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Last year we made 10 predictions on what 2018 would bring to the publishing industry. We enjoyed hearing your predictions and discussing ours in the comments and on social media. We believe it’s important to think about what the future holds when planning for the upcoming year. This year we’ve conducted reader polls, reached out to industry leaders and distilled our own thoughts on where things are going in 2019. And now, without further ado, here are our top ten publishing industry trends for 2019:
1) Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) Ads Go Mainstream
AMS ads will become an essential part of the author’s toolkit in 2019. More and more authors are reporting rising costs on Facebook ads. This, coupled with Amazon’s ambitions to grow its advertising business will make paying to get visibility on Amazon a pillar of every author’s marketing strategy. “There’s no question that Amazon ads are going to become even more important in 2019,” according to Mark Dawson, Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula. “I would go as far as to say that they are indispensable if you want to maximize the chances of making your books visible, especially as – it seems likely – organic visibility is reduced in favor of paid placements.” Requiring authors to pay to play in the Amazon marketplace makes business sense for Amazon, and, as long as they maintain their dominant position as “the place to buy eBooks,” there’s currently not much that can be done to stop them.
What this means for you: If you’re not already familiar with AMS ads, it’s time to get downright friendly with them. Read articles on how AMS ads work, reach out to other authors and see what is going well (or not) for them, and test your own ads. There has been some blowback due to low conversion rates from AMS ads, but, according to Mark Dawson, “there is inventory to be sold on the Amazon advertising platform at a reasonable cost per click. I’m seeing a lot of authors spending huge amounts of money, but that often means they are carpet bombing the wrong targets…” Like any new technique, AMS ads take a while to get the hang of, and results will differ from author to author. Even if you’re not ready to jump in head-first to AMS ads, being knowledgeable about them will allow you to be ready when the time is right for you and your titles.
2) Book Quality Becomes Critical to Success
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, independent authors who invest the time and resources to create quality books will be rewarded by readers. This fall, Written Word Media conducted a survey of readers subscribed to our sites, FreeBooksy, Bargain Booksy, NewInBooks, Red Feather Romance, and Reading Stacks. A consistent issue raised by readers was the prevalence of typos and grammatical errors in independently published books. Low book quality can lead to poor reviews or readers giving up on a book or an author altogether. As Debbie Young says in her piece Why Book Marketing Doesn’t Trump Writing Craft, “Even if you have endless financial resources to invest heavily in great covers, professionally-written persuasive blurbs and extensive advertising, readers who do not enjoy what’s inside this enticing gift wrap will not come back for more.”
What this means for you: This publishing industry trend is pretty easy to wrap your head around. Start by doing an audit of any existing books you have. Check your reviews and see if anyone points out an editing mistake that you haven’t already fixed. If you can, respond to readers after you’ve fixed an error. This lets them know you want to give them the best material possible, and that you appreciate their feedback. It’s important to realize that not making an early investment in the quality of your book will actually cost you more in the long-run. It may feel painful to outlay dollars for high-quality book covers and a professional edit, but it will cost you significantly more in wasted advertising dollars and abandoned readers in the months and years that follow.
3) The Number of Indie Authors Making a Living Solely From Writing Grows
More independent authors will see real income from book sales and will be able to quit their “day jobs.” Last April, Amazon CEO Jeff Besos revealed that over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) royalties in 2017. As self-publishing ebooks, physical books and audiobooks continues to get easier, with the help of distributors like Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices, the success of independent authors will continue to grow. Companies will continue to recognize the growth of independent authors, and more tools and platforms will be born to aid authors. Authors themselves will also continue to learn the skills needed to make it without a traditional publisher. The entire independent ecosystem will be strengthened, and successful authors will see the rewards of increased royalties and freedom.
What this means for you: 2019 is a year packed with potential. Perhaps more than ever, it has been possible to make a living solely off of writing. If this is your goal, consider going all in this year. Research how other authors have built successful writing businesses, make a plan and go for it!
4) The Wide Versus Exclusive Debate Intensifies
Yep, this debate is only going to get more intense. In 2019, the differences between wide and exclusive releases will increase, as well as the debate around the two options. We heard plenty of different opinions on where this publishing industry trend is going, so here are some thoughts from both sides. “As indie publishing continues to grow, more authors will maximize their royalties by distributing wide and reaching new audiences, rather than focusing only on Amazon,” said Kinga Jentetics of Publish Drive. “These new audiences may include the 1.8 billion Android users with Google Play Books, or even emerging markets such as Chinese stores.”
Ricardo Fayet, of Reedsy, sees things differently, “Despite 2018 being considered by many authors an awful year on the Kindle Store (between the scammers, the trademark wars, and the recent disappearance of Also Boughts), I remain quite optimistic about the Store for 2019. It’s important to remember that Amazon is a relatively young search engine (as opposed to, you know, Google). As such, it has a lot of room for algorithm improvement, especially through AI and machine learning. While Amazon’s dismissal of individual queries is infuriating, I do believe that their ranking and fraud detection algorithms will get better. Considering the amount of changes and testing going on right now on the Kindle Store, 2019 might be the year of a major Amazon update — which is definitely needed.”
What this means for you: Like so many things, it comes down to what’s best for your unique goals and situation. If your goal is to achieve long-term success and freedom as a writer, having a plan to be widely distributed at the cost of short-term profit will be the more appealing prospect for you. Authors who are already enjoying success within the Amazon ecosystem will likely continue to remain exclusive with Amazon. As Mark Coker points out in his annual address, the decision to become exclusive or not could have far-reaching implications for your career as well as the careers of other indie authors. So it’s worth taking the time to be clear on what is important to you and what your specific short-term and long-term goals are.
5) Audio Continues to be a Bright Spot for Traditional Publishers
Please continue reading the Top Ten trends here!