Blogger: Mary Keeley
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) 2015 year-end report was an interesting mixture of up’s and down’s. Some stats were surprising, based on the previous year. Data from more than 1,200 publishers, including “religious publishers,” covering all genres and formats, shows that overall sales were down 2.6 percent from 2014. But that isn’t the end of the story. We talk often here about the need for authors to develop resilience in your writing life. Today, let’s examine a few indicators that point to the resilience of the publishing industry.
- Good News. CBA publishers I spoke to are well past the hit they took as a result of the Family Christian Stores bankruptcy and re-purchase. If you recall, publishers had to absorb hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars in unpaid product invoices and they didn’t get their product returned so they could resell it. Publishers were willing to accept their losses because they didn’t want to see this major distribution channel disappear. Recovery from this double hit in a relatively short time points to the industry’s resilience.
- More Good News. Remember not too many years ago, when prognosticators were predicting the gloom and death of print books? Well, they were wrong. While ebook sales declined last year, trade book sales have been on the increase in recent years, due in part to millennials’ and younger readers’ preference for print books. Those prophets of doom didn’t anticipate that these groups, who typically are glued to their electronic devices all day, would prefer to read hard copy books for pleasure or study. This is a lesson authors should apply as well: Get to know your readers’ felt needs, reading desires, and lifestyle needs, because what you write still is—and forever will be—all about your readers. Attention to this will feed your career’s resilience.
- Even More Good News. Downloaded audio book sales across the entire industry were up 39 percent last year. We’d been hearing during the year that audio books were doing well, but that statistic surprised me. It made sense when I thought about it, though. Audio books meet readers’ needs in their busy lifestyles.
- What at first was ominous news may have a resilient upturn. Ebook subscriptions didn’t do well last year. Some speculate that this relates to consumer lifestyle (again). You can subscribe to lots of music and listen to it while doing other things. But in today’s fast-pace lifestyle, people can read only so many books in a given time frame. Valid point. Oyster and Entitle shut down operations toward the end of last year, leaving only Scribd, which provides both audio books and ebooks, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited to provide subscription services. However, resilience in the publishing industry reigns again. Companies such as Playster might reignite the subscription model, which was once viewed by many in the industry as the future of publishing. Playster is a global, multi-content entertainment platform, one-stop shopping for TV shows, movies, video games, and yes, ebooks. By April of this year all of the BIG FIVE publishers had signed on to partnerships with Playster. Hopefully, they will make this service available to their Christian imprints as well. Just as financial professionals advise investors to diversify, this type of multi-content company might bolster the ebook subscription model. I envision more companies like Playster on the horizon.
These indicators teach us that we can’t predict with any accuracy what will or won’t work in publishing apart from anticipating readers’ lifestyle needs. This goes for authors and your audience as well as for publishers. They also are evidence of the resilience of the publishing industry. And that God is ever present, providing for Christian publishing.
What do you think after reading this? How do you find this information encouraging for where you are at in your writing life now? In the future? Have you heard about or observed other evidence of the industry’s resilience?
Publishing is alive and well. Four indicators of the resilience of the publishing industry. Click to Tweet.
No one can accurately predict publishing trends apart from anticipating readers’ lifestyle needs. Click to Tweet.