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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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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Some analysts appear to be confused about how so many authors can possibly be making more money while overall spending on reading is flat. Let’s see if we can’t figure this contradiction out.

The analyst linked to above gave a presentation at RWA (Romance Writers of America) last weekend. In both the blog post and the RWA presentation, we are shown this graph:


If reading dollars are flat, then author earnings should be flat, right? Not necessarily.

Let’s start with the fact that the above graph includes newspapers and magazines, which are down. Here are the trends for magazines. And here are the trends for newspapers. You would think, at a conference for novelists, that this would be taken into account. Now, if the spending on total reading is flat, and two of the three reading types are down, that probably means the revenue for trade fiction is up. We can only guess here, because the wrong data is being used for the wrong purposes.

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Issue #5 of the WOOL comic book series hit Comixology today. The cover art for this issue is from my favorite scene in the novel, when Jules dives down to restore the pumps. Also, tomorrow is when the first issue hits physical comic book shops, so I’m looking forward to going out and sourcing a copy.

Just one more issue left before the story is wrapped up. And if you think you know how it ends . . . you probably don’t. :)

The comic series is available at Comixology and also at Amazon. Another huge thanks to Palmiotti, Gray, and Brox for the job they did with the adaptation.

WOOL 5 (Copy)


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Another gorgeous cover by M.S. Corley, this time for my short story, GLITCH. If you need artwork, hit him up for a quote.

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A great exchange over at The Passive Voice. William Ockham, one of the great thinkers on all things publishing, put forward two of the criticisms he’s seen of the AE data. Data Guy chimes in with a third problem, and explains how all three criticisms do not alter the conclusions drawn from our reports. When people point to the vapid and non-existent but supposed “refutations” of our data, this might be a good link to rebut with.

I do apologize to those whom this information proves troubling, but it is a fair view of what is happening in the world of ebooks today. And all the trends we’ve seen point in the same direction.

I have seen a couple of interesting criticisms of the AE reports. The first is that Big 5 authors get substantially more in advances than the standard royalty rates would suggest (40% of gross was one figure mentioned). Assume for a minute that contention is true. Now take a look at the data from AE on the percentage of Big 5 earnings from titles originally published before 2011. Those are books that have definitely earned out. Create a model from the AE data that makes that 40% figure work. Publishing looks like a very strange business indeed. Spoiler alert! I suspect that that 40% of gross comes from looking at the first year income of a publishers’ titles. The Big 5 has always had what KKR calls the “produce model” of selling books.

The other criticism of the AE data is that the Big 5 is getting more than the Amazon retail price for many of their best sellers (i.e. Amazon is selling at a loss). This could skew the numbers somewhat. If this is indeed a big issue, there is a simple way for those publisher insiders (looking at you Jeremy Greenfield) to prove this. Replicate the AE approach, but pull the amount you believe the publisher is receiving. If that is beyond your technical ability, I would be happy to do it for you. For my standard overtime rates, $250/hour.

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I open a mountain of mail on no sleep after a full day of travel.

 Part 1: Ben Adams

In this first part, I go through my Ben Adams mail. If you want to get in on the awesomeness that is Ben’s art, support him on Patreon. It’ll be the best thing you do with your monthly dollar (besides donuts [and bacon]).

 Part 2: The Small Pile

 Part 3: The Big Boxes

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Check out this awesome cover from M.S. Corley. The short story is SECOND SUICIDE, and it just went live on Amazon. 99 cents (or free on Kindle Unlimited).

With Jason Gurley retiring from cover art (he dropped the mic and walked off the stage, because he’s a badass like that), Corley is stepping in to work his own magic. I added him to the Indie Toolbox on the sidebar, in case you want to contact him. Just don’t bumrush him and make it impossible for me to get my covers!

secondsuicide_ebook_FINAL copy

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Sitting at the airport in Charlotte, working on a romance novel, on my way to the Romance Writers of America’s writing conference in San Antonio.

The Friday night meet-up is going to be an informal, ad-hoc affair. Probably one of the Marriott lobby bars. Whoever is there will just be part of the meet-up, even if they don’t wanna be. Tough luck. We’re going to force people to have fun.

My panel is at 2pm on Friday, in Salon 1 of the Rivercenter Marriott Hotel. The panel is entitled: THE DOWN AND DIRTY: WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN OUTLIER. But I’m going to try and deflect that nonsense and talk about what it means to do what you love with your every spare moment, and damn the outcomes and the consequences.

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Douglas Preston is doubling down on his pressure for Amazon to capitulate to his publisher, Hachette. He has written a letter proclaiming that his group, known as “Authors United,” is full of “the finest writers in English language,” the sellers of “billions of books,” that their readers “listen when they speak,” and that this “represents power.”

The problem is, Douglas Preston doesn’t seem to understand what Hachette is fighting for. It isn’t a secret; Hachette is fighting for higher prices for readers. They’ve said as much to their investors. We also know from this slide from HarperCollins that publishers are now making better margins on ebooks than on their hardbacks, a fact that agent Brian DeFlore says publishers have been lying to agents about for years.

The collusion and price-fixing case in 2010 was so much about the $9.99 price point, that when Publishers Weekly wrote an ebook about the trial, they entitled the book THE BATTLE OF $9.99. Amazon wants ebooks to cost no more than $9.99. I can see this very clearly in my own self-publishing contracts with them. If I price my ebooks over $9.99, they reduce my royalty from 70% to 35%. The reason Hachette colluded with its competitors a few years ago was to put an end to this price point and force Amazon to sell ebooks at $14.99 or even higher. Part of that reason is simply to retard the growth of ebooks and protect print.

The irony here is that Douglas Preston has been on the wrong side of this maneuvering in the past. In 2010, Hachette delayed the release of Douglas’s ebooks in order to protect their print sales, which angered his readers. They also priced his ebooks at $14.99, and Douglas heard from fifty or so readers who said they’d never read his books again. Preston lashed out at these readers, saying that they were acting entitled:

“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing…. It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something…. It gives me pause when I get 50 e-mails saying ‘I’m never buying one of your books ever again. I’m moving on, you greedy, greedy author.’”

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I’m having a Groundhog Day moment, here. Indies are getting screwed. Exclusivity is death for authors. We are in coach and Big 5 authors are in first class. Our pay is going down.

The same discussion exploded on KBoards back in 2011. They were the Kindle Boards at the time, and self-publishing was a lot more stigmatized than it is today. Amazon launched a program called KDP Select, and if you went exclusive with them, you gained two marketing advantages: Your ebooks became part of the Kindle Lending Library, and you were granted 5 “free” days for every 90-day period of Select.

There was a lot of consternation and hand-wringing from self-published authors at the time. Was it worth going exclusive for the added exposure? Were we crazy to give our books away for free? How much would a borrow pay? Would borrows affect our sales? Our rankings? What about the freebies? Who would be dumb/brave enough to sign up for this?

Those who did sign up tended to do very well. Those free days were as good as gold, and soon we were complaining that we didn’t get enough of them. I know of quite a few indies who credit Select as the tool that allowed them to transition to writing full-time. In fact, it was just a year and a half later that KBoards would erupt with threads complaining about the reduced efficacy of Select. Free downloads no longer had the same effect on ranking. The system was too beneficial for indies, and so Amazon tweaked it. Continue Reading →

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Hey, you got Jason Gurley typography in my Jasper Schreurs cover art!

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To modify a line from Jeff Bezos: “Your fear is my opportunity.” And I wish it weren’t so. I’d rather not have my opportunity than what results from your fear. I mean that. I’m really torn about this.

The things I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.

As a writer, I’m out of my mind to advocate for these things. My colleague Russell Blake, whom I greatly admire, thinks self-published authors should shut up and stop handing out free advice. And he’s right. Why should we fight for $9.99 and lower e-book prices—where we know publishers will sell more books, get more people reading, and make more money? Their fear of low prices is my opportunity.

Kindle Unlimited launched yesterday, and publishers are slow to sign on. None have, as far as I can tell. Even the Scholastic works might be available only because Amazon is treating every “borrow” as a full-price sale. Whether it’s fear of Amazon having more market share or fear of subscription services keeping them at bay, it’s all opportunity for me and other self-published authors. Continue Reading →

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Amazon can’t twitch without indies taking notice. For a brief period yesterday morning, a landing page for a new Amazon streaming service appeared online. A thread at KBoards exploded with the news (are the KBoard forums the best watchdog, author community, and training center all rolled into one, or what?), and then Engadget, Time, and others followed with coverage of their own.

Author and all-around awesome dude Jan Strnad wrote up one of the first detailed opinion pieces about the service, and I share some of his concerns. Subscription services have been rough on musicians. Will they be rough on authors? It’s too soon to tell, but there are a couple ways that books are fundamentally different than music, and perhaps reasons to be cautiously optimistic.

The biggest difference between books and tunes is the time investment. You spend hours, days, even weeks with a good book. You can stream hundreds of tunes in the same amount of time. So hopefully the revenue stream to authors won’t be as diluted as it is for musicians. It also sounds like Amazon has increased the funding for the borrow pool, and I’m guessing profit from the $9.99 monthly fee will go toward funding this program as well, so if they can keep the rate-per-read at $2 or get it higher, this could be a great source of revenue for authors.

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