The publishing world is being upended, and reinvented, by people like Hugh Howey, Ily Goyanes and Kristy Montee.
They are part of a movement using the power of e-books and the Internet to lead publishing into a new frontier, and through the biggest upheaval of the industry since Guttenberg’s press.
“It’s the Wild West,” Montee said. “It is literally changing at the speed of light.”
Howey is a writer who authored, designed, formatted and self-published all but the very first of his 14 novelettes and stories as e-books — and saw his Wool series of sci-fi stories make the Top 100 Kindle Best Sellers of 2012, above J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and the four-book bundle of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.
Goyanes is one of a new breed of independent publishers filling the void between self-publishing and traditional publishing giants, offering technical, marketing and distribution help for do-it-yourself authors.
Montee is a Fort Lauderdale-based writer better known to her readers — along with her sister and writing partner, Kelly Nichols — as P.J. Parrish, the pseudonymous author of the Louis Kincaid and Joe Frye thriller series. She’s among the new “hybrid authors,” with a foot in both traditional and the self-published worlds.
“For a long, long, long time in our business anything that you published yourself just had a stench of amateurism about it,” she said. “That was just for desperate people who couldn’t make their way through the labyrinth of the New York system, so they resorted to paying pretty much scam artists to publish their books for them at great expense. And then, Amazon came out with the Kindle, which pretty much changed everything.”
With the stigma fading, and Amazon’s help, self-publishing has exploded. On its website, Publishers Weekly last month cited a new analysis of data from Bowker, which shows the number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006, with 235,625 print and e-titles released in 2011.
As a “mid-list author” with 13 moderately successful books to her name, Montee felt the pressure when her publisher began trimming its author list to reduce costs.
“So a lot of us, and this includes a lot of my friends,” began looking for ways to survive independently, Montee said. “Amazon made it extremely easy and very attractive to go self-publish through their model.”
She and her sister regained rights to two of their early books to re-publish and have a novella in the works they plan to self-publish.
The advantages, and the profits, can be huge. The downside, of course, would make a Vegas gambler sweat.
“The largest, by far, percentage of authors are making less than $500 a year self-publishing, because there’s a glut,” said M.J. Rose, a best-selling novelist and founder of the writer’s marketing company AuthorBuzz.com. “There’s over 350,000 books being self-published every year and readers are not finding them. There’s just no way to expose people to all of these books.”
Howey, however, who spends mornings writing at his home in Jupiter, might be the perfect example of what “making it” looks like in this thoroughly modern twist on every writer’s dream. He began writing while working at a bookstore, and he received a modest advance when a small press picked up his first novel.