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.
Today I came across the results of a survey conducted by Publishing Technology that sent that giddy child in a candy store feeling throughout my body. The survey asked people between the ages of 18-34 about their reading habits and how they get their information/news. At first, I braced myself for what I thought was inevitable. I thought the results would surely show that all things digital were on the rise, slowly killing the art of reading a print book since that is what we are continually told is the current publishing trend.
But, the results were quite the opposite. Here are the two results that might have just made my entire year:
-When millennials (individuals who were born between the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s) were asked what they read, 71 % said print books and 63% said print news/magazines.
-Second, when they were asked how they acquire print books, 47% said bookstores and 37% said libraries. Being in the publishing industry, I hear about how bookstores are always looking over their shoulder and competing with online retailers, but these numbers say just the opposite. I made a recent a visit to Portland, Oregon where of course the famed Powell’s Books was one of the top spots to visit on my list. Although I do realize this is one of the most popular bookstores in the country, I was still surprised to see how PACKED it was.I went there twice, both at weird hours, and both times it was PACKED. I always love seeing people enjoying a bookstore rather than surfing the internet for their next read. Looking back on this experience, it was really awesome to see these survey results played out in real life.
With self-published authors quickly taking over more and more of the publishing stage I think these results are very important for them to take a look at. A decent amount of self-published authors just release e-books and they might be losing a large part of their audience. That being said, each format has its importance and each is necessary in its own right. I am a big proponent of both formats. E-books open up a world of unknowns for an unpolished writer, a medium through which they can showcase their work in the crazy stew that is the publishing universe. But, we must also remember that print books are indeed still very much alive.
You should check out the full results for yourself here.