Recently, I stumbled onto the May/June 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest. A young, good-looking man stared back at me and I saw his name: Hugh Howey. That name was familiar.
I turned to page 34 and read. What I learned may change my life.
In July of 2011, Hugh posted an e-book novella of “Wool” online. In October, he realized the book was selling about 1,000 copies per month. He compiled all five sections of the book, and three months later, he was selling 20,000-30,000 copies of the book. “Wool” went on to become the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Best Indie Book Award in the Sci-Fi/fantasy category. By the time the book had been out for about a year, Howey was selling 20,000-30,000 copies of “Wool” a month. His monthly salary: $150,000 from e-book sales alone. He quit his day job. The offers of representation poured in, as did the offers from publishers. But Howey did an amazing thing: he only sold the hardback and paperback rights to “Wool.” He kept the e-book rights for himself. This is revolutionary for authors.
I know it’s ridiculous to compare “Bone Girl” to “Wool.” They’re different genres. “Wool” is science fiction, and as near as I can figure, “Bone Girl” is a middle-grade novel.
But one Sunday night a few weeks ago, the financial pressure cooker that is my life darn near exploded. In desperation, I thought, hell, let me see if I can put “Bone Girl” on Kindle. And guess what? I did. I put together some cover art and lo and behold, I downloaded the first three chapters. Why not? That was the same amount of material I sent to all of the agents and publishers who rejected the book. How many rejections exactly? About 22 now.
Howey self-published his books because he was impatient. I am the queen of impatience. My former journalism professor, Les Dunseith, told me I was the most impatient person he had ever known. Flatterer.
But there was more to it than that. Howey wanted someone to read his work rather than let it languish on the hard drive of his computer. Me again. That was the reason I put Bone Girl on the Authonomy website. I never intended to fight my way to the top so an editor at HarperCollins would read it. I wanted anyone to read it, regardless of whether it propelled my writing career.
Here’s the scary thing about Bone Girl: it’s the best book I’ve written. I don’t know if I will ever write another book with such an amazing main character, and I can’t sell the darn thing. My rejection count stands at 22.
Self-publish it? I don’t know. Maybe. I’m sure thinking about it.