Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sex, Money, and Angst Behind Hugh Howey’s Graphs and Data Spiders

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Okay, the writerly world has been topsy-flippin'-turvy over Hugh Howey and his analysis of the sales, customer satisfactions, and general informations (plural) taken from Amazon's database. Mostly, it concerns the Indie pub revolution and all the different kinds of authors out there. You can google it. I’ll wait. You’ve read it now, right? Well, most of the graphs I don’t understand, so I skip them and read Howey’s thoughts. I’m more of a word person than a graph person. But basically, Indie authors are doing better and taking more market share than ever before.
It’s a lot to take in. I wish I were better at graphs because I like graphs, I really do. So I decided that in my blog post this month on PPW, that I will break down the economic picture and give you graphs that I do understand.
Are you ready? Okay, this is going to get technical very fast.

Mr. Howey has an anonymous data collector which he refers to as his data spider.  I don’t have a data spider collecting the data for my analysis.  I have data aphids. They don’t spin webs, but they do flit about and live very short lives. Like my attention span.
Okay, let’s get to it.

This first graph is an easy one. It shows which kind of writers get published, and I lump both traditionally and independently published together.

I know. The graph is startling. Writers who don’t write have published 0 books. 100% of the books written are written by writers who write. I was shocked. I asked the data aphids to check the statistics again, but most of them died before they could.
Let’s look at the money and sex behind the numbers. I mean, most people are obsessed with either sex or money, finances or romances.  That’s what drives most people.  We’ll do money first, then sex.

Now, you can’t just have one graph about money, you have to have two. So here’s the next one, which is a pie graph, but that’s because I like pie:

The graphs above aren’t a big surprise.  I want a whole mess of money for writing books, really, more money that can fit on this grid.  But a hundred million dollars is about right, just so I can be comfortable. Then there is the money that others are making, like J.A. Konrath, Hugh Howey, Stephen King, those kinds of people. Not sure they are making 200 million dollars, and I was going to check with my aphids, but I couldn't catch them. Anyway, the important thing is how much money I'm making. Rats! My slice of pie isn’t even a point on the Weight Watchers system! Not even on the new Points Plus system! It’s slim.
Okay, that’s the money part. What about the romance part?

As far as I can tell, I’ve split the market after my big haircut. Some women think I look younger and sexier and some pine for my lovely locks now long gone. Only a few women want me for the books I write, but then there’s my wife, who loves and adores me. I won’t do a graph on the fact that my wife is often frustrated with me and doesn't always adore me, but you get the picture.
I’ve been writing, I’ve made some money, and I have met women who wanted me, and I’ve had some successes to be sure. But I’m not where I want to be, as the next graph explains.

I’ve written sixteen manuscripts. I’ve published two. But there are a ton of other books I want to write and publish, so I’ve not even scratched the surface.
Now, what are my options for the hundred or so books I still want to write? Well, I have a graph for that.

So my options are split. I can Indie Pub, I can go with a small press, I can go for the traditional book contract, or I can sell my soul to the devil in return for a lifetime of success and awards and an eternity of burning in hell. Hey, it’s an option. I’ve read my Goethe.
Let me be clear. This graph is controversial. I don’t mean to say that I only have to choose between one of these four options, no, as Catherine Ryan Hyde’s agent Laura Rennert pointed out in a recent blog post, we live in a time where authors can decide, book by book, what they want to do. One book I might Indie Pub (I have one of those in the works), one book I want to get out into the world through a small press (I have a bunch of those), and I have a book that might appeal to the mass market, which in turn would appeal to the big publishing houses (I have one of those). Lastly, writing any book in a sense is a Faustian deal, but we’ll talk about that in the next graph. It’s all about the benefits of writing books and getting them published:

Yes, the best benefit of publishing books is that real readers are reading my work. Real readers.  Real people. Some like it. Some don’t. Some are touched by it. Some aren’t. Some cry and write me letters and get really excited because I moved them with my story.
It’s real. It’s not a fantasy. It’s real. Yes, it’s not perfect, it’s not what I had in mind when I started out, it’s gritty, imperfect, flawed, but it’s real.
And getting to be an author? I get to do all these hard, terrifying, soul-breaking things that bring me joy, meaning, and a rich, full life. It’s a hard life, but a good one. Not for sissies, definitely. Writing and publishing books is not for sissies.

Let’s do one final graph, and this is an important one. It’s as important as the first graph in this little blog post:

Yes, that’s right. If you get your book published, either traditionally, through a small press, or independently, you will have more readers. Some people will read your unpublished book, but not many. Not many.
In summary, since if you have graphs, you have to have a summary. I write books, I publish books, by any means necessary, and what I want is a lot of stupid, selfish desire, a lot of fantasies that have nothing to do with reality. I’m at my best as a writer, as an author, as a human frickin’ being when I let go of all the bullshit I think I want, and just do the next, right thing that will benefit the world. Writing books benefits the world, whether I get the huge contract including Learjet, or if I Indie Pub and become famous, or if I Indie Pub and three people read my book.  It benefits the world. And remember that first graph? If you don’t write books, you will not get published, not by anyone.
My aphids are all dead, so I’ll end here.
Writers write. Authors get published. Some make money. Others don’t. But every book adds to the world. The end and amen.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey grew up as a garbage can for stories including way too much Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was published by Crescent Moon Press in 2012.  More recently, he has two new stories in the second and third issue of a new magazine, Fictionvale. Aaron’s next novel is a happy, little suicide book for young adults and anyone just this side of hopeless.  Long Live the Suicide King is available now!  Aaron lives in Colorado with his moviestar wife and two rockstar daughters.


  1. Data aphids are great! Since they're parthenogenetic, their live-birth daughters carry on with data manipulation for you. Very clever of you to use clones like that. Well done sir, I tip my hat to you.

  2. OMG! You are so freakin' fabulous. I loved this. And thank you for the very first chart. It's a great reminder that that's the only way I'll stay published. :) lol.
    And I think your hawt!!! with both hairstyles. :) It's the man beneath the hair and you're A-Prime baby! :) Hugs!!

  3. This totally made my day! HUGS honey! Please give your lovely wife a hug for me, too.

  4. For anyone interested in further reading, here is the link to Hugh Howey's articles.
    KJ Scrim

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Aw shucks, you guys are great. This is me, blushing!

  7. I vote for Learjets, growing your hair back, selling your soul, and eventually replacing aphids with flying monkeys. Or, just keep doing what you're doing and writing your passion because you had me at THE NEVER PRAYER and sealed the deal with your latest, LONG LIVE THE SUICIDE KING.

  8. Oh, and Aaronious, parthenogenetic, bazinga. Best. Word. Ever.

  9. Did the NSA give you permission to access my graphs? However, I love what you've done with them.

  10. Perfect. Just... perfect. Merci, AMR!


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