Amanda Hocking, J.A Konrath, book deals and the whole shebang

Perhaps those should be semicolons in my blog title? Hrm. No matter.

Amanda Hocking sold a four book series to St. Martin’s Press for a cool $2 million something.

This after having self-published and earning almost $2 million on her own steam.

Not surprisingly, the traditional publishing sector is feeling more than a little vindicated.

At first, I did go “Wha?” So I popped onto her blog.

According to Hocking, she’s not doing it for the money, or the validation, or any other number of things she’s been accused of.

This, at least, should be a no-brainer. In fact, by all estimates, she should be able to make at least that $2 million by herself within a reasonable time frame if not more. She reasonably estimates she might actually be losing money.

She says:

1. Readers inability to find my books when they want them. I am getting an increasing number of emails from people who go into bookstores to buy my books for themselves or friends or family members, and not only does Barnes & Noble not carry my book, they can’t even order it for them. People are requesting my books, and they can’t get them.

2. Readers complaints about the editing of my books. I have hired editors. Many, many editors. And I know that I can outsource editing, but I’m clearly doing a really shitty job of picking editors. EDIT: The people hired as editors are great people who worked very hard. Which is the most frustrating thing about the continued complaints of errors in my books. I know that my books are better because of the people I hired. And I don’t understand how there can still be errors. So my remark at “shitty” is over my frustration at the situation. Not the actual editors or the work they did.

3. The amount of books I’ve written and the rate of speed that I write books. If it took me five years to write a book, and I only had one book written, I’d be thinking long and hard about this deal. But right now, I have 19 books currently written. By the time the Watersong series goes to print, I’ll still have 19-24 titles at least that I can self-publish.

James Patterson has a book out now that has incredibly low reviews, some of the lowest I’ve seen for any book, and that book is still selling like crazy, and I can find it Target and Walmart. Even the sequel to the book, which the reviews say is even twice as awful as the original, is selling like crazy. Why? Because James Patterson wrote it. (Or more accurately, because his name is on the cover).

I want that. Not the writing bad books thing. I’ll always strive to write a product that people enjoy. But I want to be a household name. I want to be the impulse buy that people make when they’re waiting in an airport because they know my name.

That, I think, is as close to career stability as I can get. And that’s why I took the deal.

Hocking definitely knows what she’s doing. I just want to point out that what’s working for her doesn’t mean it’ll work the same way for any other author.

For example, I don’t believe any publisher can knowingly push someone to be the next Patterson or Brown or Roberts. What takes off, takes off, and in my uneducated opinion, the publishers are really only along for the ride. If they could push anyone to be that much of a blockbuster, I believe they’d do it a lot more frequently. I think Hocking is in position to make herself a household name on her own and if not, I doubt there’s anything the industry can do to boost her that she can’t do herself.

Also, having access to the kind of money she has now, it’s not impossible to find a good editor, even the best in the industry and pay them to edit for her. For that matter, she can probably delegate most of this to her assistant. This being the business of finding cover designers, formatters, hiring a publicist and so forth. However, again, in her position she’s got ample justification to just hand things over to the St. Martin’s and then all she needs to worry about is her writing. Just need to point out that I doubt they’re this accommodating to every new writer they sign on.

Likewise, if B&N are dumb enough to refuse to carry her books that she can publish through CreateSpace or any number of POD presses… I have no words for that.

J.A Konrath, however, turned down a similar book deal. He thinks he’d be able to go it better alone, with his numbers backing him up every step of the way.

Placing myself in their situation, what would I do?

Not being in the situation where people are waving a couple million dollars in my face, I think that I’d have to turn it down.

First off, I’m going to have to assume that the only reason they have that much interest in me is because I’ve already proved through self-publishing that I’ll sell. In that case, following that logic, it’s unlikely they will actually make me more money in the long run. Declining their offer is only going to bring me more publicity, which can only be good.

Then, there’s the case of my writing slowly. Estyria book 1 took me about 3 years to finish. If I have the ability to sell it on my own, I wouldn’t want to risk losing money in the long  term to go with traditional publishing.

Mostly though, money aside, I don’t want to lose control over my work.

If Estyria had stayed the way it was in its first incarnation, I don’t think I’d feel the same way.

When I started writing Estyria, I went with the easier route. You know, generic European style royalty. Cookie cutter western-fantasy element smorgasbord pick-your-own adventure. Not that I’m saying properly done historical fiction is easy, but just try writing something that doesn’t have reams of English-based information for the gleaning.

But now, after I’ve made the conscious decision to shift the setting from generic fantasy to a fantasy world based on ancient China and have been progressively writing in more and more Asian elements into my world and story — I’d be really amazingly angry if any of those elements were twisted, skewed, or utterly eliminated from the end product.

This means my cover girl needs to be Asian. No, not the more conventionally attractive Philipina or Indian Asian — Chinese or Japanese Asian. And yes, she needs to be dressed in proper Hanfu. The males too, if they make it onto the cover.

This also means no white-washing of the story elements. If it ever makes it to being optioned for a movie, I want full control over it to make sure the actors are going to be Asian. Every single last one of them that is portraying my characters that are of colour is going to be Asian. Full stop.

I wouldn’t be this adamant except…

You really took out the Chinese script in A:TLA and replaced it with gibberish? Really?

And for the people who thought it was ok to whitewash Ursula K Leguin’s characters in the movie — I’d really like to have a few impolite words with you.

And on lesser notes, the publishing houses who insisted on putting white girls on the covers of novels about POCs because POC faces on books hurt sales.

Yeah. I don’t even.

So. That’s how I stand now.

Let’s see if this ever even becomes an issue. If it doesn’t, I’ll laugh my fool head off for worrying about the sky falling.

If it does, hey, remind me of this will you? Unless someone I know has cancer and needs the money pronto for medical reasons. Then I might have to set my artistic integrity aside.

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