February 15


The Book Publishing Trends That Will Dominate in 2023

By Boni Wagner-Stafford

February 15, 2023

Sometimes to look ahead, you have to start by looking back. The Ingenium Books’ team took a look back at the past few decades, and noticed ten significant book publishing trends we believe will dominate the landscape in 2023. Some will be surprising, some expected.

Who would have thought, thirty years ago, that the publishing landscape of the 2020s would look the way it does? Things have changed profoundly since the 1990s and to write, publish and sell a book these days is a totally different kettle of fish. Like every other industry, what happens in publishing depends very much on market forces. But also on other factors, such as technological advances.

So what are the book publishing trends for 2023? Here are ten we expect to dominate.

Print books still rule (see #3), but digital is on the rise. During the pandemic, readers stuck at home further embraced the ebook to get their book fix. Publishing industry research organization WordsRated found that in 2020, the revenue from ebook sales in the United States increased to $1.1 billion, compared to $983.3 million the year before. In 2021, the ebook sales revenue remained the same as 2020.

For audiobooks, the growth has been even faster. The Audio Publishers Association found that in 2021, revenue from audiobook sales had grown to $1.6 billion, an increase of 25 percent from the year before.

There are several reasons this trend is likely to continue this year. There’s the convenience of being able to buy a book digitally, at any time of the day or night, and have a whole library on a device in your pocket. There’s also the lower price of ebooks and (some) audiobooks compared to print books, which can be a significant factor in the current economy. And, having grown up in a digital world, millennials and Gen Y are most likely to buy ebooks and audiobooks. These are the age groups with the least disposable income to spend on books, so it’s no surprise that they’d choose the cheaper options.  

Publishing Trend #2: Readers are turning to their smartphones for reading

How do you decide how to format your ebook and which publishing platforms to make it available on? BookNet Canada’s Canadian Leisure and Reading Survey 2021, conducted early in 2022, found that readers who choose ebooks and audiobooks are increasingly turning to their smartphones instead of tablets, ereaders or computers: 29 percent used their phones for reading ebooks, up from 25 percent the previous year, while 42 percent used their phones to listen to audiobooks, up from 28 percent the previous year. 

Publishing Trend #3: Print books are here to stay, with a caveat

Print books remain the most popular book format. WordsRated found that for every ebook, about four print books sell. As many as 37 percent of Americans say that they only read print books. The Canadian Leisure and Reading Survey 2021 found a similar trend, with 30 percent of Canadian readers saying they only read print books. In fact, about half of these readers said that if they couldn’t find a book in print format, they simply wouldn’t read it. The preference for print books is more prevalent among older readers.

There is a caveat to the continued popularity of print books, though: Readers are more likely to prefer paperbacks than hardcovers, mainly due to price. 

Publishing Trend #4: Indie bookstores are reinventing themselves

The pandemic was hard on indie brick-and-mortar bookstores, with many forced to close their doors permanently. However, avid readers have shown that they love their local bookstore, with some even holding fundraisers to help keep these stores in business. Local bookstores now account for 50.3 percent of global book sales

Because it’s so difficult for indie stores to compete against the monolith of Amazon, we’re expecting to see more of the innovations these stores have been introducing in the past year or so. For example: 

  • Unlike Amazon, a local bookstore can bring the community together through book launches and signing events, workshops and the like. 
  • By offering coffee and snacks, they’re enticing people to linger longer and to browse, creating an atmosphere that make them a destination for a morning out. 
  • More local bookstores have their own websites for online sales, which makes them a way for local authors to get their books out into the wider world.  
  • Some indie stores offer studio space for podcasts. The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles takes it even further by offering not only a curated library but also by hosting weddings and other events and making themselves available as a filming location.    

Publishing Trend #5: Indie and self-publishing continues to grow

While Penguin Random House’s planned acquisition of Simon & Schuster was blocked by a federal judge, preventing the Big Five from becoming the Big Four, these two publishing houses along with Hachette, HarperCollins, and MacMillan are still dominating the publishing landscape. Even though they’re only responsible for between 10 and 12 percent of books published in a year, they control around 80 percent of the trade book market in the United States and generate some 40 percent of the revenue if you include educational books. 

The advent of online publishing platforms like Amazon has made it easier for authors to get their books published without having to try and land a book deal with one of the Big Five publishers. Indie and self-published titles now make up around 40 percent of commercially available books. Publishing their own books – or doing it in collaboration with an indie publisher – allows more authors to pursue writing as a side hustle and to have more control over their work. 

Publishing Trend #6: Authors are relying more on social media

The sheer number of books available on a platform like Amazon has made it increasingly difficult for indie authors to stand out among the competition. They’ve had to explore a wide range of marketing avenues, including podcasts, and are increasingly turning to social media. It’s not quite enough to simply post about their book when it’s published: More authors are posting on their own profiles and engaging in the comment sections of other posts while the book is still in production. This way, they build a following and name recognition. 

Speaking of a following and name recognition, that’s something more publishers are looking for before taking on a new author. Increasingly, influencers like bloggers and YouTubers first build a following before publishing a book. Having a built-in following is a big boost for book sales. 

Publishing Trend #7: Direct sales are becoming more popular

Since the pandemic, there’s been a cultural shift away from supporting monopolistic businesses. This includes Amazon. For this reason, authors and indie publishers are increasingly looking towards direct sales. This includes selling directly to readers through their website but also by offering bulk discounts to bookstores and libraries. Selling directly allows them more control. 

Publishing Trend #8: Nonfiction is becoming more popular

The global nonfiction book market has grown from $13.27 billion in revenue in 2021 to $14.02 billion in 2022, up by 5.7 percent. It’s projected that by 2026, nonfiction will earn $16.6 billion in revenue worldwide.

In the United States, adult nonfiction earned $6.40 billion in revenue in 2021, up by 2.24 percent from the year before. Children’s and YA nonfiction saw a 3.09 percent drop over the same period but had grown significantly in the previous years. The surge in book bans in school libraries may actually boost the sale of these banned books, though, especially online. Memoirs and biographies for young adults have already shown a 26 percent growth in sales in the five-year period up to 2021.

Nonfiction genres that have shown growth and that we expect to continue doing so include self-help books, business books and cookbooks. Still, memoirs and biographies remain the top sellers in the nonfiction market.  

Publishing Trend #9: There is an increased call for diversity

In an industry still dominated by white, Cis, straight, nondisabled men, it’s probably no surprise that between 1950 and 2018, 95 percent of fiction books published in the United States were written by white authors. This has led to an increased call for more diversity and representation not only among those who work in the industry but also among authors and the characters in their books. 

The Canadian Leisure and Reading Survey 2021 found that in 2021, 19 percent of Canadian readers had read a book about BIPOC people compared to 10 percent in 2020; 13 percent had read a book about immigrants compared to 10 percent in 2020; 10 percent had read a book about people with disabilities compared to 6 percent in 2020; and 14 percent had read a book about religious minorities, compared to 8 percent in 2020. The 8 percent who read a book about LGBTQI+ people was unchanged from the previous year. 

Publishers have been following current affairs in terms of the books they choose to publish. For example, in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent mass protests, there was a surge in books about race while tell-all books about the Trump administration started winding down. More recently, with gender-nonconforming people becoming more visible in society, we have seen more books addressing the theme, including The Picture Wall: One Woman’s Story of Being His Her Their Mother by C.A. Gibbs.

Publishing Trend #10: AI is making inroads 

AI has been making inroads in the publishing industry, just like everywhere else. While books entirely authored by AI are luckily still scarce, AI has proven increasingly useful in other aspects of the industry. For example: 

  • Authors can use AI to transcribe interviews for research purposes.
  • Authors can use AI tools to analyze what they’ve written so far and their plot outline to write the next few paragraphs. This can help them get over writer’s block. They key, however, is still to edit whatever the AI has written. 
  • Publishers can use AI to perform copyright and plagiarism checks.
  • There are AI tools that identify common writing mistakes and help authors and editors to improve the text. 
  • Translators can use AI translation tools to speed up their work. 
  • AI tools help generate SEO keywords, which are essential in book marketing. 
  • Authors and publishers can use AI to track and analyze sales. 

The increased use of AI in publishing is not without controversy, though. For example, a children’s book written and illustrated in only 72 hours with the help of AI illustration tools drew the ire of artists and illustrators in late 2022. Their main criticism has been that the technology uses real art – that often took considerable effort to create and is supposed to be protected by copyright – as source material. And just like AI-generated art tends to be a little “off”, with hands often showing six or seven fingers, for instance – the quality of AI-generated texts such as transcriptions, translations, articles and blog posts is not nearly as good as what real flesh-and-blood humans can create. So, while AI can make it easier for authors to create and then sell their work, we’re still a long way from the robots taking over the book publishing industry.   

Stay up-to-date on publishing trends by subscribing to the Ingenium Booksletter

What do you think?

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Submit Your Nonfiction Manuscript to Work With Us at Ingenium Books

DMCA.com Protection Status