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!