One of the greatest tools used by those who would disparage Indie publishing is the “outlier” myth.
The outlier myth (OM) goes like this:
When discussing the merits of Indie publishing, you are not allowed to mention any successful Indie published authors. Why? Because anyone who is successful is an outlier and therefore cannot be counted. It sounds crazy, but that is the argument.
The OM argument hit its stride with the outlandish success of Indie author Hugh Howey. Hugh, who spent years and years as a moderately successful mainstream pubbed guy, and a moderately successful Indie, broke into the limelight a few years ago when WOOL went nuclear and topped all the bestseller lists. WOOL has now sold over a million copies. And despite all the knowledge and wisdom Hugh has gained about both mainstream and Indie publishing, if you engage in any discussion about Indie and you bring up Hugh’s name, you will likely be shouted down by authors who want to discount Hugh’s hard work and brilliant branding by the very simple epithet: Hugh Howey is an Outlier.
Mention Joe Konrath? NO. Outlier.
Mention AG Riddle, Matthew Mather, or any other success story? NO. Outliers.
Then it devolved from there. Even if Hugh went on interviews and, for the sake of discussion, agreed to their flawed premise and said, “Ok, let me tell you about the hundreds of Indies who you’ve never heard of who are making a living at Self-publishing.”
NOPE. Outliers all.
What is the definition of an “outlier?” Anyone who is successful. So how can you talk about the success stories of self-publishing without being allowed to mention any success stories?
Does the OM argument apply the same standard to mainstream publishing? NO. Even though 98% of authors who attempt to mainstream pub never get out of the slushpile. Even though, by definition, every author who actually gets a book published through mainstream pub is an outlier.
You can’t even utilize the term “unknown” to discuss even moderate Indie success. After my 3 lines of an interview appeared in a recent NPR piece on unknown Indies making a living at their craft, some people thought the word “unknown” better be absolute, and if anyone ever, ever in the history of the world, has ever heard of the unknown author, then they are not qualified to be a representative of authors making a living with Indie publishing:
Do you see the problem? There are basically two kinds of people who are using this outlier myth to silence the growing evidence that a large number of authors – more and more every day – are making real money Indie publishing their titles. Usually it is either a mainstream author who is disturbed that the gatekeepers are being bypassed, or it is an unhappy Indie who feels better about their own lack of success by emphasizing the idea that the only people who make it are just “lucky.”
By dismissing the very people whose success can give us all data, wisdom, or advice on what works and what does not work, the corrupted and broken system that successfully silenced MILLIONS of talented authors over the past centuries continues to dominate the discussion. Who wouldn’t want to engage in a discussion where by the use of a circular logic fallacy anyone who disagrees is silenced?
But here is a fact for you: More and more authors every day are making very real, spendable income by self-publishing their own works. This doesn’t mean that there is no place for or value in mainstream publishing. This fact is not an attempt to say that the only right route to publication is self-pubbing. I think every writer needs to make their own decisions about how they want to publish. I’d just like to see the discussion handled fairly and not with rhetorical tricks or blanket dismissals of the plain facts.
Not only are more and more authors every day making money self-publishing, there is a lot of data to indicate that they are making more money than traditionally pubbed authors by doing it. That IS taking into account author advances – which are only advances against sales. That IS taking into account all authors who publish in whatever venue they choose to publish. We’ll include unsuccessful authors who self-pub if we also include unsuccessful authors who mainstream pub who never make it out of the slushpile. No more double standards on who gets included in the discussion.
Not every Indie makes enough money to survive on their author income alone… some make nothing, some make enough to buy a new laptop, some perhaps make enough to take their families out to eat once a month. Some have an easier time paying the bills at the end of the month when the royalty payments hit their account. Some make less, and some make a whole lot more. But when you blanket disqualify anyone who fits the qualifications they themselves use to mean “success”, then it is easier to dismiss the whole phenomenon that is taking place right in front of everyone.
I’m not a well-known author. Not by any stretch of the imagination. By any definition that makes sense, outside of a very small group of Indies, I am unknown. I am a grinder, and I write awesome books and people buy them. And the people who do buy them overwhelmingly love them, and tell their friends about them, and buy more of my titles.
I am not an outlier. I am an author.