The April issue of Wired Magazine ran an article, The Plot Thickens, by Evan Hughes, focusing on the latest indie author phenom, Hugh Howey, and his multi-million-dollar self-published book, Wool.

(Full disclosure: I haven’t bought or read any of the books cited here nor am I affiliated with the authors in any way. I don’t personally know Mr. Howey but, by all accounts, he’s a great guy.)

The story goes that Howey self published a series of post-apocalyptic science fiction novellas on Amazon.com that collectively are now known as Wool. The books quickly gained a following of enthusiastic fans and readers and, within a year, Howey grew his sales to an astonishing $130,000—a month.

(And the doom-and-gloomers in the business have long complained that science fiction is dead! Tell that to Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games. Oh, but that doesn’t count. That’s YA.)

You’ll not be surprised to learn that such numbers got the attention of Big Literary Agents and Big Publishers. According to the Wired article, they flocked to Howey with seven-figure offers to acquire his book. As I’ve described in the previous “Crunched” blogs, such offers typically demand print and digital rights (and have done so for the past ten years). Such offers are non-negotiable, especially the digital rights portion, now that ebooks have taken off like a NASA space shuttle. (Unlike a NASA space shuttle, ebooks are here to stay.)

Howey turned them down! In a year’s time, he was making more than their offers on his ebooks alone—and getting paid every month. Why should he sell his golden goose to some controlling media conglomerate (as I’ve described in Crunching, Part 1)?

Fortunately, an agent stepped out of the pack of howling wolves with a rare understanding of Howey’s point-of-view. She negotiated for him an unprecedented, unheard-of deal with Simon and Schuster: the Big Publisher bought the rights to print Howey’s book for high six figures, but he retained full control of his digital rights.

Wow! Such a concession to an author’s empowerment by Big Publishing is mind-blowing. Not to mention very, very heart-warming.

I’ve cautioned you before in this blog that self publishing fiction is not a get-rich-quick scheme. For every Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, Colleen Hoover, or Hugh Howey, there are a million or more people who only sell a handful of ebooks to their immediate family and that’s it. Moreover, time will tell whether the breakout authors will endure or whether their sudden huge success is truly a stroke of luck, or striking a deep nerve in the public psyche, or effective invested promotion, or some other X factor. Writing a novel or memoir takes hard work, time and dedication, working knowledge of grammar and usage, and, last but not least, talent.

Two salient factors about Hugh Howey give me reason to believe his success is not such a fluke as perhaps some of the other breakout successes. (1) He previously published a book with a small press, which qualifies him as a professional author. (2) He worked in a bookstore, which qualifies him as a dedicated and knowledgeable reader.

So there you have it, my friend. The plot thickens, indeed. Big Publishing is still absorbing this latest body blow. We can only wait and see how everything plays out. In the meantime, Wool is on my To-Read list and I wish Howey continued success!

From the author of The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle, Summer of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more, on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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