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Chip MacGregor

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January 11, 2016

Predictions for Publishing in 2016 — the Year of “More”

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Behold! Our new-look website. We’ve done a complete revamp of the site, with the goal of making things easier to read, easier to research, and to get back to having a cutting-edge blog that tackles the questions authors have about the world of publishing. Glad you are joining us!  (And if it’s not quite done, or have all the edges squared up yet… well, we’re working on it.)

Let me start the new year with my The Predictions for Book Publishing in 2016…

  1. We’re going to see more rights sales. I think both traditional and indie publishers are going to push for more global sales, push for more audio books, and push for more variety projects (like coloring books) in 2016, which is good news for authors. It means there are more opportunities to make some income.
  2. We’re going to see more of iBooks. While Amazon is the 800-lb gorilla of ebooks, their shopping experience has always left a lot to be desired. I think this is the year Apple figures out how to improve the shopping experience and makes iBooks a destination spot for readers.
  3. We’re going to see more people reading on mobile devices. I know we keep hearing about the growth of print in 2015, but I think that was tied to the fact that the Big Five simply started charging so much more for ebooks, readers fell back to buying print. I think we’re going to see new technology and new interest from readers who want to go mobile.
  4. We’re going to see more short works. People who like USA Today like short pieces. And if people are reading on their phone or pad, they want short books. I think the rise of the 40k-to-45k novel is upon us.
  5. We’re going to see more interest in China. The country is opening up, and publishers are just now starting to figure out how to get books in front of the billion readers in the People’s Republic. I see dollar signs for publishers and authors.
  6. We’re going to see more convergence discussed between publishers and authors. When the publisher buys the book, the importance of coming up with apps, TV Shows, films, merchandise, and other derivatives is going to become far more important as publishers embrace other ways of making money.
  7. We’re going to see more backlash to subscription services that don’t earn authors any money. Authors see the value of the occasional perma-free title to start a series… but the notion of barely getting paid so that Amazon can rake in more dough has gotten old.
  8. We’re going to see the ebook universe mirror the print universe — with more domination by a few well-known names. Book publishing now has two separate systems: one for largely traditional authors, another for largely digital authors. The traditional system gets more press from mainstream media, but there are thousands of authors making good money via indie publishing. This year that’s going to start to become tougher, as the ebook market will do what print has done, and move toward the rule of the 80/20 (the Pareto Principle, where 80% of the income comes from 20% of the books).
  9. We’re going to see more libraries figure out how to work better with indie-published books. This has been a slow (and often stupid) debate, where libraries have been reluctant to embrace self-pubbed titles, even as they’ve moved away from print and toward a digital world. But this year, probably through the efforts of Amazon and Smashwords, they’re going to figure out a way to make this work… and the make a lot of authors very happy.
  10. We’re going to see more diversity in legacy publishing. Okay, I don’t know if this is really going to happen or not, but frankly, we should all be appalled at the fact that there are barely any people of color working in publishing. (A recent study suggested that less than 2% of those working in editorial roles are black.) So here’s hoping we see more change happening in 2016.

Those are my predictions. What do YOU think happens in 2016?

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32 Comments

  • Pauline Hetrick says:

    Hello Chip.
    I don’t write books, but screenplays and I am wondering if you would represent me. I have a query for your consideration. I would be happy to email this to you. Pauline Hetrick

  • Cameron Bane says:

    Love the new website, Chip. Very nice!

  • Great post, Chip. And I like the new look of the website!

  • Hi Chip!

    I largely agree with what you have predicted. Your point #10 is interesting. I don’t believe though it has anything to do with race, I think its more a question of tradition. Hopefully that will soon change.

    Maybe you can help. I have two E-books published by two different publishers. I had a third, published as an E-book and paperback, but the publisher has stopped operating, sending me a “Release Letter” returning all my rights to me and removing the title from circulation. I now have an unpublished published book on my hands. I also have several manuscripts ready for publication. Do I try and retain the services of an agent, or do I go ahead and publish all on a site like Smashwords for instance?

    Some advice would be really helpful.

    Peter Rossfour.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Hello Peter — If the numbers were somehow closer, I would agree with you, perhaps this isn’t about race. But the numbers are WAY out of whack. In my view, this is an indictment on my industry, which has not worked hard to foster minority editors.

      As for your question, there’s no right answer for every author (and I don’t know you personally, so I’m not sure what the correct answer is for you). SOME authors would go to one of their publishers and say, “Here’s the next book.” OTHER authors would seek out an agent and say, “Let’s create a plan.” STILL OTHER authors would simply decide to self-publish and say, “I’m going to try this on my own.” There are strengths and weaknesses with each of those choices, Peter. What feels best to you? -Chip

    • Hi Chip,

      Thanks for speedy reply. It has given me food for thought.

      Take care,

      Peter.

  • Lindsey Brackett says:

    Personally, these make me feel optimistic as my career (hopefully) begins.

  • J Nell says:

    I think the success of the movie, War Room, shows that viewers and potentially readers want more diverse characters with a good story. Kudos to the Kendrick brother.

  • Gwendolann Adell Ford Faulkenb says:

    Love the new look!

  • Patricia Zell says:

    To add a little bit to your observation about derivative works, I would suggest that any author who wants to see his/her books turned into films read SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. This book discusses the beat sheet that many successful screenwriters use to write their screenplays. I’m thinking that making sure an author’s books have those beats would be a help in landing contracts for film adaptations. In a screenplay, those beats land on certain pages–once I learned how to make that happen in my screenplays, wow, they became so much better. In a book, the page numbers are not important; just having the beats in order is what’s important. Also, having those beats could keep people from complaining that an adapted film is nothing like the original book. If a book doesn’t have the necessary beats, then the screenwriter will have to “create” them.

    Another piece of advice about making a book easier to be adapted into a film is for an author to make sure the story they present is fairly easy to visually represent. Making the story mostly about emotions will not transpose well into film. Emotion is important, but authors should make sure their characters are doing something while they feel their emotions.

    By the way, Chip, it’s good to have you back. Hope you are fully recovered.

    • J Nell says:

      Thank you, Patricia for the book recommendation. I purchased it.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks, Patricia. And for those interested in screenplays, by all means check out “Notes to Screenwriters,” by Barb Nicolosi and Vicki Peterson. A wonderful resource for those hoping to write for the film industry.

  • Lots of great points here!!!

    I hope what you say about iBooks is true. They have such an
    exclusive feel currently that it doesn’t lend itself to attracting people to use it. More booksellers should study Amazon’s model of customer centeredness and do their best to imitate it. I mean, it IS successful after all.

    Yes, more people are reading on mobile devices. I’ve known
    many non-readers become readers only because it’s just easier to do, and can be done anywhere as long as you carry your phone (which many take everywhere, so not a hardship). This is increasing readership all together. And because more non-readers are now readers, some of them may prefer shorter works.

    I hope there is SOME backlash to the subscription services.
    Though I think they are a great way for new authors to be found, I’d hate to see them gain too much leverage over authors. It may take the form of creating levels of authors. Newer and mid-list authors may continue on them, while those who sell well without them, escape them. We’ll see. Either way, I think the abundance of indie authors currently publishing will whittle down (eventually) in
    some form or another. It used to be easier to sell your bargain books, but now authors are fighting to be seen above the proliferation of cheap digital material. It will be interesting to see where this plane lands … if it ever does (however temporarily).

    You mention libraries working with indie published books. I
    hope more online retailers will do the same.

    Diversity in publishing?????? Oh, I hope so! Not just behind
    the scenes, but in the stories. There is just not enough color in fiction. I have a hard time relating to it sometimes since it looks NOTHING like the area in which I live (Balt-Wash Megalopolis) which is rich in color, culture, texture, and history. Even when writing purely from a Christian biblical perspective, there is a breadth of experience and wisdom that can be gained from people of all walks. We limit ourselves as writers and readers when we ignore it.

    • Patricia Zell says:

      We’re having this same discussion over at Stage 32. That’s one thing that sets my franchise of romantic screenplays (combination dramedies and comedies) apart–the main characters are diverse in ethnicities, ages, and sexual identities. This comes easy for me because of where I grew up (Columbus, Ohio) and live (Bellefontaine, Ohio)–diversity is a given in Central Ohio. Just as a caveat, these screenplays aren’t faith-based. My goal has been to write films that everyone can relate to. After all, God’s light shines on all of us equally.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks for writing, Connie. My note about iBooks is based solely on the fact that Apple is savvy, and wants very much to succeed in the online book retail world — and, let’s face it, while Amazon is a wonderfully successful company, their shopping experience leaves much to be desired. I’m thinking this is the year iBooks figures it out. Call me a hopeless romantic.

      As for subscription services, working authors are getting tired of seeing their books ordered, but making almost no money for it. I see a huge shift in attitudes coming. Appreciate your notes.

  • Laura Droege says:

    I am really hoping that number 10 comes true! Two questions, somewhat related to that point.

    One, is there anything I can do, as an unpublished white writer, to help promote diversity in publishing?

    My second question relates to something that happened at the public library where my mother works. An African-American woman and her college-aged daughter were looking for Christian fiction for the daughter, specifically, Christian novels written by black women. The daughter liked suspense/mystery/legal thrillers. My mother, who reads widely, couldn’t think of any writers who would fit this category. Neither could I. Does Christian publishing have a significant number of minorities writing fiction? (I know of a few non-fiction writers, but that wasn’t what the mother and daughter were looking for.) I’d like to know what minorities are writing fiction in the CBA because I’d want to help plug them on my blog, review sites, etc.

    • Laura, you will be hard pressed to find much material from traditional publishing houses today that publish fiction by African-American novelists. And even more so when you narrow the criteria to Suspense/Mystery Legal Thrillers. There are authors who write multi-cultural like Kim Cash Tate (romance/women’s) and Camy
      Tang (Romance/Romantic Suspense), but there are a lot of African-American Christian fiction authors who are indie-published. Here’s a beginning list for you: Vanessa Riley (Regency Romance involving characters
      of African-heritage); Terri J. Haynes (Romance and Romantic suspense); Cecelia Dowdy (Romance, traditional and indie); Piper Huguley (Historical Romance). There are more, but I hesitate to recommend unless I know the author or have read (or am familiar with) their work.

    • Laura Droege says:

      Thanks, Connie. This is a great list to start from. I’ll look up the authors.

    • J Nell says:

      There are not that many of us diverse writers who pitch to traditional publishers because the “word in the community” is that the CBA is closed to minority writers. I’ll be focusing on the General Market when I start pitching my series this year as my experience has been that the CBA seems slow to feature diverse characters. When I attend General Market writing conference, my experience has been that agents and editors don’t even make a big deal about race. They only care about story.
      Everything, Everything: A story by Nicola Yoon about a half black-Chinese girl with SCIDs who falls in love with a white boy is doing well, even though race is not addressed in the mini-synopsis.
      Also, War Room, the movie proves many people–including people of color–have money to spend and want to see people who look like them in positive roles.
      Tyler Perry’s films are also well received by many. Once again the characters are shown in a positive moral light with appropriate conflict.
      I’m not sure why the CBA doesn’t feature many stories by people of color, but I’m guessing, the readership is part of the discussion??
      Thanks Chip for bringing up this topic 🙂

    • chipmacgregor says:

      You’re welcome, J Nell. This is an important topic that seems to get skipped over too often. A couple notes… First, I don’t know that CBA is closed to minority writers, but I’d certainly argue there are VERY few people of color working at CBA houses. In fact, I can probably name them on one hand — and if there are no minority editors working, it becomes much harder to land an author of color. Second, my note about the lack of minorities working in publishing is not just aimed at CBA — it’s true at general market houses as well.

    • J Nell says:

      Thanks, Chip for your response. I will share it with my other writer friends of color, hopefully encouraging them to consider the CBA and traditional publishing again–whether CBA or General Market. Many times we go directly to self-pub because we’re not certain there is another path.
      .

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Take a look at the works of Claudia Mair Burney — a wonderful writer.

    • Rhonda Mcknight says:

      Hi Laura,

      Thank you for your question. There are quite a few authors who write African-American authors Christian fiction writers, but many of us have been published by secular houses as the CBA has not been very open to our stories. IMO, marketing has really been a large issues as I’ve had a few editors tell me at conferences that their publicity departments struggle in this area. There are ways to address that, but I digress… the Urban Christian imprint under Kensington Publishers published a little over 215 titles from 2007 – 2015 (including 4 of my books). The imprint was discontinued as of December 2015.

      I am the Publishing Manager for the Brown Girls Faith imprint. Faith is a new imprint under Brown Girls Books. There’s a little about what we’re doing in this Library Journal article. http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2015/11/books/genre-fiction/christian-fiction/trials-and-tribulations-christian-fiction-genre-spotlight/

      Please also visit Black Christian Reads. Ten authors, including myself, have formed a group to cross promote our work. Tyora Moody is one of the authors and she writes mysteries. http://www.blackchristianreads.com

      As for what you can do to help promote diversity? Buy our books and review them. Thank you for caring.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks for the link, Rhonda!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I hope it comes true as well, Laura, since I think it’s a shame we’re seeing so few people of color working in the industry. Of course, my comment was aimed at publishers, who rarely hire minority editors, but your question is good — What can we do to promote diversity in publishing? The best answer is probably to buy and review books from minority authors, and press those in leadership roles at publishing houses with the simple question, “Why don’t you have any editors of color working for you?” I’ve been in this industry forever, and I don’t understand it.

    • Laura Droege says:

      Wow, what great responses! Thanks everyone, for chiming in with names and links. I’ve got a longer to-read list now, and that’s a good thing.

  • Daphne Woodall says:

    I put faith in your predictions and it all sounds like good news for publishers and authors.

    I wonder if one area of the market has been underutilized. My observation may be limited and it’s not my genre but in the area of books for home schoolers be it non-fiction or fiction. We have many home schoolers in our area and what I’ve noticed is they are voracious readers of fiction particularly. I see them reading and I am always amazed at what they are reading given their age. I enjoy asking them questions about what they like and encourage them to do book reviews and to connect with authors who would appreciate their feedback.

    Do you have any observations of this market area Chip?

    Daphne Woodall

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Hi Daphne – I’ve worked with several writers who aim their books at the homeschool market in the past (and currently working with Danika Cooley, who writes some great curriculum for homeschoolers, and just published a biography on Martin Luther with Augsburg aimed at younger readers). I don’t do much in that area currently because publishers have generally found it hard to sell into the market. Those who do tend to be very niche focused, so that apart from homeschooling families there is very little crossover into other markets. That means there are a few small publishers aiming at the homeschool market and a handful of others (including some academic presses) trying to get books to homeschool families. -Chip

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