The author of WOOL and its sequels, one of my favourite books of all time is now visiting David Estes’ Fan Group on Goodreads and answering YOUR questions!
I’m so excited, Hugh has already answered my questions:
Your overwhelming success as an indie author has led to obtaining publishing contracts in the traditional publishing world. How did you feel when this happened? What would your advice be to other aspiring indie authors?
I was nervous, to be honest. For the better part of a year, I turned down offer after offer from major publishers. I didn’t want to give up ownership and control of my material. I was worried publishers would jack up the price. Some wanted to change the title. Some said they would take it down for a year while they “prepared it for a real release.” I wanted to keep doing what I was doing.
So we turned down 6-figure and then 7-figure deals. And my wife and agent were both incredibly supportive in this. I knew it was the right thing to do, both for the fans and myself. My agent and I also had a mission from the day we hooked up to try and set a precedent with fairer contracts for authors. We were very ambitious about this and knew it was unlikely, but my agent kept saying, “Publishers need to have these conversations. They need to hear this.” And I agreed.
So we held out until we got a contract that treated me like a partner. Most publishing contracts are just horrible for authors. There are anti-compete clauses that prevents the author from writing and publishing what they want when they want. So they aren’t just buying a book, they are buying your career. They also want ownership of all your rights for the term of copyright, which can be your life plus decades more. We fought for a limited term of license (7 years) and a groundbreaking print-only deal (the first ever from a Big 6 publisher). And I’m glad we did.
How did you come up with the idea for WOOL? It’s such a simple idea but completely captivating!
The idea behind WOOL was the wallscreen. I wanted to explore the idea of a culture that is fed a negative view of the world 24-7 and what this would do to their sense of hope and their desire to make the world a better place. Because I believe we’re living in that world. Our news outlets focus on the worst parts of humanity, and I believe this has an impact on us. This came to me as I moved from captaining yachts for a living and seeing the world with my own eyes to settling down in Virginia and seeing the news.
Much is made of the underground setting of WOOL, but that wasn’t even a major feature of the story to me. It was less than secondary.
WOOL rapidly switches between character perspectives in each episode, often in a shocking manner in the previous book. What was your thought process behind this?
This arose because of the way the work was published. WOOL was just a short story at first. It was only Holston’s story. You know how that ends, so you know I had a problem as people clamored for more in this series. I needed a new protagonist, and it wasn’t anyone from the first story. So WOOL 2 became a bridge story to introduce Juliette. And I decided to set up the expectation that Juliette would perish. The serial release and the act of turning a short story into a novel resulted in the POV changes.
What has been your favourite fan moment as an author?
That’s a tough one. There have been so many. Probably this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSJGU…
Upcoming Author Q&As