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The first half of this series can be found here: ebooks: Tale of Two eBooks Part I, Fifty Shades of Grey

by Hugh Howey
Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing/Amazon Digital Services/Simon & Schuster
Hardback: $17.59, Paperback: $9.36, Kindle: $5.99, Audible Digital: $1.99
January 25, 2012
550 pages

Once upon a time a man wrote a story. And published it as a Kindle single.

The story was a simple one about people in a dystopian future who have been forced to live underground in a silo due to the Earth's toxic atmosphere. One hundred and forty eight stories deep, the floors are only connected by a single spiral staircase that leads from the bottom stories where the Mechanicals are, through the mid-levels which contain IT and food farms, and finally to the "up top" where the professionals live and work. All workers are identified by the color of their uniforms in this rigid, highly-stratified society that imposes strict controls on childbirth, food and even pets.

The people of the silo are wonderfully complex. Their motivations are complicated and totally human. There is a single punishment reserved for the worst crimes that is called "cleaning." The condemned must don a protective suit, designed by the IT department, which has been trying for years to perfect them, grab some wool pads (hence the title) and go outside to clean the sensors that provide the only views the silo occupants have of the world. So far, the IT department has been unable to make the suits strong enough to allow the cleaners to return to the silo.

The first story sets the stage for the mystery that lies at the very heart of the Silo Saga.  Sheriff Holston is mourning his wife in that story; a worker in IT, she was one of the cleaners who was sent outside. After a last trek up the spiral staircase, Holston locks himself into the holding cell and commands his deputy to bring the mayor saying, "I want to go outside."

The story, unadvertised and spread only by word of mouth, was so popular that Howey wrote four more stories and novellas that combined, would become Wool. The first story introduces us to the silo and its hierarchy. The second and third stories involve the search for Sheriff Holston's replacement by the Mayor and her deputy. The search takes them all of the way down into the bowels of the silo where the Mechanicals do their work keeping the lights on and the water flowing. At the very bottom they find Juliette who is recruited to help police the silo.

Wool is only the first of three novels in the Silo Saga. The second one, Shift, introduces us to the origins of the silo and the final one, Dust, wraps up the series. I had a few minor quibbles with some of the plotting, but overall enjoyed the trilogy.

However, this diary isn't really about the work itself, but about the way Hugh Howey became a millionaire based on a serial novel that he published himself.

Of course, this is not the first time that a writer has serialized a novel. Serializations go back as far as we have had periodic journals. Charles Dickens is one of the best known for his novels that were originally published in periodicals, beginning with The Pickwick Papers.

Nor it this the first time that an author has had to self-publish his work before a publisher would offer him a contract. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, first appeared as a serial in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason, in 1905. He had to pay for the first printing of his book before Doubleday would publish a shorter version in 1906.

But it is still rare for a novel to first appear as a serial, then be published in one format by its creator, and then be picked up by a publisher. Although with the advent of e-books, the phenomenon is one we are likely to see more often.

Hugh Howey's case is interesting because when his agent shopped his work, he did so with the clear understanding that Howey would retain the digital rights to his trilogy. Some publishers, unwilling to part with the immense profits in the electronic format, were willing to offer him seven-figure book deals for all rights.

"I had made seven figures on my own, so it was easy to walk away," says Mr. Howey, 37, a college dropout who worked as a yacht captain, a roofer and a bookseller before he started self-publishing. "I thought, 'How are you guys going to sell six times what I'm selling now?' "

 - WSJ: Sci-Fi's Underground Hit

As a self-published author on Amazon, Hugh Howey received 70% of the proceeds from each sale: "Most of my months are six-figure months," said Hugh Howey, [...] "It's more than I ever hoped to make in a year."

Successilism interviewed Hugh Howey last year:

When and why did you decide to self-publish?

The day I got the contract for my second book. My first novel was with a small press. It went great, but I started to think I could do the publishing bits on my own. The technology was there. The times were changing. I had this great impatience to forge ahead on my own pace. And so I filed the contract away and went on my own. I haven’t looked back since.

How did you promote your books? Do you have any special marketing strategies?

The book that took off for me was the one I didn’t promote at all. I don’t know what that means, but it makes me feel powerless about what succeeds and what doesn’t. The reader is the one who does the real promoting by telling their friends, writing reviews, posting on their own FB and Twitter accounts. I did everything you can think of: book signings, talking to schools, joining writing groups, going to conferences. But again, it was the book I never promoted at all that took off.

 - Successilism: An Interview with Hugh Howey

Geekdad over at has a review, some additional publishing information and a two part interview with Hugh Howey, with spoilers in the second part of the interview only. And it is clearly marked as containing the spoilers.

According to the LA Times, Amazon has a new graphic novel imprint, Jet City Comics, which will
[...] release a graphic novel adaptation of Howey’s best-selling science fiction novel “Wool,” by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Jimmy Broxton. The dystopian story follows the remnants of humanity living in an underground silo, hundreds of stories below the surface of Earth’s toxic landscape. The six-issue comic series will be released beginning in October.

The movie rights for Wool have been obtained by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian. 

And while I thought Wool was good and Fifty Shades bad, these diaries aren't so much about the content of these two e-books, but upon the impact that they have both had on the way books are published and sold. For reviews of ebooks themselves, you should check out Caedy's series, every other Sunday, What's on your E-Reader?

I have an update on the fate of some of the 5.3 million copies of 50 Shades of Grey that were sold in Great Britain. It seems that they are flooding the charity shops of England. I guess after one read people are already bored with the series and dumping their copies onto charities for re-sale. has thousands of copies but no buyers. According to their Marketing Manager, Ben Wadsworth, "People are offloading them now in droves as all the hype has died down, its becoming a paper mountain."

Unfortunately, The Telegraph further reports that the glue used in the binding makes the books impossible to recycle in Britain. So not only was the trilogy a literary disaster, it looks like it may become an ecological one as well. What ever will we do with all of these useless books that cannot even be recycled?

Well, there is a Facebook page to help, 50 Ways to Kill 50 Shades of Grey. And Zeljka Marosevic of Melville House has some additional suggestions for their disposal at Moby Lives. Personally, I think we should ship them down to the inmates at GITMO. Even though I would consider that cruel and unusual punishment, the detainees do not agree. According to Rep Jim Moran, D-VA, who toured the camp this summer, he was told that the high value detainees enjoy the trilogy:

"Rather than the Quran, the book that is requested most by the [high-value detainees] is Fifty Shades of Grey. They've read the entire series in English, but we were willing to translate it," Moran, who advocates for closing the facility, told HuffPost. "I guess there's not much going on, these guys are going nowhere, so what the hell."
Clearly, there are some books that should only be published in e-book format. Much easier to get rid of an eBook without relying on additional landfills.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
alternate Mondays
2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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