Monday, March 28, 2011

Amanda Hocking's Success, Part Two

I self-published my last book "The Montezuma Secret" as an experiment, largely due to what I had read about the success of such authors as JA Konrath. As a business owner and entrepreneur for many years and someone who believes in self-study, I thought this was a great achievement--people making it on their own. Then I heard of Amanda Hocking. That really convinced me. Now that I'm a published author with Amazon's Kindle, I receive a wonderful blog several times a week called "Kindle Writers." I read yesterday that self-publishing legend Amanda Hocking has signed a seven-figure deal with Macmillan after a "heated auction" for the rights to publish her books. Several major publishers, including Random House, Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins, were involved. According to the The New York Times, the bidding "rose beyond $2 million for world English rights." The first thought that popped into my head was "Wow, she's really made it now." And then I stopped myself. Does this somehow "legitimize" her success? And then--whoa--wasn't her amazing success as an indie self-published author enough proof of that? Ms. Hocking states on her blog that she took the deal because she wanted to spend more time being a writer and less time on being a publisher, though she still enjoys marketing. She says she didn't do it for the money or the validation but because she wanted more people to have access to her books (Even Barnes and Noble can't order them for people) and because she wanted better editors and career stability. Whatever her reasons, it's still a fantastic achievement and one that should be celebrated by writers and readers alike and makes people in the publishing world stand up and recognize indie authors as a talented bunch, many of whom are capable of appealing to millions in the same way established authors like Nora Roberts or James Patterson can. On the other hand, New York Times bestselling author Barry Eisler recently turned down a $500,000 book deal in favor of self-publishing. He said that based on the experience writers were having with self-publishing, he thought he could do better long-term on his own. These inspiring stories certainly open up the options for writers interested in achieving success on their own terms and I hope it continues. And whether she took the deal or not, Amanda Hocking's success is still legitimate, whether it's self-published or not. What do you think?

Next week: Romance and the Kennedys

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Problem with Amanda Hocking's Success

We’ve all heard about the “99 Cent Millionaire”, Amanda Hocking, who has sold hundreds of thousands of self-published e-books online and become a millionaire in the process. While this is good news for Amanda Hocking and good news for writers and the e-book/e-reader explosion, there is also a downside. Because of her success, everyone tries to emulate it. What did she do? How did she accomplish this monumental feat, especially in a down economy? I remember years ago when John Grisham became an instant millionaire when he was offered huge advances for his legal thrillers. Everyone wanted to get in on the bandwagon whether they were good writers or not. Publishing houses and agents were flooded with thousands of manuscripts from would-be authors, many of which were poorly-written, full of typos, and amateurish attempts to cash in on the big bucks. Because of this, more publishers clamped down, requiring agent-only submissions. Agents clamped down as well and it became much more difficult for good authors to rise out of the slush pile. I’m afraid the same thing is happening to e-books. Already, over 800,000 e-books are available for download on Amazon. It has become difficult, though not impossible, to stand out from the crowd. Amazon does not charge for self-publishing, but it does take a share of the royalties. And while there are many, many talented writers out there who are now being given an opportunity to share their writings with others, including Ms. Hocking, there are also many writers whose works are less than stellar and should never have seen the light of day. Complaints abound about the quality of some of these self-published e-books. While I hope that Amazon and others do not crack down on the self-publishing craze, it does raise concerns about quality, especially with everyone wanting to become a “99 cent millionaire.”