Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

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

CreativeLIVE Questions

We had a ton of questions pouring in from CreativeLIVE viewers and not enough time to go over them all, so I asked that people pose their questions on Twitter with the #hughlive tag and I would respond. Since 140 characters isn’t enough space to do this properly, I thought I’d make a running blog post with the questions and answers. Maybe they’ll help someone else out as well. I’ll be updating this post throughout the day until my flight back home.

@kayladawnwrites It seems expensive to self-pub by the time you do cover art and editing. Thoughts on keeping cost down and quality up? #hughlive

How much it costs to self-publish is entirely up to you. Yes, you can get higher quality if you’re willing to pay, but most authors starting out can’t afford this luxury. I think e-book formatting is one place it makes sense to spend $50 and get a professional file. Cover art can be had for $50 – $1,500. Editing can run over a thousand bucks. If you see this as a hobby, do as much as you can yourself and have fun with it. Trade for services (writing workshops and critique groups are an excellent resource). However, if you see this as a serious career, keep in mind that a $2K or $3K investment in the best product possible is very cheap compared to most business start-up costs. It’s no more than other people spend on their hobbies (like a new camera or musical equipment). I spent zero dollars on my book production until after I was already a bestseller. But that’s because I was willing to pour a ton of time and energy into the process.

Patrice Fitzgerald ‏@PatriceFitz #HughLive Fantastic interview on creativeLIVE! I was reading, writing, listening, chatting. Q: Have you published anything you regret?

No. All my regrets are over the things I didn’t finish, that I didn’t write, that I didn’t publish. I have a lot of those.

Nomadic Park ‏@NomadicParkBlog Were you always able to churn out novels in 3mos? Or is it a skill that comes with writing daily? #hughlive

I used to write even faster. Participating in NaNoWriMo every year really helps. I think the quality is much higher for books written in short order. You stay in the flow, in the voice, and keep all the details of the story straight. When I read, the books I consume in a few days are the ones that stick with me. The books I read over a six month period fall apart. If you can manage 2,000 words a day, you’ll write a book in a single month. That’s what I aim for. Revising and editing account for the rest of that time.

Tabitha Garrido ‏@TabithaGp #hughlive With an established brand in sci-fi, do you feel freedom to explore other genres? Would you remain @hughhowey or brand a new name?

I do and I have. I’ve written a regular fiction story, a horror novel, young adult science fiction, and post apocalyptic. I’ve written short stories and sagas. I have all kinds of books planned, and I’ll write them under the same name. I don’t understand the use of pen names. Readers can check the description of a book and see if it’s right for them. For those who want to follow my writing wherever it takes me, it only seems fair to be open and honest about what I’m producing. This is one of those instances where publishers don’t understand readers very well. Most readers are far more adventurous with their reading than they are given credit for.

Van Clayton Powel ‏@vanclaytonpowel #hughLIVE Great insights on cLive. Thx! Wondering what system you’re using to prevent Spam on your Blog? Thx again!

I don’t have a very good system for it. I have it set up where I need to authorize each user’s first comment. So I do get spam, I just mark it as spam. I think you have to be logged on to comment as well, which helps. It’s such a nuisance for everyone. Spamming blogs would’ve been a hangable offense a century ago.

Adam Poe ‏@AuthorAdamPoe #hughlive A lot was talked about on the merit of an initial spark to ignite word of mouth. How do you better the odds at getting that spark?

I don’t think there’s anything better than writing that next book. And making sure that every book you write is buzz-worthy. What risks are you taking? What are you doing that no one else is? Each book you write and each risk you take increases your chances of being discovered. Be creative in your social media presence. Ask yourself what other talents you have. Are you an excellent photographer? Post pictures with a link back to your book landing page. Send free copies to influencers. Most of all, though, write that next work and get it out there.

16 replies to “CreativeLIVE Questions”

By the by, I’ve begun reading your early blog posts. An interesting journey you’ve been on, and I’m enjoying how your public blogging voice has evolved over time. Thanks for taking the time to do this “overflow” session from Creative Live. Thought your inputs were great and that helping to introduce Tim Grahl to a wider audience via talking up Creativelive on your website was fantastic of you for both him and the rest of us who now have a lot of takeaways from his presentation.

Thanks, Hugh. Spam got so bad I turned off comments. Smart, huh? ;-) Anyway, HUGE fan of what you’ve accomplished in the POD realm. A true inspiration. Now, how to emulate …
All the best!
Van

Just to give KaylaDawn another perspective on self-publishing costs (though Hugh is the man to listen to). This is exclusively for ebooks —

When I started publishing in July, 2011, I spent this much for my first 95,000 word political thriller:

Cover – $350 for a custom cover
Formatting – $0 – I did it myself along with my IT-savvy husband over a long weekend during which we didn’t strangle each other but came close (it was tougher then — KDP has made it simpler now)
Editing – I thought it was $0 – I’m an English major, a former freelance writer, an attorney, and I’ve edited others. But I remembered I DiD spend $300 for a writer friend to edit it! She did nothing. I should have saved the money. So that should be $300.

Total = $650
_________________
Currently, this is what I spend for my Silo stories, which range from 10,000 to 30,000 words —

Custom cover – $300
Formatting – $120 from Amy at 52Novels
Editing – $0 – I just use beta readers. I tend to be obsessive about errors (and still I have some!)

Total = $420
____________________
I just wrote my first Silo story, which is under 10,000 words, for Kindle Worlds. This is what I spent —

Custom cover – free, from a talented friend
Formatting – free, now that I can load directly in Word
Editing – free; I do it myself

Total = $0

Note that my expenses have gone DOWN (to zilch) while my profit has gone up. I don’t know how much I’m selling in Kindle Worlds yet, because they don’t report the numbers every five minutes or so like KDP does. But I can say that my first foray there was the #1 Hot New Bestseller this morning, and I was #3 in KW overall, so I must be selling something. And it’s hard not to make money when the cash cost is zero.

Of course it does take TIME to write, but since I am striving to become a writer who can live on her income (about halfway there now) that’s what I want to do… write all the time!

Thanks to Hugh for the fantastic interview and all his insights into the self-publishing life. He is the most generous of writers.

Patrice

You’re welcome, A. Lynn. I tend to hesitate about this stuff because it can feel crass to talk money and profits… but it was very helpful to me when other indie authors were open about their sales when I was starting, so I try to do the same.

Information is a great equalizer.

I bought a $7 eBook on designing eBooks and spent a weekend learning how to do all of it. It is a little involved but once you get it down, you can do it in very little time. I am working on some Visual Basic macros to greatly simplify this process and maybe even some stand alone scripts. I hope to share them some time next year with the indie community. I am loving this self publish revolution!

Thank you, Hugh and Patrice for your insight. I am looking to make writing my career, so it looks like it is worth it to pay and do things well. I use Scrivener, and it has a e-book conversion tool. Thinking I would have to hire a formatter for the Kindle version–fingers crossed.

Kayla: I just got Scrivener myself, and have been working through learning how to use it. I have a number of friends who swear by it.

It’s designed to allow you to go right into publishing mode, so you should be able to do it yourself… and once you learn, will you teach me? ;-)

Patrice

Funny that a comment like that would come in when you just talked about blog spam. What? And no talk of me eating children or being mean to old people? These clowns try to get that link posted everywhere. Spam in the purest sense. Thanks for being reasonable, Hugh, and I’m glad I was able to fool you!

Wow. Someone forgot “Facebook Manners and You” rule #5: “Don’t Start Hate Groups”

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I would venture that the Bunker group is probably closer to Duck Dynasty than to Jim Jones. I gave this site a fair hearing. The worst case accusation I see here according to the site is that he has some marriage and children strife, is not the best in the petty vice department, and sponged off others.

Does the author of this flame site have a wife and kids? Guess what: there are many times when we love our spouse and kids, but don’t always like them. Bunker is trying to go agrarian, but like most people raised in creature comfort suburbia and NOT on a farm from the get go, he had to stumble through the first few years learning the practical ins and outs. The difference between him and other “going green acre” types is he actually is trying to do it.

Tell the flamesite what: the bible says this flamesite author has two options.
He can shake the dust off his shoes and leave Bunker alone (Luke 9:5). OR
He can pray good things for the Bunker Family (Matthew 5:43-48)

Why doesn’t he pray for the family for 30 days, and see what happens. Ask God to give Bunker all the qualities the author thinks are lacking: That Bunker family get the happiness and wealth that they seek, be fair to criticism, less of a control freak and more of a steward, soften his heart when appropriate, put away all alleged vices, become a loving and attentive father and husband, is frugal with money, etc. etc. Maybe Bunker won’t change, but I bet the author will.

If the flamesite author refuses to pray this way, is it because:
(1) He is worried that God might listen and Bunker actually gets better? Or
(2) He is worried that the flamesite host HIMSELF might actually lose his resentment and find his own peace?

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