Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Last week’s brouhaha was about Hugh Howey’s post with a survey done by a computer-expert friend who managed to take Amazon’s data and turn it into numbers that revealed self-publishing is already overtaking the Big publishers. The report is titled “Author Earnings” and is at Last week the survey, as well as the blog posts which copied it, were so popular that many sites crashed temporarily.

Besides the mind-boggling information, the survey author provided links to where he got his data, so others could replicate--or put their own interpretation on--what he’d done. In addition, Howey cautioned viewers that the sample used was relatively small, and that further work would be done to improve the accuracy of the results.

Nevertheless, the data shows several things which Indie authors have known or suspected for a long time, so joy spread throughout the Blogosphere.

I’m a relative newcomer to self-publishing, but, although not one of the 100 Amazon best-sellers whose statistics were used, I could relate to a lot of what was shown in those great pie charts and graphs.

1. The first thing I appreciated was Howey reminded us some people (traditional publishing insiders and their fans) keep saying very few authors who self-publish ever sell many books or make any money, especially compared to “six-figure advances” offered by the Big-Five. Yet, how many writers are offered those advances, and, even more important, how many writers who try for such contracts ever get published AT ALL. As others have pointed out recently, self-publishing is a “shadow industry” because no one, until now, had data to show how big it really is.

2. The Value Ratio was another eye-opener. This chart showed the e-books with the highest prices (Big Five publishers) received the reviewers’ lowest scores. I think Howey is right when he assumes readers resent high prices and might give low-point reviews because of perceived value for the money spent. High prices not only cause lower ratings, but may drive readers to cheaper books, namely the self-published. Are the Big Five actually empowering the Indie revolution?

3. The data surveyed was based on the three most-popular genres in Fiction: Romance, Mystery/Thriller and Science Fiction/Fantasy. Why not? They make up 70% of the Amazon top 100 best sellers. And guess what? Indie authors are outselling the Big Five. COMBINED. It turns out 92% of the 100 best-selling books are self-published, and 86% of the 2500 best-sellers are.

There’s lots more to discuss, and next week I’ll comment on the backlash the survey produced and the responses those received from top-selling Indie authors such as Hugh, Joe Konrath, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith and others.

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CORRECTION: I was mistaken last week when I said the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo were in 1994. It was actually 1984, and, this being the 30th anniversary of the event, on February 14, 2014, Torvill and Dean returned and repeated their seven-perfect-scores performance to Ravel’s “Bolero.” Had I not been following them via the UK, I’d never have known because no one in this country--or in Sochi, Russia--mentioned it.


  1. Hi Phyllis,
    Self or indie-publishing always made sense to me, but I resisted it, thinking about the recognition one receives from fellow RWA members and the satisfaction that a trad publisher pick-up gives. I can't wait nay longer. I've been sitting on four novels. They're going out this year.

    Being a former research scientist/engineer, I do wonder just how many of the top 5000 or so were previously published by small, medium and big presses? Depending on the percentage, this will influence downward the amount of money those who indie-publish can reasonably expect.


    1. Bob:
      Thanks for the comment. You have a good point and one I expect the revised survey to address. If they don't, you should ask for it. When I started writing, there was only one way, and I was rejected so often I threatened to wallpaper a room. (But then we moved.) I was finally published by three houses which, if not Big Five, are at least recognized by most people: Barbour Books (for an inspirational romance), Kensington Precious Gems line, and Avalon Books, which was purchased by Amazon in 2012 and is why SOUTHERN STAR is now a Montlake Romance.

      Prestige - even though currently marred by those same houses offering Vanity publishing to naive writers - is nice, but I'm no longer waiting months to hear from editors either. Your four books make this a good time for you to try Indie. Good luck.


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