Guest post by independent marketing consultant, Katrina Hopewell
Let’s turn the clock back five years. A time when the large publishing houses were controlling the industry. A time when printing presses were regulated. A time when there was no public access to retail distribution. A time when the publishing process was kept a secret and only known by a select few. A time when the books you ‘chose’ to read were actually carefully selected and curated for you.
Fast-forward to today and the lines are now blurred. The conventions and preconceptions that were the ‘norm’ for books have been challenged. Technology has democratised the industry. Self-publishing platforms have arrived giving everyone the creative freedom to publish their own work, on-demand printing giving us an affordable copy of one. How we consume content has changed, we read using our mobiles, eReaders and iPads. Brands now have to compete against everything that demands people’s time and attention. We live in a 24/7 fractured media environment. Content vs. apps vs. gaming vs. video. Constantly choosing and consuming content in bite-size chunks. We now take ownership of what we want to read and are able to fund exciting and diverse stories. Our digital lives have taken over. And publishers are no longer essential to the process.
- Technology is still democratising the industry
Self-publishing is now mainstream thanks to the growth of independent digital publishing platforms like Createspace, Lulu and Blurb enabling the creation of eBooks, making the process simple, efficient and affordable. E-readers have got consistently cheaper and better since the first Kindle shipped in 2007, giving customers instant access to millions of titles. And the behemoth that is Amazon has made retailing these titles too easy. The launch of sites like Goodreads, has assisted the industry in becoming more social with over 43 million reviews on the platform to date, helping help people find and share books they love.
- Opinion of self-publishing is changing and progressive
Have you heard anyone say, ‘I will only read that book if it’s published by Penguin?’ Thought not. Readers are led by reading commendations and reviews, and they more often than not, will give a new author a go if the price is right, regardless of whether it’s been traditionally published or self-published. This mind-set is also changing for writers too – we’re continually seeing traditionally published authors becoming open to exploring self-publishing – to generate revenue from their ‘out of print’ backlists or to publish work that falls out of their traditional genre. New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge self-published Bones and Roses last year after she failed to find a publisher for her novel. And now authors are looking to social media to help them connect with their readers, reach new audiences and promote their work too.
- Arrival of content serialisation has revitalised how we consume content
The ‘on-demand’ generation has changed how we consume content. Readers have new expectations about the content they wish to read and how they want to read it. Out go printed books; in come mobiles, eReaders and iPads to suit our lifestyle. Wattpad has carved out an incredible niche for itself in the online reading market and become the world’s largest community of writers and readers, with over 40 million members and an average of 30 minutes reading per visit. 85% of users access the platform via mobile, promoting reading on the go, and writers have adapted to this, releasing their work a chapter at a time to serialise their content, keeping their readers hooked and in turn increasing the revenue they make from fans. Serial, a real-life crime story turned podcast, completely captured the zeitgeist last year, after it was released on a weekly basis and downloaded over 20 million times on iTunes. The Pigeonhole take a different approach, commissioning and serialising fresh digital content and classic novels from authors like Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations through their app. Audible, has a library of over 150,000 audiobooks accessible across multiple devices. We not only read, but also listen and interact socially with the content we consume and this will only increase as we multitask through our day-to-day lives.
- Crowdfunding is enabling diverse content to find an audience
We now find ourselves overwhelmed by a massive abundance of content and we have entered a period that is all about content relevancy. The digital revolution is all about finding your niche and capitalizing on it – and publishing your own content enables you to become an influencer in your chosen space. Until recently, books that fell out of the mainstream were rejected because they would only appeal to a niche audience. A traditional publishing house with big overheads would not be able to sell enough copies for that book to pay for the overhead costs they would invest. For those who need funding or want to test an idea out to captive audiences, platforms like Unbound and Indiegogo are available to help surface and fund great books that we wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to read. Love obscure 80s and 90s video games? Check out Stuart Ashen’s synopsis. This book will be a must have on your shelf.
- Long live the printed book
The argument over the last few years seems to always be about the proclamation that ‘print is dead.’ It really isn’t. We’re increasingly using different mediums dependent on the content that we read – for fiction, we typically go digital, downloading content onto our eBooks and iPhones to read at home, on the move or away on holiday. We leave print for the content we wish to keep: mementos, memories and personal keepsakes. And brands are increasingly using the medium to create limited editions. My bet is that our bookshelves will increasingly diversify over the coming years and include a wealth of different content, the classic stories we’re unable to tear ourselves away from as well as photo books from major events in our lives, and perhaps even an autobiography of our own life to pass onto future generations too.
Katrina Hopewell, Independent Marketing Consultant