I would not imagine myself to be the “expert” on the independent publishing world, so what I do is follow some of the reigning experts out there and wait and see like the rest of you. One of my favorite experts on independent publishing is the owner of Smashwords, Mark Coker. I tend to listen to Mark because he has a pulse on independent publishing and ebook trends much like whoever runs Kindle over at Amazon or iBooks over at Apple. Except Mark is WAY more transparent and of course ultimately more accessible than the experts at the big retailers.
Indie publishing is not the gold rush that we read about in 2009. Ultimately what I’ve noticed through my own experience as well as through the eyes of the experts out there, is that indie publishing success is going to be a bit more difficult than it was a few years ago, but it’s going to be a way better experience for the reader. The cream is going to rise to the top in 2015, so it’s going to be extremely important for us independents to focus on quality: the craft of writing, editing, covers, marketing.
Here’s what Mark had to say about what he thinks we’ll see in indie publishing in 2015:
1. More authors will aspire to publish indie – In 2008 when I founded Smashwords, nearly all writers aspired to traditionally publish. Self-publishing was viewed as the option of last resort – the option for failed writers. Today the former stigma of self publishing is evaporating. Indie authorship has become a global cultural movement, as I described when I published the Indie Author Manifesto earlier this year. The indie author movement will grow stronger in 2015. Traditionally published authors will continue to transition to indie, led by midlist authors. We’ll also see more hybrid authors reorient their publishing strategy back in the direction of indieville.
2. Indie authors will capture more ebook market share – The percentage of reader dollars going to indie ebooks will increase. The growth will be fueled by a continued increase in the number of indie-published ebooks, and by more indie authors adopting best practices to publish with greater pride and professionalism. In March I shared some of my longer term market share projections here and here.
3. Screen reading will increase, but at a slower rate – For readers of English language books, the early adopters of ebooks have adopted. I think reading will continue to transition from print to digital, yet the rate of growth will slow. One bright spot will be the continued growth in screen reading in developing countries aided by the ubiquity of smart phones.
4. 2015 will be slow growth for most authors, indie and traditional alike – I blogged about this topic last month in my post titled, Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult From Here. While some indies had a fabulous year in 2014 (look no further than the Smashwords bestseller list published in Publishers Weekly each month), most authors experienced a slower growth year – especially when compared against the go-go days of exponential growth from 2008 to 2012. The causes for this slow down include a new equilibrium between print and ebook formats; immortal ebooks published by publishers and indie authors alike that will never go out of print; the continued growth of self-published titles; and myriad low-cost and free non-book alternatives competing for slices of consumers’ time such as social media, Internet video and games.
5. Indie authors face increased competition from traditional publishers – For the first years of the ebook revolution, large publishers all but ceded the $4.99 and lower ebook market to indie authors. Publishers tried to maintain higher prices, and indies – empowered with the ability to earn royalty rates of 60-80% list price – offered budget-conscious consumers high-quality books at low prices. The low prices, including the ultralow prices of FREE and .99, made it easier for readers to take a chance on unknown writers…