Ep. 01: The Self-Publishing Landscape

Discover what publishing industry trends we saw in 2017 and what we predict for self-publishing in 2018. Learn more after listening by downloading this free Pocket Guide to Publishing: 100 Things Authors Should Know.

Some of the publishing industry trends we cover in this episode of Go Publish Yourself include bestselling genres and subject matter of 2017, what's happening with indie bookstores, traditional publishing vs self-publishing, print vs ebooks, and what we predict will be big for self-publishing in 2018.


Robin Cutler [00:00:07] Hi, everyone, welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. Hi, I'm Robin Cutler, the Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:16] And I'm Justine Bylo and I manage our Author Acquisitions Program.

Robin Cutler [00:00:21] Well, hi Justine. As we are wrapping up 2017, I thought it would be a really good idea to talk about the year, what were some of the highlights, and then look towards 2018 and beyond. What are trends that we're looking for these next couple of years. Do we want to just jump right in?

Justine Bylo [00:00:44] Yeah, it's been a really interesting year.

Robin Cutler [00:00:47] What do think has been this past year, in 2017, what were things that stood out for you?

Justine Bylo [00:00:53] There was a lot. The genres really had some interesting changes this year. On the road at all the conferences, I was hearing all of these interesting shifts, especially in the world of genre fiction. The biggest thing this year was that people don't want political thrillers anymore.

Robin Cutler [00:01:18] Nobody wants politics. Everybody is so burned out at the end of 2017.

Justine Bylo [00:01:23] They really are.

Robin Cutler [00:01:24] And non-fiction too. I mean, nobody wants to read politics in any way, shape, or form.

Justine Bylo [00:01:31] No. Just stay away from it at this point I think is the solid advice. Because of that too, there's some really big shifts in romance, which I found really fascinating.

Robin Cutler [00:01:42] Because that's been all over the place for the last few years, right?

Justine Bylo [00:01:46] There's constantly shifts within the romance industry because it moves so quickly. But we saw this really interesting change back to people wanting chick lit books. Like the Bridget Jones' Diary days, Diary of a Shopaholic, all those. People wanted books like that because it was these characters that we recognized, a world that we recognized, but with a happily ever after. And everyone loves a good happily ever after.

Robin Cutler [00:02:22] Oh, yeah. I wonder why that is? You think it's the MeToo movement? Is that part of it?

Justine Bylo [00:02:29] This happened before, but I think that there was a change in women's solidarity. It started with the Women's March this year.

Robin Cutler [00:02:39] Oh that's right.

Justine Bylo [00:02:41] Yeah, that set the tone for the romance world this year. Quite frankly, I love those books, so I'm not mad that they're back

Robin Cutler [00:02:51] In romance, are women still waiting for the man to appear?

Justine Bylo [00:02:54] Oh, god no! It's such an old cliche now. No, instead of the damsel in distress it's the duke in distress, which I love.

Robin Cutler [00:03:04] Yeah, I like that too.

Justine Bylo [00:03:06] It's this guy who needs the saving, and it's up to the woman to save him, which is great.

Robin Cutler [00:03:12] That's interesting because this weekend I just saw the new Star Wars movie, and it's the girl that's the new Jedi, right.

Justine Bylo [00:03:20] Exactly.

Robin Cutler [00:03:21] I'm really thrilled by that. I think that's really fantastic.

Justine Bylo [00:03:25] They're kicking some butt. It's great.

Robin Cutler [00:03:27] That also goes along, maybe this is as we move into trends into 2018, I also see empowerment of young girls in some of the literature that we're seeing.

Justine Bylo [00:03:43] Yes, and that even started earlier this year as well, that we are seeing a lot of children's books with girls as the female protagonist, who are doing great things. And they weren't dependent on other people. They were fighting themselves, and it was a really awesome trend that I don't see stopping anytime soon.

Robin Cutler [00:04:04] Yeah, I don't either. You mentioned earlier, when we were talking on a break, about the unreliable girl narrator. What is that?

Justine Bylo [00:04:14] The unreliable female narrator. She is your Gone Girl. She is your Girl On the Train. She is your book title with any girl in the title.

Robin Cutler [00:04:24] She's the opposite of empowered women?

Justine Bylo [00:04:27] Yeah, she's this unreliable woman where you get the whole story from her perspective, but she's got some problems. That's going to be evergreen, but I think people want something a little bit different now.

Robin Cutler [00:04:41] That is weird that we went through that trend in this past year and the year before. Because those were the big books.

Justine Bylo [00:04:49] Yeah, and this year The Woman In Cabin 10 is really big. Again, it was that unreliable female narrator who sees a murder happen, and I think we need to move past that trend a little bit.

Robin Cutler [00:05:00] I don't want to read about that. Although, I did love Gone Girl. That's a great book.

Justine Bylo [00:05:03] They're good page turners.

Robin Cutler [00:05:06] Yeah, they really are. One of the things that we've seen at IngramSpark is, and this is looking towards 2018 as well, is the rise of poetry, which is kind of surprising, isn't it?

Justine Bylo [00:05:20] Yeah, and it's kind of been on the rise for the past few years. This year it really had a moment. I don't think that it's going to stop anytime soon. We have an author at IngramSpark, named Robert Drake, who writes wonderful poetry and his books have been doing incredibly well for the past few years. Then the number two book in book sales this year was Milk and Honey, which was another big success in the poetry world. The thing that I find is a common denominator between those hits are that they're targeting a younger audience who is reading in print and they're a little angsty, which I find fun, that teenage angst getting written out in poems in a really beautiful way. It's pretty great.

Robin Cutler [00:06:09] The other thing you talked about is, because you're more up to speed on this than I am, about zombies and vampires and the weirdos that I don't like really particularly to read about. But you think there--

Justine Bylo [00:06:27] You're not a paranormal person.

Robin Cutler [00:06:29] But you think those are over. What's going to replace that in the paranormal in 2018?

Justine Bylo [00:06:34] I honestly think that witches are going to be on the rise. And one of my agent friends and I agree that we think ghosts are coming back in some way.

Robin Cutler [00:06:44] Oh, yeah, like that movie Ghost with Patrick Swayze.

Justine Bylo [00:06:47] Oh, I would read that romance novel.

Robin Cutler [00:06:50] Oh my gosh, yeah. I can see that, right. I love that.

Justine Bylo [00:06:54] I love witches. It's time for a Harry Potter-like thing to come back.

Robin Cutler [00:06:58] Yeah, I agree.

Justine Bylo [00:07:00] It's been 20 years.

Robin Cutler [00:07:01] What about superheroes? Are we done with superheroes? I'm so tired of superheroes.

Justine Bylo [00:07:07] I'm so tired of superheroes too. But there's one exception this year, and that exception was Wonder Woman.

Robin Cutler [00:07:12] Oh, that's right.

Justine Bylo [00:07:13] And that kind of ties back to what we were talking about with the year of the woman this year.

Robin Cutler [00:07:16] Totally, yeah. And she's not going away anytime soon.

Justine Bylo [00:07:19] No, she's here to stay.

Robin Cutler [00:07:22] Yeah, absolutely. Let's turn our focus away from genre and talk a little bit about self-publishing as far as it relates to the entire publishing industry. What do we see there? I know we've talked in other podcasts about booksellers and how we're happy at Ingram to see more booksellers starting new businesses rather than booksellers that are going under. We're seeing more bookstores.

Justine Bylo [00:08:00] Yeah, the independent bookstores had a really good year. That's in part due to the fact that readers know what they want to read and they trust recommendations from their local booksellers, so they will go to their local bookstore and say, "I really want a book about this." Those people can recommend a book to them. It's the niche market. It's targeting a niche market.

Robin Cutler [00:08:24] Plus, when you visit a bookstore, you always find a book that you didn't know about, right. You always find that there.

Justine Bylo [00:08:31] I was at The Ripped Bodice out in Culver City and, a romance fan myself, I went there saying, “I want a really great swashbuckling historical.” And they were able to recommend three to me. It was fantastic.

Robin Cutler [00:08:44] Was it the damsel rescuing the duke?

Justine Bylo [00:08:46] Oh yes, oh yes.

Robin Cutler [00:08:50] That's great. Then in terms of other things we've seen here at IngramSpark we continue, which is a very wonderful thing, we continue to see print books are not going away anytime soon. Readers still prefer print as far as a reading medium.

Justine Bylo [00:09:10] Yeah, and even though we had a bump in print last year and the year before because of adult coloring books, we're still seeing print books on the rise. Especially amongst younger people. The teenagers associate e-readers and iPads and all that with homework and want nothing to do with that when it comes to reading for pleasure. They absolutely pick up a print book.

Robin Cutler [00:09:31] And it's a generation that grew up on Harry Potter in the printed book, waiting for that midnight release. You remember that?

Justine Bylo [00:09:37] Those are my favorite.

Robin Cutler [00:09:38] I know, I love that.

Justine Bylo [00:09:40] I always dressed up like a complete dork, but it was the best.

Robin Cutler [00:09:43] It was so fantastic. We still, at IngramSpark believe in and encourage all of our customers to make their books available in multiple formats. I always say you don't know what your reader prefers, what sort of format, so make it available as an e-book, make it available as a print book. The other thing we're seeing as a rise is hard cover books.

Justine Bylo [00:10:10] Oh, yeah. What do you think about that? I think it's durability. Having a nice, hard cover in your hand. What do you think?

Robin Cutler [00:10:18] It just looks better on a shelf.

Justine Bylo [00:10:19] Oh, that's true. "Shelfies" are a thing now.

Robin Cutler [00:10:21] If I'm going to invest in a book, I want it to look good on my shelf.

Justine Bylo [00:10:25] Oh, yeah, have some bragging rights.

Robin Cutler [00:10:27] And also, if I've met the author, or it's one of my favorite authors, I want that book for all time, because I'll likely go back and re-read it. It's not that much more expensive for a hardcover book.

Justine Bylo [00:10:40] Yeah, my mom does the same thing.

Robin Cutler [00:10:42] It's a real thing. What haven't we covered here?

Justine Bylo [00:10:47] Another big trend is publishing this year was the hybrid author. Traditionally published authors taking their passion projects and going indie, which was a really great thing. And we got a new term out of it too: hybrid author; it's pretty great. That was another interesting thing that we've seen that authors can jump the lines much more easily.

Robin Cutler [00:11:08] Or some authors that have published previously and those rights have been returned back to them, and then they could republish them under their own imprint, which I think is fantastic.

Justine Bylo [00:11:20] Yep, that's keeping those books alive.

Robin Cutler [00:11:22] Yes, forever. I just love that. We predict a really wonderful year in 2018. There's no end to self-publishing, self-publishers, to indie bookstores rising up. This is going to be the best year ever for indie authors and indie publishers.

Justine Bylo [00:11:44] I think so too. If the movies are any indication of how 2018 is going, this year most of the movies nominated for major awards were indie films, and I think that the book industry is going to clue in closely to that in 2018. We're going to see some real indie hits, which is going to be fun to see.

Robin Cutler [00:12:05] There's never been a better time for an author to have the possibility of their work being transformed into other media like film or audiobook I think is also another format that's something that authors should think about as well.

Justine Bylo [00:12:24] Absolutely, and in terms of genre predictions for 2018, women, women, women. That's all I can say.

Robin Cutler [00:12:33] Yeah, even if you're a man and you're writing your book, you should probably include some strong women characters in there, don't you think?

Justine Bylo [00:12:40] Oh, absolutely. But I do want to say to our listeners that if you are writing a book and it is not one of the trends we have discussed today, that is fine. Do not write to trend. Write what you want to write. Because then you're going to make the best book that you can possibly make and it's going to find its market.

Robin Cutler [00:13:02] The best-selling books are usually the ones that have had the most passion in the author, because not only is it a better written book, but the author also promotes the book better, because they love it so much.

Justine Bylo [00:13:17] Oh yeah, exactly.

Robin Cutler [00:13:18] Yeah, I totally agree with that.

Justine Bylo [00:13:20] Passion sparks passion.

Robin Cutler [00:13:22] Well, I think that's the best way to end this, Justine. These are our predictions for 2018, and we look forward to you signing on to IngramSpark.com following us on our blog, and just staying close in touch with us. We love you all.

Justine Bylo [00:13:40] We'll see you out on the road in 2018.

Robin Cutler [00:13:42] Bye bye.

Justine Bylo [00:13:43] Bye.


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