Increasingly traditional publishers are looking to find new talent among the self-published authors who are already achieving success, rather than taking a punt on a new author whose material is not market-tested.

Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, is one of these successful independent/self-published authors to be snapped up by a large publisher – Random House is publishing a hardback version of Wool this month in the UK.

What’s particularly interesting about Howey’s story is that he’s kept the rights to his e-books – the publishing contract is just for the physical book – and he’s maintained the control that self-published authors find so appealing, so he is not limited in what he can write in the future or when he can release his books.

It would be nice to imagine this is an overnight success, but it’s not: Howey has written more than 10 books already, and has slowly built readership and sales. He also offered Wool in parts (selling for 99 cents in some cases) to hook the readers and ensure they wanted to buy the next instalment.

Sharing tips and experience

Howey is also an active member of a growing community of independent authors who share their experiences and tips with other wannabe writers, engaging with readers and writers on his own website and blogging on others’.

His tips for success include having a strong blurb and good cover, and to make sure the book is well edited. He advises on being realistic about sales expectations, and to treat it like a hobby that you enjoy – this will let the quality of your writing shine through. And whilst he emphasises the importance of marketing, he says you can’t beat word of mouth – people recommending your book to their friends – and for this you need to have a brilliant story.