2016 Publishing Trends

Jordan Dane


I recently received an email from a reader fan who complained about not having access to my Amazon Kindle Worlds (KW) digital books in Australia. I’ve heard this complaint before regarding the difficulty of obtaining US books in other countries. You’d think that in this digital world, it would be easier to satisfy markets all over the globe (especially with digital books), but not so. In the case of Kindle Worlds, the division is separate from Amazon and has to build upon its infrastructure and distribution resources. KW will be in Australia eventually—things are changing—but online retailers restrict certain markets because of their selling platform limitations. Yet the world is becoming borderless and more universal, so it got me thinking about trends in the publishing industry that have changed how books are created, marketed, and distributed.

1.) Publishers Optimizing Licensing Prospects – Publishers over the globe are recognizing the value of licensing and holding tightly to the rights they have under contract. Licensing, traditionally a subsidiary rights value, could become a larger contributor to a publisher’s cash flow if the house can expand its reach into the global marketplace. International borders would become less important (not an obstacle) and publishers could expand their reach in creative ways by enhancing the book experience for the reader. Plus, larger houses could continue to acquire struggling mid-sized houses to acquire these rights that they could exploit across the globe.

How can indie authors exploit their sub-rights (ie foreign language translations, audio, film rights, serial rights, and merchandising)? They can either sell those rights themselves, or have an agent do it for them, or exploit these rights on their own, such as audio rights for independent artists and authors through ACX, Spoken Word Inc, and Open Book Audio. If the author controls the artwork for their covers or develops a series logo as a brand, they can control merchandising through service providers like Café Press, Zazzle, and DeviantArt. For foreign language rights, some independent authors have worked directly with translators, offering them nothing up front but with 20% of proceeds on the back end. If you’re not daring enough to go directly to the translators, there are ways for author right holders to be matched with publishers willing to acquire such rights through a site called PubMatch. (Pubmatch is free to join but when I input my profile, they asked for money to be paid annually since I was submitting books for consideration. I paid a nominal fee of 19.99 for a year and will see how things go.) The author would create a profile and either wait to be contacted on their offerings or be more proactive by searching the profiles of publishers listed on the site, similar to the way ACX (for audio) is set up.

2.) The Importance of Local POD Providers – There have been some out-of-the-box thinkers who see the value in “local” print on demand (POD) options as a means to get around the international obstacles of limited selling platforms. My reader in Australia could wait for Amazon KW to expand its reach into the country, or some entrepreneurial company (like a more nimble micro-publisher) could simply place an order at any local POD service providers in various countries to create a bigger marketplace. Could this lead to niche POD companies springing up to support a strengthening print sales demand across the world? Only time will tell.

3.) Print Book Resurgence – It wasn’t long ago that people were predicting the death of the print book, but quite the opposite has happened with stronger print sales being reported in 2015. Perhaps this is because publishers now have more control over pricing after the reintroduction of agency pricing through online retailers like Amazon. And with demand strong and the boutique model dominating digitals, larger publishers are optimizing their marketing strategies by attempting to manipulate their print prices up.

How? By offering fewer books for predominantly well-known authors with large readerships—books that are in demand—publishing houses can control how books are launched, pricing-wise. With ebooks priced nearly on parallel with print sales, publishers can create a value-related decision point for readers to evaluate whether they would rather own a print book versus a digital copy. At certain prices, readers will make the choice to own a print copy, even if they are paying slightly more. Would you pay an extra $2.00 to own a hard copy print book?

But it’s not all rosy for large houses, even with the glimmer of print sales being up. Overall, traditional publishers are offering fewer books to the reading public—focusing on big name authors—so they must squeeze profitability out where they can. They won the right to control their pricing through online retail giant Amazon, but Amazon is quietly expanding their reach as a service provider and/or a publisher, working with indie authors and micro-publishers with revenue from all sources. We live in interesting times.

4.) The Rise of Alternatives to Traditional PublishersAuthorEarnings.Com reports that in 2015, nearly half of all ebooks sold on Amazon (the most influential digital retailer) are either self-published, published by micro-publishers, or are generated through an Amazon Imprint. Here’s their ebook breakdown by publisher type:

Big Five Published 33%
• Indie Published 34%
• Micro-Publishers 19%
• Amazon Imprint 10%
• Misc 4%

So this is what I mean about Amazon making money off the competition of traditional houses. As a service provider, and an imprint, Amazon doesn’t have to be in direct competition with traditional houses as their only source of revenue.

5.) The Retail Gorilla – According to AuthorEarnings.Com – the overall market share of US ebook unit sales is dominated by Amazon at 74% with the balance held by other online retailers: GooglePlay, Kobo, Nook, Apple, and miscellaneous others. So if you’re an indie author with a limited budget, where would you spend your ad dollars?

For Discussion:

1.) Have you noticed any interesting trends in the publishing industry that has affected how you do business as an author?

2.) Whether you’re a traditionally published author, independent author, or a hybrid author with feet in both camps, have you been rethinking the value of sub-rights?

8 thoughts on “2016 Publishing Trends

  1. I have a friend who has a small publishing company with an interesting inventory. He sells through many of the outlets familiar to us: Amazon, Smashwords, and so forth.

    But he has a constant problem with overseas pirating of his e-books.

    He has wondered if the availability of his Kindle books overseas through legitimate sources such as Amazon might help alleviate some of the problem. He has noticed that the pirated books are sold by the pirates for substantial markup on the sites on which they sell.

    • The pirates we see here giveaway books for free. Pirate thieves are a frustrating part of the industry. It would be an even bigger challenge to legally pursue pirates in foreign countries.

      Much depends on the security of the system used to download. Amazon seems to retain linkage to the download file for library loaning, for example, to insure their rules are enforceable. I’m not familiar with how their system works to secure their downloads, but for the average reader, not intent on criminal abuse, their system works.

      Does your friend have his own site to sell through? I wonder about his security. He could become a vendor through Amazon but be limited to the countries they sell to. It’s worth exploring to see if his situation improves.

      • Thank you for your thoughts. He does sell through Amazon and Smashwords and a number of other outlets. But offering through such vendors seems only to encourage the foreign pirates because they apparently get their books through their American agents.

        I guess I get offended because he is my friend, and because the pirates are robbing both him and the writers of revenue rightfully due them.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Jordan. I am such an ostrich-in-the-sand person when it comes to keeping up with this stuff. This is helpful.

  3. I’m the same way, Kris. But after I researched the issue with my reader in Australia, it got me thinking. I like the idea of PubMatch. If something comes from my joining, I’ll follow up with a TKZ post.

  4. I understand your frustration, Jim. If people knew how hard we worked over our manuscripts, the months/weeks/or even years we write them, I would hope they would feel less inclined to pirate it. And the risk your friend takes to market & distribute books for readers to enjoy should be respected more. Thanks Jim.

  5. I’m a day late here, and don’t know what can be done about the situation your first commenter mentioned, but here, a LOT of pirate sites don’t sell/give away books. They steal credit card information and are nothing more than phishing sites. My advise, FWIW, is to spend the time you’d spend looking for your books on pirate sites and use it to Write The Next Book. The people who use pirate sites are not your customers. You’re not losing sales, because they don’t buy books. Period.

    (Most of this advice comes from Mark Lefevbre of Kobo, but I’ve heard it repeated by many others. Mark Coker of Smashwords said he would love to get his books into the hands of thousands of readers.)

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