When the fledgling writer sent her manuscript to every publisher and agent in New York, she received 50 rejection letters. Which means there must be a fair few people with egg on their face right now.
Here's the kicker: Hocking has raked in more than $2.5 million for her books in the past 18 months and recently claimed her place in an elite literary club, alongside Stieg Larsson, James Patterson and Kathryn Stockett, by racking up her millionth Kindle sale. But Hocking's success isn't down to some eagle-eyed editor who spotted the next JK Rowling. Instead she carved her own path, becoming an indie heroine in the publishing world into the bargain.
Since April 2010, Hocking has self-published no fewer than nine books onto Amazon's Kindle. A Star Wars fan from Minnesota, she writes paranormal romances for young adults which have seen her hailed as the new Stephanie Meyer. Deftly tapping into an insatiable demand for vampire and zombie novels, she has staked her niche in trolls – and we're not talking Billy Goats Gruff.
Instead, the 27-year-old has made trolls hip in the way Twilight and True Blood made vampires sexy. Her Trylle trilogy tells the tale of Wendy, a teenage girl who has never fitted in. It's only when the mysterious and handsome Finn arrives that Wendy discovers the truth about her heritage: she is a highborn member of the Trylle, a tribe of trolls who live in Minnesota.
Last year Hocking signed a seven-book, seven-figure deal with St Martin's Press in the US. The film rights to her Trylle trilogy have been snapped up by Hollywood and The Wall Street Journal has dubbed her "a Tolkien for our times". Yet for Hocking her apparent overnight success has been the pay-off for many years' hard slog. She first began writing at 17 and, as the rejection letters piled up, she admits she toyed with giving up altogether.
"It's weird because it was such a long, drawn-out and slow process of writing and getting rejected, then all of a sudden it was very fast and everyone was buying the books," she explains. "It has been hard to wrap my head around it."
In true popular culture legend, inspiration came from an unlikely source: a YouTube clip of US rock band Blink 182's frontman Mark Hoppus encouraging their disenfranchised fans to never give up on their dreams. Hocking took his words to heart. Setting herself the goal of making enough money to fly to Chicago to see a Jim Henson exhibition in the autumn of 2010, that April Hocking published the first part of her My Blood Approves vampire series to the Kindle. Within a day, she had sold five books; by the end of the month, 36. "I was like: 'Thirty-six books?' I'm taking over the world," she recalls wryly.
Hocking released a second book, Fate, later that month, followed by another, Flutter, in May. That month she sold 624 books. Her profit: $326. In June, she struck upon a brainwave: she started sending her work to bloggers to review, and that's when things began to get crazy.
Within a month, she sold more than 4,200 copies of the three books, making over $3,000 – enough to fund her Chicago trip. The following month, July, she published Switched, the first book in her Trylle series and one which Hocking felt was always the secret weapon in her arsenal. "I thought if ever I had a shot of making it in publishing, this would be the book to do it," she says.
That same month she handed in her notice at her $18,000-a-year care assistant job, found an editor and commissioned an artist to design her book covers. In July she sold 3532 books and made $6527. After six months, sales stood at 100,000. As the tally soared, publishers began to take notice. To date, she has self-published nine books, selling more than 1.5 million copies and netting her a cool $2.5m. She now shifts an average of 9000 books a day.
Sagely recognising the limits of self-publishing, in March 2011 Hocking signed a deal with St Martin's Press after a frenzied bidding war that included Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. Switched was published in printed book format in January, with the second in the Trylle trilogy, Torn, due out this Thursday. A third book, Ascend, will be released on April 26.
But the news prompted a backlash among her fans, with some claiming she had sold out to the corporate world. Hocking took to her blog to address the issue, saying: "I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation."
It's a premise she stands by. "The thing is, I never wanted to be an indie hero, I wanted to be a writer."
Each book takes an average of two to four weeks to write. She immerses herself in the process, her existence comprising solely of eating, sleeping and writing. "I switch off the internet and pretty much lock myself in my office until it's done."
Hocking priced her e-books low — ranging from 99 cents to $2.99 – basing it on what she herself would want to spend on an electronic title. "The publisher is going to charge a bit more, but that's because they have costs. I'm fine with that."
Whatever the complaints of fans, the sales keep on coming. "I'm coping pretty well, but it's been quite the adjustment," she admits. Not for her the bright lights of literary hub New York. Hocking has chosen to stay in her hometown of Austin, Minnesota – proud makers of Spam – with her menagerie of pets and roommate/assistant/platonic lifemate Eric.
But there's an elephant in the room. How did she come up with the idea of trolls? "I didn't want to do what everyone else was doing," she says. "People were saying they loved the genre [paranormal romance] but they didn't want to keep reading books about vampires, zombie, angels or whatever. I found some Scandinavian folklore that talked about trolls and described them as beautiful. They had abilities to trick people into giving them things and left changelings [in place of stolen babies]. They were like humans, but wicked."
Hocking fell in love with the idea, it fitting in neatly with Minnesota's deep Norwegian and Swedish roots. The main protagonist in her Trylle saga, Wendy, is a misfit who the other kids give a wide berth – how does that compare to Hocking's own experiences as a teenager?
"In high school I wasn't picked on, but I didn't fit in either," she says. "I wasn't one of the cool kids - Everyone can relate to not fitting in."
She laughs shyly when asked if she has used her royalties to treat herself to something nice. "I have bought two really cool things. I got a Hans Solo carbonite from Star Wars and the Nike Mag Air replica shoes from Back To The Future."
The biggest change, she says, has been in her outlook on life. "For a long time I was very negative. I realised it was a waste of my time, I was making life harder for myself. A couple of years ago I changed my attitude and decided to try to make the best out of things. I'm more positive now."
The Trylle trilogy has been optioned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Terri Tatchell, who co-wrote District 9. "As far as I know, everything is going well and I would be thrilled to see it as a movie," Hocking says, "but Hollywood is kind of finicky so I don't know when that will be."
She talks animatedly about plans to expand her impressive book empire. This summer will see her release a new four-book series, Watersong, which is based on Greek mythology and packed with "romance, danger and lots of adventure". Is the goal to hit one billion sales? Hocking laughs. "A billion would be nice, but that's probably pretty far off."
Torn by Amanda Hocking is published by Tor Books on Thursday. Ascend is published on April 26.