No writer (or reader) can be insensible to the changes happening because of the rise of self-publishing. There has been a lot of chatter about it. (It Will Save Publishing! It Will Bring Down Publishing! Etc.)
This is not argument for or against, because I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it. My mother, who has had several New Age-themed books published the traditional way, has self-published some books. I know other writers doing the same. It makes sense. If you already have a following and/or have had the rights of some of your backlist reverted to you, why not?
As for the arguments I’ve heard against aspiring writers self-publishing, some of those makes sense, too. I can see writers who have not yet developed to their full potential self-publishing too early and causing damage to their careers.
But I can also see why writers who’ve been at it for a long time take that leap of faith, not because they aren’t ready to be published, but because they just aren’t finding someone who is willing to take a chance on them.
And who doesn’t get jazzed and dream a little when they hear about the remarkable success stories of self-published authors like Amanda Hocking, John Locke and E.L. James?
Having recently purchased my first Kindle, it was kind of inevitable that I would try a self-published book. I’m sure like many people, I was hesitant because I’d heard that many self-published books are poorly written and poorly edited.
I chose the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey as my first purchase. I’d heard that it’s been optioned by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian for a possible feature film.
Wow. That’s an amazing endorsement.
I also chose it because it’s a dystopian story, and I like dystopian fiction.
The story of how the omnibus came to be is itself very interesting. Howey wrote a short story called Wool and self-published it. The story was so popular that readers begged him to continue writing about the dystopian society he had created. This led to even more stories, five in total.
So how is it?
I think it’s pretty darn good.
The story is set in a gigantic silo buried almost entirely underground. The world outside has been destroyed by an undefined apocalypse and is completely uninhabitable. The society in the silo is remarkably complex (they have a lot of modern technology) but even a whisper about wanting to go outside is punishable by death.
Those unfortunate enough to express this desire (or to commit some other grievous crime) becomes a “cleaner”–forced outside in a suit that will allow them to live long enough to clean the sensors and cameras so the inhabitants of the silo can at least see something of the ruined world.
The first story starts with the sheriff of the silo, Holston, whose wife wanted to be let out three years previously, insisting on also being let out. Both he and his wife suspected they have all be lied to and that it might be possible to survive outside.
To tell you more is to spoil the story. The first story is very gripping, as it’s not clear if this is a man who really knows something concrete, or is bent on committing an elaborate form of suicide because he never got over losing his wife.
Since the stories were written separately, the omnibus has a bit of an episodic feel to it. The second story serves to establish the various areas of the silo, and the tensions and politics that go on in the society. But after that, the stories really pick up the pace and are edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.
The best part of the book (for me, anyway) is Juliette Nichols, the protagonist of most of the rest of the story. She also begins to suspect that there is more to what they have been told all their lives about the origins of the silo and what’s outside. Juliette is intelligent, capable and flawed–my favorite kind of character.
Is Howey a brilliant prose writer? Not really, but that’s usually the case with genre writers. He is a fantastic storyteller, which is what really matters to me, and the world he creates has amazing detail. There are no annoying editing glitches (unlike a traditionally published ebook I recently purchased–shame, shame on the publisher). He’s created such a compelling world and situation that I can see him continuing to add to the Wool series for quite a long time to come.
I’m not saying I’m completely won over to self-published books–right after finishing the Wool omnibus, I downloaded another self-published book that was not good at all. For free, thank goodness. (It shall remain nameless on this blog.)
So self-publishing obviously still has some growing pains, and choosing something to read can lead to disappointment, but that’s true of traditionally published books, too. I just know I’ve found an author I look forward to seeing more from in future.