Link Farm: Why Howey's "Author Earnings Report" is a Statistical Farce. And More Rambling Thoughts.

In the headline above, there's a link to an excellent round-up of links critiquing Hugh (I'm not a misogynist, it's perfectly fine to call a woman I don't know a bitch) Howey's Author Earnings Report.  In Howey's own breathless words, when he looked at the "data" in the Report: "What emerges is, to my knowledge, the clearest public picture to date of what’s happening in this publishing revolution."


Clear as mud, that is.  And based on data even more spurious than the reports Howey likes to mock, as these links show.


Also, if you are curious to read a very smart and reasonable take on the matter, check out Chuck Wendig's blog post: Check the Box: Do You Want to Be Your Own Publisher, Yes or No?  And don't miss the follow-up when his email box got bombed by Howey's brainless disciples in response to that blog post: Self-Publishing Truisms.


But hey, most of us are readers first and foremost.  Why should we care what authors do?  We just want good stories, right?  How we get them is irrelevant, no?  And hey, self-publishing means lower prices!  That's GREAT for us!  Isn't it?


Well, yeah, lower prices are always welcome, especially if it means authors can still be paid a reasonable wage for their work.  


And yes, in theory, more stories = more stuff to read = more fun for avid readers.


But I do think there is a dark side to self-publishing for readers.


We're seeing it in social media attacks on reviewers for daring to give a book a less than ZOMG SQUEE BOOK BOYFRIEND 4EVAH 5*********!!!1111!!! reviews.  Attacks so vicious that I'm sure we all know at least one or two formerly prolific reviewers who have stopped cold turkey.  Authors urging their fans to leave nasty comments or down vote less than favorable reviews.  Authors urging others to write positive reviews - doesn't matter if you haven't read the book - in order to push the negative review off the book's front page on Amazon or GR.


We're seeing it in self-pubbed authors buying reviews on Fivrr and elsewhere to game the system.  Or my previous post, in which even experienced authors with established careers are resorting to bribing readers in exchange for five star reviews.


And our reading material is hurting.  I'm in the process of my "I Read Kindle Samples So You Don't Have To" experiment.  And believe me, you DON'T want to read many of these samples.  Yet these books are selling, in mass quantities.  The problem is tomorrow's writers are today's readers.  And today's readers are learning fractured English grammar, cardboard characters, story arcs that resemble a flat line, and wooden dialogue.  We can't look to traditional publishing to save us, either, because trad publishing is rewarding the self-pubbed best sellers with print contracts - but very, very little editing.  I can't blame trad publishing - it's a business, and they're in it to make money just like everyone else - but it makes sad. And disgruntled.


Meanwhile, you'd think "YAY!  Unlimited reading choices for everyone!" would be AWESOME.  However, there's a theory of economics/psychology called "The Paradox of Choice."  Namely, the more choices a customer has, the less they will buy, and the more reliant they will become on tried and true brands/products and less likely to try new things.


Paradox of choice as a theory of behavior has its detractors, and in some cases it's been proven that more choice does what you would think: lead to increased buying.  However, the theory has been around long enough and shown in action often enough that I think it's something to consider.  And I know I see it in my own buying actions, as books proliferate: the more authors I have to chose from, the more I stick to my tried-and-true favorites - unless someone I trust takes me by the shoulders and says, "You must read this!"

So are authors rushing to self-publish - especially those who self-pub without so much as a copyeditor pass - actually hurting themselves in the long run as readers become overwhelmed by choice and retreat to authors/recommenders they trust?


Not if you ask Howey.  He says that even "bad" books should be self-published and let the readers decide.  But when we readers are wading in a cesspool of mediocrity, how likely are we to reach into the polluted water on the slim chance we might pull out a diamond?