Hugh Howey, goals and dreams

I met Hugh at London Book Fair a couple of weeks back. I’m a big fan of the Wool trilogy, so it was great to meet someone who is a bit of a hero of mine. I’ve become increasingly interested in the possibilities of indie-publishing and made it the focus of my publishing industry research, in the lead up to my MA project at Falmouth. Of course, I was aware that Hugh Howey was self-published – I picked up on Wool fairly early on, well before Simon and Schuster bought the print rights. But hanging out at Author HQ at the LBF, talking with Hugh, and other indie-published authors, then attending everything I could related to indie-publishing, really opened my eyes to the revolution going on in the writing world. I came away knowing that the yin-yang of the reader-writer relationship had fundamentally changed for good.

As a writer I am hugely encouraged that I can open my writing up directly to readers, without having to fawn at the doors of the traditional gatekeepers – agents and publishers. I am the first to admit that I would just love the self-validation I would get from a publishing deal, but I am much more in love with the idea that, with hard work, I can set myself the realistic goal of getting my work directly to a readership. And, in my opinion, it is axiomatic that aiming to have many readers is a much better gatekeeping tactic than targeting just one – the over-inundated agent.

Since the LBF I have very actively researched the indie market, and kept a close eye on the rapidly shifting sands in the ebb and flow of the trad vs indie argument. It is no surprise that Hugh Howey keeps popping up as a champion of the indie-writer. In fact, I’ve been inspired to write this short post after reading a recent article on Hugh’s blog about goals vs. dreams: It’s a great article, sensitively written. It resonated with my world view, and where I find myself on the writer’s journey – it’s well worth a visit and a read.

  2 comments for “Hugh Howey, goals and dreams

  1. Sharon Quantrell
    May 13, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Interesting ideas, are we talking ebooks?

    • Jon
      May 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Hi Sharon, yes, e-books principally – though there is an increasing market in print-on-demand publishing – which companies such as Amazon and Lulu offer. The big break-through has occurred in e-books, with authors going direct to readers through Kindle Direct and Kobo. It’s interesting that none of the big online sellers (Amazon, B&N etc) give figures on e-book sales. Hugh Howey has, this year, produced three ground-breaking reports on e-book sales – he commissioned researchers to use data-spiders to analyse both Amazon and B&N sales. In the most recent, they managed to collate sales figures on virtually all the titles in all the Amazon best-seller lists for a limited time period (this is for Amazon US). The headline figure is that. in genre sales (61% of the market), 42% of revenue is earned by indie-authors (ie self-published authors) – this is the single largest earning group – the ‘big-five’ publishing companies make 37%; with small and Amazon-published making up most of the rest.
      In other words, a lot of writers are making at least some money without going near a publisher.
      As I continue to look into the topic, I am getting a picture of it being expensive to start up as an indie-published author – you have to pay yourself for editing, proof-reading, cover art etc – but, IF you do take off, you not only get far more of the sales (70% typically), but you also retain ALL the rights to your work. In a traditional deal you lose most of your rights to the publisher. However, you are doomed to nose-dive if you don’t put all the professional spade-work and investment in at the start – you are only as good as your product, and your authorial name is everything in a wired-up world.
      I’ll be posting some more in-depth analysis soon – once I’ve waded through Hugh’s figures (and had a good look at the counter arguments he’s stirred up)!
      Thanks for your comment.

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