Like it or hate it, the digital publishing revolution is upon us, and no other book better represents its game changing impacts upon the publishing industry, which Wool leads in this shifting market.
Hugh Howey, the author of this successful series (the Silo Trilogy), has already sold more than a million copies, gathered almost 6,000 reviews on Amazon.com, won the Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book of 2012 Award, and Ridley Scott has plans to transform the series into movies. But what I find most fascinating in all of this is that Howey retains digital rights to his book, even while selling the print rights for his book across the globe for six figure contracts. This is a first, and probably a trend we will see more of. The publishing industry will hate it at first, but ultimately will have to adjust.
Wool is fascinating, concerning an isolated and bound culture existing inside a silo built deep into the Earth. If anyone talks about venturing outside, they are allowed to but it is the last thing they will ever do. Because outside the air is toxic and the survival suits the inhabitants of the silo manufacture for these external ventures are short lived, providing minutes of protection at most. Not surprising, society is controlled through fear and secrets, a recipe destined for a major breakdown.
The novel has an interesting premise, and one that keeps the reader guessing every step of the way. It is science fiction without the gadgets, hard science and engineering technobabble that scares most readers away from the genre. It’s more Hunger Games than Stephen Baxter or Greg Egan, and definitely unique post-apocalyptic fiction. What does Wool mean for the publishing industry in general? I suspect that more and more writers will self-publish, and quality will be determined not by contracts and publicity campaigns, but reviews and Amazon sales rankings.
If traditional publishers want to stay in the business, they will have to do what they do best, publish print copies. The advantage they now have is in picking up ‘sure bets’, authors who sell well online will sell print copies too. Authors who don’t will ultimately remain in the virtual printed world only. That’s where Hugh Howey succeeded. That’s what more and more authors of the future will probably do so too.
For a unique and original take on the SF genre, Hugh Howey’s Wool comes highly recommended.