A long time ago, I thought about writing book reviews for every book I read. What an easy way to come up with content for my blog, right? But for some reason, the books I had read just kept piling up around my desk without me ever getting around to writing those reviews. Until now. Now I have finally read something so good, I feel compelled to blog about it.
I just finished reading Hugh Howey’s novel Wool, and I must say, it is the best book I have read in a long, long time. Wool is a futuristic dystopian novel that follows the story of a people who have been living in underground silos since the destruction of the outside world several years in the past.
In addition to enjoying Howey’s story, as a writer I am also intrigued with the construction of the story, as well as how it came to exist. One of the most interesting things about this novel is that it started as a short story. Howey first published Wool through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. This original short story garnered such great success, Howey added a series of novellas. Books 1 – 5 were eventually compiled into the novel that I just finished reading. Books 6 – 8 will be released August 2013 in the Dust Omnibus.
The astonishing part of the Wool story is how this series of self-published Kindle novellas was eventually picked up by a traditional publisher. According to the Wikipedia entry for Wool, Howey “signed a print-only deal for in the neighborhood of a half million dollars with Simon and Schuster to distribute Wool to book retailers across the US and Canada. Unusually, Howey retains full rights to continue distributing Wool online himself.”
The story behind Wool has writers around the world blinking their eyes in wonder at how a self-published short-story writer could achieve such an amazing feat. It also has me (and a lot of other writers) wondering if we could do the same thing.
In the old days, a writer just didn’t release any part of a novel if he or she had any hopes of seeing it picked up by a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers wanted first publication rights. Publishing even one chapter of your novel online uses up that first publication right, which publishers typically do not like. But authors like Howey have turned this old notion upside down.
Recently I have heard that more and more publishers want authors to build their own audience first, and then publish. This leads me to wonder if those of us who are spending years on perfecting our novels for publication might be selling ourselves short. What if the thing to do now is to go ahead and release those first few chapters to build interest? Why not put pieces of my novel out there now and see what kind of feedback I get?
There is no denying the publishing industry has changed. Some may argue it has changed for the worse. But I think the recent developments have created new opportunities for great writers who may have been previously ignored by the publishing industry. It gives writers the opportunity to sell their work directly to the readers rather than allowing publishers to decide what books we get to read.
I believe it is only fitting that the reader should be allowed to decide what makes it and what doesn’t. For centuries, readers have had access only to what publishers want them to read. Now we can choose for ourselves. I wonder if what we are choosing has taken those traditional publishers by surprise.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
- Apocalyptic Fiction: Wool by Hugh Howey (readmorebooks.wordpress.com)
- Hugh Howey on why he favors self-publishing (boingboing.net)
- Self Publishing with Hugh Howey (dbpublog.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts on Wool (jyoungjuharris.com)
- Wool by Hugh Howey [book review] (mithrilwisdom.com)
- conversation over at Hugh Howey: people stealing your ideas (morlockpublishing.com)
- Kindle Worlds Now Open for Reading and Submissions (goodereader.com)