Thanks for all the nice feedback and e-mails about Monday’s blog post on Amanda Hocking. There was so much, in fact, that I need to do a follow-up about the mistakes we make when we compare our potential for success with another’s. Some people see another author’s success as a door slamming shut on their own noses. These are people who believe Masnick’s Law (which comes from the music industry.) The idea is that only a certain band at a certain time had certain advantages that can’t be replicated. They came along at the right time or had just the right choice of sound, or the moon was in alignment with the stars etc.,….
In other words, if they make it, you won’t.
You might make it in a different way (Elvis ≠The Beatles) but if you have a great book, success can be yours. Amanda Hocking isn’t stopping you from succeeding. Not writing your book is keeping you from succeeding. (Not revising or hiring an editor, too.) Hocking took a machete and cut a path into the jungle. JA Konrath, Barry Eisler and many other authors who went the self-published way are forging ahead. When you see others succeed, take it as inspiration. Masnick’s Law isn’t a law. It’s a self-defeating fallacy.
Successful e-book author Amanda Hocking has signed a six-figure deal with a traditional publisher, St. Martin’s Press. No sooner was it announced, some haters emerged in website comments sections. I’m pleased to say that most people were happy for Ms. Hocking—as they should be—but of course there were some trolls, one of whom said she was a sell-out and a traitor to the digital revolution’s cause.
The haters are wrong about that and here’s why: Ms. Hocking got to be a big-time author because of e-books, but she never signed up to lead a revolution. She just signed up to get readers for her books. Good for her! The traditional publishing model is useful to big-time authors and due to her solitary efforts, she is a big-time author. The larger issue is that publishing often falls down when the author’s success does not qualify as stellar.
I don’t see that this deal speaks to the limits of self-publishing at all. The deal must have been sweet because, as I pointed out not more than a week or so ago, with her 70% cut through Amazon, publishers would have to back up a truck full of money and provide an army of logistical support to justify any deal with that author. St. Martin’s is one of the few publishers big enough to provide that scale of mucho macho mojo. Hocking tried to get published the traditional way first and mainstream publishing turned her down. She proved herself worthy doing it her way. Now she can focus more on writing and less on the business side of publishing. Writers love to write first, and most of us only become entrepreneurs by necessity and circumstance.
Look deeper into the implications of this deal. Amanda Hocking didn’t sell out. Traditional publishing did. Hemorrhaging money fuel due to Wall Street’s global economic destruction spree, publishers cut back on editors and squeezed the mid-list authors. They failed to adapt to the changing digital environment to preserve the old media model as long as possible. Many of those mid-list authors got squeezed right into self-publishing. For those with some experience and an entrepreneurial bent, the water over in digital publishing can be nice and warm.
Another author, Barry Eisler, recently walked away from a $500,000 deal because he decided he could make more on his own. Also, good for him. One of the joys of self-publishing is maintaining control and choice. Whether you choose to stay outside trad publishing or sign a contract, you’re making the best choices for you.
Amanda Hocking didn’t sell out. She made traditional publishing buy in.
(And she’s consistently more gracious about it than I would be. )