March 07, 2011

E-books and print books and Amanda Hocking

On Friday a friend tweeted me a link titled, "This 26-Year-Old Is Making Millions Cutting Out Traditional Publishers With Amazon Kindle."

The article explained how Amanda Hocking has made millions by selling her novels through the Amazon Kindle store for between $0.99 and $2.99.

Of course, I was intrigued. Any author looking to be published would pause for at least a second upon hearing the money being made, the immediacy in getting your work out there, and the fact that Hocking's work is reaching something like 100,000 readers a month.

I moseyed over to Amanda Hocking's blog, where she kindly explains the phenomenon of her success from her perspective, as well as warns that, like JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, her success is not something that can be easily or intentionally replicated. Amanda's post about the internet picking up on her and essentially going viral in entrepreneurial/business/publishing circles is even-handed, fair, and very interesting. I recommend you check it out.

Nathan Bransford also blogged about Ms. Hocking and the 'Kindle millionaires' today, so please check out his informative, thorough breakdown of why self-publishing via e-books makes sense, and why it doesn't.

As for me, I think Amanda Hocking and other quality self-publishers are captains of industry, not robber barons. Hocking took a chance in self-publishing her novels. She could have sold only a handful of copies, made just a few dollars, and lost the time, energy, and emotional effort she put into writing each of her books. She took a chance, and as luck or fate or whatever else had it, she became a successful trailblazer.  It's something she should be proud of, and no doubt something she is working extremely hard to maintain.

But in the end, her route is not my route, nor, as I take it from her very gracious blog, does she expect it to be.

If I can't get published via the traditional route, it's not worth it to me. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I don't have the time nor the expertise to handle copyediting, design, distribution, publicity, marketing, and all other countless yet incomparable perks of having a publisher.

Plus, publishing a book means something specific to me: drafting, critiquing, editing, querying, accepting representation, revisions, being on submission, getting a book deal, revisions, receiving your ARCs, (hopefully minor at this point) revisions, and finally... seeing your novel in print on a shelf at a brick and mortar store.

If I am ever published, it is important to me to have physical copies of my book. It's important to me to be able to run my hand across my cover, to hear the crack of the new spine as I open it, to smell the pages, to feel the texture of the paper, to see my name on something I can hold and jump around with and show to everyone who will look.

What can I say? I'm a traditionalist. But I am not afraid of the competition or companion business or whatever the e-book and self-publishing industries are or will become to traditional publishing. Amanda Hocking is offering something people want. It's her right to sell it, it's the people's right to buy it, and any time people are reading, I think that's a good thing.

What's your opinion of all this? Would you consider Amanda Hocking's route?

[also: I will be answering the questions left for me last week tomorrow!]


Marquita Hockaday said...

I think people who can garner success from self publishing are pretty freakin' awesome, but I agree with your outlook. I could never self publish b/c I lack the expertise...and I want to go through the same experiences that you listed (getting an agent and so on) and I def. want to hold a physical book in my hand with my name on the spine. Great post :D

The Blue Lipstick Samurai said...

I absolutely agree, though I would never have stated it so well or fairly. (My post would have gone something like, KINDLE IS THE ENEMY, REPENT! REPENT!) I, personally, could never self-publish because I think having a few other hands on a manuscript only improves it; in simple ways, like catching typos, and in huge ways. Huge ways for me being that someone else was willing to invest time, energy, and emotional effort into my writing.

Thoughtful and intelligent, as always, Abby!

Aleeza said...

i actually completely agree with you--while amanda's success is totally plaudatory, i think id prefer the traditional route as well!

Pam Harris said...

It's an interesting story, but I'd prefer to hold out and go the traditional route. I already have to squeeze in time just to write--imagine how much time it takes to actually self-publish??

erica and christy said...

This was all over FB today when I got home from work, so I've read her blog post and NB's take on it now. You did a good job of encapsulating the main points.

I have friends who self-published. They worked hard, wrote their best book, hired editors, revised, etc. They also have paperback copies of their books with beautiful covers (by hiring graphic designers) that would fit in at any bookstore (and do). Their choice was to put their work into their own marketing rather than to querying.

That's a lot different than someone who cranks out a 30-day novel and throws it on Kindle for 99 cents!!

Good post!

Remilda Graystone said...

I came across Amanda Hocking several weeks back before her names started sprouting from the roots of the interwebz, and I was surprised. But then, after a moment, I wasn't because her books are priced so low they're practically free. It says nothing about the quality of her writing, but it'd be a lie to say that it wasn't easy to take a chance on any book priced that low.

It's great, the success she's gotten from this route, and that it wasn't all a waste of effort or time. But to me, publishing is as you described it. My mom and sisters have been bothering me about my book and agents and all that for a while now. And they'd have a tizzy, a hemorrhage, a HEART ATTACK, if I told them I wanted to e-publish! I'd probably be banished to Azkaban!

Not only that, though. I love the idea of being able to smell my book and touch it and see my name on the cover and being able flip to any random page and dog-ear it and all those wonderful things. E-publishing just isn't the way for me. In the future? I'm not a fortune teller, so I don't know.

But right now, agents, gatekeepers, scary editors, and all that comes with traditional publishing is the way I want to go about things.

Tracey Neithercott said...

I'm with you. My husband passed along an article about her because, you know, I could be, like, a bazillionaire by Friday. But my dream is to be published by a traditional house, to work with an editor and agent, and to see my book in stores.

The biggest reason I wouldn't self-publish: The crazy marketing you need to do for self-publishing in addition to just about everything else attached to the creation of the book just isn't for me.

Rachel Morgan said...

I've also been seeing her name everywhere recently and have read her blog and the other links you've posted here. I'm actually thinking of trying both routes! I love the idea of being able to design my own cover (though whether I have the skills to do that is another story!) and the flexibility and control of publishing your own work is a plus. The marketing side seems kinda daunting...

Anyway, I have one project that I've worked on for a long time and would like to try the traditional route with (I also REALLY want to feel my own book in my own hands one day!). But while I'm trying that, why not take some of my other work and e-publish it? I guess above all I'm curious to see how it would work out :-) And I have great respect for indie authors who've worked hard, done all their research, and are making a go at it "on their own".

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