The first time a novel I wrote was rejected by a publisher or an agent, I was 17. I didn’t know very much about the publishing industry, and I didn’t know enough about writing either. But one thing that I knew for certain, that I’d always known, is that I was a writer.

I went on to write a dozen novels. Initially, they were in varying genres, but I eventually narrowed my scope to young adult because it was something I loved that I felt I wrote well, and it’s fairly popular. In that time, I’d been editing and taking any writing class that was nearby that I could afford. I submitted my completed manuscripts to every agent I thought might be interested.

After eight years of this, I felt like I’d hit a brick wall. I’d tried everything I could think of to get published, and all I’d managed to do was accumulate hundreds of rejection letters and a stack of unpublished novels.

I knew I had to try something different. This was the only thing I’d ever really wanted to do with my life. Since the moment I learned how to write, I’d been doing it. But I didn’t want to waste my entire life chasing a dream that would never come true. I’d given myself the arbitrary deadline that if I wasn’t published by the time I was 26, I would give up and move on with my life and focus my efforts on a more stable career.

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Then in February 2010—five months shy of my 26th birthday—I discovered self-publishing. I’d heard of it before, of course, but it had always been derided as vanity publishing. Everyone knew that only hacks self-published, and they only sold 10 copies to their family, if they were lucky.

But with the advent of the digital age and electronic publishing, authors were actually making a go of it. Authors like J. A. Konrath were making more money than they ever had with traditional publishing. Karen Mcquestion had her self-published novel optioned for film. Elisa Lorello’s Faking It made it to No. 1 in the Kindle store.

For the next month, I spent all my free time learning absolutely everything I could about self-publishing online. Then, with nothing to lose, I uploaded my Tidal first book in March 2010. My hope was to reach a few readers and maybe make a few hundred bucks so I could see a Jim Henson exhibit in the fall.

The first few weeks, I sold 45 books. In May, I sold over 600 books. Readers began sending me emails letting me know they’d posted reviews of my books on their blogs, and this was my entrance to the book blogging community that went on to catapult my career. Without their support and the word of mouth they generated, my books never would’ve sold the way they did.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the eight years I’d spent struggling to get published hadn’t been the waste I’d thought they were. In that time, I’d built up a backlog of books that enabled casual readers to become fans. I’d also learned to take criticism and deal with rejection and matured as both a person and a writer.

In the first 12 months that I had self-published my books, I sold over a million e-books.

A lot of people ask me what the secret is to my success, what magic trick I used to make it all happen. The truth is that there isn’t one. By my best estimate, I’ve written over 3 million words in my life so far. I kept and still do keep in contact with my readers as much as I can. My writing has and always will be one of the biggest priorities in my life. I can’t imagine my life without it, whether I’m published or not.

Currently, some of my books are self-published and others are published with St. Martin’s Griffin. Many, many times during all of this, my path seemed hopeless and impossible, and I wanted to give up. But now, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I wouldn’t change a single thing, no matter how difficult the journey may have been.

The third book in Amanda Hocking’s Watersong series, Tidal, will be published June 4.