Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

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

Closed for Remodeling

You may notice the signed books are no longer available on the lefthand side of the website. I had to take that feature down before I head off to Australia for two weeks. I hope to have it up soon in an improved fashion, complete with a shopping cart and easier payment options for shipping. However, the price for shipping will be quite a bit more than it has in the past. Let me explain.

I’ve been using the USPS for shipping signed books for several years now. Both in Boone, NC and here in Jupiter, FL, it gave me a chance to get out of the house and socialize. It was also the best chance to get Bella out for a walk at the greenway in Boone or on the beach here in Jupiter. Otherwise, the two of us were cooped up all the time.

Six months or so ago, one of the ladies behind the counter here in Jupiter finally leaned over the counter to see my dog. Bella is unbelievable in public. She just lays down by my feet and waits patiently while dozens and dozens of packages are sent out. This postal worker leans over all smiles and then recoils in horror at seeing a pit mix. This wasn’t the worker helping me, just another down the counter. She said I shouldn’t have that dog in there and asks if it’s a work dog. I reply that she’s canine good citizenship certified and a licensed therapy dog (both true).

The next time I come to the post office, there are signs everywhere. I’m told the dog can’t come in, that there have been complaints. It was a sad day, because it’s too hot here to leave Bella in the car. She had to start staying home for the post office runs.

At the first of the year, the next major bummer. The cost of shipping overseas — even to Canada — nearly doubled. I’ve had a difficult time passing along that cost to customers; usually I don’t. I just pay the difference. I’ve had a few people email me after getting their package and seeing $60 on the shipping label when they paid $25 and ask what happened. I tell them not to worry about it. What’s weird is how Canada more than doubled in price. It’s cheaper to ship to Hawaii than right across the border.

The biggest issue, however, has been the damaged books. I’ve had a handful lost completely and many that arrive dinged up. I watch them behind the counter throw packages into the sorting bins, and I cringe every time. I get emails from customers with damaged books, and I simply send out another. I only make a few dollars on these signed books to begin with (it costs to have them shipped to me from the printer, and I only charge retail plus shipping. The cost of materials, my time, gas, etc. isn’t accounted for). But I’ve been happy to do it. Even with the damaged/lost books and the higher overseas rates and the time that I needed some extra tape and was told that I needed to buy an entire roll from the back wall when I could see the tape gun at the ladies’ elbow.

Until today. So, I’m extremely hobbled right now with some kind of pinched nerve or bulging disc. It’s a chronic problem I’ve been dealing with for a decade. When it comes on, it’s so bad that I sometimes have to get Amber to help me in and out of bed. I normally have a high tolerance for pain, so it’s crazy that my body can suddenly make it difficult to move or perform the most basic of tasks. It’s extremely frustrating, as I hate allowing anyone to help me. It’s one of my many character flaws. I’d rather suffer than ask for a hand. (I get this from my father, and it drives me crazy when he does this, and yet I do the same damn thing).

I went to the post office this morning with a huge load of books. Poor Amber had to load them into the car for me. It took a lot to even ask her to do this. But my plan, since I’m leaving for Australia tomorrow, was to get there and ask one of the postal workers to help me bring the books inside to the counter. There’s a guy there (I think the branch manager) who is quite large and just roams around helping wherever needed (when the line gets long, he asks if anyone is there to pick up a package. He also goes behind the counter to help sort and arrange packages that have been checked in). I know all of the workers at this branch by name, and they smile and wave when I come in. Me and this guy are quite friendly.

And so I wait in line with a small box; I get up to the counter and ask if I could get some help bringing some packages in; and I’m told by the manager that he can’t help me. “We aren’t covered out there,” he says.

I’m stuck. Even with my new back brace on, it hurts to walk and open doors. It takes me a dozen trips, back and forth, carrying a single box at a time, but some of these boxes have twenty books in them. Even though the physical exertion isn’t much, I’m sweating from the pain. It feels like my spinal column is grinding down on itself. My back is spasming at the counter. It takes forever, little shuffling steps, and there’s nothing they can do to help.

Of course, this is what I normally do anyway. I normally can’t bear to ask for help in the first place. If I wasn’t flying out of town tomorrow with all the pressure to heal up and be able to get around on this book tour, I wouldn’t have asked. I would just suffer the consequences and be laid up for the next week.

Maybe it was the pain thinking for me, but I decided at the counter there that I needed to make a change. The UPS store, when I’ve needed to use them, has customer service like you wouldn’t believe. It’s practically around the corner from my house. They have dog treats and love on Bella when she comes in with me. They do copying and have a desk I can use for signing contracts. They go out of their way to help people, and I know what they would have done if I walked in there today. They would have seen how I was moving, maybe spotted the back brace under my t-shirt, and demanded that they unload my car.

I haven’t used them because the shipping is more expensive, and I do everything I can to keep prices down for you all, the customers. I wish I could get signed books to you for nothing but the price of the book. Instead, I’m driving ten minutes further each way, not getting Bella out of the house, and dealing with long lines and customer service that makes zero sense. I’m not going back to the USPS. And I apologize to you all for that.

I’ll make an announcement when we get the new store up and running. It should calculate the shipping for you. Books will arrive in better condition. But instead of $3.50 in shipping, it will probably cost $10+, depending on where you live. Also, I hope to unveil a little surprise along with the new signed books store. I think you’re going to like it. Thanks for your understanding.

32 replies to “Closed for Remodeling”

Son, do what’s best for you, Amber, and Bella. We’ll cope. Customer service – maybe that’s a portion of the demise of the USPS. The folks here in Monroe are fantastic, but I guess there’s issues everywhere….

The entire story is unpleasant. The post office wigging out about the dog is as disappointing as anything. That said, if you don’t take it easy on your back it won’t get better!

UPS should offer you a rate better than what they refer to as “book,” mainly with the sort of volume you’re doing. That should lend some sort of savings. If you call UPS at the number on their site, you should be able to get in touch with a UPS rep and talk about how much you ship. I’m betting they will help you out in more ways that one.

(I’m not affiliated with UPS in any way)

You go WAY out of your way for your fans. That’s commendable. There is commitment that I consider “above and beyond.” What you’ve been doing vastly exceeds even that!

Thank you, for all that you do!

Hugh,

Have you considered USPS print and ship, with pickup? This would really only work if you could fit the book into a flat rate box or envelope, but they would come to you after you print out the labels and pay online.

I use USPS Click & Ship from home + it’s so convenient-you even get free boxes. You can schedule a pick up, or just drop it in any mail box once you print the label & affix it. However, based on Hugh’s experience with the USPS, I wouldn’t blame him boycotting them.

Feel better Hugh!

The problem here is that spring training has ended. Otherwise, one of my redbirds would have strolled right up and carried all the boxes for you. David Freese would certainly have done this, especially if you gave him a book. he’s admitted to being a sci fi nerd on several occasion, but really any one of them would have helped (except matt holliday)

Oh man, sorry to hear about your back. It’s like the one part of your body that for some reason you just can’t bear the pain through. I’ve messed up my back a couple times and walking was difficult – so I feel your pain. Here’s to your back feeling great really soon! Thanks for going so out of your way for your fans. You’re a gentleman and a scholar Mr. Howey.

First and foremost, take care of you and yours. If that ultimately means having to give up doing this kind of personalized service… things change…. but I bet there’s a solution that lets you keep on doing this as long as you enjoy it and it is practical.

Second, get the load off your and others backs. Get a dolly. There are traditional dollies and slick tech/PC oriented collapsible dollies, some of which even include lift/elevator capability for raising and lowering heavy loads. Splurge and get the best. Be the envy of your neighbors and your fellow writers. Never ever lift and load on your back what you can lift and load on a dolly.

Third, investigate home pickup options with both USPS and UPS.

Not sure what the requirements, if any, are for UPS, but I know from personal experience at work, that one can set up an online account with them by which one can generate pre-paid shipping labels and notify that pickup is needed. You have to supply dimensions and weight of the packages when you request/purchase the label. Odds are they offer or recommend some free or very affordable software and hardware with which to do this. A PC and a decent postage scale should be enough to start with. Might be able to get some sort of integrated scale/software/printer/address database thingie assembled that could knock these out even for high volume. This is something that lots of businesses have to deal with.

I would guess that something similar should be available with USPS.

My guess would be go with one of the above, have the day’s books/boxes already on the dolly before they arrive, you or they run the dolly out to the truck, load the books/boxes and shazaam. They might have a dolly on the truck, but having your own, preloaded would likely make things better for both you and them.

Feel better, Hugh, and enjoy your time in Australia — I am sooo jealous! btw, I share your frustration with people’s reaction to pit bulls. Insurance agents have refused to sell us a homeowner’s policy because we have a pit-mix. It doesn’t matter that she’s the sweetest dog in the world, while the neighbor’s Shih Tzu is ready to rip your face off. Just the words “pit bull” make some people a little crazy. Their loss, I figure. They are amazing, delightful, sensitive dogs who deserve so much better.

Hugh, after 30 years of suffering I just had to do something about my back. Went through two Dr.s (sturgeons) who came across rather rudely. Finally after suffering severely for 8 months I went to Dr. Clay Baynham. He is near you, and has my highest respect as a Dr. Straight shooter and hard to get to.(long appointment dates for new patients.). He fixed me last year and I will be forever grateful to him. Good man.

Yeah, my copy of the Shift Omnibus had minor damage when it arrived also.(no big deal for me though) I hope the new plan works out for you.

greg

On Bella. The people are just loaded with fear. It’s a shame. I had the most wonderful Dobbie for 15 years, but people just freaked out whenever they saw him.

Can’t teach the stupid to be smart when their TV tells them different.

greg

Sorry to hear about your back pain, Hugh. As a man, you must do right by yourself and take it easy. If that means making changes that affect fans of your work, you must do it. At any rate, your fans will completely understand. Just wish the USPS wasn’t going postal.

Regarding your surprise for the signed book store, here’s my guess: You’ll be adding Amber’s signature as well as a paw print from Bella! ;)

Enjoy yourself in Australia! Hope you finally get to meet your #1 fan, David Adams (I think that’s his name). KBoarders will want details and pic, though. :D

It sounds like this change will be a good one for you! I can’t stand people that discriminate against pitties. Go where Bella is welcome. Also? Sounds like you had a really hard time today. That’s a damn shame. They should have helped you.

I think your fans will understand. You do so much for us already. Do what’s best for you right now.

Feel better, Hugh.

Feeling a little guilty because I’m like 70% sure my order was somewhere in that huge pile.

I’m sorry to hear that you are not doing well. Traveling with so much pain with back brace sounds really hard. It sounds like you have been through this before and you know how to deal with it but it may not hurt to see a doctor before you leave overseas (my advice as a medical doctor). I’m sure your fans are least worried about the shipping costs and much more worried about you. I hope that you feel better soon. Take care and I hope that you travel light.

If you get a small shipping scale (they’re about $40 at my post office branch) you can weight and print postage on your home PC via USPS.com. Then you can drop the packages in a blue box anywhere. Or schedule a pick up.

Doh! I bought a signed Shift Omnibus this morning as a gift for a friend! Was I too late to get in the last shipment before the break? Take care!

Nope. Any orders I got in will still go out. Yours will be when I get back from Australia. I’ll probably use UPS and take the hit on the shipping. No worries.

Hugh,

I’ll echo everyone else, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of other people.

You could always hire a college student to come by once a week and run errands for you.

Hey Hugh,

Depending on what exactly is going on in your back (whether pinched nerve or bulging disc), have you considered seeing a chiropractor as well?

I’ve had some very good experiences with them** and know many other people who have seen some amazing results. I credit one of my local ones with resolving or nearly eliminating my asthma when I was younger.

My brother-in-law is one of the premier in the field (retired at 36 from it and helps set up other DC’s/ lectures nationally and also runs a life-coaching business). If you’re interested I can see if he knows of any good DC’s around your area.

If nothing else it might be a good supplement : ).

-Brandon

**Like any profession there are not so good members out there. I had an experience once that if I hadn’t brought my own X-rays, he’d had tried to adjust me without any preliminary examination. He was the outlier to my experiences but they do exist. There are also really good ones : ).

Another ditto to all of the above. I’ll only add that when I order a book from you, I’m not worried about the money. Especially at this point in your career, Hugh, I think it’s safe to believe that many of your book buyers order from you just to know that what they’re getting passed through your hands and has your personal mark on it. I know that’s definitely true for me. $10 for shipping instead of $4? Dude, don’t even worry about it. Having Hugh Howey sign my book is priceless. I’m sure countless others would agree. You just take care of yourself and that amazing dog. USPS can sit and spin.

Hugh take care of yourself. Money is nothing for them who wants get such precious thing as your signed book. And you cannot buy a new back so just do as you think is best for you!

Do you ship to Europe BTW?

Thank you for all you do for us fans. We appreciate you and your kindness.
I am so sorry about your back. I had surgery on L4 and L5. I know the pain you are in and your in my thoughts and prayers.
Poor Bella she is beautiful. It sounds like the change to UPS would do you both good. She would be able to get her walk and you some good customer service.
Take care and feel better soon.

Wow it sucks how much customer service has totally gone down the drain. Plus USPS sucks anyway, UPS is totally the way to go. I would rather pay the extra S&H and know that my package is being taken care of than pay $3 and be irritated when it’s damaged. Good call on switching, I’m sure it made Bella happy too :)

P.S. They couldn’t offer a cart or anything for the packages to be moved easier? 100% lame.

Thank you for the detailed info regarding shipping – your fans will appreciate that, and those that want to buy direct from you will be happy to pay the shipping charges. Several other book club sites I belong to went through he same issues and explained the shipping changes (especially for overseas). We understand your back pain issues (my wife had surgery for bulging disk and weakness in her legs – 7 years out and doing well). You might want to look into a book by Dr. John Sarno (an orthopedic surgeon) – healing back pain, the mind body connection. He has a few others on healing back pain (the one I mentioned is by my bedside). Enjoy Australia.

Just wanted to let you know that I have ordered 2 books direct from your website and have had no problems with their condition. That being said, the USPS can be a bunch of douches I realize from personal experience so I will be glad in the future to pay the extra shipping to ensure your well being. Is your new online store going to offer combined shipping? If your old one did I was unable to figure out how to do it. I wouldn’t mind ordering the whole Molly Fyde series in one shot. Keep up the good work man.

You should look into a program called Endicia. My wife uses it for her shipments. You just put in the weight and measurments of the package. It takes money out of a paypal account and prints a usps label. The postal work that delivers your mail just picks it up. We ship anywhere from 50-200 “packages” a day this way. It took a bit for the post office person to ubderstand what was going on, but we live in a small town…so it is understandable!

With your bad back, it might be worth getting Bella certified as a work dog, and put some saddlebags on her. Seriously.

So sorry to hear about your back. And I too am feeling a bit guilty b/c I am sure my order was in there somewhere. I would have gladly paid the extra and I know your fans most likely feel the same way. Take care of yourself on your trip to Australia. I hope you at least fly business class :-).

Damn, feeling a little bit guilty now. Ordered two signed books to be sent to Canada, and paid $24 for shipping. Ridiculous when it’s $3.50 to anywhere in US, and I’m about 50 miles from the border, but what else are you going to do if you want a signed copy? Books arrived with a label indicating a $40 shipping fee, so I assumed that you get a 40% volume discount. Instead, I find I’m taking money from a talented author. You need to stop being so nice to everyone.

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