Tracking Trends in Publishing

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Book publishing has experienced tectonic changes as the world navigates the digital era. And while some predicted the rise of the eBook would spell the fall of the printed book, too many of us love the heft of books, the finger-feel of paper, the pleasure of wandering the aisles of new and used book shops, the artistry that goes into writing, designing, and publishing printed books.

Views of the marketplace
Postcards from the mainstream
What about the indies?
Audiobooks are big in Sweden
The big picture
Trends in publishing and your strategy as an author

The market has settled over the past decade, and we can find distinct trends in publishing to guide us. So, what is the best course for writers seeking an audience? Where should you focus your energies to make a distinct presence in the book marketplace?

Views of the marketplace

Statistics generally arise from the mainstream marketplace, operated by the moguls at the head of the corporations wielding the power — in this case, the Big 5 publishing houses. From that perspective, you might look at the statistics and see one side of the story — but not all sides.

Then, we have the more rambunctious indie side, harder to track but more likely to reveal the genuine trends that are driving the industry. As Yves Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, said in his book, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman:

Only on the fringes of an ecosystem, those outer rings, do evolution and adaptation occur at a furious pace; the inner center of the system is where the entrenched, non-adapting species die off, doomed to failure by maintaining the status quo. Businesses go through the same cycles.

In the space between printed books and eBooks lurk audiobooks , heralded by many as the strongest growth area in publishing.

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Postcards from the mainstream

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), between January and November 2023 (the month they seem to favor for compiling stats), the overall publishing industry grew 0.6 percent, garnering $11.7 billion in revenue.

StatShot, AAP’s barometer of industry trends, noted a decline in eBook revenue of 6.5 percent to $1.95 billion in 2022. This trend of decline has been notable every year since 2014 — with the exception of 2020 — but remember, this stat applies to the mainstream publishing industry only.

With data collected from the major publishers between 2018 and 2022 (including Audible Inc., Hachette Audio, Penguin Random House, and others), Statista.com shows that US audiobook sales reached $1.8 billion, continuing a nine-year trend of double-digit revenue growth — one of the more predictable trends in publishing of late.

What about the indies?

Numbers are harder to come by once you journey to the indie fringe of the ecosystem. In general, eBook sales figures have shown a decline in recent years , varying from 6.9 to 8.5 percent of the total publishing industry since 2018. According to Publishers Weekly, books by indie authors represent 30–34 percent of books sold in the largest markets (English-speaking). Amazon — notoriously tight with data — notes that over 2,000 self-published authors have earned over $100,000, though the number of years it took them to do that is unknown.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) tallies writer incomes and collects various global statistics on the self-publishing industry. Available for free on their site are the Indie Author Income Survey and The Big Indie Author Data Drop 2023, in addition to numerous other resources and information.

Income earnings from writing, including both traditional channels and the ranks of self-published, can be gleaned from The Authors Guild . The Authors Guild takes a strong stand on issues such as establishing fair contracts for writers, copyright issues, protection of free speech, freedom of expression, and livable wages. The median level for author-related income reached $20,000 in 2022, a modest level of compensation, but significantly better than past years and another of the positive trends in publishing.

Audiobooks are big in Sweden

An example of the rapid evolution of the publishing industry can be found in an enterprise begun in Sweden. BookBeat, a digital subscription service for audiobooks and eBooks, saw its membership swell to 915,000 users — a 28 percent increase in 2023 — amidst booming audiobook interest in the Nordic countries and nearby nations such as Poland and the Netherlands.

Many of the new users are from the 25–34-year-old demographic. Typical users pay approximately 1,500 Swedish kroner for a subscription to BookBeat. Since its launch, BookBeat has generated $2.65 billion for Swedish publishers and international channels.

The big picture

Several sources note a number of shifts in the e-publishing industry, including:

Author branding and media communication. The trend toward authors taking a more visible role in promotional activities, branding, and interactive communication with readers is expected to continue. Authors increasingly recognize that their success hinges on activities that establish a strong connection with their readership and are maximizing the use of the social media and digital marketing.

Ongoing rise in audiobook popularity. The ascent of audiobooks for learning and entertainment shows no signs of slowing down, with innovative offerings being devised to tempt consumer interest, new models for media delivery, and refinement of production capabilities (including digitally generated voices). Specific genres are growing in popularity, such as nonfiction, serial episodes, self-help, and fiction tailored to unique audience groups. Recent technological advances in digital audio have sharpened quality, broadened access, and opened alternate subscription options.

Sustainability initiatives. New research and discoveries will help create more sustainable options for the physical printing process, including more sustainable and less-toxic inks, more environmentally friendly printing processes, shorter supply chains as print-on-demand processes improve, and advances in paper recyclability.

Trends in publishing and your strategy as an author

A strategy that has some appeal to the writer who wants the widest circulation for a book is to cover all the bases: release a print book, an eBook, and an audiobook for any given title. The audiobook, of course, represented a formidable expense if you’re self-publishing . Now, narration has become much less expensive with improvements in digital voice options. You can gain an impressive audiobook for far less than it would have cost you only two years ago.

All in all, it’s a fine time to be an independent author with a diverse assortment of choices and technologies and positive trends in publishing that enable your work and help forge an identity and find opportunities within the literary world.

Grow your author brand with eBooks

2 COMMENTS

  1. Is there much of a demand for English books in the Swedish audiobook market?
    How About translation from English to Swedish? Any suggestions?
    Where can one go for translations from English in general?
    Thanks. An interesting article.

  2. I think the market for children’s books is thriving still. This new generation of parents buy lots of books for their kids. Compared to my parents in the 60s.They are double income parents and value highly the benefit of early reading

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