Amanda Hocking is Not Lucky

Until August 2010, Amanda Hocking, 26, worked for ten dollars an hour at an assisted-living facility in southern Minnesota, near Iowa. The work was honorable and satisfying although writing novels in her spare time was her first love. Amanda finished her first novel at age 17 and over the next nine years, wrote 11 more. After a string of rejections by literary agents, she turned to self-publishing and made her first mistake by paying Lulu to put her book into print and on their website and nowhere else. Not satisfied when not one book “published” by Lulu sold, she researched the subject further and discovered ebooks.

In less than one year, Amanda has sold 900,000 copies of her nine ebooks, the first of which went on sale in April 2010.

She prices her ebooks at what she believes is fair and that she herself would pay: 99 cents for the first book in each serial and, after hooking the audience, $2.99 for each follow-up ebook in the serial.

Amanda Hocking isn’t “lucky.” She is entertaining and she knows what all successful writers know. She knows her audience. Intimately. She says, “I’ve been active on social networks and blogs for years.”

Her audience is made up of young women of her own age remembering the loneliness and awkwardness of their high school years, young women who easily lose themselves in fantasy and romance, young women with a sense of humor, young women with children whose spouses may be away at work during the day, or away at war, or not around anymore. Hocking puts her audience — all heroines– at the center of every exciting fantasy and romance, and in return, they line her pockets one dollar at a time.

This is not unlike the old days when newspapers attracted readers by running serial fiction. To find out what happens, you had to buy the next day’s paper for a dime or a quarter, not enough to break the household budget but enough to keep the presses rolling.

Amanda Hocking understands story.

“When I first started writing, I wanted to write something that was deep, meaningful and important, like ‘1984,’” she said. “But I’m kind of a fluffy person. I want to entertain people without getting too deep.”

Her marketing strategy (other than relaxing with her tribe on social networks)?

“I also send ARCs [advance review copies] out to book bloggers. Book bloggers are a really amazing community, and they’ve been tremendously supportive. They’ve definitely been a major force that got my books on the map.”

“When I first published, I did do a bit of promoting on the Amazon forums, but they’re not really open to that, so I haven’t really interacted there much at all in months. I hang out at Goodreads, Kindleboards, Facebook, Twitter, and I blog. And that’s about it.”

What is her work ethic?

“You need to write a lot, you need to read a lot, and research a lot,” Hocking said.

So far, her books don’t sell so well in print. Her strength is ebooks. It is her medium and comfort zone. When her ebooks began selling widely, she got around, finally, to publishing them in print for broad distribution.

Half way down one of her blogging pages, an ad says ‘buy my ebooks at amazon and’. An adjacent ad is marked: “NEW” ‘buy my book in print.’

Though she lately began receiving ink from traditional news outlets, it was the reviews by bloggers that changed her destiny.

Her readers flock to her fanciful blog, leaving respectful comments urging her to publish the next saga in the serial and promising to buy everything she writes.

Amanda Hocking’s writing sample leaves her readers wondering what happens next.

She’s not lucky. She works hard and knows story. She knows she is not yet a great writer. With more hard work, she hopes to become a better writer.

She’s always worked hard. She says she now makes more in a month than she had in the last four years combined. Hocking used to work with people with disabilities before quitting last July. “I feel guilty about it because I worked hard at my job,” she says. “I think it’s unfair that they (her former co-workers) make less doing something that’s more important.”

“I worked full-time in group homes for people with disabilities for the past five and a half years, so the majority of my writing was done then. In high school and right out of high school, I worked as a dishwasher, and then I went to work at the group home. I always wrote in my spare time, but I had to pay the bills, so I had to keep my day job. Until August 2010. That’s the first time I made enough money off my writing that I didn’t need to work anymore, so I’ve been writing full-time since then.”

Bonnie Britt edited the newly published The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit by Laurie Barkin