By the year 2014, e-book sales will increase to the tune of 140%. Nearly 60% of all book sales will be digital. This sweeping change in how people read and consume content in general is due to the handy work of several advances in technology, and it’s taking the publishing industry by storm.
Publishers and readers are now following the lead of technology giants like Amazon.com, Sony and Apple. With the influx of digital content platforms, apps and the increased ability of smart phones, content is more easily and frequently consumable, placing the technology providers in the driver seat and fostering changes in the way business is done within the publishing industry. “It even affects how agents work. It makes a significant difference as to how I negotiate contracts with authors and publishers,” says Regina Brooks, founder and lead agent at Serendipity Literary Agency.
“We are all following technology and seeing where it’s going and doing our best to stay on top of it. That’s the way to stay ahead of the curve,” says Folode Bell, associate agent with Serendipity Literary Agency. Readers consume content at increasing rates. Companies are turning out books faster and faster. It’s becoming more about quantity as opposed to just quality. “Editors have to be savvier. You have to learn how to edit quickly but you still have to maintain the quality and integrity of the work,” says Karen Thomas, veteran editor and senior agent with Serendipity Literary Agency.
Readers now have the ability to purchase e-books directly from publishers and authors, bypassing book sellers entirely. Self-published authors are enjoying significant increases in sales as a result of having direct access to customers. Traditionally, publishers will give a book six months to see how well the book will sell then move it to their backlist. Now, older titles can gain new life through digital channels. Technology is making it possible for readers to have a voice, thus giving them the opportunity to have a significant impact on the changes leading the industry. Some authors, like James Patterson, have been bypassing the industry and going straight to the readers. As a former ad executive, he knew how to get to readers and drive sales.
Readers feel more comfortable shopping for what they want to read without going to the book stores. Unfortunately, for many book retailers, large and small, technology has left them out in the cold. Earlier this year, Borders Book stores closed its doors for good. “Sales are not necessarily going down but they are shifting. The money is shifting because the price points are shifting. In the past, authors got an advance based on publishers and authors assuming they will sell a certain number of hard copy books. Now, they won’t sell 40 thousand books but they will sell thousands of e-books,” says Regina Brooks.
In this new world of publishing, all parties must become savvier. Publishers are working diligently to keep up with market demands, agents are working harder to obtain deals for their clients, surviving book stores are changing the way they do business, and authors are learning the inner workings of the business. “Authors can no longer get a deal and kick their feet up. Publishers are looking at how much work an author can do to make leads in sales. Now you have to work with your editors, agents, and publicists to collectively come up with creative ideas,” says Dawn Michelle Hardy, associate agent at Serendipity Literary Agency.
Despite the fast-paced changes and challenges these are exciting times in publishing. “I know we are going through growing pains. It’s a big industry that’s used to doing things a certain way and now they must switch. I like the fact that we are being forced to make changes. I think change is healthy for any industry,” Karen Thomas states. Though much of this change has happened from the outside in, publishers have received this message loud and clear and are ready, willing and able to adapt.