Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Zandri's 2014 Publishing Predictions

I've waited a few days to post my 2014 publishing predictions for a couple of reasons, the major one being that I'm jetlagged beyond belief and second, I had a novel to finish that I came close to finishing in Europe, but not quite. A third reason might be that I wanted to see what the real experts like JA Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith  were going to predict first so that I could more or less rip them off. Curiously however, it turns out my own observations weren't too far off from theirs to begin with, so I guess I don't have to steal my material after all. Ha! 

Okay, here goes:

1. While Barnes and Nobles brick and mortar stores tank, Amazon and Kobo brick and mortar stores will emerge from out of the rubble and dust.

2. Indie bookstores will continue to subscribe to the antiquated system of returns while, at the same time, 2014 will see more and more traditionally published authors switching to indie publishing or at least, like me,  hybrid publishing. What this means is that indie bookstores won't be able to count on the mega-industry writers for financial stability like they used to as more than a few of them begin to jump ship. At the same time, POD or Print on Demand books will grow in popularity. Indie bookstores usually don't stock POD since they can't return them when they don't sell. But if they are to survive, indie bookstores will have no choice but to stock these books. Anyway, I'm not an indie bookstore expert so I'm going to stop with my bookstore predictions right here before someone tosses a chunk of brick and mortar at my skull.

3 Libraries will thrive as they continue to make the transition into the digital age by offering up thousands of ebooks for library members while continuing to perform their traditional if not ancient vital function as community meeting places for the exchange and/or enhancement of ideas.  

4. Overseas markets are about to go gangbusters. In 2013 I earned half my royalties in the foreign markets. This trend will continue and perhaps even overtake my US domestic sales, at least for a time. New presses like Meme Publishers who are embracing the future of digital are springing up and taking advantage of this new "world" market. I've hopped on board. Have you?

5. Indie publishers who were doing well prior to 2013 will begin to shut down for two reasons: It's harder to make their books visible in a market flooded with self-published books, and two, many authors are no longer interested in giving up both their rights and a huge chunk of money to indie presses when they can self-publish just as, or even more, effectively. If indie pubs are to survive they must offer up more to the writer than simply "printing" a book and seeing if it sticks.

6. Less visibility in the marketplace will frustrate new authors who lack a platform and cause many to quit. I've said it before and I'll say it again, many authors like myself who have achieved a degree of success in the indie market have done so because we've been published previously by a major publisher. Those without that kind of background will find it harder and harder to be found. Of course there will always be the exceptions like the Hugh Howey "Wool" story, but that's about a likely as winning the lottery. But then, even Hugh is not quite the overnight sensation he appears to be. He worked his tail off for a lot of years before becoming an "overnight success."
7. The big five will lower prices and begin to downsize their shops. Also, Dean Wesley Smith revealed that the major pubs are about to introduce a direct submission system which will all but squash the role of the agent. More on that later.

8. Traditional and hybrid authors will go indie. I'm a hybrid author meaning, I publish with the big guys (Amazon Publishing's Thomas & Mercer), the little guys (StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink), and also my own imprint (Bear Media). As I mentioned, I also now have a foreign publisher, Meme Publishing, in Paris and Milan (a forward thinking group that broke off from Atlantis). I now enjoy a direct relationship with my fans and readers and no longer worry about the marketplace and its trends. Gone are the days when you would hand in the novel you'd been working on for a year to an agent who two months later would send it back along with a note that reads: "Great book, but I just don't see a market for it. Have you thought about writing a vampire novel?" In 2014, it's not if your novel is going to be published, it's when and by who. In the end, it will be the reader who will decide if it's any good, not some editor sitting behind a desk in a high tower overlooking Times Square.

9. Indie authoring will become a full-time job. Only authors who can produce great work rapidly while maintaining a healthy virtual platform will win out over those slower or part-time authors. In the digital age, content is king.
10. Indie prices will rise while the Big 5 drop their prices leveling the retail playing field.

11. Author collaborations and/or authors hiring writers to make more books will be big. From a personal standpoint, I'm not sure I want to go there or if I ever will. It seems like a cheap way to cash in to me. But that's just my opinion, and like they say, opinions are like bungholios. Everyone's got one.

12. The best, most well written, best edited novels that are penned in genres that consistently sell (such as romantic suspense) will beat out those novels that are also well produced but seeking out breathing space in a digital platform flooded with novels. 

13. Importance of agents. Some indie authors are once again predicting the end of the agent. I'm not so sure. My agent has learned to adapt to the changing marketplace by embracing the possibilities of indie publishing and the importance of creating income streams for his authors. In other words, he's made the shift from the guy who sells your work to the guy who manages the career both for the written page and the major movie screen. He also edits my books and offers up services for making them live on indie publishing platforms like KDP and B&N. But here's the catch: He does it all for free. I like my agent. He's also a friend. I want to see him make money. Tons of money. I'm predicting that this year he will sell the movie rights to not just one of my novels, but several. 

14. Amazon KDP will announce a quality assurance program for its direct publishing venture similar to that utilized by Bookbub. In other words, not all books will be accepted onto the platform. The market is getting swamped with garbage and sooner or later, Amazon will have to find a way to police the quality of the writing they are promoting and making money on via their self-publishing program.

15. The only thing you can count on in 2014 is more and more change.   

Okay, these are just a few predictions from someone in the know. You might agree with them or not. But in short, I see a year of slower sales in the US while the world market rises overall. The importance of an author creating a personal bond with his or her readers/fans will become paramount. In fact, in some ways, it will be the only way to be heard above all the noise. And like I've already mentioned, it will be the author who can put out an exceptional word count on a daily basis, day in and day out, who will make a good if not great living this year, and the next, and the next. So stop reading my stupid blog and get to work.