It’s both exciting and exhausting to work in an industry that is constantly changing, constantly evolving. The publishing industry never disappoints to entertain. At one moment we can’t get enough vampires, at another we are begging for more Christian Greys. Sometimes we soak up the parodies and movie/television spin-offs, other times our thirst is quenching for completely new content. With the vast amount of technology out there and the easy access to information, audiences needs and wants can literally change in an instance. In order to be successful in the publishing industry either as an author, literary agent, editor, or publisher you too need to be able to change and adapt quickly. The plus side- it never gets boring, right?
As the year is coming to a close, we all start to take a look back to see where we came from, when we currently are, how we got there, and where we are going . An article published today in The Boston Globe summarized, at least for me, everything that has changed in the publishing industry this year and what is going to be the “big thing” going into 2016. What’s ‘hot’ today, isn’t always going to be ‘hot’ tomorrow. Our ability to adapt is always going to be our saving grace.
Print is making a comeback.
For the past few years, authors have become used to focusing their efforts on their digital sales. It just made sense, that was where the money was coming from. Now, authors should start to consider focusing more efforts on their print sales as well. Print sales are actually growing this year, proving that the market most certainly isn’t dead and that opportunity still exists there. In early December, Nielsen reported 571 million units were sold in the print sector compared to 559 million last year. After the holiday season, that number is only going to continue to grow. People still crave the satisfaction of products and it’s still important that we make those products available to them.
2. New ideas are making impressions.
The eruption of the adult coloring book is one of the main reasons print sales have been rapidly climbing. This concept has absolutely exploded this year and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. People and readers are craving new ideas. For quite some time we have been bombarded with similar stories and similar characters in every book we pick up. Authors were taking advantage of the trend because well, it worked. Now, consumers are asking for something new. Something innovative, interactive, creative, and imaginative. For the first time in a few years, we are being asked to think outside the box.
3. Nonfiction readers and children prefer print.
Publishers are finding that certain genres perform better in print than others. Each year we are getting a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t. As more content becomes available, we have more data to compare it to. Nonfiction, children’s, and young adult titles are absolutely killing it in the print scene. Serious readers and young children find gratification in holding, touching, and interacting with what they are reading. A true American History buff is going to want a physical copy of this year’s hottest Civil War book. Just as a child is going to want a physical copy of the book that the movie that all his/her friends are talking about is based off of. DIARY OF A WHIMPY KID: OLD SCHOOL saw 95% print sales this year. Even romance authors are seeing an increase in their print sales this year.
4. Old flames make the biggest mark.
Harper Lee’s new book was probably the biggest news of the publishing industry this year. The comeback was historic and everyone wanted to be a part of it. People love to be a part of something, they love the feeling of being in that ‘inner circle.’
5. Digital sales are still where it’s at for fiction.
Digital is still the most accessible and most convenient way to consume books. It is still the way many authors survive. Adult fiction is seeing amazing things with their digital sales, in which they account for at least half or more of this year’s sales for them.
I’m back! Some of you may have noticed (while others could probably care less) but over the last couple weeks I have been on a writing ‘hiatus.’ That’s because I was on an Eastern Europe tour, which ended at The Frankfurt Book Fair. One of my main objectives since founding HRM has been to build more connections with publishers internationally and The Frankfurt Book Fair is the best possible place to do that. Feeling refreshed and motivated, I am back and operating in a somewhat ‘normal’ schedule.
This was my first trip to The Frankfurt Book Fair and it didn’t disappoint. I have been attending The Book Expo of America (BEA) since 2012, so as far as book fairs go I thought I was prepared. Physically, I was. I spent hours prepping and making packets to hand out to publishers about my authors, I researched publishers whose booths I wanted to visit, and studied the maps of the book fair to see who would be where. But, mentally I don’t think you could quite prepare for The Frankfurt Book Fair. I’m not sure that despite how many times you have been there, you could ever mentally prepare yourself. Don’t get discouraged because I mean this in the best possible way. It’s an experience that anyone even slightly connected to the publishing world should indulge in at least once in their lifetime.
I attended the book fair on the third day, the last professionals only day (before it’s open to the public- eek!). After my experiences at BEA, I expected the day to be a little slower, easier to navigate, and less going on since for sure people were eager to get home- right? To my delight (or initial fright) that was not the case and it seemed busier than ever. Attendance to this year’s book fair was actually up from last year, which is something that you don’t see very often with book fairs nowadays due to the changing evolution of the publishing industry and how deals/connections are now made. The Frankfurt Book Fair is compiled of four or five different buildings, each building consisted of multiple floors in itself. The trickiest part of the excursion was remembering what entrance you came in from and what coat check you left your belongings at. Oh yeah, and how to get back to that spot is helpful too (don’t worry, I managed). Then the exploring can begin. I am always impressed at the work, creativity, and time that goes into designing and erecting each booth. Some are rather simple, but others are nicer than my own house (I’m only somewhat joking here). Just walking through and looking at each booth alone is stimulus enough to make your mental capacity fizzle out. Nonetheless, it’s incredibly inspiring to see all the talent that there is across the world displayed in one spot. It really makes you stop to think about writing, it’s impact, and the role publishing has played from it’s very beginning.
At each book fair, the changes that the publishing industry are undergoing is evident. We can read countless articles about it or see the changes in our sales, but seeing it all first hand is refreshing. Looking at the lectures, courses, and panels available at the book fair it was nice to see that many of them were centered around learning what the consumer wants. We constantly hear that publishers are shifting gears from what they want versus what consumers want. And I am happy to report that isn’t just false jargon meant to appease readers. Publishing professionals are really starting to hone in on what readers are looking for and what they will be looking for ten years from now. The digital publishing landscape and it’s visibility, compatibility, and accessibility has made the reader very important. It’s easier to get content than ever before and that ease make us want more and faster. What we want, how we want it, where we want it, and when we want it is everything that publishers want to know. Readers have a huge opportunity to impact the publishing industry right now, and that’s just the way it should be.
It’s also always interesting to see how much of the fair is digitally centered. Even today, many people largely think of the publishing industry as physically and print based. A physical book is always the prime example of a publishing product, no matter how pro-digital you are. Attend any book fair and you will see quite the opposite. Yes, there are still thousands of print books on display throughout the fair and that is never going away. But, every year publishing is getting more and more digitally centered. Many booths have some form of digital element to them and more digital based companies are sprouting up, advertising their services to authors, agents, and publishers. The demand for print based services isn’t quite as strong as it once was (although it’s certainly still there), but we just can’t get enough digital help at the moment. It’s an interesting time for start-ups, especially in the technology field. Everyone wants to know how to maximize their digital dollars and are looking for the right tools and knowledge to help them do just that.
After being able to catch my breath, I had a wonderful time at the fair and got to meet so many interesting and amazing people all working towards the same goal- to share the talent that exists in the world to as many people as possible. Here’s to many more book fairs! Write on.