Ten Daring Predictions for 2012 from the Indie Author Trenches.

2011 saw great change.  2012 will bring even more. 10 predictions below.

The reality is, to thrive and not just survive, everyone in publishing must be willing to change on a dime and innovate.  My background in Special Forces taught me how to do that.  Also, it taught me that to succeed, I must take risks.  The company isn’t called Who Dares Wins for nuthing (as we say in da’ Bronx).

What do I see for 2012 in publishing from the perspective of someone who spent two decades in traditional publishing and two years in indie publishing?

  1. One big thing lurking is a major trad author who goes indie, once they crunch the numbers on their royalty statements (which are still working via the Pony Express rather than the Internet) and realize their loyal readers will follow them regardless of which imprint the book is published under and how their royalty rate can skyrocket on their own.  I still feel the fear coming off many authors about abandoning traditional publishing, even though trad publishing will dump them in a hearbeat if the P&L statement isn’t favorable.  And gives them very lousy royalty rates and restrictive contracts to boot.  Fear will kill you.
  2. Slow will also kill you.  I’d forgotten that “I’ll get back to you next week” in traditional publishing equals “I might get back to you in a few months, but likely never” in the real world.  That’s not going to cut it in the electronic age.  Five years ago, when describing publishing, I’d use two terms:  SLOW and TECHNOPHOBIC.  Both are killers today.  And they’re still damn slow. Tick-tock says the reaper.
  3. Agents as publishers.  Yep, every agent wants to make a living and keep their clients.  So they’re cobbling together some “experts” and offering services to their clients.  I’m not even going to weigh in on whether it’s ethical, my issue is can they do it?  Being an agent is not being a publisher.  It took almost two years to get feet on the ground with Who Dares Wins Publishing Can an agent do it?  Can their clients afford to go through their growing pains and mistakes?
  4. Authors as publishers: ditto.  I call myself indie, but in a blog post earlier this year I pointed out the term “self-publishing” is a dangerous one.  I’m not self-publishing.  I’ve got a company.  I can’t do it all myself.  I think the success stories from self-publishing will occur, but be few and far between.  What will happen is agents and publishers will use self-publishing as the new slush pile, letting the author do all the work, and then scoop in.  Nothing wrong with that.  I think it gives authors a fairer shot by letting readers and thei authors’ own initiative and work ethic count a lot more than the vagaries of the unpaid intern reading the slush pile.
  5. I’m also waiting to see someone develop a system like ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) for books, marrying up the content providers with the talent to produce a finished, professional book, both print and eBook.  I see a lot of start-ups sort of doing this, but their focus is more on making the author pay than making the reader pay.  Money should always flow to the author, not from the author.  And, ACX does something publishers are going to have to do with eBooks:  Pay a sliding scale royalty.  Selling more should get you rewarded.  My Area 51 audio is already close to hitting the first royalty bump (starting at 50%) and it’s only been available for a couple of weeks.
  6. But in a case where money flows from the author, self-publishers have to realize it isn’t free.  With ACX the author either decides to outright pay the talent to produce the audiobook or profit shares at 50-50.  Authors have to pay for editing, for a cover (no your little sister’s drawing on your cover isn’t going to cut it), for marketing, etc.  A key thing I see looming is more profit-sharing and the drawdown of the advance.  This has a lot of upsides (not so much for agents):  it means everyone has a stake in the success in the book.  Like the old Saturday Night Live skit about lawyers:  I don’t make my nickel until you make your dime.  It’s the model we work on at Who Dares Wins Publishing.  Also, profit sharing with a solid royalty rate for authors (at least 50%) gives them more motivation to promote their book.
  7. Pricing.  While I believe in the value of the .99 eBook for getting readers, and $2.99 is a nice price for an indie, I think the real value of a novel has to be around $4.99 in eBook format.  As a consultant, I’ve learned people don’t value what they get for free or for cheap.  I don’t see NY lowering it’s prices much except that they will start to see the eBook as replacing the mass market paperback and price accordingly as they cut back on the bloated print overhead they no longer need.
  8. Royalty rates.  Going back to #2 above, the 25% rate is a no go.  Not with 70% lurking for indie publishing.  I think 50% of gross is fair.  Which brings up the dangerous term “net”.  Who the hell determines that?  Publishers can play games all they want with contracts and terms, but sooner or later someone is going to turn over all three of the cups instead of just one and find out they’re getting conned.  I see lawsuits pending over publisher accounting for eBooks.
  9. Those who don’t “get it” will be gone.  I just moved to Chapel Hill, NC and on US 15/501 near the intersection with I-40 is a large Lowes.  With a large, empty Borders building in front of it.  I see major changes coming at large publishers as they shift from their traditional way of doing things to the new way.  An issue few discuss is the fact there are people inside those companies actually fighting change for the better, because they know their very job is threatened.  While this is a normal human reaction, it’s costing the publishers, agents, and authors a lot.
  10. I attended Storyworld in San Francisco this year and it was all about transmedia.  What fascinates me about this is that I heard the old way of doing transmedia is to start with the book, then transform into games, movies, shows, etc. etc.  Yet I never heard the word transmedia from a single agent, editor or publisher in all my years in the business.    Gale Anne Hurd just optioned Area 51—unfortunately the wrong one.  The nonfiction bestseller, that my fiction Area 51 has outsold in eBook—to make a TV series to follow her success with The Walking Dead.  I suppose that’s transmedia.  What I think should happen, but might not really happen, is to bring the creative types from the various media platforms together at the idea stage and then branch out transmedia from that.  Develop stories unique the medium with the same idea.  Not try to develop a story from a story.  If you understand this, you understand how story develops out of idea.

2012 promises to an interesting year and the bottom line for authors is to Write It Forward!

About Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Posted on December 26, 2011, in Write It forward and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. Great post. It makes me think…really think…about my future.

    But that can’t be anything but good! LOL

    susan meier

  2. Re para #8. I have never forgotten what a very experienced IP lawyer (he dealt with Big6 publishers & LA movie types) told me re “net”…Quoth this smart man: “Net is gossamer.”

    Bottom line: They’re talking net, you, the creator, is gonna get screwed.

  3. Fascinating and challenging post. Technology continues to change the publishing business. We all have to find a way to ride the wave!

  4. Number Seven nailed it. A thirty-four cent return for a work that takes a diligent year to produce is a gross devaluation of the effort. Readers should not expect that price point for quality. I can’t help but believe that patience with a title and consistent marketing will overcome resistance to a reasonable retail price.

  5. On pricing, I expect a lot more authors to have success this year at higher prices. I raised the price of Devil’s Lair to $7.99 and my book spent Christmas Day in the Kindle Top 400. The relatively high price (for an indie) didn’t scare off too many customers.


  6. #3 has been rattling around in my own brain the last couple of months. I’m at a crossroads and am having difficulty making some decisions in that area, and I know it’s because of the fear that there will be no one in my corner who “loves my work” and whose opinion actually “counts.” That need for reassurance should be fulfilled by the 50k+ books I’ve sold in the last six months and the fan letters that tell me my books made them laugh or cry. But this training the trad world and professional organizations have pressed on us is a hard habit to break, and you’re right–fear is the only reason.

    Here’s to another great year.

  7. Some good predictions, and some of them have already been coming true for awhile. I know several authors who self-published and were picked up by traditional publishers who probably wouldn’t have accepted the book to begin with. Once publishers see that a book is selling and that the author is committed to promoting it, they are much more willing to take a chance on the title. I really do agree that self-pubbed authors may become the new “slush pile”. As for #7, I do agree that many indie authors undervalue their work. I mostly write short fiction, so I don’t mind selling it for fairly cheap, but if I put in the time and effort to write a full-length novel, I would definitely charge more than 99 cents for it.

  8. I bet you’ve changed more, learnt more and done more in the two years in indie publishing than you ever did in 20 years of traditional publishing. The iron curtain falls. Bring on the end of the world as we know it

  9. Great post, Bob!

    As you know I also shared my 2012 Predictions today on my grog The WG2E, and thanks bunches for stopping by!

    I sooo agree with you that wow are the TradiPubs gonna have to get their act together and either adapt or die…as you know, LOL, I’m predicting their slow death. Like you predict, though, I do think they’re going to start losing their superstar authors to the Indie Epub Route, which will contribute to their overall demise.

    Also, I come from a Returns Center background…and I can tell you for sure that not one single royalty statement is an accurate accounting of anything!!!

    Beyond your wonderful points and predictions, I will add the crux of my predictions in that 2012 is going to be all about REACHING READERS and getting to know them. The authors who do that and do it well and in superfab creative ways, will both survive and thrive.

    Happy New Year to all of you!!!

  10. Thanks a lot for this post. For someone who’s just starting into indie publishing, it was incredibly informative and gave me a lot to think about. I’m another person who is struggling to figure out a price for my book. Cheap might get more readers looking for a bargain, but it’s also cheap, making me think some people will decide the book isn’t well written.

    As much as indie publishing might be a lot of people’s way in, I really would hate to see books in their traditional form go away. The same with bookstores. There’s just something about being surrounded by real, printed books. It’s sad to me that traditional publishers are shooting themselves in the foot.

  11. Good point on the transmedia issue. Actually I think that it can possibly cost an author image decay. I quit reading Clancy when I saw the games and other “TransProducts” he was moving into. He just didn’t appear to be the same writer.

  12. Fantastic post.
    best part tho: Bob said: 8.Royalty rates. Going back to #2 above, the 25% rate is a no go. Not with 70% lurking for indie publishing. I think 50% of gross is fair. Which brings up the dangerous term “net”. Who the hell determines that? Publishers can play games all they want with contracts and terms, but sooner or later someone is going to turn over all three of the cups instead of just one and find out they’re getting conned. I see lawsuits pending over publisher accounting for eBooks.

    I completely agree. Net? Are you kidding me? And that comes from where, your magic 8 ball? Total shell game, and you’re the bomb for calling the b.s. for what it is. Accounting is already sketchy and net pretty much blurs all the lines.

  13. I think publishers have gotten used to not having their accounting checked. But in the digital age when I can go to PubIt and check my sales up to the minute– ditto with Amazon– they have to modernize or risk antagonizing authors.

  14. Insightful post. I hope you’ll follow up on these predictions throughout the year.

  15. Thanks for sharing. Always good to keep up with the publishing world at large. The shifting slimy but necessary beast that it is.

  16. I agree with you so many counts it’s almost scary. I’m not so sure about this part though:

    “What will happen is agents and publishers will use self-publishing as the new slush pile, letting the author do all the work, and then scoop in.”

    For that to happen publishers have to start offering decent contracts AND decent royalties. I haven’t seen it yet. It has happened a few times, but I question whether it hasn’t been more the “this proves I’ve made it” factor than anything else. If a publisher showed up at my door, they would have to have goodies in hand to tempt me because this month I made more than most mid-list advances.

    I have nothing against publishers in theory. But I do have something against writers being screwed over.

  17. Publishers aren’t out to screw writers over. They’re running a business. The reality is that in running that business, writers get screwed over. Sort of like in every battle, a lot of the foot soldiers become casualties. It’s not right, it’s not fair, but it’s reality. The difference now is that writers aren’t the foot soldiers any more.

  18. Authors need to learn what Software publishers have long known… You can charge for it and give it away at the same time. Put a $20 price on your book and give as many away as you can!

  19. Those predictions/thoughts sound about right to me, especially concerning pricing. Freebies and cheap are okay if one is starting out, I suppose, but eventually a writer is going to have to step up and realize if they want to be perceived as a professional, they’re going to have to charge at least near-professional prices.

    On a secondary note, Bob, I’ve been visiting my mother who lives just north of Durham, and due to some health problems I was recently hit with, my stay has become somewhat extended, probably for at least the next few months. Anyway, a week or so ago I was tooling around Chapel Hill and saw a license plate (I think it was on a Benz) that read “Fiction.” Ha! Just curious if maybe that was you. Please don’t answer if you feel it’s inappropriate in a public venue. At the time I remember thinking the car was probably driven by a professor at UNC.

  20. Nope– I drive a Jeep with Washington plates. But now that I’m back in North Carolina, I’ve put my US Army Special Forces plate holder back on.

  21. I’m new to indie publishing. I’m so new I haven’t even finished my first manuscript. After talking to friends who are published I decided indie was for me. But–there is a lot to indie I didn’t realize. I thought I wrote the book, bought a cover, and uploaded it to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Not that easy. I wish it was. This was very informative. Eye opening.

  22. It’s not as easy as people think. And that’s just the basics. The succeed, you have to do a lot more. You’re essentially running a business on top of the writing.

  23. Good predictions, there Bob. One thing’s for sure, publishing is changing at a rapid clip, and there are going to be a lot of people who can’t or won’t change with it.

    And welcome (back) to NC! I’m just a ways down the road, out in the country.

  24. Bob,
    Thanks for sharing a forward-looking overview. The publishing landscape is changing fast. Writers who work hard can find opportunities. All the best to you in 2012.

  25. Thanks for your 2012 list or predictions. With the way everything is changing and people are constantly trying to adapt (some being later to the party than others), I feel like you could add another 10 items to it.

    PS. #9 reminded me of the Books A Million that used to be in Raleigh on Falls of Neuse Rd. It’s a Dollar Tree now.

  26. Excellent insights. What happened in 2011 will only continue to gather steam in 2012, I think, and I’ve been tossing around the e-book idea for quite some time. You gave me some food for thought in that regard.

  27. Your predictions reflect the current turmoil in the book publishing industry. Indie authors, like myself, look at these changes with optimism. Great points, Bob. Let’s see how 2012 pans out.

  28. I wonder if what we really are seeing here is just a changing of kings and not a real democratization of the publishing industry. The truth is that 99% of the writers out there are not going anywhere under any system. Unfortunately, this includes some pretty good writers who either do not have the savvy or the time to lift the marketing weight required here. You recent alliance with other successful indie writers strikes me a market consolidations that is designed to create a critical mass of attention. All well and good for a diligent and seasoned author of 32 books, but where is the market channel that will help the new writer with one book? I think the next three years is really just going to see more industry consolidation that will ultimately yield industry domination by new players. It is shaping up to be the same old ivory tower with new occupants. The real promise of indie publishing was that anyone could be discovered. That is probably true for the next few years, but as review blogs grow and indie publishers consolidate, it is only a matter of time before there is simply a new nameplate on the parking space. Now is the time for new writers to get busy. The window of opportunity will not stay open for long. Markets will do what they always do – consolidate, organize around proven performers and create barriers to entry.

    Best wishes,
    D. M. Kenyon

  29. Great post Bob. I think you’re right about self-publishing being a misnomer. I prefer the term ‘Independent Author’ — that also allows us to make strategic partnerships with publishers, distributors, literary festivals etc. It’s all in the mindset: writers have to stop offering ourselves up as a resource to be mined by others and instead take charge of what we have to offer and how we’re going to offer it. Thanks for being there!

  30. Even in the digital world there’s still a place for the publishing dynamic – one that selects, edits, promotes and curates – so that readers can follow an imprint and know that what is published on that list will be worth taking notice of…

    That’s what I’m setting out to establish with ACHUKAbooks


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