Smashwords Predictions for 2014

When Mark Coker speaks about e-publishing, writers listen. Or they should; the Smashwords CEO has done as much for indie authors as anyone. The following are highlights from his annual industry predictions. To see the entire article, visit the Smashwords blog post.

Highlights of Mark’s predictions:

  1. Big publishers lower prices – Until recently, it was rare to see a traditionally published book priced under $4.00.  In 2014 their temporary price promotions will give way to a new normal.  Discounting is a slippery slope.  Once customers are conditioned to expect big-name authors for $3.99 or less, the entire industry will be forced to go there.  The huge pricing advantage once enjoyed by indies will diminish in 2013.
  2. When everyone is pricing sub $4.00, price promotions will become less effective – If readers have an unlimited supply of high-quality books from their favorite authors at under $4.00, it means factors other than price will gain importance.
  3. Ebook growth slows – After a decade of exponential growth in ebooks with indies partying like it was 1999, growth is slowing. [...] A normal cyclical shakeout is coming.
  4. Competition increases dramatically – With hundreds of thousands of new books published annually, and with retailer catalogs swelling to carry millions of titles, it may come across as trite for me to predict that completion will increase in 2014 for indies.
  5. Ebook sales, measured in dollar volume, will decrease in 2014 – Yikes.  I said it.  The nascent ebook market is likely to experience its first annual downturn in sales as measured in dollar volume.  [...]  Global sales in developing countries remain one potential bright spot that could mitigate any sales contraction.
  6. Ebook unit market share will increase – Ebook consumption, measured in unit sales and downloads, and measured in words read digitally, will increase in 2014.
  7. A larger wave of big-name authors will defect to indieville – Multiple market forces will conspire to cause a large number of traditionally published authors to turn their backs on big publishers.
  8. It’s all about the writing – It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a cookbook, romance novel, gardening how-to, memoir or political treatise.  Your job as the indie author is to write that super-fabulous book.
  9. All authors become indie authors – The best writers will have the option to publish independently AND traditionally, or do one or the other.
  10. Subscription ebook services will change the game – If the ebook subscription services – the most notable of which are Scribd and Oyster – can make their business models work, then they’ll drive a game changing shift in how readers value and consume books. [...] Readers will be relieved of the cognitive load of having to decide if a given book is worth the purchase price.  Instead, they’ll surf and sample books with minimal friction, as if every book is free.
  11. Traditional publishers will reevaluate their approach to self-publishing – The vanity approach to self-publishing, as witnessed by Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions (operates AuthorHouse, iUniverse, BookTango, Trafford, Xlibris, Palibrio, others…), has shown itself to be a boondoggle that harmed the brands of all traditional publishers.  [...]  Their business model is expensive at best, and unethical at worst.  It’s about selling $15,000 publishing packages to authors who will never earn the money back.
  12. Platform is king – Platform is your ability to reach readers.  Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot.
  13. Multi-author collaborations will become more common – Authors are collaborating with fellow authors in their same genre or category on box set compilations of existing and original content.  These collaborations are often competitively priced and offer readers the opportunity to discover multiple new authors in a single book.
  14. Production takes on increased importance in 2014 – Organize your time to spend more time writing and less time on everything else.

Great predictions and advice. One of my questions not addressed above: what will happen to Barnes & Noble and its Nook? Feels like they’ve been sinking fast over the past two years. What are your thoughts about this list or 2014 in general?


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9 Responses to “Smashwords Predictions for 2014”

  1. Yvonne Hertzberger Says:

    Very interesting set of prediction, most of which look spot on. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Smashwords Predictions for 2014 | How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks - Says:

    […] Smashwords Predictions for 2014 | How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks. […]

  3. Sonia Marsh (@GutsyLiving) Says:

    Jason, is #13 about Anthologies? I wasn’t sure I understood it correctly. Thanks for sharing.

  4. krpooler Says:

    Jason, Thanks for sharing these predictions. Very interesting. What strikes me the most is that through it all ,spending our time writing good books remains our best investment.

  5. Thomas J. Hubschman Says:

    I’d appreciate it, Jason, if you could expand a little on this. Not sure what you mean.

    “Platform is your ability to reach readers. Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot.”

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Hi Thomas. Actually those are Mark Coker’s words, not mine, but I’d be happy to expand a little. Platform, or author platform, represents how you enable readers to find you and your books and these days it’s mostly online. Elements of author platform include blogging, having websites, participating in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Amazon Author Central, YouTube videos, email lists, forums–anything you do to connect with readers or to assist people to find your books.
      So Mark is saying, and I agree, that some authors are really making the extra effort to do these online platform things well while others are wishing they could just write and it will work out for them. In a hypothetical example of two authors with similar talent and a similar number of self-published titles, the author who is more active with her/his “platform” will probably do better with sales, reviews, etc.


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