The Written Word Media (WWM) regularly posts great material examining the latest trends in publishing; trends of interest to every author – particularly Indie ones. Here is my summary of Ricci Wolman’s predictions for 2019, along wth my comments:
1) Amazon Advertising Ads Go Mainstream
Amazon Advertising (formerly Amazon Marketing Service, aka AMS) Ads will become an essential part of the author’s toolkit in 2019. More and more authors are reporting rising costs on Facebook Ads. This, coupled with Amazon’s ambitions to grow its advertising business, will make paying to get visibility on Amazon a pillar of every author’s marketing strategy.
Personally, I have stopped advertising on other media, with the exception of running promos for any titles I may have on offer (on free days/Kindle Countdown Deals). To learn more on Amazon Advertising, consult the guides I wrote for SearchNurture.
2) Book Quality Becomes Critical to Success
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, independent authors who invest the time and resources to create quality books will be rewarded by readers. This fall, WWM conducted a survey of readers subscribed to its sites. A consistent issue raised by readers was the prevalence of typos and grammatical errors in independently published books. Low book quality can lead to poor reviews or readers giving up on a book or an author altogether.
No matter how confident you feel in your editing abilities, hiring a proofreader is one of the best investments you can make in your future as an author.
3) The Number of Indie Authors Making a Living Solely From Writing Grows
This claim by WWM flies in the face of what I’ve been hearing from a number of sources: that it’s getting harder to make a living as an author and that 2018 has been a bad year for authors. Indeed, WWM bases its assumption on Bezos’ revelation that in 2017, over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) royalties. However, my gut feeling is that the market has reached saturation and that the “gold fever” era is fast ending.
Some of the reasons why I believe that 2018 was a key year include the scammers, the trademark wars, and the recent disappearance of Also Boughts. My personal prediction is that there will be a shakeup of the market, with small fish gradually fading away, along with everyone who thought that writing is a “get-rich-quick” scheme. My gut tells me that a small number of people will, indeed, make a good living: those who stick to their craft and deal with writing as a business, not a hobby. But for everyone else, it will be increasingly harder to get their books to stand out from the crowd.
If you’re looking for a more favorable read of the situation, WWM believes that the success of independent authors will continue to grow. More tools and platforms will be born to aid authors. Authors themselves will also continue to learn the skills needed to make it without a traditional publisher. The entire independent ecosystem will be strengthened, and successful authors will see the rewards of increased royalties and freedom.
4) The Wide Versus Exclusive Debate Intensifies
WWM feels that this debate is only going to get more intense. In 2019, the differences between wide and exclusive releases will increase, as well as the debate around the two options. On one hand, some argue that more authors will maximize their royalties by distributing wide and reaching new audiences, rather than focusing only on Amazon. These new audiences may include the 1.8 billion Android users with Google Play Books, or even emerging markets such as Chinese stores.
Ricardo Fayet, of Reedsy, makes a counterargument: Amazon is a relatively young search engine (as opposed to, you know, Google). As such, it has a lot of room for algorithm improvement, especially through AI and machine learning. Considering the amount of changes and testing going on right now on the Kindle Store, 2019 might be the year of a major Amazon update. We can see signs of this in the latest update to Amazon Advertising, which has finally added much-needed options to the Dashboard, like date filtering.
5) Audio Grows
I recently wrote about audiobooks and why their importance is set to increase.
WWM agrees with me and predicts that traditional publishers will continue to see audiobook sales rise in 2019, as early 2018 saw strong audiobook sales improvements, and it doesn’t appear to have slowed. This is not surprising as WWM’s reader survey found that “not having enough time to read” was a primary point of frustration expressed. Listening to an audiobook can help solve this challenge as it expands the time available to read for many readers. Several major publishers saw lifts in audiobook sales in the third quarter of 2018, with Harper Collins seeing an impressive 55% rise in sales over the same quarter in 2017. With audio becoming more and more popular, traditional publishers will continue to invest in it.
WWM believes that 2019 will be a year in which independent authors en masse find success with audiobooks. Producing an audiobook isn’t cheap or easy, but more services are emerging to lower the barrier to entry. Publishing an audiobook does require an investment of time and energy, but it also provides a path to diversifying your revenue streams. For authors who have decided to go exclusively with Amazon with their ebooks, publishing those same titles non-exclusively can provide a nice hedge for your business.
6) Successful Authors Will Market Their Books Early and Often
In 2019, authors who market their books often and early in the lifecycle will see success. This means authors will lean harder than ever on marketing techniques to achieve success. Indies are starting to market their books before release, or even before they start writing. According to a Bookbaby survey, over 80% of top-selling authors started marketing their books before they began writing. Their mindset of “Promote then Publish” is spreading through the self-publishing community. Marketing, in general, will become even more important as authors experience more competition for visibility. More resources and tools are available to authors than ever before, so naturally more writers will be able to make the transition to marketing their books.
7) Subscription Services Will Continue to Grow
Subscriptions will continue to grow within the publishing industry in 2019. Companies across many industries have found subscriptions to be very profitable and a great way to retain customers. Publishing is no different. Digital subscription services like Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, or Storytel have been enjoying significant growth. Even traditional publishers admit that these services increase reader reach and revenue. The same is true for indie authors, assuming the quality is there.
8) Niche Audiences are Well Served
Readers with specific interests will continue to be catered to as the eBook marketplace becomes even more crowded. Competition for readers is increasing as more and more books are published. Online distributors don’t have the inventory restrictions of physical bookstores, so, once a book is published, it is there to stay. It won’t get bumped off the shelf in favor of the next hot series. Authors will be increasingly incentivized to stick to their established genre as getting new readers becomes more difficult. Authors will also rely more on niche reader communities to share books with likeminded readers. And becoming a name in a specific niche will be one of the best drivers of sales.
So, the easiest path to success is to find your community of readers and give them what they crave. Finding readers for your books in broad genres will be very competitive, so distill your writing down to a more specific sub-genre.
9) New Technology and Services Will Be Hyped
You can argue that this will be a publishing industry trend for years to come. Most years a new technology emerges that captures the hearts and minds of early adopters everywhere. 2019 will be no different. Before you invest in something new, take the time to vet the claims made by new services so that you don’t waste your money. Before dropping money on something new, vet the service with Writer Beware or see if there’s a way you can test it for free first. Nothing can derail a strategy quicker than relying on a faulty tool or platform.
You can read the original post on the Written Word Media.
Nick, thank you for this post! I subscribe to WWM but I am reading this valuable information on your blog! 🙂 One thing I am curious about with Google Play Books – I found they undermined Amazon by listing my book at a deep discount that I did not set. So Amazon was forced to drop the price I set for Amazon. So I had to pull my book from Google Play in order to have the flexibility of sales and promos on Amazon. I also found sales for the Nook and Apple are so far below Amazon they are not worth counting. So I haven’t decided on the wide to narrow options yet because I believe in the open market.
Yikes! Many thanks for sharing this with us 🙂
All very interesting, Nicholas. I am still buying (and now reading) the books of fellow bloggers, as long as the subject interests me. In some cases, this has led me to buy other books by those writers. But despite being almost inundated by advertising from writers, (and Amazon), I resolutely stick to the genres I prefer, like historical fiction, and military non-fiction.
I would probably be keener to try new authors in those genres too, as long as the Kindle price of their books is reasonable. (Below £5)
Best wishes, Pete.
Once again, many thanks for sharing a reader’s perspective, Pete!
Can I just say I love that comic at the end?
Lol–thank you, Emily 😀