indie publishing

When Hugh Howey comes to town

Hugh signs Kurt’s Nook

In late 2011 I joined the Kboards, an online forum that had become a hotbed of information for indie authors trying to make inroads in selling digital books. At the time, Amanda Hocking’s books were just about to hit brick-and-mortar stores, and everyone was abuzz with what was possible. Getting a traditional deal from indie sales was considered the pinnacle of success.

Fifteen months later, the world has turned upside down again. Many of the Kboarders I am friends with have turned DOWN traditional deals, raking in tens of thousands of dollars a month they know they couldn’t get from old-school publishers. Stories about rights grabs and bad contracts have made everyone skittish, and only a handful of literary agents have the indie seal of approval for truly caring about independent rights.

Into the mix comes Hugh Howey, the newest indie hero, about to start his US hardcover and paperback book tour after securing a landmark deal — after turning down dozens of publishers who wanted his digital rights, he signed a paper-only deal with Simon and Schuster.

Hugh is waking up in Austin today, and last night he met with my Austin Java writing group for a little down time before his US book tour gets grueling. He’s speaking at SXSW on Sunday and will launch his hardcover edition of Wool on Monday at BookPeople at 7 p.m.

It’s always a treat to meet in person someone you’ve only known online. Hugh got on my radar right away, as his little short story had just taken off and he was writing serial sequels as fast as he could in December 2011. As one of the personalities on the forum that other writers could appreciate and laugh with, his hilarious videos for milestones reminded us not to take the journey too seriously, including dancing in clown fish slippers when he hit 100 reviews in February 2012.

The 100-review landmark seems funny now that he has over 5000, but many of us watching Hugh’s rapid ascent were thrilled. If anyone could join the ranks of John Locke and Amanda Hocking and still come back to tell us about the highs and lows of the journey, Hugh could.

As he completed Wool and created an omnibus edition, he ordered paper copies of his new work I, Zombie. Live streaming video showed him opening boxes and signing the copies (sometimes in blood!) Hugh knew how to work a crowd, and his fan base went from appreciative to increasingly intense and ready to buy anything he offered up.

His journey hits an apex today as he is featured in the Wall Street Journal. When we talked last night over decaf, he said he kept thinking everything would slow down, but the sales and invitations and new heights just keep coming. He’d just gotten back to the States from Europe, and after a few weeks on the US tour, heads to Australia (where super fan and fellow KBoarder David Adams is anxious to meet him too!) No doubt if the film rights snapped up by Ridley Scott become an actual movie, Hugh will find himself on another wild ride.

Hugh Howey, Deanna Roy, Kurt Korfmacher at Austin Java

If I’ve learned anything from my friendships on the KBoards, it’s how easily energy created in the digital world can translate to real life. Meeting someone like Hugh, whose journey I had followed for so long, and with whom I’d had numerous posting and commenting conversations with, was just an extension of the fun and sharing that happen in online communities.

And for those of us publishing digital books, Hugh is paving the way for our next journey — navigating from ebooks and pure independent control to one where we rely, at least in part, on publishers for the packaging and distribution of paper copies of our work. Hugh has paved the way, and it’s up to the rest of us to stand our ground for better rights and royalties. Because when it’s done right, when it’s done the way Hugh has managed to do it, we really are in control of our own destinies.

Other rock star authors from the Kboards: Bella Andre, Bob Mayer, Sara Fawkes,  David Dalglish, HM Ward, Elle Casey, Cassia Leo, Liliana Hart

Before you self-publish, LEARN

Writers who are thinking of self publishing, please, PLEASE do your research before you write a check to anyone. Even the once-trusted names are stepping into the Vanity Publishing zone, this time Simon and Schuster.

These packages are overpriced, managed by a third-party company known for poor work (Author Solutions), plus S&S takes HALF of what you earn, after CHARGING you to publish it. And for nothing–the S&S name is nowhere on your work and they have nothing to do with it.

The farther you go from working directly with the cover artist, formatter, and editor, the worse your experience can be. Hiring direct and uploading your work yourself is always in your best interest. Need a list of who to hire? Here’s a great one:  Helpful Links for Indie Writers

And never, EVER, pay to have your book formatted and prepped and then ALSO give that company part of your earnings. It’s one or the other, not both.

Realize many authors learn these steps themselves and have ZERO cost to publishing their book.

But if that is not you, here’s current rates for getting a book out in the world if you hire out every single step:

  • Digital book cover design: $50 to $300
  • Wrap around book cover design for paperbacks: $145 to $450
  • Ebook formatting: $50 to $100
  • Interior paperback formatting: $150 to $800 (depending on complexity of book, novels on the low end, nonfiction with graphics are more)
  • Copy Editing an 80,000 word novel: $500 to $3000 (proofreading for grammar on the low end, line editing for content on the higher)
  • Proofs and miscellaneous: $50 to $150 depending on if you get your own ISBN or run several proofs

Total for getting your book in the world if you don’t do anything but write it:

Ebook only: $600 with editing

With paperback: $950 with editing

If you have a grammar Nazi in your family, then you can probably do it for as little as $100 for cover and formatting.

What Simon and Schuster will charge you for these same services:

$4700

And take half of your earnings.

Just. Don’t.

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