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Self-Publishing Trends 2018-2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The beginning of any year presents a unique opportunity to combine reflection with forward-thinking, and 2019 is no exception. Whether you're beginning a new novel, writing a book marketing plan for an existing book, or working on any aspect of your self-publishing journey, now is the time to examine the self-publishing landscape at the conclusion of 2018 and prepare accordingly for 2019. So, what’s ahead for the self-publishing world in 2019? Here are my insights into trending book publishing topics for the New Year:


Listen Now to Season 3: Ep. 01 of Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark Self-Publishing Podcast


Political and Social Satire

Expect publishing trends of 2018 featuring political memoirs and humor to continue. At IngramSpark, we saw self-published political satire bubble up and out with social media mentions and retweets in the global marketplace. During my visits to foreign countries in 2018, I was astonished at the amount of media coverage dedicated to American political life. Just note that the life of political books will be closely tied to the political whims of readers and, therefore, subject to an overnight sea change. To take advantage of political trends in books, it’s important to publish quickly and effectively, one of the core benefits of self-publishing.

Poetry is Popular; Creativity is Entrepreneurial

Who would have thought that poetry as a genre would be at the top of IngramSpark's best-seller lists? This is a trend that has been growing for the past few years, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Retailers are dusting off their poetry shelves to make room for a new crop of wildly popular poets and artists, who have mainly built a fan base through online sites and social media platforms such as Instagram. Poet/Artist Robert Drake, with his beautifully illustrated volumes, such as Black Butterfly, has perfected how to appeal to an online readership that clamors for each successive work in his collection. Those readers are finding indie bookstores as well as big box chain stores very supportive of poets and their work, including Pierre Alex Jeanty’s book, HER, which has been featured at Target. The growing poetry movement has inspired my own writing and publishing goals for 2019.

Social Movements Continue to Spark Fire

Authentic and conscious discussions surrounding gender, race, class, and age-related issues, among other topics, have become more prominent, and many authors are capitalizing on their authority to speak to such matters from their actual world experiences. We’ve seen several trending hashtags related to social campaigns supporting black identity and in opposition to gun violence and women’s discrimination. Starting in 2017 and continuing through 2018, we’ve seen a lot more of these topics appearing in recommended reading lists and in review media and also used proudly in book publicity campaigns. I see authentic and diverse writing gaining even more status in 2019, with many titles claiming top spots on both fiction and nonfiction best-seller lists. Already trending in the early days of 2019 is David Goggins’ inspirational and powerful memoir of his journey from poverty to the “strongest man alive” in Can’t Hurt Me.

Shorter is Better

Books aren’t necessarily competing with other books for a reader’s attention. Rather, those eyes are being lured away from reading by distractions such as gaming and streaming video sites, such as Netflix. With less time available for reading, it makes sense that readers want to get to the last page quicker. The trend for the past few years has been to publish books with less than 200 pages on average, or around 50,000 words. If you’ve written a colossal masterpiece of 150,000 words, you might consider splitting your big book into a series instead. I now look at the size of a book before I recommend my selection for my monthly book club and will only pick titles under 300 pages.

The Return of Your Local Bookseller

Despite predictions to the contrary that physical bookstores would fall to online retailers, the opposite has been confirmed. The American Bookseller Association reports a 40% increase in store openings in the past decade. And not only are booksellers growing in numbers, but they are thriving in the communities they serve. Many have established educational and publishing programs that assist authors in bringing their books to market. Also, independent bookstores are very supportive of book distribution for small publishers if the work has the same quality as traditionally published books. So, in 2019, take time to shop at independent bookstores such as Parnassus Books, Village Books, Eagle Eye Books, and Politics and Prose.

While it can seem easy to pinpoint book trends as they’re happening, sometimes the trends are revealed in years to come. Every year, we like to report on the trends we see—but sometimes, the wheel isn’t being reinvented. Sometimes, trends continue year after year until they become more of a “norm” and less of a “trend.” We’ll see in 2019 which of these trends have staying power and which are replaced with the new trends to come.

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Robin Cutler

As the Director of IngramSpark at Ingram Content Group, Robin is committed to helping independent publishers easily get their content into the hands of readers around the globe. To help make this happen, she leads the development of IngramSpark and continues to support and refine the platform to better serve independent publishers around the world. She is a leader in the independent publishing space, and when not developing new programs and services for IngramSpark, she can often be found sharing her expertise at industry events around the world.