Howey launches Author Earnings analysis site

Howey launches Author Earnings analysis site

Author Hugh Howey has launched a genre e-book sales analysis venture, Author Earnings.

The project’s stated goal is “to gather and share information so that writers can make informed decisions”, with Howey calling for “better pay and fairer terms in all contracts.”

The Author Earnings site offers an extensive interpretation of sales-ranking data from some 7,000 top-selling genre digital titles on Amazon.

Based on e-books in the major genres of mystery/thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and romance, the report asserts that “indie authors are outselling the Big Five”; that “indie authors are earning nearly half the total author revenue” in those genres on Amazon; and that Amazon “is currently making nearly as much profit from indie e-books as from Big Five e-books.”

Howey told The Bookseller the biggest surprise for him in this first round of sale-rankings analysis is: “the percentage of sales that are e-book. I would have guessed 60% and thought I was dreaming. Across the entire storefront, Amazon is probably doing 90% of its sales in digital.”

The precise nature of the analysis is still unclear. The estimates are being processed by an unnamed co-author who, according to Howey, offered the expertise to run analytical code on large numbers of Amazon sales rankings.

As Howey described it in his report, “This programme…is able to do in a day what would take hundreds of volunteers with web browsers and pencils a week to accomplish.”

An upcoming report, he says, will look at 50,000 titles “across all genres.” In the interest of transparency, the report also offers an Excel spreadsheet with base data and graphics.

The Author Earnings site includes not only the initial report on these sales-ranking analyses in three major genres but also a short survey for users to take and a petition in which users are asked to rank their interest in various calls for action. The statements for which users signal their levels of support on the petition include: “Authors deserve, at minimum, 50% of net sales on e-books”; “All publishing contracts should be for a limited term of license (5 to 10 years)”; “DRM should be abolished for all e-books”; and a call for “Complete abolishment of non-compete clauses” in author contracts.

Howey told The Bookseller that in mounting the petition effort, “We want publishers to work with us. Believe it or not, we can help them sell books. We know a thing or two about publishing, and we are invested in our art. Let us help.”

These sentiments echoed the rationale he gave last week for signing a new contract with Random House UK Century for both print and digital rights on his latest novel, Sand. In his experience with RH UK on his Wool trilogy, he said, he’d been well-treated as a partner.

The biggest objection Howey said he anticipates to his presentation of sales-ranking interpretation is “the fact that we’re looking at Amazon to glimpse the bigger picture. Publishers want to be in control, which means looking at their data and concentrating on BookScan and the like. The recording industry went through the same growing pains. They didn’t want to look at individual song sales or weight online streaming appropriately.

“[Publishers] don’t want to look like the RIAA,” the Recording Industry Association of America, Howey said, “but that’s where they’re headed.”