Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


June 20, 2011

The Jonathan Coulton, Amanda Hocking Success Formula


These two simple sentences from Bob Lefsetz really drive home a vitally important point:

"Only the best and the brightest, the top of the elite, make it in the democratic Web/self-publishing world. Without all the marketing, without all the hype, all you've got is the naked product -- and it had better be damn good."

Brilliant!

What inspired Lefsetz was a New York Times article on 26-year-old author Amanda Hocking. Over the last several months she's become the poster child for self-publishing success in the book world.

After writing several novels and honing her writing chops in obscurity since she was in elementary school, Hocking decided to write in a specific genre (paranormal romance) and in a style that she felt had potential commercial appeal.

Still, traditional publishers rejected her over and over again. In the spring of 2010, she self-published her first novel as an ebook on Amazon (which is fairly easy to do). She started getting a steady trickle of sales right away.

As sales grew she wrote and submitted more novels to the Kindle store and other online ebook retailers.

Things snowballed far beyond her wildest expectations. It's been reported she made about $2 million USD last year. And she recently signed a $2 million deal with a major book publisher for a three-book series.

Of course, as Lefsetz points out on his blog, there are not a lot of Amanda Hockings out there. In the indie music world, the same can be said for success stories like Jonathan Coulton (who grossed a half million dollars last year as an unsigned, independent artist).

It would be easy to write off both of these examples as flukes and discredit their success instead of celebrate it (and, believe me, MANY people do). But not honoring what led to their good fortune is shortsighted.

Here are the traits that Coulton and Hocking share:
  • They are both prolific; they have created a vast body of work over the years
  • Through years and countless hours of effort, they have honed their craft and created music and books that a certain slice of the population deems "damn good"
  • They have been willing to use the Internet and the digital tools available to them to connect with an audience
  • They create even more music and books to feed the appetite of their existing audience, which further grows their fan base and income streams
There's your modern day formula for success -- at music and anything else, for that matter!

To reinforce these steps, here's the "business model" that Jonathan Coulton recommends:

"You need to work extremely hard, make music that is great, and find people to buy it from you. The end."

What are YOUR thoughts on these modern DIY success traits? I welcome your comments.

-Bob

P.S. Here are links to the Bob Lefsetz blog post, the Amanda Hocking article, and Jonathan Coulton's blog.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:59 AM   2 comments


2 Comments:

At Jun 22, 2011, 1:06:00 PM, Anonymous Jared Jones said...

Yep, it's just that simple. Most people just aren't willing to put in the work, or are not willing to simplify it for themselves. It's a shame for those people. But kudos to Johnathan and Amanda. As an artist who just released my first CD, unsigned, I can say I know if I put in the time, and energy to promote and perform cuts off the album, I would sell, and I could put a concrete # on what I'd expect to sell. But I define my own version of success based on my situation, what kind of hours I'm working, what hours I devote to family, church, etc. It's all a matter of choice, and everyone who attains a certain kind of success made a choice for it.

 
At Jul 30, 2011, 4:23:00 AM, Anonymous top indie songs said...

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