Tag Archives: Publishing

Switched by Amanda Hocking

The YA cover has purple butterflies, but I like this one more.

With her first book Switched described by Lauren Oliver in the NY Times as “The Princess Diaries” meets “Twilight”, and having sold over a million copies as a self-published author before switching to the more traditional publishing process, Amanda Hocking is a totally a hot topic now. Everyone’s talking about how the internet will change publishing as we know it – and Hocking’s name is wound up in that discussion to the extent that it’s easy to overlook the creative output that made her name. Selling a million ebooks of a work you’ve written, edited and designed the cover of yourself is no mean feat, after all. So, as I said in my earlier post, I was very interested to try her work.

I enjoyed Switched. It’s a very uncomplicated state of affairs: I read it really fast, had some issues with a few aspects, but it was enjoyable and diverting enough for me to have a positive overall view of it. It’s a book that settles into the Kelley Armstrong and Richelle Mead pantheon of authorship while being fresh enough for general teen audiences, and I recommend it heartily to anyone who liked those authors, but it does bother me a little that there’s a rather wonderful concept that isn’t developed more and better. It felt like an idea that was churned out too fast and needed more crafting before it was unleashed on the readership. It’s slightly inconsistent (more than one person’s pointed out how one moment she doesn’t like chocolate but the next loves it, which is so minor but jolts you out of the story) and a little uneven, with writing that doesn’t tell you much about the world because it’s painted in very broad strokes that leaves you to fill in the details yourself. Fancy clothes are left to your imagination, as are conversations where everything is completely glossed over. It’s not exactly wonderful writing, but I was okay with it; much as I’m the sort of person who loves gorgeous, rich, decadent writing, sometimes it’s nice to have things left vague, though it would have been better to have more detail about the larger Trylle community and Wendy’s dealings with Rhiannon, Rhys and the rest, as it would have added a lot to the world and Wendy herself.

One thing that’s divided opinion – Wendy. A few people have expressed dislike, which is entirely understandable, but it is so refreshing to have the first person perspective of a bit of a bitch in a YA book and to have her aware of it. She isn’t exactly nice, but nice is boring, and funnily enough she’s a convincing teenager-type compared to the usual. I was a bit taken by her attitude and her awareness of what her family goes through to make her happy and yet and yet she’s so ungiving and selfish, aware of being so, and feels guilt for it. She’s a perfect base level for some good, juicy character development – the sort of satisfying development full of tears and tantrums and embarrassments and little delights. It doesn’t quite happen in the book, but it’s hinted at in a slightly tangled way. I can’t say I liked her, but she was interesting, different and promising. The Anti-Bella, if you will.

On that note, one aspect that struck a hollow note was the romance. It was too swift, shallow, no real connection happened – in fact, I was more sold on the (unintended) romantic tension with another guy towards the end who had so much more texture to his character than the love interest and was in his own right an absolutely excellent creation. For readers specifically interested in it, it might be a satisfactory sort of love plot, but only satisfactory – I wasn’t reading the book for the romance though, so I wasn’t so very unhappy about it.

Despite all the issues, it’s worth reading If You Like That Kind Of Book. This book won’t bring more fans to urban fantasy/paranormal romance/teen fantasy/whatever we’re calling it this month, but it will satisfy some of the readers who are already there. Probably the most telling point is this: while it wasn’t an amazing read, and though there were niggling, bothersome problems, the world Hocking created was interesting enough for me to definitely intend to pick up the next book in the trilogy.

An evening with Amanda Hocking

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 loveltwitter 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.

Read an excerpt at Amanda’s site here! And massive thanks to @BellaPagan for organizing the event!