Monday, November 12

Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says: Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says:Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

Hugh Howey's Wool: An Overnight Success

Yesterday I wrote an article in which I asked the question: Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Just today Erica Jackson Curran published an article about Hugh Howey which added a few very interesting tidbits to the already fascinating story of his rise to glory and monetary solvency:
"It feels like it happened overnight," says Howey, a Florida resident who attended the College of Charleston in the early 2000s. Wool started out as a novella. He posted it online in July 2011 and forgot about it, deciding to focus instead on promoting his full-length novels.[1]

"I didn't promote this story, because it's a very dark story, and I didn't know that that's what was catching on " (Hugh Howey)

So the first novella of what would become Wool was a story he posted and forgot about. He did no promotion. No marketing. No advertising. In fact, he was intending to focus on full-length novels. Erica Curran continues:
Howey admits to being almost frustrated with how Wool took off, because he'd worked so hard to promote his previously published novels, and they got little attention. "You like to think you have some control over what succeeds and what doesn't, but for me it just highlighted that the reader is totally in charge of what succeeds and what fails," he says. "I didn't promote this story, because it's a very dark story, and I didn't know that that's what was catching on, but if you look at The Hunger Games and some of the stuff that even young adults are reading now, it's very dark themes, a lot of themes with class structure and class warfare with the downtrodden kind of rising up, and I guess it was just good timing that I happened to write that kind of story while that's what readers were after." [1]
It's a marvelous indie success story.
Hugh Howey has, of course, continued writing and this last August published I, Zombie, a full length novel. I find it interesting that he is going back to writing full length novels rather than novellas since it was a novella that sparked his rocket-ride to the top. But, then, Wool continues to sell fabulously well and I, Zombie is fairing very respectably.

It's no surprise, then, that Hugh Howey has decided to continue to independently publish.
"You do so well self-published, it's hard for publishers to compete with what you can do on your own," he [Hugh Howey] says. "I make 70 percent royalty rates on sales here in the U.S., and if I went with a publisher, that would be cut to almost one-sixth. And so, you know, we sat down with them, and they had some nice offers, but I'm handing them a bestseller with a film contract attached and all of these other things attached and what they're offering is just not as good as what I'm doing currently. I showed them what I'm earning now, and they kind of said, I don't know if we can compete with that." [1]
1) Hugh Howey doesn't need a publisher, thank you very much, by Erica Jackson Curran at Charleston City Paper.

Other articles you might like:

- The MacGuffin: A Plot Device From Screenwriting
- Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?
- What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?

Photo credit: "Edgy Pink" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Doing nothing is of course my game plan, too. Good to know I am guaranteed success this way. ;)

    1. lol Well, if you write and put your stuff up for sale, who knows? No one is guaranteed anything, but Hugh Howey's experience shows that marketing and promotion isn't necessary.

    2. I didn't mean for it to come out so tongue-in-cheek, because my plan literally is to turn my serial into an e-book, put it up, and keep writing. I'm not planning blog tours or tweet-bombs about it. It's a book; there are lots of them available. It may not sell many copies at first, but my plan is to keep working on other books and put them up for sale, and I think it can only help to have more than less books available. Once I have a handful out, that is when I would want to start working harder to bring some notice to them. (Grand plans... which is why I'm focusing on one book at a time right now.)

    3. Andy, I think that's a great plan! I don't mean to knock marketing or promotion, but I think there's a lot to be said for producing a few stories (whether they are short stories, novellas or novels) as quickly as you can and THEN promoting. It might also show you what work of yours sells best, so you can focus your efforts. Best of luck! :-)

    4. Andy: I like the sound of your plan. The best promotion is to keep writing. If something ever takes off, the more backlist you have, the better.

  2. I really love the idea of the serial. I'm trying not to let it distract from my current project, but I find myself scribbling notes here and there as a next in line sort of thing.

    It would be worth a shot. I don't see myself running out of stories...

    1. "I don't see myself running out of stories..."

      So true. It's curious, I find the more I write, the more ideas I get. And the more tempted I am to start working on another story because writing a first draft is (for me) much more fun than revising one. I admire your self-restraint!

  3. Hugh said, "It feels like it happened overnight," and what most people miss is that he said that it "feels like" it happened overnight. He'd been writing and publishing (first with a small publisher and then on his own) for a couple of years before he put WOOL (aka WOOL 1) out there for readers. His writings before WOOL 1? Stellar (yo, check out "Half Way Home"). But--for whatever reason (discuss among yourselves)--they didn't garner the attention that WOOL did...and to Hugh's credit, when readers of WOOL asked for more, he gave it to them.

    At any rate, I have a few points to make here. First, I was fortunate enough to be one of the first readers of Hugh's works, and even then, his talent was obvious. His early works didn't make him rich or famous, but he kept writing. And I think he kept writing not because he wanted to get rich but because he loved writing, and I think his love of writing, incredible intelligence, unique perspective, desire to stay as involved as possible with his fans, and always-increasing skill as a writer has placed him in a unique and well-earned place not only as a writer of serial fiction or as a self-publisher but as an author whose talent, intelligence, commitment, and generosity will set new standards for artists as we go forward. Yo--HH rocks.

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks so much for your comment. Indeed, Hugh Howey is an inspiration to us all. :)


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