What can we learn from Amanda Hocking?

by Smartie on July 12, 2011

The story of Amanda Hocking's literary rise reads almost like The Little Engine That Could

I have been pretty transfixed by Amanda Hocking, the young woman who made a million bucks by self-publishing her ebooks and then landed a traditional publishing contract with an advance of double that amount.

If you read her backstory, she’s like the little engine that could. And she most certainly DID. On her blog, she is pretty open about how she got from working a minimum wage job to being the breakout story of the year in the literary world.

While Amanda’s story is unique, I am searching for the “ah ha” moment to extrapolate from it. She doesn’t owe it all to Twitter or Facebook — in fact she has said she is not very good at keeping up with either of those social networks. She mentions being involved in some online forums, but it sounds like she was in these forums well before she began selling her work.

There seem to be two things that she points to as instrumental for her success: her fans, and book bloggers.

Book bloggers. Not the New York Times Book Review. Not Kirkus.

Fans. The people who gave her 5 enthusiastic stars on Amazon, who gladly downloaded the next book in the series, who told all their friends about her, who left supportive messages on her blog.

And about that blog. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the online marketers insist you need for success. It’s a Blogspot domain, with a generic design.

She’s very warm and completely approachable on her blog. Charmingly self-depracating. While she doesn’t respond to her fans in the comments, everything she writes is clearly for them. Often it’s pretty mundane.

She also includes a chapter of each of her books. It’s a little tease for the reader. She pulls the reader into the story. Then a link brings you to an Amazon page where you can purchase for less than a cup of coffee. She has taken away a lot of the risk people feel when trying something new.

Yes, her pricing is very low. Ninety-nine cents for the first book in a series, and then something like $2.50 for subsequent books in the same series. It’s a model that almost mimics the old dime store novels. A serialized story that is inexpensive enough for fans to keep on purchasing.

So what are our takeaways? Honestly, I am not so sure. It’s hard to excerpt a theater piece on a blog, and there are a few more barriers to entry than a link to an Amazon page. But I think the focus on the relationship with her fans is important, with the book bloggers running a close second.

So, guys, what’s your take on this?


Trisha Mead July 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

It sounds to me like Amanda got her social media exactly right. Only she chose the SM that was the right target for books- the blogosphere. People who like to read long form gravitate to blogs over short form. And in that forum, content is king. Her free content (on the blog) successfully teased her extremely cheap paid content, and, even better, she was reaching people who already like to read things on their computers, making the e-book sale a natural fit.

More importantly, she let her fans do her advocating on social media for her. Often it is not what you say on social media, but what you can inspire others to say, that has the real impact.

Dave Charest July 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Looks like there’s a passionate audience for the what she does and she did the work. Add the relationship with fans and book bloggers recommending her books and bam!

Sounds like she also takes her work very seriously. She’s always editing and trying to get better.

I’m not sure you can relate it to theater because the demand isn’t the same.

Fernanda Langa March 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Its refreshing to look at a story of success that doesn’t involve a series of steps to get there. Amanda did it her way, and it proves that there is no “recipe” or a “right way” to use social media or to brand yourself. Does anyone else agree or do you think she just got lucky?

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