Episode 18, Parts 1 & 2 – Hugh Howey on Author Earnings, Marketing and More

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In the longest Sell More Books Show to date, Bryan co-hosted the show this week with best-selling indie author Hugh Howey while Jim was fly fishing in Montana. Before we got into the Tip of the Week, Hugh talked about marketing as an introvert and how YouTube videos help him to connect with readers. The tips included tactics related to release strategy, BookBub and Kindle Unlimited. Bryan and Hugh went into depth discussing what’s next for Hugh Howey and Data Guy’s Author Earnings project.

In part two of the show, Bryan and author Hugh Howey went into this week’s news. Stories included reports of an Amazon mobile credit card reader, Dean Wesley Smith’s writing in public project, how to improve your craft as a writer, J.A. Konrath’s ideal Authors Guild and Amazon’s latest press release on book pricing in the Hachette negotiations. Hugh also presented this week’s Question of the Week: How many hours a week do you put into reading? Do you consider it part of your job as an author or is it a passion project? How has that reading impacted your writing? Comment on our website or give us a call at (206) 338-0092.

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MP3 Direct Download (Part 1)

MP3 Direct Download (Part 2)



What You’ll Learn: 

  • How Hugh Howey markets as an introvert
  • The results from Liliana Hart’s patient book release strategy
  • How one author reached #14 in the Kindle store
  • One strategy for using Kindle Unlimited without full exclusivity
  • The future of Author Earnings
  • How Amazon’s latest product could help you sell direct
  • How many words you can write in one year
  • The way Hugh improved his writing craft
  • What J.A. Konrath wants in an authors’ guild
  • Why Amazon is holding its ground with Hachette


Question of the Week: 

How many hours a week do you put into reading? Do you consider it part of your job as an author or is it a passion project? How has that reading impacted your writing?


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  • dream109

    I read for at least an hour a day. I must admit, I notice different things in books now I’m writing and editing my own stuff. I’m not able to skip over as much as I used to before doing it myself. 🙂

    • Bryan

      Nice! That’s more than me :). Thanks for listening, D!

  • Great question. These day’s I don’t have much time to sit down and read a book. Any time that I could spend reading is the same time I could spend writing, and I tend to focus on the latter. However, my commute is about 1 hour both ways, so I do listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. If you count audio books, I probably listen to 2-3 books a month. My most recent reads were Fight Club (listened to it for the first time since I read it when I was 17), Hollow World, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. I try to listen to a little bit of everything, from classics to contemporary works. But, just like when reading a novel, I don’t have patience for poorly written books, so I do find myself sometimes stopping a audiobook 1/4 of the way in.

    • Bryan

      Love audiobooks. I feel like I’m in the same boat. I wonder if you get as much out of listening to a book for craft as you do reading it. Something I was thinking about.

  • Leslye PJ

    I often read 3-5 books per week. I totally agree that reading is really important as a writer, I just can’t read the same subgenre as what I’m writing. If I’m writing paranormal or fantasy I tend to read contemporary – that helps me not cross my wires. Writing reviews also helps sharpen my skills since I’m analyzing while I read anyway.

    • Bryan

      I’ve heard several folks who feel the same way about staying out of their writing genre when reading. Very interesting. Thanks!

  • Excellent interview/show. Nice work, Bryan and Hugh 😉

    • Bryan

      Thanks, J :).

  • Hugh has a sexy voice. Woo-hoo! Thanks for this show. I listened to both episodes. The one comment I’ll say is that if we indie writers would spend just as much time writing new books as we do paying attention to the KU or Hachette vs Amazon drama (which doesn’t really affect us direct whatsoever), then we’d be a lot more further along. I’m much more interested in hearing specific techniques on how to become better storytellers or marketing tips that actually work.

    • Bryan

      Agreed, Jamie. I could barely handle the sexiness.

      We focused on Amazon v. Hachette more in this episode than usual on account of Hugh being a subject matter expert :). Most episodes, we try to focus only on things that will have a direct bearing on book sales. The author community will get there. Maybe when this A v. H thing blows over ;).

  • robertscanlon

    Hey Bryan – superb show! I wish it had gone on and one and on …

    You worked so well with Hugh, I think I would have been too starry-eyed and fumbled the interview; but not you! Well done.

    Two things. One is an answer to your show question.

    The other is a question for Hugh/Data Guy related to what Hugh talked about with print book figures being inaccurate.

    You and I have discussed this before: Non-fiction still gets great sales in print. All of the Author Earnings analysis is for fiction (as far as I can remember), and while I don’t disagree at all with their results (and they’re great for Indie Authors!), I do think we need to be aware that print shouldn’t be discounted as a part of the business model for non-fiction authors. New authors hearing shows such as this might be in danger of being inadvertently misled: Those ‘industry figures’ compared to Amazon sales estimates – are they for fiction-only, or for ALL print vs ebooks? We need to compare apples with apples.

    For Indie fiction authors, I’d say don’t bother for sales reasons (as Hugh says re the top 40 in Thrillers etc), but for non-fiction, print sales are still very strong, even for Indie authors!

    Of course, it’s always nice to hold your own novel in your hand … and they’re great for giveaways and signings etc, but not for sales.

    So will Author Earnings be able to shine some light there?

    I would love to be paid (well!) just to read all day long. Part of why I love writing (and I’m only a year & half into it myself) is because I’ve always loved reading, and always will. I read as much as I can every day. Both print and Kindle.

    Interestingly for me, fiction now has some other angles. Sometimes I get lost in the story, then after I ask myself: What made that soooo good?

    And other times, reading something that doesn’t grab me, I find myself applying writing-craft-book derived advice to the author (in my head! Not directly), which is quite funny.

    Great show, and I will get a review onto iTunes any time soon now, I promise!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Robert. I’m not certain the Author Earnings stats are just for fiction. I could be wrong, but I thought it was just the top 120,000 books on the Kindle store in general. I’m interested to see what the print report shows too. Yes, I’m very glad to get my CreateSpace direct deposit every month. 😉

      Haha, I love that you apply the writing craft book info to books you read. I’ve been doing the same thing lately.

      Alright, we’re waiting for that review (tapping foot impatiently ;)).

      • robertscanlon

        Cool, thanks. I’ll have to check next time I visit. I was thinking about this yesterday – it would be interesting to see out of the non-fiction top 100, what proportion are print/audio etc

        I did leave my review btw, shortly after commenting! It will be in the Australian iTunes store I expect. 🙂

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  • Darren Sapp

    I have three to four books going at one time (kindle, print, audio) and read one to
    two hours per day. One of those in the mix is typically in the genre I’m
    writing. That reading (the good, the bad, and the ugly) shapes my writing.

    • Bryan

      Good to know. Do you ever worry about your style varying throughout a book because of the books you’re reading?

      • Darren Sapp

        I don’t think so because my voice has stayed fairly consistent. What changes is character development, better description of emotions, etc. I’m improving my voice. I can read all the Pat Conroy I want, but I don’t think I’ll ever handle the language the way he does. I love reading it, but it’s just not me.

  • For a guy who doesn’t like to talk about marketing, Hugh sure knows a a lot! As for KU—my borrows ar way up, matching my sales neck and neck at the moment. Knock effect: purchases of my other books. There was so much good advice in this show, I forgot what else I wanted to say.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Alyne. And thanks for the update on your sales. By knock effect, do you mean the other book sales are down?

      • I meany knock ON effect that other books ales are Up! Sorry….

        • Bryan

          Oh good! That’s ok.

  • I read all the time, both fiction, non-fiction how-write-better books and I do lots of research for historical storylines from books as well as online. I have an English Lit degree so had to read about 20 books a quarter for that. Due to this excess, I developed an addiction to print and have not been able to be without a book since then. Anywhere.
    One way you can spot authors who have been reading all their lives is the willingness to allow other authors to experiment with grammar, who understand that in dialogue, and in dialect–I write lots of European stories–that non-adherence to gramatical rules is normal. I just had to say that in hopes that as people read more great fction, they will see that emotion and suspense often call for a few sentence fragments and that we don’t write dailogue like Vna Helsing in Dracula any more, but suggest an accent by twisting sytax around and things like that.
    I know this sounds like a rant, but I’m just saying!

  • Crissy Moss

    I read less then I did before I started getting serious about my writing, but I found that the less I read the more I struggle to write. So I’ve been making it a point to read a lot more lately. I’ve got a kindle FILLED with books, and I’ve finally started working my way through some of the back log. Writing has gotten easier since I started doing that. Even if it’s just an hour a day.

    • Bryan

      Glad you’re working through the backlog. I have the same problem with my Kindle right now, but I’m primarily an audiophile these days ;).

  • Elisabeth Grace

    I’ve read 54 books so far this year and though I love doing it, I do consider it part of my job. I read mostly in my genre (romance) but I do think you learn through osmosis. And if nothing more it’s inspiring to me when I read a well written book…I think “I want to do that”. It gets my butt in the chair to write. Another great show!

    • Bryan

      I know what you mean, Elisabeth. There’s just something about reading a great book :). Thanks!

  • Great show guys. I never think to comment because I listen during my drive. Just want you to know I appreciate what you do. And Hugh was great. Glad to hear, also, that I’m not the only nut trying to write at a crazy pace. A book every two months after I get home from the day job! God bless.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Ron. That’s an impressive pace. I’m considering trying to do a novel from outline to edited to published in November for NaNoWriMo. I’m at around 4 months per book these days.

      Glad you’re enjoying the show!

      • 4 months is great. I struggle with this rushing thing because I want to make sure my books are really good. I think it depnens on ganre how fast you can go—as well as other obligations, but some books take more time. Especially if they involve a lot of research or psychological depth. I think we should– I hate to put it this way—should give each other “permission” to take as long as the book needs to write it and stop pushing this bandwagon of fast, fast, fast. If you’re in this for the long term, why all the rush?

        • Bryan

          Good point, Alyne. We should be in it for the long term.

  • Stephanie Carroll

    This is the first time I’ve commented, and I just want to say how excited I am that you guys started this show. It’s exactly what I’ve been wanting in a podcast and I am just loving it.

    I wanted to respond because of Hugh’s question about reading. I’m a slow reader, so it takes me about a month to get through a book, whether I’m making time to read before bed or working on it via audio book during my thirty minute commute to and from work. feel like there are times when I get through two a month but not often. I’ve never been able to push through a bad book.

    When I read a book I really enjoy, I can get through it faster, the fastest being a week, but I put everything else on hold to do it, and when it’s that good, I get kind of depressed when I finish and cannot stand the thought of reading something else. It can take up to a month before I can get out of that funk and into a new book so that speediness is sort of counterbalanced.

    So, I thought about this the other day, and if I’m only reading one book a month, and then taking a break after a great book, that’s probably about ten books a year and I wanted to cry! I However, this is only fiction. I go through non-fiction and research materials like a dehydrated monkey going through slushies.

    I have my first novel out and it is doing well and working on putting my second out by next year, so I keep trying to tell myself that everyone is different. The important thing is that I am reading all the time – I’m just on turtle mode.

    • Bryan

      Turtle mode is perfectly fine :). We’re so glad you’re enjoying the show!

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  • Cara Swann

    Great info in the presentation. I love reading in a variety of genres. When I plan a new project, I do tend to read at least a few books in that genre, but not to the point it influences my original idea. I do like to get an idea of what has been done, see if what I plan to write fits in a certain category. If it doesn’t I still develop my project, but might classify it differently. I’ve been a lifelong reader, and as long as possible, I hope to always read whether I can write or not; I try to read at least a couple hours every day. I might add that having a Kindle with larger text options has been wonderful and I’ve discovered a lot of indie gems. Fantastic time to be a writer and reader these days.

    • Bryan

      Couldn’t agree more, Cara. Thanks for posting!