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Internet heroes: 

Meet Hugh Howey, the ebook millionaire

 Hugh Howey, self-publishing poster boy

Self-publishing poster boy, Hugh Howey

“I didn’t have any expectations of making a career,” says Hugh Howey, author of Wool, now a multi-million-selling trilogy and soon to be made into a film by Ridley Scott.

A college dropout, Howey spent most of his adult life moving between jobs, before a period without work launched him headfirst into writing stories. After an encouraging start, he found work at a bookstore and continued to write on his lunch breaks.

 It wasn’t a money making scheme for me, if I’m honest 
“I was publishing my novels through Kindle Direct Publishing – I was working in a book shop – I didn’t have to spend any money. It wasn’t a money making scheme for me, if I’m honest.

“In October, I sold 1,000 copies – to me, that was ludicrous. Then I sold 3,000. Suddenly, I spent all my time walking around the book store, plotting.”

By now sales of the Wool trilogy are well into the millions, and Howey has become a poster boy among self-publishers.

“The best advice I can give? Be social – talk to other authors. Go on the forums. Talk to your readers, if you emailed me, I’d email you back. Social media has made it all so much faster. It just needs that spark, and suddenly you’ve got something like Gangnam Style.

“Publishing on ebook was like playing live to an audience. They loved this or they were shocked by that, it was like having market research.”

In fact, Howey’s experience with ebooks has led him to conducting extensive research on self-publishing as a whole, pointing to the huge success of self-published ebook authors when compared to the “big five” of traditional publishing.

According to his research, 53% of titles on the ebook genre bestseller lists were either self-published or from a single-author publisher, accounting for 43% of daily sales units, compared to 34% of titles from the majors.

The figures paint a bleaker picture for ebook authors signed to the “big five”, who swallow up a large chunk of the profits in spite of minimal production costs.

Meanwhile, Howey’s Wool is set to go stratospheric, with casting set to begin this year ahead of a blockbuster release in 2015.

So, what other tips does Howey have for young authors hoping to follow in his footsteps?

“My other advice is – keep it short, people want something they can read in a lunchbreak – something cheap. Wool was a serial first – but once it started selling, I was taking calls from JJ Abrams, Ridley Scott and Joss Whedon.”

Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty

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