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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The Shell Collector Ebook Cover For Nook copy

The Shell Collector

He ruined her world. Now she's out to destroy his.

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The Shell Collector is now up for pre-order on Audible!

Really excited about the voice acting for this novel. Samara Naeymi absolutely nails Maya Walsh. Give the sample a listen if you like.

And here’s the SoundCloud link as well.

In related news, my short story Glitch was given the audiobook treatment. It’s dynamite, if you ask me. Check it out on SoundCloud. And check out this blog review of the audio edition of Glitch here.

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I am currently somewhere off the coast of Cuba with intermittent internet access, so I’d like to thank Michael for taking over my blog today. Michael’s story is the real story of self-publishing. Yes, the vast majority of self-published works never sell in great numbers — just as the vast majority of queried works never sell a single copy (they never get the chance).

But there is a middle range of self-publishing success that gets almost no press. Michael’s story is one I could have written several years ago to describe what happened to me. I find these stories inspiring. And I understand that success is not a given, that it isn’t easy, that it requires a healthy dose of luck or the benevolent forces of the Great Algorithmic Unknown, but for me it helps to know that you don’t have to be the one in a million to make the hard work worthwhile. And it helps to know that writers with no prior following are still seeing results if they tell great stories.

Now I turn it over to Mr. Banner.



Best-Selling AND Unknown
by M.L. Banner

Nine months ago, I self-published my first book on Amazon. I won’t lie to you; this exercise was purely a flight of fancy for me. I really wasn’t planning a career in writing; only later did I find out I love to write. Then, something remarkable happened, an epochal event that changed everything for me: my book sold really well. Okay, maybe not Hugh-Howey-well, but still pretty darn good: over 2000 the first 30 days and over 6000 in 60 days. Just so there is no confusion, I had no following (maybe 15 people I know personally bought my book), and I had never written anything longer than an article (I’ve written many of these) before this. I certainly never expected to have a #1 bestseller in my two genres. However, I can’t take the credit for this any more than I can attribute it to luck. I know I had to write a good enough book, with a professional cover, a captivating blurb and all that. Yet, there was something else at work here.

Continue Reading →

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They slide through the harbor on a catamaran, this future we. He, at the helm, hair touched blond by the sun and set in a permanent muss of salt spray. She, coiling a line with the practiced ease of a thousand miles.

Paddle boards are strapped along the rails, and towels are clipped out to dry. The sail is lashed to the boom in rough folds, not put away in the neat flakes of the largely unused. No, the sail is rumpled with joy, like clothes tossed to a bedroom floor.

Fenders adorn the side of the hull like ornament beads, promises of a night in port. But the ship will strain against her dock lines, halyards snap against spear-straight spars, a tan-brown beard seen on the bows, brought on by lapping waves.

This is a ship for the sea, a thousand miles left to go, another harbor to slide into — she at the helm this time, he coiling a line with the same care that he braids her hair.

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You may have heard the sky is falling. You may have heard that the self-publishing gold rush is over. There have been a number of forum threads, blogs, and articles about this lately. I’ve been mulling over whether there’s truth to the claims that everything is getting worse for indies. And naturally I have few thoughts:

My first thought is that self-publishing is maturing, which means it’s beginning to share some of the cynicism seen among many traditional writers. There’s a big difference in the subject of this cynicism, however. Forums for authors with traditional publishing aspirations have long been peppered with threads about the query grind, the rejection letters and emails that pile up from agents and publishers, and the desire to quit and give up on the hopes of ever making it as a writer.

For self-published authors, the situation is in some ways better and in some ways worse. It’s better in that their works have made it out to market where they had a chance of being purchased by readers. It’s better in that they probably spent more time writing the next work and less time writing query letters, pitching the last work, or doing endless rewrites according to the whims of some half-interested agent. Continue Reading →

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I recently posted a video describing my new digital reading lifestyle and why what I’ve learned signals a very strong future for digital books. I’m very curious about people’s reading habits, as a book lover, a book seller, and a writer. This week, two other avid readers chimed in. I’m loving these accounts.

The first I’ll share is from Joanna Penn, whose blog is amazing, and who is one of the nicest and smartest people in all of publishing. You should definitely read what she has to say. There’s so much overlap with my habits that it leads me to think that the natural advantages of digital reading are going to continue to win over converts.

The other response I saw was from Rachel Eliason, who dubs herself a “Digital Expat.” Like Joanna, Rachel had the same storage issues many voracious readers experience. Like myself, she enjoys being able to fit her entire library of books inside her purse. Her reading habits and experiences with going digital are super informative.

I hope to see more of these. And it would be great to hear from the people who tried digital but gave it up, or who read print and say they’ll never go digital. My suspicion for a long time has been that the heaviest of readers are the ones who will end up going digital, as cost and physical space are major constraints. Not to mention the instant access to a near-complete list of what’s been published.

This transition may end up looking a lot like the music transition to digital downloads. It took a while for music studios to focus on their digital products ahead of their physical CDs. What changed was the money flow. When most of their profits came from digital, that became their focus. This was driven by customer behavior and new products and online retail spaces. iTunes and the iPod led to the closing of the previously ubiquitous music stores, which changed the focus of music producers. It also helped to partially democratize the music publishing scene.

The same is happening with books. The iPod and iTunes equivalent are the Kindle and Amazon. The effect on the physical product is going to be the same, as will the effects on the publishing industry. I think this transition will be slower, however. And there will be more resistance. For a few reasons: Continue Reading →

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A common refrain in this new age of self-publishing is that there are too many books. The outflow of new material has been likened to all sorts of natural disasters spewing forth and flooding the land. Not only are there too many books, these books are way too cheap! Many of them are even — egads — free. From down here in Florida, one can hear the chant of Glut! Glut! Glut! emanating from the glass canyons of New York City.

Everyone must be referring to Project Gutenberg, right? If you head over to www.gutenberg.org, you’ll find 46,000 free ebooks, ready to download in multiple formats, or readable in your browsers. Check out their top 100 downloads; it includes many of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Half of this list could keep most readers busy for the rest of the year, and no one could hope to read all 46,000 titles in their lifetime. These are free books, arguably many of the best, so no more books need to be written or read, right?

If you followed the logic of the most paranoid and hysterical among the Glut-Chanters, you’d have to reach this conclusion. Bookselling is dead. There are enough fantastic and free books to last us all for the rest of our lives. And yet, book-buying continues to be a $30 billion dollar industry. What gives?

How can people spend $30 billion dollars on books when there are libraries full of books that just sit there, un-checked-out and without waiting lists? How can people spend $30 billion dollars a year on books when I’ve seen piles of free physical books on the streets of New York, abandoned and left for passersby after someone moved out of their apartment? Why are people spending this much money when library overstock sales get rid of hardbacks for a buck and paperbacks cost 50 cents? Literature is being devalued everywhere, and yet it still brings in $30 billion a year? What gives?

Continue Reading →

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The Amazon Fire Phone has been hammered by the media as a colossal failure. There’s at least a story a week about the device’s disappointing launch — and Amazon has been running promotions and fire sales (sorry) for months now. When the phone came out, it was tied to AT&T (which took it out of consideration for me without needing to look at a single feature or review). Since then, the phone has also been sold unlocked for use with any carrier, occasionally for less than most smartphones cost with a carrier’s subsidy (you can get one right now for $449, unlocked. But that price has occasionally dipped below $200).

Amazon took a write-off on its unsold stock of Fire phones last quarter to the tune of $170 million. That’s a lot of money. Or as one commentator pointed out, it’s basically a Hollywood flop for a film studio. Which they suffer all the time. Some are calling this an existential crisis. Others are more cautious with their criticism, remembering the reviews and doubts about the original Kindle. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently said that Amazon would be doubling down on its investment in the Fire phone and iterating until they get it right. And they need to. Pundits who say Amazon is making a mistake to develop a phone don’t seem to understand what’s at stake. Shopping began moving online two decades ago. Now it’s moving mobile.

Online shopping is still a fraction of total consumer shopping, and mobile is a fraction of that fraction, but both are gaining steam and present massive opportunities for whoever gets it right. My money is on Google for the interface and market share of eyeballs. My money is on Amazon for the distribution network and shipping speed. Google needs to solve the latter, and Amazon needs to solve the former.

Amazon already has the best and most popular online shopping interface, but Google is making major strides in that department. Search for a product on Google, and you’ll often find a better price from a non-Amazon vendor (I did recently, and the product is shipping from Italy for less than I could buy it here). The shipping might be slower this way, so it’s a matter of how quickly you need the thing. Google search dominates lives in a way that only Facebook can match. A staggering number of people interface with the internet by starting with Google. They go where Google’s algorithms take them. By offering the Android operating system for free, Google has crushed all competitors for mobile OS market share. So more mobile searches start with a Google search, which is great for Google shopping.

Continue Reading →

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The most important things to understand about the digital transition aren’t going to come from writers, publishers, or pundits. They’re going to come from readers. How are ebooks and digital reading devices affecting their habits, their purchasing decisions, their intake?

I’ve asked hundreds of people over the years. I bug strangers in airports and restaurants to find out what they’re reading, how they do most of their reading, and why. I was curious as an avid reader, then as a bookseller, and now as an author.

So I thought it might be useful to come clean about my reading habits. I’ve made the transition to all-digital reading. That might be hard to admit, but I’ve never been happier as a reader. I read a lot more, and it costs me quite a bit less.

What follows is an incredibly boring video. It’s me talking about my reading habits. But I wish, as an author and book lover, that I had access to hundreds of videos like this. It would help me understand the data on digital adoption, and it would help me plan for the future of publishing.

This is my confession as a digital immigrant.

One of the things I left out that I should have mentioned: Kindle Unlimited gets a lot of press on the writing side, but how does it affect my reading? When I finish a book and get several recommendations from Amazon, if one of those books is in KU (and one often is), I end up reading that book next. All else being equal, the free book wins out. (Not really free, because I pay a monthly subscription, but you know what I mean.) I read a lot of non-fiction, and I’m always surprised at how many quality books from major publishers are in KU. One of my current reads, The Joy of X, was picked up for this reason. It definitely influences my “purchasing” decisions.

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Yeah, I don’t do toy reviews. But you’ve got to try this thing. It was the thing everyone wanted to get their hands on this Christmas. Inexpensive, with hours of entertainment, and just as much fun to watch someone else play with it as it is to get your turn.

Here’s the link to grab one at Amazon. You’ll curse me and thank me.

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Brent crude has dropped below $50 a barrel.

For decades, we’ve heard warnings about “Peak Oil.” This is the idea that production levels of fossil fuels will hit their apex, that we won’t find enough new reserves to meet growing demand, and that the machine of capitalism will implode as it can no longer power itself.

We are certainly seeing the peak of something, but it isn’t oil supply. It’s oil demand.Energy Use

Energy consumption per capita in the US is on the decline (albeit from pretty ridiculous highs). Growth in China is slowing way down—they had a great leap forward, but such growth simply isn’t sustainable. Or even healthy. And supply is expanding with new techniques (mostly fracking and horizontal drilling).

The global recession contributed to the decrease in demand, but it doesn’t account for all of it. Small things like more efficient appliances and the end of the incandescent light bulb have gone a long way to decreasing our energy load, offsetting the explosion in the number of devices and gizmos that now seem necessary for our survival (or at least: entertainment). Continue Reading →

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2014 was a watershed year for the book biz. It was the year self-publishing finally stopped being about the outliers and was recognized by media outlets and the general public as a viable enterprise for thousands of writers. It was the year one major publisher renewed its fight with Amazon over the price of ebooks. And it was the year subscription models exploded onto the scene. A lot to look back on, and not an easy place to see where we go next. But I have a few bad ideas that will most likely be dead wrong. First, a long-winded retrospective.

The Year of AuthorEarnings.com

For me, the year 2014 began with an email from someone who created a software spider that could crawl and aggregate data on hundreds of thousands of Amazon ebooks. The end result of that email was AuthorEarnings.com, which revealed the startling fact that self-published authors were making as much as a cohort every single day as all the Big 5 authors combined. By the end of 2014, quarterly looks at this data showed that self-published authors had overtaken the Big 5 authors.

Not that it was a competition, but it showed that the success of self-publishing was more than a handful of lucky saps like me. The real story of self-publishing (as many of us have been saying for years) is the ability for people with a small and loyal readership to make a career with their craft without being a household name.

I don’t know how much AuthorEarnings.com contributed to this, but 2014 ended up being the year the stigma of self-publishing died. Prior to last January, you had people deriding self-publishing as the last resort of those rejected by agents and publishers. You had indie authors likened to third-rate cattle by some publishing executives. There were calls by other publishing executives to segregate ebooks on retail outlets based on the method of publication. And traditionally published authors not keen on the sudden increase in competition moaned about the flood of content while publishers who priced their digital books higher than their paperbacks agonized over the devaluing of literature.

Much of that dissipated this past year. What had been a sprinkling of anecdotes piled up into real data. Authors like Brenna Aubrey turned down lucrative publishing contracts and out-earned those offers within months of self-publishing. And a steady flow of unknown authors with no publishing history or established following climbed to the top of their categories and had success out of the gate based primarily on the strength of their storytelling. Continue Reading →

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