Laura Howard: Publishing Predictions for 2013


Publishing Predictions for 2013

Happy New Year! Today is a special feature that includes ten authors I have a ton of respect for and follow faithfully. I've asked them to give me their best guess on what trends we'll see in the publishing industry at large.

Joanna Penn

  • Saturation of self-publishing, due to big 6 publishers buying Author Solutions encouraging vanity publishing and the Kindle 'get-rich-quick' market which has encouraged a huge batch of bad quality books to be published, including algorithmically generated content. There will be some kind of massive overhaul of what the online bookstores want to offer and a return to basics for those writers who want a long-term career. Author focus: Stick with Plan A. Write good books, build a fan-base slowly and deliver a quality product and experience. Repeat.
  •  Ebooks go global. Amazon dominates the US and UK but the rest of the world is opening up to ebooks and companies like Kobo have a chance to take over those new markets. Author focus: Make sure you're not tied to one platform. The world is not just USD and US sales.

Shannon Mayer

  • I believe we will see an author will turn down a 7 figure traditional publishing contract in order to continue to self publish. (I don't think this has happened yet, I'm sure I would have heard of it!)
  • Amazon will continue to dominate despite Barnes and Noble and Microsoft coming together. I don't see this being changed in the next year, or even two. They (Amazon) has too much of a lead on the other players, in my opinion.
  • I also think that Amazon will put together another perk for authors to continue with the exclusivity contracts. My gut feeling is that it may be in line with getting promoted more on Amazon if you sign up for KDP select, and of course, more visibility creates more sales. This could be another, relatively easy incentive for them (Amazon) to implement, and one that many authors would jump on.
  • The next "big thing" will be the fantasy market. With "The Hobbit" in theatres, I feel like there will be a resurgence in the epic fantasy genre.

CJ Lyons
  •  NYC publishers acting more like small presses by learning who their readers are and embracing the fact that their authors are their most valuable asset when it comes to connecting with readers (not multi-million dollar web platforms or app builders or whatever the social media bright and shiny expensive toy of the day is)
  • Additional global distribution channels leading to more indy publishing going worldwide with translations both into and out of English (which I am personally looking forward to as a few of my favorite authors are based in foreign countries and it's hard to find their books). Kobo is on the cutting edge with this along with Apple and Amazon, but it would be awesome to start to see more multimedia translations (audiobooks, ebooks, and print) available to more readers.
  • A huge shakeup in how contracts are negotiated, so they become true licensing agreements for limited, pre-defined time (as opposed to signing away your book for life) and limited territories/formats. We're starting to see publishers edge towards this, but so far it's been teeny, tiny baby steps. I understand they are loath to give up control and potential hypothetical windfalls, but creating this kind of partnership between authors and publishers becomes a win/win for all involved—including the readers!
  • A recent BISG study said that around 40% of all trade titles were self-published last year. I predict that the number of self-published titles will seriously encroach on traditional published titles and will be more than 50%, probably at least 60-65% by the end of 2013. At the same time we'll reach a saturation in the market because of more traditionally published authors with name recognition re-releasing their backlists.
  • I predict that readers will start to pass over new authors (both self published and traditionally published) unless they have a strong platform and can build word of mouth. Thus it will be more important than ever that writers know what their brand is (their promise to their readers), keep that promise with every book, write more great books and get them out there, and connect with their readers and help them find their books and spread the word.
  • I'm looking forward to seeing what our new Epublishing landscape becomes in 2013! I'm a huge fan of The Zon (Amazon), but I do believe in making sure my books are EVERYWHERE, meaning no KDP Select for me! The name of the game is going to be international sales on multiple Ereading platforms...and I mean international Ebook Sales, not TradiPub paper sales.
  • The TradiPubs will continue to make it "look" like they're seriously entering the Ebook realm and seriously courting and taking care of authors. But don't be fooled...they're still in the game for their stockholders, and as long as it's their stock price they're worried about, authors will never benefit under that priority system, unless they're in the very top one to five percent level.
  • I'm focusing on getting my Ebooks on every platform I can (for example, my Kobo Writing Life Sales are really picking up), and continuing to write a bunch of new books in genres that are new to me. It's about finding readers across genres and building your base just as wide as it is deep. The best of wishes to each of you for 2013!!!

Christine Nolfi
  • The term "Indie" will become verboten. The phrase "New Fiction" will gain traction. The quickly merging traditional publishers will continue to lure some of New Fiction's brightest stars with deals that give a higher percentage of royalties to the authors. Amazon's publishing arm will do the same. Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and other sites will increase their share of the eReading market even though Amazon will continue to hold the top slot.
  • Book blogs will become increasingly choosy about the New Fiction releases they're willing to review, making exposure for debut novelists all the more difficult to obtain. Serious New Fiction authors will merge into groups and operate like small, independent publishing houses by pooling resources and talent to increase the scope of promotional efforts.
  • The sheer number of e-Reading devices sold worldwide will reach a tipping point late in 2013, causing the closure of yet more bookstores and allowing a larger pool of authors to become wealthy virtually overnight.

Anthea Lawson
  •  The e-book gold rush mentality will taper off. I predict that plenty of new indie authors will enter the market, but more will come in aware that there's just as much work nurturing a career as an independent author as there is trying to break into traditional publishing. Writing books is still a get-rich-slow scheme for most authors.
  • Kobo will finally hit its stride. Might be wishful thinking on my part, but by the middle of the year, I see Kobo starting to pick up some serious market share.
  • Amazon will continue to dominate. They are too innovative to do otherwise at this point. I also think they'll keep trying new things to entice indie authors, and they'll keep tweaking their algorithms and search engines. One thing about Amazon is that they are never stagnant.
  • Apple also expands - although I see a lot of people reading on their iThings using a Kindle app. Until Apple makes their store easier to use, they will lag.
  •  Speaking of lagging, B&N will continue to scramble to keep up, and continue to eat Amazon's dust.
  •  E-book reading will continue to rise, but not at the incredible pace we've seen over the last 2 years. Brick and mortar stores will struggle, give over even more of their inventory to non-book items, and carry only what they know will sell - hardback bestsellers, coffeetable books, etc. More and more genre fiction will be read on e-readers and tablets.
  •  At least one more consolidation between the big publishers - taking them down to the 'Big 4.'
  • Increasing numbers of midlist authors leaving traditional publishing. And in general, most dedicated, hardworking indie authors will be able to grow their careers.
  •  Foreign markets and audiobooks will be the new areas of growth. At some point (though maybe not this year) we'll see some translation houses springing up, quite possibly with similar 50/50 royalty split terms as Audible offers for narration services.

  • Amazon is no longer threatened by traditional publishing; we are seeing the prices steadily climb, whereas a year ago the first page of Amazon was deluged with cheap books at .99 or 1.99. Amazon was going for the throat. Yet now the prices are getting higher. Last I looked, the prices were at 5.99 and 6.99. This means they no longer are going for the kill, because they don't have to.
  • Traditional publishing will likely hemorrhage their midlist authors to up and coming indie and small press. They've always had a massive overhead that they've tried to protect and justify...all with the author being the last to get paid. This worked so long as there was no viable competition. But now, the ace in the hole they once had (getting an author in the bookstore)is going away because as more well-known authors defect (Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, etc) indie is getting a better name, so bookstores will start opening up to more and more indies. Bookstore is status but on-line is money.
  • Small and indie press pays way better and gives authors power, autonomy and creative control they've never had yet always wanted. We live in a world that wants everything instantly, yet NYC takes a YEAR to get a book to market (and that's on the fast side). now authors who write good books QUICKLY are making a serious living. The indie paradigm offers writers what they really want--do what they love and get paid fairly for it.
  • I think B&N is too late, they needed to make their move 3 years ago. They'll still be around, but they really had an opportunity to remain a powerhouse and they gambled on bookstores and printed books.
  • In 2013, we will see that e-readers take over the market. Nooks, Kindles and iPads will continue to surge in sales as everything is bundled into one device--computer, e-reader, music, etc. As the technology drops in price, we will see a massive surge in digital book sales as millions of people who normally would not consider themselves readers start buying books for their Nooks, Kindles and iPads.

Toby Neal

  • Ebooks will finally outdistance hard copy in total sales
  • Big publishers, beginning with Simon and Schuster, will increasingly offer distribution/printing to indie authors with huge numbers of ebook sales (already happening for a few; will become more accessible and reasonable for indie writers)
  • Amazon will discount big name author ebooks now that DOJ case is over, and discontinue some of the promotion that has favored indie authors.
  •  “Freebie” promotion on Amazon and other sites will lose effectiveness in promotion tools as the market becomes saturated.
  • The Big Six will continue to consolidate with each other and streamline their systems to fight back Amazon, Smashwords, Torrent and other online presences; this will favor established names/authors further and make it harder for newbies to break in as agents have only a few places to submit books to.
  • Agents will continue to struggle to make a living and leave the field.
  • 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)

Michele Scott

  • We will continue to see more indie authors. This will come from people who have decided they want to write that book and so they do it (for some this is not a good idea). The other group will be what I once was considered until I went indie (a mid-list author). The mid-listers are tired of being screwed over by the Big 6 (er um 5 and possibly soon to be Big 4…more on that down the list). Mid-list authors have a readership that they built on their own and by indie publishing via Kindle, etc… they can control their careers and make way more money considering the royalty rates. 
  • Gatekeepers: I think it is possible that there will be some kind of gatekeeping going on at Amazon, etc with indie books. Let’s face it, not everyone and their sister should be publishing, yet they are. It’s hard to wade through the slush. I think it’s possible that the key promotions (like daily deals and top 100, etc) will go to Amazon authors and Trad authors. I think it’s going to be harder to get those promotions for an Indie. They are prime real estate and my experience in becoming an Amazon author (Thomas & Mercer and ACP) is that these folks are very smart, and they will put their authors out there first, and then a Big House author. The Indie might get the last spot.
  • S&S will merge with Harper Collins and we will have a Big 4. Eventually, I think we will see a Big 3, which won’t be all that good for authors. You’re going to have to be that Big Fish in the pond to receive large advances and marketing dollars.
  • I think that those huge advances we saw over the past few years to Indies from the Trad houses will drop. Bestselling indie authors are smart. They are great writers with large readerships, and smart business skills. They don’t need the Big House advance. They can earn that kind of money quickly on their own and control their careers. The Big Houses will need to recoup their large advances and with the mid-listers jumping ship, the bottom may fall out on the Big House. You have to have a foundation to remain solid. With a decent amount of once traditionally published authors now doing their own thing, the Big House might regret putting their eggs in a few baskets. It used to work where you could pay a handful of authors seven figure advances and promote the hell out of them because you had a slew of other authors underneath them, not as many any longer. We’ll see. 
  • This is not a prediction because I honestly don’t think the Big Houses will do this (some have on a small scale), but if I was an advisor, I would tell them to take their back list that they own (and won’t give back to writers—but yet won’t do anything to sell them—yes, I am bitter about the 6 Wine Lover’s Mysteries they refuse to give back but have taken two out of print) and lower the e-book prices with a leader at .99 for a series and on up to $3.99. Guess what I think will happen? Book sales and win/win for the mid-lister,and even the publisher who gets a much larger pay-out than the author. (Rant over)
  • This isn’t a prediction but a truth. The cream typically rises to the top (except in a few cases), so even though we will see more and more people putting on their writing caps, good books will win out and find readers. I have a feeling we will see some great books in 2013. 
Denise Grover Swank

  • More authors will self-publish in 2013 and most will sell few books.
Why? There’s a glut. Authors who published in 2009-2011 had less competition. I liken it to a cocktail party. Before 2012 it was easier to mingle (get attention for your book) and talk to other people (sell books). But the party host invited a bunch more people and now the room is really crowded. It’s harder to meet people (get readers and attention) so a lot of guests will stand around and wait for someone to notice them. Many will give up and go home. The guests who’ve been there awhile (published pre-2012) will still get attention as long as they are still mingling (publishing frequently) but newer guests will either have to stand out or be really attention getting.

Another factor is that traditionally published eBooks are now selling at lower prices. Before, the high cost of eBooks was one of the best promotions for self-published books. Most readers didn’t know the difference in how a book was published and as long as a book had a good cover and good reviews, it had a chance. But owners of eReaders are savvier and have been burnt too many times by poorly produced and written self-published books. Reviews will become even more important to a readers decision to buy.

  • The free book sales promotion is all but dead.
Amazon offered this promotion in December 2011 to authors who signed up for their Select program. Amazon’s goal was to use the free book offer to help sell their new Kindle Fire. And it worked for everyone involved. But Amazon isn’t in the business to offer anything for free forever, especially since they’ve grabbed a huge market of readers. The algorithms have steadily changed to favor free books less and less. I expect Amazon to do away with this promotion all together at some point in 2013.

  • Self-published books will be even more of a slush pile for the Big 6.
This is a no brainer for traditional publishers. They’ll still acquire books the old fashioned way, but they’ll continue to buy the books that rise to the top of the self-publishing world for big money. I think we’ll see even more of a shift in this direction.

  • We’ll see a few more print only deals, but not many. Why? For a traditional publisher to take this deal, they have to be assured that the author will sell a LOT of print books. This will all depend on number eBooks already sold and what price they sold at.

Thanks for visiting, and I'd love to hear what YOU think will happen in 2013!


  1. Laura,

    Thank you for the invitation to pull out my crystal ball for Publishing 2013.

    Happy New Year!


  2. Thanks for another great post. There is such an upheaval in the industry now it is hard to know which route to take now... your insight is appreciated!

  3. This is an absolutely FANTASTIC post! I read every single entry & was wowed by the quality & discernment of the information. Thanks for presenting these perspectives—and wishing everyone a joyful & prosperous new year!

  4. Great information. Thank you all for the insights!

  5. Love seeing what's going on with your favorite authors. There's definitely a changing landscape where publishing is concerned. It's exciting and scary at the same time. It's cool to be a pioneer, though.

  6. I love the variety and depth of the predictions, and I am honored to have been asked to contribute my "predictions." Many of us read a ton of industry blogs/updates to keep abreast, and my predictions, at least, are based on my ongoing research. *whew* Now to get back to writing!
    Toby Neal

  7. Wow-- that's a lot. Thanks for the mention. I think you're on target.

  8. Interesting how these people champion Kobo as the next big whatever, but Barnes and Noble got into the game too late? Barnes and Noble has been allowing indies for a lot longer than Kobo has.

  9. Hi Andrea -- the thing is, B&N *just* started getting into international markets, whereas Kobo has been there for a while. B&N won't allow non-Americans to sell through their indie publishing arm. B&N customer service is bad to non-existent, while Kobo is becoming known for being responsive and helpful. If you're indie publishing with both of these platforms, the difference between them start to become pretty obvious. :)

  10. Blown away by these predictions! Also excited for the coming year. Another thing I think we'll see related to publishing and books is the rise of book bloggers. Even with reviews it's hard to wade through the slush pile of new books constantly coming out. I've gotten burned so many times reading terrible books that got great reviews. Now I just turn to my favorite book bloggers and their thoughts. It's also why I started blogging about books with my friend. We got so tired of bad books with great ratings and wonderful books with few reviews. We wanted to let people know.

  11. Fascinating blog. I am currently assessing a traditional publishing offer, but also considering non-traditional options. Only 18 more days to make that decision, so the perspectives above are quite thought provoking. Thank you.

  12. Wonderful post! I was just speculating on this subject so it was fascinating to read this insightful mix of predictions.

    I definitely feel like I came late to the indie party by entering the scene only last year. The indies I know who have rocked the scene started out in 2010 or 11. Building a readership is that much harder now (like pulling teeth!). It is certainly not a get rich quick (or ever) scheme. I'm heading into my first year and am operating at a loss and I feel fairly "successful." (Even if my husband insists on calling this a "hobby" until I make an actual profit at it.)

  13. All this is pretty discouraging for someone who, 30 years ago, used to get paid enough for a story to cover the ink and paper and sometimes even the postage. Since those days, I've published three books, some stories and poetry, and a couple dozen essays, even more book reviews, and I've never been paid for any of it--except for my own investment in the books at a discount. When will decently produced and interesting/moving/exciting work be worth something to publishers again? I have 3 anthologized pieces in published books made up (I assume) entirely of work the publishers got for nothing. We all know how much glory and "exposure" there is in anthologies. I'm about to propose that freelance writers unite. If all the biggies, indies, electronic, vanity publishers had nothing to publish, maybe they'd be willing to give those of us who produce it at least a pittance!
    Okay, my rant over--for now...

  14. There is such an upheaval in the industry now it is hard to know which route to take now.Thanks for a wonderful post :)
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