Hugh Howey and his novel path to success
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
March 30, 2019
Looking out the single window, contaminated soil is blown about in wicked winds, the soil so caustic that it burns the skin and causes instant death to all who venture out. Suited up in protective gear, her punishment for breaking the Silo laws is to be given the task to clean the window. She must go outside in the gritty winds and sweep the massive window clean.
This is the apocalyptic future world created by the self-published wonder Hugh Howey.
In 2011, "Wool" began as a short story, self-published through Amazon and available on Kindle and book apps for an original price of 99 cents.
One by one Howey added to "Wool" in the shape of novellas (slightly longer short stories) also sold again for 99 cents. When there was a rush of sales for this science fiction adventure, he swept the lot up into an omnibus, sold at the discount price of $5.99. And they sold and sold until Howey could quit his day job and continue to do what he loves, write one story after another.
As the "Wool" series flew off the Internet into the hands of readers, so did Howey's previously self-published stories and he became a hero in the competitive publishing business ... beating all odds and finding success without an established publisher from a major publishing house. Howey maintains a blog online, under his name, that has previously discussed the ins and outs of self-publishing. He has become a great advocate and encouragement to other writers. But he did not close the door on an offer to have "Wool" and newer publications picked up and printed by established publishing moguls. He did so on his own terms and negotiated his own percentage of sales at a much higher rate than most published writers reach. He had great success negotiating his contracts as he was not dependent on their name or distribution. He had his own strong following and readership, a precious commodity authors covet.
When "Wool" was published as a graphic novel in 2013, 20th Century Fox came calling and then AMC. Fans are hoping for a network series, if nothing comes of the big screen feelers. It's always fun to see a thrilling read come to life before our eyes!
Silo is the name of Howey's trilogy. "Wool" leads off and sets the scene, drops you into the midst of everyday life and survival in a multi-level cement silo. They are underground except for the top level that has a huge window that looks out over the devastated landscape.
A long spiral stairway takes the citizens up and down, to levels of farming and medical staff, to the depths in engineering, with housing levels in between.
The second book, "Shift," gives readers an understanding of how thousands of people got there in the first place, hurried underground for an estimated 500 years until the contaminated earth heals.
The last book in the series,"Dust," tells the reader the finale' and revealing too much here would be considered a spoiler! Just understand that at 250 years and counting, survival becomes precarious, battles ensue, uprisings grow. Howey creates characters you want to follow and root for. There are tears, jeers and cheers along the way.
Due to the phenomena of fan fiction, this story does not end at the last page, but goes on into infinity in cyberspace. When readers can't stand for the stories to end, those with a knack for storytelling have picked up on Howey's apocalyptic world and sometimes his characters, or create characters of their own from up and down that spiral staircase, and continue those lives and stories onward. Howey has been generous and has encouraged fan fiction attached to the world he has created.
I'm working on my own contribution titled "Threads," where a seamstress in the Silo repairs clothing for extra food and supplies. In each pair of work pants, she sews the shape of a bird in flight within the left pocket. When a hand reaches in, it can trace the shape and flight of the bird, a creature they have never seen but remember reading about in the well-worn children's books in the Silo schools. Birds, relegated as fairy tales, instill hope in an increasingly hopeless world.
Where is Hugh Howey now? After seeing his series and books reaching great success, he commissioned the building of a catamaran and has been sailing around the world. Last I heard, he left Sidney, Australia for Fiji, enjoying sunrises and sunsets on the open seas.
May many other writers find their passageway to such successful readership!
*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.