What ebook guru Hugh Howey thinks of ‘real books’ and his advice to writers

Hugh Howey is the author of the best-selling book WOOL, which started life in the ebook jungles of Amazon as an online novelette. This was before it became a global sensation and the first instalment in a three-book series known as the Silo series.

Hugh’s second book in this series, SAND, was print published earlier this year, and Allison Tait chatted with him on episode 17 of our top-rating podcast, So you want to be a writer.

What follows are selected excerpts about this ebook maestro’s love of ‘real books’ and advice for aspiring writers.

On that new book smell

“As a book lover and collector, I pay attention to things like how books are bound and the cover art. I love it when books give credit to the font in the beginning or back of the book, that attention to detail.

“The first time I held this book [SAND], you could feel the amount of love that went into it from the publisher, from everyone involved, the production team. You’ve got a dust jacket that’s reversible. This is something that real fans of this work might even hang on their wall! The inside has this beautiful map, which includes all of this great artwork involved in it. The board of the hardback itself, what’s there when you take the dust jacket off, has its own graphics and its own art. None of this is necessary, they didn’t have to —thought and care went into this; a lot of effort went into printing this book.“

On his obsession

“Yeah, we have a bit of a problem. We have amassed a collection of tens of thousands of books over the years. Every time we move it’s quite a chore, but we love them. I have books that I own just because of the age and the quality of the book, old leather-bound books. I have all of the hardback non-fiction works I can never get rid of. We both read voraciously. Yeah, my dream has always been to own a small bookstore, It’s been a dream since childhood. Now I have the ability and my community has the need, so it feels like an obligation really to open one.”

On physical books vs ebooks

“The book was the best technology, and in a lot of ways it’s still the best technology for disseminating story. But, I think we miss the fact that ebooks are helping increase readership all over the world; there are people who live in communities that are not even big enough for libraries. Driving hours into town to get to a bookstore diminishes the amount of books that are consumed. Ebooks basically put a bookstore in every child’s bedroom, and that is something to celebrate.”

On advice for writers who’d like to be where he is

“I think the best thing to learn as a new writer is to write to get to the end of story and not just waste your time revising the book early on, but just write in rough draft, know that you’re going to delete things and change things and push through to the end.

“For the people who have a work in hand and now they want to get out there, don’t be in a rush. You want to polish that story to perfection, no matter how you’re going to publish it. If you send it to an agent and you haven’t had it properly edited or workshopped with friends or other people to go over with you, it’s probably going to get rejected by an agent or editor. If you’re going to self-publish it, it’s probably going to be rejected by readers unless you really pour your heart into perfecting that story.

“Finally for the people that have the work out there, that’s also a time to be patient. Works now are available forever and you don’t have to worry if it doesn’t take off in the first month or even the first year. As soon as the work is published or as soon as it’s out of your hands, if someone else is publishing it, start writing that next piece. It’s all about developing as many stories as you can. That’s how these three things go together, you want to write as many great stories as you can, have them be as polished as possible and make sure they’re available to readers and not locked away in a desk drawer somewhere.”

To read a full transcript of Allison Tait’s interview with Hugh Howey, or listen to it on the podcast, go here.

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