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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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.

Continue Reading →

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This one is a doozy. Not only because three reports taken at 3-month increments all agree with one another, but because the myth of self-publishing only working in certain genres is busted. Turns out that indies do indeed dominate in those genres, but they have taken significant share everywhere else as well.

I have indie friends who think we are crazy to urge Hachette to lower their ebook prices and be reasonable for the sake of their readers and their authors, and you can see why in this data. Indie authors are producing great works at unbeatable prices, and readers are rewarding them with market share. In this snapshot, indies as a cohort have overtaken all Big 5 authors combined when it comes to daily royalties earned on the Kindle Store. Unreal.

Also some info on DRM here. Short version: It’s worse than useless; it might be hurting your sales.

Check out the July 2014 Author Earnings Report here.

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Of all the myriad disruptions in the publishing world over the last few decades, perhaps none are as powerful as the new permanence of the written word. Every book now has the power to stay in print and on sale for the rest of time. Not just the blockbusters, the instant classics, or the works from the biggest names—but all books.

Print on demand technology now allows a paperback to be spit out of a machine in mere minutes. The quality of print on demand books is better than those acid-paper Penguin Classics of yore, and the quality is only improving. Ebooks, of course, never run out, and they can be easily updated over time. Both editions sit on product page “shelves” that never collect dust, and these books never need returning. At any moment, a book written years ago can be “discovered” and crawl up bestseller lists.

I have already heard from writers who self-published, gave up on their careers, and then saw money hit their bank accounts. Books they no longer tended to had become bestsellers over time and with no promotion, and now these writers are engaged with their passion again. I learned about this after writing a post on KBoards predicting we might see this happen some years from now. I was informed that it is already happening. Continue Reading →

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Where would I be without Amazon?

With the ongoing PR war between Amazon and Hachette (and the Big 5, generally), all centered on an increasingly confusing contract dispute, I’ve been thinking a lot about that ubiquitous online beast. This amorphous Aladdin’s Cave of All Things Retail. And, say what you will about their pluses and minuses – and there are many of both, no doubt – its simple existence has changed countless lives.

As a relatively unknown writer who self-publishes, I now know that what I do will land in the hands of readers. That after it’s beta-read and edited, properly formatted and polished to a beautiful shine, I’ll be able to head on over to KDP, download the book and the cover, hit Publish and, in very little time at all, have my latest work Live.

Ten years ago, in a world without Amazon or KDP, this wasn’t the case. Ten years ago, the manuscript would have sat ignored as I labored over the query letter. It would have gathered dust as I tried again and again to crack some unknown query/synopsis code that would merit the attention of Those In New York.

Ten years ago, my only hope for some kind of a career hid in some tacit “you’re good enough” nod from the Gatekeepers of Traditional Publishing, because, back then, my being “good enough” sat squarely and forever in the hands of Unreachable Others.

Long story short, ten years ago I would not be the writer I am today. Continue Reading →

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Traditional Publishing is no Longer Fair or Sustainable. This was the sad but accurate headline in The Guardian this week. It followed a report on author income from the ALCS, the results of which led Nicola Solomon, head of the UK’s Society of Authors to declare:

Authors need fair remuneration if they are to keep writing and producing quality work. Publisher profits are holding up and, broadly, so are total book sales if you include ebooks, but authors are receiving less per book and less overall due mainly to the fact that they are only paid a small percentage of publishers’ net receipts on ebooks and because large advances have gone except for a handful of celebrity authors.

This comes right on the heels of The Daily Mail’s piece about Hillary Clinton’s latest book. The memoir has sold well by most measures, moving 161,000 copies in the first three weeks and 86,000 in week one, but the book has dropped in the charts, and it appears Simon & Schuster will take a loss due to the $14,000,000 advance paid to Hillary.

Forteen million dollars.

By publishing math, this advance was warranted. Her previous book sold well enough for the bean counters at S&S to come up with what seemed necessary to both retain Hillary and turn a profit. But this methodology flies in the face of recent rhetoric about the role publishers play in the protection of literature and the nurturing of “the writing life.”

With that sum of money, you could pay 500 writers $28,000 to enjoy a full year of the writing life. Or you could pay 250 writers $56,000 if they don’t understand how to squeak by as a starving artist. Not only that, Hillary Clinton doesn’t need another penny for as long as she lives. She didn’t need to be supported while she wrote the book. So how exactly are publishers the patrons of the literary arts? Nicola Soloman nails the problem with the current blockbuster model of entertainment: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We shovel money at the outliers and drop everyone else. Continue Reading →

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I sometimes get stuck while writing a story or a novel, and it feels like writer’s block. But what’s really happening is that I’ve moved the story in the wrong direction, and some part of my brain is aware of this.

It’s spooky to admit that the conscious portion of our brain isn’t aware of what’s happening elsewhere in our noggins, but some really freaky experiments back this up. This is why, when the writing is going well, it feels more like reading or discovery than it does writing or creation. It feels as though the story could go no other way than the way we’re writing it. Like it existed before us.

When we get stuck, one way to “find” the right path for the story is to try a few paths. And if they don’t feel right, try something else. Set the last few chapters aside (paste them into a blank document). Resume writing from the last place you felt engaged with the story. Try something else this time.

Ever had the feeling you were forgetting something as you left the house? You walk around, wracking your brain, trying to figure out what it is. Exhausting every option, you decide your intuition is wrong. It isn’t until you’re half an hour away from the house that the missing thing percolates up to the conscious level. This is writing. You know what happens next. The challenge is remembering.

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I’m going to tell you about an awesome club. And you can’t join. But that’s okay: You can start your own.

The club is a small publisher called Exciting Press. They call themselves a “nano press,” even smaller than a micro press. I highly recommend reading their FAQs. Maybe I’m a geek, but reading this gave me goosebumps. Especially the part where they say you don’t need a publisher these days. That honest admission says so much.

Exciting Press pays 70% net on e-book sales. And they only license your work for seven years. SEVEN YEARS! After that, they stop selling your work and give you your rights back. Unless you want to renew or renegotiate. It’s up to you. You own the rights.

Before you rush off with your manuscript, Exciting Press is closed to submissions right now. It’s the model I’m excited about.

Now, for those of you who self-publish, you might wonder what the point is. Why not get 70% of gross on your own? The way I see it is this: Nano presses are a way for the reluctant and wary to learn how self-publishing works. And with these royalty rates and limited terms of license, there practically no risk. A nano press becomes an agenting/editing service but with a 30% fee instead of a 15% fee. My agent has taken over many publishing duties for her clients. And I’ve met companies at publishing conferences that are setting up boutique publishing houses that blend these ideas.

Continue Reading →

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When Amazon first spoke up about the stalled negotiations with Hachette, they proposed an author pool to support Hachette’s authors to be funded by both companies. Hachette refused.

According to a story breaking now, it appears Amazon has sweetened the deal by suggesting that Amazon and Hachette both forego all profits of any Hachette ebooks sold and allow that money to go directly to the author. 100% of it.

As a reader, I love this idea. Let my money go to the artists and come out of your pockets while the two of you duke it out.

It also sounds as if Hachette has been slow to negotiate at all. If all of this is true, it backs up everything we saw the last go around with Macmillan: Amazon getting the blame while publishers refuse to negotiate or use dirty tactics while hiding behind the outrage of their authors.

I really hope Hachette accepts this latest offer. If you want to encourage them to do so, sign our petition to Hachette, which asks them to stop fighting for low wages for authors and high prices for readers. Nearly 7,000 people have already signed.

C’mon, Hachette, do the right thing.

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