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2018 Year in Review: Inside the Publishing Industry

2018 Year in Review: Inside the Publishing Industry

Discover Jane Friedman’s 2018 Year in Assessment—her tackle the newest developments and shakeups in the e-book and journal realm, and what these imply for writers in the coming yr.

Photograph by Steven VanDesande Jr on Unsplash

For higher or worse, present occasions proceed to drive consideration, gross sales and subscriptions throughout all sectors of publishing this yr. If 2017 was greatest remembered for “fake news,” then 2018 was the yr of #MeToo, with a surge of groundbreaking revelations about sexual harassment rippling all through all classes of the media, from Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose to Sherman Alexie. For ebook publishers, political books contributed to gross sales progress, whereas newspapers noticed digital subscriptions improve as residents grew extra prepared to pay for entry to high quality journalism.


The New U.S. Tax Invoice & Its Impact on Writers

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new U.S. tax invoice, took impact on Jan. 1, 2018, and has had wide-ranging impacts on writers. Typically utilized by authors and freelancers, pass-through entities akin to LLCs, sole proprietorships, partnerships and S firms are taxed in another way beneath the new regulation. At present, income from pass-through entities are taxed at a person price, which may be as excessive as 39.6 %. The brand new tax invoice permits such companies to deduct 20 % of enterprise revenue. Nevertheless, high-earning writers (with annual earnings of greater than $157,500) might not obtain this new tax break in half or full.

New Supreme Courtroom Ruling Is a Potential Win for Booksellers

On June 21, the Supreme Courtroom handed down an necessary ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair that impacts bookselling nationwide. Till the ruling was made, it was not obligatory for on-line retailers to gather gross sales tax if they didn’t have a bodily presence in the state; nevertheless, going ahead, it’s. Whereas this choice has far-reaching implications for all companies, it’s extensively thought-about a win for the bookselling group in its battle towards Amazon. Nevertheless, Amazon itself was already paying gross sales tax in all states earlier than the ruling. Subsequently, it primarily impacts third-party gross sales made via Amazon (in the Amazon Market). Mockingly, if Amazon Market sellers are negatively  affected, gross sales might merely shift to Amazon itself.


Publishing’s #MeToo Reckoning

As headlines proliferated round #MeToo and problems with variety this yr, the publishing business has been pressured to cope with long-seated issues. Main authors akin to Sherman Alexie, Junot Díaz and Jay Asher have been accused of sexual harassment, forcing publishers, brokers and booksellers to determine whether or not to  retain or sever relationships, cancel deliberate occasions and rescind awards and positions. Morality clauses at the moment are showing in book-publishing contracts to provide publishers flexibility to desert an writer when dangerous conduct surfaces. #MeToo isn’t the solely situation, although. In the YA and romance communities in specific, race and variety have develop into hot-button points. YA authors are revising books to keep away from claims of racism, and reviewers have been referred to as out for favorably reviewing books  thought-about racist. Extra publishers and authors now search sensitivity readers previous to publication to catch issues early.

Ursula Le Guin at residence in Portland, Origon, California December 15 2005. (Photograph by Dan Tuffs/Getty Pictures)


This yr we misplaced two pre-eminent figures of 20th century literature: Philip Roth, maybe greatest recognized for Portnoy’s Grievance and the character of Nathan Zuckerman; and new journalist Tom Wolfe, iconic in his trademark white go well with, who wrote quite a few bestsellers—each fiction and nonfiction—akin to The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Electrical Kool-Help Acid Check.

Science fiction and fantasy readers in specific mourned the lack of Ursula Okay. Le Guin (the Earthsea collection) and Harlan Ellison, who gained eight Hugo Awards throughout his profession.

We additionally stated goodbye to Nobel Prize–winner V.S. Naipaul, poet Donald Corridor, youngsters’s writer Richard Peck and novelist Anita Shreve (The Pilot’s Spouse and The Weight of Water).

Photograph by Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash


Amazon Shutters Some Indie Author Publishing Packages

This yr, Amazon pulled again on a few of its publishing  packages, closing down a number of initiatives well-liked with self-published authors. Probably the most notable closure was that of Kindle Worlds, a platform that allowed established authors to license their story worlds to  different writers—offering a professional path to revenue from fan fiction. Over 5 years, Kindle Worlds launched almost 100 licensed worlds, some well-known—every thing from Hugh Howey to G.I. Joe. Along with Kindle Worlds, Amazon additionally closed crowdsourced publishing platform Kindle Scout; stopped actively accepting submissions for Kindle Press, which targeted on publishing digital-only editions; and halted their acceptance of script submissions for Amazon Studios.

Agent Embezzlement Reportedly Leaves Chuck Palahniuk Broke

In late Might, surprising information circulated about the revered  literary company of Donadio & Olson, the place the company’s  accountant was discovered to have embezzled $three.four million over a interval of years. In the aftermath, the company’s  shopper, Chuck Palahniuk, wrote on his web site that he’s near broke. Up till the embezzlement information, he’d blamed his dwindling revenue on piracy and slow-paying  publishers. Attorneys for Donadio & Olson have stated the company “is ensuring that all of its impacted clients are made whole to the greatest extent possible.” Precisely who’s affected and the way a lot of that $three.four million is owed to authors is unknown.

Nonfiction and Digital Audiobook Gross sales Thrive; Fiction Stays Stagnant

Whereas conventional publishers have loved a slight improve in general guide gross sales this yr, the progress is especially being pushed by nonfiction in addition to digital audio—the latter of which has been rising by 20 to 30 % over the previous couple of years. In the nonfiction realm, profitable classes embrace politics, cookbooks, self-help and enterprise. Nevertheless, the CEO of Simon & Schuster, Carolyn Reidy, says a few of their necessary authors have skilled gross sales declines, and that different homes are experiencing an analogous development. She stated, “We’re talking about these real powerhouses that have fueled the industry for a lot of years. It’s still a challenge to help an established, bestselling author maintain and grow his or her audience—that’s a big challenge in today’s world.”

Barnes & Noble Continues to Expertise Turmoil

Simply earlier than Valentine’s Day, the largest brick-and-mortar U.S. bookselling chain introduced a “new labor model,” eliminating retailer positions to save lots of $40 million yearly. Whereas no figures got, it was estimated about 1,600 individuals have been laid off, which might symbolize a few 6 % decline in its workforce. Gross sales have been slowly declining for the final couple years at the beleaguered retailer because it makes an attempt to create a buying expertise that may assist it higher compete towards Amazon in addition to unbiased bookstores. To that finish, it has launched a brand new nationwide e-book membership, targeted on rising its personal membership program, and created a book-browsing app to extend engagement. Nevertheless, in a shocking flip of occasions, Barnes & Noble fired its CEO over the summer time with out severance and is now looking for a alternative. In the final 5 years, the firm has had 4 chief executives; e-book publishers are annoyed at the retailer’s instability and worry its loss, because it represents an necessary counterweight to Amazon-ian energy.

Photograph by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash


Main Journal Mergers: Meredith Acquires Time Inc., Hearst Acquires Rodale

The yr began with a not-unexpected—but nonetheless groundbreaking—enterprise merger: The Iowa-based Meredith (greatest recognized for Higher Houses and Gardens) acquired New York–based mostly Time Inc. The acquisition immediately made Meredith the largest journal firm in the world. By March, the firm introduced a spherical of layoffs and cost-cutting measures, and in addition that it will unload a number of of Time’s flagship publications: Time, Sports activities Illustrated, Fortune and Cash. (Consumers have just lately been introduced for Time.) That wasn’t the solely huge merger this yr; Hearst acquired Rodale, greatest recognized for its well being and wellness manufacturers, akin to Prevention and Males’s Well being. As with Meredith, Hearst wasted little time in saying layoffs and bought off Rodale’s guide division to Penguin Random Home.

New Fb Algorithm Negatively Impacts Visitors for Information Websites

Whereas it’s not essentially a brand new or shocking improvement, information publishers skilled critical declines in 2018 in non-paid visitors from Fb. In his first announcement of the yr, Fb founder Mark Zuckerberg stated the website would prioritize posts by households, pals and teams—partly pushed by the destructive consideration Fb has acquired for serving to disseminate “fake news.” Some characterised Fb’s transfer as a stark and disappointing retreat from the information enterprise. The subsequent technique for some information retailers? Give attention to driving natural search outcomes from Google.

Elevated Paper Prices Affecting Revenue Margins, Particularly at Newspapers and Magazines

It’s a merciless irony: Decreased demand for guide and journal paper inventory has elevated its value, as paper corporations have shifted manufacturing to areas the place demand is rising, comparable to packaging. (Assume: Amazon bins.) Moreover, President Trump’s tariffs on paper from Canada has elevated prices for newsprint, creating the very actual risk of driving small papers out of enterprise. In Might, a number of senators put forth a invoice—the PRINT Act—to guard printers and publishers from such tariffs; and in August, the Worldwide Commerce Fee voted unanimously to reverse the taxes.

Europe Tightens Up Privateness Legal guidelines, Affecting Publishers Worldwide

Resulting from growing privateness considerations, a brand new regulation from the European Union, the Basic Knowledge Safety Regulation (GDPR), took impact in Might. Whereas it’s meant to convey massive tech companies—assume Google and Fb—to heel, the new regulation has repercussions for anybody who runs an internet site or collects private knowledge from EU residents, similar to e-mail addresses. The important thing provisions of the regulation: Individuals should give specific and proactive consent for his or her knowledge to be collected; they’ve the proper to assessment what knowledge  is saved and take it elsewhere; they usually have the proper  to withdraw consent and have their knowledge expunged. Publishers are complying by having clear privateness insurance policies and phrases of service, and establishing data of consent. Because it’s typically simpler to make that a blanket request somewhat than singling out EU residents, U.S. residents now take pleasure in the halo impact the regulation is creating.

Wanting forward, hold your eye on the subscription wars: Each media enterprise is now contemplating how you can get readers to pay weekly, month-to-month or yearly for entry. Whereas everybody agrees somebody has to pay for content material—particularly since promoting is making up a smaller portion of the income pie than ever earlier than—what number of subscriptions can any single reader justify? Anticipate dialogue of subscription exhaustion, particularly if and when the information cycle turns into dramatically much less fascinating to readers.

This function initially appeared in the Author’s Digest Yearbook 2019. Seize a replica or subscribe to find extra. is a participant in the Amazon Providers LLC Associates Program, an affiliate promoting program designed to offer a means for websites to earn promoting charges by promoting and linking to and affiliated web sites. 

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