Friday, December 21, 2012

Mark Coker's 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions - Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge

It’s that time of year when book people make their predictions for the year ahead.  I bring you, my dear reader, my epic predictions for 2013.

I say "epic" tongue in cheek, because I went a bit overboard this year. When I sat down to write this, I was thinking of maybe eight or ten predictions with short narratives.  I'm bringing you 21 predictions with expansive narratives.  Skim the headlines then read what grabs you.

All of us in this business, from writers to readers and everyone in between, have a vision for where things are going. 

Vision is an odd thing.  To see something which doesn’t exist either makes one a prophetic seer or a delusional nut.  At the wonderful Pikes Peak conference in Colorado Springs earlier this year, I had the pleasure to meet Donald Maass, an author and top tier literary agent for whom I have much respect.  I attended a surprising session in which he trashed self-publishing.  The mood in the room changed from optimism to dejection when he spoke words to the effect of, “If you don’t care to reach readers, then by all means self-publish.”  I was floored by his comment, because it’s not what I expected from someone of his smarts.  I’ve met with dozens of literary agents over the last 18 months, and 95% of them see things differently than Donald Maass.

When I saw him later that night at a dinner, I told him I thought he was underestimating the transformative impact self-published authors will have on book publishing.  He looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “and I think you’re delusional.”  Touché!  I think it was one of my favorite moments of the year.  One of us will come to our senses eventually.

We are all on a journey.  None of us know with absolute certainty what happens next.  All we can do is position ourselves for the future we prophetically or delusionally imagine.  History will judge us all.  Those who position correctly will be rewarded.  Those who aren't prepared will face the harsh realities of the future marketplace.

Every one of us holds the power to change the course of history by taking actions today that enable the future we desire.  Our actions mirror our aspirations, which means the future of publishing will be determined by our collective and sometimes competing aspirations.  Readers are our gatekeepers.

I challenge you, my dear writer, publisher or reader, to take charge of your future.  Imagine a brighter and better future ahead, where the culture of books reigns supreme, where more people are discovering, reading, purchasing, publishing, selling, and profiting-from books.  Imagine a future where more readers than ever before will enjoy a greater diversity of books than ever before.  Imagine a future where the power center of the publishing business shifts from traditional publishers to ordinary writers where it belongs.  This is the future I imagine, and it’s the future we’re working to realize at Smashwords on behalf of our 50,000 authors and publishers around the globe. 

The utopian and often self-serving aspirations of industry participants don’t always intersect.  Sometimes, objectives are at odds with one another, and at other times objectives are aligned.  Our experiences, biases and fears color our perceptions, and sometimes distort them.

Much is at stake.  The world's 50 largest book publishers alone achieved $68 billion in sales in 2011, according to Publishers Weekly. When so much money and power is up for grabs, industry players have a lot to fight over, and much to protect.  Books are worth fighting for, so fight for the future you want.  Otherwise, someone else may determine your future for you.

When I started Smashwords almost five years ago, I felt I had a clear vision for how ebooks could transform book publishing for the benefit of authors, publishers and readers.  I positioned Smashwords and its services to serve self-published authors and small publishers.  Although I believed we could build a large business helping authors publish and sell ebooks, I had no idea our revenues would grow so slowly in our first year, 2008, when our revenues totaled under $1,000.  In early 2009, I had no idea that by the end of the year, we'd fundamentally change our business from that of simply a publishing platform to that of ebook distribution. Although I believed in ebooks, I had no idea the market would develop this fast.  When I first started working on the Smashwords business plan, ebooks accounted for less than one quarter of 1% of overall US trade book sales.  Although I believed self-published authors deserved to become future bestsellers, I had no idea that so many would hit the bestseller lists so quickly. I definitely had no idea that less than five years after starting Smashwords, we'd be supporting the e-publishing and distribution efforts of so many authors, small publishers and literary agents.  None of us can truly predict the future, but we can still prepare for it by remaining flexible.  We must be willing to roll with the punches when fate tries to smack us upside the head, and adjust our course and our beliefs when we make mistakes.

My crystal ball gets murkier from here on out, and for reasons you might not expect.  The doubters like Donald Maass are becoming the exception, not the rule, and that worries me.  When everyone starts swimming in the same direction and believing the same group think, that’s when I start wondering about what comes next.  It's the job of any entrepreneur - and we are all entrepreneurs of our own destiny - to prepare for the future while surviving today. 


My 21 Book Industry Predictions for 2013:


1.  In the US, ebooks sales will reach 45% of US trade book market

Ebook sales growth in the US is slowing, but we’ll still continue to see ebooks take eyeballs from print books.  Brick and mortar retailers will reduce shelf space for print as more readers turn to screens as their new paper of choice.  Ebooks as a percentage of overall trade book sales in the US should hit 45%, up from what I’m estimating will probably be 30% in 2012.  I might be underestimating both numbers.  It’s tough to find reliable market share data.

2.  Follow the eyeballs:  2013 will be the first year unit volume of ebooks exceeds print

The dollar sales growth of ebooks understates the profound shift to ebooks and screen reading.  2013 will be the first year more books are read on screens than on paper.  To really understand the seismic shift toward screens, follow the eyeballs.  Ebooks cost less than print books.  The price of ebooks is declining, which means that the dollar sales growth cited above understates the increase in unit sales volume, and unit download volume.  Furthermore, the data doesn’t measure free downloads.

Here’s a newsflash, and you’re reading it here first: Smashwords authors are generating about 3 million downloads at the Apple iBookstore each month, for books priced at FREE.  Annualized, that’s over 36 million downloads. I expect we’ll do more in 2013.  My 36 million number doesn’t include the millions of readers our authors are reaching each month across Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore, Page Foundry, Blio, the Smashwords.com store, and at public libraries. Our authors are building platforms and fan bases at a faster rate than many traditionally published authors.

When customers have the option to purchase two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other at $10+, our data indicates the books generate essentially the same amount of dollar sales, but the $2.99 price yields six times as many unit sales.  If you’re an author, and you have a the option to earn the same earnings at $2.99 as $10+, but at $2.99 you’ll build your platform six times faster, what price is the right price?  It's a no-brainer.

Indie authors are leveraging the agency model, earning royalties of 60-70% list.  This allows them to price lower, earn more per-unit at lower prices than traditionally published authors selling at higher prices, and all while the lower prices help them sell more units and build author brands faster than authors stuck with traditional publishing deals.  Tell me again why authors of the future will want to hobble their careers working with a big publisher that over-prices their work, starves them of readers, and pays per-unit royalty rates of 25% net when indies are earning triple to quadruple that when they self-publish?

3.  The current glut of books will become even more pronounced

Even before the indie ebook revolution, there was a glut of books.  There are simply too many great books worth reading, and not enough eyeballs or hours in a lifetime to read them all.  2013 will remind us we haven’t seen anything yet.  Thanks to the increased awareness and street cred of indie ebook publishing, and free online tools like Smashwords that make ebook publishing fast, free and easy, the next generation of writers is realizing they need not bow subservient before the altars of publishing gatekeepers ever again.

Smashwords authors are publishing direct to their readers and achieving global distribution.  This is leading to a surge of new titles that never stop coming, and never go out of print.  In 2013, self-published ebooks will swamp the titles put out by traditional publishers.  This is good for the future of authors, readers and publishing.  We’re in the early stages of a full scale publishing renaissance.  Readers now have access to an amazing diversity of high quality books.

Some industry participants – some authors included – fear this glut, because they think it’ll either increase competition or decrease discoverability.  Yes and no.  More high-quality titles than ever will be released, because the barriers to publication have been eliminated.  Readers will discover the best books and propel them forward through word of mouth.  More poor-quality books than ever will also be released, and these books will be summarily ignored by readers, reviewed poorly, and will fail to spark word of mouth.  Yes, competition will increase, but so will author opportunity, because more readers than ever will be reading ebooks.

4.  It’ll get tougher to sell books

The easy days are behind us.  In the next few years, I expect millions of out of print books will come back to life as ebooks.  Millions of writers will self-publish new titles.  The virtual shelves of online ebook retailers will expand to accommodate a limitless supply of ebooks.

In the early days of self-published ebooks when there were fewer books to choose from, the act of making your book available in the ebook format helped you reach a lot of readers.  In 2013, authors will face more competition for reader eyeshare.  Most of that competition will come from fellow indie authors.

Indies, as a collective organism, are become more knowledgeable, professional and sophisticated in their publishing.  They're pioneering the best practices of tomorrow.  All authors will need to up their game. That means more professional editing, more professional cover design, broader distribution, smart pricing, and more books.  Unlike their static print counterparts of yesteryear, ebooks are living, dynamic and immortal creatures.  You can upgrade your ebook to make it more available, accessible and enjoyable to readers at any time.

5.  Publishers, in search of Black Swans, will lose authors to self-publishing platforms

Publishers are in the business of selling books, not publishing books.

The dirty business of publishing is simply the means to the bookselling ends.  The publishing industry has always been built around a model of scarcity and exclusivity.  Publishers want to acquire and publish only those titles they think have the greatest commercial potential.  They reject all the rest as riff raff, and then they carefully meter out their chosen books in seasonal catalogs.

Publishers have built barriers – let’s call them dams and dykes and parapets – to protect against the hordes of aspiring writers seeking publication.  Publishers require writers to work through agents, who are charged with identifying titles publishers will want to publish.  Many top-tier agents reject 5,000 authors for every author they sign on.  Publishers still reject many of the agented books as well.

Big publishers see the great unwashed masses of aspiring authors as a problem, and these walls insulate them from the problem.  Publishers are simply unable to take a risk on every author.  They realize most of these books don’t have strong commercial potential, and on that count they’re correct.

Publishers devote tremendous energy and expense trying to build barriers to hold back the flood, but in the process of rejecting the riff raff they’re also rejecting the unrecognizable future breakouts.  These breakouts are the Black Swans of publishing, to borrow a term popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of The Highly Improbable.  As described by Taleb, a Black Swan event is unexpected, unseen, unanticipated, improbable, and unpredictable.  When it hits, it turns everything upside down and changes the world forever.

Since most books fail, we can think of a true breakout book as a Black Swan event.  The newly hatched Black Swans are invisible to the publisher because they're hiding in a sea of baby black geese.  By sheer luck, numbers and some skill, Publishers pick out a few of the swans, but miss the others.  Only the full marketplace of readers can reliably identify the black swans. In the dark ages of publishing, prior to five years ago, the baby swans were culled by publishers, denied any chance to reach readers.  How many great classics have been lost to humanity simply because publishers missed the black swans?

This philosophy and attitude among large publishers that “most authors are a problem” and are unworthy of publishing is deep-seated.  Yes, most authors don’t sell well.  Most authors published by big publishers don’t sell well either, and therefore are unprofitable to publishers.

The secret to capturing the Black Swans is to embrace all authors.  It’s what we do at Smashwords.  I created the Smashwords publishing platform so I could take a risk on every writer, the swans and geese alike.  We believe every writer is special, every writer has a right to publish, every book is valuable to the world regardless of commercial potential, and only readers can determine what’s worth reading.  We don't sell services.  We earn a small commission only if we help sell books.

Until publishers learn to honor, respect and embrace every writer, unequivocally and independent of perceived commercial merit, they’ll continue to lose the Black Swans to Smashwords, and they'll continue to disenfranchise writers.  Publishers can’t embrace authors with platitudes.  To succeed at self-publishing, the publisher must learn to embrace authors in a way that the publisher’s interests and author’s interests are properly aligned.  Proper alignment is only possible if publishers help authors sell books, and if the money flows from publisher to author.  If money flows from author to publisher, that publisher is a parasite. 

6.  Overall ebook prices will decline, though author brands will retain pricing power

It’s simple economics.  Excess supply of books, unlimited supply of alternative non-book media forms, and limited supply of reader eyeballs means that the producers of books – authors and publishers – will continue to compete on price.  When quality is equal, price is one of the dominant levers (convenience and selection are the other two) that drives consumer behavior.

Will book prices fall to zero as authors and publishers compete for readers?   No.  But authors and publishers must compete against free.  Luckily, what writers write is completely unique.  This unique creation has value, and if it’s desirable to readers, and the perceived desirability outweighs the price, readers will pay.  Readers will favor trusted author brands.  That means your opportunity as a writer is to build your brand.

7.  Passive discoverability trumps other book marketing methods

Most books don’t sell well, even when backed by expensive marketing.  It’s really tough for authors to earn a return on their marketing investment.  Many marketing service providers will happily take thousands of dollars in fees, yet deliver few sales.

Authors need a better solution, and part of that solution is to recognize that marketing isn’t quite as important as most people think it is. Marketing is a catalyst, not a fuel.  The book, and the customer's reaction to that book, is the fuel. In the year ahead, authors and publishers will place increased attention on passive discoverability.

Passive discoverability is all about making books findable by readers. The secret is to apply viral catalysts, a term I introduced and describe in detail in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  A viral catalyst is something that makes a book more available, discoverable, accessible, and enjoyable to readers.

Think of your books as an object, and attached to the object are dozens of dials and levers (the viral catalysts) you can twist, turn and tweak to make your book more available, discoverable and enjoyable.  When you get the combination just right, reader word of mouth kicks in and propels your book sales forward.

Think of these viral catalysts as beacons that are working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to broadcast your book’s virtues to readers looking for a book just like what you published. The beacons will shine on ebook retailer shelves, and readers will discover them through retailer-operated merchandising systems, search engines, reader reviews, and social media hyperlinks.  By leveraging viral catalysts for passive discoverability, your book becomes findable forever. 

8.  Tablets will become the new paper as E-Ink becomes niche product

In the brief history of ebooks, 2012 was the first year that dedicated e-reading devices saw a unit volume decline, even though overall ebook consumption continued to grow.  The cause?  Readers are showing a preference for multi-function tablets like the iPad, according to a report released this month issued by iSuppli.

In 2013, this trend is likely to continue as readers are drawn to tablets, and these tablets become faster, better and cheaper.  It's unclear how this will impact ebook sales.

On the one hand, as books become woven into the hyperlinked fabric of the Internet, books will become more available and discoverable to more people, even to people who aren't looking for them.  On the other hand, these tablets are media consumption devices, which means books will once again have to compete against an ADHD-inspired array of alternative media consumption options.

With dedicated e-reading devices, such distractions are less prevalent.   E-Ink devices won't go away because they still provide compelling advantages for many consumers.

9.  Global will be the biggest story of 2013 for indie authors

The market for English-language ebooks outside the US will eclipse the US market in 2013.

As I predicted above, in the US, ebooks as a percentage of the overall trade book market will probably reach about 45% in 2013, up from approximately 30% in 2012, 19% in 2011, 8% in 2010, 3% in 2009, and 1% in 2008 (these are AAP numbers, with 2012 and 2013 my personal estimates).

This means that while the US market is still growing, the growth is slowing.  Ebooks broke out first in the US market.  Now they’re breaking out internationally as other countries enter the exponential phase of growth for their ebook markets.

Indie authors have a similar ground floor window of opportunity to become big fish in the small pond of these fast-growing markets, like the early indie ebook authors had in the US market in 2008 and 2009.  And like the market of 2008 and 2009, larger publishers were slow to enter the party.  Today on the global front, they’re struggling to overcome decades of legacy territory rights practices that have hamstrung their ability to distribute ebooks to all countries.  They’ll get there soon.

As an indie author, you can get there now.

The rise of global also means that authors should modify their marketing to become more world-aware.  Each store in each country has its own reviews and its own web page addresses.  A great review at Apple or Amazon in the US is invisible to customers shopping in their UK stores (Amazon provides a link in their UK store to view additional reviews in the US store, though US customers aren't given a link to view reviews from other Amazon stores).  Each store in each country represents its own micro-market, and your opportunity is to build fans everywhere. On your blog and website, start providing direct hyperlinks to the different stores operated by each retailer in each of your primary countries. Outside the US, English-language authors will do best in Australia,  the UK, Canada, and New Zealand, but you'll still sell into other countries.  Your social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter or on your blog will cross most international boundaries.

10.  Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo will redouble global expansion efforts

It’s a land grab.  In 2012, all the major ebook retailers expanded their global operations.  Amazon is now in about 10 countries.  The Apple iBookstore is operating stores in 50 countries.  Barnes & Noble entered the U.K. in 2012, and will probably make 2013 the year it goes completely global.  Kobo has always had an international focus, and following its acquisition by globally-minded ecommerce juggernaut Rakuten in Japan, I expect more global expansion from them in 2013.

11.  Apple iBookstore will be the breakout story of 2013 ebook retailing

With little fanfare, the Apple iBookstore dramatically expanded its international reach in 2012, starting the year with iBookstores in 19 countries and ending the year with 50 countries - far outpacing the global expansion of other retailers.  Internationally, iBookstore sales surged on the strength of explosive growth in iPads and iPhones, and with readers showing preference for multi-function devices over single-purpose e-readers.

For the month of November 2012, sales of Smashwords-distributed titles at the Apple iBookstore more than tripled compared to the same month a year ago, a growth rate that exceeded the growth at other retailers in the Smashwords distribution network.

Despite the fantastic growth at Apple, many authors still treat Apple as an afterthought compared to the bigger book retailing brand of Amazon, and to some extent Barnes & Noble.  It's not uncommon for many authors, in their email signatures, blogs, websites, and other social media networks to link only to their books at Amazon.  This is a mistake because when analysts start estimating ebook market share for 2012 in 2013, I think Apple's growth will turn heads.

The growth of the Apple iBookstore is inextricably linked to the growth of Apple devices, such as the iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  If sales of these devices continue to surge, the iBookstore will enjoy above-market growth rates.  Apple's primary competitors, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both offer competing tablets, which, although lower priced, are starting from a disadvantage in that they don't have the hardware and software design experience of Apple, or the same fanatic brand loyalty.

It's interesting to think that the winner of the ebook retailing wars may be the company that designs the best e-reading devices. Screens are the new paper.

As 2013 progresses, keep an eye on market share data for the different tablet platforms.  If the recent iSuppli data is correct, and if tablets continue to take market share from dedicated E-Ink devices, then the market share numbers will serve as a leading indicator of which retailer is gaining advantage in the ebook marketplace.  Two days ago, an industry analyst at Pacific Crest Securities came out with a report that said his channel sources have provided him data that led him to conclude that the Kindle Fire tablet is selling more poorly than he expected as buyers choose Apple devices instead.  If true, it could be a turning point.

Ever since launching the iBookstore in early 2010, Apple has been aggressively adding content and capabilities to their store, and has expanded its global footprint faster than any retailer.  Despite their progress, they maintain a low key public profile when it comes to touting their growth and accomplishments.  I'm not sure why they've taken this low-key approach.  Apple keeps their future plans close to the vest.

Apple has always been supportive of indie authors.  They pioneered the agency pricing model, which dramatically increased author earnings over the industry's conventional wholesale model.  Agency pricing puts pricing decisions in the hands of authors and publishers, where it belongs.  It's counterintuitive to some, but the agency model actually leads to price reductions.  It gives authors greater flexibility to compete on price, and earn more at lower prices compared to what they'd earn under the old wholesale model.

Apple's global merchandising team is impressive.  They're customer centric.  They're giving our authors a seat at the merchandising table.  They've been more proactive than any other retailer at promoting Smashwords titles, both individually and within larger creative promotions, such as the Breakout Author promotion that happened in Australia and New Zealand featuring thousands of Smashwords authors.

Apple's pro-indie merchandising efforts have paid big dividends for Apple. These books are getting great reviews from Apple customers.  Our books are selling.  Smashwords titles routinely grace the top 10 bestseller lists at Apple iBookstores around the world.  Apple's earning millions of well-deserved dollars selling our books, and that makes me happy.

2013 will be the year people start paying fresh attention to Apple.  Thanks to Apple's success, indie authors will gain increased credibility and respect in the publishing industry.

 
12.  Amazon’s global ebook market share will decline

Amazon deserves immense credit for catalyzing the ebook revolution.  Although Sony beat Amazon to market with a solid e-reader, Amazon helped put ebooks on the map in a way that no other retailer could.  In the process, they’ve helped create livelihoods for many writers who previously faced few options.

That said, Amazon’s star could dim in 2013, even as its ebook business grows.  Amazon’s ebook sales volume will grow significantly in 2013, but their global market share will decline amid increased competition from well-funded competitors such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others.  We’ve seen it already in the US market.  A few years ago, Amazon held about 90% market share in the US.  Today, thanks to the rise of its competitors, Amazon’s market share has dropped to somewhere around 60% (Amazon doesn’t disclose its numbers, so the industry is left to guess the true number).

Amazon also faces a backlash from authors, publishers and partners who have grown weary of Amazon’s heavy-handed business practices.  Amazon’s a fierce competitor and a brilliant strategic player.  They play the game of chess like few others.  Every move today is calculated based on its impact five years from today. By making moves today to exploit opportunities that don't even exist yet, they have shown an uncanny ability to outflank and outmaneuver their competitors.

Amazon's potential undoing, however, is greed and bullying.  They don’t just play to win, they play to grind their competitors into bloody submissive pulps.  They also have a more expansive, more inclusive definition of their competition than any other ebook industry player.  Amazon’s working to vertically disintermediate everyone that stands between the content producer (the author) and the content buyer (the customer).  In a cover story in Fortune Magazine this month, writer Adam Lashinsky notes that a favorite Jeff Bezos aphorism is "Your margin is my opportunity."  That attitude may come to haunt Amazon in 2013.

If Amazon could invent a system to replace the author from the equation, they’d do that too.  Actually, it's already happening, though not directly by Amazon's hand.  One innovative publisher, ICON Group International, has patented a system that automatically generates non-fiction books.  Over 100,000 of these titles are now for sale at Amazon, according to this story at Singularity Hub.  As the field of artificial intelligence increases, how long until novelists are disintermediated by machines?  It's a preposterous idea worthy of science fiction.

But maybe it's not so preposterous after all.  Amazon has already shown a willingness to replace one author with another.  Witness their KDP Select program, announced one year ago, which encourages authors to remove their books from Amazon’s competitors.  The opt-in program aims to remove indie ebooks from the shelves of its retailer competitors, while at the same time making participating authors more dependent upon Amazon.  By providing favorable sales advantage to those who opt in to their exclusivity program as compared to KDP authors who don’t opt in, they’re punishing their own non-participating KDP authors by providing KDP Select books preferential discoverability over non-participating books.

As Amazon enters new markets, as they did this year with India and Brazil, they’re making KDP-Select participation a mandatory requirement if authors want to earn the full 70% royalty rate which is otherwise standard in other Amazon territories, and standard at other retailers (and without the corresponding exclusivity strings attached).  If you don’t opt in, you earn only 35% in these emerging countries.

Exclusivity works to Amazon’s advantage, but for the author it’s a crapshoot.  From the author’s perspective, exclusivity carries with it a set of knowns and unknowns, placing authors in the difficult of position of playing Russian Roulette with their careers.  The author can’t accurately predict or measure what they’re giving up by going exclusive (though based on what I’m seeing, KDP Select authors are harming their platform building in other channels), but if they don’t go exclusive they don’t know what KDP Select benefits they passed up. 

For some authors, Amazon’s attempts at exclusivity speak to their worst fears about the company.  Despite the criticism and bad will generated by these policies, Amazon soldiers on, doubling down on its exclusivity strategy.  Either we’re witnessing Amazon making a strategic blunder, or Amazon sees a future none of the rest of us see.  A future where Amazon's the dominant controlling player and any author who wants to reach readers will be forced to do so under the thumb of Amazon’s rules, which are already the strictest and most vigorously enforced in the industry.  Time will tell.

I think Jeff Bezos is brilliant, and Amazon is a great company, though I think they’d be better served if they dropped a bit of their crush, kill, destroy, turn-to-bloody-pulp attitude.  It’s a high risk strategy that will either work well for Amazon, or it"ll blow up.  At a minimum, Amazon’s “everyone is my competitor” attitude encourages its potential partners, like Smashwords, to pursue fruitful relationships with other kinder, gentler partners.

Amazon's actions, such as their controversial Price Check app, have revealed their intentions to do to all brick and mortar retailers what Wal Mart did to Main Street America.  Competitors such as B&N (next item below), now have an opportunity to strike mutually complementary partnerships with companies that won't partner with Amazon.

13.  Barnes & Noble will rise again like a Phoenix

Barnes & Noble is the Rodney Dangerfield of ebook retailing.

Industry watchers have been predicting the demise of B&N for a few years.  Premature causes of death were said to be the rise of Amazon, or the DoJ or EEC’s anti-agency rulings, or B&N’s slow global expansion, or their poor cash position.

In 2012, B&N received a $300 million cash infusion from Microsoft, and entered the U.K. with an innovative brick and mortar strategy backed by 2,500 retail outlets.  This strategy can’t be easily replicated by Amazon because retailers are rightly wary of inviting the Amazon fox into their brick and mortar hen houses.

B&N, by comparison, has a broader palette of synergistic and welcoming partners to choose from, because unlike Amazon, B&N isn’t hell bent on vertically disintermediating the retailing of all physical and digital goods in the universe.  B&N hired a new global chief, and now stands ready, I predict, to execute an aggressive global expansion in Europe and elsewhere, in symbiotic partnership with allied retailers, that will solidify B&N as one of the top global brands for e-reading.

14.  In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales

With the shift to self-publishing, writers must carry the publishing burdens once borne by traditional publishers, such as the cost of editing, proofing, book production, packaging, and distribution, as well as backoffice tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and year-end tax reporting.  Third parties are building businesses to serve the needs of indie authors.  Most indie ebooks sell poorly at first, so it’s not uncommon that writers will invest an amount of money in their books that far exceeds their near term return.

This is a problem.  Writers want to publish books that reach readers, but to reach readers they must produce books that are as good or better than what the big NY publishers are putting out.  This means writers must invest time and talent in their books, and if outside talent is required, it usually costs money.  With this burgeoning demand for professional publishing services, thousands of service providers will open up virtual author services shops in 2013.  The challenge for writers is to procure the highest quality services at the lowest cost.  Plenty of scamsters and over-priced service providers will be standing by to help.

The smart Kristine Kathryn Rusch, blogging on December 12 in a posted titled, Writing Like it's 2009, likened what happening today to a gold rush:

Here’s the thing: From 2008-2010, e-publishing on the early e-readers was a gold rush. And if you look at the history of any gold rush, you’ll see a familiar pattern.

A few people hit it big in an unexpected way. They make a small fortune.  They broadcast the news of that fortune, and then hundreds, if not thousands, of people follow. They hook their horses to their wagons, drop everything, and head to the land of riches, expecting to become millionaires with very little work.

And what happens? Millionaires. Hundreds of them. Only those millionaires don’t get rich panning for gold. They open the supply shops, they serve food to the miners, they supply blue jeans and work boots and equipment, hay for the horses and rooms to rest in at night.

It’s not a coincidence that S&S [Simon & Schuster] has opened up an expensive do-it-yourself shop in indie-publishing land. It makes perfect sense. Think of S&S as the chain hotel who heard that there was a fortune to be made by offering rooms to miners who are too tired to pitch their own tents.

There’s gold in them thar hills, folks. And the gold is for business people who know their way around a profit-and-loss statement.

By the way, scammers always show up in the middle of a gold rush. Scammers know they can make a fortune off the ignorant. We’re in the scammer/chain hotel phase of this gold rush.
I think Rusch nailed it.

How can writers protect themselves?  I have two recommendations:

1.  Pinch Your Pennies - As I write in Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, pinch your pennies.  As a self published author, you're the publisher.  You're running a business.  The lifeblood of a business is profit, because profit generates cash.  If you run out of cash, you go out of business.  Since profit equals sales minus expenses, and sales are difficult to predict and often minimal, it's important to minimize expenses.  DIY as much as possible, especially when you're starting out. Invest your sweat equity (your time and talent) first.  If you can't afford editing, barter for editing, and leverage beta readers.  Once you start earning a profit, then carefully reinvest.  Never borrow money to finance your ebook publishing adventure. Never spend money you need to pay the mortgage or to put bread on your table. 

2.  Work directly with the individual providing your service - When you hire professionals (cover artist, editor, proofreader, marketing pro), hire the professional directly, so your money goes straight to them, and not to some author services firm who will farm the job out to someone then mark up the fee several-fold.  At Smashwords, for example, we have a free autoresponder email service called "Mark's List," where I maintain a list of low-cost ebook formatters and cover designers (send an email to list@smashwords.com), with prices starting around $50.00 (that's all!).  You're hiring the freelancer directly.  We don't get a referral fee, listing fee, commission or kickback, which means you're getting the service at-cost, as low as possible, and your money goes directly to the service provider you choose.  Most of the service providers are fellow Smashwords authors.

Writers beware.  This brings me to my next prediction.

15.  Pearson/Penguin/Random House/Simon & Schuster will either cut bait on Author Solutions or ride this anchor to the bottom of the sea

In 2012, Pearson, the parent of Penguin, acquired Author Solutions (ASI), an author services company backed by Bertram Capital, a private equity firm in Silicon Valley.  Author Solutions maintains a less-than-stellar reputation, right alongside fellow vanity publishing posterboy, PublishAmerica.  Blogger Emily Suess  has been running a series of damning posts for months at http://blog.emilysuess.com/tag/author-solutions/ where she exposes ASI’s business practices.

Author Solutions is a provider of over-priced author services, and that’s about the kindest description I can share.  They earn 2/3 or more of their income selling over-priced services to authors, and these services are of nebulous value and invariably print-centric.  According to Publishers Weekly, ASI's ebook sales accounted for only $1.3 million, or 1.3% of their $100 million in revenue for 2011, and that was with a staff of about 1,600 employees, 1,200 of whom are in the Philippines, where the bulk of their work is performed.  By contrast, Smashwords will do around $15 million in ebook sales in 2012 with 1/100th the staff.

Author Solutions is not in the business of selling author books to readers.  Instead, they’re in the business of exploiting the dreams of newbie authors who don’t know better.  Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition of ASI left me befuddled.  Although Pearson/Penguin was smart to recognize that self-publishing represents a tremendous growth area, their acquisition of ASI – a company that helped put the “V” in Vanity – demonstrated an utter disregard for the best interests of writers.  It demonstrated a deep-seated cynicism that valued the money in authors’ pockets ahead of good business ethics.  Newbie writers who don’t know better are easily exploited by the heavy-handed sales tactics of ASI, as so aptly documented by Emily Suess.  Yes, Pearson/Penguin can make money with ASI.  But it’s blood money.   With the acquisition of ASI, Pearson/Penguin made the decision to become a blood sucking parasite.  The indie author community raised a stink when the news came out.  Did publishers listen?

The acquisition placed Pearson/Penguin in an inextricable pickle.  As I blogged in July in my post titled, How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career, if they want their $116 million acquisition to pay off, they’ll have to continue the same author-fleecing services and business practices, and by doing so they’ll tarnish the once sterling Penguin brand.  In the proudest tradition of the great publishers, money should flow from book buyers to publisher to author, not from author to publisher.  If Pearson/Penguin decided to clean up the act of ASI, they’d find themselves facing a print-centric business model that doesn't help authors, and the specter of huge operating losses due to what is likely ASI’s $100 million operating expense overhead.  It’s a lose/lose situation, no matter how Pearson/Penguin proceeds.

But wait, there’s more.  On October 29, 2012, Pearson announced a deal that will help it divest itself of Penguin, and along with Penguin, the newly acquired ASI albatross, by merging it into a new joint venture with Bertlesmann’s Random House division.  Soon, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams, ASI will become “Somebody Else’s Problem” when Random House gains majority ownership over Penguin/ASI.  You'd think Random House would have been paying attention to the bad smell surrounding ASI.

And yet there’s more. Another Big 6 publisher was asleep at the wheel.  Despite all the author community outrage over the ASI acquisition, less than a month later, on November 27th, Simon & Schuster decided to launch its own self-publishing “imprint” called Archway Publishing - sporting a logo that proudly advertises it's powered by none other than Author Solutions.  They're going to sell publishing packages priced up to $25,000.   $25,000?  How could Pearson/Penguin/Random House/Simon & Schuster make such a massive series of blunders?  Do they really have so little respect for writers?  The pattern is very disappointing for those of us who want to see the big publishers survive and thrive.

16.  The Big 6 will become the Big 4 as bean counters take over the farm

Warning:  I get a bit wonky with financial acronyms at the end of this one (that's what I get for going to business school).

Pearson, the UK media conglomerate parent of Penguin, and Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate parent of Random House, agreed to merge Penguin and Random House into a joint venture in 2013, pending regulatory approval.  I think the union will produce an ugly baby.  The convoluted financial details contain a circus of financial machination hula-hoop acrobatics and if-then-what variables that only their proud investment banker parents could love.

The merger’s benefit to authors, or to the employees of the publishers, is less clear.  Ostensibly, the merger would give the larger combined firm more negotiating leverage against the channel, and specifically Amazon.  I don’t buy that, unless they’re willing to pull their books from Amazon.  Amazon will either laugh in their face and say no to their demands, or will say yes while it continues developing direct relationships with authors, thereby neutering publishers by denying them the sustenance of future authors.

Within a couple of years, it'll be game over for publishers who think they can push the channel around, because there will be hundreds of thousands of other high-quality indie-published books to take their place. I had a conversation earlier this week with a smart publishing industry veteran who told me, "Publishers created Amazon, so I don't know why they're acting so surprised now."

What the merger really says is that the shareholders, parent companies and executives of Big 6 publishers are starting to view their catalogs as no- or low-growth assets to be milked, when in fact they should instead be focused on growing the farm for future harvests. I expect them to eventually saddle the operation with more debt (their merger press release contains an option for that very outcome), and then merge and eliminate redundant operations (lay off employees in HR, finance, editing, marketing, sales, distribution, merge or eliminate imprints) to reduce costs so they can make the debt servicing expenses.

Each of the publishers is sitting on a goldmine of back catalog, ready to be milked. Perhaps the investment bankers will push a path forward for some publishers to stop or reduce their publishing exposure altogether, and instead become asset manager custodians of their backlists.  They can abandon big print runs, move to POD, digitize their lists, focus on distribution and marketing, cut back on new title acquisitions, impose stricter reversion clauses upon authors so digital books never go out of print, and harvest the profits that will come from the reduced operating expenses of not having to be a publisher.  Although this would create an insanely profitable business for their shareholders and debt holders, it would also mark a capitulation of sorts.

None of these moves help authors at a time when authors want more support from their publishers, not less.  It also limits employment opportunities for the brain trust of passionate book lovers who work at the big publishers, and who now risk having their livelihoods eliminated in the name of “strategic realignments” and other unpleasant euphemisms for lost jobs.

Expect the remaining Big 4 to get frisky with the mating and M&A dance. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of the remaining Big 4 acquired by private equity firms.  Private equity firms typically acquire operating companies with mostly borrowed cash, and then saddle the company with debt.  With little of their own money invested, the private equity firms generate high  ROE – return on equity, even when the company's profits drop under the weight of debt servicing obligations.

They’ll cut costs to raise EBITDA, another favorite and dehumanizing finance metric that stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes and Depreciation.  Finance folk love EBITDA as a tool to determine how much debt they can load on a company before they choke it to death with debt payments.  More debt means higher ROE, but if they pile on too much debt, the company dies.  Think of EBITDA calculations as a form of auto-erotic asphyxiation administered by bean counters.  It's a risky business.  These financial metrics, when abused, are dehumanizing and will sap the soul of publishers.  Watch out, bean counters are in control now.


17.  Stigma of Big 6 (or Big 4 or Big 3) publishers will increase as prior stigma of self-publishing evaporates

The stigma of self-publishing is disappearing.  Each week, indie authors are hitting the ebook bestseller lists at all the major ebook retailers, as well as lists maintained by the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, GalleyCat, and Digital Book World.  A year ago, this was rare.  A year from now, it’ll be commonplace.  The future bestsellers of tomorrow are the indie authors of today.  Indie authors are poised to take more market share in 2013 as the next generation of writers turns its back on traditional publishing.

Five years ago, back in the dark ages of publishing, self-publishing was seen as the option of last resort.  It was seen as the last refuge for failed authors.  Publishers controlled the printing press, the access to distribution, and the knowledge to professionally publish, which made authors entirely dependent upon publishing gatekeepers.  Today, these three elements of professional publishing are fully democratized.

Indie authors now have the tools to publish faster, smarter and more effectively than traditional publishers.  Many indies are publishing books of equal or greater quality than what’s put out by large publishers. Indies are pricing more aggressively, and as a result they’re building bigger platforms faster than many traditionally published authors who are now disadvantaged.  As ebooks continue to take market share, and as physical brick and mortar shelf space disappears, the allure of traditional publishers will fade further.

At the same time the stigma of self-publishing evaporates, the stigma of traditional publishing is increasing.  Authors are questioning what big publishers can do for them that they can't already do on their own.  Authors are realizing, as mentioned earlier, that the traditional publisher business practices (high prices, slow release schedules, limited marketing support, etc) can actually harm a writer's career.

Traditional publishers are also showing themselves skilled at adding their own self-inflicted injuries.  Traditional publishing's cynical misadventure into vanity publishing will stain the reputation of all big NY publishers, even those that haven’t made the same mistakes.  That's sad, because I think the world of books would be better off if we could maintain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem of large publishers in addition to smaller ones.

18.  EPUB 3 will disappoint

EPUB 3, ratified in October 2011 as the next generation of the popular open industry EPUB file format, is likely to see slow and disappointing adoption in 2013.

The new standard offers a range of promising benefits, such as improved book navigation, improved language support, support for fixed format books, more sophisticated metadata management, and improved support for multimedia.  Unfortunately, such promised benefits come at a cost to authors, publishers, device makers, distributors, ebook stores, and consumers in the form of increased complexity, new workflows and questionable backward-compatibility between EPUB3 books and prior reading systems.

If the marketplace concludes that the benefits of EPUB 3 outweigh the costs, it’ll gain traction in the marketplace.  Otherwise, we'll either see slow adoption,  increased file format fragmentation, or proprietary file formats if major retailers decide they can support these next-generation capabilities more effectively on their own, outside the purview of the IDPF standard-setting body.  If EPUB 3 increases production complexity for authors, publishers and the digital supply chain, we could also see a decline in the number of titles released.  As a member of the IDPF, the standards-setting organization that manages EPUB, we support standards, though I do have cost/benefit concerns about the transition. 

19.  Ebook subscription offerings will face uphill slog

In 2012 there was a wave of promising startups talking about creating the “Spotify of Ebooks,” or the “Netflix of ebooks.”  I admit, at first the notion of an all-you-can-read smorgasbord of reading material held appeal to me.  I’m always interested to consider new models of book distribution that help us achieve our overall mission of connecting our authors with readers.  However, as the year progressed and new subscription hopefuls came to the fore, I found my enthusiasm waning.

Ebook prices are declining as authors and publishers compete on price.  Indies have released thousands of high-quality books priced at FREE, more than any voracious book lover could ever read in a lifetime.  Traditional publishers are dropping their ebook prices to become more competitive – even independent of the DoJ’s ill-conceived crackdown on agency publishers.  Ebooks are already free or dirt cheap, and likely to become cheaper as big publishers drop their prices, so the potential advantages of an all-you-can-read buffet are diminishing.  The challenge for some enterprising entrepreneur is to find a method of connecting books to readers that’s more effective and profitable than what the major retailers are already doing, and that’s a tall order because the retailers are doing an awesome job.

20.  Indie authors poised to capture a growing percentage of library ebook market
Libraries are the forgotten stepchildren of the publishing industry, yet they operate 230,000 public library buildings across the globe where patrons come to find, read and enjoy books.  Libraries purchase hundreds of millions of dollars worth of books each year, making books available and discoverable to all readers.  They promote a culture of reading among readers which benefits the entire publishing industry, and they're where millions of readers first discover their new favorite authors.  Libraries are engines for book discovery and consumer retail purchases.

Traditional publishers have been wary to distribute ebooks to libraries, for fear that library ebook sales will cannibalize publishers' ebook and printbook sales through traditional retail channels.  As a result, many publishers refuse to sell to libraries, or will sell to libraries under onerous terms.

Publishers' refusal to provide adequate ebook support for libraries has created a window of opportunity for self-published authors, and it's a window we're looking to pry open even further in 2013.  In 2012, we signed distribution deals with the leading library aggregators.  We launched Library Direct, which this month alone will sell and deliver nearly $200,000 worth of ebooks to libraries.  Self-published authors will find their books in greater demand in 2013 as libraries implement ebook checkout systems. 

21.  Indie ebooks will start driving more film & television projects

Books have long been a popular source of material for film and television producers.  A proven bestseller means that audiences find the story compelling, and this increases the appeal to film and television producers for a couple of reasons: 
1.  A successful book creates a built-in audience more likely to want to view the film or television derivative.   
2.  A successful book helps lower the risk to the film or television producer because the story has already proven itself an audience-pleaser in the marketplace.
A film or TV deal is great news for the author and publisher, because it sells more books.  It helps more prospective readers discover the story or want to read the story again. The dynamic between publishers and film and television producers is not perfect, however.  Most books come out 12 months or later after the publisher acquires it, so if a book is sold to film or television before publication, the film/television producers face the risk that they begin production only to learn later that the story didn’t resonate with readers.

If you believe that indies are the future of publishing, and that the world’s best and most commercially successful future stories will come from indies, then it’s inevitable indie authors will begin to fill the production pipelines of film and television producers.  Indie authors – not hamstrung by the slow book release schedules of traditional publishers – are reaching the market instantly with stories better tuned to audience desires.  Indies achieve instant market feedback in the form of sales data, reviews and retailer bestseller rank.  Expect many indie ebooks to be optioned for film and television in 2013.  Maybe one or more of the 9,000+ titles uploaded to Smashwords in the last 30 days will find its way to a theater near you.


###

Thanks for reading.  I think this was my longest post ever.  Believe it or not, I had other predictions I left out regarding the ebook supply chain, retailer-operated publishing platforms, and more.  There's too much.  Back to work now.  Prior to year-end, I'll do a Smashwords 2012 year in review.


Just for kicks, here are couple of my past predictions:
2011 Predictions at GalleyCat by Mark Coker (published Dec 28, 2010)
10-Year Predictions at GalleyCat By Mark Coker (published Jan 4 2010)

Did my crystal ball miss anything?  Please add your own predictions below.

95 comments:

Tracy Falbe said...

Many years ago when I was trying to get an agent for my first batch of novels, Donald Maas rejected me with a form letter. With self publishing, I've reached tens of thousands of readers over the years, and I reached exactly 0 people including Donald himself trying to play it his way.

Ian said...

I don't know about predictions for the industry as a whole, but I have some predictions of aspects I'd like to see changed at Smashwords--all of which I feel would definitely deliver an improved experience for both back-end publishers and front-end consumers.

1. Smashwords will spin off its erotica/adult works into a separate storefront altogether. The filter isn't as precise as it should be, and some books that carry "adult-oriented material" are not rightly counted as erotica. I'd take a look at the example of Netflix Streaming here. When we log in, we have a choice to go to "Netflix for Kids" or "Netflix." I'd love to see a sanctuary for adult titles, which certainly represent a large portion of Smashwords' sales, where a casual shopper isn't likely to run across them by accident. Logistically, I don't see this to be a difficult change. It's simply a second storefront. Authors can self-report their works into that store. It will make searching for erotica easier for those customers looking for it, and avoiding it for those who have more...delicate sensibilities.

2. Smashwords will improve its suggested for readers interface. As much as you bag on Amazon, if you don't admit that their customers-who-bought-X-also-bought-Y is marketing brilliance, you're as delusional as Maas says (and for the record, my impression of him at a former Pikes Peak Writers Conference was he was kind of a dick). An algorithm picking other items viewed/purchased on Smashwords, with covers and links, would encourage more people to stay on the Smashwords site to shop instead of leaving for other online retailers.

3. Smashwords will accept new submission file formats into the Meatgrinder, including EPUB and most importantly, ODT. OpenOffice/LibreOffice files are constructed very similarly to EPUBs already. By forcing publishers to submit work as Word documents, you are essentially endorsing an expensive, single-platform application. Sure, some writers are computer- and internet-savvy enough to manage workarounds (I haven't owned or used a copy of MS Word in years), but by opening a wider variety of input formats, Smashwords will attract a wider variety of publishing clients.

4. Smashwords will switch from a quarterly payment system to monthly royalty disbursements. Honestly, everybody else pays monthly. We understand that external retailers supplied via Smashwords can be slow paying their share, but let's look at this for a minute. When I buy an ebook from anywhere, that sale is logged and recorded instantly, and the payment is accepted instantly as well. There is no reasonable justification for a retailer to take more than a month to report sales back to Smashwords, and realistically, they should be reporting sales daily as do all other retailers. Take a month to aggregate all that data and then cut the poor, hungry authors their checks. Quarterly payments are SO Twentieth Century.

5. Smashwords will introduce a mobile app. Yes, we can read our files in other mobile ebook readers, but it's...complicated. Nobody wants the hassle of sideloading something into their Kindle or Nook or other ebook reader. They want to read it RIGHT NOW. Why isn't there an app for that? There ought to be, because pretty much nobody reads ebooks on anything except tablets and smartphones anymore.

6. Smashwords will lead the way in establishing Superhero Fiction as its own, defined genre separate from basic Fantasy and Science Fiction. Okay, this one is more personal to me, but somebody ought to do it first. How about it, huh?

audreydriscoll said...

I'm guessing that Donald Maas's snarky comment may have been related to a decline in writers signing up for the conferences at which he is a major draw. Access to a Real Agent! For $500 or so. This is just my guess, but when writers can publish on Smashwords, why would they spend $500 courting Mr. Maas?

Charles Harvey said...

A lot of predictions. It seems to me if you didn't get into ther game by 2010, you're out of luck to make any decent money no matter how good your book might be. It's going to be a glut. People are racing to publish some horrible stuff and even make it free. The only true prediction is "I don't know" or "I didn't see that coming."
If you write, then you just have to enjoy the process. And you have to have a lot of faith when you publish. That's all that's left.
Also algorithms and rankings are the new computerized gatekeepers. It seems to me, whenever amazon or B&N tweak things, sales go down for the indie author.

AC Adams said...

Forget everything. Don't even monitor those sales figures. Just write and edit what you write. And then put it out there. If your sales take off somebody will call you or you'll think the bank made a mistake when they post to your account. I'll let Mark and his wonderful staff at Smashwords worry about all of this publishing stuff. Those are some great folks. I don't know how they do all that they do with such a small staff. Even the big boys can't provide a graph telling us how many hits our books have had on their sites.

Saul said...

What Ian said.

Oh, and, Mark, as much as I like what you're trying to do here, you have to take your game up a few notches. Kobo and B&N have their own publishing portals now. You may be the only game in town for a lot of folks wanting to get into iTunes, but I doubt it'll be for long. And your site... Don't get me started. Bring it out of the 1990s. Please. And where's the ePub direct upload you promised by the end of 2012?

Yeah, and the part Ian mentioned about spinning off erotica. I second that enthusiastically. Nothing against the genre, but you're discouraging whole market segments from shopping here when every other book is "Breeding XYZ."

Dalya Moon said...

My prediction is that Mr. Maass will eat some bad indie prawns one night and be visited by a former business partner, as well as three ghosts, and in the morning, he will buy us all a turkey.

Charles Reynolds said...

I agree with Ian and Saul.

The adult-content filters must be made more effective, or erotica should to moved entirely to a different portal. The current filters are abysmal.

There's no valid excuse for not accepting the (un-like MS-DOC) well documented, standardized, organized, XML-based ODT format as a file upload. It should be stupid-easy to set up a shell script to push the file through the Open/LibreOffice CLI converters to output most of the Smashwords file formats. Where those won't do, there's always Calibre, which is also open source and free.

My own predictions, particularly with regards to Smashwords:

1. Smashwords will partner with a POD-service so customers can get books in dead-tree if they want to.

2. Smashwords titles will magically appear in the buy-links and listings at GoodReads and other review sites.

3. Google, Bing and other search engines will index every Smashwords title and some of the content (with proper schema.org or HTML5 microdata markup.)

4. Smashwords titles will appear in the Google Play market.

5. The Smashwords retail portal will be brought kicking and screaming into the modern internet. While very easy to read even in a text-only browser or via screen reader, it is really ugly. Implementing filters into Search would be a good idea. Often, I want to limit my search parameters after-the-fact and it would be nice to be able to filter by tags, categories and genres.

6. Smashwords will enter into markets which require more layout rigidity than, for example, EPUB offers. Games, calendars, picture books (children's books), etc are ripe pickings for the marketing power of Smashwords distribution.

Rajasir said...

Dear Mark,
You would be surprised to know that all your posts I copy and then print them to distribute among my students. I tell them Mark had started his company five years ago and now he is among the top three ebook distributors, if I am not wrong, and they ask me how did he do it. I tell them taking steps at right time with an eye on future.
I am amazed to see the foresight which you apply. I don't call them your predictions, I call them near certainty because your home work is so strong and precise.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
With Regards
Raja Sharm

Nirmala said...

Just a small correction: Amazon does display reviews from their US store on the UK store. The reviews are listed separately and identified as being from the US.

Otherwise a great article and full of interesting possibilities to ponder.

Vern said...

It is horrifying to me to see so many authors putting all their eggs in the Amazon basket with KDP Select.

I hope 2013 is the year many of them wake up and move away from that preposterousness. I have 25 books published with Amazon, and listed at my websites and Smashwords. I tried Select and it didn't even make up a fraction of my sales from the other markets combined.

Amazon is the author Antichrist... she is spewing forth great lies at the moment, but she'll show her true nature in the near future. Let those with wisdom understand. Diversify!

Vern
MikeFook.com

Paolo Amoroso said...

Mark, in your predictions and articles you rarely mention Google, if at all. It’s as if it wasn’t even a blip on your radar. Yet it’s a technology giant with a significant ebook and digital content offering, and a rapidly growing mobile operating system. I’d be very interested in your thoughts on why you don’t mention Google even as potential digital publishing player, the company’s issues as an industry partner, a self-publishing platform, and Android as a player in the tablet market.

gracebrannigan said...

Great article. As an author of romance books and as a reader, if I see a book that looks interesting, I will spend the money to buy it. I don't troll for free books specifically. Also, if I see fiction in Kindle and it's less expensive than the paperback, I will buy it immediately. However, if it's non-fiction or a technical book of any kind that I know I will use continuously and bookmark, I will by pass the kindle and opt for the paperback.

Julie Day said...

I like the prediction about the stigma of the Big 6 going up with the stigma of self-publishing going down.

Mark Coker said...

@Tracy, thanks for sharing your story, and congrats on your incredible success!

@Ian, boy, I asked for this! Thanks for your aspirational wish list. You might want to hold some of these thoughts for my year-in-review post, which will be SW-specific. In the meantime, some quick comments:

1. Spin off erotica to its own site? It's actually something I've considered, but not for the reason or method you're thinking. I think some erotica readers might enjoy a pure erotica store, simply to keep the clutter of everything else out. However, I can't foresee us ever wanting to remove erotic content from the main SW site, no more than I'd want to remove religious works, mysteries or self-help. SW.com is a bookstore, and I want to embrace maximum diversity of the written word. The moment we start sequestering content categories is the moment we become editorial gatekeepers, and that goes against our mission. I agree, the current filtering regarding "adult" is broken and inflexible. Our adult filter asks a simple question, "is this content suitable for readers under 18?" It's too broad and imprecise, because it lumps multiple categories, including non-erotic categories, into the same bucket. The solution is for us give readers more precise control over their browsing and reading experience, and give authors more control over classification.

2. SW.com interface. We do have "readers who bought this bought this," and "readers who looked at this looked at this," which appears on each book page, and the "also bought" recommendations also appear in the checkout cart. We have dramatic room for improvement. In my year-in-review/look-ahead, I'll articulate some of our development plans for 2013.

3. As we speak, we're working on Smashwords Direct, which will support direct EPUB uploads. Stay tuned for updates on that. Re: OO/LO, those are already great tools for working with Smashwords. Just save as Word .doc

.. continued...

Mark Coker said...

@Ian, continued...

4. Faster than quarterly payments? Some day, yes, but not now. It's difficult to describe the complexity involved of aggregating sales data and payments from our multiple retailer partners. I'll try to describe some of this complexity, as well as the how we approach the thought process here. Every retailer reports sales differently, in different formats, different schedules, different time slices, different VAT tax treatment, different royalty rates for sales at some retailers in certain geographies, and different payment cycles. It's amazing the amount of time it takes for us, starting the beginning of each payment cycle, to consolidate and scrub the data for millions of book sales. And I think we do it quite efficiently. That time is expensive for us, and not just expensive from the staff payroll perspective, which is the least of those costs. Those staff hours spent orchestrating payments means those hours aren't spent doing other high-value work, like helping our retailers load our books faster and more accurately, or developing new features like SW Direct, or bringing new distribution partners online, or the hundreds of other cool things we want to do on our roadmap. The decision I have to make is how best to balance resources against the greater good for all our authors, and when we're talking about the greater good, there are multiple factors to balance. Yes, it would be great if we could pay faster, but would it also be great if we could do X, Y and Z so all our authors could sell more books and thereby earn more? Although we run our business with greater transparency than most, I'm not always able to describe what we're working on in the moment, and why I think that is of higher value and greater good than doing something else. Also keep in mind that although direct retail platforms might pay monthly, they still impose a time shift, such as B&N or Amazon paying 60 days after end of month. B&N pays us after 30 days, which means for our quarterly payment rounds, we're often paying one of those months earlier. Anyway, over the long term as we continue to scale our business and grow our staffing, I think faster payments will become a reasonable possibility, because nothing makes us happier than putting money in our authors' pockets.

5. Mobile app. On your wish list. Noted. :)

6. Superhero fiction. You might want to lobby BISG (the managers of the BISAC categorization standard) on that. Seems like a reasonable addition to BISAC. More on BISAC here, with links to BISG: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#glossary

@Audry I think Mr. Maass' approach to publishing works fantastically well for him and the small percentage of clients he accepts. He has the reputation and gravitas to make great things happen for his clients. Despite his talent, he's missing a lot of Black Swans. His writing workshops are excellent, and his admonishment to authors to produce higher-quality work is spot-on. However, his comment discouraging authors from self-publishing was off-base and soul-crushing for the writers in the room, because his message came across to the effect of only about 1 in 10,000 of them were good enough to get repped by someone like him, and for the rest of you, you're screwed. Our authors know that's not true. This doesn't have to be an either/or or all-or-nothing decision. My other beef with his implied message is this idea that if a book isn't worth being bought by a publisher, it's not a worthy book. People who hold to that attitude will be on the losing side of history, IMHO. I think Maass is a smart guy, and he'll come around eventually.

Karen A Wyle said...

If Smashwords makes one-day coupons available, and if more sites spring up to publicize temporary coupon deals, then Smashwords could render KDP Select pretty much irrelevant. Why accept the requirement of 90-day exclusivity when one can do the same thing with a Smashwords coupon?

Mark Coker said...

@Saul, although most of the major retailers we serve offer direct publishing portals, the vast majority of our authors still choose to reach them through Smashwords. I think there are multiple reasons for that, but probably the first and foremost reason is that a lot of authors appreciate the time-savings and convenience of centrally managing their distribution from a single Smashwords Dashboard. Or the convenience of aggregated sales reporting, and aggregated year-end tax reporting. I think most of these authors have concluded that for the services we offer, and the low commission we take, their time is better spent focusing on writing their next book.

We're always working to up our game. Our opportunity and our challenge, which we readily embrace, is to help authors who distribute through us reach more readers than those who don't. It's a tall order, and I realize we won't ever be able to satisfy 100% of all authors because every author has a different opinion of what matters most to them. We give authors the freedom to choose.

@Dalya Funny!

@Charles Thanks for the SW-specific predictions. Comments:

My own predictions, particularly with regards to Smashwords:

1. Smashwords partnering with POD-service?

- Unlikely, but never say never.

2. Smashwords titles will magically appear in the buy-links and listings at GoodReads and other review sites.

- I like that idea.

3. Google, Bing and other search engines will index every Smashwords title and some of the content (with proper schema.org or HTML5 microdata markup.)

- Good one.

4. Smashwords titles will appear in the Google Play market.

- Would love that, under the right terms.

5. The Smashwords retail portal will be brought kicking and screaming into the modern internet.

- Smart prediction for 2013

6. Smashwords will enter into markets which require more layout rigidity than, for example, EPUB offers. Games, calendars, picture books (children's books), etc are ripe pickings for the marketing power of Smashwords distribution.

- I like how you're thinking. I think once we launch SW Direct, and once we working out the many kinks I anticipate, then ultimately these are all just files to us, and we've built a powerful infrastructure for distributing digital bits to retailers. :)

@ Raja. You're very generous. I spend a lot of time thinking about directional trends, and how trends will be shaped by all self-interested participants, especially consumers. Every day, every one of us are placing bets and making decisions that will determine our success or failure in the future.

@ Nirmala, thanks, I'll make that correction.

@Vern I view them as an aggressive player with imperialistic aspirations.

Mark Coker said...

@Paolo Google. I think Google has been a disappointment on a number of levels. We would definitely like to distribute to them, and support their efforts, but only if they'll give our authors and publishers the ability to set price. Back in 2010, at the same time B&N, Sony and Kobo saw fit to grant us agency terms, I was also in active discussion with Google. They told me they didn't view Smashwords as a "Tier 1," player like the Big 6 publishers, to which they had already given agency terms. Their attitude, I think, represented a gross underestimation of our authors, if not a insult to to the entire indie author community. It indicated they didn't share the same positive view of indie authors as did all these other more enlightened retailers who gave us agency.

They, along with Amazon, have been strong opponents of the agency model, though the two oppose it for different reasons. Once they see fit to give us the same agency terms as Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc., we've got almost 150,000 books in our Premium Catalog we can deliver to them.

The growth of Android has been amazing, so I think there's a lot of untapped opportunity for us to work with them in partnership as we do with all our retailers. Who knows, maybe now that the DoJ and EEC have mostly concluded their reviews of the agency model within the context of the alleged price fixing drama, Google might see fit to reconsider their opposition to agency? Our door is open to them! In the meantime, it's not a good use of my time to continue bloodying my head banging on their door when we've got so many great current partners who are already selling our books, and are so eager to partner even more closely with us to support our authors. I'm a big believer in Darwinian forces. I think those retailers who partner the closest with us will have strategic advantages over those that don't, and eventually anyone who's serious about being a player in ebook retailing will want to work with us out of self-preservation. Our authors are publishing great books their customers want to read! We can help them onboard these books faster, more efficiently and at less cost than they can do on their own. :)

Kathleen Morris said...

What an excellent write up Mark! I think your hard work and dedication to Smashwords and to us as indie authors, has made the ebook industry what it is today! Well done! 2012 will always be remembered for me. It's the year I found hope as an author. I discovered Smashwords and uploaded my books that had been sitting on my shelf for ten year because I lost that hope that I'd ever publish in the real world. YOU gave me that hope and now my books have been read around the world and will continue to be read in the 'real' world. Thank you Mark and your team at Smashwords for restoring the hope I needed as a writer in 2012 and for restoring hope to EVERY current and future author out there! Keep up the good work in 2013!

Anna Erishkigal said...

Thanks Mark for all you do for us indies!

On Google ... I'd love to see you write a future article on the prospects of working with Google for distribution. With their new 'communities' feature and their current impasse of what to do with GoogleBooks after the DOJ shot down their digitization project, it seems the time is ripe for a Smashwords/Google courtship.

Their Nexus7 is a quality product, the Nexus10 has a few bugs but is by far the nicest viewing screen around. All Google is missing is a steady supply of books.

Also ... I run a Google+ Community called 'FREE E-BOOKS'. Any author may post a link to their giveaway the day it is offered for free (or with a coupon). It's a reader-oriented community, so anybody who spams readers with 'buy my book' or ads is promptly banned. I figured -somebody- ought to offer another venue to KDP Select!

Ian said...

@Mark: I'd like to expand more on a couple of points I made:

1. Smashwords is a bookstore. And when I'm in a brick-and-mortar store, browsing through the science fiction section, I don't expect to see titles like F*CKED BY AN ALIEN or DADDY'S ROBOT COCK IN MY ASS. They might be in the store, but they'll be in a separate physical location, where someone who is looking for that can find them and someone who is not won't be exposed to them.

What about adding a single additional filter tag "Strong Sexual Content"? That way, books that involve other mature non-sexual content don't have to get filtered out in searches? There is sex in some of my books, but they are in no way erotica. Think of it like rated-R sex versus rated-XXX.

"Suitable for 18+" is not an effective filter. There are plenty of non-erotic tales which an author might feel were inappropriate for children under 18, which would then be filtered out using the current system.

2. My experiences with trying to use LibreOffice/OpenOffice files saved in .doc format has been very much hit or miss. I've had issues where Smashwords wouldn't accept the file, but if I sent it to a friend and they opened the .doc file I created in LO/OO with their MS Word, saved it, and sent it back to me, Smashwords accepted it. I've taken to using an external conversion site to turn my LO/OO .odts into .docs and that has been more successful.

Also, I'm not sure I'm actually human, because I can't read half of the CAPTCHAs here. LOL

Alex Mahon said...

Tablets are great and handier than a paper book as they can store so much as well as be used for other things. So tablets will be become the new book form.

The great thing about the indie process is the choice of books to read. I get to choose what I want and not what publshers think I want. The criticism about a lot of ebooks being not great is true, but equally true is that many published books are dreadful, which shows poor judgemnent on the part of publishers.

I agree with the post above about monthly payments and quicker connection between ebook publishers and customers. Oh, a preview function for publishing on Smashwords would be so welcome as it's impossible to know what the pages look like before you publish on the site. And please make it easier for pictures so I could write a series of features. That said Smashowrds is still one of the best around. I sell more on there than on Amazon, which is diabolical in terms of sales.

Rob Preece/BooksForABuck.com said...

Always entertaining, always interesting. It's not hard to predict Amazon losing market share since they've been so dominant and I agree that I've seen the Apple channel go from virtually nothing to significant... at least for some of my authors. That said, Amazon remains the dominant player in the market... a position they've earned by hard marketing and some pretty good hardware at great prices.

Tom Hopp said...

Thanks Mark. Let me add to your insight regarding movies made from indie ebooks. My Dinosaur Wars science fiction novel was downloaded free by a director at a major Oscar-winning Hollywood production company and is now optioned to them. When and if this film gets made, I'll have a shot at blockbuster status on the screen. Believe me, I'm pleasantly shocked at how quickly it all happened!

David Seed said...

dear mr. corker,
i admire what you are doing and the way your mind works. you expound with passion, and i discern no artifice in that passion. you must know that writing is one of the most self-revealing things one can do, as one of my characters says, "writing is like cracking one's head open on the sidewalk and letting the contents spill out where the whole world can come along, see what there is to see, and maybe even poke it with a stick."
you will understand my admiration when i tell you that i'm 81 years old, and in the fall of 1947 i declared myself a writer and have lived accordingly. i was groomed by a young editor and published in the late 70's, got good reviews, but didn't want to write what they wanted. I didn't want to be the next Judy Bloom. the young editor went on to fame and glory, and my book was out of print within the year.
i've always known that writing is a way of life and not a way to make a living. i've been writing and hauling manuscripts around with me for over fifty years. I predict i will publish five novels and numerous short stories in the 2013. (and wouldn't it be great if short stories once again became as popular as they were in the 30's and 40's?)
you are one in a million, and i am one of the thousands of writers you care about. we thousands have lived interesting lives, and we have talent. we are not the greedy ones. we have done well without even trying.
now i think i'll run down and buy a few hundred shares of apple.
sincerely yours,
the dunsmuir boy

susanne said...

I can only applaud Mark Coker and Smashwords for the great opportunity for Indies to publish and reach so many outlets in such a simple way. I have, in the past two years and half, sold close to 30000 books through Amazon and only a fraction of that through Smashwords. I also abandoned Smashwords for the best part of 2012 to be in kindle select and thus be exclusive to Amazon. I did well for a few months but then it dwindled. I agree with a lot of Mark's predictions and am now slowly adding my ten novels back to Smashwords. The reason for this is that I see a great swing next year to e-readers other than the Kindle at rock-bottom prices. I think the future for indie authors is looking good but you have to stay true to yourself and spend more time writing and learning your craft, editing and polishing to make your work shine. marketing is important but not to the extent of stealing time from what you should be doing: writing.

magicvsscience said...

Dear Santa Coker,

Two days before Christmas, and all through the net, I'm asking for an improved publishing page, one I hope to get!

Uploading to Meatgrinder sometimes works well, but one little format issue, it will process like horrible hell. Such a large file, all messed up and sick, will sometimes get downloaded by fans who find me too quick! Sometimes within minutes the file is quickly sold, meatgrinder politely telling me my file is less than gold.

How about a layer to load, check and peer, then when vetted and approved, the file is available without fear!

I'm not trying to make new options or waiting for a choice, there are some of us who would wait for approval first, so please hear my voice.

Thank You, Santa Coker, for all that you do. I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year just for you!
----

Ok, now you know why I don't write poetry. I'm not that good at it. Last year, I uploaded a file in .doc and I thought it was a good clean file. Well, it wasn't and I had to nuke in. In the few hours that took, some of my few, but loyal fans, quickly downloaded the broken file and emailed me their panicked concern that me or my computer had a stroke. While it probably won't affect many, and this may seem rare, I am concerned that the one customer with great word of mouth could get a broken file before it's fixed. If not me, perhaps another author could suffer that fate. I'd like the ability to see what meatgrinder said first, and check to epub status, and re-upload so I have only one file listed when it gets approved for Premium status. If you let us vet our own work before making the page available to all, it might cut down the process time for your vetting team as well, since we can make a cleaner transition with a "submit now" button 'before' the main sales page is available. And make it an optional feature, so those who know their meatgrinder savvy files will go through the first time won't have to make an extra step.

Thanks Mark!

Ian said...

Actually, the best solution for checking files would be for Meatgrinder to default files to "unpublished". Then, once the author has checked their files, it's easy to click the "publish" button.

JP Glutting said...

I agree with Ian. My one experience with Meatgrinder made me a bit reluctant to use it, as it is a black box working on a very unreliable format (Word). A few years back I wrote an export filter for Scrivener that produces as clean a Word document as I could get, but it is still an unreliable format.

I would like to be able to test my texts and tweak them to remove strange artifacts before the final version goes live. I plan to publish a novel through Smashwords if can be more confident about what kind of smashing happens to the words...

Mark Coker said...

@magicvsscience, brilliant poem!

Yes, we could benefit from a staging system or sandbox because the book goes for sale almost instantly.

Since we don't yet have such a sandbox option, here's a functional equivalent... Meatgrinder's conversions occur almost instantly, while you watch. The moment the conversion completes, you can click to your Dashboard and click Unpublish, and then immediately open and inspect the .epub file.

There's usually a lag of anywhere from one to two minutes before a converted book appears on the home page.

If you make corrections, click "upload new version" then rinse and repeat until satisfied.

The downside of this is that you're likely to miss out on your 30 minutes of home page fame as you iterate.

BillSmithBooks said...

I think the Smashwords app is a good idea -- many people want the convenience of downloading and reading immediately and not sideloading. I am personally bewildered by this, but that's the way it is.

Smashwords needs a site comparable to KindleBoards.com to aid in discussion and discovery of books and directing readers to the Smashwords purchase page. Smashwords is treated as a "by the way" by Kindleboards and many other book boards -- this would help give Smashwords significantly higher visibility.

I would still like HTML downloads for purchases (because it is an easy, universal format). As a Linux user, FBReader has made using epub and mobi much easier in the past couple of years.

Booksmith said...

Mark, well said, and well done, and congratulations on five years well spent.
And I'm glad to read that you agree with some of the authors who have offered ideas to improve the site.

I agree with Ian. A first-time visitor to the home page could be forgiven for thinking that Smashwords sold only bodice rippers and mommy-porn. (And, as Ian mentioned, daddy-porn). The other day, out of the ten titles featured, I swear four were erotica, three were romance and three were vampire sagas. Not exactly balanced.
When I walk into B&N or my local bookshop I'm not confronted with only what's new, or what's selling the most — I can immediately see main sections: fiction; non-fiction; children; young adult, etc.
So how about dividing the home page in a way that shows the 2 most recently published books in five or 6 categories, including erotica? (Or any other layout that displays a balanced catalogue.)

Another point: selecting the 'Highest Rated' selection will show a book with one 5* rating ahead of a book with nine 5* ratings and one 4*. Doesn't seem fair. Would it be too difficult to change the algorithm?
As for reviews in general, will it ever be possible to link external (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads) reviews to a book's page?

Finally, have you had many requests for a forum?
Might be good to have a site-managed locale for discussions, for all those folk who don't tweet, or are averse to Facebook.

archangelbeth said...

My wish list... (I won't call them predictions.)

1: Smashwords acquires Stanza's code from Amazon and revamps it so I can upgrade to iOS 6 without breaking my favorite reading app. (I'm begging you here.) Allowing it to be a side-loading, other-site-loading, and Smashwords syncing app would be absolutely awesome. I cannot express how much I would love that without descending into fangirl portmanteaus like superawesometastilicious.

2: Smashwords starts shipping ISBNs to B&N, and/or beating B&N with sticks till they put up the ISBNs. (GoodReads searches on ISBNs. B&N doesn't have any ISBNs from Smashwords, even when I had an ISBN assigned long before the thing shipped. Therefore, people searching for my books on B&N... cannot find them with one click. This may well be losing sales for all Smashwords authors who have decent GoodReads reviews.)

3: The Smashwords Dashboard develops "re-send" or "re-send meta-data" buttons. My fantasy-romance, at Sony, is listed under... "Home > Reference > General Reference". I don't want to "opt out" of distribution. I just want to re-ship the meta-data so it winds up in at least General Fantasy...

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

The only thing that will improve life for the indie published author is finding a bridge that will bring our paperback books into "Brick and Mortar" book stores. Until you write a blog with that subject in mind, this #1 best selling Indie Author is done reading this crap.... The same thing is written on every crap blog on the internet. None of this "Self adulation" is doing any of us any good.
We all need someone who has actually made a difference, to show us the path. The rest is just story telling.

Karen A Wyle said...

An addendum to my earlier comment re Smashwords coupons as a preferable alternative to KDP Select freebies: it would help if one could choose to have a coupon start some days hence (since some promotion sites need lead time). (If this is already possible, Smashwords could be clearer re how to do it.)

Mark Coker said...

Jack, why build a bridge to nowhere? Print books are losing brick and mortar shelf space. The window of opportunity to exploit print is shrinking.

However, if you really want print distribution, examples abound.

Follow the examples of Bella Andre, Hugh Howey and John Locke, each of whom did print-only deals after they became bestsellers with ebooks.

If you aspire to a full traditional deal, or simply aspire to more, greater opportunities coming your way, perform well as an indie ebook author and agents and publishers will beat a path to your door. There's no stronger calling card that sales figures on your book.

Mark Coker said...

Hi Karen, re: coupons. Although I think our coupons are super-awesome, I don't think they're an apples to apples substitute for a book priced at FREE. Each has a different purpose.

A book priced at free will get many more takers than a couponed book. The primary reason is that a reader can click and download. With a couponed book, they only know the coupon code if you give it to them, and it requires more clicks and typing to redeem.

KDP Select allows you to price at free for five days per quarter. Smashwords and our retail distribution partners allow you price at FREE up to 365 days a year, if you want.

The coupon codes you create at Smashwords are private, and controlled by you for you to give to book reviewers and fans. Your readers will only know the code if you share it with them. Although we don't have a start date for the coupon, you control the date you share the coupon, so that's essentially the same thing as the start date. However, it would be a good enhancement if we allowed you to publicize the code in advance, and then have the coupon activate at a set time. The coupons also have expiration dates that you set.

Michael Drakich said...

I've read where Amazon is not really making any money in the ebook business, that instead, it is being used as a loss leader to get consumers to shop Amazon for not just books but everything else.

This is what is known in marketing as a Loss Leader. Already illegal in a number of countries and a number of US states, one must wonder when the boom will be lowered on the KDP Select Program by legislators.

Personally, I would like to see some kind of court decision ending the practice of free. If the courts decided a minimum pricing through a distributor was, oh say, 99 cents, to prevent them being used as Loss Leaders, then the marketplace would settle down when it comes to pricing. A consumer, if he has to pay, will shop all books, not just the free ones, as a few dollars more or less won't affect his decision the same way free does. No matter what the price the consumer must pay, if they are paying they will choose wisely, not just by price.

By the way, on two different queries from me, Donald Maass sent form rejections.

Michael Drakich

Mistress Ivey said...

As one who started out with Amazon, doing all the conversions myself (both ebook and print) I have to admit, Smashwords provides Idies a means of conversion that tops them all. I struggled for over two weeks trying to get my eBook properly formatted for .mobi. Then came the print version that took another week of struggling and reformatting. It took me ten minutes to correct the one and only error I had when I uploaded my OpenOffice (converted to Word) .doc on Smashwords. I won't make the mistake NOT going to Smashwords first with my next book. BTW, I would more than willing to write an OpenOffice conversion workbook to help other indie authors avoid conversion errors.

Caleb Mason said...

Mark: lots of great prognoses here but I will be very, very surprised if one of the major events of 2013 is not triggered by B&N closing more stores because they simply cannot afford to maintain all that real estate while print books decline and in turn must make the ongoing huge investments required by digital expansion, as well as TV advertising in support of the Nook versus Apple and Samsung.

The costs involved in making and consistently updating consumer electronics is a huge stretch for B&N versus the experienced brands Apple, Samsung, and others to come. Frankly, I am not convinced Amazon can sustainably compete in consumer electronics versus those companies. Content and distribution will separate again. (B&N also wanted to be both a book publisher and a retailer years ago.) Peter Lynch used to talk about "deworsification" as businesses overextend beyond what they can be. I could see M-soft buying the Nook group and discarding B&N retail, however.

So I would pay careful attention to B&N store sales data for Q4 and look for more store closing announcements that will continue to pinch the print side of mega-publishing, which needs huge volumes of their high advance blockbusters to make it all work. I think indie booksellers will do just fine at their smaller scales. -- Caleb from Publerati

Derek Haines said...

Fantastic post Mark. All I can add is that I have added two keywords for my 2013 Google Alerts. Goodreads and Smashwords. Let's see how many emails I get.

Mark Coker said...

Mistriss, maybe we should gather a small number of volunteer experts of OpenOffice/LO to create a version of the Smashwords Style Guide especially for OO/LO users. I'd be supportive of that. We could follow the same model as we do for the Smashwords volunteers who translated the Style Guide into other languages.

Caleb, now there's an interesting prediction! MSFT acquires B&N. It's not terribly far-fetched. Yeah, I think they announced they'll continue to shed underperforming stores, or stores with expiring leases where it's no longer economical for them to keep the store open. They're closing a couple stores here, including my favorite store in Campbell, CA. I'm sad about that. It's where my wife and I like to go for date nights.

Derek, let's hope the flood of emails are useful! You'll get some off-the-wall stuff.

amgalant said...

Terrific post. Most of which I read! Mark Coker, you stretch my mind -- indie as I like to think that mind of mine is, you stretch it again in an unanticipated direction.

We Luv Smashwords. - I say 'we' as I swapped that phrase on Goodreads the other day.

Have a merry, guys at Smashwords. My own deepest gratitude, which plummet cannot fathom, for what you've done for me.

No, I haven't made any sales yet. Not what I meant.

Alejandro Volnie said...

Here is the point of view of one of your Spanish speaking/writing authors:
First of all, split erotica to a different listing, it scares away many potential buyers when they reach your home page and find three or four suggestive images on top.
Afterwards, as much as you brag of having been there on time, you should take advantage of a huge overlooked market before somebody else does. Turn your glance to other languages which are still virgin territorie, first by splitting your listings by languages, then by making the site accesible in the language listed -I will gladly help you to create a mirror website in Spanish.
You'll be surprised when you get to know how many authors you can catch just speaking to them in a language they can understand -by the way, lulu.com did this years ago; in the other hand, your unaccesible lab falls too short- and how many buyers you would add as well -i-tunes works soundly in Spanish, just as an example.
Now, if you really believe that indies are taking now better care of their production's quality, it's a fact that such thing is true for barely a small fraction of them, mostly authors who have published before by any means and got readers feedback.
You should find the way -as i-tunes is doing already- to check on editing care by the author, and grant some sort of label to those titles which contain a reduced amount of mistakes. Then you would be helping to make that turn over of the people's opinion about selfpublishing that you mentioned in your post.

Alejandro Volnié.
Author, editor and publisher in Spanish based in Mexico.

Karen A Wyle said...

Mark, thanks for responding re coupons! While using coupons will always have more clicks than KDP Select freebies, I still believe that if some additional infrastructure can be built up, they can function in a somewhat similar way. If there were a number of websites on which authors could post, "Use coupon code AB123 on February 2 and 3 at [link] for a free copy of [title]," don't you think there'd be some takers?

One problem is making it worth a site's while to post such notices. Amazon has its affiliates program -- and a site that's an affiliate has an incentive not to publicize Smashwords coupon promotions that compete with Amazon. Is there anything you can do to benefit cooperating websites?

rodgriff said...

A load of great stuff there. I have one query, is it possible to give authors some feedback on who actually buys our books. I'm in the UK, but across both Smashwords and Amazon I found I sold about as many books in the USA as UK, but apart from that I know nothing about the audience. Surely that data is available and could be agreggated or massaged in some way that would be OK with the various data protection authorities.

Fario said...

Mr. Coker says: "We believe every author is special."

Little more than three lines later Mr. Coker also says: "Publishers can't embrace authors with platitudes."

For the rest, I sort of enjoyed reading the predictions, but I don't think Barnes & Ignoble is poised to do all that well abroad, especially not in non-English-speaking countries, where Amazon and local companies have far greater head starts.

Ah, and the word you want is hordes, not hoards!

Katherine Gordy Levine said...

Thank you for this and for Smashwords' kinder gentler effort. Practicing kindness is one of my Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises.

I think another area to look at involves the small publisher. Metaplume is essentially a one woman show, well not quite, but almost. She picked me up and has done a magical job taking on E publishing of my two books years ago by Norton and Penquin.

Now I have twelve E-books out there and know in my ancient (75yo) heart Fiona Gatt was an angel who landed in my lap and I am not particularly religious.

We are good partners for many reasons, but without her I would still be the author of two dead books.

Do think about writing about this aspect. Again Thank You for all you do

Mark Coker said...

@ Alejandro I agree there's more for us to do on the local language front. Over the last 18 months we took our first step by publishing translations of the Smashwords Style Guide in Spanish, French, Dutch, Bengali, German, Danish and Italian. We'll do more in 2013 to make the platform more accessible to more writers in different languages.

@Karen I mention a couple such sites in the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. Just today, I see there's another one at http://bookgoodies.com/smashwords/ that allows you to promote coupon codes. If anyone knows of other sites not mentioned in the Style Guide, but that promote such promotions on their sites and mailings lists, mention them here. I'm always interested to know about them and support them.

@rodgriff - I think it's a great suggestion. In situations where we can share information without exposing a customer's private information, I think that could be useful. For example, M/F would be interesting data. Or customers who bought your book also bought these other books. I'll noodle on this as we prioritize our 2013 development roadmap.

@Fario Thanks for spotting the typo. It's corrected now. My comment, "We believe every author is special" is not a platitude, it describes the very reason I created Smashwords in the first place. We believe every writer has a right to publish, even if their book doesn't have commercial potential. Some of our authors only price their books at free, in which case there's no commercial market at all. Some of our books don't ever sell. Yet we still support them, and we invest in them by continuing to improve our services.

@Katherine, great to hear about your positive experience with a small publisher. That's what great publishers - large or small - do for their authors. They're angels. They do for the author what the author cannot do on their own. As much as I'm an advocate for self-publishing, I believe there's an important role for all publishers to play because not every author has the inclination or ability to self publish. Some authors would rather focus 100% of their time on writing, not managing everything involved in becoming a professional publisher. It's one reason I think it's unfortunate the big publishers are consolidating. Their capacity to add value will likely diminish as a result of their consolidation, and that's not good for the authors who want to partner with them. Thanks for commenting!

@ David Seed. Thanks for the comment, especially the BRILLIANT quote from your character, "writing is like cracking one's head open on the sidewalk and letting the contents spill out where the whole world can come along, see what there is to see, and maybe even poke it with a stick." You captured my intent here. I tried to expose my thinking, thought processes and reasoning for all to judge, poke at and prod. :)

Craig Hansen said...

A 2013 that doesn't include ePub uploading to Smashwords (instead of MS Word .docs to Meatgrinder) would be a dark day, indeed.

Chris O'Byrne said...

I'm especially excited about the last prediction in regards to film and television rights. Is there currently a decent way to connect with those markets?

Könyvkonnektor said...

„The stigma of self-publishing is disappearing” (17. paragraph)). But it is important too: Only in the last few decades has the author’s publishing made itself such a negative image. Our great poets, authors two hundred years ago had to look for subscribers for their planned books. In Hungary, as well as all around Europe. It is worth remembering: the first printed book was also – using today’s terminology – self-published. Gutenberg’s book was not ordered, he did not have a distributor, a publisher; he did not even have readers. For him the work was the important, he had sacrificed many years to finish his book.

Kazinczy, Csokonai, Vörösmarty – these were all Hungarian authors that needed to formulate letters asking for support to publish their works. Nowadays, all you need is the intention, as well as respect towards word and letter: and your writings can be addressed to the public immediately.

John Ashley said...

Great post Mr. Coker. In a world where you're lucky to even get response from Amazon's staff, its great to see you here not only writing an imformative post, but interacting with those who comment. It's a good relief from the uninportant fish in an uninportant pond sort of treatment that Amazon gives. That being said, they do have one aspect that makes me more likely to direct my marketing attempts to them then any of the places Smashwords ditributes to, and that is sales reporting. When I run an ad or get a promotion, I like to be able to judge its effectiveness so that I know whether it was worth my time and if I should do it again. For that reason, more often than not the only links I include are to amazon, and directly to Smashwords. I understand how complicated it must be getting reports from that many channels, but is there not some way to report sales through other outlets a little faster? Even if you were able to cut the time to a week or two that would be a wonderful improvement. Right now, I think thats just about the only incentive an author would have to skip Smashwords and publish directly to stores such as B&N, and from what I hear on various forums, many are doing so. Improved sales reporting would not only would not only take away this incentive, it would give authors who do use Smashwords more motivation to promote to other stores. I don't know exactly how long it currently takes as to be honest, I wasn't able to make much sense of the charts that were supposed to exlain it. All I know is that one author who went directly to B&N was talking the other day about the 500 sales she made on Christmas day, and I having gone through Smashwords, have no way of knowing if I had similiar sucess until, well, like I said, I'm not really sure. Thanks again for everything you do. I feel that if there's one person on our side in all this its you.

Historia said...

Yesterday for Xmas, both my father and myself received e-book readers from family members.

Mine is a Kobo Glo and my father received a Kindle.

I am very pleased that I do have a Kobo rather than a kindle - because I am not restricted to purchasing my books only from Amazon as my father now is.

I can download books in the E-Pub format from Project Gutenberg, Smashwords, the Kobo Book store, and many other e-book stores.

My father is more or less restricted to Amazon only.

I find that to be a very bad practice on the part of Amazon!!!

Banner said...

I agree with a lot of your comments on the big six and especially Pearson (for whom I once worked). They are clueless. They're like the music industry just before the internet and downloaded music (iTunes, etc) wiped them out.
I have a close friend (my ex) who is an author and close friend with a major editor from one of the big six. They all think that ebooks are a passing fad. The don't think that they will EVER face competition from ebooks.
They are in complete and utter denial.

Cecilia Tan said...

Thanks for your strong statement above, Mark, about not segregating Erotica into a separate store. For those who say they like avoiding all the sex books in a traditional bookstore... I say they haven't been in one lately. The front shelf of every bookstore in the English-speaking world right now (I've been to 3 counties in 3 months and live in the USA) is a huge display of 50 Shades of Grey AND A LEGION OF IMITATORS. 30-50 titles including anthologies, romances, erotic memoirs etc... All right there in the most prominent, visible shelf possible. Prudish segregation of erotic titles was part of the demise of the brick and mortar stores

Dr.Phil said...

Hello Mr. Coker (Mark): I and a very knowledgable friend, and two very formatting knowledgable people I paid, were all unable to publish anything of mine with Smashwords. I have repeatedly tried to contact you by email, without success, and would like to communicate briefly with you.

Very truly,

Phillip Duke Ph.D.
drpduke@wmconnect.com

Mark Coker said...

@ John Ashley, faster sales reporting is a high priority for us. We improved the speed of reporting this year, though we still have much improvement to make. You'll see more improvement in 2013 for the retailers than can support it. If you point your customers to the Smashwords store, you'll get the fastest sales reporting in the industry, plus an automatic email alert for each sale. However, I would recommend pointing only to Smashwords either. The BEST strategy is to provide direct links to ALL your retailers. A promotion that gives readers the freedom to click through to their favorite retailer will get you more sales in the aggregate. If you only point to Amazon, you're not going to satisfy the millions of readers who shop elsewhere. An Amazon-only link creates friction and removes the immediacy and convenience of instant online purchases. Some readers might contact you and ask if the book is available elsewhere, though most will probably just click away and lose interest.

@ Dr. Phil,

If you're having difficulty formatting for Smashwords, your best first reference is the Smashwords Style Guide, where you'll learn how to format your own book for free. You'll find my email address in the Style Guide or any of my other free books, though I'm not a good support contact. If you want to reach our support team, click the "comments/questions" link at the top of any Smashwords page. If you're going to hire anyone to format for Smashwords, send an email to list@smashwords.com for my recommended list of low cost formatters. Everyone on that list has completed hundreds or thousands of successful format jobs, so they're the go-to experts if need extra help. Thanks.

AE Kronberg said...

Hi Mark, your posts are unusually informative! Thanks for sharing! I do agree with many of your points. I'm an indie author who rejected an offer by a (small) publisher and instead went with Smashwords. After only a few weeks, I enrolled in KDP select and pulled my work off Smashwords. And it worked very well for me, my Victorian crime novel made it to Amazon's top10 British Detective Mysteries and I found myself among a bunch of NY Times bestsellers. THAT was very exciting! But now I know, that it was extraordinary luck, because KDP select doesn't work as well for indies as it did a year ago. So, since yesterday I'm back on Smashwords. There is no other site for indie authors that spreads our work to so many retailers! As a non US citizen, I wouldn't be able to sell my novels at Barnes & Noble, for example. But you guys do that for me, thank you very much!

Annelie

AE Kronberg said...

Forgot to mention: I'm on Goodreads since August and it has Smashword on the buy-link list. You wish has been already fulfilled, Mark.
:-)

Robyn Jane Sheppard said...

I think Donald Maass hasn't looked out his window lately. While it is true that traditional markets still have a lot of clout, there are a lot of us who can't afford to rush out and buy the latest hard copy fresh off the presses.

On the average, I read 5 books a week. I'd say 90% of those books come from Smashwords, with the remaining downloads from Barnes & Noble and Project Gutenberg. While I read free books almost exclusively, I do also buy books from authors I originally discovered on Smashwords or Goodreads.

On the rare occasions I do buy a book in dead-tree format, it is from an author I already know. Big-house publishers don't do enough for new authors, despite what they claim.

Marc Brackett said...

Hi Mark,

Great article and great comments. In all honesty I passed on Smashwords a year or two ago as I didn't like the layout, I'm thinking I need to take a second look as I at least like your philosophy.

Two possible suggestions for improvement.

1. Have authors self rate their own book (not quality) for violence (murder, rape, child or animal abuse), erotic content (Allromance has a pretty good system), gay/lesbian content, and offensive language. These actions would go a long ways towards getting the right material in the right hands.

2. Finding qualified and professional author services is an incredible challenge. How about an area where only Smashmouth members can post a link to one of these services. Word of mouth verification, allow for ratings of these services, and if they get to many bad reviews then remove them.

I think you're on the right path and will in time be proven right. Writing is once again becoming an art versus the Las Vegas casino traditional publishing has made it into.

Thanks for a great article, was worth the time spent reading it.

Carla Krae said...

@John Ashley,

Sales at B&N have been reported through Nov 1, meaning that's all the sales known including that date and before it. They have paid Smashwords up to Oct. 31st.

Retailer Sales Reported Through means that's the last date sales numbers have been sent to Smashwords from the retailer, and any sales sooner than that date are not known yet.

Copy the Sales Reported date for each retailer in your notes and come back in 2 weeks or once a month. Record what dates are new, and you'll soon see how often these dates are updated.

eBook Pioneers said...

Nice post, but I couldn't disagree more with Number 8. The biggest reason for the decline in INK readers is simply because everybody already has one.

Tablets are taking off because kids are buying them to play games on, surf the web, watch movies on trips (or at school--), send email etc. They aren't using them to read books on.

Most human beings aren't stupid enough to ruin their eyes trying to read books on a back-lit screen! That's exactly why the first eReaders 15 years ago didn't go over with the public. It was the invention of E-Ink that made eReaders work and is what people love about them.

I'd soon er take a beating than try to read a book on a blasted back-lit screen.

Joanna Penn said...

Hi Mark,

I'm wondering what you think about Google Books. I'm seeing the early adopters moving to the Google Tablet & phone (leaving Apple) and queues for Google devices - the Google Chromebook taking over the student market.
Nobody really talks about Google Books but should we be?
Thanks as ever for all your hard work on behalf of authors.

Joanna

Saidul Hoque said...

I'm guessing that Donald Maas's snarky comment may have been related to a decline in writers signing up for the conferences at which he is a major draw. Access to a Real Agent! For $500 or so. This is just my guess, but when writers can publish on Smashwords, why would they spend $500 courting?
Book Publishing

enachesvc said...

I have a suggestion as well, Mr. Coker. Implement the necessary infrastructure to allow authors to upload audiobooks. Everyone of us prefers to hear a story from the mouth of a brilliant voice actor/s. Inquire as to how much would this feature cost for Smashwords, because I think authors would price their audiobooks fairly low. You don't have to spend a lot to record your book. I'd price my upcoming book for 10 dollars in a-form. Do a cost/benefit analysis for this feature, and if the numbers prove it can work, by all means - implement it with haste. Hearing a story is better than reading it.

WorldWide News for the Future said...

Brilliant writing and necessary reading, above, from Mark Coker. (1) It's the total dollar amount of print books vs. eBooks that's the important number. Watch that number, noting how the two chart lines are trending...and eventually crossing.
(2) Regarding the new indie author, when you try to publish on Amazon they technologically try to force you into signing up for Kindle Direct Publishing (exclusive rights to Kindle eBook distribution).
(3) I found Mark Coker's eBook on how to format on Smashwords INDECIPHERABLE. He needs to provide clear, non-gobbledygook directions to almost all his propspective authors older than 1.5generations in age (born before the early 1970s).
4. I want to see eReaders you just plug in to the Internet service you pay for. The eReader is the same size as, say, a notebook page and it has a thickness that feels like book pages. That virtual-tactile thickness allows you to essentially thumb through a book while only having an eBook in front of you. It "looks" like a book, feels like a book, you can thumb through it like a book but it's just an electronic book. Such an eReader should cost $100 or less...and the price will go down.
(4) Quality matters. How many prospective authors are there out there who can scarcely spell kat (sic)? I make 300-1000+ corrections on the average writer's 10 single-spaced or double-spaced pages.
(5) Steve Jobs called Amazon's Jeff Bezos and "idiot." Bezos seems to think monopoly is the name of the game. It's Telsa vs. Edison at one level and Bezos shoots himself in the foot on the other. Writers, be wary of Amazon! I wouldn't want you to sink into a writers'-only rainforest somewhere below the ninth circle.
(6) Smashwords' website is marvelously clear and once one has formatted to Smashwords' satisfaction, it's easiest to just use Smashwords for all your distribution unless you can also find a way to use Kindle without getting roped into KDP.

WorldWide News for the Future said...

Brilliant writing and necessary reading, above, from Mark Coker. (1) It's the total dollar amount of print books vs. eBooks that's the important number. Watch that number, noting how the two chart lines are trending...and eventually crossing.
(2) Regarding the new indie author, when you try to publish on Amazon they technologically try to force you into signing up for Kindle Direct Publishing (exclusive rights to Kindle eBook distribution).
(3) I found Mark Coker's eBook on how to format on Smashwords INDECIPHERABLE. He needs to provide clear, non-gobbledygook directions to almost all his propspective authors older than 1.5generations in age (born before the early 1970s).
4. I want to see eReaders you just plug in to the Internet service you pay for. The eReader is the same size as, say, a notebook page and it has a thickness that feels like book pages. That virtual-tactile thickness allows you to essentially thumb through a book while only having an eBook in front of you. It "looks" like a book, feels like a book, you can thumb through it like a book but it's just an electronic book. Such an eReader should cost $100 or less...and the price will go down.
(4) Quality matters. How many prospective authors are there out there who can scarcely spell kat (sic)? I make 300-1000+ corrections on the average writer's 10 single-spaced or double-spaced pages.
(5) Steve Jobs called Amazon's Jeff Bezos and "idiot." Bezos seems to think monopoly is the name of the game. It's Telsa vs. Edison at one level and Bezos shoots himself in the foot on the other. Writers, be wary of Amazon! I wouldn't want you to sink into a writers'-only rainforest somewhere below the ninth circle.
(6) Smashwords' website is marvelously clear and once one has formatted to Smashwords' satisfaction, it's easiest to just use Smashwords for all your distribution unless you can also find a way to use Kindle without getting roped into KDP.

Kimberly Chapman said...

Speaking as someone who was traditionally published with small press and now has gone indie, I can definitely confirm a lot of the trends cited here in terms of my own anecdotal evidence (with the caveat that anecdotal evidence is not very good evidence, of course).

But speaking as both a reader and a writer, I see the biggest problem with the burgeoning indie market to be a lack of sorting in terms of basic quality. I don't mean in terms of genre preference or any of that more difficult stuff to determine, but basic story readability. Despite being an indie author, I read very few indies myself because the vast majority I've tried are posting works without professional-level editing.

It's not that having a professional editor guarantees a good book, but in my experience as a reader, not having a professional editor does guarantee a bad book and a waste of my time. I've read too many meh stories with painful grammar and broken formatting to ever read something unedited again.

There needs to be some kind of label, tag, or other indicator that distinguishes between professional-level products with editing done by established, experienced, knowledgeable editors versus that which is unedited or "friedited" (where you get a friend to read it for you and pat you on the back).

I firmly believe that the world of indie books will remain unimpressively hit-or-miss until it's easier for readers to determine at a glance that Book A has been edited for spelling, grammar, format, and basic plot coherence versus Book B which is someone's unfiltered ramblings.

I recognize and appreciate that Smashwords has a mission to not get into content gatekeeping, but I think it would help the indie world enormously if a site like this could help establish some kind of distinguishing marker for those books that have been professionally edited versus those that have not.

rodgriff said...

That is an interesting idea, for two reasons. It might give readers an indication of quality, but it would also require agreement as to the professional standards of editors. Which professional society, in which countries would be relevant. As a writer I am assailed with commercial offers to edit my work, but while most will tell me how brilliant they are, few offer any sort of kite mark. You could not get away with that in teaching, or medicine. I'd be happier to pay for editing if I was certain that it was any good. So far I have paid for three edits, of three different books, none of which have made much difference to my work. I am also fairly certain that if I sent the same work to three different editors I would get three different results. None of the edits I have purchased have been associated with increased sales. OK, so I may write rubbish books that are beyond rescue, but they didn't tell me that.
I have never seen a book advertised with the quality of the editing as a feature. It seems to me that there would be real value, to both writers and readers if editors could get their act together.

Shiloh Burnam said...

As a small publisher, I find the process of publishing to be easy and a bit tedious (thank you, Mark, for providing the capability to create multiple formats in one step and making it as easy as possible.)

My prediction is .....the primary and preferred "book" will be e-books - in schools, libraries and in general. I believe that building a DIY platform to include high quality animation, video, audio, and interaction will be the next best success story of the future for indies. Whoever creates the next DIY App builder (this could be you) providing readers, authors and publishers the ability to point, click and drag to create true interaction and social engagement (more than just a share)....then He, She or They will be the pioneer in the future of indie-books.

jar said...

Just wanted to note this article from the WSJ, kind of a put down of eBooks. The article mentions the decline of eReaders (like Kindle, Kobo, Sony, etc.), pointing to the surge in tablets as being indicative of a decline in eBook reading. But he fails to recognize that one can read eBooks on a tablet!

Jack W Perry said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post. A lot to think about as 2013 begins. The industry continues to get more and more interesting. Cheers.

Emmanuel Guillot said...

Excuse me, Mark, but : not a single word about DRM in your predictions.

Big fail. DRM are what annoy readers on e-devices.

Even if you believe nothing will change regarding DRM in 2013, you should have mentionned it.

As an indie author, I have a no-DRM policy. Yes, I prefer to go direct with retailers, but I would use more the Smashwords channel manager if it was possible to distribute without DRM.

Mark Coker said...

Hi Emmanuel, I had several additional predictions I didn't make due to the epic length of this post, but DRM wasn't one of them. We've always been outspoken opponents of DRM, but I don't have a strong opinion for how anything will change in 2013. Most retailers now give authors and publishers the ability to go DRM-free, and when our retailers offer it, we take it. The retailers, truth be told be told, hate DRM because it increases their customer service expense. I do see one good use for DRM, and that's with library checkout systems so titles can time out.

erc said...

Boy you sound pissed.

This guy you spoke with at the seminar meeting during dinner reminds me of the day I went to purchase eye glasses.

I went to a discount house, a new establishment that sold eyewear at very reasonable prices, I think it was called ‘For Eyes”, out of curiosity, before I purchased them I went across the street and asked the “traditional optometrist “ why his were so expensive.

I expected a reasonable argument that his were of better quality instead he got extremely angry (not unlike a white man in a Spike Lee movie) and began disparaging his competition , at that moment the phrase “Me thinks the lady protest too much “ crossed my mind. I think your friend was hit hard in the pocket book and the agency gig has not gone too well and now he is whoring himself out to the publishers

Laraine Anne Barker said...

I too would have preferred to upload in epub format. When I exported my files to epub myself they came out exactly as I wanted them to. I even went to the trouble of downloading a trial of Micosoft Word, which opened my files perfectly. Yes, I have to admit that, and I've hated Word ever since the fiasco of Word 6. So I saved my files as Word docs, as directed, and uploaded them. But Meatgrinder made a mess of them. Yes, I got my books into the Premium catalog, but I still consider them a mess!

erc said...

And traditional publishers hold so much sway over what readers get to read.
Ed: Oh, I think so, these are just the medium or means of dissemination, in fact, I read somewhere that the new technology was going to increase demand for more content, it takes humans for that, there is no substitute for taste or imagination, and creativity. Besides traditional publishers are like "buggy whip makers” in the era of the automobile. They should be afraid ... very afraid. The democratization of the publishing process will curtail their distribution oligopoly and omnipotent power, then they will be offering incentives to you for selecting them. For too long has the concentration of the entire printing business been in the hands of too few. No more shall they sit like effeminate aristocratic Romans at a gladiator’s fight giving thumbs up or down. Before the “Statute of Anne” in England…

Manny interrupted, ”There’s a statue of a woman named Anne?”

Ed: No Manny …a law (Ed continued)… it was the printers who restricted the wide distribution of literary works, since then it has been the publishers. Printing privileges then and traditional publishing privileges now, serve as a censorship device that it is used to limit content and does not foster the wide distribution of knowledge. Authors are at the mercy and beneficence of the traditional publisher, a group currently not known or associated with generosity.

The statute of Anne was known as “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies…” E-publishing accomplishes the same, only better. The last chapter of this new “Battle of the Book Sellers” has not been written, and you can bet that the “Star Chamber” members of traditional book publishers will not go down without a fight.

Manny: …You know this editor said I had to cut so much out of my draft that it changed the whole thing.

Ed: It seems like “surgeons” always suggest what they are good at as a solution, and not necessarily, what’s best for the patient. You know what I said to one after all his excessive questioning, slashing, and testing ….

“An editor once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some black beans and a nice Corona.”

Manny: You like that line don’t you?

Ed: Well there are an awful lot of pontificators in this world that should have their livers eaten.

Manny: You being one--just payback for that earlier comment-- what about these “formula books?"

Ed: Just like there are diploma mills so it is that there are “novel-mills.” Any one can write a cookie-cutter type novel on a Henry Ford type assembly line. This type of novel is devised through the use of templates that aid in cranking out formulaic drivel that might as well have been prepared by a copying machine for all of its originality. One could also use intellectual fraud or intellectual dishonesty by employing subordinates or hired “freelance contract players” to write creative material that is then legally plagiarized by “name brand authors,“ that merely stamp their name on the cover.

You could argue that this at least provides income to these starving authors and therefore it is a good thing. You could say that it’s the money centric publishers that cause this situation, by not providing an outlet or venue for these new authors, or you could say it’s the reading publics fault for not venturing into new territory and experimenting by reading the works of unknown authors.

Who knows, now with the invention of these “thinking” computers such as the “Watson,” which recently beat the Jeopardy human champions, perhaps all novels will be written by machines in the future, that’s probably all a publisher will need …no royalties will be paid, only electrical utility bills and the programmers’ salary will be required for out of pocket expenses. Look out proofreaders and editors your next!

erc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erc said...

I just read # 12 I can't believe it, I had written my comment on the WATSON in my book over a year ago ...half kidding, but also believing it possible.
# 7 is right on target. Ever consider partnering up with Goodreads

erc said...

Great stuff on the financial issues ..you would like THE DEVIL'S AUDITOR

erc said...

Prediction
The nightmare of uploading a doc file to be converted to an EPUB format on Smashwords Premium Catalogue, will have been just that, and now we are awake and it is gone.

LM Preston said...

I love your varied predictions and I do believe I need to start marketing my iBooks more since unlike other book reading apps on the iPhone it allows me to get instant purchase, search gratification. Although the book search features on iBooks isn't my favorite. Also, now that I own a galaxy I enjoy the instant gratification on the nook and kindle apps offered there so I can see how those areas may increase.

Lane Diamond said...

Why require coupon codes at all? Why not just allow date-sensitive special pricing (for SW Direct only, I realize - not for extended channels), so that when we run "sales" we can point people to Smashwords and they can click and go, with the sale price instantly visible, without having to worry about whether they have a valid coupon code, or are in the valid date range?

Rich Bullock said...

Ian is spot-on regarding erotica. I'm VERY hesitant to point readers and other authors to Smashwords because of the prevalence. While I greatly appreciate all you and Smashwords have done to promote indie publishing, I would appreciate even more keeping erotica separate. Nothing against it as a genre, but it's the reason I don't tell my readers to buy books at Smashwords. Just sayin'.

JH Gordon said...

Mark, how would one go about presenting a ripping way to promote both Smashwords and every author here on a massive scale and for little or no cost? I've hit upon something no one has thought of and researched it. I've tried to find an email or phone for you but to no avail. I don't want to post it for obvious reasons. If I could present it, and make sure you got it, you needn't answer if you think it's crap. You won't.
JH Gordon joelhouseperu@gmail.com

Valerie said...

Mark and the rest, please read OWNING OUR FUTURE,THE EMERGING OWNERSHIP REVOLUTION by Marjorie Kelly. This book goes right along with what Mark is saying, although it's not about publishing but about the transition from an extractive economy to a generative economy. A generative economy benefits all of us whereas an extractive economy benefits the richest one percent. With the current extractive economy bottoming out, its businesses where ownership is in the hands of those directly connected to the product rather than stockholders who care only about what the share pays without regard for the health of the business that will create a healthier environment for all. Kelly gives some excellent specifics and cites several models of a generative economy that already exists. Indie authorship is more attuned to a generative community than what is happening to the traditional publishing companies these days. I've been pretty abstract about this, but Kelly is concrete and very readable. Everyone owes it to him/herself to read this book. It brought optimism to this cynic.

Graham Whittaker said...

I don't have much to say on this 'vision' because I agree with most of it. One point I might make though is about "free". The generational idea of everything having to be free, but expecting payment for themselves will have to be addressed sooner rather than later. Any writer creating original work deserves payment. Other than certain promotions, to me "free" = "of no value". If I spend a year writing a new novel and paying the expenses, then it is my choice whether or when to promote or give away free copies. Frankly I avoid all free books. Authors creating original work deserve my dollars and I will pay for them. I expect the same. The problem is that in the words of the old song "everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.' Under most circumstances I boycott free, especially when it's 'enforced'. Nothing is FREE. Someone somewhere makes a profit... but it may not be the author.

rodgriff said...

I like Graham's point. Free may well make sense as a marketing ploy, but I suspect that in the long run a downloader is more likely to read a book they paid money for. Many years ago, when I was a student, I was involved with writing and producing an underground newspaper. We found we got more traction and reaction from our audience if we charged for it. We knew other groups that gave away their product, and it rapidly became waste paper. We rarely saw ours in wastebins.

Unknown said...

My name is JT Foxx and I think as consumer culture becomes more revolved around word of mouth and community review rather than marketing/advertising I think things like Indie self book publishers will take off... in all industries. Who's going to need an agent anymore? If youtube can make people famous why can't other avenues of media? www.jtfoxxlawsuits.com/

David Biddle said...

Things are changing so fast, a lot of what you say here Mark may or may not pan out. Certainly you have the best insight to be found on the web. The most important point in your predictions, I think, is #11. Apple has done a horrible job so far of developing their book marketing system. Gonna guess that's because of the DOJ suit and the loss of the fearless leader. If they could get their shit together and put the iBooks store on par with iTunes, they can compete with Amazon. If not, if they continue being so wishywashy, then I'm going to assume they buy Smashwords and you'll figure it out for them.

David Mint said...

I've read through your 21 predictions for 2013 and, while I know little about the antiquated publishing business model, agree with you on most counts. The only point I happily disagree with you on are the following: That the ebook market is becoming saturated with content (or the existence of a glut). While this may be true on a relative basis, I believe we are still just inches into the 'tip of the iceberg', and there remains an entire iceberg to be melted by authors who will write well beyond our life spans. As long as there is a thirst for knowledge and entertainment, books and increasingly audio books will be in demand. The explosion of online periodicals speaks to this. While the volume of ebooks will increase greatly, there will occur a substantial vetting process, this time by readers, rather than publishers, as you have pointed out.

A "glut" will come, but not as soon as you may think. There will probably occur a revolution in the vetting process, though, which we would all do well to prepare for.

As for Amazon's threat of using robo writers, while AI technology may advance to the point if producing coherent, grammatically correct content (it is still far from that), it will never approach and speak to the human soul as a gifted author can, of this I am certain. If it does, it would be evidence of the degeneration of the human soul, not a triumph of technology.

Bozze Rapide said...

I am publishing the books, but here i would like to know that should i do if i will increase the my business are in all over the world, right now i am doing this only italy based area. So suggest me the solutions.