By Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary
Who could have predicted the bright ray of light that shined on publishing during this pandemic! But it did shine, and will continue to shine, as people rekindle their love of reading and writing! Publishing is more profitable than ever before in its history…for the second year in a row.
Once the streaming binge of Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and other channels grew a bit stale, people rediscovered books and how reading engages the imagination making it a totally different enjoyment experience than passively watching a screen. Books have been selling at a brisk pace ever since. And the profits reaped by the publishing giants has soared. I wish some would make it back to writers and the publishing staff, but that’s another story altogether.
Now that we can breathe a sigh of relief, what does publishing have in store for us in 2022? Here are my predictions:
1. Self-publishing will continue to grow and be profitable.
Bookstores will continue to prosper, even as Amazon continues to grow its market share. For the year to date (2021), bookstore sales are up 39.6%, to $7.1 billion. And that’s an increase from a huge year last year.
All of publishing is healthy and there is no reason for you not to get back on that horse and finish writing your books.
2. Diversity will grow even more, both with authors and with publisher staffs.
So many high-level (VP and up) positions were created to encourage and hire diverse staff within publishers. To me that’s the second phase of diversifying publishing. Phase one began 3-4 years ago with editors buying books from a more diverse ethnic and cultural pool of authors.
I don’t see that phase slowing down anytime soon either. But with the hiring of high-level diverse employees within publishing companies in phase two, we can begin to see real change in the industry. It will be a joy to watch and we’ll all be the richer for it.
3. Hybrid workplaces will deepen and New York will be the center of publishing in name only.
All plans to return to the publishers’ offices in January 2022 were cancelled as the Omicron variant surged this past fall. I believe this signals a huge shift in how publishing is done. When editorial and art departments can work from home, creativity can soar.
Change can happen. And the bureaucracy will be replaced with new energy and passion when employees don’t have to spend endless hours in meetings. Even with an increase in Zoom meetings, multitasking can make them bearable.
Hybrid work environments, now that employees have their home workspaces dialed in, are a harbinger of the future. And employers will dig the extra profits they make from a dramatic decrease in overhead.
4. There will be a huge fight over banned books.
Already publishing and writing associations are weighing in on this, and as politics rears its ugly head again next fall, you’ll see a lot of movement amongst state legislatures to ban more books. Watch for a fevered pitch of emotion on both sides around the midterms next November.
5. Supply chain and paper shortage woes will continue.
It takes a long time to straighten out something as broken as the publishing supply chain. Books with a lot of images (children’s picture books, coffee table books, novelty books) are mainly printed in China. But the empty cargo containers in the U.S. are not making it back to China for refilling and that is slowing down everything.
As agents, we see publication dates stretching out to 2025 and beyond. And I’m predicting that it won’t be fixed in 2022. And when you add to that the high cost of paper, the price of books at retail is going up (along with everything else you buy).
6. There will be a legal battle over how ebook sales are regulated to libraries.
Again, states are trying to legislate how much publishers can charge libraries to loan ebooks. This is a big deal, since it is the largest growth area for public libraries…especially during the pandemic. But even after we can once again go out safely in public, ebook reading is experiencing a sea change that some readers will never go back from.
This topic needs to be legislated from the federal level if the publishers won’t see reason.
7. Publishing will look more deeply at changing its business model.
Publishing companies can no longer deny that the 200-year-old way they’ve been running their empires makes no economic sense.
Here’s what Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch had to say about it: “Publishers have long carried the overhead of big-city offices, travel and entertainment, in-person events, book fairs, and other accustomed ways of operating. We’ve been profitable enough that we haven’t pressured ourselves to learn all we could do through long-available online communications, digital marketing, and remote-working capabilities.”
Working from home, freed from onerous commutes, without in-person calls, pitches, conferences, and shows, publishers have opened their minds to new ways of working.” This gives me hope that as profitability soars due to changes in an inefficient business model, authors might actually benefit through modestly higher advances and larger royalty percentages (especially in ebooks…I mean come on!)
8. Publishing mergers will take center stage.
In 2021 we saw Penguin Random House inch close to acquiring Simon and Schuster, turning the Big Five into the Big Four. Scholastic’s long-time leader Dick Robinson died, and instead of turning his controlling Class A stock shares over to his family as expected, he gave them to a longtime employee turned chair of the board, Iole Lucchese.
Queue the fireworks! Reese Witherspoon sold her books to film company, Hello Sunshine, to a private-equity company, mega agency Endeavor successfully went public (finally), and CAA acquired ICM. Many more mergers are on the horizon.
9. Booksellers are unionizing.
For too long, bookstore employees have been subject to the whims of bookstore owners in hiring, firing, benefits, safety and other decisions. It started with Politics and Prose in Washington D.C. It was then followed by Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Printed Matter in New York City, Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle and Bookshop Santa Cruz in California.
More will come. Even Amazon warehouse workers are starting to unionize. Look for this movement to accelerate in 2022 and beyond.
10. eBooks are experiencing a growing spurt of popularity that is not going to diminish.
When you combine the paper shortage/price increases, supply chain woes and convenience of spontaneously acquiring an ebook in the privacy of your own home without having to get out of your pajamas, the lure is too sexy to resist.
For you self-published authors, time to get out your marketing and promotional hat, put your books on sale, spiff up the covers, really pay attention to your metadata (especially key search terms), so avid readers can find your work. Because ebooks are not going away.
11. Audiobook popularity will continue to grow.
See #10 above for reasons. Add in listening to stories while driving, making meals, exercising and you can see why.
12. And finally, a huge opportunity for authors.
The books-to-screen streaming phenomenon in Hollywood (and around the world) has accelerated faster than anyone could have predicted.
At Fuse Literary we’ve gone crazy fielding interest in optioning our clients’ books to be made into streaming series. I mean, the Wheel of Time series on Amazon Prime is just one example of how backlist titles are finally making it onto the small screen. I predict this pace will accelerate even more in 2022 since books are one of the main sources of scripts for these streaming adventures.
by Laurie McLean (@agentsavant) January 2, 2022
That’s it for 2022. What predictions do you have for the coming year, scriveners? Do you have any personal publishing predictions for 2022? What are your own publishing and writing plans for next year?
Laurie spent 20 years as the CEO of a multi-million dollar marketing agency and 8 years as an agent/senior agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents before co-founding Fuse Literary in 2013 with her business partner Gordon Warnock.
At Fuse Lit Laurie specializes in middle grade, young adult and adult genre fiction including romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, and westerns.
Laurie is also the Director of the San Francisco Writers Conference, in its 18th year, and co-founded two ePublishing companies (now sold): Joyride Books for romance, and Ambush Books for tween and teen books. Find out more at FuseLiterary.com or on Instagram at fuseliterary, and on Twitter @FuseLiterary and @AgentSavant.