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 found the Silo in London. And check out the poster at the bottom!

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This is only the beginning, folks. Very few people appreciate where this is going. Projections for the future of e-books are wrong, and it’s because the people making these projections lack imagination. They seem to think all the advances in storytelling have already been made, and it’s just a question of how much current technology will scale.

But the advances have barely begun. I’d like to take you on a brief tour of our reading future to give you a glimpse of how much growth and possibility are left. When we look back on the advent of the e-reader, we’ll realize that in 2014, we were using the music equivalent of a Sony Minidisc Player, that the click-wheel / black & white iPod hadn’t been invented yet, and certainly not the iPhone and all that came after.

It is often said that e-readers can’t replace physical books, because books have a certain heft and tactile feel and even a smell to them. Well what if those people are eventually wrong? We will one day build an e-reader that’s indistinguishable from a physical book, and I believe people alive today will live to see such a device.

Google recently applied for a patent for a contact lens that contains a camera and a screen. These devices might be a decade or two off, but they will come. When they do, they will transform our lives as soundly as the smartphone has. These devices will create a science fiction world that’s difficult to imagine, but will come as gradually and be just as readily embraced as the science fiction world in which we currently live. Continue Reading →

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The economics of book publishing have shifted and will never be the same. Both the physical book, with print-on-demand, and the e-bo0k, with its infinite supply, have created a world where the written word is forever available for commercial transaction. Hundreds of years from now, anything written today will still be available for sale. At that point, of course, the works will be in the public domain. But what to do until then?

The current book contract in all its lovely boilerplate no longer makes sense in light of a work’s permanence. Such contracts are an outdated mechanism. New contracts are needed. Authors will still care about their works decades down the road in ways that publishers most likely won’t. Many publishers view backlist as competition to frontlist. Dusty tomes do battle with the shiny and new. If the purpose of publishing is to blow out the release and hit the grail of lists—The New York Times—then lowering the cost or in any way promoting a decades-old story can only harm this goal. The beloved author today becomes the pariah of tomorrow.

Reversion clauses are meant to protect the author’s interest by assuring the work will return to them once it has sufficiently withered on the vine. But these terms are ludicrous and growing more so. I’ve seen contracts where a work remains with the publisher so long as it sells 100 copies in two reporting periods. That’s 100 copies in a full calendar year. A publisher could order that many e-books for themselves at the last moment and retain rights to a work until the author dies, and then another 70 years after. Continue Reading →

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There are no bookstores in Jupiter Florida. Our local Books a Million shuttered a few months ago. You can head south 20 minutes and find a Barnes & Noble, and that’s about it. The question is whether or not this town of 60,000 needs or would support an independent bookstore. There is a very small college in town. A good number of the residents are seasonal. The median age is quite high. People are quite used to jumping on 95 and heading to Palm Beach Gardens for all their shopping needs.

I do think a bookstore could work, but it would need to be a destination. I have a few zany ideas that I would implement if I were setting up a bookstore from scratch. They come from my own wishes as a reader, a shopper, a writer, a former bookstore employee, and a member of the community. Read on to see what I would do with “Bella’s Bookshop” (because all great bookstores need a furry mascot, and my pup would be a constant fixture around the store. And also: Alliteration. Continue Reading →

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I posited this during my keynote speech at the inaugural PubSmart conference here in Charleston, SC. And nobody threw anything at me. A few people came up afterward and wondered if there might be some merit to the idea. My thinking is this: The true enemy of independent bookstores has been the large chains like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Waldenbooks, not online shopping. There was even a movie about this. Since the rise of Amazon, we’ve seen some of these chains shutter and many of the B&N stores close. Meanwhile, independent bookstores are experiencing near double-digit growth for three years running.

Is it possible that Amazon more directly competes with the large chains, and the independent stores are rising to reclaim their role in reading communities? I think so. Shoppers looking for discounts, or who know exactly what they need ahead of time, are using mouse clicks rather than driving to the big chain.

It’s also possible that the “shop local” movement, which is partly a response to the rise of discounters like Amazon, vastly benefits independent bookshops more than large chains. I know this works for me. I pay full retail for hardbacks at a mom-and-pop place but balk at 20% discounts from chains. Are there more shoppers like me?

Major publishers lambast Amazon, because they think the large chains are their main hope for the survival of brick and mortar bookshops. Independent bookstores (like the one I used to work in) go right along with the stone-throwing, assuming what’s bad for B&N and Borders must be bad for them as well. And yeah, I saw people scanning UPC codes and taking pics of books to buy online later. I also saw our sales numbers improve every year, partly because of our reorganization of the shop and our focus on customer service, but more because of the shuttering of WaldenBooks.

Amazon is knocking out the big predators. The indie bookshops are filling up some of that space. Meg Ryan should be orgasmic.

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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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