Transparency, Wool and the Future of Indie Publishing

 This week, I started listening to the Wool Omnibus, the audiobook of Hugh Howey’s infamous cult bestseller. I noticed the book a month ago in my local Waterstone’s but it was only this week that I connected the dots thanks to a tide of publicity to coincide with the US print release.

The story itself drags you in and proves hands down that good writers exist outside of the traditional publisher-author dance floor. The world is engaging, the characters beautifully crafted; it’s a mix of mystery, sci fi and thriller. Oh and no one, it seems, is safe; I’m only just into book two and it seems like anyone, even protagonists, can be killed, no one is immune and that is half the charm.

The printed edition collects the first five installments of the series, the next three are prequels which explain more about the history of the Woolverse and the Silos, heck even the title is a nice little reference of something completely unexpected. The ninth – Dust – is hotly anticipated.

The big draw for me though – as a writer and a reader – is the series humble origins and the fact that Howey retains the digital rights. So, every time someone buys an e-book copy, the money goes straight to him and not to his publishers – who only hold the print rights – and this is an important milestone in digital publishing. It proves that e-books are not just a flash in the pan, that they, even those by indie authors dipping their toes into self-publishing for the first times, are just as legitimate as print publishing has been for the last few centuries.

Of course, while an awesome story to pass onto indie authors, Howey is one of the lucky ones. The heroes of indie publishing who has managed to not only write but also make a handsome living from it, yes the Holy Grail. Okay it probably won’t happen to me or to you but I champion how he encourages other writers to do it for their love of the craft and not for the possible financial reward.

Remember, it’s not about the money, nothing you love ever is and that is the point.

I’m loving Wool, it’s weird and compelling but it’s also a landmark case. Now if Amazon would just post some real stats that don’t focus on the Hugh Howey’s, the EL James’ and all the other best sellers. I want to know – as I’m sure many other indie authors do – how much people, average folk who write because they love it, who write for the stories – actually earn.

Hurry up now Amazon!

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  1. Hugh does indeed have the Holy Grail….retained ebooks and a major publisher doing the print deal. While I hope to see more of this, I should caution indie authors that to date there have only been four authors who have been able to ink print-only deals: Hugh Howey, Brandon Sanderson, Colleen Hoover, & Bela Andre. If you can move a few hundred thousand books – you have a chance at such a thing…but don't start thinking that the dominoes have started to fall.

  2. Wool does illustrate nicely the opportunity presented by indie and self-publication. I mean, I'd love, love, love, to have an editor and marketing provided and get all that ego-tickling that comes with being on a big label… but then I see that I can expect to wait 9 months for a rejection? I may as well consider that story trunked. I need my work to generate feedback and criticism so I can improve. I don't think the big publishers fully grasp the "Swarm of little fish are ready to eat the big one" concept.

  3. I'm mixed on this… I naturally view hidden data as cause for suspicion and cynicism, because my mind is a place unhealthy for children, flowers, and growing things. But I can understand how an author might not want strangers, ex-spouses, etc, being able to do even the rough math to determine their income.

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