Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Self-Published Books on the NYT List

Last week, fully half of the top 10 bestselling ebooks were self-published. There’s an interesting story on Forbes about this trend, as well as a link to Digital Book World’s analysis.

At this year’s Digital Book World conference in New York, my agent and I were invited on stage to talk about the benefits of hybrid publishing. What seemed a neologism then feels old-hat now. And the number of authors moving from traditional to self and from self to traditional is blurring the distinction between the two. Interestingly, with the commercial success of so many self-published authors, the advice that was mocked a year ago is now being bandied about like a truism: Take control of your publishing future. Do not be afraid of getting your work in the hands of the reader. Ignore the sages of old and listen to your gut. And keep writing.

19 replies to “Self-Published Books on the NYT List”

It’s VERY interesting that with self-published authors selling their books at such low prices, the majors are forced to drop their prices, too.

What an exciting time to be a writer. With your sage advice as well as what’s happening in the market, my excitement about writing has trebled. Every day when I sit down to write, I feel this sense of accomplishment knowing that I have something to say and that I can get my words out there. The only downside is I’m anxious to publish, but I know that won’t happen till my work is polished.

Today I learned that Amazon has different prices depending on which country you access Amazon.com from. For instance if you live in Norway, which doesn’t have it’s own Amazon site, you will have to buy e-books from the US Kindle Store. However, you will not pay the same price as people living in the US! I noticed this through a conversation I had with WJ Davies via Twitter. He marketed his book at a $0.99 price point, but Amazon wanted me to pay $3.74.

Using a VPN to access Amazon from “U.S.A” I was able to find the same book priced at $0.99, which earlier had been $3.74. When I tried to buy it, I got an error message saying that the price was higher in my country, and I would not be able to buy the book for $0.99.

This brings me to my point. Do you, the author, get more money when I buy it for $3.74, or is it all taxes and fees and Amazon taking a bigger cut?

That’s a good question, and I don’t know the answer. I would always say to go with what’s best and more convenient for you, the reader. The difference for me is minimal (and less of a concern).

Hi Aleks:

For a book priced at 99¢, a KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) author gets 35¢ from Amazon, no matter how much the buyer is charged. The only exception is if a book is selected for a special Kindle promotion and the price is lowered. Thus, if an author prices a book at, for example, $2.99, and Amazon offers it for 99¢ as a special, the author still gets the percentage amount she would have gotten if it had been sold at the original price.

So – It’s us, foreign reader, who pay this price difference, but not americans? Did I read you right?

I’ve heard various theories on this; I don’t know which one is right. There are supposedly taxes or tariffs that increase the price, not sure if that’s true. I personally set the foreign price to be lower than what is calculated from my US price. The only territories I don’t have control over are the ones covered by Random House, which would be UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. The ebooks are more expensive in those places.

You are right, Hugh. Most of the Kindle books have the same price or slightly differ in either ways — some are cheaper for Americans, some for Europians, some are exactly the same. But your own novels from WOOL series was $3,74 for me here in Norway and $0,99 for Americans — I saw it when I logged in through the TOR (not now! those prices were actual for 2011 when the first Wool hit) The same for your fanfictions: The Runner and for Patrice Fitzgerald’s novels. I don’t know about other authors, I didn’t check them, maybe it’s like that for all self-published authors in the beginning of the sail? What is the reason for such policy? It’s a mystery. After a while it looks like the prices become level. Hmm, here is a lot to think about…

Ha, I tried this too! I live in Noway, BTW. And always ma paying much more than americans, And the same question: to whom goes the difference? Taxes? I don’t think so. Fees? Even lesser. It goes directly to Amazon’s pocket, I think.

Amazon doesn’t pay taxes to Norway. Some Norwegian publishers hate them for this, saying they destroy the market.

I have the same issue (a Swede living in the US). I don’t know with Norway, but in Sweden we have a 25% tax on ebooks, but only 6% on the very same physical book.

I’ve noticed another quite peculiar thing, too :some 1.99 books cost 6.99, while others cost 1.99.

It would be quite interesting to see what would happen if a member of the LOOW published two copies of their ebook, one at 0.99 and another at 1.99!

Interesting read.

As for the foreign dealy – I’m in Australia and I pay the US price and always have. Which with the way our economy has been for a while means I actually pay less than US readers because our dollar has been stronger for about a year most of the time.

Thank you for your insightful post!

The only thing I’m wondering about now is whether it is recommendable to publish on Amazon, rather than other online publishers such as lulu.com … Any ideas on that?

Publishers are only at risk of disappearing if they stubbornly stick to their old paradigms. I think Simon & Schuster do a great thing with you, Hugh. It shows that some publishers are willing to go down new paths. Instead of saying, “I want ALL your rights, because that’s what we’ve always done, dammit!” they realised that they could instead offer to help you out in the area where you lacked clout. They acted as your compliment, rather than your dominator.

Too many publishers are stuck in the mindset that authors are a commodity to be acquired at the lowest possible price. Hence we see bogus contracts like what Hydra offered (their amended contract is little better). In a world where authors now have viable alternatives, that’s just not gonna float.

When I first got involved in the online writing communities back in 2000, self-publishing was the hack’s option. Self-publishing wasn’t viable for the majority- it was highly likely you’d end up with a garage full of books and no readership. I’m so happy that’s changed.

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