How Much Attention Should Writers Pay to Hugh Howey?
February 17, 2014 | 12:07 pm
By Joanna Cabot
Hugh Howey’s report on Amazon author earnings is all the rage, and I have avoided comment on it until now because the coverage of it was just so pervasive that I didn’t feel like I had much to add. And then I must have seen one story too many on it. And now, I am fed up.
Here is the thing: I like Hugh Howey, the author. I think he writes decent books. I enjoy reading them. Now that he has proven himself to me, the reader, I will probably at least download a sample and check out his future releases. So, with that said, I don’t care all that much about Hugh Howey the businessman. I don’t know how he runs his affairs. I don’t much care.
But, I am not a professional fiction writer, so I don’t need to care. But if YOU are such a writer, should you care?
Maybe. But, I think, not as much as you might suppose you should care. Let me explain. There are two parts of Howey, the businessman, to look at here. Firstly, there is the part he is showing the world right now: the analyst who is attempting to decode the ‘industry.’ I don’t think you should care much about this part. Why not?
Well, how much somebody else makes should be a lot less important to you than how much YOU make. If you really want to ‘study’ Hugh Howey, study instead the Howey who sells books. WHY does he sell them? How does he market himself? How did he build his audience? That’s a lot more useful data, to my mind, than how much somebody else makes.
I think many aspiring professionals spend far too much time navel gazing and far too little time actually improving their craft and getting themselves out there. I see it in my own business too. I have an aunt who is retiring her part-time tutoring business and offered to show me her setup and send me some clients. I was overwhelmed by how much stuff she had: books, supplies, plans, outlines and so on. She snapped me out of that right away and told me all I needed was a desk, a flier and a receipt book. The rest would come later. She saw that someone like me could spend months writing plans and outlines and never actually get underway.
You want to sell the way Hugh Howey sells? Or Konrath? Or any other big indie success? Spend less time looking at sales data for other people and more time working on your own stuff so it’s THAT good. Then you’ll find your audience, the same way Howey did.
With all due respect to Mr. Howey—he seems like a nice guy and I know he has commented here before—I caution other authors not to fall down that rabbit hole. If your book isn’t good enough, all the analytics in the world won’t make you a best-seller.