Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
When trends become clear—from self-publishing to writer events to the boutique model of the industry to the re-growth of print sales and large publisher consolidation—I regularly point out in the office that I predicted them two or three years ago. Given that I’m generally met with bemused looks, I thought I would make an official record of some predictions for 2016.
So here, in no particular order, are 10 publishing predictions for the year ahead:
1. Continued regrowth of print sales. Those who predicted the demise of the print book were wrong. With strong demand remaining and the boutique model having taken hold with mass numbers in digital and the profit margin in print sales, publishers are taking advantage by nudging their print prices up. A new generation of bookstores (including pop-ups) is emerging, and 2016 will be a positive year for print sales.
2. Increased focus on export sales. While print sales will be strong, the emergence of new bookstores will be offset by those sadly closing their doors, having struggled for the last seven years. But without the number of domestic print retailers growing rapidly, publishers will start to look again at exporting, where new opportunities lie in today’s interconnected world.
3. Amazon spending some time under the radar. A prediction that could quickly be blown out of the water, but after a few PR bloody noses in 2015 when their negotiations with major publishers became too public, I think Amazon will plan a quieter public year. But don’t confuse lack of visibility with lack of progress; Amazon will be working on an aggressive plan, and its influence on and evolution of the industry will undoubtedly continue.
4. The middle to continue to diminish with more consolidation. The trend of large publishers buying struggling mid-sized publishers, as well as an increasingly flourishing independent publishing sector (plus with one or two possible big mergers to come), became clear in 2015 and will continue. The middle in publishing (and bookselling) is going, and what will remain is the big and wieldy with the small and nimble.
5. Picking up a Penguin; keep an eye on Pearson. Pearson is busy restructuring its business, and with a number of offloading sales already announced it is only a matter of time before the publisher takes a long look at its PRH stake and considers a sale. Not long after bedding in its merger, it could be another year of change for the now largest trade publishing group.
6. Increasing Chinese influence. In 2015, we saw a number of international acquisitions and investments from Chinese publishers, in addition to its government’s push to export more Chinese content. Despite the apparent brief economy wobble, China’s quiet but determined international growth plan will continue.
7. Publishers taking advantage of licensing opportunities. I write with a vested interest, of course, owning a global rights licensing marketplace, but what is clear from conversations is that publishers across the world are now seeing the opportunities in licensing. I expect licensing to move from being subsidiary to a core bottom line revenue stream for publishers in 2016.
8. New English language partnerships. Again taking advantage of international connectivity, while growth in domestic markets will be slow and steady, publishers will look to partnerships with other English language publishers from different countries for growth. I expect a few interesting announcements, mainly from the independent sector.
9. Book fair evolution and the emergence of the micro-fair. With less footfall but more focus, the book fairs will continue to evolve and look at ways of directly generating business to encourage attendance and spending. As a result, there will be a gap in the market for smaller and single focused “micro’” book fair events that can work very well, and we will start to see more appearing on 2016’s calendar.
10. Struggle for subscription but steady digital sales. The fall of Oyster paves the way for a difficult year ahead for the subscription platforms. Flaws in the business model remain, and while waiting for one offering to crack the sector, more will sadly fall out of the market. However, while digital has realigned following the initial boom of e-reader uptake, there will be no less demand for digital reading. I expect steady evolution rather than a spectacular 2016 for the ebook. But with increasing print sales, I believe we will experience a much-welcomed strong year ahead for publishing.
So there are my predictions, and I promise to revisit them next year to assess each one as to how accurate it turned out to be. If you have any predictions to add to those above I would be very happy to hear them.
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