30 December 2013 by Published in: Uncategorized 23 comments

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.

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Comments

  1. yoon
    Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Probably a lot of indie authors would hate me for this, but I stopped even looking into the book description if the publisher is not trad publisher long time ago. The only indie books I read these days are yours just because you threaten me with clowns and brain ebola.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 3:26 pm

      The threat is always there. Don’t forget it. And clowns contemporaneous with brain ebola…the horror…

      Reply
  2. Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Congrats to Colleen and all the Indie ladies for making the Amazon Bestsellers of the year list. I saw Hugh Howey on it too.
    The only book I’ve read from the NA Romance group is Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. I don’t usually read romance, although I’ve taken a greater interest in a certain Mr. Mittens trilogy, assuming it’s going to be a real set of books and not an ongoing joke on cat ladies. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.
    Looks like competition will increase next year and it will be harder to make money. I hear it from all my friends in the real world too. They have degrees and are working part time at Banana Republic to pay their bills. No one’s hiring full time because they don’t want to pay for benefits. I keep all that in perspective while working in my pajamas, and when I get a decent check from my books it feels good.
    My goal is to continue to improve the quality of my writing and tell the stories I’ve got to the best of my ability. I hope if I keep doing that I’ll make more money. Oh, and to follow your advice too. That seems to help.
    Can’t wait to hear your big news! My wager is on it being basket of kitten related, but one can never be too sure…

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 10:47 pm

      One can never go wrong striving to improve one’s prose.

      The irony is that Mr. Mittens will probably go triple platinum and I’ll spend the rest of my life dressing up in a cat suit like Ylvis and the Fox. Which will totally serve me right.

      Reply
      • Kim Cano  –  Tue 31st Dec 2013 at 12:47 pm

        You’d only have to wear the cat suit once per year, at the the Mr. Mittens convention, where you’d sign books and hawk your themed wares.

        Reply
  3. Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Fascinating, as usual.

    Reply
  4. andy holloman
    Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 7:42 pm

    write/right on blake monster…..dudes that make big predictions have grande huevos….. can’t wait to see what happens….who could have predicted that the ZON was gonna do what they did with KDP select…… i too love them like a victoria secrets model, i would bet that they have a thing or two up their sleeves (assuming they have any, since most VS models dont, right?) …. fist bump

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 9:12 pm

      I kind of actually did predict the KDP trainwreck if you go back and look at last year’s predictions. That’s the point. It was obvious to me that once the DOJ thing had settled down trad pubs were the preferred clients – because, for one reason, they pay many millions in ad revenue. For another, they actually try to filter their offerings to ensure they’re at least decent, if not stellar, examples of the written word.

      Reply
  5. Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 7:55 pm

    #6 makes me happy. As a new author I’m working my tail off to produce books, and even then #7 doesn’t scare me. A harder barrier to entry just makes me want it even more…

    Since the goldrush days seem to still be in full swing, but most of the good spots taken, I’m curious to see what it will take for a new author like me to make it in this brave, new world.

    Reply
  6. Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Hi RB-
    TY for the predictions/guidance. Tis all about quality moving forward…

    My predictions:

    I’m thinking Amazon is going to release a Kindle that works underwater so people can read in their hot tubs. Further, I predict it will outsell the iPad 2 to 1.

    Plus, I predict Amazon will start giving away books with every purchase. Buy a wheelchair, you get No Country for Old men. Buy Mexican wine and you get the Grapes of Wrath. Buy a bathroom scale and you get a free copy of the Hunger Games… The possibilities are endless…

    I also predict trying to be funny also will not make money in 2014 :)

    Look forward to reading the 20 books you’ll publish in the coming year.

    In 2014 I’m going to write a romance novel 4 sure. Can’t wait for the new year!

    Peace.
    W4$

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 30th Dec 2013 at 10:45 pm

      What’s that old saying about not quitting your day job…?

      Reply
  7. Tue 31st Dec 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I guess I boarded the lifeboat only to find myself rowing back toward the sinking ship. :) After two years of resisting ‘exclusivity,’ in December I enrolled my books in Select, lured there by the new Countdown Deals. I’d avoided it previously because a significant percentage of my sales were through B&N, and Select just didn’t make sense for me financially. However, sales pretty much tanked across the board in the July/August time frame, and I found myself in ‘What the hell? Give it a shot,” territory. Thus I enrolled in Select, a decision I may or may not live to regret.

    That said, I just completed a BookBub promo coupled with my first Countdown Deal, and I’m quite happy with the results. I’m not quite back where I was, but who is, on a ‘book for book’ basis? However, revenue wise, the loss of B&N sales on the BB promo was more than balanced by the ability to retain the 70% royalty under the KCD, and Amazon sales ranks are holding up at a higher level, at least in the short term.

    I don’t think the countdown deals by themselves are much to get excited about, but coupled with BB I think they’re a viable marketing strategy. For how long, I can’t say.

    I do think you’re correct that quality across the board — story, cover, & formatting — is key, but we still have to market somehow and the options are limited. I think that’s especially true for those of us with a relatively small back list (2 books out, one Spanish translation, and a new book coming out in January).

    The key, of course, is more content, but I have no illusions that I’ll ever be able to match your output (which is borderline amazing BTW). I’m committed to producing more content over the next few years, but I know I’ll also have to keep adapting in an attempt to keep a rather limited back list at least somewhat visible. But hey, challenges are what keeps life interesting.

    Thanks for some great books and some great insights, and my you have a Safe, Happy, and Prosperous New Year.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 31st Dec 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Oh, I’m sure BB combined with a countdown will make the money back and then some. It’s a valid marketing ploy, by any means. I’m looking at longer term, though, in terms of marketing – running an ad that costs me $350 in order to make the money back and then maybe another $400-$800 is great, but it winds up being close to breakeven for me when I factor in the cost of being off B&N and Apple for 90 days, where my average month is now running between 13-17% of my Amazon sales.

      Output is definitely a critical factor to building momentum, as long as it’s high-quality output. I think too many are rushing books and putting them out half-baked in order to build that buzz, and over time, it backfires, as readers lose trust in the product integrity.

      “We shall release no book before its time” isn’t a bad slogan.

      Happy NY to you as well. May 2014 exceed your wildest hopes.

      Reply
  8. Thu 09th Jan 2014 at 2:42 pm

    YA dystopian and series SF are also doing amazingly well.

    Reply
  9. Thu 09th Jan 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Thought I was done, but wanted to mention perma-free doesn’t just exist for discovery. AS discovery, it’s already dead.

    It also exists for risk-reduction. I want to try series that I’ve heard are good and amazing, but I’m not sure they’re good for ME. I read the first one free. When I find a new author I want to try, I look for that first book.

    I’m about to spend a whole lot of money on the rest of the books because Susan Kaye Quinn and the author of Star Wanderers just hooked me good.

    I think perma-free is the more extended form of sampling/library. Just have one title. As a reader, it’s still working for me and the ones I know.

    Reply
  10. Fri 10th Jan 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I’ve read Russell’s posts in the past, and they were uplifting and encouraging. This one, not so much.

    Reply
  11. Fri 10th Jan 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Daniel Gage – I’m staying the course. You’ll need to balance this blog post with a post (somewhere) that is more uplifting. Otherwise, why bother? Thankfully, I’ve read less dire 2014 posts about Amazon.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 11th Jan 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Jolie, my job in life is not to try to sugar coat my view of what will happen in a way that makes people feel good. The predictions are what they are. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who will predict uplifting things for 2014, and bless them for it. I just don’t think they’re correct. Fortunately, time will tell whose view was the correct one. The goal of the 2014 predictions blog isn’t to figure out what to say that will encourage others. It’s to try to accurately forecast what will happen in the next year.

      Reply
      • Jolie du Pre  –  Mon 13th Jan 2014 at 5:13 pm

        *Slap my knuckles with a ruler.* I’ve been informed you’re a God. (But I stopped following organized religion years ago – so I don’t always behave.)

        My apologies.

        Reply
  12. Sat 11th Jan 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I have to agree with most of what you said Russell as many are my predictions as well……….but one you missed is a new entity to the arena of publishing called P3MA……….which will launch at BookExpo in May that is going to shake up the whole industry………..

    Will keep you and your readers informed as things develop………….Rita

    Reply
  13. Sun 19th Jan 2014 at 8:33 am

    Ever more important then, Russell, to follow your previous credo of build your readership one reader at a time and make it a personal relationship. I guess if you have a ready audience you’re directly in touch with, they’ll buy from wherever you direct them.
    The bi issue then for newbies is how to stand out from the indie crowd.
    Another fab lot of predictions, thank you.
    Off to examine how to upload to all hose other scary places now, having just mastered amazon!
    D
    Debbieflint.com/readitwriteitsellit

    Reply
    • Debbie flint  –  Sun 19th Jan 2014 at 8:34 am

      Goddam autocorrect. The issue. Not bi issue. That’s another genre altogether…

      Reply

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