In what is merely a startling coincidence, two well-known self-published authors have been at the center of a very telling look at the publishing industry this week. In a piece for Harper’s Magazine, writer Jesse Baron eloquently outlines the saga of authors, namely Jennifer Weiner, who have worked futilely for inclusion and respect for indie authors from the mainstream traditional media and industry; over on his own blog today, bestselling self-published/hybrid author Hugh Howey brilliantly opened the floodgates on how the Authors Guild is basically working to destroy authors’ careers.
The first piece examined the buzz surrounding Weiner and the very real dynamic that self-published authors, regardless of sales or status, are still held at arm’s length by the industry. Even formerly traditionally published authors like US President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis have told Good e-Reader that doors closed to them once their self-published titles came along, specifically in review and interview opportunities; Davis even recounted how she appeared on NPR to promote one title, but when she reached out to that same program about her debut indie title, she was told there was a policy in place against self-published works.
Baron highlights the interesting dynamic at work, namely that authors who once fought so hard for acceptance are slowly turning their backs on those closed doors, and quite possibly finding more success than the authors who are still trying desperately to be accepted.
“It’s not Weiner’s desire for inclusion that should scare New York. It’s the threat of her indifference,” concludes Baron.
A blog post by Howey yesterday, however, takes a deeper, bolder stab by vehemently pointing out the many ways that the Authors Guild–the organization created to protect the interests of authors–is in bed with the traditional publishing industry with its incessant Amazon bashing, its refusal to stand up for author royalties, and more.
What is so stomach-churning about the information Howey brings to light is not only the myriad ways that the AG is not looking out for authors, but that self-published authors will find it incredibly difficult to even join the AG in the first place. Membership is limited to authors who are published by an “established” US publisher (re: well-known, not necessarily independent), freelancers who are published by general circulation periodicals, or self-published authors who earn at least $5000 in royalties in an 18-month period.
That’s a feat that 87% of self-published authors statistically do not accomplish, but 54% of traditionally published authors also cannot meet that requirement. Luckily, those traditionally published authors can squeak into “the club” by meeting that first requirement, even if they never sell a single copy. That accomplishment affords them the privilege of paying $90 per year in membership dues to an organization who is working with publishers to bring down Amazon, the single largest retailer who makes the majority of sales happen for the majority of authors.
Both articles highlight–yet again–the real issue: the traditional publishing industry is not evolving fast enough. Amazon was the first to turn its back and stipulate how books will be marketed, and the authors were the next to jump from the sinking ship. And as multi-million title authors like Weiner, Howey, HP Mallory, Bella Andre, Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, (the list is exhaustingly long) have proven, the readers are following.