Hugh Howey Exposé Builds Buzz

Bestselling author Hugh Howey, who sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his 2011 self-published novel Wool on Amazon, has been all over the headlines of the book world again this month. (Due to his wild success as an indie publisher, Howey is now a hybrid author, published in print by Random House and Simon and Schuster, while retaining his e-Book rights.)

What has propelled him back to the headlines? This month he published an expose at, which concluded that 53% of titles on the e-Book genre bestseller lists were indie-published. It also suggested that self-published e-Books accounted for 43% of daily unit sales, compared to 34% from the “big five” publishers.

Howey’s report has been criticized in the mainstream publishing world as too genre-specific, and focused on high ranking e-Books — but a more comprehensive study of 50,000 books across all genres is already in the works.

Howey is puzzled by the negative reaction from conventional publishers and the media covering their industry. “Authors are not currently paid fairly for e-Books by big publishers,” he told IR in an interview on February 17. Unlike self-published e-Books which can earn authors almost $7 per $9.99 sale, “Traditionally published writers need to be paid better,” he says. “I’m not a threat to conventional publishers but rather helping them avoid a crisis like Hollywood faced when its writers went on strike for better pay.”

As IR readers know, 2013 was unquestionably a watershed year for self-published writers. Increasingly, readers around the world are proving the growing appeal of indie reading material that doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of books from many mainstream publishing houses. As Howey told IR, “Big publishers are like aristocrats arguing that opera is the highest art form, while the public clearly prefers cinema.”

In the worlds of music and film, the word “indie” already has a solidly attractive cachet that draws artists a worldwide audience. But among book lovers, and especially in the inner circles of the mainstream book industry, IR believes that indie writers deserve more of “a place at the table.” Indie books are a rapidly growing force in the history of the written word, which deserves wider recognition.

Howey’s controversial exposé, if not perfect, takes a bold first step in that direction. An expanded study is expected soon. Stay tuned for fast, early coverage by IR.

4 replies
  1. avatar
    michaelsullivan says:

    I applaud Hugh and what Data Guy are doing. If we look at just the raw data (which I don’t think anyone is disputing its accuracy) it proves what many have been saying for a long time…that self-published authors are running toe-to-toe with traditionally published authors in terms of sales on the largest bookseller in the world. With higher royalties even if these authors ONLY get income from Amazon, they are making a really nice living wage. There are thousands of authors, without household names, that are making five and six figure incomes. It proves once and for all that self-publishing can be a viable option for those with the entrepreneur spirit, and even those seeking traditional publishing should rejoice, since it shows publishers that they are not in competition only with each other, but with the concept of “going it alone.” In such an environment, publishers will have to adjust their contracts and “industry standards” to attract and retain authors.

  2. avatar
    B. V. Larson says:

    Well said, Michael. I’ve had a lot of trouble with the Big 5 myself. They want a book deal, but tell me they simply can’t afford me. That can’t work in the long run for either party. They’ll have to bend. Authors have nothing to fear from the Indies, at least no more to fear than they had from their own publishers deciding to drop them. If you write competitive books, the Indie pressure can only help ALL authors in the end, as Michael said.


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