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roustabout
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Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

I thought this essay was very interesting:

 

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/04/hugh_howey_self_publishing_is_the_future_and_great_for_writers/

 

Howey argues that ebooks have led to a point where: 

 

- you have a better chance of paying a bill or two through self-publishing than you do through any other means of publication

 

- Your book might be in the top 1 percent of what readers are looking for — whether by the magic of your plot or the grace of your prose — in which case you are far better off self-publishing. You’ll make more money sooner, and you’ll own the rights when it comes time to negotiate with publishers (if you even care to).

 

- If, on the other hand, your work isn’t in the top 1 percent, it won’t escape the clutches of the slush pile. Your only hope in this case is to self-publish. Which means there isn’t a scenario in which I would recommend an author begin his or her career with a traditional publisher.

 

 

"no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.
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patgolfneb
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

I liked his points on giving some income to a developing author. I share his doubt at the premium pricing for backlist books. Comparing self publishing to a developing musician makes some sense. Most authors will still dream of the big contract. I don't share is faith in the markets abilityto ientifythe top 1%, at least as long as the Bachelor, American Idol, and a slew of reality shows remain popular.

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keriflur
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

And the rebuttal:

 

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/04/04/self-publishing-is-the-blah-blah-and-floo-dee-doo-and-poo...

 

If you scroll through the comments, you'll see that Hugh Howey comments in agreement with Chuck's post.

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keriflur
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

[ Edited ]

Also:


 

- you have a better chance of paying a bill or two through self-publishing than you do through any other means of publication

 

  


This is statistically false, given the stats that came out, what was it, late last year, I think?  They stated that more than 50% of self-pubbers make $500 or less.  So, yeah, maybe a bill or two.  But $500 is a fairly low advance in trad-pub.  I'd be willing to bet, without knowing stats, that a LOT more than 50% of trad-pubbed writers got at least $500 for their debut work (and that's not even mentioning their later works).

 

And:

 


 

- Your book might be in the top 1 percent of what readers are looking for — whether by the magic of your plot or the grace of your prose — in which case you are far better off self-publishing. You’ll make more money sooner, and you’ll own the rights when it comes time to negotiate with publishers (if you even care to).

 

- If, on the other hand, your work isn’t in the top 1 percent, it won’t escape the clutches of the slush pile. Your only hope in this case is to self-publish. Which means there isn’t a scenario in which I would recommend an author begin his or her career with a traditional publisher.

 

 


If your book is in the top 1% of what readers are looking for, you're going to make a ton of money regardless, and you'll see a decent amount of that upfront from your advance if you trad-pub.

If your work isn't good enough to make it out of the slush, then you probably should go back to writing until it is, rather than inflicting that work on the reading public.

 

I'd argue that there are actually three classes of writers:

1) Writers who are good enough to follow the trad-pub route (regardless of whether they are the top 1% or whatever)

2) Writers who are not good enough to trad pub

3) Writers who are good enough, but who are writing something that is not easy to drop into a marketing category

 

Writers in group one need to make a choice about what will be best for them (trad- or self-pub).  I'd argue that no one path is right for all writers, and these folks need to get the facts and weigh the options.

 

Writers in group two should keep writing(!) and keep working at their craft.  Self-pub should not be failed-slush-pub.

 

Writers in group three will have a hard road in trad-pub, but these are the folks that can make self-pub great.

 

-

 

Also, Howey (and others who advocate starting in self-pub as a way to get to trad-pub) fails to mention that most agents and editors will not even consider a self-pubbed book that doesn't have a significant sales record.  I've seen one agent say the book had to have at least 20k in sales to even be considered.  So unless you're planning on marketing like a maniac and you have a platform for your work, self-pubbing as a way to make money while you query for trad pub could ruin your trad-pub chances for that book completely.

 

Howey seems like a great guy, but his experience is unique, and I'm not sure he has all the facts.

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patgolfneb
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

Kerifleur, I can't say you are wrong about the bill paying part. I do wonder what percentage of books published came from each method?

 

Clearly if your book catches the eye of a publisher chances of success are higher. But if your book doesn't  attract a publisher, why not attempt to self

publish. At least you recover a few bucks and for a few lightening will strike.

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5ivedom
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

Keriflur, this -

 

*****

They stated that more than 50% of self-pubbers make $500 or less.  So, yeah, maybe a bill or two.  But $500 is a fairly low advance in trad-pub.  I'd be willing to bet, without knowing stats, that a LOT more than 50% of trad-pubbed writers got at least $500 for their debut work (and that's not even mentioning their later works).

*****

 

has to be balanced against the numbers.

 

Let's say 1 million self-published authors earned $500 or less each. However, the top 5% i.e. 50K earned an average of $5,000.

 

And the top 0.1% i.e. 1,000 - they each earned $25K on average.

 

Then it changes the equation.

 

*****

 

Actually, I'd bet it's a lot higher for the Top 1,000 self-published authors.

 

*****

 

I think he's right - Self-publishing is a GREAT option for most writers.

 

Q is - How good a system does there exist to find the Top 1% of Authors.

 

Everything depends on that.

 

So far we've had some indie authors hit it big. Is it because there's already a somewhat passable system of finding the Top 1% or just chance?

 

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roustabout
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

[ Edited ]

I think that the relative size of $500 versus an advance in Keri's estimation applies to writers in her group 1, and in Howey's estimation to writers in all 3 groups -

 

1) Writers who are good enough to follow the trad-pub route (regardless of whether they are the top 1% or whatever)

2) Writers who are not good enough to trad pub

3) Writers who are good enough, but who are writing something that is not easy to drop into a marketing category

 

An important question for readers is how large is group 3 versus those in group 2.

 

I would further argue that group 1 is a functional "published by a traditional publisher" category that includes

 

1a)  Writers who are actually good enough to follow the trad-pub route as it is presented to readers:  folks who are decent writers and have something to contribute

1b) Writers who would be in the slush pile but for their agents or folks they know 

1c) Brands which have established a fan base that will buy anything with the brand on the cover

 

My experience as a reader is that traditional publishing houses and reviewers are doing much less work with group 1a and much more with 1c and 1b in the last couple of decades.

 

As I've said before, I no longer find that a Publisher's Weekly starred review at least tells me a book will be readable, where once it really did.

 

This decline in 'mainstream review' value is, I think, similar to what 5 is mentioning in different terms in his post.  I think that the review process has lost a great deal of its independence as the publishing industry has become more dependent on the bestseller model.

 

I also thought that Howey had some really good things about writing, once you got past his perspective on business success, and the idea that various forms of self-publishing can let a writer get feedback in ways that ultimately encourage more approaches than a lot of the routes in use for entry into traditional publishing. 

"no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.
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Ya_Ya
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers


5ivedom wrote:

 

 

So far we've had some indie authors hit it big. Is it because there's already a somewhat passable system of finding the Top 1% or just chance?


It has to be chance because the one everyone knows couldn't write herself out of a paper bag if her life depended on it.

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keriflur
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers


Ya_Ya wrote:

5ivedom wrote:

 

 

So far we've had some indie authors hit it big. Is it because there's already a somewhat passable system of finding the Top 1% or just chance?


It has to be chance because the one everyone knows couldn't write herself out of a paper bag if her life depended on it.


Chance, for sure.  But it's chance on the trad pub side too.

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keriflur
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Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers


patgolfneb wrote:

Kerifleur, I can't say you are wrong about the bill paying part. I do wonder what percentage of books published came from each method?

 

Clearly if your book catches the eye of a publisher chances of success are higher. But if your book doesn't  attract a publisher, why not attempt to self

publish. At least you recover a few bucks and for a few lightening will strike.


This is a problem for readers, who have to sift through all the books from folks who think a self-pubbed first draft is a lottery ticket.  It hurts the writers in my group 3 above, because the lower the average quality of the pool, the harder it is to get people to dig through it.