Welcome to the fourth installment in the Amanda Hocking case study series, originally published in 2015, when I had been studying Hocking’s career in order to learn and share the steps she took that led her to her significant level of success in Kindle ebook publishing (and later, signing a traditional book deal with a “real” publisher).
Check out the first three posts in the series, right here:
How did Amanda Hocking choose her niche(s) on Kindle?
Hocking may have begun her writing adventure without a plan, but it was always an intense passion for her to write. She wrote The Trylle Trilogy in 2009, self-published on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform the following year. But how did she know where to begin? How did she choose her niche?
Choosing a profitable Kindle ebook niche: Vampires?
Hocking said that in April 2008, she decided to stop messing around. She went to Walmart to check out their bestsellers, which she noted made her work seem a bit dark and too full of angsty teens. But several of the novels that were the best-sellers at the time seemed to have a theme: vampires.
“There were 700 vampire novels,” she says, adding that she told her roommate that she liked vampires and figured she’d write a vampire novel.
She did – in 15 days, and “for good measure,” she says, she went ahead and wrote another. She submitted and queried publishers, but none were interested. She figured the vampire market was a bit too saturated, maybe, and decided to move on.
A change of course: Paranormal romance!
Ultimately, Hocking says, she decided that paranormal romance was her niche, and she ran with it. It was, after all, the one she loved.
She didn’t care that it wasn’t the most popular one – just that it was her favorite. So she did her research, a bit differently this time. She looked up a bunch of books in the genre to see what people were buying, and which ones they weren’t.
Writing her Wikipedia-inspired best-seller
Hocking says she came across a two-line passage on Wikipedia that contained a bit of Scandinavian lore. Those two lines, she writes, inspired her current best-seller, Switched. After that, she saw the Star Trek movie at the theater and came home to write the book. It took her a week to write the book, writing nine hours a day. She says her diet during the time consisted of ravioli, Red Bull, and Sweet tarts.
She finished and edited the book before submitting it to and querying agents. Some of them wanted the book at first, but ultimately rejected it. Still, those who’d read the script again took the time to offer some notes, which she took and used to again improve the script.
She queried again and was rejected again. But she kept working on the second book in the series because, she says, even if no one read it, she had to finish the series. She finished that one, too, and after editing it, gave it out to some beta readers.
The “zombie” phase and Ginger Clark
Around then, she says she began following Ginger Clark on Twitter and decided she liked her.
Clark began her career as an agent at Writers House and joined Curtis Brown in 2005. She represented Richard Kadrey, Tim Pratt, Patricia C. Wrede, and the estate of Ursula K. Le Guin, among others. (2021 update) Clark, who recently left her position as vice president at Curtis Brown to found her own agency, Ginger Clark Literary. She is joined by Nicole Eisenbraun (also formerly of Curtis Brown), as agent and translation rights manager.
One day Clark posted an article about the dystopian genre, noting that the sales were up and that zombie books were among the biggest hits with readers. Hocking says that was during her zombie phase, and she’d wanted to write a story about a girl who “kicked a lot of ass.”
That’s when she wrote Hollowland, which she says she did in 3 weeks.
Amanda Hocking on Rejection Burnout
After editing and revising and sending the books to beta readers before revising again, Hocking says she only queried about five agents this time.
“I was getting burnt out on being rejected,” Hocking says. “But these five agents rejected me again.”
Hocking says that after the last round of rejections, her roommate brought up his often-suggested idea of a Carrie-style novel. She finally gave in and wrote it. She entitled it Honalee and decided she wasn’t sending this one to the agents.
Next time, we’ll cover the next steps in Hocking’s journey from unknown writer to million-dollar Kindle author. Stay tuned!