What Will Happen in the Publishing World in 2012?

Happy New Year! At this time of year, we get a lot of “year in review” and “predictions for the new year” blog post. As someone who greets every new year with renewed hopes of getting a book published, I found this post from Dear Author pretty interesting.

The following are my bold and not so bold predictions for publishing in 2012.  My boldest prediction will be that Amazon will buy Goodreads in 2012.  The most unlikely to happen prediction is Number 10.    What are your predictions for 2012?

1.  More authors will self publish than in 2011.  I suspect that nearly every author will try his or her hand at self publishing new and previously unpublished content, either in novella or full length book form.  After 2012, I suspect that there will be a retrenchment in self publishing and authors will look to digital first arms of traditional publishers or digital first only publishers as they realize that a) self publishing is difficult and b) they’d rather write than focus on the business aspect.  However, there will be a rise in the number of self publishing success stories and the quality of self publishing will increase as supply increases.  Along with this prediction, we will see the rise of publishing service companies and indie communities of publishing service providers akin to Penguin’s Book Country and HarperCollins’ Authonomy where editors, copy editors, graphic artists will be able to offer their services and be voted on by the community.

There is a fair amount of discussion about this in the comments section of this post. As I’ve discussed here before, I’m giving serious thought to self-publishing one or both of my podcast novels this year. I know people who have self-published ebooks, and they haven’t described the process as terribly difficult. If any of you have a different view, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

3.  Readers will gravitate to lower priced books, those priced 3.99 and under, so long as the book has a good hook and a decent cover.  These books will be substitutes for traditionally priced books.  In looking back at Bookscan, authors sold well if they had an established name.  Breaking out as a new author is more difficult than ever, particularly from traditional publishers.  I suspect the new books that readers will be talking about will come from the $3.99 and under price range and those books will be available to readers around the world.  That’s the discovery price range.

I’ve heard different opinions on what the sweet spot is for ebook pricing, anywhere from $2.99 to $6.99. I’ve heard of several authors selling well at $4.99, so I’m not sold (no pun intended) on $3.99.

4.  I think the price of most digital books will be $3.99 and that $.99 fiction will fall into either short fiction price (under 25K words) or will be promotional.  Publishers will experiment with book pricing and readers will be more hesitant to buy older titles at full price, hoping for a lower price deal.

If you agree with point #2, then this makes sense. The $0.99 price point for shorter works I think is already pretty much the rule. Some of my peers like Abigail Hilton, Jennifer Povey and Phil Rossi have priced their short stories this way.

5.  There will be a Steam-like publisher offering resellable digital books, available only in the cloud.  This is being experimented with by Austrialian publishers Book.ish and ReadCloud.  This might be offered by a romance publisher, but I suspect it will be a small press publisher for SFF or maybe comic books or a textbook publisher that would allow students resell ability of their digital texts.

If my sons could buy digital textbooks for a reduced price and resell them after the semester ends, I’d buy them Kindles tomorrow. I’m curious as to how this would work. Anyone have any experience with the two Australian publishers she mentioned?

6.  Sites like Goodreads will become more popular and thus more powerful.  Goodreads currently has over 6 million users.  Membership at Goodreads is increasing on a daily basis. Publishers are attempting to break into that market through Bookish, the as yet unreleased website backed by Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, but I suspect that Bookish and sites like it will wither on the vine mostly because they won’t be reader oriented but book oriented which I think are two very different things.  My boldest prediction is that Amazon will purchase Goodreads for the community and its recommendation engine.  (Amazon already owns Shelfari but back in 2007, Amazon purchased DPReview.com, the premiere digital photography recommendation site)

As a reader, I love Goodreads; as an author, I have to put it to better use this year (see my last post on marketing.) Not everyone sees a potential Amazon purchase of Goodreads as a good thing. Check out the comments after her original post. Do any of you have thoughts about this?

7.  Digital book sales will represent 50% of trade sales by the end of 2012.

I’m not so sure about this one. Undoubtedly, digital books will continue to grow in popularity in a big way. However, I still hear more people say that they prefer physical books than the other way around. Predictions of a 50 percent share next year may be premature.

9.  BN will continue to move toward offering non book content. BN will allow large store leases to expire and relocate into smaller locations. The larger locations will decrease the book content to half of the retail contents.  BN will begin to carry more toys, house ware goods (like cooking supplies to go with the cookbooks and craft supplies to go with the craft books), and other celebrity designed products ala Target’s pairing with Moschino and Jason Wu.  BN already has Vera Bradley paper goods.

I’ve already noticed how much floor space my local B&N stores are devoting to toys, puzzles and games. Not sure I like it, but this prediction rings true.

10.  There will be an innovative print on demand machine that non bookstores will install.  Maybe it will be something you see in department stores.  The new print on demand machine will print mass market or trade versions of books.  (This is probably something more that I would like to see than what may happen, but I do believe that print on demand technology will increase dramatically in the next few years. There will be a high demand for it.)

Cool as it sounds, I don’t think we’ll see this this year, especially given the continued weakness in the economy. I just don’t see retailers gambling on an expensive, unproven machine when they’re under so much pressure right now. We daydreamed a bit at a meeting of one of the two library boards I serve on about how cool it would be to have a machine like this in our library. The price tag brought us back to earth in a hurry. Employee benefits and pension costs are cannibalizing our budget, and there will be no room for something like for a long while.

So, what do you think of these predictions? Eerily prescient or utter hogwash? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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