Hugh Howey Is One Cool Dude

Now I listen to podcasts on my morning drive. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to find the podcast sector of indiverse, but I’m enthusiastic and impassioned by these i-personalities.

After coursing through episodes of NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth–expertly read by Mike Bennett–I’ve turned to whom I always turn: Indie ambassadors.

So I found Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, a talk show produced by Lightspeed editor John Joseph Adams and hosted by author David Barr Kirtley.

For being a supporter of Indie supporters, I surprise myself at how judgemental I can be right out the gate. It’s like years of mainstream has left a pretension veil I need to check when I catch myself scoffing at the sound of a voice, cover art quality, unjustified alignment…I have to remind myself that I’m not a bestselling author, that I’ve made every self-pub mistake in the book, and that I’m generally an idiot.

So after thinking, ‘I bet this schmo still lives with his parents’ I realized he (David Barr Kirtley) was great! His questions were informed and engaging, and he has a real handle on the industry, being a short fiction writer himself. His interview roster is pretty mind-blowing, with incomparable figures like Ursula K. LeGuin, Simon Pegg (eek!) and George R.R. Martin.

So I happened upon episode #83, an interview with self-publishing pioneer Hugh Howey.

I’ve never read Wool, but I will.


For suspense-filled, post-apocalyptic thrillers, Wool is more than a self-published ebook phenomenon―it’s the new standard in classic science fiction.

In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

Hugh was a regular guy who liked to write and didn’t want to query. He shared work for the sake of sharing work, growing and maintaining underground notoriety with virtually no marketing effort at all. In fact, on the podcast he said, ‘Zero effort’, which makes the rest of us want to throw our computers out the window. But this guy is so down to earth and supportive of everything Indie (he encourages fanfiction!!) you want him to be this lucky for the rest of his life, just so you can hear about it.

Anyway, things happened, people urged him to consider publishing, he found a small press, found success, and things were good.

But when Hugh realized that he could be doing everything for himself that the small press was doing for him, he didn’t resign the contract. He went about writing and uploading directly to the reader. To this day–though he’s signed with Simon and Schuster (when they offered him a ‘print only’ deal, something he’d thought was impossible), is being optioned by Ridley Scott, and is officially a household name–he wears a ‘self-publisher’ badge, and proudly, because he feels stronger and more genuine to describe himself as such. And he’s passionate about spreading a word we’ve all kind of come to feel is a myth: YOU CAN MAKE MONEY WRITING.

His angle is this: what about those people making $200/mo writing? Those people that can pay one bill a month writing? Fill their gas tank writing?

Being the type of person that gets to lunch with Kindle and Createspace execs, he urges the big guys to talk more about this-something they (at the time of the podcast, which was 2012, I think) were considering. I’ll have to check if any of those numbers have been released.

Anyway, Hugh Howey is one cool dude. He still can’t believe his fame, still reads and promotes Indie work and is frank about not wanting to spend his time seeking validation on the traditional query highway. I am excited after listening to Hugh, and I want to read his book, and I’m not the only one; a nanowrimo contact (who will be a vendor at the con) and the Reedsy folks (one of whom will be an editor at the con) have both raved to me about Hugh and his down-to-earth charm and contagious spirit. They were right; I want to light a candle, put on my writing playlist and get to it.