ObDisclaimer: I self-publish fiction and plan to self-publish more fiction this year. I am not philosophically opposed to the Author Earnings Report that Hugh Howey has begun. I am seriously dubious about several of its conclusions and some of the ways they are presented. For example, I don’t like that his comparison of reader ratings runs only from 3.0 to 4.5 instead of from 0 to 5, which is the actual possible range. Anyone who has looked at graphs knows that “zooming in” is a way to make minor differences appear more important than they are.
Also, Howey is planning to do additional surveys to include vendors like B&N but he’s already rushing to judgement on the “best” path for authors after only looking at Amazon data.
To be clear, I would like it to be true that self-publishing will bring in a lot of money; I’m just skeptical of Howey’s report and waiting for some expert analysis. As I find that analysis, I plan to link to it.
That’s what this post will be. I don’t plan to link to praise or skepticism here unless it actually examines the methodology of the report. So:
UK Crime Writer Steve Mosby points out an excluded middle in Howey’s conclusions, along with raising other questions.
On Absolute Write, author S.L. Huang points out problems with the statistics and what’s excluded, along with other issues.
Agent Joshua Bilmes points out this isn’t the first time someone has tried to calculate earnings based on a list of bestsellers and that Amazon’s rating system is hopelessly compromised.
In the comments of the AE report, author Ramez Naam points out some basic errors in assuming royalties (even if they could be accurately calculated by Amazon sales ranks) equal payments to writers going the traditional route. There are a great many comments on the report itself, but few are substantive.
Porter Anderson talks about the cultural push behind the report and against it. However flawed it is, it’s seen as a powerful argument.
At Futurebook, Philip Jones lays out the contradictions between Howey’s admissions of his flawed data and his sweeping conclusions.
Digital Book World, which had criticized Howey’s report yesterday (see above) now claims it supports their own (much disputed by indie authors) findings.
I’d meant to include only analytical posts, but this is something I see quite a lot:
First let’s be clear. This data is pretty shonky. There’s no real way to tell how accurate it is. But, in the absence of transparency from the industry itself (either Amazon of the Big 5) it’s the best data we writers have access to. And the story it tells is shocking.
So the data is “shonky” but the narrative is too exciting not to buy in. So far, this is a very common reaction.
Jim Hanas calculates his “Hugh Howey Income.” Mine is zero dollars, which is, I promise you, wildly incorrect.
This post by a person who creates studies and databases will likely be the last one, because it’s just what I was looking for. The author of the critique has no bias one way or another in terms of how to publish fiction, and she has informed and detailed critiques of not only the way the data was put together but by the sweeping conclusions that Howey presents. h/t @mlvwrites on Twitter
I’ll add more of these as they cross my path. I think that last one does it. If there’s another critique as informed that touches other issues, I’ll add it but I won’t be actively looking any more. Also, I plan to write up a little something later on, summarizing what seems to be going on with this report and the furor around it.