Smashwords’ CEO, Mark Coker, gives us 14 New Year Predictions for the publishing industry. Here are his predictions #8 through to #11. For the full piece follow the link below…
- It’s all about the writing – It’s back to basics time. In a world where readers face an unlimited quantity of high-quality low-cost works, the writers who achieve the most success will be those who take their readers to the most emotionally satisfying extremes. Books are pleasure-delivery devices. It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a cookbook, romance novel, gardening how-to, memoir or political treatise. Your job as the indie author is to write that super-fabulous book. That involves great writing and professional-quality editing. It also means avoiding all the mistakes that create unnecessary friction that prevent readers from discovering, desiring and enjoying the book. To understand these points of friction, and how to avoid them, check out my discussion of Viral Catalysts in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, or in my Youtube video on best practices.
- All authors become indie authors – Back in the dark ages of publishing, you were either traditionally published or weren’t published. Writers who couldn’t get a publishing deal were seen as failures, because without the access to the publisher’s printing press, distribution and professional know-how, it was virtually impossible to reach readers. Today, failure is not an option. The next generation of writers can begin writing their book with the full confidence that one way or another, it will get published. Traditionally published authors now realize they have desirable publishing alternatives they never had before. Once a writer – any writer – comes to the realization that the power in the publishing industry has transfered from publishers to writers, it opens up a new world of possibilities. Publishing no longer becomes an either/or question. The best writers will have the option to publish independently AND traditionally, or do one or the other. It’s their choice. Both options are worthy of consideration by all writers, and can be mutually complementary. Even if you’re a traditionally published author today, you’re an indie author because you decide what happens with your next project.
- Subscription ebook services will change the game – If the ebook subscription services – the most notable of which are Scribd and Oyster – can make their business models work, then they’ll drive a game changing shift in how readers value and consume books. I examined the potential implications of this in my two-part blog post on this model (read part one | read part two) . For ebook subscription service users, reading will become an abundant resource that feels free. It’ll become a utility service in the same way that water and electricity are utilities. When we flip the switch to turn on a light, or when we turn the knob on the faucet to brush our teeth, we’re not thinking about how our next 60 seconds of that service will cost us one or two cents. We pay our monthly service fee, and for the most part we use the utility as much as we want. With ebook subscription services, the reader will pay $9 or $10 a month and enjoy virtually limitless reading. Readers will be relieved of the cognitive load of having to decide if a given book is worth the purchase price. Instead, they’ll surf and sample books with minimal friction, as if every book is free. The reader’s attention, and the book’s ability to hold the reader’s attention, will become the new factor in determining a writer’s success. Even if these subscription services fail, they’ll change the future of publishing by giving readers a taste of friction-free reading-as-a-service. It’s a taste readers are unlikely to forget.
- Traditional publishers will reevaluate their approach to self-publishing – The vanity approach to self-publishing, as witnessed by Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions (operates AuthorHouse, iUniverse, BookTango, Trafford, Xlibris, Palibrio, others…), has shown itself to be a boondoggle that harmed the brands of all traditional publishers. I predicted this last year. The Author Solutions business model is wholly dependent upon making money by selling overpriced services to unwitting authors. Their business model is expensive at best, and unethical at worst. It’s about selling $15,000 publishing packages to authors who will never earn the money back. The model represents the antithesis of what the best and proudest publishers have always represented. Great publishers invest in their authors. The money flows from reader to retailer to publisher to author, not from author to publisher. At the same time Author Solutions has tarnished the reputation of all traditional publishers – even those not engaged in such practices – the indie author revolution has continued in full swing. Indies are stealing market share. Indies have learned to publish like professionals. Many indies no longer shop their books to agents and publishers, and instead choose to publish their books directly to readers using self-serve publishing and distribution platforms such as Smashwords, or KDP, Nook Press, and others. Publishers are losing access to the critical deal flow that is their lifeblood. I talked about this in my discussion of black swans in last year’s predictions. If they lack an effective service offering for indie authors, the big publishers risk finding themselves on the wrong side of history as authors move on without them. The stigma once associated with self-publishing is melting away as the stigma of traditional publishing grows. How can publishers stem the bloodletting and recapture relationships with authors? The answer will come by publishers reevaluating their attitude toward authors. They must recognize that publishing is a service, and that they serve at the pleasure of authors. Now that authors have choices, the publishing game can no longer be about, “What can the author do for the publisher?” Authors no longer need to bow subservient to publishers, so business models based on this old practice and attitude will be rejected. The new publisher mantra must be, “What can the publisher do for the author that the author cannot or will not do on their own?” Publishers need to broaden their author services menu by creating an inclusive business model that allows them to take a risk on every author, to be able to say “Yes” to every author when the prior attitude was to say “No.” Authors want a spectrum of options, from self-serve to full-serve, and they shouldn’t have to shell out cash to their publisher for any option. Publishers must abandon the culture of “No,” because authors no longer have the patience or tolerance to hear “No.” Authors have choices, and they’ve gained a taste for the joys of self-publishing. What’s this new model, where the publisher can say yes to every author, yet still earn a profit? The answer: they need to build or acquire their own self-serve publishing platform. A self-serve platform would allow them to take a risk on every author, and to form a relationship with every author. By operating a free publishing platform, the publishers would have the ability to serve the diverse needs of all authors. DIY authors would select the self-serve option. Authors with proven commercial potential who don’t want to hassle with the responsibilities of being one’s own publisher might opt for a path somewhere along the spectrum between DIY and full-serve (what has been heretofore been known as traditional publishing), assuming both the author and publisher desire that. The compensation models and level of publisher investment could vary based on the level of publisher service. Such a full-spectrum approach to publishing, where authors pay nothing, is 100% aligned with the author’s interests, and 100% aligned with the best practices of the best publishers. A good self-serve platform doesn’t employ sales people. It doesn’t take money from authors. And that’s how it should be. So the question is, can publishers introduce their own free self-serve platforms to broaden their services offerings? Time is running out.