The British people are now languishing in a kind of no man’s land after the in/pot referendum. Until Article 50 is submitted (that is, if it ever is), uncertainty is the order of the day. The result is that folks are now asking themselves what life is going to look like in a post-Brexit Britain. There is a mixture of hope and fear and it looks set to continue in this way until the politicians pull out their collective fingers, clean up their act and start to actually behave in a manner that benefits the country and not themselves. However, this is not a political rant, it is a speculative look into what the future may hold for those in the book industry.
The decision to leave the EU has sent the mainstream publishing world into something of a tailspin. Brexit is definitely not a good proposition either for the big five or for smaller publishing houses. The fall of the pound and threat of a recession has meant that they have had to look at their finances closely. With a fall in book sales predicted costs will have to be cut, new contracts put on hold and author lists slashed. This, of course also means that agents will be taking on fewer new clients and authors will be receiving less in the way of royalties (unless they sell mainly in the US or Europe where the weakness of the pound may increase their earnings slightly). To be fair, these cuts have been happening for a whole anyway; it’s just that the process may be accelerated in the months and years to come.
But that is mainstream publishing. What of the ever-increasing trend of self-publishing? As it turns out, indie authors are in a far better place to weather this storm. We already have access to a global marketplace through online e-book publishers and are used to being resourceful and adaptable to change (especially when it comes to Amazon Kindle publishing practices). So, as far as most things are concerned, not a great deal of difference will be noticed when it comes to the day-to-day business of producing and selling our books.
It does not, however, mean that we can continue doing what we do with complacency . For a start, the same market influences that are affecting mainstream publishing will also apply to self-publishing. Some of these are good, such as higher royalties from US sales while the pound is weaker against the dollar. However, if a recession does happen, or if uncertainty does continue, people are less likely to buy books when they need to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Over all, book sales will slump, with hardback and high-ticket items being particularly vulnerable.
Good News for Indie Authors
There is more good news though. During hard times people tend to seek some form of escapism be that in TV, films, music, adrenalin-junkie activities, sex or vanilla cheesecake. And, of course, reading. And while the sales of higher price books may fall, cheaper ones may do quite well. This is, again, where indie authors have the edge over those published by mainstreams: we can control our pricing and we know how to price a book just right to tempt a reader to buy. And let’s face it, a cheap read for the price of less than a coffee will not only entertain for longer than the expresso will last, but it can also be stored digitally, meaning no extra shelves or weight in the handbag/briefcase.
Ah, I hear you cry, but isn’t the self-published book market already saturated? Yes, yes it is – and it is often hard to find good books among the slush of the terribly written and unedited tomes floating out there in cyberspace. As traditionally published authors are unceremoniously dropped from publishers’ lists you can be sure that they will be looking at going down the self-publishing route too, adding ever more choices for the reader. So, the question is both an old and a future one for self-published authors post-Brexit: how do I stand out head and shoulders above the bad and the mediocre? How can I ensure that it is my books that get bought in a cash-strapped country?
Firstly (and I will be doing more posts on this), you need to build a good-sized and loyal readership using social media, e-mail, websites, review sites – whatever you can find that will help. Although beware of spending all your time on this and not writing. It is also helpful to have quite a few books out there – especially a series of books. This is one thing I am working on at present, so I hope you will follow me in following my own advice. Help other authors too: at this time the best way for us indies to not just survive but also to thrive is to form a community and assist each other on the way up (advice, reviews, sharing book promotions etc).
Most importantly we need to promote good quality books as there is still a stigma over a book being self-published. Luckily, as we know, this myth is gradually dying a necessary death. It may also be worth looking at what we write: fiction generally does better than non-fiction in hard times as people are seeking an escape. As to genre, from what I’ve read, the ones that do best in downturns are romances, murder mysteries, historicals and, for young adults, dystopic fantasy/science fiction. This topic could certainly do with looking at further.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that many self-published authors are also diversifying into other areas such as providing online courses in different areas of expertise (especially in self-publishing), and looking at the ways their websites could provide them with passive income (affiliate marketing and advertising space). This isn’t really surprising as indie authors tend to have an entrepreneurial streak. ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors) has spoken of the future for indie authors as Self-Publishing 2.0 – a steady trend towards being savvy in the processes of production, marketing, and media.* Of course, as more authors move towards such publicity-gaining methods then those already out in front may have to find other ways of standing out.
So is it a brave new world for self-published authors? Yes and no. Yes in that it has always been a brave new world because of constant changes in technology and e-publisher terms and conditions. Yes, as we push the knowledge of our trade and ways of working to their limits. But no as far as Brexit is concerned. In fact, I am sure that, as long as we keep striding positively forward, we have little to fear from the future.
- This can be read here: Happy Independence Day. But How Independent are Authors? at ALLi