Sramana: Hugh, let’s go over your background. What is your story?
Hugh Howey I had one book out with a small publisher and learned about self-publishing by watching a small press publish my book. They were using print-on-demand technology to create space and they were uploading to e-book distributors like KDP. The reason that Jasinda and Bella are so successful is because they work so hard at this. I had the same desire to control the cover art and layout. I was spending time waiting on a publisher to do stuff. I would send them emails telling them that they could just send it to me and I would do all of the work.
It occurred to me, after the first book went out, that I could do what they were doing and not have them take their cut. I realized I could maintain artistic control of the entire book, from the layout of the book to the price. I could control the release date and everything else. When I got my offer for my second book, I decided that I would try it on my own. I jumped into self-publishing as a way of getting my book out to the 20 people who were waiting on it.
I fell in love with the process. It’s like being a small business owner where you are putting in a little extra work, but it is all for yourself, so you enjoy doing it. You get up every morning jazzed about investing time in this.
Sramana: You are publishing in the science fiction genre, correct?
Hugh Howey: I write in a lot of different genres. I write coming-of-age stories in traditional fiction. I also have science fiction, horror, and young adult science fiction. I read a lot of different things, so I write a lot of different things.
Sramana: How long have you been writing, and where do you write from? What are your numbers like?
Hugh Howey: I have been self-publishing since 2009. Most of my sales have happened in the last two years, and I am close to 1.5 million copies sold. I have sold over a million in the US through Amazon alone. Most of my books are priced at $5.99 although I have some priced at $2.99 and $3.99. I also have some short stories priced at 99 cents.
Sramana: How do the 99-cent short stories perform?
Hugh Howey: They do great. For science fiction you typically use your short stories to build your name and readership. For years, science fiction authors have been selling short stories to magazines for five cents a word, so they will get about $150 for a short story. I will make that every month on my short stories. It pays 35 cents per sale forever.
Sramana: What have each of you done to promote your books to get to such substantial numbers? Bella, why don’t you take the first stab at this question?
Bella Andre: I keep my head down as much as possible and write. I have kept a surprisingly regular release date schedule, on a perfect quarter system. That has happened almost by accident, but my readers count the release dates just by my release pattern. I don’t have to advertise for them to know that a new book should be coming.
I also have another pen name. I write romances as Lucy Kevin. When I did my last series, there were five books and they were on a regular release schedule. My readers can anticipate them. My biggest thing is maintaining a consistent release schedule. I have had great fortune writing connected books. I always write in a series. It is great from the standpoint of a writer because I really love this world I have created, and it is great for my readers because they are so invested in this world. We are all living in this fictional world that feels very real.
To augment my schedule I am on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads every day. Those are the three spokes of my wheel. The center of the wheel is the books themselves.