I like Digital Reader editor Nate Hoffelder. He is one of the few bloggers about publishing who doesn’t suck up to the industry, nor does he particularly gild the lily. He basically believes that books are great, publishing is probably doomed and that writing is really important.
That’s why I was happy that he surfaced and debunked the claims of Chip McGregor, an agent who believes we’ll be seeing more books launching directly to mobile and a move away from indie publishing as mainstream publishers finally get their acts together. While McGregor is right sometimes — e-books will be read on mobile phones more often — he’s also pretty wrong.
His first mistake? He believes that Barnes & Noble will create mini bestseller stores. He writes:
B￼arnes and Noble will open some mini-stores that only stock bestsellers. I don’t have any insider knowledge about this, but with Amazon opening brick-and-mortar stores, B&N has to do something to try and grab a bit more market share.
B&N is, for want of a better word, dead. Their strategy of opening massive stores with large footprints and stocking everything from board games to stuffed animals (and some books) has failed, and there is no reason to visit a B&N unless you want to get a coffee and read magazines for free. That said, the e-book backlash has given independent bookstores new legs, and it has gutted big-box retailers, but I could definitely see a chain of small bookstore cafes that could stock new and used titles, plenty of kids books for parents to peruse for their little ones and some coffee. I just don’t see B&N leading that charge.
Further, he believes that indie authors will return to big-name publishers. They won’t. As McGregor writes in his own post, the Pareto rule assumes that 80 percent of the revenue comes from 20 percent of the writers. Given the imperfect information upon which most publishers make their decisions, trusting them to spot that 20 percent is silly at best.
Instead you’ll see more long-tail authors picking and staying in the indie realm. Eliot Peper comes to mind as someone who is finding more indie success than he would at a mainstream publisher, and there are more. He also suspects that ultra-low, 99-cent pricing will go away in indie titles, something that is also a bit far-fetched; 99-cent pricing is still a clever way to drive up sales and Amazon rankings, and giving up on that odd tweak could be the death of most indie writers.
In short, we agree on a few things — mobile-only could become more popular and Christian fiction and other niches are going away (“There are only a handful of houses still acquiring Christian fiction these days, and some of them are shifting to doing high-quality literary or women’s stories for a broader people of faith, or a slim list of suspense novels, rather than clearly religious stories aimed only at the faithful,” he writes.) I disagree with his bullishness on B&N and his assumption that the indies will turn around and ask publishers for a check. Things are tooling along quite nicely outside the traditional publishing industry, and, as long as you’re willing to try new things, you can make it without having an under-marketed book plop down into the black hole of modern publishing practices.