From Mark Coker via Publishers Weekly:
With a debate brewing about how much indie authors can, and do, earn from their writing–much of it sparked by a blog post from author Hugh Howey–PW asked Mark Coker, founder of indie publishing platform Smashwords, to offer his two cents. Here is Coker’s take:
The rift between authors and publishers grew more pronounced last week with the release and ensuing controversy surrounding Hugh Howey’s Authorearnings Web site. Critics have accused Howey and his anonymous Data Magician of perpetuating horrible crimes against statistics. Supporters–most of them indie authors and indie author sympathizers – hailed Howey’s conclusions as further evidence that authors no longer need publishers.
The critics of Howey’s data and methodology are missing the point. The thrust of Howey’s conclusions is that indie authors are taking e-book market share from traditional publishers. Whether the indie percentage today is 10% or 50% of the overall e-book market or a particular genre doesn’t matter. It’s not worth arguing. What matters is the directional trend, and the strong social, cultural and economic forces that will propel the trend forward in a direction unfavorable to publishers.
The indie author insurrection has become a revolution that will strip publishers of power they once took for granted.
By every measure of great historical or contemporary revolutions, the indie author revolution is real and gaining strength every day. At the heart of every revolution is growing disparity between haves and have-nots, abuse of power, and the innate human desire for greater self-determination, freedom, fairness and respect.
. . . .
I’m in the moderate camp. I think the business of Big Publishing is broken, but the people of Big Publishing are not. Although it would be beneficial to my business for big publishers to collapse, it’s not the outcome I desire. I think the world is better served with more publishing options. I want to see more publishers, more self-published authors, more books, more retailers, and more book-loving people earning a living contributing their talent to books and book culture.
For decades, aspiring authors were taught to bow before the altar of Big Publishing. Writers were taught that publishers alone possessed the wisdom to determine if a writer deserved passage through the pearly gates of author heaven. Writers were taught that publishers had an inalienable right to this power, and that this power was for the common good of readers. They were taught rejection made them stronger. They were taught that without a publisher’s blessing, they were a failed writer.
. . . .
As more and more indies achieve commercial success on their own terms, the stigma of self-publishing is evaporating. Indie authors have become the cool kids club. It’s a movement where its members self-identify as indie. It’s a worldwide cultural movement among writers. Indies are regularly hitting all of the most prestigious retailers and news media bestseller lists. Many indies have turned their backs on traditional publishers.
. . . .
One of my favorite moments since launching Smashwords in 2008 was a conversation I had with Donald Maass two years ago at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I told Donald I thought he was underestimating the impact self-publishing would have on the publishing industry, and he responded, “and I think you’re delusional.”
Today, the myth of traditional publishing is unraveling. The stigma of traditional publishing is on the rise.
. . . .
Authors are also disappointed by Big Publishing’s misguided foray into vanity publishing with Pearson/Penguin’s 2012 acquisition of Author Solutions, a company known for selling over-priced publishing packages to unsuspecting writers. Multiple publishers have formed sock puppet imprints powered by ASI: Simon & Schuster’s Archway, Penguin Random House’s Partridge Publishing in India, HarperCollins’ Westbow, Hay House’s Balboa Press, Writer’s Digests’ Abbott Press, and Harlequin’s Dellarte Press. These deals with the devil confirmed the worst fears held by indie authors who already questioned if publishers viewed writers as partners or as chattel.
Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Paul for the tip.
PG thinks Mark has hit on an explanation for why Big Publishing and its associates have reacted so vehemently over the Author Earnings information. In a former era, they would have blown it off, but this time, it hit a nerve.
All along, they’ve believed they were the cool kids. Tradpub authors swallowed declining advances and dodgy royalty reports from their publishers because they were the cool kids. Underpaid workers in Big Publishing accepted the low wages because when they mentioned they worked for Random House at parties, everybody thought they were cool kids.
Now indie authors, a bunch of losers if there ever was one, are taking away the cool kids brand from traditional publishing. Of course, tradpub is going to give them the mean girls treatment, but it’s not sticking any more.
The geeks have taken over and traditional publishing is looking like the Losers Club.