2016 Publishing Trends

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

stack-of-books

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?

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Indie Authors – Should You Revise & Republish Some of Your Earlier Books?

Jodie_June 26, '14_7371_low res_centredBy Jodie Renner, editor & author  @JodieRennerEd

I  often get contacted for editing by authors who have previously published a few novels, either on their own or through a small publisher with limited resources for editing. Their earlier works, while promising, were prematurely released and sales are slow, with few or mostly negative reviews.

These authors were often unaware at the time of any weaknesses in their books and just wanted to get them out there, perhaps on time for Christmas sales or for some other self-imposed time deadline. Many of these early works really needed an edit on some level: a major developmental edit for help with premise, plot, & structure; a content edit to address plot holes, inconsistencies, character motivations, point of view, etc.; a stylistic edit to address slow pacing, convoluted phrasing, too many author intrusions (backstory, info dumps, too much neutral description, telling instead of showing); or just a good clean-up of grammar and flow.

If those authors are serious about building a career as a respected novelist, leaving those books out there in the shape they’re in will only harm their reputation. And if they’re just out as eBooks on Amazon, it’s pretty easy to take them down and upload a revised, more polished version. I’ve done it several times with both of my books – quick and painless, really. Amazon doesn’t seem to care how many times I revise and re-upload the same title – I love the freedom! If you know basic formatting (here’s a how-to article on formatting your manuscript), you can make the changes pretty quickly and get the e-book back up.

Here’s an example of an email, typical of many I’ve received:

“Jodie, I have now read both of your books and your articles on point of view. Fantastic material. All of your comments and recommendations now make sense. With that foundation, I realize what an amateur job my first novel was. Maybe someday we can revisit and do major surgery or a lobotomy on [title of book].”

James Scott Bell has spoken here on TKZ about the need for “a long tail” – a backlist of other attractive titles by you that readers can choose from if they happen on one of your books for the first time and enjoy it. That’s the way to keep the royalties rolling in over the long term.

But of course this means all your titles need to be strong, of high quality. What if your earlier books are nowhere near the quality of recent ones? What if your worst, most amateurish production is the first one of your books someone reads? Do you think they’ll look for any more by you? Worse, they could write a nasty review saying they won’t waste their time with any more of your books. So you could also think of the “long tail” as a chain connecting readers to you. You don’t want any weak links to break that chain!

I’ve confidentially advised some authors, either my clients or not, to get one or more of their backlist titles cleaned up. Some agree and are grateful for the feedback, and others don’t seem to care, or even respond negatively. I don’t get that. If they’re getting bad reviews on Amazon for an early work and a professional editor suggests it would be a good idea to get it edited, why would they leave it up as it is? (And I’m not soliciting editing work here – I get way more requests for editing than I can handle.)

Some indie authors tell me they can’t afford to get their early books edited. I say you can’t afford not to, as those books are or could start dragging your reputation down and significantly reduce potential income. At the very least, If you’ve already (or since then) honed your fiction-writing skills by reading some great craft-of-writing books and/or attending writers’ workshops, here are three resources I recommend specifically for tips on revising fiction: James Scott Bell’s excellent Revision & Self-Editing, Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover, Jessica Page Morrell’s Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, and my Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power. All have very useful, concrete tips, with examples, for taking your fiction up a level or two and making your story more compelling. And if you’re struggling with making your first page zing, check out some of the great first-page critiques here on TKZ (links on side column). Then, after you’ve used the advice to revise your early book(s) yourself, be sure to follow it up with a low-cost or free final proofread for typos, grammar, and punctuation.

If the process of going back and revising a whole book feels overwhelming, here’s a great step-by-step plan of action for revision and self-editing. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do that right now, consider pulling any prematurely published early books out of circulation and resubmitting them later when you’ve had time to get them cleaned up or do it yourself. Don’t leave amateurish books out there where they can start collecting critical reviews and tarnish your name as a talented author. Or, if your muse just took a vacation on your WIP, take a break and use the time to revise an earlier novel.

Here’s what A.D. Starrling said in a recent comment (Oct. 22) here on TKZ:

“I have done a revised edition of Book 1 while simultaneously writing Book 3 (I know, one should really STOP rewriting once the darn thing is published, but the feedback for Book 2 was so good, I just had to bring Book 1 up to that level!).”

So my advice, as a freelance professional in the business of helping authors turn good stories into stellar ones that garner great reviews, is to take the time to make sure that at least the weakest links in the chain of your backlist are brought up to your current standards. Of course, I’m mainly talking about eBooks and self-published books here, which are so much easier to revise and republish.

Writers – what do you think? What if one of your early titles received a bunch of negative reviews on Amazon? Would you consider taking it down and revising it, then getting it edited by a professional, then republishing? Then you could always consider changing the title so you can lose the old, negative reviews.

What do the rest of you think of this?

See James Scott Bell’s excellent related post here on TKZ yesterday: Facing Down the Harsh Realities of Publishing.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, her blog, http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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