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We all fail. All of us. It could be a small thing or it could be an enormous, publicly humiliating failure in front of a global audience, like when one of the rings failed to open at the Sochi Winter Olympics this year. Failure is a natural occurrence. It’s what you do next that’s important.
If you believed the press at the time, after the Sochi opening ceremony Vladimir Putin either sacked, imprisoned or executed the person responsible. After the bad publicity the Sochi Games had received about gay rights (and quite right too) it was another humiliating embarrassment. The press was full of pictures of this ‘catastrophe’ for days. So how did the organising committee deal with the situation? By making a joke of it at the closing ceremony, embracing their failure and dispelling a few Russian stereotypes at the same time.
The publishing rollercoaster
When you publish a book there will always be ups and downs. Maybe it doesn’t sell as well as you would like, maybe it doesn’t sell at all. Maybe a promotion flopped, or you received one or more 1-star reviews. These things will knock anyone’s confidence, especially when it involves something you’ve spent months, or even years, pouring your heart into, and our first reaction is to either curl up into a ball or rage at the sheer unfairness of it all.
I’ve seen many posts and tweets by authors complaining about this or that aspect of their career. We’ve all felt like it at times. I’m an optimistic person at heart so I always expect things to go well. An old colleague of mine was the complete opposite. When I asked him why he had such a bleak outlook he told me “because then I’m never disappointed.”
I don’t suggest you all become pessimists overnight but at the same time, without trying to appear heartless, moaning about a particular situation is a pointless exercise. When you do this, the only person you’re hurting is yourself, not only by gaining a reputation of being a complainer, but because you’re doing nothing to change what’s happened.
A successful author is an unsuccessful author who never gave up
One of my author friends, Heather Hill, wrote a wonderful book called The New Mrs D (you can read my review of it here). She tried for a long time to get it published but was turned down because the subject matter “would put people off buying the book”.
She managed to find an agent who believed in her but not a publisher, so the two decided to self-publish. This went incredibly well – at one point The New Mrs D was at no.1 in Amazon Australia – mostly through the work Heather did to promote the book, build a mailing list and following on her blog, as well as utilising twitter and instagram to spread the word. She hadn’t taken no for an answer and proved everybody wrong.
For various reasons, Heather and her agent parted company and Heather retained the rights to her work. Unfortunately, her book was then unpublished, vanished from the Amazon store losing all the sales ranking and visibility. It was devastating. All her hard work from the previous months had disappeared, all of the time and money she’d invested, gone. At this point most of us would have given up.
She re-published the book, organised a campaign of social media promotion and spent what little money she could afford on a bookbub promotion. Her book was downloaded 29,000 times and at one point she was in the top 10 free books on amazon.co.uk and top 20 on amazon.com. Since then she has remained flying high in the paid charts, all due to how she reacted to adversity. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
This is what it takes to be a successful author.
In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Jules is part of this community, but she is different. She dares to hope. And as her walls start closing in, she must decide whether to fight, or to die.
Donald Keene was recruited by the government to design an underground shelter. Over fifty years later Donald’s design has been realised and the last remnants of mankind live in his silo. But no one can remember what life was like before. In fact, they’re forced to forget. One simple pill erases a memory. And with it, any chance of hope.
In the aftermath of the uprising, the people of Silo 18 are coming to terms with a dangerous new order. And some want it destroyed. The battle has been won. The war is just beginning.
I’ve been avoiding these books for a long time. It’s not that I’d heard bad things about them, quite the contrary, Wool – and its author Hugh Howey – has become synonymous with indie publishing success. The problem was I was both concerned that the books would have too much of an influence on my own writing and at the same time worried that the hype surrounding them was too much to live up to. I shouldn’t have worried.
With the Wool trilogy, Howey has created a very plausible and quite frightening vision of our future. For reasons unknown, what remains of humanity now lives in an underground silo. Each member of society has specific roles, whether that be as a porter, a gardener or in IT, and the silo is run by a triumvirate consisting of the Chief of Police, the elected Mayor, and the head of IT.
The only view of the wasteland outside is through a video image broadcast in the canteen on the upper floor, a view that gets obscured over time through dust and grime, only to be cleaned by those who have committed the ultimate crime, a wish to go outside, something that only leads to death.
In Wool we start with the story of Holsten, the current police chief who wishes to go outside, just as his wife did a few years before. It raises a mystery about why both he and his wife decided to take this ultimate step, which is first taken up by Mayor Jahns and then Holsten’s successor, Jules. As the story progresses the answers they find raise more questions, about why they are in the Silo, for what purpose, and the truth about who really is in control of their lives.
It is a gripping story. Howey describes life in the silo wonderfully, gradually revealing the social and political aspects of a society living underground over hundreds of levels joined by a great spiral staircase. All of this is done very skilfully without resorting to great info dumps or dialogue full of exposition. The characters are well-rounded, not just the main but all the minor cast too, and in Jules he has created an outstanding, driven female lead.
The real key to the success of the book is its readability. Howey has great mastery of how to pace a story, and due to the episodic nature of how it was originally there are hooks galore to keep those pages turning as you want to find out what happens next. He’s also not afraid to make his characters suffer. You have been warned.
Shift takes us back to the inception of the Silo and explains what happened and why. While I found the story interesting it lacked the intensity of Wool and was the weakest of the three books. That’s not to say it was poor, just that I found the other two more compelling.
Dust brings the trilogy to a conclusion, drawing together the two strands from Wool and Shift to their exciting climax. Overall I found the trilogy to be a wonderfully dark exploration of how far humanity is prepared to go to survive and what the consequences of those decisions, highlighting both the worst and the best of us. It’s no surprise the books have proved as popular as they have. Highly recommended.
The books are available to buy either separately or in one large volume. If you are still unsure I would highly recommend Wool just as a standalone book, but you get a far better deal buying the full trilogy.
To buy Wool from Amazon.com click here
To buy Wool from Amazon.co.uk click here
To buy the full Wool Trilogy from Amazon.com click here
To buy the full Wool Trilogy from Amazon.com click here
Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.