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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Two forces tug legacy industries from opposite directions these days. On the one side, you have customer demand. On the other side you have a mix of fear and laziness. In-between is where a lot of corporations and industries find themselves. In most cases, the fear and laziness are winning, and it’s left to radical new upstarts to provide what the customers actually want.

The examples are numerous. Look at Tesla, a radical new company that builds all-electric cars and wants to sell them direct to the consumer in order to keep the price down. These cars are sexy, great for the environment, and becoming more and more affordable. What’s the response from the competition? An appeal to the courts to block the skirting of dealership laws. An appeal to an old and wasteful system that means higher prices to the consumer and lined pockets for the middlemen. Check out what the New York Times had to say about these attempts:

Car dealers in New York, New Jersey and several other states are waging legal, legislative and regulatory campaigns to stop Tesla, the fast-growing electric-car company, from selling its vehicles directly to consumers. These moves are little more than attempts to protect an old retail model by limiting consumer choices.

How about Uber and Lyft? Having used these services, and having gotten around dozens of cities by cab, the most amazing shock to me is that taxis weren’t the ones who innovated here. With every potential customer holding a networked computer in the palm of their hand, the increased efficiency made possible by an app that handled dispatching, routing, and payment is a no-brainer. But fear and laziness win out, and now taxis are appealing to the courts to keep a system that is less efficient (which means worse for traffic and worse for the environment) and provides less customer satisfaction.

What does the New York Times have to say about this innovation and Uber’s pricing strategy with UberX?

The key to understanding Uber’s strategy is the concept of “elasticity of demand,” which is how people will react to a lower price. If consumers’ demand is highly elastic, it means that a slightly lower price will lead to people taking a lot more UberX rides.

Price elasticity. Lower prices will result in widespread adoption and greater profits. Interesting.

How about that great disrupter, Netflix? Having put video rental chains out of business and then proving that dropping an entire season of TV all at once can be a good thing, Netflix is now arguing that the classic program of “windowing” is not good for the film industry. Netflix wants to release the sequel to 2000’s smash hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Netflix as well as in theaters, all on the same day. The theaters (which are predominantly three companies) refused. Netflix appealed to the Imax chain, which waived control of their screens to the three companies mentioned above that host their installations. Again, the companies refused. And again, the New York Times had fair coverage of the event, saying:

Theater chains in the United States have rallied against attempts to change the traditional model for releasing films, worried that movie fans might stay at home rather than pay for movie tickets. The theaters now typically play movies for three months without competition.

Netflix, Imax and the Weinstein Company, which is producing “Crouching Tiger,” said that movie fans were asking for new ways to watch films. “Going out to the movies is a very different experience than staying in,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix. “Withholding access only invites piracy.”

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John Pavlovitz is my hero. A Christian pastor and father of two, he recently penned this blog post on what he will do if either or both of his children realizes they are gay. He won’t love them in spite of being gay or because they are gay; he’ll just love them for being awesome people and for being who they are. He understands that being gay is not a choice or a thing to cure. He will pray for them not in order to “fix” them or change them, but in the hopes that they aren’t subjected to abuse just for being themselves.

I can’t sum up his words as lovely as he writes them, so you should just go read his blog post.

What’s heartening is that John has seen an outpouring of support since he blogged about this. It was an incredibly brave thing for him to do; he feared the reaction the post would receive.

I was raised a Christian, but I left the church when I was young. I didn’t believe in God anymore. As I got older, I was drawn back to the teachings of Christ, not because I had faith in his existence (or that of his dad, despite the obvious dual miracles of cocoa and coffee beans), but because I liked to think of Jesus as one of several revolutionaries of his time who tried to change how we see the world and how we treat one another.

I was fortunate to grow up with an openly gay uncle and openly gay friends. It gave me early role models, so I didn’t have to overcome any ingrained bigotry. I don’t take credit for feeling this way; I’m a product of circumstance. Others have a lot more to overcome, a much steeper climb. I think that helps me avoid the feeling that I’m anywhere near a moral pinnacle. I obsess instead over this puzzle: What are the many ways in which future generations will look at my supposedly modern views as abhorrent?

Every age likes to think it is an enlightened one, but if history is any judge, we do plenty today that will be seen as barbaric in just a generation or two. Perhaps it’s eating meat (which I do with quite a bit of guilt. I consider myself a Jeffersonian Vegetarian, which is someone who knows it’s wrong and does it anyway. Which is probably a lot worse than doing something out of pure ignorance). Continue Reading →

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Cool news! In addition to the paperback and digital editions of MISTY, we’re also doing a limited edition hardback. There will be 1,000 copies of these, and all of them will be signed! Should cost an arm and a leg, right? Wrong. $14.99. Exactly what I’d charge if I didn’t scribble all in your book.

The link to pre-order the hardback is here.

There’s also a paperback pre-order page here.

A video of what signing all these inserts looks like (and a Bella cameo) below:

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The main character can’t die at the end of chapter one!! C’mon.

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The timing of this is uncanny. After hearing from Snowflakes United that books are not like razors, and then blogging about how they used to be very much like razors, we have a story in the New York Times today about razors that could just as easily be about the publishing industry.

From the story (which you should go read), in which direct-to-consumer razor start-ups are taking millions of customers away from the multi-national conglomerates:

[the razor companies] are also part of a bigger push among e-commerce companies that see opportunities in selling products as varied as mattresses and eyeglasses, where the established companies are accustomed to plump profit margins.

 

“There’s kind of a game going on, where there’s way too much margin,” said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock, a venture capital firm that is an investor in Dollar Shave Club. “The big guys are overcharging you, while smaller companies like ours can give you the best products in the world for a fraction of the price.”

 

In 2004 Gillette reported a 60 percent gross margin before being bought by Procter & Gamble. Gillette’s blades now often cost $10 to $40, depending on the number of razor cartridges purchased.

 

This is where Michael Dubin, co-founder of Dollar Shave Club, saw opportunity. Mr. Dubin offered a subscription service online, shipping razors for $1 to $9.

 

The company said it expected to generate $60 million in revenue this year, triple its revenue for 2013. One million people receive the company’s products in the mail monthly or every other month through its subscription service.

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Remember fanzines? Dating back over a hundred years, they were the first scalable form of self-publishing. Students with access to moveable type printing presses would delight in composing anthologies of short stories or news tid-bits and running off a hundred copies or so. In the 1920s, writers of science fiction bypassed the limited space in Amazing Stories and produced their own works in the first of many genre fanzines. Other fanzines brought together horror film fans, fringe music scenes, political commentators, and conspiracy theorists. These xeroxed works were the successor to the coffee shop and the precursor to the internet.

After the web gained popularity in the mid-90s, the fanzine moved online. Websites and blogs filled the same function, except now these works were permanent and the potential audience went from hundreds around town to The Residents of Planet Earth. Fanzines were read and then lost, discarded, recycled, forgotten. They had a limited lifespan and a limited audience. They were as disposable as razor blades.

Recently, we’ve seen a group of authors argue that books aren’t like razor blades (an insult to people who make things for a living, but set that aside). But maybe these old-fashioned writers are on to something. Because books were indeed like razor blades just ten years ago. They were printed once, and then they gradually wore away, whether through use, by rot, or the fact that most went out of print. Continue Reading →

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I’m discovering this fantastic book a little late. A creative writing student at Appalachian State told me about Steven Pressfield’s writing book, THE WAR OF ART, years ago, and it’s been on my radar ever since. Finally picked it up before my last road trip and inhaled the thing. The first third of the book is my favorite; it deals with overcoming resistance to getting work done, and it applies to a lot more than just writing. Check it out.

 

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I guess that would make them snowballs?

This group of authors should stick to writing. Where they can edit. And they don’t have to speak live. Especially about things of which they know less than nothing (that’s where what you think you know is gobsmacking-bonkers-wrong). Continue Reading →

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Very cool announcement from Nook Press this week about a partnership with The Bookseller in the UK to highlight 10 new self-published titles a month. The titles will be featured in The Booksellers We Love This Book magazine, and one would assume online at the Nook store as well. Kinda like the editors’ picks you see at other outlets, but only for indies. Targeted emails will be sent out as well, which many authors have found to be the most effective marketing tool.

I can’t imagine anyone scoffing at this, though some will probably look for ways to be cynical. Not me. This is a major development for readers and writers alike. Stigmas are falling; self-publishing is now seen not only as viable but in many ways superior to any other path to publication, especially for authors just getting their start. If your goal is to publish with a major house one day, self-publishing is a great way to find your voice and your audience, to hone your craft, and to prove your mettle. It is no longer a death knell for aspiring writers. That’s a major change in this industry, and it happened fast.

Discoverability, of course, is still the greatest struggle any new writer faces, and this is true of all authors, however they publish. I’ve watched brilliant debut works languish as a bookseller and more recently as a reader and industry observer. But Nook Press and The Bookseller are showing a commitment to coming up with more ways to hook up great books with great readers, to get authors discovered, and to give more writers a chance of breaking out. Which is more of what this industry needs.

Read FutureBook’s take on it here.

And I’ve added it to my The Tankers are Turning post about all the positive developments being made by traditional publishers and outlets.

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Ready for some cardio? Let’s talk exclusivity.

Amazon has long made exclusivity a major part of their publishing campaign. With the introduction of KDP Select in late 2011, Amazon began offering merchandising opportunities to authors who published on Amazon and no where else. This has always been a controversial and unpopular move. The #1 decision many authors face today is not whether to go traditional or self, but whether to go KDP Select or not.

The first advantage KDP Select offered was the 5 “free days” per 90 day Select period. These free days were golden tickets for a while, and many authors’ careers took off by taking advantage of the program. KDP Select also meant inclusion in the Kindle Lending Library, where Amazon Prime members get to select one free ebook per month. Self-published authors have been paid out of a pool of funds, with a historical average of around $2.16 per borrow, while traditionally published ebooks have received the full sales commission for every download. So began the divisions that would cause rancor among self-published authors.

The controversy really lit up with the introduction of Kindle Unlimited. Those in KDP Select (exclusive to Amazon) were automatically included. Reports have been very mixed, but many who aren’t in Select say their sales have gone down as readers enjoy the buffet-style unlimited reading. Those in KDP Select (and by extension in Kindle Unlimited) largely report this as a boom time, with sales and borrows combined more than making up for the earnings lost by pulling out of other outlets. Continue Reading →

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Harper Collins is employing a new watermarking DRM scheme, so they can tell where their pirated e-books are being sourced from. There are so many levels of dumb and brilliant here that it’s impossible to make a judgement, not without knowing the motivations of those involved.

If the idea is to actually stop piracy, the program is dumb as a bag of rocks with chains wrapped around it held fast by a bevy of padlocks. This won’t stop piracy. And it isn’t like piracy is even a concern. The music industry learned this (mostly and eventually). It takes a few clicks to stirp an ebook of its DRM. It’ll probably take an extra click or two to get rid of the watermark. Really, the only way to make a tamper-proof watermark would be to alter the formatting or content slightly for every outlet you upload to.

So how could this program be brilliant? Well, if it’s a scheme by the DRM manufacturer to make millions of dollars by selling snake oil to fearful publishers, it’s ingenious. I would think the engineers behind this are savvy enough to know it won’t stop the piracy, and they are probably savvy enough to know that piracy has almost no effect on ebook sales (in fact, our July AE report suggests that removing DRM might increase ebook sales. Studies in the music industry have shown the same effect And in traditional publishing, Tor has seen no detriment to going DRM-free). Continue Reading →

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I gave a talk at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory last week, and one of the questions that came up during the Q&A was whether I’m a pessimist or an optimist. The second part of the question was if I thought the world I depict in WOOL has any chance of coming to fruition.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard a variant of this question. Often it’s as blunt as: “Why do you write such depressing stories? You seem like such a happy guy!”

I believe there’s a fine balance between begging for a better future and also being thankful for the progress of the past. If you ask me, the world is getting measurably better for the vast majority of people year after year. I think Steven Pinker’s work on this topic covers it best, especially his excellent Better Angels of our Nature. What’s important, in my view, is to pause in our protestations now and then and give homage to the progress others have made, to recognize the change happening around us before we dust ourselves off and demand one more concession.

This is true of social, ethical, and political progress. But it applies to less important things as well, like book publishing. Continue Reading →

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