A Look Back at the Evolution of Publishing, Predictions That Came True & What This Means for YOU

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Ah, a New Year is before us. What is the future of publishing? What lies ahead for writers? Will Snooki have another baby? After consulting my team of advisors, those being the voices in my head, I’ll toss my predictions in the ring tomorrow. Granted, much of what I predicted last year has come to pass. A lot of it, I think still will happen but I have a history of being so far ahead of the game, people think I’m bonkers (ok, I am).

Note to Self: Perhaps wearing tinfoil hat impairs professional credibility.

Before I give any predictions for 2014, I figured it might be fun to take a quick look at the past nine years before we finish out my decade of Publishing Prognostication and Social Media Soothsaying. More fun than cleaning the house, right?

I’ve been very blessed to be right more times than I was wrong. I’d love to claim superpowers, but most of this is just doing what writers do—paying attention, using empathy, extending logic. Also, we are wise to seek out people smarter than we are. I know I do. I listened to bloggers, other experts, commenters and even self-professed non-readers, and they should have a lion’s share of credit.

This record of predictions is not an OOH, TOLD YOU SO! LOOK HOW AWSOME I AM! *OUCH I got a cramp patting myself on the back!* as much as it’s a poignant illustration how being present and engaged can give all of us tremendous advantages. When we try to automate the future or run our careers by remote, we lose predictive powers and become reactive instead of proactive. Our digital community is very wise if we are humble enough to participate, ask questions and then listen when they answer.

Thus, this 9-year list is to demonstrate that often, when we dare to be different, we will be criticized (often brutally), but our hearts, intuition and community can be pretty accurate guides if we stay the course ;)…

Nine-Year Record of Predictions:

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 11.05.40 AM

Big Six? Magic Eight Ball Says…

From 2004-2007, I predicted there would be a time when novelists could use social media to build a platform before the first book was even finished, and that this platform would eventually be a viable bargaining tool with publishers.

NUTSO. Burn her! She’s a witch!

I ignored the agents and writers who laughed at me and kept plodding away on Gather, then later MySpace and Facebook. I began using Twitter in 2008 because I felt this was a platform that would eventually change the way the world interacted. I hung out with all 20 other members on Twitter and waited, biding my time.

I also predicted that the same Digital Tsunami that leveled Tower Records would take out Kodak and then The Big Six.

Madness!

In 2008, I predicted that there would soon be a time that an author without a sound social media platform would be at a major professional disadvantage. Writers of The Digital Age had to have BOTH good books AND a sound platform. Good books alone were NOT ENOUGH.

What is she SMOKING?

If you peruse my archives, you will see many “sweet and thoughtful” comments by agents and authors regarding how I was an imbecile and writers only needed to write a good book. I was regularly informed I possessed the intellect of a brain-damaged monkey with a Valium addiction. Ouch. Agents (and writers) blogged left and right about staying off social media and focusing only on writing good books. Many indie author gurus preached the same.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

By 2011, agents stopped leaving hate comments on my blog, likely because they were too busy googling authors to see if they had a viable social platform. Major NYC agencies began refusing queries if a fiction author couldn’t demonstrate he/she had a sound platform. Today? Most have changed their tune and come to accept that Digital Age Authors have to be balanced to succeed—good books, good business, authentic social media.

In 2009, I encouraged The Big Six to embrace e-books, because that year some of the first affordable and user-friendly devices hit the market and I really wanted the Big Six to enjoy a Golden Era again. Sure theses gadgets were still in the Early Adopter part of the bell curve, but I noticed the price of smart phones, tablets, e-readers and data packages was steadily dropping at roughly the same time. To me, this was a clear indication that e-books would eventually edge over into the fat part of the bell curve and become entrenched. Smart phones and tablets would soon be mainstream and people would be searching for content and entertainment.

Actual Agent Quote: E-Books will be statistically meaningless. Like everyone thought audio books would end paper, e-books are a fluke and people will always want paper books.

*head desk*

I suppose this is one of the reasons why we no longer have a Big Six. *shrugs*

By 2010, I predicted that authors couldn’t rely on price alone. Cheap books would only hold power so long before it devolved into a race to the bottom of who could give away the most stuff for nothing. The “shiny” of .99 books and FREE! would dull once everyone was doing it. Also, consumers would get frustrated downloading books rife with errors, formatting issues and bad writing.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

I postulated that eventually readers would pay more for something they might actually read. I advised writers to use .99 and FREE! promotions only of those tactics served a long-term advantage. For instance, offer the first book of a series for free or .99 to encourage sales.

Still do.

Amazon permitted this deluge of cheap books because it was putting the hurt on The Big Six. I  theorized that once Amazon no longer considered Big Publishing a threat, it would reign in the freebies and the initial advantages offered to authors willing to hand away books. From 2012 to 2013, I noted the price of e-books highlighted on Amazon rise from .99-$2.99 to roughly $4.99 to $6.99, demonstrating Amazon’s strategy was paying off (this was right about the same time This Big Six became The Less-Big 5 and teetered on becoming The Spiffy Four). This was also when authors started seeing changes in how FREE sales were being ranked/weighted by Amazon.

In 2011, recommended that major publishers rethink pricing for the e-book. Charging the same price for an e-book as a hardback was bad business that would come back to bite them and only fuel the indie momentum they were trying to stanch. Agency pricing would put them in the crosshairs of the DOJ (which it did). Also, this ridiculous pricing was bound to drive the mid-list authors into abandoning the traditional ship and becoming indies.

Though I’d love to claim Nostradamus-like-powers, this isn’t rocket science. A best-selling author can only get so many ticked off one-star reviews for an overpriced $24 e-book before rethinking if the publisher is really making sound business decisions for that author’s present and future career.

This same year, I also railed against automation (and, frankly, always have). I knew that, as more regular people started using Twitter, they’d soon be able to spot bots and would come to resent and ignore them. I warned writers against these “time-saving” devices. My sentiment? It doesn’t take but a few moments to hop on social media and type a sentence.

We are WRITERS. 

I caught a LOT of heat over my attitude regarding automation and multiple accounts.

Then, The Boston Marathon Bombing tragically demonstrated the point I’d been trying to make for almost five years. Even well-crafted pre-programmed tweets are still SPAM. Our world changes on a dime and instantly. Many authors ended up in hot water because, “Buy my book, now FREE!” posted in the midst of a tragedy. And the time spent undoing the damage to the author brand probably exceeded that time “saved” by automating tweets.

YUM.

YUM….or not.

In 2011 and 2012, I warned against algorithmic alchemy. Amazon, Google, etc. knows when someone is abusing algorithms for any advantage. This is why they employ teams of computer experts who are tasked with changing algorithms any time certain users start gaining a manipulative advantage. Juking numbers only works short-term. There are better and longer-lasting uses of our time. Amazon now limits tags and penalizes abusers.

In 2013 I predicted a flood of mid-list authors would cut loyalty with NY and choose indie or hybrid paths. This is actually becoming more and more standard practice over the past year. CJ Lyons is one of many traditional authors who’s decided to add indie publishing into her career plan. When I spoke at Thrillerfest in NYC this past July, the CEO of AMAZON Publishing was the keynote. The hard line dividing writers finally began to crumble this past year.

I will post my predictions for 2014 tomorrow, but what I hope you take away from today’s post is:

If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.

The truly successful are never too smart or too talented or too important to listen to others. 

Heat can burn us or forge us. If we dare to go against the majority, expect pushback. Often it’s a sign we’re onto something ;).

Never fear being wrong. It’s the only way to figure out what’s right.

We really can’t predict the future, only create it. So let’s create something AMAZING!

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

What are your thoughts? Have you been ridiculed but kept pressing? What are some mistakes you made, but what did you learn? I know I’ve made plenty and they taught me way more than success. What were some trends you spotted and maybe people thought you were nuts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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  1. #1 by Arphaxad on December 30, 2013 - 2:44 pm

    Awesome words as usual. I became a fan of yours just 3 months ago and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings from you. Keep up the good work and God bless.

  2. #2 by Donna Thompson on December 30, 2013 - 2:46 pm

    Luv ya Kristen!

    Happy holidays and may 2014 prosper you!

  3. #3 by Tamara LeBlanc on December 30, 2013 - 2:54 pm

    Hi kristen!
    I’m not known for seeing into the future, normally I’m wrong about trends and if some crystal ball would have told me that last year was going to be so devastating and difficult I wouldn’t have belived it and shattered it on the bricks. Oh well..
    I don’t rely on heresay, I rely on you!!
    You’re my guru, my swami, my magic 8 ball!!! You were right about so many things, and though I’ve been absent more than present lately, I’ve listened and utilized your wise Jedi teachings.

    Thank you so much for always giving it to us staight and true!!!
    Have a freaking fantastic NEW YEAR!!!
    Tamara

  4. #4 by Misa YNY on December 30, 2013 - 3:00 pm

    I particularly like “Many authors ended up in hot water because, “Buy my book, now FREE!” posted in the midst of a tragedy. And the time spent undoing the damage to the author brand probably exceeded that time “saved” by automating tweets.” I’m just starting to build a brand and have courtesy-followed someone on Twitter who probably tweets 30 times a day about his book (now from multiple accounts). Between the volume and the typos, I’m being un-motivated.

    • #5 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2013 - 5:26 pm

      I am trying to rid this behavior one post at a time, LOL. ((HUGS))

  5. #6 by Megan on December 30, 2013 - 3:03 pm

    If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting – Good point

    The truly successful are never too smart or too talented or too important to listen to others – Absolutely

    Heat can burn us or forge us. If we dare to go against the majority, expect pushback. Often it’s a sign we’re onto something ;) – I LOVE this part

    Never fear being wrong. It’s the only way to figure out what’s right – Yes, live and learn

    We really can’t predict the future, only create it. So let’s create something AMAZING! – Let me grab my hat so I could join you!

    Happy New Year, Kristen!

  6. #8 by Jennifer Rose on December 30, 2013 - 3:11 pm

    Your thoughtful analysis of the societal trends is one of the reasons I follow your blog and was so fascinated with you upon our meeting. Minus a few minor things, I don’t tend to have insight into the future. Like I wished that I could have invested in e-readers when they came out, but didn’t have the funds. How could anyone NOT think they were the future?

    “The truly successful are never too smart or too talented or too important to listen to others.”
    –>Yes, exactly! That’s why standard advice from successful CEOs is that they surround themselves with “people smarter than they are.” Which means really that they hire people who fill in THEIR knowledge gaps, and who HELP them and their company succeed.

    • #9 by Stephanie Scott on December 30, 2013 - 3:34 pm

      I think what people weren’t seeing with ereaders was the ability to grow that medium on devices with multiple uses; I suppose we can thank Apple’s iPad for that revelation. I know people who hadn’t read a book in years who downloaded Kindle or Nook apps to their smart phones and iPads. We think too small sometimes :)

  7. #10 by sharonhughson on December 30, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    I still don’t have a Twitter account, and I can’t see the value in having one. I have read your books, but don’t see anything that convinces me adding Twitter to my Facebook, Pinterest and website-based blog will help me reach more people. Perhaps you will take time to write a post about this in the future.
    Thanks for sharing your genius with the rest of us.

    • #11 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2013 - 5:25 pm

      You don’t need to be everywhere. I would at least open an account. Claim that digital territory. You might change your mind one day. I loathed Facebook because I loved MySpace. It was more artsy and I could write code and change backgrounds and music and I loved the individuality and checking out the pages of other people in my network. Then? MySpace when nuts and *crassssshhhh FIRE*. I was happy I had at least claimed the FB place when MySpace committed digital suicide.

  8. #12 by Stephanie Scott on December 30, 2013 - 3:30 pm

    I’m truly grateful I found your blog at the beginning of my publishing journey. So many of your articles I’ve bookmarked, tweeted, and used for further research. I’ve also learned a lot from reader comments, so you’ve collected a varied and impressive readership as well!

    I have an early adopter friend who urged me to sign up for twitter in 2007 (this is the same person who used to admin AOL chatrooms at 14 and actually knew the person who had Jeff@aol.com LOL), though I didn’t have much use for twitter until I wanted to network with writers. It really is an exciting time with all these options, but you’re right to say that if we are present and paying attention, we can make the best use of our time and resources.

    Looking forwad to your new trends list!

  9. #13 by conniecockrell on December 30, 2013 - 3:43 pm

    Great predictions! I’ve jumped into the writing world recently. To me, the only way to go has been indie. (I told you, really new!) I haven’t burned the traditional publishing route, because, who knows what may happen in the future, but for all intents and purposes, I’m an author/publisher.

  10. #14 by Kate Robbins on December 30, 2013 - 3:50 pm

    Just picked up Rise of the Machines. Can’t wait to read it. Love your perspective. :)

    • #15 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2013 - 5:22 pm

      THANK YOU. I hope you enjoy it and that it blesses you tremendously. Happy New Year!

  11. #16 by jbiggar2013 on December 30, 2013 - 3:50 pm

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, some of the most popular authors out there are that way in large part to their friendly presence on Facebook and Twitter, Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins to name two. I’m trying to learn from this but still find Twitter hard to grasp, is it just me or do they talk another language? lol
    Happy New Year Kristen, always enjoy your blog posts

  12. #17 by jbiggar2013 on December 30, 2013 - 3:51 pm

    Reblogged this on jbiggarblog and commented:
    great new post, lots to think about here :)

  13. #18 by susielindau on December 30, 2013 - 3:57 pm

    Happy New Year Kristen!
    One thing I learned along the way is as true for blogging as it is for publishing. Create a good product and readers will come. Under-sell and over-deliver.
    xoSusie

  14. #19 by JB Vincent on December 30, 2013 - 4:20 pm

    Great post. REALLY enjoyed it. (I don’t use caps often)

  15. #20 by abdul j. on December 30, 2013 - 4:29 pm

    Some of those things (particularly the older predictions) seem so obvious looking back now but I guess that’s why hindsight is 20/20 lol. Looking forward to the 2014 predictions post!

    • #21 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2013 - 5:21 pm

      Right? Man, people were MEAN back when I said this stuff. I guess that’s why I am happy for WP archives. The comments are there if people don’t believe me. But I am pretty sure people thought electricity and cars would be a fad, too, LOL.

  16. #22 by Kessie Carroll on December 30, 2013 - 4:44 pm

    I’ve been reading APE and Rise of the Machines. I recently observed the Negative Somatic Marker in action–a dude had been spamming one of my writers’ groups with ads for his books. Then he asked a question in there and people let him know, in no uncertain terms, how much we disliked his spamming. Boy was he mad. I recommended he read your book.

    I’m noticing a difference in my attention span when it comes to ebooks. For a physical book, I can stand 400 pages no problem. For an ebook, I want a novella. A 400 page ebook is a SLOG and I have trouble finishing. So I’m going to try writing novellas (thanks for the idea, Mr. Howie!) and see how they do on Amazon. It certainly can’t hurt anything, right?

    • #23 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2013 - 5:19 pm

      I’m the opposite. I can read far longer works on e-book, probably because I can make it GIANT OLD LADY FONT, LOL. Thanks for the recommendation. Together we can end spam, :D.

  17. #24 by Anne Marie on December 30, 2013 - 4:53 pm

    Can’t wait to read your predictions tomorrow! What you said about Twitter is exactly why I find it such a hassle! Every time I get on, and I try to get on at least once a day, I have to sift through all the spam to find an actual tweeter. Note, I don’t read ANY of the SPAM. I’m hoping in 2014 I will have a little more time to spend with my Twitter feed and unfollow the people that are only tweeting the BUY MY BOOK!

  18. #26 by CKoepp on December 30, 2013 - 5:10 pm

    I see more small presses running like a co-op, almost like a critique group with publishing capabilities.

  19. #27 by jamieayres on December 30, 2013 - 5:33 pm

    “If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.” LOVE this! Are you sure you don’t have any superpowers? Great recap! I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post :-)

  20. #29 by ljlenehan on December 30, 2013 - 6:06 pm

    I’m looking forward to your 2014 predictions…

  21. #30 by Daven Anderson on December 30, 2013 - 6:25 pm

    You STILL need to write good books, however.
    The importance of “word of mouth” (the oldest, most powerful and still the best method of advertising) has grown exponentially in this social media age.

    And thank you Kristen for all your blog posts that I read while I was going through my “Big Five” phase. I could have been boat-anchored had it not been for you.

  22. #31 by Daven Anderson on December 30, 2013 - 6:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Vampire Syndrome Blog and commented:
    Thank you Kristen Lamb for blogging all of your great advice just when I most needed it!

  23. #32 by Thomas Linehan on December 30, 2013 - 6:48 pm

    Thanks for the year. I’m glad I found you. Happy New Year!

  24. #33 by symplysilent on December 30, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    Kristen – You are awesome. I look forward to your posts. I would ask you if you get tired of always being right, but you would only give me the same answer I give Him, “no”. Silent

    • #34 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2013 - 8:40 pm

      Oh, I’ve been wrong. Like that cloning devices would be available on EBay by this Christmas. Apparently our laundry and dishes have proprietary rights FORVER. To be blunt, many times I’ve hated being right. I’ve blogged on many ways Big Publishing could catch up. They had a lot to offer. I think they still do but am fairly certain that ship has sailed. I like bookstores, but they needed to innovate for the modern consumer.

      Tower Records was a real victim of the Digital Age. Kodak? They could have pulled up in time. Big Publishing? FREAKING COME ON! I wasn’t the only one pointing there was a TSUNAMI coming and to get to higher GROUND. I’ve offered numerous plans for Big Publishing and ways B&N could remain, but they continued with what they knew. Such is life. I can at least sleep well knowing I tried.

      And most of this is just common sense. Do I like spam? Uh, no. Odds are others feel the same. I’m afraid of my e-mail. Do I REALLY want another newsletter? Do I want to talk to BOTS? If I wanted to talk to a robot, I’d call AT&T.

      I’m happy you look forward to my posts. I work hard to keep you guys in the loop and pass on the wonderful knowledge others freely share. ((HUGS))

  25. #36 by tam francis on December 30, 2013 - 8:35 pm

    Oh man, what mistakes DIDN’T I make. Tweeting was the worst. Totally did the spam thing, snippets from the novel/blog etc. Blah. Luckily I found your blog and you set me straight. You’ve been a godsend. When I employed your suggestions, amazing how easy it was to make cyber-friends! Thank you! Happy New Year!

  26. #37 by Elizabeth Anne Mitchell on December 30, 2013 - 9:32 pm

    Luckily, Kristen, I ran into your blog before I could make too many bone-headed mistakes!

    Not that I’ve got everything licked, not by a long shot, but at least my baby steps are in the right direction. I’m working on balancing, and walking instead of crawling.

    Thank you for your superpowers ( you’ll never convince me otherwise!)

  27. #38 by ontyrepassages on December 30, 2013 - 9:58 pm

    Thank you for a year’s worth of great advice and a book that was well worth the price. My only significant mistake this year was starting an author’s page on FB, a topic I’ve mentioned before and one you commented on. I’m glad that I started my blog 11 months ago, for it took me a long while to find my blogging voice. Though my numbers are modest, since October my followers have far more than doubled. I have a big year lined up, including publishing and tackling Twitter, but before I take on too much there’s a significant, physical relocation that will happen in early February.

    I’m excited about where the publishing industry is going and look forward to your predictions tomorrow. I don’t have your insight, but I can see the genre designations blurring into non-existance and the interaction between readers and authors increasing further. Because self-publishing is quicker readers will become less willing to wait long periods between novels, especially if the author writes series.

  28. #39 by julitownsend on December 31, 2013 - 1:00 am

    And I love hearing from you!

  29. #40 by Emma on December 31, 2013 - 2:28 am

    This is really encouraging to read. Thank you!

  30. #41 by Nia Simone on December 31, 2013 - 3:00 am

    Great post. I need to read more of them, that’s for sure. I hadn’t thought about that about Twitter. :)

  31. #42 by claudenougat on December 31, 2013 - 4:56 am

    Looking forward to what you have to say for 2014! Yes, we’ve come a long way baby and learned all sorts of things, particularly about pricing…

  32. #43 by CL Mannarino on December 31, 2013 - 7:50 am

    I really like the points you’ve made and how you’ve mapped them out across the years as digital takes precedence. I’ve been scoffed at for considering the self-publishing route, so I’m glad attitudes are changing as quickly as they are. I can’t wait to see your 2014 predictions!

  33. #44 by aliveatnight on December 31, 2013 - 10:15 am

    Spamming is definitely awful, and I really hate it. I’m new to this world, although I’m making more progress than I ever thought I would, so I’m perfectly happy with that. I’m glad I found your blog now though, it’s definitely an interesting (and helpful!) read. Can’t wait to hear more from you!

  34. #45 by Kylie Betzner on December 31, 2013 - 4:11 pm

    Looking forward to your predictions! It’s almost scary how many came to pass.

  35. #46 by Edward Owen on December 31, 2013 - 4:15 pm

    “Note to Self: Perhaps wearing tinfoil hat impairs professional credibility.”

    I will make a $20 donation to the charity of your choice for a pic of you in a foil fedora. I LMAO (yes, really, it’s rolling across the floor as I type) when I read that.

    “Ur killin’ me, Smalls!”

    Great job as usual

    Edward

  36. #47 by Charlotte Gerber, Mystery Author on December 31, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber.

  37. #48 by M T McGuire on January 1, 2014 - 10:26 am

    Nice one. I enjoyed this post, as always!

    Cheers

    MTM

  38. #49 by Raani York on January 1, 2014 - 12:21 pm

    I’m really glad you stuck with your opinion and went with what you were convinced of and the fact that your predictions became reality I’m sure silenced your opponents! You’re a very special person, Kristen! Thanks for giving us the chance of profiting from your experience and knowledge!

  39. #50 by victoriadougherty on January 1, 2014 - 4:39 pm

    Great round-up. My first e-book comes out early spring and I’ve been building a social media and blog platform for 2 years. My writer friends think I’m crazy front-loading all this work, but as my husband pointed out, “You know, babe – you might be a genius. By putting out good SM content you’ve actually created demand for your book before it even comes out.” Isn’t that what marketing is all about? Happy New Year, Kristen.

  40. #51 by AshleeW on January 1, 2014 - 7:40 pm

    Love it! You don’t have to be a genius to make those predictions … you have to have something much more difficult to come by – wisdom and judgment. And you’ve got them both! Thanks so much :)

  41. #53 by Katie Cross on January 3, 2014 - 12:57 pm

    Agreed! Let’s just create something awesome. A good reminder that the power is in our hands!

  42. #54 by Grace Tallar on January 3, 2014 - 2:44 pm

    Happy New year,

    I love your words that we can create the future! This is safer than prediction. I admire your hard work and determination. Inspiring!

  1. A Decade of Digital Publishing Predictions » No Longer Vulcan
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