When my sister Steph and a friend sent me the same New York Times article on the same day, I knew something was up. Called “Storyseller,” it’s about Amanda Hocking, a young woman in her late twenties who’s become a multimillionaire by selling e-books on Amazon. After years of rejection by mainstream publishers, she’s also just signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press — they even sent her flowers! And one of her series of paranormal novels is being optioned for the movies. Not bad for someone who was depressed at school, writes about trolls, and experienced major rejection by mainstream publishers.
What a success story! In her office, Amanda has a framed check from Amazon for $15.75, her first royalties, which she received just 12 months ago. But she’s not an overnight success by any means. Amanda began telling stories when she was 3 or 4. By 17, she’d written her first novel, which she sent to about 50 agents whose names she gleaned through Google and Writer’s Market. They all rejected it, but she kept going, even while she was washing dishes at a restaurant.
Inspired to follow her passion, Amanda wrote five or six new novels. They were conventional romances and she used them to develop her technique. After studying bookstore offerings, she decided that paranormal romances were the way to go — and she began a new surge of novel writing. Rejections kept pouring in — the last one in February of 2010. In April, Amanda uploaded one of her novels to Amazon and other e-book outlets. The first day, she sold five books, the second day, five more. Then she sold 36 copies of another novel. In June, 2010, just a few months after launching her e-book blitz, she sold 6,000 copiesand another 10,000 in July. By January, 2011, she’d sold over 100,000.
What’s the secret of Amanda’s success? She’s a great storyteller and she decided to embrace the kind of quirky romance plots that she liked, rather than trying to imitate other more literary writers. In short, she found her voice — and when she combined it with new media distribution, she hit the literary lottery.
And she did it with nary an agent or a publisher. Inspiring. Write on, Amanda!