Mark Coker’s Publishing Observations and Predictions
While attending the San Francisco Writers Conference, I decided to drop in on Mark Coker’s session on the ten trends driving publishing now and in the future. Here’s what he had to say:
Look for larger, broader macro trends. Ten years ago, ebooks comprised one-quarter of one percent of the book industry. Today? Half of all books are ebooks, even though over the past three years ebook sales have been stagnant.
Mark noted that ebooks offer a more portable discovery and reading experience, the deliver is instant, and readers can adjust the font size to their personal preferences.
Trend one quarter of one percent of book industry were ebooks ten years ago
Publishing has become democratized. Ten years ago publishers controlled the printing presses and access to distribution. They also controlled the fate of authors.
Ebooks broke down that barrier, and today all authors have access to retail distribution and the tools to reach a broad audience.
Ebooks are going global. A whopping 40 percent of Smashwords’ ebooks are from outside of the U.S.
Indie authorship is a global cultural movement. From this day forward, all authors are indie publishers because they are in control of which direction they go. All authorpreneurs have access to free tools and the knowledge base to publish as a professional.
Self-published authors also have total control over pricing, can retain their rights, and have better access to global distribution. Because indie authors have pricing control, they can offer their books at a lower cost to readers, making it more affordable for readers to enjoy books. And, self-published authors don’t have to put up with the 12% to 16% royalty rates that trade publishers offer their writers.
Indie authors are hitting the bestseller lists. And Mark noted that we’re just a few years away from the majority of ebooks being sold by self-published authors. Every year indies are getting more and more market share of ebooks, although this can vary by retailer and genre.
Mark noted, “The stigma of self-publishing is disappearing.” Previously, people would self-publish “in shame,” and be known as a “vanity author.” But over last ten years, once ebooks became democratized, these books started selling, and perceptions started changing.
E.L. James, the author of 50 Shades of Grey, was the first indie author to sell over 1 million ebooks. “Nothing speaks like commercial success,” Mark said.
The control of self-publishing is important to some authors who want to make decisions on pricing, release dates, etc., and indie authors have this control.
Mark noted that presently there’s a glut of high-quality, low-cost books. He also noted that the supply of books is outstripping demand, a trend that will “continue forever.” Therefore, there’s an ultra-competitive environment for book selling, and future authors will likely sell fewer books.There’s a glut of high-quality, low-cost books Click To Tweet
Mark, as the founder of Smashwords, naturally spoke about Amazon. He believes that Amazon is exploiting the glut of books on the market now. “When there is a glut, sellers compete on price … and Amazon is driving prices down,” Mark said.
While some authors prefer the KDP Select program, Mark noted that KDP Select comes at a price to other online retailers. KDP Select now has more than 1 million books in its program. Mark believes this program is “training readers to devalue books” and is driving the “commoditization of books.”
The benefits to an author of the KDP Select program is that Amazon will give you a preferential sales advantage and discoverability. If you don’t select the program, your book will be less discoverable on Amazon’s website.
Finally, Mark added, Amazon has access to 70% of readers.
You can go to any product page for a book on Amazon in the KDP Select program and Amazon will first advertise that the book is free under the Kindle Unlimited program. Large publishers recognize that Amazon is devaluing books.
Self-publishers are driving the industry. As an indie author, you can decide when and how you want your book to be published. He said, “The future is up to what authors do next.”
He also noted that Amazon isn’t evil; it’s just feeding our gluttony for books and that Amazon’s tactics come at a cost to authors and publishers. “We need to find a way to tame the beast,” Mark said.
Mark encouraged authors to say no to exclusivity. “If you select exclusivity, you are putting other retailers out of business.”
Regarding trade publishers, Mark noted that they need to reinvent themselves and start serving authors first. Mark feels that if trade publishers were capable of publishing every author that submitted a manuscript, they could help to undermine Amazon’s power.
Presently, Amazon has 70% of the book market share. Amazon is followed by Apple in sales and then by Barnes & Noble and Kobo. He feels that if the B&N and Kobo are unable to sell sufficient books, they will be forced out of business.
Interestingly, he noted that Apple and Google don’t need to make money in book sales. As long as they break even, they’re happy and that they are in the business of books for the long run.
What do you think of Mark’s insights and predictions about the publishing industry?
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