The Future of Indie Publishing – Selena Kitt’s Predictions for 2017

I remember in the old days, back in 2010 (*rocking like the old-timer I am, in a chair on the porch*) when the ebook market was the wild west of publishing…There was gold in them thar hills, I tell you! So. Much. Gold! Those of us who got in early? We made out like bandits. Now, I know this isn’t 2010 anymore, but the metaphor of the gold rush still applies. The avenues to “easy money” have mostly been closed off in indie publishing. As Amazon continues their attempt to dominate the ebook market, other income streams narrow down to a trickle. And Amazon themselves continue to squeeze indie authors, offering them less in profits, while their algorithms force them to spend more money in ads to make a larger sum.

Depressed? Dejected? Don’t worry. This isn’t the end of indie publishing. It’s just a shift in the market, and the best thing about indie authors is their ability to adapt. Yes, the market will continue to be flooded with new authors and more books. As the pond gets bigger, there will be a larger gap between the “big fish” and the “little fish,” and it will become even more difficult to gain visibility. But if you stick with it, and do all the right things, you can still make a career as an indie author.

2017 holds a lot of promise. It may not be the gold rush anymore, but there’s still a lot of gold in them thar hills—you just have to work a little harder to find it.

I think upping your marketing game this year will be key. Learn how to create effective ads with the biggest bang for your buck—or hire someone reputable who can do it for you. Amazon Ads will start giving Facebook ads a run for their money. Bookbub will continue to be effective (but less so than in previous years – we may have reached a saturation point there…) To be fair, most mailing list sites are less effective now than they’ve been in years previous. That said, many are still worth investing in to get the most eyes you can on your books.

Unfortunately, I do believe that Amazon’s market share will continue to grow. However, I think we are starting to see the giant just beginning to stumble, now that they have to turn a profit and actually pay shareholders (and this isn’t limited to selling books). Amazon has made several missteps this year, and they’re battling widespread fraud (again, not just in ebooks) and I see this trend causing mistrust, both in their customers and their vendors.

Amazon algorithms will continue to give boosts to KDP Select books, but given the issues that have recently come to light about “Kindle Unlimited” (not the least of which is Amazon’s inability to actually count the “pages read” they’re using to pay out to KDP Select author participants) authors may become more selective about their use of KDP Select as a marketing tool. Authors may put only certain books into the program, or put books in for just the first 90 days and then use sale prices coupled with a Bookbub ad (or a cluster of other smaller ads) to push the book wide. I believe authors will continue to use KDP Select, but many will begin to back off from the “all in” philosophy. Personally, I’ve never been a proponent of putting all your eggs in one basket.

Still, Amazon will remain the elephant in the room, and I believe their own imprints will continue to dominate the top book spots on the site. Because of this, we may see authors seeking to go hybrid this year, whether it’s looking to become an “Amazon author,” or submitting to traditional publishing houses.

I think growth in 2017 will be in foreign markets (where Kobo already has a foothold), as well as audio (where the market is still growing by leaps and bounds) and direct sales (which means sites like Gumroad and Patreon will gain even more popularity with authors). And while we’ve seen some small pubs down-size (like Samhain) and other smaller sites collapse (like All Romance Ebooks / Omnilit) others like Excitica and A1 Adult Ebooks (and their sister sites) will be around to pick up the slack. And as Amazon and other vendors crack down on more “adult” material, these sites will offer niche markets for subsequently disenfranchised readers and authors.

My best advice for 2017 is to work smarter, not harder. It may feel as if you’re on a writing treadmill, forced to release something new every thirty days or so, and the truth is there are plenty of authors doing just that. And some prolific authors have found success doing so. There is certainly something to the formula of “writing to market, writing fast and publishing often.” But don’t worry if you’re not the 5-10K-a-day sort of author. You can still be successful writing just a book or two a year. How?

Work smarter. Make sure you’re growing your own mailing list—and engaging with your readers on a regular basis. Don’t let them forget you exist (but don’t spam them—or annoy them—either). Readers like engaging with authors. And what they seem to enjoy most is authors with big personalities. So find your author persona and work it! I’ve seen authors do this in many different ways, from the inimitable Chuck Tingle to the sassy Jordan Silver. Take the best parts of you—the parts that others tend to be drawn to—and amplify them by ten. Turn up the volume. Be bold. Do and say the things that will make them remember you, in your newsletter and on social media. Just make sure you’re doing it from a genuine place. You’re just turning up the volume, not changing the channel!

Also, remember that no author is an island. Find other authors who write things similar to you and work out a way to cross-promote and cross-pollinate on a regular basis. Trust me, even if you’re the most prolific author in the world, you can’t turn out books fast enough to keep up with readers. Cross-promoting keeps readers on your side. They’ll start looking to you for recommendations and it will help keep their interest while you’re writing your next novel. And if you find you really click with another author, you can always consider an author partnership. After all, two authors can writer faster than one!

I don’t think 2016 was a great year for indies—but I do believe 2017 has the potential to be. No, 2017 won’t be anything like the gold rush year of 2010, but it’s still full of possibilities. I think the indie author community has grown together and become stronger over the years, and their future is still quite bright. Indies know how to adapt. They’re natural entrepreneurs, and even when the learning curve is steep, they’re willing to jump into the deep end to learn how to swim.

Looking forward to 2017, I think indie authors will continue to innovate, push the envelope, and transform the face of publishing itself.

3 comments to The Future of Indie Publishing – Selena Kitt’s Predictions for 2017

  • Moctezuma Johnson  says:

    Thank you for this great article. I like your optimism and hope you’re write that 2017 won’t suck. I agree the great Zon has stumbled a bit. They have a huge piracy problem on their hands on the product side of the ball. I wonder what will be in store for authors this year. I’m all buckled up and ready for the ride. Thanks for the tips.

  • Jasmine Jennifer McAlpine  says:

    I am the president shareholder of Dirty Little Claws, Inc. I publish abstract fiction, abstract non-fiction, illustrations, and comics on the internet. Authors publish at the S corporation completely at their expense, and receive royalties at 100 percent after transaction charges. Dirty Little Claws, Inc., publishes thriller, romance, and erotic literature genres.

    Thanks for your analysis of the future of independent books! I’m happy to see your enthusiasm for the future of self-publishing and independent publishing careers. I think that financial rewards for independent books are inevitable. Education in literary techniques and electronic distribution will drive independent books into the marketplace for fiction with originality and innovations. I have comments that add to your analysis.

    I think that originality and innovations create fame, and reinvent the marketplace for fiction. Shortfalls of mainstream amateur and vanity books can disappear from evaluation of the marketplace and redesign of creative strategies. Erotica can be mainstream from creative strategies to write independently with big personalities and literary techniques. Independent books determine characteristics of the marketplace before distributors like Amazon.com, Inc., and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc., make collections and market themes and genres.

    Erotic romances need to be developed additionally to use abstract fiction for plots and climaxes and build fame in the marketplace for fiction. Initiatives to write erotica seriously and determination to write romances abstractly drive competition for fame and financial rewards. Responsibilities to write independent books that shape genres drive competition to make independent publishing careers. I think that distribution of amateur and vanity books will connect sellers and buyers after brands and fame set standards of literary qualities that overwhelm the marketplace.

    Disillusionment is natural for creative occupations. Distribution strategies like KDP Select shouldn’t discourage competition to write independently. Disillusionment with business models can be replaced by logical goals and technological strategies to publish independent books for traditional genres. Public recognition that increases financial rewards can be made from literary qualities that are inherently cultural.

    Reinvention of the marketplace for fiction is a natural phenomenon. Independent publishing careers naturally drive dynamics of literary qualities in the marketplace. Talents, education, and entrepreneurship can publish independent books, and reinvent the marketplace accordingly to provide financial rewards. I think that erotic romances will provide the future of independent books. I think that 2017 will bring inspiration, creativity, and imagination to ambitious minds that write abstract commercial fiction. I hope that you and I can take advantage of all of the opportunities to write independently that come from reinvention of the economics and management of publishing independent books electronically.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    Happy New Year!

  • Dee Dawning  says:

    Hi Selena, Thanks for your take. I agree with everything you said. I know, I’ve been around since 2006. I don’t know how some of the older epublishers like Siren & Extasy are able hang on with the internet version of WalMart sucking up all the oxygen. How long before Smashwords & D2R take a dive? Anyway I would add a couple things to what you said. First, I don’t think Amazon has much respect for the people that got them where they are–authors. If they did they wouldn’t work so hard to keep authors from making a decent return on their labors. Free books are killing us. I’m sure that Amazon gives away at least a billion books a year. Pre free, I sold books for more money and made five times the money I make now with a third of the books. Books would sell anyway if they weren’t free and for more $$$. Just think, if everyone of those billion books sold for at least 99 cents Amazon would be several hundred million richer and so would the authors. I wouldn’t hold my breath though. Amazon looks at things like all Corps do from their perspective, not the employees. That is why sooner or later Amazon authors will need to unionize. Screen actors guild would be nice. Who needs ACA if you have union group insurance.

    Thanks again for your post. Hope we all have a good 2017.

    Dee

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