2017 Predictions for Writers
I like to watch trends, and after looking at the past year, here are my 2017 predictions for writers.
1. Dictation Software
This will be the year that dictation finally takes off and writers get over the fear of their own voices in favor of productivity. I’ve been dictating novels, non-fiction, and blogs since 1990 when I put my baby in a stroller and pushed her around the neighborhood for an hour. While she watched bunnies, birds, and trees and fell asleep, lulled by my voice, I wrote my first novel. During my transcription-and-edit process to get the words from my microcassette recorder to my computer, I would hear myself say, “‘And then he took her into his arms and….’ Look, honey, a squirrel!”
What I yearned for in those days was to dictate and my words be authomatically transcribed to something I could edit, rather than wasting time transcribing it myself. Eventually, I found Dragon talk to text software, back in the early days. My Southern accent was a problem. Even as the software improved over the years, I found another major reason it just wasn’t accurate enough to be worth my while: when I wrote fiction, I would lapse into the voice of a characters…many characters…and the enthusiasm of one versus the gruffness of another and the bedroom voice of yet another just didn’t transcribe well enough. There were more concerns but I gave up, thinking my voice was just never going to be suited to voice recognition software.
As a Mac user, I found the Dragon/Nuance software to be somewhat behind the Windows version, so I ditched Dragon except for the Dragon Recorder app on my smart phone. I hired a transcriptionist through Odesk (now Upwork) and paid her to transcribe my audio files for me.
Recently, I tested out a new app from Nuance called Dragon Anywhere. This is a $15 a month subscription service with a 1-week free trial. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for since 1990! It’s not perfect and I’ve been using it for only 2 weeks, but it’s about 90-95% accurate for me, and I have both my words and my word count at the end of a 2-hour hike and 3000 words more than I would have had otherwise. Dictation has long been my secret weapon for productivity, synonymous with commuting and hiking because for the poster child for productivity that I’ve always been, multi-tasking is imperative.
This year, as more self-published authors are recognizing the demands for prolific output, I predict that we will see more authors discover the benefits of dictation.
BIG TIP: If you want the maximum word count for your dictation, particulalry if you combine it with some rote task or physical activity, then outline your chapter, article, or blog post before you begin dictation. I find that I can double my word count if I outline, but I still like to just wing it, too.
2. Alexa Skills
I’m an early adopter. I bought my Amazon Echo over a year ago. Still, I didn’t really get much benefit out of it for the first year. Recently, Amazon has added more “skills” for Echo. I’ve noted certain companies or websites creating “skills” that can be enabled on Echo so that when you ask Alexa a question about that company or website’s offerings via a key phrase, Alexa will answer. Some of these are news stories. Others are short descriptions. Recently, I heard that a Christian publisher had created “skills” for short devotionals.
Alexa skills are new, and very few authors are thinking of marketing themselves through Echo….today. I predict that we’ll see that change in 2017, and this time next year, some relatively unknown authors will have carved out a niche by creating “skills” so that their fans can say things like, “Alexa, what’s Lilah Burns doing today?” and hear “Lilah Burns is climbing an eight-story building to steal a legendary artifact that brings lost loves back from the dead.”
Note to self: Stop what I’m doing and go create some Alexa skills for that book!!!!!!!
Stay ahead of the other authors and marketers. Be thinking of how you can take advantage of Alexa (that sounds dirty) before everyone else does.
3. Dystopian Futures and Science Fiction
Literature reflects our life and times. The thing about getting older is that you start to see cycles and patterns. When we are in an upsurge of a good economy and happier times, we as readers are willing to read sadder fare, even downright depressing. We don’t need happy endings as much. During harder times, comedy and fantasy become our escapes.
After the ugliness of politics in 2016 and the polarization of friends and family, the type of literature that helps us to escape seems most focused on other worlds–far, far away from the one that looks increasingly ugly to us on Planet Earth. Those other worlds will be, I predict, more dystopian futures and science fiction. Both are kinda-sorta plausible to readers but because readers know these stories are fiction, they feel more in control of their environment or can identify with characters who overcome ugly or scary worlds without dealing with reality.
4. Shake-up to Free and Permafree
One of the more accepted methods of marketing series at Amazon is to offer the first book free, the second at 99 cents, and the subsequent ones at higher prices. With so many authors using permafree as a standard now, I predict that Amazon will change or restrict free books. While these books are free to readers, they are not free for Amazon to distribute and the authors or publishers will have to pick up the tab. An author may be excited over 70,000 downloads of a free book but much less excited if charged for delivery of a “free” book. Amazon is in the business to make money, even if they do an awful lot of experiments. Look for changes in how they deal with “free” content.
5. Increased Disharmony with Amazon
With the explosion of self-publishing over the last few years, Amazon has made itself almost indispensible for authors hoping to earn a living full-time off their books. Most of my author pals report that Amazon represents around 75% of their earnings. As Amazon has demanded more exclusivity for perks, more authors have become dependent on the giant, and I’ve started to see some familiar interactions between Publishing Giant and Self-Published Author. Amazon is now doing some of the same things that drove a lot of traditionally publihsed authors into self-publishing and indy-publishing. That’s not to say that all traditional publishers are bad–I’ve been published by several–but quite a few authors have felt powerless with big, traditional publishers and felt empowered both creatively and financially by self-publishing ventures. In 2016, some of us experienced a little bit of déjà vu with Amazon’s changes because we felt had to go along with their changes or not make as much money in the short run while gambling that we won’t have the rug jerked out from under us if we put all our eggs in one basket. Pardon the metaphors and images of eggs in the air.
Now that Amazon is in a position to be more demanding of authors and publishers and have the ability to change our own business models without warning, I predict we’ll see more disharmony between Amazon and authors/publishers. Amazon has the power to change percentage rates, page counts for Kindle Unlimited, how boxed sets are set up…oh, hell, pretty much anything and everything financially for authors and publishers who distribute through them. Yes, they’re a game changer financially for most self-published authors, but they also hold all the (money) cards. That tension will grow this year, and we’ll see more authors take their writing eggs out of one basket and “go wide” to other distributors.
That’s it–my top 5 predictions for 2017 for writers. What are yours?