This post is probably going to come across as hypocritical to the nth degree. Just a warning up front. It's hypocritical because I'm about to give some reasons why I think Amanda Hocking is likely making a mistake in taking a legacy publishing deal, even though I might do the same in the future.
But I am not Amanda Hocking.
Amanda is reported to have signed a four book series with St. Martin's Press (ironically the same press that Barry Eisler turned down recently) for two million dollars. Sounds pretty amazing doesn't it?
But dig beneath the surface and I'm not sure it's so amazing. First of all, reportedly Amanda Hocking has already made over two million dollars on her own. She's sold over four hundred thousand copies of her books in a month.
Yes, these are cumulative numbers, but they mean a lot. Here are the things that she gets if she simply continues to e-publish on her own:
1. Total control over her own work
2. Works at her own pace and her own deadlines
3. Knows on an hourly basis what her sales numbers are
4. Makes 35% to 70% royalties and shares that with nobody else
5. Earns possibly over a million dollars a year
6. Is not restricted in terms of genre or when she releases books
7. If a book doesn't do as well as expected, the only person impacted is her.
There are admittedly downsides as well, which Amanda has blogged about recently. She has to deal with finding good editorial help, which can be difficult. She has to be responsible for her own covers, as well as formatting the books, marketing them, responding to emails, articles, requests for interviews, etc.
It seems that either Amanda, or her agent, or others that are advising her, are telling her that having a traditional publishing team behind her will alleviate a great deal of stress. She seems anxious to find more time to write and believes that this is a step to taking a lot of pieces off her plate that have contributed to stress and a lack of writing time.
But I happen to have some knowledge (albeit limited) of the publishing industry, both on a personal level, and just reading people like JA Konrath and others who speak honestly about what it's like to write for a legacy publisher. They tell a very different story. So here are some things to consider, now that Amanda might end up working for a traditional publisher:
1. Answers to editors, marketing teams, and other corporate entities
2. They are now spending large amounts of money on her--so essentially she OWES somebody money. When they give you an advance of over 2 million dollars, you best believe they expect it to come back in some shape or form.
3. She will not see the full amount of her advance up front, but merely a piece of it, depending on the type of contract. On top of that, it will take her potentially YEARS before the books are published and she sees a single dime in royalties--if ever.
4. She will not know her sales figures unless the publishing house decides to tell her, and then she has to consider things like returns, etc., which take a long time to figure out. It will likely be 2012 before one of her books is published and even longer before she finds out how well the book is doing.
5. She is at the mercy of her publisher now. If her acquiring editor leaves and is replaced, it's possible the new editor won't be as excited about her books and there may be less support than there was initially. In fact, right now there is so much buzz about Amanda. Will the buzz still be there in one or two years when her books are coming out?
6. There will actually be MORE pressure on her through this venture than what she's feeling now. There will be other people's jobs and salaries and bonuses that depend on her hitting deadlines and coming up with good material. And she may not agree with what they think is good and vice versa.
7. She will have to do book tours, interviews, and other media events based on having a huge advance and a big "push" from her publisher. They will want to capitalize by keeping her in the spotlight. This will actually make finding time to write even more difficult.
8. She will lose some degree of control over her covers and marketing. For someone used to having minute to minute contact with her audience and a strong connection, it will be difficult to hand that brand control over to people who don't understand the audience nearly as well.
9. Most importantly though, she'll likely be giving up her e-rights. She may have negotiated a better percentage, but it will still pale in comparison to what she makes now on ebooks, and she will have to give a percentage of that to an agent now as well.
This is simply a bad deal for someone like Amanda, even though it might sound good at first blush.
I don't think going the legacy route is quite as dire for new authors who are looking to establish their name or make a chunk of guaranteed cash up front. But for someone already so entrenched and powerful in the ebook business like Amanda, this is a pretty risky move. I hope she makes the best of it.
(Edited to adjust the reported deal price up from 1 million to 2 million, Amanda's own sales figures from 1 million to 2 million, and the deal as final)