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Can Hugh Howey lead an indie author revolt?

24 February 2014

There's been a wide-ranging debate this week sparked off by Hugh Howey's report on authors' earnings from ebooks, including an article by Mark Coker in Publishers Weekly Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt.

Based on Amazon's hourly ebook bestseller lists, Howey has made some large claims about the shift to self-publishing and the end of big publishers' control of the publishing model. But Howey's argument is based on the figures Amazon releases and these are essentially a marketing tool, controlled by the site and intended to sell as may ebooks as possible and to further Amazon's aims of increasing the share of Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon's own publishing lists.

More than that, Amazon is the chief obstacle to the existence of reliable ebook sales figures, since they are not prepared to release sales figures for them. As Michael Cader concludes in Publishers Lunch: ‘The publishing world is changing all the time, and self-publishing in particular is a dynamic and growing segment, and our worldview should be open to change as well.'

Publishing is being rocked by change as never before. A number of indie authors have made a great success of self-publishing, but that doesn't disguise the fact that many other authors have found it a huge disappointment. Many would prefer to concentrate on their writing and not to have to think about publishing and selling their book.

For authors of the genre fiction categories which have provided many of the sales of ebooks, self-publishing is a different proposition, because ebooks can so easily be sold to an international audience online. But for writers whose books are still mostly sold in print format access to the book trade is an important element. Perhaps in the longer run this will lead to the authors of different kinds of books having different ways of reaching their audiences - and for publishers having different outcomes too.