There’s a problem with the sort of sensationalism that some blogs go for in their presentation, and it’s part of why I make sure that I balance myself when it comes to reading them. Engadget is the hard core rumor-and-fact blog. Gizmodo is the more free-wheeling tech-and-fun blog. Both of them present a part of the picture, and need to be approached for what they are. Why do I bring this up? Largely because of a blog post that Gizmodo ran earlier this week: This 26-Year Old Makes Millions Writing Kindle-Only Books. The article is two paragraphs long, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s all right there in the title. Golly gee, someone has managed to turn self e-publication into a lucrative cash flow.
And then it asks the question: why not you?
The answer is simple. You are not Amanda Hocking.
Being someone who has dabbled with e-publication in the past (buy my book, buy my book, buy my book) I don’t follow the emerging market nearly as closely as I could. Or should. Even if I did, I’m not sure I would have heard of Amanda Hocking, as her books are outside of my typical reading sphere. She writes young-adult paranormal romance. But she’s also managed to do so in a very savvy way, and in the end hers is story that many may want to mimic based on the pitifully few details of the Gizmodo story, but few may be able to. If you get past articles that are just looking to number crunch and say “anyone can be a millionaire on Kindle” one lands at a profile of her done by the Huffington Post. One that actually, ya know, talks to her, and shows that she’s actually a fantastic model for how authorial success can be reached.
Go on. Read it. I’m not going to just sit and summarize it for you, cause it’s good information.
Okay, fine, quick bio. She was telling stories before she could write, was writing stories as soon as she could, and is under no impression that’s she’s perfect, even lamenting the fact that her best efforts at self editing and beta reading have come up short. Her next step is to procure the sort of professional editing services that a publisher would give her access to.
This is not someone who just slapped together a Nanowrimo novel, stuck it up on Kindle, and waited for the money to roll in. If she’d done that, it wouldn’t have. Trust me on this one. What she has done instead is actually work to hone her craft, improve her writing, build a fan base, engage in as much self promotion as she’s able, and in the end work damn hard to get to the point she’s at. And even then, she’s not going to sit back and just let the money come. She’s looking to improve herself at every angle.
Ya know, I went into learning about her coming out of that Gizmodo article expecting nothing like what I found, and I don’t know why that is. Success is something that has to be earned, whether it’s through the traditional means of finding representation, working up from small press to large press and pressing the flesh at conventions (first draft of that sentence said “pounding”, though I’m sure some people have gotten published that way too) or whether it’s by working your ass off when you realize that you’ve put yourself out there and no one is going to do the work for you.
And in the end, there’s still going to be that tiny element of luck involved. There’s no denying that she got into the e-publication market at the bottom, and that was the best time to get in. Like the companies who got into the iTunes App Store back when titles numbered in the low 5 digits rather than narrowing in on half a million. And with a genre of books that was simultaneously taking off due to the popularity of the Twilight novels.
So why can’t you make millions of dollars as a Kindle-only self published writer? Because you’re not Amanda Hocking.
Unless you’re willing to try to be. In which case, best of luck.
Kindle graphic courtesy wikipedia user NotFromUtrecht