In Writer Unboxed’s month-long focus on the industry! the industry! Porter Anderson looks at a surprising (for many) message of author Hugh Howey’s career: this champion of self-publishing is also signing a new contract with Random House UK’s Century imprint for SAND as he did for the WOOL trilogy.
Despite our inability to measure the true breadth of self-publishing—as long as the key metric, the ISBN, depends on authors to pay much more for their identifiers than the industry does—we know that self-publishing is growing. What comes across as a more volatile debate, in some ways, is the question being asked among some authors themselves about their goals. Why are self-publishers self-publishing? Seems a crazy question, doesn’t it? But maybe not.
“The essay,” Ian K. Ellard said, “imagines a world where advances are rare, and the bulk of book publishing is done on a revenue-share basis. The way it works at the moment, an author starts with 100-percent stake in their book, and sells that stake, often 100 percent of it, to a publishing house for an advance. That used to be a good deal–publishers offered the only route to market, and were prepared to pay a wholesale price for the product. But now that barrier has come down, the author has more options for bringing their product to customers—they decide how to spend their 100 percent.”
Ideas of how much support a good author needs are among the highest-visibility differences of opinion you can find in the business these days. The traditional industry, of course, represents the historical standard of approach. While pressures to get to market more quickly are having some impact even in some of those houses, the basic concept of an extensive set of procedures in both editorial and physical (and digital) production involves multiple people and departments.
DBW’s three days of programs has drawn an aggregate audience of some 1,500 attendees, according to organizers. None of them will have seen “our friends in Seattle,” as the retail behemoth Amazon is at times called, given this level of direct, interpretive attention at this iconic event in the heart of the US publishing industry.
At last year’s Digital Book World Conference & Expo (DBW), author Hugh Howey and his agent, Kristin Nelson, joined conference chair Mike Shatzkin onstage in a session about Howey’s newsmaking print-only deal with Simon & Schuster for the first book in his internationally bestselling Silo Saga, Wool.
Today, as #DBW2014′s workshops and associated conference sessions open the week’s events at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, neither Howey nor Nelson are on the speakers’ roster. But they’re certainly speaking to power. And they’re being heard.