Cozy Mystery Author Debbie Young
Author Advice Center Manager
Alliance of Independent Authors
A Bumpy Start
The last few months of 2018 have been turbulent for indie authors, thanks to a raft of changes at Amazon, still the largest online platform in the self-publishing ecosystem and the main source of most indies’ income:
~ KDP Print replaced CreateSpace as Amazon’s print service
~ Amazon’s paid advertising options went through various iterations
~The storefront page was rationalised to make space for more advertising
~A new reporting system popped up in beta test mode
Once we’ve recovered from the accompanying glitches, in the new year we may appreciate some advantages:
~ The single KDP dashboard simplifies publishing and sales monitoring.
~ Although it may feel as if shifting from level playing field to pay-to-play, the minimum entry advertising budget remains just $2 per day, so is accessible to all.
~ The new banner advertising offers an elegant, high profile way to target rivals' readers. The bad news: competition for these ad spots will be fierce.
Going Wide in 2019
Unnerved by these changes, many indies who aren’t already publishing on other platforms will be looking to future-proof their business in the new year by “going wide”, or at least by publishing any new titles on multiple platforms, if they can’t bear to curtail the page-read revenue earned by books in KDP Select. Many will also start sell direct on their own website as an additional sales platform entirely under their control.
Smart operators will also capitalise on new advertising opportunities emerging at Kobo, BookBub and elsewhere.
(Excellent Kobo webinar here: ) Facebook ads seem to work for some, but not for others, and I think there’s a gap in the market for other author-friendly ad services. Will 2019 see some great innovations fill that gap? I hope so.
While most indie authors make most of their money online, the slow revival of bricks-and-mortar bookstores, led by creative indie booksellers engaged with their local communities, will provide an increasing number of sales opportunities for authors who approach them in the right way.
(For more help in this area, see the ALLi guidebook, How to Get Your Self-published Book into Bookstores – by me! )
Online and off, books in all their forms will continue to flourish, with neither ebook nor print waning. Audio will be the biggest growth area, though requiring the greatest investment and offering the slowest return. New services will make it easier to venture into audio (Draft2Digital’s tie-in with Findaway voices, for example) – and to do so without unduly restrictive contracts (eg ACX requires a seven-year commitment – a long time in the fast-moving world of self-publishing!)
Authors who were early adopters of ebooks often rejected print publishing as less profitable, but now most have accepted the joy (and profit potential) of print. In 2019, being e-only will seem oddly restrictive. ALLi’s standard advice for optimum market reach with print books is to publish via KDP Print for Amazon customers and IngramSpark to reach bookstores and libraries. ()
In 2019 we’ll also see a growing interest in different kinds of print books, including large print, dyslexic format and braille – all great ways to reach additional readers who cannot access standard print books. There’s also a growing interest in hardbacks, not so much for commercial sales, but as a special edition for superfans.
And speaking of superfans, more authors will set up Patreon accounts, which effectively operate as subscription fan-clubs offering extra services and materials, providing a useful extra income stream to bolster sales income.
ALLi has always advocated going wide in multiple formats as the best business proposition for any indie author. And the terms “author business”, “author publisher” and “authorpreneur” will become much more commonplace in 2019, as more indies recognise and embrace the notion that from the moment they publish their first book, they are in the publishing business. If they want to sell their books, in the increasingly competitive marketplace, they’ll need to act like businessmen as well as creatives. (See what ALLi director Orna Ross has to say about the future of indie author earnings here: )
Let’s not forget the actual writing process! At the start of 2018, high-speed, high-volume writing and publishing was a top topic of conversation. The prospect of writing a book a month or even a book a week excited some and horrified others. By the start of 2019, I think most indie authors will have decided where they stand on this hare-and-tortoise question, and I hope success stories by proudly slow and deliberate writers such as Joe Malik will give them the confidence to embrace what approach works best for them.
(link to ALLi post by Joe Malik: )
Over to You
Whatever your plans for 2019, I hope you will take the time to make your books the best they can be, because whatever your business model, your books are your business’s building blocks. So build out of finest marble, not sand. Unless, of course, you want to be a sand sculptor. That’s the joy of being an indie author. The choice is yours – and I hope that 2019 brings you whatever kind of self-publishing success you desire.
Debbie Young is the Author Advice Center Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, the global nonprofit for professional self-publishing authors. She is also a prolific indie author, with a growing series of cozy mystery novels, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, starting with Best Murder in Show, inspired by the English Cotswold village in which she has lived for most of her adult life. She has also self-published three collections of short stories, two of essays, and some self-help books, and writes for local community magazines. She speaks at bookish events far and wide, runs the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival () and two local writing groups, and is a regular guest on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Book Club. She is never bored.