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.
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?