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Publishing Predictions for 2014

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It might seem foolish to make predictions about the world of publishing. But being ignorant to the trends and shifts seems even more foolish if you’re a writer, author, service provider, or thought leader. Rapid changes and disruptions in publishing – brought on by a mix of the 2007-08 recession, the rise of digital technologies, and shifts in conglomerates and corporations – have left some writers, authors, and thought leaders flummoxed. Yet, the future of publishing seems dire only for those authors and potential authors unwilling to navigate the topsy-turvy climate.

Here is a round-up of publishing predictions for 2014. 

Self-publishing and Amazon grow. Ebooks, not so much.

Jeremy Greenfield, Director of Digital Book World and Forbes columnist, calls the publishing climate The Wild West. Every December he asks leading influencers and consultants in digital marketing their predictions. Here are some of his findings:

– Self-publishing will continue to grow even as ebook sales at publishers stagnate: In 2013, growth in ebook sales stagnated — if you’re only looking at sales by traditional publishers. It’s impossible to know if self-published ebook sales grew and by how much. The way self-publishing has taken off in the U.S., it’s easy to imagine that sales grew in 2013 and that they’ll continue to grow in 2014.

– Amazon will continue to expand into publishing books: Amazon Publishing wasn’t a complete success in 2013, according to many observers. In a move that had many thinking the company was retreating from its New York-based, big-time publishing aspirations, Larry Kirshbaum, who headed the operation, announced his departure; he was replaced by a Seattle-based Amazon editor.

Mobile technology is the new game-changer.

Although hard cover sales of books doubled in 2013 while ebook sales stagnated, ebooks will continue to influence publishing trends. But in what medium and format? Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and founder of The Future of Publishing. At Digital Book World, he predicts that publishers must format for mobile technology users over PC-users. He cites U.K. consultant Benedict Evans’ presentation “Mobile is eating the world, autumn 2013 edition” in part as evidence to draw his conclusions:

In the mobile world there’s not even a warning bell. Either you offer the mobile consumer whatever they want at the moment they want it and at a price that they’re willing to pay or CLICK, they’ve moved on to someone who will.

The lesson for publishers is that a marketing strategy that runs paper to desktop to mobile has become a traffic jam. Try mobile, desktop and then paper. Meet your customers where they truly browse.

Peter Armstrong, co-founder of the author-friendly Leanpub, makes a more specific prediction:

“The most significant publishing trend I expect to see in 2014 is the widespread adoption of Retina iPad Mini devices, which will further accelerate the growth of ebooks.  This growth, coupled with the App Store-style demand for instant gratification, will help the notion of buying an in-progress ebook go from a niche idea to an idea which will start to gain traction in the broader non-fiction and fiction spaces.”

In fact, many of those involved in publishing and digital publishing, concurred in this sampling at Book Business. In short, authors who pro-actively seek different formatting opportunities for the ebooks – whether self-publishing or not – likely will win by giving more readers what they want.

Take seriously “the Netflix of eBooks.”

The Netflix of eBooks – eBook subscriber services such as Scribd and Oyster – will continue to influence reading and buying habits. Seth Fiegerman of Mashable takes a look at how HarperCollins is among the most forward-thinking among the top 5 in embracing both Scribd and Oyster:

For HarperCollins, working with Scribd and Oyster is part of a larger strategy to experiment and experiment often, with the goal of being early to new digital reading business models, whatever they may be.

Publishing Technology reiterates this prediction.  Authors: Pay attention to how readers find and purchase your book.

Be versatile with how you publish and how you engage your audience. And be real.

Social media will continue to be authors’ and publishers’ direct connection to audiences. The key? Build up your audience. Don’t just build numbers. Ellen Harvey of Book Business reviews 25 ways that publishers can do so – and authors can learn from the tips, too.

For authors, publish more and shorter and engage everywhere. That’s Penny C. Sansevieri‘s prediction at Huffington Post:

For most of us, the days of writing a book a year, or a book every two years have long since passed. Readers want more content and one of the best ways to engage with them is to keep your books in front of them – and the best way to do that is to keep pushing new books out the door. Keep in mind that when it comes to marketing, content really is king and good content, in the form of a book, can really help to keep you out there. Also, something that I’ve noticed in the testing that I’ve done is that the more content you have out there, the more you sell just in general.

Story architecture and experience architecture still matter. They’re everything.

In short, for authors in 2014: Lots of possibilities. Your job? Create captivating stories – whether stories of characters or stories of ideas – by becoming a story architect. Know and engage your patch of the planet in part by becoming an experience architect. Expand your visibility and distribute your great work – your creative medicine – by becoming a savvy, genuine collaborator with other people who can help spread the word for you. Finally, know what you need to know about the industry technology, be resourceful, and experiment.

It’s not just the Wild West. It’s a mad scientist’s world, ripe for the daring creative to test things out.

Your take? Offer your comments and conversation below.

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    1. Thanks, Alice. Your perspective would be interesting since you’ve watched this shifts from a certain vantage point.

  1. Thanks for this, dear Jeffrey. This further drives home the point that you cannot choose between “being a writer” and “being an entrepreneur.” Those silos don’t serve us any more… Now for “time shaping” (did I get that term right?) to make all this content creation possible!

    1. Marisa~ Yes, it’s true. We writers, especially of the literary ilk, have balked at the idea of entrepreneurship. But that bias is so limiting to writers, artists, and other creatives. Agreed: time-shaping + + attention-guiding + delegating are crucial. We’re all trying to figure out the right mix.