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Friday, March 18, 2011

Lessons on Self-Publishing Success from Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking author photoToday I'm delighted to bring you a guest post from freelance writer Mariana Ashley.

Mariana's subject is the 26-year-old Kindle publishing sensation Amanda Hocking (left), who writes paranormal romance novels.

Mariana takes a closer look at Amanda's success, and suggests some lessons other aspiring authors can learn from her...

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Many self-published authors don't fully realize that after their book is completed and published, they have a whole new set of objectives to meet. They aren't trying to write 2,000 words or so a day any more. Instead, they must start work on selling their book!

For many self-publishing authors, marketing their books can be a major stumbling block; others, however, seem to have a knack for it. In fact, there is a small but growing number of authors who are enjoying huge success - greater indeed than most conventionally published authors - from self-publishing.

Take the example of 26-year-old web fiction author Amanda Hocking, who has self-published nine books to date and sells approximately 100,000 copies per month according to Most of her income comes from e-books sold through the Amazon Kindle store. Under Amazon's terms for Kindle authors, she keeps up to 70% of gross sales, compared with the typical 10% of net earned by most traditionally published authors.

Even more exciting for her is that Terri Tatchell, of District 9 fame, has recently optioned her trilogy for a screenplay.

So how has Hocking accomplished these amazing feats by self-publishing books such as Switched (see below)?

Well, if you read Hocking's own blog post The Epic Tale Of How It All Happened, you'll get a good idea of how she became one of the most popular web fiction authors alive. Here are some of the most important lessons from that post and others on her blog.

Select a Publishing Format

One of the keys to Hocking's success was her decision to make her books easily accessible to a lot of people through the Amazon Kindle store. By formatting her novels as e-books, she was able to price them lower than a standard hardback: $2.99, for example, versus $14.95. That, and the ubiquity of the Kindle e-readers, gave interested audiences a quick and easy way to access her writing.

Build Connections with Book Bloggers

The next thing Hocking did that helped sales take off was contact book bloggers. She says that after she contacted bloggers to start reviewing her books, "something surreal started happening. My books were selling. Like, really selling." Her sales jumped dramatically, going from 624 books for $362 in May to 4,285 books for $3,180 in June. She attributes this success to the buzz created by the bloggers.

Find a Trusted Editor

Once she could afford it, Hocking began to pay an editor to help her revise and edit her books. In fact, this is her most important tip for aspiring authors. She writes, "My biggest word of advice to any new/future writers thinking about diving into Kindle: Edit." Hocking admits it wasn't easy to find a good editor, and most of her books have been edited by a number of different people (and, she says, she still finds some mistakes when she looks at them now). Still, she believes it's crucial to ensure your books are as error-free as possible: "Some people won't care that there's errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really."

Commit to the Writing Life

This is perhaps the most courageous act an aspiring author can commit. Hocking quit her day job after she had decent sales on the Kindle so that she could write full time. Doing so allowed her to produce even more work and increase those sales. In one month, she claims, she made as much as she made at her job for a year. Of course, this was after the buildup to her success, but still: quitting her job gave her the opportunity to commit fully to the writing life.

If you believe in yourself, then you should try to write as much as possible. It doesn't mean you have to quit your day job immediately, but it does mean that you may have to sacrifice other things (such as your social life!) to achieve the success you dream of in the end.

Write for an Audience

Finally, one crucial thing about Hocking is that she researches what her audience want and then tries to give it to them. If you simply write for yourself, you risk failing to find readers who share your enthusiasm. Sure, it's OK to start out that way, but you should look towards your audience for inspiration as well. It's no coincidence that Hocking started off by publishing on her blog - this gave her invaluable feedback, and helped her focus on providing the sort of reading experience her audience craved.

By-line: Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, so please do leave any comments or questions for her below.

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Thank you to Mariana for an interesting and inspiring article. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that I have a new course on writing for the Amazon Kindle coming out very soon from my blog sponsors, The WCCL Network. Keep watching this blog for more information!

Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

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Anonymous Eli Strange said...

Very inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

4:03 PM  

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