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.”


Joanne Stewart said...

I can't say anything except to reiterate what you've already said, so I'll just add a hearty 'amen!'

navcdr said...

I think that the reading public will soon see that they can get ripped off even for $.99.

The result will be that they begin to verify credibility. In other words ... they would look for reviews of the book, go to the authors website. etc.

Nobody wants to waste the precious effort it takes to read a book, only to find out it was a total waste of time.

Sandra Koehler said...

This is my concern. But as usual, I feel quality will win out. Alison

AJ Nuest said...

Hi Alison, I have to say I disagree. I've purchased books before (some even recommended by friends) that I have thought were total...for lack of a better word...crap. And for those I paid A LOT more than $.99. Yes, the e-market will now be inundated by every Tom, Dick and Harry (notice I used mens' names there) who think an e-book will skyrocket them to success. But in the end, the public will decide, just like it has in the past. Unforunately, the total onus will now be on the reader, but ultimately that is exactly what determines any author's success. Just because a book is published through a traditional house, doesn't automatically make it good...or bad. And had Ms. Hocking's writing not appealed to a wide audience (and traveled via word of mouth) I don't think she would have achieved such a high level of sales. Even though the e-market may get diluted with "bad writing", ultimately, the risk Ms. Hocking took will open doors for many, many talented authors, who may find an audience traditional publishers never offered them the chance to reach. Now I think each of us should go out and hone our editorial skills, because in the future, many untrained writers may be offering us jobs to edit their manuscripts.

Sandra Koehler said...

Sounds good; I love to edit and get rid of extraneous words. And I have to agree with your point that what you pay for is not what you get. I'm amazed at how many books I've paid good money for are no good at all; particularly those in the 'mainstream.' Whatever happened to books being 250 pages long? So many today are twice that and could easily have been edited down. That's why I go to Half Price Books. I never pay full price for anything. Thanks for your thoughts. Alison

amber polo said...

Perhaps, like publishers who take returns from bookstores, self-pubed authors should take returns from readers. :)

Joanna Aislinn said...

Thoughtful post. Four thoughts from me:

(1) Real opportunities abound where before there were few if any.

(2) Those who self-publish no longer have to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to put a book out there--well written or not--nor will they have to break the bank to promote it.

(3) Readers will ultimately decide popularity--this does not necessarily equal the best story and/or the best writing out there. (Too many are already out there breaking all the rules and making money on their names alone.) This is nothing new.

(4) I'd rather be part of this wave than sit by and watch it go by. This is an awesome time to be a writer. As they say over at Who Dares Win Publishing: "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way."

Joanna Aislinn
Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
The Wild Rose Press

Sandra Koehler said...

Good points Joanna. There definitely is an upside to this...Alison

Linda Morris, Romance writer said...

Interesting post, Alison. I have to admit I'm of two minds about the Hocking story. Publishers act as gatekeepers. We all know that sometimes they screw up and publish terrible things and then reject good work that doesn't fit their formula. But on the other hand, if there is no slush pile, the world of ebook self-publishing becomes the slush pile. It will be interesting to see how it all sorts out.

Carsten said...

You know I'm on a 3rd edit of my own book. And I have a problem with letting go. I have to make sure that everything is in place before I let my book go -- this means I don't let my book go 'PUBLIC' without making sure it's a good read to me or others. I know people who read a lot and know what a good writing is. I've gotten enough feedback after reading or listening to me read my book or other writings that I know I can make a go. I've been at my book over 3 1/2 years. I work for a living and it's not easy to keep the focus on writing all the time. So I write when I am focused.

For someone to make millions on a half-assed made book and not even that great of a writer -- annoys me a little bit but, my step-mom had me read the article on her and told me that it could also be a sign of encouragement.

With that in mind, I am not butt-hurt over a crappy writer sensation like Amanda Hocking. She's getting hers despite her lack of skills.

I started writing because I was inspired by a true event and fell in love with it. I won't lose my love focusing more on the business of writing than the love for it.

If I never make a substantial amount of money after self-publishing my books and or writing at least I can say I HAVE published.

LOVE YOUR WRITING! Especially if it brings life to your soul and makes your spirit sing... Chances are I'll read a book off of kindle that changes my life -- a book that only sold 100 copies but amazing to... ME. And that's all that matters.

Good post, well written... :-)