Hugh Howey’s 10 Counterintuitive Tips for Self-Publishers

Hugh Howey
I am a big fan of Hugh Howey‘s work. I have recommended his book Wool before as apart of my Reading Recommendations series. (Which you should read.) Over the last few years he has exploded on the speculative fiction scene and along the way he has hit the New York Times Bestsellers list multiple times. Not bad for a self-published guy who bootstrapped himself through his whole project.

Over the weekend I came across this Publishing Perspective article where Howey lists ten handy tips for self-publishers. It’s really good advice so I figured his ten tips were worth a share on here:

  1. Asking people to buy your book doesn’t work. Instead, try to entertain or enlighten with your Facebook posts and tweets.
  2. The people who sell your books are your existing readers. Concentrate on interacting with them and being accessible.
  3. There is no promotion as strong as writing the next book. None. That always comes first.
  4. It doesn’t matter how quickly your book jumps out of the gate upon release. An undiscovered book remains fresh and new. You have the rest of your life to promote or gain sales, so keep writing!
  5. Give your books away. You need to build up a fan base. That means free ebooks, sample chapters, and not worrying about piracy or DRM.
  6. A good agent is your best friend. Even if you don’t want to sign with a publishing house, there are overseas markets and media rights that they can help you with.
  7. An email list is more powerful than Twitter or Instagram (though not quite as powerful as Facebook). You want to reach out to those who are receptive, those who have signed up to hear from you. Build that newsletter email list as soon as possible.
  8. Videos are worth a million words. Readers love connecting with and getting to know their favorite authors. Shoot a video rather than typing out a blog post. They are quick to watch and easy to share.
  9. Be yourself. This shouldn’t be counterintuitive. I hope it isn’t. Don’t lose sight of who you are. Embrace the awkwardness, the glee, the dumbfoundedness.
  10. Authors are not in competition with one another. We are in this together. A happy reader buys more books, so celebrate others doing well and help who you can. Remember those who helped you. Pass it along.

I see a lot of self-published authors doing the exact opposite of Howey’s 10 Tips on a consistent basis. Their blog posts and twitter feeds read like advertising, their posts are little more than hashtags lists. There’s no content.

The biggest takeaway from these 10 tips can be summed up in one word: engagement. Find a way to engage with your readers: provide them quality content, have a conversation, respond to emails, be yourself. You wouldn’t want to buy a book from some weird sales obsessed robot so why would your potential readers?

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7 thoughts on “Hugh Howey’s 10 Counterintuitive Tips for Self-Publishers

    1. Yep! I took the title from the “Publishing Perspective” article, but in thinking about it I kind of want to retitle the post something like: “Hugh Howey’s 10 Reasonable Tips for Self-Publishers.”

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  1. Thank you for this– I’ve bookmarked the original article as well. I am pretty much doing everything except 7 and 8 at this point. A newsletter sounds like a possibility– don’t know about videos, though. Reasonably sure that would just frighten people.

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    1. Glad you found it helpful! I know I did.

      For my newsletter I started an email list using MailChimp (though I have yet to send out a newsletter—waiting until “The Stars Were Right” launches) I found it to be a fairly painless process and I’d recommend them.

      As far as videos go, you don’t know until you try! I know Howey does all sorts of videos, some fun as quick responses to comments, and some more in depth. Maybe start with the former and work towards the latter?

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    1. Yes! Howey is *great* and Wool does rock. I have been subscribing to his blog for awhile now, you’re 100% right, he is really encouraging and he’s always very honest about his experiences. The ups and the downs. I like that.

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