You Say You Want a Revolution

“Oh, the internet is saying so many things about me,” says Amanda Hocking. And it’s not hard to see why. She’s never been published, and she’s selling her own books through Amazon’s Kindle store. Like, a lot of them. Like, over a hundred thousand a month, at this point. So, yeah. People are paying attention.

I think this is great. She seems very level-headed, down-to-earth, and really super nice, judging by her blog and her Huffington Post interview. It’d be hard not to be happy for her.

The backlash has, of course, already started. This is the Internet, after all. I’m seeing a ton of blog posts with titles like “The Very Rich Indie Writer,” “Is Amanda Hocking the New Christopher Paolini?” and the pretty much self-explanatory “Amanda Hocking Is The Exception, Not The Rule.”

You can just hear the haughty sniff of condescension in that last title, can’t you? Okay, sure, it says — there may be one writer out there who’s doing quite well at this whole indie writing lark, but don’t you go getting any ideas.

I remember what how the tune used to go on this one. They used to say the same kinds of things about J. A. Konrath — sure, he’s been wildly successful with self-published e-books, but he already had a successful career in traditional publishing and an established fan-base, so you couldn’t do it. Now, Hocking comes out of nowhere, and knocks that argument right out of the park, and people are still saying the same kind of thing.  Even Hocking herself makes roughly the same point:

“Everybody seems really excited about what I’m doing and how I’ve been so successful, and from what I’ve been able to understand, it’s because a lot of people think that they can replicate my success and what I’ve done. And while I do think I will not be the only one to do this – others will be as successful as I’ve been, some even more so – I don’t think it will happen that often.”

The majority of these posts are, I’m sure, quite well-intentioned. No one wants people to rush into indie publishing with an unrealistic set of expectations.  But some other comments I’ve seen seem way more like sour grapes to me.

The thing is, this is how it’s always been. There are always people out there telling you the odds are impossible, the amount of work is inconceivable, you’re just not going to make it.

But she’s not the only one who is making it. Robin Sullivan writes,

“I agree with [the] assessment that Amanda is an Outlier – but there are a number of success stories now in self-publishing even beyond her. John Locke has 7 books in the Amazon Top 100 including #1 Saving Rachel. D.B. Henson’s Deed to Death was self published and was picked up by one of the biggest agents in the world, Noah Lukeman – her book went to auction for an undisclosed some and will be releaed in July – Keep a watch on this one. H.P. Mallory got a six-figure two book deal after self-publishing her books. Michael J. Sullivan (my husband) got a 3-book six-figure deal from Orbit after doing a Paolini (my small press Ridan published his works). Victorine Lieskie has been on the top 100 for over 10 weeks. Nancy Cartwright has been on the top 100 for more than 100 days. J.A. Konrath has been posting guest blogs from many self-published authors and his own novel, The List has broke the top 20.”

Right now, if you look at the top 100 best-selling Kindle books on Amazon, about 40% of them are self-published. I’m sorry, but that’s a huge deal, a game-changer. This is not a few freak anamolies here and there. This is just the first few cracks in the dam.

I think all the nay-sayers are coming to the wrong conclusion about the growing buzz of excitement around Hocking’s success, and what it means for other indie writers. I know I’m not looking at her track record and thinking I could make millions (although that would be nice) — instead, I’m coming to the same conclusion as Kevin O. McLaughlin:

“For every one person who sells a 400k ebooks a month, there will be a few selling a hundred thousand or so, dozens who sell tens of thousands (and there are), and hundreds who sell a few thousand a month. Now, my odds, your odds, the odds of any one person becoming an overnight breakout superstar are pretty slim. But the odds of making it into those hundreds of successful writers selling in the thousands a month? That race isn’t about odds and chance so much as it is about elbow grease and hitting the keyboard [….E]ven a couple hundred sales a month would equate to some nice extra income. Even that would be a ‘success’, to some degree.”

He’s damn right it would. See, I’ve spent my entire life gradually, reluctantly coming to accept the fact that even if I managed to get published, the odds that I would be able to make even a modest living as a professional writer are vanishingly small. But now everything seems possible again, and I feel energized and alive and crackling with that possibility.

Time to get to work.