The headline of this post almost sounds like the kind of catch line a hokey late-night-infomercial would use to prey on the unsuccessful. But somewhat amazingly, it is completely true. Amanda Hocking has become the #1 best-selling author in the Kindle store who doesn’t already have a traditional publishing deal. But she doesn’t need to take this success and shop her stories around to a brick-and-mortar publishers; she’s doing just fine on her own.
Amanda’s secret is that she writes lighthearted paranormal romances, editing them herself and posting them directly to the Kindle store for a measly $1 to $3 per book. She’s able to churn out a new one of these ‘popcorn paperbacks’ every month or two, keeping multiple series going at the same time and keeping her readers coming back for more. With no advertising beyond word-of-mouth, her book sales have been riding the Twilight/True Blood/Vampire Diaries teen romance novel wave to the tune of more than 100,000 sales a month. Given that Amazon only takes a 30% cut of Kindle sales, with very little overhead and no publisher or promoter to siphon away from her profits, Amanda banks hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. In cash.
While I personally get cavities just thinking about reading something so sweet and vapid (I tend towards historical fiction and nonfiction), I respect and admire the success this young author has attained. Stories like this get me excited, thinking that the internet is finally fulfilling its promise of freeing the creative artist from the burdens of traditional publishing and distribution. Perhaps Amanda Hocking is, in a way, the Mark Zuckerberg of vampire stories; a young wiz in her field able to harness the weaknesses of the internet-connected masses for financial success. But like Zuckerberg, her work will eventually entail more than just Zombie Bites. The frivolous will fund the game-changing, the regime-toppling, the revolutionary and the democratic. In the wake of Amanda’s stunning success, more young geniuses will follow, using direct digital distribution to share their vision without the oppression and censorship of the old, outdated system. Vampire love stories are only the beginning. Like in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, when the young and idealistic are able to share their vision, bigotry must eventually give way to something better. And in the end, the world will be a better place for it; both for the superficial consumer and for the responsible global citizen.