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Self-publishing success stories serve as lessons for us all. Even if you have taken the traditional route, they teach us what it takes to make a success of your novel.

The case of Diary of an Oxygen Thief is highly reminiscent ofThe Cruelty, a YA novel by Scott Bergstrom that landed a six-figure advance and movie rights after being self-published. (YA Debut Gets Six-Figure Deal: How did Scott Bergstrom Do It?)

Both authors had a background in advertising and understood marketing. Both positioned themselves as independent publishers. (In Scott's case he formed a LLC.) But in important ways, their stories diverge. Unlike Scott, the author of Diary (Anonymous) peddled his book directly to bookstores. He started small, but eventually got his book into Barnes & Noble. He then focused heavily on advertising.

Living in New York City meant that Anonymous had an advantage when it came to posters and bookstores, but considering the wide reach of the Internet, almost anyone with an understanding of their potential readers could do what Anonymous did.

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How 'Diary Of an Oxygen Thief' Went from Self-Published Obscurity to Bestsellerdom

By Rachel Deahl, Publisher's Weekly

You may not know what Diary of an Oxygen Thief is about, but you might have heard the title. Or maybe you saw a picture of the book on Instagram, or read a discussion of it—positive or negative—on Twitter. And that’s by design: a design carried out by the book’s anonymous author over 10 years.

The slim novel, which details the travails of a broken-hearted, alcoholic, and bitter misogynist (who is also an unreliable narrator), was self-published in 2006. After selling nearly 100,000 copies—predominantly in trade paperback and e-book—the book was acquired by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint in May, and re-released by the Simon & Schuster imprint on June 14. In its first three weeks on sale, the title has gotten off to a respectable start, selling roughly 14,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. The book’s unlikely rise, from underground hit to Big Five-published novel, is due predominantly to the marketing efforts of its anonymous author. He pulled off a savvy publicity campaign that prioritized, above all else, getting the book’s title shared on social media.

The author, who asked that his name be kept out of print, spoke to PW from his apartment in New York’s East Village about the long, strange trip of publishing —and promoting--Diary.

A Brit who honed his advertising craft at some of the major agencies in London, then New York, the author self-published the novel in Amsterdam in 2006. At that time he was working for an ad agency in the Netherlands and, after having the book rejected by a number of U.S.-based literary agents, a friend of a friend offered to print him 1,000 hardcover copies for free. Although the author hadn’t intended to self-publish, he decided to make use of the copies he suddenly had. After taking one into a bookstore in Amsterdam, he was pleasantly surprised by the fact that he got the title on the shelf. “[The bookseller] held [the book] up and shook it,” the author said. “I think he had this fear, because it was self-published, that it was poorly made and would fall apart. He never looked at the text. He then said he’d take three copies.”

Soon the author was taking requests for bigger orders from the Amsterdam bookshop. He also started getting copies into bookshops in other cities, such as Paris’s Shakespeare & Co.; the stores, he noted, all catered to young hipsters, whom he considered his target market. After moving back to New York City, the author, who was then working freelance advertising gigs, felt emboldened by the success he had selling, and distributing, the book in Europe. He decided to do a 5,000-copy print run of a new trade paperback edition, and to focus almost entirely on selling it. “I was getting just about enough orders that, if I lived a simple life, I could pull it off,” the author said.

Amping up his promotional efforts, the author hit several indie bookstores in N.Y.C., gaining particular traction at Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the East Village’s former St. Mark’s Bookshop; and Nolita’s McNally Jackson. To get copies into Barnes & Noble, the author posed as an independent publisher and pushed the title through the retailer’s small-press program. (No meetings were required with B&N; everything was done via email. The author, calling himself V Publishing, told the retailer that his house was targeting the “hipster market, the most elusive of all segments” and would rely on guerilla marketing. He also showed the retailer some YouTube clips he’d made promoting the book. B&N placed an initial order of 100 copies.)

Intent on building underground buzz for the book, the author focused on promotional efforts that would make people google the book’s title. From his limited sales in bookshops he felt confident that he could land readers by getting the book’s cover (which features a picture of a snowman whose carrot nose has been repositioned to look like a penis) seen, and its title shared.

Read the rest of this success story HERE.

 
 
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Scott Bergstrom made publishing news last November when his debut novel, The Cruelty, got a six-figure advance with attached movie rights. Scott originally self-published his book, but not in the ordinary fashion. As an advertising executive, Scott knew that marketing was everything. He formed a LLC, NuCodex Publishing, which allowed him to display his book at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It generated a huge amount of interest, grabbing the attention of an agent - and Hollywood.

What is interesting about Scott's self-publishing story is that he planned on making a bestseller from the start. He did not spend time querying agents (it may have taken years). Instead he built success with careful planning. 

First he chose to write a thriller (great for film adaptations), with a teenage main character (YA is very popular right now), using tried-and-true tropes from previously successful books/movies.

Then he drew on his own experience as a marketer to catapult his book into the limelight. And he began his plan when he had only written a few pages.

The moral to this story - think ahead.
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YA Debut Gets Six-Figure Deal, Sold to 16 Territories and Jerry Bruckheimer

By Sue Corbett, Nov 24, 2015 Publishers Weekly

A six-figure deal for North American rights to The Cruelty is the latest in a string of good things that have happened to Scott Bergstrom’s debut novel in just the past month. The manuscript, self-published a year ago, caught fire in October at the Frankfurt Book Fair with sales, so far, into 16 territories. “Every morning I wake up to more exciting e-mails,” said his agent, Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

The buzz that those foreign sales generated ignited interest from Hollywood. In late October, Paramount secured the film rights, with Jerry Bruckheimer attached. (Yes, that Jerry Bruckheimer – Pirates of the CaribbeanTop GunBeverly Hills Cop.)

And, now, Bergstrom has a U.S. publisher for his thriller, which Adams describes as a “YA Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets The Bourne Identity, with a dash of Homeland.” (Adams said she got one offer for the book based on nothing more than that description.) Jean Feiwel of Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends won the book, plus a sequel, in a six-house auction. Publication is scheduled for winter 2017.

Read the rest of this fascinating article on Publishers Weekly

 
 
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I love reading about how self-published authors achieve success. Every story is different, and each one contains valuable insights as to how the process of achieving that hard-won success works. 

After reading quite a few of these stories, I have noticed a pattern. 

First, the author writes something that stands out, either because it unique, different, or appeals to something in readers in a way that touches them. 

Second, the author finds a platform. 

Authors, especially self-published authors, need someone to champion them. Back in the day, that job fell to publishers. But increasingly, publishers are doing very little to promote their authors' work. Promotion now falls on the shoulders of the authors, leaving them with a task that is Herculean. 

In all of the cases in which authors have been successful, their success has ultimately been due to someone else taking up the mantle of promotion. 

In this case, it was a book store owner. In other cases, readers on Reddit and reading communities, have promoted books. Bloggers, ebook promoters, Amazon, and even Twitter have all been instrumental in helping authors achieve success. 

The trick is to find a platform that can help you get noticed.

Helpful articles

15 Reading and Writing Communities That Can Boost Your Platform

Twitter: How to Build a Following - for Writers

Reddit for Writers

The 4-Hour Bestseller
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Three-Book Deal in Sheep's Clothing

By Sue Corbett, BookLife, November 16, 2015

John Churchman was sure he had violated it when, in early October, he dropped in unannounced at his local bookstore, the Flying Pig in Shelburne, Vt., with copies of the picture book he had recently published with his wife, Jennifer.

“I’m sure they were thinking, ‘How fast can we get this guy to leave?’ ” Churchman admits. But as he showed the book to store co-owner Elizabeth Bluemle, an eavesdropping customer said she’d buy a copy. Bluemle pulled over another store browser to take a look. That customer bought a copy, too. Bluemle was sold: she told Churchman she’d take another eight for her shelves.

Little did Churchman, a photographer who runs a “picture farm” (more on that later), know just how serendipitous a sale he’d made. Bluemle was so impressed with The SheepOver that she told the Churchmans she’d like to write a blog post about it. “We thought, ‘That is so nice. Of course,’ ” said Jennifer Churchman. “We thought she meant she was going to write about it in the newsletter she writes for the store.”

Instead, Bluemle, a contributor to PW’s ShelfTalker blog, wrote a post about what set the Churchmans’ book apart from many other self-published titles: the beautifully crafted photo-illustrations, the textured backgrounds, the extremely expressive animals, the heartwarming story of one animal coming to the rescue of another. 

Bluemle’s blog post, published on October 2, almost instantly made the Churchmans a highly sought-after creative team. Multiple agents contacted them, wondering if they had considered shopping their book to a mainstream publisher. The first to reach them, however, was Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. 

Read the rest of this illuminating article HERE.

 
 
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The Washington Post, like many other highly influential book platforms, has always adopted a hands-off policy regarding self-published books. That has now changed with Serving Pleasure, an erotic romance which won a place on The Post's "best of" list for romance.

Does this mean self-published books have finally earned respectability? Probably not. The Washington Post is owned by Amazon, which - it won't shock you to know - published Serving Pleasure.

It would not be at all unreasonable to assume that perhaps a little suggestion was whispered in the reviewer's ear.

(The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Read on.)
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Romance finally breaks The Post’s ‘No Self-Published Books’ rule

By Ron Charles, Washington Post, November 24

It was bound to happen sooner or later: For the first time ever, a self-published book appears on one of The Washington Post’s best-of-the-year lists.

The distinction — bestowed on Alisha Rai’s erotic novel “Serving Pleasure” — marks a small but telling milestone. Long scorned as the “vanity press,” self-publishing now draws hundreds-of-thousands of hopeful authors. The vast majority of the books sell very few copies, but each year produces another rockstar — a EL James or a Hugh Howey — whose stratospheric success fuels more dreams and brings more legitimacy to the platform.

“Serving Pleasure” appears on The Post’s list of the year’s best romance fiction, one of several genre lists in Book World’s Best Books of 2015 package. Rai, who works as a lawyer by day, released “Serving Pleasure” through CreateSpace, Amazon’s independent publishing platform. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Our romance reviewer, Sarah MacLean, didn’t think she was doing anything particularly radical by including a self-published book.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

 
 
The Martian, a film directed by Ridley Scott (AlienBlade Runner, Gladiator) and starring Matt Damon, has grossed over $385,869,582 in less than a month. This is not an unusual occurrence in Hollywood. But how an obscure, self-published novel chock full of math and science ended up as a blockbuster certainly should be a question on every indie author's lips.


Like many authors, Andy Weir, a computer programmer, could not get an agent interested in his novel, The Martian. Weir, the son of a particle physicist father and an electrical engineer mother, spent years researching orbital mechanics, conditions on Mars, the history of manned spaceflight, and botany in order to write his survival story about a man marooned on Mars. While clearly a work of fiction, Weir, to use his own words, "scienced the shit out of it." The novel is laden with enough math and science to defend his premise, which is that a man can survive alone on Mars.

The plot of the book (and film) is fairly straightforward. Astronaut Mark Watney is lost and presumed dead when a manned mission to Mars is hit by an intense storm. Abandoned by the rest of the crew, and unable to contact NASA, Watney uses his knowledge as a botanist to grow food in the mission's artificial habitat. He figures he'll need to survive for at least three years. (Think Cast Away, but without the volleyball.) Eventually, Watney locates an old probe and uses it to regain contact with Earth. The rest of the plot follows the twists and turns of various disasters, recoveries, and attempts to rescue Watney.

Since Robinson Crusoe, survival plots have been sure-fire hits among readers. There is something deeply engaging about an individual's fight for survival. I believe this is because it is a theme we can all identify with, and, at a metaphorical level, it is one we all experience. Yet, this story was rejected by every agent Weir contacted, probably because of all the science. Science and math are not considered "marketable." (Neither are long sentences and words containing more than two syllables.)

So, how did Weir manage to find an audience?

First, Weir posted his book, chapter by chapter, in serial form on his website. Then he published it on Amazon for 99 cents. After the book had gotten 35,000 downloads in less than three months, Weir was contacted by Crown and offered a contract. The rest is history.

If this story seems pie-in-the-sky to you, it is. In fact, it's a little like the hilarious Monty Python skit, "How to do it."

"This week on 'How to Do It' we're going to learn how to play the flute, how to split the atom, how to construct box girder bridges and how to irrigate the Sahara and make vast new areas cultivatable, but first, here's Jackie to tell you how to rid the world of all known diseases!" 

So, to paraphrase Monty Python, all you have to do is "write something marvelous, and when the world starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well write your own ticket." (Sadly, this is a commonly held delusion among young writers.)

To answer the question "How could Weir's story possibly be true?" I consulted with someone I gave birth to (Spawnling #2). I figured he could give me an insider's view of how on earth someone can end up with a movie deal after posting a novel on his website. After all, there are a billion websites out there. How did readers find his?

The answer, not too surprisingly, was to get onto a bigger platform. Spawnling #2 described reading a serialized book on a website after encountering it on Reddit (/r/books, to be precise). Reddit has a much deeper reach than most individual websites can muster. By garnering attention on Reddit, lots of people began talking about the book, and it gained a readership. (Go here for other writing-related sub-reddits.)

You may be tearing your hair out right now, wondering how your historical romance can possibly appeal to a bunch of 20-something males on the west coast. (That's Reddit's demographic.) The truth is, it probably won't. But there is always a platform (meaning a popular site) for the sort of people who will want to talk about your book. It is up to you to find where your demographic hangs out, and how to reach them.

I've made your job a little easier by assembling these resources:

Top 5 Sites for Science Fiction Writers

Top 5 Sites For Mystery/Thriller Writers

Top 6 Sites for Romance Writers

Top 5 Online Resources for Children's and YA Book Writers

Top 5 Sites for Historical Fiction
 
 
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Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, the most famous author you have never heard of, has been making the news recently. His children's book, The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep, has been touted as an overnight success after it hit #1 on Amazon's bestseller list with seemingly no promotion.

How did Ehrlin's self-published Rabbit manage to garner the top position on Amazon? There was some speculation that he may have gamed the system by having everyone he knew purchase copies simultaneously (this has been done before) - but 20,000 copies? 

The mystery of how Ehrlin won such spectacular success - including a 7-figure advance from Random House - is finally revealed. Publisher's Weekly has conducted an interview with Ehrlin in which the author revealed how his book became a bestseller - step by step.
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A Self-Published Sleeper: Author of 'The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep' Speaks

By Claire Kirch | Oct 07, 2015, Publisher's Weekly

"Initially, Ehrlin focused on selling Rabbit at seminars he conducted before various groups and the classes he taught at Jonkoping University. The word-of-mouth praise that effort drove, he said, resulted in people talking about the book to the press. This, he said, propelled sales of the book in Sweden. After Rabbit became a bestseller in Sweden, Ehrlin decided to solicit “friends and their friends” to assist him in translating the book into approximately half a dozen languages so that it could reach a wider audience.

After the various translated editions were self-published in 2014, through Amazon’s CreateSpace imprint, the U.K. edition, Ehrlin said, received “the most attention.” This, he assumes, is attributed to the the fact that he gave away e-book editions of the title via Facebook.

"I did some ads there saying the book existed and [people] could try it for free and see if they liked it or not."

Ehrlin thinks that the people who downloaded the free e-books must have recommended the title to their friends, and those friends then sought out the print edition. “There was a correlation there” between the growing number of free downloads and sales of the print book," he noted. “Then the snowball started rolling, I think. There was a lot of word of mouth.”

Read the rest of this article HERE.

 
 
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I am always interested in self-publishing success stories, because "How did they do it?" is the first question every Indie author asks.

I'd love to be able to answer that question, but each case is different. Sometimes, authors "get lucky" and their first book takes off. In most cases, however, it's a long hard climb.

Jasinda Wilder is a case in point. Before signing up with Berkley Books, Wilder had self-published 28 ebooks. If you look back at her history, you'll notice that she did two things: 1) She identified her market and followed the trends, and 2) She wrote like blazes, churning out one book after another, until she built a following. (It also helped that she was writing in a genre that has 30 million dedicated readers.)

Meredith Wild essentially employed the same strategy: She chose a popular genre, and produced a series. That's what publishers like, because that's what readers like. (It's called "brand loyalty" in the marketing biz.)

So, here is the (very qualified) answer to "How did they do it?" If you are a genre writer, whether you self-publish or go the traditional route (or both), producing a series is the main ingredient in the recipe for success. (Also, in case you haven't noticed, sex sells.)
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Two self-published successes sign with major publishers

LA Times

Like E.L. James before her, Meredith Wild has successfully sold her sexy romance novels on her own; the Hacker Series, about a savvy young businesswoman and the billionaire she falls for, has already made bestseller lists. And like James, Wild has left self-publishing behind to sign with a major publisher.

Forever, the romance imprint of Grand Central, will republish Wild's "Hardwired," "Hardpressed," "Hardline" and "Hard Limit" as e-books April 7, followed by trade paperback editions May 12. Until now, the books, which have sold 1.2 million copies digitally, have only been available in print via print-on-demand.

The upcoming fifth book in the series, "Hard Love," will be published by Forever simultaneously as an e-book and in paperback Sept. 15.

"The past two years have been an incredible whirlwind experience for me, and I'm thrilled that this partnership will allow me to devote more of my time to writing," Wild said in a release.

Meanwhile, self-published romance star Jasinda Wilder, whose sales of 28 e-books and novellas have topped 2 million, has signed with Berkley Books. Wilder will get a reported seven-figure sum for her new trilogy, which will launch with "Madame X" in November.

Read more HERE.

 
 
There is much to be said for self-publishing, especially if you have spent a year or ten (see Michael J. Sullivan below) trying to get publishing houses interested in your work. If you self-publish, and do a proper job of marketing, your book may not only achieve success in its own right, but may be picked up by a major publishing house. (Ironically, it may even be published by one of the houses that has previously sent you a rejection slip.)

All of these books have one thing in common - their authors did not simply publish and then lean back and enjoy their success. They marketed, pitched, and sold the heck out of their books. And they continued to write.

Here are a few best-sellers whose authors did not give up on them.
Eragon is a young adult fantasy series written by Christopher Paolini, who began writing it at the age of 15. Paolini's parents published the book (they owned a small press), after which Paolini spent a year traveling around the United States promoting his novel. The book was discovered by Carl Hiaasen, who got it re-published by Alfred A. Knopf. The re-published version was released on August 26, 2003.
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What American household does not have a copy of The Joy of Cooking in its kitchen? The Joy of Cooking was privately published in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer, a homemaker in St. Louis, Missouri. Initially, Rombauer had 3,000 copies printed by A.C. Clayton, a company which had printed labels for St. Louis shoe companies and for Listerine, but never a book. In 1936, the book was picked up by a commercial printing house, the Bobbs-Merrill Company. Since then, over 18 million copies have been sold.
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Rich Dad Poor Dad is a financial advice book written by American businessman, author and investor Robert Kiyosaki. In keeping with Kiyosaki's ideas that ownership of high value assets that produce cash flow is the key to wealth, rather than being an employee, he self-published the book in 1997. In spite of containing "much wrong advice, much bad advice, some dangerous advice, and virtually no good advice" (John T. Reed) Rich Dad Poor Dad has sold over 26 million copies.
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No Thanks is a 1935 collection of poetry by one of America's most famous poets, e.e. cummings. After being rejected by publishers, Cummings self-published the collection with the help of his mother. With typical panache, the poet dedicated the aptly titled No Thanks to the fourteen publishing houses which had turned the collection down. Forsaking printing conventions - as well as those who employ them - No Thanks is bound at the top, like a stenographer's pad, rather than on the left. The volume was later published by W.W. Norton and Company.
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Marcel Proust's epic novel Remembrance of Times Past (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu) has been called "the most respected novel of the twentieth century." Proust began writing what ultimately became seven novels in 1909. As is so often the case with anything unconventional, the work was repeatedly rejected by publishing houses. In one particularly devastating rejection, Alfred Humbolt, head of Ollendorf Publishing Company, wrote: "I may be as thick as two planks but I can’t understand how a gentleman can take thirty pages to describe how he tosses and turns in his bed before going off to sleep." Rather than give up, Proust paid the Grasset Publishing House for the publication of the first volume, Swann's Way. Since its original print run of 1000, millions of copies have been sold. Keeping up with the times (no pun intended), Remembrance of Times Past was turned into a comic book in 1998. Unlike the original novel, the graphic novel had no problem finding a publisher. (NYT)
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One of the most beloved children's books of all time, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was originally self-published by Beatrix Potter in 1901. After receiving rejection letters from publishers for a story she had made up to entertain a sick boy, Potter, a 35-year-old writer and illustrator, took matters into her own hands and printed 250 copies of the book. Within a year, it was picked up by one of the publishers that had turned it down, F. Warne & Co, which almost immediately sold 20,000 copies. However, Potter's adventure with self-publishing did not stop there. When Warne insisted on cutting parts of the Tailor of Gloucester, Potter turned around and printed 500 copies herself. Over two million Beatrix Potter books are sold each year.
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Wayne Dyer originally self-published his self-help book, Your Erroneous Zones, with a print run of 4,500 copies. He then spent the next year traveling across the country, publicizing his book on TV shows. (You could still do that in the 1970s.) It eventually became one of the top-selling books of all time, with an estimated 35 million copies sold. The book spent 64 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
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What Color Is Your Parachute?, a job-hunting guide by Richard N. Bolles, has been on the New York Times best-seller list periodically for more than a decade. Bolles self-published the book in 1970. Since then the book has seen almost yearly updates with more than 10 million copies sold. (Even I own a copy.)
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The Celestine Prophecy was self-published by James Redfield after being repeatedly rejected by publishers. He sold 100,000 copies of the novel out of the trunk of his Honda before Warner Books agreed to publish it. In spite of drawing fire for its historical absurdities (Mayas in Peru, writing in Aramaic?), the book has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
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After 10 years of rejections, Michael J. Sullivan quit writing altogether. Then, one day, he sat down and wrote the Riyria Revelation fantasy series. He still couldn't find a publisher, so Sullivan self-published through Ridan Publishing, a company started by his wife. His sales were so impressive that he re-solicited mainstream publishers, and this time received several offers. The Riyria Revelations has now been translated into fourteen languages. In 2012 io9 named him one of the "Most Successful Self-Published Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors."
 
 
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Lincoln Michel recently posted an interview with four authors about how they got published. Everyone's story is different, of course, but Michel's questions, thankfully, went beyond the "rags to riches" myth.

Rarely do interviewers get down to the nitty gritty, but in this interview Michel asks the 64 million dollar question: "How has your pitch changed?"

Your pitch is unquestionably the most important piece of writing you will do after you finish your book. (Even if your pitch is meant to be delivered orally, write it down.) But, for some reason, writers always have a terrible time answering the simple question: What's your book about?

Scott Cheshire, like most authors, struggled with his pitch until someone wisely said, "Don’t worry about plot, what’s the book about for you?"

Unless you can convey what your book means, to you, nobody will give you the time of day. After all, if you wrote it, you must have had something important to say. Now is the time to figure out what that is - before you start pitching.
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How To Get Published

By Lincoln Michel, Buzzfeed: June 12, 2014

Probably the most annoying thing a writer ever has to do is “the elevator pitch.” Naturally, I thought I’d start off asking you all to summarize your novels. But I’m also interested in knowing how your “pitch” changed. Is your summary the same as it was when you pitched to agents and editors? Or to when you started the project?

Scott Cheshire: First of all, I can’t think of the last time I was in an elevator and spoke with someone else. It’s usually a quiet awkward affair. Or maybe that’s just me. And yes it’s annoying, but also, as you imply, unavoidable. It’s a crass way to put what is actually a welcome and understandable request: So, what’s your book about? Tell me. Please. But also don’t take up too much of my time… For some people, I imagine, hearing what someone’s novel is about is up there with hearing about a “crazy” dream, or hearing a joke from someone who is just not good at telling jokes. So I think it’s a good thing, really, to figure out how to tell people about your book, in a way that respects their time and relative interest.

All of that said, I used to make the typical attempts, torturously condensed plot summaries, or ridiculous “comparison title” mash-ups (if Cormac McCarthy’s The Road made love to The Moviegoer, while Creedence Clearwater played on the jukebox, my book would be that baby), but then one day someone wisely said to me: don’t worry about plot, what’s the book about for you? My response was something like this: It’s 1980, in Queens, New York, and a 12-year-old boy preacher named Josiah is about to deliver his first sermon to thousands of people. During the sermon he has “a vision”: The world will end in the year 2000. Fast forward to 2007, and Josiah, now a grown man, is having a terrible year — his mother has died, his wife has left him, his business is failing, and his father is losing his mind. In other words, the world is fine, but Josiah’s world has gone to shit.

Read the rest of this enlightening interview here.

 
 
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Hugh Howey's success story does not fit into any of the myths instilled in us from early childhood. 

He was not discovered by a well-connected agent, or by an editor in a major publishing house. He did not win fame on his first try as a writer, nor did he work for years in a freezing attic, until, shortly before losing his fingers to frostbite, he finally achieved the recognition he so richly deserved.

Like most of us, Hugh Howey had a day job. He worked sporadically - and happily - at writing, putting his partially completed books up on Amazon for 99 cents, until one of them took off. This is not an unheard of chain of events for self-publishers on Amazon. In fact, it is the only way to make it on Amazon's platform.

What is unusual about Howey is that he remained a self-published author on Amazon's Kindle platform - even after he landed a book deal with Simon and Schuster. He also turned down offers from agents - until one of them dangled Hollywood before him.

Why did Howey retain his electronic rights?

"It’s a wonderful way to build your readership. My recommendation to anyone who’s got a backlist or a career in a traditionally published model is to break out and test the waters in self-publishing. It’s not going to do anything but good for your career."

And for those of us who have not been published?

"You have as good a chance of winning a publisher over by getting sales going through your self-published works as you do submitting to the slush pile."

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How Hugh Howey Turned His Self-Published Story “WOOL” Into a Success (& a Book Deal)

By Rachel Randall, managing editor for Writer’s Digest Books

At first, Hugh Howey’s decision to walk away from a small press contract and self-publish didn’t seem all that remarkable. After assuming complete control of his work, he kept his day job and began writing and releasing e-books (as well as some print books) in his off hours, happy to be simply sharing his stories with whatever readers might find them. But when one of those books, Wool, unexpectedly took off, everything changed. Howey found himself at the top of e-book bestseller lists—and at the forefront of a new age  of publishing.

The opening chapters of Wool first appeared as a $0.99 e-book novella via Kindle Direct Publishing in July 2011; Howey had written the post-apocalyptic story, about a community of people living underground in giant silos, without intending to immediately follow it up with more installments. “I self-published it and went right back to my next work,” he says. But by October, Howey noticed Wool was eclipsing all of his previous works and was positioned to sell 1,000 copies by the end of the month. “I figured this was going to be the pinnacle of my career,” he says. So he promptly tabled the unrelated project he’d been planning for National Novel Writing Month and instead focused on writing more of the Wool saga.

What happened next is a story that rivals the success of self-made sensations Amanda Hocking, John Locke and E.L. James. The subsequent, rapid releases of the next four e-book installments of Wool rocketed Hugh Howey’s name to the top of Amazon bestseller lists in several categories. In January 2012, he released the Wool omnibus (the combined five parts), which spent two weeks on The New York Times e-book fiction bestseller list and received the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Best Indie Book Award in the sci-fi/fantasy category. By that summer, Howey was selling 20,000–30,000 digital copies of Wool a month … and making a monthly salary of $150,000 from e-book sales alone. He quit his day job.

Read the rest of this article, including a revealing interview with Hugh Howey, HERE.


 

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