6 Publishing Trends That Benefit Readers & Authors

In this post, successful indie author Toby Neal shares her insights about the ever-evolving world of self-publishing, and how the trends both impact and benefit authors and readers.

Toby-Neal_OptimizedI follow a number of industry blogs/websites including The Shatzkin Files, GalleyCat, Seth Godin’s Blog, and Publishers Weekly, just trying to keep marginally abreast of what’s happening in the publishing world. I’m excited about this new year in publishing. I think it’s going to continue to become a marketplace driven by readers and writers with great books and business savvy. Based on my constant study of the trends, here are some of my predictions for 2013:

  1. Ebooks will finally outdistance hard copy in total sales (yay for those of us whose ebooks make up the bulk of our sales!)
  2. Big publishers, beginning with Simon and Schuster, will increasingly offer printing and distribution to indie authors with huge numbers of ebook sales.
  3. Amazon will discount big name author ebooks and discontinue some of the promotion that has favored indie authors.
  4. “Freebie” ebook promotion on Amazon and other sites will continue, but may lose steam due to saturation.
  5. The Big Six publishers will continue to consolidate with each other and streamline their systems to fight back against Amazon and other online distributors.
  6. Ebooks will be increasingly “bundle-packed” and become available as group downloads or as continuous streaming through subscription services (like Spotify and Pandora for music).

Based on these trends, several strategies will benefit readers:

  • Get an e-reader and jump on the train! Prices should be coming down, and now is a great time to get hundreds of books that are either free or inexpensive. Yes, there will be coal in the scuttle, but there will be a lot of diamonds, too, and look to reviews and sites like Kindle Book Review to help you sort through them.
  • Find indie and new fiction authors you like and follow them. This is a great time to find affordable, unique voices who may not have been published in the past.
  • Sign up for freebie sites and never buy a book again! Kindle Top 100 Free is an amazing place to shop. I downloaded the King James Bible there!

Strategies that benefit authors:

  • Continue to focus on building an individual, loyal fan base for your books. The great advantage of self-publishing is that there is no middleman and we can reach readers directly. I’m doing this by promoting my email sign-up for new titles, strengthening relationships with readers via Facebook and Goodreads, and hand-selling books locally via speaking gigs with Rotary. Those emails represent your true fans and are worth gold!
  • Give a call to action to your fans. Ask them to leave a review, give your book as a gift, call the local bookstore and order through them (to build awareness and support local). People love to help with something they care about—and helping you make it as a favorite indie author, continuing to write their favorite books, helps engage them. They make a difference, and they love knowing that!
  • Be prepared to Go Big if your numbers support it and get your own print book distribution deal. Simon and Schuster has done this for several authors whose numbers (over 500,000 in sales) had the clout to carry it.
  • Think of ways to do your own “freebie” distribution and keep your books going out to discover new readers. For instance, I hope to “bundle” my ebooks with other items like movies and gift baskets for Hawaii tourist promotion.
  • Get an agent and treat them great! Agents are still important. I need my agent, self-published or not. I care about him, and I don’t want him to retire (like my other one did)! I send him encouraging notes and little gifts … after all, he’s not getting paid until we both do, and with the Big Six becoming the Big 3, we only have a few places to shop books.

Note from Molly: Toby has experienced great success as an indie author and is a savvy marketer. Her books have gained widespread regional appeal in Hawaii, and she has just released her latest, “Broken Ferns.” At least five book clubs have read one of her titles and she’s guested in person and via Skype for three of them. Vacation rental owners have ordered boxes of her print books for their guests and her fans give them as gifts. She’s often approached to donate print copies to auctions and other events. There’s a waiting list for her series at her local library. To me, Toby’s print book marketing successes are something to aspire to and provide great incentive for all self-published writers! Makes me proud to be an indie, and excited to hold my own print book sometime this year.

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, she credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series. Her latest novel, Broken Ferns, launched recently, and Torch Ginger is free on Amazon for a limited time (I got mine!). Visit Toby Neal’s Blog and follow her on Twitter!

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32 Responses to 6 Publishing Trends That Benefit Readers & Authors

  1. Pauline Baird Jones February 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Some very interesting insights into publishing. I agree that free is losing steam and I’ve heard a lot of talk about Amazon pulling back on indie promotion. But authors have always had to carry most of their own coal. (wry grin)

    Did you see the article on Dear Author by ARE? About ebook pricing. That was very interesting. Seems like readers aren’t just getting wary of free, but also cheap books. Maybe we’ll start making better money for our books.

    • Molly Greene February 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      You’re right Pauline – we need to have strong shoulders and cool heads to be successful indies!

  2. Sopphey February 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    This post is full of great, concise information and tips. A couple of questions for Toby: Where can we find more information on point 3? How do you foresee that affecting both big name authors and indie authors? Also, is there reports of other ebook markets doing the same things?

    • Toby Neal February 11, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Sopphey, my theory about that is already coming to pass and is a result of the DOJ “price fixing” case being settled by everyone but Apple. Now there’s no stopping Amazon pricing popular authors for various promotions when they want…and its already started, I’ve been buying Michael Connolly’s older titles “on sale” from 1.99 to 3.99. THis is tough news for indies as price has been one of our advantages. As to other sellers, I don’t follow them as closely, but I imagine with a “competitive market” strategy there will be periodic sales. All this will bring us into closer competition in the ebook market with big names.
      All of which means, cultivate loyal readers so they follow you no matter what, and find a price point that says “quality” but is still competitive. For me, right now that’s 3.99.

      • Sopphey February 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

        Toby thank you for your response. Sales for indie authors really does depend on loyal fans and the quality of the author’s platform. I’m anxious to see the field even out this year for all authors.

    • Toby Neal February 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Oh and if you want to read more on the DOJ price fixing, Shatzkin Files has several in-depth analyses.

  3. Erica Lucke Dean February 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Thanks for the great info Toby. Indie, small press, or big six…we’re all affected by the market. It’s good to know what to expect. 🙂

  4. Bethany Lopez February 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Great Post. I love reading your predictions, Toby.

  5. Toby Neal February 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Ha, I try to stay ahead of the wave always breaking behind… Surfin’ is a lifestyle over here!

  6. Holly Robinson February 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    As someone who has published both indie and with traditional publishers, I think Toby’s predictions are right on target. Nice summation, and great advice for authors in either camp.

    • Molly Greene February 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      I love that Toby is helping us all stay ahead of the learning curve!

    • Toby Neal February 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

      Holly! thank you for popping by with an encouraging word, and Molly as always, for helping make my thoughts into something useful for writers and readers. Ive been telling all my print book only friends the many ways they can read an ebook…

  7. Raine Thomas February 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Your focus on local buyers is admirable, Toby. You’ve definitely given me food for thought about that marketing tactic. Congrats on the release of Broken Ferns!

    • Toby Neal February 12, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Thank you! I think having a book with regional appeal is a good marketing strategy…but it just happens I write about Hawaii. If I wrote fantasy, I’d have to come up with something else!

  8. Rachel Morgan February 11, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    It’s amazing what you’ve done locally to promote your books! I definitely haven’t done enough of that, but I have begun to look into it (speaking at schools, for example) in the past week.
    It will be interesting to see which of your predictions come true!

    • Toby Neal February 12, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      Unfortunately the one about Amazon changing the things that have favored Indies is happening–tags and FB Like buttons are gone!

      • Molly Greene February 12, 2013 at 9:32 am #

        … and “Like” buttons just went away in the past few days it seems. Toby, re: your book club experiences, did you approach clubs or did they approach you, and how did they find you or vice versa?

        • Toby Neal February 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

          They approached me. There have been four I’ve interacted with about the book and they all had some member submit it, the leader looked over the reviews and they went ahead. Blood Orchids, Torch Ginger and Black Jasmine have all been read by book clubs.
          Things seem to assume a life of their own at some point…

          • Molly Greene February 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

            How cool is that?!!

  9. Frederick Lee Brooke February 11, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    It’s all kind of scary, but if there’s one thing that’s clear, change is inevitable. And it’s great that the changes you’ve talked about here will benefit READERS first and foremost. I love it when you say people never have to buy a book again! We might want to buy one, because it’s not free at that moment, or because we want to support the author, but we never have to. Great thought-provoking post!

    • Toby Neal February 12, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      We are all readers first, right Frederick, before we became writers? Aloha!

  10. Vera Stone February 11, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    “Give a call to action to your fans. Ask them to leave a review, give your book as a gift, call the local bookstore and order through them.” I really like how you phrase your calls to action. You are a master and I am learning a lot. Thank you. Most of all, thanks for writing great books which I have been enthusiastically recommending to all my friends, but now I know to go into my local Waialua Library and ask the librarian to order your book for his shelves.

    • Toby Neal February 12, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      Dear Vera, thanks so much for popping in to support. This is a great time to be a reader–so many new books and authors to find, and I’m so glad we found each other. Aloha!

  11. Maddie Dawson February 12, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    I love this advice for both authors and readers. This is just the kind of information we need in this whole new, confusing world of publishing. And I do love that you concentrate on local buyers. We all need to work with our local booksellers to make sure they can stay in business, too!

    • Toby Neal February 12, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      It’s an exciting and scary time for everyone, I look to what the music industry went through ten years ago as an example. The thing to know is, the world is still hungry for good stories!

  12. Gae-Lynn Woods February 13, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    As always, Toby, you are full of insight! I’m looking forward to what 2013 will bring for us all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so generously!

  13. Toby Neal February 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    And I’m looking forward to your next book, Gae-Lynn!!

  14. Andrew McAllister February 24, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    I hope (and expect) you are right about increasing collaboration between big publishers and indie authors. The trick will be for authors to be in the right position to take advantage as those trends develop. To misquote an old saying, the harder an indie author works, the luckier they are likely to be when new opportunities arise. Thanks for the insight!

  15. Corinne O'Flynn February 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Great post, Toby!
    Will be quite interesting to see what changes 2013 brings to the publishing world. Certainly an exciting time for authors and readers alike. Great advice for authors to keep their eyes on how to augment marketing of their work through all of this turmoil! Congrats on Broken Ferns!

  16. Alyce Wilson March 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Terrific post. I follow some of the same ezines as Toby, so I appreciate the analysis. It helps me synthesize what I’m seeing to make plans to move forward.