We'll be taking a much needed Christmas break over the next week authonomites. Don't worry - content will still be moderated and the site will keep running as usual - but we won't be available for direct contact until the new year. Until then look after each other, get stuck into the mince pies, don't let the relatives get too drunk and have a great Christmas!
We'll leave you with a 2012 retrospective from the festive folks at authoright, who look back on a turbulent, thrilling change in landscape for publishers and writers alike.
2012 was the year that self publishing really started to break into the mainstream. In a streak of independence (and clever marketing) epitomized by the E.L. James phenomenon, self publishing demonstrated its true potency in 2012, and had traditional publishers clamoring to get a piece of the action. It wasn’t just Fifty Shades stealing the show; Hugh Howey became a house-hold name thanks to his DYI sci-fi series, Wool, which sold more than 300,000 copies in the US without the help of a publisher. And if you look at the changing industry landscape, you'll see that the rise of self published authors has coincided with some key trends that have played out over the past year.
One of these trends, and one which has aided self publishers, has been the ongoing reduction in the price of eBooks. With a rise in the number of ereading devices available, and the hardware becoming more affordable, eBooks have continued to rise in popularity. The cheaper production cost of eBooks has helped self publishing authors as they can incentivize the consumer by offering their work at low costs, which has proven to be a cunning way to counteract any reluctance to take a punt on a self published book. This clever pricing has given rise to a number of self published authors climbing up the best-sellers' list, the latest example being Stephanie Bond with her novel Stop the Wedding. This trend has been mirrored in the traditional publishing world too; since the Department of Justice ruling against price-fixing by Apple and a handful of major publishers, retailers like Amazon and Sony can set their own price for eBooks. A similar ruling in Europe this month has added more fuel to the price-war fire. As a result of all of this, the average price of eBooks has been consistently dropping throughout 2012. This is a pattern which is set to continue in 2013, with Sony announcing this month that they plan to continue selling a host of eBook for 20p (or $99) in the new year.
2012 has also seen the rise of the author as project-manager. Authors have become more adept at self-promotion, aided by the ever-growing phenomenon of social media. This is a particularly important step forward when viewed in the context of traditional publishers who – having never had to sell direct-to-consumer before – are struggling to offer adequate marketing services to their authors, many of whom are realizing they can do it themselves, retaining more royalties (75% rather than 15% is realistically achievable) and greater control over the entire process. Children’s writer G P Taylor is a perfect example of a trad author who has quit their traditional deal in order to enjoy greater autonomy and high profit margins but going it alone. In response to this, traditional publishers will have to seriously rethink their marketing strategies and revise their offerings to authors; a major reason for authors to seek a traditional contract is to secure a large marketing budget, but many top publishers have failed to deliver on this front because of financial insecurities and a reluctance to accept that this is one of the most important services they can provide.
2012 has also seen a series of big moves within the traditional sector, changing the face of publishing forever. Firstly, a precedent has been set – in Penguin's acquisition of Author Solution and Curtis Brown's self publishing project Creative Books – for agents and publishers alike to board the self publishing bandwagon by acquiring self publishing firms or by creating their own projects. With other publishers not wanting to be left behind, the trend for traditional publishers to establish a self-pub wing is something that is bound to carry through into 2013. The bigger you are, the less agile you're able to be, but while the big companies might appear to be sluggish in reacting to these major industry changes, they haven't failed to notice them.
The other effect that the rise of self publishing has had on traditional publishers is that it has prompted massive consolidation. Penguin and Random House agreeing a merger in the autumn has sparked frantic debate amongst the other major publishing brands and could see other key players following suit. The industry, as a whole, as resisted change for a very long time but is now caught in an evolve or die scenarios, which is both terrifying and thrilling at the same time.
So what will 2013 have in store for publishers, authors and readers alike? There can be only two absolute certainties; more change and more choice.