Is Amanda Hocking the New Christopher Paolini?

Someone on Twitter asked for my opinion on self-published author Amanda Hocking, and whether she was the new Christopher Paolini.

My gut response? No. She’s Amanda Hocking.

Hocking is very much a self-publishing success story. She wasn’t previously published with a commercial publisher. She’s self-published eight novels and one novella as e-books. She reports having sold close to a million books, and she’s been on the USA Today Bestseller list.

Paolini was also a success story, of course. (I’ve written a little about his story here.) But his path to success with Eragon was very different than Hocking’s. Paolini’s parents owned the small commercial press that first published his book, and they devoted themselves pretty much full-time to publicizing it. More importantly, Paolini broke in almost a decade ago, and publishing is in a very different place today than it was then.

What Paolini and Hocking both have in common, aside from their impressive success, is that they’re both outliers. So are J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, for that matter. All four of these authors are hanging out at the extreme end of the curve, and I think that’s important to keep in mind. Consider it a “RESULTS NOT TYPICAL” disclaimer.

I was reading Hocking’s blog, and I’m impressed with her take on things. She seems very down-to-earth about her success, and much more realistic than many authors I’ve read. From one of her recent blog posts:

“Self-publishing is great, but it’s not easy. Most people who do it will not get rich, just like most authors signed up at Scholastic books aren’t billionaires.  Traditional publishers are not evil any more than Amazon or Barnes & Noble are evil. Things are changing, hopefully for the better, but it is still hard work being a writer.”

She also touches on something I’ve pointed out before, which is that holding up someone like Hocking as an argument for why you should self-publish makes exactly as much sense as holding up Rowling to prove you should go with a commercial publisher. (See “outlier,” above.)

I understand why so many people are talking about Hocking. I’ve seen analyses of exactly how many Twitter followers she has, how many Facebook friends, how often she blogs, her cover art … authors scrutinize every  move she makes, because most of us would really, really like to duplicate her success. I know I’d love to make it onto the USA Today Bestseller list, and the money would be awfully nice too.

It doesn’t work that way. There are certainly things I can learn from Hocking, but I’m not her. I can’t follow her path and expect the exact same results.

So no, Hocking is not the new Paolini. She’s someone who has worked very hard to make her own path, and continues to do so. I would recommend reading her blog and getting her own thoughts on her success and the state of publishing. I found her comments both smart and … refreshing.