What publishing trends will 2022 reveal? What will change for indie authors in the coming new year?
Every year at Written Word Media we analyze our own data and talk to industry experts to get an idea of what’s going on in the world of publishing, and what publishing trends authors and publishers can expect in the upcoming year. Here are our top eight publishing trends for 2022.
- Direct sales continue to grow
- Indie Authors embrace next-gen tech
- BookTok goes mainstream
- Book prices will increase
- More success for small publishers
- Advertising becomes more inclusive
- Advertising becomes more expensive and difficult to track
- The audiobook market continues to evolve
Direct Sales for Authors Continue to Grow
More authors saw success with direct sales from their own websites in 2021, and we see this continuing in 2022. Bryan Cohen of the Sell More Books Show says that authors with a following could see the largest gains here.
“Many higher-end authors who are looking to expand their brand will consider the wild world of direct sales on their own website,” said Cohen. “The learning curve there is steep, but these authors will embrace the value of growing their team to help them pull off the seemingly impossible.”
Mark Leslie Lefebvre of Draft2Digital also sees direct sales growing in 2022.
“As tools and platform availability make it easier, such as plug-ins for WordPress or other sites, and as savvy authors continue to build upon their author newsletter strategies, they can drive more people to get their books direct,” said Lefebvre. As more tools, like Shopify and BookFunnel proliferate, direct sales become a more viable channel for authors.
The benefits of direct sales are threefold:
1) Authors make more money as direct sales reduce or eliminate the royalty cost associated with retail platforms (Amazon, Apple)
2) Authors own the purchase data of their customers, enabling them to build their audience and their mailing lists more efficiently and
3) Direct sales are an additive channel enabling authors to diversify their revenue mix and therefore less dependent on other channels.
Direct sales will likely constitute a small percentage of overall sales to begin, but for authors who are able to take advantage of the technological innovation in the space, 2022 could be a big year for direct sales.
Indie Authors Embrace Next-Generation Technology
Just as new technology will power more direct eBook sales, it will also change the way authors write and sell their intellectual property.
“2021 saw the emergence of new technologies for the Creator Economy and 2022 will see authors put these into practice,” said Penn. “NFTs for books will gain traction, as well as AI narration for audiobooks, and the use of AI natural language generation tools for ad copy, content marketing, and enhancing the writing process.”
Artificial intelligence tools for writing will continue to gain in popularity, and more authors will use machines to help them increase their productivity. Tools like Sudowrite will contribute to works of fiction, and some authors could begin to view AI tools as collaborators in their writing. From ad copy and emails to books themselves, artificial intelligence will contribute to the written word more than ever before.
BookTok Goes Mainstream
The buzz has been building around TikTok as a new marketing platform and 2021 was the year that BookTok hit its tipping point. TikTok seems to be here to stay, and in 2022 authors will recognize the value of the platform.
Mark Dawson, of the Self Publishing Formula is excited about the platform. “While I’m hesitant to mention virality after the last couple of years, new advertising avenues and social channels will open up – most interesting is TikTok, which we’ve seen work like gangbusters on some books that catch the BookTok wave,” said Dawson. “We’ve seen the platform catch fire and I think we can expect it to catch up and perhaps overtake Instagram in 2022.”
Case in point, Dawson is offering a TikTok for Books challenge in January for interested authors.
As is often the case, some romance authors have been early adopters of this new platform. But, more and more genres will see success in 2022.
“It’s working well in the romance genres at the moment, and I’m sure we’ll see growth across the board as other authors realise it is a powerful way to generate interest in their work,” said Dawson.
Larger players are taking note as well. Barnes & Noble has a BookTok page, and we expect adoption will become more widespread in 2022. If you are interested in potentially catching the BookTok wave, now is a good time to get familiar with the platform.
Book Prices Will Increase
At Written Word Media we’re big believers in discount promos or free first-in-series books, but we also see some authors increasing their set prices in 2022. An increase in price can make a discount promo even more appealing, especially a Kindle Countdown Deal where readers can see how much they are saving, and it can signal quality to readers.
Craig Martelle, best-selling author and 20 Books Vegas host says that changes in the entertainment and social landscape in 2022 will contribute to price changes. “Prices will go up. We’ve already seen that with paperbacks since paper and shipping have both increased in cost, but we’ll see it with ebooks, too,” said Martelle. “Entertainment value for discretionary income leads us back to quality over quantity. Good books will always be able to find an audience.”
In 2022 we see more authors increasing the prices of backlist titles to increase revenue and experiment with better margins.
More Success for Small Presses
It’s hard to succinctly explain the differences in approach between traditional publishing and indie publishing, but Mark Leslie Lefebvre does a great job breaking down the two sides to the industry: “The digital divide between traditional publishing and indie publishing is going to continue to grow,” said Lefebvre. “Both sides still have absolutely no clue about what the other is doing. I’d argue that traditional publishing and self or indie publishing are, in reality, operating in two distinct businesses.”
“Unlike their traditional publishing predecessors, indie small presses have adapted an inclusive, collaborative, and forward-thinking mindset,” said Lefebvre. “They’re not interested in competing with one another for the top-spot, but in servicing their readers, and boosting up their authors. They actually support and collaborate with one another, sharing, and recognizing that more can be achieved by working together than by trying to out-perform one another.”
Lefebvre says that traditional publishers aren’t adapting to the growth of audio and eBook formats and instead are struggling with supply chain issues. He says smaller publishers are going to fill the void.
Mark Dawson, of the Self Publishing Formula agrees.
“Small micro publishers will continue to proliferate, with houses like Joffe Books in the UK now staffed by a dozen people and projecting sales of 3m books in 2021,” said Dawson. “Others will follow suit, either growing (my own Fuse imprint has ambitious plans for 2022) or getting off the ground. Lots of options are available for those authors who are interested in writing but not marketing.”
The advantage to being smaller is that you can be more nimble and innovative. This is playing out in the publishing world as small presses are leveraging opportunities that are more difficult for large players to realize. This is good news for the industry as a whole as innovation and new entrants tend to increase the size of the pie and reset the balance the power.
Advertising becomes more inclusive
Advertisers are learning that including a diverse representation of people and language is what consumers want. And authors are no different, says Kathleen Sweeney of BookBrush.
“We’re seeing more and more inclusive visuals, both in covers and promotional materials,” said Sweeney. “Along with brighter, bolder colors and serif fonts making their way into marketing graphics.”
With increases in online privacy, and decreases in ad tracking capability, ad messaging and creative will become the true differentiating factor, rather than targeting and timing.
As authors become more savvy advertisers, their ad creative on platforms like Facebook and Instagram will better represent their readership, and drive improved results.
Digital Ads Become More Expensive and Difficult to Track
Commerce has shifted online since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s likely that many retailers will continue to focus on online sales for the foreseeable future.
Ad platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon are enjoying more advertisers competing for space, and the result is higher ad costs. In general, it’s more expensive than ever to use a digital ad to reach readers, and we don’t see this trend reversing in 2022.
Pandemic or not, consumer behavior has shifted to online first, and advertising dollars have moved online as well.
In addition to increased cost to run ads online, the tracking and targeting options that had made digital ads so effective are slowly going away. Whether it’s large platforms responding to privacy concerns or trying to differentiate themselves from competitors, ad tracking tech is regressing, and in 2022 it will be more difficult than ever to see exactly how many sales your ads drive.
In spring 2021 Apple rolled out a new policy that significantly reduced the ability of advertisers like Facebook to track behavior of users on Apple devices. Then, in fall 2021 the company announced that email open tracking on it’s devices would also go away.
David Gaughran has done a great job covering these changes for authors in his email newsletters. If you haven’t already, we recommend signing up for his weekly newsletter to keep you up to date on ad changes in 2022.
These developments along with Google’s chatter about doing away with tracking cookies are clear indicators that the wild west of internet marketing is over. Digital marketers have gotten used to seeing exactly how many purchases a particular ad drove on a particular day. In 2022, expect to shift focus to overall sales numbers with less ability to zoom in on the exact action that drove each sale.
The Audiobook Market Continues to Evolve
Audio has been a hotspot for innovation in the last few years, and 2021 was no different. One big move was the Spotify Acquisition of Findaway which shows intention from the audio giant to focus more and more on narrative stories in addition to music and podcasts. Another was Storytel’s acquisition of audobooks.com in the fall of 2021.
2022 will be when the impact of these moves is felt as these companies dig into their new properties and begin to implement their plans for growth. Authors who are interested in audio should keep a close eye on these different retailers to be poised to get in early when an opportunity arrises.
In 2022 expect to see more shifts in the audiobook space as the big players compete for pole position in this growing market. Authors will continue to experiment with narrative audio and push the boundaries of what is considered an audiobook, new technology will continue to increase access to audiobook creation, and more authors will find ways to earn with audio.
Bonus Trend: More authors will consider writing and publishing serializations via reading apps
This trend comes to us via Jane Friedman who thinks that more authors will experiment with new formats in 2022.
“If you have kids who read any fiction at all, they likely have read something at Webtoon, Tapas, or Wattpad,” said Friedman. “While many see online literature and webcomics as separate from the traditional publishing market, that thinking is likely to change. Webcomics companies are adapting popular novels into their format, and popular online stories are moving into print.”
While Amazon’s Kindle Vella hasn’t had the readership many authors hoped for, a slow start doesn’t mean serialization, or Kindle Vella, are dead. In fact, Friedman says that serialized storytelling is poised for continued growth and sees signals coming from international markets.
“Webtoon, Tapas, Radish, and other online reading apps have seen dramatic growth during the pandemic and operate profitably. While online and serialized literature continues to be more popular with writers in Asian markets, they also attract US authors, especially genre fiction authors, who can earn extra money from serializations and adaptations into mobile storytelling formats. Royal Road is now seen by digital-first publishers as rich territory for mining talent (like Wattpad before it), and Inkitt received millions in funding for its serialized storytelling app, Galatea,” said Friedman.
Publishing Trends – It’s a Wrap!
That’s it! 2022 is set to be a big year for indies, but it remains to be seen exactly how these publishing trends will unfold. Will authors find a way to scale direct sales from their websites? How will new technologies and platforms like AI writing tools and TikTok influence authors in 2022? How will the massive changes in digital advertising impact book marketing?
We’ve done our best to lay out our thoughts in this post, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments if you see any other trends for 2022 or think we missed a point. Best of luck to all in the new year!