About the Author

img-hugh Hugh Howey is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series.
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Howey_SAND_OMNIBUS_EbookEdition 100

Sand

A novel of desolation and of family, of lawless lands that the gods have turned their backs on. Not a part of the WOOL series.

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Traditional Publishing is no Longer Fair or Sustainable. This was the sad but accurate headline in The Guardian this week. It followed a report on author income from the ALCS, the results of which led Nicola Solomon, head of the UK’s Society of Authors to declare:

Authors need fair remuneration if they are to keep writing and producing quality work. Publisher profits are holding up and, broadly, so are total book sales if you include ebooks, but authors are receiving less per book and less overall due mainly to the fact that they are only paid a small percentage of publishers’ net receipts on ebooks and because large advances have gone except for a handful of celebrity authors.

Publishers are doing less for what they get. There are still important things they do – a traditional publisher can edit, copy edit, design, market, promote, make your book better, deal with foreign sales. With ebooks, though, publishers’ costs are less, so authors should get a better share. They do not have to produce, distribute or warehouse physical copies. Even on traditional books, publishers’ production costs have gone down but authors have not benefited from these costs savings. And, increasingly authors are being asked to do a lot of marketing and promotion themselves.

These true words come right on the heels of The Daily Mail’s piece about Hillary Clinton’s latest book. The memoir has sold well by most measures, moving 161,000 copies in the first three weeks and 86,000 in week one, but the book has dropped in the charts, and it appears Simon & Schuster will take a loss due to the $14,000,000 advance paid to Hillary.

Forteen million dollars.

By publishing math, this advance was warranted. Her previous book sold well enough for the bean counters at S&S to come up with what seemed necessary to both retain Hillary and turn a profit. But this methodology flies in the face of recent rhetoric about the role publishers play in the protection of literature and the nurturing of “the writing life.”

With that sum of money, you could pay 500 writers $28,000 to enjoy a full year of the writing life. Or you could pay 250 writers $56,000 if they don’t understand how to squeak by as a starving artist. Not only that, Hillary Clinton doesn’t need another penny for as long as she lives. She didn’t need to be supported while she wrote the book. So how exactly are publishers the patrons of the literary arts? Nicola Soloman nails the problem with the current blockbuster model of entertainment: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We shovel money at the outliers and drop everyone else. Continue Reading →

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I sometimes get stuck while writing a story or a novel, and it feels like writer’s block. But what’s really happening is that I’ve moved the story in the wrong direction, and some part of my brain is aware of this.

It’s spooky to admit that the conscious portion of our brain isn’t aware of what’s happening elsewhere in our noggins, but some really freaky experiments back this up. This is why, when the writing is going well, it feels more like reading or discovery than it does writing or creation. It feels as though the story could go no other way than the way we’re writing it. Like it existed before us.

When we get stuck, one way to “find” the right path for the story is to try a few paths. And if they don’t feel right, try something else. Set the last few chapters aside (paste them into a blank document). Resume writing from the last place you felt engaged with the story. Try something else this time.

Ever had the feeling you were forgetting something as you left the house? You walk around, wracking your brain, trying to figure out what it is. Exhausting every option, you decide your intuition is wrong. It isn’t until you’re half an hour away from the house that the missing thing percolates up to the conscious level. This is writing. You know what happens next. The challenge is remembering.

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I’m going to tell you about an awesome club. And you can’t join. But that’s okay: You can start your own.

The club is a small publisher called Exciting Press. They call themselves a “nano press,” even smaller than a micro press. I highly recommend reading their FAQs. Maybe I’m a geek, but reading this gave me goosebumps. Especially the part where they say you don’t need a publisher these days. That honest admission says so much.

Exciting Press pays 70% net on e-book sales. And they only license your work for seven years. SEVEN YEARS! After that, they stop selling your work and give you your rights back. Unless you want to renew or renegotiate. It’s up to you. You own the rights.

Before you rush off with your manuscript, Exciting Press is closed to submissions right now. It’s the model I’m excited about.

Now, for those of you who self-publish, you might wonder what the point is. Why not get 70% of gross on your own? The way I see it is this: Nano presses are a way for the reluctant and wary to learn how self-publishing works. And with these royalty rates and limited terms of license, there practically no risk. A nano press becomes an agenting/editing service but with a 30% fee instead of a 15% fee. My agent has taken over many publishing duties for her clients. And I’ve met companies at publishing conferences that are setting up boutique publishing houses that blend these ideas.

Continue Reading →

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When Amazon first spoke up about the stalled negotiations with Hachette, they proposed an author pool to support Hachette’s authors to be funded by both companies. Hachette refused.

According to a story breaking now, it appears Amazon has sweetened the deal by suggesting that Amazon and Hachette both forego all profits of any Hachette ebooks sold and allow that money to go directly to the author. 100% of it.

As a reader, I love this idea. Let my money go to the artists and come out of your pockets while the two of you duke it out.

It also sounds as if Hachette has been slow to negotiate at all. If all of this is true, it backs up everything we saw the last go around with Macmillan: Amazon getting the blame while publishers refuse to negotiate or use dirty tactics while hiding behind the outrage of their authors.

I really hope Hachette accepts this latest offer. If you want to encourage them to do so, sign our petition to Hachette, which asks them to stop fighting for low wages for authors and high prices for readers. Nearly 7,000 people have already signed.

C’mon, Hachette, do the right thing.

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The ALCS just released a survey on authors’ earnings, and the news is bleak. The ALCS surveyed 2,454 participants, some of whom considered themselves professional writers. The number of these professional writers who make a full-time wage from their craft has dropped from 40% to 11.5%.

The survey looks at various types of writers (adult fiction, adult visual, academic, etc.), and it would be interesting to tease these apart to see which industries are being hit the hardest. One imagines any periodical writers who participated had bad news to share. One area of growth mentioned is digital income. In 2007 the same survey showed almost no income from digital. It’s now the third largest source of income.

The ALCS also mentions self-publishing. They say (emphasis mine):

Self-publishing is becoming an increasingly successful venture for writers. Just over 25% of writers have self-published a work, with a typical return on their investment of 40%. Unsurprisingly, 86% of those who had self-published said they would do so again.”

This is pretty amazing news. Too bad most people won’t get the news. Instead of reading the report, they’ll probably read a paper or blog that parses it. The Guardian also covered the ALCS report. They had this to say:

Self-publishing also comes under fire, he said – but this is “even less of a way of earning money from your writing if you’re any good than conventional publishing”.

This makes it sound like the ALCS report criticized self-publishing, when it did just the opposite. Instead of quoting the report (which the story is about), The Guardian quoted a random author expressing his unfounded opinion, an opinion that contradicts the very report in question. In fact, they quoted an author who distinguishes conventional publishing from self-publishing as the route better taken by those who are “any good.” Continue Reading →

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This broke a while ago, but while looking for the link to this story to share with a media outlet, I saw how far down the search results it was with one set of keywords and how difficult it was to find in general. If you want to help spread awareness of what Hachette’s goal is in its negotiations with Amazon, please link to this Passive Voice story on your own blogs. Or link to the original in social media:

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/06/2014/lagarderes-investor-presentation/

Not many people are considering the idea that Hachette could be the side offering unreasonable terms to Amazon or negotiating in bad faith. And I saw almost no coverage of the Perseus acquisition as being harmful to competition in the book trade. Hachette gobbled up the largest remaining independent trade publisher and peeled off their distribution business to Ingram while folding the publishing side into what will undoubtedly become more Imprint Soup.

The truly amazing thing? The NYT (of which I’m a 7-day home subscriber and massive fan) covered the acquisition of Perseus from the angle of Amazon being the bad guy. No, really. Even though Hachette is quoted as saying the acquisition and negotiations are unrelated (their slides to investors suggest otherwise). Meanwhile, agents now have one fewer place to submit their manuscripts.

If, after seeing these slides, you want to petition Hachette to stop fighting for higher e-book prices and lower wages for authors, click here.

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A little background, because my writing career owes much to Douglas. When I completed my first novel, I sent it out to some authors whom I greatly admired. Douglas was one of them. He was also one of the two or three to generously give this debuting nobody some of his time. He read the first Molly Fyde book, and wrote a blurb that blew me away. Mostly because it said enough to let me know there was an 80% chance he read the thing.

It was my first big break, and it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. I’ve always felt as though my writing career has been intertwined with his, but in the way a small thread wraps around a much thicker rope. (Not calling Douglas fat! He’s quite svelte. Just saying my career warps to his more than his to mine [obviously]) Continue Reading →

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SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) is drawing heat in some quarters for endorsing Hachette’s side in the ongoing negotiations with Amazon. The move was made unilaterally and without the consultation of its members (of which I am one). Author Don Sakers posted on his blog that SFWA does not represent him, and I add my voice to Don’s.

On the website ThePassiveVoice, commenters bring up trade and labor disputes and organizations, and I think these and class warfare comments I’ve seen elsewhere are spot-on. Trade fiction and narrative nonfiction authors do not have any meaningful representation. There is no group busting balls on behalf of writers, and there are a lot of balls out there to be busted. Amazon, the Big 5, B&N, Apple, Google … no one is fighting these people for better terms and pay. The Writers’ Guild seems to exist to fight Amazon and stands for the rights of bookstores and major publishers.

I’d say the closest thing we have to a trade rep is Passive Guy himself (not sure what he would say to hear this. Maybe he’d want to slap me). His blog, his advocacy, his smarts, his law degree and decades of experience with contracts, his familiarity with self-publishing (not just from being part of a household that does it, but from his blog, which is like a reading room at a law firm, cardboard boxes everywhere), and last (and in someways certainly least) his admirable and immortalized role as the lone and oft-interrupted voice on That Panel.

The Passive Guy’s blog, forums like KBoards, all the private FB groups, all the writers’ blogs, and all the interconnected readers and writers via social media have reached a tipping point, I believe. When a third of all bestselling ebooks on the largest platform are self-published, that signals a groundswell of support over content. Threaten that content . . . and watch out. Hachette’s supporters seem to be threatening that content. Continue Reading →

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We have a choice. We can choose to assume the worst in people, or we can choose to assume the best in people.

If we assume the worst in people, maybe we’ll be right most of the time. But when we’re wrong, we’ll devastate someone.

If we assume the best in people, maybe we’ll be right some of the time. And when we’re wrong, the worst outcome is that we’ll be naive.

Assuming the worst in people is a lot like capital punishment. It’s the belief that the damage caused by a few mistakes is worth the calculated good of hammering the rest.

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The Confederates are setting up camp here on the 4th of July.

No, really. I’m spending time with my mom in the mountains of North Carolina, and the annual Christmas in July celebration is kicking off in West Jefferson, within view of her front porch. Tents are going up everywhere to sell food and crafts. And in the field behind the library, a group of reenactors are firing off cannons and waving rebel flags. On the 4th of July.

This surreal juxtaposition is a reminder that wars within borders are considered “civil wars” if the rebels lose and “revolutionary wars” if they win.

From a distance, it’s hard to imagine (and of course impossible to remember) that not every colonial resident desired independence from British rule. It wasn’t Americans who fought for their freedom, it was British subjects. They became Americans only through victory (much to the chagrin of the peoples already settled here).

Today, a different sort of war is being waged: a war of ideas and ideals. On one side, you have people who think not everyone should be published and that readers need help knowing what to read. This group also thinks that the book is the thing, not the story. Confabulating their love of the written word with the vessel they are accustomed to receiving it in, any change in how stories are delivered is seen as a threat to their cherished way of life. Continue Reading →

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An extremely pro-traditional publishing friend of mine just pointed out, after conceding many of my points on the new publishing landscape, that there is no “universal answer” on how to publish.

This is the last redoubt of those who do not want to admit that self-publishing is a superior option for the vast majority of writers. It’s an appeal for equivalence, which should be victory enough. I mean, who would have thought that anyone entrenched in the publishing industry would ever fall back to: “Hey, traditional publishing is still at least as good as self-publishing.

But I’m not happy with an appeal to equivalence. When someone says “there is no universal answer” what they really mean is “there are always exceptions to every rule.” Which I’ll grant. Out of all the authors who debut this year, one or two of them will hit it big. They’ll look like geniuses for going with a publisher. And nobody will ever care about or mention the authors who didn’t make it.

Bestselling author Val McDermid admitted this today in this amazing story in The Telegraph. Val broke out with her fourth novel, and she knows that no publisher would have given her room to grow these days. She would have been dropped like a steaming hot potato. Literary agent Jonny Geller (joint CEO of Curtis Brown) was on the same panel with Val and agreed. Continue Reading →

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