The past few weeks have seen some great articles published on what to expect in the publishing world in 2016. If you haven’t had a chance to read Mark Coker’s, founder of Smashwords, or Jane Friedman of Publisher’s Weekly’s forecasts and predications for the coming year, fear not. We have read all of the articles written by industry professionals and top indie authors so you don’t have to. Below we have compiled a list of the trends that will impact indie authors the most, with specific takeaways on how you can best navigate them.
1. Indie authors will continue to take up a growing percentage of the market
Mark Coker from Smashwords discussed the growth of indie authored books, which are estimated to compose up to 20% of the book market. Indie books are continuing to take share from traditional publishers due to their consumer friendly pricing – indie titles retail at an average price of $2.99 to $3.99 while traditionally published books retail between $7.99 and $14.99. Readers are factoring price more and more into their purchasing decision and opting for high-quality, lower-priced (usually indie) titles over the more expensive titles put out by traditional publishers. The ability of indie authors to offer their books free, either for a limited time or as an intro to a series, is another advantage indies have over traditional publishers. Free is a very powerful discovery tool and one that readers are using more and more. Traditional publishers rarely offer their books for free, so all new titles and authors that are discovered through free promotions will be indies. All this combines for a growing market share for indies.
What this means for you: Continue to put out quality content at consumer friendly prices. Continue to leverage free promotions to spur discovery and lure readers away from pricey, traditionally published titles. Increasingly your competition won’t be traditionally published authors, but other indies.
2. Amazon cracks down on quality of content
As of February 3rd all eBooks offered for Amazon Kindle that have been reported to include typos, formatting issues, or other mistakes that lead to a poor reader experience will be removed from Amazon until the mistakes in question have been fixed. Readers attempting to purchase a title that has been reported to contain errors will be confronted with a message stating “Item Under Review”, and you will not be able to purchase the title.
What this means for you: Finding a great editor and formatter for your eBook just became even more important. There are a variety of repercussions here, including the failure of a marketing plan if your book is taken down in the middle of a paid promotion. Here are our 5 tips to make sure you comply with Amazon’s new guidelines.
3. Mobile internet usage continues to grow
Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman chatted about the global shift in internet usage to mobile devices, weighing in on the importance of websites and content that can be read easily on a mobile device. Between 2010 and 2014 smartphone internet usage was up 392%, and that percentage is only going to continue to rise.
What this means for you: Make sure your author website is mobile friendly. If your website is not mobile friendly it will be hard to navigate for up to 60% of your visitors.
4. Amazon borrows grow at the expense of sales
More readers are accessing books for “free” through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU) than ever before. Fortune reports that Amazon Prime is now in 38% of American Households. Prime membership grew by 40 million members in December alone to reach an estimated 80 million people. One of the benefits of Prime membership is access to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library that allows Amazon Prime members who read through a Kindle to choose one book from the library every month to read free. Similarly, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service open to both Prime and non-Prime members. When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both Kindle Unlimited and The Owner’s Lending Library. What this means is that as more readers join Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited more and more books are being “borrowed” by readers instead of being bought. If you are not enrolled in KDP Select your book sales may suffer too as Amazon tends to give merchandising priority to books enrolled in KDP Select.
What this means for you: If your book is enrolled in KDP Select, you may see borrows going up at the expense of book sales. We are hearing from KDP Select authors that running a Bargain Booksy promotion has resulted in sales AND an increasing number of borrows, lending credence to this trend. If you are not enrolled in KDP Select, you will need to do all the legwork in promoting your book to readers, since Amazon won’t surface your books for you. You will have to leverage your reader community, social media and deal sites to push your book up the Amazon charts so readers on Amazon have the ability to discover your books.
5. Free works as a marketing technique- especially for series
A Smashwords survey found that series, consisting of at least three books, in which the first book is perma-free sold more copies overall. This year we interviewed Mark LeFebvre from Kobo Writer’s Life and he shared that 45%-55% of readers who download a book while it was free and read it, go on to purchase more titles by that author. These readers go on to become some of your biggest fans and paying customers.
What this means for you: If you are publishing a series or multiple series, make the first book in the series permanently free.
6. Email marketing is proving to be the most efficient way to drive sales
Traditional publishers and indie authors alike plan to invest time and money on reaching readers directly through email marketing in 2016. This is the most effective way to drive sales of your new titles, since you can control the message and know that you are hitting an audience that cares about your work. There are two email marketing tactics that publishing professionals will deploy in 2016: newsletters and book promotion services. You can only send a newsletter if you have a mailing list, which is why both indies and traditional publishers are investing in building their lists. In addition to growing personal lists, publishers and indies will continue to utilize ebook promotion services that have large lists to drive book sales and revenue growth. BookBub is the largest player in the book promotion space followed by companies like ours (Bargain Booksy, Freebooksy) who are continuing to invest in and grow their lists.
What this means for you: Look up the best promotion sites for your genre and come up with a promotional plan. Stack and stagger promotions to keep those sales rolling in. You should also start growing your own email list. Mailchimp is free until your reach 2000 subscribers, so they are a great place to start managing a list.
7. Physical book sales are on the rise
Physical books sales were up in 2015, proving that readers still like the feel of a book in their hands. Many of these books are purchased on Amazon, making offering your book available through print on demand services such as CreateSpace prudent. Additionally, one segment of the reader market that remains difficult for indie authors is placement in brick and mortar stores. We recommend designing and formatting your books for eBook and print, then contacting your local book stores to see if they would like to host an author event and stock your books.
What this means for you: Design your books for ebook and print and list them through CreateSpace in order to reach additional readers who don’t read ebooks. Order copies of your book and bring them around to local book stores; Indie Bookstores are sometimes willing to work with Indie Authors as well.
8. The International eBook market continues to grow
The international audience for eBooks is growing. The United States and Canada beat the rest of the world into the eBook trend with almost 30% of readers consuming eBooks. The United Kingdom has long been third on the list of eReading nations, but France, Germany, Italy, and Russia are seeing growth in the percentage of readers who enjoy eBooks.
What this means for you: One way to increase sales this year is to expand your distribution to include countries other than the United States and Canada. Most platforms (Kindle Direct Publishing, iTunes, Kobo) make it easy for you to distribute your book worldwide with a few clicks of your mouse. It’s time to make sure your books are available around the world.
9. Readers Cry: “More coloring books and bad boys!”:
Hey, it’s a fact of life that everybody likes to feel good, and what better ways are there to feel good than to sit down with a nice relaxation coloring book or particularly enticing erotic novel? Adult coloring books and erotic romances continue to be popular.
What this means for you: If you’re writing erotic romance, you’re going to see another good year as your genre continues to be very popular. If you’re already publishing coloring books you’re well-positioned to continue cashing in on this trend. If you’re thinking of entering the adult coloring book market, beware, as it is quickly becoming saturated with new players.
10. The world is starting to understand Indie Authorship as a choice
For years readers and the press assumed that the indie author was only publishing their works themselves because they couldn’t land a deal with a publishing house. They didn’t seem to understand that many authors were making the choice to stay indie, choosing to laud those who managed to “make it” into a traditional publishing deal. As the publishing industry continues to be watched by the masses, the truth behind the numbers is coming out and readers are starting to understand that being an indie author is often the most lucrative choice. Now we just need to convince the press to pay indie authors their due. Publisher’s Weekly believes that it will take a major news outlet like the New York Times Book Review consistently reviewing indie titles for a full industry shift to occur. Will 2016 be that year?
What this means for you: Keep writing and reach out to local press in your community to review your book.
If you are interested in diving deeper, our reading list included the following articles: