Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

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

This piece of mail blew me away

Hi Mr. Howey,

You don’t know me, but my name is Matt Kadish.  I’m an independent author, such as yourself, and I just wanted to write you to share a little success story you had a small part in.

Over the last four years, I worked on a Young Adult Sci-Fi Adventure novel called Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet.  It was my first novel which I’d tossed around for about a decade, but didn’t start writing in earnest until 2009.  That’s when I sat down and said “Dag nabbit, I’m gonna finally write a novel!”  I pitch it to people as “Harry Potter meets Star Wars” but it’s really a love letter to all the Spielbergian sci-fi I grew up loving in the 80s.

Anyway, when I finally finished the novel, I started looking for a publisher.  Then my mother (who is also my editor) forwarded me a New York Times article on you.  That article inspired me to just publish my book independently instead of breaking my back looking for a publisher to give it a shot.  I published my book on Amazon at the beginning of July right before I left for a vacation.  I didn’t think much about it, in fact, I didn’t even check the stats until last week after my mother kept bugging me about how many copies I’d sold.  When I did check it, I almost fell out of my chair.

Without any promotion whatsoever, my first novel will have sold 1,000 copies in July.  It’s debuted on 5 of Amazon’s top 100 lists, ranking #1 for Superhero Fantasy and in the 30s for Sci-Fi Adventure, both in the Kindle Store.  It’s also #75 in the general Sci-Fi category on Kindle.  For all books (e-book and print) it is again in the 30s for Sci-Fi Adventure and last I checked #81 overall in general Science Fiction.  All the reviews so far have been 5-star, and people I don’t know are sending me messages telling me how amazing they think my book is.  If the trend keeps up, as more of those 1,000 people who’ve bought the book keep recommending it to others, sales should virally increase over time (at least, that is my hope.)

I’m pretty much floored by the response the book has gotten so far.  It’s a real inspiration and makes me want to continue to pursue my career as a novelist. It took me four years to write the novel because I had to work at another job while I did it, but now I’d like to focus all my efforts on just writing full time.  I’m certainly not getting rich off book sales, but I’m encouraged by the outpouring of support from readers so far that I might actually have a knack for this.

Anyway, I figured you’d like to know you played a small part in this amazing little success story of mine.  Your story was an inspiration and helped encourage me to take that leap into self publishing and see what could become of it.  So I just wanted to thank you.  I know you probably get lots of emails from people, so I’m not expecting you to actually read this or care, but I thought I owed it to you to at least let you know.

Hopefully, someday soon, I can join you in those top charts for the genre.  I really enjoyed your Wool Omnibus, and thought it was a great story.  Hopefully my work can live up to that level of success.  :)

Yours truly,

Matt Kadish
Author:  Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet

89 replies to “This piece of mail blew me away”

I read through this post then checked out the book on Amazon. Thank Hugh again Matt because I had to hit the buy button. Your book sounds like an enjoyable, absorbing read. I look forward to spending some time with your characters after I finish Dust : )

Trust me, Chris, I’m thinking about naming my first child after the guy, lol. I had no idea he’d even read my email, let alone be so cool as to make a post about it. Nice to know he’s not just an excellent author, but an excellent human being as well. I hope you enjoy the book – just please don’t compare me to Hugh! The guy’s got skillz. Ha ha ha. :)

Thanks again Hugh!

Matt,

you made a great choice in emailing Hugh! He is just as cool and down to earth in person! I just wanted to let you know that I ordered your book after reading his blog post, and I really look forward to reading it!!!

Agreed, I wouldn’t feel like it’s deceptive to up the price to at least 2.99 after you’ve found some success. If anything it will help your cause, reassuring Amazon buyers that your product has some real value.

Thanks for the advice Jason. I figured people might not want to spend too much for an unknown author’s first novel, so I decided to price it cheap so people could get the opportunity to experience my writing before they determined its value. I figure I’m not a big name, so a cheap price tag may get more people to read it than they normally would if I charged $2.99 or something for it. I’m not so much interested in money right now as I am getting exposure for my work. :)

I had the same thought when I started publishing. When you get the series filled out, you may even set the first book to free. In the beginning, it’s just a struggle to land readers!

Those numbers are interesting but I wonder how indicative they are of the e-book market as a whole as they only include Smashword’s numbers. If they had included Amazon’s numbers in the study, I would say it’s pretty conclusive but when a study doesn’t include 60-70% of the market share, it casts some doubts about how valid the conclusions can really be. I’d love to see a market wide study of all distributers put out to see how it compares but I don’t think that is in the cards.

Hi Red,

Yeah, I’ve done a whole lot of research on the topic. For now, I feel its more advantageous to have a cheaper price. I think there are people out there who’d balk at a $2.99 price tag for a book and author they’ve never heard of, who’d otherwise enjoy the story and become a fan. If I ever get to #1 for a big list on Amazon, then it would probably make sense to up the price a bit, but for now I’d rather get readers, and I think a $0.99 price tag eliminates a lot of objections people might have to giving the book a shot.

Congratulations, Matt! This made my day. Just put an immediate smile on my face. I headed to amazon and bought it just on the merit of your email. I will start reading once I finish up The Wasp Factory (polar opposite book, I would imagine!) and share a review on Goodreads.

P.S. thanks to you, Mr. Howey, I purchase all ebooks from amazon so no I know that the proceeds are going to the right place. Started with Wool Omnibus, then pre-ordered Shift.

Congrats to Matt on his success. Success stories of well-edited, beautifully-told novels energizes me and, I assume, many other indie writers who are putting themselves and their stories out there.

Congratulations, Matt, and good luck!!

Thanks, Hugh, for sharing yet another story of how we all can make it in this ever-changing publishing world.

Well done Matt. Always nice to hear a success story. Will you do a real book version of the book at any point (i’m allergic to ebooks)

Hi Paul,

Yes, there will be a paperback version. I’m having a new cover and illustrations done for it by a very talented artist, though. I always liked books that had full page chapter illustrations in them when growing up – like the Hardy Boys or the Narnia books, so I wanted to do something similar here. I’m hoping to have the paperback ready by the end of October. Not only are the illustrations cool, it’ll make the print edition different from the digital one, so there’s more incentive to get a copy of it. :) (So you’ll just have to wait a bit for the physical version, sorry!)

Congrats Matt!! It’s nice to see authors helping each other out; so many livelihoods in the world involve trying to screw over the competition to make a living. This way everyone wins. And I snagged your book! I couldn’t pass it up with the great price tag. Now I know what I’m doing with my weekend!!

And Hugh, well, you’re just the man. The MAN.

16 days til Dust, people!!! ^_^

One more sold because of this blog post.

Pretty soon you’ll have to raise the price just so you can pay Hugh a commission, Matt.

That’s fantastic! Congratulations, Matt! The readers don’t keep finding you and giving you reviews like that if the story and writing aren’t worth their salt. I look forward to reading it.

And, as always, thanks to Hugh for being such a god damned mensch.

“I’m not expecting you to actually read this or care” Matt says. What a wonderful surpirse, huh Matt? I love how he continually makes time for people with genuine interest.

Congrats on the sales, Matt! Very solid cover job, btw.

Matt, I went and bought your book immediately! As others have said, how could I not buy it at that price, not to mention the fact that it’s over 500 pages! Hugh has been an inspiration to so many of us. Not just in his mad business skills, but also in the way he presents himself as a genuine and caring human being. It’s hard not to devote yourself to him as reader :) I love that he plugs so many different stories written by other authors. It makes it so we all get to get our hands on some precious gems that we otherwise would’ve missed. Thank you for sharing your book with us Matt!

Thanks for your wonderful post Nikki! Jack’s now at #25 in the Sci-Fi Adventure list, and I’m sure that nice bump is due entirely to Hugh and his generous mention of the book. I feel truly blessed right now.

Matt,
Hugh is definitely an inspiration to many. Not only because of his talent, but also because he has remained very “real” as the popularity of his books has grown. I am going download Earthman Jack as soon as I get back to my Kindle! Wishing you much success in this new and exciting venture!!!

Thanks Kelly! I hope you enjoy the book. I’ve decided that should I ever be lucky enough to be in a position such as Hugh one day, I’ll be sure to follow his example. :)

Congrats Matt! I just bought your book. I don’t have much time to read right now as I’m busy finishing up my “silo saga”… yay Hugh Howey for allowing fanfic, then after that I expect I’ll get absorbed reading DUST, but after that I’m giving your book a go. Great call making it $.99 to start. Otherwise I might not have tried it!

I had the benefit of getting a blog post from Hugh when my first silo story The Runner came out back in January. It was amazing publicity and really got my self-pubbing (part-time) career rolling. Here’s to continued success for you and your stories. By the looks of the reviews you’d better get working on that second book :)

Hey WJ – far be it from me to distract from the silo saga. I know when I read Wool I had to put my life on hold until I finished the whole omnibus, so I don’t blame you one bit for wanting to shelve Jack until you get all caught up, lol.

Second book is in the works. Book 1 just came out at the beginning of last month, so I figure I have a bit of time to start work on it. :)

Wow! That’s really awesome that you’ve managed as much. Being an independent author as well I can say that it’s not always so easy to do that, especially without any sort of promotion. Did you make any sort of announcement when you published it to get the ball rolling? was that just this month alone? The letter said July, I’m assuming that was this year.

Hi R.T. – the book went live on the Kindle store July 2nd (last month). I told my mom it was up on July 3rd. She posted about it to her friends on Facebook as I drove to Los Angeles on vacation. That was the extent of the promotion. I posted about it on my Facebook page a few days later, but that was only to about 100 people. I literally didn’t think about it almost all last month because I was busy with other things. My mom kept calling me up bugging me to check on the sales and I was like “Mom, you know your friends are the only people who care enough to buy this book,” lol. Turns out I was wrong. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, people I didn’t know were not only buying the book, but also telling others to buy it. I never ever expected that would happen. It’s a complete fluke. Now that the buzz has started, I’m trying to think of ways to get some better exposure for it.

Paperback please! I want to hold a book in the hand. I think internet and ebooks and so on will have no future :-)))

Yes, Torben, I’m working on getting the paperback together. i too like the feel of a real book! lol. I’m getting illustrations done for the print version so it’s taking some time. it will probably be ready by October.

Congrats on the success Matt. You must have written a masterpiece to sell that many copies with little promotion. I’m going to have to grab myself a copy because it sounds like an interesting read.

All the best.

Hey Matt!
I believe Hugh is the single nicest person in the world, not just among the writers. But that’s not the reason I write this comment :)
I’m also psyched about your novel and want to read it. And I probably will. But as I was reading the comments here, and almost was about to click buy, when I saw a big price difference, at least big in percentage, and it counts to me, I’m only a uni student with very little money. Just please explain something to me. I’m from Hungary. How is it, that sometimes I have to pay double or more price (because of VAT and other shit) but sometimes I pay the same price, like you guys? Right now, your book is $3.80 for me but you wrote here, that the real price is $0.99 which is mindblowingly cool, but it isn’t for me :( But as far as I know, Wool Omnibus is the same $5.99 for me like in the US, but the Dust preorder would be $10.15, which is the single reason I didn’t push the button yet. I’m guessing and hoping it will go down to $5.99 for me too. Is the international price something you writers/publishers can control or is it entirely Amazon? It’s seems random to me, but I hope there’s some reason. Sorry for the off-topic… It’s just that it’s been bugging my mind for a while. I think I will read your book for $3.80 too, actually I’m pretty sure, it just would be nice to know, how is it decided.

Hi Eszter,

I’m not sure. The price should be the equivalent of $0.99 US in all other countries. Amazon kinda calculates that. I’ll go into my KDP page and see what’s up. If you can’t afford the book, just email me and I’ll be happy to send you a copy.

The reason for this is the surcharge Amazon.com puts on most (but not all) e-books for people buying from non-Amazon countries (price + $2 + local VAT), so for people in Hungary .99 comes up to $3.80.

(I love Amazon, but they were never able to come up with a plausible explanation for this. And of course, the author won’t see a cent of the extra money.)

I check out every book link that Hugh mentions in this blog and have not been disappointed once! When I checked up on Earthman Jack on Amazon, I saw 18 5star reviews and no other. The comments were further enticing so I am now delving into Jack’s story. Felt a twinge of delight on the very first page! Pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. Great work Matt, and thanks Hugh.

Congratulations, Matt! I love that your mother is your editor. I have a question for you and other successful ebook publishers. When you say “no promotion whatsoever,” does that mean literally nothing? I’m looking forward to publishing my first e-book soon, and I’m being advised by a friend in the publishing world that some sort of “platform building” is necessary – having a blog, a twitter account, and maybe some sort of online presence in which you interact with people who might be interested in the book. What are people’s thoughts on that?

Hi Christine,

I certainly had a blog, Facebook, and Twitter account set up, but I didn’t do anything other than announce on my Facebook page that the book was out. It was one post to about 100 fans at the time. After that, I literally did nothing. Honestly, I think title, book cover, and book synopsis had a lot to do with it. I spent a lot of time designing the cover to make it appealing and interesting, and I think the title is something which people respond to. Plus, I tested out the synopsis to make it short, sweet, and appealing to potential readers. Amazon is a discovery engine, people go there looking to find new things to buy, so much of the marketing of books occurs within Amazon itself. Had I know my book would take off like it did, I might have prepared a few things to help market it before releasing it, but I didn’t.

And my mom is a WONDERFUL editor. But boy, oh boy, is she harsh! lol. I would only recommend her to those with the ability not to cry. She is a staunch defender of the English language. Ha ha ha.

Hi Matt,

Your letter gave me goose bumps, and just made you another sale! Can’t wait to read the book. :)

Thanks! I made the cover myself. I’m getting a new one designed by an illustrator for the hardcover edition. It’s really cool – we’re going for a “Star Wars Poster” feel. And the best part is, it really gives readers a good idea of what all the characters look like!

Oh, man…This is probably the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m a Nook owner and as such don’t have access to all the self published material provided by Amazon.

I’ve put your book on my ‘must have’ list and will grab it as soon as I purchase a tablet and load the Kindle app…Or figure out how to side load the app on my Nook. ;-)

Remember, you don’t have to have a tablet or kindle to read Amazon books. You can read them on a phone, lap top, computer, or several other options.

I agree, it’s terrible that kindle is the only company that sticks to Mobi making it difficult for nook and kobo readers, but on the other hand Nook and iBooks make it very difficult to get work into their stores. It’s incredibly frustrating from both sides.

If you want a Mobi-format book, just load the Amazon Kindle app to your phone from Google Play. I find myself reading on my phone more often than my actual Kindle, usually on my bus commute, just because it’s in my bag rather than my backpack. The Nook app on it hasn’t worked yet.

My friend who had a Kindle that broke reads all her Mobi library on her computer. Not real portable, but then she works at home — as a writer.

Amazon realizes that if it isn’t easy for you to read their books, you may not buy them, so they make it really easy.

Matt, I’d like to mail you, but can’t find any way to find your email address. Could be problematic.

I’m not sure if I should be encouraged or discouraged by this. 6 months in, 11 books, and less then 100 sales total. But it’s rising, so I’m staying hopeful.

I took heart in the fact that Hugh Howie had several books out before “Wool” took off. I think it really is a strange combination of “right time, right place, right book” on who actually makes it into the sites of other readers, and who doesn’t.

I think a lot of it has to do with the genre and the cover art, to be honest. Some genres are just more prone to bigger sales than others, and cover art is really an author’s biggest marketing tool. I know when I surf books on Amazon, I just scan the covers until I find something cool, then I look at the description and reviews. So I focused a great deal of time and effort on my book cover and description, and I think that’s what helped give me the initial success. I also had the good fortune of having written a book people seem to like, so the more 5 star reviews I get, the easier it is for readers to justify checking it out. That, plus the $0.99 price tag is a big draw, since people spend that much on a single MP3 in iTunes. No one bats an eye about spending a buck.

I’m actually considering enrolling in KDP select so I can do a free period and giveaway copies of the book on Amazon to further encourage people to check out the book. I think if you know you have a book people like, and you give it away, it helps create a bump in sales, because it does pop it up on the top 100 lists. And the more people who read it, the better word of mouth carries it. It really is all about finding your audience. Most scifi and fantasy readers are pretty hard core. They’ll read anything in the genre, so if you give them something enjoyable, they’ll stick with you.

One other thing – I released my book right before a long holiday weekend (the 4th of July). I suspect that might have had something to do with it too, since people tend to shop for things to read right before and during holidays.

Matt, you’ve got a great-looking cover, and your book’s synopsis is a winner! Gotta say, along with the great price point, I immediately bought your book, too! I look forward to reading it and posting a review on Amazon.

I love the idea you have of doing a paperback later with more illustrations. What a brilliant idea (IMHO). I’m tempted to re-do my first book (non-fiction) with that in mind. Wheels are turning …..

Hope you are having another great month of book sales. Hugh Howie has done a really nice service to you and your readers by promoting you; it reflects well on him, too. It’s all very encouraging! :) :) :)

Hey Sandee,

Thanks for your kind words and patronage! I hope you really enjoy the book. It’s been getting a lot of good feedback from the frequenters of this blog so far, so I’m hoping to keep that track record going. :)

I felt like adding illustrations to the paperback would really set it apart from the ebook and give people a reason to own both. Plus, growing up, I always loved books which would throw in a good illustration now and then. I figure teens who eventually read this book would appreciate that. Young adult books with illustrations always seem to do better than the ones without them. The only drawback is the time it takes to get the illustrations done.

This month has been a lot of fun. Sales have slowed down a bit, but are still pretty strong. I owe Hugh a big favor for his support!

I just wanna say to all of you on this thread who’ve bought the book and are leaving reviews on Amazon – THANK YOU SO MUCH! The love you guys have been sending my way has been really inspiring, and I’m so blown away you are all loving the book as much as you are. Hugh, you da man!

Purchased and reviewed Matt, also threw you a couple bucks. Keep up the good work. Buy Hugh a coffee.

Oh man, I wish the buffets were free! Ha ha ha. Only if you lose a lot of money gambling. :)

Gotta check out Sin City sometime Hugh. Plenty of book conventions out here to give you an excuse to come visit!

I am halfway through and am seriously impressed. It took me about 40 pages to warm up to the character, I thought “Oh great, another teen angst novel!”. But I came around, Jack is a likeable character and I cannot wait to see where his adventures take him.

Matt, thank you very much for your civil writing style! Nothing turns me off faster than an author that feels the need to adorn his story with hundreds of “kitten” words! It is refreshing to read a work where the author develops clean cut characters that don’t feel the need to indulge in profanity every other paragraph!

As I read this work, I am out strongly reminded of the early work of Robert Heinlein. I remember as a youth reading the adventures of Starman Jones, Podkayne of Mars, Farmer in the Sky. All good solid books enjoyable by young and old alike.

Reading Earthman Jack, makes me feel I am reading them again, but this time from the perspective of “millennial” characters instead of baby boomers.

I enjoyed the integration of quantum mechanics and free mind concept. It’s given me plenty to think about on my daily commute. Thoughts of manifesting a vulcan cannon to take out the slow person in the left lane abound!

Keep up the good work!

Hi Dave,

Wow, thanks for your kind words! I’m glad you gave the book the opportunity to impress you, and am happy you’re enjoying it. Can’t wait to read your review when you are all finished!

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