Chip MacGregor

January 3, 2012

What's your prediction for publishing in 2012?


I've been musing on what I think will happen in publishing this year. A handful of publications have asked me for some sort of prediction (and I swear I don't have the gift of prophecy), so it's forced me to consider the future. Everything I read seems to suggest something along the lines of "e-books, e-books, and more e-books." But I think that's obvious — the equivalent of saying, "The Yankees will play a lot of baseball games this year" or "it will rain a lot in Oregon." 

Besides the advancement of e-books into our lives, what do you think will really happen this year? What trends? What changes with companies? What changes with finances? What industry changes? 

Thomas Umstattd, the CEO at Umstattd Media and Author Tech, invited me to participate in a sort of online salon, discussing the changes some of us expect to see. My first thought? I think the major publishing houses will regain control of e-books. 

2011 has been a boon for self-publishers and e-book publishers. We've seen dozens of new companies created, sometimes by one guy in his spare bedroom. Everyone loved seeing all the new product, and many of the new kids on the block did well. But… that's about to change considerably. The traditional publishing houses may have been late to the party, but they have the money, staff, and marketing & sales know-how to make e-books work. And while they're going to have to change their traditional publishing model a bit, I think they are going to start doing a great job of selling e-books and recapturing the ground that was lost. Look for all the major houses to re-gain control of the e-book wars, and begin shifting their publishing models and their economic plans to better reflect the new world of book commerce. Frankly, I think a lot of the little e-book houses that were fast out of the gate will find themselves squeezed out, bought out, or spent out of existence. 
Umstattd's article is interesting, by the way, and you can find it over on the Author Media site:

What's your prediction for 2012? 

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  • Peter DeHaan says:

    I’m glad to know that this transition is occurring.
    Knowing what will likely happen is a great first step; now I just need to figure out how that affects me!
    Thank you for sharing your insight

  • Chip says:

    Thanks for adding your thoughts. Fiona, when you say self-published authors will do better… only if they can sell their books. And most have proven to not be able to do that effectively. So I think sales slide back to the publishers, who have proven they know how to SELL books. And an interesting idea from Kathryn — could very well happen.

  • “…major publishing houses will regain control of e-books. ”
    I was sort of waiting to form an opinion on this.
    Then I heard twice in one week from readers that they have started checking the publisher before they buy e-books. That’s a huge step toward what you’re suggesting, Chip. I’ve never heard non-author readers say that before. But now, after having been burned by bad self-pubbed books, they’re turning to publishers to be the gatekeeper, once again. At least those two readers are. 🙂

  • I think smaller traditional publishing houses will adjust their contracts to include incentive contracts: the more you sell, the more you make. It will be the only way some of them can survive.

  • I’ll add to your prediction, Chip. I think if the major houses don’t find a way to do e-books well (and that includes compensating their authors at a rate that will discourage them from going the self-pubbed route) that those major houses won’t be so major anymore and may dwindle to nothing. It’s a watershed time for publishers, in my opinion (and, of course, I do not know this for certain).

  • My prediction? I think e-books are gonna really take off this year! Huh, I know–duh. Really, I hope traditional houses get their games together as you suggest. I’ve read a number of self-published books, and though there were some gems in the dust, I wasted some money on some real duds, too. I like the idea of a well-crafted story that is polished by a knowledgeable team. If they don’t get it together, I hope Jim Rubart is right and someone finds a way to sift through the muck and shine a light on the good ones. I like to read too much for it to be soured by rotten fruit.

  • Fiona says:

    In other words, to get in the game, publishers are going to give up a lot of profit they are receiving in the traditional world (which may be what you are saying).

  • Fiona says:

    I don’t agree with you. I think authors who do well self-publishing do so much better–in terms of payment schedule and revenue–that I don’t see how publishing houses will take that back. Traditional publishing is VERY inefficient in terms of how long it takes to get a book out, and the payment schedule for authors sucks, to put it mildly.

  • I think you are probably right. they were only late to the game because they had a lot to lose (money) if it was a fad. Now that they know it’s not –I think the larger houses will be steadily churning them out. I started with book apps myself and am moving backwards into e-books. A trend I see happening with apps is that movie production companies are getting into app production now- they have the staff, the money, and the marketing to dominate the app industry. 2012 shall be interesting!

  • Chip, although my crystal ball is a bit cloudy nowadays (and, no, I don’t have cataracts), I think it’s pretty clear that e-books are here to stay. I have to agree that it’s likely publishers–at least, the ones willing to move forward, survive, even thrive–will get heavily into the e-book business. Some authors will continue to self-publish, but I don’t see that as taking over the majority of electronic publishing.
    I’ll be interested to see what others think of this.

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