Okay, so I’m a little late… I always try to make some predictions for the coming year, just to test out of my gift of prophecy. This year it took me a while longer to put together my list, but I’m trying to squeeze this into the month of January, so it still more or less counts as a “start of the year” column. As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see…
1. Barnes & Noble will make a comeback. Honest. I think they’ve shrunk, re-focused their stores on profitable items, and I think this year they’re going to see a lot of growth with B&N.com. So while they’ve had a few tough years, I believe authors and readers will renew their appreciation for the country’s largest book retailer, and they’ll once again be seen in a positive light. (Note that I said nothing about the Nook. My crystal ball is smoky whenever I ask about the Nook. No idea.)
2. Subscription services are going to explode. Oyster, Scribd, Entitle, and Kindle Unlimited have all been growing, as people begin to look at them as the Netflix-for-books. But the reason we’ll see even more growth this year? Google will get into this in a big way.
3. Authors are going to fight like mad over Kindle Unlimited. I have a couple authors whose earnings are down significantly due to KU. They’re not happy, and they aren’t alone. I think a number of successful self-published authors are going to pull back from the service. It’s great for helping a new author build a readership — not sure it’s as great for successful authors who watch a bunch of their book get read without earning much money.
4. The legacy publishers are going to drop their e-book prices. The research is pretty clear that low-cost e-books is the way to go, but the Big Five haven’t wanted to play along, since it devalues their product and reduces income. But I think the market will drive them to lower their prices (and that will mean another round of cost-cutting at the major houses). Look for overall lower prices from all the majors by late summer, and a bunch of very-low-priced value e-books as they all decide to mine their backlist.
5. There’s going to be an explosion of author coalitions. Most writers now see the value of being a hybrid author (some traditional titles, some small-press titles, some self-pubbed titles), so we’re going to see a LOT Of authors get involved in a coalition — authors banding together to share editors, cover designers, book consultants, and marketing experts.
6. But I think we’re also going to see a drop in the number of self-published authors. I could be wrong, but it feels like all those wannabes, posting bad novels with horrid covers, are slowing. Maybe they’ve figured out that Amazon isn’t Amway; that the mere fact of posting your crappy book on Amazon doesn’t make you an author, bring you instant recognition, and certainly doesn’t make you a pile of money. There are going to be plenty of success stories, and certainly more hybrid authors, but I think we may see a slowdown in the Tornado of Crap (as my friend Randy Ingermanson has referred to it).
7. There will be peace in our time. Or at least Amazon and the Big Five will have moved out of the era of open hostility.
8. But all the publishing houses will move to try and sell more books directly, rather than going through Amazon. Could they focus on selling through Facebook? Through Pinterest? Through Twitter? I could see this sort of thing, as well as a renewed push for publishers to market and sell through their authors’ websites.
9. Local bookstores are finally going to start working more closely with authors, particularly local authors. Your local indie store is eventually going to offer you front table space for a fee, even if you’re a self-published author. They’re going to negotiate highlighting you on their website, in their store, and through events — all for a fee. Why? Because indies need to figure out ways to generate more income.
10. And the big areas of publishing we can expect to see grow this year will include… You tell me. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to tell me we’ll see a bunch of books from hopeful presidential candidates (Hello Hillary! Hello Bush Family! Gosh… you’re back! Again… And we haven’t really missed you at all.) I have heard others say we will see a flood of Cuban literature, now that the barriers to Cuba are coming down. I’ve also heard people suggest that books on marijuana will be huge, with everyone in a rush to legalize. (The best part of that? Tokers will potentially purchase your book several times, since they’ll constantly forget they already own it!) My own prediction is that we’ll see renewed interest in travel books, since gas is now below two dollars a gallon in the US. And I think we could see several major names weigh in on racial reconciliation in our post-Ferguson world.
What do you see as the areas of growth in publishing for 2015?