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TOP 5 Publishing trends

It’s easy to forget that something as creative as writing a book is also about business. You can write the best book in the world but it’s only successful if people read it.

That’s where the publishing industry comes in.

In my course, Kick Start Your Book With Karen, I encourage my students to keep an eye on the industry by reading publications such as The Bookseller. It helps keep you informed about what publishers are buying, industry news, and what type of book is selling.

But in the meantime, I have put together this post to share five publishing trends that you should be aware of as an aspiring author.

Like most industries, the impact of the pandemic was swift; physical bookstores shut down, printers in the Far East closed, and highly anticipated releases were put on hold. As a result, you would assume that book sales also took a hit but surprisingly, 2020 was a positive year for publishing.

In the US, print book sales rose 8.2% in 2020 over 2019 according to NPD BookScan and in the UK, Nielsen BookScan reported 202 million books sold, up 5.5% compared with the previous year. Quite simply, lockdown led to new trends. Interest in the classics increased as readers searched for nostalgia and a new wave of home-related books grew successful such as cooking, home interiors, and gardening.

But now, just over a year later, as people cautiously get back to normal, what trends can we expect for the rest of 2021 and beyond?

1. E-book market growth

While print books still dominate (The 2019 American Publishers’ annual report showed printed books made up $22.6 billion in revenue and e-books $2.04 billion), the e-book market is expected to show an annual growth rate of almost 3%. With libraries and bookstores harder to access, the pandemic most likely accelerated this trend, and as readers experience the benefits of an e-book, most are likely to continue using this format.

Take-away: Consider self-publishing as a viable option for your book.

2. Rapid digital development

Whatever format the book is in – printed, audio or e-book - digital marketing has taken over the more traditional forms of advertising and while publishers have realised how important it is to hire digital natives, there’s still an expectation on the author to curate and engage their own email lists and produce effective social media content.

Take-away: Don’t wait until your book is published to start building your social media following and email lists.

3. Audiobook expansion

This has been a developing trend over the last few years and the global audiobook market is expected to expand at an annual growth rate of 24.4% from 2020 to 2027. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider you can enjoy your latest read in your car, at the gym, or while making dinner. And with fierce competition for audio space between Audible, Spotify, and Apple, this trend is only set to continue.

Take-away: Look into doing an audiobook release for new books, and consider converting your backlist if you have one.

4. More diversity

We all want to be seen and represented in the books we read as well as experience a variety of stories from different perspectives. The good news is that more diversity is being seen not just in authors (the British Book Awards 2020 saw its first black winner) but also in the books and characters themselves.

The #OwnVoices movement (a term coined by the writer Corinne Duyvis referring to an author from a marginalised or under-represented group writing about their own experiences) is a powerful one and the industry is interested in diverse narratives for publishing.

Take- away: For any aspiring author from an underrepresented group, now really is the time to tell your story.

5. More escapist fiction

It’s expected that the impact of the pandemic will continue for some time yet and as a result, readers are looking to retreat from the rigmarole of daily life. During the most stressful times, I shied away from my usual crime thriller and sought solace in uplifting fiction or a romantic comedy. But in addition to a good old-fashioned happy ending, expect to see a rise in popularity in fantasy, science-fiction, and dystopian genres.

Take-away: Could your book idea fit an escapist theme?

There are other trends too of course such as artificial intelligence (did you know AI has already written a book?) but for now, these trends show that there is still a huge demand for books, whatever the format, and for authors and writers everywhere, that can only be a good thing.



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Karen Osman sat on desk

I'm Karen, a best-selling novelist who left her corporate life to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Since then, I've written everything from travel articles to web copy before winning a novel writing competition which led to a 3-book deal. 


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