If you’re the type to read publishing news, and you no doubt are if you’re here, then I’m sure you’ve heard all about Amanda Hocking’s phenomenal success as a self-published author. She’s a 26-year-old millionaire, in fact, which I can’t say I don’t envy.
Much has been said about this by anyone remotely interested in publishing, and now Amanda herself has weighed in with an honest and surprisingly objective look at the realities of publishing and self-publishing that give a hint as to the sort of business savvy that has made this work for her. I think Amanda’s words speak for themselves on so many of the topics at hand here, so I’ll just pick out the thing I think is most important for people to keep in mind, but I’d encourage you to hop over to her blog to read it in full:
Everybody seems really excited about what I’m doing and how I’ve been so successful, and from what I’ve been able to understand, it’s because a lot of people think that they can replicate my success and what I’ve done. And while I do think I will not be the only one to do this – others will be as successful as I’ve been, some even more so – I don’t think it will happen that often.
Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren’t all that different, and I don’t think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren’t. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it’s harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.
As an agency, we’re pretty bullish about the digital future of publishing (even if many of us are also really, really, really attached to books as objects and unwilling to believe we could ever abandon them entirely in favor of our Kindles). We work with some wonderful authors who keep pushing out the edge of the digital frontier. We also talk about where things are headed and how to help our clients in this transition on a near daily basis, and we’ve been putting in the work to make sure that whatever happens, our authors won’t get left behind in the dust.
But that said, it’s a mistake, as it always has been, to think that self-publishing is as simple as bypassing the gatekeepers who wouldn’t know a good book from a hole in the ground to go straight to the masses of consumers. Certainly amazing books are missed by the traditional publishing industry for myriad reasons—some of them simply human, others institutional flaws—and don’t think that agents and editors, who go to bat daily for books that won’t always make it on the shelves, aren’t keenly aware of that. But publishing a book isn’t a one man job, however simple the upload tools might make it seem. Editing, copyediting, cover design, marketing, distribution, and many more issues exist beyond the writing of the book (no easy task!) that need time and care and energy and experience. Self-publishing is easier than ever before from a technical sense, but succeeding at it, like succeeding at just about anything in life, takes a tremendous amount of hard work, a willingness to get (and pay for) the work you can’t do yourself, and at least a little bit of luck.
Congratulations to Amanda and others like her who were told no and found a different path to success. And congratulations are due also to those authors who the HuffPo won’t be calling millionaires any time soon, but who, through hard work and ingenuity, have found an audience for their books.
Of course, all this makes me curious about Amanda’s books, which I haven’t read yet but plan to check out. With the number of copies she’s sold and the amount of press she’s had in the last week, some of you must have read her, right? Any recommendations? Any thoughts as to why she’s gotten where she has?