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Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt

20 February 2014

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.

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Big Publishing, Self-Publishing, Smashwords

80 Comments to “Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt”

  1. I would correct Mark’s following statement:

    “Author Solutions, a company known for selling over-priced publishing packages to unsuspecting writers.”

    to read:

    “Author Solutions, a company known for selling over-priced publishing packages to uneducated writers.”

    There are a lot of people out there who don’t do the necessary research before buying in with Author Solutions. Hopefully, Hugh, Author Earnings, and the rest of us will help them find the truth before sink a ton of money into that company.

  2. Of course, the top comment sounds like the person didn’t even read the article — just saw the headline and decided to reply. “Self-published books are terrible… the average writer without the vast machinery of marketing and distribution that traditional publishing offers… I’d rather have a $10,000 advance check than $10 a month, if I’m lucky, for three months.”

    *sigh* The whole point of this article goes way over that person’s head. And it just goes to show that the myth of “traditional publishing is the only real way to go” us strong.

    • I replied to her:

      “This “average person” is currently supporting herself by self-publishing, and doing so without spending much time or money on marketing. Apparently, the only tricks necessary are writing stories some people want to read, and getting those stories out so that those people can find them. Doesn’t happen overnight, but then nothing does. =)”

      Best of all, it’s true. By the end of this year, I just might be earning enough to support my family of three all by my little writerly, self-publishing self (If I had to, which I don’t). =)

      Side note: I’m wearing my new “I destroyed literary culture…” tee today.

      • Congrats on your growing sales, Scath.

        • Thank you, PG. I’m pretty tickled! It’s taken six years to reach this point. 🙂

          BTW, Steven Z is weighing in on that article now.

          • He’s regurgitating the same old lines from the debate in the Shatzkin article. I debated him there, others have debated him elsewhere and the party line remains the same.

            Sometimes you just can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

            The sad fact is if just one person of his position took the community concerns on board and tried to address them with better contracts and support for authors, they would be way ahead of the game and have a lot of indie authors willing to work with them in new and innovative ways. But, in his own words, they still receive more submissions than they know what to do with… ergo what’s the point of changing.

    • Some people refuse to become informed. That’s the kind of person who posts those kinds of comments. They have no idea how behind the times they are and they’re probably proud of that fact.

  3. Coker said: “I think the business of Big Publishing is broken, but the people of Big Publishing are not.” WRONG. There is no “business” of Big Publishing without the people behind it. People set the policies, the royalty rates, the contract terms. Until the people behind the business of Big Publishing change, nothing about Bib Publishing is going to change.

    • I was thinking the same thing, but perhaps Mark was talking about the editors and publishing employees who care about writers and writing as a whole.

      We all know about the bad apples. But we also know there are many, MANY good people in the publishing industry. I don’t want them thrown out of work any more than I want to lose my own job.

      If they were really smart, they’d start their own one-stop shops and cater to the independent authors who need editing and proofreading work. Become the go-to person for referrals to cover artist. All for FLAT FEES, thankyouverymuch.

      That’s how they’ll stay in business no matter what happens to TradPub.

      • There are some very good people in traditional publishing that are equally frustrated with the system they’re trapped in. Many have suggested changes to their bosses but have fallen on deaf ears; or ears petrified they’ll be on the chopping block next. Even if you don’t know any insiders in the traditional publishing, read between the lines, read the subtext between carefully guarded PR-speak of these blogs and interviews from “publishing professionals” and you can read the handwriting on the wall. They’re scared and they ought to be.

  4. “The author community is growing increasingly disenchanted by Big Publishing’s hard line on 25% net e-book royalties, high e-book prices, slow payouts, and insistence on DRM copy protection. The recent news of major publishers touting record e-book-powered earnings only adds insult to authors’ perceived injury.”

    Readers too.
    Readers’ interests are more closely aligned with the rebels.
    And readers get to vote their wallets.

  5. “The geeks have taken over and traditional publishing is looking like the Losers Club.”

    I am sorry, but I have to take the contrarian view here.

    As I mentioned in my blog, very eloquently, I may add, but self publishing is for wimps and little girls.

    http://shantnutiwari.com/why-self-publishing-is-for-little-girls/

    Real Men and Women(TM) don’t self pub.

  6. By every measure of great historical or contemporary revolutions, the indie author revolution is real and gaining strength every day.

    It’s quite an honor to be among the rabble-rousers and gate-stormers in a “real revolution.” Go Indies!

    • Hmm. From “P***y Riot” to our indie fueled “Passive Riot”, the status quo is getting a beating these days. *wink*

  7. Excellent point, PG. Whatever will the world do when the fat, balding men in fancy suits, tophats, and feather dusters shoved up their a$$e$ can no longer tell anyone what they can and cannot write?

    ‘Twill be Anarchy! Chaos! Money flowing down rather than up! Expensive NY highrises will tumble in value! Partiers will have to eat crackers rather than caviar! Worse than any of that, there might be free exchange of thought between writers and readers!

    Sacrebleu!

    • Mike Shatzkin: The publishing industry is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
      Big Pub CEO: What do you mean, “biblical”?
      Mark Cader: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Big-Pub CEO, real wrath of God type stuff.
      Mike Shatzkin: Exactly.
      Beth Weinberg: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
      Mark Cader: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
      Beth Weinberg: The dead rising from the grave!
      Mike Shatzkin: Human sacrifice, authors and readers living together… Donald Maass hysteria!
      Big Pub CEO: *scratches head* Can you run that by me again? Maybe with some pie charts to help?

    • Those who already got rich from legacy publishing will be fine though. They’ll just have a little less spending cash. Maybe the ones who are close to retirement will decide to let it go and go spend their days playing with the grand kids and reminiscing about the days when authors begged at their feet. It’s the younger people who had better start planning their exit.

  8. “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.”

    PG, this is EXACTLY correct. From the publishers themselves right down to the authors who viciously aspire to be tradpubbed (and thus dismiss indies out of hand…you know what group in particular I’m talking about), it is 100% about being cool. It’s about image control and the power it gives when everybody else believes you’re the coolest person on the block.

    They are so piiiissssed that they’re not the coolest kids in town anymore.

    • Meanwhile at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Legacy John is attempting to fisk Joe Konrath:

      Legacy John: No one reads your stupid blog, loser. Don’t cry sour grapes to me because no one wants to publish you.

      Joe: I sense a little hostility.

      Legacy John: Can you sense me flipping you off? Because that’s what I’m doing, right now, Konrath. And I’m going to Tweet that, too, and my six Twitter followers are going to RT and we’re all going to laugh and laugh like a cool high school clique who laughs at others. Then we’re going to take selfies combing our hair.

  9. I read the dismissive tone of that top comment in the original article, and while trying to wrap my head around it, I keep thinking about the validation issue.

    I can’t help but wonder if some people would rather struggle to get an agent and a publisher to accept their work. It seems easier to them to convince a few people, rather than the reading public.
    If you can convince an agent to represent you, and a publisher to accept you, so what if you never earn the advance like the vast majority?
    So what if you never sell more than a few hundred copies?
    So what if that lack of sales kills your future?
    Who cares if you lose the rights forever?

    You can go to your grave knowing that your work sat for six weeks on a Barnes & Noble shelf. You can say you ‘made it’.

    I think for some, that is a less frightening option. Better to have an agent in a New York City office tell you they think your work might float.
    Tossing your work into the river of readers to see if it actually does may be too terrifying to contemplate.

    It may not matter if thousands of authors can fill their gas tank on their sales via self-publishing.
    What if they can’t manage that?
    Maybe it’s easier for some to get a rejection slip than to suffer the silence of Amazon customers.

    I don’t know. I may be completely off base, here. I’m just thinking out loud, or at least at the keyboard.

    • I think another component is inertia. They don’t believe in their own work, prefer to hear that they are not good enough, and have to externalize their criticism of themselves onto others.

      OK, a little psychological but I think I’ll stick with it.

      • Never underestimate the psychological and emotional components of decision making, Chris.

        It’s like in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie. Harry is enjoying the attention of some fawning girls. When Hermione questions him, he replies, “Well, I am the Chosen One.”

        Unfortunately, I can’t whack people on the head for that kind of statement as Hermione did to Harry.

        Though there are times I would REALLY love to.

      • Chris, it’s likely we’re both being a little too psycho-analytical.

        Still, a lot of talent seems wrapped up in the query-go-round method of publishing. If I can understand their attachment, maybe that’s one step closer to getting even more talent in self-publishing where it can flourish.

        Gad. I’m such a sentimental sap.

        • I’m sentimental about it too. I just see such a different tone from authors on the other side. They talk about self-respect and community. The knee-jerk nay-sayers seem to talk about shame.

    • SM and Chris, I think you’re both right. It’s all about fear. It might come in different flavors, but writers like that don’t have the confidence to stand behind their work. They need someone “important” to declare that it’s good enough.

      • Or perhaps I’m projecting as well. 🙂

      • Writing is very subjective. I rarely met writers who were totally proud of their writing (before self-publishing came along, that is). I actually think self-publishing has given a lot of writers the validation they needed. Knowing that people will pay their hard earned duckets for your work should be enough. Some writers, though, still need the pat on the head by the trad-publishers as well before they feel secure. I feel really sorry for those people because they’re really going to struggle in this transition. They’ll probably be crushed by every bad review (even though every writer gets them if they become popular enough).

    • That’s profoundly sad if true.

      I wouldn’t be impressed by someone who had a book on the shelves at B &N for six weeks and lost all rights to their work after that while making crap pay. I’m sure there are many noob writers who dream of just that though.

    • It provides validation for them for some reason. For others, validation might mean greater sales. 😉

  10. The independent artist movement as a whole is changing the face of entertainment globally and has been for quite some time. Of course BPHs thought they were immune just as I imagine studio heads believed they were, but I’ve read quite a few pieces lately on independent films gaining a following via VOD releases, Kickstarter campaigns, etc… Movies like the upcoming Veronica Mars and Authors Anonymous found a platform because of the fans, they way indie authors do.

    The publishers that fail will fail because of very simplistic reasons that any business fails- greed, arrogance, ignoring the consumer demands, and failing to treat employees with respect.

    Incidentally, I predict those first three reasons will also be the demise of the current cable companies in the not too distant future.

    • Agree.

    • Don’t be too sure. One reason why they’re still in business is that their lobbyists are keeping the government from allowing / forcing cable companies to unbundle services, so you can pick only the channels you want.

      If that ever happens, the effect will be seismic. People who don’t want to fund professional sports will drop the sports channels, which will mean less money flowing to the leagues, and less money to the athletes.

      Instead, all we can do is drop cable entirely, and that’s beginning to happen. I think this past quarter was the first time they found more people leaving than people signing on.

  11. “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.”
    My experience with these cool kids is that they eventually evolve into bitterness and pride themselves on that because they feel like they are part of an exclusive group that justifies their ego. That bitterness is spurned on by the fact that they aren’t making any money and it’s like a badge they wear, when in fact they should be strong enough in their convictions to know that if they work hard enough they should be rewarded monetarily speaking rather than being some kind of martyr to a dying cult. I couldn’t abide the community, which is why I’ve left it behind. I’d rather be deemed a “loser” any day of the week just to escape this bulling mentality.

  12. When it came time to publish my first novel a few years ago I was naive enough to think that publishing was about getting good books into the hands of readers. I’ve learned different now.

    The only thing traditional publishers have going for them anymore is the illusion of prestige. I know of several unpublished writers who will not publish their books unless they get a publishing deal. I just laugh as I show off my most recent book. In the long run I don’t know who will sell more books, but at least, by self-publishing, I’m out there doing it.

    • And you’re building a lead, too, Susan. 🙂

    • Well it will probably get easier for them to get a contract in the future. Pretty soon after they get the contract though, they’ll realize why it’s so much easier…And by then it will be too late.

      • This is so true. At some point, the best won’t be publishing traditionally anymore, having discovered they can make more on their own.

        I think a few years from now there will only be 2 types of “traditionally” published fiction authors: the Amanda Hockings of the world who simply decide they do not want to run a business, and decide to earn less so someone else can take care of it for them; and the ones who would never have made it out of the “slush pile” in years past. TPubs are already finding they get fewer good submissions, and that trend probably isn’t going to slow down.

        There’s room for a third type – print only rights – but I don’t know how well that will ever take off. Some authors are getting it but realistically if the overall percentage of books purchased continues to trend into e-books, and fewer traditional print editions are sold, at some point it’s not going to be financially worth it to print them.

        • I don’t think the publishers are all that interested in print only rights anymore. From what H.M. Ward said, that seems to not be where the money is and publishers know it. That, to me, is the death knell. If even THEY know print doesn’t make enough profit then truly, what can they offer indies? Not much.

          Also, I’m guessing that the quality of submissions will go down and trad-publishers will have to spend a lot more time polishing up the submissions they do get. That time equals money and in the long run it will be very costly for them. We already know from hearing anecdotes from writers that some trad-publishers have done a spotty job at editing. If that gets worse, again, I have to ask, what do they have to offer? My guess is the culling from the herd is going to get a lot harder in the future. There are going to be a lot more cattle laughing in their faces at their amateur offers.

    • Welcome to the dark side, Susan.

  13. As far as I’m concerned, the revolution took place circa 2011. It’s just that not everyone got the memo. At this point, there are just the deniers left. They’ll finally understand the new order of things when they’re downsized into oblivion.

  14. Great article. I’d been thinking I’d go “Hybid” since I’ve been in both camps. But knowing that the Trad publishers are willing to sacrifice authors to Author Solutions and their ilk, turned me off completely. Yes, it’s not just better royalties, or even control. It’s about respect.

    • It becomes clearer everyday that the trad-publishers don’t really care about authors. They care about staying afloat. If that means exploiting writers, well then, why not? That’s what many of them have been doing for decades anyway.

    • From typos great wisdom comes. I think going “Hybid” or, if you will “high-bid” is the wise course. Go where the money is.

      M

  15. See, Mark, you’re just making this whole naming things more complicated. I thought we had all agreed on the name Racer X, and then Joe keeps using Data Guy, and now you’re throwing in Data Magician.

    “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.'”

    Delusion was definitely present in the room. Must have been the altitude.

  16. Big publishers and its related mouthpieces (Maass, Shatzkin, etc.) increasingly seem like That Guy to me. You know the one I mean? (I feel sure PG and the gentlemen who participate on his blog have never done this, and they’ve probably seen That Guy in action, too.)

    I mean That Guy who hits on you… and then, no matter how politely you ask him to leave you alone… he immediately gets abusive, calling you a c*nt, whore, stuck-up b****, ugly, too fat/skinny, etc., etc.

    And I always wonder… um, is this That Guy’s second attempt to get me to say “yes” after his first approach got a “no”? Does he think that after his “hey baby, you’re cute” (or whatever) hit on me didn’t work, now that he’s called me vicious names and insulted my appearance I’m going to fall into his arms? Is THAT his strategy? Because, after all, it’s not as if That Guy knows he’s struck out. That Guy often switches from calling you names and telling you you’re ugly to AGAIN hitting on you and trying to get you to… do whatever it is he wants you to do.

    So I’m reading all this contemptuous dismissive, insulting commentary from the traditional publishing industry… and wondering… is THAT their notion of attracting writers to their industry? It’s coming across to me pretty much like calling me an “ugly whore,” etc. because I’ve politely said “no thank you” to That Guy’s unsolicited and unwanted offer to buy me a drink. These comments we keep seeing from big publishers and agents about self-publishing (and now these bizarrely dumb comments they’re all making about Hugh Howey’s data surveys)… Well, that’s how it sounds to me. Like That Guy.

    And I want to say, “Don’t you recognize what a TOTAL FAILURE your communications strategy is if you want ANYONE AT ALL to go home with you EVER AGAIN?”

    • Silly writer. Don’t you want to be culled?

      😀

    • After reading some blogs this week, I have to agree. I just love the ones who are starting to overuse the “you’ll never work in this town again!” line. That is becoming unintentionally hilarious. I’m sure that once worked for publishers. I’m sure it struck fear into the hearts of the few writers who dared to try and get away from bad publishers in the past. But nowadays, it’s just a joke. And just like That Guy, trad-publishers who use this approach end up reeking of insecurity and fear, deep, deep-seated fear.

  17. “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.”

    Allons, enfants, de la librarie
    Le jour de gloire est arrivé!

    [Sorry. Couldn’t resist.]

  18. Stevie Z. strikes again!

    I’m glad to see that Jennie agrees with what I’ve been saying all along…..there’s a handful of exceptions and tens of thousands of indies that sell $10.00 worth of books per year.

    The next time he slithers his way here, can we just treat him with open disdain? That’s my vote.

    • I was disappointed to see that he has apparently kept his blinders on despite the discussion from a few weeks ago. I thought maybe he had softened his stance a little bit, but I guess I was wrong.

      • I’ll admit I was willing to believe he might be educable. Silly me.

      • Why are you surprised?

        I think his reasonable demeanor was all an act. To me it’s usually not that hard to tell people who really are reasonable (I think Joe Konrath is very reasonable and it’s pretty obvious by the way he handles being told he’s wrong–he openly accepts it and corrects himself) from people who put on the facade to deal with people they openly dislike (Steve mostly just repeats the same points and glosses over whatever stuff doesn’t fit his campaign). The ignorant act only lasts so long and yet he keeps trying to use it. Steve Z. so clearly openly dislikes indies that it oozes from his comments. He just doesn’t want the mask to come off with a thud like it has for other prominent trad-pub figures. He seems slightly more skilled in PR than the others. But that in no way makes him sincere in my book.

    • Is Stevie Zacharius the publisher CEO guy who was here getting ripped to pieces by the writers his own company publishes? The one playing the violin about his family legacy and how his son was going to take over the family business?

      Yeah… don’t really see that happening now.

      Just picture the awkward silences at their future family holiday dinners.

      Ouch.

      • He totally misses the point every time. He probably is more worried about passing the company along to his son than the people who actually work for him. What a shame. I hope his employees are looking into other work. With a captain like that at the helm, I would desperately be looking around for the life boats.

    • Well, numbers are hard. But obviously, anyone outside those first ten thousand books at Amazon is only making pennies a month. Or maybe a year. Right? Right?

      Actual evidence-based data? Nah, we don’t need none of that stuff round these parts…

      • I’m outside those first 10k books on Amazon.com, but not on Amazon.co.uk. If Steve Z. thinks a book has to be in the Top 10k on Amazon.com to be making more than pennies per month, he’s greatly mistaken.

    • You guys don’t get it: you’re missing out on the “vast machinery of marketing and distribution that traditional publishing offers.” (If you win the lottery and get chosen.)

  19. Great article! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  20. Can an indie author get to mega-bestseller levels without a trad publisher? I am talking about 50 Shades, HP, twilight, etc levels of sales.

    We all can see the times when indie publishing makes the most sense, but I was wondering in what situations does trad pub still makes sense. I can really only see three scenarios.

    First, the brand new author who really wants to work with established editors and publishers. She will not make this decision based on money but rather on intangibles. She does not have connections to find good freelance editors but knows (maybe wrongly) that good editors work for trad publishers. Working with an established publisher brand in her genre may get her noticed by readers loyal to that publishing imprint. For her this is a learning experience, and well worth the loss in income.

    Second, the big brand name author who is doing quite well in the current system. She knows about self publishing and is well read about the current market. Her books are in big box stores and her royalty statement show a clear picture: It’s not time to make a switch, yet.

    The third I wonder about… The next “big thing” who is on the way to mega-bestseller-dom. She is doing very well with book one and book two of her new series. She is preparing to publish book three. She wonders if it makes sense to “sell out” to a major publisher and become the next E.L. or J.K.

    • Probably the best reason to work with a tradpub is because you’ve done very well on your own self-publishing but don’t want to handle the business of it anymore. If you’ve already got a solid fanbase, but want to try for Stephen King status (and a try is all it will be), then it might make sense to do tradpub. But ONLY if you get really good contract terms—like so good that publishers are basically paying to work with you.

      For most of us though, tradpub doesn’t make a lot of sense if you actually want a shot at making really good money from your books. It will make even less sense if B & N goes under. Frankly, I think it makes more sense for self-publishers to prepare for the day B & N goes under and another business model is born of the ashes. The only culling from the herd that will be readers picking which artists they want to support. There will still be tradpub, of course, but it won’t be as respected or prominent as it is even today.

  21. This is an excellent article. I think he does a very good job describing what’s happening.

    It had never occured to me that the stigma could switch to traditionally published, but he’s right- it very well could, and, as PG points out, what a powerful change that will be.

    I also think this statement:

    “I think the business of Big Publishing is broken, but the people of Big Publishing are not”

    is both kind and classy.

    • It is kind and classy, but people make the business. I do think there are good people in publishing that wish things were different though. It’s hard to sit by and watch the company you work for turn into something you don’t recognize (or treat its money makers with disdain in the case of tradpub).

  22. Great article.
    I was offered an “ebook only” deal by one of the big trad publishers a few months ago (without breaking any confidences, think “the biggest”) and the terms were ridiculous, including a cooling off period in which I wouldn’t be allowed to self-publish within six months of them re-publishing one of my existing titles. Despite the almost overpowering allure of saying “I have a four-book deal with…” I turned it down.

    Am I getting rich of self-pubbing? Hell no. I sell 300-500 books a month, which isn’t bad, after two years of writing. For a few months, Amazon featured the first in one of my series’ on its “new and interesting” and .99 cent pages, and it was selling 800 a DAY….but my one caution to people is to not expect that to last! Until you have a lengthy catalogue (my longest series only has four entries so far) there doesn’t seem to be “full-time job” money in it … but from what I’ve seen of trad sales and advances, most people with deals aren’t quitting their day jobs.

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