The 2014 predictions are overflowing from the internet like New Year’s Eve champagne. Everyone from social media masters to self-publishing gurus like—JA Konrath—and even some from the big leagues, like Digital Book World, are speaking up about what they believe this new year will bring for the publishing industry. It’s only fitting we should chime in.
Here’s our prediction for the new year: 2014 will be the year of the legacy publisher. Now’s the time for legacy publishers to embrace the change presented to the publishing industry and become innovative, investing in ebooks and finding new ways to be digitally disruptive.
Some key factors that will make this year ripe for legacy publishing’s picking:
- Self-publishing has become oversaturated with untamed content, propagating a need for the experienced gatekeeping legacy publishers’ can offer.
- Ebook sales were down, plateauing in 2013 from their golden year in 2011, when they were at a climax. This creates a breeding ground for a new hybrid publishing model that legacy publishers are on the cusp of introducing.
- Traditional publishers continued to reduce spending, pare down unnecessary costs, maximize resources, etc., some of the BIG 6 even merging, in recognition of the need for innovation.
- Amazon has continued to isolate itself as an anything goes hub for self-publishing (and the aforementioned untamed content), pitting itself against the publishing industry through its stranglehold on DRM and ultimately lighting the fire that will be the catalyst for publishers to fight back.
We’re not the only ones that think this year will see the beautiful ivory spine of legacy publishing.
JA Konrath, guru to indie authors and one of self-publishing’s success stories, believes that 2014 is the year that the legacy publisher will fight back. On his blog, Konrath makes some predictions about the year to come for publishing, specifically that legacy publishers have hit their breaking point. Though his view is a bit more dreary, he’s right about one thing: legacy publishers were backed into an uncomfortable space for far too long. But just like Swayze said, “nobody puts Baby in the corner.” Legacy publishers have reached a point where they are edging toward a revolution of sorts, and they’re ready to dance.
Even Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, knows that a storm’s a-brewin’. In his 2014 book predictions blog post, he predicts that “traditional publishers will reevaluate their approach to self-publishing” in 2014.
“How can publishers…recapture relationships with authors?” Coker asks. “The answer will come by publishers reevaluating their attitude toward authors. They must recognize that publishing is a service, and that they serve at the pleasure of authors. Publishers need to broaden their author services menu by creating an inclusive business model that allows them to take a risk…”
Dean Wesley Smith, USA Today bestselling author, seems to be feeling the rumblings of a legacy publishing shake-up, as well. He notes that the traditional publishers have already started embracing change, investing in ebooks, and tying down more writers. Smith believes that smaller publishing houses will continue to expand and eventually become big publishers, as has been the nature of publishing for so long.
“Traditional publishers [will] catch a clue and go vertical, meaning opening stores and selling direct to customers instead of direct to the distribution chain only,” predicts Smith.
Legacy publishers are going to realize that they can eliminate DRM altogether and, like JK Rowling did, implement a direct sales channel that fosters a closer relationship between publisher, author, and reader.
Digital Book World contributing author Jeremy Greenfield also predicts that “trade publishers will sell and acquire assets to ‘verticalize’ their businesses” and that publishers will seek out new revenue streams, in addition to ebooks. Greenfield also sees publishers attempting to sell directly to customers, while recognizing that publishing is now a data game and make more data-driven decision making.
Don Nicholas, CEO of Mequoda Group, LLC and expert in digital publishing, believes legacy publishers have a huge strategic advantage that he calls the ABCs: audience, brand, and content.
Nicholas says legacy publishers have “an audience who knows who they are…a brand that’s known in the market…and piles of content—in many cases, 20-50 years of content.”
The current chaos of the self-publishing model makes it far too easy to put out feral, quick content. But these ABCs that legacy publishers have will rise to the top of the publishing industry like a good foam on your New Year’s Eve beer. Readers, as the new gatekeepers of publishing, enjoy the swift procurement, but quality will become a factor for true readers. And with the mobility and all-encompassing connection the digital frontier has brought, readers who value quality have easier, quicker access to content. That means that publishers need to be on their toes, finding ways to get content to readers quickly without the loss of quality.
Kristen Lamb, self-described social media Jedi master, makes her own predictions. On top of believing that consolidation is king and the soon-to-come innovation of agents, Lamb also predicts that 2014 will see the rise of microstores, digital kiosks, and boutique rooms. This has already begun to happen in small doses. We predict the publishing world might just be drunk on it soon, and legacy publishers will be standing at the tap.
The lull in the publishing industry has created fertile ground for change, once again. That change is coming…very soon. And many can already sense it.
As I’ve said, 2014 will see the rise of the legacy publisher. As they come out of their hopeful chrysalis, legacy publishers will spread their wings just enough to fly above the still-burning embers of the old publishing world, while rising high enough to see a new horizon.