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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Diversification is good. Amazon’s market share must be kept in check. This is something self-published authors and the Big 5 publishers seem to agree on. Self-published authors stress the importance of placing titles with every available distributor, while publishers and their pundits worry about how much of the book market Amazon currently controls. If these two parties agree, they can’t possibly be wrong, can they?

Not so fast.

There are costs to diversification. The greatest cost is the loss of impetus for change. If we celebrate diversity simply for diversity’s sake, that means we will publish with anyone, no matter what. So our eggs go into and reward shitty baskets.

Discrimination is an ugly word when it comes to people, but it is an absolute necessity when it comes to markets. As self-published authors, we are the customers of retail and distribution platforms. We are the customers. We agree to pay ~30% of our earnings in exchange for the delivery of our goods. We are also paying for a reader review architecture, technical infrastructures, recommendation algorithms, customer service for our readers, and various other services.

We are not paid a royalty. Royalties are doled out by publishers or producers who provide creative inputs. What we offer is a fully-constructed product ready for sale. We are publishers. Every distributor we do business with lures us in with their payment splits, user base, and merchandising opportunities. We pay them for these services. They aren’t paying us for manuscripts. Continue Reading →

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One of the sanest comments I’ve seen on this dispute was recently left by David Gaughran on another story warning indies that Amazon is coming after them next. David’s points are too good to remain buried, so I’m linking to the comment here and publishing it in full below:

David Gaughran:

Hi Nate, I won’t go over the ground other commenters have, but I will say this: treat all the news reports with skepticism. The Guardian piece from Weds, is based on a piece from the Bookseller on Tues, which is entirely based on leaks from Hachette UK execs.

Even if the leaks are true (which is an unknown) they could be very selective. Here’s a couple of sample scenarios (and I could do about 10 of these, all plausible):

Continue Reading →

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I’ve recently learned that Karyn Marcus, my former editor at Simon & Schuster, is taking on freelance work and has some openings coming up. She might be booked through August, so you’ll have to email her to inquire. I added a link to her email address in my Indie Toolbox down on the left hand side of the website. You’ll find my favorite cover artists, my e-book formatter, and my favorite editors down there.

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The future of art will be a lot like the past:

Having the freedom to do what you love, doing it with abandon, until you get so good at it that someone else loves what you do.

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How brilliant is this? OK Go’s latest video is my favorite thus far. So much kick-ass going on that you have to watch it more than once.

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For one day only, the first entry of the Triptych Anthology, edited by John Joseph Adams and myself, has been reduced to $1.99! This price is a steal for any one of the stories, but you’re getting 22 awesome pre-apocalypse tales from the likes of Paolo Bacigalupi, Jamie Ford, Seanan McGuire, Tananarive Due, Scott Sigler, Annie Bellet, Matthew Mather, and so many more.

My first short story in the world of WOOL is in here. You may have seen the story in my progress bar; it’s called IN THE AIR. For the first time, you’ll see what the “event” looked like from someone who lived through it. And if you haven’t read WOOL, the story stands on its own.

There are so many stories in here that still haunt me. But hey, if you somehow read these and don’t like a single one, you’re only out a couple bucks. It’s not the end of the world.


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Every now and then, I would sneak into the walk-in freezer and take my head off.

It was Free Cone Day, a Ben & Jerry’s institution. I worked at a Ben & Jerry’s in Charlotte just out of high school, and one year I was elected to play the cow. Cone Days were hot days, and I melted in that suit worse than a glob of Wavy Gravy on the sidewalk (that’s a caramel cashew brazil nut ice cream with a chocolate hazelnut fudge swirl with roasted almonds, which I didn’t have to look up!)

Free Cone Day is only surpassed by Free Comic Book Day, the best day of the year for us geeks (a notch above April 4th). You line up and fill a bag with free comics from Marvel, DC, Image, and so on. Reprints of first issues get you hooked on a series you missed. And previews get you anxious for what’s new and next.

The best thing about both of these days for the shops is that they clue shoppers into where they are located. It’s a reminder that the shops exist for some and that we all love ice cream and comics for others. For those new in town or those just coming of comic-and-ice-cream age, it stamps these locations into our spatial memories with an endorphine aftersplash.

Why don’t publishers and bookstores do the same? Continue Reading →

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A while back, I wrote a piece on the kind of bookstore I would open if I had my druthers. While that process creeps ever forward, I keep brainstorming about things I would do to make bookstores ever more relevant in our communities. One of these would be to have a Resident Writer at Bella’s Bookshop. I think every bookstore should have one.

Think of a golf pro mixed with a poet laureate. Chosen by the bookstore, the position would rotate every two or three years. I immediately think of James C. Humes, who sits at the same desk in the same coffee shop every single day in Pueblo, Colorado to get his writing done. A prolific author whose places of publication include the Moon (no, really), Humes is someone I and lots of other writers admire for his work ethic and how he gives back to not only his local community, but to the community of readers and writers. James is just the sort of Resident Writer every bookstore should have.

On a prominent plaque, their names would accumulate. And this display would be less about those writers’ egos and more about the dreams and aspirations of bookstore shoppers who would want to follow in their publishing footsteps. Bookstores should be more than warehouses for bound stories, because someone will always find a way to do that cheaper. Bookstores should be about reading groups and writing workshops. They should foster communication and be places of wonder for children. The Resident Writer would have a hand in shaping all of these. And of course, they would have an honorary desk near the cafe and as much coffee as they can drink.

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When Buddha wanted to show his followers the danger of subjective experience, he told them the story of several blind men who each encounter an elephant for the first time. Only feeling one part of this multi-faceted creature, each had a very different account. To anyone listening, they would think it impossible to believe that all the men were describing the same creature. And I feel something like this is going on with publishing right now.

There are a lot of analysts out there whom I admire as people, even as they do a very poor job of covering the publishing world. There are dozens of stories that should be covered heavily right now that are going completely ignored. To name a few:

• The manipulation of bestseller lists, from the NYT list to the online B&N store. In both cases, readers are made to believe that these lists signify actual sales rank, when they do not. The B&N list features co-op spaces paid for by major publishers, and self-published romance authors are artificially shoved down to the #126 position and below. Readers might be interested in knowing this. Some may want to start browsing at position #126 to find some hidden (buried?) gems.


• The increased profit margins of e-books is not being passed along to readers and writers but is being kept in-house.


• An exploding number of self-published authors who are not household names are having their lives changed because of the ability to reach readers directly and on increasingly democratized platforms.


• Publishing contracts are becoming more draconian and harming writers’ careers. The most favored nation clause, the increasingly strict non-competes, the rise of high-discount sales and how this lower royalty rate buried in contracts is impacting writers, and the abusive term of copyright in an age when books no longer go out of print.

Continue Reading →

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Sand3Jason Smith is the design genius behind the covers of WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST that most of you have come to know. He also designed the UK cover of SAND, which is flipping gorgeous. Covers are such a crucial part of the book package, which is why I think these artists deserve more attention and praise. As a reader, I’m also curious about how these covers materialize. So I asked Jason a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Me: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into art and design? And why publishing?

Jason Smith: As far back as I can remember, design has always been a soundtrack to my life. Some of my earliest memories revolve around copying birthday or Christmas cards and seeing how close I could get to the original. I remember my dad teaching me how to portion an image into a grid system in order to copy it more effectively. I also remember being fascinated by the imagery in books and studying them for hours, encyclopaedias, fables, The National Geographic.

I went on to study design through education, from my early school years in Nottingham all the way to Saint Martins in London. I began my career designing covers for CDs and DVDs and this I loved. I got a real buzz from combining my passion for music with design. The move into publishing was quite a natural progression as there were a lot of similarities designing across both medias.

Continue Reading →

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It is far too easy to blame people for what are really problems with systems. You see this fallacy everywhere, and it leads to unnecessary heartache and divisions. We like to think that if we take out one enemy leader, we’ll win a war and prevent some future one. We like to think that if we fire one corrupt CEO, we’ll right a ship. Or if we elect a new leader, everything will change.

It’s true that very powerful people can sometimes influence the systems they rule, but it’s far more often that systems rule the people within them. The Stanford prison experiments are a great example. Research volunteers were chosen to play either prisoner or guard. The guards were immediately abusive to their prisoners, and the prisoners acted helpless and meek, even though the participants were assigned at random. The power differential and the lack of checks and balances were the problem, not who was placed where.

This is why the people in major publishing houses can be awesome, even as their system operates poorly. I have mad respect for the people I’ve worked with at major publishing houses. Most of them are fighting internally for the same things I complain about. I know editors who want to get rid of DRM on all their books right now and offer free e-books with hardbacks, but the system they operate in won’t let them. I’ve had situations where editorial and sales wanted to go forward with a project, but the legal department squashed it. I’ve even had an editor at one of the Big 5 come up and apologize to me for the way the system handled one of my deals. And every publishing house I’ve worked with grumbles about their bean counters getting in the way of innovation.

We have to remember that parent companies own many of the largest publishers. My agent and I have had incredible offers pulled once the details of those offers trickled up one more level, much to the consternation of the editors involved. I have had conversations with my overseas publishers about all they would love to do, but price laws in their countries and relationships with bookstores prevent them from trying. Despite these obstacles, many publishers are pushing boundaries and trying new things. Two New York publishers have announced moves to less expensive real estate, though I would argue that New Jersey and Lower Manhattan aren’t nearly far enough. Continue Reading →

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