Reflections and predictions — sort of

As 2013 draws to an end, all I can say is “Finally!”. There was something about this year that had me almost constantly looking over my shoulder and waiting for the next shoe to drop. Without going into boring detail, let’s just say that on a personal level this was an “interesting” year and I am glad it is ending. On a professional level, it was a better year than it was on the personal and I’m hoping 2014 continues the good luck in the professional and brings some balance in the personal.

With the end of the year comes all the predictions for what’s going to happen next year. I’m always interested in what others think will happen in our industry. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I wonder if the predictor is living on the same planet I am. Some of the predictions are the same ones, or variations of them, from last year and the year before. Others are new. But there is a common thread in them all: indie publishing is here to stay. Legacy publishing is going to have to learn to adapt or it will continue to see authors “defecting”. Just how nasty the fall-out becomes remains to be seen but no one seems to doubt it can get bad and there will be bitter feelings on both sides as a result.

Let’s start with the predictions from Joe Konrath. You can find his complete list here. Because he also makes predictions about some personal projects, I’m going to skip those.

1. The end of Barnes & Noble as we know it. (He predicts a possible bankruptcy but definitely sees the closing of more and more stores and a possible demise of the brand.)

2. Indie bookstores will need to start selling self-pubbed books or perish.

3. Visibility (for indie authors) will become harder.

4. Self-publishing will witness a new support industry grow around it.

5. Big 5 mergers and layoffs and bankruptcies.

6. Amazon will continue to blaze trails.

7. Legacy will fight back.

Dean Wesley Smith responded to Konrath’s list, agreeing with some of what Konrath said and disagreeing with other parts of it. He doesn’t think we’ll see B&N disappear over the next year although he does think the Nook and sales wings “will change in some fashion”. Nor does he think we’ll see the demise of big publishers any time soon. As long as they continue to get the bulk of monies from book sales — instead of authors — they will hang on. Dean also points out that indie bookstores can already sell self-published books thanks to changes in policy by Baker and Taylor and Ingrams regarding POD.

Forbes also has its own predictions for the new year. Among them are the following:

1. Publishers will license or create their own e-reading apps.

2. Amazon will start playing nice with publishers.

3. Public libraries will increasingly buy access to large aggregations of e-books.

4. Publisher margins will be under pressure.

5. More publishers will start selling e-books directly to readers.

6. Self-publishing will continue to grow even as e-books sales at publishers stagnate.

7. Illustrated e-books will enter the market in greater numbers as costs plummet.

8. Amazon will continue to expand into publishing books.

9. Shift to tablets and smart phones will have a negative effect on e-book sales.

From Digital Book World come these predictions:

1. Barnes & Noble will close or sell Nook and go private.

2. Amazon will go the way of Barnes & Noble…and open its own physical stores in 2014.

3. Trade publishers will sell and acquire assets to “verticalize” their businesses.

4. The illustrated book business will become severely challenged.

5. More publishers will endorse the subscription ebook model by doing business with Oyster, Scribd and other similar services.

6. More publishers will launch magazines and websites catering to reader interests and start selling ebooks directly to customers.

7. More price experimentation.

8. The “big five” publishers will make their full e-book catalogs available to libraries for purchase.

Even Smashwords got into the prediction game. You can find the full list of predictions here. However, here a few of the more important or interesting ones:

1. Big publishers lower prices.

2. When everyone is pricing sub $4.00, price promotions will become less effective.

3. E-book growth slows.

4. Competition increases dramatically.

5. E-book market share will increase.

6. A larger wave of big-name authors will defect to indieville.

7. All authors will become indie authors.

8. Traditional publishers will re-evaluate their approach to self-publishing.

If these lists leave you scratching your head, join the club. I think one thing is clear. No one really knows what is going to happen. We can make guesses, some educated guesses and some just wishful thinking — and some that leave you wondering what the predictor was smoking (like all authors becoming indie authors in 2014). For me, my list is pretty simple. Things are going to change. Legacy publishing is going to continue to try to hang onto all the rights it can, refusing to revert rights without legal action being threatened and squeezing authors on royalties. E-books sales will continue to be incomplete and will, therefore, show a slow in growth because small press and self-published e-books aren’t included in the sales figures. Prices will fall but not to below $4.00. There is still the reader perception to keep in mind and a vast majority (in my experience) are willing to pay $4.99 – $7.99 for a novel and think that e-books priced in that range are more “pro” than those priced in the $2.99 and less range. B&N is going to change but I don’t think we’ll see it go belly up this year. Amazon is going into bricks and mortar — but this isn’t new. They announce this months ago. And yes, indie authors do need organizations to help them. Heck, all authors do. We’ve seen over and over again for the last few years just how ineffective the “professional” organizations have been to assist authors and protect their rights against large publishers.

In other words, our industry is changing and we are on the front lines of helping guide where it goes. The battle isn’t always going to be easy nor will it be pretty. But change rarely is. For me, I’m going to keep my eye on what’s happening as I write. My own writing goals for the New Year are much higher than they have been before and I don’t know if I will meet them. But I’m going to do my best.

How about you? What are your predictions for the New Year and what do you think about the predictions the others have made?

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Reflections and predictions — sort of

  1. I think it’ll be same old, same old, but maybe kicked up a notch.

    Traditional publishers will trying other means of rights grabs–possibly with more “House Names” both as work-for-hire and fitting superficially similar books into them, if they are sold entirely to the publisher and the publisher registers the copyright in the company name.

    Nanny types from both side may get into a Ban-the-evil-books war. PC-witch-hunters vs. Porn-haters. Hopefully it won’t go nuclear.

    More people will get ereaders of various sorts, ebooks will continue growing.

    As reading devices get more complex, ebooks will change as well. Background music for each scene, occasional artwork, possibly animation. All sorts of things will be tried. By and large they will fail, as the most prolific readers just want to be left alone to read.

    Pirating? Who knows? I found one of my short stories on a “free downloads” site. I thought about getting it taken down . . . then I noticed the number of downloads it had had. Zero. *Sob* No one even wants to steal me! Maybe I can leave it up long enough for at least one wicked soul to be corrupted by The Lawyers of Mars. *Sniffle*

    [Amanda, you might want to check all of NRPs authors here. Other people--not to mention NRP-- could be losing money. http://www.general-ebooks.com/ ]

    • TXRed

      *Sniff* They didn’t have any of mine. *sticks out lower lip, tries to look pathetic*

    • Pam, thanks for the link. There are several of our titles there — and 15 of Sarah’s and 7 of Dave’s. I’ll keep an eye on the site. Right now, I’m not too worried about it — downloads are minimal so the economic loss isn’t enough to justify a take-down notice.

  2. I think both the Big 5.5 and B&N are in the same boat that Kodak was in. They need to adopt the new technology to survive, but way too much of their existing business is tied up in the old technology.

    Kodak actually invented the digital camera, but their management team saw it as a threat to film (which it was, of course). They tried to strangle it. Unfortunately that didn’t stop digital cameras; it just meant that they weren’t made by Kodak.

    So, yeah, I think both the Big 5.5 and B&N go away in time. Maybe not this year, but within a decade for sure.

    The last time I was in a B&N, it seemed like they had more floor space devoted to trinkets than actual books.

    • Tony, B&N long ago stopped being a “bookstore”, imo. What it needs to do is figure out just what it is going to be. Well, that and realize that it can’t keep building its superstores only a few miles apart. They saturated the market and did nothing to adapt as the market started changing. Now they are closing stores that ought to be profitable but aren’t because they are too close to the next store and because B&N is locked into rents based on past sales performances. Not good any way you look at it.

  3. TXRed

    1) I suspect B&N will become more of an “entertainment media” chain than book store. 2) We’ll see more of the Big 5 offering “author services” for the “aspiring hybrid author.” This will generate both revenue and opprobrium. 3) Taxes on e-books as compared to print books will become a hotter political topic in places with VATs. 4) Two really big name authors will tell their long-time Houses to go suck eggs and will go indie, possibly taking their editors with them. 5) People will argue over e-book pricing. 6) It will be Amazon’s fault. Earthquake, warehouse fire, bad music files, revolution in Iran? Jeff Bezos arranged it as a way to boost the use of Amazon Prime. 7) A nasty fight will break out over censorship (or at least over non-sales) of at least one of the following: e-books about sex with imaginary creatures and/or dinosaurs, opposition to Islamism, opposition to Christianity/western traditions in general, erotica not labeled on the cover in 35 count font EROTICA!!!!! 8) Someone will find a cat cuter than Tarder Sauce and ‘Lil Bub and will break the ‘net.

    • No! There can’t be a cat cuter than Tarder Sauce! Say it ain’t so.

      • I have to admit, the video of him at Disneyland, confronting Grumpy was a hoot!

        I don’t think all of the Big 5 will go down, at least one will manage to hang on, but the rest, like a drowning man, with do their damnedest to drag everything else down with them in an attempt to keep floating. A lot of authors will find their rights tied up of they try to scoot. It will actually take a couple of years for them to sink. BUT, there will always be print, and book sections in places like WalMart. But the longevity of books on those shelves will make them more like glorified magazines.

        There will be a rise in author services to help you get your e-book ready for publication. Maybe one or two of them won’t be scams. (I could use a little help getting my toc and start markers set)

  4. Synova

    No predictions, just a happy New Year to you all.

  5. Pingback: Some predictions for 2014 • Liquid State