Sometimes it’s easy to look at publishing success stories and assume there’s a simple trick in getting there; it looks like overnight success when it’s anything but overnight. Amanda Hocking is a prime example of this, having been unable to get an agent and turning to self-publishing as a result – and making such a great success of it that Trylle trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend) sold over a million copies in ebook format and have been optioned for a film. In fact, when Switched arrived in my shop earlier this week the book sold within ten minutes of me putting it on the shelf. This is, I declare, an Excellent Sign.
Last night Pan Macmillan hosted an evening with the fabulous Amanda and some really lovely twitter folk and bloggers/vloggers where we sat around, ate pizza, and got to quiz her about this self-publishing deal and the ideas behind her work. It was a wonderful event, very relaxed and with some great geeky book discussion (you wouldn’t believe the enthusiasm when the intricacies of book shelving came up as a topic!) and it was tremendously enjoyable – I can’t wait to get around to reading Switched, which has been high on my list of want-to-read books for a while now.
Here’s the summary:
Wendy Everly knew she was different the day her mother tried to kill her and accused her of having been switched at birth. Although certain she’s not the monster her mother claimed she is she does feel that she doesn’t quite fit in …The new girl in High School, she’s bored and frustrated by her small town life and then there’s the secret that she can’t tell anyone. Her mysterious ability she can influence people’s decisions, without knowing how, or why …When the intense and darkly handsome newcomer Finn suddenly turns up at her bedroom window one night her world is turned upside down. He holds the key to her past, the answers to her strange powers and is the doorway to a place she never imagined could exist. Forening, the home of the Trylle. Everything begins to make sense to Wendy. Among the Trylle, she is not just different, but special. But what marks her out as chosen for greatness in this world also places her in grave danger. With everything around her changing, Finn is the only person she can trust. But dark forces are conspiring not only to separate them, but to see the downfall everything that Wendy cares about. The fate of Forening rests in Wendy’s hands, and the decisions she and Finn make could change all their lives forever …
Now, there’s something terribly melodramatic about a synopsis like that, but here’s the thing: I’m excited despite myself. Forget vampires, fairies and werewolves – just as I was beginning to wonder where else YA could go, up pops a book with a completely different species as the sympathetic focus, and am I pleased about it. I’m all for something different, a bit weird and original and fresh, and it takes a lot to find similarly original approaches. I am, as you can tell, enthused – and really trying not to spoil the concept too much! It was great hearing the ideas behind the concept and her execution of it – everything from influences like The Tudors to the Scandinavian mythology it’s based on, interesting juxtapositions.
Going back to my opening point about the overnight success – Amanda writes fast, and she writes a lot. She’s clearly always working. She’s the ideal inspiration for anyone with an interest in writing and getting published. Obviously she’s got to be good at self-publicising but more importantly she must be dedicated to her writing. By which I mean the real writing, the hard graft of getting what’s inside the head out on a screen or on paper and making it work. Where seeing other authors who succeeded through the usual publishing routes can be inspiring to those of us who aspire, Amanda’s story is a different kind of inspiration – she put the effort in and made it even though the usual publishing routes didn’t work for her. Certainly, not everyone can replicate her success, but it’s great to see that it’s possible and that sometimes being the exception to the rule can work out.
It’s going to be interesting to see both how her career develops (there’s a graphic novel in the works too, which is a very intriguing prospect) and how the self-publishing approach goes for other authors.