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Monday, April 30, 2012

How Am I Doing Now?

As I was self-publishing, I was always very transparent about what was happening, and I've tried to maintain that even with going with traditional publishing. I don't want to talk about more industry stuff all the time, because I think it can get boring and redundant and readers don't necessarily care about sales.

But it's been awhile since I talked about things, and I've had time to work with my publisher and see how things are and get an idea of how things are going. So I thought I'd give you an update.

Before I say that, I want to clarify one thing that some people still get confused on: I have two separate deals with St. Martin's. The one that happened first was for a brand new four-book deal (the Watersong series), and the deal that came a little bit later was a three-book deal to re-publish the previously self-published Trylle Trilogy. (To read older blogs about the Watersong deal: read here, and the Trylle deal, please read: here and here.)

As part of the deal with St. Martin's, I unpublished all three Trylle books last summer. That gave them time to be edited and build up proper steam for the re-release starting in January 2012. But by the time I un-published them, I'd already sold nearly a million copies of the trilogy.

So, when going forward with the deal, both my publisher and I knew that we'd already sold to a large part of our readers. Many people who would want to read the books already had, and while some of them might re-buy, a lot of them wouldn't. We both know that, and we both understood.

Still, we geared up for the release like they would any other books. In terms of the actual book, I've had input on every aspect of design - from the cover to editing to pricing to marketing. I've loved working with my editor, publicists, and every member of the team I've been in contact with St. Martin's. I've never accepted part of the process that I didn't like. I've still been able to be hands-on when I want to and need to, but without all the stress I've had before.

My publisher sent out an insane of amount ARCs to create early buzz. They worked with major retailers, like Wal-mart and Barnes & Noble to get placement, including many adds in important trade and book buying publications. There were also more ads aimed at readers, like a full page in the Hunger Games special edition of People magazine and commercials on MTV. They also set up a website for me and added some cool content there (www.worldofamandahocking.com)

Those were just things happening in the US. Overseas, Pan Macmillan has been doing a tremendous push with the English versions of my books as well. In the UK, they had posters for Switched set up in train stations all over. I know that in particular, Australia has run a very large campaign for my books, including giving out a copy of Switched with an edition of Dolly magazine (which I understand to be something like Teen magazine here in the US). But across the board, the promotion in the UK, Asia, India, South Africa, and Australia has been phenomenal.

To gear up for the publication of Switched in January, I did a small press tour. In the US, that meant appearing on Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show Anderson and on Erin Burnett's show on CNN, as well as several interviews for newspapers, radio, and blogs. They also got reviews from major review publications, like Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and the New York Times. My publisher set up a very cool meet and greet with local bloggers, and I did a book signing and reading.

After Switched came out, I went over to the UK and did press there, including a short interview on the BBC and a piece in The Guardian. I actually did a huge amount of press while I was there, for the UK, India, Asia, and Australia. I also got to do a couple book signings and talked at a school.



I'm not saying that I couldn't have gotten some or all of that press without my publisher - I'm sure that I would've been able to get some of that attention on my own as a self-publisher. But my publisher certainly did get me more than I would've gotten or at least would've thought to get on my own, and they organized it all for me. And the foreign press - I would've been completely lost with a publicist to help me navigate.

But in the end, as pleased I've been with my publisher, as much as I've enjoyed working with them, and as much marketing and publicity they've done, none of it really matters if the books aren't doing well.

So how are the books doing? I don't the exact sales on anything because it's harder to tally with paperbacks and through a publisher, but here's what I do know:

Switched came out January 3, 2012 with an initial print run of  about 200,000 books in the US, and it's in its fifth printing. Torn came out February 28, 2012, and I'm actually not sure of its initial print run, but it's in its third printing. In a recent email from editor, she said that books in series tend to lose momentum as the series goes on with sequels doing slightly worse than the original, but she said that has not been the case with my books. Torn was outselling Switched and doing really well. Ascend came out last week, and my editor told me that my first week sales are already double that of Torn.

Switched was on the New York Times Children's Paperback Books list for a total of 13 weeks, and Torn has been on for a total of 5 weeks. With Ascend out now, there are three books in a series, so none of the books will be eligible for the main Children's Paperback list and will instead be vying for a spot on the Children's Series list. Whether or not it will make, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

So far, my publisher is very happy and very excited about how the books are doing. As far as I can tell, they're doing about as well as they'd expected and hoped. The same goes for me. I wasn't really completely sure how well the books would do considering they'd already been self-published and already sold so many copies before, but I'm very pleased to with it.


Some people have been speculating that I'm not doing so well based on my Amazon rankings - which aren't terrible, but none of my books are in the Top 100 right now. They think this means that I'm not selling and the books must be doing poorly.

But one of the biggest reasons I went with a publisher is because I wanted to expand outside of the pool of Amazon readership. I know ebooks are continuing to grow, and I know that right now Amazon controls the largest share of ebook sales (they account for roughly 60% of my self-published ebook sales, with Barnes & Noble covering the vast majority of the other 40%).

And you cannot discount the fact that I sold nearly a million books copies of the Trylle books before I went with a publisher, and a large portion of those were through Amazon. I thought I'd already mostly tapped out the Amazon audience, so the fact that my books are doing as well as they are (Switched is ranked in the #1,000s of the Kindle store at the time of this writing, and Ascend is ranked #325) is impressive to me.

Books can't sell exponentially well forever. Sure, Stephanie Meyer and J. K. Rowling continue to sell really well, but they are in an entirely different stratosphere than I am. That's like comparing Coldplay to the Beatles. Or anybody to the Beatles. Just because I'm not doing as well as the Beatles does not mean I'm doing badly. They are the frickin Beatles. With exception of books like the Bible or Charles Dickens, eventually shelf time expires for every book. And I think we can all safely agree that Switched is neither the Bible nor A Tale of Two Cities.

My books are still being stocked readily at Wal-mart, Target, and Barnes & Noble. If books aren't selling, they quit stocking them, and they still are, so that's a very good sign.

I don't have any sales number on how the books are doing in the UK, India, Asia, South Africa, or Australia, but everything I've heard from my publishers there sounds very encouraging and they seem very pleased with how the books are doing.

And most importantly - at least to me - the reviews and the response to the new editions of the Trylle books have been very positive, more so than the original versions. That's thanks in part to copy editing (no misspelled or forgotten words), but I think it's more to do with the small but strong changes made with the overall content. Especially with Ascend. Readers seem to be enjoying it much more, and that's always been important to me.

Some of the changes made to the Trylle books were mine, some were my editor's, but I think the overall collaborative experience of me being able to bounce ideas of another person made the books stronger, smoother, and over all more fun for the readers. I am more willing to take chances and to try different things because I feel like I have a safety net in the form of my editor. That makes for a better quality of work overall, plus I feel less stressed.

So in conclusion - I have been very happy with the overall editing, packaging, marketing, and sales with both St. Martin's and Pan Macmillan for all three books in the Trylle series.

If you want to really judge on how I do with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, though, the Trylle books aren't really the best ones to look to for an example. Because I'd already tapped into such a huge portion of the audience, everything is a bit skewed.

What will really be interesting is to see how the Watersong books do. St. Martin's rolled out the carpet for the Trylle books, but I know they didn't give it all they have because they knew they couldn't completely recoup it. They were taking a chance that the books might not find an audience at all because they'd been previously published at a lower price. The marketing plan they have for Watersong is larger, and it's starting out without the million book deficit that the Trylle had.

Plus, I think the Watersong books are so stronger. Don't get me wrong - I love the Trylle books, particularly Torn and Ascend. But I think that Watersong has a more original concept, stronger female leads, tons of action, and plenty of romance.

But anyway - we'll see how it goes. I can only say that so far I am happy and am pleased with my decisions.

63 comments:

  1. YAYYY!!! Congratulations!! I'm glad you're doing so well and that your publisher is coming through for you!

    It's great to see and super inspiring. Thank you for keeping us in the loop :-)

    And being in the 5th printing of Switched is freakin' awesome!

    I hope you are able to enjoy the ride. You've earned it!

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  2. Oh this is so awesome to hear! I re-bought the St. Martin's Griffin editions and the print editions are absolutely gorgeous. And I can't wait to re-read them all.

    But I am super excited for WATERSONG. I love strong female MCs, action and romance.

    I mostly love seeing your books on the shelves in the stores. It's way cool.

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  3. That is amazing news! I bought both Torn and Ascend the first week they were both out and I can't wait for Watersong!!

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  4. Looking forward to Watersong. Good luck.

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  5. Bravo! Thanks for sharing the info as well. Beta readers, editors--feedback early and bouncing those ideas around--yup. All good. And it doesn't hurt to have some experience behind you either!

    Congrats!!!

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  6. Congratulations.

    Do you think you would've received the red carpet treatment at St. Martin's or that they would do as big a marketing and sales pitch as they have if you hadn't already laid the groundwork?

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    1. I can't say for certain that they wouldn't have - some debut authors do get the red carpet treatment. But I am inclined to think that the fact that I was already somewhat proven as an author and had a large readership had a lot to do with the way my deal with St. Martin's is going.

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  7. Great to hear an update! I'm looking forward to Watersong as well.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  8. You're doing us all a service by simply keeping us updated.

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  9. Was in B&N this weekend and saw a few of your books out on the tables. Way to go!

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  10. Well, I can tell you that India ❤ you! It's awesome that they're available here, I've re-bought them as well =)

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    1. Thank you! It's always fun to hear from readers in places like India and the Philippines! :)

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  11. Congrats to you. Sounds like things are going well and all your hard work is paying off.

    I picked up "Switched" when it first hit the stands at B&N and look forward to nabbing the second and third in the series.

    It's impressive what you have accomplished so far, and you're right, you may not be the Beatles, but they aren't the only band out there. :)

    I look forward to seeing you continue to succeed with your writing.
    It's truly inspirational.

    Shine on

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  12. When I read Switched as a self pubbed book, I didn't care for it that much. I recently read both books in the Hollowland Series and really really liked them. I was shocked at what a difference there was in not only the stories, but the main characters as well. This makes me very excited for the Watersong series. Especially when you say this "stronger female leads, tons of action, and plenty of romance." It sounds like the perfect book for me :D

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  13. I'm glad to hear it's going well for you. A lot of us "old timers" went the other way, from print publishing to ebook, due in no small part to the success of you and others who fearlessly ventured into the unknown first. I wish you continuing success and a great career ahead.

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  14. I just read an article about you saying basically that you'd fallen off the face of the earth since your print publishing deal, and were'nt doing well. I'm glad to hear that's not the case. Go get 'em!

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  15. You suck, Amanda Hocking!

    I’m joking and I’ll torture myself for saying that (don’t worry), because I practically worship you (not that much, I guess, but you get the idea).

    You’re the reason why I finished my book when I was about to give up. I never read Switched as an ebook, but I read in its paperback form (so as torn and ascend). I forced myself not to keep reading the books in one sitting because I need to write for myself, but if I’m not a writer, I’d finish the Trylle series in a day.

    I’m glad you’re doing well and I wish you all the success you deserve. BTW, you’re good in Asia.

    You rock, Amanda Hocking! … And roll :D

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  16. Congrats on all your success. Ignore the naysayers, nothing last forever, not even them. Can't wait for Watersong, or should I saw Wake?

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  17. Congratulations! I published my first eBook to the Kindle store on Monday, so I feel like I'm right at the start of a long, winding voyage which you've already undertaken.

    Any advice?

    Martin

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  18. I know you previously wrote a block about the final My Blood Approves book, but that seems like forever ago. I was wondering if anything has changed with it...

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  19. Very excited about the upcoming release of Watersong! I just sent my 2nd YA Fantasy off to the editor. Have one more book in the Mercer Legacy Series, then I'm on to something else too...not sure what, but I'm encouraged by your flexibility to write about different fantasy "races".

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  20. Thanks so much. I love your honesty and you truly encourage us Indie authors to take control of our destiny. Thanks again.

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  21. Amanda~You are a great success and inspiration, to young and old alike. I still remember the tingly feeling I got when I first saw you listed on the New York Times bestseller list. And your blog is always so engaging! Thank you for being a writer! Warm best~ els

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  22. Amanda~You are a great success and inspiration, to young and old alike. I still remember the tingly feeling I got when I first saw you listed on the New York Times bestseller list. And your blog is always so engaging! Thank you for being a writer! Warm best~ els

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  23. Amanda, thank you for your continued openness regarding your publishing experience. Congratulations on your success. You've worked hard and deserve all the rewards you're receiving!

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  24. Hi Amanda, so nice to read your update. It's a new world in publishing. You've paved a new road for those following in your footsteps. Yay you : )

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  25. Hi Amanda, so nice to read your update. It's a new world in publishing. You've paved a new road for those following in your footsteps. Yay you : )

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  26. Congratulations on the paperback sales!!! The covers have been GORGEOUS!!!

    Thanks for updating us on your progress...

    Lisa :)

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  27. Congratulations, Amanda. I've been wondering how things were going for you. Thanks for the update. I love your books. I hope you continue to do well.

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  28. Love the Beatles comparison! You rock!

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  29. Interesting blog post! Enjoyed hearing about your experiences with a publisher.

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  30. FYI, I came across Switched in very nice window display at a bookshop in Lisbon, Portugal, translated into Portuguese. I thought that was pretty cool. Here's a photo:

    http://kennethrosenberg.com/switched_portuguese.jpg

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  31. Yay, Amanda! I am so excited for you. I read your Trylle series when they first came out when you self-published. I am excited for your windfall and your great talents. I love your books and look forward to reading your newest series.

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  32. I forgot to tell you, I've read all of your books and enjoyed every one. Congratulations!

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  33. Amanda, this is my first introduction to your trilogy, congrats to you and for future projects, I have to pick them up. I love trilogies...I read the comments prior to this one and I'm fascinated by those who love your work.

    Would you suggest that a person start out with the ebooks or try to find an agent?

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  34. i hope i'm not being cheeky, but i wondered how traditional publishing and self publishing compare to each other money wise? thanks and congrats on your success and fun.. well the writing part is fun, i hope! XD

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  35. Fabulous update, thanks so much for sharing this!

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  36. Thanks so much for sharing, and for being so candid about what you've been going through with your 'new' publisher. May they continue to represent you well...

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  38. This is great to read, Amanda. Thanks for taking the time to give the particulars. I enjoyed the original trilogy, but read the edited versions when St. Martin's was kind enough to send them. I loved the changes. The ability to discuss work with someone who has a real stake in it is really different than working with a critique partner, and I love that part of the process. CPs may love our work, but no matter how much editorial experience they have, they can never be as critical as someone who is investing actual money and banking on a return. That extra incentive can push us past our comfort zones as writers and force us to grow faster. I believe it also draws out a quality of work we might never have reached on our own. For me, that's still the allure of traditional publishing. I'm glad you're having a positive experience!

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