Last year I popped off with a bunch of predictions for 2013. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I wasn’t far off base. Because of overwhelming popular demand (and a lack of anything else to blog about) I’ve decided to do another prediction list. This time next year we can take a look and see how well I did.
Without further ado, here are my crystal ball WAGs:
1) The field will be more crowded than ever, and the big indie money will be in NA/Romance for the second year running. This one’s easy. If you look at last year’s hits, they were almost all in the NA/Romance genre. H.M. Ward sold 3 million books in 2013 after coming out of nowhere. Colleen Hoover had the #1 indie title on Amazon for sales. Bella Andre is so hot she wears asbestos underwear (when she wears anything at all). Melissa Foster is climbing the charts and doing incredibly well (she’ll be next year’s big hit, I believe, because she works the same insane rate I do). I can’t even keep up with all the authors making serious bank in that genre, and I expect it to continue.
2) Trad publishers will continue to fight price wars in an attempt to gut the indie biz, or at least compete for the growing readership that won’t pay more than $5 for an ebook. As they reprice big name backlists, expect to see it get ugly out there on pricing.
3) Select will be all but dead for anyone selling reasonable volume. While there will be exceptions, the Countdown feature appears to be a bomb, free’s been gutted, so there’s very little reason to be exclusive anymore and a lot of reasons not to be. It’s possible that the Zon will revamp Select and make it relevant again, but for now, it isn’t. I expect to see an exodus of smart indies from the program, leaving only the dim and the desperate in it. Sorry, Amazon, I love you like a Victoria’s Secret model, but something’s come between us on Select, so you either need to step up, or go home with that shit.
4) Perma-free will decline in impact. People will increasingly value their time more than the value of a free book, and will prefer to pay for something quality rather than sort through five hundred crap titles in the hopes of finding a nugget. That was back when it was all shiny and new. Now, and moving forward? Not so much. Perma-free will still work, but as with so many of the past’s effective strategies, the kryptonite’s power will fade fast as 2014 progresses.
5) Major pubs that are kingmakers and gatekeepers for indies will lose much of their efficacy over the next year. Which sucks, as they’re about the only thing that works anymore.
6) Quality will matter more than ever as the market matures and readers demand more professional work. The days of slapping your unedited screed up on Amazon with a cover you did while learning the basics of GIMP are over. Which couldn’t make me happier.
7) It will become way harder to sell books for indie authors. You can just leave this one pinned for the foreseeable future. Deal with it.
8) B&N won’t go out of business in 2014. But I call dibs on an 18 month demise. I just think it will take longer for them to fall over dead than many think.
9) 2014 will be the year Google starts making big noise in ebooks. And Apple will continue to take market share. The future will shape up, at least in the U.S., to be a battle between Amazon, Google and Apple. Kobo will be nipping at everyone’s heels, and Sony might as well turn off the lights.
10) Trad pub should do better deals with promising indies that have a good following, but probably won’t. And we’ll see more and more midlist trad pub authors move into the indie pond, making it even tougher for newbies to get a break. You won’t see many, or any, ‘paper only’ deals in 2014. And it will no longer be enough to shift 100K copies at .99 to get anyone’s attention. Those days are gone, never to return.
11) Every quarter will bring us breathless excitement about the possibly new big thing that will make the future brighter, but for the most part those will be false idols and, after a lot of hype, they’ll fall flat. Everyone will be trying to squeeze cash out of the indie pie, but few will truly add any value, so expect a lot of new ideas to crater after liftoff.
12) Trad publishers will continue to make plenty of money, and the smart ones will be streamlining their operations in preparation for a brutal 24-48 months of shakeup. Those that adapt will do well. Those that don’t will be roadkill.
In all of these scenarios the reader will be the winner. That’s the good news. The bad news is that competition will increase from all sides, so it will be increasingly hard for indies to make a decent living. Especially new ones. Having said that, there will be hundreds of indie authors that make six figures or more, and likely many more that make low-to-mid five figures, which will make it the best time to be an author in the history of the business. Except for 2013. And 2012. And 2011… If you see a trend there, it’s mostly a function of Amazon’s modifying their algos so it’s harder for indies to get visibility. 2012 marked an unprecedented time in the business, when careers were made, and any rube could put a title free through Select and then sell hundreds or thousands of copies on the bounce. That’s over. O-V-E-R. Sorry, but it is. It was great while it lasted, though, so can’t complain.
Here’s to an exciting and prosperous 2014, everyone. My December big news (formerly the news known as November’s) has pushed into January, but my hunch is by the middle of the month, all hell will break loose. So get some popcorn and prepare for the fun to begin. As always, no wagering.