Saturday, March 26, 2011

From Self-Published to a $2Million Deal

Amanda Hocking
From self-publishing to a book deal worth a supposed $2 million - that's what's happening to one 26-year-old from Austin, Minnesota:

(Complete Austin Daily Herald article can be found here.)  

...She’s spent years writing and rewriting books, always dreaming of becoming an author. She’d been thinking about paranormal novels before the “Twilight” craze hit the pop culture scene, but the vampire mania helped her decide on paranormal romance as a genre she could have fun with. Since then, she has written about teens and vampires, troll princesses, zombies and more.

She sold about 25,000 books online in mid-October, and was steadily working to put out one book a month on Fast forward a few months, and as of Wednesday, Hocking has sold 1,030,768 books and counting.
Hocking’s book deal with St. Martin’s revolves around her “Watersong” series, a story arc involving sisters and sirens (the Greek monsters who lured sailors to their doom) she’s been toying with for some time. While the first book is due out by fall 2012, she’s free to publish other books online so long as they don’t interfere with the “Watersong” publishing schedule.
Stories like this one are becoming more and more common, proving once again what a rapidly changing world we live in.  Self-published e-books can sell hundreds of thousands of copies for unknown writers.  YouTube videos can be used to publicize self-produced music - and linked to iTunes to allow relatively unknown singers to make a decent living.  Throw in Facebook, MySpace (although this site seems to be fading fast) and a few other sites, and anything seems possible.  Even those who do not become big "stars" in the publishing or music worlds have a chance to earn some decent money and go farther than they otherwise ever could have hoped.

The business model definitely changing.  Publishers and music labels are having to adapt to a world they never expected to face.  Already, the music industry has crippled itself by fighting all this new technology rather than embracing and adapting to it.  Sadly, as their reaction to the whole e-book episode indicates, publishers are beginning to move down the same path chosen by the labels.

As consumers, we have to ask ourselves if this new way of marketing artistic content is good, or bad, for us.  Are we missing out on something potentially great because the big corporations cannot spend the kind of money they spent in the past to publicize artists?  Or, is the opposite true?  Are we being exposed to more talent than ever because "new media" make it possible for everyone to get their shot?  How many talented writers are going nowhere because they do not have the skills or desire to market themselves at a time when publishers are not spending the money to nurture people like them?

What bothers me a bit is that I have seen very few stories like this one about "serious" writers.  It seems, from what I've seen so far, that the only ones becoming successful self-published e-book authors are those writing off-the-wall thrillers, cookie-cutter romances, or books about zombies and vampires.  Where are the self-published authors who write serious literary fiction or nonfiction books?  Are they out there?  If you know of any who fit that description, please let me know so that I can take a look at their work.

Good thing or bad thing?  It's just not that simple anymore.


  1. I think you may have a higher opinion of "serious" writers than they deserve. Be that as it may, I do see this model as taking over a significant portion of the market and I vote "good." While I think the end result will be far fewer mega-stars with huge salaries and stadium tours, there will be more people making a living at their art without having to go through publishers and agents.

    As someone who loves brick and mortar book stores, this is not a blessing.

  2. Lisa Genova self-published her first book, Still Alice. While it is not non-fiction or literature, it is one of my favorite adult fictions on a serious topic (Alzheimer's). I highly recommended it.

  3. C.b., it's not so much that I over-respect "serious" writers, I think, as it is that I find formula- writers to be extremely boring...especially those who do little other than jump on the latest bandwagon...until the next big thing comes along. I see so much of that in self-publishing that it takes away a good bit of the potential excitement for me. I'm already sick of books about vampires and zombies - but they are still coming by the dozens, for example.

  4. Thanks, Christa. I'll take a look at Still Alice. That's a subject I'm very interested in, one best handled by goof fiction, it seems.

  5. Hi, I've actually been working on a novel for the last 10 years (Since I was in high school). It may sound morbid, but it's based on a past life I believe I had. As I'm close to finishing it, I've been wondering whether to go the traditional route or self-publish an e-book. I'm starting to lean towards an e-book. I have a feeling this book will really be a hit. It's something that hasn't been written about, and isn't for the faint hearted.