You’re looking at it wrong

Here comes another article on how very little self-published authors earn! Now, I’ve met Jeremy in person, and I’m the first to say that he sports a much sexier beard than me, but I think we are looking at this question of indie author earnings the wrong way. Two wrong ways, in fact.

First, you have this from the article:

“At the high end of the spectrum, 1.8% of self-published authors made over $100,000 from their writing last year, compared with 8.8% of traditionally published authors and 13.2% of hybrid authors.”

But that compares ALL self-published authors and only a small fraction of people who go the traditional  route. I’ve been hammering this point home for years, but it still gets left out of these comparisons. When you look at earnings and sales figures for traditionally published books, you have to take into account the huge percentage of books that never make it out of the slush pile. Why? Because those are authors and books attempting to go that route. With self-publishing, ALL books and authors are counted. In traditional publishing, only a small fraction are.

Because these numbers are impossible to wrangle, we simply pretend the distinction doesn’t exist. A fair comparison would be to know (here’s the impossible bit) how many manuscripts are submitted to agents and how many of those are never self-published. These are part of the traditional equation. Period. If you’re going to count among the self-published works every copy/pasted Wikipedia article or rough draft that is just tossed out there with no love and no editing, then you’ve gotta lump the slush pile into the traditional tally. Plain and simple.

When you consider this, the 1.8% vs. 8.8% is pretty amazing. Especially considering the $100K traditional club are the people getting all the promotional energy and dollars from major publishers.

So that’s one way we’re looking at this incorrectly. Here’s another way:

How much do knitters like my sister make a year? How much does someone like my wife, who likes to strum a guitar, make in a year? What about my friends who play video games hours upon hours a day? What does your typical gardener make? Or someone who blogs regularly? Or all those people with YouTube channels who are always looking for more subscribers? What about serious home chefs? How much do they make?

Because this is how I look at it: Hundreds of thousands of voracious readers with a dream of writing a novel sat down and did just that. They wrote out of love and passion, just like a kid goes out and dribbles a basketball for hours every day or kicks a soccer ball against a garage wall. Of these hobbyist writers, thousands now make a full-time living from their work. Thousands more pay a huge chunk of their bills from their hobby. These are part time artists who have thousands of fans and hear from readers all over the world. Some of them go on to get offers from agents and publishers and score major deals. All because they are doing something they love.

Even better, this hobby costs nothing. Many of the other hobbies I listed above might cost you thousands of dollars. Everyone has access to a pen and paper. Most people already own a computer for other reasons. It just takes time and imagination. Some of us didn’t set out to become wealthy from doing this . . . it just happened. There are tens of thousands of authors out there now making $20 or $100 a month doing what they would happily do for nothing. In fact, if you told me I had to pay a monthly “writing fee” for the privilege of making stuff up and pounding it into my keyboard, I would do it. I would pay $50 a month to get away with this. Maybe more. Not earning a penny at this is a win for me. Many self-published authors are doing much better than not-earning-a-penny. And this revolution is only a few years old! Just wait until more and more talented writers forego the slushpile altogether and skip straight to self-publishing. Or when more authors jump from traditional to self-publishing. These numbers are going to look better and better for indie writers.

So, two things to keep in mind: The number of authors going the traditional route is not reflected by those who happen to land an agent and then go on to get published; their number includes those in the slush pile who do not go on to self-publish. This is a fact that must be dealt with.

The second thing to keep in mind: Not all of us are doing this to make money. We’d do it if it cost us money. Among the self-published  are those who published a memoir to share with a few family members. Or the young student who participated in a youth NaNoWriMo program and just wanted to see their work for sale on Amazon. These are valid reasons to publish. We shouldn’t lump everyone together in the “wanna be rich and famous” category.

I stand by this assertion, which bad data cannot dent: In the history of mankind, there has never been a better time to be a reader or a writer. Never. And tomorrow, things will likely be brighter still.

74 responses to “You’re looking at it wrong”

  1. Hey Hugh–

    Thanks for the beard love! It’s actually gotten quite full now that the winter months are upon us. You should come to NYC to DBW this Jan to see for yourself.

    Now, that said, I agree with 99% of what you wrote here. The only thing I don’t agree with is the quality of our data. It’s good. And I respect you for wanting to look at this from a different angle. We are looking at it from that angle, too. in fact, the first thing we published from this report was motivation as to why authors publish…and it’s not for the money! (For the most part.) Here’s the link:

    Unfortunately, however, any survey data is going to have flaws of one or another, even if the sample is perfect. We’re learning more, though, about authors and what they want. I think that’s better than not even trying.

    Anyway, when you see the full results I think you’ll be happy we took this look into authors. Will keep you posted! And hope to see you at DBW!


    1. Hey, I just spent two months in Europe, so if I come to NYC, I expect a couple of beardy pop-kisses in greeting.

      I don’t think the problem is with the data. The problem is that the data we need doesn’t exist. What we need is an estimate of how many books submitted to the slush pile make it out and into retail, and then compare all traditionally published works with that same percentage of self-published works.

      Even if you just guessed at the number of submitted manuscripts that make it to publication being at 1% (which I think is awfully generous), you would immediately see a completely different landscape. Take the top 1% of self-published books and compare their earnings with traditionally published books. That would be something to behold.

      Things we do know: 25% of bestsellers at Amazon, which sells more books than anyone else, were self-published in 2012. Those books make five times the royalty rate as their traditionally published counterparts. But they also retail for less than half as much. Still, you’re looking at a 2X or 3X earning rate. And you’re looking at a higher percentage of top-100 bestsellers among indie authors as you have for most major publishers.

      Someone did this with the top 300 fiction titles and found the percentage of indies to be even higher than 25%. It gives me the impression that a comparison of all traditional books to the top 1% of indie books (a fair comparison of the two routes to publication) would be a trouncing for indie authors.

      Not that all of us are in it for the money, of course. :)

      1. I have to agree with Hugh even though I have no data to back up what he says. I have had my work critiqued and have critiqued a few. From the critiques I received, about 10% of the critique was good; thus, 90% was not. From the partial stories I read, I felt these authors have a LONG way to go to be successful. One author even criticized me for correcting grammar. I read A LOT, and I have a major in English. I may see typos but I can’t recall the last time I saw a grammar error. If an author is not concerned about grammar, then in my opinion, the author is not likely to succeed. I suspect ALL these studies include these types of authors who I don’t expect will succeed. With that said, I may not succeed either, but I feel I’ve traveled farther down the road to success than the examples of critiques I’ve seen and the stories I’ve read. I’d love to see studies on the more serious authors and their likelihood of success.

        1. When I mentioned I can’t recall when I last saw a grammar error, I’m referring to successful published works.

          1. I have to disagree. I see grammar errors made by successful authors all the time, including both traditional and indie. On both sides, the authors aren’t perfect and neither are the editors. I have yet to see any novel that didn’t have at least a few errors in it.

        2. “If an author is not concerned about grammar, then in my opinion, the author is not likely to succeed.”

          Every English major (with fewer than five novels) will probably say the same thing.

          And you have it wrong.

          If an author is not concerned about his STORY, then he is not likely to succeed. Tell a great story, (OR, you could take the Dean Koontz route and have great characters and a so-so plot) and readers will not care about the commas. The percentage of writers not liking my stuff is very VERY LOW on my list of worries. I’d be much more worried about non-English majors/English teachers or for that matter anyone in academia not liking my stuff. If THEY don’t like it, something’s wrong with the story.

          Hire a copyeditor, sure. Great. But I see mispelled words and incorrect comma use ALL THE TIME in my favorite author’s works–Clive Barker, Piers Anthony, Anne Rice.

          1. “or for that matter anyone in academia not liking my stuff.”

            Sorry that should be “anyone outside of academia”.

  2. Guys, it might be worth revealing how many authors on each side of the fence are earning 100k or more. Not just percentages which, as Hugh points out, can’t be easily compared, but the actual totals.
    That way we could get a quantifiable set of numbers, uncluttered by all the $.99 wiki articles that trick readers from time to time.

    1. I like your idea, Andrew. That would be an interesting comparison.

      1. I at least somewhat disagree because that includes only authors who are best sellers and excludes all authors who are what are traditionally considered ‘mid-list’. Mid-list authors have always made up the vast majority of professional authors. No comparison is meaningful, in my opinion, if mid-list authors are excluded.

        1. I agree with your disagreement, J.R.!
          Maybe a better way to do it would be a set of ranges, or perhaps a simple two-line chart that shows the total number of writers (in both streams) earning any given amount.
          # of authors on the y axis and income on the x…
          That would be a pretty definitive comparison.

  3. “This is a non-scientific sample and so results may not necessarily be extrapolated to a nationally representative sample.”

    A nonscientific sample does not mean the results are worth a little less than they could be. It means the results are worse than useless, and should not be reported.

  4. Hugh…I suggest adding your two cents over here:

    Or link to your blog.

  5. “In the history of mankind, there has never been a better time to be a reader or a writer. Never. And tomorrow, things will likely be brighter still.” Yup.

    You’re looking at it wrong, part II:

    Every writer who finishes a novel gets one lottery ticket. This is to make money in the publishing sweepstakes/lottery. Ie, the public’s money.

    Only, if you try to go the traditional route, before you submit you have to give up your lottery ticket. If you make it through agent and publisher, they give you your lottery ticket back – and maybe you have a chance of winning. Lots of ifs there before you have a chance, but maybe.

    If you self-publish, your ticket is valid – and you MAY win. Luck (in the form of having written a good book, same as in trad pub) plays a huge part in it.

    The big publishers bias things a bit, too – if they like you, they give you extra lottery tickets. This time. Next time depends on whether you win this time.

    This is why people self-publish: they get a valid lottery ticket, and no one can take it from them. If they also wrote a good book, maybe they’ll get extra luck, and have a higher probability of winning.

    But you have to have a ticket to play.

    As Heinlein said – and Sarah Hoyt has on her blog – ‘Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet, you CAN’T win.’ [Emphasis mine.] And if someone takes your lottery ticket away, you can’t win, either. I like my odds better with a ticket.


  6. Not a fan of statistics and graphs. As I noted on my most recent blog, successful authors who have a career are outliers.

    I agree after 25 years in the business there’s never been a better time to be a writer. The distance to the reader is the screen.

    If I’d looked at the numbers 25 years ago, I’d have stayed in the Special Forces. 10 years ago, I’d have taken the gigs Blackwater would offer.

    We write because we have to.

  7. Hugh for 2014!

  8. Well, Hugh, my writing actually will cost me money.

    I just sent a short story to an editor and a cover artist. They won’t cost me a lot of money, but I think it will be money well spent. Maybe I’ll break even?

    Years ago, Harvey Pekar did a comic where he figured that with the money he would save by not collecting tons of old jazz records, he could self-publish a comic book. Hence, American Splendor.

  9. Right on the nail, Hugh.

    I’ve spent most of my time over the twenty or more years noodling away at fiction because I love making stuff up. The idea of being a novelist for a living wasn’t never something on the radar. It was something the lucky few did.
    When the internet became more available, I put my writing up on various sites where people could read it for free, and up until maybe a year ago that was the coolest thing for me. Thousands of people…THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS…were reading my weird fiction and commenting, encouraging me to keep going. The money thing never occurred to me until someone asked me to put the book on kindle, so they could read it on their new and shiny gadget. The money thing didn’t occur to me so much that when I did join KDP I immediately tried to set the price at $0 because I just wanted to find more readers.
    It took quite a while for it to sink in when people started paying for it.
    And tbh it still hasn’t sunk in, even now that I do this for a living. I still think I should be looking for a job.

    Also, what is with all these cries of “can’t earn a decent living self-publishing?”. We never could before!
    The way I see it, I’m getting to play the full time author, at least for now, and I’m doing so because circumstances have changed in the last few years to allow for that to happen. How can someone possibly find something to moan about in an environment where the opportunity is there?
    If I have to go get myself another job one day, or even a part time job, because the income from my self publishing drops, then so be it. I still got to do what I always dreamed about!

    Simple fact – for those people who really love writing, and have the drive to put in the hours and write books that people want to read, the chance to live your dream is right here, smack in your face, right now.

    1. Now that’s looking at it the right way!
      The right way to look at it is that whether or not you have a trad publishing deal, doing self publishing will make you more money than if you gave it a miss – plus, you and a bunch of readers will have a lot of fun!

  10. […] has gone to his blog page with a short essay, You’re looking at it wrong. He quotes Greenfield this […]

  11. […] has gone to his blog page with a short essay, You’re looking at it wrong. He quotes Greenfield this […]

  12. I get what you’re saying and respect it, but it is a little disheartening because now we have to compete with all those people who have half-hearted, crappy books that never would’ve made it traditionally. Readers don’t know the difference based on cover art and a blurb.

    And, to be completely honest, I don’t want to do this as a hobby, or just make some extra money.

    I want the DREAM – it is fierce, haunting, insistent…I don’t give a shit if I’m published independently, via an agent or directly with a publisher. I want to get OUT THERE and in a big way. I was buying issues of Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Market for years in my twenties when I wrote my first book (now collecting dust on an old hard drive) and I learned fairly quickly how hard it was to make it as a writer, which is probably why I let myself get side tracked into starting and running a business.

    But…I am in this for EVERYTHING. I won’t let my book languish in someone’s slush pile. I very much expect to self-publish it, but before I go that route I have to TRY. I have to! I work with statistics every single day and I can tell you this – you can pry whatever story you want out of the numbers. You can MAKE them support your argument – whether they do or not. I know I’m naïve. I know I’m up against a mountain of impossible red tape, but some people break through. If I don’t, I don’t – and that’s okay because as you stated above, it’s a great time to be a writer. But a big publisher…an agent…a LOT of people reading my work – that’s the dream! I’m not a dewy-eyed young writer anymore. I’m 42, I just nearly lost my daughter to cancer, and that was a really good lesson in how we might not have as much time as we think we do. So, thank you for this post – I will file it away when I’m finally ready to agree with you that self-publishing is THE PATH. But right now, I want the original dream and that always involved a publisher, so I have to go for it. That’s the lesson that cancer taught me – the dream can’t wait anymore.

    1. I think many of those who do break through have your drive and commitment. You should take heart in that. And don’t even think of those other books as competition. They aren’t. Think of how many websites are created every single day. None of them get in the way of you browsing the internet. They don’t slow you down or hinder you at all. Because you never hear about them. People only share the good stuff.

      If you work on your craft and really dedicate yourself to your story, you’ll find that a sentence — several sentences — will pop out of your skull and land on your screen. They’ll be good enough that if you Tweeted these sentences, if you put them on Facebook, a handful of your friends and followers, however small this cohort may be, will want to read more. If your book is good, they’ll tell someone about it. My first cousin was an early reader of mine. She was one of the few brave enough to try my debut novel, and her response to the rest of the family was: “It actually doesn’t suck! It’s really good. You should read it.” This sort of enthusiasm built my readership over a three year and 8-novel period. It can happen to anyone who dedicates themselves to it.

      It’s also possible that people give up before they reach a tipping point. Who can write every single morning for three years without seeing income stream in? Those who love what they do, that’s who. If I had gone into this with the self-imposed demand that I made it big, I would have given up a year or two in. After my fourth or fifth novel didn’t take off, I would have said, “What’s the point?”

      But that wasn’t the point. The point was that I loved writing.

      I wish you the best of luck! Just try not to think of other writers as your competitors. And don’t worry about the books that don’t have love and care put into them. There are a billion websites out there that don’t impede your browsing in the least.

      1. Who can write every single morning for three years without seeing income stream in? Those who love what they do, that’s who. If I had gone into this with the self-imposed demand that I made it big, I would have given up a year or two in. After my fourth or fifth novel didn’t take off, I would have said, “What’s the point?”

        Hugh, thank you for this. We always hear about how great this writer or that writer is doing, but not how they did in the beginning, just starting out. It helps those of us who are there now.

        You make an excellent point that the manuscripts that never make it out of the slush pile need to be included in the numbers. I spent 12 years on the query-go-round with several manuscripts coming *this* close to acceptance. Without the option of self-publishing, I would’ve been one of those to decide, “What’s the point?” Those who’ve already given up are simply invisible to the industry, and all those stories, of whatever quality, will never be seen.

    2. I love the passion and commitment – that is 90% of the battle in this business…add some talent and a good story and you’ll be set for life. As for “all those people who have half-hearted, crappy books that never would’ve made it traditionally.” You don’t have to worry about them…They fade into obscurity and don’t get in the way. I think there are more “good books” now because you have some coming through gate keepers ad some that are successfully self-published – but this is a good thing – Books are synergistic with one another and no author can write fast enough to keep the reading public well fed. There will always be room for more good books – now you just have to get one out there and let people know about it – once that occurs the rest takes care of itself. Hugh is a prime example of that.

  13. I get stuck when folks use the “well then we have to compete with all the crappy books out there” line of thinking.

    I’m stuck because it is not a viable excuse to consider.

    There are crappy books published on the traditional side as well, so you’ll be competing with “crappy books” just by putting your pen to paper and writing, editing and attempting to publish.

    But let’s ignore traditional publishing vs. self-publishing for a second.

    Why are you competing with the “crappy books” out there?

    Are you afraid that perhaps, yours will join them? Every writer is.

    And, isn’t “crappy” a subjective term? How do you know what is and what isn’t crappy? Every human being is different, so you’re competing with a subjective set of books, then?

    Put out the best book you can, get it professionally edited, create a nice cover… and share it. Yours won’t compete with “crappy” if it isn’t. The people who read your book, actually get inside the cover and read it, that is… DO know the difference.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but someone once said that once you’ve written your book the real work begins, so with this in mind you might as well get the writing part out of the way.

    1. Thank you. This really…helped. I am afraid to self-publish. I have an (old fashioned) perception of self-published authors from 20 years ago – when “vanity publishing” meant you and your ten best friends were the only people whoever read your novel.

      And, yes, I am extremely worried that my book (my baby, my love, my 3rd child) is just another crappy novel. I made up an entire WORLD. I mean, what if it sucks? I don’t want to be crappy. I want to be spectacular. I know that sounds totally self-indulgent, but writing the thing felt entirely self-indulgent too! I guess my thinking is that if an agent reads it and likes it – and wants to represent me – then it’s not a piece of junk. But if I self-publish it, then where’s the validation? Hugh didn’t get lucky. He’s really, really good. Therefore his blueprint for success won’t work for every independent author and I can’t imagine it will work for me. But your comments give me hope.

      1. There are a lot (and Hugh can back me on this because he’s more active on KBoards than I am) who won’t read traditionally published books. At all. Whether it’s because of DRM, or high pricing or principles, they just won’t do it. So either way, you’re potentially losing readers and competing with “crappy” books.

        I agree with Hugh; the good stuff rises to the top, but everyone in publishing, traditional or not, now has to compete with self-published writers. I personally think it’s easier to compete as a self-published author because we have the flexibility to make changes. We can edit a book and republish, if needed. We can rewrite the blurb. We can change the cover, the price or just about anything. What traditionally published book has that kind of flexibility to react to competition?

  14. There is a wonderful quote from someone that I admire greatly that reflects what this article made me think of, It’s from Helen Keller and it goes:

    “While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.”

    I think that is how this book revolution will unfold. Those who look at things from the old and dated perspective (like this) will continue to harp on about the “reality” of the numbers until those of us foregoing the slush-pile change the numbers with our creativity and ingenuity. Then they will sit back in wonder at how we did it, even against the odds.

    “Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.” -Napoleon Hill

  15. I disagree that the quality of their data is good. It’s from a survey. That only people who decided to filled out. And only if they saw it. And only if they decided someone else should know how much they earn. A statistically skewed sample. A lot of self published authors don’t fill out surveys that could potentially give traditional publishers an insight into what they’re doing right and what trad pubs are doing wrong.

  16. You are absolutely right, my friend. We’ve got to stop comparing apples and oranges. Here is the numbers I really want…and I know they are impossible to get. But there is a subset of self-published authors (I’ll use Wendig’s term “author-publishers”) that are doing this “as a business.” We need to compare these people’s income with traditional published author’s income. I suspect if we did they would be earning more money…by a very wide margin.

    Some of these people start off with this mindset. When I self-published that was where my head was at. Others get there because of some unexpected success. They may have started out doing this “as a lark” but when the money came pouring in they started getting serious real fast. But the point still remains that there is a subset that are approaching this not just as a hobby but as a potential money making endeavor…some will make nonthing or lose money, some will make modest amounts, and some will earn well – but it is this group that should be compared to the traditional published author because he/she to is hoping to earn, otherwise they wouldn’t have submitted.

    Bottom line…we shouldn’t lump in those people who just hit “publish” to satisfy a bucket list, or those writing a family history where only those at the reunion are going to buy a copy. They are skewing the number…and yes if we ARE going to count these people then we must include all those in the query-go-round to at least balance the scales. But what we have right now is two very different beasts and making comparisons between those groups is just not logical.

    For those that are interested, I did my own article on how to divide and compare the two groups in an article for Amazing Stories. You can find it here:

  17. Okay, let’s look at this another way. I made over 100K per year in traditional publishing for several years, but what I had to do to earn that money practically killed me, including writing five books under various names one year. So I wonder what part of that 8.8% are slaving away as we speak, about ready to drop dead from burn-out.

    The year I went indie, however, I reached that 100K threshold with only one indie book and did it much, much faster (four months). No burn-out. And I’m happier as a writer than I’ve ever been.

    I also don’t remember being part of whatever poll was taken to figure these percentages. Many of us in the indie market simply write quietly and relish our new found freedom.

    1. A very good point! with the earnings per book you have to sell A LOT of books in traditional, that threshold is so much easier to do with self.

  18. […] has gone to his blog page with a short essay, You’re looking at it wrong. He quotes Greenfield this […]

  19. I bumped my head against the brick wall of agent/editor/publishing house acceptance for almost twenty years before self-publishing… and I came very, very close. There was an offer to buy the first novel for TV as soon as I found a publisher, and there were three agents that loved my writing and sent books out to editors. But it just never happened for that book or the next.

    As you point out, Hugh, the self-publishing option is open to anyone, immediately. The traditional route keeps out some huge percentage of those who apply… so they don’t publish, they don’t get feedback, they don’t grow as writers… they spend all their energy knocking on that brick wall when they could be writing the next book and the next and getting BETTER. Feeling like a “real” writer and finding readers who enjoy their work. Getting some good reviews (and probably some bad) and making at least a bit of money. It makes just as much sense to jump in and publish NOW (after making your book as professional as it can be, getting a good cover, etc.) because your first book will not be your best one, and you’ll continue writing more if you get it out there. One big secret that people forget is that you can CHANGE an ebook with the touch of a button when you find errors, want a new cover, or need to rewrite that scene that never worked well. It’s amazing!

    1. Yup. This. 100%.

      I always go back to musicians to see what makes sense. Would a singer/songwriter be better off recording albums in a studio and sending those around to try and get a record deal? Or would they be better off playing small gigs and working up as they hone their craft and build a fanbase? Seems obvious to me.

  20. I have been writing all my life, even before I could read. I have tried to get “real jobs” and get jobs to pay the bills, for now, but I can’t stop writing anymore than I can stop breathing. It has helped me through the best of times and the worst of times. It has been my therapy, my salvation, my joy. Even if I never make a DIME off my writing, it is priceless in what it has given to me. It’s not about the money. I agree. This is the best time to be a reader and a writer. Thanks for the post. :)

  21. […] author Hugh C. Howey’s analysis of Jeremy Greenfield’s How Much Money Do Self-published Authors Make? is not even […]

  22. […] has gone to his blog page with a short essay, You’re looking at it wrong. He quotes Greenfield this […]

  23. Hugh, Do you think you could convince DBW to add the data from the Aspiring group to the Traditional group of authors, so we could get a look at that? It wouldn’t be the whole picture, but could be helpful. :)

    1. I’d love for them to release the raw data so we could play around with it. I think the hybrid category needs to go as well. There’s a lot of “People who make more money make more money” bias in the survey. They only count the traditional authors who were paid for their work, and they remove from “self-publishing” those authors who (A) Later cut a deal or (B) Moved from traditional to self-publishing. A lot of room for improvement, and I know that’s what DBW will do going forward. They want good data. It’s hard to get.

  24. […] editing or attention to cover art, alongside some stuff that’ll really blow your mind. His response to Digital Book World’s survey about author income is very interesting and […]

  25. […] der Woche: “You’re looking at it wrong” von Hugh Howey Wer auch immer sich denkt, dass er ein Buch schreiben sollte um Bestseller-Autor und […]

  26. […] Howey wrote an essay, You’re looking at it wrong, to explain this dire flaw in how we survey author earnings, I followed up with my own oratorio in […]

  27. […] 2. Remember even if I never get paid for my work, it’s still worth doing.  Writing is my passion.  I’ve been telling stories my entire life.  I can’t stop now.  Thanks for the reminder, Hugh Howey. […]

  28. […] 2. DBW will do a better survey in 2014 than the one they did in 2013. Because they’re just as interested in the truth as I am. The last one, and the way it was parsed, was not so good. […]

  29. […] absolute numbers while others are looking at chances of success. I’ve already blogged about how unfair it is to look at the number of people self-publishing while ignoring the vast numbers of …(it’s the mistake of counting the top 1% of one pile and comparing that to the totality of […]

  30. […] the rest of the pack. Cheers, Greg. And here's a good look at why those numbers are misleading: You’re looking at it wrong | Hugh Howey "Blessed are the legend makers…" ~ J. R. R. Tolkien My blog: Falling Toward […]

  31. […] author-earnings elements of the “What Authors Want” survey process in a piece titled You’re looking at it wrong. There is an extensive explication of Howey’s contention that the survey is wrongly comparing […]

  32. […] biases, but my hope is that if we  stack enough anecdote together that it will become data. Because until we have real data that works, I don’t know anything better than keeping our minds and eyes wide open and accruing as much […]

  33. […] the way author earnings are interpreted by the survey’s approach. His own initial piece is You’re looking at it wrong, and he has a follow-up on the matter, We don’t lose. We Create. We […]

  34. […] the way author earnings are interpreted by the survey’s approach. His own initial piece is You’re looking at it wrong, and he has a follow-up on the matter, We don’t lose. We Create. We […]

  35. […] the way author earnings are interpreted by the survey’s approach. His own initial piece is You’re looking at it wrong, and he has a follow-up on the matter, We don’t lose. We Create. We […]

  36. […] traditionally-published authors, and hybrid-authors, and about digital author-publisher Hugh Howey’s response to that survey (along with a link to a rundown of this discussion by Porter Anderson).  Later, […]

  37. […] in compensation. Hugh Howey, a sensible, if not unbiased source, took apart those numbers in a blog post that’s as good a starting point as any in this debate. What I’m going to focus on […]

  38. […] When I reported the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey annual writing income results for 2013, Hugh Howey, casting the results as indie vs. traditional publishing, demanded a recount: […]

  39. […] you’re trying to compare outcomes for traditional and self-published writers, Howey argues, “you have to take into account the huge percentage of books that never make it out of the […]

  40. Hey, Hugh. Good article. I’m going to comment on one line: “Just wait until more and more talented writers forego the slushpile altogether and skip straight to self-publishing.” Now, I think the slushpile has a lot to offer self-published writers. Every writer should spend some time in it. Slushpile time is a valuable starting point, kind of like everything I need to know I learned in the sandbox for kindergartners. The slushpile teaches you patience, teaches you you’re not ready yet, you need to work on your craft, on your characters, your plot, your storytelling techniques. Slushpile teaches you humility as a writer, and the value of working harder at your writing, and gratitude when you do make it beyond. The problem isn’t entering the slushpile, it’s staying there too long. No, I’d tell writers NOT to forgo the slushpile altogether, but to learn from it, and THEN TO MOVE ON out of it.

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  42. […] that started it all (and the report’s data has since been questioned by a variety of writers, notably Hugh Howey), is this one from Digital Book World’s Dana Beth Weinberg last […]

  43. I am not certain where you’re getting your info, however great topic.

    I needs to spend some time learning more or figuring out more.

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  44. Heather Lovatt Avatar

    I hadn’t even noticed this as I cannot buy books anywhere online so I get freebies when they show up at Amazon, but I’ve been looking at ONLY self-pub covers for a while now. (Not trad, is my point.) Yes, there are a lot of crappy books out there, being downloaded by readers who end up bitching because they got a book for free (or paid for it, depending on the user. Not me, presently.) and they don’t like it and it was read instead of YOUR masterpiece. But consider…

    They start to educate themselves if they are serious readers (the ones, long term, you are probably looking for) and reach for the better books. If they are finding ways to find the freebies (first level of entry to ebooks), I think they’ll find ways to filter through to the next level. And the next. And the next.

    And there you and your book will be, being read by a discerning reader.

    And hey, per Hugh’s comment somewhere else, for all the crappy books being allowed to be released, there ARE a lot more GOOD books in the stream too. New genres too. And the critical mass will break the surface and, _I think_, a breed of reader will arrive.

    It’ll happen.

    Go go write your best book.

    Life it too short to stand there, missing shots, because there are crap players on the court.


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  46. […] analysts don’t cover these options honestly from the writer’s point of view. I’ve blogged about this before. What you get is coverage of what books do once they have already been published. Which means […]

  47. […] And for anyone thinking about publishing avenues, it’s such a critical question.   Defining “success” is something deeply personal. And, obviously, it should drive your decision on how to publish. I’ll quote from Hugh Howey’s post titled, “You’re Looking At It Wrong.” : […]

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    yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and
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  49. […] as Hugh Howey loves to point out, this is the best time in history to be a writer, because a lot of the non-Jordan/Atwood/King level […]

  50. […] 2.5 miles out of town. Part of the reason I chose this session was from talking to Keith M. about Hugh Howey, I was curious about this […]

  51. Awesome issues here. I am very glad to see your article.

    Thank you so much and I am taking a look forward to touch you.
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  52. […] series Wool and a champion of the “freedom” of self-publishing, eviscerated the survey on his personal blog, writing that data in this sample had to be skewed, since the self-publishing category also […]

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