Publishing Trends in the Last Quarter of 2020

Going into the final quarter of what has been a challenging year in more ways than one, it is important to stay focused on the big picture and anticipate how current trends will continue unfolding in the coming months. As always, the world of publishing remains dynamic and full of surprises, but here are some notable inclinations that are sure to continue evolving or gaining traction throughout the rest of 2020 and into next year. 

Audio continues to grow 
Yet to hit the apex of its unprecedented growth, the audiobook market continues to plough on ahead. With double-figure growth over most of the last decade, the contemporary audiobook scene is a far cry from what was once considered a niche market for the visually impaired or the elderly. In fact, the average age of audiobook listeners has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 in 2020. Audiobooks have allowed many infrequent readers to combine listening to a book with another activity such as jogging, cleaning, or commuting. There are still more would-be audiobook listeners who have yet to discover it as a solution though. As a result, the big publishers are taking notice and dedicating significant budgets to push audio. The size and scale of these marketing campaigns will undoubtedly influence trends to come. Although indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production is prohibitive, they’re going to have to gather the resources soon in order to remain competitive. 

Emerging reach methods
Vis-à-vis the huge marketing budgets of the big players, indie authors and small press publishers have had to get creative in order to find ways to monetize traffic whenever possible. What used to be thought of as more of a ‘secondary’ income stream, these emerging reach methods are increasingly taking their place as part of mainstream income. That means many authors are having to tap into or develop skills in website design or podcasting in order to fully cultivate their brand. 

Self-publishing remains an attractive option for new writers 
In a hyper-competitive climate, self-publishing remains an effective way for writers to get their foot in the door if they feel ready to publish. It is worth noting though that e-books currently provide a better response for authors taking this route. On Kindle, 17 of the 100 top-selling books are self-published.

The evolving role of social media
Social media habits are changing, and the publishing industry is having to adjust. Best practices for leveraging social media change not only year to year, but pretty much month to month. A year or two ago, authors were hearing that it was a good idea to offer free book giveaways on social media, this is definitely not the case in 2020. Over half the world’s population is on social, so it needs to be approached strategically. Of course, there is also the trend of social media detoxing taking hold and therefore it is critical that any content shared on these platforms is thoughtful, engaging, and targeted. 

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