Readers. People. Humans.
The world of publishing is changing crazy fast, and if you’re a writer with an entrepreneurial bone in your body, then things are looking up. Especially if you self-publish.
But don’t take my word for it.
A few days ago I started reading Hugh Howey’s WOOL series. I don’t usually read sci-fi, but I love a thoughtful dystopia with strong female characters (like the hunger games). Hugh Howey initially self-published WOOL as a short story in 2011, via Kindle Publishing Direct on Amazon (which is how I publish). He used Amazon’s arsenal of free promotions available to authors (who are willing to do their homework) and he got his story in front of a bunch of readers, and they fucking freaked out. It was meant to be a stand-alone short story, but it ends on a cliffhanger, and reviewers were all is there more?!
So then he turned it into a series of stories, which were then collected into the WOOL omnibus, which is 500 pages.
I started reading the first WOOL story a few days ago, because it’s free on Amazon (you know, to get you hooked). I stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it and immediately downloaded the complete omnibus (which is only $4, yay e-books and the lack of industry costs which translates to both cheaper books AND more profit for the writer/publisher!). The WOOL series is fantastic and this man is a brilliant storyteller and I probably don’t have to tell you the ending to Hugh Howey’s publishing story, because you can google it yourself. But basically he sold the movie rights and the foreign writes AND he landed a seven-figure contract with a big six publisher where he retained all the rights to his e-books sales.
I am writing all of this as a sort of intro to what I want to share with you, which is Hugh Howey’s advise to aspiring writers, which I just read on his blog. It got my heart pounding like crazy, and if you’re a writer who dreams of actually making a living off of your writing someday, then it might get you pretty excited too.
Some of my favorite parts:
“Appealing to readers is the endgame. They want story over prose, so concentrate on that (aim for both, but concentrate on story). Agents and slush-pile readers are often the opposite, which is why they bemoan the absence of literary fiction hits and cringe at the sale of Twilight, Dan Brown, and 50 Shades. You are writing for the reader, who is your ultimate gatekeeper. Get your work in front of them, even if it’s one at a time, one reader a month or year.”
“If you want to earn a living as a writer, which I’m assuming the people asking for my advice are, you are going to have to be more than a writer. You will be an entrepreneur and a publicist. Or you won’t make it.”
“Know the industry. I know things about publishing that my publishers don’t. … by being a self-published author, I come into traditional publishing armed with experience that they don’t have. I understand algorithms and Amazon categories. I understand the importance of metadata. While at Digital Book World in January, I listened to publishing execs and marketing specialists speak excitedly about what we’ve been posting on Kindle Boards for over a year. I know what media mentions drive sales and which ones are merely for show, partly because I have realtime data that publishers don’t have. Partly because I don’t have biases from a media age that has long passed by. You want to be a writer for the art of it? Forget the industry. You want to earn a living? Study it.”
“The stigma is gone. Self-publishing is the beginning. For many, it will be the end. The moment the stigma disappeared among traditional publishers (i.e. they began signing already-published books to major deals) it meant the top-down approach to publishing flipped upside down. Think about it. Self-publishing used to mean the death of a book. Now, traditional publishing is the more likely death of a book. This is possibly the most important thing I’ll ever explain. Follow along.”
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(Also, coincidentally, Hugh Howey is going to be at Powell’s on Saturday! I am going to go see him and have him sign my… kindle. LOL.)