I’ve worked in the publishing industry for 17 years. Seven years as a full-time author and ten years as a full-time consultant who coaches authors and trains marketers at publishing houses. I’ve seen incredible change over these years, especially with the rise of Amazon and the invention of social media. However, I believe the industry is ripe for additional change. From my point of view, these are my predictions for the future of publishing:
Barnes & Noble will die a slow death.
B&N is the only major competition to Amazon, but they just announced a $125 million loss in fiscal 2018 and 6% decrease in annual sales. They’re a $3 billion company, so they won’t disappear anytime soon. But, their leadership lacks innovation, and they are the business version of a skinny kid getting bullied at the beach by Amazon.
Amazon will get regulated as a monopoly.
Amazon sells nearly 50% of print books and 70% of e-books in the U.S. In recent interviews, Jeff Bezos seems resigned that the government will pass regulation to slow down his utter dominance of the industry. However, that doesn’t mean Amazon will get punished. Instead, they’ll likely be separated into different business units (retail, web services, publishing, etc.) and continue to thrive.
Publishers will remain caught in a revenue catch-22.
Publishing houses could dramatically increase profits if they sold books directly to consumers. But, their retailer relationships prevent them from expanding into direct sales. No publisher can afford to tick off Amazon or B&N, so they must continue selling books at tight margins with limited, overworked staff. In addition, publishers will struggle to attract top talent, because they can’t offer competitive salaries. Why work in books when big bucks are available working in apps, gaming, movies, or virtual reality?
Authors will hate working with publishers…but still keep doing it.
I’ve trained over 500 authors. I can count on one hand the authors who were happy with their publisher. Dull cover designs, editing problems, boring book descriptions, and cookie-cutter marketing plans will continue in the foreseeable future. Yet, authors have egos, and they can’t resist the offer to receive an advance check and someone else to do the heavy lifting for them. Self-publishing is here to stay, but it requires more work to succeed than most authors are willing to commit.
The best new marketing ideas will come from self-published authors.
Jeff Bezos reported that over 1,000 indie authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties via Kindle Direct Publishing in 2017. I know an indie author in England who’s makes nearly $1 million a year from his personal book sales. Indie authors are hungry and savvy. They’ve figured out how to create sustainable audiences from scratch, master online advertising, and monetize their readerships. Plus, they enjoy telling publishers to suck an egg when asked if they’ll return to traditional publishing. Indie author success stories will become more frequent.
Facebook will stay too greedy to play fair.
In 2017, Facebook made nearly $40 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) from online advertising revenue. They made a lot of this money by limiting the reach of free posts, thus forcing authors to pay for their own followers to see their content (boosted post, anyone?). As a result, an author’s Facebook audience has become a house of cards that requires an extensive budget in order to monetize and grow. Do you think Facebook will walk away from $40 billion just to help authors reach their fans for free? Of course not. Therefore, other channels that attract direct subscribers will remain better avenues to build readership and market books to the masses, such as email, podcasts, blogs, etc.
Giving away free content will sell tons of books.
I’ve preached for years that giving away free content is the fastest path to paid sales (a.k.a. – sampling). This dynamic will continue to drive revenue for authors smart enough to offer a wide variety of free material to readers. Authors who hoard their content will struggle to attract readers. Authors who spread free material will reach a wider audience.
Authors who think outside the book will control their destiny.
Let’s face it. There is no money in books. The price point is too low. However, there is plenty of money to be made from spin-off revenue. Authors who take a wider view of their intellectual property will reap immense rewards. It’s never been easier to create video courses, paid webinars, training curriculum, theatrical rights, subscription programs, etc. The future is about looking beyond the book and creating multiple revenue streams. Writing a book is merely the starting point.
As we look ahead, I’m concerned about the death spiral that could befall many retailers and publishers. The industry currently lacks healthy competition and innovation. On the bright side, I believe there’s never been a better time to be an author. Embrace the opportunity, embrace the change, and embrace the ability to control your career.
Nervous about the future of your author career? Or, is the marketing team at your publishing house struggling to keep up with the best new book promotion tactics? My expertise has helped create bestselling results for numerous clients. Call me at 770-887-1462 or contact me online.
Jerry Jenkins says
Interesting, insightful stuff, Rob. I resonate with much of it.
I may share a bit of this with my 2,000+ online writing students, but will, of course, give full credit.
Hope you’re well.