Authors are snubbing publishers and insisting on keeping e-book rights. How one novelist made more than $1 million before his book hit stores.
A very nice story about Hugh Howey in today’s Wall Street Journal:
Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott.
And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.
In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.
“I had made seven figures on my own, so it was easy to walk away,” says Mr. Howey, 37, a college dropout who worked as a yacht captain, a roofer and a bookseller before he started self-publishing. “I thought, ‘How are you guys going to sell six times what I’m selling now?’ ”
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Publishing houses that once ignored independent authors are now furiously courting them. In the past year, more than 60 independent authors have landed contracts with traditional publishers. Several won seven-figure advances. A handful have negotiated deals that allow them to continue selling e-books on their own, including romance writers Bella Andre and Colleen Hoover, who have each sold more than a million copies of their books.
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Four years ago, he decided to give writing a shot. He and his wife were living in a 750-square foot house in Boone, N.C. He was unemployed; his wife, Amber Lyda, was working as a psychologist. He had an idea for a story about a young spaceship pilot who travels across the galaxy in search of her missing father. He sold the novel, “Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue,” to a small Indiana publisher for less than a thousand dollars. Sales were meager.
“When he first published ‘Molly Fyde,’ I’d call his wife and say, ‘How many books has he sold? Should I go to Amazon and buy three more?'” says his mother, Gay Murrill, who owns a yarn shop in Charleston.
. . . .
“Wool” started as a short story that Mr. Howey dashed off in three weeks. He posted it on Amazon for 99 cents in July 2011. Within three months, the story had sold 1,000 copies. Mr. Howey was stunned.
“I told my wife, ‘Baby, we’re going to be able to pay a couple of bills off this short story,’ ” he said.
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Self-publishing continues to erode publishers’ status as literary gate keepers. Several authors are now self publishing some of their novels and selling others to publishers. A few writers have negotiated deals with publishers that allow them to keep digital rights.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)