Hugh Howey and the KWL Team

Hugh hamming for the camera with the KWL team in Toronto

At a recent visit to Kobo’s home office in Toronto, Hugh Howey was interviewed by KWL Director Mark Lefebvre in front of an audience of about 150 people (60 of which were local Kobo Writing Life authors) for a Kobo in Conversation video.

Here are some highlights from the discussion.

  • Introduction of Hugh Howey and Mark Lefebvre by Tracy Nesdoly, Senior Director of Communications at Kobo
  • Hugh talks about how interesting it is that history re-writes itself to fit the model of what people think happened – his first book was actually signed to a small press before he made the decision to try the self-publishing route
  • Hugh also reflects on how, in 2009, he was only concentrating on print books and traditional contracts for the first book, but then noticed his eBook sales were overtaking his print book sales
  • How Hugh was pressured by friends and family to get his book out to publishers so they could see it in bookstores
  • How Hugh’s Mom had been a great critic, early reader and editor for his work (and Hugh’s joke about how his wife and his mother have spent years telling him about all the mistakes that he makes, which ensures they are perfectly suited for this type of role in his writing)
  • The twenty years it took Hugh to complete the first novel (and how it wasn’t the same novel)
  • Hugh’s first manuscript, started at age 12, which was, essentially an homage to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • How Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, the first novel he completed, was written in a week
  • How Hugh acquired “sequelitis” after finishing that first novel, and how, when you keep writing sequels you’re left always promoting your first book
  • How Hugh met his wife when he was living the boating life (and how she pulled him ashore and inland)
  • The constant daydreaming and stories kept in his head while he worked at various other jobs
  • How he used to get in trouble in grammar school for that “writing daydreaming”
  • Where the darkness that surrounds the novel WOOL comes from (particularly from a writer whose persona is friendly, outgoing and positive)
  • How Hugh felt sick to his stomach when he was out at a fancy restaurant to celebrate signing the contract for his first book because it was something he had worked so hard on and he was now signing it away (despite the fact it was a positive experience because someone was paying him for something he had written – ie, it was “the dream”)
  • Even though he still has a physical reaction thinking about that moment, it wasn’t a reflection on the publisher – he still loves them and has a great relationship with them, but he quickly saw how he had too much energy for them and was driving them crazy with all of the things he wanted to do
  • Hugh reminds people that, despite it looked like he knew what he was doing all along, he was terrified, clueless and making it up as he went along
  • A look at www.authorearnings.com and Hugh’s motivation for always putting the reader and the writer first
  • How, bookstores come third on Hugh’s list of priorities – writers first (because without them you couldn’t have readers), then readers second
  • Hugh asks the question of why we’re not focusing on the right things, like how to make people love books more – such as these things shaped like books that we give to students in classrooms and inadvertently team them to hate. (If it’s shaped like a book, it better be fun)
  • How writers are always looking for excuses not to write, and how Hugh has to channel his fear of what might happen if he stops writing into looking towards working on projects that his readers and editors want
  • Hugh’s favourite novel I, Zombie, his most non-commercial work which represents his attempt to write about 911, and his favourite writing, which is the book Peace in Amber (a book he still gets emotional about when he speaks of it)
  •  The manner by which Hugh took the opposite tack of anything that might seem logical, such as not telling people he was a writer and had a book available
  •  Hugh’s discomfort at promoting his own work and how he would rather just work on writing the next book
  •  Social media as being a great place to connect with your existing fans rather than trying to use it to find new ones
  •  The important role that agents have played in Hugh’s career, particularly since initially, it wasn’t something that he thought he needed. Hugh shares his respect for his agent Kristen Nelson Literary Agency and the amazing agents and partners who have guided his success and earned every penny along the way
  •  Hugh’s desire to see editors, cover artists, beta readers and all those unsung heroes whose efforts make books better, known and loved and celebrated (Example is an interview Hugh recently did with one of his cover artists, Jason Smith
  • How Agencies might, in the future, look like law firms. Imagine FreethyAndre and Howey.
  • The importance to not run from labels, like “self-published author” – Hugh is proud to call himself a self-published author
  • How H.M. Ward continues to turn down multiple 7 figure offers from publishers because their marketing plans aren’t offering anything she hasn’t already built for herself
  • The role that NaNoWriMo has played in Hugh’s writing (and his thoughts on how an author who writes one novel a year might just be writing that novel in a single month)

Hugh and Mark recording the Kobo in Conversation video and podcast

As a postscript to the interview, Mark then calls out some of the key points that Hugh made during the conversation; in particular Hugh’s take on marketing and how writing your next book or focusing on sharing information ABOUT writing it is far better than trying to push your book in front of everybody’s face.


Episode 013 of the KWL Podcast (with Hugh Howey)

Kobo in Conversation Video

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