Hugh Howey, Indie author of the popular "Wool" series is used to surprising us. He did it when his meek sci-fi series about a post apocalyptic future where people live in silos became an international phenomenon. He did it when he signed a lucrative publishing deal with a major traditional publisher, but managed to hold all of his e-book rights. Now, he's done it again.
This week, Hugh Howey launched a new website (authorearnings.com) with a fascinating underground study. In a move that was bold, insightful, and incredibly generous, he and an anonymous programmer teamed up to analyze the sales and statistics of e-books vs. paper and Indie vs. traditional, using mostly Amazon data. Some of the information provided therein was quite surprising. Like the fact that Indie authors are dramatically out-earning their traditionally published peers:
Or the fact that while traditional publishers do make the lion's share of profits, their authors earn only 32% of daily e-book revenue. Just under 50% of daily e-book revenues go to... you guessed it: Indies.
Also noteworthy are the facts that while Indie books are cheaper pretty much across the board, they tend to have better reviews... Which I find fascinating because it's a well known fact that legacy publishers use promotional services to not only boost sales and bestseller stats at launch by ordering large numbers of books all at once, but also gather vast numbers of reviews for their clients to help improve sales. Do Indies play this game? Sure they do. A few have been caught making fake reviews, not only to help their sales, but to slander the competition. (I suspect Indie authors are not the only people in the business engaged in this race to the bottom.) But all this really proves is that sociopaths will be sociopaths, regardless of which side of the chess board they play.
There's a lot more in this report, and it's far from conclusive, but it introduces a ton of information that until now was kept secret. It also challenges recent industry reports that Indies and e-books in general are an outlier, and that major publishers have nothing to worry about. Of course, anyone even close to the industry already knew that was a farce. I read about traditionally published authors going Indie or hybrid EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And now we know why Amazon has been so comfortable about playing their cards close to the vest. They have nothing to worry about.
The internet has turned out to be a liberator of not only businesses large and small, but also of artists. It doesn't matter if you're an independent author, musician, filmmaker, or journalist. There's money to be made out there, and in case you haven't been paying attention, it pays to cut out the middle man. That's something to think about when deciding what to do with your next novel. We all know that a big publisher can offer us a few things, like a cover we don't have to pay for (and therefore can have no opinion about) and space on brick & mortar bookshelves (most likely for a very short time). We also know that traditional publishing contracts are notoriously skewed against the author, and that for the vast majority of traditionally published writers, the money isn't very good. No small wonder, considering those contracts usually take your rights away forever while the book only remains on the shelf for a few months. Or the fact that most of those contracts also restrict you from publishing anything else while signed with that publisher.
If you still want to go the traditional route, take a good close look at the contract they're offering. Calculate the benefits vs. what you could potentially lose. And consult a good I.P. lawyer who can advise you on these matters, and possibly even negotiate on your behalf.