THIS INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEKEND. It’s about a major conflict in the creative arts that’s been bubbling below the surface of total public awareness for some time. For some time, as you may have seen happen in the music business, artists have been disintermediating large-scale manufacturing companies, causing those companies to asymptotically approach business collapse. In the letters industry, this means authors have been publishing their own work, cutting out several layers of “middle men,” some of whom you might think are purely purposeless parasites. You might, if you were unfamiliar with the publishing game and how it has grown since the 19th Century when Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and myriad others published their own works.
You may have read a trilogy in the last couple of years called Wool. It’s been a big bestseller. It was written by a fellow name of Hugh Howey. What you may not know is that it is independently published by its author. He has since signed on with Simon and Schuster and decided not to do that (sign with a major publisher) again.
So Hugh Howey has written this and posted it for indie writers to quote, cite, repost, blog about, and discuss. But the bottom line is — and it does need to be said — a big, hearty, THANK YOU to you, our dear and gentle readers. Because without you, it doesn’t go.
You probably aren’t aware of this, but the majority of your favorite authors can’t make a living off their book sales alone. Very few authors could when New York Publishing was in charge. That is changing now that Amazon and other online retailers are paying authors a fair wage.
You may have heard that Amazon and Hachette are having a dispute about how books are sold. The details are complex, but the gist is this: Amazon wants to keep e-book prices affordable, and Hachette wants to keep them artificially high. Higher than for the paper edition of the same story.
The rest of this letter explains more of the details. It explains why a boycott of Amazon would mean hurting authors, Hachette and otherwise. It explains how your decisions have granted more authors their independence than we’ve had at any other time in human history. You’re welcome to read our points, but keep this one key item in mind:
Major publishers like Hachette have a long history of treating authors and readers poorly. Amazon, on the other hand, has built its reputation on valuing authors and readers dearly. The two companies didn’t simultaneously change directions overnight.
I’m new to this, with only one novel out there, and — frankly — no shorter works in the pipeline. My novel’s been on the market for nine-plus months and is a pure dog in terms of sales. Not complaining — much. I never expected this to be a short haul. I know it’s a marathon, and nobody wants to hear from you until you have ten books out there. Best advice is to write the next one, which I am doing. And I know that only losers give up before they’ve won. But still, in the deep depths of the wee small hours, it’s hard to keep your courage up. At this point, to me, every reader is a precious thing. Not so much for the money — It only adds up over decades at this rate — as it is about knowing that SOMEbody is reading. At this level, I can almost read along with you and imagine you meeting the characters, experiencing their pain and fears for the first time.
So, thank you for being there.