A yacht captain cruises the ocean with the rich and famous, meets the love of his life and becomes a bestselling author. Sound like the plotline for a hit movie? It's not, but it very well could be. It's the true story of bestselling science-fiction author Hugh Howey.
In the fall of 2011, Hugh Howey's self-published book Wool became a huge hit, eventually becoming a New York Times bestseller. As if that wasn't enough, Hugh Howey has also received interest from Hollywood elites like Steve Zaillian and Ridley Scott for a feature film based on his bestselling novel.
How was all of this possible? How did a regular guy take his love for writing and science fiction and turn it into a lucrative career without the assistance of a traditional book publisher? Hugh Howey's story represents a small but growing trend. Thousands of people across the globe are flocking to the Internet to release their works of art, products, books, films and everything else you can think of in between. The gatekeepers who once ruled the opportunity for individuals to share their craft with others and earn a living doing it have come to an end.
Icanbesociety.com chronicles the stories of Internet elites like Hugh Howey, who have turned their passion into an enterprise. I had the opportunity to interview Hugh, where he shared his story and encouraging words of inspiration for aspiring authors.
As I understand it, you attempted to write your first book in primary school. How old were you, and what intrigued you about writing?
"I was twelve. I had just read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Ender's Game, and I wanted to read them again without knowing what was going to happen. The choice was to give myself a concussion or make up my own stories. I went with the latter."
You're an outspoken advocate for self-publishing. What do you think the future holds for traditional book publishers, and what value do you think they still provide (if any)?
"I think traditional book publishers will always be around. But their market share will continue to erode as more and more writers bypass them. There are things they can offer, but I think until they radically improve their contracts, the costs far outweigh the gains."
Wool was a huge hit on Amazon's Kindle platform. What do you attribute this success to?
"I attribute it to Wool not being my first book series. Wool was my eighth published title. My previous works had sold around 5,000 copies over two and a half years, which I was thrilled with. That slow build gave me a platform that increased the chances of my work taking off. The rest was just word of mouth, the right story at the right time, and luck."
Since self-publishing has become so widely adopted, it's much more difficult to be discovered organically. What advice would you give to authors looking to market their books and build their brand?
"Write everywhere. On Twitter, Facebook, blogs, bathroom stalls. If you can't entertain in a sentence, how can you hope to hold someone rapt for an entire novel? Hone your skills by practicing everywhere and all the time. You will get better, and you will build an audience."
The success of Wool garnered interest from 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate to create a feature film. How was the opportunity established?
"My literary agent hooked me up with a co-agent in Hollywood, who sent the book out to a ton of A-list directors and producers. When I saw that list, I thought she was crazy. Why would these people care about reading my story? Then I heard Steve Zaillian was reading and enjoying the book, which blew my mind. He passed the work along to Ridley Scott, because he thought Ridley would enjoy it as well, and the two of them went in for the option. I still pinch myself."
What's the best advice you would give to aspiring authors who have the passion for writing but are afraid to take the plunge?
"Learn from me. My greatest regret is the 20 years I spent not writing. Those years torture me. So go ahead and assume that you'll write a book one day, that you'll finish it, and you'll love it. If you don't start that process right now, you'll kick yourself. Don't kick yourself. Write. It feels better."
To review the full Q&A interview with Hugh Howey, visit icanbesociety.com/hughhowey.
Michael Price is an entrepreneur and author of