I’m thrilled to announce that Deep Justice, #3 in the Karma series, is available as of last night. And it’s flying up the charts already, joining my first Silo story The Sky Used to be Blue, and my second, Cleaning Up. Be prepared… this one has a lot of action. We see a side of Karma never encountered before.
It is an amazing time to be a writer! If anyone reading this is thinking about writing, DO IT. It’s never been easier and more accessible to the average (poor) person. I’ll be adding another blog post about self-publishing soon. Watch this space.
And as to the Karma series… there are two more parts to come! If you’d like to be notified the minute they are released (or even before) please give me your email address here, and I’ll let you know. No worries that I will abuse your trust.
I’m quite thrilled to have as my guest today author Hugh Howey, whose WOOL books are as popular as chits in a Silo and are making international headlines… including in the UK, where WOOL was officially released in hardcover recently. If you haven’t read them, go grab the WOOL Omnibus, First Shift, Second Shift, and Third Shift (or the Shift Omnibus), and get ready for audio books, comic books, and a possible movie! Here’s Hugh himself to answer my questions. I’m in italics; he’s not.
Hi Hugh! Thank you SO much for being willing to talk to me about the phenomenon that is WOOL. I’m going to try to concentrate on questions that I haven’t seen answered elsewhere… I’m not going to ask you what your writing desk looks like, or how many words you write a day. But feel free to tell me if you want to!
You have been very open with fans from the beginning and have a rare connection to readers. How do you manage to find the time? Do you enjoy blogging and making dance videos, or is it just a cynical ploy to sell more books… no, seriously, are you a gregarious kind of guy?
Yeah, this is just who I am. When I’m out in public, I make an effort to talk to strangers. And I’ve never really grown up. Besides, writing is such a solitary endeavor. I get antsy for social interactions. So it isn’t really about finding the time to connect with readers; it’s something I enjoy. Long before I thought I could make a living as a writer, I was driving two hours to sit and visit with middle school classrooms or conduct writing workshops. It’s not about making money. It’s about feeling happy and fulfilled.
The Wool universe is complex for a reader to follow, the way you move around in time and spotlight different characters in each segment. Is this tough for you to figure out even as you write it? Do you have to go back and reread the old books to remind yourself what is in each book?
I have notes I can refer to, but I rarely do. Each book feels self-contained to me in a way. I know where the beginnings and ends are, so all I have to do is shade in the middle bits. I have thought about putting together a timeline for readers so they can see how the stories overlap. Maybe when I’m done with the writing. 🙂
Do you ever regret something you did in an old book and wish you could change it? Will you change some of those books, since you can do so easily with ebooks?
I don’t have any regrets on plot and structure. If I could go back and change one thing, it might be to give the first Wool a subtitle. At the time, I thought it would be a single work. It creates some confusion when there’s a novelette called “Wool” and a full novel from Random House and Simon and Schuster called “Wool.” But there’s no way I could have predicted the success of the series.
Are the indie published ebooks going to be very different from the print books you’re now doing through S&S? Do you think they’ll try to make editorial changes? How much control do you have over your material?
I’m going to update the ebooks to reflect the changes made to the physical books. Most of the changes are very minor. The only big one is the inclusion of a new chapter to give some backstory on Juliette. I love how seamless this chapter slotted into the story. If I told readers who have only seen the print version that it was an addition, I think they’d be shocked.
Two of my favorite novels have origins similar to Wool. Ender’s Game and Fahrenheit 451 both began as short stories that grew due to demand into full-length novels. Ender’s Game was later re-released in an “Author’s Definitive Edition” years after winning the Hugo and Nebula. This process goes back to Dickens, who expanded his serialized works before combining them into a novel. Heck, it goes back to the books that came together to form the Bible, which has been edited and changed over the years. If it was good enough for the greatest works of literature, it should be fine for my scribblings.
Why are you allowing fans to publish (and charge for) books based on the WOOL series? Is someone at some point going to yell at you for doing this?
The world of Wool is ripe for exploration. I won’t be able to scratch the surface. When readers got in touch to ask about fan fiction, I not only gave my blessing, I insisted that they charge for the work. Even if it’s just a dollar. I know what it’s like to struggle as an artist. If I’m now in a position to give someone else a boost, I’m going to. And yeah, I’m sure my lawyer is going to have a fit when he finds out. But I don’t care. I’m a fan of open-source, someone who hates DRM, and someone who thinks we shouldn’t go around suing one another. I’m making enough money. It warms my heart to see Ben Adams selling Wool prints and keeping 100% of the profit. The same goes for fan fiction.
Do you have ideas for a new universe after you finish the WOOL series? Will you stick with post-apocalyptic dystopian worlds, or are you going to switch to hot teen romances?
I started my first erotica story a few months ago! I also have a vampire novel I’m dying to write. Plus, another Molly Fyde book to wrap up. Then there’s another dystopian world I want to explore, and a fantasy novel I’ve had in mind for ages. I’ll keep bouncing around and writing whatever excites me. I know that goes against certain rules and formulas in the publishing world, but my primary motivation is to enjoy what I’m doing. I never thought I’d make a living at this. I’m fully prepared to go back to a day job while I write for fun.
Do you worry that you might never have such a spectacular success again?
I don’t worry about it. I just assume I won’t. Nothing about my success feels natural or normal to me. I marvel at it. I don’t have the feeling of: “Finally! Everything I’ve always wanted and fully deserved is now at my doorstep! What took so long? Give me more!” Instead, I’m feeling: “What in the world is going on? Is the universe going to get back to normal? Soon?” My focus is to enjoy it while I can.
Can you believe it… are you pinching yourself with amazement every day?
Every hour of every day. I wake up amazed and go to bed amazed.
You made a rare deal to have your books published traditionally in print while holding onto all of the electronic rights. Will this become more common? Where do you see the indie/traditional book scene going?
I hope it becomes more common. Bella Andre had a similar deal from a smaller publisher. Colleen Hoover just followed with a similar deal from Simon and Schuster. I don’t think I deserve any credit for breaking through any boundaries. It was just going to happen. It had to be someone, and I just happened to be publishing and gaining attention at the right time. The key for all of us and for everyone who comes after was saying no to contracts that simply weren’t fair. The reason we were able to do that was because we were already making money on our digital rights. So we owe a lot to the indie authors who came before us, to the e-reader revolution, to readers who embraced this technology. It’s been a gradual change with a lot of people involved. I’m just one person.
Congratulations on your success, Hugh, which continues to grow. You deserve it.
Thanks for taking the time to answer. And don’t let me keep you from writing! I’m now holding my breath for the next book in the series!
Thanks, Patrice! I’ll get back to work on DUST. Keep an eye out for March 12th. I think that’s when WOOL hits bookstores here in the U.S.
Patrice here: Having been swept up into the world of WOOL, I couldn’t help coming up with ideas of my own. I ran the synopsis of a short story past Hugh, who gave me his blessing. “My Name is HELEN” should be out at the end of February.
For a fun, quirky take on another version of the future, try my short Till Death Do Us Part.
Well, the world of books has somehow turned upside down! Even established literary agents now acknowledge that self-publishing is a viable, and possibly more lucrative, option for writers.
There is a surprisingly open-minded and encouraging post at Alan Rinzler’s “The Book Deal” blog. Here’s an excerpt:
What do you say to writers who are considering self-publishing?
Candice Fuhrman: In many cases I say GO FOR IT! It’s never been a better time for self- publishing; there are so many options for sell your own e-book. With most major publishers still only paying 25 percent of net for e-book sales, most writers can do better on their own. Of course they have to be marketing demons — but that’s the case no matter who publishes you. Although many agents are becoming “jacks of all trades” with self-publishing authors, we could be called something else — such as a publisher or a production person or a marketer.
Andrea Brown: Some authors we’ve worked with have also done indie self-published e-books but don’t seem to make any money with them. The market is overwhelmed with titles — many badly written or edited — and writers find it’s tough to market. We do tell writers that if their book will be difficult to sell the traditional way (or we do not think we can place it), to go ahead and self-publish — but they must do it well and plan to spend lots of time to market.
Andrea Hurst: For many authors, this is a very viable option today. Indie publishing, especially with e-books, offers a way to get your book directly in the reader’s hands. It is still important to have a high quality product and market your work. Many agents I know are diversifying what services they offer and how they will work with authors seeking nontraditional publishing options. Our agency consults with self-publishing authors through the whole process, offering professional editorial, design and evaluation services.
Bonnie Solow: Self-publishing is a viable option for many writers. There is no barrier to entry and authors can enjoy the satisfaction of maintaining full creative control with an accelerated release schedule. For authors who are entrepreneurial and who can access their readers through online marketing, speaking engagements, and so on, self-publishing can be the right route to take. In the long-term I do think agents will be more and more involved in helping clients self-publish… At this stage, however, authors who come to me are not interested in self-publishing. Instead, they want to enjoy the myriad benefits that come with being published by a major house.
Thanks to Alan for all the great information he shares with writers, and to these bold agents for giving us their perspective. Of course I had to add a comment advocating the vast superiority (and fun!) of self-publishing….
Go read the entire post on “The Book Deal” blog.
And thanks to The Passive Voice for leading me to Alan’s latest post.
M. Louisa Locke wrote a post last August that describes, in great and careful detail, the advantages that those of us who are self-published have attained in this rapidly changing industry. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from her piece, which is well worth your time:
“Once an author has been exposed to the liberating belief that all of their work can get in print, and all the work that is good, will get to be read, they will not go back to telling themselves that the gatekeepers were saving them from the awful mistake of publishing a bad book, and that the favorite quirky cross genre manuscript they wrote really is better off never being read by anyone.”
And one of the things that I would add to Ms. Locke’s admirable list is the inspiration that comes with knowing that your writing is finding an outlet — giving impetus to the very stream of creativity that begets more stories — unfettered productivity being great for writers and readers alike!
A very interesting survey designed to get some data on self-publishing straight from the source is described in today’s post on David Gaughran’s “Let’s Get Digital” blog. Answering the questions takes somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes, and it is, of course, anonymous.
The folks that put it together are trying to get 1,000 responses in order to make it statistically significant. So even if you’re new to this fascinating self-publishing journey, please consider participating. One of the best parts of this community of like-minded (brave, honest, thrifty, etc. — sort of like the Boy Scouts) writers is that so many are willing to reach out a helping hand.
So help us learn more about each other and how to sell books by sharing your own experiences.