In the age of new technology, the first few chapters of the author Hugh Howey’s Wool series were released in 2011 as stand alone, 99 cent novella through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. After immediate success, Howey began to write subsequent chapters, the first five of which were combined and released online in 2012 as Wool Omnibus. After garnering multiple awards and huge online sales, Howey negotiated an unprecedented deal — he became the first self-published author ever to be offered a print only contract and a significant six-figure advance by a publishing house.
Wool takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Humanity clings to survival in the Silos, subterranean cities extending over one hundred stories beneath the surface. The series initially follows the character of Holston, the sheriff of Silo-18, with subsequent volumes focusing on the characters of Juliette, Jahns, and Marnes. Shift covers chapters 6-8 in a prequel focusing on the mystery behind the Silo and the secrets it holds. The story is wrapped up in Dust, book 9.
Because outside is toxic and uninhabitable, the survivors live inside the 120+ floor silos in which each floor is a small community and every floor is connected by a singular spiral staircase. Citizens who speak about the outside or a wish for change are charged with treason. Couples who want to have a child have to enter a lottery; tickets are distributed only when someone dies. Citizens who break the law are sent outside to choke to death on toxic air, forced to clean the grime off the digital sensors that transmit grainy images of the ruined landscape inside the silo. The images are meant to remind residents that the world beyond the silo is deadly; however some begin to suspect their leaders are lying to them about what’s outside.
Wool Omnibus spent two weeks on the New York Times e-book fiction bestseller list and received the Kindle Books Reviews Best Indie Book Award in the sci-fi/fantasy category. By summer of 2012, Howey was selling 20,000 – 30,000 digital copies of Wool a month, making a monthly salary of $150,000 from e-book sales alone. Through Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Howey collected 70 percent of royalties; most publishing companies offering a royalty of 10-15 percent. When trying to sign him, the majority of the publishers insisted he immediately take down his digital image, which would erase all records of the thousands of five-star reviews the book had accumulated as well as his steady stream of income. Howey held firm and finally made an unprecedented deal with Simon & Schuster — he was able to keep the digital rights and sell the hardcover and paperback rights.
In his novels, Howey created a world where you feel what the characters feel – hope, surprise, horror; It is a roller coaster of emotion. Through this success, Howey has brought us to a new place where the emotions run high and the action is suspenseful. I couldn’t put Wool down and give the book 5 stars.
Shari Vassello works at the Mebane Branch of the Alamance County Public Library in the Children’s Department. She may be reached at 919-563-6431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.