Amy and Dara at Pubsmart

in Amazon

Hugh Howey’s PubSmart Keynote: Directing the Self-Pub Conversation

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Recently, Amy and Dara attended Pubsmart, a conference that brings together some of the best and brightest of the modern publishing industry to discuss indie, traditional, hybrid, and small press publishing. One of the keynote speakers was Hugh Howey, the indie author whose Author Earnings Reports rocked the publishing industry just a month ago.  As usual, Howey sought to direct the publishing conversation towards what REALLY matters for indie authors.

So what did he say?

Stop Scaring Away Writers With the “Quality” Argument

We are constantly talking about how important quality is in the world of self-publishing. But, according to Howey, we’re more likely to discourage the good writers when we stress the ‘quality’ argument because the good writers are likely the ones listening.

This is Dara’s favorite takeaway from Howey’s address because, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. If you’re reading this blog, for example, you are already dedicated to producing quality work that you are proud to call your own.

Indie Bookstores and Indie Authors Should Be Willing to Work Together

Howey pointed out that Amazon has actually helped indie bookstores by putting big box stores like Borders out of business. Indie stores have even experienced increased sales. They should be more open to supporting self-published authors – even if those authors use Amazon to produce and sell books.

For example, CreateSpace is such a small part of Amazon’s overall sales that indie bookstores are just hurting themselves by not carrying CreateSpace books.

Plot Is More Important Than Prose

Any writer will tell you that the actual writing is the most important part of any book, but in terms of sales, the plot can be far more important. Without name recognition or a big name traditional publisher’s endorsement, you have to rely on your book’s ability to catch a reader’s attention quickly. That is a matter of plot and pacing, not prose.

Prose is still every author’s bread and butter.  Just be sure that it contributes to an exciting plot rather than bog it down.

Authors like James Patterson, E.L. James, and Dan Brown Deserve Our Respect

This point is related to the previous one. You may not love their writing styles, but Patterson, James, and Brown entertain readers time and time again. If they can do it, you can too. Don’t be so busy criticizing successful authors that you forget to learn from them.

Self-Publishing is About Hard Work, Luck, and Choice

We say this all the time – self-publishing is a lot of work but it can have a big personal pay off. Howey says authors have to be enterprising but points out that his success came from a lot of luck and some great timing.

The upside is that all of this hard work and luck is paying off. It used to be that authors were limiting their opportunities by self-publishing but now they are limiting themselves by choosing traditional publishing. The growing number of successful midlist authors suggests that the future of publishing is in the hands of readers who are more and more willing to find their own books rather than rely on a traditional publisher to curate them.

The publishing world is constantly changing and we need to make sure we are having the right conversation. What would you add to Howey’s discussion?




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  1. It goes with the blast point–be patient. Writing a book isn’t a race as much as a marathon.

  2. Great insights and was awesome having BOTH of you in Charleston!! Thanks for weighing in on PubSmart – Hugh Howey was brilliant… Catch you both on the publishing trail… Shari

    • It was so fun Shari! We’re already looking forward to next year. Thanks so much for the comment!

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