Digital growth | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Written Word Media (WMD) recently published a must-read article with the top publishing industry trends for the new year, written by Clayton Noblit. I am sharing here a summary that includes their main points.

1. Audiobooks will continue to gain popularity, and more indie authors will invest

A 2019 survey revealed that half of all Americans over the age of 12 have listened to an audiobook in the past year. Additionally, audiobook listeners trended younger. Fifty-five percent of listeners were below the age of 45. The survey stats showed an increase from 2018, and the expectation is that audio will continue to grow.

With better access to audiobook creation and distribution, WMD expects to see more audiobooks in the marketplace in 2020. Marketing audiobooks remains a challenge for authors but effective marketing will become more important as the space gets more crowded. Deeply discounted audiobooks are hot. WMD are seeing a lot more experimentation with price control and running promotions.

What this means for you:

Start learning about how audiobooks are made and sold. If you already have an audiobook and own the rights, make sure to distribute your audiobook to as many outlets as possible. Talk to other authors who have had success with their audiobooks and learn what is working for them when it comes to marketing.

2. More indie authors will collaborate on marketing

Authors have long seen success with collaborative marketing techniques like email list swaps and group giveaways. In 2020, WMD expects to see more cooperative marketing as competition grows and indie authors find creative ways to gain an edge. Indies will continue to innovate when it comes to collaboration.

Of course, authors will need to be strategic to see success here. Oversaturating readers or marketing to the wrong audience can damage an email list. But, as many authors know, getting it right will pay off.

What this means for you:

Start establishing relationships with authors in your genre or your local community. Try small collaborative experiments but don’t assume everyone is trustworthy. Do your homework on your collaborators before partnering up with others.

3. More published works from author groups

Author collaboration | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

As we learned from Written Word Media’s 2019 author survey, successful authors tend to have large backlists. In 2020, more authors will collaborate on series and universes to speed up the process of building their backlists.

In a sense, 2020 will bring more author-publishers. It started with romance but sci-fi and fantasy authors are creating giant interconnected universes with a stable of co-writers and ghostwriters. They’re taking the James Patterson model to the nth degree. More authors will join together and make more money faster from this shared model than they could on their own.

What this means for you:

Similar to #2,  building relationships with other authors can lead to some fantastic opportunities. Don’t be afraid to be the one to start things. If you have an idea, reach out to your network and see how you can make it happen.

4. Organic reach will decline

This publishing trend is a reality across every online industry. As the big players, like Amazon, Google, and Facebook rely more and more on advertising money, they lose incentive to provide a broad reach for free.

This means that blog posts, Facebook posts, and Amazon book listings will see fewer views for free (also known as organic reach). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2018 that organic reach of branded pages would decline, and that has played out as expected over the past two years.

Organic visibility is also being reduced on Amazon, with authors reporting big dips in income when also-boughts disappeared from book detail pages. What replaced them? Carousels of ads.

What this means for you:

Don’t assume that your work is done once your book is published. Discovery will not happen organically. Pay attention to the changes that are occurring on Amazon and in the industry at large. Listen to or follow industry leaders like Joanna Penn or Mark Dawson to stay in the know. Don’t get too bogged down worrying about how things may change. Control what you can.

5. Running ads will become a requirement

Digital marketing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Because of the preceding trend, getting your book in front of readers for free is going to get even more difficult. No one is thrilled about this, but it is the reality of a maturing marketplace.

Advertising is no longer going to be something that you could do, or even should do. It’s becoming something that you must do, at least if you want to pursue writing as a viable full-time career. Online advertising is widespread to the point where, in many industries, you MUST run ads to compete. As self-publishing grows and organic reach declines, expect to see the same in publishing.

What this means for you:

Authors will need to learn how to use paid advertising if they are serious about making writing a career. If you have yet to develop marketing skills and savvy, 2020 is the year to do it.

6. Big five publishers will start using KDP Select

Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster may look to capitalize on Amazon’s reach by using Kindle Unlimited.

Logically, this makes sense, and some major titles (Harry Potter series) are already available within Kindle Unlimited. Getting readers going on a series is a proven way to make some serious cash, and no one has as many series as the big five.

What this means for you:

With the Big 5 entering Kindle Unlimited, competition there may get more fierce in 2020 (if that’s even possible!). If you have multiple books or series, experiment with making some of your books wide and enrolling some of them in KDP Select. If you are a die-hard Amazon exclusive author, be prepared to spend more to market your KU books.

7. Scam services will continue to pop up

Unfortunately, this trend will continue in 2020. With self-publishing continuing to grow, more shady characters will be attracted to the money in the market.

The good news? There are some tremendous people who regularly expose and spread the word about bad actors. We recommend following Victoria Strauss and David Gaughran on Twitter as they both regularly identify and publicize scams aimed at indie authors.

What this means for you:

Be skeptical of services that reach out to you. And before using a new service, vet them with other authors. Scammers are tricky, but the author community can be an effective weapon for weeding out bad actors.

8. The eBook market will grow even more in 2020

Kindle ebook reading | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Despite the persistent myth about younger readers not buying eBooks, data from Pew and show that younger readers are buying and reading eBooks as much, if not more, than older readers.

As more young readers enter the market, it stands to reason that eBook sales will only increase. Because almost all young people use a digital device every day, moving to eBooks will be a much more seamless transition than the one made by older readers who grew up reading print.

What this means for you:

Audiobooks are all the buzz, but ebook sales and royalties remain the bread and butter for most successful authors. Continue to invest in your ebooks. Publish more ebooks in 2020. Don’t get too distracted by shiny objects.

9. Email lists will increase in value

Because of the previous trends of organic reach declining, spending money on ads becoming a requirement, and collaboration increasing in popularity, an author’s email list becomes your most valuable asset.

Your email list is the only marketing channel that you actually own. Once you have a reader’s email, you have a direct, inexpensive line to them. Readers who give you their email addresses are also opting in. They WANT you to email them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t sign up.

if you’re wondering how to start your email list, check out my recent series of articles on building your author email list.

An author’s email list is also a valuable way to attract partner authors. The bigger your list, the more authors will want to partner with you to get in front of your audience.

Email isn’t without its challenges. Gmail and other inbox providers will continue to work to declutter their user’s inboxes, so getting eyes on your content may get more difficult. It is increasingly important to maintain clean lists and to educate your subscribers to expect your emails.

What this means for you:

If you don’t have a mailing list, you should start one. Read this post for some more information. Once you have a mailing list, make sure to nurture it. Email your subscribers on a regular schedule. Your email list can grow cold quickly if you leave it dormant for too long. Work on growing your list in 2020: make sure your sign-up form is easy to find on your website, encourage readers to sign up in your backmatter, and ask current subscribers to share with their friends. Remember to play by the rules. Don’t buy lists or email people who have not opted into your list.

10. Creative indies will experiment with new ways to make money

In 2020, more indie authors will experiment with other ways to make money and try new models for selling books.

Indies may start to earn more from libraries. More authors may start to take advantage of licensing opportunities from video games to avenues yet unknown. The book is just one of the formats or things that can be generated from the idea or concept. Instead of thinking of the book as central, and the other properties, formats, assets as a spin-off of the book, consider the book as just one realization of that idea, and intellectual property licensing opportunities suddenly magnify or even explode.

What this means for you:

Experiment with one new monetization technique in 2020. Research Patreon to determine if it could be right for you. Release one of your books on pre-order. Consider a box set or a special edition print set if you have a loyal fan base. Keep an eye on what other authors are doing, and don’t dismiss a new thing out of hand. Catching on to a new tactic early on can pay off.

Read the full article on the Written Word media website!