of books. Author Earnings doesn’t track physical bookstore sales, and NPD and AAP only track traditional publisher sales.
Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon distributes a lot of independently published ebooks, made it a point to note in his annual letter to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”
Part of the apparently increasing shift of authors to indie status may be about the money.
“In traditional publishing, the writer sees a sliver of the profits — 5-15 per cent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo, herself a hybrid author, told me. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”
The future of ebook publishing may increasingly belong to the independent author, especially as traditional publishers shift more marketing weight onto the writers while charging a premium for their traditionally published product.
2020 will see the market share of Indie Authors and Publishers increase again. More traditional published authors will move, at least part of their catalogue, or new book publishing, to the Indie market and in doing so will bring subsequent changes to the way the Indie market operates.
Mainstream publishing houses will also continue to encroach into the indie field as Penguin has with their Independent Publishing arm… which I find a contradiction in terms… but there we are.
8 – India
India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth-largest in the world and the second-largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020.
General and literary fiction is ranked the number one genre in the books segment while “test prep” was the most sought-after genre in Academic books.
The consumer data survey, (Nielsen India Book Market Report) shows, on average people read books 2.1 times a week while nearly two-thirds read the book occasionally; interestingly, 56 per cent of the respondents bought at least one e-book a year and nearly half of these bought at least 3-4 e-books a year indicating a growing demand for digital books.
Fifty-five per cent of trade sales are of books in English. Books in Hindi account for 35 per cent of Indian language sales.
While the market is highly fragmented, it is also experiencing consolidation, partly due to presence of the merged Penguin/Random House/HarperCollins’ acquisition of Harlequin (all companies with substantial presences in India), but also in educational, with S Chand’s acquisition of Madhuban, Vikas Publishing House and Saraswati Book House, and with Laxmi Publications’ acquisition of Macmillan Higher Education.
Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen Book India, adds,
“There is enormous potential in the Indian book market which has been highlighted by the report, enabling publishers, booksellers and libraries to gain a deeper understanding of the market, pin-pointing areas that can be developed and those pinch points that need to be addressed in order to bring more efficiency and cost savings to the Indian book market and its supply chain.”
Those authors who are part of Electric Eclectic will know this marketplace is already being explored by Electric Eclectic. For those authors who are not part of Electric Eclectic… then maybe now is a good time to join us.
I cannot write this forecast without mentioning Amazon… so, here is a brief mention…
Amazon has reported strong growth metrics across business segments in recent years. Much of the company’s top-line growth has been on an organic basis, with the only major exception being the $13.7 billion addition of Whole Foods and resulting physical stores to Amazon’s offerings. (latest available figures.)
Expect Amazon’s combined global online sales to increase from $130 billion in 2018 to over $180 billion by 2020.
The company’s net revenues to increase from $178 billion in 2017 to $235 billion and increase to over $340 billion by the end of the decade.
Accordingly, the online sales business is expected to contribute around 44% of Amazon’s overall revenue growth in the same period.
No one predicted, 10 years ago, Amazon would emerge as the world’s largest cloud provider, or it would be opening physical bookstores, or offering innovative ways for customers to shop without cashiers (Amazon Go stores). I say Amazon will be pursuing a growth opportunity a decade from now that no one is talking about currently.
I cannot say what Amazon will look like in 2029… but…
Although Amazon is already enormous in size given its nearly $233 billion in annual revenue, there are still many places around the world where Amazon hasn’t penetrated. International revenue makes up about 28% of the company’s total revenue, and the largest market outside of North America is Germany.
Amazon will need to overcome obstacles as it expands internationally.
In China, where Amazon has less than a 1% share of e-commerce sales, Alibaba has a stranglehold on the market.
In India, where Amazon has been investing heavily, it has run into an obstacle in the form of new government e-commerce and anti-monopoly policies that force foreign competitors to compete more on quality of service instead of price.
But Amazon is just getting its feet wet.
In 2019, Amazon started to expand in Brazil and just opened its first e-commerce store in Turkey.
Amazon has generally run its international operations at a loss, but that’s indicative of Amazon’s moat. It requires billions of dollars to build the infrastructure in these countries, not to mention navigate around complicated laws and regulatory environments. There are not many companies in the world, except maybe Walmart, that have the capital and patience to lose money for several years while building the necessary scale to earn a profit.
While Amazon doesn’t disclose advertising revenue specifically, its “other” revenue category, which primarily includes ad revenue, increased 117% to $10.1 billion in 2018. Amazon’s ad business is growing at a faster clip than Facebook’s and Alphabet’s. It’s estimated that by 2020, Amazon’s ad business will reach $15 billion, which eMarketer expects to come at the expense of Google’s digital ad share.
While Amazon’s core retail business will continue to grow around the world, investors should keep their eye on Amazon’s cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS helps companies connect and scale a host of services and systems in the cloud, including machine learning, blockchain, storage, database system hosting, analytics, and business applications, among several other services.
Revenue from AWS has more than doubled to $25.7 billion over the last few years. It was estimated that Amazon had a 52% share of the public cloud service market in 2017, according to research firm Gartner.
What’s more, AWS contributed nearly 59% of Amazon’s total operating profit last year. One analyst with MKM Partners thinks that AWS alone could be worth $1 trillion by 2024, which is more than Amazon’s current market value of $871 billion (total shares outstanding times the share price).
Over the next decade, you can expect Amazon to continue to push forward internationally and penetrate the crevices of commerce and help migrate more people over to a digital economy. There’s still a lot of opportunities domestically, as well, given that e-commerce sales still represent less than 10% of U.S. retail sales.
International, advertising, and AWS are some of the big things that will drive growth going forward, but CEO Jeff Bezos is never short of ideas of where to steer the company. With Amazon currently pursuing opportunities in non-retail industries, such as the $135 billion video game industry and the $3 trillion healthcare industry, the company will likely look very different a decade from now. But that is what makes Amazon one of the most dynamic companies in the world, and why it’s a great growth stock to tuck away in your nest egg.
That’s it on Amazon. (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)
I don’t really need to say much else, except to ask where would we, as Indie Authors, would be without it? You may consider Amazon to be a Marmite company, love or hate. For me, the benefits of association far outweigh the alternatives… so, I’m in the love camp.
9 – Authorpreneurs
I expect to see more self-publishing authors taking the role of “authorpreneur.” Publishing a book is a business venture, one with you, the author, as the brand.
Many successful and experienced authors now build their brand and establish their credibility in a given field. It is not enough to simply write a book; authors must market themselves, become involved in their own promotions and advertising.
This opens opportunities to help, aid and coach other authors, and to create other revenue streams. This can be in editing, proofreading, promotions, marketing, design, virtual assistants, virtual customer services, the supply of hand-crafted merchandise, online stores and more.
Some author organisations, such as Electric Eclectic, allow their authors to use established branding and to work with other EE authors.
2020, I am sure will see many Indie authors utilising their skillsets in this way.
10 – POD/Inventory
Print on demand remains an important option for indie authors, one of the key factors which allow the independents to compete with their larger and better-funded competitors.
While eBooks are still in (slight) decline, print books show no such signs and allow the Indie Author the freedom of not having to hold a large inventory. An issue even large companies must contend with… even Amazon.
To deal with congestion at its warehouses, Amazon has cut book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. (reported by Publishers Weekly, Nov 19)
The head of a publishing company said,
“if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks we could lose the entire holiday season.” He added, “that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations.”
It is this freedom from having to batch print and hold physical stock (of any quantity) which allows the Indie Authors to compete.
I don’t think 2020 will see any major movement from the likes of Barnes and Nobel or Walmart with regards to carrying indie-published books directly, but I am certain these companies are looking into the possibilities of creating their own POD systems.
If they do, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for the Indie Author… stay tuned, folks.
11 – Author Alliances
This is not new in concept, but these cooperative associations are morphing into successful unions.
In 2020 I expect many more Indie Authors to pull together to advocate for themselves. For example, authors are challenging the control ACX, a marketplace owned by Audible still wields over the audiobook industry.
For uploading an audiobook, and perhaps a simple quality check, they ask for a percentage of sales twice the size the author receives. Authors are starting to question this and, now, more equitable alternatives are starting to appear.
An important shift now is that predatory and fraudulent companies are being exposed, as authors come together to protect their best interests.
ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, is helping authors sort the legitimate actors from those that have been subject to repeated customer complaints and legal action. Their ranking offers a one-stop resource for authors to determine if a publishing service comes vetted and recommended, with a Watchdog Advisory, or somewhere in between.
Another form of author alliance is common branding.
For example, Electric Eclecticallows its members, Indie Authors and small press publishers, to use the Electric Eclectic branding and share in the brand and individual author marketing initiatives.
My own expectation is, it will be harder to survive without forming an alliance, partnership or collaborating with others.
Take note from some of the big brands who partnered up to expand their reach and increase sales. For example, Starbucks and Spotify, giants in the coffee and music streaming business. They integrated the Spotify mobile app with the Starbucks My Rewards program and app. When customers were in the store, they could use either app to find out what music is playing in the store and add it to their saved music in Spotify.
The payoff for Starbucks was that the collaboration drove customers to download the app and join their customer loyalty program. As for Spotify, users who subscribe to their paid memberships get extra points for Starbucks My Rewards program. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and both companies have the potential to reach the other’s audience without sacrificing their brand.
And that is the key, ‘Mutually beneficial’. Time to get you Mutually Beneficial coalition(s) up and running.
12 – Crowded Social
Indie Authors must contend with far more than the competition of other books. You must also compete for space and attention which a million and one other products and services are fighting for.
This is most obvious of these are other forms of entertainment.
Almost every day some newform or platform for entertainment is announced. The sources proliferate online, authors compete with not only radio and TV, but the new streaming services beyond just Netflix, including Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, along with sports, live theatre, podcasts, video games, and more.
It can be difficult to stand out, to be seen when you are alone. To stay relevant, Indie Authors need to brand themselves and, as above, share branding, at least for some of their works.
One area where indies can have an upper hand is on a local basis, one’s hometown and county. This year 2020, make it a prime task to link up with your local media, radio stations, newspapers and television. Find out who runs Podcasts and blogs with local content in your area.
Once you have some airtime under your belt or even scheduled, you will find organising book signings far easier as your target destinations will be more receptive.
If you get on extremely well, why not have your local radio broadcast their show from the premises you are holding your signing. You make the radio happy, the bookstore happy and get a ton and a half od great exposure in your local community… hey, celebrity status at last!
Basically, as with all marketing. Think ‘outside the box’. (At least a little)
13 – Fundamental Shifts
Of course, fundamental shifts in publishing will continue and not all of them will be predictable. (Except maybe by me? Lol) Authors do need to stay informed, this year 2019, we saw Sci-Fi, Cosy Mysteries, Women’s fiction and Historical fiction all come to the forefront of ‘trending’. I expect this to continue, at least for the first quarter of 2020.
Over the past years, we have seen Amazon grow from a minor player to the largest book distributor. Borders and the subsequent focus on B&N and Waterstones. Direct to consumer marketing, the vexing issue of ‘Discoverability’ and powerful trends like Open Access. Increasing globalised markets, innovations of workflow, and so much more.
But above them, all were the sea changes in how books of any kind were bought and sold, whether print or ebook and what this meant for the process and structure of publishing.
I think, starting now, we will see the effects of consolidation. Maybe. Eventually, an emergence of supergiant companies, such as the joining of forces of such giants as Pearson, Bertelsman, RELX and Lagardere… all as one? Maybe.
It is not so farfetched. Penguin (&) Random House, now incorporates Harper Collins. Nature and Springer are now one company. Each is a behemoth in comparison to what was considered ‘big’ just 20 years ago.
So, what does this hold for the Indie, the single hard-working writers such as you and me?
Thankfully, I see the road ahead as favourable.
While scale and centralisation may well be the future for the giants, the smaller ‘Davids’ of the world can look forward to continued diversity. Which is a good thing.
The growth of writing platforms, like Wattpad, YouTube for words, Vice, Buzzfeed, blogging and niche newsletters, are all thriving, which proves the case for more an unfiltered environment, rather than a controlled one… (one of the reasons Facebook is losing users.)
Think about the indie publishing markets future like the ripples caused by a stone being dropped into water.
Today, we are in the centre… time to ride the ripples outwards as they and the market expand.
Did you know Electric Eclectic has its own Amazon store?
@open24 lists all Electric Eclectic books, books from associate publishers and a range of gifts for writers and readers.
Have a browse now, @open24, an Amazon store.