Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Publishing Predictions

It's a new year, so time for some 2015 predictions for authors about publishing.

Amazon hasn't made a power play yet, but they will soon.

I know what you're thinking, "But wasn't their negotiations with Hachette flexing their muscles?" No. If anything, it was a power play by Hachette trying to use its power and authors to negotiate their own terms with Amazon. They were the ones who stalled, they had Authors United standing up for them (by the way, AU hasn't done anything since the deal has been reached. Goes to show they were only formed to help Hachette, not authors.), and had most to gain. They were the proverbial power player. What we witnessed is the typical business dealings behind closed doors.

Better said, what many called a small earthquake signalling a much more destructive force in the future, was a windy day. Nothing really changed, and if it had been done behind closed doors, I doubt many of us would be able to tell the difference right now.

Amazon will possibly flex their muscles in 2015, as new competitors will eat away at their market share. About 60%-65% of the ebook market belongs to Amazon, and it's as much of a curse as it is a blessing. That big of a pie means competitors can start chipping away without much notice until it's too late. And with successful indie authors leaving the exclusivity of KDP Select because of uncertain Kindle Unlimited pay, competing retailers will be receiving a flood of new content and readers. 

What makes this exodus an actual problem is these aren't any 'ol authors, these are authors who put out constant work. Amazon is losing value, eating away at their 65% slowly. Value is exclusive titles. Value is readers going to Amazon first to read the latest novel. Value is those customers than buying more products because they've made an account and it's easy to hit a button. Now Nook, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo will be adding value to their stores.

Amazon is going to use their power now, because they may not have it a year or two in the future.  Whatever that is, I don't know, just be on the lookout.

Competition returns?

Possibly. Retailers who'll see their new found value grow will want to keep it, presumably. I assume because I don't fully believe this myself. My belief is Nook and iBooks and other major retailers are already in the pockets of Big Publishing, and it's the main reason why we haven't seen them seriously purse indie authors by adding incentives and benefits to being on their store. This may change, and I hope it will, because it will cause Amazon to be more competitive with indies.

Indie books won Amazon the ebook race. Kindle had a much more interesting variety of books at a much more attractive rate than publishers. We know this, Amazon knows this, and their Kindle division definitely knows this. I truly believe the Kindle division looks out for their authors and wants indies to have the best experience and situation possible. It may not always be what the business side wants, but they're ultimately in our corner. We may see them learn this early and try and bring authors back into the ecosystem.

Retailers like Libiro should see an increase in activity. I think the two biggest winners will be Smashwords and Draft2Digital, as they can sell an author's book to multiple channels. Authors will use these services more for convenience of not worrying about a ton of different usernames and passwords and other such nonsense. 

Publishing becomes competitive?

The big win in the Amazon-Hachette negotiations is an even playing field. This concerns readers more so than writers, as most ebooks will become more affordable, not just indie titles.  

Is this bad for indies that we have to now compete with big published authors at our price point? Not really. The major advantage we've always had is the variety that big publishers lack. We're constantly throwing out new and interesting stories that publishers passed and will pass on because it's, "Not hot on the market right now." and that isn't going to change. Our price range is going up year after year. Readers are more willing now to buy a higher priced book than they were in 2010.

To the self-important authors who have an agent, a publisher, and a contract that they interpret puts them a level about "the self-published dreck", they've been brought down to us, except with worse terms. They didn't see the value in fighting for a higher royalty rate in their contracts, and now they're suffering the price, because it isn't the publisher who's hurt selling the ebook at $2.99, it's the author who's receiving cents.

We're possibly seeing changes in contracts that are a little more author friendly, but I don't think we'll see anything too drastic in 2015. That's reserved for 2016 and 2017.

The Battle for Ebooks begins

Publishers are doing better than ever! It's true. Ebooks have reinvigorated publishers and their profits, and publishers have been reacting to this by clamping down on advances, taking more rights, aggressively expanding vanity presses, squeezing down on editors, and keeping author royalties low.
Don't believe me? Read up.

Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publishing was never real, it was a smokescreen for the actual issue at hand, which is ebooks. Who deserves to "own" ebooks? Who has more "right" to an ebook? That's the question at hand.

Indie publishers always knew that the author deserved most right to the ebook, given that they're the author who wrote it. Ebooks have no printing cost, no warehouse cost, no transportation cost, and no refunds from a bookstore. The added benefit of a book never going out of print makes publishers salivate at the mouth. Think of how many contracts authors can't get out of because their book will never technically be out of print?

The self-pub vs trad-pub only came from authors who's feelings were hurt that they were no longer special, and new writers fell for it hook line and sinker.  New authors want a contract so bad to show off at holiday dinner that they'll believe their book has an innate "better quality" than others, name indie books. Publishers believe this since they're special gatekeepers who can tell what's good and what's shit. It's a vicious cycle.

Now all authors will have royalty rates on their mind. The standard 25% from big publishers doesn't look so fair anymore, especially factoring in the rise of subscription services.

This year will be the year authors have to fight for their ebook rights. There will be no difference between them, except for the perceived differences, obviously.

The Wild Wild West is Tamed

The ebook boom is over. It happens to every new market. Let's take YouTube for example. A huge playground where many individuals found success with whatever their imagination and creativity put out, even if many didn't agree their ideas should find success at all. Today, YouTube is structured and organized. It has established brands and any 'ol idea doesn't cut it. The same goes for ebooks. We're entering the domestication phase, and 2015 will be the first year of standardization.

All of this doesn't mean ebooks have stopped growing, or worse, started to go in reverse. Ebooks are slated to overtake print by 2018. It's just we'll no longer see the gigantic leap of year over year sales and consumption. Newcomers are going to have a more difficult time breaking out, because the newcomers that came before them have established their own brands.

Old techniques to fame and fortune will no longer work, and everyone will be scrambling for the next best way to entice readers. Permafree, Pay What You Want, bundles, nobody knows. By the time we figure it out, it'll change in 2016. Oh the life in the fast lane.

Subscriptions are Coming

The next big trend in publishing, and the cause of the coming upset. Kindle Unlimited is getting most of the airtime, because Amazon articles bring the clicks, but KU, Scribd, Oyster, and others are attracting big publishers.

Indies have the best deal with subscription services. They earn the most per book through any retailer compared to their traditionally published peers, even at Kindle Unlimited. It's the authors with a big traditional publisher who'll feel the hurt. The 25% royalty rate strikes again.

Greatest Time to be a Reader?

I'd say so. All these new services and renewed competitors and ebook deals are looking to make 2015 the best time to be a reader. Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, or Oyster are phenomenal value, with each one expanding this year. Many indie authors are leaving the KDP Select ecosystem and going wide, reaching more readers than ever before. The recent Amazon ebook deals with publishers have priced books reasonable. (I still can't believe some publishers would charge $18 for an ebook at one time)

If authors and retailers keep accommodating readers, we'll be in for a very interesting industry these coming years.

VAT Still Awful.

'Nuff said.

That's It

These are the major things I foresee in 2015. No doubt there will be smaller ones, and those unknowable disruptions that will take place, but by and large these will be the major topics.