Hugh Howey and the heart of an Indie writer

Hugh Howey at his computer


I remember in one of my first classes at Baylor Law School the professor likened the study of law to trying to get a drink from a fire hose.

He didn’t know about digital publishing.  Of course no one did in those halcyon days of yore.

But the simile fits.

Thanks to the miracle of social media, which connects us all these days in ways we couldn’t dream of a few years ago, I have come to know many Indie writers.

They are all studying the same thing, trying to crack the same nut.

How do we sell books in a digital market place flooded with new literary works?

Some claim to have discovered the formula for success while most are still searching for it.

I came across a recent blog by Hugh Howey on Salon yesterday where Hugh compared Indie authors to artists in other media. Hugh has graced the pages of Caleb and Linda Pirtle a time or two.  I think he is a good guy to whom good things have found their way.  And his blog demonstrates how he still has the heart of an Indie.

Let’s compare music and literature for a moment. No, not the industries, which are following similar disruptions due to the arrival of the digital age, I mean the people who make music and those who craft literature. Let’s look at the artists.

How many people teach themselves to play the guitar? We celebrate this, don’t we? Even as they go through the callous-building phase, we admire anyone who learns the grammar of chords and then strings these phrases together into music. They begin by playing cover tunes the way an aspiring author might write fan fiction. They go on to strum on the sidewalk with a hat by their feet much like someone might blog and hope for a donation. They play small venues on open-mic nights that we can think of as free books on Smashwords. They get a few paying gigs, which is like self-publishing on Amazon. They hope to gain a following, local at first. Maybe they’ll get invited to open for a bigger act, which would be akin to scoring a blurb from a bestselling author. Perhaps a scout will see them live or on YouTube, like an agent noticing an author on a bestseller list. This is how artists are born. They are self-made. They perform for people. They learn and improve as they do both.

It is an apt comparison.

Wool by Hugh Howey

I commend the entire blog for your consideration. Hugh has laid out the argument in terms that encourage Indie authors while focusing on the dedication necessary to build craft and experience.

Here’s  his conclusion:

Aspiring authors email me all the time asking for advice, and I tell them the same thing: I found success because I wrote for the love of writing. I self-published simply because I wanted to own my work and I wanted to make it available to readers. I expected nothing. I wrote as one might garden or knit, simply because they enjoy the act of creation. The fact that I pay my bills — a feat growing more and more common by the day — is an unexpected bonus. I’d be doing this on the street with a hat by my feet if I had to. I’d be building callouses and nodding my thanks to anyone who tossed a coin my way. Sure, it would be crazy to think I might become the next Clapton or Hendrix, but for every outlier like that, there are thousands of musicians playing steady gigs on the weekends, loving what they do, and paying a few bills as a result. Finally, the same can be said of authors. And that’s the real story of self-publishing.

So, what do you think?  Is this the real story of self-publishing?  If not, what is?


, , , ,

  • Hugh is a great guy and really fine writer. I am glad for his success and believe that he is paving the way for every other indie writer on the planet. Thanks for giving us renewed hope and inspiration through Hugh’s voice.

  • I’ve been writing for years and only recently have started to be paid for it. But the pay isn’t the point. I love publishing because it means that other people are touched by my words. Writers need to write because they love it. That’s it!

  • Unfortunately, writers don’t have game shows like American Idol and The Voice to catapult their careers. However, even with these, few singers achieve great commercial success. Imagine if writers had such a venue to launch their careers, what chance would the thousands have if but one were rewarded each television season? No, in every form of art, commercial success comes only through hard work and perseverance and a kindly glance from lady luck.

  • I couldn’t agree more with Hugh. I have done both. Normally my choice is always for the love it. But occasionally, I lost my way and gunned for reward and money. Those were the heartless and penniless times of my life. Love conquers all. It just has to be love full out, no doubt.

Related Posts