It’s 2018, and 2017 is finally behind us which has a lot of authors wondering, what’s next? Well, I took out my crystal ball and tried to see what the future holds for the publishing industry? Will bots replace authors? Short answer—not anytime soon. Will AI technology replace word processing software like Microsoft Word and Scrivener? In a nutshell—not yet. Do we finally get our jet packs? Again—not anytime soon. So what will change next year? Well, read on and find out…
Prediction #1: No More Superstars
It was pointed out at one news outlet that there were no breakout books in 2017. Many blamed the slow down due to various political elections around the world and although, that could be the case, it could also be an ominous trend. One only has to look to the music and movie industries to see where ours is heading post digital revolution. For the past ten years, shelf space at brick and mortar stores has been disappearing and there are no indications that trend will cease. When Barnes & Noble announced they would focus less on books, and applied for a liquor license, the publishing industry shuddered. Amazon alone, now controls 71% of the ebook market, and accounts for 37% of all print book sales in the U.S. and has no serious rivals as of this posting. This leaves the publishing industry at a huge disadvantage.
Major publishers are finding it harder and harder to introduce new books to the masses which has them turning to their backlists in order to make a profit. Also, it’s been reported over the past few years, that midlist authors are being unceremoniously cut loose by major publishers. So what does this mean to indie authors? It means that the industry is getting careful about their spending and they’re doing everything they can to squeeze every last dime out all of their intellectual properties. Many authors will have to either move on to another line of work, or seriously consider self-publishing. This will ultimately mean more competition for indie authors.
In fact on the Creative Penn, this was discussed and the conclusion was made that the superstars like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King will become a thing of the past. Mainly, because there won’t be any money to invest in an author’s career anymore. This will lead to self-publishing becoming a default setting in an author’s early career. In other words, self-publishing will become the norm and the only way to get a contract with a large publisher. That’s if large publishers can remain relevant.
Prediction #2: Social Media Is Going To Get A Lot Harder
In October, Facebook, began dividing their user’s newsfeeds in two, between personal and promotional posts in an experiment. Without warning, people in six countries found their newsfeeds had changed, dramatically. It was similar to what email services like Gmail and Outlook, did when they divided their inboxes between promotional and primary tabs. Though Facebook says it doesn’t plan on rolling out these changes to every single country just yet, it does makes sense to begin shifting your marketing plan away from your page and possibly focus more on Facebook groups or maybe consider spending money to get your posts seen.
Prediction #3: Authors May Turn To Mobile Apps & Texting Services To Reach Readers Directly
With the effectiveness of email and social media marketing coming into question, those authors who went mobile won’t sweat it too much. Believe it or not, apps and texting services aren’t for big businesses anymore, celebrities, athletes and even musicians are embracing the technology. Romance author, H.M. Ward, said during an interview at the Self-Publishing Formula that most of her readers open her emails on their phones which is why she has a texting service to reach them now. However, she does also say that your list has to be worth it (profitable) to warrant the expense. The good news here is, is that these options are becoming less expensive with each passing year which, is perfect timing for authors looking for a new way to connect directly with their readers.
Prediction #4: AIs Will Make Books More Accessible
You’ve probably heard by now that podcasts and audiobooks are very popular in this busy world we live in. Instead of mindless corporate playlists on the radio, people are listening to niche podcasts and even audiobooks on their way to work, or at the gym. Amazon saw this coming and developed their AI, Amazon Echo, to easily link with their ebooks and Audible library. So readers can now have their audiobooks accessed and played while, ebooks can be read by Amazon’s AI for free. Google and Apple are likely going to follow suit because they also have AIs and a somewhat healthy book catalog. In fact, it’s believed that AI technology will only continue to evolve and affect every area of our lives from healthcare, to warfare. Physicist and author, Stephen Hawking, has gone on record predicting that AIs will eventually take over the world.
Prediction #5: Virtual & Augmented Reality Will Present New Opportunities
In October of 2017, Harry Potter fans were treated to a thrill when Google announced it would be offering on their virtual reality platform Daydream, a gaming adventure based on the book series. Also, this past year, The Washington Post, published an augmented reality article based on the Freddie Gray case. It’s believed that in the future, media outlets will begin using augmented reality more in order to present complex stories. As if that weren’t enough, The Washington Post also has a robot reporter who already published 850 articles. Called Heliograf, it is being used to free up staff from redundant projects as well as helping with big data sets. So what does this all mean?..
It means that it’s not beyond reason that publishers could use this type of technology when presenting both fiction and nonfiction books. Several decades ago, publishers were producing choose your own adventure books where an author would write alternative endings to a story and readers would decided which one they wanted to follow. This was popular for a short while but it may be revived if technology evolves. That could mean interactive books will take on a whole new dimension and authors, as well as publishers, will have a new potential income stream.
It also means that big data is going to play a larger role in aquisitions, meaning data trends will soon play a role in how much a publisher will pay for an intellectual property.
I hope I gave a balanced view of the future, there is a lot for indie authors to look forward to as well as several challenges. Isn’t that always how reality goes? Now, I’m handing the mic to you, if have any predictions of your own, add them in the comment section.