Amanda Hocking became the self-publishing wunderkind after her vampire and troll series took off, prompting a Big Five publisher to snap up her work, something happening more and more often with indie authors. She was born in Austin, Minnesota, which has the distinction of being the birthplace of SPAM, the chopped meat in a can. For as long as she can remember, Hocking has been telling stories. “My mom has a tape from when I was, like, two years old, talking with my grandma, telling her a story that’s really elaborate about werewolves and wolves,” she says.
Hocking had a stack of novels she had been working on, and in her twenties she started sending them out to agents (more than fifty), but all she got back were form rejection letters. She studied different genres and decided to try her hand at paranormal romance, writing a novel in fifteen days. Then instead of sending the manuscript out to agents, she self-published. At first, sales were slow—a book or two a day—but then things really picked up. She was getting requests to do interviews with bloggers and had positive reviews of her work. Soon “I sold, like, six thousand books that month or something,” says Hocking. “It was a pretty dramatic jump.”
Hocking decided to go the self-publishing route because she wasn’t getting anywhere submitting to agents. “I once heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I’d heard that some authors were self-publishing and finding a decent readership, so I thought, Why not? I knew I needed to try something different, so I did,” says Hocking.
Hocking’s writing process is intense, and she’s published seventeen books since she started making her work public in 2010. She says, “When I get an idea, I think about it for a few weeks, and then I outline. Once I have an outline ready, I sit down at the computer and write. Sometimes, I’ll write for eight to twelve hours a night. When I’m writing, I usually shut myself off from the world for a few weeks and just write. Then I’m done and I come back to real life.”
Her advice to writers who’d like to follow in her footsteps is to keep working on new ideas, like Andy Warhol recommended years ago—always go on to your next work. “Don’t get married to your first book or idea. Write your first book, put it in a drawer, and then write your second. It seems to me that a lot of writers get hung up on their first idea, their first book, but here’s the truth: Almost universally speaking, the first book you write will be terrible,” says Hocking.
“I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but I would say that rarely is the first published work by an author the first thing they wrote. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love your first book or take pride in it or work hard on it—because you really should. It just means you shouldn’t get hooked on that one thing. Write another book and another. Then go back and look at your first book and see how you feel about it. But whether you love it or hate it, just keep writing and reading.”
Hocking would like to do more horror writing. She says, “I’ve played around with horror, which I think is a sister genre to fantasy. I love writing about monsters and villains and otherworldly creatures.”
After doing so many book series, Hocking is working on a stand-alone novel that will be coming out in 2016, as well as a few projects she calls “duologies.” Hocking describes her upcoming work Freeks as “a YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a traveling sideshow. I pitched it as Pretty in Pink meets The Lost Boys (minus the vampires) meets Carnivale.”
Hocking’s duology will be about teenage Valkyries. She says, “I knew that I wanted to do something with it and the idea just kept nagging me. It’s just such a cool idea, of women deciding who lived during battle.”