12th April 2013
I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Tipping Point," which basically says that there is a critical mass for every cultural movement, and it might not be as large as you think. It doesn't need everyone, just enough people intouch with a general wave riding a smaller one. Imagine the faith that the Xerox company had to have in the general growth of communications to invest in fax machines? It wasn't going to work for the first person who bought one, or even really the tenth, but by the time there were a thousand fax machines out there, the tsunami rolled in. Now we don't even remember how we sent documents before fax machines.
With this in mind, I have been following with great interest a book deal that sci-fi writer Hugh Howey just struck with my own publishing company Simon & Shuster. (Hey, was he the reason my book got bumped to March of next year?) Howey was essentially a self-published author with a presence on amazon, quietly posting his books until one called "Wool" (my editor would NEVER have let me keep that name!) began to take off, and publishers started knocking on his door. They wanted to buy the rights to Wool. All the rights, including e-book rights. But savvy man that he is, he just closed the door and waited. By then he was earning $150,000 a month from Wool, so he was sitting pretty.
And then Simon&Shuster knocked. They said they would settle for just print rights. Howey opened the door. Wide. They paid him seven figures, which even to my unmathematical brain says he got over a million dollars for print rights.
Now, here I am sitting not so pretty in my two year wait for publication thinking to myself that maybe I should have had more nerve. I suppose the difference is that Howey had a book that was already doing well. I don't have that, so I have no bargaining chips. But now that I know Simon&Shuster is a forward thinking publisher, next time, I might draw things up differently. Next time, they have first right of refusal. But I have so many novels languishing in my computer, perhaps I should start tossing them out there, seeing if any might fly by themselves. Maybe I should run this by my agent. Even Hugh Howey has an agent (if you want to meet the Wizard, it's best you take Dorothy along with you.)
Hugh Howey has coined the term "hybrid authors," by which he means authors like himself with a little self-publishing here and a little traditional publishing there. He thinks this is the future for authors, and I think he might be right. I think the balance that has swung out of favour with writers will redress itself so that they can make a fair profit for their trials and tribulations. There has to be something wrong in a culture where even a published author can't quit his or her day job, while an actor earns enough in one six-week shoot to set himself/herself (theirself - we need a revolution here, too) for life.
Hugh Howey found the way to do that. Another author, Colleen Hoover, has done the same. So, what are we waiting for? Let's get tipping.