Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

A One-Man Operation

So, my publisher in Taiwan is a badass. Yes, a singular badass. Erik runs Nautilus Publishing all by himself. He designs the cover art, writes the blurbs, translates the books, answers the phone, handles email, and tugs handcarts loaded with books to his booth at the Taiwan International Book Fair Exposition.

And everything he touches turns to gold. I have no idea how any of this is possible. I’m in awe of the man. Gobsmacked and awed. The #1 bestselling work of science fiction in Taiwan was translated and published by him, and he’s only been doing this since 2010. WOOL looks poised to overtake that work. There are 50,000+ copies in print. Fifty thousand! And DUST, which he launched last week, debuted at #1 in all of Taiwan.

Seriously. How? Where’s the sales team? Where’s the marketing team? Where is the person who runs to Staples for office supplies? How does he do it?

I grilled him over dinner, eager to divine the man’s secrets. Two books a year? And they’re always bestsellers? Spill it, man.

“The blurb,” he says. “The synopsis. You have to grab the reader with the synopsis.”

C’mon. He’s pulling my leg. It’s not that easy.

“Oh, and a good cover.”

Whatever. He’s not telling me. My guess is a deal with the devil. I mean, the guy bats 1.000 in an industry where the whiffs are more common than contact. And he’s doing it alone.

Here’s what his madness has caused: Today, I found myself on a stage behind a broad desk arranged with placards and microphones. Beside me is the minister of culture. Next is a former COO of a major publishing house. And then the president of the book fair. A dozen cameras film from the back of the room. A hundred or so people snap away with their fancy cameras and scribble notes or hold tape recorders. It’s the press conference to open the fair. I’m the only person within five miles wearing a t-shirt. I have to stand and give a five-minute speech. Afterward, a cluster of reporters ask questions and scribble my responses.

Three more video interviews. Then we tour the largest and busiest bookstore I’ve ever seen in my entire life (Yeah, Powell’s, this place was massive). There are piles of WOOL and DUST everywhere. English editions as well. After dinner, I get back to the hotel where three of the staff are waiting with books for me to sign. Is this what being famous feels like? If so, I can stand a week of it. It helps knowing that a normal life awaits back home.

And c’mon Erik, this isn’t about some synopsis or book cover. What did you do, man? Did you really translate my book? Or is this some old Asimov work with my name plastered on the cover? I’ve gotta know.

12 replies to “A One-Man Operation”

I wish someone would put my name on an old Asimov work:) Thanks for sharing. I love learning examples of people who can do this. I’m not one of them, but I like having the hope that it’s possible and I could be. Great post.

You mentioned Wool and Dust… then just curious, how about the Shift? Please don’t bring anymore Taiwan Edition of Dust(or Shift if there is one), or I’ll have to speak for one here, before you decide to post them for sale like last time.

His trick isn’t in the marketing. Its the books themselves. This guy only picks books that he knows will be hits. And that’s the amazing thing about this guy that he didn’t tell you about himself. He can sometimes tell — whether it’s something he learned, or something he sold his soul for at the crossroads — when a book will hit big. It’s a gift very, very few have.

So, he chooses those books. And then, he writes great blurbs and does great covers, which he knows will help to sell them. And if he’s translating them himself, he’s making sure that the essence of the book that makes it great is conveyed as well. He is no doubt a strong writer in his own right.

This guy sounds like a great artist, actually. On many fronts.

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