If Hugh Howey Ran HarperCollins

Image: Mollie Howey
Image: Mollie Howey

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

As #DBW14 Convenes: If Hugh Howey Ran HarperCollins

[su_dropcap size=”4″]N[/su_dropcap]EW YORK CITY — At last year’s Digital Book World Conference & Expo (DBW), author Hugh Howey and his agent, Kristin Nelson, joined conference chair Mike Shatzkin onstage in a session about Howey’s newsmaking print-only deal with Simon & Schuster for the first book in his internationally bestselling Silo Saga, Wool.

Today, as #DBW2014′s workshops and associated conference sessions open the week’s events at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, neither Howey nor Nelson are on the speakers’ roster. But they’re certainly speaking to power. And they’re being heard.

What Howey is saying in a new, potentially controversial and starkly comprehensive essay, Don’t Anyone Put Me in Charge, may carry more impact than some in the traditional publishing community at #DBW14 find comfortable. At this writing, nearly 100 comments have been lodged on the piece. And after we hear from him initially here, we’re going to include some additional comments from Nelson for the agent’s perspective, as well.

To help you take in the sheer sweep of perspective in this increasingly influential author’s viewpoint, I’m going to give you his 13 key messages in a stripped-down list, with only an excerpt of the detailed text he offers on each point in his essay. And then we’ll back up for some context.

In the year since his and Nelson’s 2013 DBW appearance, Howey has arrived as perhaps our most articulate champion of professional self-publishing. He is a New York Times bestseller with the Wool trilogy. A graphic novel treatment of the work releases in February. Wool’sscreenplay has been written and producer Ridley Scott film has 20th Century Fox onboard, he says.

Sand omnibus by Hugh Howey, cover by Jason GurleyHis new work, Sand, is out in its five-part serial form and was just published late on Friday evening in its single-volume omnibus edition. His Vonnegut-inspired work for the Kindle Worlds fan fiction program, Peace in Amber, releases on Tuesday.

At DBW time last year, Howey had sold several hundred thousand copies of his books. Today, he has sold more than 2 million copies. He has 30 international publishers. He has completed a two-month European tour.

And in his new commentary, Howey is serious. Don’t be fooled: he frames his thoughts in a lighthearted, self-deprecating tone that helps explain the charisma with which he charms so many in the business. He casts this piece as if he’d been given the reins at HarperCollins, choosing that house at random.

But the opinions he’s laying out here are authentic and earnest. “Here’s how I would blow the doors off my competitors and become the #1 publisher in the land (overtaking indies, which I estimate now rank #1 in total sales). ”

Peace in Amber by Hugh HoweyThis new essay’s perspective is so compelling that Klopotek, a top European publishing services provider, has reached out to Howey to speak at its annual conference as a direct result of the piece. And Germany’s buchreport.magazin has translated the essay: Hugh Howey entwirft den idealen Verlag aus Autorensicht: Was Verlage von Selfpublishern lernen können.

Everything Howey brings to the table here is not new. Virginia Quarterly Review digital editor Jane Friedman, formerly publisher with Writer’s Digest, has noted very close parallels of several of Howey’s views with her own, recorded in a 2012 discussion with McSweeney’s John Warner,Interview: Jane Friedman on marketing and building an author platform.

What’s different today, however, is that we’re hearing those and more observations from a rapidly rising author, one who has worked both with traditional houses and, with undeniable success, as a self-publisher.

Have a look at Hugh Howey’s 13-point list.

Read the full post: PublishingPerspectives.com


Leave a Reply