How Amanda Hocking Did It

Recently it’s been big news that Amanda Hocking has sold nearly a million ebooks in the past year, all of them priced between $.99 and $2.99. They were all self-published (I believe all on Amazon.com).

Now every aspiring author out there is trying to figure out how she did it. The thing is, all of those authors (including myself), are slightly obsessed with the prices of her books. The low prices differentiate herself from most authors and publishing companies (including Blank Slate Press–The Samaritan is currently $9.99 on Amazon). So the price must be key, right? All you have to do is change the price of your eBook to $.99 and suddenly everyone will buy it!

Nope. Not that simple. I’m sorry, but there simply isn’t a magic formula. I know that’s not what you want to hear. You want steps to replicate success. We all do. So here are a few:

  • Social network up the wazoo. This doesn’t mean promote the hell out of yourself. It means stay connected and get more connected. Teach people new things, entertain people with your thoughts, and engage people with your opinions. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Every day, starting yesterday. Not the day after you publish the book.
  • Write a great book. By this I don’t necessarily mean that you should write the perfect book. Just tell a good story, use as few words as possible, and do everything you can to make the reader need to know what happens next.
  • Have someone who doesn’t know you edit the book. Don’t have your best friend edit your book. He’ll do it, sure, and he’ll catch some mistakes and make you feel good about everything else, but that’s not what you want. You want significant improvement, contextually, structurally, and grammatically.
  • Have a professional design the cover. Even as we enter an age when books don’t have covers, we judge the quality of the book by the quality of the cover. Pay money for this. If you like covers on BSP’s books, let us know. Our cover designer is fantastic.
  • Price it so strangers will take a chance on it. Yes, $.99 is a ridiculous price. Think about all the work you put into that book, and then you have to stoop to the level of selling it for less than a dollar?!

And here are a few more that may only sometimes be correct:

  • Write a trilogy. I’m not saying that because Hocking did this, you should too. I’m just saying that trilogies can turn sellers into bestsellers. I think this works best with works of speculative/genre fiction–fantasy, sci fi, dystopian, paranormal, and supernatural. There’s something built into us genre readers that gets our juices flowing when we hear “planned trilogy.” Star Wars is probably to blame (is there anything more ingenious than these two numerals starting a series: IV?!) Trilogies probably don’t work for literary fiction. The Help wouldn’t work as a trilogy. You just want to read it, enjoy it, and get it over with so you can talk about it with your book club.
  • Be the first to do something different. It could be anything. But as you compose or market your book, do something that no one has ever done, and then remind people that you’re the first to do it. See what happens.
  • Write young adult fiction. Most people read books because they enjoy the vacation from reality. Take 30 seconds and think about your fondest and most painful high school memories. Those scars run deep. There will never be a day when adults stop wanting to remember their roots. And at the same time, there will never be a day that middle schoolers stop wanting to be in high school. Those are the most marketable years to write about.
  • Get book bloggers to review your work. Hocking writes highly of the value of book bloggers, and we at BSP are on the same page. There’s a fairly small number of bloggers with huge followings that write about books. The catch is that book bloggers rarely accept self-published submissions, or any submissions at all. If you can get an in with them, do not underestimate their importance. They are the NY Times Book Review of the future.
  • Collect e-mail addresses. You need to have a way to tell your readers really important information. Sure, you can put this on your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed, but people have to go to you to get that information. There will be times when you want to reach out to your readers ASAP and tell them something important, so having their e-mail addresses is key.

So what can you do today? You, person sitting at your computer, desperately wanting to sell a million eBooks, even if they’re $.99. You who wants to copy what Hocking did with your own twist.

You know what? I say go for it. If you can write an amazing YA paranormal trilogy, find a great editor, have the cover professionally designed, socially engage a growing number of people every day without overpromoting yourself, do something no one’s ever done before, and you have the guts to price it for $2.99 on Amazon, do it. Go for it.

It might just work.

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5 Comments on “How Amanda Hocking Did It”

  1. Lilly Says:

    Hi. I like what you’ve written but could you please fix the margins? I had to highlight everything in order to read the stuff that went into the black area on the sides. Thanks so much.

  2. Lilly Says:

    Oops, when this published the margins were okay. Sorry. Thanks for the article.


  3. I’m glad they worked, because I’m not sure how I would have fixed them. Thanks Lilly! 🙂


  4. Ah fooey, we have to write Paranormal Romance to ‘make it.’ ?? I doubt many of us are going to make it, then. Sci Fi writers write their genre because they have fun doing it. Mysteries are must-do’s for the writers who write them. I’m in the Historical Fiction corner and can’t imagine myself writing a short young-adult-vampire-werewolf-fantasy-para romance book, even in the hope that it will sell a million copies at .99 cents. Fat chance, anyway. But if there is suddenly a gazilliion of those flooding the indie world I suppose we’ll all understand why. I have to hope that there is still an audience out there somewhere for me. I might even get into the high company of Gabaldon and Gregory and Morton and. . . . Never know. It could happen.

    I am not Amanda Hockings. I know this because I balanced my checkbook today. You probably aren’t Amanda either. Write what You write, do it the best you possibly can, and maybe you’ll break out, too. And maybe, just maybe, I will, too.


    • Hey Karleene, thanks for your comment. Keep writing what you’re passionate about. The top five recommendations I make in this blog entry have nothing to do with genre, so I wouldn’t focus on that. Focus on social networking, writing a great book, editing, cover design, and price. Good luck!


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