Hallmarks of Successful Publishing in 2020: Quality and Community

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In reading our headline, you will recognize themes we’ve often emphasized. But, as 2020 gets rolling, don’t just take our word for it. Other experts are saying the same thing.

Shahina and Victor Begg at one of the dozens of book events they presented in 2019.

I’m always looking for evidence of important trends, so I spotted Written Word Media’s Top Ten Publishing Industry Trends Every Author Needs to Know in 2020. Written Word Media is a book marketing company that communicates with over 1 million readers weekly. 

The latest Trends report identifies some business-side opportunities that our own publishing house, and others, already are pursuing. For example, No. 1 on the Trends list is: “Audiobooks will continue to gain popularity, and more indie authors will invest.” In 2019, author Victor Begg worked with us on an investment to launch the audiobook version of his popular memoir, Our Muslim Neighbors.

The annual Trends report turns out to be great news for our team—because we’re among the “front edge” publishers already pursuing these goals.

Here’s a quick look at a few of the top Trends:

  • “Organic reach will decline” (meaning that free social media marketing will face new limits);
  • “Running ads will become a requirement” (a direct result of the eroding reach of free social media marketing and the reason our authors are hearing us stress the need to cooperate in advertising);
  • “More indie authors will collaborate on marketing” (if you’re one of our authors, you know that we keep emphasizing this crucial truth: books sell when authors actively join with us in marketing them);
  • And, “Email lists will increase in value” (again, if you’re one of our authors, you know we’re always stressing opt-in email lists).

‘Book Quality Becomes Central to Success’

As we look at this new list—and read it with the context of last year’s list as well—we see a strong affirmation for our central pillars of quality and community.

Last year’s list emphasized at No. 2: “Book quality becomes central to success.” Then, to accentuate that point, in 2020, the Trends list warns: “Scam services will continue to pop up.” In other words: Readers look for quality—at the same time authors are finding more fly-by-night publishing services hawked online that will produce poorly edited and designed books. That is, if the scam artists produce anything at all.

We read this as a clarion call to our authors—and the new authors joining us this year—to commit ourselves to quality in writing, editing, design and production. In fact, reading both the 2019 and 2020 Trends reports, we see evidence that the Hybrid model of publishing really is a “front edge” approach to newly emerging challenges. That model begins with a commitment to the publishing industry’s traditional best practices in overall quality.

Written Word Media writes: “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, independent authors who invest the time and resources to create quality books will be rewarded by readers.” Written Word conducted a poll of its readers and found that they complained about errors in grammar and typos, which can cause a reader to either quit reading the book, or to give the book a poor review online.

Dmitri Barvinok, Director of Production for Front Edge Publishing, wrote about the need for professional copy editing in his February blog post; Editing FAQs: Does my book need copy editing?  As Dmitri explained, at FEP, we not only copy edit, we also have second and third levels of editing assurance. As Dmitri summed up his blog post, “We like to sleep soundly at night. We want to save our authors from those terrible midnight terrors when writers sit bolt upright in bed and suddenly wonder: What did I do???” 

I also wrote about book quality last year, after visiting the Lightning Source plant in Lavergne, Tennessee, one of the three U.S. plants that provides FEP’s author’s books to online retailers, consumers, and bookstores. I noted in this FEP blog post, “Our tour group was taken into the quality-control laboratory. The lab is where each shipment of paper is tested for compliance with Lightning Source standards. Once books are printed and ready for shipment, a random selection is made to check for quality and to test the books for durability.” Book quality, whether it be the written material inside or the actual book itself, is key to a successful publication.

Community Means: We Collaborate on Marketing

Two years in a row, Written Word Media strongly emphasizes the importance of authors being active collaborators with publishers in marketing books—before and after a new book launches. I’ve stressed this point for years, including in this 20 Marketing Tips for Effective Authors.

Want a good example? Once again, Victor Begg is a great case study. He latched onto the marketing of his book in many of the ways we recommended. He has a website for the book where he publishes articles on a regular basis. He has specialty items he can distribute to potential readers, including postcards and business cards as well as flexible, colorful signage he can display at events. He has claimed his Amazon Author Page and links his blog posts to it—and posts videos from his book signings. He is engaging his audience and keeping them up on all of his comings and goings. 

Are you an author who hasn’t yet claimed your Amazon Author Page? We’ve shared valuable tips in many columns, including: Making the Most of Your Amazon Author Page and How Do I Add Video to My Amazon Author Page?

The trend going forward is to start marketing even as you are formulating the concept of your book. Any authors who have talked with our team, including Editor David Crumm, have heard this message loud and clear in our initial conversations with potential authors.

David’s oft-repeated line is: “A book is a community between two covers. As a book project starts, even before a book is finished, we want to welcome allies and angels to form a waiting community around that book we are creating.”

My line is: “David’s talking about Marketing 101 in this highly competitive media environment. If you publish with us, you’re joining a community of writers and editors and all of us know: Books sell—when all of us share in the ongoing marketing.”

Written Word Media puts it this way: “Marketing, in general, will become even more important as authors experience more competition for visibility. More resources and tools are available to authors than ever before, so naturally more writers will be able to make the transition to marketing their books.”

Community Also Means: We Celebrate Diversity

A huge community showed up to meet author Clifford Worthy and buy both paperback and hardback copies of his book, which he signed throughout the afternoon at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Diversity is the way we pursue what Written Word Media says is an absolutely vital strategy in publishing: Successfully serving what Written Word calls “niches.” Authors and publishing houses are most successful when they serve “readers with specific interests.” And: “Becoming a name in a specific niche will be one of the best drivers of sales.”

I’ve already mentioned the successful launch of Victor Begg’s memoir. That’s definitely a publishing niche, in Written Word’s terms. We call it: Celebrating diversity.

Here are some other great examples:

Cick to visit Amazon.

“The Black Knight: An African-American Family’s Journey from West Point – a Life of Duty, Honor and Country by Col. Clifford Worthy. In the 1940’s, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was out of reach for most African-Americans due to racial barriers. Clifford Worthy was one who accepted and excelled as a Black Knight of the Hudson. His courageous Army service around the world balanced military and family life, even as he and his wife raised a child with special needs. In this inspiring memoir, Cliff tells how faith and family guided him as he tried to live out the USMA motto: Duty, Honor, Country. Col. Worthy is the oldest living African American West Point graduate. Enjoy David Crumm’s cover story here.

Not Just Black and White: A White Mother’s Story of Raising a Black Son in Multiracial America by Anni K. Reinking, Ed. D. Dr. Anni Reinking is a scholar and researcher in muliticultural education. She is white. Her biracial son is seen as black. Reinking’s son must navigate in a world of bias, discriminiation and prejudice that she has not lived in but strives to understand. Millions of families share this experience in today’s racially polarized America. In this inspiring memoir, Anni shares her family’s experiences and helpful research in parenting. This is their story of growth and acceptance as a multiracial blended family. David Crumm interviewed Anni Reinking last January for the Read the Spirit online magazine.

Light Shines in the Darkness: My Healing Journey Through Sexual Abuse and Depression by Lucille F. Sider. Clinical psychologist and clergy woman Lucille F. Sider adds her voice to the chorus of women who have shared their stories in the #WhyIDidntReport movement. In Light Shines in the Darkness, Sider shares her story of resilience and hope as a survivor of sexual abuse, facing the legal and spiritual challenges that are so daunting. Lucille’s focus on positive mental health and spiritual practices has given her stability from major mental illnesses including PTSD and depression that stemmed from her sexual abuse. David Crumm’s cover story  for Read the Spirit offers real help for sexual abuse survivors.

Our Muslim Neighbors: Achieving the American Dream An Immigrant’s Memoir by Victor Begg. The American Dream is alive and well in this memoir of a Muslim immigrant who planned to raise a family and start a business. Victor Begg successfully built a thriving group of furniture stores. Along the way, he discovered that America’s greatest promise lies in building healthy communities with our neighbors. Using his entrepreneurial skills, he co-founded organizations that continue to help others. Even in the face of tragedies, Victor’s greatest talents lay in inviting us all to open our hearts. David Crumm kicked off Victor Begg’s book touring year with this Read the Spirit cover story.

Reforming American Politics: A Christian Perspective on Moving Past Conflict to Conversation by Harold Heie. Christianity and political conflict are paired so often in daily headlines that Harold Heie’s message is astonishing. A lifelong practitioner of respectful engagement with others, Heie lifts up core Christian values that can transform toxic confrontations into constructive conversations. He proposes a “Way Forward” beyond the us-versus-them tribalistic fighting mentality that currently plagues politics. “In an age of flaming rhetoric times like these,” writes best selling evangelical historian Mark Noll. “Harold Heie exemplifies a much better way.” Send David Crumm’s Read the Spirit cover story to the person on your social media who is always stirring the political pot.

Thirty Days with Abraham Lincoln: Quiet Fire by Duncan Newcomer. Abraham Lincoln is the soul of America, calling us to our best as Americans. Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer has hosted more than 200 episodes of the radio series Quiet Fire: The Spiritual Life of Abraham Lincoln. Now, 30 of his best stories provide a month of inspirational reading in a unique volume that invites us to read the stories – or to listen to the original broadcasts. “Lincoln’s words resonate more urgently than ever,” writes Sally Kane, CEO, National Federation of Community Broadcasters.  David Crumm’s Read the Spirit cover story of Thirty Days with Abraham Lincoln launched a whole new way to bring Americans together.

Stay Tuned in 2020!

As you’ve read, 2019 was another busy, productive year for Front Edge Publishing. As our founding promise states, “Great media builds healthy communities”. We appreciate you being a part of our community and thank you for sharing the journey with us in 2019. We have some wonderful books scheduled for 2020. Stay tuned—we know you’re going to enjoy what lies ahead.

Happy New Year.

About Susan Stitt

Susan Stitt is marketing director of Front Edge Publishing. Over the years, she has guided many authors through the challenging process of launching books and developing strategies that will grow readership. She also has worked widely with nonprofits. Now, she shares her expertise twice each month on our Front Edge Publishing website.