I Like Amanda Hocking

She just seems so darn sensible, that’s why. For example, when she talks about why, even after she made a name for herself self-publishing electronically, she took a $2 million advance from St. Martin’s Press for an upcoming book series, over on her blog. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but what it boils down to is that she wants to make it easier to for readers to find her work and for her to focus on what she really likes doing, which is writing (as opposed to everything else).

And of course that’s very sensible. It also touches on much of what I addressed, rather more satirically, a year ago in “Why In Fact Publishing Will Not Go Away Anytime Soon,” — that publishers exists in no small part because they do the rest of the stuff involved in getting one’s work to readers, letting writers write. Which is something I’m for, personally. I mean, I think about all the stuff I want to write but may never get to, just because life is too damn short; if I have to throw in managing every step of the book production process, that’ll just mean even less stuff I get to write. Like Ms. Hocking, I like some of the stuff — I’m pretty engaged in marketing and PR — but other things that are necessary? Meh. I’m happy to let someone else do them.

There is one plaintive note Ms. Hocking put into the entry, in talking to her readers (and other interested folks) about her deal:

…it is crazy that we live in a time that I have to justify taking a seven-figure a publishing deal with St. Martin’s. Ten years ago, nobody would question this. Now everybody is.

I don’t question it; it makes sense to me. Ms. Hocking wants to focus on writing. Hopefully, this deal will let her do that. Good for her, and good luck to her on that.

54 Comments on “I Like Amanda Hocking”

  1. John, perhaps you can answer one question that I have after reading about the Eisler kerfuffle: do the publishing deals you know about really specify such a high percentage of electronic rights? And do publishers generally insist on both paper and digital rights being part of the deal?

  2. Yeah I don’t think she needs to justify it at all. And you’re right, she does seem quite sensible.

    I’m intrigued by how, as more books become published in electronic form, the entire discovery process will happen and especially what innovation will happen around this. For known authors, I imagine we’ll see a world quite similar to what we have now where reviews and PR is done, they’re featured on bookseller websites, etc. I wonder, though, whether authors will ever feel the need not to sign with a major publisher just to make it easier for readers to find their books since that would imply the rise of alternate methods of discovery.

    I have a gut feeling that there can be a lot of innovation around the midlist and lesser known authors and how they can be promoted and discovered first. Those are the people for whom a publishing deal seems less likely to result in Hocking levels of exposure – there’s still an advantage there, but are there alternatives that could be as lucrative or more so for small press, midlist and other authors? For example, since getting my Nook Color, I’ve bought several titles straight off the Big Idea links. In the past, I’d have thought “Oh, I should look for that next time I’m at the bookstore” but would usually forget about the book. I’ve also picked up books off my Goodreads emails (they send out ‘new releases by authors on your shelves’ emails). Most of those sales probably wouldn’t have been made had I not had an ereader.

    In the long term (30+ years) I think publishing will look quite different as the population of adults becomes those people who’ve simply grown up in a digital first world.* The trip from here to there should be very interesting.

    *BTW, there’s an interesting Tumblr post and while it’s mostly about iPads, I thought this passage was telling:

    Everyone in my class [rick: he’s in 8th grade] has an Android phone or an iPhone. One of my friends, again, not a tech nerd, had the Droid within 2 months of it being released and had the Verizon iPhone the day after it came out.

    Now, this could be an upper middle class school etc… but think of that. A class full of 13 and 14 year olds ALL of whom have smartphones. In a decade that will be the norm for virtually all of that age bracket. That’s why I think that as those kids and their younger siblings grow up to be adults we’ll see a different world. Not one where there’s nothing like traditional publishing, but certainly one that’s changed from what we have now.

  3. Rick:

    I think it’s more that she feels she has to justify it to people who have made her an exemplar of sticking it to traditional publishers, although it does seem that’s the pedestal they put her on, not one she climbed up on herself.

    I’m absolutely certain publishing will look different three decades from now; it looks vastly different from three decades ago, although in ways that aren’t directly related to personal technology.

    Brian B:

    At this point, yes, most publishers want both print and electronic rights.

  4. I agree completely. She seems to really have her head on straight. Even if, as she suggests, she loses money on each book she publishes with St. Martins (compared to her self published earnings), it still might be worth it because the additional visibility should equate to additional readers, boosting all her self published books, too.

    The woman is writing and publishing at a rate of about a half dozen books a year. ;) If she sends one to St. Martins per year, she’s still got another five or so books to self publish. Per year. Every year. She’s got an incredible work ethic, and that’s going to make this work for her in ways that most writers wouldn’t be able to, using the marketing effort St. Martin’s channels into her name to boost the sales of her entire line of books.

    Her blog post implies that she’s doing this for all the right reasons, with a good set of plans in mind. She seems like a *really* smart young lady.

  5. “she took a $2 million advance from St. Martin’s Press…” *low whistle*
    That, ladies and gentleman, is what we call crushing the curve.

  6. John – yeah, some people can’t seem to accept that the new and old can coexist and even interact in interesting ways. The entire “stick it to the man” thing just… bores me. Hocking is making a smart career move and more people will discover and read her stories and financial issues aside, what author doesn’t want more people to be able to read what they write?

  7. Good for her – it’s what works best in getting her work out, and now leaving her with the leisure to allocate a larger portion of her time writing.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong John but this is a “I’ll be buying the next round” deal? =D

    Congratulations to Ms. Hocking.

  9. I have been both traditionally published (3 books with Ten Speed Press) and self-published (1 book and 2 more this year). I have made more self-publishing, but I readily admit that I am in a niche of a niche. Also and importantly, most self-publishing experts strongly recommend doing so with non-fiction only. Fiction is a greater challenge.

    I should also mention that I make more because I have a website with much content on my topic.

  10. I remember reading a story about Linus Torvalds (the guy who wrote the Linux Kernel). Back in the day, RedHat made money selling linux and selling service support for linux and decided to hire Linus and give him a bunch of stock options. Linus decided to sell off a bunch of his stock. A whole bunch of people were mad at him for doing that, basically saying that he had sold out the cause. And the interview with Linus was him telling the story where he had the realization that it was his money and he shouldn’t be taking financial advice from people as to how he is legitimately allowed to pay for groceries and his car.

  11. Gee, none of my publishers ever sent me flowers and chocolates. Bookmarks, yeah. But never flowers and chocolates. For the nonfiction book I co-wrote I got a copy of the book with, like, ribbons and streamers on it.

    I’m jealous. I want flowers and chocolates. (Okay. I’ll take the $2 million, too).

  12. The best thing about Ms. Hocking’s success is that she earned it. Without pissing on anyone’s shoes.

    You, GO, girl!!!

  13. Yes, she’s just so smart and articulate, it’s great. And apparently, there are a lot of people who believe that publishing contracts control e-rights forever and steal authors’ money and possibly involve whips and chains. ????

    #1: Publishing contracts usually included electronic rights (often called database or information storage rights back in the day) automatically as part of the usual license. That’s because no one was really exploiting these rights ever, so if some oblique use did come up, it made sense for the publisher to have them. But in the 1980’s and 1990’s, electronic rights became more of an issue. Publishers wanted to keep having them as part of the book license and some authors wanted to keep them since a market might develop for them, and briefly did. So sometimes there were negotiations concerning the rights and sometimes authors kept them. Enter the oughts and an increased interest in really growing an e-book market. Enter the Kindle and the e-book market exploding. So that’s again part of the reason some things e-book consumers want are taking so long — authors and agents are negotiating with publishers, print and electronic, about the rights, the royalties, etc. and renegotiating old contracts, because the old contracts just don’t really work if the publishers are putting out an electronic format regularly. I asked a panel of agents last summer if these negotiations on electronic rights had started to get standardized yet, and their answer was that every deal is still different with regards to electronic rights. And this makes sense as different authors are going to want to do different things about those rights. For the majority of fiction writers working with a publisher, letting them be able to do an e-book too is usually in the author’s interest. But royalties and terms — that’s up in the air.

  14. It just goes to show that even self-published writers can write well. The stigma is fading.

  15. GOOD for HER… Smart lady and John..

    you keep doing what your DOING..

    we like the YOU in here…

    Verses you NOT here…

  16. I wouldn’t be surprised to see publishers stick around at the high end, after all when you are pulling down $2megabuck advances you can afford to pay someone to do your scut work. Also at that point the author has enough of a market to drive a good bargain for yourself.

    The question is more about the low and middle end value proposition. As the bookstores die off and the control publishers have over product placement and promotion shifts to marketplace vendors, you got to wonder whether an author s not better off dealing directly with the marketplace. It’s the promotion and marketing that is key I think, whomever can make a better case there is the one the author should go with.

  17. Are people hating on her for taking this deal? Why?

    Correct me if I’m wrong but, given her situation, can’t her agent pretty much dictate terms to the publisher? Is there any reason to believe they haven’t done exactly that?

  18. I’ll misappropriate the low-comment topic here with a sliiiightly related one… I just finished OMW, Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony, right in a row. Thank you for those! The Last Colony was the best of the bunch, IMHO, and screw anybody who doesn’t like the ending – I thought it was great.

    Anyhow, I bought the first one in dead-tree format from B&N, one via Google Books, and one via the Amazon Kindle reader for android phones. Why? Because OMW was on my amazon wishlist due to an Instapundit recommendation. (or was it Boingboing? I forget, but probably Insta), and I like a book to read at lunch. The Ghost Brigades was through google books because I couldn’t wait to go to the store for it, and Colony via amazon because a) Google Books didn’t make it available for some reason, and b) google charged me sales tax, and Amazon does not.

    Maybe that’s topical enough in a post about e-publishing vs. dead-tree to mask the fact that I really just wanted to say thanks, and I loved the series? Good.

    Thanks! I loved all three!

  19. I think she made a smart decision–her self-published ebook sales should bolster her traditionally-published books, and vice versa.

    She may be kidding herself about it being a time savings, though. One of the reasons Barry Eisler turned down a traditional publishing contract in favor of self-publishing was that he wanted to spend more time writing:

    “I think you’ll see me writing a bit more in my new self-published capacity. And not just because I’m motivated. It’s also because, contrary to conventional wisdom, in my experience publishers don’t actually save you much time on the marketing front.”

    From http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebooks-and-self-publishing-dialog.html

  20. Sensible is, indeed, the word I thought of when i read Hocking’s blog, and more power to her.

    But let me point out something. If you get a 2 million dollar advance, then yes, the house is going to be doing a lot of promo work for you, giving you time to write.

    If you’ve got a 15,000 dollar advance, or a 10,000 dollar advance, or even one of the depressingly common 5,000 dollar advances, then you’re still going to be expected to do a lot of that on your own, out of your writing time, and out of your own pocket. And then you’re most likely going to get dropped anyway. An awful lot of the people who were in my “freshman class,” as it were, had this experience, which is why a lot of us are going the indie route now.

  21. Recently I had the experience that when I tried to buy a trilogy by one of my favourite Canadian authors in ebook format, I was unable to find a way to buy the 2nd book in the series. This was due to the fact that ebook sales are region-based and for whatever stupid reason, the 2nd book didn’t have rights in Canada, but did in the USA. I have not bought any of Amanda Hocking’s books yet because I am wary of the rigmarole I will have to go through to a) legally buy them and b) convert them to a format readable by my Sony reader. Do I really have to go to the extent of faking my IP address? Or finding a torrent of the book and sending money directly to the author (beyond being the honourable thing to do, I would really like to support authors whose books I read)?

    The ebook industry is still in its infancy, so it’s really no wonder at all that she would take the opportunity of traditional publishing in order to reach more readers, especially considering it’s a reasonably lucrative deal as such things go.

  22. @21: Tony Dye: “google charged me sales tax, and Amazon does not. ” But legally you still owe it since I suspect your state also has a Use Tax.

  23. @25 Michael:
    to the state.
    Looking at the law, I see you’re right! However, I find myself singularly unmotivated to record my Amazon purchases and report them to the state.

  24. Sensible, indeed. And from a credible source, which always helps.

    On another point, @27 Tony Dye: Well, that technically makes you guilty of tax fraud, which is fine, though not necessarily something to be proud of.

  25. I guess it puts me in a class of people that tracks closely with another class, called “Amazon Customers”. Since they don’t charge sales tax anywhere except Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, and Washington, that’s a very large class indeed.

    Also, I sometimes drive faster than the posted limit.

  26. Ok, I’m gonna have to break down and get a Kindle-thing, because I am SO out of bookshelf space and I’m probably not going to stop buying books. And since I buy a lot from used bookstores, the bookshelf problem will only get worse anyhow. A few years back I actually rented a second studio apt for the overflow and IT’S FULL TOO. Are there 12-steps groups for this? There oughta be…

    Anyhow, what Hocking has done makes total sense: get a strong reader base, and then publishers know you’re saleable, and one of them may be persuaded to give you a $2 million advance. What I don’t get is why anybody questions this. I also don’t understand when she has time to blog. Does this woman not sleep?

  27. I like her, too. She seems sensible and down-to-earth. I hope she gets everything she wants out of this deal, because she’s paid her dues.

    TK Kenyon

  28. If none of you have tried her fiction, just her blog, you should try a bit of the fiction. (At 99 cents, why not?) She’s got that nice clear down to earth style that’s visible in her blog, but she’s also got a storytelling knack that absolutely rocks. I took a look just to see what it was that was selling so well, over lunch, one working day, and that was it for the day; only quit reading because I was too hungry to continue, and it was past dark.

    She’s one of those fiction writers who causes discerning readers to say, “Well, you know, it’s not great literature, but …”

    I think she’d’ve been a phenom no matter what door she came through or in what decade.

  29. Michael @20: A lot of people put her on a pedestal as an exemplar of the heroic lone writer sticking it to the man, tearing down the edifice of traditional pubishing, blazing the way for the bright new e-book future, etc. etc. (Hence the bingo square.) As Scalzi notes, this isn’t a role Ms. Hocking ever seems to have assumed, and now there are going to be people upset that she is following her own script instead of theirs.

    Rick @2: Yes, those are rather well-off kids. A new iPhone at the low end costs $200 just for the phone itself, plus the cost of the contract (which probably means an additional line on the parents’ plan), plus the cost of the data, plus incidental fees like insurance for the phone. And then consider that the kids are probably not all only children, which means siblings who are also going to have iPhones. I suppose it’s possible that in the poorer corners of Palo Alto that parents are living on ramen and selling their plasma to afford smartphones for their children, but really, when you’re talking about every single kid in a class having an iPhone or an Android phone, this is not the tech revolution, this is “the children of wealthy people having the latest new gizmo”.

    I can’t imagine any reason publishing wouldn’t change in 30+ years. But I think it’s a mistake to assume it’s going to be some kind of Old Oolithic Period straight-line progression, where everybody ditches their obsolete dead-tree reading matter for the bright new digital future.

  30. Everyone seems to be taking this story at face value, and that’s great and wonderful and everything. But I’m reading claims from some sources that she’s moved 900,000 copies of her book, most of which are apparently e-versions, and that’s not really passing the smell test for someone who’s website (which has a counter that counts every page as a separate hit, meaning repeat visitors or someone that read all 250 of her posts count as separate hits) still hasn’t hit 800,000, and that’s after the media began covering her as a darling of the new publishing age. She has a “rabid fanbase”, but only 5000 twitter followers, 1000 of which came in the week before March 3 according to her blog, and 5,500 people “liking” her on Facebook. My local (rather small) newspaper has more Facebook fans than that. Warren Ellis, a comic book writer who has monthly titles that only sell around 4,000 copies, has over 400,000 twitter followers. Her numbers are positively anemic for someone that says she’s “been active on social networks and blogs for years”, claims to enjoy her marketing efforts and proudly includes Facebook and Twitter in her efforts.

    USA Today says she sold 450,000 copies of her 9 books in January alone. The Austin Daily Herald has her selling 25,000 copies “in mid-October”, then say that this week she broke over 1,030,000. In January Huffington Post says that “Since self-publishing eight of those books in April 2010, she’s sold over 185,000 copies, making her indie publishing’s latest star. ” And that 185,000 figure came straight from her in the interview! Novelr did a piece in February saying she sells over 100,000 copies a month. She says May was the last month she sold less than 1000 copies, so we have 183,000 copies between June 2010 and January 4, 2011, followed by 450,000 copies in January, then depending on your news source, she sold between 165,000 and 395,000 (huge differences) between February 1 and March 23 despite ever mounting media coverage? There’s just no way she could have been selling 25,000 to 50,000 copies in October, but only totaling all her book sales at 185,000 in January, selling 450,000 in January, selling over 100,000 per month by the end of February, and only selling between 165,000 and 395,000 (still huge differences) in the combined month of February and first three weeks of March. Those figures just don’t correspond to media attention and her publishing schedule. The sales figures that are getting quoted for various months have to be outliers just to make the sales in other months add up and anyone with 15 minutes can probably dig up sources for her sales records in those months I didn’t cover.

    I’m not saying she’s not moving units, but I am suggesting that maybe the numbers that sold her to “the big guys” are all over the place, self-reported and self-inflated. The numbers just don’t seem to work.

    None of her books were in the top 100 ebooks at B&N when I just checked (but maybe I did it wrong, corrections accepted), and she had a few books on Amazon’s kindle top 100, peaking at 26, and, again, that’s AFTER the media coverage she’s received this week.

    Reviews on Amazon fall into three camps: it’s wonderful and the best thing ever, it’s fluff but cheap, and it’s poorly edited Twilight/Vampire Diaries/Buffy fanfic.

  31. Another way of putting it would be that publishers provide an abstraction layer that allows writers to write without having to deal with all the other hassles not related to writing, that are “abstracted away” by the publisher.

    This phenomenon is not unique to writers and publishers; Joel Spolsky has written about the concept of “abstraction” as it relates to software developers and their management. He even applied the concept to singers and their record companies. His article is worth reading, to see how much of it might apply to writers.

    Yes, there will be writers who can succeed on their own with self-publishing, just as there are developers who get by today as one-man shops that produce good products. But not all of them can. That abstraction layer can be important.

  32. The Pragmatist: Pretty sure her new publisher wouldn’t be so stupid as to give her $2m without verifying her sales numbers.

    Everyone else: I heartily agree that Ms. Hocking has paid her dues. I don’t think her reasons for going with the publishers are what she says they are — the whole “now I can focus on my writing, and let the publishers do what they’re good at!” I think it was more like, “Holy crap! These people are going to give me $2,000,000!!!” And then she added the justification later, because let’s face it, our society doesn’t have a lot of respect for their propped up heroes going for the easy money.

    She did stick it to the Man, and she’s continuing to stick it to the Man. The legacy publishers ignored her, and so she built her own career, and now they’ve gone, hat in hand, courting her favor. I don’t believe she would’ve broken thing in any other generation because she’s such a phenomena — I think she’s a clear example of the kinds of writers that have been falling through the cracks for the last thirty years as the barriers to entry into legacy publishing have gotten higher and higher.

    In short: You go, Ms. Hocking! Taking that fat check makes you more of an inspiration, not less.

  33. People believe hype… even people who write $2,000,000 checks. There’s no reason to believe her publisher verified her numbers… they could be going on buzz-capture altogether!

    Not everyone is a rational actor.

  34. Tony @38: There’s every reason to believer her publisher verified her numbers. Why wouldn’t it? Publishing is a business.

  35. Hah! Sure, it’s a business. Moviemaking is also a business, but Ishtar still got released. PC gaming is a business, but they still released Thor: God of Thunder. The music industry is a business, but somebody gave a recording contract to Leah Kauffman.

    Businesses are not run by logic bots – they’re run by people, people who play hunches, take risks, and otherwise do things not considered ‘rational’. Sometimes they work out (Apple) and sometimes they don’t (pets.com). There certainly is not “every reason” to believe the publisher did anything rational at all. I’m sure the shareholders would mostly like to think a $2m advance for this author is ‘rational’, but then again some of them might prefer the publisher take a risk and see if the hype will translate into dollars.

  36. @Tony: Movie producers are irrational, yet Avatar got made. Oh wait….

    Even decision-bots can’t see the future, and a perfectly logical decision can turn out poorly. Sometimes people are irrational. I’m just not following the argument that we ought to assume this wad OMG HYPE DO WANT just because there was a lot of money.

    Hocking is, after all, writing in a well-selling genre, she has a following, and she’s got an experienced agent who got multiple bids for her work.

  37. No, I agree with you. I’m only saying that we can’t know – the fact that she got a big advance could be a hard-nosed business decision, or it could be buzz, or some combination of the two.

  38. Or some third thing! We just can’t know. Hell, even if the publisher explained it to us, we still can’t know… there’s no reason to believe any statement they might release. ;)

  39. Yes, the publishers would have verified her numbers because it’s quite easy to do — most of her sales have been through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, who are on BookScan, which calculates all the sales of the big vendors. And then based on those estimates and their usual sales channels, etc., they are estimating that she’d earn $2 million in royalties for a series published with them, which is $500,000 per book over time. Lower level bestsellers get that sort of advance, so St. Martin’s is hardly risking the bank on it, especially given that YA titles will sell for years. She will not get the $2 mil all at once but in installments over the next few years while she writes the books. She’s already earned over a million on her own, so this is not a matter of grabbing a big fat check. Back last year, from entries in her blog before her sales blew up, she was talking about concentrating on her writing, and the perils and pluses of a print deal, so quite obviously this has always been an issue, as it is for many writers. And in December, when her sales really took off but before she became a media darling, she got an offer from a publishing company, which she decided to turn down at that point. She said this:

    “I know how disappointing and upsetting it was to some readers. Most were very supportive and understanding. But doing everything that I do – marketing, editing, writing, making covers, etc – is exhausting. I am exhausted. And it takes away from my time and ability to write books. So when somebody offered to share the load with me, I had to at least listen….Eventually, I decided the offer was not in the best interest of myself, my books, or the readers. I won’t go into it, because it’s a private thing. But the fact that I would have to hold off on releasing Ascend did factor into my decision. But I can’t do everything everybody wants me to do all the time….I have a finite amount of time in this life, and it frustrates as much as it does you.”

    It’s not terribly surprising to learn that the media are pulling sales numbers out of their asses. Best estimates without BookScan are that she’s sold around 500,000 copies of nine books, not 900,000. And the sales have largely occurred, as they do in fiction, through word of mouth and word of mouth from Net reviews. Twitter and Facebook are not a major engine of sales — most readers of a book never go to an author’s Facebook or Twitter account or even website, so how many followers she has is largely irrelevant. Apparently, for the first couple of months she had books on sale, she sold around 700 copies. She got some reviews and her sales jumped to several thousand a month. And then it got larger each month as word of mouth spread, and then in December, her books became a very popular Christmas gift for the younger set and sales went nova into the hundreds of thousands. This is not the first time that this kind of thing has happened in fiction publishing. It happens frequently. And little Amanda Hocking with her self-publishing for two major vendors could no more pull the wool over a big conglomerate publisher’s eyes than she could fly without an airplane. She got her deal fair and square and she’s taking a big risk doing it.

    Ben Trafford: “as the barriers to entry into legacy publishing have gotten higher and higher.” — Publishers have never been able to nor had any interest in barring authors from entry into the marketplace. But they can’t publish everybody and they never could. They have to pick their shots, the books out of the ones they receive that they think they can sell that work for their lists. Bookstores can’t carry every book published, and so the bigger ones do favor books from large houses that can give them favorable terms, reliable returns and co-op advertising money. But they also have carried self-published and small press books always. And Amazon has been a sales platform for self-published books for most of its existence. Self-publishing makes the book market bigger and does utterly no harm to publishers whatsoever. It’s quite often a resource for them, rescuing books they missed, drawing in readers and offering reprint opportunities. There is no Man, and no one is sticking the publishers by self-publishing. I don’t know why people want to see fiction publishing as some sort of war zone, but that attitude has certainly been a confusing and troubling one for authors, published and self-published, to have to deal with. I’m sorry Hocking has had to deal with it, but she seems to be a very poised person, so she’ll be fine.

  40. Pragmatist@35:I’m not saying she’s not moving units, but I am suggesting that maybe the numbers that sold her to “the big guys” are all over the place, self-reported and self-inflated. The numbers just don’t seem to work.

    I don’t get your motivation for a rather long post that seems to do nothing other than suggest that maybe she didn’t deserve getting the advance she got. Determining how much she deserved to get is like determining how much a rare painting is worth: it’s worth how much someone is willing to pay for it.

    Tony@38: People believe hype… even people who write $2,000,000 checks. There’s no reason to believe her publisher verified her numbers… they could be going on buzz-capture altogether! Not everyone is a rational actor.

    Same thing.

    Is there some strange desire for some folks to “take her down a notch” that I’m just not understanding?

    Cause, really, even if the publisher paid two million without doing the least bit of research, how does that negatively impact anyone else?

  41. Greg@45: I think that there’s a certain value in what Tony’s saying, without any particular reference to Ms. Hocking. I’ve noticed that people are surprisingly willing to believe that any activity taken by J. Random Company is, of course, a well-founded, well-researched, pragmatic decision. That doesn’t align with my experience working in the business world, and I think that it’s good to occasionally remind people that corporations make all sorts of ill-considered, senseless, irrational decisions, all the time. (They also do make the aforementioned well-founded decisions, of course, just not to the exclusion of all else).

    Just purely in service of keeping people’s mental models of the world in some approximation of reality.

    I say this with the best will in the world towards Ms. Hocking, and without any agenda to undermine her success. I don’t know a lot about her, but she seems deserving, appealing, and genuine in the few of her blog posts I’ve read.

  42. Geg @45: “Is there some strange desire for some folks to “take her down a notch” that I’m just not understanding?”

    It’s similar to the way people put celebs up on Hollywood pedestals, just to take pot shots at them. People seem to have a visceral response to others succeeding in a public way, and maybe don’t even realize they’re doing it. It’s why gossip mags are so popular. Sort of a “What, you think you’re special?” kind of attitude. Unfortunately, it’s that attitude that stops a lot of young people from just TRYING in the arts, when they see adults taking shots at successful people in the arts.

  43. Michael@46: I’ve noticed that people are surprisingly willing to believe that any activity taken by J. Random Company is, of course, a well-founded, well-researched, pragmatic decision.

    Even if J. Random Company, in a drunken stuper, decided “I’m goign to pay 2 million for a book today from Jane Q Public, and I usually sell plumbing supplies”, I guess the question that keeps coming up for me is, “who cares?”

    When an author sells a book to a publisher, the standard reply for me is something to the effect of “Hey, that is awesome! Congratulations!” not “I’m sure you lied about how good it was to the publisher and they paid you far more than it was worth”.

    Certainly publishers sometimes pay more in an advance than they make back in sales. And then they have to eat the difference. But that’s far and away different than someone strongly hinting that this particular book/author is about to become the next “A million little pieces” by James Fray.

    I mean, first of all, no one has any idea if the publisher will make back the advance or not. They seem to think they will, and are willing to wager 2 million on it. Folks saying it won’t earn out its advance have nothing to base it on, and more importantly, that’s got nothing to do with the quality of the book, or the integrity of the author.

  44. Greg@48: Even if J. Random Company, in a drunken stuper, decided “I’m goign to pay 2 million for a book today from Jane Q Public, and I usually sell plumbing supplies”, I guess the question that keeps coming up for me is, “who cares?”

    Well, I guess the answer that keeps coming up for me is, “I care.” I also care that the people around me who impact my life, whether directly or through, say, voting, have a reasonably accurate model of how the world works in their minds.

    Why are you so incensed at the notion that someone might say, “Wait, not everything every company does is a great idea?”

    When an author sells a book to a publisher, the standard reply for me is something to the effect of “Hey, that is awesome! Congratulations!” not “I’m sure you lied about how good it was to the publisher and they paid you far more than it was worth”.

    Perhaps you are mistaking me, or Tony, for someone who said anything even remotely like that. Perhaps you mistook so hard, that you skipped right over the part where I said that Ms. Hocking seems “deserving, appealing, and genuine.”

  45. Well, I guess the answer that keeps coming up for me is, “I care.”

    I don’t understand. How does this author getting two million dollar advance have any negative impact on you?

    How does this harm you? It might end up harming the publisher if they can’t earn back the advance, but being in business is about taking risks. THey’re taking a risk. THey might very well make back their money. Either way it hasn’t harmed them yet and if they don’t make back their advance, that’s actually a fairly common occurence in publishing. COmmon enough that publishers might actually plan for some books not earning back their advance as part of their planning to mitigate the risks.

    I also care that the people around me who impact my life, whether directly or through, say, voting, have a reasonably accurate model of how the world works in their minds.

    Sure, except the problem is that the inaccurate “model” you say people have:

    Michael@46: I’ve noticed that people are surprisingly willing to believe that any activity taken by J. Random Company is, of course, a well-founded, well-researched, pragmatic decision.

    Is a strawman of anything anyone here actually said.

    No one here said any actitivty taken by a corporation must always be “well founded, well researched, pragmatic”.

    I said it might be a completely drunken decision. But it is their decision. And it doesn’t harm anyone but them. I also said that in the realm of art, art is worth whatever someoen will pay for it. Doesn’t mean its logical, rational, or profitable. It might be the publisher purchased the book knowing it would be a loss on the book, but thinking it might help their overall sales. Loss leaders make business sense in the slightly longer view.

    I have no idea what the publisher is specifically thinking will happen. I never said I did. I have no idea if it was astute business decision or drunken stupidity. But it doesn’t harm anyone but them if they are wrong, so I’ll let them worry about the risk and congratulate teh author on her advance.

    That is far and away different than saying “They must know waht they are doing. They must have made a logical rational decision. This must prove something about the quality of the book.” or anything else like that.

    Perhaps you are mistaking me, or Tony, for someone who said anything even remotely like that.

    Like this?

    The Pragmatist@35: I am suggesting that maybe the numbers that sold her to “the big guys” are all over the place, self-reported and self-inflated. The numbers just don’t seem to work.

    @35: Her numbers are positively anemic for someone that says she’s “been active on social networks and blogs for years”, claims to enjoy her marketing efforts

    @35: There’s just no way she could have been selling 25,000….

    Seems pretty clear that she must be “self inflating” her numbers to get the publisher to pay her the advance they paid her. Which seems to be a polite way of saying she’s lying, over inflating her numbers, and the publisher must have paid too much. “There’s just no way”, “The numbers just don’t seem to work.”

  46. I think it’s a brilliant move because it’s more likely to get readers like me to give her another chance. I had a Kindle-loan copy of her first Changling book thatI quit reading halfway through. She was obviously a good writer with interesting (though not original) ideas but the book was in serious need of a good editor. She’s very fond of using “but” when she means “and” (as a fake example: He walked me to the car but opened the door). Now that she has access to an editor I look forward to giving her first book in this deal a try.

  47. Robin Raianiemi:
    “The best thing about Ms. Hocking’s success is that she earned it. Without pissing on anyone’s shoes.”

    Well said.

  48. @ Kat Goodwyn Mar 28 2011,

    Oh I think they ARE sticking it to traditional publishing. I’m not even a writer and I can see that. You, my dear, are in the publishing industry and the fact that you’re even on here commenting telle me that you have some concern of this. Why care if Hocking is just some small-time inide writer that you suggest “needs rescuing” by traditional pubs? Aside from King, Meyer, Roberts, Brown, Rowling, Steele, and some others (I heard the # was 200), traditionally published authord can’t even afford to quit their day jobs. With all that “marketing and publicity, agents”, and so-on supposedly behind them. So you’re NOT saving Hocking (for example) from anything. What you “are” going to do is “lose” her MUCH income on her forthcoming books with this “year and a half” time period it takes traditional books to “hit shelves”. The $2 miilion they offered her is nothing; she’s already made it herself. It would be great is the publishing industry would get up with the times and stop living like it’s 1956 already. And nobody wants to pay $12.99 for an ebook when the same damn book is $9.99 in paper form at B&N for example. This alienates consumers because I keep reading comments they leave all over Amazon. I don’t buy ebooks but it’ getting bigger and customers are turnig against you. If you don’t believe it keep charging those prices and see what happens. One last thought: In Amanda’s case I think the contract will do her more damage then good. If her new publishers want to jack her famous 99 cent books up to $12 and something they are going to destroy Hocking. Her cheapness is part of her allure.

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