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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Misty

Misty - The Proud Cloud

The story of Misty, a cloud who lives high above a valley. Illustrated by Nidhi Chanani.

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How cute are these guys? A Boston startup invented them. Supposedly, Amazon has adapted several of their distribution centers to use these puppies. Pretty soon, the complaints will go from working conditions at warehouses to lack of jobs at warehouses.

Another video and more over at The Passive Voice.

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The annual DBW Writers’ Survey is up!

Please consider participating and sharing. The more respondents, the more meaningful the results.

Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how those results are analyzed. In the past, the outcome of publishing paths has been the main focus of this survey, which does not help authors make decisions with their manuscripts. There is an implied assumption in those past results that authors can simply choose whether to traditionally publish or self-publish. And so aspiring authors who have not yet managed to get traditionally published do not have their $0 income factored in, while all self-published authors are counted.

Compounding the problem, hybrid authors (those who have published both ways) have been treated as a special case in the past. This is odd considering that the vast majority of hybrids have either been picked up because of success with self-publishing, or found success self-publishing a backlist that did poorly enough with a traditional publisher for the rights to revert. In both cases, it was the decision to self-publish that was heavily rewarded.

These issues can be handled in the analysis. One way would be to compare hybrids with those who have been traditionally published, as both groups represent the top fraction of two different freely made decisions: the decision to either query an agent/publisher or to self-publish. These two groups also have in common the ability to draw the interest of a publishing house, whether out of a slush pile or out of the pool of self-published titles. Continue Reading →

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There are people to both sides of you. Everyone is in the middle. We’re all part of a continuum.

This is the theme of the book I’m working on right now, a sequel to SAND. The idea is that while we are all looking in one direction —  whether with envy or judgement or longing or disgust — there is someone on the other side of us looking our way with the exact same emotion and with just as much cause.

I played with this theme in HALF WAY HOME, where I pointed out that today’s moral progress will seem slow and obvious to future generations, and at the same time some “modern” behavior of ours will one day appear barbaric. It might be the eating of meat. It could be allowing people to drive cars well past the day the technology existed to revamp our fleets and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

A glance at history suggests that it will be many things. All generations crow about how much better, more inclusive, more enlightened they are than previous generations, and then some facet of their culture seems outlandish just a generation or two hence. Slave-owning American Founders who preached equality and freedom come to mind. The institutional racism and sexism of “The Greatest Generation” does as well. Continue Reading →

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She’s here! She’s almost here!

Misty copy

Sometime tomorrow, swirling winds and UPS drivers will blow MISTY onto a front porch near you. Tuesday is release day, and I haven’t been this excited since my very first novel came out. A picture book is just a completely different animal. For me, it meant collaborating with an artist who has skills I’ll never possess. It meant being creative together. And it means coming up with a story that is as much visual as textual. Plus, this is a story for an audience I’ve never been able to reach before.

All-in-all, a completely different experience. One I’ve learned a lot from.

Before I get into how it came together, I should mention that there are a limited number of the signed hardbacks still available. These will be gone soon, so if you want one, now is the time. These are signed by me, and they are reasonably priced. Amazon has them discounted to $13.49 as of this writing.

With both the purchase of the hardback and the paperback, you can download the ebook for free. The paperback is only $6.99. Fancy coffees cost more than this. The ebook for your tablet or computer is just $3.99. I promise you, we priced these as cheaply as humanly possible. Why? We want as many people as possible to meet Misty. I think you’re going to really like her.

Continue Reading →

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We need a German word for “thinking you had an original idea and then realizing many other people not only already had that idea but are well on their way toward implementation.” I hope someone can get on this. I bet someone already has.

A while back, I blogged about the possibility that one day my job will be taken over by machines. I think it’s important for all of us to consider this possibility, whatever it is that we do, and however outlandish the idea seems by current technology standards. How else will we see it coming? There’s a reason no one does. They all think their status is wholly unique until about three weeks after it isn’t.

Will machines ever write novels? That is, will novels ever write themselves? I believe if humans can stick around for another thousand years, it is inevitable. I’m also open to the chance (though skeptical) that some unforeseen advance in computing power or technology makes this possible in fifty years. Perhaps an actual quantum computer is constructed. Maybe in 50 years, a program like Watson gets more refined and has access to enough data and processing power that an emergent quality arises from what previously seemed wholly mechanical. That is, consciousness might flip on like a switch. Continue Reading →

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I think we can now confirm that the reason for the delays for Hachette titles was that Amazon wasn’t stocking the books in their warehouses. It has been said over and over again that the delays during this dispute were due to Hachette’s inefficiencies, which I saw firsthand as a bookseller. Direct orders placed with a major publisher took 2-3 weeks to arrive. I can’t remember them ever arriving as fast as in a week.

I’ve seen two news outlets express confusion over why some of Hachette’s titles still show a delay of 2-3 weeks. Well, it’s because Amazon just created those orders yesterday when the deal was reached. It’ll now take 2-3 weeks to get those books to Amazon’s distribution center. Only then will the efficiencies of those distribution centers allow 1-2 day delivery. (Hachette might choose to “rush” these orders, which costs bookstores a pretty penny and probably involves unpleasant warehouse conditions.)

The way this has been portrayed in the anti-Amazon media and by Hachette authors made it sound like Amazon set Hachette books aside and said “Don’t ship those for another week!” and then rubbed their hands together and cackled. Which is ludicrous. The truth is far more banal and speaks more to publishers’ weak infrastructure and customer service, something they should work on if they don’t want to be beholden to retailers like Amazon. Continue Reading →

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Finally. Hachette has put an end to their nightmare of a standoff and has agreed to terms with Amazon. This is great news for book buyers and Hachette authors and the industry in general. It comes right on the heels of Simon & Schuster signing a multi-year deal with Amazon for both print and ebooks, and the wording of that announcement was practically identical to the wording of the Hachette announcement today. What does that tell us?

It suggests to me that Amazon offered Hachette and Simon & Schuster the same deal. But what took Hachette most of 2014 to agree to took S&S a single offer / counteroffer. It must be said, though, that Hachette was at a serious disadvantage by being forced to negotiate first. The settlement with the Department of Justice forced the major publishers to negotiate with Amazon in 6-month windows. This was to prevent them from colluding with one another the way they did in 2009.

I don’t know how the order was picked, but Hachette drew the short straw. This meant two things: They had to negotiate with Amazon without knowing if their fellow publishers would fall in line and help pressure the retailer as they did in 2009, and it also meant that Hachette had six months less sales data to go on to judge the fairness of what Amazon was offering.

A year ago, jacking up ebook prices to protect print seemed like standard operating procedure. Over the course of this year, publishers have watched operating margins go up due to the rise in ebook sales, and many titles have moved a lot of units by employing sane pricing. In a way, Amazon was offering a deal based on what they saw coming, while Hachette was rejecting that deal based on what they saw in their rearview mirror. Simon & Schuster had six months extra of road to study. I hope this helps portray Hachette in a less harsh light. Again, they had a lot of disadvantages.  Continue Reading →

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Why wait for the WOOL film to get made when you can go live it?

Only costs $1.5 million dollars for a ticket. Comes with wallscreens (seriously), farms, and pumps to keep it all dry. Check out the WSJ article for more details.

I’m thinking every bedside table in this joint needs a free copy of WOOL.

Also: It’s obvious to me that Jules is the sheriff of this puppy. Check out where she moved Mechanical. :)

Silo Layout

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The negotiations between Amazon and the Big 5 publishers is often framed as a war between David and Goliath. What’s strange is that who gets to play David depends on who you’re talking to. Both sides claim him. The rare moments when people equivocate between the two parties, they state that this is really a case of Goliath vs. Goliath, which is far closer to the truth. We’re talking about multi-billion dollar corporations on either side.

But I’m still interested in how people who normally agree on a wide range of social issues find themselves on opposing sides when it comes to Amazon/Big 5. Of course, it’s not uncommon for people to agree on a lot of ideas and then hit a snag on some major topic. What is strange is when they use the same language to buttress diametrically opposing viewpoints. Both sides in this case say they’re trying to protect the little guy against the big bully. It’s like we’re on opposite sides of a valley, and we can barely see the two people duking it out down below on our army’s behalf, but our guy is definitely the underdog. Both sides think that ours is the champion of the little people.

And we both think we’re right. Where I might be a little crazy is that I believe the people I disagree with are sincere. I’ve had a number of exchanges with outspoken people from the anti-Amazon side, and I think these are good people who believe they are on the right side of history for taking their stance. I have some very close friends who vehemently disagree with me. So how do I square what I know of these people with how wrong I think they are?

It starts with questioning my own beliefs and positions, of course. I’m open to being the fault in this paradox. But as I look at the entire scope of this debate, and what is being said on either side, I think I’ve finally hit upon how both sides think they are championing David. It all has to do with how we frame our view of both Amazon and the major publishing houses. And I think we all get this incredibly wrong. Continue Reading →

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Profits are up at major publishing houses, so why aren’t more people in the biz smiling? Ben Thompson over at Stratechery.com points us to a curve that might explain those frowns. It’s called the smiling curve, and it represents the value added to a product by three phases —Development, Fabrication, and Marketing — that it goes through on its journey from concept to sale:

smiling curve

 

One way to understand this chart is to think of the height of the curved line not only as value but also as profits. Adding more value should allow leverage for commanding more revenue. So the company on the far left that develops the product and holds patents (or copyright) adds a lot of value and can extract that value in earnings. On the far right, you have the parties that can reach customers and drive sales, which also adds a ton of value and leads to large revenues. In the middle, you have fabrication.

Continue Reading →

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Computers will write novels one day.

Most of the people I mention this to tell me I’m crazy. It doesn’t matter that computers are already writing newspaper articles or stock analyses. It doesn’t matter that computers are already conversing with humans who are convinced that these are people on the other end of the line. Or that computers can beat us in chess (once thought to be more art than mechanics) or Jeopardy (once thought to be a puzzle no machine could ever crack).

Those who don’t believe fall prey to the fact that some past predictions have not panned out. The flying car is a popular distraction. This is as bad an error as the opposite mistake, which is to assume that every wild idea is an eventuality, given enough time. What makes more sense is to look at trends, see what is taking place in laboratories today, and make reasonable estimates.

This video (shared by a commenter on a previous post) does a fair job of this. You should watch the entire piece; it’s brilliant:

Continue Reading →

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Something Mike Shatzkin told me once has really stuck with me: “The people at the major publishing houses aren’t idiots.” In fact, I’m pretty sure Mike has told me this more than once, usually after I pointed out something that I think publishers should try and can’t figure out why they don’t. Mike could see that the assumption in my advice was that publishing executives didn’t know what they were doing.

It turns out Mike was right and I was wrong. Publishing executives aren’t idiots.

Neither were executives at practically every company that has been disintermediated or made obsolete by innovation. This is a common theme in business lore and among the general public, and it is dead wrong. Established companies don’t go under because they don’t understand their market, their customers, their product. Nor do they go under due to managerial blunders, lack of R&D, and all the other myriad reasons commonly proffered. In fact, companies lose market share and go under precisely because they are well-managed.

To understand how this works, you simply must read The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. I’m not kidding. This book will blow your mind; you will never look at business transitions the same way ever again. If you have any interest in publishing (or how the world works in general), move this book to the top of your reading pile.

I can’t do the entire thesis justice, but I’ll entice you with a few of the lessons here. I’ll also say that this is one of the very few business books I’ve read that uses copious amounts of real-world examples. This isn’t guessing. This is hard-core theory in the best and most scientific use of that word. Christensen is even so bold as to make predictions in the form of case studies that are eerily prescient. I repeat: This book will blow your mind. Continue Reading →

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