Hugh Howey, Bestselling Author of Wool and Mega-Creative — How to Sell Millions with Self-Publishing, How to Find Your Big Break, Making Hit TV Shows (Silo), How AI Will Upend Your Life, Nonconformist Creative Process, Advice for Writers, and More (#726)


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“You have to have loftier goals than your expected outcome.”

— Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) is the New York Times bestselling author of Wool, Beacon 23, Sand, Machine Learning, Half Way Home, and more than a dozen other novels. His Silo trilogy was recently adapted by Apple TV, becoming their #1 drama of all time. A series based on his novel Beacon 23, starring Lena Headey, also released last year with season two due in March. Hugh’s works have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world. He lives in New York City with his wife Shay.

Please enjoy!

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#726: Hugh Howey, Bestselling Author of Wool and Mega-Creative — How to Sell Millions with Self-Publishing, How to Find Your Big Break, Making Hit TV Shows (Silo), How AI Will Upend Your Life, Nonconformist Creative Process, Advice for Writers, and More

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Want to hear another episode with someone who builds fictional worlds for a living? Listen to my most recent conversation with The School for Good & Evil author Soman Chainani in which we discussed giving stories away, the art of Christopher Marley, potentially gay bulls, career lessons from Taylor Swift, cross-collar dating, dodgy allergies, the life-changing power of ketamine, hookups, and much more.

#720: Life Lessons from Taylor Swift, Conquering Anxiety, Coaching Teens, Career Reinvention, Supposedly Gay Bulls, Your Shadow Side, and More — Soman Chainani


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  • [06:48] Breaking the formula with a literary sleight of hand.
  • [11:00] A commitment to 10 years of obscurity.
  • [15:02] Buying back rights and self-publishing.
  • [22:04] Why authors should strive for a reader-first vs. publisher-first mindset.
  • [24:22] Hitting the NYT Best Sellers List with a self-pub book.
  • [27:44] Pricing logic.
  • [31:00] The undersold value of worldwide rights.
  • [33:57] How authors can find deal leverage early on.
  • [37:07] Establishing a daily writing habit.
  • [41:34] Fiction that inspires better writing.
  • [45:27] Collaboration vs. writing solo.
  • [46:59] Ways the publishing industry protects the status quo.
  • [49:55] Why Hugh makes publishing deals at all.
  • [50:45] Self-promotion as therapy.
  • [53:05] Keys to fruitful collaboration.
  • [55:47] Common mistakes creatives make.
  • [1:01:05] AI’s present-and-future impact on publishing.
  • [01:06:08] AI-generated occupational and existential crises.
  • [01:10:13] Mid-term optimist, long-term pessimist
  • [01:14:59] Procreation in uncertain times.
  • [01:19:10] The future of religion.
  • [01:26:23] Free will and objective moral truth.
  • [01:31:04] Parting thoughts.


“It might not be your best time as a professional or a human, but your best time as a writer is when you’re doing it for yourself and no one’s looking over your shoulder while you’re doing it.”
— Hugh Howey

“You have to write a book that you think one other human will find this the best book they’ve ever read.”
— Hugh Howey

“You don’t want a bad review, someone to pay $2.99 for something they read in an hour. No amount of money is worth the onslaught of one-star reviews from angry readers.”
— Hugh Howey

“Publishers used to think a book kind of burned out its welcome really quickly, and now they’re realizing books have really long tails — successful books — and if you can get an engaged readership on board, it’s worth so much money to have that engaged fandom.”
— Hugh Howey

“You have to have loftier goals than your expected outcome.”
— Hugh Howey

“A common mistake I see people make is thinking that readers won’t follow you across genres. So you see people spread out their name amongst different pen names. I’m going to write under this for sci-fi and under this for romance, and this is my nonfiction stuff. The brand is you. And if people enjoy your prose, they’ll follow you to other genres. So really consolidate your identity. Unless you have a reason to not write under your real name, embrace your writing under your real name and make sure that you are the brand. The more readers can feel a connection with the person behind the work, the better off your career will be.”
— Hugh Howey

“Trusting expertise can get you in trouble.”
— Hugh Howey

“Everything written more than a hundred years ago is all free to read and you can download them all. That has not stopped people from having amazing careers. So the idea that there’ll be too much to read and so no one will make a living, that’s always been true. I’m not sure what AI would change about that.”
— Hugh Howey

“I think there’s an existential crisis that we’re going to face when we realize what you and I do is computational. Our brains are large language models. We’re not that special. We can replicate the human soul in a lot of ways. I think people are going to have a hard time with that.”
— Hugh Howey

“If you try to decide on whether or not to have kids based on what kind of life you think they’re going to have, no one would have kids, because nothing’s a guarantee. Life is going to be weird.”
— Hugh Howey


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.


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