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Five Ebook Publishing Predictions for 2011

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It's annual prognostication time when folks like me stick out their neck and try to predict the future of book publishing.

I invite you to join in the fun. Brush up your crystal ball and share your publishing predictions for 2011 in the comments field below.

Earlier today, Jeff Rivera over at MediaBistro interviewed me for my ten book publishing predictions for 2011.

I'll list five predictions below, and then I encourage you to click over to Mediabistro for the full ten in his interview, Publishing Predictions for 2011 from Smashwords.

2010-12-28-swcrysalball.JPGIf 2010 was the year ebooks went mainstream in the U.S., 2011 will be the year indie ebook authors go mainstream. We've already seen this start to happen with some tremendous indie ebook author breakouts in 2010. A few weeks ago, I wrote here on Huffington Post about indie fantasy author Brian S. Pratt who will earn $25,000 this quarter selling low cost ebooks. Brian is but one of a growing cadre of indie authors whose ebooks are out-selling those of traditional publishers.

So here are five predictions for 2011:

1. Ebook sales rise, unit consumption surprises - Ebooks sales will approach 20% of trade book revenues on a monthly basis by the end of 2011 in the US, yet the bigger surprise is that ebooks will account for one third or more of unit consumption. Why? Ebooks cost less and early ebook adopters read more.

2. Agents write the next chapter of the ebook revolution - Agents, serving the economic best interests of the best-selling authors, will bring new credibility to self publishing by encouraging authors to proactively bypass publishers and work directly with ebook distribution platforms. Agents will use these publishing platforms for negotiating leverage against large publishers. The conversation will go something like this: "You're offering my author only 15-20% list on ebooks when I can get them 60-70% list working direct with an ebook distributor like Smashwords or a retailer like Amazon?"

3. More big authors reluctant to part with digital rights - Indie ebook publishing offers compelling advantages to the author. The economics are better (see #2) and the publishing cycle times are faster (an ebook manuscript can be uploaded today and achieve worldwide distribution in minutes or days, not years). Ebooks also offer greater publishing flexibility (shorts, full length, bundles, free books), and the opportunity to reach more readers with lower cost (yet still higher-profit) books. The advantages will entice more professional authors to self-publish some or all of their future catalog, and all of their reverted-rights catalog.

4. Self publishing goes from option of last resort to option of first resort among unpublished authors - Most unpublished authors today still aspire to achieve the perceived credibility and blessing that comes with a professional book deal. Yet the cachet of traditional publishing is fading fast. Authors with finished manuscripts will grow impatient and resentful as they wait to be discovered by big publishers otherwise preoccupied with publishing celebrity drivel from Snooki, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians. Meanwhile, the break-out success of multiple indie author stars will grab headlines in 2011, forcing many unpublished authors off the sidelines. As unpublished authors bypass the slush pile, publishers lose first dibs on tomorrow's future stars.

5. Ebook prices to fall - It's all about supply and demand. Demand is surging, but supply will overwhelm demand. Average ebook prices will decline, despite attempts by Agency 5 publishers to hold the line. The drop will be fueled by the oversupply of books, abundance of low-cost or free non-book content, influx of ultra-price-sensitive readers who read free first, fierce competition for readership, and digitization of reverted-rights and out-of-print books. Indie authors, since they earn 60-70% retail price, can compete at price points big publishers can't touch.

Read all ten of my predictions in the full interview over at Mediabistro, and share your own predictions in the comments below.

Image credit: Wikipedia