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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Howey_SAND_OMNIBUS_EbookEdition 100

Sand

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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A year ago, I wrote a short blog post called It’s the Reader, Stupid, inspired by James Carville’s advice during the 1992 Presidential campaign, when he coined the term “It’s the economy, stupid.” The post was meant to be a reminder to publishers and bookstores that their customer is the reader, not each other.

I think it bears reminding to all of us just who should be in charge of the publishing industry, and that’s the customer.

What got me thinking about this today was a discussion on KBoards about how Amazon’s algorithms and also-boughts work, what gets promoted and what doesn’t, and all the ways that entrepreneurial writers attempt to figure out the market they’re writing for. Here’s my reminder: It’s all about the reader. Continue Reading →

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Bestselling author Paulo Coelho, who has seen how lower prices on his own ebooks have led to higher sales and greater profits, cautioned publishers from Frankfurt this weekend not to be greedy.

He also suggests that lower prices for digital books are good for the industry, that change is inevitable, and a lot else that made a shocking amount of sense.

Bravo, Paulo. Bravo.

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“What is DBW,” you ask?

Digital Book World is an online news source for digital publishing developments. They also put on an annual conference in New York City. For the past couple of years, they have been the go-to source for all your Amazon-bashing needs. Their coverage has been so stilted, that when I noticed a change this week, I had to reach out to a friend and see if someone had called in sick. Indeed, there has been a change at the helm.

This is a most welcome development. Already, the coverage lacks the one-sidedness that plagued DBW in the past. Instead of tuning in every morning to hear what the Amazon Derangement Syndrome crowd thinks, I’m now watching fair and positive coverage of the digital publishing world. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I point this out because I’m not alone in my assessment. Today, I saw comments on a post at The Digital Reader that starts: “Pretty much anything from DBW can be safely ignored.” A reply from Nate, who runs The Digital Reader goes: “No argument here. I was initially going to be much more snarky when commenting on DBW, but then I toned it down.” Comments like these are rife across the publishing landscape. The previous editor had an agenda, and we should celebrate his departure. Continue Reading →

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It’s being reported that Amazon is opening a physical store in Manhattan in time for the holiday season. The company hasn’t confirmed this, but the move has been a long time coming. Once Amazon started paying sales tax in many states, the main disadvantage of a physical store was removed (the physical space would have nulled sales tax exemptions).

I’ve blogged in the past about how physical spaces could benefit the company, from providing an outlet for same-day deliveries to showcasing their electronic devices. It’ll be interesting to see how they treat physical books, if they also highlight the works they publish in-house and maybe even a sampling of print-on-demand titles.

If the store is a success, one imagines it’ll be replicated elsewhere. Any city big enough to warrant an Apple or Microsoft store could use an Amazon store. If the newest Kindle is as sexy as it’s reported to be, the chance to go hands-on could be good for device sales (and then e-book sales). It’s fascinating to me that the same year publishers are making moves to have their own digital storefronts, Amazon might be making its first foray into physical storefronts. Continue Reading →

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Amber and I are in Annapolis looking at sailboats. When we met nearly 13 years ago, I was living and working on boats. She domesticated me under the condition that we would get back on a boat one day and sail around the world. We’re still years away from departure, but perhaps only two or three years from selling the house and moving onto a boat.

I fell in love with sailing when I was very young. The beach house we went to every year had a small sunfish sailboat. Really just a dinghy with a triangle of fabric. But the thing would scoot, and at ten years old, it was like having your own car. The sensation of freedom, quietude, awareness, and constant striving were intense.

In college, I bought a 27′ Watkins to live on. It saved me a lot of money and filled my weekends with mini-adventures. After my junior year, I sailed south with plans to see how far I could make it. Not far, it turns out. The Bahamas were too nice; I was having too much fun; and then a couple hurricanes wiped me out. Continue Reading →

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Thank you, Margaret Sullivan, for renewing my faith in my favorite newspaper.

With a statement that admits its coverage has not been entirely fair, Margaret Sullivan calls for more balanced reporting on the Amazon Hachette negotiations. This is great news. From Margaret’s piece:

I would like to see more unemotional exploration of the economic issues; more critical questioning of the statements of big-name publishing players; and greater representation of those who think Amazon may be a boon to a book-loving culture, not its killer.

Update: Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler make good cases for why this public rebuke of David Streitfeld perhaps doesn’t go far enough.

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Two forces tug legacy industries from opposite directions. On the one side, you have customer demand. On the other side you have a mix of fear and laziness. In-between is where corporations and industries find themselves, and they face a choice. Sadly, in most cases, the fear and laziness win out. It’s left to radical new upstarts to provide customers with what they actually want.

The examples are numerous. Look at Tesla, a company that builds all-electric cars and wants to sell them direct to the consumer in order to keep the price down. These cars are sexy, great for the environment, and becoming more and more affordable. What’s the response from the competition? An appeal to the courts to block the skirting of dealership laws. An appeal to an old and wasteful system that means higher prices to the consumer and lined pockets for the middlemen. Check out what the New York Times had to say about these attempts:

Car dealers in New York, New Jersey and several other states are waging legal, legislative and regulatory campaigns to stop Tesla, the fast-growing electric-car company, from selling its vehicles directly to consumers. These moves are little more than attempts to protect an old retail model by limiting consumer choices.

How about Uber and Lyft? Having used these services, and having gotten around dozens of cities by cab, the most amazing shock to me is that taxis weren’t the ones who innovated here. With every potential customer holding a networked computer in the palm of their hand, the increased efficiency made possible by an app that handled dispatching, routing, and payment is a no-brainer. But fear and laziness win out, and now taxis are appealing to the courts to keep a system that is less efficient (which means worse for traffic and worse for the environment) and provides less customer satisfaction.

What does the New York Times have to say about this innovation and Uber’s pricing strategy with UberX?

The key to understanding Uber’s strategy is the concept of “elasticity of demand,” which is how people will react to a lower price. If consumers’ demand is highly elastic, it means that a slightly lower price will lead to people taking a lot more UberX rides.

Price elasticity. Lower prices will result in widespread adoption and greater profits. Interesting.

How about that great disrupter, Netflix? Having put video rental chains out of business and then proving that dropping an entire season of TV all at once can be a good thing, Netflix is now arguing that the classic program of “windowing” is not good for the film industry. Netflix wants to release the sequel to 2000’s smash hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Netflix as well as in theaters, all on the same day. The theaters (which are predominantly three companies) refused. Netflix appealed to the Imax chain, but Imax waived control of their screens to the same three aforementioned companies, who host their installations. Again, the companies refused. And again, the New York Times had fair coverage of the event, saying:

Theater chains in the United States have rallied against attempts to change the traditional model for releasing films, worried that movie fans might stay at home rather than pay for movie tickets. The theaters now typically play movies for three months without competition.

Netflix, Imax and the Weinstein Company, which is producing “Crouching Tiger,” said that movie fans were asking for new ways to watch films. “Going out to the movies is a very different experience than staying in,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix. “Withholding access only invites piracy.”

Continue Reading →

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John Pavlovitz is my hero. A Christian pastor and father of two, he recently penned this blog post on what he will do if either or both of his children realizes they are gay. He won’t love them in spite of being gay or because they are gay; he’ll just love them for being awesome people and for being who they are. He understands that being gay is not a choice or a thing to cure. He will pray for them not in order to “fix” them or change them, but in the hopes that they aren’t subjected to abuse just for being themselves.

I can’t sum up his words as lovely as he writes them, so you should just go read his blog post.

What’s heartening is that John has seen an outpouring of support since he blogged about this. It was an incredibly brave thing for him to do; he feared the reaction the post would receive.

I was raised a Christian, but I left the church when I was young. I didn’t believe in God anymore. As I got older, I was drawn back to the teachings of Christ, not because I had faith in his existence (or that of his dad, despite the obvious dual miracles of cocoa and coffee beans), but because I liked to think of Jesus as one of several revolutionaries of his time who tried to change how we see the world and how we treat one another.

I was fortunate to grow up with an openly gay uncle and openly gay friends. It gave me early role models, so I didn’t have to overcome any ingrained bigotry. I don’t take credit for feeling this way; I’m a product of circumstance. Others have a lot more to overcome, a much steeper climb. I think that helps me avoid the feeling that I’m anywhere near a moral pinnacle. I obsess instead over this puzzle: What are the many ways in which future generations will look at my supposedly modern views as abhorrent?

Every age likes to think it is an enlightened one, but if history is any judge, we do plenty today that will be seen as barbaric in just a generation or two. Perhaps it’s eating meat (which I do with quite a bit of guilt. I consider myself a Jeffersonian Vegetarian, which is someone who knows it’s wrong and does it anyway. Which is probably a lot worse than doing something out of pure ignorance). Continue Reading →

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Cool news! In addition to the paperback and digital editions of MISTY, we’re also doing a limited edition hardback. There will be 1,000 copies of these, and all of them will be signed! Should cost an arm and a leg, right? Wrong. $14.99. Exactly what I’d charge if I didn’t scribble all in your book.

The link to pre-order the hardback is here.

There’s also a paperback pre-order page here.

A video of what signing all these inserts looks like (and a Bella cameo) below:

Continue Reading →

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The main character can’t die at the end of chapter one!! C’mon.

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The timing of this is uncanny. After hearing from Snowflakes United that books are not like razors, and then blogging about how they used to be very much like razors, we have a story in the New York Times today about razors that could just as easily be about the publishing industry.

From the story (which you should go read), in which direct-to-consumer razor start-ups are taking millions of customers away from the multi-national conglomerates:

[the razor companies] are also part of a bigger push among e-commerce companies that see opportunities in selling products as varied as mattresses and eyeglasses, where the established companies are accustomed to plump profit margins.

 

“There’s kind of a game going on, where there’s way too much margin,” said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock, a venture capital firm that is an investor in Dollar Shave Club. “The big guys are overcharging you, while smaller companies like ours can give you the best products in the world for a fraction of the price.”

 

In 2004 Gillette reported a 60 percent gross margin before being bought by Procter & Gamble. Gillette’s blades now often cost $10 to $40, depending on the number of razor cartridges purchased.

 

This is where Michael Dubin, co-founder of Dollar Shave Club, saw opportunity. Mr. Dubin offered a subscription service online, shipping razors for $1 to $9.

 

The company said it expected to generate $60 million in revenue this year, triple its revenue for 2013. One million people receive the company’s products in the mail monthly or every other month through its subscription service.

Continue Reading →

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Remember fanzines? Dating back over a hundred years, they were the first scalable form of self-publishing. Students with access to moveable type printing presses would delight in composing anthologies of short stories or news tid-bits and running off a hundred copies or so. In the 1920s, writers of science fiction bypassed the limited space in Amazing Stories and produced their own works in the first of many genre fanzines. Other fanzines brought together horror film fans, fringe music scenes, political commentators, and conspiracy theorists. These xeroxed works were the successor to the coffee shop and the precursor to the internet.

After the web gained popularity in the mid-90s, the fanzine moved online. Websites and blogs filled the same function, except now these works were permanent and the potential audience went from hundreds around town to The Residents of Planet Earth. Fanzines were read and then lost, discarded, recycled, forgotten. They had a limited lifespan and a limited audience. They were as disposable as razor blades.

Recently, we’ve seen a group of authors argue that books aren’t like razor blades (an insult to people who make things for a living, but set that aside). But maybe these old-fashioned writers are on to something. Because books were indeed like razor blades just ten years ago. They were printed once, and then they gradually wore away, whether through use, by rot, or the fact that most went out of print. Continue Reading →

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