What will book publishing bring in 2015? Shrouded as the industry is behind a veil woven of billions and billions of dollars, it’s difficult to say. But if you look hard enough — at the bestseller lists, the court cases, the controversies — you can glimpse through the metaphorical keyhole and into the back rooms where the deals are made. With this in mind, here is a somewhat reliable predictor for the publishing industry in 2015.
Let’s begin with what we do know: 2015 will begin with an onrush of books by potential Republican presidential candidates, beginning with the ultra-boring American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone by Marco Rubio (on January 13th). But what will this mean for book sales? If this 2012 Amazon election “heat map” means anything, this slate of useless books will act as a thin buffer against first and second quarter failure, but nothing more. The only noteworthy development here is Jeb Bush’s untitled e-book (why is it only an e-book?), which is probably the one “candidate” book that could end up on an end-of-the-year bestseller list.
Next, we have the big “A” — Apple. Ever since it was sued by the government for conspiring to fix e-book prices, Apple has been forced to slow its inevitable crawl into book publishing. But in 2015 the crawl may build into a sprint. The early indication is that Apple will likely win its appeals hearing, now that the (new) judge seems to appreciate that Amazon monopsonizes 90 percent of the e-book market. My prediction here is simply that Apple will win its appeal in advance of Apple vs. Amazon: The Great Publishing War of 2016.
Speaking of Amazon: now that Simon & Schuster and Hachette have penned shadow deals with Bezos, it looks to be a fairly positive year for the “everything” Leviathan. Look for them to refine Kindle Direct, their self-publishing platform, with perhaps more “success stories” on the YA and genre fronts. And, now that we know that Simon & Schuster paid more “coop” money for “prominent display of their titles” in their deal with Amazon, it’s a reasonable assumption that, at some point in 2015, Amazon will announce design changes to its hideous marketplace.
Meanwhile, the Big 5 will continue its search for ways to circumvent Amazon. Already this month Hachette announced a short-term plan to sell select books directly through Twitter. It remains to be seen whether this venture will be successful, but it’s safe to say that the industry will likely see more partnerships between big publishers and middlemen, like Gumroad, who facilitate direct sales through social media and other platforms. Will readers buy books through social media? 2015 will likely decide.
There is no reason whatsoever to bet against the upswing of YA and genre novels, especially serial fictions bought and read by adults, considering that such novels exacted near-total victory over the Amazon bestseller list in 2014. But! I will add that “adult fiction” is likely to have a comeback year in 2015 — after falling in sales by more than 3 percent in 2014 — with major releases by Jonathan Franzen and Toni Morrison.
Here is a wilder prediction: in 2015 we will see a surge in novels that are openly co-written or at least semi-openly ghostwritten (or both). This coming year, in other words, will see the paradoxical debut of the “ghostwriter” as a public phenomenon. If the happy accidents of 2014 are any indication, millennials simply don’t care how a novel was written — or even who wrote it — so long as it fits the brand of the celebrity whose name is attached. Take, for example, Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia “written” by Kendall and Kylie Jenner of Kardashian fame. Unsurprisingly, the sisters produced only a two-page outline before the project was handed to a ghostwriter. More or less the same applies to Youtube megastar Zoe “Zoella” Sugg’s Girl Online, which became the fastest selling debut novel of all-time. In both cases, the ghostwriter came forward, downplayed her own ego, and effectively set herself up with publishing projects for life.
And, yes, this will mean more novels by YouTube megastars.
One final, groundless prediction for book publishing in 2015: Mark Zuckerberg will enter into the fold. If history tells us anything, it’s that moguls with newspaper-y aspirations also yearn to control book publishing. Bezos, Murdoch, Hearst, etc. Facebook is already (reportedly) offering a vague, nefarious sounding publishing scheme to media companies. Is it only a matter of time before uses its platishing technologies for some kind of digital long-form e-book project?