Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011 Predictions for Book Publishing

It's annual prognostication time when folks like me stick out their necks and try to predict the future. I invite you to join in the fun. Brush up your crystal ball and share your publishing predictions for 2011 in the comments field below.

Earlier today, Jeff Rivera over at MediaBistro interviewed me for my ten book publishing predictions for 2011.

I'll list five below, and then I encourage you to click over to Mediabistro for the full ten in his interview, Publishing Predictions for 2011 from Smashwords.

If 2010 was the year ebooks went mainstream in the U.S., 2011 will be the year indie ebook authors go mainstream. We've already seen this start to happen with some tremendous indie ebook author breakouts in 2010. I wrote about Smashwords author Brian S. Pratt a few weeks ago.

So here are five predictions for 2011:

1. Ebook sales rise, unit consumption surprises – Ebooks sales will approach 20% of trade book revenues on a monthly basis by the end of 2011 in the US, yet the bigger surprise is that ebooks will account for one third or more of unit consumption. Why? Ebooks cost less and early ebook adopters read more.

2. Agents write the next chapter of the ebook revolution – Agents, serving the economic best interests of the best-selling authors, will bring new credibility to self publishing by encouraging authors to proactively bypass publishers and work directly with ebook distribution platforms. Agents will use these publishing platforms for negotiating leverage against large publishers. The conversation will go something like this: “You’re offering my author only 15-20% list on ebooks when I can get them 60-70% list working direct with an ebook distributor like Smashwords or a retailer like Amazon?”

3. More big authors reluctant to part with digital rights – Indie ebook publishing offers compelling advantages to the author. The economics are better (see #2) and the publishing cycle times are faster (an ebook manuscript can be uploaded today and achieve worldwide distribution in minutes or days, not years). Ebooks also offer greater publishing flexibility (shorts, full length, bundles, free books), and the opportunity to reach more readers with lower cost (yet still higher-profit) books. The advantages will entice more professional authors to self-publish some or all of their future catalog, and all of their reverted-rights catalog.

4. Self Publishing goes from option of last resort to option of first resort among unpublished authors – Most unpublished authors today still aspire to achieve the perceived credibility and blessing that comes with a professional book deal. Yet the cachet of traditional publishing is fading fast. Authors with finished manuscripts will grow impatient and resentful as they wait to be discovered by big publishers otherwise preoccupied with publishing celebrity drivel from Snooki, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians. Meanwhile, the break-out success of multiple indie author stars will grab headlines in 2011, forcing many unpublished authors off the sidelines. As unpublished authors bypass the slush pile, publishers lose first dibs on tomorrow’s future stars.

5. Ebook prices to fall – It’s all about supply and demand. Demand is surging, but supply will overwhelm demand. Average ebook prices will decline, despite attempts by Agency 5 publishers to hold the line. The drop will be fueled by the oversupply of books, abundance of low-cost or free non-book content, influx of ultra-price-sensitive readers who read free first, fierce competition for readership, and digitization of reverted-rights and out-of-print books. Indie authors, since they earn 60-70% retail price, can compete at price points big publishers can’t touch.

Read all ten of my predictions in the full interview over at Mediabistro, and please share your own predictions in the comments below.

Image credit: Wikipedia


Oswald Bastable said...

I will add my prediction:

As cheap Chinese ebook readers hit the market, the curious who don't want to commit a lot of money to trying ebooks will be drawn into the ebook market by the afforability of these devices (Currently $129 NZ here)

Wayne Watson

Kyle W. Bell said...

As an author on Smashwords­, I have to say that this is the future of books. Mark Coker has built a platform that is open to everyone, allowing consumers to make choices instead of big publishers­. The reactionar­y nature of the big publishers has meant that they seek books similar to the latest hit, instead of seeking creative new ideas. Smashwords and platforms like it change the game.

Kyle W. Bell

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree on agents....I don't see them making that move in 2011. Maybe by the end of 2012, but in general, they move to new things as slow as the industry does. The goal is print in bookstores for quite a while yet.

I got a book on writing/publishing for Xmas from a relative that was put out in 2006, and boy is it amazing how out-dated it was industry-wise, just 4 years later.

Linda Pendleton said...

It looks to be an interesting new year for those of us self-publishing ebooks and print.

Gregory House said...

On the whole I have to agree with this summation of the 2011 market for ebooks, Though I do feel that most standard publishers and agents will continue to thrash around in the older paradigm unwilling to admit the change in market flow. The European and Asian markets will probably be the first to realise the potenial. It would be worth watching them for trends. However for the immediate future the flow of control back to indie authors will continue for at least a decade if not longer. Which is exactly why I'm choosing smashwords as my marketing base! Damn but did I get tired of waiting for replies. Good luck to every one in the new year, for those of you in the northern climes stay safe and warm.

Scott Semegran said...

I have to agree with missymaxim. Literary agents are the gatekeepers to traditional publishers. Why would you need an agent if you can publish your books yourself?

Scott Semegran said...

I have to agree with missymaxim. Literary agents are the gatekeepers to traditional publishers. Why would you need an agent if you can publish your books yourself?

Unknown said...

Look for search categories to be further refined as Smashwords' offerings continue to swell. For example, readers will be able to identify within genres and sub-genres ebooks that are out-of-print/reverted-rights works. Their numbers at Smashwords grow daily.

As Mark can personally attest, a book that's passed through the needle's eye of traditional publishing has met very strict criteria of readability and editing. Reverts and OPs are yet another logical way to begin browsing Smashwords' burgeoning virtual shelves.


Anonymous said...

I am also an author on Smashwords and I have to say, without it, due to the content, my book would never have seen the light of day. Mark and SW have transformed many authors' lives and chances of success.

Saffina Desforges


Unknown said...

I don't predict, but I sincerely hope, there will be an uptick in the hiring of professional editors and designers by the self-publishing community. Quantity is fabulous, but quality is essential for sustained growth.
Dave Donelson

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Wayne, I wouldn't be surprised is some enterprising entrepreneurs didn't start giving away free e-reading devices tied to some volume buying ebook club, or tied to a retailer maybe via a subscription service. Give way the razor, sell the blades.

Missy, you may be right, we'll see. I'm basing my guess on conversations I've had with agents. There's a warming taking place. Agents want to sell books, and this is becoming a viable path, and another arrow in their quiver.

Dave, I hope for the same thing. We make it easy to publish an ebook, but it's up to the author to produce the highest quality book, and that involves respect for the editing, revision and proofing process.

Terry said...

I'm a new author so I'm not sure what an agent does for you if they don't get you into a publisher. If they start to help more with the marketing and get the author into interviews or reviews, I think they could become a big help.

Also I keep seeing "professional edit" but I've never seen a list to contact. Is there such a thing? Is it time to do one to move the 'indie' market to the next level?

Oswald Bastable said...

Indeed Mark- if the shops are selling these bottom-end readers at $129 NZ, they no doubt cost a lot less ex-factory.

Showing my new toy around, I got a lot of positive comments- and spent quite a bit of time explaining ebooks! Even a couple of total technophobes expressed an interest in buying one, when they saw how easy it was to use.

Another positive for us are the new (and very affordable)'smartphones', which are really multi-purpose devices.I'm predicting they will dominate the mobile phone market in a very short time- yet another platform for our books.

Onward to world domination!

Wayne Watson

jambalian said...
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jambalian said...

As Brian S Pratt has proven, you don't need an editor or agent to make it as an author. This is rather handy for me, as I don't have $2,000 to throw at my book.

Having started my novel I was reading around and everyone was telling me that I needed an agent. As I don't have the money for one, I stopped writing. However, Mark's piece about Brian brought the confidence back and even if it isn't a hit, at least I did it my way.

I predict many more will feel this way in 2011 and Smashwords will have 103,500 books available online on 31/12/2011 and that there will be 34,000 authors. Word count will hit the 5 billion mark, too.

MARK HILL - writer guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.