Why Wool Author Hugh Howey Didn’t Sell His Ebook Rights
Wool author Hugh Howey struck it big in a deal with Simon & Schuster late last year that saw him collect a seven-figure advance for just the print publishing rights to his hit best-seller.
As it turns out, well before his deal with a traditional publisher, he was raking in $150,000 a month in income for his self-published ebooks. It was a tough sell, given those numbers, for any publisher to be able to buy the rights to publish his book.
According to Howey’s agent Kristin Nelson, the reason was the percentage of ebook royalties that publishers offer and the terms of the contract that determine when a book’s rights revert back to authors.
In May of 2012, Nelson and Howey had conversations with publishers in which they brought up these sticking points. While the conversations were valuable, Nelson and Howey said at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo, they didn’t lead to a deal and, Nelson said, it didn’t seem like the publishers were really listening.
In Oct., Wool was a Kindle Daily Deal and sold 20,000 copies in a day. Nelson brought this data to publishers who seemed, she said, to be listening a little more closely. A deal to acquire just the print rights to Wool from Simon & Schuster soon followed.
Howey an Altruist?
An interesting anecdote from Howey: At some point on his road to success with Wool, Howey began to receive complaints from readers who had Nook and other non-Amazon devices that they couldn’t get his books. Howey had up until that point been part of the Kindle Select program, which meant that he received certain promotional considerations on the Kindle platform but was not allowed to offer his book on other platforms.
Responding to these complaints, Howey opted out of the Kindle Select program even though it meant less revenue from book sales for him.
At some point, he said, when you’re making enough money, you want to please your customers.