Beginning a New Era of Growth
Over the past four decades there have been three distinct market shifts in book publishing that transitioned the industry. The results of each were dramatic growth for both publishers and writers. As we enter a new era in book publishing we are seeing the dawn of the fourth major transitional market shift. Growth is inevitable as this market evolves and writers position themselves for dramatic changes in what has been a stagnant industry.
The first major shift occurred in the mid 1970’s with the emergence of the hardcover format which surpassed the mass market paper and gave publishers a new revenue stream for the same content. Up to that point the paperback was the publishing format leader and responsible for more than the majority of the company’s print order, distribution and revenue.
Trade paper was available at this time but not widely distributed. The hardcover format began to show potential as the bookstore market grew with more independent stores cropping up around the country. This enabled publishers to move away from dependence on the low price mass market format and move to a higher price more respectable hardcover edition. The result was more revenue for the publisher, higher royalties for the author and overall growth for the industry.
The second shift in the late 1980’s was the emergence of the large bookstore chains which transitioned primarily from mass merchant or large box stores to multiple retail locations specifically designed for books. The mom and pop boutique bookstores that existed did not preclude what became the superstore because they provided little sales and profits for the big publishers.
Up to this point the mass market paperback placed within a defined space in a supermarket, drug or mass merchant was the primary source for distributing and selling books. Publishing decisions were based more on impulse buying as opposed to what is considered a destination purchase. In mass retailers most consumers made a book purchase as they pushed their cart down an aisle and spotted something interesting as opposed to driving directly to a bookstore to make a specific title purchase. This changed dramatically with the super bookstore.
The fourth major shift within the publishing industry began in 2007 and really took off in April 2009. These dates coincide with the release of the Kindle and iPad. It is obvious that at this very moment the book industry is transitioning into a digital marketplace where the primary format for all publications will eventually become the eBook. Even though total sales represent barely a quarter of major publishers overall revenue the increase is strong and sustainable.
As more resources are placed into enhancing the format and developing new revenue streams such as advertising and product placement, there is little doubt that publishing is undergoing a major transitional shift in the market. As publishers recognize the overall potential of the eBook goes well beyond the content there is little doubt the format will continue to experience strong growth for the publisher and unlimited potential for the writer.
For writers this represents perhaps the biggest opportunity for growth in the past four decades. As technology changes, grows, and provides new platforms and delivery systems for creative content and homework solution the demand for that content will grow accordingly. In order for a writer to take advantage of these opportunities they need to do three things. First; make certain they have a basic understanding of the market and how their writing is positioned within that market. Second; find an editor they are comfortable with and can work with to improve the quality of their writing. Third; write as often and as much as possible.
Success as a writer in the new transitional marketplace will require writers to be more publishing and marketing savvy and create a breadth of quality content within the same genre. Anything is possible in book publishing as long as writers continue to improve their work and learn how to market themselves, their content, and their publications. The key is to focus on writing, editing, and never worry about things beyond their control. Markets will continue to shift; the winners will be those in a position to take advantage.