The writer who made millions by self-publishing online

When historians come to write about the digital transformation currently engulfing the book-publishing world, they will almost certainly refer to Amanda Hocking, writer of paranormal fiction who in the past 18 months has emerged from obscurity to bestselling status entirely under her own self-published steam. What the historians may omit to mention is the crucial role played in her rise by those furry wide-mouthed friends, the Muppets.

To understand the vital Muppet connection we have to go back to April 2010. We find Hocking sitting in her tiny, sparsely furnished apartment in Austin, Minnesota. She is penniless and frustrated, having spent years fruitlessly trying to interest traditional publishers in her work. To make matters worse, she has just heard that an exhibition about Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, is coming to Chicago later that year and she can’t afford to make the trip. As a huge Muppets fan, she is more than willing to drive eight hours but has no money for petrol, let alone a hotel for the night. What is she to do?

Then it comes to her. She can take one of the many novels she has written over the previous nine years, all of which have been rejected by umpteen book agents and publishing houses, and slap them up on Amazon and other digital ebook sites. Surely, she can sell a few copies to her family and friends? All she needs for the journey to Chicago is $300 (£195), and with six months to go before the Muppets exhibition opens, she’s bound to make it.

I’m going to sell books on Amazon, she announces to her housemate, Eric.

To which Eric replies: Yeah. Okay. I’ll believe that when it happens.

Let’s jump to October 2010. In those six months, Hocking has raised not only the $300 she needed, but an additional $20,000 selling 150,000 copies of her books. Over the past 20 months Hocking has sold 1.5m books and made $2.5m. All by her lonesome self. Not a single book agent or publishing house or sales force or marketing manager or bookshop anywhere in sight.

So let the historians take note: Amanda Hocking does get to Chicago to see the Muppets. And along the way she helps to foment a revolution in global publishing — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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