From Charleston City Paper:
Self-published authors have long been the underdogs of the literary world. Unable to land book deals, they often publish their work using their own money in a last-ditch effort at exposure. They send them to media outlets where, more often than not, they are immediately dismissed. If you were really mean, you might say that self-publishing is where failed authors go to die.
But that would just be harsh. And untrue, if Hugh Howey and Fifty Shades of Grey are any indication.
Little more than a year ago, Howey was just another sci-fi author trying to maneuver his way through the world of self-publishing after a not-so-successful experience with a small publishing house. Today, his book Wool is a smashing success with more than 300,000 copies sold in the U.S. alone and a film optioned by 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott. He’s the face of a new era in publishing, and he’s just as surprised as anyone.
“It feels like it happened overnight,” says Howey, a Florida resident who attended the College of Charleston in the early 2000s. Wool started out as a novella. He posted it online in July 2011 and forgot about it, deciding to focus instead on promoting his full-length novels. But through the magic of the interwebs, readers took notice of Wool and word spread. Newfound fans clamored for more, so within six months Howey expanded the story into four more installments, which eventually became a 540-page novel about a post-apocalyptic world where people live underground because the outside world has gone to hell. He published via CreateSpace (print) and Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle book). “It was just kind of all out of my hands,” he remembers. “So by January the full story was written and I couldn’t even keep up with the media demands. I was running ragged with my job and everything, so I had to put in my notice and quit my day job at the book store and I’ve been writing full-time ever since.”
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The funny thing was, Howey didn’t need a publisher. He was doing just fine on his own. “You do so well self-published, it’s hard for publishers to compete with what you can do on your own,” he says. “I make 70 percent royalty rates on sales here in the U.S., and if I went with a publisher, that would be cut to almost one-sixth. And so, you know, we sat down with them, and they had some nice offers, but I’m handing them a bestseller with a film contract attached and all of these other things attached and what they’re offering is just not as good as what I’m doing currently. I showed them what I’m earning now, and they kind of said, I don’t know if we can compete with that.”
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“In a lot of different entertainment industries now, sole ownership is kind of becoming the new standard,” Howey says, citing Louis C.K., who self-produced his latest comedy special. “In a lot of ways, what YouTube has done for filmmakers, the Kindle, the Nook, those are doing for writers. You can control your content, produce the best work possible, and you have a distributor that has worldwide access at your fingertips. It’s just remarkable.”
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As with many other success stories, Howey found domestic promotion to be shockingly easy; he barely had to lift a finger. The word really started spreading when readers sharedWool on Facebook and Twitter. “The power of social media is that if you create something that resonates with people, it has a much greater chance of spreading,” he says. “It has dried out the underbrush, if you will. Throwing sparks can now lead to bonfires.”
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Howey released his latest self-published novel, I, Zombie in August, and his Kindle Single, The Walk Up Nameless Ridge, became available in early September. “I’ve prepared myself by reminding everyone that this will end as soon as it began. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” he says. “One day, I’ll look back at this brief career and marvel that it ever happened. I’ll still be writing, I’m sure. There will be many more people wanting to read my books than there was a year ago, but something like Wool happens once in a lifetime. I’m certain of that. And it makes me feel fortunate, not anxious.”
Link to the rest at Charleston City Paper and thanks to Jim for the tip.