It hit me in the summer of 2012. That’s when I realized print was on the way out and digital was here to stay. And it was major publishers who taught me this.

At the time, I was doing very well with Wool. It had hit the NYT list a couple times, had sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and the Ridley Scott film deal was in place. I live a simple life, so I had more money than I needed. It put me in a generous mood. To my agent’s dismay, I told her that I would give my print rights to a publisher for a song. As long as they only got the print rights.

No dice. Nobody wanted the print rights. But they would give me $1,500,000 for the print PLUS the digital.

So, Print = $0

Print + Digital = $1,500,000

As has been soundly demonstrated by industry veterans in recent days, I’m a college dropout and a dumb hick, but I could see some sort of truth in these offers I was getting. Digital was worth something. Print wasn’t worth much.

Holly Ward, who is very likely the #1 indie author in the world right now, concurs. She says:

Someone asked about paper only deals – NO ONE IS INTERESTED. I thought that was insane, but it’s not. It lines up with Hugh’s report. Paper is not where the money is at- ebooks are… I’m thinking there is a reason why the trad pubs are backing off of paper sales. It’s not arbitrary, despite their other actions I think they’re right about paper.

If Indies stopped chasing paper, if they stopped thinking that paper would be the difference, well, that would be major.”

There’s a great thread here about Holly turning down major deals from publishers and why. Fantastic read.

Today on AuthorEarnings.com, we posted some charts and thoughts on self-published authors giving up print sales. Turns out that traditionally published authors are giving up even more.

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5 o’clock in the morning. Been up for two hours, jetlagged like mad. Uploading SAND to Nook, B&N, and iTunes. While files are uploading, I’m firing off Tweets, making an update to AuthorEarnings.com, handling e-mail, and daydreaming about the next writing project.

How do you get a bunch of stuff done? You do a bunch of stuff. The last two weeks have been spent working on that earnings report, traveling to Taiwan and promoting two novels there, finalizing a children’s book deal, discussing film rights for SAND, and wrapping up this apocalyptic anthology, which releases in three weeks.

No social life helps. Being batshit crazy is practically a necessity. Now it’s back to iTunes to get this SAND pre-order page up. (Is it sick that I feel like I haven’t released a title in practically forever? I think it’s sick.)

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So, the reason my site just crashed is because of a little project I’ve been working on with a friend of mine. We broke street date a day early, as my co-founder and I cracked beers over Skype to celebrate the launch of AuthorEarnings.com and the publication of our first report, and down went all the pretty toys.

This project started a little less than two weeks ago, when a programmer emailed me to share some data he’d pulled from Amazon’s bestseller lists. It painted a picture of indie publishing even more optimistic than my rainbow-and-unicorn fantasies. He asked if I wanted to help him present the data. I told him I was underqualified, but I’d give it a go.

I’ve been working on this while on book tour in Taiwan, jetlagged all to hell, but several people gave wonderful suggestions, and my partner and I are extremely proud of the result. We approached some media outlets to run this, as it’s too big a deal for my blog, and we heard that it was too long for their site, that it wouldn’t interest their readers, and so on. Which was perfect, because my hope all along was to create a site dedicated to this data and this report. Which is what we did. We just didn’t rent a big enough server.

Should be coming back online as we speak. I’ll have more to say about the data as the storm settles. Peace.

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In twelve hours, I begin the 25-hour series of flights that will return me to my timezone. Taiwan, you will be missed. I’ve never felt so sad to leave a book tour stop. I feel like I’m supposed to stay here for a month or two and write a novel. I hope to be back soon.

At one of my book events, a member of the audience asked what the Taiwanese reader meant to me. My answer came without hesitation: For all the success I’ve had in so many markets, the readers of Taiwan made my book #1 in theirs. Now they are #1 to me. The warm reception and the many gifts will not be forgotten. Thank you.

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There’s this one scene in The Matrix that gives me goosebumps every time. It isn’t Neo learning Kung Fu from a compact flash chip. It isn’t the woman in the red dress or the rooftop chase. It’s not even the spectacular lobby scene, which has probably killed countless home theater speaker cones. No, it’s the very short scene where Switch (the woman in white) is about to be unplugged. Once she realizes this, the surety and the finality of it, she shakes her head and mutters: “Not like this. Not like this.”

Switch

I get weepy every time I see that scene. It’s not that she’s afraid to die, it’s that she  doesn’t want it to be in some chickenshit at-a-distance manner. She wants to go out fighting. She wants to see Fate take her. She wants to be present for her death, not logged in to some lie.

But that’s not what this blog post is about. I want talk about my second-favorite scene in The Matrix (and I knew you’d want to know what my first one was, so I went ahead and answered). Again, it’s not any of the aforementioned ones; it’s the scene where Agent Smith tells Morpheus that humans are a virus, a cancer. It’s when he wipes Morpheus’s sweaty head and complains of the stench of our race. That scene makes me angry. It twists my emotions up. It’s the scene that later allows the climax of the film to satisfyingly unknot those emotions. When Smith is blown to bits by Neo at the end, I pump my fists and yell because of what Smith said to Morpheus.

^^ **Retro-Active Spoiler Alert!** ^^

Continue Reading →

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“That’s why I tell you to keep your eyes wide. Keep them wide open… at least on one side”.

- Dr. Seuss

I went to an old bookstore the other day, and while browsing the selection of books catered for children, amid the Spongebob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer cartoons, I spotted a treasure trove of possibly the best books ever written. I probably didn’t think so much about the significance and meaning behind each book when I was younger, since the colorful visuals and rhymes stimulated and entertained me to no ends. For example, months after reading Green Eggs and Ham, I stubbornly refused to eat anything that remotely resembled eggs or ham, and it was a perfect excuse to reject anything green as well. I’d simply repeat “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am” over and over until my parents backed down. It was then that I realized the power of Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss was also probably the reason why I loved writing and coming up with my own stories–well, Dr. Seuss and, of course, the endless praise I seemed to receive every time I showed these stories to my mother. His books incite so much creativity and endless possibilities; it is no wonder why they are simply timeless. For children taking their first steps with literacy, I highly recommend using Dr. Seuss as a starting point, not only to encourage the child to read but also to instil fundamental values that seem to have been lost with modern-day offerings. Continue Reading →

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A few of you are nodding. But for those who don’t believe me, I assure you that my writing skills are well below par. Watching a rough draft emerge from my fingertips in realtime would induce nausea. It’s a haphazard, drunken affair.

But I’m a decent editor. That’s my trick, and the trick to turning out a great manuscript. Writing engaging prose requires three things, none of which are easy to pass along to another: You need a flexible vocabulary, an ear for the rhythm of words, and a plot people will care about.

How do you obtain these three things? I say absorption. By reading a metric ton of books, mostly the good kind. This is why writing classes aren’t always helpful. Sure, you will get some practice by doing and by workshopping with peers and seeing what works and what doesn’t, but it’s hard to have a clear discussion about why one piece does or does not shine. It’s either good or it’s bad, and it’s often evident at a glance. This is why a lot of craft discussions descend into bickering about rules and the hard and fast of grammar. Everything you’ve ever heard about passive voice and -ing and -ly endings and the like is bunk. All the great writers ignore these rules. But we don’t have the vocabulary to talk about what really makes for great writing. It either is or it isn’t. Continue Reading →

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Dear Hugh Howey UK Fans:

I want to take a moment to thank British fans for your patience regarding the availability of the full eBook version of SAND, his new novel, at UK retail outlets—especially when it had been made available on this side of the pond.

I acknowledge your frustration; I embrace your right to be indignant. But perhaps unbeknownst to you, you have a vital role to play in all the changes unfolding in the publishing industry. And know that your unflagging enthusiasm and patience will be rewarded!

Random House Century UK released the WOOL (Silo Saga) Trilogy in 2013. RH showed innovation and true partnership to make the series the success it is and every part of the experience was exciting, creative, and enjoyable—so much in fact that Howey eschewed indie publishing in the UK for his latest release because he values the partnership created. (Not to mention the sheer joy of working with his editor Jack Fogg and the whole Random House Century UK team once again!) Continue Reading →

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So, my publisher in Taiwan is a badass. Yes, a singular badass. Erik runs Nautilus Publishing all by himself. He designs the cover art, writes the blurbs, translates the books, answers the phone, handles email, and tugs handcarts loaded with books to his booth at the Taiwan International Book Fair Exposition.

And everything he touches turns to gold. I have no idea how any of this is possible. I’m in awe of the man. Gobsmacked and awed. The #1 bestselling work of science fiction in Taiwan was translated and published by him, and he’s only been doing this since 2010. WOOL looks poised to overtake that work. There are 50,000+ copies in print. Fifty thousand! And DUST, which he launched last week, debuted at #1 in all of Taiwan.

Seriously. How? Where’s the sales team? Where’s the marketing team? Where is the person who runs to Staples for office supplies? How does he do it? Continue Reading →

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Really bummed about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like, in tears bummed. One of the actors I would go out of my way to catch even in bit parts is gone. I saw PATCH ADAMS on the big screen and BOOGIE NIGHTS on the little screen in the same year, and I remember being floored by this talent, this guy who dared yell at my beloved Robin Williams, but do so with such authenticity and zeal that I was like, “Yeah, Robin, chillax, man.” Which probably wasn’t the point of the scene, but Hoffman was fond of stealing them. He didn’t care. He was just too damn talented. I can imagine directors yelling “cut” and shaking their heads and asking Phillip to do it one more time, but not quite so good. “You’re supposed to be unlikable,” they would say. Or: “You’re the supporting actor. Stop hurt everyone’s feelings by making this look easy.”

The last time I felt this sense of loss for a young actor, we were losing Heath Ledger, also to an accidental overdose. (Yeah, 46 is young. To me, anyway.) And maybe it’s wrong to get angry at drugs when this stuff happens, maybe it’s too soon, maybe we’re supposed to grieve for a few weeks or months before we look back and get pissed at the needle or the pill, but I’m all jetlagged and upset, and dammit I need something to blame other than the man we just lost.

I find few things sadder than addiction. Poisoning oneself in an attempt at happiness? What’s sadder than that? I had to watch FLIGHT twice, painful both times, just to appreciate how brilliantly that film portrayed the tragedy of addiction. And poor Jesse Pinkman. Yeah, I finally caught the last two seasons of BREAKING BAD. And every damn time he’d kick the habit and then use again, I wanted to strangle him through the screen.

This is the part where I get in trouble, so stop reading right now. Continue Reading →

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It doesn’t matter how you publish, most books don’t sell very well. If you query your manuscript, there’s a 99% chance you won’t sell a single copy. If you self-publish, there’s probably an equal chance that you’ll never sell more than 1,000 copies. A great thread on KBoards pointed this out and serves to balance the numerous threads from those authors doing very well. The message is this: Don’t think you’re doing something wrong or that you aren’t successful if your book isn’t keeping up with your neighbor’s.

It’s a great message, one I agree with 100%. My attitude remains this: “You mean I’m ALLOWED to publish my book? Without asking permission? I can just do this? No one is going to stop me?”

I don’t take the miracle of publication for granted, much less that I might sell a copy. I marvel that I’m able to set up a book on CreateSpace for free and then order a $5 proof print copy and hold my work in my hands. It’s a book. A real book. Full of words. That I wrote. How crazy is that? Continue Reading →

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