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ALLi Self-publishing Advice Center Blog: http://www.selfpublishingadvice.com
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With a growing number of choices and opportunities available to indie authors during 2019, it’s easy for us to feel bewildered and overwhelmed. To help you decide your priorities for 2020, here are my predictions for what next year will bring to the ever-changing self-publishing landscape, with a little help from my colleagues at the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) www.allianceindependentauthors.org.
With ever more aggregators making it easier to reach more readers around the world, more indies will “go wide”, ie publish on multiple platforms, despite the lure of page-read income from Amazon’s Unlimited subscription reading service. The general acceptance that you now have to “pay to play” on Amazon by investing in AMS advertising has unnerved even those previously 100% committed to Select.
Sacha Black, manager of ALLi’s Self-publishing Advice Center blog ( observes: “I’ve noted a trend in larger indies who have been exclusive or with a narrow focus starting to look wide – not only with books but also with products and income streams generally. Whatever the big indies do, the masses eventually follow.” )
Self-Publishing Print Books
Until now, ALLi has recommended that indie authors publish their print books simultaneously with KDP Print and IngramSpark (more on why here: ), but I’m keeping a close eye on another print-on-demand service. The slick and user-friendly aggregator Draft2Digital, an ALLi Partner member, has just started piloting a print book service - one to watch in 2020. Read more about the pilot scheme here:
Self-publishing Audio Books
In 2020, most authors will accept that self-publishing is no longer just about ebooks and print, but that audio is an essential part of the mix. Although audio is expensive to publish, and relatively slow to repay the substantial initial outlay, the public’s thirst for podcasts proves a ready-made habit for listening at their leisure.
ALLi’s Multimedia manager Howard Lovy reports; “In the battle between the eyes and ears, the ears have it. More content is being listened to through podcasts and audiobooks as our devices come along with us everywhere in our busy lives. We’re all going to have to think about how our work sounds.”
In 2020, authors would be wise to take the potential of audio into account even as they write their first drafts. Reading your work aloud has always been a useful part of the self-editing process. Now there’s another reason to do so: to test it will work as an audiobook.
The Impact of New Technology
I can’t write about the new decade without mentioning technology– although I confess AI etc goes over my head! So I’ll turn to ALLi’s News Editor, Dan Holloway, for his predictions:
“AI will continue to increase in profile, but there will be lots of unjustified hype, so treat most AI announcements with caution. We are still a long way from it being really useful in helping us as writers find our voice, so I think most of the applications will be marketing based, like PublishDrive’s Savant. Blockchain is popping up again, but I’m not sure whether this is genuinely post-hype or an aftershock of the initial hype. The most exciting thing for me is VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) – from a storytelling point of view it’s like the world’s biggest sweet shop is opening up on our doorstep.”
Marketing Self-published Books
For many indies, 2019 was the first year that they had ventured into substantial paid advertising campaigns, not only with AMS (Amazon Marketing Services), but also with Bookbub and Facebook.
Each of these services requires a significant financial investment with no guaranteed return. While many authors have made money or broken even on their ads, others have lost money and given up. The unpredictability of Amazon ads in particular makes it a nerve wracking
process: two identical ads, set up a day apart, can for no apparent reason yield completely different results, one flying, the other bombing. In 2020, learn as much as you can about each platform before making your investment.
ALLi Moderator David Penny also counsels planning ahead for other means of reaching your readers:
“As ads become both more expensive and less effective, authors will be forced to explore alternative means of reaching people. This could mean the resurgence of some of the old methods and the even greater importance of building your own list.”
In 2020, authors will be paying more attention to the state of their list and trying to make it work harder for them. But a word of caution. In 2019, Mailchimp, a longstanding favourite with indie authors, radically changed its terms and conditions. Check you’re happy with the terms offered by your current provider, especially if your planned growth will require you to step up to a more expensive subscription category.
How to Grow Your Mailing List in 2020
So, how to grow your list? Newsletter swaps are big at the moment, although I query whether that bubble will burst as readers accumulate more ebooks on special offer or free than they can reasonably consume. Use newsletter swaps sparingly and appropriately so as not to devalue your newsletter.
Another increasingly important tool will be a mailing list magnet representative of your work to lure in new readers and to maintain the loyalty of longstanding subscribers.
Content marketing in general – sharing quality information and material relevant to your target readers - is also set for a revival, not least because it does not require a huge budget or risk. It’s also enjoyable as it plays to your strengths and your passions, rather than forcing you to step outside your comfort zone. Find out more about content marketing here:
Your 2020 Vision
But above all else, in 2020, focus. Prioritise your key aims, rather than trying to do everything, because that way madness lies. Ring-fence your writing time to keep growing and refreshing your catalogue. And above all, be true to yourself.
Last word to Orna Ross:
“Drop what everyone else tells you you should be doing and go creative.”
Find out how and why here:
I wish you a happy and successful 2020 – and above all, keep writing!
Debbie Young – Bio
Debbie Young is UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors, the global nonprofit for professional self-publishing authors. She is also a prolific indie author, with two growing series of cozy mystery novels, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, starting with Best Murder in Show, and the new Staffroom at St Bride’s series, starting with Secrets at St Bride’s. Her fiction is 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.