Amanda Hocking made a stir in 2011 when the press noticed that she had made nearly a million dollars in a year selling self-published ebooks. She later signed a multimillion-dollar contract with St. Martin’s Press for her wildly popular young adult romances.
Her bio has been covered in the publishing world, but as far as I can tell, no one has actually listed out some of the top book marketing tactics she did well, and so that’s what I want to do for you.
1. Write Good Stories
This should be obvious, but it may not be. Like many authors, Amanda Hocking’s “overnight success” was years in the making. She wrote bad books and then better books and then even better books. She learned the difference between writing literary fiction and writing story fiction, and she went for the story. I haven’t read her books, but I know that her fans read one and then another and then another. Enough said.
2. Write in a Popular Genre
No, she didn’t just say to herself, “Vampires and trolls are hot now. I think I’ll write that,” but she did choose to write in a genre, YA paranormal romance, with avid fans. Don’t follow the trends, because by the time your book is finished, the trends will have changed. But research the market. Observe who’s reading what. Pick your target audience and write to them.
3. Build Up Your Backlist
When someone finishes one of Amanda Hocking’s books, there’s another one in the same world or another world by the same author. She puts her head down and blazes through the writing. She finished her second vampire novel in 15 days. Independent publishing advocate Joe Konrath observes that for a fiction writer, your books are the best marketing tool for your books. If you’re thinking of going independent, it’s a good idea to have a backlist on hand before you start to market them.
4. Price to Sell
With an ebook, all of your production costs happen before the book is published: editing, cover and book design, formatting for ereaders. No paper, no printing, no storage. So you can sell the book for pretty much what you want. If you sell at a $.99, it might take more sales to cover the initial costs, but if you sell thousands more books, it might be worth your while.
Amanda Hocking prices the first book in her series at $.99, and the next books at $2.99. The $.99 is a throwaway, less than a cup of coffee, and people don’t mind taking a $.99 risk on a book they may not like. If they do like it, well, $2.99 for the next one is still an easily manageable price. I won’t say that pricing model works for all books, but it’s certainly worth taking a look at.
5. Have Conversations with Your Readers
When Amanda Hocking’s fans read her books, they feel that they know her as a person, someone they like, someone who likes them. She maintains an active blog (on Blogspot, no less, and as far as I can tell, she doesn’t even own her own name as a domain name) and uses Twitter and Facebook frequently. The price of this engagement — one that Amanda acknowledges herself — is that she has less time for writing. But it’s undeniable that it’s had an effect on building her fan base.
6. Connect with Book Bloggers
In a February 2011 blog post, Amanda Hocking talks about how much book bloggers did to promote her books in the early days when she was still a relative unknown. She sent out advance review copies to the bloggers who were a good fit, and the bloggers reviewed and sold her books. (See the point about writing a good story, above.)
7. Use the Opportunities on Goodreads
If you search on Goodreads, you’ll find events that Amanda Hocking is participating in, from Q&A sessions to panel discussions on self-publishing to announcements of the next book release. Be an active participant on reader forums that appeal to your target audience.
What Works for You?
Amanda Hocking herself is the first to point out that there is an element of the inscrutable about being a novelist who sells a million ebooks. In fact, she said so last March in a blog post that talks about some of the things she’s learned as a successful book marketer.
But the fact remains that she did her homework, produced books her readers love, and did a good job of marketing them. Are there any strategies here you can adapt for your books? Tell us in the comments which would be a good fit for you.