Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, has some very interesting predictions for 2011. Read it here and then come back. I have some opinions, as always.
I’m going to take his predictions one at a time.
#1… Mark believes ebook sales will rise. Yup, I agree completely. It might even be higher than 20% by the end of the year that he suggests. Most everyone thought we would hit 25% in late 2012. I think we might be ahead of that pace. We went from 1.5% to over 9% this year, a 600% increase. Just doubling next year will get close to Mark’s suggested 20%.
#2… Mark suggests that agents will play a part in the coming year and I also agree. Agents have no choice, for the most part. They need to move their clients and try to take a piece of the pie in some fashion or they will be out of business. And they will use this possible new way as a factor in negotiations. Mark was not talking about the current status of agents and all their problems, only that they would play a part with their bestsellers and that I agree with.
#3… Mark thinks that more larger authors will be reluctant to part with erights and I agree, and I think this will be a fight, a major fight in the coming year or two. Traditional publishers must have the erights to make a book worthwhile and authors don’t want to give up erights because of the value-added feature of getting 60-70%. And as Mark noted, the possible different structures. Most larger name and old-time authors I know are scrambling with our backlists to get them up. And both Kris and I have pulled back books that are original and were on the market to do them ourselves. So I agree with Mark, but think this will be a major fight to watch.
#4… Agree, but sadly. Unpublished writers will find it easier to get books in print and for some it will work. But alas, for the vast majority their books will sink without a trace, the same as getting rejections from major traditional publishers. In the old system the driven writer kept writing and submitting, but this new way will cause even more discouragement than rejections caused. My fear is that the new road to success is very muddy at the moment and we’ll lose generations of writers as this path clears. Mark is right, but I don’t like it and think we’ll lose a large generation of writers because of it.
#5…Agree, royalty rates for electronic books will come up for writers. They already are. Again, another fight that will be fun to watch.
#6… eBook prices to fall. Yes, I agree, because I know Mark was talking about the $15.99 and that range prices for books that the traditional publishers have held the line on. Books will settle in at the range between $2.99 and $9.99, for the most part, with the work coming from traditional publishers being at the upper end. Beginning writers will use the lower end and thus the price structure will start meaning something by the end of the year in relationship to quality. The lower end and free will also be used for promotions by everyone. Mark is right, the prices will come down under ten bucks, a good thing for books, not so good for traditional publisher’s bottom lines.
#7… Customer is king is what Mark said. I completely agree and traditional publishers will start reverting back to the days early last century when that held and they sold directly to customers through catalogs and mailing lists. This next year they will start selling directly from their own web sites and so on. Publishers will also start developing online stores and even brick and mortar stores which will give writers yet another reason to go traditional path. We’re starting to see this, but watch for it to ramp up in 2011 and 2012.
#8… Mark says the international market explodes. Already seeing this with just my short fiction, selling in five major areas through Apple and two so far with Kindle, with that increasing. This is one of the huge upsides coming for us all as international e-sales boom.
#9… Not a clue what Mark meant by “Discoverability” and how that will be different in 2011. This is nothing new and has worked in traditional publishing throughout history. No reason for it to change in electronic books. Readers find a book, tell friends, pass it on, and the author wins. Not sure how Mark thought such books as Harry Potter built, but they were “discovered” by fans. So nothing new here. Just more of the same.
#10… Mark is right about the DRM, and using DRM is just stupid, and needs to be tossed. And I agree that the traditional publishers, run by law departments, won’t abandon DRM in 2011. Not because they don’t want to, but for legal reasons. Sadly.
Mark Coker is very smart and on the leading edge of this new world for books. And my hope is that he becomes richer than Bill Gates from Smashwords, because along the way all of us authors using his service will also become rich. Mark, just don’t forget about us out here and sell out to a big publisher. That’s my fear for 2011 is that the big money starts trying to control this flood. So Mark, as long as you hold on and keep up the fight, the rest of us win as well.
Thanks, Mark! Great predictions.