More than a few self-published authors, of course, have found serious success through various channels over the years—selling a vast amount of books on their own, for instance, or having their previously self-published book picked up by a big publishing concern.

And yet, contrary to popular belief, not every self-published author actually wants to be picked up by a mainstream publishing house. Some are more than happy working independently, and pocketing as much money from their DIY publishing project as possible. This topic was brought up last Sunday, March 10, during the Self-Publishing in the Age of E panel at the SXSW in Austin, Texas.

The panel consisted of author Hugh Howey (Wool Omnibus), Kirby Kim from the William Morris Endeavor, Rachel Deahl of Publishers Weekly, and Erin Brown of Erin Edits.

An interesting question popped up during the audience session that focused on the Big Six publishing houses. According to William Hertling—who took impeccable notes that you can read here—the question was, “As a big six publisher, what can we do, within reason, to recruit new authors and keep them happy?”

First, the question itself is interesting. The way it was worded made it seem as though it was from a member of the industry. “What can we do… ”

And furthermore, is it a given that authors are, in fact, unhappy with the big publishing houses? If so, why?


Hugh Howey

Howey, whose self-publishing success story has lately become very well-known within both publishing and literary circles, briefly touched on an answer. And considering his deal with Simon & Schuster, he probably was the best person to respond: Howey famously signed over only the print rights to his book with S&S, and managed to keep the digital rights all for himself.

Howey’s response? Publishers need to start sending out royalty checks monthly—not quarterly or biannually, as the case may be. He also suggested that publishers need to start showing authors their real-time data—the better to see the effects of a particular book’s marketing campaign, for instance.

Howey has talked about this before. In a recent radio interview, he mentioned that in his role as a self-published e-book author, he’s able to see those numbers as often as he wants, simply by hitting the F5 key on his computer’s keyboard.

That’s a service he just can’t get from a traditional publisher. It’s a process that can tell him exactly how well, or how poorly, a certain title is doing. It can tell him how changes in pricing are effecting his sales. Obviously, a book’s publisher is interested in similar data—they’ve invested money in the process, after all. But in the end, who is going to want to see a book succeed more than its own author?