Despite a year at SXSW Interactive that seems to have both a big spurt in attendance and fewer book publishing focused panels, there were still some useful discussions of the evolution of publishing in the digital era and its financial underpinnings. PW senior news editor Rachel Deahl moderated a lively discussion of the issues around self-publishing—from pricing to readers to misconceptions—while once again the New York Time’s David Carr managed to make some sense of monetization, online content and the future of getting paid.
Called Self-Publishing in the Age of E, Deahl’s panel featured bestselling self (and now conventionally) published novelist Hugh Howey, author of the bestselling sci-fi series Wool, Erin Brown, a former St. Martin’s and HarperCollins editor and now an Austin based freelance editor, and literary agent Kirby Kim of William Morris Endeavor. It didn’t take long to get to core issues around self-publishing: quality, the seemingly ever-growing sales of e-books and the role of conventional publishers at time when many authors have grasped that they have other options—and sometimes more lucrative options.
Originally published by small press, Howey quickly decided to go the self-publishing route generating an enormous word of mouth following that turned his books into e-book bestsellers on Amazon. Indeed Howey said at one point he was generating $30,000 to $40,000 a month in sales and selling hundreds of thousands of e-books. His mantra is “build your audience and the editors and agents will come.” Responding to Deahl’s question about pricing Howey didn’t hesitate: “Free is the best price,” he said, “but Amazon wouldn’t let me give them away, so I priced them at 99 cents.” In fact, he acknowledged that his book are “underpriced,” but “its all about building an audience.”
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