Unless you were living under a rock last month, you’ll have heard about Hugh Howey’s incendiary new website in which he and an anonymous friend collate a mass of book sales data to show that self-published titles are taking more and more of the spoils. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from nearly everyone (it seemed), given that so much data analysed in such depth was perhaps bound to be open to selective interpretations.
Over on Publishers Weekly, Smashwords founder Mark Coker took a more sober approach, pointing out that: “What matters is the directional trend, and the strong social, cultural and economic forces that will propel the trend forward in a direction unfavorable to publishers.” In an excellent article which is a must-read for all Independent Authors, Coker goes on to describe how the perception of stigma is shifting. From just a few years ago, when self-publishing had “failure” written all over it, we’re now moving to a point where traditional publishing is getting its share of negativity: the lousy royalties on e-books and their own vanity imprints ready to fleece the unsuspecting Indie, which Coker politely calls “misguided”. The more heated the debate gets, the more useful it is to listen to a cooler head.
Possible proof of self-publishing’s progress comes from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, which has started a two-year MA in self-publishing. On the surface it does all appear very impressive, until you click on the details. Whoever wrote the course description could really have done with researching a bit more and thinking a bit longer. Much of this description would not be out of place on many of the vanity sites: “If you are serious about self-publishing and want to learn practical skills which will be valuable for life, meet like-minded people who will be a good network for you and gain advice from industry experts and successful self-published authors, this course is for you.” The only thing missing is the smiley emoticon on the end of that sentence. And anyway, if you are serious about self-publishing, pretty much all you need is right here on Indies Unlimited – and it’s free.
Elsewhere, NewRepublic carried a smart, well-written story about everyone’s favourite online retailer, who shall remain nameless in this post. Apparently, no one in the publishing industry will talk on the record about it because everyone’s so scared of it. Oh dear. I can understand employees not wishing to go public about the less savoury aspects of working for it, unless they can afford to lose their jobs. However, when others outside it become so terrified of retribution, what does this say about the behemoth which features to some degree in every author’s life?
But if all of these stories about the industry leave you a little out of breath and no surer whom to believe, I’ll end this post with a link to a delightful feature about what really matters: creativity; in particular, the ten steps of the creative process. Although this is written by a filmmaker, authors and other creative people will find much in common. Maria Popova describes ten steps to making a movie which easily apply to writing a book. My favourite is number seven: The Love Sandwich: “To give constructive feedback, always snuggle it in love – because we’re only human, and we’re vulnerable…”
Right, I’m going to grab something to eat.