Monday, December 17, 2012

9 Things That Would Keep Publishers Awake In 2013

Posted:   |  Updated: 12/14/2012 8:22 am EST

It's been quite a year for publishing. The Random Penguin. Fifty Shades of Everything. No Pulitzer for Fiction winner. The DOJ settlement. 

Yet 2013 could yet be even more dramatic. There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful if you're a reader, as yet another new selection of ereaders will inevitably be announced, along with new platforms and the rise of serial fiction.

But if you're a legacy publisher... well. Here's some reasons why you might not get much rest during the next 12 months:
1) BFS-Auto: High Speed Book Scanner at over 250 pages/min

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2) Amazon Publishing signs up someone huge

Currently names like Timothy Ferriss and Penny Marshall have been mere shots across the bows - bookstores don't mind fielding a handful of enquiries about why they don't stock those titles.

But imagine if Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling or even - gasp - E.L. James signed up with Amazon Publishing? Would bookstores be able to hold out against the Amazon hoards then? The fact that Amazon is quietly doing "White Glove" deals with agents certainly can't be helping the sleep patterns of publishing executives. 
3) Mergers and acquisitions
Mergers - or the threat of them - often mean cost cutting, the deaths of overlapping imprints, reductions in output. Harper and Schuster? Macmillan Hachette? And what if Amazon or Apple decide to step into the arena and purchase a publishing company, as Google already has with Zagat? Publishing directors might be reaching for the Ambien at the very thought.
4) Ebook reading plummets
At the moment, ebooks have pointed a way forward for how writers can continue to connect with readers, albeit a relatively uncertain one in terms of revenue. However, there are signs that ebook reading may have peaked, and that tablets will become the new norm. Reading isn't as engaging an activity on tablets, when faced with the internet and videogames as competition.

Is the ebook bubble about to burst? If it does, all the chamomile tea in the world won't help publishers have restful nights this year.
5) Self publishing gets more serious
Self publishing has already created its own mini successes, but so far big publishing has shown that it still has value by converting Fifty Shades from a big hit into a colossal one. However, there are increasing numbers of companies that sit between traditional and self publishers, who are more particular about who they accept, and who edit, design, market and distribute their work more carefully than a vanity press, offering the author a larger percentage of the profit in return for a lower advance.

A big hit in 2013 could well come from one of these houses - and then it's Freddie Kruger time.
6) Library budgets are slashed
Libraries are some of publishers' most established customers. However, more than 200 libraries were closed in the UK this year, and with city and state budgets continuing to be slashed across the country, and 2013 not being an election year, the library system could be in even more trouble than it currently is. That could threaten publishers as much as it does everyone else, leading to the sleeplessness of a new parent.
7) Subscription services take off
It could be Kindle FreeTime, it could be someone else - but just as Netflix and Spotify have led to lower margins for TV and music producers, so book publishers' revenue would inevitably suffer from a widely adopted subscription service. It's enough to give publishers nightmares.
8) Termination Rights Law comes into effect
This one's a little confusing, but in essence, from January authors can break their publishing contracts after 35 years. That could include early works by Stephen King and Judy Blume coming back onto the market.

The rules are complicated - which means a series of headaches for the publishing industry as they may potentially have to do battle with big-name authors and their representatives, which could also impact any future deals with these figures. Will chaos ensue? If it does, expect a lot of tired eyes each morning. 
9) DOJ settlement forces ebook prices down even further
2013 will be the year when we really understand the consequences of the ebook settlement with the Department of Justice. Will Amazon force prices to $9.99 or lower? Will publishers actually raise their prices anyway, as some suggest? Nobody knows for sure.

Crack open the coffee, it's going to be a long year. 
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