Amanda Hocking found success with her books at an early age. Since her first time hitting the publish button in 2010 as an indie author she’s made millions of dollars in book sales and landed a two million dollar traditional publishing contract with Saint Martin’s Press. Most importantly though, she’s living the dream as a career author, supporting herself and producing stories full time that her readers enjoy. Let’s take a dive into her career and see what principles we can take away.
- Passion is not enough: At a young age Amanda knew she wanted to write and be a story teller. At first, she only wrote as a hobby because she never really wanted to put in the work even though she wanted to do it professionally. However, after seeing an interview with Mark Hoppus where he said (paraphrased) “It’s not enough to have passion. You have to be willing to put in the work and all the hours.” she did just that and put in the hours. By the time independent publishing became a more viable option she had completed seven books and was ready to take the next steps to becoming a career author.
- Be consistent and remove distractions: Like you, Amanda wasn’t living off of her novels from the start. She had a full time job working at a group home from 3pm to 9pm and wrote her novels on the side. At the time she didn’t have cable or internet so she had very few distractions and would just write when she got home. She would write until the sun came up, go to bed, get up for work, and do it all over again.
- Be persistent but not bullheaded: At the age of 17 Amanda started querying agents after completing her first novel. It seemed like the natural progression for a new author at the time. However, after eight years of throwing herself at literary agents and getting nowhere she realized how insane her results were. She remembered the quote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. But she knew she had to get her books published. So she took a step back, reassessed her direction and realized that indie publishing is an option. After doing some research it became the option she would pursue since other authors were finding success with it. In March 2010 she started indie publishing her books, and sales took off three months later. In June of that year she was selling thousands of books.
- Have a support system: Amanda felt defeated with trying to become a full time author after getting what seemed like an endless supply of rejection letters after querying agents. Who can blame her really? Rejection can be difficult to deal with when your career has barely started. However, after friends and family were so supportive of her potential writing career she got back into it. Eventually she made it into USA Today’s bestseller’s list, something she would have never achieved without her support system giving her that needed kick in the butt to keep going.
- Have a long term goal: Amanda looks up to Stephen King. He was published at the age of 26, so naturally; her long term goal was to do the same. Part of her motivation was to never become “that guy” who’s 45 and can’t hold a full time job because “the band’s gonna make it.” So 26 was her deadline. With that goal she was able to focus on what was important to her future career as an author and get to it. In March 2011 at the age of 26 she landed a $2 million traditional publishing deal with Saint Martin’s Press; about a year after starting her indie publishing journey.
- Edit and edit some more: From Amanda’s perspective, editing is very important as an author. She had friends, family, and freelance editors read and edit her manuscripts. Once she was a little more established and had an audience that she knew liked her books she then setup a group of “beta” readers to help see what they liked or didn’t like. To her, it comes down to providing a quality product for your readers, and editing is one of the most important things you can do to provide this.
- Focus on one thing – your writing: Don’t worry about the minutiae of how to publish a book, when to do it, and where. Just write a book that relates to readers. So work on that and everything else will come into place. Another thing to consider here is that you’ll be more effective by focusing on one thing at a time while you’re starting out. As an example: rather than go one mile wide and one inch deep go one inch wide and one mile deep.
- Audience = leverage: Because she was able to put her stories out into the world she was able to gather an audience. The leverage she gained by having that audience before getting traditionally published was substantial and created the foundation that led to the generous publishing contract with Saint Martin’s Press.
I want to be clear, Amanda’s results are atypical, but it’s important to understand the opportunities that indie publishing presents. After she stopped asking for permission to publish her stories she put in the hours, did the work, and is now making a living off of her writing.
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