Crowdsourced Fiction

I’ll never forget the first day I sat down and started writing a book that I felt deserved to be read. It was the first Molly Fyde novel, and I couldn’t wait for my wife to get home so I could shove pages in her hand.

It’s a writing cliche: the author pressuring his or her spouse to suffer through their drafts. But from day one, I had a more than willing participant in this hobby of mine. She devoured those pages and demanded more. Amber has not only been my creative muse, she’s been the constant kick to the pants that kept me forging ahead in that draft, helping me to the end. And all it takes is finishing one novel to become addicted to the process and that incredible high at the end.

But it would be meaningless without a reader, even that one. For the longest time, this is all I ever wished for: to have people read my stories. It seems to have come about suddenly. In the last few months, I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed by your emails and your participation in this process. Lately, that participation has become more than the passive devourers of text that I always craved; the Wool series has become crowdsourced.

It started with fan art. A gorgeous rendering of Jules by nisays, a schematic of the aboveground tower by Paul Embree, floor plans of the silo itself by Jerry Aman. I started thinking of ways to incorporate these fantastic pieces into future cover art (with ample compensation, of course). And then actual cover art started showing up, like this brilliant rendering by Mike Tabor! In fact, Mike touched up the FIRST SHIFT cover, which already employs a schematic from Jerry Aman and a text layout by John Jarrett, another regular commenter on this site.

How about this: Last week, I received an email from a reader entitled “162 errors in the WOOL series.” Each error was listed by location and detailed. Today, I went through my master copy of the Omnibus and updated these mistakes, slapped it together with the new cover sent in by Mike (with his permission, of course), and we have an improved WOOL OMNIBUS all because of YOUR efforts!

How crazy is this? The same week a Wikipedia entry went live for the series, the series itself becomes Wiki-fied! And now beta readers are feasting on the next Silo Story. Soon, their feedback will be incorporated, a dozen hands stirring a pot, the end result, like a stone soup, a thousand times better than anything I could have come up with on my own.

It’s brilliant. I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of creativity and support. Thank you, to all of you, from the person who is telling all their family and friends, to the dedicated reviewers, to the commenters on this site, to those who email me with typo discoveries. I would be almost nothing without you. I say “almost,” because I know I could always force my wife to read my drivel. I’ll always have that to fall back on.

30 responses to “Crowdsourced Fiction”

  1. It’s because you let your fans take part of the process is why I think it makes it all so special. I’ve personally not been a part of something where I’ve adamantly wanted to BE involved in such a way.

    It’s sorta interesting really.

    And you might wanna update that link for my drawing. Not finished, but I couldn’t resist since you provided a URL for the drawing.

    Jules is becoming realer by the day, Hugh. Soon enough your other characters will too. :D

    1. OMG! It’s like watching Bob Ross paint. Just keeps getting better and better! I’m updating the link. :)

  2. So often I hear about artists unwilling to compromise their art, which I totally respect. Its so refreshing though, that you not only respect others ideas but actually embrace them. Thanks for letting all of us to feel, in some small way, part of your process.

    1. This has been a wild ride so far. It’s so much more fun to be doing it with a crowd, that’s for sure!

  3. This is why your awesome Hugh… You make your readers feel special even when life (Read: Visual Basic) is making them feel like crap and I am not just talking about the names you mentioned (Heh heh heh… It was actually wearied to be referenced as ‘John Jarrett’ on the internet… I am so used to being called Kitten… It actually felt kinda awesome… Even if I do hate my name… >.<) I am talking about all your readers, you continually tell us how much you appreciate us all and not by just saying, "Cos ya give meh all my monyz…" but by telling us why, giving us permission to experiment with your IP, like with nisays' pure uber drawing all the way up to letting Jerry Aman, Mike Tabor and my self change the cover for your next story in better and better ways each time… Hell, you are even willing to let us way in on who should read for the Wool Omnibus' Audio book…

    This, Mr. Howey is why we are all here, why we are willing to pay money to read a highly experimental (from what I gather) zombie novel without even batting an eyelid… We trust you cos you trust us… and from all that I know… that kinda makes you one of a kind… and dare I say it… it makes you "Full of win and your cake is not a lie"

    I think I might have gotten a little mushy there… so let me finish it with a simple…

    Thank you for being teh Uberz.

    P.s. please forgive all my 1337/internet speak…

  4. Thanks, Kitten! And there’s nothing wrong with your name. Either of them!

  5. XD… yeah… you would think that… most people do… until they mistake my name for an Australian actor name John Jarratt (Sounds exactly alike depending on the Australian accent…) and then they mistake him for a serial killer who he played in a movie once…

  6. You fans are something else. It’s almost like your work is and Open Source project with everyone “chipping in” to make it better than one person could do.

    Question. Do us Kindle readers who already own the Omnibus get the “updated” version downloaded with the errors corrected? BTW, what the heck were they? Can’t belive there were so many!

  7. Thank you, Mr. Howey, for allowing us to be part of your success. Very few authors are willing to get so close to their readers as you are. That means a lot to us.

  8. […] a super cool post from his blog, where he talks about “Crowdsourced Fiction“.  Readers of indie novels are a special breed.  They connect with the writers in a more […]

  9. I have tried to “wikify” the Wool’s entry at Wikipedia and would like to add the cover image to the page, but I need to demonstrate it is either public domain or I have the authorisation to use it. Can you provide a statement to this regard?

    Congratulation on the Wool series.

  10. Hi, Hugh, I was led to this blog site by Elle Casey, a new indie author whose work is awesome. Your books sound like stories I will really enjoy. I’ll be back to comment in a few days after I’ve downloaded and read my first one,

  11. Hey, we all love to read. To slip into the worlds you create. And I’m grateful you allow us the joy of being some part of bringing these worlds to light. You’ve changed how I read Hugh, and I’m always going to be thankful for that. you are one in a million buddy!

  12. Indie authors have also changed the way indie readers find new things to read. I follow Elle Casey (who I learned about from Samantha Young) and I found your page through Elle’s blog. I perused your books on Amazon and now you’re moving to the top of my TBR pile just because of the recommendation from an author I already know.

    1. Theresa: That’s a great point. Readers (myself included) find books in different ways than we used to. This is another reason the massive publication delays no longer make any sense. It used to be that a book had to spend several months completely finished but withheld from readers so it could go out to reviewers and generate hype ahead of time. But very few of us find books because of reviews; we find them because of friends, family, social media, etc. When it’s ready, get it out there! And make the e-book available on the same day or even sooner!

  13. Hi Hugh,

    I just thought I would add to the chorus of sock-puppets (I am looking at you, Theresa and Margaret) and pretend to have something to say about your work while really directing your readers to the website of Elle Casey.



  14. Annie, yes, Elle Casey led me here, but no pretending!! I am fully engrossed in “Wool”, in a genre that I would normally steer clear of, and I’m loving it!! Hugh, I promise a review when I’m finished

  15. What is surprising here is that so many authors refuse to acknowledge the input of fans for few of never ending lawsuits. Lets say Wool gets sold to a studio and a 100,000,000 movie is made. What is to keep anyone who contributed input from wanting a share?

    1. Chad: I won’t be ruled by fear! ;)

      (and that would be an awesome problem to have)

  16. I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems like there isn’t a great expectation to be compensated for input and creative ideas that fans WANT to give/show Hugh. He’s been more than appropriate with asking permission to fan-created stuff and crediting those people.

    1. Thanks, Nisays. I’ve also been paying people who contribute to cover art more than they ask for and more than the going rate I see elsewhere. And this has nothing to do with my sales. I did the same for the photographer whose photo I used for HALF WAY HOME. And this was when I had no chance in hades of ever earning the money back. I just think artists should be rewarded for their efforts. Always have.

  17. just wondering why the image of the’wool’ cover has been removed from your post below this one and replaced by a weird message in 72 pt type?

    1. No idea! TInypic does that sometime. I’ll re-upload right now.

  18. I agree with Nisays… as you should already know… we do this cos we love to do it… Yeah, if your gonna go and ask someone to do something for you, then yeah, probably, depending on who it is, like with the HWH cover but all I care about and probably everyone else as well, is that you keep writing books that we can read and enjoy and we will keep with the fan stuff… if you want to use our fan stuff then there is payment right there… seeing that title on the cover of the new book makes me feel real happy… it’s like the ultimate compliment…

    1. John, your name is also going to be on the credits page of the physical edition. :D

  19. I just had a quick look up the page… I am gonna take a wild guess and say your talking about this John… but anywho… Weeeeeeee….!!!!!

  20. (I used “Weeeeeeee….!!!!!” Cos I think I use Yaaaaaaaay or Uber or Awesomez too much…)

  21. I’m certainly not a “sock puppet.” I just choose to explain how I found Hugh’s work which I felt was on point for the topic of the post. At that time, I had not read any of it yet, but I have now read the Wool Omnibus and I absolutely loved it! I read almost every genre, but sci-fi is one of my favorites, so I am happy to have found a really great indie sci-fi author. Next up is Half Way Home while I wait for First Shift.

  22. Hi, Hugh. Sorry it took me more than a few days but I did finally get my (your) review up on Amazon for Wool. You have an amazing command of the English language. I know it sounds way too corny but while I was reading I kept thinking Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare, you probably have 100 times more words in your daily lexicon than the rest of us do!! I loved the series and I’m truly glad that Elle Casey drew me (one of the sock puppets!) to your website and your books. Thanks for a really great read!!.

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