On the Coming Demise/Decline of Indie Christian Fiction

LOn the Coming Demise/Decline of Indie Christian Fiction DeBunking ast month book agent Chip MacGregor made a number of predictions on the future of Christian fiction. I don't agree with any of his more bold predictions, and in fact I don't think he knows what he is talking about.

But something about the way he wrote made me question whether our different viewpoints stemmed from Christian fiction possibly being a unique market niche.

And so I would like to open this post for debate.

Let's start with a prediction which makes absolutely no sense to anyone who follows the greater digital publishing industry:

  • There’s going to be a push to offer new books on mobile phone applications first. Publishers have figured out that people under 30 want to read books on their phones, so there’s going to be many titles that follow the video game market and are offered to mobile readers before anyone else.

See, this is one of the predictions that just doesn't make sense from my vantage point.

Kindle is the majority of the trade ebook market, and releasing the Kindle ebook alongside print is SOP, so why would one release ebooks just for mobile phone apps?

I don't see it, and I am also stumped by his prediction that:

  • Barnes and Noble will open some mini-stores that only stock bestsellers. I don’t have any insider knowledge about this, but with Amazon opening brick-and-mortar stores, B&N has to do something to try and grab a bit more market share.

B&N no longer stocks as many books in its stores because books no longer generate the profit margin they used to.

So why would they open smaller stores - stores which would have above average operating costs - just to sell more books?

And then there is his claim that bundling will make a comeback:

  • Everyone is going to start bundling ebooks. It’s been a growing movement among ebook publishers, and this year we’ll see major houses begin to do it… and thus shrink author earnings even more.

It's not clear whether Chip is referring to ebook bundles, which the majors have done for years, or print+ebook bundles, which Shelfie has shown to be too small of a market to be viable.

But either way, I don't see the return/rise of bundling as being any more likely than some of his other predictions:

  • On the other hand, we’re going to see the end of the ultra-low price on ebooks. All those business geniuses who took over ebook lines and were told to grow the readership have now been slapped upside the head for not making enough money. So expect ebook prices to begin to grow across the board — meaning we’re moving toward the end of the 99-cent ebook, and thus earning authors a bit more and counter-balancing #6 above.
  • We’re going to see a group of successful ebook authors quit indie publishing. For the record, I am NOT opposed to indie publishing, and have been very vocal in encouraging the authors I represent to consider doing some of their titles indie. But with declining indie sales, we’re now going to start seeing a migration of big-name authors back toward traditional publishers. Have a look at the news so far this year, and you’ll see the movement has already begun.

Those last two points sound like wishful thinking, don't they?

Thoughts?

h\t The Passive Voice

image by D. Scott Taylor

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

48 Comments

  1. Mackay Bell17 February, 2017

    Yeah, all of it seems off to me. A lot of it wishful thinking for traditional publishers.

    But Indy writers “quitting” seems to be the new meme from the folks who brought us “shit volcano” and “all writers will be forced to write for free.” I keep hearing about “successful” or “best selling” indy writers who are quitting self-publishing. I’m doubtful it’s true. Perhaps sales are down for some and they aren’t happy, but I can’t see how any shift to traditional publishing would make sense for someone with a good catalogue of self-published books. And it never includes any names.

    Reply
  2. Maria (BearMountainBooks)17 February, 2017

    Re: bestsellers. Hmm. I list some popular books on my blog even though I mainly list “bargain” books. In the last two years I’ve seen a decline in purchases of best sellers. I listed JD Robb’s latest last Tuesday when it came out (or thereabouts). Not a single copy sold. But the book is 14.99. I can usually sell a copy or two if I pick the right authors for the blog…but at 14.99 that’s a tough sell. So I don’t think opening mini stores is the way to go. But check with airports. That is essentially what that bookstore is at any major airport–they carry the best sellers and a lot of snacks!

    Hybrid authors are doing well and I think you’ll continue to see any author who has done well as a trad go ahead and try an indie line (Rachel Aaron, Ilona Andrews, Rhys Bowen).

    If someone is doing well as indie, it may make sense to also give up one series to trad. Trads have a different reach and sending in a sub to a trad publisher can be a great marketing plan if it works.

    During the last few months (Christmas season and after) I actually lowered my first in series to 99 cents. It seemed to be really hitting well with buyers on my blog (of book bargains I posted). So I followed that market with my own books. I don’t think that price is necessarily the best strategy at all times of the year, but perhaps after Christmas the impulse buyer is more active?

    The Christian market is a niche market and I don’t follow any authors…well, one, and she is both indie and trad, mostly indie these days. It’s as tough as any other market. I doubt the rules are all that different, but it’s impossible to say without hearing directly from authors in that market.

    Reply
  3. Chris Meadows17 February, 2017

    The funny thing to me is that there used to be a whole lot of “appbooks” in the early days of iOS, but they more or less petered out once the Kindle and its sibling ereaders took over the market.

    Reply
  4. Darryl17 February, 2017

    The last two points, like his others, to me seem to have little or no basis. What we are seeing in the publishing industry is new only to that industry. Perhaps you have heard of it. It is called competition. Both in the sense that Indies are competing with traditional publishing, and in the sense that Indies are competing with each other, mainly within a marketplace run by Amazon. A marketplace which Amazon wants to grow. An efficient marketplace where Amazon seeks to optimise the revenue and profits from each book. A marketplace where books are indeed commodities and not special snowflakes. Amazon has made plain the prices it prefers, and provides incentives in its royalty structures to promote this happening. Rumour has it that even its agency pricing contracts with the large publishers contain similar incentives. Based on hard data. Amazon already doesn’t like $0.99. It prefers prices in the range of $2.99 to $9.99. $0.99 and even giveaways do make sense as promotional tools, and will be used as long as they make sense to authors. I see no signs that this is going to change anytime soon.

    As for Indies leaving for tradpub? I’m not sure what news he is referring to. To me it just makes no sense whatsoever. Kris Rusch has done some great posts on this, and no longer recommends traditional publishing for authors. Currently, for all but an elite few, to give your book to a traditional publisher is to kiss it goodbye forevermore for a paltry return. The only conceivable way this makes sense to me is for promotional purposes for other and future Indie plublished books. The price is heavy indeed, and for most books, at least anecdotally, the promotion will not be there.

    I think the above considerations apply generally, and cannot off the top of my head think why the christian makert would be an exception.

    Reply
  5. Lemondrop18 February, 2017

    You focused on one narrow statement in the original article in a list over ten. Why? I think a more general approach would have been more interesting. For example, he mentions the decline in indie sales and predicts big selling authors will return to trad pub. This seems a much less niche topic than Christian Fiction. I think you’re missing a wider interest. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Reply
    1. Mackay Bell18 February, 2017

      Why would “big selling” authors return to trad pub? Even if their sales are down, it’s unlikely trad pub will do the work necessary to promote them and improve their sales (after taking a huge cut). Sounds like wishful thinking by literary agents who are increasingly cut out of the middle.

      Reply
    2. Nate Hoffelder5 June, 2017

      There’s a technique for disguising propaganda by surrounding the fictions with a few facts.

      The facts do not legitimize the fictions, and can be ignored.

      Reply
  6. Smart Debut Author18 February, 2017

    Ah, a literary agent talking about self-publishing. Clearly an unimpeachably knowledgeable, totally impartial source. 🙂

    Jesus. Any author clueless enough to believe a word Chip writes is an author who should just sadly hand over their IP now for nothing and get back to taking latte orders.

    Reply
  7. Frances Roberts18 February, 2017

    I think phone readers can only help us. The thing that will hurt Inspirational writers is if there are too many books that aren’t well written or too predictable. Fiction is meant to entertain & Christian fiction is where the gospel meets the heart. Jesus told great stories folks!

    Reply
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  46. […] last we looked at MacGregor, he made various improbable predictions like we would soon see indie authors quite self-publishing and also see the end low-priced ebooks. […]

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