Friday, June 19, 2020

Where Will Book Publishing Be In 2021?

Printing press - Wikipedia

“Book publishing” is not one thing, but a grouping of many approaches to getting books published and sold. Self-publishing, indie book publishing, university presses, traditional publishers, POD, e-book only, and audiobook publishing are each very different from one another, in terms of the process to publish, the format of the finished product, and the distribution process. Where will book publishing, in all of its parts, be in 2021?

It seems like one needs to consult a calendar and a thermometer in order to literally take the temperature of the book market. Depending on where you live, the nation is entering different phases of re-opening from the corona pandemic. This fall, many experts fear a resurgence that could force us to shutter our lives again. So my prediction for 2021 is: Who knows?!

But we can predict potential outcomes based on different scenarios. For instance, we know what life looks like – with or without corona, so depending on which phase we are in, things become more predictable.

When bookstores are open, more books are sold. These are more browsing opportunities, more speaking engagements to push books, and a more secure feeling about the book world. When they are closed it is indicative the industry has problems.

As time goes by, what shocked us becomes the norm, and we use this time to learn new skills, change how we publish and market books, and expand our efforts to the digital universe. The book industry marches forward no matter what.

So let’s look at how the book publishing industry is changing:

POD – More people will publish this way. No inventory to manage and no upfront costs. If the book fails to get traction, no loss. If stores are not open, the book is still available. The two drawbacks: POD is not taken as seriously by the media and books only get sold when there is a demand. POD books usually are not in stores, where people can otherwise discover them.

University Presses – Their books are sold on campus, both as texts or in campus bookstores. They often sell beyond the campus, but only when the author speaks somewhere or does book signings. With corona, university presses suffer.

E-Books – Like POD, but without any printing costs, they can be sold on any site, 24-7, and are corona-immune. But the vast majority of book sales pre-corona came from printed books, so e-books are not the ideal way to go unless there’s a paper book version too.

Conferences – The book industry has so many important bookfairs, writer conferences, library gatherings, Book Expo America, writer workshops, etc. – and all of these have been wiped out or attempted in some diluted digital forum. This is the area that really is mssing, where people network, publishing deals are made, and writers are discovered. All of this looks shut down or sluggish for the next year.

Self-Publishing – This won’t slow down – and may even speed up with corona, especially if publishers are delaying books or cutting down their acquisitions of new books. In such cases, where does one go but to self-publishing?

Writers – I would assume more books than usual are being written this year. What else is a writer in quarantine to do? Also, there is so much material out there to inspire writers, pandemics, protests, the election – so we will no doubt see books influenced by these events in 2021.

Amazon – While they continue to sell tons of books, especially when stores were closed and people did not want to venture out, other competitors have stepped it up, notably Walmart and Target. Best of all, Bookshop, which helps indie booksellers launch their online business, has grown wildly during the pandemic.

Book Marketing – Always the most important component, book marketing is even more instrumental to a book’s success when traditional routes such as bookstore and library appearances evaporate. Utilizing a professional publicist or marketer is crucial to succeed. Further, using the tools of virtual marketing – social media, blogging, podcasting, online seminars, digital courses, and zooms with bookstore patrons – are critical.

So where will book publishing be in 2021?

It will be in a better position to handle things because 2020 is forcing it to re-invent and strengthen itself. But if you ask me will we see Book Expo 2021 or school readings by authors, or a book award ceremony in person next year, my response is: Did we vaccinate everyone or discover a treatment that saves most patients?

Smart book publishing over the next 6-18 months will be where we position ourselves to succeed in any environment and not to assume anything. For all we know, a cure can be found tomorrow – or next year could be harsher than three months ago. Our crystal ball is covered in Covid-19 right now, but we must push forward and continue to grow all of book publishing.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo 

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