Hugh Howey is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series.
The ALCS just released a survey on authors’ earnings, and the news is bleak. The ALCS surveyed 2,454 participants, some of whom considered themselves professional writers. The number of these professional writers who make a full-time wage from their craft has dropped from 40% to 11.5%.
The survey looks at various types of writers (adult fiction, adult visual, academic, etc.), and it would be interesting to tease these apart to see which industries are being hit the hardest. One imagines any periodical writers who participated had bad news to share. One area of growth mentioned is digital income. In 2007 the same survey showed almost no income from digital. It’s now the third largest source of income.
The ALCS also mentions self-publishing. They say (emphasis mine):
Self-publishing is becoming an increasingly successful venture for writers. Just over 25% of writers have self-published a work, with a typical return on their investment of 40%. Unsurprisingly, 86% of those who had self-published said they would do so again.”
This is pretty amazing news. Too bad most people won’t get the news. Instead of reading the report, they’ll probably read a paper or blog that parses it. The Guardian also covered the ALCS report. They had this to say:
Self-publishing also comes under fire, he said – but this is “even less of a way of earning money from your writing if you’re any good than conventional publishing”.
This makes it sound like the ALCS report criticized self-publishing, when it did just the opposite. Instead of quoting the report (which the story is about), The Guardian quoted a random author expressing his unfounded opinion, an opinion that contradicts the very report in question. In fact, they quoted an author who distinguishes conventional publishing from self-publishing as the route better taken by those who are “any good.” Continue Reading →
This broke a while ago, but while looking for the link to this story to share with a media outlet, I saw how far down the search results it was with one set of keywords and how difficult it was to find in general. If you want to help spread awareness of what Hachette’s goal is in its negotiations with Amazon, please link to this Passive Voice story on your own blogs. Or link to the original in social media:
Not many people are considering the idea that Hachette could be the side offering unreasonable terms to Amazon or negotiating in bad faith. And I saw almost no coverage of the Perseus acquisition as being harmful to competition in the book trade. Hachette gobbled up the largest remaining independent trade publisher and peeled off their distribution business to Ingram while folding the publishing side into what will undoubtedly become more Imprint Soup.
The truly amazing thing? The NYT (of which I’m a 7-day home subscriber and massive fan) covered the acquisition of Perseus from the angle of Amazon being the bad guy. No, really. Even though Hachette is quoted as saying the acquisition and negotiations are unrelated (their slides to investors suggest otherwise). Meanwhile, agents now have one fewer place to submit their manuscripts.
If, after seeing these slides, you want to petition Hachette to stop fighting for higher e-book prices and lower wages for authors, click here.
A little background, because my writing career owes much to Douglas. When I completed my first novel, I sent it out to some authors whom I greatly admired. Douglas was one of them. He was also one of the two or three to generously give this debuting nobody some of his time. He read the first Molly Fyde book, and wrote a blurb that blew me away. Mostly because it said enough to let me know there was an 80% chance he read the thing.
It was my first big break, and it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. I’ve always felt as though my writing career has been intertwined with his, but in the way a small thread wraps around a much thicker rope. (Not calling Douglas fat! He’s quite svelte. Just saying my career warps to his more than his to mine [obviously]) Continue Reading →
SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) is drawing heat in some quarters for endorsing Hachette’s side in the ongoing negotiations with Amazon. The move was made unilaterally and without the consultation of its members (of which I am one). Author Don Sakers posted on his blog that SFWA does not represent him, and I add my voice to Don’s.
On the website ThePassiveVoice, commenters bring up trade and labor disputes and organizations, and I think these and class warfare comments I’ve seen elsewhere are spot-on. Trade fiction and narrative nonfiction authors do not have any meaningful representation. There is no group busting balls on behalf of writers, and there are a lot of balls out there to be busted. Amazon, the Big 5, B&N, Apple, Google … no one is fighting these people for better terms and pay. The Writers’ Guild seems to exist to fight Amazon and stands for the rights of bookstores and major publishers.
I’d say the closest thing we have to a trade rep is Passive Guy himself (not sure what he would say to hear this. Maybe he’d want to slap me). His blog, his advocacy, his smarts, his law degree and decades of experience with contracts, his familiarity with self-publishing (not just from being part of a household that does it, but from his blog, which is like a reading room at a law firm, cardboard boxes everywhere), and last (and in someways certainly least) his admirable and immortalized role as the lone and oft-interrupted voice on That Panel.
The Passive Guy’s blog, forums like KBoards, all the private FB groups, all the writers’ blogs, and all the interconnected readers and writers via social media have reached a tipping point, I believe. When a third of all bestselling ebooks on the largest platform are self-published, that signals a groundswell of support over content. Threaten that content . . . and watch out. Hachette’s supporters seem to be threatening that content. Continue Reading →
We have a choice. We can choose to assume the worst in people, or we can choose to assume the best in people.
If we assume the worst in people, maybe we’ll be right most of the time. But when we’re wrong, we’ll devastate someone.
If we assume the best in people, maybe we’ll be right some of the time. And when we’re wrong, the worst outcome is that we’ll be naive.
Assuming the worst in people is a lot like capital punishment. It’s the belief that the damage caused by a few mistakes is worth the calculated good of hammering the rest.
The Confederates are setting up camp here on the 4th of July.
No, really. I’m spending time with my mom in the mountains of North Carolina, and the annual Christmas in July celebration is kicking off in West Jefferson, within view of her front porch. Tents are going up everywhere to sell food and crafts. And in the field behind the library, a group of reenactors are firing off cannons and waving rebel flags. On the 4th of July.
This surreal juxtaposition is a reminder that wars within borders are considered “civil wars” if the rebels lose and “revolutionary wars” if they win.
From a distance, it’s hard to imagine (and of course impossible to remember) that not every colonial resident desired independence from British rule. It wasn’t Americans who fought for their freedom, it was British subjects. They became Americans only through victory (much to the chagrin of the peoples already settled here).
Today, a different sort of war is being waged: a war of ideas and ideals. On one side, you have people who think not everyone should be published and that readers need help knowing what to read. This group also thinks that the book is the thing, not the story. Confabulating their love of the written word with the vessel they are accustomed to receiving it in, any change in how stories are delivered is seen as a threat to their cherished way of life. Continue Reading →
An extremely pro-traditional publishing friend of mine just pointed out, after conceding many of my points on the new publishing landscape, that there is no “universal answer” on how to publish.
This is the last redoubt of those who do not want to admit that self-publishing is a superior option for the vast majority of writers. It’s an appeal for equivalence, which should be victory enough. I mean, who would have thought that anyone entrenched in the publishing industry would ever fall back to: “Hey, traditional publishing is still at least as good as self-publishing.”
But I’m not happy with an appeal to equivalence. When someone says “there is no universal answer” what they really mean is “there are always exceptions to every rule.” Which I’ll grant. Out of all the authors who debut this year, one or two of them will hit it big. They’ll look like geniuses for going with a publisher. And nobody will ever care about or mention the authors who didn’t make it.
Bestselling author Val McDermid admitted this today in this amazing story in The Telegraph. Val broke out with her fourth novel, and she knows that no publisher would have given her room to grow these days. She would have been dropped like a steaming hot potato. Literary agent Jonny Geller (joint CEO of Curtis Brown) was on the same panel with Val and agreed. Continue Reading →
The great thing about blogs is that they serve a purpose even if no one is reading them. They are a way to journal out loud and a great method for gathering your thoughts. Blogs can also (hopefully) become extended conversations that go on for years. The problem is, the people who arrive in the middle of this conversation will have missed so much of what’s already been said. There are posts buried pages deep here that underscore so much of what I love about self-publishing. After seeing some comments elsewhere about the slim chances self-published authors have of earning a living, I thought it would be nice to dredge up a few reminders and gather my thoughts on the current state of an ever-changing industry.
One reminder that I’ve blogged about at length is that most books don’t sell very many copies. And that’s okay. It’s not a self-publishing thing; it’s a publishing thing. 98% of manuscripts submitted to agents never get published at all. They don’t sell a single copy. Nobody mentions this when they deride self-publishing as an option. The false premise seems to be that you can choose to self-publish, or you can choose to have your book on an endcap in every bookstore while you are sent on a 12-city tour by your publisher. That’s not the choice. The choice is to self-publish or submit to an agent. This is the choice.
If you self-publish, you can immediately move on to writing the next work. You don’t have to look back at all if you don’t want. You have the rest of your life to promote that work, if you decide to promote it at all. If you are one of the 1% to secure an agent, the earliest you might see that work in a bookstore is a year. More likely, it’ll be three to five years. And you’ll be asked to rewrite that work, not based on any artistic vision, but based on what’s currently selling, what publishers are currently looking for. Continue Reading →
It’s double-plus-good awesome, in fact. Because it just points you to two David Gaughran blog posts, both of which must be read. Including the comments.
Seriously awesome analysis from David, as we have come to expect.
Diversification is good. Amazon’s market share must be kept in check. This is something self-published authors and the Big 5 publishers seem to agree on. Self-published authors stress the importance of placing titles with every available distributor, while publishers and their pundits worry about how much of the book market Amazon currently controls. If these two parties agree, they can’t possibly be wrong, can they?
Not so fast.
There are costs to diversification. The greatest cost is the loss of impetus for change. If we celebrate diversity simply for diversity’s sake, that means we will publish with anyone, no matter what. So our eggs go into and reward shitty baskets.
Discrimination is an ugly word when it comes to people, but it is an absolute necessity when it comes to markets. As self-published authors, we are the customers of retail and distribution platforms. We are the customers. We agree to pay ~30% of our earnings in exchange for the delivery of our goods. We are also paying for a reader review architecture, technical infrastructures, recommendation algorithms, customer service for our readers, and various other services.
We are not paid a royalty. Royalties are doled out by publishers or producers who provide creative inputs. What we offer is a fully-constructed product ready for sale. We are publishers. Every distributor we do business with lures us in with their payment splits, user base, and merchandising opportunities. We pay them for these services. They aren’t paying us for manuscripts. Continue Reading →
One of the sanest comments I’ve seen on this dispute was recently left by David Gaughran on another story warning indies that Amazon is coming after them next. David’s points are too good to remain buried, so I’m linking to the comment here and publishing it in full below:
Hi Nate, I won’t go over the ground other commenters have, but I will say this: treat all the news reports with skepticism. The Guardian piece from Weds, is based on a piece from the Bookseller on Tues, which is entirely based on leaks from Hachette UK execs.
Even if the leaks are true (which is an unknown) they could be very selective. Here’s a couple of sample scenarios (and I could do about 10 of these, all plausible):