Where Are We Headed?

It seems it’s that time of year when people start to think about what next year might look like.

A few interesting takes on the whole thing:

Things To Come by Hayden Trenholm of Bundoran Press.  (And the follow-up article, Things to Come, Part II.)

I think he’s spot on with a lot of what he thinks will happen.  That we’ll move towards a small number of very large publishers and then niche publishers without much in between.  That paper books still have a strong future.  And that there is going to be a decline in indy publishing going forward.On that latter point, I really do think the indy market is overcrowded right now.  Too many people putting up too many books.  The model that worked for self-publishers a few years ago was to publish as many books as you possibly could as fast as you could.  And that works for some authors who can write well and write fast.

Not so much for others.  But that was the way to success.  So, everyone and their mother has been shoveling out books as fast as they can manage.  And now there’s just an overwhelming selection of self-pubbed books available.

And, contrary to what you’d think, too much selection is not a good thing.  There are psychological studies that show that fewer choices are actually better for happiness and when you’re trying to sell things.  (The most recent study I saw was published by Wharton, but I didn’t bookmark it.  Sorry.)

I think this trend has also led to a quality issue.  And, having observed my mother’s recent foray into reading on the Kindle, I can say that readers pretty quickly judge a new medium by whatever their limited experience with that medium is.

She downloaded some backlist titles from a few of her favorite authors that weren’t up to the level of what they’re writing now and then she tried a few random Amazon-recommended books.  And came away deciding that all e-books are poorly written and poorly edited.

(This is the way a reader’s mind works.  This is your consumer if you’re trying to sell e-books.)

Another interesting point from talking to my mother.  I told her some of the indies offer the first book in their series for free and tried to find her a few of them.  Her comment?  “I don’t care if it’s free.  I just want good books to read.”

So, think about that one a bit, too.  (Says the person who has a short story running for free at the moment.)  I think the “true readers” don’t care about the cheapest price.  They care about getting a story that satisfies their need.  So this race to the bottom crap?  Not necessary.

I suspect free is losing its value.  It’s like at the grocery store.  When they first started giving out free samples, I’d stop by to try.  Free, right?  Now?  I try to avoid eye contact with the poor person standing there with their free samples, not even looking to see if what they’re offering is something I might like.

So, there’s Hayden’s posts.  There was also an animated discussion on a certain writing board recently.  Do I agree with the OP and think Amazon is going to cut its payouts to 35% across the board.  No.

(Do I secretly wish that they’d choose one percentage and stick to it so we could get rid of these skewed price points that make no sense?  YES.)

But I do think that there are changes coming for self-publishers.  I personally think that Amazon has a quality issue and that it will either (a) start isolating self-pubbed works from trade-published books, (b) put in some sort of barriers to entry for self-pubbers, or (c) start removing books with low ratings or quality issues.

I don’t agree with the people on that thread that think that things aren’t going to get more challenging in the future.  Especially for new entrants.  And I could try to do a detailed analysis using economic and business theory from those degrees I have, but that’s not me.  I absorb information and then I act on gut instinct.

And my gut is telling me there will be a culling of the herd soon.  How?  I don’t know.  But it will happen.  It has to.  Amazon is the main source of income for most self-publishers and they are a business not a benevolent uncle.  And, trust me, having spent a lot of time around some of the top business minds in this country, those folks aren’t the most altruistic souls.  If it doesn’t benefit them, they aren’t going to do it.

So, there’s that.

And, since we’re sharing links today.  Here’s one from the wonderful QQ on self-publishing and who should do it.  (And who should not.)

So, some things to think about as we make our way into 2014.

For me it’s T-5 days until I move and start the new job.  I have no idea where this blog will go next year and no idea where my writing will go.  But that’s life, right?  You have to be willing to change when the ground shifts under you.  I can’t imagine I won’t post here on occasion, but there may be long silences involved.

That’s okay.  For any writers reading this, you should really be writing rather than reading my drivel.

Happy Holidays All!

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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