Self-published writer Amanda Hocking made millions of dollars in her first year as a DIY author of young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels. How did Hocking decide to self-publish and then find self-publishing success?
Born July 12, 1984, Amanda Hocking wrote her first novel at age 17--and kept on writing more. Despite continued efforts, however, she failed to interest a traditional publisher in her young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy books. By the age of 25, Hocking had written a lot of novels--but all had met with publisher rejection. Then, on April 15, 2010, while making $18,000 a year working full-time with the disabled, she self-published the first book in her My Blood Approves series with Amazon.com for reading on their Kindle e-reader. Shortly thereafter, published the second novel. Sales were modest the first month or two, but began to build as she promoted them to like-minded blogs.
In an interview for the Kindle Author blog, Hocking said, "I tried shopping around My Blood Approves, but with the market as saturated as it is with vampire books, I didn’t get any takers. I still really liked the book, so I thought I’d try Kindle. I’d heard some things about publishing on it, and it had to be better than the books just taking up space on my hard drive. Kindle has been phenomenal, though. It’s been a fantastic outlet for my books, and I’ve had a lot of really positive response. Which I think is the most amazing part. People are really enjoying books that wouldn’t have been available if it weren’t for Kindle."
By July, Hocking had sold enough e-books to motivate her to quit her job and by the end of 2010, sales totaled 164,000 copies. Then, in just the month of January of 2011, she sold over 450,000 e-books.
Knowledge and strategy
Hocking's self-publishing success can in part be attributed to the author's deep knowledge of her chosen genre and its fan base. She knew how to reach them and expressed an authentic and honest willingness and ability to keep in constant contact with her fans through her blog. With a robust number of books already written, Hocking could immediately satisfy a fan's desire for sequels and additional series to read--and she showed strategic savvy when pricing her e-books.
Hocking charged readers the low price of $.99 cents for the first novel in each of her series to get them hooked, then $2.99 for each of the subsequent novels in the series. $2.99 was the amount she said she herself would be willing to pay, and it was the lowest price point at which she would net 70% of the sale proceeds. Between her first published novel in April of 2010 and March of 2011, Hocking reported making somewhere between $1.5 and 2 million dollars for her efforts.
Future films... and a traditional publisher
In February of 2011, Hocking's Trylle Trilogy was optioned for film and in March 2011 the author signed a 2+ million dollar book deal with traditional publisher St. Martin's Press for the four-book series of books entitled, "Watersong."
In spite of her wildly successful self-publishing efforts, Hocking was motivated by the support she felt she could get from a traditional publisher. In a blog post just before the St. Martin's deal was announced, she wrote, "I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation... I am spending so much time on things that are not writing. I like writing. I even like marketing, especially when it comes to interacting with readers. And I don't mind editing. I just don't want to run my corporation, because that takes away from writing and everything else that I actually enjoy doing... My goal has always been to put the highest quality product I can out in a way that is the most accessible to readers."
Read about other New York Times bestselling authors who started out by self publishing.
If you're considering publishing your own work, read more about self-publishers and self-publishing.