Top Ten Publishing Industry Trends

Written Word Media has an article dated January 9, 2020 which sets out their top ten trends for 2020.

Excerpts are as follows:

1. Audiobooks will continue to gain popularity, and more indie authors will invest

It seems like almost everyone you meet is talking about audio these days. Whether it’s podcasts or audiobooks, people are consuming more spoken word audio than ever, and the stats back it up.  A 2019 survey from Edison Research revealed that half of all Americans over the age of 12 have listened to an audiobook in the past year. Additionally, audiobook listeners trended younger. Fifty-five percent of listeners were below the age of 45. The survey stats showed an increase from 2018, and the expectation is that audio will continue to grow. “For audiobooks, 2019 was really the year of the library. We saw incredible library sales growth for authors in 2019.   With better access to audiobook creation and distribution, we expect to see more audiobooks in the marketplace in 2020. Marketing audiobooks remains a challenge for authors but effective marketing will become more important as the space gets more crowded.

2. More indie authors will collaborate on marketing

Authors have long seen success with collaborative marketing techniques like email list swaps and group giveaways. In 2020, we expect to see more cooperative marketing as competition grows and indie authors find creative ways to gain an edge.  Michael Anderle of Kurtherian News sees indies aggressively pooling resources in 2020, saying that “many teams will pool resources to get a minimum of one million emails in their email co-op group.”  Of course, authors will need to be strategic to see success here. Oversaturating readers or marketing to the wrong audience can damage an email list. But, as many authors know, getting it right will pay off.

3. We’ll see more published works from author groups

As we learned from our author survey this year, successful authors tend to have large backlists. In 2020, we expect to see more authors collaborate on series and universes to speed up the process of building their backlists.  Bryan Cohen of the Sell More Books Show broke down how he sees this trend. “2020 will bring more author-publishers. It started with romance but sci-fi and fantasy authors are creating giant interconnected universes with a stable of co-writers and ghostwriters. They’re taking the James Patterson model to the nth degree.”

Granted, sharing a backlist will require sharing income in some fashion, but with tools like Abacus from PublishDrive, revenue sharing is getting easier. We expect more authors to join together and make more money faster from this shared model than they could on their own.

4. Organic reach will decline

This publishing trend is a reality across every online industry. As the big players, like Amazon, Google, and Facebook rely more and more on advertising money, they lose incentive to provide a broad reach for free.  This means that blog posts, Facebook posts, and Amazon book listings will see fewer views for free (also known as organic reach). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2018 that organic reach of branded pages would decline, and that has played out as expected over the past two years.  Mark Dawson observed a similar trend on Amazon, “Organic visibility is being reduced on Amazon, with authors – including me – reporting big dips in income when also-boughts disappeared from book detail pages. What replaced them? Carousels of ads.”

5. Running ads will become a requirement

As mentioned in the preceding trend, getting your book in front of readers for free is going to get even more difficult. No one is thrilled about this, but it is the reality of a maturing marketplace.  “Advertising is no longer going to be something that you could do, or even should do – it’s going to become something that you must do, at least if you want to pursue writing as a viable full-time career,” says Mark Dawson. Online advertising is widespread to the point where in many industries, you MUST run ads to compete. As self-publishing grows and organic reach declines, we expect to see the same in publishing.

6. Big five publishers will start using KDP Select

This trend comes to us from the great mind of Michael Anderle. He anticipates that Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster will look to capitalize on Amazon’s reach by using Kindle Unlimited.   According to Anderle, “We will see big five publishers using KDP (Amazon Kindle Unlimited) in 2020 as they seek to acquire income with their enormous backlists.”  Logically, this makes sense, and some major titles (Harry Potter series) are already available within Kindle Unlimited. Getting readers going on a series is a proven way to make some serious cash, and no one has as many series as the big five.

7. Scam services will continue to pop up

Unfortunately, this trend will continue in 2020. With self-publishing continuing to grow, more shady characters will be attracted to the money in the market.  The good news? There are some tremendous people who regularly expose and spread the word about bad actors. We recommend following Victoria Strauss and David Gaughran on Twitter as they both regularly identify and publicize scams aimed at indie authors.

8. The eBook market will grow even more in 2020

There’s been some buzz about younger readers not buying eBooks, but Nate Hoffelder debunked these rumors in a recent post. Hoffelder includes data from Pew and that show that younger readers are buying eBooks and reading eBooks as much, if not more, than older readers.  As more young readers enter the market, it stands to reason that eBook sales will only increase. Because almost all young people use a digital device every day, moving to eBooks will be a much more seamless transition than the one made by older readers who grew up reading print.

9. Email lists will increase in value

With organic reach declining, spending money on ads becoming a requirement, and collaboration increasing in popularity, an author’s email list becomes an incredibly valuable asset.  Your email list is a marketing channel that you actually own. Once you have a reader’s email, you have a direct, inexpensive line to them. Readers who give you their email addresses are also opting in. They WANT you to email them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t sign up.  An author’s email list is also a valuable way to attract partner authors. The bigger your list, the more authors will want to partner with you to get in front of your audience.  Email isn’t without its challenges. Gmail and other inbox providers will continue to work to declutter their user’s inboxes, so getting eyes on your content may get more difficult. It is increasingly important to maintain clean lists and to educate your subscribers to expect your emails.

10. Creative indies will experiment with new ways to make money

In 2020, more indie authors will experiment with other ways to make money and try new models for selling books.   Jane Freidman aptly noted, “I expect more writers to charge for content that’s been free in the past, although not every writer will be successful at it. I’m seeing more people adeptly use Patreon to secure donations and early sales for all types of work, and Substack to solicit donations and subscriptions for newsletter content.”


Social Media

I would really like your comments on this post, because while I’m engaged with social media – as I’ll tell you below – I’m not sure I’m making the most efficient/effective use of the various social media.


First of all, let me tell you what I have.  I have a website:, which is actually put in place by my publisher, but I update it from time to time.  The website has a page for each of my books with a sample chapter, synopsis, information about awards, links to Amazon, etc., and a little bit about me.  This blog runs down the margin of the website.  I have an author’s page on Amazon.  On Facebook, in addition to my personal page, I have an author’s page and a page for each of my books.  I have recently started to advertise Sable Shadow & the Presence on Facebook, and I’m getting about 10 Likes per day.  I have an author’s page on Goodreads, where this blog also runs.  I am currently advertising four of my books on Goodreads, but I’m only getting one or two clicks a week: I’ve set a pretty low budget.  When I review a book I’ve read (about once a month), in addition to posting the review here, I post it on Amazon and Goodreads.  When I review a book on Goodreads, the review appears on my personal Facebook page.

Then, there is this blog.  This will be my two hundred and fourteenth post over the course of four and a half years.  Generally, I try to post once a week, and I aim the blog at people like me who are trying to make their way as writers, or who are interested in what writers think and do.  Last year, I paid about £250 for SEO – by my internet service provider – but I haven’t seen a major increase in hits: I’m up from about two per day to four per day – average.

I haven’t done Twitter, although I have registered.  My view is that Twitter isn’t a good vehicle for a busy writer (what could I say every day about writing in less than 140 characters?)  I haven’t done UTube, again because I don’t think it’s the right medium for me.  I looked into Pinterest, but again, I felt that it didn’t fit.

One thing I’m planning to do is to start answering reader’s questions on Goodreads.  That would seem to be a good investment of my time.

What else would you suggest?  I have only two constraints:

  1.   I haven’t got much free time, and what free time I have, I would rather write than promote.
  2.   I’m willing to spend some money, but I’d like to know that I’m getting a return on my investment.  So far, the return has been only what I’ve learned about social media.

Authors’ Earnings

I was looking for information on authors’ earnings, and I spotted the post below on the UK edition of the Huff Post.  It was written by Sara Sheridan, a Scottish writer who works in several genres, but primarily historical fiction.  She is the creator of the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries.


Sara Sheridan

“I write historical fiction. I’ve been a full-time professional writer for almost 20 years. I realized early on that being an author is a hugely misunderstood job. Because there are no pay grades and very little structure, people make interesting assumptions about the profession. The writer is a mysterious figure, wandering lonely as a cloud, fired by inspiration, or perhaps a cocktail or two. Writers have it easy. If you write a bestseller or have your book made into a movie, you’ll never have to work again, or so the myth goes.

“When my first novel was optioned for film in 1999 the common response was “Off to Barbados?” The option was for £3,000 – this remains a fairly average figure for that kind of deal. In fact, the perception at the Society of Authors (which acts as a union for writers) is that in real terms, writers’ incomes have gone down over the last 10 years. The industry values publishers, editors and publicists (who are paid reliable salaries) but when it comes to writers, there are so many people who want the job, that conditions are tough. At publishing houses writers aren’t even treated as part of the team. It was interesting last year when Random House made record profits from 50 Shades of Grey, that it decided to award a bonus of $5,000 (just over £3,000) to everyone working in the US arm of the company. They did not include their writers.

“This decision stems from the underlying belief that writers are artists and artists should be doing whatever they do for love alone. Money sullies art and damn you for having bills. From figures compiled by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society it is easy to see that for every JK Rowling or Ian Rankin there is a huge swathe of scribblers whose sales don’t merit even a living wage. Conversely, the top 10% of writers earn over 50% of the total income. Like all the creative industries, it’s a winner take all game.

“For publishers, the hunt is on to find those high earners so they commission more books than can possibly make it – and see what sticks. In the UK something just under quarter of a million traditionally printed books are published annually. Set that against the fact that the average first novel sells something in the order of 1,000 copies and you can see what writers are up against. Although given a (usually) small advance by a publisher, a writer still has to earn that money from sales.

“So how much does a writer have to sell to make it?

“Average earnings in the UK were around £26,500 in 2012. To make this amount on a book contract for a paperback edition selling at £7.99 that pays 10% a writer would need to sell 33,166 copies a year. And that’s if the book isn’t discounted as part of a 3 for 2 promotion, for example. That is a lot of books! To put it in perspective to get to number one in the UK paperback chart last month you’d have needed to sell almost 20,000 copies a week. This means that going to number 1 doesn’t even earn you the national average wage (and that book may have taken the writer months or even years to produce). The odds of making a mint are very long – writing is a risky profession. And like most jobs in the UK there is a glass ceiling. Female writers on average earn only 77.5% as much as their male counterparts. Their books are also less likely to get reviewed in the traditional press or for that matter win awards (apart from the prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction, set up expressly to try to redress that balance).

“In 2005 (the latest figures available) the mean (average) figure that a professional writer-of-books in the UK earned was £28,340 but because there is such a huge bias at the top of the table, the median figure is far more telling. £12,330. Well below subsistence levels. As I said, it is the view of the Society of Authors that figure has now gone down in real terms. All this, I suppose, sounds like a complaint. The truth is that in the last several years although I haven’t reached the dizzying heights of that top 10%, I have done better than the mean. My books get reviewed in the national press. I love my job and it’s exciting to see the popularity of my books growing. Like all writers I live in hope that perhaps one day I’ll make it big and at least on the way I’m enjoying what I do. After all, it can take several books to get your break.

“There’s a larger issue though, than simply one writer (even if that writer is, well, me). Books have a vital place in our culture. They are the source of ideas, of stories that engage and stretch the imagination and most importantly, inspire. The digital revolution has wrest a little control away from corporate publishers and white, male, middle-aged critics, but the financial value put on the job of the writer and the misconceptions around that make it extremely difficult to enter the profession. If we don’t value the people who inspire us (and money is one mark of that) then what kind of culture are we building?”

The above may be a bit depressing if you’re an author trying to write for a living.  But for those of us who love to write, who have other sources of income, but are hoping one day to reach the number one position in sales, it can be at least a little annoying that one’s labour of love achieves so little remuneration.