Publishing, particularly self-publishing, is one of the fastest changing industries today. Techniques that worked five years ago, three years ago, or even just last year, are quickly becoming passé as readers become more market savvy and more overwhelmed by the onslaught of advertising, particularly from digital sources. So what are the top trends for authors in 2018?
- It’s the Age of the Indie Author. Because traditional publishers continue to focus on tried-and-true franchises and celebrity authors, the best way for new or niche authors to break into the publishing market is as an independent. Indies have the opportunity to fill the void for readers who are looking for something new and different. But to do this you need to make sure you offer high quality content and production. As an independent author you can beat the traditional publishers in content, pricing, and how fast you get your books to market. You can develop a relationship with your readers. Define your market narrowly and give your readers what they want.
- Marketing Becomes More Expensive. That said, as an independent author it is foolish to try to “market like the big boys.” You don’t have their budget, so instead of trying to emulate them, find new ways to connect. While Facebook advertising is more expensive, connecting with your readers through a Facebook page is not. Twitter is a great way to gain name recognition, although it does not often translate directly to book sales. E-reader sale sites such as Fussy Librarian and E-reader News are not as effective as they once were, but still worth considering. Marketing will take more time and involve a combination of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, pay-per-click, and more.
- Write More/Write Faster. The more books you have, the more cost effective your marketing as ROI is leveraged over a number of books. Authors such as Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin are dinosaurs—the last of a dying breed of authors who have the luxury to take years to write a book. If you are starting to see success, consider what you can hire out to give yourself more time to produce new products. If you are new in your career, focus on ways to become more productive. Would a short story complement an existing series and give you a new product on the market while working on a longer novel?
- Seminars, Webinars and Other Add-Ons. Another way to increase your profitability is to offer a seminar or do personal appearances. This also will give you a way to sell additional, related products. One author I know sells T-shirts and coffee mugs with her book titles and other related slogans, both on her website and at personal appearances. Yes, there are days when she sells more T-shirts than books, but the point is she is promoting herself, her books, and generating income as an author for her family.
- More Books Than We Can Read. It’s not that people are reading less, it is that authors are publishing more—and more authors are publishing. The digital bookstore has unlimited shelf space. That means that even books that don’t sell well are “on the shelf” at Amazon. As literally millions of new authors publish each year, it becomes harder and harder for readers to “browse” the online shelf for undiscovered gems. Yes, people are still reading, but the competition grows fiercer every year. The higher your rank on Amazon, the higher your placement on a search page. The trick is to get to the top and stay there.
- Readers Look For Non-Fiction. We can thank Trump for it: political books are hot right now. In fact, non-fiction in general is big. Coffee table books with beautiful pictures are selling well. In fiction, genre romance, such as sci-fi and fantasy romance is overtaking the more general romance titles. Hardbacks, particularly those coffee table books, are becoming a symbol of luxury. As one reader put it, “If I just want to check out an author, I buy an e-book. If I really like an author I want a hardback to put on my shelf and keep.”
- Amazon Versus the Author. Amazon’s affiliate program continues to be less generous and that trend will continue. Authors saw their Amazon royalties drop drastically in 2017. What is the best way to combat it? Some authors are “going wide,” offering their books on a variety of sites such as Smashwords or Barnes and Nobles’ Nook. Others are developing “direct to reader” sales pages on their own websites. There is no one right way; Amazon still holds a clear advantage, with over 75 percent of the sales of e-books. The best thing to say about this trend is that authors must be on the lookout for new ways to market and sell to readers.
- More Indie Authors Will Be Successful. While you may look at the previous items on this list and feel discouraged, the good news is that every year more and more independent authors are becoming successful high-earners. In 2017 the number of authors who reported making over $100,000 from writing grew by 70% over 2016. The percentage of authors making between $5,000 and $10,000 per month doubled. What’s the trick? Don’t give up. Focus on writing and marketing—both your books and yourself. Treat your books as a business that will slowly grow and increase in value over time.