Hugh Howey is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series.
I open a mountain of mail on no sleep after a full day of travel.
In this first part, I go through my Ben Adams mail. If you want to get in on the awesomeness that is Ben’s art, support him on Patreon. It’ll be the best thing you do with your monthly dollar (besides donuts [and bacon]).
Check out this awesome cover from M.S. Corley. The short story is SECOND SUICIDE, and it just went live on Amazon. 99 cents (or free on Kindle Unlimited).
With Jason Gurley retiring from cover art (he dropped the mic and walked off the stage, because he’s a badass like that), Corley is stepping in to work his own magic. I added him to the Indie Toolbox on the sidebar, in case you want to contact him. Just don’t bumrush him and make it impossible for me to get my covers!
Sitting at the airport in Charlotte, working on a romance novel, on my way to the Romance Writers of America’s writing conference in San Antonio.
The Friday night meet-up is going to be an informal, ad-hoc affair. Probably one of the Marriott lobby bars. Whoever is there will just be part of the meet-up, even if they don’t wanna be. Tough luck. We’re going to force people to have fun.
My panel is at 2pm on Friday, in Salon 1 of the Rivercenter Marriott Hotel. The panel is entitled: THE DOWN AND DIRTY: WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN OUTLIER. But I’m going to try and deflect that nonsense and talk about what it means to do what you love with your every spare moment, and damn the outcomes and the consequences.
Douglas Preston is doubling down on his pressure for Amazon to capitulate to his publisher, Hachette. He has written a letter proclaiming that his group, known as “Authors United,” is full of “the finest writers in English language,” the sellers of “billions of books,” that their readers “listen when they speak,” and that this “represents power.”
The problem is, Douglas Preston doesn’t seem to understand what Hachette is fighting for. It isn’t a secret; Hachette is fighting for higher prices for readers. They’ve said as much to their investors. We also know from this slide from HarperCollins that publishers are now making better margins on ebooks than on their hardbacks, a fact that agent Brian DeFlore says publishers have been lying to agents about for years.
The collusion and price-fixing case in 2010 was so much about the $9.99 price point, that when Publishers Weekly wrote an ebook about the trial, they entitled the book THE BATTLE OF $9.99. Amazon wants ebooks to cost no more than $9.99. I can see this very clearly in my own self-publishing contracts with them. If I price my ebooks over $9.99, they reduce my royalty from 70% to 35%. The reason Hachette colluded with its competitors a few years ago was to put an end to this price point and force Amazon to sell ebooks at $14.99 or even higher. Part of that reason is simply to retard the growth of ebooks and protect print.
The irony here is that Douglas Preston has been on the wrong side of this maneuvering in the past. In 2010, Hachette delayed the release of Douglas’s ebooks in order to protect their print sales, which angered his readers. They also priced his ebooks at $14.99, and Douglas heard from fifty or so readers who said they’d never read his books again. Preston lashed out at these readers, saying that they were acting entitled:
“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing…. It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something…. It gives me pause when I get 50 e-mails saying ‘I’m never buying one of your books ever again. I’m moving on, you greedy, greedy author.’”
I’m having a Groundhog Day moment, here. Indies are getting screwed. Exclusivity is death for authors. We are in coach and Big 5 authors are in first class. Our pay is going down.
The same discussion exploded on KBoards back in 2011. They were the Kindle Boards at the time, and self-publishing was a lot more stigmatized than it is today. Amazon launched a program called KDP Select, and if you went exclusive with them, you gained two marketing advantages: Your ebooks became part of the Kindle Lending Library, and you were granted 5 “free” days for every 90-day period of Select.
There was a lot of consternation and hand-wringing from self-published authors at the time. Was it worth going exclusive for the added exposure? Were we crazy to give our books away for free? How much would a borrow pay? Would borrows affect our sales? Our rankings? What about the freebies? Who would be dumb/brave enough to sign up for this?
Those who did sign up tended to do very well. Those free days were as good as gold, and soon we were complaining that we didn’t get enough of them. I know of quite a few indies who credit Select as the tool that allowed them to transition to writing full-time. In fact, it was just a year and a half later that KBoards would erupt with threads complaining about the reduced efficacy of Select. Free downloads no longer had the same effect on ranking. The system was too beneficial for indies, and so Amazon tweaked it. Continue Reading →
To modify a line from Jeff Bezos: “Your fear is my opportunity.” And I wish it weren’t so. I’d rather not have my opportunity than what results from your fear. I mean that. I’m really torn about this.
The things I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.
As a writer, I’m out of my mind to advocate for these things. My colleague Russell Blake, whom I greatly admire, thinks self-published authors should shut up and stop handing out free advice. And he’s right. Why should we fight for $9.99 and lower e-book prices—where we know publishers will sell more books, get more people reading, and make more money? Their fear of low prices is my opportunity.
Kindle Unlimited launched yesterday, and publishers are slow to sign on. None have, as far as I can tell. Even the Scholastic works might be available only because Amazon is treating every “borrow” as a full-price sale. Whether it’s fear of Amazon having more market share or fear of subscription services keeping them at bay, it’s all opportunity for me and other self-published authors. Continue Reading →
Amazon can’t twitch without indies taking notice. For a brief period yesterday morning, a landing page for a new Amazon streaming service appeared online. A thread at KBoards exploded with the news (are the KBoard forums the best watchdog, author community, and training center all rolled into one, or what?), and then Engadget, Time, and others followed with coverage of their own.
Author and all-around awesome dude Jan Strnad wrote up one of the first detailed opinion pieces about the service, and I share some of his concerns. Subscription services have been rough on musicians. Will they be rough on authors? It’s too soon to tell, but there are a couple ways that books are fundamentally different than music, and perhaps reasons to be cautiously optimistic.
The biggest difference between books and tunes is the time investment. You spend hours, days, even weeks with a good book. You can stream hundreds of tunes in the same amount of time. So hopefully the revenue stream to authors won’t be as diluted as it is for musicians. It also sounds like Amazon has increased the funding for the borrow pool, and I’m guessing profit from the $9.99 monthly fee will go toward funding this program as well, so if they can keep the rate-per-read at $2 or get it higher, this could be a great source of revenue for authors.
This one is a doozy. Not only because three reports taken at 3-month increments all agree with one another, but because the myth of self-publishing only working in certain genres is busted. Turns out that indies do indeed dominate in those genres, but they have taken significant share everywhere else as well.
I have indie friends who think we are crazy to urge Hachette to lower their ebook prices and be reasonable for the sake of their readers and their authors, and you can see why in this data. Indie authors are producing great works at unbeatable prices, and readers are rewarding them with market share. In this snapshot, indies as a cohort have overtaken all Big 5 authors combined when it comes to daily royalties earned on the Kindle Store. Unreal.
Also some info on DRM here. Short version: It’s worse than useless; it might be hurting your sales.
Of all the myriad disruptions in the publishing world over the last few decades, perhaps none are as powerful as the new permanence of the written word. Every book now has the power to stay in print and on sale for the rest of time. Not just the blockbusters, the instant classics, or the works from the biggest names—but all books.
Print on demand technology now allows a paperback to be spit out of a machine in mere minutes. The quality of print on demand books is better than those acid-paper Penguin Classics of yore, and the quality is only improving. Ebooks, of course, never run out, and they can be easily updated over time. Both editions sit on product page “shelves” that never collect dust, and these books never need returning. At any moment, a book written years ago can be “discovered” and crawl up bestseller lists.
I have already heard from writers who self-published, gave up on their careers, and then saw money hit their bank accounts. Books they no longer tended to had become bestsellers over time and with no promotion, and now these writers are engaged with their passion again. I learned about this after writing a post on KBoards predicting we might see this happen some years from now. I was informed that it is already happening. Continue Reading →