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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In the past, I have advocated for fewer imprints. Allow me to reverse course as I suggest a new imprint idea that should be added at every major publisher. Call it Resurrection or Second Chance or Renewal. The idea is simple: Publishers are sitting on piles of quality material that they paid good money for. Some of those investments didn’t pay off. But it may not have been the fault of the text. Give that piece a second chance.

Self-published authors do this all the time (though probably not as often as they should). If a digital book isn’t selling well, there’s minimal cost and zero risk in repackaging the work and giving it a second go. Every editor has a list of books a mile long that they truly believed in, loved to death, but didn’t quite make a splash. Too often, this is blamed on the book or on consumers. Nearly as often, it is the wrong cover art, the wrong metadata, the wrong blurb, the wrong title, or simply the wrong time.

For the cost of cover art and an upload, a piece of valuable property can be brought out of the vault and sent out to customers. I imagine a spirited meeting once a month over coffee and scones, where editors can make their case for a book at least two years old that didn’t sell as expected. Perhaps they would want to look primarily at books for which they paid large advances, as the earnings are already in the red (so more of what is made would be kept in-house). These are probably the books they cared dearly about when they first saw them. Another $5,000 for a digital-only release is a drop in the bucket. Continue Reading →

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Today is the first day of the Fair, but we kicked it off yesterday at the Digital Minds conference. Best panel of my life was sitting at a table, gabbing with Bella Andre and Joanna Penn. Learned so much from the both of them. Wish I had the entire conversation recorded so I could go back to it over and over.

Dinner last night was also a highlight. Forced to give a toast, I said what was on my mind right then, which is that writing can be a solitary endeavor, that conferences are best for meeting colleagues, seeing old friends, and getting energized until we meet again. What followed was a three hour gab-fest that again, I wish I could revisit over and over.

Right now, I’m in the lobby of the hotel, gathering my things and our group, and about to head over to our booth. If you’re in the area, we’re at T730, right by the Kobo, Nook, and Kindle booths. Follow the sounds of laughter.

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Sunday is Sanday, it seems. SAND is Amazon’s Daily Deal today, which means they’re practically giving away my latest novel for $1.99. Two bucks! Cheaper than a bag of actual sand at Home Depot! (Or a cup of coffee.)

Keep in mind that you don’t need to own a Kindle in order to read this. Practically any tablet, phone, laptop, or PC will work. There’s a free Kindle app for all of them. Also, the audiobook edition has been reduced to 99 cents for one day only (for those who own the e-book). For three bucks, you can get a brilliant and unabridged audio recording of SAND. If you ever wanted to pressure a friend or family member to give the novel a try, today is a day to save them some money.

Happy Sanday! Get some in your drawers!

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It’s a London Meet-Up Twofer! Superstar author Liliana Hart and I are going to be at the King’s Head pub this Sunday, April 6th, at 2:00 pm. The plan is to hang out for a couple of hours and have a pint. All are welcome. If you live nearby, come join us. If you can’t make it, be jelly and wish us well.

Click here for a map to find the pub. You’re on your own for getting home!

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Print books will never go away. Not completely. It isn’t just the nostalgia factor, either. Paper is cheap, and despite what shopping for replacement cartridges would suggest, ink isn’t expensive either. Modern print-on-demand (POD) books are practically indistinguishable from their large-batch brethren. A 300 page novel can be ordered from CreateSpace for less than $4, and that means it’s even cheaper to print (CreateSpace is making a profit at that price).

Print books are great for gifts, for tossing in a beach bag, for reading in the tub, and for piling up beside the bed. They are also wonderful impulse buys. And they cater to that urge for self-improvement, much like underused exercise equipment. Even if e-books move to 60% or 70% of trade fiction, that leaves a market for paperback novels. A trend that began years ago — the selling of novels in grocery stores, big-box discount stores, and airports — will continue. The problem with these outlets has always been shelf space and therefore selection. But imagine every book ever written being available right when you walk in the door at your local grocery store.

The video rental market has already moved there. Bookstores could as well. The Espresso Book Machine and its ilk already reside in some independent and university bookstores. We came very close to ordering one for our bookstore at ASU. These printers are compact, and they produce a trimmed and bound paperback in just a few minutes. Imagine walking in, wrestling those two stuck carts apart (sometimes you have to use a water hose), and then stopping at the RedBoox machine before you tackle your list. Continue Reading →

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Spoiler alert! Neo is the One.

I still get goosebumps watching the climax to The Matrix. Love heals. Right makes might. A baddie gets his comeuppance. It’s also the moment that Neo sees the world for all its details. People like Tank and Cypher can look at a screen of ones and zeros and see the world the code is meant to approximate. Neo goes one further and can see how the code constructs the world he used to live in and thought he once knew.

Once you see the code, you see it everywhere. What seems baffling makes sense in its totality. The digital revolution is hitting in all quarters at once, and while those in the trenches of any one field have a view like Tank and Dozer, it’s possible to step back and see the effects all around you. In fact, it all boils down to those very same ones and zeros.

The twin costs of manufacturing and shipping have enjoyed primacy in the economics of retail and entertainment for centuries. You have to produce things and you have to deliver them. Both have traditionally been quite expensive. The means to do either one efficiently rested in the hands of those with immense capital. The day the internet was born, this began to change. It wasn’t immediate, of course. It required bandwidth. Widespread adoption. Delivery hardware. Continue Reading →

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Love

Six years ago, my two awesome nieces invited me to play a game with them. We were at my dad’s farm in North Carolina, and my father and stepmom were huddled with Jordan and Catherine on the sofa. They were taking turns telling stories, and I was asked to come up with something.

Not knowing the rules, I made up a story about a cloud named Misty. What I was supposed to do is tell a story about something that had really happened to me recently. As I watched how it was done, this forgotten little tell about a little cloud began to coalesce in my mind. I thought that if I had any sort of artistic talent, it might make for a cool children’s book.

Six years later, I decided to turn that story into an actual book. I started looking for an artist, and when I saw Nidhi Chanani’s website, she became my top pick. I just wasn’t sure if I could get her onboard. Today, I can announce that Nidhi is starting sketches, and Misty — The Proud Cloud is going to be a reality.

To see more of Nidhi’s work, check out her gallery. Swoon-worthy art. More soon!

 

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Six hours a day, 365 days a year, for 5 years. That’s all it takes. Or some combination of those numbers.

There are a handful of books every aspiring writer should read. One is Drive by Daniel Pink. Another is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The first will impress upon you the difficulty but necessity of self-motivation. The latter will demonstrate its cumulative power.

In Outliers, we learn that the rags-to-riches story of a lone genius overcoming odds is a false one. People often succeed because of cultural heritage, because of where and/or when they were born, because of chance occurrences, and because of opportunities seized. Small advantages become massive advantages. Young Canadian hockey players born in January, February, and March benefit from a year-end cutoff. These boys are larger and swifter than the rest of their cohort. 40% of the top players are born between January and March. Why? Because they are chosen for small differences, are placed into programs where they practice more, and so they get better than their peers. Much better.

One of the last chapters of the book will torment you. It details the progress kids make as they move through elementary school. The kids are grouped according to socioeconomic class. What researchers have found is that the achievement gap grows from 1st grade to 5h grade. Why this is has confounded education experts. Until someone began testing children at the beginning and end of every school year and compared gains over summer break with gains made during the school year. What they found — and you have to see the tables of numbers to appreciate this — is that all of the gains evident at 5th grade are made over the summer break, where low SES kids fall back and higher SES kids surge ahead. Schools aren’t failing kids as much as what they do (0r don’t do) when they aren’t in school is.

Continue Reading →

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Some observations from today’s New York Times: A story on the technology, film, and music festival SXSW laments the infusion of brands and big bands in what used to be an indie scene. A few choice quotes:

“No one will miss the stranglehold the large music labels had on the industry, but having shoe and snack food companies decide what is worthy could strangle the new, unruly impulses that allow the music business to prosper.”

New, unruly impulses. I like that. And then:

“You hear a lot of the Ramones on commercials these days, but if the suits were in charge when the band was first playing, you never would have heard of them at all. (Anybody who wonders about the impact of big companies as cultural gatekeepers need only go see a studio blockbuster.)

Makes you wonder if literature could move toward a similar respect for the indie scene.

Another story on Disney’s The Lion King becoming the top-earning show on Broadway caught my eye. This is the musical equivalent of a backlist title, a show that is over a decade old. Using complex and secretive pricing algorithms timed to the season and the day of the week, Disney has been able to maximize profits. Two things to note (and possibly learn from): The first is their refusal to charge as much as their competitors do at the top end. One of the reasons for this? To reduce the chances of buyer’s remorse, according to the show’s producers, which leads to more positive word-0f-mouth.

Finally, a large company is considering the psychology of pricing and purchasing, and the result is that they are killing their competitors, who charge more for the same seats. A quote from the piece:

“If you purely listen to what yield management folks would advise, we could charge a little more . . . But our theory is, because we’re in this for the long haul, we’ve decided we’re not going to set a new high ticket price for the street.”

Compare that to the digital price-fixing publishers employed in jacking up e-book prices. The long view is to take backlist, look at demand, consider the psychology of price in purchasing decisions (and regret), and beat the crap out of your competitors. Makes my ideas with New HarperCollins sound like profit-making suggestions, huh? In some quarters, they’ve been considered all risk with no reward.

One more interesting story from today’s Times: Continue Reading →

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I love this little device. I ordered it with very little expectations. The price and fuzzy picture on Amazon did not instill much hope. What I got in the mail ended up being a little marvel that keeps me at my desk rather than under it.

My computer speakers don’t have a headset jack. So when I get on Skype, I have to crawl around behind my computer to unplug the speakers and plug in my headphones. This little puppy does all that for me and more. I never have to take anything in or out of the jack. Just press a button, and I’m on my earbuds. Press it again, and I’m on my speakers. Even if I used the front jacks on my computer case, this would still be more convenient and worth the investment. Even better is the volume control right on the side. No more clicking down in my task bar to adjust the volume for my earbuds. Now it’s just a turn of the dial right by my keyboard. Same for the speakers.

I don’t pimp wares often. Just when they change my life. If you find yourself switching back and forth between speakers and headsets, you should check this guy out.

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Einstein didn’t believe that the physical world, at the smallest of levels, could be dictated by randomness. He and his friend Neils Bohr had animated arguments over the mysteries of quantum mechanics. As it stands today, it appears that Einstein was wrong and that God does indeed play dice. And this may be just as true for art as it is for subatomic particles.

The great writer Paul Auster once said, “The world is governed by chance. Randomness stalks us every day of our lives.” As a wildly successful writer, perhaps Paul could intuit what researches have recently confirmed: There is an element of chance in what works of art succeed and what works go unnoticed.

I highly, strongly, stomping-my-feet recommend that you listen to this short piece from NPR before reading along any further. You should also read the show notes here. Don’t worry, it won’t take long and it’ll totally be worth it.

Continue Reading →

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Huggers

I remember exactly where I was when it all came together. I was strolling along San Antonio’s Riverwalk during WorldCon last summer, and I was thinking of this one person in my life who has brought me an enormous amount of suffering and grief, and something turned inside my head, some culmination of all the striving I’ve done to accentuate the positive and downplay the negative, and it hit me all at once, the simplest solution imaginable: I decided to love this person who hates me.

Not fake love. Not pretend love. But real love.

My feet came off the ground. I floated along the Riverwalk. This person’s anger had nothing to do with me. This was a snarling dog, foaming at the mouth, and their madness deserved more than pity; it deserved love.

I would feel nothing less toward an animal consumed with blind rage. I would want to help it; but of course, I would not want to approach it like a fool. And yet, my heart would go out toward any creature that has such anger and cruelty in its chest.

A few weeks later, Michael J. Fox put what I was feeling into words both simple and sublime. My wife and I were in the audience while he gave an interview about his new TV show, and when asked how it felt to have people talk about his deteriorating condition in public, Michael said, “What people think about me is none of my business.”

What people think about me is none of my business.

The words hit me like a sledgehammer. Such a seeming contradiction, such a paradox, but only because we have it backwards when we allow people’s opinions of us to affect us. We are who we are. Our actions and thoughts define us. How someone interprets those actions is none of our business. In fact, it often says more about them than it does about us. But even we can’t interpret that. We can’t know them. We can form opinions, but they will never be truth. And the opinions we choose to have about another person might say more about us than them. Continue Reading →

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