Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hugh Howey's Self-Publishing Success Story - Luck, Timing, and Writing for the Right Reasons

Hugh Howey's success story does not fit into any of the myths instilled in us from early childhood.

He was not discovered by a well-connected agent, or by an editor in a major publishing house. He did not win fame on his first try as a writer, nor did he work for years in a freezing attic, until, shortly before losing his fingers to frostbite, he finally achieved the recognition he so richly deserved.

Like most of us, Hugh Howey had a day job. He worked sporadically - and happily - at writing, putting his partially completed books up on Amazon for 99 cents, until one of them took off. This is not an unheard of chain of events for self-publishers on Amazon. In fact, it is the only way to make it on Amazon's platform.

What is unusual about Howey is that he remained a self-published author on Amazon's Kindle platform - even after he landed a book deal with Simon and Schuster. He also turned down offers from agents - until one of them dangled Hollywood before him.

Why did Howey retain his electronic rights?

"It’s a wonderful way to build your readership. My recommendation to anyone who’s got a backlist or a career in a traditionally published model is to break out and test the waters in self-publishing. It’s not going to do anything but good for your career."

And for those of us who have not been published?

"You have as good a chance of winning a publisher over by getting sales going through your self-published works as you do submitting to the slush pile."

By Rachel Randall, managing editor for Writer’s Digest Books

At first, Hugh Howey’s decision to walk away from a small press contract and self-publish didn’t seem all that remarkable. After assuming complete control of his work, he kept his day job and began writing and releasing e-books (as well as some print books) in his off hours, happy to be simply sharing his stories with whatever readers might find them. But when one of those books, Wool, unexpectedly took off, everything changed. Howey found himself at the top of e-book bestseller lists—and at the forefront of a new age  of publishing.

The opening chapters of Wool first appeared as a $0.99 e-book novella via Kindle Direct Publishing in July 2011; Howey had written the post-apocalyptic story, about a community of people living underground in giant silos, without intending to immediately follow it up with more installments. “I self-published it and went right back to my next work,” he says. But by October, Howey noticed Wool was eclipsing all of his previous works and was positioned to sell 1,000 copies by the end of the month. “I figured this was going to be the pinnacle of my career,” he says. So he promptly tabled the unrelated project he’d been planning for National Novel Writing Month and instead focused on writing more of the Wool saga.

What happened next is a story that rivals the success of self-made sensations Amanda Hocking, John Locke and E.L. James. The subsequent, rapid releases of the next four e-book installments of Wool rocketed Hugh Howey’s name to the top of Amazon bestseller lists in several categories. In January 2012, he released the Wool omnibus (the combined five parts), which spent two weeks on The New York Times e-book fiction bestseller list and received the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Best Indie Book Award in the sci-fi/fantasy category. By that summer, Howey was selling 20,000–30,000 digital copies of Wool a month … and making a monthly salary of $150,000 from e-book sales alone. He quit his day job.

Read the rest of this article, including a revealing interview with Hugh Howey, HERE.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Amazon - "Ruthless and Self-Absorbed" - Consumes Book Industry

There is something fascinating about watching Amazon devour the book industry. It's like watching a snake wrapping itself around its mesmerized prey.

From squeezing Random House to putting the screws on university presses, Amazon is the anaconda of the publishing world. The spectacle leaves us horrified, yet helplessly entranced.

Traditional publishers are hoping that Amazon will be distracted by selling nutritional supplements, or trade secrets to the DoD, but somehow I don't think that is going to happen.


DBW 2014: Amazon, Subscription and the Book Business

Publisher's Weekly, Jan 16, 2014
By Calvin Reid

Although the online retailer seemed to be the shadow topic behind most of the panels at DBW 2014, yesterday morning Amazon was front and center with presentations from Stone and Esposito—individually and in tandem—on the retailer's past and present business pursuits. Although most DBW attendees are familiar with the story, Stone took them on a trip through the recent past outlining Bezo’s aggressive pursuit of market share and Amazon’s expansions beyond books into streaming movies, toys, electronics and now, even fashion, filmmaking and TV shows through its Amazon Studio unit. It’s a story told quite well in Stone’s book: Bezo’s focus on customer satisfaction (fast delivery, great prices), razor-thin algorithm-driven profit margins and an ever-increasing enviable ability to exploit inefficiencies that Amazon seems able to identify before anyone else. It’s also the story of Bezo’s remorseless tactics and business culture—Stone noted Amazon’s notorious Gazelle Project that applied pressure on small publishers to get better discounts.

Stone said Amazon will “continue to be ruthless and self-absorbed” as it continues to disrupt new areas of the book industry and other media areas. Amazon has opened a new 44,000 square foot photo studio in Brooklyn to produce photographs for its apparel/fasion business. The retailer has a fast growing grocery business and both Stone and Esposito pointed to Amazon plans to launch its own TV set box. But these new ventures are unlikely to provide much solace to the book industry or distract Amazon from the book trade, both presenters said, because Amazon will continue its relentless pursuit of market share in the book industry. “If e-book sales flatten, they will look for new ways to boost them,” Stone said, “packaging books together,”—he cited Amazon’s Matchbook Project which bundles e-books with print—and there’s even the possibility Amazon will experiment with physical spaces, setting up its own showrooms to display books and other kinds of merchandise.

In other words, look for more of Amazon’s characteristic efforts to enter businesses and “build moats”—low prices and customer-stroking service built on tiny margins—around them that will continually feed its growth and discourage other companies from entering the same business category. Esposito (with a grant from Carnegie Mellon) has organized a university press research project to look at academic press book marketing.

Esposito outlined efforts by Amazon to squeeze ever-tougher terms from cash-strapped nonprofit university presses as well as its efforts to displace distributors like B&T and Ingram with cheaper prices and faster service. He even outlined a “supply chain paradox,” a case study of how Amazon orders titles from third-party distributors, gets them to ship books to libraries overnight packaged in an Amazon box—although paradoxically the same distributor would take longer to ship the title if the sale came to them directly. Esposito said Amazon has about a 10% share of the library market and is taking a growing share of overseas sales of academic titles, disrupting the roles of conventional distributors. “Amazon is thinking 3-5 years ahead and positioning themselves accordingly,” he said.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Secret to Writing a Best-selling Novel

Computer scientists have developed an algorithm which can predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether a book will be a commercial success - and the secret is to avoid cliches and excessive use of verbs.

Successful books also avoided words that explicitly described actions and emotions such as “wanted,” “took,” or “promised.” Successful books used verbs that described thought processes such as “recognized” or “remembered.”

From a linguistic perspective, this means that as a writer you are better off creating an impression that allows the reader to fill in the blanks, rather than filling them in yourself.

The bottom line for successful books, at least in the US, is a style that is closer to journalism - something that conveys information rather than emotion.

If you want more details about how the authors arrived at these conclusions, as well as how they defined "success," you can read the full study HERE.

Scientists find secret to writing a best-selling novel

By Matthew Sparkes, The Telegraph, Jan 9, 2014

Scientists have developed an algorithm which can analyse a book and predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether or not it will be a commercial success.

A technique called statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar, was found to be “surprisingly effective” in determining how popular a book would be.

The group of computer scientists from Stony Brook University in New York said that a range of factors determine whether or not a book will enjoy success, including “interestingness”, novelty, style of writing, and how engaging the storyline is, but admit that external factors such as luck can also play a role.

 By downloading classic books from the Project Gutenberg archive they were able to analyse texts with their algorithm and compare its predictions to historical information on the success of the work. Everything from science fiction to classic literature and poetry was included.

It was found that the predictions matched the actual popularity of the book 84 per cent of the time.

Find out what else these computer geeks discovered HERE.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where Everybody Has a Book in Their Belly

"Iceland is experiencing a book boom. This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world."

Personally, I love the idea of park benches equipped with barcodes so people can listen to a book as they sit and watch the pigeons.

Among other literary advantages, the Icelandic government is generous with annual grants and stipends to writers, which can make the dream of working as a full-time professional writer a reality.

Iceland also sponsors a yearly writers retreat in April featuring intimate panels, workshops, and full-day outing into the spectacular Icelandic countryside (geysers!). 

Iceland: Where one in 10 people will publish a book

By Rosie Goldsmith, BBC News Magazine

It is hard to avoid writers in Reykjavik. There is a phrase in Icelandic, "ad ganga med bok I maganum", everyone gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone "has a book in their stomach". One in 10 Icelanders will publish one.

"Does it get rather competitive?" I ask the young novelist, Kristin Eirikskdottir. "Yes. Especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much."

Special saga tours - saga as in story, that is, not over-50s holidays - show us story-plaques on public buildings.

Dating from the 13th Century, Icelandic sagas tell the stories of the country's Norse settlers, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th Century.

Sagas are written on napkins and coffee cups. Each geyser and waterfall we visit has a tale of ancient heroes and heroines attached. Our guide stands up mid-tour to recite his own poetry - our taxi driver's father and grandfather write biographies.

Public benches have barcodes so you listen to a story on your smartphone as you sit.

Read the rest of this fascinating article HERE.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

3 Literary Agents Seeking New Clients

Updated 3/10/20

Here are three literary agents seeking new clients. Lara Perkins is seeking picture book author-illustrators who bring distinct perspectives to their work, particularly if that perspective has been underrepresented in children's literature. She is drawn to bold and colorful art, a playful use of texture and media, and kid-appealing humor or heart.

Nikki Terpilowski wants women's fiction, southern fiction, multicultural literary fiction, upmarket African-American fiction, steam punk, romance (all kinds except category), military and espionage thrillers, historical fiction, nonfiction with a strong platform and academic assessments of popular culture. Additionally, Nikki seeks graphic novels, Manga, YA, MG and children's picture books.

Jordy Albert is interested in Middle Grade - contemporary, fantasy, action/adventure, or historical. Young adult - open to pretty much any genre; however, she's looking especially for YA that has a very strong romantic element-or which romance plays an integral part in the plot). New Adult romance and adult romance (again, open to pretty much any genre).

As always, visit the website before submitting. Agents can close their lists or switch agencies. Read all submission requirements carefully before contacting.

If these agents don't meet your needs, there are over a hundred agents from established agencies looking for clients on this page: Agents Seeking Clients.


About Jordy Albert: Jordy Albert is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Jordy also works as a freelance editor/PR Director. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor Who, and loves dogs.

What she is seeking: Middle Grade - contemporary, fantasy, action/adventure, or historical. Young adult - open to pretty much any genre; however, she's looking especially for YA that has a very strong romantic element-or which romance plays an integral part in the plot). New Adult romance and adult romance (again, open to pretty much any genre).

Please do not send poetry or short stories.

How to contact her: Use their submission manager HERE.



About Lara: Lara Perkins is an Associate Agent and Digital Manager at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She has been with the agency for over three years, working closely with Senior Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list. Recent deals, together with Laura Rennert, include Matthew Ward’s middle grade novel, THE FANTASTIC FAMILY WHIPPLE, sold in a two book, six-figure deal to Razorbill, and P.J. Hoover’s young adult novel, SOLSTICE, forthcoming with Tor Teen in June 2013. Lara has a B.A. in English and Art History from Amherst College and an M.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, where she studied Victorian British Literature. In her pre-publishing life, she trained to be an architect, before deciding that books, not bricks, are her true passion. She spent over a year at the B.J. Robbins Literary Agency in Los Angeles before coming to Andrea Brown Literary.

What she is seeking: In picture books, Lara is actively seeking picture book author-illustrators who bring distinct perspectives to their work, particularly if that perspective has been underrepresented in children's literature. She is drawn to bold and colorful art, a playful use of texture and media, and kid-appealing humor or heart.

In middle grade, Lara is drawn to fresh, unexpected, and light fantasy, clever mysteries, and vivid contemporary realistic fiction, all with a strong sense of place and exceptional character development. Character-driven humor always catches her eye, and she loves friendship stories (especially friendship "break up" stories), multicultural family stories, and non-traditional family structures.

In YA, Lara is seeking transformative, page-turning, character-driven fiction in any genre: fantasy, science fiction, contemporary realistic, historical, mystery, etc. She gravitates towards an unexpected premise that makes her do a double take (example: assassin nuns!), an evocative and richly described setting, and fully realized, complex characters. She's looking for authors who wield language intentionally, and manuscripts that she can't put down because she's swept up in the high stakes, the compelling voice, the original world-building, and/or the character-driven humor. As a more specific wish, Lara grew up in Los Angeles and would love to find a middle grade or YA novel set in the real, diverse LA (not Hollywood). 

How to submit : lara [at] The agency only allows writers to query one agent, so please do not query Lara if you have queried other Andrea Brown agents in the past. Submission instructions are explained in detail on the agency submission page. (Read carefully before contacting Lara.)


Nikki Terpilowski of Holloway Literary


About Nikki: Nikki Terpilowski interned at a literary agency for a year before founding Holloway Literary. The agency only has 10 clients, and no street address. Several of the publishing houses Holloway works with also accept unagented manuscripts.

What she is seeking: Women's fiction, southern fiction, multicultural literary fiction, upmarket African-American fiction, steam punk, romance (all kinds except category), military and espionage thrillers, historical fiction, nonfiction with a strong platform and academic assessments of popular culture. Additionally, Nikki seeks graphic novels, Manga, YA, MG and children's picture books.

Nikki is especially interested in time travel, reincarnation, mythology, ancient civilizations, magical and animist realism, Japan, American history (especially hidden African-American history, interesting women in history, as well as the antebellum period, and the Civil and Revolutionary wars), the military (all branches, but especially the U.S. Marine Corp, Army and all Special Forces), espionage, martial arts, narrative nonfiction about food and beverage (especially organic food, wine and coffee), travel or expat life, international relations and foreign policy,and prescriptive nonfiction on spirituality, parenting, health and well-being.

How to submit: Submit to submissions [at] For fiction: send a one page query and the first fifteen pages of your ms in the body of the email. For nonfiction: send a proposal (and if relevant, link to related blog). Include a brief bio and social media links.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Brain function is boosted for days after reading a novel

In this fascinating study, researchers found that brain connectivity was increased during and after reading a gripping novel. The interaction between parts of the brain, known as connectivity, is what allows your brain to function. Without connectivity, you would be in a vegetative state. In addition to heightened connectivity, the subjects showed grounded cognition, which is the neural mimicry of physical sensation in the brain, simply by imagining it.  The authors of the study remarked that "reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist."

I would also like to point out that in addition to being transported into the body of the protagonist, people are transported into their minds, specifically their feelings. Emotions are what allow people to store memories and to learn. The implication is that by reading a story expressing vivid emotions, people can enhance their ability to form memories, and to learn from them. Identifying with another person's emotions is an essential step toward developing compassion, as well as self-awareness. 


Source: The Independent, December 28, 2013

By Tomas Jivanda

Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition - for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

21 students took part in the study, with all participants reading the same book - Pompeii, a 2003 thriller by Robert Harris, which was chosen for its page turning plot.

“The story follows a protagonist, who is outside the city of Pompeii and notices steam and strange things happening around the volcano,” said Prof Berns. “It depicts true events in a fictional and dramatic way. It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line.”

Over 19 days the students read a portion of the book in the evening then had fMRI scans the following morning. Once the book was finished, their brains were scanned for five days after.

The neurological changes were found to have continued for all the five days after finishing, proving that the impact was not just an immediate reaction but has a lasting influence.

“Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity,” added Prof Berns. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.”

Note: You can read the full study HERE

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From Query to Book Deal in 72 Hours

From: If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON'T!
Updated 12/8/22

The writer's equivalent to winning the lottery is what happened to author-illustrator Elise Parsley. She sent a query (just one), and the agent signed her up the next day. The following day the agent conducted an auction. (That's when an agent sends a book to several publishers simultaneously.) And the day after that, Parsley landed a contract with a major publishing house.

The reason this story made headlines is not just that it fulfills a wish - to gain fame, fortune, and a major publisher without having to suffer through countless rejections - but that it is pure fantasy.

Elise spent years perfecting her craft. She went to art school, where she honed her skills as an illustrator, and then attended SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences. She joined a critique group, and she didn't contact an agent until she was confident she had a book that would sell.

Since her first book, Elise has written two more, each one expanding on the misadventures of Magnolia, who in the first book has a really terrible idea (bringing an alligator to school for show and tell). The series has gotten rave reviews from Kirkus, New York Times, and Publishers Weekly.


Source: Publisher's Weekly.

From Query to Book Deal in 72 Hours: Debut Author Elise Parsley

By Sally Lodge, Dec 17, 2013

It’s a true story that reads like fiction – and it’s one that should raise the spirits of any aspiring author. Elise Parsley, a 27-year-old piano teacher in Plymouth, Minn., leapt from being an unpublished, agentless author-illustrator to one with both an agent and a book contract in three days.

The quick-fire timeline went like this: Parsley sent Steven Malk at Writers House an e-mail query on Tuesday, November 19; he signed her on as a client on Wednesday, and on Thursday submitted her picture book, If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!, to multiple publishers. Connie Hsu at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers made a pre-empt offer on Friday, which Malk and Parsley accepted that evening. The book is scheduled for fall 2015 publication.

“It’s really crazy to think that a month ago, nobody knew who I was, and now several people do!” said Parsley. She explained that Alligator, the story of a spunky girl named Magnolia who sets off a domino effect of chaos when she brings an alligator to school for show-and-tell, is “my third story that I’ve tried to see through all the way to the end, but it’s the first one that has gotten really good feedback.”

Read the rest of this story here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

150 Amazon KDP Select Authors Each Sold Over 100,000 Copies in 2013

Amazon's recently released statistics are no doubt causing gray hairs to sprout all over the heads of print publishers. Why? 

For one thing, 200,000 additional authors decided to sell their books exclusively on Amazon through their KDP Select program. Not all of these authors will reach the sales of the top 150, but even if each author sold a few hundred books in 2013, Amazon made quite a profit. 

Success, for Amazon, is not measured by how many best-selling authors they produce, but by how many authors decide to throw their hats into Amazon's ring.

Of course, another reason for CEOs to go gray is the exodus of well-known authors who have decided that they would rather get a greater chunk of the profits their books generate than whatever percentage their publishers mete out to them. In some cases, this amounts to millions of dollars in royalties that would otherwise have gone to publishing houses.

Press Release: Amazon Media Room

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 26, 2013-- (NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon today announced a record-setting holiday season for Amazon Prime, the annual membership program offering unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping on millions of items. More than one million customers around the world became new Prime members in the third week of December. On Amazon’s peak shipping day, more Prime items were shipped worldwide than ever before. The entire 2013 holiday season was the best ever for Amazon, with more than 36.8 million items ordered worldwide on Cyber Monday, which is a record-breaking 426 items per second, and millions of customers unwrapped Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets this holiday season.

Kindle and Amazon Digital Media Facts:
  • Amazon’s digital media selection grew to more than 27 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, and popular apps and games in 2013.
  • Selection in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library in 2013 grew from 250,000 books to more than 475,000 books.
  • More than 200,000 exclusive books were added to the Kindle store in 2013.
  • 150 Kindle Direct Publishing authors each sold more than 100,000 copies of their books in 2013. Top sellers this year include “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover and “Wait for Me” by Elisabeth Naughton. (Read about Colleen Hoover HERE.)
  • The best-selling Kindle Direct Publishing author during the holiday season was H.M. Ward.
Read the rest HERE.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Free: APE - How to Self-Publish

For those of you who are not familiar with Guy Kawasaki, he is the entrepreneur's entrepreneur. His books on how to create a successful business - in your garage - combined with his no-holds-barred writing style have won him a place in the Bloggerdom equivalent to Mount Olympus.

Kawasaki's book, Author - Publisher - Entreprenuer (APE), is available for free until January 31st. So, get yourself a copy. Even if you missed out on starting Apple from your garage, his tips are well worth listening to.

Go here:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year's Resolution - For Writers

It's January 1st, and I can guess what you have resolved for 2014, because every writer makes the same New Year's resolutions.

I will finish my novel

I will start my novel

I will write more/better/faster

I will find an agent

I will get published

... and so on

Chances are, you will make the same resolutions next year. And they will be equally as futile.

The problem is that you are setting your sights too low. If you are going to make a resolution, make it big.

This is my New Year's Resolution:

This year I will get more rejections than C. S. Lewis.
(Click here if you don't know how many rejections he received.)

The reason I have chosen this for my resolution is that I can't get rejections if I don't send queries, and the number of queries I send reflects how committed I really am. (Of course, I can't send queries if I haven't finished my project. And I can't finish my project if I don't work on it every day. That goes without saying.)

The point is, if you aim for getting rejected more times than, say, F. Scott Fitzgerald, you just may end up writing The Great Gatsby.

And if C.S. Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald don't inspire you, try these rejections on for size:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding - 'an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.'

Gertrude Stein - 'I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.'

Rudyard Kipling - 'I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.'

And, my personal favorite:

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - 'unreadable'

These authors didn't quit, and neither should you. But, you can't quit if you don't start. So, join me this year.

Let's get rejected 800 times.

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