Written World Media, one of my favorite sources of information on publishing, published earlier this month a post on the trends that will define our industry in 2017 (if you don’t subscribe to its newsletter, you should; it’s free, comes out only once or twice a month, and is filled with tips, tricks, and industry news).
So, what can we expect from 2017? Here are the Written World Media’s predictions:
1. The Majority of Fiction Sales will Come from eBooks
70% of adult fiction sales were digital last year. It is likely that ebook readership will continue to grow in 2017. More eBook readers means more eBook sales. This means that, if you’re writing fiction, promoting your eBooks is a good place to focus in the coming year.
2. Indie Authors and Small Presses will Dominate
In the October 2016 author earnings report we saw the Big 5’s market share continue to drop. Small presses, Indie authors, and Amazon imprints account for over 50% of market share. This shows a continued shift in reader perception: a book does not need to be traditionally published and available in brick and mortar stores in order to be deemed readable.
As a result, competition for indie authors is increasingly coming from other indie authors. Given that most indie authors price their titles at $2.99 or below, pricing alone is less effective at acquiring readers. Marketing your books (see trend #9) and cultivating a loyal reader following will become even more important.
3. Amazon Imprints will Command Top Spots
Amazon now has 13 active publishing imprints, each catering to its own genre market. In 2016, 7 out of the top 10 Kindle best-sellers were books published by their imprints. As Amazon probably favors its own imprints (okay, so this is not explicit, but it makes sense, right?) it probably pays off to stick with Amazon imprints. See also the next point, that…
4. Kindle Unlimited Readership will Continue to Grow
For your average reader, Kindle Unlimited is a no brainer, in the same way that Spotify and other music streaming services are no brainers for consumers. This is exacerbated by the language that Amazon uses to market their service to readers, namely by telling readers that a book is “free” if they are a subscriber. Combined with the previous point, this means that KDP Select makes increasingly more sense.
5. Crowding will Result in Increased Competition
The life cycle of a book has changed with the introduction of digital listings. It used to be that once a book stopped selling (or if it never sold at all) it was removed from the shelves, no longer discoverable by readers. Since eBook retailers don’t have to limit their “shelf space”, books stay available and discoverable for much longer (potentially forever). This means that the competition only continues to rise as not only do new authors begin publishing, but the old ones continue to put out new books and republish their backlists.
I’ve already seen this with my books. It doesn’t matter if a book is old or new; what matters is whether I market it aggressively or not. So, if you have legacy titles (titles you have published in the past but are no longer focused on), consider re-invigorating them by investing in the cover, book description and by advertising. Also, the more books you publish, the greater chance you have of taking a share of the ebook market. Take a holistic view of your marketing strategy by considering the impact of your marketing activities on your catalog as a whole, not solely on the title you are promoting at any given time.
6. Audiobooks will Gain in Popularity
A full 14% of readers listen to books and audio remains the fastest growing format. This trend is driven by changes in how and where we listen to content. With Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) being the biggest seller over the holiday period and the expansion of Google Home, audio will continue to become more popular as people can listen to audiobooks and podcasts through the devices. Authors should distribute their books on Audible to capitalize on this growth. The more formats you have available, the more readers you are able to reach.
7. Marketing will Determine the Winners
We all know that writing a book is only half of the battle. In an increasingly crowded eBook market, successful authors are authors who spend time and money marketing their books. It’s not a quick and easy game anymore, assuming it ever was one. Authors now need to focus building a unique brand/platform, engaging and re-engaging the core audience, and exploring ways to diversify income.
So, setting aside time and money to market your title is as important as setting aside time to write. Create a marketing plan with a corresponding budget by month for the first 6 months of the year, and execute on that plan.
8. The Performance of Facebook Ads will Decline
Although many authors swear by Facebook ads, greater demand for Facebook ads has often led to increasing costs on the platform. Mark Dawson, who pioneered use of Facebook ads by authors, now recommends supplementing your social media advertising with Amazon Marketing service ads:
Amazon Marketing Service ads are likely to become the next big thing in the indie ads space. I have been experimenting with them on a reasonably large scale, and am achieving a steady 80% return on investment. By merging traditional CPC campaign strategy with specific tactics particular to the ebook space, savvy authors could make a killing before too many people try to muscle their way into the market.
– Mark Dawson, The Self Publishing Formula
9. Authors Will Band Together
There has been an increasing trend of authors supporting other authors through collaboration on promotions. Jason Freeman of Instafreebie believes that, whether it’s through group giveaways, anthologies, and samplers, authors will continue to find success when they understand that promoting their book is not a zero-sum game. So, reach out to authors in your genre to see if anyone is interested in working together. 2017 is the year for making friends and fostering connections.
Great news for readers of this blog, then, who have been among the most supportive people I know!