Amanda Hocking's astonishing success with her self-published ebooks, which made big news after USA Today started tracking ebook sales on their bestseller list, is getting her noticed by the media all over the world. Now the media, suddenly aware of what's happening with ebooks, is turning their spotlight on other authors who have also scored big on the Kindle and Nook.
The London Observer recently featured the story of Stephen Leather, a mid-list UK author who is doing great with 99 cent ebooks of his unpublished work on Amazon UK, earning him the title of "UK's leading independant author."
Leather, who celebrated his seventh consecutive week at the top of the Amazon chart with his novella The Basement, about a serial killer in New York, also occupies fourth place with Hard Landing, another thriller, and 11th place with Once Bitten, a vampire novel.
He is one of many authors increasingly turning to ebooks as an alternative way to the top. Capitalising on the popularity of e-readerssuch as the Kindle, a new generation of writers is bypassing agents and publishers and using the flexible pricing model of ebooks to offer their work directly to the public at rock-bottom prices. Some, like Leather, are achieving huge sales, which, not surprisingly, is striking fear into publishers.
Leather enjoys a successful parallel career writing "big international thrillers" for Hodder & Stoughton. But last August, when Amazon.co.uk opened its Kindle store, he saw an opportunity: "I was lucky, in that I had three novellas Hodder had turned down because they were in a different genre from my other books and too short to work as conventional paperbacks. But I realised they might work for the Kindle."
I see more and more established, professional authors following the same path as Leather…and they'd be fools not to be. The publishing world has changed dramatically in the last few months, upending all the old paradigms. Whoever thought a year ago that it would be possible for a mid-list author to make more money, and reach more readers, by self-publishing than going with a major, established publisher? I certainly didn't.
And there's Amanda Hocking who, with no previous publishing experience or any kind of promotional platform, has become an overnight sensation, all on her own. Did I see that coming? Hell no. What she has accomplished is nothing short of amazing.
Leather's achievements are dwarfed when set against the scale of independent publishing in the US, where ebooks are estimated to be 20% of the total market. The most spectacular example of an author striking gold through ebooks is 26-year-old former care assistant Amanda Hocking, a Minneapolis-based writer of paranormal romances. She had completed eight novels but had failed to acquire an agent when, last April, she decided to publish them herself via the Kindle store.
"I sold 50 books the first month. It picked up over the summer, then really took off in November," she said. Hocking is now the world's bestselling ebook author, selling more than 450,000 titles last month alone.
It's an exciting time to be an author.
(Thanks to David Cunningham for the heads-up)