Interview with Amanda Hocking

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Amanda Hocking has become quite a legend among budding writers - those who publish independently and traditionally. After uploading her Young Adult ebooks to Amazon and Smashwords, she ended up making up a million dollars in a few months. Unsurprisingly, big publishers took notice of her. (Ironically, these publishers rejected her novels over and over again years ago.) She ended up signing up with St Martin’s Press, for a US$2mil (RM6.4mil) four-book deal.

I had the opportunity to speak to Amanda. The result is my article, published in The Star: Amanda Hocking: A Success Story.

The following is the full transcript of our conversation:

What inspired you to become a writer? I spent the majority of my childhood sitting in my room writing stories, telling stories, or acting out stories in my backyard. I think it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

You've written about 17 novels by the time you were 26. When did you start writing? What is your writing process like? I started writing stories as soon as I learned how to write, but I wrote my first novel in high school. I would start writing around 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and then keep going as late as I could. That’s pretty much still how I do it today.

Did you have a day job when you were writing your novels? Yes, I was working at a group home for mentally disabled people.

How did you balance writing and your day job? My job was usually from about 3:00-10:00 PM, so when I got home I would just go to my office, and write until 8:00 or 9:00, go to bed, get up, work, and do it again.

What stories fascinate you? I think all stories fascinate me, for different reasons. I will read just about anything. I recently saw The Avengers, so right now I’m in kind of a superhero phase.

When did you start trying to get your books published? How was it like? I wrote my first novel when I was 17, and I started sending query letters to agents immediately after that. I would take a few breaks here and there, but I was pretty much always sending out letters. Now, I realize that the book I wrote when I was 17 was pretty horrible, and the agents were right for not accepting it.

How did you end up publishing your books on the digital platform? I heard about some people having success with selling their books for e-readers, so I thought I could give it a shot.

You've made millions from e-publishing. Did you ever anticipate such a success? No, not at all. E-publishing was very new to me, so I had no idea what to expect. I’m very thankful to everyone that decided to take a chance, and buy my books though.

How did you react to your success e-publishing? I was ecstatic. At first, I was taking screen shots of my Amazon sales page if I sold like 30 books in a day. I slowly started selling more and more books each day, and things got pretty crazy. It was fun.

How has success changed your life? I think the thing I’m most grateful for is having an audience. Like I said, I’ve always told stories, but it was mostly to myself, or my mom. To have people actually interested in my books, and to actually pay money to read them, is a huge honor.

What do you think is the secret to your success? I have no idea. I try to write books that I think people will enjoy, and be entertained by. I think that’s the best anyone can do.

Why did you decide to publish traditionally in the end? Doing everything on my own got to be a lot of work, I knew that going with a traditional publisher I would have a whole team of people to help me, and to be along with me for the ride. I also wanted to get my books out to people who don’t have e-readers.

How did people react to your decision to go down the traditionally-published route? I think most people were excited about it. I know there were a few self-published authors who thought I was making a mistake, and that I was a “sell-out” but I never said that I would only be a self-published author, and I think I made the best choice for me and my career.

How has your writing process changed now that you are traditionally published? My writing process hasn’t changed at all. The editing process is definitely much smoother now. Before I would have to try and find editors online to go over my work, and I didn’t always like their style, or agree with what they said. The editor I have now at my publisher is amazing, and working with her is a lot of fun.

What was it like seeing your books in print? I was on a book tour when Switched came out, so I got to see a lot of different covers, and a lot of different stores/displays, so that was a lot of fun.

What inspired you to write Switched? I had this idea to write a book about a changeling, and while I was doing research I came across some Scandinavian folklore about trolls that described them as beautiful, ill-tempered, intelligent creatures. I thought that sounded really interesting, and that’s how the whole series got started.

What are you currently working on? Right now I’m working on the last book in the Watersong series, which is a four book series. The first book, WAKE, is coming out this Summer.

What advice would you give budding novelists? I think the best advice I can give is to get a lot of advice. Before you start sending letters to agents, or throwing your book online, it’s good to know what you’re getting into, and what’s going to work the best for you.

This post was originally published on Oct 2, 2012

eBooks are awesome! Until the ebook reader breaks down

My Sony Pocket Reader nearly gave me a heart attack yesterday. I uploaded a couple of novels into my new, trusty Reader (alas, my old classic PRS505 broke when it fell to the hard, marble floor. sob) and then ... it went wonky.

The screen kept saying "Reading book...", and then it switched to the menu page, only to return to the "reading book" page. Over and over again. It refused to restart when I pressed a pin into the tiny reset hole, and it wouldn't switch off at all.

Fortunately, I found my answer in the MobileReads forum. Phew. My Reader is back to normal again. Looks like, despite it's 500MB space and ability to hold almost 500 books, the Reader just ends up slowing down and freezing up after I upload more than 80 books into the Reader. So much for technology!

The whole heart-stopping moment got me thinking about how reliable "dead tree" books are. It'll never malfunction, the data it holds will not suddenly crash one day without warning, and it's always, well, there. Books even survive a good soak in the rain (even if the pages are all crumpled up) and the data in the book will probably be there after a hundred years or more (if stored properly). I do hope they make the same eBook Reader batteries 100 years from now...

That's why I shudder at the thought of owning a purely eBook library. I mean, I do love eBooks and all, but I doubt it has the same kind of reliability as dead tree books. That's why my favourite books (which I reread again and again) are dead tree copies and those which I read and forget are in my Reader.