Monday, December 30, 2013

The 2013 Year-End Wrap-Up

2013 saw the tipping point in how writers in general regarded indie publishing, and how publishers regarded e-book sales.

Indie books made regular, steady appearances in bestseller lists. Indie publishing workshops dominated the annual Romance Writers of America conference. Both indies and traditional publishers  saw record e-book sales.

Here in the U.S., retailers saw a reversal of roles. Barnes & Noble paper sales are way down. Chairman Len Riggo has withdrawn his offer to buy the brick-and-mortar stores and dumped 2 million of his personal shares in the company. B&N itself is under an SEC investigation for misstatement of earnings. Half-Price Books is selling more recent releases in order to capitalize on B&N's reversal of fortune, while Books-a-Million has remained notoriously silent in the situation. On the other hand, more independent book stores are not only opening, but thriving, than since the heyday of Main Street.

In the meantime, trad publishers and agents are issuing more draconian contracts in an effort to tie up both writers and their rights.

The Kernel, a nasty little U.K. rag, launched a smear campaign against Amazon that only ended harming a ton of indie writers in the fall-out as other booksellers were dragged into the fray. As a result, most e-book retailers are cracking down on covers, descriptions and content, the terms of which are confusing and illogical.

For more thorough breakdown and predictions, check out:

Dean Wesley Smith has his run-down on the state of publishing at the end of 2013.

J.A. Konrath predicts what's on the horizon for 2014.

What do I think will happen?

- Barnes and Noble isn't going to survive much longer. They are showing the same penny wise/pound foolish behaviors that preceded Borders demise. The question is when they will go under. (Understand that I don't want to see them go under because I sell the most books through them.)

- Amazon and Kobo's over-reaction in the Kernel mess will come back to bite them in the ass and possible give Apple more market share.

- Since customers are getting away from e-reader devices and using more apps on their tablets and smart phones, we may see more e-book retailers spring up.

- More and more writers will jump into the indie publishing river. But just as many will leave based on their erroneous belief that one book flogged to death with marketing should make their career. By the same token, more writers will find they can make a living on their own.

- The trickle of agents leaving the business will turn into a tsunami when they find they can't make a living even by stealing delaying payments to writers.

So what do y'all think will happen in the craziness of the next year in publishing?


  1. I don't know. Our Barnes is usually busy but then so was our Borders and that died. Love the book shoppes. Hate to see them go.

    1. I used to work part-time for Waldenbooks, which was part of Border Group Inc. The problems were already visible to the staff in 2004 when I left. The same problems have started in B&N: "encouraging" full-time employees to retire or find employment elsewhere, failing to hire seasonal help this Christmas, reducing staff hours during the busiest time of the year, reduction of the variety of merchandise, etc. Couple that with CEO Len Riggio withdrawing his offer to take the company private, the SEC investigation into the mis-statement of earnings in July, the asinine fight with Simon & Schuster over table and end cap displays, and Riggio dumping 2 million shares of stock, B&N is in trouble no matter what we wish otherwise.

      Can they pull their asses out of the fire? It was theoretically possible with the NOOK and the e-book store, but the Board of Directors tossed that baby under the bus by attempting to imitate Amazon, then failing to provide content for their tablets.

      They are now trying to become a gift boutique, which will only result in less shelf space for books. If B&N manages to survive, they will no longer be a bookstore.

    2. Ours actually did have extra hands on staff this Christmas season which was nice to see. They have a solid group of people there that work super duper well together, plus hired some newbies. I dunno. I just don't want to see it go bye, bye.

  2. I was going to comment on that -- B&N becoming a gift shop with a book section. [nod] That's a possibility, I think. We'll see.

    Other than that I agree with you, including about how a lot of new-indie writers will bail in disgust when they find they can't make a living wage on one or two books, no matter HOW much time they w/a/s/t/e/ spend on promo. [eyeroll]


    1. LOL Yeah, the writer thing is already happening. Several people I know who self-published early in 2011 have pretty much quit. One signed with a trad publisher thinking it would expand her reach. Her hands became tied, and she had to find a day job this year.