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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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This blog post is a response to a comment, made on a blog post, that was also made in response to a comment, made on this blog post.

This is like the Inception of blog posts.

No one’s ever been three levels deep before!

The gist of the last post was that civilizations have a narrow window in which they are capable of settling the entire galaxy and yet still backwards enough in their thinking to want to. My hypothesis is not only that this is true, but that the window for galactic domination is only open for a few centuries. By the time a civilization sets out to take over the galaxy, filling every available niche, they will have progressed ethically enough to choose not to.

Daniel Knight commented and wanted to know why I think we will ever see the filling of available niches as evil. And it’s a great question, one I couldn’t attempt to answer in the space of a comment, which is why we find ourselves three levels deep (you know, at that snow fortress level, where shit really stops making sense).

One of Daniel’s points is that we will eventually have the means to live forever, and we will keep having offspring, and all those bodies have to go somewhere, which will mean taking over the galaxy. If you continue his reasoning, we will then have to take over the universe. And if you continue this reasoning further, even that won’t be enough.

I might end my response right there and point out that any race capable of seeding the galaxy will be able to extrapolate these base impulses and realize that there’s no end to such ambitions, that space will eventually run out, and so the move is not only pointless — is not only delaying the inevitable —but only stands a chance of causing harm in the process, both by increasing the frustration of our species, now swelling at the universes’ limits, and also by reducing the universe’s potential for diversity. Continue Reading →

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Warning. What follows is the sort of stream-of-consciousness nonsense that I would blog more about if I knew no one visited this blog. You’ve been warned. Turn back now.


 

In the comments of my recent KDP is for Chumps post, a reader named Enabity, the author Paul Draker, and myself, got to debating the chances of artificial intelligence arising in the near future and writing award-winning novels. The three of us occupy different but slightly overlapping levels of optimism and pessimism on this front.

On the optimistic side, we have Paul Draker, the brilliant author of these books, who sees a computer passing the Turing Test by 2029. I’m assuming he means a real Turing Test and not the annual AI conference that holds a test by the same name. (Last year’s conference saw the nearest thing to a “win” yet, with the entry of a computer posing as a 13-year-old boy. A true Turing Test win would be a computer that hardly anyone would guess is not human, if allowed to converse with it).

Paul mentions picking 2029 because Ray Kurzweil popularized this date for the coming singularity (the day we all upload into a computer and join a collective consciousness. If Ray was in our conversation, making it a foursome, he would be the guy who thought the Jetsons lived just around the temporal corner. Brilliant man, but overly optimistic).

Enabity, on the other hand, sees very large unsolved problems for the development of AI and doesn’t give a date for computers to write full-blown novels indistinguishable from human-authored novels. I’m guessing he would put this accomplishment hundreds of years out from now.

For myself, I tend to be cautious with forecasts and would put the date that computers write entire novels indistinguishable from human-authored novels at 2040. (Incidentally, this is the subject of a current WIP of mine, The Last Storyteller. It’s also something I blogged about at length last year.) For full-blown AI, I’m guessing we’ll see it around 2100, give or take 15 years. Continue Reading →

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Why not?

This video moved me. What do you want to do with your life?

So many of our impossible challenges require long term commitments. They require failing, day after day after day after day. Gradually, you fail less spectacularly. And when success comes, it’s like a birthday. All that aging in steady increments, but then you are suddenly something different, in that clearly defined moment when you do what was previously impossible.

For the last three months, I’ve been doing exercises every morning called the Five Tibetans. At first, I couldn’t do them all. Even now, I can’t do them all that well. But they feel different every day. I feel different every day.

Exercising, dieting, writing, practicing, these things require habitual application when we want to do anything else. But what do we want to become? Do we want it bad enough? Are we willing to put in the effort?

The most inspiring thing about this video? The fact that he set up a camera and filmed week one. You know who does that? Someone who expects to succeed, no matter what. Name your challenge. Know you’ll conquer it. Know it in week one, when you can’t even touch the rim.

 

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I have a confession to make: I’ve been a chump. When it comes to writing, I’ve been a major chump.

Webster says that a chump is someone who is foolish or easily deceived. That’s been me as a writer. For 90% of my life as a writer, I’ve been a chump. Time to come clean.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I work on a few writing projects that will make me little to no money. One is a story that may never get published. The other project will hardly be read. I’ve been devoting a lot of time to both projects.

I’ve been thinking about this as I see more reports on how rare it is for self-published authors to make considerable income. I’ve been mulling it over while watching this thread go wild at KBoards, asking if KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is chump change for chumps.

I’m here to tell you that KDP is a place for chumps.

I know because I’ve been one. Let me tell you my story: Continue Reading →

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St. Francis 50 – Guinevere

I just spent a week aboard the sister ship to my future catamaran. This was hull #18 of the St. Francis 50 line. I helped sail the boat to the Miami Boat Show a few weeks ago, where I put a deposit down on hull #19. The next day, a lovely couple purchased Guinevere, the boat I helped deliver. The owner then invited me back to the Bahamas to spend a week on the boat, discussing its systems and plans.

I will take delivery of hull #19, Wayfinder, in July. We will sail it from South Africa to the U.S., and I’ll live permanently aboard. I’ll have a separate blog to detail the build process and travels. There will be some changes to this website to aid in navigation and to reflect a near future of far more writing, less blogging about books, and more blogging about life. It’s amazing that I have found something even less exciting to write about than the book trade, but I have.

www.the-wayfinder.com

 

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We spent one week every summer at a family beach house in North Carolina. All I could think about on the interminable drive to the sea was the small SunFish sailboat sitting in the garage of that house. Kicking off my shirt and shoes as soon as we arrived, I would drag the small boat to the sound at the back of the house and spend the next week tacking and gybing. If there was no wind, I worked the tiller back and forth to barely make way. As a very young boy, sailing made me feel free in a way nothing else could.

I read about Joshua Slocum’s adventures sailing around the world alone. I read about Sir Francis Chichester, Robin Knox Johnston, and Bernard Moitessier. I read about an amazing teenager named Tania Aebi who sailed around the world by herself on a dare from her father. When I moved to Charleston, I readily took any offer to get out on the water. Several of my friends had boats. When I met people who lived on small sailboats, I started looking into costs. It turned out that I could buy a boat for $10,000 — not much more than a decent car — and make it my home. So I did.

My best friend and I nearly killed ourselves bringing the boat down from Baltimore in January of 1996. I lived on the boat for the next five years. Three of these were while attending classes at the College of Charleston. One year was spent in the Bahamas, where I cruised off to after dropping out of school (why get a degree and slave away for 40 years to one day retire on a boat when I was already on one?) When my funds ran out, I realized the error of my calculations, so I started working odd jobs on other people’s boats to get by. This led to a career as a yacht captain, which kept me on the sea for the better part of the next decade.

I left the water years ago to follow my better half inland. Since then, I haven’t stopped planning and dreaming of getting back on a boat and sailing around the world. Or just sailing up and down the coast. The destination was never the thing, only the lifestyle. Meeting new people. Shifting horizons. Adjusting latitudes and attitudes, as Jimmy Buffett would say.

I am currently in Miami for the Sail Only Boat Show. It’s my third boat show in the last two years, as I’ve narrowed down on the make and model of my future home. But this is the week. In the next couple of days, I’ll put down a deposit, and by this summer, I’ll be living aboard again. If you see a catamaran named “Wayfinder” bobbing at anchor, that will probably be me. It’s a name with deep significance for me, something I’ll be writing about at length.

And that’s the miracle of working as a writer: I can do it from anywhere and everywhere. The past few years, I’ve done a lot of writing from airplanes and airports while on business trips abroad. SAND was entirely written overseas while traveling through seven different countries; I think it’s a better story because of those inspirations. In upcoming years, I may be writing near your home port.

In addition to my usual mix of fiction genres, I’m also working on a series of pieces about my past sailing adventures, my random thoughts about life and what-not, and a bit of a travelogue of my new journey and the people I meet along the way. Right about the time I make this transition, I’ll be turning 40. Age has always been a number to me, but this will be a birthday to truly celebrate. It marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. And you know me, I’m a fan of cliffhangers. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

 

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Our fifth Author Earnings report marks the first anniversary of this website. We now have a year of quarterly snapshots to analyze, and the results have been consistent while also revealing gradual trends.

This time around, we look at ebooks and ISBNs. There is an entire “shadow industry” of ebook sales uncounted by industry pundits. A year ago, we gave you the first look at a shadow industry of indie ebooks. This year, we get a first glance at the works that no one is tracking or counting.

Which raises the question: Do we need ISBNs? Probably something like them, but not at their current cost to benefit ratio. ISBN-less ebooks outsell those with ISBNs, which proves nothing except that ISBNs aren’t needed for sales success. If the industry or retailers want to track ebooks, let them offer a standardized and low-cost means to do so.

Another point is that ebooks change over time as authors update them and their backmatter. There may even be different editions for each retailer, so links point to sequels at that website. Expecting a different ISBN for each of these editions is not realistic. These numbers are simply a relic of the print days, which are on their way out. But that’s looking ahead to our next report.

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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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