Kay: 2019 Trends in Publishing

For those of you who are interested in publishing news and trends (and who among us isn’t?), Jane Friedman’s newsletter for traditionally published and indie-published authors, The Hot Sheet, is a great resource. The annual subscription cost is $59, but there’s a free trial period. And for those who don’t want more stuff coming into their inbox, Friedman did a roundup of trends on her web site that I thought was interesting. She covered both fiction and nonfiction; here are a few highlights about fiction for 2019:

  • Print sales are flat, and the ebook market for traditional publishers has declined every year since 2014.
  • Digital audiobooks are doing well. Binge listening is a thing. One editor received an audio rights offer for a wordless picture book. (I wonder how that works?)
  • The top YA fiction category is science fiction/magic.
  • Psychological suspense remains popular, but has started to fade. Horror and dystopian novels are experiencing a resurgence.
  • The current reader mood: escape combined with nostalgia. Millennial readers are nostalgic for life before social media (the cutoff is around 2006).
  • High concept can sell a book, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a long sales life. Long-term sales success depends on good storytelling and voice, books with deeper layers that move readers, who give it strong word of mouth. However, a good hook never hurts.
  • Authors are more responsible than ever for marketing. Authors who think of themselves as public figures are well positioned to succeed.
  • All publishers are buying graphic novels, and readers of every age group are reading them.
  • Studios and producers are open to all kinds of voices and stories and are buying more middle grade and YA work for TV and movie adaptations. Works that are better suited to episodic format find a place among the streaming options.

Some of these trends looked familiar, but I was surprised by some of this news, too. My view is that authors shouldn’t try to write to a trend, but if you have a bunch of ideas rattling around and you can write fast, maybe it’s worth trying to hit a current sweet spot.

What about you? Have you witnessed any of these trends yourself, or does any speak to what you’re working on?

9 thoughts on “Kay: 2019 Trends in Publishing

    • What Elizabeth said. Maybe readers are trying to convince themselves it could be worse. I’d much rather escape to a happy place 🙂

      I think The Hot Sheet is an excellent resource. I’ve been a subscriber for the last couple of years and find the round-ups really useful and insightful.

    • I think maybe the thing with dystopia is that the author (and by extension, the readers) can control the horribleness, or dismiss it with, “Well, it’s only fiction.” That said, I know that when I re-read The Handmaid’s Tale this year, it was full-factor creepy. When I originally read it in the 80s, it felt horribly real. I think there was a pendulum swing where some of the creepy stuff disappeared from the media and the pop culture focus, but whoo-boy, in the 2010s, the pendulum is right back in creepy area!

      The nice thing about trends is that they never seem to last. We should probably write for the opposite in order to catch the next trend on the upswing . . . well, that is if one can actually *write* for trends. I’ve tried, and it tends to come out *ME* anyway.

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