First, there was JA Konrath’s post with Hugh Howey on how to determine how many ebooks are sold, and how that information can affect authors in their publishing decision making.
Then there was a literary agent’s harsh response to Konrath and Howey’s insight, once again claiming that traditional publishing is the way to go.
Then there was the rebuttal to the rebuttal of the original post.
Aren’t these arguments behind us yet? Hasn’t the industry come full circle and decided that self-published books aren’t all garbage and ebooks are here to stay? Why is there so much animosity still being levied from the legacy industry towards the self-published authors, and why are self-published authors still trying to uncover even approximate figures on books sold?
Not so long ago, a peaceful feeling settled on the book industry, one that had decided that print books and ebooks both served purposes and were useful for different audiences; at the same time, names like Konrath’s and Howey’s along with a score of other highly successful authors became synonymous with creative control and outsmarting the gatekeepers. So why is this hostility creeping back into the news?
Quite possibly some of the angst has been spurred by Howey’s first outspoken frustration with an industry that still insists on guarding book figures as if they were secret rocket formulas. Howey rightly points to the need for accurate data in order for authors to make informed decisions about which publishing route would be best for their books, and that data cannot come from author surveys alone.
And while The Passive Voice shared a number of graphs on author earnings that were compiled by AuthorEarnings.com, it was the rebuttal post by Joshua Blimes of JABberwocky lit agency that trashes any concept behind Howey’s questioning post, calling out the author’s summation as a means to discredit the argument.
“After a lot of fuzzy math and bad statistics that occasionally intersect with the truth, Howey comes up with this conclusion: ‘Our data suggests that even stellar manuscripts are better off self-published.’
“Sorry, Hugh. There is absolutely nothing in your blog post that justifies that conclusion. This is not the same as saying that your conclusion is wrong. Maybe it’s right. But if it’s right, it’s not because of anything — anything! — in your blog post.”
Has it really come back to this level? Are legacy publishers and professionals so threatened by self-published authors that this level of effort goes into picking apart an argument in favor of indie authors? Even more importantly, in the era of taking ownership and control over the process, why are these financial secrets still so…secret?
Sadly, there is one branch of the publishing industry who simply does not care how the book came into existence, and that branch cannot be ignored: the reader. Author, agents, and publishers can argue all they want while the industry watchers report on it, but at the end of the day, the reader simply does not care how the book was published. He wants a great read at a great price, and as ebook sales and retailers’ profits have demonstrated, he wants it relatively conveniently. The rest is just details, and it’s a complete time suck to argue over who can do it better.