Savvy Business Move? Or Victim Of One’s Own Creation?

Amanda Hocking is at it again.  USA Today announces she will be publishing a print version of her Trylle trilogy through St. Martin’s Press beginning in 2012.  First, read her blog post and come back for my assessment: 

I honestly can’t say I didn’t see this coming.  On the surface, it sounds like a great deal.  Publish a print version of a popular self-published title, and get an option for a movie deal.  WooHoo!!!  Oh happy day!!!  It gives additional market exposure to the market beyond ebooks.  It can only be a win, right?

Here’s the thing about this that, in my opinion, is the problem. 

Through lots of hard work, Amanda Hocking became a self-publishing success story that also got to live every new writer’s dream…a multibook deal with a HUGE advance.  For those not keeping score, She made a deal for a $2,000,000 advance on a new four-book series with St. Martin’s Press.  So she gets to keep all of her current, and very popular ebooks on the market  in her control.  She also made another good move by only selling the World English rights to those books.  That allows her agent to be able to sell those four books again to foreign markets for even more money.  I don’t know the particulars on the electronic rights to those new books, but I expect St. Martin’s purchased those, as well.

That was the right deal to make with Big Pub.  Only selling new material while everything else that has built her audience can keep working for her.  She’s riding the gravy train with biscuit wheels!

She was bitten by the traditional publishing bug…enter this new deal.

This is very simple.  She is giving up rights to material that she, previously, could work have worked for her forever, and won’t return to her for probably (up to) seven years.  This is totally and completely contrary to the mentality needed in this new age of publishing.  Ms.  Hocking announced that e-book pricing will most likely go up when the St. Martin’s editions come out because of “overhead”.  Ok, for those of you that have published anything for the Kindle, how much overhead did you actually have?  What did you have to buy? 

Probably not a damn thing.  All of the software for formatting is available for free.  I, personally, have MS Word, which a lot of people use successfully, but I’ve recently found that OpenOffice (which is free) seems to do just as good of a job…maybe just a tad better since OpenOffice doesn’t insert the ridiculous amount of unnecessary code into .docs or .htmls that Word does.  GIMP is available for covers and there is no shortage of free public-domain photographs. 

In fact, the only upfront cost you should have for good, simple Kindle publishing is time.  But if you’ve been writing for a while, you’re already used to devoting time to your craft.

And on the subject of time, Ms. Hocking had another blog post some weeks back where she said: (and I’m paraphrasing here)  ‘I just want to write’.  Basically, with regards to her first big deal, she didn’t want to be bothered with the traditional publishing process.  There was no time for public appearances or any of that jazz.  She is a writer, dammit!

Evidently, she never spent time learning about the business of writing.  She is a high-profile author, and there will no doubt be a book tour to take up her time.  Interviews.  Meetings.  And yet she made another deal that involves a possible movie!  Ask Stephanie Meyers or J.K. Rowling how much of their writing time that took up?


We have self-published writer that makes a (very good) big deal with Big Pub that will take time away from the projects that have earned her the audience she has (an audience I would kill for, BTW).  She likes the taste of that enough to do another deal that has her giving up rights to some of her already published work.  Then they option a movie out of these books that will, also, be a significant investment of her time to make happen.  The prices of those ebooks will go up due to overhead and probably NOT net her any more profit than she would make selling them herself.  All of this, on the hopes of expanding her audience.

She will expand her audience…and give up time, money, and control of her work.

Back in the day, we used to call this; Selling Out.

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not wishing any bad voodoo on Ms. Hocking.  She IS a tremendous success, and we would do well to follow her example for self-promotion through social media.  To be fair, I’m speaking from an outside perspective.  I’ve not been faced with those opportunities, or had those decisions to make.  I would like to think that I would approach it differently if I were in that situation.  The money would be very, very hard to turn down (speaking of the second deal here…the first deal she made was a good one).  The whole point of what we, as writers, do is to sell our work.  But the changing world of publishing is taking control of the writer’s career away from a publishing establishment, that is still clinging to an archaic business model that has no hope of catching up, and putting back where it belongs…with the writer.

It’s up to us to keep it.


About Thomas J. rock

Writer of Science Fiction

Posted on May 9, 2011, in The Daily Grind and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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