Five Digital Publishing Questions for Jane Friedman

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The Digital Book World Conference + Expo, kicking off on January 13, 2015 is packed with an incredible amount of information and ideas about the digital publishing landscape at a time of remarkable transformations. To help attendees make the most out of those three days, Digital Book World is sitting down with conference speakers to help lay the groundwork for conversations that will take place at the conference and continue for many weeks and months afterward.

This is the second installment in our “Digital Publishing Questions” blog series, featuring Scratch Magazine Publisher Jane Friedman.

What do you think has been the most newsworthy event for authors in the past year around publishing and digital change?

Since I come at this from an author’s perspective (and will be moderating a panel at Digital Book World on self-publishing), I’ll answer these from that particular viewpoint.

The launch of Kindle Unlimited (KU) raises some significant questions for authors who have been selling their ebooks exclusively through Amazon’s KDP Select program. Do KU and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) lends cannibalize sales, or offer additive income? Will there continue to be a declining payout for KOLL/KU lends? Perhaps authors will start using KDP Select only for titles that serve as marketing and promotion tools—to cast a wide net for new readers willing to pay for other work.

Aside from that, Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings project has generated much needed debate, and I hope it leads to greater transparency about what authors earn regardless of how they publish.

What are you anticipating as the big change we will see in 2015?

I think Amazon will keep tinkering with KDP Select to either get more authors to sell exclusively with them or possibly decrease authors’ earnings if they’re not in KDP Select.

What is the most important thing publishers need to accomplish in 2015?

Again, speaking about this issue from an author’s perspective (I doubt many publishers will find this a priority), more flexible contract deals seem essential. While she’s an outlier, Barbara Freethy signed a deal this year with Ingram for print distribution rather than a Big Five publisher. I imagine the deal gives her greater freedom to run her business just the way she likes, with better earnings and without the interference or rights grabs of a publisher. I’d expect the savviest and most successful authors to increasingly strike these types of deals.

Will Amazon’s ebook market share grow in 2015 or will this be the year that Apple, Kobo, Google and Nook (or someone else) push them back?

It’s hard to imagine any pushing back in 2015.

Are there any companies (start-up or otherwise) now flying below the radar that you think may break out in 2015?

Reedsy—a marketplace for independent authors to find professional help—looks very impressive so far and has a long-term vision for being much more than a marketplace.

And while it’s not flying under the radar by any means, I’m always paying close attention to Wattpad. It may very well serve as the training ground for the next generation of best-selling authors, and it’s a mobile-driven business, which is where reading, writing and publishing is headed.

Jane Friedman is the Publisher of Scratch Magazine. She’ll be speaking at Digital Book World 2015 on a panel called “Authors Facing the Industry: Business and Marketing Decisions,” about the shifting array of choices authors now face when it comes to publishing and monetizing their work.

How authors are meeting those challenges is the focus of Digital Book World’s and Writer’s Digest’s third annual Author Survey, which current and aspiring authors can take through December 7th here. Results and analysis will be premiered at Digital Book World in a workshop called “What Authors Want and How Publishers Can Adapt,” led by Queens College–CUNY Professor of Sociology and self-published author Dana Beth Weinberg.


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