Thursday, August 1, 2013


Over the past couple of years I've been fortunate enough to interview some of the most influential writers in the publishing world.  During our interview I asked each author their opinion of what the future of publishing would look like in 5 years.  I thought it would be interesting to look back and see what these industry giants thought of the tumultuous publishing landscape.

Hugh Howey

 Five years normally isn't all that long, is it? But I think you've nailed how quickly this industry is changing. Look at what Napster and iTunes did to the music industry. Or what digital cameras have done to film. E-books are showing phenomenal growth. We're talking triple-digit increases year on year while physical books see double-digit decreases. The trends point one direction. As someone who worked in an independent bookstore for the past two years, I've been watching this unfold from the retail as well as the production side.

I think the biggest change will come from the success of the indie writer, to be honest. And I don't say this because of what I'm experiencing. Rather, it's because of the dozens and dozens of friends I've met online who are having success with writing and publishing on their own. People are quitting their day jobs because their e-book sales are able to support them. They are now free to concentrate on their craft, supported by the small purchases of thousands of people around the world, all of whom have access to more choice in reading material than ever before.

As publishers see their market diminish, and I believe they already are, I think they are going to become open to working with authors in a more equitable fashion. E-book royalty rates have to change. They simply have to. The publisher offers almost nothing and in exchange they want almost everything. In five years, we'll hear about more and more authors signing physical print deals with major publishers while they retain e-book rights. That may not sound like much (since it's so logical and fair) but it will signal a monumental shift in how business is done.

Another change we may see, though I think this is ten or fifteen years away, is the end of stocking all titles on shelves, which has meant shipping books back and forth between printer and retailer and then back again for remaindering or pulping. It's a wasteful system. We have the technology now to simply print the book the reader wants in under five minutes, while they wait. I'd love to see more bookstores that highlight the social and community aspects of reading. A place to come and discuss books, to find out what's being written, to meet local authors and attend book signings. Bookstores are already becoming coffee shops that sell board games and children's toys. That trend will continue until they mostly carry bargain books and bestsellers, and everything else is printed behind a counter while you sip on a latte.

What won't change is the supply of books worth reading and people eager for each and every one of them. We have thirsted for stories since we received them around campfires. The method of delivery is not the thing. It's allowing another's words to stir our imaginations. And so we should concentrate on this and care less about the manner in which it happens.

John Locke

I’m a 100% believer in the electronic book medium. It offers more than a level playing field for self-published authors—it gives us a game that is actually stacked in our favor! Readers are just starting to learn that ebooks can be created and sold at a profit for 99 cents. And this is going to make them re-think their buying options, and their attitudes toward value. If you and I can electronically publish a book for 99 cents and still make a profit, and the giants in the business like James Patterson, John Grisham, Stephen King and Dean Koontz have to charge $9.95 for their ebooks, the onus is no longer on Gary Ponzo and John Locke to prove our books are just as good as theirs. It’s on them to prove their books are TEN TIMES better than ours! And Gary, in a game like that, I like our chances!


Tess Gerritsen

In the future, an author won't necessarily have to go through a publisher to have his books available. He can e-publish his work, sell it directly to the reader, and take a larger percentage of the profits. The author who already has a following may actually earn more money this way, than through traditional publishing. However, the unknown author will still find it advantageous to build his name recognition the old-fashioned way. The real challenge for all of us is cultivating new readers, in any format.


Janet Evanovich

Good question. I don't have a crystal ball, but I'd say that e-books are going to continue to grow and become a big factor in publishing. Maybe I'm a Pollyanna, but I don't think traditional books will disappear. While a number of my readers come to my book signings and ask me to sign their e-reader covers, most folks who wait patiently in line say they love paper and ink and don't have plans to convert anytime soon.


J. Carson Black


I’m not very good at that, but I’ll try. I think Amazon is going to dominate publishing for the next three to five years. They are out to bigfoot everybody else, and I’d rather be with them than against them.

This has been a wonderful time for authors, because so many good writers are finally getting a chance to sell directly to readers. I don’t know how long this will last, but it is a Golden Age of sorts. More and more midlist authors who found it impossible to build a career with the New York publishers are coming over to ebooks. And there are talented newcomers who couldn’t sell to New York, but really have the goods.

I don’t know how long this particular phase will last. It might be like the Gold Rush of the nineteenth century. The first adopters may be the ones who do the best. There will be changes—some big, some small---and it’s hard to tell where we’ll be five years from now. But I can’t help but think that Amazon will be running the show.


Rick Murcer

Whew! Publishing in the next five years, huh? I'll draw on my business background and simply say that things will never be the same for traditional, or Indies, ever again. I don't think HC or paperback books will ever disappear, but the Big Six will have to figure out how to compete with the proliferation of e-books, and also the pricing. I read once where it takes five miles to turn a cruise ship around, meaning changing direction for something so large takes time and space. Traditional publishing may have to move faster than that. I also believe you'll see more and more offers to Indies for traditional contracts, and many will live in both worlds. New publishers like Thomas and Mercer and their bold new contract system will become the norm and authors will finally get the majority of profits for their work, instead of 15-17%. I've never hammered the traditional system, but evolution is inevitable and they need to get there.

When I first got into the business, someone, another author, told me that if the book is good, readers will find you, if not, maybe you should consider doing something else. I'm mentioning that to say that time is a great equalizer and I actually believe the number of Indies will decrease.

I do believe the public IS the ultimate gatekeeper in this new order and they will answer the questions of quality and readability. Some authors will become discouraged, and I believe, at some point, Amazon, B&N, and others could create some kind of criteria for publishing on their sites. That's just my opinion, however.


Michael Palmer

I am a professional at staying in the moment, not projecting, and controlling only those things I can control. It looks like the electronic age will have more people reading, but less of them reading paper books. My job is to keep writing good stories so long as I can earn a living doing it.


Blake Crouch

The massive amount of instant-gratification god-awful writing being uploaded on a daily basis. Just take a look at the Smashwords homepage and you'll get a taste of what's being uploaded every hour. It's horribly depressing, and I just hope the market doesn't become so inundated with this sewage as to make it impossiblefor people to find the good stuff.




  1. Hello Gary,

    You have a wonderful group of writers sharing their thoughts on the ever-changing world of publishing. It is an interesting time as the shift to electronic books are increasing at a rapid rate.

    Self-publishing is no longer looked upon as vanity publishing, it has become the preferred choice of many great authors.

    Thank you, for always providing entertaining and informative posts.

    Best regards,


  2. I think the Indie Writer's Day has arrived. - I do think the cream will rise to the top, don't mean to diss Blake's comment but the good stuff will be noticed and five starred. Great piece, I enjoyed all the comments - thank you all contributors - Thomas Gillis - founder nonprofit

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Ross. The times are changing for sure.

    Thomas, I have noticed my book sales slow a bit over the past two months and I believe so many writers are taking the Indie route that it's speeding up the publication process and flooding the market. However, I agree that the cream will rise to the top and eventually the better books will succeed in the end.