A few weeks ago I read Hugh Howey’s incredible novel Wool, almost by accident (a relative had given it to my thirteen-year-old for his birthday, and I picked it up from the coffee table during this particularly bleak Kindle-less period caused by said thirteen-year-old). I’m a lover of all things postapocalyptic and dystopian, so Wool and I were a natural match. Though I hadn’t heard of the novel before and wasn’t aware of its fascinating publication history, I quickly started reading around in Woolophilia (as I’ll call it) and learned all about the astonishing rise of the novel from NaNoWriMo experiment to international bestseller.
Yesterday Howey posted a blog piece (Two Years Ago…) giving a month-by-month rundown of the last two years of his life, since his initial uploading of the first Wool story. Among other things, the post is an eye-popping parable about the emotional roller coaster that is self-publishing. It’s been an incredible ride, of course, and Howey writes of the agonizingly slow then insanely fast sales rates with all the suspense his novel lends to the investigations of Jules and Co. Here’s a taste:
I stayed up until midnight on October 31st of 2011. I remember posting on Facebook that I was close to 1,000 sales for the month. ONE THOUSAND! It would never happen again, I was certain. Sitting on 980-something with a handful of returns, I begged for a few more sales. It had nothing to do with gaining readers at that point, just an irrational love of round numbers. Before midnight, I took a screen capture of my KDP dashboard with the 1,018 sales, which got me over a thousand even with the returns factored in. I went to sleep exhausted, confident that I’d just witnessed the apex of my career, and dreaming of the sequels I would write the next morning in lieu of the NaNo novel I had planned.
1,018 sales at 99 cents apiece amounted to $356.30. Imagine having the best month of your artistic career, and it comes to what you make in a week shelving books for $10 an hour. No part of me considered putting in my notice at work. None. No part of me thought I’d ever pay my bills with my writing. None. All I could think about was that I had over a thousand readers, and many of them were writing reviews and emails begging for the next entry. On November 1st, my NaNoWriMo.org page updated, I started writing and outlining the rest of the series.
And the rest is…uh…the negative dialectics of dystopian anti-history.
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