Today, Hugh Howey, author of the best-selling WOOL series, conducted a Facebook Q&A. Tempted, of course, to ask Hugh “if he were a tree what kind of tree he would be,” I instead decided to pose a publishing question. In the Continuing Education class I teach at Hofstra University, we discuss the various paths authors have available to them, and I asked Hugh what, in his view, publishers were able to offer authors these days that they could not attain by self-publishing? Here’s what he said:

A few things:

1) Better print distribution.
2) A seal of approval (good for asking for professional reviews, interviews, blog mentions, etc.).
3) A team to offload the business stuff.

The question is whether or not what you give up is worth these advantages. Countering each, I would say:

1) You only get 3-6 months in a bookstore, and more and more books are being bought online these days.
2) I’m not sure if these mentions drive enough sales to warrant losing ownership of your art. You are better off writing than worrying about blog mentions and reviews. They follow sales rather than drive them.
3) Hiring your own team, each member based on merit and able to be replaced if need be, might be better than having people you don’t know assigned to work on your book, and only for a very brief time.

Every author has to sort out the pros and cons for themselves.

I totally agree. Frankly, if I had to point to one author today who is successfully “hybrid-ing,” as they say, between traditional publishing and self-publishing, it would be Howey. If you have a moment, check out the piece he penned earlier this year for Huffington Post titled, How WOOL Got a Unique Publishing Deal. It’s a fascinating read, and I think you’ll agree that what separates Howey from the crowd is not just his willingness to embrace new technologies and self-publishing, in particular, but his confidence and staunch belief in his craft and his abilities that allowed him to say no to a deal that wasn’t right — or, as he calls it, “an offer I can refuse.”