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How is Amanda Doing Now?

2 May 2012

From Amanda Hocking:

As I was self-publishing, I was always very transparent about what was happening, and I’ve tried to maintain that even with going with traditional publishing. I don’t want to talk about more industry stuff all the time, because I think it can get boring and redundant and readers don’t necessarily care about sales.

. . . .

Before I say that, I want to clarify one thing that some people still get confused on: I have two separate deals with St. Martin’s. The one that happened first was for a brand new four-book deal (the Watersong series), and the deal that came a little bit later was a three-book deal to re-publish the previously self-published Trylle Trilogy.

. . . .

As part of the deal with St. Martin’s, I unpublished all three Trylle books last summer. That gave them time to be edited and build up proper steam for the re-release starting in January 2012. But by the time I un-published them, I’d already sold nearly a million copies of the trilogy.

So, when going forward with the deal, both my publisher and I knew that we’d already sold to a large part of our readers. Many people who would want to read the books already had, and while some of them might re-buy, a lot of them wouldn’t. We both know that, and we both understood.

Still, we geared up for the release like they would any other books. In terms of the actual book, I’ve had input on every aspect of design – from the cover to editing to pricing to marketing. I’ve loved working with my editor, publicists, and every member of the team I’ve been in contact with St. Martin’s. I’ve never accepted part of the process that I didn’t like. I’ve still been able to be hands-on when I want to and need to, but without all the stress I’ve had before.

. . . .

My publisher sent out an insane of amount ARCs to create early buzz. They worked with major retailers, like Wal-mart and Barnes & Noble to get placement, including many adds in important trade and book buying publications. There were also more ads aimed at readers, like a full page in the Hunger Games special edition of People magazine and commercials on MTV. They also set up a website for me and added some cool content there (www.worldofamandahocking.com)

Those were just things happening in the US. Overseas, Pan Macmillan has been doing a tremendous push with the English versions of my books as well. In the UK, they had posters for Switched set up in train stations all over. I know that in particular, Australia has run a very large campaign for my books, including giving out a copy of Switched with an edition of Dolly magazine (which I understand to be something like Teen magazine here in the US). But across the board, the promotion in the UK, Asia, India, South Africa, and Australia has been phenomenal.

To gear up for the publication of Switched in January, I did a small press tour. In the US, that meant appearing on Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show Anderson and on Erin Burnett’s show on CNN, as well as several interviews for newspapers, radio, and blogs. They also got reviews from major review publications, like Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and the New York Times. My publisher set up a very cool meet and greet with local bloggers, and I did a book signing and reading.

After Switched came out, I went over to the UK and did press there, including a short interview on the BBC and a piece in The Guardian. I actually did a huge amount of press while I was there, for the UK, India, Asia, and Australia. I also got to do a couple book signings and talked at a school.

. . . .

But in the end, as pleased I’ve been with my publisher, as much as I’ve enjoyed working with them, and as much marketing and publicity they’ve done, none of it really matters if the books aren’t doing well.

So how are the books doing? I don’t the exact sales on anything because it’s harder to tally with paperbacks and through a publisher, but here’s what I do know:

Switched came out January 3, 2012 with an initial print run of  about 200,000 books in the US, and it’s in its fifth printing. Torn came out February 28, 2012and I’m actually not sure of its initial print run, but it’s in its third printing. In a recent email from editor, she said that books in series tend to lose momentum as the series goes on with sequels doing slightly worse than the original, but she said that has not been the case with my books. Torn was outselling Switched and doing really well. Ascend came out last week, and my editor told me that my first week sales are already double that of Torn.

. . . .

So far, my publisher is very happy and very excited about how the books are doing. As far as I can tell, they’re doing about as well as they’d expected and hoped. The same goes for me. I wasn’t really completely sure how well the books would do considering they’d already been self-published and already sold so many copies before, but I’m very pleased to with it.

Some people have been speculating that I’m not doing so well based on my Amazon rankings – which aren’t terrible, but none of my books are in the Top 100 right now. They think this means that I’m not selling and the books must be doing poorly.

. . . .

And you cannot discount the fact that I sold nearly a million books copies of the Trylle books before I went with a publisher, and a large portion of those were through Amazon. I thought I’d already mostly tapped out the Amazon audience, so the fact that my books are doing as well as they are (Switched is ranked in the #1,000s of the Kindle store at the time of this writing, and Ascend is ranked #325) is impressive to me.

Books can’t sell exponentially well forever.

. . . .

I don’t have any sales number on how the books are doing in the UK, India, Asia, South Africa, or Australia, but everything I’ve heard from my publishers there sounds very encouraging and they seem very pleased with how the books are doing.

And most importantly – at least to me – the reviews and the response to the new editions of the Trylle books have been very positive, more so than the original versions. That’s thanks in part to copy editing (no misspelled or forgotten words), but I think it’s more to do with the small but strong changes made with the overall content. Especially with Ascend. Readers seem to be enjoying it much more, and that’s always been important to me.

Some of the changes made to the Trylle books were mine, some were my editor’s, but I think the overall collaborative experience of me being able to bounce ideas of another person made the books stronger, smoother, and over all more fun for the readers. I am more willing to take chances and to try different things because I feel like I have a safety net in the form of my editor. That makes for a better quality of work overall, plus I feel less stressed.

. . . .

If you want to really judge on how I do with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, though, the Trylle books aren’t really the best ones to look to for an example. Because I’d already tapped into such a huge portion of the audience, everything is a bit skewed.

What will really be interesting is to see how the Watersong books do. St. Martin’s rolled out the carpet for the Trylle books, but I know they didn’t give it all they have because they knew they couldn’t completely recoup it. They were taking a chance that the books might not find an audience at all because they’d been previously published at a lower price. The marketing plan they have for Watersong is larger, and it’s starting out without the million book deficit that the Trylle had.

Link to the rest at Amanda Hocking and thanks to Livia for the tip.

Is Passive Guy the only one who reads a message between the lines?

It sounds like St. Martin’s spent a lot of money on the relaunch and Amanda doesn’t think she’s selling very well.

When PG first wrote about Amanda in February, 2011, she was killing Kindle’s best-seller list (paid, including fiction and non-fiction).  Her books were #3 (above Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, John Grisham and Suzanne Collins) , #10, #11, #29, #39, #44 and #47.

The idea that “both my publisher and I knew that we’d already sold to a large part of our readers” sounds like publisher/editor excuse-making. The number of readers with Kindles is much larger now than it was early in 2011 and continues to grow. Additional prospective Hocking readers are showing up on Amazon every day.

The publisher’s view of a finite audience is part of the outmoded scarcity model Kris Rusch has written about. One reason why some successful indie authors may not sell nearly as well with a traditional publisher is that traditional publishers are too rigid and don’t know how to sell to new online buyers.

PG thinks St. Martins has screwed up sales by charging too much for Amanda’s audience – $8.99 for the ebook. If SMP had let Amazon set the price instead of insisting on agency pricing, it would have made a lot more money.

Another between-the-lines message PG thinks he sees is that Amanda is frustrated at not being able to see real sales numbers like she could when she was indie.

But PG could be wrong.

Update: We’re collecting a lot of good comments on this post, so don’t miss those.


73 Comments to “How is Amanda Doing Now?”

  1. I read this post on her blog and I was quite surprised how much the publisher had put into the trylle series but at the end of the day she is right, they had sold very well and who was going to buy them again? I don’t mean to be mean because I really do like her but it was like serving left overs with a few added new ingredients.It still the same.
    And I thought when you uploaded to Amazon that you would reach a world wide audience, am I wrong?
    I think she is also right in that we will see how the Watersong series does. That will be the real test to this whole traditional publishing thing for her.
    I wish her all the best I know she has a huge following that will support her. Best of luck to her!

    • Maybe traditional publishing should be used by authors as the secondary market. Start with indie publishing and when ‘saturated’ showing falling sales (but still big sales) get the traditional publisher to push the product into markets as an indie are still difficult to penetrate: walmart, airports, supermarkets, foreign.

      So traditional publishing has a niche, just not the one they are prepared to embrace.

    • “And I thought when you uploaded to Amazon that you would reach a world wide audience, am I wrong?”
      When you upload to amazon you’re basically reaching North America (US & Canada) and Western Europe, which is a good chunk of the English speaking population, but not the whole world.

    • And I thought when you uploaded to Amazon that you would reach a world wide audience, am I wrong?


      As a resident in West Africa I cannot buy Amanda’s, your or even my own ebooks from Amazon. When I try I get a message on screen stating “Not available in Africa”.

      For whatever reason, numerous countries have a blanket block on buying ebooks from the Kindle store. That impressive list of countries below World Rights that you can tick or untick when you load up through KDP is actually meaningless.

  2. I’m glad that she’s doing good and that she sounds satisfied with working with her publisher. I wish her luck with her future endeavours (not that she needs it; I believe that Watersong series will do great). And I am interested, if the trade publisher right now offered her a new deal (let say a similar one as she got for the Watersong) for a next series, would she accept it?

  3. First, ‘200000’ and ‘in its fifth printing’ are not peanuts – regardless of what they would have been if she’d stayed self-published. Congratulations, Miss Hocking.

    After that, it seems like she really, really needed the ‘validation’ of a traditional publisher – and all those professionals stoking her ego. Good – because it’s costing her a mint.

    And, for a pittance compared to what she is losing, she could probably have bought herself the full-time attention of several top editors, freelance – and ebook formatters, and etc., etc. – and told them to tell her how wonderful she is.

    Failure of nerve.

    Plus all the trips and fawning have got to feel like she arrived – rather than that she pushed her way into the party.

    She could have chosen to stay home and write – but am I the only one to feel a little dissed by her soaking up the attention?

    Still, she made her choices and she got her goodies. I am watching the future carefully – too bad no one can do it both ways (where is an alternative history when you need one?) and give us a direct comparison in five years.

    • I don’t feel dissed. She’s gotten the red carpet, and it would be both stupid and rude for her to dis the people she’s working with. If she’s been getting the hands-on privileges without the stuff that she considers tedious, then why not be happy?

      (I mean, unless she’s going to advise people to skip self-pub and look to tradpub first or something; she’s a celebrity author, and she’s getting special treatment that the riffraff wouldn’t unless they were very lucky.)

      And she’s getting physical books out now, I gather? That’s not bad at all; while one can go with CreateSpace, the place that traditional publishers still shine is “print lots of books, taking advantage of economies of scale.” I know one person who did a CreateSpace of her book and was dismayed that she couldn’t price it as cheaply as she wanted because if she did… she’d be paying if anyone ordered it from anywhere except Amazon! Negative royalties are not something an author wants to see…

      Amazon does not do inexpensive paper books. (Arguably, they have no incentive to try to make the process less expensive, either.) If you want to “hit it big” in print (and five printings ain’t teeny, I’d think!), I don’t see an easy self-pub route there.

      • I was actually in a B&N two weeks ago and saw the Trylle trilogy on the shelf. IIRC, all three books were displayed fairly prominently, which is better than most trilogies I’ve seen that tend to have the first and/or second book missing. And they were face out. This can only be a good thing for Amanda.

        I can’t imagine five printings qualifies as teeny either!

    • Where are we getting this validation motive? I don’t see it at all.

  4. Potential returns probably haven’t shown up yet either. All of those books printed does not mean all of those books sold. This is very interesting to watch.

  5. Yes, I was happy to read her post and have her illustrate some perspective on the size of the industry.

    Amazon is a really really big pond. You might even call it the Mediterranean Sea, but it’s not the open Ocean.

    Even the “Big Six” is not the whole ocean by a long shot.

    So yeah, Amazon does reach a world-wide audience, and a really big one…. but it’s still a minority of the audience out there. And Amazon does make it easy to reach their audience, and so it’s tempting to pursue an Amazon-only (or Amazon-mostly) strategy.

    I think a lot of people didn’t hear WHY Hocking went for the traditional deal. They only heard the “I’m tired of doing it all myself.” They didn’t hear “I can reach an audience I can’t reach by myself, and that’s worth giving up some income and control.”

    I suspect most indies didn’t hear that because it didn’t make sense to them. They thought “What audience? You mean Walmart?”

    It’s true that most publishers don’t do as much for the vast majority of writers as Hocking is getting — this is no reason to run to traditional publishing. But it is a reason for people to get their heads out of the Amazon sands, and start looking at the other places their books are available. There are untapped audiences out there.

    • I remember Amanda saying this, too, Camille. That she wanted to cater to new audiences and that she wanted to get her books into bookstores. I don’t blame her. It was her decision to make and she is learning from it. And she will continue to learn. I still think it is great that she achieved the kind of success that she did on her own and because of it, she knows she can do it again.

  6. I think PG is right.

  7. Some of the appeal of an author like Hocking was that she was self-pubbed. There’s a lot to be said for the phenomenon of “I love her because she’s just like me!”

    I’m curious to see how her traditional sales stack up, because she’s become less of a media darling since she went traditional. I could be wrong, but it seems like readers may start viewing her as just another rich author, and are starting to look for the next Amanda Hocking.

    I’m not going to lie: A little part of me wants her to tank in traditional so she goes back to indie and starts killing it again.

    Either way, I’m fascinated to see how it plays out.

    • SO glad you wrote those words out so I didn’t have to feel like a b*itch for saying so, but yeah, a small part of me wants her to go back to being the Champion For Indies instead of Disillusioned Traditional Princess.

  8. What I love about her story is that it illustrates that, today, writers have unprecedented options to get happily published.

    Look, if somebody (especially a young lady in her 20s) can get a mind-blowing advance, global distribution, and lots of fawning and parties from Legacy, Inc., it might make sense to take it. Are there trade-offs? Sure. But who am I to say what another person’s life priorities ought to be?

    The fact remains, though, that Amanda Hocking is getting the Glitterati treatment from Legacy only because she first proved herself as an indie. Before that, the same people wouldn’t give her the time of day. Just as they won’t give 95% of aspiring authors the time of day. And for all but the proven superstars, the contractual terms they offer remain lousy.

    I am amused, however, at how the “validation” issue now appears to be stood on its head. Many writers still seek “validation” via a publisher’s imprimatur. But I’ve noticed, with considerable amusement, that Legacy folk are now trumpeting Hocking’s happiness with her book deal as validation of the merits of traditional publishing.

    Hmm. Isn’t it interesting that traditional publishers are so anxious to prove their continuing worth to authors? And is it just me, or does this quest for mutual validation strike anyone else as expressing a sad form of psychological co-dependency?

  9. My thoughts, in random order.

    1. Barry Eisler has a saying which I like, which is not to judge someone’s actions until you know their objectives. Amanda had several objectives when she moved into traditional publishing. First, she wanted to put out a better quality product. Second, she didn’t want to do the publishing side of the work. Third, she wanted to expand her audience. How did she do these goals?

    Better quality product: This is subjective, of course, but Amanda says readers seem to be enjoying the books better this time around. She herself is pleased with the changes she made, which is important. (It’s worth noting that she did try getting freelance editors multiple times as an indie publisher but had trouble finding one she really liked.) The cover art, copyediting, proofreading, is objectively better thant her self published versions.

    Handing off the publishing side: This she has also accomplished. She has said many times that it has improved her quality of life. Yes, she does give up control, and I’m sure she would love to have the instant sales numbers that she used to. But if you’re to take her word for it, it’s worth the trade-off to her. It seems like a lot of people don’t believe her, and I’m curious why those people are convinced that she’s lying.

    Building a wider audience: She’s now stocked at Walmart, target. She’s had co-op at Barnes & Noble, subway ads in London, free samples of her book mailed to a huge teenage audience in Australia, not to mention the Asian and Indian press. And is really at this point where I say ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? This is major publicity, outside the scope and ability of any indie author. I really don’t see how anyone can brush this aside, and I’m skeptical of any indie author who says they would not at least consider a traditional deal with this kind of push.

    2. And of course, the money. Note that she has never listed money as her objectives for taking the deal, and I do think it’s possible she’d be losing money with this deal. I guess she figured that with the 2 million she earned already, 2 million on the way from the water song deal, and the undisclosed amount for the Trylle series, she’ll be able to squeak by for the next few years if she doesn’t buy too many yachts.

    3. On her Amazon sales rankings. Yes, the books are no longer as high as they used to be. But it’s an accepted trend that indie authors don’t have the longevity on the bestseller lists that say, Suzanne Collins or Stephenie Meyer does. They tend to ride high and go down pretty quickly. So would she still be in the top 100 with the series if she had not unpublished them, and kept the prices low? Let’s take a look at another indie author who is in the bestseller lists about the same time she was: John Locke. The Donovan Creed books used to be at #1. They are now in the thousands at the Kindle store, even though Locke never took a traditional deal and kept the prices low. Do I think that St. Martin’s would’ve sold more books if they had let Amazon discount? Yes, definitely. But I don’t think you can make the case, witih Ascend currently ranked 300 or so, that St. Martin’s went in and bungled up her sales, even if you’re just looking at the Amazon pond.

    As folks might’ve guessed, I’m a big Amanda Hocking supporter and think she’s in a great job of remaining classy and open given all the scrutiny and media attention. I wish her the best.

  10. I thought the same thing when I first read this a couple days ago. There’s some odd phrasing in there in spots that seemed really fishy to me. It almost sounded as though she was trying to convince herself that things were going great as much as anyone else. I, too, thought the parts about the lifespan of a book were a bit odd considering she came from indie and has to know full well that things aren’t working that way anymore. It does seem that she might be bristling a bit at the lack of clear and immediate sales data, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s crunched some numbers and realized that, even with a nice advance or broader sales, she’s quite possibly left a lot of money on the table.

    Overall, she does seem happy with the efforts of her publisher, and it doesn’t seem as though its been a total catastrophe or anything, as yet, and I wish her well. But, as one of the other commenters here said, the real test will be when the new series hits and how that goes. This definitely didn’t read to me like a rah-rah, everything’s wine and roses in publisher land as I’ve seen it presented in other places, however. There are some very real concerns that crept through here, I think.

  11. Hmm. In my previous comment I was reacting to Amanda’s post, but now that I’ve read the comments, I want to respond again:

    For those who don’t know me, I will just preface this by pointing out that I am indie all the way — while I stared in traditional publishing I would never go back. I love Amazon, I’m a shareholder, and now that I have Kindle I have thrown over all other forms of reading.


    I think the reaction to Amanda Hocking’s post is proof that indies can be just as delusional as anybody in traditional publishing.

    It’s as though indies were counting on the fact that Amanda Hocking would fail. And people were so SURE she was miserable and had fallen out of the sky, that when she posts “No, I’m still here and doing what I want” people have to chime in and say “She doesn’t mean that! She doesn’t know! It’s all propaganda!”

    Folks, traditional publishing sucks, but it’s HUGE — much much much bigger than most indies have any idea of — and paper still is the vast majority of world publishing, and in paper, traditional distribution routes STILL rule.

    The world has changed, but that doesn’t mean the old world is gone. (Remember, no matter what ignorant folks say on the internet, buggy whip manufacturers did not disappear overnight once the Model T came around, and golly, they still exist.)

    The one thing I agree with PG here on is the idea that Amazon is “tapped out” — in terms of “bestseller” status? For a while? Well, okay, yeah. That’s what happens with bestsellers. They come and go. But when they leave the list they are FAR from being “tapped out.” The majority of sales are still out there to be made.

    Publishers are in the low-hanging fruit business, and as far as Amazon is concerned, those books have harvested this season’s low-hanging crop of Kindle readers.

    But as Amanda pointed out, they haven’t abandoned that tree — the books are still there, and now selling more slowly to a different audience. But there are LOTS of other trees with low-hanging fruit, which Amanda couldn’t get at before not by herself. And that’s what they’re going after.

    I’m sorry that folks have found their schadenfreude disappointed that Amanda Hocking is doing EXACTLY what she set out to do, but that’s what happens when you take a narrow view of the world.

    • I have to agree with this. I read Amanda’s post, took it at face value (especially if her 200,000 print run is now in its fifth printing!), and thought, Wow, she’s really doing well. It looks like it was a good move for her, and she seems happy with it.

      The reactions here are, to be blunt, insane. She’s lying! She’s unhappy! She’s walking away from a ton of money on the table! She wants to be fawned over!

      People, get a freaking grip. Camille is correct. “Delusional” is the word of the day on this comment thread.

      I thought people on here were a little more clear-eyed than that. Apparently not, at least on some topics.

      Take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself why you’re hoping for this woman to fail, or are totally convinced she’s lying. Indie publishing is great, but that doesn’t mean that traditional publishing is some big horrible evil to be avoided lest one lose one’s immortal soul.

      • Breathe. I think the only person who even mentioned her failure was me, and all I said was that a little part of me wanted that so she’d go back to indie which I think is better suited to her. Do I want her personally to fail? No way.

        But big publishing? I absolutely hope they collapse, and the sooner the better. And that’s not coming from a place of jealousy or failure or perceived slights. They’ve treated authors like crap for a long time, merely because they could. Now, there’s a legitimate threat to them, and they haven’t taken it well. Agents, publishers, etc… I hope they all dry up and blow away.

        The content providers should finally be treated like they drive the industry (seeing as they do), instead of being told they should count their lucky stars because they’re making a fraction of the money that their work is generating.

        But that’s just me.

        • It was a lot more than you, Dan. Not just fail, but that she MUST be lying because how can anyone be happy with “traditional” publishing?

          I find that kind of pretzel logic as offensive as the cluelessness of the CEOs of the Big Six.

          Why wish failure on them? I don’t. They will either adapt into something new that caters to authors, or they will go away. I’d much rather have them around, to be honest. But also being honest, I probably won’t deal with them again until they very seriously modify their ways.

          • People just read things differently sometimes. There were a few spots in there that could be interpreted as her being less than in love with traditional publishing. I didn’t read it that way, but if people are wrong, so what?

            Vive la difference!

            P.S. Death to traditional publishing. 🙂

            • She’s writing stories and getting paid an assload of money to do it. I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

              Even if she “fails” at this stage, her bathtub is still as big as my garage, and that doesn’t suck.

  12. Definitely reads like a frustrated but resigned shrug of the shoulders – no, she’s not selling the way she did before, and she’s not making the money she was. But there are legitimate reasons why (and yes, over-pricing the books could be part of it).

    I do wish her well, and I understand why she took the deal – getting physical books out to bricks-and-mortar stores, and restoring her quality of life. And yeah, I even understand the “legitimacy” thing. I know this will get better as the indie movement progresses, I even think it’s already better since Ms. Hocking first took the deal, but indie books by newbies still aren’t accepted for awards and they don’t count for SFWA membership. It’s going to take someone too outstanding to ignore for that to change, and that hasn’t happened yet (it will, I know, but it hasn’t yet).

    The thing that baffles me is that she couldn’t produce a professional quality book on her own. I’m especially concerned as I’m finishing my own manuscript and thinking about editors. Is it that difficult to get quality editing? Or is it that hard to judge that we’ve found good ones? (I kinda hope the whole indie movement turns out to be the best thing in the world for editors as well as authors – indie editors could wind up with the same king-making abilities currently given to legacy publishing, but with a much wider market, more fluid and responsive to change. And maybe editors might get paid a bit more in line with their services, too.)

    • Laurie, some people have a really hard time producing a professional looking finished e-book, and an even harder time with a printed book. It’s one place where indie authors need to cough up some cash and have it done right rather than turning off readers with shoddy looking e-books and paperbacks. The same goes for editing and proofing.

      I’m fortunate in that I worked in publishing for a few years as an editor and I know how to typeset a book. It didn’t take long for me to translate that knowledge over to properly formatting an e-book. I can edit my own work, but I simply cannot proofread my own stuff so I farm that out. But for writers that can’t do any of these things on their own and have a professional looking product at the end, they need to pay to have it done.

      • Most readers are looking for the story. Editing helps but a great story pushes readers to gloss over minor editing gaffs. Reader’s complaints of poor editing are generally spelling and punctuation. Spelt there their wrong and readers notice.

        However, great editing makes the writer think about deeper things like paragraphs or plot turns. Often difficult features for readers to articulate.

        Difficult for most writers to separate the generic from superb editing. But when you find it hang on.

    • Laurie – re: good editing:

      The problem with finding a good editor is that you can’t judge an editor if you don’t know what you’re doing yourself. And that kind of knowledge only comes with experience and exposure to a lot of opinions.

      Your best bet when you’re starting out is to try to get multiple sources of feedback. Hire an editor, get some critique from fellow writers, take a class.

      Just remember that Amanda is pleased with her editor, and that makes it a bonus — it wasn’t necessarily a critical part of the decision.

      • “The problem with finding a good editor is that you can’t judge an editor if you don’t know what you’re doing yourself. And that kind of knowledge only comes with experience and exposure to a lot of opinions.”

        OMG, I totally know what you mean, Camille! I I had a conversation last fall w/ Barry Eisler where he mentioned that new indie authors were at a disadvantage compared to more experienced authors moving into indie, because they 1) didn’t have as strong of a network with good writer friends who could edit and 2) wouldn’t necessarily be able to judge what good editing was, if they were hiring a freelancer. At the time, I clearly remember wondering if it really was that hard to judge good editing — after all, I thought I had pretty good instincts. Fast forward 8 months later, after I’ve gotten my first edit letter. I had NO idea what a good editor is capable of. I mean, my manuscript went through about 25 beta readers before this round with my editor, but the changes and suggestions from my betas did not stretch me nearly as much as a writer as this current round.

        Not to say that indie authors can’t find good editors (I’m sure there’s a lot of good ones out there), or that editors at publishing houses are always good. The big six houses do have the advantage that their editors are vetted, but it’s all still very subjective.

        Not quite sure I have a point here. Just my revision bliss overflowing onto the Internet. (And by revision bliss I mean curled up in a fetal position banging my head against the wall for days on end, but in a good way.)

        • Yeah, that does concern me–one of the advantages of tradpub in NYC is the community of professionals that you don’t necessarily find outside of it. But that said, within that community, I’ve worked with some God-awful editors….

          • NOTE: The community of professionals you find has nothing to do with the process of being traditionally published. It has to do with longevity.

            Traditional publishing is so slow, it more or less forces writers to spend time learning and with other writers and getting to know editors and taking classes. But you can do all that without submitting a single manuscript to traditional publishing.

            You just have to take the initiative — when you’re hanging out with your fellow writers, stop talking about marketing and promotion, and start talking about craft. Stop treating more experienced writers with disrespect even if they don’t get what’s the deal about this self-publishing crap — instead respect them for their knowledge of craft. Learn what they can teach you.

            Take classes. Read writing books. Get yourself a Chicago Manual of Style. Heck, read Strunk and White, and especially read William Safire. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to understand what perfection means.

            And wean yourself from blogs which emphasize marketing and business advice – you can always come back to them later, but until you can tell good editing from bad editing, you don’t need it. You need folks who talk about craft. You need to hear all sides of the great “dialog tags” debate, not the pricing debate. You need to take sides on prologues or first-person present tense and adverbs, not on soliciting reviews.

            And when you have gone through the cycle of being passionate about a position on commas, and then shifted to seeing the value of the other side, and finally reach the point where are you utterly sick of the whole subject…. you’ve graduated.

            (This isn’t to say that you should stop hanging out HERE of course. Keep any blog which broadens your horizons.)

            • Hey, Camille, yes, classes and books and writing groups and on-line forums are crucial to developing craft, and I participate or have participated in all of these. But they are all full of fellow newbies asking the same questions I am.

              An agent has asked me to query when the manuscript is finished (which is not to say that she would accept the manuscript, of course). And I do like this agent a lot. A couple of years ago, I’d have queried without any hesitation. But the world has changed, and I really want to self-pub (if only for the control). But I worry that I’m not going to be able to find the support I need to pull off a professional job. (I confess, if I wrote romance, I would feel less worried – there is such a supportive community for romance writers. But not so much for other genres.)

            • Laurie —

              Of all the things you’ve listed, only a few involve fellow newbies and for the most part, I don’t recommend those. That’s not what I’m telling you to do. That’s why I say stay away from any group which mainly talks about marketing. They waste your time. Critique groups will teach you to look at work critically — but you learn more by critiquing the work of others than you would ever learn from their critique of you. (Remember that: you learn a LOT from evaluating others.)

              A class or workshop will have a teacher. Books are generally written by pros. (Certainly Strunk and White, and William Safire are not clueless newbies. Lawrence Block and Damon Knight are really good for learning the more advanced aspects.) Find writers you admire and hang out where they hang out.

              But here is the big sad super truth as William Goldman said it: Nobody knows anything.

              There is no perfect editor, no big solution. Except one.

              Learn to trust yourself.

              You will get the most out of an editor, or a critique group, or a class, if you know what you want. Other than correcting grammar and usage, you can’t “fix” a story via editing. That is really mainly for learning for the future.

              Learn by evaluating other work. Look at great writing, look at lousy writing. Heck, download samples of ten books at random every day and rank them. Don’t critique them, just make a prejudiced judgment call. Do this multiple times. Judge among works that are all excellent. Judge among works which are all very bad.

              (Oh, and as for genre: what is your genre? I write mystery, and that’s a hard group to find critique partners in, but anything in sf and fantasy and related genres has a huge active community.)

    • Laurie –

      Kristine Kathryn Rusch had an excellent blog on the topic on March 21st – it’s in her archives. I think you’d find it helpful; and she has a link to Lucky Bat Books, which is just one company that works with indie writers to help with editing and covers and formatting…

      • Thanks, Colleen, yes, I’m an avid follower of Ms. Rusch (and her husband) and Lucky Bat is on my list.

  13. I agree with Camille. She is doing what exactly she set out to do and that was to reach to a larger audience. She has said that time and time again till she’s blue in the face but people will judge and read between the line and come up with their own conclusions. That’s what happens when you reach a certain celebrity status. They want you to fail or they want the industry to fail. I think it comes down to a word people don’t want to hear and that is jealousy.
    She has her supporters and no matter what they say she will succeed in her own way.

  14. I, personally, am not rooting for her to fail, and more power to her chasing after what she wants the way she wants it. That’s part of what makes this a great time to be a writer, the freedom to explore all kinds of options. I do the same thing. The only thing I said was that this piece doesn’t read quite right. I had to go back and reread parts of it a couple times because it seemed odd, like the writer was conflicted a bit and that came through in the language. I thought maybe it was just my natural suspiciousness, but it seems as though some others see the same ambiguity in some of her statements. We can speculate all day long on what she might or might not think but I don’t believe that she’s lying and I don’t doubt that she’s very happy that some of the aspects of what she wanted when signing with them has come to fruition. Good for her and I hope everything works out to her satisfaction. At the same time, her deal is going to be analyzed very, very closely, as it should be. There will be more and more indie writers offered opportunities like this in the future and it behooves all of us to see how its working out for the groundbreakers in this regard, both positively and negatively. Of course, if she was unhappy, I seriously doubt she’d be free to write about her concerns without jeopardizing the remainder of her contract. Not saying she is, only that we’ll never know about it until the contract runs its useful course.

    • I wonder if some of the “reads oddly” things are reflections of private email (“you sold out, you *****!” or “you’re slipping, you’re not popular, your books are overpriced” or whatever) — she’s perhaps stifling herself from saying some honest things about the people bugging her.

      And yeah, there may be some frustrations she’s having with the tradpub process, that she’s not willing to voice (because people would blow it all out of proportion, for one thing…), but I’d look at the silences, not the, “Okay, lemme ‘splain to you that 200,000 books were printed in the first run and it’s had 5 printings since then” part.

      (Because I read that with the subtext of, “Dear gods, shut up about how I’m not popular anymore or a sell-out and how I must be doing so poorly and I’ll be dumped any minute now.”)

      When the contract runs out, we’ll see if she re-ups with another book or series or not, and we’ll see what she says then. But till then… Look for the between-the-lines of the guff she’s getting from fans/”fans” as much as what she might feel about the tradpubs.

  15. I never got the feeling that Hocking was looking for “legitimacy,” whatever that is. And she certainly wasn’t looking for more money–she knew she would be leaving money on the table with this deal, she said as much. She was trading cash for access to a wider audience, which she has found.

    She was also paying for an education–when we talk about having a “professional” product, what do we mean? I know, because I worked in publishing, and other people know, because they’ve done the same, but she’s quite young and has spent her life far from where the industry is. So this is her chance to learn, and it sounds like she’s having a good learning experience.

    That said, if her sales aren’t what her publisher wants, for whatever reason, her experience is going to get very negative very quickly. And that’s what worries me. I’m sure she’s getting spun–I don’t mean that she’s delusional or lying, but she’s getting only the information St. Martin’s wants to give her, when they want to give it to her, and they’ll turn on a dime if it suits their interests.

    I think that is making her uneasy, and it should. We’ve all seen this, right? Every last factoid that they’re serving her now as good news can be spun as bad news. “You had an initial print run of 200,000…but sales disappointed.” “You’re in your fifth printing…but given what we spent on marketing you, you should be in your tenth.” It doesn’t matter how successful you are, a traditional publisher can always move the goal posts and turn you into a failure.

  16. Patricia Sierra

    May we all “fail” as successfully as Amanda Hocking.

  17. I definitely see the irritation about access to the sales numbers. If anyone else doesn’t see that they need to brush up on their reading comprehension. If she had exact numbers, then there might be less of what I see as a kind of awkward attempt to answer a question when she has no idea what the answer is.
    Everyone is telling her numbers about print runs and how many of them there are, and who knows if this has gotten through whatever her advance was. Hell, maybe she knows that vultures are circling, looking for that sign that something is amiss. Those print numbers sound impressive, but if all you have to go on is a dropping Amazon rank and the publisher’s word that everything is fine when before you had sales ranked by day, and a monthly check, it’s hard not to have the inner control freak peeking through the public facade.
    I bet if she had real concrete knowledge of the sales she would be singing and dancing in the streets, but I’d be surprised if such information exists the way it does with self publishing.
    And yeah, there’s people all over wh want to see her fail for many reasons. Maybe because they want her to be the harbinger of doom for the Big 6. Some are going to be jealous. Some people just group her with Stephanie Meyer and Cassandra Clare and other authors writing drivel for teenagers and just would rather it stop so they don’t have to wonder why these things are bestsellers anymore.

    • Sign me up for remedial reading class then. I do see irritation in the post, but it seems to me like it’s directed toward the peanut gallery’s comments of “you’re slipping, you’re not popular, your books are overpriced” (to quote ABeth). The fact that she’s giving preliminary info before she has access to sales figures suggests to me that she’s annoyed at all the rumors flying around and that she finally got fed up and said something. And what she’s said is basically, “I’ve had five printings, a buttload of publicity, and my publishers seem happy with sales so far. Don’t start planning my funeral yet.”

  18. Look, if somebody threw a bunch of money at you, kissed your a**, and told you they’d work their asses off to help you succeed (because they’d thrown a bunch of money at you), wouldn’t you say yes and thank you very much?
    I don’t want to see Amanda Hocking fail, but the truth is, I don’t really care all that much. It’s not about me. I missed her big indie rise, thought her books were derivative, poorly written and edited when I did finally get around to reading them… but it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what she thinks. She made her choice. I’m guessing her books are far better now and she’ll reach a new audience.
    A few of her statements give me pause – if I allow myself to really read them, but in general it sounds like she’s raking in the dough and if this is what she wants, well then, more power to her.

  19. I’m not sure I agree about the between the lines thing. What I’m getting is that she’s in her fifth printing of the first book and it’s only been out about four months. The other books are also in multiple printings.

    My take is that she’s worried that no matter how well she does, short of Hunger Games like sales figures, people will think she’s not doing well. Maybe people have had unrealistic expectations?

  20. Hi, this is Amanda and I thought I should just come and here set the record straight. There really is no reading between the lines with me. I have no reason to lie about my relationship with St. Martin’s. If I was unhappy with them or any part of what they were doing, I would say so. The only reason I would want to lie is if I planned on continuing a relationship with them, and why would I want to if I were unhappy?

    I think what’s throwing people off with the tone of the blog I was deliberately trying to set it up to be a fake out like on American Idol when they pretend not to have a golden ticket so they come out all sad and then they’re like “Just kidding! I’m going to Hollywood!” I wanted it to be kind of a sad face until I was like, “Just kidding! I’m selling hundreds of thousands of books!”

    The fact is that I don’t care about having instant sales numbers anymore. I stopped checking my self-published sales a long time. I realized it was sorta driving me insane to constantly be checking my rankings and numbers and reviews, so I stopped. So not having access to my complete numbers from SMP doesn’t really matter to me, except that people keep speculating about them, and I wish I had a concrete number to give them so they’d just shut up.

    I am not some battered house wife, guys. I am nearly thirty years old, I’m still making at least $20K from my self-published sales every month, and I have a good chunk of money in the bank. I don’t need to cower behind SMP and pretend that everything is okay if its not.

    If it’s not, I would say, “I made a mistake. I tried something. It didn’t work. Lesson learned,” and walk away from the table. I would go back to self-publishing, where I would continue to write books and make money, and that would be that.

    One of the greatest advantages I have is that SMP is trying to prove something with me. In this age of “Do publishers have anything left to offer authors?,” they want to prove they can. Let’s not forget that Barry Eisler walked away from a deal with their sister company the day my first book deal with them was announced.

    So the biggest weapon I have in my arsenal is my blog. They know that if I’m unhappy, I will say so. Publicly. And they know that if I fail – as a proven commodity already – THEY fail. Or at least that’s how the public will perceive it. So SMP is doing everything in their ample power to keep me happy and to keep me doing well.

    So again – let me reiterate. I am happy with my sales, I am happy with SMP. No hidden agendas. No reading between the lines. No Stockholm syndrome. Just genuine happiness.

    • Thanks for the clarification, Amanda.

      • So PG was correct in picking up on the “tone,” it’s just that the reason behind the tone was playful misdirection by Ms. Hocking rather than genuine displeasure with SMP. Good to know.

    • I’m always impressed by how level-headed you are, Amanda. You don’t say, “I’m an SMP author and I can’t make it without them and the day I stop being an SMP author is the day I slit my wrists!!!!” You say, “One of the greatest advantages I have is that SMP is trying to prove something with me.”

      It’s fantastic. Their agenda dovetails with yours for now, and if that changes, you will be so much better able to deal with it than the “I AM AN SMP AUTHOR!!!!” crowd.

    • As someone who enjoys your books, this is good news. I wish the best for you and SMP.

    • One of the greatest advantages I have is that SMP is trying to prove something with me. In this age of “Do publishers have anything left to offer authors?,” they want to prove they can. […] And they know that if I fail – as a proven commodity already – THEY fail. Or at least that’s how the public will perceive it. So SMP is doing everything in their ample power to keep me happy and to keep me doing well.

      Thank you for that perspective. I think that’s interesting and very, very exciting, actually. I think it could mean very positive things for the industry if there’s more learning on all sides.

      I’m not sure if I were in your shoes whether or not I’d do the same, because I think what our goals are as writers are different. (Not a criticism of your goals at all.) I’m very glad that you’re being savvy about this, which was my only concern over the issue at all. I would hate for anyone to be taken advantage of or cheated of their just-due.

      I wish you all the success – and success being defined on your terms. Not mine and not anyone else’s.

  21. Also, another thing of note, in July 2011, before I unpublished my books from Amazon, all of my self-published had fallen out of the top 100. That was something that happened without the deal or the publisher. They were at their highest points in January of 2011 and had been slowly falling since then.

    And what I meant by expiring on a shelf space, is that no book can be number 1 forever. Books can stay on the shelf forever, but they won’t stay bestsellers forever. Unless you’re the Bible or Harry Potter.

    • Thanks, Amanda!

      This is something that so many indies miss — they haven’t been through enough sales cycles to understand how it works, and the indie culture is so fixated on rankings that they really can’t see the forest for the trees.

      But I can understand why they are fixated; rankings are a form of feedback, and since they update every hour, they feel “reliable” (as in “I can rely on rankings to give me a charge every hour.”)

    • Thank you for the clarification. And nice to see you reading one of the best blogs about self-publishing around! 🙂

      I wish you continued success with your books no matter how you publish them.

    • Yes, but is your bathtub REALLY as big as my garage? Please say yes, because this would legitimise these weird dreams I’ve been having. Ta.

    • Ha, I should have read all the way down the page before commenting. Thanks for coming by and clarifying, Amanda, and I’m thrilled that you’re doing so well!

    • And I just noticed that Ascend was #25 on the USA Today list this week. Congratulations!

  22. I didn’t read any unhappiness “between the lines” at all, but I read AH’s blog all the time and I guess I’m just used to her way of putting things. She seems really satisfied to me, and she’s always straightforward and classy and honest about stuff. She sounds like she’s doing great, and I wish her the best!

  23. I hope she also realizes that what’s happening to her is not what happens to the other 99.99% of authors who traditionally publish. The publicity, ad push, the tours, the talk shows, all not normal. She’s very lucky to have all that weight behind her, and I’m also interested in seeing how her next series does.

    I also think it’s garbage to say the well is dry. As PG pointed out, there are millions more Kindles out there than when Hocking was first publishing. She should have access to millions more readers. I think she kind of shot herself in the foot by pulling her books down and letting St. Martin’s sell them for so much (read: far more than the average e-book reader is probably willing to spend).

  24. “I hope she also realizes that what’s happening to her is not what happens to the other 99.99%” Um, does anybody say that about Joe Konrath?

    Every writer has a different path. Why try to enforce a lock-step “one size fits all” indie doctrine on everybody?

    A.H. chose a path that’s obviously working very nicely for her, thank you very much.

    JK’s is working just as well for him.

    Other successful writers, like Lawrence Block and Catherine Ryan Hyde are having success with both their indie and trad. pubbed books.

    We live in a wonderful time when writers have an array of choices. Why not embrace the freedom that gives us all?

    • I totally agree with that! Every writer is different and the great thing about the industry today is that we have choices! Choices that writers didn’t have before. I think that’s wonderful. It is also good for readers too.

  25. I don[‘t see any between the lines. Although I’ve only read her blogs and interviews occasionally, this one seems in line with the others I’ve seen–Hocking comes across as a sensible professional.

    A writer needs to be passionate about her craft and her books; and -businessperson- about publishing.

    A LOT of people in the blogosphere talk about epublishing and traditional publishing from a position of ideology rather than business, and also from a position of not understanding the business (but nonetheless expressing their convictions about it with emphatic passion).

    I think Hocking is talking sensible business here in terms of print runs, sales, market explosure, saturation, etc.

    And still talking passionately about her craft and her focus on getting better at it–which we all spend all our careers working on.

  26. Well, I was just about to burst in here with my important opinion (IMHO) when I happened upon Amanda’s own response! Well done, Amanda.

    I’m a fan of Amanda’s, and I do think that she’s a different “brand” now that she’s published traditionally and her books sport higher price tags. While there is certainly a sense of frontier pride for those of us who do it by ourselves — the new-fashioned way — I hope that most of us do not wish her to fail. I know I don’t.

    Amanda Hocking was not able to break through into traditional publishing circles before she self-published, though she tried. She researched and she kept writing. She was clearly very driven. Her story is notable for the fact that she wrote 17 novels and then released them, in quick succession, over a period of several months, sometimes only weeks apart. She offered them for 99¢ to $2.99. Remember that in 2010 it was just the beginning of the self-pub revolution, and while there were fewer people reading ebooks, there were also far fewer books out there.

    I read an early-ish version of her first book, and even after having been edited, it had a few messy bits (not just typos but grammatical errors). But the energy of the story shone through, as well as her affinity for the things that clicked with young adult readers — duh, she was only 26 at the time. After reading one of her books I went on to read the Twilight trilogy, and it was clear that there was a huge demand for books like it that appealed to this readership.

    This 2011 story from the NYTimes was one of the reasons I decided to self-publish. Read it and see how new this idea was… and how charming Amanda herself is:


    The story of self-publishing continues to evolve, as does Amanda Hocking, and she’ll always be known as one of the very successful pioneers. With the nest egg she now has, I bet Amanda is in a position to make very clear-eyed decisions about her writing future. Did you also notice that she’s one smart cookie?

    Congratulations, Ms. Hocking. Carry on with your writing (I see you just finished another ms.) and good luck.

  27. What I find interesting is how people expect everyone to have the same ambitions or expectations. If I were Amanda Hocking, I’d be pretty content right about now; if she has no mortgage to pay, is getting a steady income from her books and can write full-time if she wants to, that sounds like a good place to be. Financially, more than that is just gravy.

    And I don’t know about you guys, but for me the main pleasure of self-publishing has been sharing my stories with people who appreciate them. If people are reading and enjoying her books and the main weight of publishing and publicity is being sorted out by other people, that means more time doing the writing again – and that sounds good to me too.

    I should imagine that it is always possible to say “But this is what you should be selling” or “this is what you should be earning” and that’s probably correct; but her priorities may not be the most money or the highest sales. In her place, I’d be chuffed to bits. With all that publicity going on the trad-pubbed books, new readers will go on to her self-pubbed books, so I should imagine that what she’s losing on one she’ll gain on another. And actually, I really like to see someone normal making a huge success of it all.

    TBH, I’ll be interested to see how it all pans out. It sounds like a useful situation, but one which is unlikely to be offered to anyone who hasn’t already made their millions, alas…

    Ah well – the rest of us can only dream (or more likely, get on with the next set of edits)!

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