6-22 The Fascinating 1920s with Lauri Robinson

Saturday, December 29, 2018

MY PREDICTIONS FOR INDIE AUTHORS IN 2019 By ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager

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.

Alternative Advertising
Smart operators will also capitalise on new advertising opportunities emerging at Kobo, BookBub and elsewhere. 
(Excellent Kobo webinar here: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-grow-your-global-sales-with-kobo-webinar/ ) 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. 

Offline Opportunities
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! https://selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-get-your-self-published-book-into-bookstores/)

Audio Options
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!)

Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries
Print Range
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. (https://selfpublishingadvice.org/kdp-print-ingram-spark-paperbacks/)

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.

Business Focus
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: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-3-0-call-for-government-support/ )

What About Writing?
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.

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 – Bio
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 (www.hulitfest.com) and two local writing groups, and is a regular guest on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Book Club. She is never bored.
Twitter: @DebbieYoungBN


Judith Ashley said...

Debbie, Thank you for being our guest this weekend at Romancing The Genres. Your post is the perfect ending to our month of Celebrating What's New in Publishing. And this is the time of year for indie authors to decide what their 2019 writing goals are. I'm wading further into the marketing and promoting pool while still writing. My plan is to have two fiction books published along with 2 non-fiction books and a short story or two. Another goal is to gather a group of writers who want to do a short story Holiday themed anthology covering from maybe Halloween through New Years. Obviously I've a bit of decision-making to do on that one.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights into the directions the Indie publishing world is taking in 2019. I have much to think about before setting my goals for next year.

Kristin Wallace said...

Thanks for the advice. The Amazon roller coaster was very bumpy. I had planned to try putting some books exclusive, but with all the craziness with page reads disappearing and the "crack down" on fraud that swept up a bunch of legit authors, I held off. Will look at it again this year. And I STILL need to migrate my CreateSpace print books over to Amazon, not something I'm looking forward to.

Debbie Young said...

Judith, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. Writing the post made me pause for thought, and the end of the calendar year is a great time to stop and step back from our to-do lists and think strategically for the long-term.

Sarah, good luck with your goals for the new year - I think setting specific goals and publicly stating them can really help you to achieve them.

Kristin, I think a lot of authors will have stepped away from AMS ads over the last month or so, waiting for them to settle down - and also to wait for the pre-Christmas madness to subside. Hoping for a calmer scenario on AMS in the new year! And don't worry about migrating your books from CS to KDP Print - it's actually much easier than it sounds, and by leaving it until now, you've given them time to clear some of the glitches that were reported when they first introduced KDP Print! From my own experience, I have to say having the combined dashboard for both print and ebook has been a big improvement, and the short-term hassle of the transfer was definitely worth it for the long-term benefits! (If you use the BookReport app for analysing your Amazon sales, you'll be pleased to see that it also now incorporates print sales, rather than just ebook, which is another bonus.)

Paty Jager said...

Debbie, Great information! I've been wide from the beginning because I'm kind of contrary on letting one company say who can do what. ;) I've been an ALLi member and love the information that can be obtained from this organization. Thanks for being here!

Maggie Lynch said...

Debbie, This is an excellent post with lots of good bits of information to consider. Thank you VERY much for being here and sharing your insights.

Like Paty, I've been wide from the beginning (since 2011) and can never see myself putting all my eggs in the Amazon basket. It is a slower build, going wide, unless you have lots of advertising dollars. But I see my career as a life-time career, and being wide keeps my fear of being at the whim of a single company.

I'm old enough to remember huge changes in technology markets like Sony Betamax that used to be the #1 video replay platform for TV and disappeared when VHS came into the market. Or MySpace that seemed to be #1 in the world for social media, until Facebook came along. In our technology-dependent world, I cannot feel safe having any one proprietary platform as the only one distributing my intellectual property, or the only one for connecting with fans.

I've been an ALLi member for many years now and I love the advocacy of the organization as well as the many free educational benefits ALLi provides along the entire publishing spectrum. I always tell people to join ALLi when they are an independent author. In my opinion, ALLi provides more benefit to indies than any other organization period. I've been a member of RWA, SFWA, and even the Authors Guild in the past. As good as those organizations are, none of them compare to ALLi and its focus on education and advocacy.

Thanks again for taking the time to post here!

Debbie Young said...

Paty, thank you for your kind words - great to have you as a part of the ALLi team! We all have so much we can share together, and we also all have the will to share and help each other - I love being a part of such a generous community.

Debbie Young said...

Hi Maggie, great to see you here and thank you for taking the time to share your experience at length here. You are so right with the analogy of Betamax etc - the word alone is a sobering one we should say to ourselves any time we get too carried away with a single service or platform! Thanks too for you kind words about ALLi - I know you also add great value to the ALLi hive mind and collective experience. Together we are all stronger, now and for our long-term success.