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How I Do It: Successful Indie Authors Share Their Secrets. This week: Hugh Howey.

Indie Author Hugh Howey

“Luck favors the well-prepared.” Bestselling self-publisher, Hugh Howey.

“Write as if nobody will read it; publish as if everyone will read it.” Hugh Howey talks about the writing and publishing strategies that have made him one of the world’s bestselling self-publishing authors.

* What’s the secret of your success?

The biggest advantage I had as an aspiring writer was my prior experience as a bookseller and a book critic. I knew going in that making a career out of writing was highly unlikely. This was a huge advantage. It allowed me to approach my writing as a hobby, as something I loved, rather than something I needed to pan out. Knowing my chances also prevented me from wasting years pursuing agents and publishers, I spent that time writing as much as I could, and writing the stories I wished were already out there. Being relaxed, prolific, and making my works available to readers gave me a chance. The rest was a mix of luck and word-of-mouth.

* What was the single best thing you ever did?

I published. I made each work available, and then I moved on to the next story. I also didn’t fall into the trap of falling in love with my first world or first set of characters. It’s easy to write sequels for the rest of your life, when no one has read the first book. That leaves you forever marketing your weakest material. Instead, I wrote in a variety of genres and styles and for all ages. When something took off, I concentrated on that.

* Did you get lucky? What happened?

Absolutely. Most bestselling authors enjoy a bit of luck. I was lucky to be writing in this age of e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. Ten years ago, and I never would’ve been published. Ten years from now, and the competition will likely be too great for my works to flourish. My story fell in front of the right eyes, and those people went on to recommend it to the right people, and a bunch of readers wrote glowing reviews, and Amazon’s algorithms gave me a boost, and the entire process felt magical and completely out of my hands.

I will say that the authors who experienced some luck put themselves in a good place by sitting down and pounding out the words and crafting the best story possible. Luck favors the well-prepared.

* How do you get/stay in creative mode?

I don’t wait for inspiration to strike. I sit down every day and work on my story. The creativity comes after you’ve got a nice sweat beading up on your brow. If you wait until you’re in the mood, you’ll never get anything done.

* How do you prioritise?

I set goals. I want to write 2,000 words a day when I’m starting a draft. When I’m revising, I try to get through three chapters a day. When I’m editing, I aim for fifteen chapters a day. I often exceed my goals, but having them is what gets me cranking in the morning.

* What’s next for you?

I’m wrapping up DUST right now, which concludes the Silo Saga that began with WOOL. And then I’ll write the next MOLLY FYDE book before starting a new series. I have a few other genres I want to dabble in as well.

* What’s your top tip for other indie authors?

Write your books with the idea that no one will ever read them. This will allow you to take risks, worry less about following trends and conventions, and produce your best work. After you do this, publish your books as if billions of people will read them. This will ensure that you edit and format the works to perfection, that you’ll grace them with brilliant covers, and that you’ll promote them with catchy blurbs.

After eight years working as a yacht captain delivering boats from Chicago to Barbados and everywhere in between, Hugh Howey was finally lured away from the sea by the girl of his dreams. Sequestered in the mountains of North Carolina, he directed his energies into his childhood fantasy of writing soaring adventure stories. His first series, The Molly Fyde Saga, won endorsements and awards from bestselling authors and bloggers but it was his publication of Wool, and the four stories that followed, that gave him the freedom to quit his day job and write full-time. He now lives in Jupiter, Florida with his wife Amber and their dog Bella, just close enough to the sea for it to call to him yet again.

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17 Responses to How I Do It: Successful Indie Authors Share Their Secrets. This week: Hugh Howey.

  1. Kathy Steinemann September 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    “This will ensure that you edit and format the works to perfection …”

    Unfortunately, this is where so many indie authors seem to fail. It’s frustrating to pay for something that’s riddled with errors.

  2. Sophia Knightly July 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    Excellent, sage advice. Bravo, Hugh Howey!

  3. L.M. Steel July 23, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Such refreshing honesty.
    And now I’m goingh to stop trawling through marketing advice and sit down to write something.

  4. Raf Echanova July 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    I always tell everyone that Hugh is a blessing to his fellow Indie authors. He shares the blessings that he gets being a famous, best-selling author. I have been following his blogs and all I can see is plenty of encouragement from him. This article is a great piece to keep.

  5. Peter Prasad July 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Stunning advice supported by a stunning track record. Goes to show the power of the fact that you have one reader to satisfy, and that’s yourself. Once you’re up to speed, an agent can take the wheelhouse. As to the map and the GPS, that’s the secret sauce in the writer’s head.
    So barbecue your books with passionate abandonment. If you drag your readers through all of life in 225 pages or less, they’ll come back. The hunger for a great read returns with the words: The End.

  6. Melissa July 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    “Write your books with the idea that no one will ever read them. This will allow you to take risks, worry less about following trends and conventions, and produce your best work. After you do this, publish your books as if billions of people will read them. This will ensure that you edit and format the works to perfection, that you’ll grace them with brilliant covers, and that you’ll promote them with catchy blurbs.”

    That is great advice!

  7. Lee J Tyler July 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Love this series and especially Hugh’s take on the writer’s mindset as they are creating and then selling. He has his priorities in order and is not masked by rose-colored glasses. I will be featuring this series on my site and as for this website, I have been writing about your work for awhile now and am quite taken by all that you do. Thank you.

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