Recently I talked about the fragmentation of publishing and how the industry is changing. Now I want to analyze and discuss Mark Coker’s 2014 predictions on the future of publishing. We won’t have to wait fifty years like we did for Asimov’s predictions. Already the portents are visible.
So, let me gather my crystal ball (which I actually have somewhere nearby) and advance in time to the future.
Love to time travel.
Mark Coker is the founder of Smashwords, a publisher for eBooks that distributes to many sellers taking a small piece of the book’s price for his service. So you download to Smashwords and their “meat grinder” reformats your book into ePub, PDF, mobipocket, etc. and distributes to a wide variety of names such as Nook, iBooks, Sony, Kobo, etc.
But not Kindle. Amazon is a competitor on the Ebook side. But Mark Coker knows the Ebook publishing business inside and out.
One of the results of the Ebook evolution is the dramatic cost shift from a paperback to an ebook price. Traditional publishers would bring a blockbuster seller out in hardback at $25 and a year later go to $15 trade book or paperback. Maybe a mid-level writer would come out in mass market for $7-8.00. To get it cheaper you would have to go to the library, find a used book store or borrow a friend’s…if it was available at any of those places. That was how things operated and readers had to accept it.
Now with eBooks, the cost of production is so cheap that books can be offered at much lower prices and still make money. This lower pricing has offered Indies a selling advantage and as the reading public adjusts to expecting lower prices for quality books, traditional publishers will have to lower their prices in order to compete. A number of lawsuits and fights have been waged over the last couple of years on how to price books, both paperback and ebook.
Mark says, “Ebook sales measured in dollar volume will slow.”
EBooks that sell at $2.99 and $3.99 sell 4x more than higher priced unit sales, but as traditional publishers lower their prices to compete, the advantage of price the Indies have enjoyed the last few years will diminish. Traditional publisher who once ignored digital rights are now using them and selling eBooks to bolster profits.
Also he points out, “With books dropping to under $4 sales, promotions become less effective.”
And in truth, with a burgeoning number of free book or discounted book websites, the reader’s library is becoming stocked with low cost books that he may or may not ever get around to reading…but they cost little or nothing, and don’t go stale.
I offered Caught in Time on Mother’s Day through May 15th and counted around 4500 downloads on my Amazon report. It definitely impacted my sales advantageously, as many added other books from the series and continue to buy more as they read and enjoy the other stories. Eventually, a single reader may have hundreds of books in his digital library that he can pick and choose from that he purchased this way or through known distributors such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, etc. at special promotion prices.
Another prediction he makes is, “The ebook unit market share will increase.”
Many readers still claim that they like the “feel” of a physical book, but the proliferation of Ereaders and tablets at better and better prices is making it attractive to slip over into the digital camp. A reader can load hundreds of books into his library and not have to dust the shelves or lug heavy, bulky books around. Shelves once holding leather bound books may now sport art objects or video equipment.
While there are traditionally published authors that still act like they are better than an Indie published author, many are sneaking over into the self-published realm because of shorter book to shelf time, greater freedom of creativity, higher royalties and more control of the finished product.
When I showed my paperback version of Touching Crystal to a traditionally published author recently, she sniffed that her cosy mystery was a “real book.” (her actual words) Mine sure looked real to me and had real words inside it. But when I looked around the table, most of the successful “traditionally published” authors were actively engaged in also self-publishing. She had been publishing her mysteries and romance novels with a small publisher for a long time, and didn’t realize the change in attitude happening all around her.
In fact, the most popular author at the table with a successful series was beginning a new series and had decided to self-publish it, even though he liked his traditional publisher…a well known and respected house with a famous editor who had treated him well.
It used to be that you were either traditionally published through a publisher along with a contract, or you weren’t legitimately published. End of story.
Nowadays, authors can, and do, publish both traditionally and Indie. The stigma is vanishing as many best selling authors recognize the many advantages that self-publishing holds and are leaving traditional publishing, or doing both. While waiting on the long time frame of a traditional publisher, the author is self-publishing a variety of work from short stories in anthologies to novelettes in order to build their “platform.”
No longer does self-publishing reflect lower quality of work, or a desperate to publish author, and those that still think so are mired in old school attitudes of the past. They haven’t seen the future and may be hurt by their blindness, both as a reader and an author.
Another upcoming change in distributing books out to readers that Mark mentions is the subscription model.
Smashwords recently partnered with Scrib’ner that follows the business model of Netflix by offering an array of books for a $8.95 a month subscription fee. Oyster is also another company using the subscription model for books.
Product will become key as readers sign up and have unlimited access to 500,000 plus books they can download and tuck into their library at any time, in any amount.
Readers no longer will be worried about price or what can fit on their tabletop, but what book offers the greatest “emotionally satisfying extreme.”
Will this engender stories that are more emotional? Darker? Have kids killing off each other? Have the hero be an inquisitor and torturer? Without the reins and lead lines of the gateway editor telling us what will sell, and what will not, how will stories change and evolve?
Where will the rules for writing a story come from? Will the arbitrator or what is good or bad be up to the public reader?
Book publishing is transforming just as music, art and video are also changing. I promise a book review next week, but also a few more words in response to more of Coker’s publishing predictions.
As soon as I can locate that crystal ball.