It’s that time of year again: the time when publishing experts grab our crystal ball, put our heads together and try to forecast the future of indie publishing. This year, indie publishing issues have been interesting. For years now, there has been a clear shift in the overall direction of publishing.

The indie world has gone from “small biz problems” to big industry issues. We started out wondering:

  • How do we find readers?
  • How do we get noticed?
  • How do we market to our small corner of the world?

Now, we’re much more confident and far more developed and finding ourselves asking questions like:

  • How do we sell rights?
  • What international markets are ripe and ready for indie books?
  • How can I bootstrap my way towards surpassing traditional authors?

Just the mindset shift alone is a huge step. And in 2017 we will see indie authors really taking ownership of their business model and setting trends the traditional world can aspire to.

Indie authors first had to take their own importance seriously. Then the industry had to start paying attention. Now, it’s time for indies to take the lead once again and blaze new trails in publishing.

Audio Ramps Up

A top facet of publishing that seemed to be a “traditional-only” zone was the audiobook.

It takes a fair amount of time and money to produce and seems primarily reserved for bestsellers. Until recently, indie authors have sort of passed it by. With the growing interest in audio, however, this will be a space indie authors start paying even more attention to in 2017.

According to a CNBC report, audiobook downloads increased by 38% and Audible members listened to 1.6 billion hours of audio content in 2015. This is compared to stagnant growth or outright declines in the ebook and print sales markets.

Once the realization kicks in that audio matters to indie, the next step will be determining how to produce an audiobook without the help of an expensive producer and voice actor.

The top resource for indie authors has been Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). It’s a product of Amazon and a fairly good option for those ready to invest in audio. The distribution is limited and (as always with Amazon) there are some uncontrollable factors that can frustrate authors. Now, however, different companies offering audiobook creation services are popping up and as interest grows, so will the market for DIY audiobook options.

Indies Get Some Help

The name of the indie game is scrappy! Indie authors are used to doing it all themselves. They are the writer, the editor, the designer, the marketer, the sales team and the list goes on and on.

That is why indie authors are on the map now, by the sweat of their own brow. After gaining all this ground, independent authors are starting to realize they are a business, and a professional one at that. More and more, indie authors are beginning to realize they need and deserve a team of people supporting them.

Whether they begin looking into hybrid publishers to help get their book to market or seek out a professional publicist to help build their brand, authors are beginning to realize that just because a publishing house isn’t supplying a team, doesn’t mean they are all alone.

Indie Becomes the Space Where Diversity Thrives

There has been no shortage of reports that the publishing industry has a severe lack of diversity. Readers and industry watchers have written about it here, here, here and here.

It’s no secret that the world of books is very white and very male (especially when looking at the literary genre).

In the wake of a social uprising that demands all voices be heard, the insurgence of diverse books is bound to rise. That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that the publishing industry is ready to change all at once.

The indie world is a beautifully open space and will offer a home to books of all shapes, sizes, color and origins. While boundaries continue to be broken down and ceilings await shattering, indie publishing can give birth to a much more progressive form of publishing and allow books to enter the space that wouldn’t otherwise be given a chance. To this end, our sister company, She Writes Press, has launched a scholarship program to bring a diverse book to market each season. Here’s how you can get involved.

Turning Toward International Markets

Because indie authors tend to have limited resources, the overall market they can reach often feels a bit squeezed. Though the US and the UK offer a massive market of readers to English writers, they are far from the only book buyers in the world.

Recently, major indie author influencers, like Joanna Penn, are finding opportunities in other countries by using platforms like Kobo.

If you feel there is a larger market for your book than what you’re able to tap using Amazon, 2017 is the time to start your research for selling books in other countries. As Joanna Penn notes, she has managed to sell her books in 74 countries, a stat that, just a couple of years ago, would have felt impossible for most indie authors.

Finding New Ways to Sell

Sales is likely the area that baffles authors the most. For creative writers, putting on a sales hat feels unnatural and uncomfortable. Today’s indie author knows, however, that there is no time for shy when you’re independent. Your career depends on you being crafty, so you simply find a way.

Every year, and 2017 is no different, indie authors have to find new ways to sell their book.

One new interesting opportunity is to sell books in bundles. Whether you sell a collection of your own books or partner with fellow indie authors, platforms like Story Bundle are giving indies new opportunities to get their books in front of readers.

Similar to how authors leverage BookBub to get promotions out to readers and discover new fans, Story Bundle leverages readers’ interest in packaged deals to get books in front of book lovers.

Sites and services like Story Bundle are just one new way indie authors will sell their books to the masses in 2017. A direct relationship between the seller and the buyer is not the only way today’s digital author will reach readers and exciting new platforms are emerging to help bridge the gap every day.

Instagram Grows for Authors

It would be remiss to make a prediction for authors in 2017 without mentioning some changes in social media. For as long as social media has been relevant, Facebook and Twitter have been the frontrunners for authors. Both are still major players, but 2017 may be the year where authors need to add a third platform to the mix.

For a while now, readers and fans have been building audiences of book lovers through amazing “bookstagram” accounts. Now, it’s time authors took a page from their readers’ handbook and start using images to draw in an audience.

From gorgeously styled pictures of their books to relationship building with big book Instagram accounts, there are a lot of reasons for authors to be on this platform.

Now, ads are also beginning to gain some traction on Instagram and it would be worth the time to test out their effectiveness for authors.

Whether you’re a casual Instagram user or looking to make aggressive strides on social media, Instagram is a place where authors can gain fast followers, find their audience easily and build with enthusiasm.

What does 2017 have in store for you? Share some of your personal insights and predictions in the comments below!