Chip MacGregor

December 31, 2012

My Publishing Predictions for 2013


Okay, time for my big publishing predictions for 2013…

1. Some of the large publishers will buy up the smaller micro-publishers who have succeeded in niche markets. (This only makes sense. Penguin/Random House are merging, and want to expand their reach. Hachette is perhaps the most forward-thinking of the companies, and must see the opportunity. It’s possible HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster will combine forces, and they are two companies who have always sought to maximize niche markets. MacMillan does as well. So look for some of those guys who started in their garage a couple years ago to cash out.) 

2. Literary agents will re-define themselves. (This has already begun to happen with some multi-person agencies. The growth of e-books and the opportunity authors have to self-publish means an agent, to demonstrate value, has to prove he or she can assist with self-publishing, with marketing and sales planning for a wide variety of projects, with career development for authors who are working with traditional publishers as well as publishing their own books, with contract evaluations in an age of significant intellectual property rights changes, and with business management. An author isn’t just a writer any more — he or she is a self-proprietary business person, and good agents will re-define themselves in order to assist with that change.) 

3. E-book royalties will grow. (E-publishers are already paying in the 50% neighborhood, so traditional publishers are going to have to be competitive. I can see one of the Big Six boosting e-royalties to 30%.)

4. Several of the major and mid-major publishers will move to strictly digital catalogs and royalty statements. (Think of it: At many of the larger houses, they’re still hiring people to print off stacks of paper and stuff them into envelopes. Welcome to the 80’s! This is a change that’s way overdue. And there’s limited value in expensive book catalogs any more — a digital catalog is cheaper and more nimble when it comes to updating or shifting the sales priorities. Lest you skip over this one, Dear Writer, understand that it’s important both to your marketing and to your ability to get access to your numbers.) 

5. A photo will be released that shows President Obama’s Department of Justice officials kissing Jeff Bezos on the lips. (Okay this is just a wild guess, but that’s the only explanation for the recent e-book pricing decision favoring Amazon. The court’s decisions make no sense at all when it comes to consumer protection or publisher assistance, so I figure secret love photos must be behind it all.)

6. Barnes and Noble will be sold. (For the record, I don’t have a shred of evidence to suggest this will happen. But with Microsoft investing a half-bilion in the Nook, I wonder if a publishing conglomerate will decide to go all in, take over the brick-and-mortar stores, and try to compete with Amazon that way.)

7. Speaking of Amazon, I think they’re going to start offering a print version of any e-book they sell. (It just makes sense, and the technology already exists. E-book sales growth has slowed, and it’s clear print isn’t going to just fade away any time soon.)

8. There will be a lot more short-form books sold in 2013. (As novel publishing moves back to the era of Charles Dickens, serials will become more popular, and readers will once again start flocking to interval-based stories that are short, episodic, and create a long story arc. Think “Downton Abbey” but in print.)

9. That will mean the industry will have to re-think the way it markets and sells e-books. (This is a no-brainer. They don’t sell songs the same way they used to sell albums, and they won’t sell shorter e-books in the same way they’ve sold printed tomes. The change will probably include less big-budget pre-sales marketing and more tracking of sales data in order to determine which projects to promote. And that will mean the days of “your book has 60 days to succeed or it will die and be out of stores” will change.)

10. Someone (Amazon? Best Buy? B&N? Books-a-Millon? Sony?) will produce a free e-book reader and make it available to subscribers. (It will work this way: If you agree to buy 10 books, perhaps with an agreement to purchase 10 more, you’ll get a free reader, and it will come loaded with a whole slug of classic public domain titles, such as Dickens, Twain, Hawthorne, etc. E-reader sales are slowing, and companies are going to have to decide if the focus is on the once-every-two-years purchase of a reader, or on the consumable purchases of books. I’m guessing the focus is on books, which means the value of the e-reader device goes down.)

My miscellaneous meanderings. The best part of making predictions is that it makes me look like an expert, and by this time next year you’ll have forgotten all about them, so I can always claim to be right. 

Happy New Year!
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  • Iola Goulton says:

    #2 – Literary agents are safe as long as the trade publishers only accept manuscripts from agents–and as long as authors see publication by a brand-name publisher as desirable. Yep, agents need to reinvent.

    #4 – that’s got to be a no-brainer. Publishers still cut paper checks? No wonder the self-publishing community think they are behind the times.

    I agree with the comment above about #5.

    About #8, I don’t know. We are already seeing a lot of serials on Amazon, but many of the readers (especially in the Romance discussion forum) are not interested in paying 99 cents for an installment when they can get a complete book from a NYT bestselling author for $4.99 – especially when they don’t know how many installments there will be (99 cents sounds good, until you find it is 99 cents each for 20+ installments). Readers will be happy to wait until all the installments are available in a single volume.

    #10 – Kobo already comes with 100 pre-loaded classics, but this might sway first-time purchasers who don’t realise that all the out-of-copyright classics are already free on Amazon, Kobo etc and Project Gutenberg.

  • Janice says:

    I think you’re right about most of these and definitely see a free e-reader on the horizon. Wish I’d found it today instead of buying the Kindle Fire that I just purchased. 🙂

  • Daniel Smith says:

    No one else that I follow in the publishing world even makes annual predictions. So may your miscellaneous meanderings be right on target. Hope you had a merry Christmas and find success in the new year!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Ha! That’s probably because this business is in a state of revolution, Daniel, so it’s tough to predict anything more than “James Patterson will write another hit book” or “the new Karen Kingsbury novel will make my wife cry.” And, let’s face it… I’ll probably be wrong about these. But it’s fun to put myself out there and try! Thanks for commenting.

  • Cindy Thomson says:

    I hope you’re right about those royalty statements, Chip. I mean, come on!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Yeah — Random House is doing it (and making electronic bank deposits rather than sending paper checks). But most of the others are still printing reams of paper, stuffing them into envelopes, and sending them via snail mail. A waste of time, paper, and money, as well as being less secure and permanent. But I think we’ll see this start to change, Cindy. Thanks for commenting — and nice to see you with Santa in your author photo. You must have made this year’s “nice” list!

    • Cindy Thomson says:

      You had doubts?

  • Susan Donetti says:

    Sounds exciting. As usual, I got great information and a chuckle about the kissing photo suggestion. And since I save all your blogs in a folder, unless my computer blows up, and one never knows :), I’ll be able to check back on January 1, 2014 and see how you did. Happy New Year.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I’ll probably bat .500, Susan. But I’m giving it my old college try. Good comments from others about the DOJ ruling, by the way. Apparently those photos don’t exist, so I’m already 0 for 1…

  • Becky Doughty says:

    Happy New Year, Chip!

    I’ve been watching for your predictions for this new year and you haven’t failed to entertain, enlighten, and encourage me. I’m actually excited about what’s coming – it seems like with this many changes, things are at a “breaking open” stage in the industry. I LOVE the tension in the air with all the movement at the top and behind the scenes – it motivates me to keep writing and keep active and keep listening.


    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks, Becky. And yes, there’s a LOT changing in the industry right now. I had a hard time deciding which ten things to predict. But it’s a great time to be starting out in this industry — opportunity abounds.

  • Cherry Odelberg says:

    Wonderful prognostications! I like your chutzpah.

  • Rick Acker says:

    Interesting and thought-provoking column as always, Chip. One quick note from an antitrust lawyer’s perspective on #5: While very little would surprise me from Washington these days, the e-book antitrust prosecutions make plenty of sense without anyone having kissed Eric Holder on the mouth. I understand that the publishers felt they had excellent moral and business justifications for what they did. I’m not necessarily disagreeing. But they don’t appear to have had, you know, legal justifications. Based on the US’s complaint, the publishers conduct was the antitrust equivalent of a homeless guy stealing because he’s hungry. Understandable? Sure. Morally justifiable? Maybe. Legal? Nope.

    Happy to discuss further offline if you like.

    Happy New Year!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks for this, Rick. You certainly now the law better than I do, so I’ll defer to your wisdom. I appreciate you coming on and offering your perspective.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      And by the way, Rick, someone wrote to me today and said they thought I was being snarky in my response to your comment. Not at all — I was sincerely thanking you for commenting. I figure an antitrust attorney’s perspective is considerably more valuable on this issue than my own!

  • Robin Patchen says:

    Fascinating ideas. I love the idea of free e-readers. My first book was published this year–e-book only, and I can’t tell you how many people told me they would’ve read it if they’d had an e-reader. A great excuse, of course. With free e-readers, no more excuses. (Or more likely, more creative excuses.):)

    Now I’m off to visit your archives to see if you did this in 2012.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Of course, anyone can read ebooks on their laptop or desktop, Robin — they have apps for Kindles and Nooks to adjust to the reader’s home computer. Just a thought as you talk up your book with friends and family who are without an e-reader!

  • Ruth A. Douthitt says:

    Very interesting predictions.

    “10. Someone (Amazon? Best Buy? B&N? Books-a-Millon? Sony?) will produce a free e-book reader and make it available to subscribers.”

    You should do this, Chip! Come up with the idea and product, patent it, then sell it to the Big Boys. Woo hoo! Retire in Hawaii and promise you’ll speak well of me. 😉

  • Fascinating predictions, Chip, but you are wrong about one thing…I will not have forgotten about them by next December for I intend to archive this post and dust it off next Christmas to see just how correct your predictions were (and I have every faith that most of them will be spot on…;~)

    Thanks for all you do for the writing community and here’s to a successful new year in 2013!

    Donna L Martin

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Well… I might hit a few. I’ll miss on some. But thanks for the good wishes in the new year!

  • Sybil Bates McCormack says:

    I hadn’t realized e-book sales had slowed. 2013 promises to be an interesting year indeed.

  • Sharon says:

    In a sea of writing websites and blogs, you continue to be the ONE I follow consistently. Thank you for being a teacher and a realistic encourager to those of us who may otherwise fall away in exhaustion at the very notion of navigating these changing waters.

  • Fascinating thoughts, Chip! I did not know that Microsoft invested in the Nook, but somehow I doubt B&N will sell out. Their locations here in the Northeast still do a lot of business. Although I do think the future in brick-and-mortar stores lies in an Amazon-affiliated company or some such similar business model.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Microsoft invested a huge amount of money, and B&N spun off the Nook into it’s own company. This week Pearson Media (from the UK) also invested a big chunk — nearly 90 million. Both companies see it as a toe-hold into the e-reader market. As for B&N selling, I think it’s inevitable that they’ll sell, even if it’s portions of the company or certain locations. But don’t take that as a negative — I love B&N and want them to succeed!

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