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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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The Shell Collector Ebook Cover For Nook copy

The Shell Collector

He ruined her world. Now she's out to destroy his.

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2014 was a watershed year for the book biz. It was the year self-publishing finally stopped being about the outliers and was recognized by media outlets and the general public as a viable enterprise for thousands of writers. It was the year one major publisher renewed its fight with Amazon over the price of ebooks. And it was the year subscription models exploded onto the scene. A lot to look back on, and not an easy place to see where we go next. But I have a few bad ideas that will most likely be dead wrong. First, a long-winded retrospective.

The Year of AuthorEarnings.com

For me, the year 2014 began with an email from someone who created a software spider that could crawl and aggregate data on hundreds of thousands of Amazon ebooks. The end result of that email was AuthorEarnings.com, which revealed the startling fact that self-published authors were making as much as a cohort every single day as all the Big 5 authors combined. By the end of 2014, quarterly looks at this data showed that self-published authors had overtaken the Big 5 authors.

Not that it was a competition, but it showed that the success of self-publishing was more than a handful of lucky saps like me. The real story of self-publishing (as many of us have been saying for years) is the ability for people with a small and loyal readership to make a career with their craft without being a household name.

I don’t know how much AuthorEarnings.com contributed to this, but 2014 ended up being the year the stigma of self-publishing died. Prior to last January, you had people deriding self-publishing as the last resort of those rejected by agents and publishers. You had indie authors likened to third-rate cattle by some publishing executives. There were calls by other publishing executives to segregate ebooks on retail outlets based on the method of publication. And traditionally published authors not keen on the sudden increase in competition moaned about the flood of content while publishers who priced their digital books higher than their paperbacks agonized over the devaluing of literature.

Much of that dissipated this past year. What had been a sprinkling of anecdotes piled up into real data. Authors like Brenna Aubrey turned down lucrative publishing contracts and out-earned those offers within months of self-publishing. And a steady flow of unknown authors with no publishing history or established following climbed to the top of their categories and had success out of the gate based primarily on the strength of their storytelling. Continue Reading →

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So true. Especially the phone calls from Mom.

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There are certain movies you just have to see around the holidays. Like: A Christmas Story“You’re gonna shoot your eye out!” Or: A Miracle on 34th Street.

I propose one more. A new Christmas tradition:

This relates to publishing, in a way. Today marks the first time that a major Hollywood release has had a simultaneous theater and digital launch. There have been some digital-only works that skipped the theaters, but nothing like this. The reluctance these days is more on the part of the theater owners than the studios.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon, but I wish it would. Theater owners know that by helping provide choice, they’ll lose some market share to home viewing and digital, hence the windowing. Publishers did the same with ebooks — withholding them while releasing hardbacks — and some of this pressure came from bookstores. Continue Reading →

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There’s been a bit of commentary on this blog post, which is already too long, so I thought I’d make it longer. The post wasn’t about KU being bad. I’ve blogged already that I think KU is great for many authors, that subscriptions are a disruptive force, and those who are disrupted are going to complain while the disruptors do well for themselves. I applaud that. KU has been good for me. I’m just looking at ways I would tweak the structure if I were Amazon. Not to benefit myself, but to provide the highest quality experience for their customers. (Any game of suggesting tweaks for a retailer must be taken from their perspective, otherwise it’s just wishful thinking.)

The post was also not an attempt to equate abuses of KDP with indies. Or to suggest that indies who do things the right way deserve anything less than stellar treatment from retailers. It was an attempt at a pragmatic view of the entire landscape, which I think helps explain business decisions that may seem wonky when viewed from within our immediate bubble, but might make sense when seen from a greater height or another perspective.

I’m not a fan of most of what is suggested in that blog post. My ideal publishing world would look much different from the current world. But how is that useful? If we are going to demand things from retailers like Amazon, we have to take their motives and needs into account. Motives such as: The customer comes first. Motives such as: We don’t want to give away products, but we also don’t want competitors to take market share by undercutting our prices.

I’ve seen it suggested that Amazon is all for perma-free, why else do they allow it? They allow it for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph, as a response to the actions of other retailers. If Amazon was truly for a free price-point, they would make this an option in the KDP dashboard. If they thought free should be easy to attain, they wouldn’t have limited us to 5 “Free Days” as part of our KDP Select membership. Think about that: The reward for exclusivity in 2011 was a mere 5 days of “free” out of every 90. That tells you what you need to know about how Amazon views free ebooks. Again, the fact that they price-match has to do with the fear of losing market share to competitors. We seize this as an opportunity. Continue Reading →

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My first encounter with Pinker was his excellent book THE BLANK SLATE, which seriously should be required reading for every human being. It’s like an owner’s manual for your brain and your behavior, so you don’t go through life so frustrated and confused.

After that, I looked for anything he’d ever written, which also led me to Judith Rich Harris, whose two books THE NURTURE ASSUMPTION and NO TWO ALIKE must be read.

Steven really blew up with this TED talk:

Which led to him writing THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE, an amazing tome detailing all the ways in which the world has grown less violent over time, no matter how you slice that time into bits.

His recent article on Slate.com touches on some of these points (which is what I wrote all of this to share. Talk about burying the lead). If you are a news junkie like me, it’s good to get a dose of Pinker now and then to get some perspective. This is also the primary theme behind the original WOOL. I can’t help but think that the bombardment of negativity is doing something strange and awful to us as a society.

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Does Amazon treat indies like second class citizens?

I’ve seen a few comments to this effect since Kindle Unlimited launched. The argument comes from the fact that self-published authors are paid from a shared pool for ebooks borrowed through KU, while traditionally published titles receive the same payout they would get for a regular sale. Since KU launched, self-published titles have earned in the neighborhood of $1.30 – $1.60 for each KU borrow (if the title is read to the 10% mark).

Another complaint about KU is that it ignores price for indies, so a 99 cent ebook and a $9.99 ebook both pay the author $1.30-ish for a borrow (again, if read to the 10% mark). A $9.99 ebook borrowed from a trad publisher, meanwhile, will pay 70%, which comes to $6.99.

It’s worth pointing out here that the trad-pubbed author of that ebook will only receive around $1.48 for that same borrow of a $9.99 ebook. And the trad-pubbed author of a $4.99 ebook borrowed through KU (which is a better comparison to indie pricing) will receive a mere 74 cents! So a comparison of earnings between authors on either side is actually much better for the self-published author.

But wait, you say, we aren’t just authors. We are publishers! We pay for cover art and editing. We upload a finished product, ready to go. These aren’t royalties we’re earning; they are a cut of proceeds. So comparing our income as authors to other authors isn’t fair. We should compare our income as self-publishers to other publishers.

Okay, then, let’s compare. In this case, trad publishers are getting the better end of the stick for ebooks priced above $2.99. For ebooks priced below $2.99, self-published “publishers” begin to do better. (Very few trad pubbed books are priced this low, so it’s moot.) But we have to also compare everything, not just pay. We have to compare what Amazon is getting out of the bargain. Because the way I see it, indies aren’t just treated like second class citizens by Amazon — self-published authors treat Amazon’s customers like second class citizens. Continue Reading →

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Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. If your back hurts, go see one. If they tell you they can’t find anything wrong with you, but you know your back still hurts like the dickens, consider what happened to me:


I was twenty-five years old when I threw my back out. I was working on boats at the time. On this particular job, I was leading a fleet of several dozen boats for the annual Richard Bertram Summer Cruise, which is when new boat owners follow one another through the Bahamas for a week. As the fleet captain, I led planning and weather sessions over spread-out charts to show the other captains where we would head and what to be cautious of. I fixed broken air conditioners, stopped one boat from sinking, and most importantly — I set up the margarita machine in every port of call.

The margarita machine was this massive cooled ice swirler thingamabob that we stored in the lazarette of our lead yacht. It took two people to pick up the margarita machine. Unfortunately, only one person could fit in the lazarette. I was young, dumb, with more muscles than sense, so I would go in, crouch down, pick up this machine that weighed more than I did, and waddle out with it, hunched over.

The third or fourth time I did this, I heard a pop in my back, and I went down like someone who’d had eight margaritas. I’d never felt pain like this before, not with broken bones, nothing. I spent the rest of the cruise crying, stooped over, staggering around, laying out on the deck, putting fenders under my lower back, anything to make it stop. Everything I tried made it worse. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely see through the agony.

And so began my decade of debilitating and chronic back pain. Continue Reading →

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First, a glance at the rearview mirror. 2014 was absolutely insane. For travel, it began with a trip to Taiwan, where WOOL has become the #1 bestselling science fiction novel of all-time. London, Berlin, Toronto, New York, Istanbul, and Budapest were just a few of the other stops. I’m leaving out over a dozen trips. It was both exhilarating and exhausting to trot around the globe this year. It’s why I won’t be jetting around quite as much in 2015.

As far as releases, 2014 saw the release of two novels: SAND and THE SHELL COLLECTOR. It was also the year I put out my first children’s book, MISTY, with Nidhi Chanani. The WOOL graphic novel and comics came out. Then there were three short stories published online: (GLITCH, SECOND SUICIDE, and PROMISES OF LONDON). Not to mention two anthologies edited and contributed to (THE END IS NIGH and THE END IS NOW).

I’m leaving a few releases out. By my count, it’s something like ten or twelve things wrapped up this year. Mostly from distant hotel rooms or while in the air. Continue Reading →

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A couple anthologies to look out for. One is free, and includes 101 works of flash fiction from 101 authors. It’s called STORIES ON THE GO. A lot of people put a lot of effort into compiling and editing this work. I’m not one of them. All I did was contribute a piece for the collection.

Each story is less than 1,000 words long, so quick reads. This is a great collection of writers and a nice way to discover interesting voices before hunting down more of their works.

The other work I pre-ordered today is WASTELANDS 2, edited by John Joseph Adams. I loved the original WASTELANDS anthology. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

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The third and final video for your book creation. Earlier, I went over creating your print interior using InDesign. I also showed you one way to edit your ebook. Now I’m going to do a quick and dirty book cover, mainly to show you how to set up the file properly, and how to create your own UPC code. You should take more time and do a better job with the design and art than I will here in less than an hour.

Some links you’ll need:

The CreateSpace Cover Guidelines

A Free UPC Code Generator

And here’s the tutorial. Hope it’s useful:



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