Author of hit Wool reveals how he went from working in a bookshop to Hollywood in 18 months

Rob Waugh
Howey’s creation - a bleak, dystopian science fiction series - has now been published in 22 countries, with a film version directed by Ridley Scott in production.

“I self-published the first Wool story as an ebook in July 2011, when I was working in a book shop. When it sold 1,000 copies on Amazon in October, I thought that was it - I’d made it,” says American author Hugh Howey.

“Thirteen months later, when I heard Ridley Scott was reading it - not his assistant, Ridley himself - I almost passed out.”

Howey’s creation - a bleak, dystopian science fiction series - has now been published in 22 countries, with a film version directed by Ridley Scott in production.

Howey described the moment when Scott’s company made an offer for the film rights as “mind-shattering.”

The Sunday Business Post described it as "2013's answer to 50 Shades of Grey" - new proof that self-published authors are rocking the world of publishing.

Howey has now signed a book deal, and Wool shot to the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list on publication in the UK.

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“I’d been planning to write another novel after Wool - not a sequel," says Howey, who had published several books before finding success with Wool.

“It was never a money making scheme for me. But when I sold 1014 copies, I dropped the book I was planning and wrote Wool 2. In December, I sold 3,000 copies. In January, I sold 10,000."

"Social media has made the process so much quicker - if there’s a spark of interest, it suddenly turns  into a fire. Suddenly, it turns into something like Gangnam Style. This is the time we have gotten to.”

“Once it kicked off, I was just consumed by writing. For three months, I wrote. Even when I was working in the book shop, I was walking around plotting.”

Howey uploaded his books via Kindle Direct Publishing - a simple system which lets wannabe authors publish instantly as an ebook on Kindle.

Over the past year, there has been a 400% increase in the number of independent authors and publishers in the UK self-publishing via Kindle.

To begin with, Howie used no agent, and no PR agency. Instead, ‘promotion’ came in the form of reviews on blogs, and posts on Facebook and Twitter. Howey edited his books with the help of his wife and mother.

“To me self-publishing was a way to get published without spending money,” he says. “I said on a forum a few months ago - we can go directly to the reader, and agents and publishers would come to us. Publishers don’t like taking risks. If you can show them it works, they’ll be interested.”

On Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, any Amazon user can upload a book as a Microsoft Word document, set a price, then upload an image to be used as a cover.

The entire process only requires two forms to be filled in - similar to the length of time one spends setting up an email or social network account.

In the wake of the success of E L James’s Fifty Shades trilogy - first published as an ebook - other authors have found that self-publishing is a ‘fast track’ to success.

Eleven authors earned more than £100,000 via Kindle Direct Publishing in the past year - part of a  400% increase in the number of independent authors self-publishing in the UK.

Howey says that the feedback he received from readers - and other writers - was key. “If you emailed me, I would answer," he says. "It was like market research. I found out what people liked, what shocked them, the characters they loved. Post your films on YouTube, start strumming your guitar on the street -find out what people like. No other art form works the way publishing has done. To me, self-publishing is like stand-up - it is like playing to a live audience. It’s the best way to get started as a writer.

Wool by Hugh Howey is published in hardback by Century priced at £9.99. Ebook also available.

You can check out Hugh Howley's Facebook page here.

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