One of the most interesting things about the publishing business is that it’s always changing. I like to say that publishing is a “tidal” business – the tide of Amish books comes in, the tide of westerns goes out. I’d like to suggest ten trends that are shaping our industry, and the way you’ll see them demonstrated at this year’s ACFW conference.
TREND #1 – The Growth of E-books
E-books are not only the hottest growth category in terms of sales, they are re-shaping the industry. Amazon now says they sell more e-books than printed books. Not long ago people were worried about publishers’ survival – now we all recognize that publishers are selling more titles than ever before. (So what does this mean to the average author attending ACFW? There will be plenty of discussion about e-books and e-rights at the conference. If this is the future, you’d better be ready to discuss it.)
TREND #2 – The Growth of Genres
One of the best things that has happened because of the growth of e-books has been the creating of strong publishing niches. You like reading romance? There are e-publishers who only do romance. You like reading thrillers? Come to a site where all they sell are thrillers. You looking to connect with cozy mystery readers? There are whole groups of cozy readers hanging around together online. E-books and e-tailers have given new life to niche publishing. (What does this have to do with ACFW? There are a bunch of workshops aimed specifically at writing for a niche audience. AND there are a bunch of genre authors attending who can answer your questions about writing them.)
TREND #3 – The Growth of Short Fiction
People sitting down to read something on their iPhone or tablet computer want it short and to the point. That has led to a renewed interest in short fiction – short stories, novellas, and series fiction in the 55,000-word range. So categories that were dead a short time ago, are suddenly thriving. (And conference attendees can not only find classes on writing category fiction at this year’s ACFW, but have the chance to be face-to-face with editors of the various publishing houses.)
TREND #4 – The Growth of Author Income
You don’t hear it talked about much, but one of the weaknesses of e-books is that they can’t be shared. You could take your mass market novel and hand it to a friend, but you’re not allowed (or don’t have the capability) to pass along an e-book. Think that’s a bad thing? Not for authors – the early research suggests that means more people are buying books, and that translates into more money for authors. (This year you’ll find a bunch of workshops on contracts, success, and other career-building topics, taught by experienced agents and editors who can answer your specific questions about making a living at writing.)
TREND #5 – The Growth of E-book Publishers
One of the ways e-books are re-shaping the industry is through the creation of new companies. I have predicted 2011 will be “the year of the new publishing company,” since everybody seems to be starting their own e-book company. There are a bunch of new firms and new organizations. Will all of them last? No way. But a few will, and some will find big success. (How does this get dealt with at ACFW? Take a look at the e-book publishers who are attending. And ask the authors you’re sitting next to how many are releasing a title with an e-book-only publisher.)
TREND #6 – The Growth of Author Marketing
All of those titles being produced and sold need to be marketed. And in this tough economy, there is less money and fewer people working at your publishing house. So you – the author – need to know how to effectively market your book. Passing out bookmarks and visiting some blogs are a nice step, but you need to find out the best ways to get involved in the process of marketing. (Fortunately, if you’re attending the conference this year, there are a slew of marketing workshops to help you figure out what to do.)
TREND #7 – The Demand for Voice
There were 317,000 new printed books last year – 5% greater than the year before. And there were 2.7 MILLION new e-books or e-documents last year – for a medium that didn’t exist ten years ago. That’s a lot of competition. One of the early lessons we are learning in the new world of digital publishing is that, with all the titles coming out, a strong voice and a unique brand are essential to stand out as an author. (And if you’re going to the conference, you’ll find workshops and a lengthy continuing class on the notion of finding and establishing your brand as an author.)
TREND #8 – The Demand for Agents
Right now there are some people thinking, “Huh? I thought in the new world of digital publishing we no longer needed agents! Aren’t we all going to do that ourselves?” But what’s clear in the new world of publishing is that an author needs someone who can assist with foreign rights, with dramatic rights, with contracts that are filled with legalese, with an ability to decipher and check a royalty report, with advice for marketing ideas, and with experience offering career advice. (Those going to the conference will find not only seminars on working with an agent, but a slug of literary agents hanging around, waiting to talk about your next book idea.)
TREND #9 – The Growth of E-book Devices
If you don’t own a Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, or iPad… well, you will soon enough. I know—you like the tactile feel of turning a page. Big deal. You used to stop the car to find a pay phone, then you got a cell phone. You used to walk across the room to change the channel on the TV, then you bought a remote. You used to type your manuscript on a Smith-Corona, then you bought a laptop. You’re going to buy an e-reader because they’re light and convenient, and you can carry your library, your research, your notes, and your manuscript all on one device that weighs less than a pound. This change isn’t just affecting publishers, but writers. (And at ACFW, you’ll find writers and editors with all of those devices, talking about what they use, what they like, and how they’re working with them. Instead of just hearing paid commercials, you can talk with a big group of people about the differences and the uses of each.)
TREND #10 – The Change in Bookstores
For all the talk of e-books, we still need bookstores. Why? Because nobody really likes “shopping” for books online. A recent study showed that only 6% of book readers were satisfied with their online book-shopping experience. (Or, to put it another way, 94% of readers don’t enjoy shopping for books online.) What we like is to go into a bookstore, walk the aisles, and stop to pick up random titles. But… then a lot of us go home and buy the book online, where it’s cheaper. So how do we reshape the business so that publishers can still make money and stay in business, promoting and selling our books? That’s the central question facing everyone in publishing these days. (How is that topic being dealt with at ACFW? Um… it’s not, really. But come talk to me, since I’ll be there, and tell me your ideas. I’ll share what I know, and maybe we’ll come up with the solution.)
See you there.
President, MacGregor Literary
Awesome list! But #4 is not quite accurate. Kindle at least has a lending function now. In fact, book clubs and virtual “libraries” are springing up where strangers can borrow from a pool of Kindle books owned by others. Go Google “lending Kindle books” and a plethora of information will pop up.
This is a very insightful article. Being a great writer isn’t enough anymore. Authors need to morph into “the complete package”. When they effectively sell themselves will they sell more of their books. Retailers need authors to become part of their sales team both in and out of the store.
Thanks, Chip, You answered some questions I’ve had.
Great post, Chip! So much information! Wow.
See….this is why I miss Chip’s blog! Great stuff. Can’t wait for the conference!
Dear ACFW: Thank you for inducing Chip to blog again. We appreciate it. Sincerely, the masses…
Great information here. I can’t wait to see all the e-readers in person and compare. Sounds sort of like lunchtime in elementary school…You have ham and cheese? I’ll trade my PB&J.
The Nook also has lending capabilities, but it’s not active on every book. I think the publisher decides which books have that enabled, but I’m not sure.
And I’ll be there. With my Nook!
Great article and very informative!
Okay, my head is effectively spinning. I have to go sit down.
Thanks for posting these highlights of e-book publishing trends. Wish ACFW was going to be near me this year! 🙂
I own Kindle. I don’t like that you can fully charge it, but even if you don’t use it for awhile, your battery is empty.
It eats your charge when the device is turned off.
I still prefer paperbacks. I don’t like much reading of a device.
I’m sorry for typos.