Publishing Trends for 2018In many ways, the publishing trends of 2018 will follow through on the various trends of the past decade – the continuing rise of eBooks, indie publishing, and the still rising dominance of Amazon.com over the industry. But other trends might come as more of a surprise.
1. Digital FatigueAlthough eBooks, needless to say, are still going strong, many readers are experiencing “digital fatigue.” With people spending ever increasing amounts of time in front of screens, many readers are leaning towards old fashioned, yet lightweight and durable, paperbacks when it comes to reading. The majority of adult fiction sales in 2016 were still in the form of eBooks, yet the trends seem to point to a decline, at least in the short term. One 2016 survey of book buyers found that eBooks, as a share of total book purchases, fell by 35.9 percent. Younger readers in particular said they were moving away from digital formats, instead favoring traditional paperbacks. There is only so much room in the digital market as Nook, Barnes and Noble’s answer to Kindle, has learned the hard way. Nook earnings for this past fiscal year declined 23 percent compared to 2016, a trend that seems likely to continue. Digital formats may still represent the future of publishing, but paperbacks won’t be disappearing any time soon.
2. The Continued Rise of Indie and Hybrid PublishingTraditional publishers may offer prestige, but also limited creative control and royalties. In recent years, independent publishers have accounted for an ever-larger share of the market, with the help of high-quality cover designs, writing, and marketing plans. Last year, data showed that for the first time ever, the share of self-published books and books published by small publishers, at 42 percent, was larger than the market share of big-publishers, at 34 percent. Also ascendant is the phenomenon of hybrid publishing, which includes a variety of publishing models that straddle a middle ground between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Often, veterans of traditional publishing have left behind their larger companies to bring top skills and experience to the world of independent publishing. More and more authors are opting for hybrid publishing, which allows them to hold on to creative control and royalties while benefiting from the best of the traditional publishing world.
3. Longer Shelf Life with eBooks Will Mean Increased CompetitionWith the rise of digital book listings, we are seeing a change in the lifecycle of books. When keeping books available depended on a limited quantity of physical shelf space, it meant that books that no longer sold well were removed from shelves as soon as possible. With digital retailers, there is no such premium on shelf space, as with traditional bookselling. With books remaining discoverable indefinitely, authors and publishers may want to take a fresh look at “legacy titles” – books published in the past that are no longer a focus for your attention. Consider reinvesting in a new cover, book description, and marketing resources to revitalize the title. The more books you have available, the better chance you have to grab your share of the crowded eBook market. There is also now a growing market for republishing out-of-print books, often classics annotated for vocabulary and historical interest.
4. More Books, Stagnating ReadershipAccording to Pew Research Center, about 73 percent of Americans read at least a book a year, a number that has remained more or less stagnant since 2012. Meanwhile, the number of books published in the US has grown exponentially since 2010. Self-published titles have grown from 133,036 in 2010 to 727,125 in 2015, an increase of 446.5 percent. Getting your books to readers becomes increasingly challenging in such a market. Authors will need to work towards “discoverability” for their books, perhaps working to develop their own audience as an author. Many self-publishing authors have also faced criticism for poor editing and packaging – with more books on the market, the pressure will increase for high quality presentation. Paying special attention to your design choices, cover, editing, and marketing can help self-publishers rise above the rest.
5. Audiobooks Are GrowingAudiobooks are in fact the fastest growing sector of the publishing world. In 2015, the audiobook industry was valued at 2.8 billion dollars. 43,000 were released that year alone, compared to 36,000 in 2014 and just 20,000 in 2013. Since audiobooks don’t follow the same agency model as eBooks, publishers have been more willing to experiment with distribution models for audiobooks. In particular, subscription models, such as that of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited platform, are on the rise. In a similar approach to Netflix or Spotify, the service offers unlimited access to 2,500 audiobooks. Audiobooks is one of the publishing trends to really consider.
Publishing Trends in SummaryIn many ways, the publishing trends of 2018 are likely to follow the broader patterns seen throughout the decade – the rise of small publishers, digital platforms, and new formats. In other ways, the publishing world has seen, and will continue to see, a backlash to those trends in 2018. In any case, some knowledge of these trends can help publishers and authors get a sense of where things are headed in the years to come.
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