Hugh Howey's Blog, page 5
October 14, 2013
This Thursday, the 17th of October, Actes Sud is putting on an event here in Paris that is open to the public. If you are in town and you can stop by, please come! The event will be at the bookshop Le Merle Moqueur at 7:00pm. Hope to see you there!
October 11, 2013
Well, that was a Meet-Up I won’t soon forget. Last night, my agents (Jenny Meyer and Kristin Nelson) hosted an event here in Frankfurt so I could meet my foreign publishers in person. Really, it’s the reason Jenny and Kristin suggested I come to the Frankfurt book fair in the first place, as so many publishers are now on the eve of launching WOOL in their territories, and most of them would be in town for what is the largest book fair in the world. I had no idea what to expect from last night’s gathering. It will go down as one of the absolute highlights of my life.
Jenny, Kristin, and I took the train from the book fair to the venue. We were the first to arrive, which gave us time to toast the end of three hectic days. The venue itself was amazing (kicking myself for not taking pictures of the space), and wonderful food started flowing out just as publishers began to arrive.
I’m totally going to leave someone out, but I met my publishers from: Korea, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Israel, the UK, Romania, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Finland, the Netherlands … and I’m definitely missing one or two. There were forty or so people there, including Jon Fine from Amazon and the fine journalist Porter Anderson. Can I tell you how crazy this was for me? I was chatting with people from all over the world, and they seemed really excited to be there and to chat with me. The event went on for FOUR hours! My Korean publisher whipped out their copy of WOOL (my first time seeing it), and I can’t wait to show you this one. Freakin hologram effect on the front wrapper. Truly a gorgeous book. The Croatian publisher had a stack of books to sign for giveaways, and everyone had amazing plans or news about the book launch.
The Spanish edition just went live a week ago, and that’s a language I’ve been getting a ton of emails about. In Finland, they launched last week and sold (not sure if I’m supposed to say) a number of copies that left Kristin’s jaw sagging. The buzz in Brazil is already strong, and the book doesn’t come out until February! Quite a few of these publishers are experimenting with releasing the e-book ahead of the print book in order to build some excitement before launch. Some are serializing the release and keeping the prices as low as they can. These publishers are really being innovative. The excitement in the room was intense. I met so many wonderful people, and several were asking when I was going to come visit their countries (my poor passport).
Several times, I just had to take stock of the room and pinch myself. How crazy lucky can one guy be? I’m working in a bookstore, writing stories in my spare time, and two years later I’m at a party in Frankfurt meeting fifteen of my foreign publishers. Two years! It was just in October of 2011 that I noticed WOOL taking off. All that existed back then was that first short story. It went on to sell 1,018 copies in the month of October, and on November 1st, two years ago, I started writing the rest of the series. Hell, if I was simply a normal amount of lucky, I would probably be landing an agent right now. We’d be shopping the book around to publishers. If I was lucky!
I don’t know what can be learned, if anything, from such a wild and fortuitous sequence of events. Which is why I have to remind myself and others that I was writing all those years ago simply because I loved to write. Sure, I would allow myself in moments of weakness to dream of being a bestselling author. I would dream of having a work discovered and appreciated by hordes of readers. But then I would go back to my perfectly happy state of making up stories for my own delight. I would continue to publish them for the dozen or so people who cared to partake. And I was saying the exact same things to college classrooms and middle school classrooms and on message boards and to whomever would listen back then that I’m saying right now: There’s never been a better time to be a writer or a reader. A revolution is underway. Anyone can be an author. Write because you love to write. Don’t listen to the doubters. Get your work out there. Be brave and be proud. Trust your work.
Heh. People thought I was crazy two years ago. After last night, I think they were half-right. I’ve been crazy lucky. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t on to something. I had discovered a passion for telling stories that was magnified by seeing them available on the marketplace. I had discovered a passion that was expanded a thousandfold by hearing back from one satisfied reader. Here is the feedback loop that no query-and-rejection cycle can hope to replace. Here is a much stronger and healthier reason to hone one’s craft than being told your work isn’t good enough. Here is learning by doing—learning by practicing—like artists in every other medium are celebrated for. Here is the cost of printing and distributing your work plummeting to zero, which is what the digital age has brought us. Here is democratization. Here is the reader in charge. Here is the chance, however slim, to be crazy lucky. Because luck doesn’t happen unless you put in the work and then get the work out there. I’m so crazy lucky that I decided to get my work out there.
Happy writing, everyone. Move that masterpiece forward one more sentence today. And please feel free to say crazy things, to dream, but most importantly to be happy in the now. It’s the best time we’ve got.
October 10, 2013
October 6, 2013
I’m leaving on Monday for the Frankfurt book fair, and then to promote overseas releases in a few countries. Hopefully I’ll think of something to blog about while I’m gone, but things could get a bit quiet around here. Oh, and NaNoWriMo is around the corner. Start brainstorming!
October 4, 2013
Random House UK put on a Facebook Chat today, and the questions were awesome. The answers a little less so. Here’s a link to the entire chat, but I thought I’d toss in a couple questions and answers here for the curious. I picked one with writers in mind and one with readers in mind. The latter contains spoilers, so don’t go past the break if you haven’t read the entire series!
October 2, 2013
Hey folks, sorry to relate this news, but the second batch of thumb drives were not going to make it to me before I left town for quite some time. I didn’t want those of you with orders to have to wait so long to get them, so I canceled the order from the manufacturer (it wasn’t clear if I would ever receive them, anyway), and I am going to manually refund your orders through Paypal. I’ll also try to send an apology like this one to each and ever email address. It might take me a day or two to sort all of this out, and I’m terribly sorry! Maybe when I get back from this trip and things get settled down, I’ll try to order some of these drives from another source and get them to those who really want them that badly. I’ll be doing signed books again in December, so that might be a nice time.
My deepest and sincerest apologies, everyone. This is certainly not what I had hoped for.
Remember Franklin W. Dixon? What about Carolyn Keene? Both had productive and profitable writing careers. And neither of them ever existed.
What is the recipe for writing success? Steady and reliable releases. Look at the top authors across both indie and traditional methods and you’ll find a stream of books that keep themselves in the public consciousness while delivering what’s expected of them. One book a year is not enough to launch a career. I’ve seen indie authors hold back their books until they have enough stored up for monthly releases, just to give themselves a better chance. On the traditional side, you have heavyweights like James Patterson and Nora Roberts, who provide several books a year, each and every year. How can aspiring writers emulate this success? Teamwork.
The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer, a publisher who employed many authors all ghostwriting under the same name. A group of indie authors could do the same thing and be paid much better than Stratemeyer’s writers. I have a good friend who writes under a pseudonym with her husband, and this teamwork means more releases, a second person promoting the works, and the energy that comes from having more than one person united under a common cause.
As far as I know, the Statemeyer model has not gone indie yet, but there isn’t any reason it couldn’t. Imagine six talented and unknown authors meeting on a forum or a local writing club. They share a love of a genre, perhaps spy thrillers with a hint of romance. With a name settled upon, and agreeing to a length of 40,000 to 50,000 for each story, they begin brainstorming characters and settings. They lay down a handful of plots, each seizing on their own or a favorite from the group. And then they begin writing.
In two months, you have a half dozen drafts, maybe more. Enough for monthly releases, and if they keep writing, perhaps a new release every two weeks or even weekly. The writers pool resources for editing and cover art, both of which add constancy to the material (a good editor would help blend styles. Even better if a member of the group had polishing duties, similar to how Patterson operates). Because of the steady releases, there’s a much better chance of discovery. There will always be one or two books in the Hot New Releases category. There will be six people to share blogging duties, to post on social media, to tap into friend/family networks, and so on.
Now, if anyone has ever worked in a group, they know how miserable the affair normally turns out. But I think a coalition of writers could work with the right, motivated members. The potential for success is so much higher than working alone. You would need solid contracts signed by all members, of course. I would model this contract on author-agent contracts, where a member can leave with written notice, and they would only receive future royalties on books already published. You would want to split up publishing duties, and there would be a lot of trust involved. But hey, being a writer isn’t easy no matter how you go about it. For all the downsides, there are some incredible upsides. Writing with others could help with output and combat against writers’ block or procrastination. It could make writing more social and fun. I certainly think it would help aspiring writers find an audience more quickly. And even with the six-way split, it would be profitable in far less time.
The worst case scenario is that each author writes a few books that go undiscovered. In which case: dissolve the partnership, leave with your own property, file off the serial numbers (change character and place names), and publish under your own names. Hey, you’ve written a few books. That’s a win in my view. You’ve got a lot of practice under your belt and you learned something from the group. But I think the chances are more likely that you’re cruising around like Nancy Drew at the end — in a blue Roadster with the top down, thinking about your latest mystery.
September 29, 2013
A massive apology to those who have ordered Silo Thumb Drives and haven’t received them yet. I had a run on the first batch, and the second order was severely delayed by the manufacturer. I should have these in this week and will turn them around and ship them out to you immediately. These drives will have one extra read on there, an entire issue of LightSpeed magazine that includes a story I wrote. Thanks so much for being patient about this.
Also: I’m going to be moving around a bit between now and Thanksgiving. My response time for emails and other contacts will no doubt suffer. I’ll try to update the site with where I am and what I’m doing, so you can share in my jetlag.