If you’ve been reading any book news lately, chances are you’ve already heard about Amanda Hocking, a twenty-six year old Minnesotan woman who has recently become a millionaire by selling her self-published YA (young adult) novels on Kindle.
Hocking’s success is an inspiration to the thousands of writers whose work, like Hocking’s, was rejected by New York publishing houses. It’s also a dramatic illustration of the amazing opportunities afforded by e-books. Here’s what all writers can learn from the Amanda Hocking story.
Build on your strengths.
Hocking stumbled upon her massive success in part because of her involvement in social media activities such as blogging. But Hocking didn’t throw herself into a flurry of social media in an effort to promote her books—she had already been active on networks like Goodreads and Twitter for years because she enjoyed them.
If you hate forums, you’ll never successfully promote your book by using forums. If you can’t stand blogging, it’ll show in your lackluster attempts to come up with posts. But if you find a social media platform you truly enjoy (or even love), building those important connections will come naturally to you. Build on your strengths and do what you enjoy. Don’t feel pressured to engage in social media just because you think you need to.
Book bloggers are powerful.
Before she reached out to book bloggers, Hocking was selling a few novels here and there—but once a few book bloggers got excited about her novels, word spread rapidly and sales shot through the roof. Over the past few years, book bloggers have become a force to be reckoned with, and the massive success of writers like Amanda Hocking is a reflection of that phenomenon.Even traditional publishers are now courting book bloggers, whereas up to a few years ago this was still relatively rare. There’s a growing recognition that readers are turning to these bloggers to influence their purchasing decisions—and book bloggers are more likely than traditional book review arenas to pay attention to previously unknown writers like Amanda Hocking.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
In an interview, Hocking said that she decided to self-publish her novels because otherwise they would just sit on her hard drive, unread: “Worst case scenario, nobody would read them, and that’s what was happening anyway.”
Now that there are virtually no barriers to self-publishing an e-book, more and more writers like Hocking are asking themselves, “Why not?” Instead of accepting rejection from traditional publishing houses as a sign that their manuscripts are meant to go unread, writers who were previously allergic to the idea of self-publishing are realizing that they have nothing to lose by throwing their novel on Amazon.
Being prolific is good.
Hocking knows that the secret to being a successful writer (or at least, one type of successful writer) is to keep on cranking ‘em out without getting bogged down. At age twenty-six, she’s already written seventeen novels. As she says on her blog, “I write a lot and I drink a lot of Red Bull.”
Obviously, not every writer can crank out good books at such an astounding rate (or hell, even semi-coherent books). Hocking obviously has that combination of talent and lots and lots practice that enables her to get books shipped without the lengthy, drawn-out, sometimes multi-year (or multi-decade, or multi-century) revision processes that many other writers endure.
Hocking prices some of her Kindle books at $0.99 and others at $2.99. At this price range, most potential readers don’t really need to stop and quibble over whether or not they should spend the money on her books. Buying one of Hocking’s novels is as casual a decision, money-wise, as buying a coffee. With Amazon taking a 30% cut of each sale, Hocking may only make $0.70 to $2 for each novel she sells—but when you multiply that by hundreds of thousands of sales, the money adds up in a serious way.
Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll experience the kind of success that Amanda Hocking has–but then again, you’ll never know unless you try.