Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hugh Howey's empassioned argument for Amazon and self-publishing

In this Digital Book World interview by Daniel Berkowitz, successful self-published author Hugh Howey makes some fascinating points talking up the pros of self-publishing, like

"There’s a good route here for a livable wage if you can write entertaining stories and really pour energy into doing it right." 

and the cons of traditional publishing, like

"Publishers need to rebrand from the ground up. Get rid of ancient imprints that readers don’t care about. Stop paying seven- and eight-figure advances to people who are already millionaires, and instead pay more up-and-coming authors a livable wage."

Here's a highlight of their exchange:

Daniel: There’s some talk lately about Amazon being a monopoly or monopsony and the negative effects its share of the market has on the flourishing of literature. In your opinion, how worried should we be?

Hugh: I think the motives here are no secret, and they have historical precedent. When those who can’t compete on the open market realize this, they appeal to the public for sympathy and to the courts for protection. There are two very strident campaigns going on here, and both are ethically bankrupt.

Amazon has vastly increased the access to books. They have also vastly increased every author’s access to the market. They are lowering prices for consumers and increasing pay to producers. They are able to do this by operating very efficiently and by pouring all their earnings back into their business divisions.

What’s really Orwellian about these monopoly complaints isn’t just that Amazon is doing the opposite of what they’re being accused of; it’s that major publishers are the ones who have enjoyed a collaborative monopoly for many years and have used the lack of competition to calcify the reading experience, overcharge for their wares and underpay for work.

For a very long time, most aspiring writers had no hope of expressing themselves and having access to consumers. Amazon almost single handedly changed that. For an equally long time, many lower income and small-town readers have not had access to enough affordable books. Amazon almost single-handedly changed that.

Even better, Amazon is now hurting the big-box brick and mortar stores that decimated indie bookshops. Indie bookstores are making a comeback, and it’s largely because Amazon cleared out the wolves that were winnowing their kind. Those bookstores offer a shopping experience can’t emulate, so the two can exist in harmony. But there’s no doubting the positive effect Amazon has had on their numbers. Shoppers are showing they will support both.

So Amazon has been great for readers, writers and small bookstores. That leaves noncompetitive middlemen and the authors who were enriched by their system to complain. To be simultaneously pro-books and anti-Amazon requires some truly impressive mental gymnastics from anyone else.
It's a thought-provoking interview and well worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On, 

No comments: