Publishing Market Trends in 2023

The annual income of the publishing sector in the United States is approximately $28 billion. While that figure has been stable over the previous four years, the sector as a whole has undergone some significant changes in that time. Which developments will have the most weight as publishers and readers readjust their expectations over the next few years?

Here are 10 of the most anticipated changes in the publishing industry.

1. Emergence of New Book Summarization Sites

More and more websites and apps exist solely to condense the contents of nonfiction books. One of the market leaders is Blinkist, a Berlin-based business that has amassed 23 million users.

Blinkist is a service that provides short summaries (called “blinks”) of books in audio and text format. To date, the company has amassed $34.8 million in venture capital funding.

MentorBox is one more young company targeting this market. Many successful new businesses, like MentorBox, focus on summarizing books.

MentorBox works with authors to adapt their books into courses rather than merely summarizing them. Donald Miller, Jonah Berger, and Reid Hoffman are just a few of the authors available on the site.

2. Exploding electronic book and audiobook sales

Print book sales have been on the decline during the past decade. However, interest in digital formats such as ebooks and audiobooks has exploded.

Over the past 15 years, there has been a 167% increase in searches for the “Audible” audiobook platform. While print books are still preferred, 25% of adults opted to read an e-book this year.

And one in five Americans has listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months. Sales of audiobooks have risen steadily since 2012, according to industry data.

In fact, sales of audiobooks are up 14.3% from the previous year. When it comes to publishing, audiobooks are one of the fastest-growing markets.

It’s interesting to see ebooks selling better than audiobooks. Over $956 million has been made from ebook sales. Most of the credit goes to Amazon’s Kindle.

Many small press writers are missing out on the boom in ebooks and audiobooks. The term “independent author” has seen a rising trend in online search volume over the past decade.

New tools in the publishing industry, however, make it less difficult to get digital books to market. When an author submits an audio file to Amazon’s subsidiary ACX, the file will be packaged and made available on Amazon, Audible, and Apple’s iBooks.

The ACX self-publishing platform effectively converts a single manuscript into several different file types. Many people now use public libraries as their primary source for digital media, surpassing even Amazon. The platform has a 50% share of the ebook market and hosts 200,000 audiobooks on Audible.

Downloads of digital content hit an all-time high of 326 million three years ago, an increase of 20% from the previous year.

The number of library ebook checkouts continued to rise in 2022. ByteDance, an Internet technology business (and owner of TikTok), foresees lucrative opportunities in the digital publishing sector. There has been a 9,500% increase in “TikTok”-related Google searches during the past five years. A new reading software with robotic voices has been released.

One of China’s leading ebook publishers, Zhangyue, received a $170 million investment from ByteDance.

3. The Decline of Independent Bookstores

The independent bookstore still struggles in the year 2023. The outlook is not promising for independent bookstores as a whole.

Despite the recent uptick, with indies reporting 49% growth from 2009 to 2018, COVID may be a wall that many cannot climb. In 2020, there will be less than 60 independent bookstores left.

Small bookstores, like many other businesses, have seen their revenue decline with the implementation of security measures. According to Publisher’s Weekly, bookshop sales dropped by roughly a third from January to October of 2019 to the same period in 2020.

More than $2 billion is a significant decrease. Like many other small companies, local bookstores rely on holiday sales to make a profit by the end of the year.

One-third or more of a bookstore’s annual revenue might be made in the last few months of the year. Holiday sales have been particularly strong for many independent booksellers this year. Many of these bookstores can no longer survive due to in-store occupancy regulations; however, online sales have provided a lifeline. And if a bookshop owner has never sold anything online before and lacks the resources to do so, e-commerce is going to be a tough sell.

However, bookshop.org is here to help make things easier. There has been a 1,500% spike in searches for “bookshop.org” during the past five years.

Bookshop.org welcomes independent bookstores to join as affiliates. That means they can send traffic to the Bookshop and keep 30% of the revenue generated by those who click on their link.

The bookstore handles everything from stocking to shipping to customer returns. The margin is about the same as what a bookstore would make if you bought the book there. Bookshop made around $2.3 million in sales over the 2020 Black Friday weekend.

Communities are also taking action to preserve their beloved independent bookstores. The San Francisco bookstore City Lights has raised over $511,000 on GoFundMe, and the Chicago bookstore Seminary Co-op Bookstores has raised over $246,000.

4. Libraries and Publishers at Odds

Libraries and publishers are squaring off as the demand for digital media continues to rise. Information should be freely shared, and libraries fight for that right.

However, publishing houses worry that lost income from library loans. This conflict has been building for quite some time.

And the pandemic has just made things worse. In previous years, publishers of printed books restricted libraries’ ability to provide ebooks to patrons.

In most cases, libraries could borrow the ebook for a limited number of times or for a set period of time (say, two years or fifty-two checkouts per ebook license). The average price paid by libraries for ebooks is $45; this is approximately three and a half times the amount paid by consumers.

Late in 2019, Macmillan, one of the “big five” publishing houses, instituted a policy that limited libraries to purchasing one copy of an ebook for patron use for the first two months it was available. Macmillan apparently hoped to increase ebook sales by testing this strategy, as 45% of their ebook downloads come from libraries.

However, this stance was short-lived. When COVID struck, libraries objected, and the publisher caved. Macmillan was pressured into abandoning a policy that restricted libraries’ access to their ebooks.

The library community is also troubled by Amazon’s ebook policies. The internet juggernaut forbids libraries from buying ebooks with their imprints.

However, discussions regarding a library distribution plan have recently begun with the Digital Public Library of America. Additionally, bills in both Rhode Island and New York have been presented to mandate the affordable distribution of ebooks to public libraries.

There is still friction between book companies and library systems. After the pandemic is over, many people working in public libraries worry that the battle over ebooks will resume.

5. Using technology to one’s advantage

In 2023 and beyond, technological advancements will play a significant role in influencing the publishing sector.

In a surprising development, book publishers are considering implementing AI-generated content. Artificial intelligence is being used by several internet publishers to produce content.

Online interest in “AI writing” has surged by 4,700% in the last five years. However, AI has yet to master the art of writing engaging fiction.

Many readers can already detect whether a work of fiction was written by an AI. However, bearing in mind that these AI programs have made significant progress over the past few years.

Eventually, AI might even be able to produce human-like fiction. AI has many more applications for the publishing industry.

The tools are being used for content categorization, acquisitions, plagiarism detection, and book promotion. Digital marketing and promotion provide almost unlimited possibilities for the publishing industry.

The first chapters of books are being read on live social media streams, more than 500,000 people have attended virtual literary events, and publishers are collecting more data than ever before on reader habits.

There are almost 15 million posts with the hashtag “Bookstagrammer” on Instagram, so clearly this is a thing. Book reviewers known as “Booktubers” have built a community around YouTube, catching the attention of authors like Michelle Obama as she promoted her biography, Becoming.

6. The rise of self-publishing

Books published independently have increased since 2010. About 153,000 ISBNs were issued to books written and published by their authors that year. More than 1.6 million books were sold in 2018.

The 2020 epidemic and the rise of e-readers appeared to accelerate the trend. In the past year, both the number of authors supported by Smashwords and the number of books published increased by 5.3% and 5.7%, respectively.

Self-publishing is appealing to writers, especially those just starting out, because it gives them complete creative control over their work. The author has complete control over the book’s production, as opposed to a traditional publisher.

Authors who have previously found success publishing with a traditional publisher are increasingly turning to self-publishing.

When horror writer Adam Nevill published his first self-published novel in 2019, he had already written and published 19 novels. How come? More money and say in how the books are packaged and marketed. His self-published book has done better than some of his traditional publishing efforts.

Wattpad is another well-liked platform for independent authors. However, the premise is not the same as the standard self-publishing method. Searches for “Wattpad” skyrocketed in 2020 and still sit at high levels in 2023 (up 105% in a decade). The website and accompanying app, which debuted in 2006, are centered on a virtual network for sharing personal narratives.

Writers share their works online. The users then read the articles they enjoyed and give their opinions.

On Wattpad, you may read tales at no cost. However, they also provide a “paid stories” service. Many of the most read tales on Wattpad have been adapted into books and movies by Wattpad Books and Wattpad Studios, respectively.

Some writers use Wattpad as a stepping stone to contracts with traditional publishing houses.

For instance, Anna Todd’s After series was first released on Wattpad. The After books were initially released independently. Simon & Schuster took an interest in her writing, and she has since published five books with them. A South Korean firm paid almost $600 million to purchase Wattpad.

There had been rumors that Facebook, TikTok, and Netflix were all interested in purchasing Wattpad before this agreement was finalized.

7. Large publishing houses merge

The “big six” publishing houses controlled the market in the early 2000s. The only big publishers were Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

In 2012, these “big six” publishers commanded a combined 50% of the US book market. After the 2013 merger of Random House and Penguin, the “big five” publishers controlled 95 percent of the market.

According to the data, in 2021, these five companies printed and distributed eighty percent of all books. It was revealed in 2021 that Simon & Schuster would be acquired by Penguin Random House (PRH) for almost $2 billion.

The merger of Penguin and Simon & Schuster furthered the consolidation of the publishing industry’s remaining behemoths. With only four big firms left, this further consolidates the publishing industry’s dominance into the hands of a small group of corporations.

Penguin Random House was already the largest US publisher before the merger. As a result of the merger, 34% of the annual book sales will now come from a single publisher.

The Authors Guild has harsh words for the union. They foresee that the publishing sector will become less competitive, that advances will decrease, and that author contracts will be more difficult to negotiate as a result of this imbalance.

When Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House announced their plans to merge in late 2020, the Authors Guild issued a statement protesting the move. There have been other publisher protests against the agreement. A representative for HarperCollins stated that with the merger of PRH and Simon & Schuster, the combined business would have control of 70% of the US literary and general fiction market.

Organizations in three countries have asked their governments to block the merger: Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All of these conditions have thus far been met by the merger.

8. Gains for Independent Publishers

Many in the publishing industry worry that the largest publishing houses are becoming monopolistic powerhouses, which has led to a rise in the number of independently published books.

These independent publishing companies stand in stark contrast to the big four publishing giants.

Independent publishers are more willing to take risks on books by lesser-known authors or novels in unpopular categories. Their print runs might be as low as a thousand copies.

These independent publishing houses are thriving despite their modest size. The income of the small independent publisher Mango Publishing has been rising in recent years.

They put out 68 books last year. This number has increased to 130 in 2019 due to a 162% increase in sales.

Mango Publishing is proud to showcase the unique and varied perspectives of its authors. The company has only been publishing for six years, but it has already been recognized as one of the fastest-growing small publishers by Publisher Weekly.

Wolfpack Publishing, too, has seen enormous growth over the past few years. Its growth rate between 2018 and 2020 made it the most successful independent publisher in the United States. During that time, their sales increased by 309%. Despite having only 14 employees, the company made $2.2 million in 2019 and is projected to make roughly $3 million in 2020 in revenue.

9. Demanding diversity

This year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) provided diversity data based on the books they received for children and young adults.

Nearly 42% of the 3,700 books they looked at included a Caucasian protagonist. In contrast, publications with a main character of a different race made up 36% of the total. Interestingly, 29% had a principal character who was an animal or other non-human entity.

According to CCBC’s research, whites and animals were featured as the protagonists in books much more frequently than persons of color. Diverse BookFinder, another group, has evaluated over 3,000 children’s books since 2002.

They found that only 29% of books had a black protagonist, and that those that do tend to be about racism and triumph over adversity or be biographies. Recent surveys have also revealed a lack of diversity in the publishing profession.

According to Lee & Low Books, 76% are white and 74% are female. These 2019 numbers are strikingly comparable to their 2015 survey findings.

According to the results of a poll conducted by Lee & Low Books, there is very little diversity in the publishing industry. These numbers have prompted many in the publishing industry to advocate for a more diverse cast of writers, characters, and editors.

Many people are using the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks to draw attention to the problem on social media. There are more than 280,000 Instagram posts using the hashtag. The 2020s also saw the rise of the trending hashtag #PublishingPaidMe.

Using the hashtag, authors on Twitter discussed the sums they have received as book advances. The disparity in earnings between white and black authors was laid bare.

The New York Times analyzed almost 7,000 books after the trending hashtag became viral. The researchers determined that white authors accounted for 95% of the books.

In response to the criticism, some publishing firms have hired BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) acquisition editors whose primary responsibility is to seek for and acquire works by Latinx authors.

Searches for “BIPOC books” skyrocketed in 2020 (by 700% over the previous five years) and continue to do so in 2021. Some publishing houses have even given to anti-racism groups and devised inclusiveness programs. The movement for diversity in publishing may either bring in a new age or die out.

It’s too soon to tell if the fundamental engagement with racism that #BLM has provoked will lead to radical change, author Dr. Anamik Saha said. The publishing sector, in either case, needs to realize that there are a variety of readers.

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10. Investing heavily in online promotion

Both writers and publishers are interested in maintaining contact with their audiences throughout time. Engaged customers are more inclined to make subsequent book purchases.

Therefore, in 2023, one of the most common methods of selling books is via email marketing. According to one specialist in the publishing industry, email is one hundred times more effective than social media at generating book sales.

Some writers offer free short stories to people who sign up for their email newsletters. Some websites even provide exclusive content to email subscribers in order to earn money. More than twenty of Seth Godin’s books have been bestsellers. He advertises and interacts with his readership by email every day.

His blog, which includes more than 7,000 entries, also chronicles the daily happenings of his email. Authors are also experimenting with promoting their books on social media, despite the fact that email is a successful marketing technique that appears like it will remain around for the foreseeable future.

Many authors now use TikTok posts as part of their legitimate marketing strategies because of the platform’s rapid rise in popularity. More than 150 billion times have been spent watching #BookTok videos.

The beauty of #BookTok is that it relies on user-created marketing content. Readers, not authors, discuss their favorite novels, provide summaries, and occasionally shed tears over the book’s emotional conclusion.

Searches for “BookTok” skyrocketed in 2021, increasing 9,500% over the previous five years. 5.5 million people have seen a TikTok video based on the novel We Were Liars, published in 2014. Even by the summer of 2020, the book had made its way back onto bestseller lists.

Nearly a hundred TikTok users, according to the head of marketing at Random House Children’s Books. Another successful new marketing strategy is holding virtual author events, which gained popularity during the pandemic.

Accessibility, cheap cost, and the success of these events long after the pandemic has ended have kept them going strong in 2023.


The publishing sector has always been one that must adjust to new circumstances. However, the most rapid (and potentially disruptive) changes have occurred in the past few years. Both new dangers (podcasts) and potential benefits (audiobooks) have emerged in recent years. The development of these tendencies in the publishing sector over the coming years should be fascinating.

Source: https://explodingtopics.com/blog/publishing-trends

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