For those unfamiliar with Hugh Howey, he’s a very successful hybrid author who’s been behind the Author Earnings revolution – the publication of estimates on the financial side of Indie publishing. His main contribution was to help find reliable data on the self-publishing side of things. This has made him a darling of the Indie scene, as his data supports the feeling that self-publishing is here to stay, since it’s much more successful and profitable than usually realized. It has also made him a hate figure for many supporters of the traditional publishing model.
In his interviews and comments, he comes across as a very sweet and gentle guy, keeping his cool even when flamed to a crisp. In a recent interview on Tech Crunch called “Making it Big in Self-Publishing”, he shares his views regarding book writing, book publishing and book promotion. Since he is one of the most well-known Indie author, it’s interesting to see his advice on marketing:
“I didn’t do any marketing for Wool until after it took off. I mean, I didn’t even have a link to the story on my website. I didn’t Tweet about it or Facebook about it. I think I published sample chapters early on, while it was still in rough draft. But nobody was reading my website then (or now, really). I did some stuff for my first novels. I did signings around town, spoke to some classrooms about writing, and I kept up a blog about the writing process. But the best promotion was just to write the next work. And the success came from word of mouth.”
Since he is particularly famous for his support of Indie authors, it was interesting to read his thoughts on self-publishing:
“[I self-publish] because I can write whatever I want. I’m working on a children’s picture book right now. I’ve written horror, YA, sci-fi, dystopia, general fiction, literary fiction, fan fiction, you name it. I can publish as often as I want. I don’t have deadlines. I make 70% on my e-books and $4 on my paperbacks (nearly twice what most Big 5 authors make on their hard backs). I can price my works however I want or give them away. I get to publish without DRM, which is a very important stance for me. I can even celebrate people pirating my work and only paying for it if they want. It’s hard to do any of this with a major publisher.
“Being patient and having a long view was crucial [in making self-publishing a business]. I didn’t get discouraged, because I had no expectations. It isn’t like my books go stale. They’re all e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. They are brand new and always in print, just waiting to be discovered. I firmly believe that if a well-read author commits to honing their craft and writing two novels a year for ten years, they will be able to make a career out of writing. The beauty of self-publishing is that you can give yourself that ten-year chance. You don’t have to rely on being discovered by an agent. You don’t have to waste your time querying and spending the two or three years it can take to get a single book published. And you aren’t limited to the narrow window in which your book will be displayed on a store shelf. You can publish now and publish forever. That’s a huge benefit, one that I recognized very early on.”
His thoughts on traditional publishing are just as balanced:
“[Traditional publishing is] doing just fine. Publishers are seeing great profit margins. But that’s because they aren’t paying their authors a fair rate on e-book sales. This could backfire on them in the future. My guess is that we’ll see major publishers move to 50% of net on e-book royalties in order to keep their authors from bolting to self-publishing.”
As for his final tip for Indie authors, this is typically down-to-earth:
“My one other piece of advice is that you should publish your works as if millions of people will read them. Invest in quality cover art that looks great both in print and on a small online thumbnail. 90% of the bad covers out there are due to horrible font selection. Don’t get fancy; use something big, bold, and blocky. And get help with the editing, even if that means exchanging services with other writers. Don’t be in a rush to publish. Make your work shine.”
What tips would you give other Indie authors?