Thoughts About Publishing Trends

Thoughts About Publishing Trends

Of course I have thoughts on publishing trends. I have to take trends into consideration with every decision we at Weird Sisters Publishing make. Especially right now, while G. is finishing out her time with The Dallas Winds, and I’m the one holding down the fort full-time. In my last post I surveyed what data I could find to discover how readers find books these days. That’s valuable information when I want them to find ours!

But it’s equally important to stay on top of trends in the larger world of publishing. I recently came across an article from Exploding Topics that collected 11 Publishing Trends projected for 2024-2026. As you might imagine, I have thoughts.

This square design has a photographic background that shows a bookstore with a small metal ladder festooned with holiday lights on the far right. At the center is a table stacked with books, though the covers are indistinct. The background shelves are blurred. Superimposed over the photo are two semi-transparent trend line graphs derived from an article on publishing industry trends. The upper left and center are dominated by large white letters that say “Publishing Trends.” Design by Jan S. Gephardt; photo by “jollier” licensed via 123rf.
See credits below.

Ebooks and Print and Audio, Oh My!

The first question the article explores is the issue of format. As I noted in the last post, print is still the dominant format (60-65% of the market), while ebooks have begun to stabilize in the 20-25% range. But it’s worth noting that Audiobooks are catching up to them – in 2019, according to 11 Publishing Trends, a full 20% of US adults listened to an audiobook that year. The web service Book Baby, which is geared for independent authors, puts ebooks and audiobooks neck-and-neck at 20% each.

When it comes to thoughts on publishing trends, I’ve thought for a long time that ebooks have their place. They’re easy and compact to carry when traveling, searchable (to some extent, depending on your e-reader app), and you can adjust the font size if you need to.

But most of the time the device needs to load before you can use it. In many ways it’s harder to jump from section to section in an ebook – all you need in a print book are a few fingers or some extra bookmarks. And if it’s DRM controlled, it might just go “poof” off your e-reader someday, no matter whether you bought it or not. Same goes for digital rot.

Audiobooks have many of the same digital problems as ebooks, but they are the ultimate hands-free reading option. Moreover, many libraries have popular audiobook lending programs that make them more accessible and also free.

This square montage centers on a pie chart from BookBaby.com, surrounded by an image of G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” as an ebook at upper left, Jan S. Gephardt’s “What’s Bred in the Bone” as a fat trade paperback book in upper right, and across the bottom a setup for recording an audiobook, from Libro.fm’s post “How do Audiobooks Get Made?” Design by Jan S. Gephardt.
See credits below.

An Ebook Gap among Indies? Seriously?

Josh Howarth, the author of 11 Publishing Trends notes that “for many independent authors, the ebook and audiobook trend is an untapped opportunity.” Oh, really?

Howarth seems to think this “untapped opportunity” stems from difficulty accessing technology. Seriously? In the age of Amazon’s KDP, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords, there’s a lack of access to ebook technology? Yeah, right. Personally, I’m not sure I know any independent authors who don’t have ebooks. I don’t think I’ve met more than possibly one in the sf and fantasy field who did not publish in that format.

However, I know several who’ve made the questionable choice not to publish “dead tree” versions of their books, aka print books. Some may still believe Kindle Unlimited is the main ballgame, although most have wised up on that since the late 20-teens. In short, when it comes to thoughts on publishing trends, I think you’d have to be pretty slow on the uptake to ignore 60- to 65% of your potential market.

The background of this image is a matrix of nine audiobook covers, sourced from Libro. A semi-transparent orange audiobook purchasing trend-line graph, sourced from the “11 Publishing Trends” article that is the focus of this article overlays the nine images. Across the bottom of the image, large turquoise words say, “Audiobook Trends.” Design by Jan S. Gephardt.
See credits below.

But he’s Right about the Audiobook Gap

Audiobooks are an entirely different story, as far as I’m concerned – and it’s not from lack of technology. It’s from lack of “the green stuff.”

A traditional audiobook recording by an actual professional carries a four-digits-or-more total price tag, depending on the reader or readers, addition of music and/or sound effects, and the length of the book. Think in the ballpark of $500-$750 per finished hour (according to an undated Scribe Media post published after 2020).

Amazon recently did an invitation-only rollout of its new AI-based “Virtual Voice” to provide a “more affordable” audiobook-generation option. So far, however, it’s faced a fair amount of backlash from authors. Not surprising to me (although maybe to Amazon), they didn’t want to hire a machine to replace a creative talent that took years and concentrate effort to develop (I just wish more authors felt the same way about visual artwork!).

When it comes to my thoughts on publishing trends in the audiobook realm, I will say that Weird Sisters Publishing will definitely get into audiobooks as soon as we can. But “as soon as we can” depends on a number of things. Money, certainly. The plan to hire real live human beings, absolutely. But also the time to study the option fully, and the judgment to choose wisely. I’ve been waiting for my sister to retire from her current day job before we take on another whole dimension of book production. I’m currently pretty well “maxed out.”

This design is based on a photograph from Getty Images/iStockphotos. It shows a road going through a conifer forest toward mountains at the horizon, but the clouds and mountains at the center of the photo are somewhat dimmed by a subtle, glowing haze. On the road, as if painted on like a road marking, is the word “FUTURE,” and above it, as if painted farther down the road, is a yellow arrow, pointing toward the glowing horizon. Sourced via The Heartland Institute. Design by DaLiu.
See credits below.

Today I chose to focus my thoughts on publishing trends by reflecting primarily on one article, Josh Howarth’s “11 Top Publishing Trends (2024-2026).” There’s a lot to discuss in that analysis – but so far, I’ve only touched on Point One out of the eleven. I have thoughts and reactions about all of them.

That means I’ll be back again in a future blog post, considering and commenting on this article some more. Meanwhile, I would encourage anyone who’s interested in independent publishing to read Howarth’s whole article for themselves. What do you think? Add your “two-cents’ worth” in the comments below. And stay tuned for future thoughts on publishing trends.

About the Author

Author Jan S. Gephardt does her thinking about publishing trends with her company Weird Sisters Publishing always at the forefront of her mind. She and sister G. S. Norwood founded the company in 2019 primarily as a way to publish the fiction of the family’s (so far) three authors.

Jan is the author of the XK9 Series, science fiction mystery novels about an uplifted pack of very brainy police dogs. She is in the final stages of finishing the third novel in her XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. Her novel Bone of Contention is set for publication on September 24, 2024.

Her sister G. S. Norwood writes the Urban Fantasy Deep Ellum Series, and has both contemporary mysteries and romantic women’s fiction titles in the works. G. also inherited the IP rights to most of her late husband Warren C. Norwood’s award-nominated science fiction novels. Weird Sisters Publishing plans to bring many of them back into print in new editions, starting with an illustrated Windhover Tetralogy in 2025.

IMAGE CREDITS

The “Publishing Trends” design was created by Jan S. Gephardt, originally to illustrate a social media post about Josh Howarth’s “11 Publishing Trends” article. Yes, it’s the same article that’s the focus of this post. Its photographic background was provided by “jollier,” licensed via 123rf. The two semi-transparent trend line graphs were derived from illustrations used in the Howarth article.

The second design was composed, also by Jan S. Gephardt. It centers on a pie chart from BookBaby.com. G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Duet cover is ©2023 by Chaz Kemp. The cover for Jan S. Gephardt’s What’s Bred in the Bone is ©2019 by Jody A. Lee. At the bottom of that image, the photo of a setup for recording an audiobook came from Libro.fm’s blog post “How do Audiobooks Get Made?

The third, “Audiobook Trends” design uses a background of audiobook covers from Libro.fm’s article “Top 20 Recommended Fiction Audiobooks.” Over that is a semi-transparent trend-line graph adapted from the “11 Publishing Trends” article. Design by Jan S. Gephardt. The fourth design was created by DaLiu, using a photo from Getty Images/iStockphoto, and sourced for this post via The Heartland Institute. Many thanks to all!

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