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BoSacks Speaks Out: Friends, I want to take just a minute under these bizarre and horrible moments in U.S. history to applaud the fearless journalism that was on demonstration for the past 24 hours. We, the media, cover our stories wherever they take us – war zones, poverty zones, Plague zones, small town halls, and today into the U.S. Capitol under siege. This is what we do. We teach, we entertain, and perhaps most importantly, we follow the news wherever it leads to inform our readers. Today like all days we see journalists running into the fray and the danger and not away from it. That is a noble tradition and a fearless one.

I am proud to be a member of the journalism industry. 

A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.
Arthur Miller
Dateline: Charlottesville Va
In This Issue
What Others Predict for 2021 and Beyond
Spoiler alert: More of the same from 2020
By Jane Friedman

We’ve been monitoring the blogs, newsletters, and articles with 2021 predictions and offer you these highlights.

Indie author and marketer David Gaughran says “the only way is up” for the self-published market. The pandemic has brought more consumers into digital reading and listening, which helps the market for independent authors who flourish in digital channels like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited—an economical choice for readers. Even for those books not in KU, self-publishers typically compete on price with $2 to $6 ebooks compared to Big Five’s pricing, which is often over $10. In 2021, Gaughran says he plans to be more price aggressive with promotions, get back into box sets, have more free offers and promotions, and ramp up email marketing.
Mark Coker, CEO and founder at Smashwords, says that even though indie authors will continue to benefit from stronger ebook sales, the pandemic has changed the power structure of publishing in ways that will jeopardize future independence: “Enormous power consolidated around a small number of major online platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google. These dominant platforms wield their supreme power to stand between you and your audience. We’ve traded one group of authoritarian overlords for another. These platforms are the new gatekeepers for indie authors.” And access comes at a cost: advertising.

Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, focuses on planning, not predictions, for 2021. She writes, “We just have to ensure that our plans are flexible enough to account for, and absorb, the unexpected.” However, she notes that 2020 was a good year commercially for indie authors focused on digital and global growth, and that trend is expected to continue as lockdowns persist. (The UK announced a new lockdown on Monday as a more contagious variant of COVID spreads.)

Three consultants, including Thad McIlroy, have written a free report on COVID’s anticipated impact on traditional and higher ed book publishing and related sectors in 2021. They anticipate consumer price sensitivity in the market, high demand for library ebook lending, continued analog-to-digital evolution, and a need for publishers to revisit and strengthen direct-to-consumer marketing. They helpfully include a series of charts tracking recent sales data from the Association of American Publishers and NPD BookScan (example below). The report concludes that “the seismic change is in digital,” and that “from now on publishers must treat bookselling as digital-first, physical-second, with no further questions asked.” An appendix includes book topics they believe could garner strong sales in 2021 and beyond, such as business books on managing remote workplaces, how-to books on home repair, how to find great Airbnb properties, and other nonfiction categories.

Nieman Lab offers dozens of brief predictions focused on news and journalism, some of which might interest authors in the nonfiction realm. There are a few themes: that the paid-newsletter trend will face some obstacles due to growth (e.g., they may have to be bundled); that podcasts will struggle for independence as big platforms move in; and that virtual events will find a way to stick around even when the pandemic passes.
Bo Sacks, a magazine industry expert, says the first half of 2021 will look much like the end of 2020—then eventually we’ll see The Roaring Twenties. He writes, “In the last century after the last global pandemic, there was a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States and Europe. … There is no reason that that exuberance won’t happen again. A rebirth if you will of entrepreneurism on a global and local level. We will see startups galore and new publications popping up everywhere. There will be an emphasis on new local publications to support the new retail scene.”

Bottom line: Given the unusual and unprecedented environment we’re in, it can be helpful to seek prognostications outside of publishing. We took note of these words from venture capitalist Fred Wilson on what he’s investing in this year (and note he thinks the pandemic will end for the developed world by the end of the second quarter): “I think the trends that were accelerated in 2020 will not reverse in 2021, although the slope of the adoption curves will likely flatten a fair bit. … We have sectors of our economy like retail, commercial real estate, carbon-based energy, and more that will never be the same.” Meaning: the people who started or increased their digital consumption or online buying habits may not return to pre-pandemic behaviors, as many others have noted in their predictions.

That’s potentially good news for independent authors (who mainly focus on sales and marketing through online channels), digital distributors or aggregators, Amazon, Bookshop, and anyone else who saw their business get a bump in 2020. But it will likely be a challenging future for brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries in particular.
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All news items and the various opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the opinion of, nor in agreement with the opinions of BoSacks. They are just interesting thoughts and other opinions that BoSacks thinks you should know about.  
After all, as the Japanese proverb goes: 
"If you believe everything you read, perhaps you better not read." 

"Heard on the Web" Media Intelligence:  
Courtesy of The Precision Media Group.   
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