07-20 – Small Town Romance Author – Kathy Coatney

Saturday, December 1, 2018

What Isn't New in Publishing?

by M. L. Buchman

This month Romancing the Genres blog is running a special series on "What's New in Publishing?" It would be far easier to answer what isn't new, because change is happening so fast. So, first, what is changing?

Audio books have been very quietly growing the way e-books did in the early years, expanding by double-digit percentages year over year. As they used to say of e-books, a 150% of nothing is still nothing. Now, meeting someone who hasn't read an e-book is the exception. Someone who is a dedicated e-book reader is no longer a curiosity.

Audio is right at that threshold. The market is in the process of blowing open this year and next. Look to consume audio at a rate (and an accessible price point) that you never imagined. I have over 20 titles in audio now and I'm adding to that as fast as I can. http://www.mlbuchman.com/audio/

One of the hottest new bits here? Price control. Authors can now discount their audio for a sale, offer a title First in Series free, and anything else they might have done with an e-book. It's an incredible change!

E-books are dying! (They aren't.) Print is back! (It is.) Readers are disappearing! (The publishing industry, if you include the indies, is expanding strongly.)

Almost everything you hear that is broken is because it has moved in some new way and no one knows how to track it. If I sell a book off my website (which I'll be doing starting in 2019), no tool in the entire industry will see that sale (except the tax people, of course).

Where we used to have Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iTunes, we now have hundreds of distributors. I have titles that sell in over 50 countries. A decade ago selling in 3 countries was a triumph. The access to readers is simply astonishing--or rather, the readers' access to us.

Starting January 1st, you'll be able to subscribe to my short stories and novels. If you never want to miss one, you won't have to anymore. I have a friend who runs a monthly magazine...all of his own fiction. Subscriptions are old, they've been around since before America included the United States.

Indie publishing has allowed huge access to readers by writers. Prior to this era (since Christmas 2011, often called the "Kindle Christmas" for the year that the Kindle e-reader went mainstream), a year with 70,000 new titles was significant. Now we're somewhere around 1,000,000 new titles. Yes, a lot of this just disappears, but a lot of it doesn't. There are new genres (every day it seems). There are new ideas (every second it seems--actually every 31 seconds as there are 31M seconds in a year, but that's just being fussy, I don't even know why I mention it).

How can an author stand out? By creating a strong brand. Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Lawrence Block, etc. are fantastically strong brands. You know what you're going to get when you pick one up. To be a success today, an author needs to start thinking very hard about their brand and how to market it.

There are hundreds of things that are new or changing. Facebook popularity (and hence the effectiveness of its ads) is sliding. Amazon ads are making so much money for Amazon that what you're searching for no longer shows up on the page (I was at a conference recently where it was recommended that you buy ads for your own products so that when somebody searches on you, your products actually show up!) Systems like that simply aren't sustainable. New markets appear every day. Some last, some fade. Some are brilliant, but before their time. Or underfunded. Or are entering to crowded a market place.

You can lose track of what's important chasing all of these trends and changes.

I think it boils down to two things that never change:
1) Telling good stories
2) Connecting with your readers (whether by publishing the next title or marketing yourself madly, it doesn't matter, you just need to connect).

Without the substance of good stories, all the "new" and "changing" in the world won't help you at all. It's why I always focus on making my next book better than any prior title. I strive to do that every, single time.

What's changing next? Well, it's already here in some surprising ways: artificial intelligence.

I won't go into the numerous arguments about what this is and how to define at what point it becomes AI. Let's just say that to translate a book effectively a decade ago was a task for an exceptionally skilled translator that could take 1-2 months. Now, you can run the title through an AI and create a good enough translation that a skilled translator can probably turn it into something good and saleable in a week.

We've known about Natural Voice for a long time. It and its cohorts read books for the blind, answer our support calls, and become more capable every day. They aren't doing emotion yet, but how far away is that.

Over the next 5-10 years it could be one of the biggest changes ever to the publishing industry. Couldn't happen? I was a very early adopter, I published my first e-book on Amazon ten years ago next October.

Can't wait to see what changes this month's great lineup of folks have to say.


Judith Ashley said...

Matt, Thank you for a very informative post...and reminding all of us that we still have to tell a great story and connect with our readers. I do like the suggestion to buy an ad for your own product. I know how frustrated it is to check my Judith Ashley page on Amazon and see more ads than my books! Work arounds are always appreciated...or suggested work arounds.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Very interesting, Matt. Food for thought, since I released my first three books on Amazon in the last four days. A soft launch, but I'm letting friends and family know first. Covers for print have a problem that isn't fixed yet. D2D won't accept my ISBN number, so I'm stalled there. Right now I need to be writing more books, not spending all my time trying to market these.

Maggie Lynch said...

Loved the title and analysis of this post: What ISN'T new. Thanks for the good reminder, Matt, that certain things continue to remain the same and will always be--good story and engaging with readers. That has been the same since oral story telling, thousands of years. The only difference is the way we deliver our stories now include oral (audio), print (electronic and paper) and, I suspect in the next decade, some combination of audio and video or animation will be accessible to the non-technical should they decide to do it. Hmmm...wonder if it would put out the worry about getting a "movie deal."

The movie industry hasn't been disrupted too much yet and I think it's ripe for it. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting post as always, Matt. And interesting comments. Thank you!

Jessa Slade said...

Where's my jet pack?! :D Love thinking about what's to come. Thanks for getting my 2019 underway!

Madelle Morgan said...

Great post, Matt. Do you think that soon AI reading apps that effectively read aloud purchased e-books will emerge, saving the authors the expense of hiring voice talent and creating audiobooks?

Something new in publishing that made an awesome difference to me in 2018 is that Kobo Rakuten partnered with Walmart. All my ebooks on Kobo are now available for purchase on the Walmart website. As an indie author, I never thought I'd have my books marketed through Walmart. :))
Happy Holidays!

M. L. Buchman said...

Yep, I'm always amazed at how often folks (uhh...well, me) forget that basic rule: Story first, readers second, all the rest of the crap third.

Film ripe for disruption? Yeah, it's coming. Just like publishing, it's all about the mega-conglomerates now stagnating (each has gotten so big, and the films they produce so high budget, that there are fewer and fewer films made by them). And, again just like publishing, it's the small houses coming up underneath that will be defining the future. That goes all the way down to Suzanne Brockmann and her kids are creating feature length films with some big name actors, for low five figure budgets and releasing through Amazon and others. They're getting decent ratings on IMDB as well. Film/streaming is absolutely ripe for disruption.

As to AI audio? It's coming. Ten years ago Natural Voice made it kind of acceptable. Now they're to the point where listening at length is no longer tedious. However, emotion and interpretation is very hard. "You are a troll." and "You are the only one for me." will be read in the same voice by an AI. They're still working down at the level of punctuation pacing and a long way from parsing emotional phrasing...but I have no doubt that in 5-10 years, it'll be quite acceptable.

All of which means MORE need for story! I love how that circle keeps coming around.