Publishing Trends 2011

Caleb's Predictions in trends, the publishing landscape, and what you need to know.

2011 will bring the biggest shift in the publishing industry in history, and a massive shift in what it means to be an author.

THE LANDSCAPE -- what we saw in 2010, what to expect in 2011:

-- The second-most popular search engine in the world became YouTube, with Facebook coming third (Google was first, obviously).

-- For the first-time, the mainstay of traditional publishing began to falter -- sales of celebrity books. Major sales disappointments shook the industry, including Sarah Palin's latest book, and books from two reality show stars. (Celebrity books have typically been the best bet for publishers because they have access to media and a built-in fan base). There is now confusion among traditional publishers about where book buyers will come from in 2011.

-- Digital publishing makes it much easier and cheaper to do high quality books, even for amateur writers.

-- Oprah is expected to start her own publishing company, using the power of her new network and her brand to launch sales of books.

-- Barnes & Noble and Borders are in trouble. Borders lost $74 million during the fourth quarter of 2010, and BN asked for someone to buy the company. Borders was the only company to make an offer. Meanwhile, with sales of ebooks skyrocketing, many authors, even established authors, are beginning to think traditional publishers, who had bookstore distribution, may not be so useful to authors in 2011.

-- There is growing worry that traditional publishers cannot get timely books to market fast enough. Several nonfiction books have struggled because by the time publishers got them out, the information in them was months old and the world had changed.

-- Bestselling author of 12 books, Seth Godwin announced he will start his own imprint with Amazon, declining traditional publishing all together. This has sent a major shiver through the publishing industry, and more major authors are expected to follow his lead in 2011.

-- The New York Times will start an ebook bestsellers list in early 2011.

-- Google has announced Google Ebooks, a gamechanger which will allow indie authors and independent bookstores to have huge distribution -- something that has never happened before, and its all going to be happening in the "cloud" format.

-- Amazon has announced that it will now share its sales stats with authors.

-- Amazon has predicted that sales of ebooks on its website will outstrip sales of paperback and hardback books combined as early as 2011.

-- The former president of Shell Oil announced that by April 2011, gas prices in the U.S. would hit $4 a gallon on average, and he predicted they would hit $5 a gallon by Sept. 2012. This will drive sales of ebooks, and make it pricier to ship traditional books, and discourage people from driving to bookstores.


-- We will see a huge rise in the number of new publishing companies, and many of them will be ebook-only publishers.

-- In late 2010, some authors were able to get agents by offering a book for free on Kindle, and when that book rose into the bestsellers, agents began to call. Expect to see many more authors trying this route, and some of them with success.

-- Some of the established publishers, big and small, will announce they will become ebook-only publishers.

-- Independent writers -- those without publishing contracts or agents -- will have access to audiences they've never had before, and many of them will begin to show up on bestsellers lists.

-- There will be an upsurge in the success of writers focus on niche genres.

-- Several big-name authors will announce they are going independent. This could well include John Grisham, whose career was saved by ebooks in 2010.

-- There is a new trend among indie authors to try to sell 1,000 ebooks a month, and a group of authors on Amazon has begun keeping their own monthly "1K sellers" list.

-- Science-fiction and fantasy in genre are going to be a huge trend in 2011, sneaking their way into all other genres.

-- Within weeks we will begin to see ebooks set to music, and ebooks that are very interactive.

-- The good news for writers about ebooks is that the eformat discourages book sharing the way books were passed around in paper form, which will translate into more money for authors. Authors have already begun to see their back catalogs (their out of print books) begin to sell better than they ever have as they are discovered by new readers when they are re-released as ebooks. And an "out of print" book will no longer exist beginning in 2011. The books of writers, from now on, will always and forever be available as ebooks. This will translate into more books sales, and is huge boon to writers.

-- We will also begin to see books become shorter, in the eformat, where books can be priced more inexpensively. But we will also begin to see authors releasing a book every couple of months. As ebook readers begin to find favorite authors, they will begin to want more new books faster. This is going to be a huge trend with indie writers as the establishment tries to catch up to the new publishing model.

-- I'm predicting that we will see, in 2011, the rise of geography-based purchasing. When you are at Yellowstone National Park on family vacation, you'll find a slew of inexpensively prices ebooks in many genres about the park -- ebooks about the animals or geysers for the kids, complete with facts and fun and interactive features, and ebooks for the parents about the geology, the history, where to find the best hidden waterfalls and hiking routes. All of these geographic-bases sales will be short "books" priced to sell. And we will begin to see this all over America, at every tourist place and even nontourist places. This will open up a new genre of short writing.


-- First-time authors can appeal more directly to the market to find an audience, using ebooks.

-- The successful authors will be those who learn to promote books digitally.

-- We will begin to see the rise of virtual author appearances and virtual author book tours in 2010. Authors will be making virtual appearances to writers groups and clubs and skype-chats to groups and on website and using apps.

-- Authors will find they will need a digital following in order to get a book deal with a publisher. Having a blog and a Twitter account will nolonger be enough. Publishers will demand that an author have a blog with a following.

-- The value of agents will be unchanged in 2011. Even if you don't ever use a traditional publisher again, you'll want to have an agent to protect your foreign and film rights, to make sure you get pay bumps based on sales spikes, and to help negotiate the online promotion of your ebooks.

-- The nature of having a publisher will change dramatically. The world of selling ebooks is new, and up and coming writers will need digital cover art -- which is crucial to ebook sales -- as well as one sentence ebook blurbs. For many of the new ebook publishing companies that will be born in 2011, their key selling feature will be their ability to offer these ebook-specific services to writers. Many writers who try to go it on their own in the ebook world will fail solely because they don't have the expertise to navigate the ebook sales experience.

-- As Amazon begins to offer authors their own sales data, virtual and actual book tours and promotions will begin to be driven by those data -- where in the country is the book selling best, to whom, and on which days.

--- The ebook market place will get crowded very fast. THE ONLY WAY for an author to stand out will be through narrative voice.

-- Plots will begin to be more science-fiction and fantasy driven, for two reasons -- people will be looking for escapist literature because of the reality of the economy, and because technology is changing so fast around us, and science fiction has always driven the trends of what can be imagined can become real.

-- Series writing is going to become hugely important in ebook format, as I mentioned earlier. Expect to see shorter book, but more of them, and readers will begin to expect this.

-- picture book sales will begin to revive in 2011, but not in actual book copies. There will be a boom in parents looking for ebook content for children.

-- The "highly illustrated book for young readers" is going to become a trend, blending together picture books and chapter books, and this will begin to spread through to the middle grade and then the YA genres, and quickly into adult genres too. Books will begin to look and be different because of the possibilities of ebooks to be interactive and surprising. Publishers will begin to experiment with books that have background music.

-- Nonfiction has always outsold fiction, but the gap will become wider in 2011 as nonfiction ebooks become shorter, more timely, and niche-driven. Word of mouth sales will begin to defy any traditional promotional tools in nonfiction.

-- The role of writers groups, for serious writers, will begin to change. Writers groups have already begun to turn into writers co-ops to help each other promote their own ebooks and run group blogs with contents including YouTube videos and podcasts. Promotions for up-and-coming writers will more and more be a group effort. This will try some writers groups, but become a huge boon to groups of serious writers, and long-established writers groups.


  1. Sure wish I could've stayed for all of the fun last night. But 3am came mighty early...

    Perhaps you might share the lesson on testing the first page of a manuscript at some point as well.

    As always - truly valuable instruction.


  2. I guess that's why I have purchased 11 books since getting a Kindle for Christmas. It's faster than, so much easier than going to the library and cheaper than the bookstore.

  3. I guess you are either a traditional paperback person or not - I'm with either.

  4. Very interesting list. Thanks. That's a lot to think about.

  5. Great post with good information. Many thanks~

  6. Ah, life in the 21st Century! One would never have imagined this in my day. Thank you for this well-researched info. We're going to bookmark this page (as you see, I am learning the lingo!) and refer to it often.

  7. Wow, Caleb! A huge amount of information here. Thanks, a lot! As an aspiring SF writer, I particularly enjoyed your predictions for SF. :)
    Is there any chance I could repost this as a guest post over on my blog next week (or the following) after the buzz has died down a bit here?
    Thanks again,

  8. Great information, a friend and I attended a writer's workshop at the weekend in London with a top agent, a marketing guy and two women from two well-known publishers, and all the points you have raised were covered by them in depth.

    Actually what they said was that the quality of the writing means nothing nowadays it's how proactive an author is that sells books!

  9. Very interesting and I agree with Mel!

  10. I think one interesting question is why a writer with a large digital following would want to go with a traditional publisher. If you're selling e-books -- even at the level I am -- it would take a hell of an advance to persuade me to give e-rights to a traditional publisher, especially one that's likely to price the e-book out of competition. I think we're a loonnnggg way from seeing the final adjustment in the relationship between publishers and writers.

  11. Good news for us who write. I just published my epic fantasy as an e-book the end of Dec. 2010.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  12. I'm an indie and I published my first romance novel as an ebook in November of last year. I've been told by published writers that I'm getting more royalties per book than I could ever expect to receive from traditional publishers, especially for a first book. They've also advised that a traditional publisher would provide no marketing support, so I'd have to be doing all my selling myself anyhow! I can't think of a single reason to go with a traditional publisher unless their advance is hefty. Or am I missing something?

    Sandra Nachlinger, author

  13. Thanks for this concise list of predictions. Some of it I guessed and some I wondered about. I'm thrilled about your predictions about fantasy and scifi.

  14. Thanks for the article. I think the point that eformat discourages sharing won't last long. I think the opposite will happen. I think book sharing will explode as more people use the eformat. Since the Kindle started sharing Dec 31st, there has been 12K likes to the Facebook lending page alone. I believe there are more sharing websites in the works.

  15. Somebody from Night Reading recommended we read this, and I'm glad I did. Fascinating. Thank you.

  16. I'm from Night Publishing also. (They published my fantasy book Eye of Erasmus last year)
    Fabulous article - thank you