Given that Hugh is just a bit well known he’s told his story on many blogs, podcasts, and his own site. With that in mind, we basically skip over his journey to success and get into the things that are important to him today. In this Hugh Howey interview I talk to him about his S&S deal in retrospect, where he sees the future going for his work and life, what it’s like to work with foreign publishers, and why he is no happier today than when he was an unknown author.
Rocking Book Covers – Mentioned in the intro by me. My friend Adrijus got his cover in The Times and Wall Street Journal when Russell Blake was featured!
Deep Blood Kettle – One of Hugh’s dabbling’s.
Text Expander – A tool for typing something short to replace it with a longer bit of text.
Gmail shortcuts – Reduce the time you spend in your inbox!
Huffington Post article we talked about on the show
Searching for Sugarman – A documentary about a musician who had no idea he was famous.
Hugh is confident that each year he is going to complete several books so he also gives himself to dabble in many things at once. Sometimes writing one book, sometimes another, sometimes a short story. He doesn’t recommend this for those starting out though – just get the book done!
The S&S Deal in Retrospect
Just before the interview Hugh had posted on KBoards that he wouldn’t take the deal that he had been given again, which most indie authors regarded as a great deal. He wanted the deal to get his book into stores, but readers were going to book stores and demanding the book, which brought it into the store anyway.
He felt that getting the book to stores though print on demand that way would have been a more interesting experiment. He questions whether you really need a publisher to get into physical stores and whether his print success is really down to that deal.
The deal did bring him interest from major media outlet although he doesn’t think that exposure led to actually selling many books. He found that mentions on significant blogs and tech websites brought more sales than features in traditional media.
Traditional in the Future?
Hugh has spoken with other authors who have done hybrid authors and they have said that “their goal in the future is not to do another deal with a hybrid authors.” With financial success he knows that he can deal directly with his readers in the future and doesn’t have to do what the publisher wants.
Traditional Deal for a Writer?
Questions to ask yourself: Do you think this is the last thing you will write? Can you write another book? Do you want to see your book in stores or do you want to have something you can promote ten or twenty years from now and earn sustained income from?
Taking a deal can work for some people, if you don’t want to write more than one book a year.
Don’t think that the publisher will prevent your need for an author platform, even with Hugh’s sales they were still asking what his platform was like.
Most important, get a lot of opinions, do the research and work out what is best for you.
Look to the Midlist
Hugh actively turns the attention away from himself when people say he is the model for self publishing. He is not. He is an outlying success and many people believe that is where they will go but that is not the reality. The reality is the people who are making a few hundred dollars a month from a book, that is a success, and that is the more likely path.
Read a lot, write a lot, be dedicated and Hugh says that most authors will see earnings coming in each month. You don’t need to sell thousands of copies to make this happen because the royalties are so good – there has never been a better time in history to make money from being a writer.
Time and Expectations
Take the long view and realize there is no such thing as an overnight success. Hugh gave himself 10 years to make it work as an author, he says he was very lucky that it only took 3.
One of the biggest pressures he feels is the expectation of another book in the series. Readers are expecting something good and you need to deliver, especially knowing that 100k people are going to read that sentance.
Once you are big enough to have people asking for your work in another language, you’re probably big enough to get someone to do it for you. Hugh is happy to sell his rights for foreign publication, it’d be too much for him to work out and he’d rather be writing.
When Hugh was working a job he was balancing that with writing. These days he balances it with email, social media, and various other commitments around writing. He has recently cut this back as it was getting out of control and has an auto email go out to people who email him giving a reason why he might not respond.
What does he miss?
Some of the happiest times of Hugh’s life before he was a bestselling author and he knew this at the time. You’ll probably always be the same level of happiness (win the lottery or lose a limb) eventually you’ll return to the same level of happy – lots and lots of science to back that up. Don’t think when you are going to be a bestseller you’ll be happy.
“There is a luxury with earning enough on your own sales that you don’t have to make decisions on money … when you are at the point where you are being courted by a major publisher you can’t be bought”
“Living frugally is one of the best things an author can do to prepare for their career”
“I spend a lot more time thinking I am a hack than any kind of worthy writer”
“’My best months are long behind me’ and I’ve been saying that for two years now, that I’ll never have a day this good again, and that is not pessimism it is appreciation”
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