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Sunday, December 26, 2010

How Everything Went the Opposite of What I'd Been Told

I write books, and I always knew that I would someday. Like most of people that aspired to be a writer, I knew that meant that I would need to get an agent in hopes of someday getting a book deal with a major publisher and then see my paperbacks in real brick and mortar stores. (At least that's the ideal). That's what it took to be a real Author and making a living at it.

Along the way, I heard horror stories of authors ripped off by scam "publishers" like Publish America, and how many published authors still worked day jobs to break even, and how many literary agents have more than one job, and how with the recession, they're publishing less and less books. Basically, I heard it was going to impossible to ever make a living at writing books.

But again, this was the only viable option. Because the only choices are writing and querying, or giving up. Or self-publishing, but everybody knows that self-publishing is the kiss of death. Only terrible books that could never sell are self-published. And only the author's family and friends buy self-published books And the books are written like third graders on crack. And they'll never sell more than fifty copies.

That's what we've all heard for years, and in a big way, a lot of that has been true. Historically, self-published books have not sold many copies or made much money.

So even though we all hated it, we all know the system had flaws, the only way to get published, to get your book to sell, was to query, query, query.

In February of 2010, I got my last rejection letter. It was for my novel Switched. I queried at least 50 agents with it over the course of six months, making changes, adjusting the story based on feedback I was getting. But they all said the same thing. They just weren't passionate enough about it, in this climate it's hard to take on new projects, it's all subjective, best of luck.

In March, I read about Joe Konrath and Karen McQuestion. In April, I published my first book to Amazon.

Skip ahead. In August, I got approached by my first foreign publisher. (I think I've been approached by 5 or 6 foreign publishers since then). I got these offers solely because of my self-published sales, and in August, I also landed a good agent, again largely based on my sales.

Skip ahead. October I got approached by a small publisher interested in one of my titles. I declined because I was making more money self-publishing.

Skip ahead. I published my eighth title last week - Letters to Elise. And as of 9:15 PM tonight, I have sold over 106,500 books since April 15, 2010.

Switched - the book that was last rejected in February because there wasn't a market for it - has sold 13,555 copies at Amazon, 9929 copies at Barnes & Noble, and 314 paperbacks in December alone. The sequel Torn is doing quite well also, but I'm too lazy to add up the numbers right now.

Yes, my books are priced at $.99 and $2.99. But I'm actually making more than a lot of traditional publishers are on books that are priced more than my books because of the percentage I'm getting.

You could argue that I would be selling less books if I'd been picked up major publisher because my books would probably be priced at $9.99 for the Kindle. And you'd probably be right. But, if anything, that only makes my point.

Prior to April, I'd never been published anywhere. Not even a short story in a magazine. I have no literary awards. No special connections. I've done little marketing. And yet I've sold over 100,000 books in eight months. And without going in to specifics, I will say this - I am making much, much more writing full time than I did working full time at a day job.

I have a talked a bit before how this happened (in this blog titled "an epic tale of how it all happened") and I even told you what the secret is (in a blog titled "there is no magic hand"), and I explained my thoughts on indie publishing (in this blog).  And I'm directing you to all those things so I don't have to write it all down again.

Is self-publishing the wave of the future? I honestly don't know. But what I do know is the landscape has been change dramatically for years in every way that we receive and share information, and it's finally starting to change publishing.

The best part is that it's a really awesome time to be both a writer and a reader. Never before have authors had the opportunities to reach so many readers, and never before have readers had so many choices.

And don't take something at face value. Just because something has never been done before, or it's only been done by a very few people, doesn't mean it can't be done now, or that it can't be done by you.


  1. Great Post!

    Thanks Amanda. I uploaded my first novel in September 2010 and then my back catalogue (11 titles) and every month I have more selling than the month before.

    Your numbers are impressive. Thanks for an inspiring post and good luck with your continued success.

    Great covers by the way!


  2. You are very inspirational, but I have been telling you that for months now. Congrats-you are amazing, and give me hope for my books someday.

  3. I've googled Joe Konrath (Fantastic info!!) and am moving on to McQuestion. Thanks so much!!

  4. Wow, how incredibly inspiring. Are you now actually working as a full time author? You have obviously done a marvellous job and I'll be taking a look at buying some of your books.
    Well done and thank you for posting this. Your sales are amazing!

  5. I can't believe you were rejected by so many publishers... your work is amazing. I love your books, I'd be happy to proof read all of them for you and still pay for them. Keep up the great work, as for marketing - I'll market you to everyone that will listen to me.

  6. Incredible that you were rejected by so many agents/publishers - and that now they are calling you.

    Like Konrath says - you have to run the numbers and see if it makes sense (and it often doesn't).

    Self publishing won't suit every author but I think there is definitely a trend starting here.

  7. Totally agree, and incredibly well-stated, Amanda.

  8. Amanda, I've been following your progress and am totally loving it! When I read your blog heading, "How Everything Went the Opposite of What I'd Been Told," I knew exactly what you meant because our stories are similar.

    Like you, I hadn't had fiction published elsewhere, not even a short story. And also like you, I'd done the endless query-go-round. All I really wanted was readers, and an income so that writing could be my day job. When I uploaded my books to Kindle I had high hopes, but absolutely no expectations. I've done unbelievably well and have never been happier. And the best part is that after years of rejection I've gotten the joy of writing back.

    I still have some friends who don't want to go the e-book route. They are stuck on the traditional publishing concept and fear that self-publishing is selling-out (or giving up?). To each his own, I guess. Life is short, and I hated being powerless. I figured that I'd put my work out there and let the market decide. I agree with you--this is an amazing time for writers and readers.

  9. Wow Amanda! That is fantastic! I really love your work and I was so surprised that you were not published yet. I am glad that you have done so well on your own! You deserve it! You are an excellent author and I love you stories. I'm anxiously awaiting Ascend!

    You are also very inspiring! I have always wanted to be a writer, but feared the publishing denials and everything else that comes along with it. Your story is incredible!

    ~ Melissa

  10. Congratulations! You really are an inspiration to all us indies. So thank you!

  11. Thanks for posting your story, Amanda! I have been going through an similar struggle with the projects I have piled up that agents just weren't "passionate" about. You've really given me the courage to self publish my work and keep writing what I want to write despite the current trends... AND I love that your novels don't feature the cookie cutter heroine. My sister just got a kindle for Christmas and I can't wait to introduce her to your collection of novels :)

  12. Thanks for the inspirational post, and congratulations again on your amazing success! :)


  13. Awesome story, Amanda.

    Congrats on your success!

  14. Love your novels and have read them all. Please give us a sequel to Hollowland!!!!!

  15. Fantastic post! Amanda, I knew you were rocking the digital world, but I didn't realize just how much until I checked the Amazon Top 100 and found "Switched" there at No. 17, just ahead of Nicholas Sparks. Cool!

  16. Amanda,

    I just found Switched a couple weeks ago at B&N, devoured it and then bought ALL your books! Finished Hollowland and Letters to Elise last week and recommend them to all my coworkers (one of whom bought both Trylle paperbacks for her daughter for xmas). This is an inspiring post and I'm so glad you are able to do what you love and make a living at it.

    I anxiously await Ascent, the last My Blood Approves book, Hannalee and (hopefully) a sequel to Hollowland. Keep up the great work!

  17. Amanda,
    I got a Kindle for Christmas and decided to download Switched. (considering it was only .99) I LOVED IT ! and have quickly finished Torn as well. I can not wait to start with Ascend!
    As a fellow Minnesotan Keep Writing!

  18. congratulations! with all the sales and work you've done on your own, is it worthwhile for you having an agent?

  19. I agree. It'a a great time to be an indie!

    Congratulations and continued success,

  20. Amanda, thank you for a great, inspiring post! I just uploaded my first novella to Kindle two weeks ago. I hope next December I'm posting a blog like this to encourage new indies! :)


  21. Hey Amanda!
    I had a question: I have been reading up on the whole process for uploading books onto Amazon and it looks really complicated! Did you do it yourself or did you hire someone or have someone else do it?

  22. Wow, your story is amazing! I I have never aspired to be a writer, but I am an avid reader. Sometimes reading 5-6 books a week. Every one of your books have keep me up until the wee hours of the morning just waiting to see what happens next. Luckily it has been the holiday break or I would not survive 22 kindergarteners the next morning.

    Now that I know you just published Letters to Elise. I am off to make a purchase. Thanks for publishing on both amazon and barnes and nobles. Otherwise I would be unable to purchase as I have a NOOK.

    Best Regards

  23. Amanda--I published fourteen books in the traditional manner, but a few years ago, I began to see self-publishing as the future of the industry. Your story just confirms my predictions. Here's hoping you have continued success!

  24. Amanda: Thanks for sharing so much awesome information. I look forward to following in your successful footsteps :)