For anyone who’s read about books in the last year, you’ll know Amanda Hocking is something of a publishing phenomenon. And almost all off her own back. Hocking, a 27-year-old from Minnesota, has sold more than a million e-books by self-publishing via Amazon. Writing in the young adult fantasy genre about a teenage girl with special powers, she’s now got a regular book deal (reputed to be in the millions) and is releasing Switched, the first novel in her Trylle saga.
It must be quite odd – everyone talking about how much money you made from self-publishing and the size of your traditional book deal?
It’s strange. Just the fact that everybody knows how much money you’re making, no matter how much it is, is a little weird. That’s always the lead and then it’s like now let’s talk about the book and the book kind of gets forgotten. But I understand that’s what makes the story exciting. My story anyway. I sold books by writing a book that people liked and now to sell more books I have to tell how I sold books. It’s kind of silly.
What are the origins of Switched. Were you the kid who ran around defeating evil wizards?
Yeah, I definitely was that way. I was an only child – I have a brother now, but he’s fifteen years younger than me – and we lived out in the country and we didn’t have a lot of money and we didn’t have cable. So I was out running around, telling stories of monsters and dragons and I had my animals involved in it and stuff. That was my entertainment.
So when did you write the book?
I wrote [Switched] in late 2009, right after the Star Trek movie came out. I watched the Star Trek movie, then I wrote the book, then I watched the Star Trek movie again in the theatre. It has nothing to do with the book, but I was really inspired by [the film]. If you’re looking for a connection, there’s not one!
What’s the hardest thing about your sudden fame?
It seems like it’s come so easy to me. And that can be very frustrating. It was a very arduous journey and then it happened very quickly. Everybody’s only seeing the very quick part. It was a perfect storm of things. I had written a bunch of books in a popular genre, had a number of books in my back list and when I decided to self-publish there weren’t many other authors doing it. Now the market’s much more saturated. I priced my book low when there weren’t many other self-published authors. I think people were more willing to give a chance on an unknown author [if they’re paying a low price] and that got people reading it, talking about it and got more people to buy it.
Something right now in that genre is resonating with readers. Because it’s escapist fiction and life is being kind of dreary now when they’re talking about all these horrible things all the time. And people want to forget about it for a little bit and that’s what the book at its core is saying to people – it’s allowing them to forget their problems. That’s something that people are looking for right now.
And now Switched is becoming a movie?
I started talking to Terri Tatchell, who’s the co-writer of District 9 at the beginning of 2011. She came to me. She had read the books on her own and really enjoyed them. She’s changed some stuff around and every time there’s a big change, she’ll ask me. But she’s made a great movie and I’ve made no movies, so I think she knows what she’s doing. I hoped it would be a movie. I think a lot of authors hope that. Terri says the way I write transitions well to film, so…
There must be a lot of girls who want to do what you’ve done. What’s your top tip to them?
When you’ve finished writing, take time to think about it before you put it out. Because when you’re younger, your ego’s more fragile and people can be so cruel on the Internet. Make sure that it’s edited and polished before you put it out. If I had got self-published when I was younger, I think I might have gotten criticism and quit writing altogether and that would be sad. Ignore people if they’re mean. That’s my best advice.
Switched is out now. She’s currently working on the second book in a new saga called the Watersong series. The first instalment due out later this year.