Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Guest Post by John Locke

If you're paying any attention to the Amazon Top 100, you'll know that my ebook, The List, is currently ranked #35.

You'll also know that out of the Top 100, twenty-six of those spots belong to indie authors. Seven of those are occupied by wunderkind Amanda Hocking.

But six of them, including the coveted #1 spot, are from a writer named John Locke.

So who is John Locke?

I caught up with John while we were both in the Swiss Alps, at a secret bestselling author chalet where we heat our jacuzzis by burning stacks of hundred dollar bills.

Naturally, I had questions. In between throwing greenbacks on the fire, he graciously answered.

Joe: You seem to have come out of nowhere. What's the story?

John: My background is niche marketing, where I built a successful business selling specialty insurance, and then another one, investing in specialty real estate. So the first time I saw the business model for selling eBooks on Kindle, my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. Why? Because Kindle doesn’t just level the playing field for self-published authors, it actually slants it in our favor.

Specifically, I saw that a self-published book could be offered on Kindle for 99 cents, and still turn a 35 cent profit. I was stunned! I walked around in a daze for, well, days, trying to explain to people what that meant. No one seemed impressed. To me it was like receiving the keys to the kingdom, and I immediately set a goal to become the world’s greatest 99-cent author.

Joe: Which, at this moment, you are. This fascinates me, because when Amazon began offering 70% to ebooks priced $2.99 and up, a lot of people considered staying at 99 cents to be slumming.

Which was naive. Coming from a legacy publishing background, I knew that 35% royalties were much better than anything the Big 6 offered. Even so, when I first got into this, I thought that cheap ebooks would be a loss lead, that would get people to read my more expensive books.

And yet, when I lowered the price of The List from $2.99 to 99 cents, I started selling 20x as many copies--about 800 a day. My loss lead became my biggest earner.

I guess there's something about 99 cents...

John: In February, 1963, I was twelve years old, living in Shreveport, Louisiana. One Saturday I walked a couple of blocks, caught a bus and took it downtown, walked another block to 728 Texas Street, and entered Stan’s Record Shop to buy a recording of “Walk Like A Man,” by the Four Seasons. It was two minutes and seventeen seconds long, cost a dollar, and I still had to catch a bus ride home.

Now, 48 years later, you can buy one of my books for only 99 cents! You don’t have to walk a step, catch a bus, drive a car, fight the traffic, find a parking space, wait in line, or cut down a single tree. You press a button, and within a couple of effortless seconds, you get four or five hours of entertainment.

Joe: For years, I've been trying to tell other authors that ebooks are a game changer. Some are listening...

John: For the first time in history, there's an advantage to being an independent author!

It wasn’t so long ago that an aspiring author would complete his or her manuscript, only to don a pair of knee pads and assume a supplicating posture in order to beg agents to beg publishers to read their work. And from way on high, the publishers would bestow favor upon this one or that, and those who failed to get the nod were out of the game.

No more.

These days the buying public looks at a $9.95 eBook and pauses. It’s not an automatic sale. And the reason it’s not is because the buyer knows when an eBook is priced ten times higher than it has to be. And so the buyer pauses. And it is in this pause—this golden, sweet-scented pause—that we independent authors gain the advantage, because we offer incredible value.

Joe: You're getting great reviews, so people are obviously enjoying your work. Plus, you're outselling every other book on Amazon, including some name brand authors.

John: I’m new to the writing game. But if I’d started self-publishing even three years ago, I would have spent all my time trying to prove to the public I’m just as good as the top authors in America. These days, the burden of proof is on them. Now the best authors in America have to prove they’re ten times better than me. And in a game like that, I like my chances.

Joe: Do you have any traditional publishing experience? An agent?

John: I've never had an agent or publisher, and have never sent a manuscript or query letter to anyone. I always intended to self-publish my work, without representation, and figured my time would be better spent writing books than query letters.

Joe: So, you're the first indie writer to hit #1 on the Amazon Top 100. You also currently hold the #4 spot, and #10 spot. Three in the Top 10. How does it feel?

John: I've thought all day how to express the way it feels to have all 6 books in the top 40, including #1 and #2, but I couldn't come up with the proper adjectives! Today I was contacted about selling the movie rights to my Donovan Creed novels. I was also contacted by a literary agent for representation. On the other hand, I feel weird because I'm the same guy no one paid any attention to last year. The books they want to represent were written a year ago, and when I sent out press releases, no one cared. Now that these same books are selling, I'm what, suddenly good? Doesn't make sense. But yeah, it feels great, of course.

Joe: Congrats on your success. And you really should consider an agent. Even though I'm keeping my print and erights, my agent has been great in selling audio, foreign, and film rights.

Who does your cover art? How much does it cost to self-publish?

John: Claudia Jackson, of Telemachus Press, does all my cover design. She charges $995 to publish an eBook, including cover creation, and distribution to multiple ebook formats. Any art work she purchases for the projects are extra, but reasonable. It's nice to be able to write the book, send it to her, and not have to fool with the process. And Telemachus puts the Ebook accounts in the author's name, so I get all the profits. To me, it's a no-brainer.

Joe: Readers of my blog love numbers, so here's the big question. How many books have you sold so far?

John: As I answer this question, it is March 8th. I have sold just over 350,000 downloads on Kindle since January 1st of this year.

Joe: That's incredible.

John: Kindle is great because you get the sales numbers in real time. I don't have current sales figures for the other eBook formats.

Joe: What advice can you give your fellow authors?

John: I always give authors the same advice: don't take yourself too seriously. Write the types of books you like to read. I offer my readers a fun, breezy read. If I can give them some chuckles and hold their interest for a few hours, I feel I've earned my 99 cents. I know I'm on the right track if I laugh out loud when I'm writing a scene. And if I don't laugh out loud several times while writing a book, I don't publish it.

----------------------------

Joe sez: One thing that strikes me, and strikes me hard, is how outside-the-box Locke's approach has been. He didn't even bother with the query-go-round. He marched boldly into self-publishing, recognizing it for the potential goldmine it could be, and wound up hitting it big.

I'm thrilled for his success, and I invited John to hang out on my blog for a bit to answer any questions that my readers might have.

207 comments:

1 – 200 of 207   Newer›   Newest»
Ellen Fisher said...

Congrats on your success, John!

I will say that the price for your covers and formatting jumps out at me. $995 per book? Wow. That's... kind of high, it seems to me. I will admit I don't know who else is out there, though. Did you look around and compare prices before you settled on Telemachus?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations John on your incredible success. 350k books sold this year so far is truly amazing. I have a question, which of course you don't have to answer, but how many books does a no.1 ranked novel sell per day?

Tom H said...

I didn't mean to make the above post anonymous btw.

D. Robert Pease said...

John, You mention you have a niche marketing background, and that is what has helped you here. Can you give any specifics? What kind of marketing efforts have you put behind your books? I'm about to self-publish my first book, and have a firm grasp on everything up until the marketing side of things.

Joe Konrath said...

If you add up what my ebook formatter, print formatter, and cover artist charge, it's about $950. And they don't do the uploading for me.

So, actually, a grand is about right.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 36 one-star reviews...

Merrill Heath said...

John, first of all, congratulations on your success. I plan to give the Donovan Creed series a try.

I notice that you also have all of your books available in print - some hardback as well as TP. How do the sales for your print books compare to the ebooks?

Alec Stover Mysteries

RĂ©ussie Miliardario said...

Too funny: Joe said, "I caught up with John while we were both in the Swiss Alps, at a secret bestselling author chalet where we heat our jacuzzis by burning stacks of hundred dollar bills." Sounds way too fun!

Congrats, John on your tremendous success. I like how you think out of the box. Pretty cool how you just jumped right in fearlessly. Way to go and much continued success to you.

Deep Rough said...

You are a huge inspiration to the indies out there John. Did you just start writing fiction last year or 2 years ago? How quickly did this success come about?

Joe Konrath said...

Wow, 36 one-star reviews...

SERIAL has had over 100 one-star reviews.

As the number of copies sold rises, so does the number one-star idiots.

And make no mistake--they're idiots.

It's a lot like having a popular blog, and having to deal with anonymous idiots.

V. Furnas said...

Congratulations of your successes! So where would one find such a deal for book art and formatting?

michellemuto said...

I'm so happy to see John on the top of the charts! It's well deserved.

Russell Brooks said...

350,000 copies sold since January 1, 2011. I'm at a loss for words.

Very Impressive.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Sam said...

"Who is John Galt?"
More importantly, "Who is John Locke?"

Now we have the beginnings of an answer. This is great stuff...a lot to think about here.

I do think the covers would benefit from a design overhaul--but on the other hand how can you improve upon #1?!

John Locke said...

Hi Ellen, and thanks. To me, you get what you pay for. I make back the one-time price by selling 3,000 eBooks, and every sale thereafter is unencumbered. They do a very fast, professional job, and I am free to forget about it and move on to the next project. Claudia, at Telemachus, and her people are a joy to work with. PS: I don't have a financial interest in them, or get paid anything to endorse them!

Stitch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Locke said...

Hi Anonymous, and thanks. The sales depend on the day, and being number 1 depends on the competition that hour/day/week. Sunday is always the biggest day, Saturday is next, then Friday. This past Sunday, Saving Rachel sold just over 6,000 downloads. Yesterday, Monday, approximately 4,000.

Ellen Fisher said...

"So, actually, a grand is about right."

True, but IMHO, Joe, your covers are better. I'd pay more for them than for John's. However, as Sam said, it's hard to argue with success *shrugs*.

I downloaded a sample, John. Looking forward to checking out your books!

Stephen T. Harper said...

Congratulations, John. Very inspiring. It's funny because someone mentioned on this blog yesterday and I bought one of your books because of it. My day job is in brand consulting - you've done an excellent job on that.

Can you talk a little more about what you did or what happened just prior to your books moving into the stratosphere? What was the low end of sales per day and when did it begin to shift into high gear?

I ask because I've been selling my series at the exact same pace since uploading around Christmas. About 5 books a day. Nothing but 5 stars and great comments, but I haven't found the path to finding more eyes yet.

Thanks, Steve

rjkeller said...

Congrats John! (FYI: I downloaded based on the cover before I even read the description.)

John Locke said...

D.Robert, marketing is all about giving people a place to go and a reason to go there. My advice is to start on Twitter. The Twitter author community is very supportive. That's how I started. Next, write a blog that shows off your writing style. You can do much more, that's all the marketing you will need, if you can build up a following. But it is KEY that your tweets and blogs give an insight into your writing style.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Many congrats John, what an accomplishment and what an inspiring blogpost! Thanks and keep up the good work!

350K since Jan 1? I hope to get to that someday! How many titles do you have out?

Karly
www.karlykirkpatrick.com
www.darksidepublishing.com

John Locke said...

Hi Anonymous. Let me tell you about those one-star reviews. I never got a one-star review on any book until I got in the top 100. This is because you never get a bad review from your target audience. If you get a bad review, it's because someone outside your target audience has found your book and gave it a shot. It's no reflection on them as a reader, and no reflection on you as a writer. --If, as an author, you don't understand this, your writing will suffer, because you'll be writing not to get bad reviews instead of writing to reward your target audience.

Jack Badelaire said...

1. Looks like I've got another author I need to read...sigh.

2. Success stories like this are great. I know we all need to temper our enthusiasm with the mantra "you have to actually write well and put in hard work to be successful", but if nothing else, there is hope for success.

3. As for the cost incurred, just remember; Locke only needs to sell 3,000 books in order to earn back that grand. I think he'll manage...

Thrilling Covers said...

John, what did you tell the agent who contacted you? Not interested? Do you have any interest at all in getting into print? Just curious ...

[SIDE NOTE TO ALL: We're holding a Grand Opening Sale on eBook covers for only $95 from today until Friday. www.thrillingcovers.blogspot.com]

Geoff said...

350,000???!!!

My jaw literally hit the floor.

Congrats on your success, John, I will check out one of your books for sure!

John Locke said...

I love all your questions and comments and this is perfect proof of the incredible power of Joe's blog. I have two appointments now, but around noon EST I will drop in and catch up! Thanks for your patience! Joe, you're the best! Your readers' comments have got me all fired up! Please keep them coming, I'll answer everything you ask!

G.P. Ching said...

Terrific article. John has the entrepreneurial spirit needed for self-publishing. It saddens me to think there are people out there with great manuscripts sitting in their desk drawers because they weren't brave enough to take a risk on themselves.

Joe Konrath said...

I never got a one-star review on any book until I got in the top 100.

This is a much more level-headed way of looking at this phenomenon than I've ever used. And I believe you're right.

SERIAL is free, and has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. Those one-star wonders were from folks who had expectations for SERIAL that weren't met for them.

Rather than use their heads and say, "This ebook wasn't for me," they knee-jerk reacted and panned the writing or called my and my co-author Blake Crouch "deviants".

Fact is, I don't care for historical fiction. That doesn't mean all historical fiction sucks and is written by losers. It means my tastes lie elsewhere.

And yet, in an internet world with zero accountability, every chucklehead with a modem and a keyboard thinks they're doing to the world a service by shouting their poorly-formed opinions.

SlingWords aka Joan Reeves said...

Hello, John! So you also grew up in what I call the time-warp state? *g* Nice to meet you.

I bought the first Donovan Creed novel last week. Started and finished it on Sunday. Clicked over to Kindle Shop and bought the second. Hard to put it down.

It's easy to see why you hold those best-seller spots.

I have to confess that the first book made me feel rather, hmmm, let's say uncomfortable because I'm the kind of old-fashioned girl who likes a hero with a moral center. Creed is such an anti-hero, but the feelings he develops for (gee, don't want to give spoilers for anyone who hasn't read) other characters makes one feel that there's hope for him to have a character arc that includes emotional growth....

Now, in the second book, as I'm reading along and come to the part where he starts questioning the road to domestic bliss, I had to laugh out loud because I could just see him at the end of the book thinking: WTF am I doing, and he just whacks the ones who put him on that road.

Guess that's a long way of saying that even though he's not the usual protagonist readers root for, he is a character that gets in your head and under your skin and you willingly follow him to the end of the story.

At which point, I'm sure I'll rush to the Kindle Shop to get the next Creed book. I can absolutely see this as a movie franchise.

You've accomplished what all writers want: getting your work read by an audience held spellbound by your words. Congratulations!

Scott Marlowe said...

I haven't gotten any 1 star reviews yet, mostly b/c I don't have that many reviews period. However, oftentimes I run across 1 star reviews on other author's work that basically say the book was "well written but not for me". Huh? How does that equate to a 1 star review?

Anonymous said...

" If you get a bad review, it's because someone outside your target audience has found your book and gave it a shot. "

I 100% agree with this. After reading a negative review I think, "Why did this person buy my book?" because they're expectations are so different than what the book had. Writing a good, honest description tends to minimize this problem, but doesn't eliminate it entirely.

scott neumyer said...

It's absolutely amazing how Locke has literally come out of nowhere. People have been hearing rumblings of you and Hocking for a little while now, but Locke just seems to have sprouted out of the ground while no one was watching. Well, clearly people were watching.

Congrats on the success. Those numbers are insanely awesome.

Scott Neumyer
Author of Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town

Merrill Heath said...

John, another quick question...where do the majority of your sales come from - Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo?

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Anonymous said...

Cool stuff. Does Telemachus also do your book trailers?

Helen Hanson said...

Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story, John, and thanks, Joe, for lending your podium.

Here's the valuable experience you missed though, John. I received this from an agent today:

"Thank you for your query letter, and I apologize for the delay in my response. I receive a tremendous volume of inquiries from authors and I'm forced to focus my attention on a very limited number of projects. It's necessarily a very subjective reaction that I have to rely upon, and unfortunately this sounds like it simply isn't for me."

I sent this query last September. At least he didn't expect an exclusive. This agent was then kind enough to invite me over to his personal web page to join the discussion.

I think he missed a comma ...

Gary Ponzo said...

John is a marketing guru. The reason--he's very subtle. He doesn't flood Twitter with "Buy my book," posts. Instead he picks certain writers and tweets positive stuff about them. He understands the philosophy behind marketing. When writers feel his suppport, they want to support him right back. It's the reason I've downloaded his books.

When I interviewed him for my blog, he made sure to reference my success. See, subtle.

He does all of this with sincerity however and that's what makes him all the more likable.

Congrats John. I know a lot of writers who are rooting for you to succeed.

John Ward said...

Would you say that you've used your background of finding and focusing on specific niches to guide you as you wrote your book? If so, were you thinking of a specific audience (i.e. middle age men) or were you catering more to a genre (spy novels and thrillers)?

I realize that on the face of things it might be difficult to cater to a specific audience, but if you think back there used to be lots of cheap (as in they were cheap to purchase) thriller/spy books churned out in the 70s and 80s. I'm sure there still around, but they aren't nearly as prevalent as they used to be. Did you feel that this market was under-served and created your series to meet their interests? Or am I thinking about this too much?

Candice said...

Congratulations on proving the naysayers wrong. I still have writer friends who believe self-publishing is the kiss of death.

Quick question: I'm writing fiction (of all sorts) and non-fiction (mostly about food and wellness). In considering niche markets, would it be advisable for me to use a pen name for one?

Coral Russell said...

I noticed his name on the list a week ago and thought "Who is this guy?"

I just assumed he was a published author selling his backlist.

Thanks for getting the scoop on this and I'm impressed and pleased! Locke, now I have a reason to check out your books.

I'm glad you focus on entertaining your readers because as a book reviewer, I've had to turn down a couple of reviews this week because of low quality and wanting to charge anything for it. I'm only one reader and by no means the end all or be all but - don't try and rip off readers. You're only hurting yourself.

http://alchemyofscrawl.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebook-week-day-3.html

Coral Russell said...

As for one star reviews, I do look at all of them. Dang, I guess you could say I'm a smart shopper and for me, those reviews do help.

Coolkayaker1 said...

"I caught up with John while we were both in the Swiss Alps, at a secret bestselling author chalet where we heat our jacuzzis by burning stacks of hundred dollar bills."--Joe.

Oh, yeah, I know that chalet. Michael Chabon owns it.

LOL

Aaron Patterson said...

John,

So glad for you. I love hearing about authors that make it in this business and are doing it well. Keep up the great work!

Jennifer Hampton said...

Hi John,

Contrats on all your success. How did you market your book to generate so many sales?

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm impressed by your sales. And for those of us starting a second career later in life I'm even more in awe at your success.

Question: how long does it take you to write a book until it is complete and do you have beta readers or someone who reads it just to say if they think it works?

Also, is there any reason you'd consider raising your price?


As an aside Joe I read Serial Uncut and although it was one disturbing piece you guys have some mad storytelling skills. Hope to see more by you both.

Anonymous said...

P.S. The above comment was from me
Josie Wade

JD Rhoades said...

Wow, 36 one-star reviews...

"You're the worst writer I've ever heard of."

"But you have heard of me!"

I keep coming back to that Pirates of the Caribbean quote, it seems.

Rather than use their heads and say, "This ebook wasn't for me," they knee-jerk reacted and panned the writing or called my and my co-author Blake Crouch "deviants".


I've met you both. You ARE deviants. But that's not important right now.

Congratulations, John!

Jason said...

Congrats John!

Is John Locke your real name or were you a big fan of the Lost TV series?

I'm a chronological kind of guy...what's the order they were all written?

Have you ever considered telling your cover person to make your covers more consistent (for branding purposes)? For example, at least having your name be the same size/font & in the same place on every book. They're all quite different.

(This may be an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" kind of thing, but I was just wondering since you're a marketing guy.)

John D said...

Is John Locke your real name or were you a big fan of the Lost TV series?

Or perhaps he's a fan of a certain English philosopher.

Jason said...

Found the answer to one of my questions on your Amazon page in the discussions section.

John Locke writes:
"I have been purposely vague about this, because I would hate for anyone to judge the entire series based on the first book. My preference is that readers review the synopsis of each, find a subject that intrigues them, and if they like that one, they might check out the others. Of course, many disagree with me, so here is the official order of the Creed books:

1. Lethal People
2. Lethal Experiment
3. Saving Rachel
4. Now & Then
5. Wish List
6. A Girl Like You"

And now Follow the Stone is the 7th.

Moses Siregar III said...

As for one star reviews, I do look at all of them. Dang, I guess you could say I'm a smart shopper and for me, those reviews do help.

I've been around the indie author scene enough to have learned that a good percentage of 1-star reviews are also written by outright enemies. Many indies have had the unfortunate experience of pissing someone off online, sometimes over almost nothing, and then getting a flood of 1-star reviews on their works. That's why I like to read samples any time I suspect that might be happening to someone.

Moses Siregar III said...

John, first of all, congratulations. Simply amazing.

You must be reluctant to give up your secrets to a bunch of schmucks, but can you say any more about how you actually got your books to where they are? When Christopher Smith cracked the top 10, you could see how he did it, with some of his viral giveaways. What sort of promotions did you create?

Thanks very much for your time!

Milton Bagby said...

John -- What have you done about your audiobook rights? Before you hand them over to the big guys, you might find much better revenue going indie.

John Locke said...

Merrill, thanks. I just checked the Saving Rachel paperback, and notice it's around #8,980 or so. I have not yet published Follow the Stone or A Girl Like You in paperback, but sales of the other five only total a few hundred a month.

John Locke said...

To answer several questions at once, let me say that I am a businessman, and I look at each of my books as an employee. I make a one-time investment in each of these "employees" ($995.00)and send them out into the world to make sales for me. Some employees do a better job than others. Right now I have six employees, and they are all in the top 100. This past Thursday night, my 7th employee, "A Girl Like You" went out into the world, and she is already #114. I trust her, and believe she will sell enough to get into the top 100 in the next few days. "She" has already earned back her investment. But unlike a real employee, I don't have to deal with her in person, or match her social security or provide benefits. She works 24 hours a day for me for free, and will, for the rest of her life. --How can this not be the best investment in the world?

John Locke said...

Deep Rough - I started writing about two years ago. I had no training, no experience, and never attended a seminar. It probably helped that I was an English major in college (I quit college with one day to go before graduating, but that's another story!)

V - Telemachus Press does my formatting and cover work.

Michelle & Russell - Thank you very much. I've been very fortunate, and I certainly know that. Right now I'm just holding a spot that will soon belong to someone else. When your books replace mine, I promise I'll be very happy for you!

Merrill Heath said...

John, I love your attitude about this whole deal. Very refreshing. You've made me a fan...whether I like your books or not.

Merrill Heath
Consequences

John Locke said...

Hi Sam. All my recent and future covers will feature women's legs. It's a branding thing, created by my gifted friend, Claudia, at Telemachus Press. She has come to realize that women who like my covers also like my books. It's a device that helps my target audience find me. My goal is, if you see several covers on your Amazon page, and one has a pair of sexy legs, you'll know John Locke has a new book out. If a picture of a rock could lead me to my target audience, I'd put a rock on every cover, instead!

Christy Pinheiro said...

$995 per book? Wow. That's... kind of high, it seems to me.

That's a resonable price for services, for sure. I pay about that much for cover design and ebook formatting, but I use separate providers for each service and then do my own uploading.

Each book takes me about $1,000-$2,000 to launch. I've had a few that have cost more (around $4,000). They usually recover their investment, and I've had a few that were extremely profitable.

In this business, you really do have to spend a little money to have a good-looking, professional product.

As for the covers, I love the cover for Saving Rachel.

But the covers for Follow the Stone, Wish List, and Follow the Stone are almost identical. They're professional looking, but still. A little variety is good.

What's with the multitude of chick legs?

Christy Pinheiro said...

It's a device that helps my target audience find me.

Got it-- you answered the question while I was writing my post.

John Locke said...

Ellen, I agree that Joe has killer covers! That's why I purchased three of his books last year. I believe you CAN judge a book by it's cover, and in fact, it's one of the best ways to judge one! (Of course, I also believe you can mix apples and oranges--it's called fruit salad). Again, your cover should appeal to your target audience.

John Locke said...

Thanks, Stephen! There is not one specific thing I did that launched my books. I've been in marketing all my life, and I've learned that Target Marketing is the only type that works. In my opinion, this is how you sell books:

1. Identify your target audience
2. Find out where they live
3. Shove your book down their throats

John Locke said...

RJ - Bless your heart! Thank you! Every sale is greatly appreciated!

Karly - As of last Thursday, I have seven titles.

Jack - Thank you! Please let me know if you like my stuff. I'm honored you're willing to give me a try.

Thrilling - I am having my agent conversation today, in two hours. I plan to tell them the only way I would consider being published is if I can control my eBook sales. I want to continue selling my downloads for 99 cents. In other words, I'm staying with the girl I brought to the dance.

John Locke said...

Geoff - Thank you. I'm thrilled to hear you're willing to take a chance on one of my novels. Let me know what you think (tomorrow, after you finish it! Haha)

GP - How right you are. Forty years ago I wrote this in a marketing manual for my insurance agents: "A man or woman who is afraid to take a chance in life, hasn't got one." --It's still true.

Stephen T. Harper said...

"1. Identify your target audience
2. Find out where they live
3. Shove your book down their throats "

Thanks John.

So...extreme violence then? I guess i have been going about this all wrong. :)

Actually, I took a look at more of what you do... it's a lot. Love how you have Creed speak in character on the website. And I see a little of how you utilize Twitter. Like I said, inspiring. After reading up on you I came up with my own twitter campaign idea and started it today. I'll tweet one of [url=http://stephentharper.blogspot.com/2011/03/kings-x-by-tweet.html]these[/url] from my blog every morning...

Stephen T. Harper said...

sorry, link didn't translate... it's in my avatar though.

John Locke said...

Hi Joan, and thanks for the comment. With my character, Creed, I want to give you a guy who is hard to like, then force you to like him. Women make up 75 to 80% of my audience, and those in my target group get the fact that what Creed really needs in his life is the right woman. My readers are the right woman for a guy like Creed, and when they see him saying something dumb, or making a bad decision, they shake their heads and laugh--because every one of my female readers is smarter than Creed when it comes to relationships, and they know it. They think he's rough, but worth saving.

John Locke said...

There are several comments about the 1-star reviews. Of course people read them, and yes, it influences some people. But that's a good thing.

I'm not writing for the masses, I'm writing to a specific audience. My audience likes my humor, understands my quirks, accepts my mistakes. They're my closest friends. What better friends on earth can a person have than the people who love your books? I love--deeply and profoundly love--my readers, and I hope they love me, too. And Donovan Creed, despite our faults. I think they know our hearts are in the right place.

When that next book comes out, I'm hoping my family of readers will smile and say, "Hey--John's home!" --and will welcome me with open arms. (--If this sounds like a silly fantasy to you, please don't burst my bubble!)

Rex Kusler said...

John--It's ironic that your background is in niche marketing, but your target audience seems to be just about everybody who reads fiction.

John Locke said...

Scott, Thanks!

Merrill - The other platforms run 12 weeks behind with royalties, so I have no idea how well I'm doing outside of Kindle. But my guess is, Kindle represents 90% of my sales.

Anonymous - Yes, Telemachus produced all my book trailers except for Lethal People.

Helen, you made me laugh out loud. You'll be a natural for self-publishing. One day soon you'll be able to shout: "Who's laughin' now, flapjack?" as you pass by that agent's office in your limo.

John Locke said...

Gary Ponzo is a great author and a wonderful friend. He is someone whose work you should all get to know. I'm only saying this because it's true. Gary is right, I praise a number of people on Twitter. I read their blogs and review their sites every chance I get. Sometimes I'm too busy to write each day, so I'll save 10 or 15 comments and post them all at once. My friends forgive me for this, because when I see something I like, I mention it to my followers, and they usually check it out. Gary is one of the people I follow regularly. Like Joe, he's one of the good ones!

John Locke said...

John Ward - What a great question! You're right in that marketing is often a matter of finding a need and filling it. In my case, I just wanted to write about this guy, Donovan Creed, and all the crazy people and situations he encounters. After I wrote my first three novels, I started trying to figure out who else in the world might like to get to know Creed.

John Locke said...

Hi Candice - If you believe in your product, you should put your name on it boldly. Your real name. That's just my opinion.

I understand why your friends feel that sitgma about self-publishing. But they're denying the world a chance to discover some new talent at a fair price. Ask them this: how much fun are they having sending out query letters and waiting for some agent to validate their self-worth? Why not let the marketplace decide what they're worth?

JAMES BRUNO said...

I have two novels on four Kindle genre bestseller lists. One has been on three lists since late last year. I self-published these two books in 2006 after going through two good agents, but no sales. I honestly am at a loss to explain my success. And sales are rising. My third book has been stuck with my third agent for almost 18 months now and I'm eager to yank it and self-publish it.
I also didn't get 1-2 star reviews until I hit the genre bestseller lists. Those that I got were two-liners obviously blasted out by the literary equivalent of drive-by shooters.
Joe's and John's massive success is a lesson for the rest of us.

John Locke said...

Thanks Coral - I hope you enjoy my books, if you don't, no hard feelings! :-)

Coolkayaker - LOL!

Jennifer - I've addressed this in the comments above.

Josie - Great question! It takes me 100 hours to write a series novel, 150 if it's a new one, like Follow the Stone.

I sort of have a review committee: I send my manuscript to three people before publishing, to get their take. These people "get" my work, and are not afraid to tell me when something in the story isn't working for them. I trust their instincts most of the time.

As for increasing the price of my downloads, I don't want to. I'm charging my reader less than a penny for each hour of my writing, and think that's a fair exchange. In other words, if you hate my writing, remember, it's only 99 cents. You could buy a flippin' Starbucks mocha latte, or 5 of my books!

John Locke said...

Pleased to announce that A Girl Like You is on the verge of hitting the Top 100 Amazon/Kindle sales! It is now #101.

I have to leave for a bit. Got that agent call that's coming into my office. After that, I'll log back on and continue.

Thank you so much for your interest!

Dan Absalonson said...

Wow, great stuff! Thanks for sharing all of this John. I'm definitely going to check out your books, it's pretty hard to resist with your prices :) I'm curious what the editing process looks like for you, I'm guessing you don't have a professional editor, so what do you do? Thanks and congrats on all the success!

Dan Absalonson
(@DanDanTheArtMan)

Donna Ball said...

A year ago I started an experiment to see just what kinds of sales numbers the average multi-published writer (i.e. me) with a fairly strong backlist, a semi-active front list, and absolutely no energy for self promotion (me, again) could reasonably expect to obtain by self-publishing e-books on Kindle.
The results , complete with month-by-month sales figures and total dollar amounts, are posted here: http://awriterreads.blogspot.com/2011/03/great-e-book-experiment-results.html.
My sampling was with an average of 7 books (I now have 11 up) that had all been best sellers in print, so I thought it was a pretty fair test. I did experiment with changing the price (I actually found that sales went UP when I went from 1.99 to 2.99) and going from a really, really bad self-designed cover to a sexy professionally designed one (sales went down!) . My conclusion—I have no idea what drives Kindle sales. Congratulations on your success John!

Kendall Swan said...

Hi John,

As Merrill said-- you have such a great attitude! I just bought Saving Rachel. (And Joe, thanks a lot for making my tbr list so much longer with all these great author guest posts!!!)

I'm curious-
Why did you (or Claudia) go through Smashwords for BN.com? You can get real time numbers and monthly paydays just like KDP, not to mention the 11% (?) more in royalties by skipping Smash for that one.

Thanks,
Kendall Swan
NAKED Vampire

Vivi Anna said...

Fantastic John.

Thanks for sharing your story and your numbers.

Mighty impressive. I hope to accomplish that level of sales one day.

Coral Russell said...

Mr. Locke downloading one now. Your comments and ideas mirror too much of my own so I'm sure I'll like your stuff! You seem to understand readers! :-)

Gretchen Galway said...

You're charming. My goodness, what a gift that is.

I haven't read your books, I don't know that I will, but this blog post is my first introduction to you and I feel like I've known you for ages.

And I'm rooting for you to succeed! Guess I'm not the only one, lol. I'm going to try to emulate you. Hope that's OK :-P

bowerbird said...

john locke said:
> I'm not writing for the masses,
> I'm writing to
> a specific audience.
> My audience likes my humor,
> understands my quirks,
> accepts my mistakes.
> They're my closest friends.
> What better friends on earth
> can a person have than the
> people who love your books?
> I love--deeply and profoundly
> love--my readers, and
> I hope they love me, too.
> And Donovan Creed,
> despite our faults. I think
> they know our hearts
> are in the right place.

boom! that is the loud sound
of the old world crashing down.

in the p-book gatekeeper age,
masses had to be the major aim.

if you aim at _everyone_, then
you know you'll hit _someone_,
so it won't be a total washout,
and you'll recover _some_ costs.

but we can now change the aim,
what with one's production cost
pared down to the writing time
plus a thousand bucks (or less),
and variable costs that are nil...

when you cook something that
you want the masses to enjoy,
your dish has to be _good_, yes,
but it also ends up... "ordinary"
(for lack of a better descriptor)
in the sense that it's not gonna
make any particular subset of
the masses stand up and shout.

in the very same way that
the jack of all trades will
be the master of none...

the corporations had to play
the game that way because
their media machine is one
that's geared to the masses.

but if you _aim_ at one subset,
you can make something spicy,
tailoring it to their taste-buds,
so they _rave_ about your dish.

and that _passion_ which they
deliver will serve to lift up your
dish, or your book, to the top.

this is how cyberspace can/will
_liberate_ artists, and i am so
very glad that an exemplar of
such liberation already exists...

-bowerbird

Robert said...

"A man or woman who is afraid to take a chance in life, hasn't got one."

John, that one has just gone onto a Post-It, now affixed right above my keyboard. And I've shared it on my Facebook page. Thanks so much for that.

And thanks especially for the inspiration of your example. It is making my all-nighters to complete my forthcoming thriller a whole lot easier.

Wishing you every continued success,

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Nicholas La Salla said...

John, your advice is tremendous. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

I completely agree about the pricing. Considering that you can buy a dinner for your family for $25, what on earth is the reasoning for anyone to charge that much for a book?

The same goes for an E-Book, which has no physical existence. You're buying entertainment and that's it -- so why should you have to pay more than at most a couple bucks?

I try to keep that same mentality with my own books. My first, One More Day, is doing quite well based on simple Twitter/blog marketing, similar to what you're suggesting here.

Thank you again for your inspiration and for all the great reads.

Best,

Nick
One More Day

Lanette Curington said...

Congrats on your success, and thanks for telling us about it.

I'm not having much luck with my only indie offering, under a pen name, at Amazon (yet one of my small e-press books is doing very well--suddenly, inexplicably, because I seriously suck at marketing and promoting). But it's only been a few months. I can wait.

Thanks, Joe, for hosting these amazing stories. Gives us all hope.

Jule Reigh and the Jim Stone Affair

John Locke said...

JD - Well said!

Jason and John D - John Locke is my real name. The guy on "Lost" stole my name and my haircut.

Hi Moses - Early on, more than a year ago, I offered a free book to the first 40 people who requested one on Twitter. Some were nice enough to give me reviews, though I didn't ask for them. One thing I've learned since those days is to ask for reviews, though I haven't given any freebies out.

John Locke said...

Milton - I haven't done anything about audio rights, but Joe and I were talking on the phone about that a few minutes ago! I'll let you know!

John Locke said...

You guys are hearing it live! My new book, "A Girl Like You" is #96 on the Amazon/Kindle Best Seller's List, which means all 7 books are in the top 100 at the same time. Thanks to all who helped make this happen. I can't tell you how grateful I am.

John Locke said...

Merrill, thank you. And if you don't like my books, we'll still be friends! :-)

John Locke said...

Christy, thanks for sharing your publishing experience. I love the folks at Telemachus Press. I believe their prices are fair, but honestly, I would pay more if they raised their prices because I just enjoy dealing with them. Same with my editor, Winslow Eliot, who is also a Telemachus author. I love dealing with these people!

Stephen Knight said...

John, when did you publish your first work? How long did it take to start generating heat and rolling up the charts?

John Locke said...

Thanks, Stephen, I'm pleased to hear that!

Rex - That would be great, if true! I've been very pleasantly surprised to learn that the Donovan Creed target audience runs much wider than I anticipated. I will have to work hard to earn their continued trust.

Thanks James - I'm very pleased to hear your sales are rising. I can answer why: the readers are embracing your characters. It's a grass roots thing. It builds. Congratulations!

Dan, I appreciate your comments. With the exception of Lethal People and Saving Rachel, I have paid the author, Winslow Eliot, to edit my books. I feel more comfortable doing that, because every time another set of eyes sees your manuscript, they will find something that everyone else has missed.

John Locke said...

Thanks Donna, and you're right, Kindle success is like pulling teeth, but not something you can identify by looking in it's mouth.

Kendall, I was not aware that B&N can do that now. We will certainly take advantage, though! Thanks! --And thanks for buying my books. I hope when you "open" them, fun spills out!

N. R. Williams said...

OMG, I'm charging too much. I thought $2.99 was low, but I don't have many people buying. I'm headed over soon to change it to .99
Nancy
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

John Locke said...

Vivi - Thank you! I'm sure you'll be successful because you're following Joe's advice. He definitely understands this business. He's a legend.

Coral - A huge thanks for downloading my stuff. It's meant to be read with a smirk, instead of literally.

Gretchen, what a sweet thing to say! If I can help you in any way, please let me know. Even if you never read any of my books! :-) But if you're nervous because some of my books sound sort of in-your-face, try my Western, "Follow the Stone." --It's not your grandpa's western, but it's not too harsh! :-)

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

@Donna Ball

Holy cow! I just visited your Kindle page, and I think I see your big problem. You have several books at $3, three at $5, and a bunch at $6 to $12. None at $0.99. Unless you're Patterson or Larson (and even then...), anything over $2.99 is cutting volume dramatically. Stuff at $8 to $12 is the kiss of death.

If I were you, I'd price the first in each of your series at $0.99 and the others at $2.99, if not also $0.99, and then leave them there permanently. Look what happened when Joe cut The List from $2.99 to $0.99. He's selling a ton more copies and making more money than he did at $2.99.

You also need to get the DRM off of them, even though that'll require zeroing out your numbers and republishing each book as a new title. DRM does absolutely nothing to prevent unauthorized copying. All it does is piss off the paying customers.

Moses Siregar III said...

John, the people having great success at BN.com generally do not use Smashwords to port over to BN.com. They use PubIt. You could be missing out on an absurd number of sales by not using PubIt.

bowerbird said...

john locke said:
> You guys are hearing it live!
> My new book, "A Girl Like You"
> is #96 on the Amazon/Kindle
> Best Seller's List, which means
> all 7 books are in the top 100
> at the same time.

wow. quite an accomplishment.

your fans are very quick to buy...
they know they want it, and act.

and that means you'd be able to
disintermediate that middleman
who is taking 2/3 of what those
fans are paying for your books...

just direct 'em to your own site.

in other words, lose the leeches.
that's what "independent" means.

at some point, everyone needs to
acknowledge that they are _your_
customers, and not _amazon's_...

until amazon understands that
it could lose its _entire_ share,
it will happily take a percentage
that's so big it's patently unfair.

i am not being unreasonable...
i recognize what amazon brings
to the table, and i believe that
it should be compensated for it.
50% of a $.99 sale is fair for all.

amazon bills me 6 cents a month
for some s3 storage space i use,
so i know amazon _can_ manage
very small transactions profitably.

everyone thinks apple is being
"too greedy" for demanding 30%,
and here amazon is taking 65%.

but if you _let_ amazon do it...

-bowerbird

Candice said...

What a great discussion! Many thanks to Joe for hosting it and to John for graciously answering our questions. It might surprise you both to know how helpful it has been. Continued success.

John Locke said...

Bowerbird - Thanks for "getting" it. I feel certain you are part of my target audience. As are a number of others who have responded today.

Robert, I'm humbled you would say and do that. Thank you.

Thanks Nick - I'm very happy you are having success.

Lanette - As recently as September, my total book royalty income was, I believe, $47. People laughed at me, saying, "Why are you writing two more when you can't sell the three you've already written?" I said, "When my audience finds me, they're going to want five books, not three."

David Tanner said...

Great interview Joe and John. Glad to hear about the success that both of you are having.

Here's something that I wonder about, though: I like the 99 cent price point because there's no price restistance but what if you want to sell short stories as well? I have a truck load of short stories that I want to get up online and available to readers. I think in this case it's better to price most of my novels at 2.99 with a few at 99 cents and then put the short stories up at the 99 cent price point. Any feedback would be great though.

chris said...

@John:

Love your books, mate. Started off with Wishlist a couple of weeks ago. Got Rachel the next day.

One question though: Are you happy to stick at 99 cents?





@Bowerbird:

The problem with going solo and redirecting customers to your own site is the 1-click and the instant access.

Downloading and placing the file where it needs to go is probably too much stuffing around for the average customer.

John Locke said...

Stephen - I published my first eBook in, I believe, April, 2010, and had five in print by November. In November I got a big spike that encouraged me. December really got my attention. I didn't call my accountant until the end of January, when I saw the sales reports. I said, "Should I start treating this as a business?" He said, "Have you sold more than a hundred books yet?" Haha.

Nancy - I think that's a good idea. Want to see my poetic side?

"99 cents will move 'em off the fence."

Lanette Curington said...

People laughed at me, saying, "Why are you writing two more when you can't sell the three you've already written?"

Well, writers write, don't they, even if no one reads it. *g*

I said, "When my audience finds me, they're going to want five books, not three."

The sad part is I've been in the e-book biz since 2000 with small e-presses. I have quite a few books out there, under both names, but never really clicked. I'll continue to write and indie publish so when my audience does find me, there'll be even more books for them to read.

Thanks for the encouraging words! Much appreciated.

Stephen Knight said...

Thanks for the response, John. It's encouraging to see that in at least some circumstances, things can work out pretty happily. This is presuming you're happy with the way things have wound up. Maybe you're inconsolable with having amassed so much wealth? If so, I believe I can help...

Anonymous said...

Donna Ball:

I usually don't comment on this blog as I'm just a reader that finds all the changes in the publishing world fascinating, but I wanted to say John is right - your ebooks are too expensive. Several of them have been on my Amazon wish list for 6+ months but I'm reading stuff $2.99 and lower mostly (HP Mallory right now). Lots of us readers have all the patience in the world for prices to come down as long as we have good stuff to read, which is no problem these days with all the indi authors (and I read lots of different genres, too). I bet you'd see a lot more sales if you followed John's advice on pricing.

Anonymous said...

Oops - correcting above anonymous post - it was Robert Bruce Thompson that made the comments on Donna's pricing, not John Locke. Sorry about that.

Stephen T. Harper said...

Lanette, I just looked at your site. You've probably got a great niche going there with that Greek Mythology and Romance combination. Have you looked deeply into where those readers congregate online? I haven't, but romance is obviously huge across the board and the mythological flavor ought to lead you to "community" who would like your books and spread the word.

Millions of people online around the world means there are plenty of people with an appetite for what you are offering. You've just got to look around, find them, and approach them. Good luck!

evilphilip said...

$995 seems a little on the high side to me, however it is hard to argue with John's success.

I know it is kind of crazy, but if someone needs help with cover art or formatting their text for the Kindle, I will be happy to help people for a very reasonable fee.

I'm not a professional, but I've been getting some awesome results on my own.

J. Viser said...

That's an amazing success story!

I took the plunge this weekend and priced my ebook, Lie Merchants, to 99 cents. I am trying it for March only and will evaluate the results at the end of this month.

Lie Merchants is now available on Amazon.com, B&N, Google and Smashwords. To date, about 98% of my sales have been through Amazon (Kindle store).

I believe the 99 cent price point tilts the perceived risk/reward ratio to the buyer, while still leaving excellent profits to be made by the writer. It's like a lottery ticket - very low cost for a potential big payoff in finding your next great read. And, if it turns out to suck, you only lost 99 cents!

Plus, there may be a dynamic developing that buyers might actually prefer to support indies. That remains to be seen, however, by buying indie music, watching indie films and reading indie books, we often feel as if we're "special" and part of an exclusive group that is seeing/hearing/reading ideas before they hit "mainstream." That's cool and people always want to be "cool."

jack said...

John, I was wondering if you have a link to the amazon business model you refereed to in the blog? I am thinking of self publishing my first book in may, and would be grateful for all the advice you have given already today. Thank you very much and I wish you continued success.

chris said...

@Jack

The 'business model' John is refering to is 'Amazon's Ebook Business Model' ie, sell an ebook at 99cents and the author turns a 35cent profit.

The reason he was so excited - i'm assuming - is that for almost zero outlay authors are able to sell a product at a sub-$1 price point and still make 35 cents.

Most of us are clouded by the royalty issue due to seeing it through 'traditional publishing model' eyes. John's seeing it through a purely business perspective.

In other words, he has seen the ROI (return on investment) opportunity of the century... and now he's running with it as quickly as he can.

Take note of his actions. He's going to win much bigger than he currently is.

Anonymous said...

Donna Ball is also Rebecca Flanders and Donna Boyd and a couple of other names. She wrote Rebecca Flanders books for the category romances.

Harlequin appears to own at least some digital rights for these and they have four of her books on Amazon in ebook form.

The only books I have read by her were the Donna Boyd books and I don't see those offered digitally although I think the werewolf books were well received.

I think the $2.99 books she has listed are the ones she has published independently, but I cannot believe that they have no reviews at all. I even managed to match them up with their original publication as PBOs by Silhouette (as Donna Carlisle) and there are no reviews on those pages either.

Not intending to be rude, but I don't think I would pay $2.99 for the ebook version of a 20 year old Silhouette Desire that hasn't attracted any attention on Amazon in it's first or second incarnation.

Sven Davison said...

John Locke has sold 350K books as of March 8. Given his percentage of .35/book he has made $122.5K. Divide by six books and he's made $20,416/book. I'm not sure how many months it takes him to write a novel but for me working roughly 40hrs/week, it takes me nine months (best case scenario-- more like four years with a full time job-- now longer with a baby). That's roughly 1,440 hours per book or $14/hr. Unless everyone who writes is single and living in studio apartments it's going to take a long time to make that scenario pay the bills. It's a good secondary income provided there's no sales decay curve.

Still, getting read is better than not being read and if that's the price point to get more readers, I'm buying the argument. Just not seeing the dollar bill burning scenario quite yet.

John Ward said...

Sven, he says (in one of the earlier comments) that it takes him 150 hours to write a book. So, if you want to break it down to an hourly rate, he's making 136.10 per hour.

chris said...

@Sven & @John Ward:

Those sales are only since January of this year ie, 2 months!!

He will crack the million dollar revenue mark way before the end of year.

John Ward said...

Chris, I'd probably have to drop Netflix, but I think I could manage to scrape by on that.

bowerbird said...

sven said:
> Divide by six books and
> he's made $20,416/book
...
> or $14/hr

sven, that new baby must be
keeping you up nights and --
since you're short on sleep --
you can't see a forest because
your view is blocked by a tree!

locke has made $20,000+ on
each one of 6 books in just
the last 2 months, which is
more than most authors got
for an advance in the old days.

and locke is just getting started!

with _7_ books in the top-100,
each of 'em pushing all the rest,
he's gonna make a ton of money.

and amazon will make two tons.

really, sven, get some sleep! ;+)

-bowerbird

chris said...

@Bowerbird

And amazon will make two tons.

Yep, this is the real problem because 99 cents is going to be THE price point.

If authors are willing to accept 35% royalties then Amazon will happily give it to them.

Bezos is a brilliant businessman. Makes me wonder if he predicted the 99cent price point to dominate in the future and already set the 35% precedent.

msthriller said...

I was just looking at February's sales totals on KB and saw your name. I thought "who the hell is John Locke?". I went to Amazon, read the description of your book "Saving Rachel" (out of all books this one piqued my interest the most because Rachel is the main character in my soon-to-published novel, The Devil's Claw), and bought the book. I devoured it in a day. I have turned three other readers on to you (my sister is one - see question below) and look forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

I read your comment about how many hours it takes you to bang out a story. I was wondering how many drafts it takes you until completion?
Also, do you do any promoting on Goodreads?
And, last question, promise - my sister thinks you are kinda cute and wants to know if you are single.

Jason said...

John...I stand corrected about my comment on branding earlier. I see that your last 3 books with the (hot) legs on the cover definitely are consistent with title and author placement. Nicely done.'

Yo Joe...when are you going to blog about this little gem I just found? You know, the newly released short thriller story you wrote with Ann Voss Peterson?

Amazon - http://tinyurl.com/66xtxkn

B&N - http://tinyurl.com/6jlr2y8

Joe Konrath said...

Yo Joe...when are you going to blog about this little gem I just found?

Tomorrow.

Mica Jade said...

Congrats, John! Thanks for the inspiration.

Joe - a simple thanks doesn't seem to do justice for your guidance in my writing life via your blog. Thanks for helping to propel my writing career into a promising direction.

John Locke said...

Hi Moses - We started converting to PubIt recently, and I believe Follow the Stone is on PubIt, though I haven't thought about checking the numbers yet. Thanks for the heads up! --I'll have to find my password!

Hi David - I can't argue with your logic, since I haven't written any short stories.

Chris - I'm thrilled you enjoyed Wish List. To me--that's the type of plot idea an author gets only a few times in a career--if he's lucky. I love the idea of three underachievers sitting around on a Sunday afternoon, smoking a joint, dreaming out loud about what they'd wish for if there really was a Wish List website.

Lanette - Yes, do hang in there. The world will eventually find you!

Stephen - LOL! Yes, I'm happy. And very grateful.

J. Viser - In my experience, Kindle book buyers are extremely astute, and I agree there are many who seek to discover a new talent. For 99 cents, they will give indie authors like you and me a try.

Jack, thank you. The business model I was referring to is the idea itself: that your books can be offered on this world-wide platform for pennies, with all the accounting done for you, and you don't owe any money until you make a sale. You don't need an office, don't need employees, or even a telephone. And for a one-time payment, you get a lifetime of income at a 35% royalty level. To me, it's just an unbelievable business opportunity.

John Locke said...

Chris - Thank you! I just saw your response to Jack, and it's better than mine. Yes, you've nailed it!

Sven - I'm not quitting my day job, but the past three days I've sold exactly 37,537 downloads. Worrying about the profit I've made based on the hours it took to write the books doesn't take into account any future sales on books I've already written. For example, I'll probably sell a few downloads tomorrow, and perhaps some more next week too, if all goes well.

Lundeen Literary said...

John

Thank you so much for being transparent with your sales and costs. Congratulations, and I'm going to have to check out your work!

I do cover art and design/formatting for ebooks as well as paper books, and I hadn't thought of bundling them together with upload service! Thank you for mentioning what is covered and how much you pay for such useful service! I'll have to sell services singly or as a bundle, with added options like not futzing with uploads.

BTW, what's your twitter handle? I'd like to follow you...

Thanks again!

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

John Locke said...

MSThriller - I am so glad you enjoyed Saving Rachel! Thanks for the wonderful endorsement. Tell your sister I haven't been cute for 30 years, but how sweet of her to say that! Actually, I am married to an amazing lady who also happens to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, and I'm not making that up. Getting her to marry a guy that looks like me is probably the best marketing campaign I ever waged!

Amanda Bozeman said...

Great voice, John. I'll be purchasing one of your books soon.

Gayle Sliva said...

Thanks for doing this interview and for answering everyone's questions. Reading the comments was just as informative as the post. I just started marketing a couple of books I uploaded to the Kindle this week, and was touched that so many people came forward within the first few minutes of my marketing to tell me they downloaded one or both of my books and offered positive feedback. I love the Internet. You can hear from your readers in real time and not have to wait for someone to get around to writing a letter. Congratulations on your success and thank you for being so generous with your time.

wannabuy said...

@Jack"1. Looks like I've got another author I need to read...sigh."

lol! Ditto. I cannot keep up. Some of the prior featured authors had a backlist and I *still* have my favorite authors putting out new works; ebooks have definitely increased the author output! ;)

Neil

wannabuy said...

@Bowerbird:"with _7_ books in the top-100,
each of 'em pushing all the rest,
he's gonna make a ton of money.
"

Ebooks are still growing up too. Think about when ebooks are 30% of the market (or more)...

Neil

bowerbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moses Siregar III said...

Ebooks are still growing up too. Think about when ebooks are 30% of the market (or more)...

Link: "At HarperCollins, for example, e-books made up 25 percent of all young-adult sales in January, up from about 6 percent a year before — a boom in sales that quickly got the attention of publishers there."

I've heard figures from big publishers stating that many new releases sell more ebooks than print books.

And yet the market is still growing. Think about how many of your friends don't have Kindles or Nooks yet. It's like in the early days of cell phone use when having a cell phone made you look like an annoying yuppie :-)

bowerbird said...

chris said:
> The problem with going solo
> and redirecting customers
> to your own site is the
> 1-click and the instant access.

that's not the half of it.

amazon does a whole lot more,
for both sellers _and_ buyers...

it takes the money, which is a
big deal when out-of-country.

it handles customer complaints,
including pain-in-butt returns.

it does fulfillment, to multiple
devices, and multiple downloads.

it maintains the buyer's catalog,
over time, so angst like loss or
theft of a machine is minimized.

it gives authors daily accounting.

it manages lending of the books.

it runs a collaborative filtering
recommendation engine, which
benefits both buyers and sellers.

it gives authors web-presence.

it hosts reviews, and ratings.

it runs a ton of best-seller lists.

it manages a sampling process.

it helps customers remember
what they viewed in the past,
and what they have purchased.
(brick-and-mortar bookstores
will happily sell you the same
book over and over and over.)

amazon does _a_lot_ of stuff...

and all these things are _huge_.

most people probably will never
realize how difficult it can be to
implement all of these things...

but _i_ know how hard it is...

and i appreciate it. fully. i do.

still...

does any of this, or even _all_
of it together, justify taking
2/3 of the price of an e-book
offered at less than $2.99?

no. that percentage is unfair.

and we could argue all day
about what would be "fair",
but i think 50% is just right.

it makes it clear that amazon
and authors are _partners_,
and _equal_ partners at that.

i firmly believe that amazon
will come around on the rate.
they're not a greedy business.

they were caught by surprise
with the huge success of you
independent authors selling
works at such a cheap price...
and i'd say they'll adjust soon.

but in the meantime, i will be
repeating that "unfair is unfair".

-bowerbird

Douglas Dorow said...

John & Joe
Thanks for a great blog post and a glance behind the curtain. It's fantastic that you've found your audience and can continue to give them what they want.

Twitter is a great tool and the writers out there are very supportive. I appreciated the call out tweet yesterday. I immediately saw a spike on my blog and new twitter followers.

I haven't read any of your books yet, but I will. I need to work on finishing my own so I can publish it on kindle in the next month or two and squeeze into that top 100 between a couple of yours.

Wishing you continued success.
@dougdorow

Maryann Faro said...

John, congratulations! You mentioned that you have an editor. Is she a copy editor, a story editor, or both?

I also have to ask, is A Girl Like You named after that addictive Smithereens song? (I think I owned the original track as a "cassingle" back in 1990, aka my Year of the Scrunchies. Boy am I dating myself. The song's a classic though.)

Joe, thank you so very much for this blog. I've been reading it for weeks and also bought and read the Newbies Guide. You don't just give advice, you give hope.

bowerbird said...

i said:
> but in the meantime,
> i will be repeating that
> "unfair is unfair".

i should have also mentioned
the big elephant in the room...

amazon gives you access to its
huge base of good book-buyers.

and that is why most of you will
ignore my campaign telling you
that you shouldn't sell at $.99...

why would you sacrifice profit
and readership just to register
a protest against an injustice?

and, to be frank, most of you
are getting the best end of it,
even at 35% "royalty", precisely
because of that huge audience.

but someone like john locke?

he brings his own customers.

oh sure, amazon brought 'em in
for the first book, and maybe
the second, and third, but now?

now they're coming _because_
they _know_ they like his stuff.

so when amazon gives him that
paltry 35%, it's patently unfair.

so what can he do?

let me tell you. (and him.)

he can package up his books.

create bundles of _4_ books,
every possible combination,
and sell them for $3 each...

that way his customers get
a "bonus" book for every $3.

they were gonna buy 'em all
anyway, so it's convenient!

and john locke himself nets
$2 out of that $3 purchase,
not $1.40 on 4 at $.99 each.

the only party who ends up
with less is amazon. good!

he can, of course, continue
to offer each book separately
at the $.99 price-point, but
_fans_ will know what to do.

and amazon will most likely
get the message too. :+)

-bowerbird

Sanguine said...

This thread is a goldmine of information I can't get enough of it. Much thanks for posting this.

I actually have been involved in Internet sales and support for over 10 years. It's not really my passion. Now I'm seeing where put what I've learned in Business together with my creativity!

Also a free bit of advice for those authors who don't have a lot of $$$ to create a flash cover.

A very decent e-book cover can be created using PowerPoint. PowerPoint is already installed on many computers. It's a powerful tool that can combine graphics and text together seamlessly. In fact, using it at work today, I realized its the perfect program to make a budget e-book cover.

I can't teach a PowerPoint class here. Yet, I can tell you making a book cover using PowerPoint is very easy:

- Create a new PowerPoint Presentation.
- Change your PowerPoint Slide Orientation from 'Landscape' to Portrait.
- Import whatever photo or art work you want to use.
- PowerPoint has pre-formatted Title Boxes. You can move the title around. Change fonts and colors. There's even 'Word Art'.

- When you're done, save the Presentation as .JPEG file.

Viola -- Book Cover.

(Hmmm...maybe I should make a YouTube tutorial about this, as publicity for my blog?)

Robert said...

Looks like the Big 6 NY publishers, realizing they're in danger of losing more great authors like Joe and John, are trying to rework their royalty terms. But they'll have to do better than this:

"Yesterday, Avon introduced a new digital imprint called Avon Impulse, which when you go to their site triggers a submission form for potential romance authors. But this may or may not be the best place to publish your book.

"PCMag pointed out that eBook author Amanda Hocking did just fine on her own using the Kindle store. She has, 'sold over 900,000 copies of her books since last April, many through Amazon’s Kindle Store. Whereas Amazon’s Kindle Store allows authors to keep 70 percent of their profits, Avon Impulse is offering authors 25 percent of profits on the first 10,000 copies of each e-book solid, and 50 percent after that.'

"Which do you think is better?"

Duh. Is that a trick question?

-- Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Boo said...

John, thank you for sharing. Could you please expand on target marketing as it pertains to epublishing?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So, for those who have said they are spending $1,000 or more to launch an ebook, how much of that (on average) goes to cover art?

Archangel said...

John, your books. Man. Smart, a smart-half conscious anti hero with room to expand in any direction in future works. That's just brilliant.

I love hearing you did not go to school to learn to write, tho you have a background in Eng. That will be so hopeful for so many. I love that you began only two years ago. That is so encouraging. I love that your hard work brought fortune smiling on you.

Can you tell us how you outline your novels and how you work (I know, I know, it can be like being dragged around by demons and angels for some of us) to be able to bring a novel to a gloss shine in 80 hours? or 150 hours? That's striking.

May i ask too how you found the good people you work with for formatting, covers et al... recommended, or google search or?

Last question John of the famous philosophic name, how did the chat go with the agent person, if it's ok to ask you?

Thanks JL, its great to hear about a heroic leap that landed foursquare.

Thanks Joe K for sharing your space with so many cool and generous people.

drcpe

Tara Maya said...

So, for those who have said they are spending $1,000 or more to launch an ebook, how much of that (on average) goes to cover art?

A third to cover art, a third to editing, and a third to assorted other expenses.

Tara Maya
Initiate
Conmergence

Archangel said...

dear jL: one more question

about how many pages would you say your series novels are? I know the word count, but dont know how that specs out in pages... realizing my kindle 1st gen (really decrepid seriously) doesnt use page numbers.

thanks
dr cpe

Robin Sullivan said...

Congratz John...I've been watching you march up the Amazon #100 for a while now. You were even #1 and #2 the other day. I'm very happy for all your success.

I'd also like to put in that I think $995 a book seems steep but at your sales its rounding errors. I don't think that would be the case for all ebook authors.

Robin Sullivan said...

John Locke said..Lanette - As recently as September, my total book royalty income was, I believe, $47.

You are echoing what I saw in my husband's Riyria Revelations books as well as ton of other indie authors that starting in October things just went crazy. He went from selling 1,000 books a month to 10,000+ practically overnight.

Andy Conway said...

@bowerbird

Amazon does indeed do a hell of a lot for its cut but there's one easy thing it could do that it doesn't, and it annoys me on a daily basis.

When I click a link to a writers' work I end up on amazon.com staring at a notice telling me I should be buying the work from amazon.co.uk where I'm based - fair enough. I then click the link to the UK site and ... I'm not looking at that author's work; I'm on the main page and have to do a search for it.

Frustrating as hell and could be solved by a simple bit of redirect code! Also makes me wonder how to handle links to my work when I put them live later this month.

Sort it out, Amazon!

Michael Scott Miller said...

Hi John. I loved reading what you had to say, particularly since I come from the business world too.

My question to you is in terms of getting recognition, how important is it that the book be easily categorized into a genre (paranormal romance, thriller, etc.)

My book (Ladies and Gentlemen...The Redeemers) is really a character driven mainstream fiction story and I have trouble finding a category that fits it beyond general fiction.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Excellent, John, congrats on your success. I'm hoping for the same sort of breakthrough, as are we all.. And Joe, love the blog.

Stitch said...

John,

Congratulations on your success. I might have to try some of your books. :)

Your website could really use an update, though, don't you think?

"he is currently at work on a novel titled Now & Then"

I can help. I don't work for free, but I'm cheap! :)

Alex said...

Of 1,000 USD ... "A third to cover art, a third to editing, and a third to assorted other expenses."

Where do you guys find such cheap providers? In my case of a 76,000 word novel:

- Book doctor = $1,700 for a detailed, murderous feedback chapter by chapter (turned out to be the best investment I made).

- Cover image + interior design for print and Kindle = $1,400, plus copyrighted images (admittedly, I hired a great pro from NY who's expensive).

- Edit = never less than $1,200 at any editing service.

- Proofread = same cost as edit.

Where do the great editors / proofreaders live who charge only $300 for 76,000 words, from your calculation? :)

John McDonnell said...

John, I love your advice about using Twitter and your blog to let people know about your writing style and interests. That's about all the marketing I'm doing, and I'm building a following slowly but surely. I have two blogs, one for my humor writing and one for my essays, and I think it's the best way to get people interested in my e-books. Congrats on your success -- I'll be downloading one of your books today.

John Locke said...

Jenna - Thanks. I hesitated to give actual sales numbers, but figured being completely honest was more important than worrying about inadvertently offending someone.

Amanda - Thank you. Please let me know which book you purchased, and if you enjoyed it.

Gayle - So happy to hear about your success. Keep having fun along the way, 'cause these are going to be great times for you.

John Locke said...

Wannabuy - Touch situation, with all those books on your to-read list. I'll make you a deal. Put all those other books on hold, download one of mine, then take the rest of the day off! How's that? :-)

Impressions of the Moment said...

Joe and John, why do you pay for cover design, formatting, etc., for amazon Kindle? I do my own covers, formatting, uploading. My product appears okay. Am I missing something?

Lanette Curington said...

Thanks, Stephen, for looking at my site and commenting. I've been out of the loop for a few years, just now getting back into it. I'm in the process of updating my sites and consolidating. I wrote a couple of posts yesterday, but they disappeared. I hope this one sticks!

Thanks again, John. After doing this more than ten years, I'm not giving up. :)

John Locke said...

Douglas, thank you! Best wishes on your novel.

Maryann - the editor I've been using is a little of both. She's an author and a sounding board who also finds grammatical errors and offers suggestions.

Want to talk about dating yourself? I'm talkin' CARBON dating: I don't know the Smithereens. The only "Girl Like You" song I remember was sung by the Rascals! I used to sing it in my rock band, in high school!

I'll check back later today, when I get some time! Thank you everyone, for your wonderful questions and comments.

PS: You asked for my Twitter handle: @DonovanCreed --of course! :-) Please stop by and send me a message!

P.J. Hafner said...

John,

Your success is exciting to read about; you're providing encouragement. Thank you! We lived in KY for a year (Lexington)...you've got some nice weather coming up soon. Have a great Spring!

Joe,
Great blog; thanks for sharing so much with everyone!

Ryan Stone said...

This is truly inspiring, though I would argue that those "best authors in America" have nothing to prove. It doesn't mean that you are "better" than them or, necessarily, that they "better" than you. It's more about price point. Still, very interesting.

Ron at CM said...

Joe and John, your initiative and success are both encouraging and inspiring.

When you look at the text behind a one-star review, if any, it often reflects nothing to do with the quality of the writing. More often, someone with a book in his/her head that is STILL in there.

The guy at the buggy whip factory who complains about what a piece of crap the new-fangled automobile is.

aaron said...

John,

You mentioned something about "treating it like a business."

I'm curious, are you considering the benefits of incorporating or creating an LLC? I am by no means an expert, but I'm in an MBA program now and I'm learning the tax and other benefits of operating as a business are substantial.

I find myself wondering if most authors continue to take royalties as an individual or as a business entity. Hmm.

Aaron Rosenberg said...

John -

Very impressive—congrats on your success, and thanks for sharing the details! My first original e-book, the space-opera Birth of the Dread Remora, just came out last month and is selling slowly but surely, though I admit my publisher and I set it at 2.99 for now. We may have to follow your lead, however. :) But you're right, I wrote the kind of book I enjoy reading, with swashbuckling adventure and space pirates! Here's hoping its audience finds it!

- Aaron Rosenberg
@gryphonrose on Twitter

Ray Rhamey said...

John, having now sampled your writing, I think the key to your success is . . . your writing. Delightful.

I'm saying this as a reader. . .as an editor of novels. . .and as an author. Kudos!

John Locke said...

Boo - It would take me more space than I have here to explain my target marketing methods, but I will put this in writing somewhere, maybe my blog. I haven't posted a new blog since November because it runs so sluggish. I can't seem to fix it, and guess I need a new program. I've been using blogspot. Can anyone recommend a better one? Joe's site, blogger.com keeps directing me back to my own blog site, so there's obviously something wrong with mine!

Archangel - First question: How do I outline my novels? I don't really outline them, I "write" the novel in my head, then type it out a scene at a time, whenever I find myself with a couple of unencumbered hours. But I never sit down at the keyboard unless I know exactly what I'm going to type. Not word-for-word, but pretty close.

How did I find the good people I work with? All on Twitter.

How did the meeting go with the Lit Agent? Great, thanks to Joe, who is an amazing guy, as you know. Joe actually let me call him and gave me advice before the call. The fact that he knew the people, and could vouch for them, made it easy for me. Today I signed a contract with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, NYC.

Lundeen Literary said...

@Alex -

I can refer you to a brilliant grammar Nazi English major who can proof and offer editorial notes for in the range of $20-$25/hour. Actually, that's about what I charge, too, though I have done it for as little as $15/hour, if I'm not doing anything else at the time. My husband has a master's degree, and would charge in the range of $35 an hour. The key here is to find people with low overhead - all of us work out of our homes - and people who aren't exactly name brands. You might still want to pay for an edit or book doctoring by a big shot, but you could probably get most of the problems worked out by using cheaper methods, and do a major, final clean with big money. For what you paid for a proofread, you could probably involve 2 or 3 of us, and have all our notes condensed into one document. Wouldn't that be grand?? If more than one person catches it, it's definitely an issue to address.

I do print-quality covers ranging from $200-$400, ebook design (complete with internal/external links, fully linked table of contents, & custom headers delivered in EPUB & mobi format) starting at $150 [most novels hit about $250, non-fiction is more], and paper book design starting at $300. Paper book design comes also with a PDF which is a 3rd type of ebook. It would be very easy to get away with $900 or less for a full project with me.

Images will sometimes make the price fluctuate - sometimes, I have to take custom photography, and then that might cost more, but it's worth it. If there's the PERFECT image, and it costs a bunch to license it, that's problematic. I have been known to clean out my bank account in cash to make a pile of bills for a photograph… ;)

Anyhow, hope that helps!

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

Kendall Swan said...

@John

Blogspot is blogger.

Blogger.com is the site you log into to write your blog posts, to do 'back of the house' stuff. Blogspot is the address of said blog.

So Joe would log in on blogger to put up your guest post and then tweet the world: jakonrath.blogspot.com to tell people about his blog with it's super cool guest blogger.

Also, pubit is BN's self publishing arm. You log into pubit.barnesandnoble.com to see your real time sales stats by day and month.
kdp.amazon.com is amazon's but I'm assuming you know that since you know your amazon stats.

Maybe, someday, if we're lucky, smashwords will develop a great backend accounting program to match amazon's and bn's. A girl can hope, right?

Anyway, you rock! I hope all of your existing and future books reach number 1 like Saving Rachel.

Kendall

bowerbird said...

if you were amazed when
john locke discovered that
all 7 of his books are in the
kindle top-100 bestseller list,
then prepare yourself to be
_doubly-amazed_ right now.

john locke's newest k-book,
published a mere instant ago,
hit #50 on the bestseller-list.

five zero. 50. count 'em.

and now all 7 of john locke's
books are in the top-50 list...

can you smell a sensation?

and really, we should all be
_quadruply-amazed_, since
up toward the top of the list,
competition gets more fierce.

but let's just call it "double"...
heck, we can go straight by the
numbers, no need to hype this.

now in light of this development,
consider this, which john said:
> People laughed at me, saying,
> "Why are you writing two more
> when you can't sell the three
> you've already written?" I said,
> "When my audience
> finds me,
> they're going to want
> five books, not three."

right on, john locke. write on.

-bowerbird

p.s. oh yeah, that new book,
most recent from john locke?
the one that's been out 2 days?
it didn't stop when it hit #50.
at 1:47pm, it now sits at #45,
after hop-skipping its cousin
-- "follow the stone" -- at #48
(improving on its recent #51).

Anonymous said...

> It's no reflection on them as a reader, and no reflection on you as a writer

Congratulations, Mr. Locke. Much better, and infinitely wiser, attitude than your host (in his comments both before and after you said this).

Happy trails.

Alex said...

Hi Jenna,

Thanks a lot for the great info - very helpful, and makes sense.

I've bookmarked your site so I can back to it when the time's right!

Cheers,

Alexander.

John Locke said...

Michael Scott - Thank you! As for category, it would be great if your book fits in a thin one, where there is less competition. But you're limited, since your book has to fit that category. The more precisely you can match, the more likely you'll be able to find your target audience.

Mark Edward, thank you. I wish you all success, too!

Stitch, my website and blogsite are terrible. I am going to do something about them asap. I've gotten sidetracked with other things, but no excuse for letting these go.

Hi Alex, I didn't use an editor for Saving Rachel. However, for my other books, I found qualified people on Twitter.

John - Thanks! Let me know which book you downloaded, and if you enjoyed it. Hope you do. As for marketing, yes, Twitter is an amazing resource. I'm @DonovanCreed

Impressions - Hi. I can't speak for Joe, but as a businessman it just makes sense for me not to take up my time doing things I can hire others to do. In other words, if I can hire someone to do it, it's not the best use of my time.

John Locke said...

Hi P.J. - You're so welcome! And yes, Spring is great in lots of places, but especially nice in the Bluegrass State! :-)

Ryan, I agree. No one is "calling out" the best authors in America. Although I would argue that Joe Konrath is one of them.

Aaron, I operate 16 different entities in my "real" jobs. One is a corporation, the rest are LLC's. I'm not sure there is any advantage to using an LLC for my writing. Maybe someone else can advise as to the benefits.

Aaron, best wishes for continued success. Understand, I'm not touting the 99 cent sale as being right for everyone. If they like you, they'll pay any reasonable price.

Ray, you just made my day! What a wonderful thing to say! Thank you!

Kendall, thank you. My problem with blogspot is, it takes up to an hour to load my site, and it freezes my computer both at home and work. Very frustrating. I've eliminated every part, thinking something was slowing it down, but it never speeds up. So I quit blogging. I need to try a different platform, I guess. Maybe WordPress? What do you think?

Jude Hardin said...

You're a class act, John Locke. Great attitude, and I LOVE the cover for Lethal People. I'll be checking out your work. Best wishes for continued success.

John Locke said...

Bowerbird, thanks for spreading the news. I'm just astounded that "A Girl Like You" has shot into the top 50 after just a couple of days being available for download.

Looks like I made it to the end of the comments! I will check back later and see if anyone else wishes to ask anything.

Joe Konrath - What can I say beyond thank you? You've been a big inspiration to me, and the fact that you personally helped guide me through the agent process speaks volumes about your generosity. You've gone out of your way to help me and your readers, and I'm an FFL (Fan for Life). This is the most amazing blog site I have ever seen! You have a huge, savvy group of writers and readers here, and they have gotten me fired up! This is what a blogsite should be! What a great forum! Please let me know if there is anything I can ever do to help you in any way.

Excuse Me, Miss said...

John, very happy to see you having the success you're having. During my publishing travels I've encountered many authors and if more of them were like you the publishing world would be a better place. :-) Your attitude alone has inspired my purchase. You're next after I finish Walter Mosley's latest.

Sven Davison said...

John Ward, Chris, and Bowerbird. I stand corrected. I missed some key details of the post. Clearly it's lack of sleep or I'm smoking my kids diapers. Unfortunately it's not giving me the same high as John Locke's sales.

Hat's off to you, John.

Joe Konrath said...

What can I say beyond thank you?

The pleasure was all mine, John. Feel free to stop in and comment when you have the time. We all benefit from your wisdom.

mike said...

John,
Very cool, thanks for sharing your story. I also chose to skip the agent and publisher in favor of publishing exclusively online. As you said, it is amazing how much of the sale you get to keep compared to traditional publishing. I just recently put my first novel, Betrayal, up on Smashwords.com (which has a wide variety of formats). While I didn't spend money on formatting or images, (I really like my cover art) I did hire an editor to make sure the story was tight and grammatically correct.

It is amazing how many books you can sell at 1.99. I've been absolutely blown away and after reading this, I am considering dropping to .99. One of the best parts about digital distribution is the feedback allows from readers. Now I just need to break into the top charts :)

Thanks for sharing
Michael Wolfam
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/37846

Lundeen Literary said...

@Alex

No problem! Glad I could help!

If you want to, you can drop me a line at lundeenliterary@gmail.com, and I'll add you to my very small email list - I'll only use it if I'm having a sale, or to announce really, really helpful things (like if Borders decides to stop being punks about self-pubbed uploads, easier ways to upload to iBooks, or anything I think you REALLY need to know.

Thanks!

Jenna
@lundeenliterary

Archangel said...

thanks John, for answering each person's question, mine included. Careful and classy. Thank you

dr cpe

Greg H said...

Joe and John,

Congrats on your success. And thanks for this blog.
I wish I knew of your advice four months ago when I released my novella Welcome to Scranton.

I priced the ebook at $4.95. I sold a few copies a month.

I lowered the price to 99 cents. Today it made it to #77 on the Kindle How-to >Relationships Best Seller List.

That's pretty funny as the book is fiction that deals with some dysfunctional characters but is not a How-to. If anything, it's a How Not-to book on relationships.

That question is how do we little known self-published authors keep the momentum going after all the people we know have purchased the book and we've posted on blogs, message boards, and Facebook ad nauseum?

Thanks,

Greg
www.welcometoscranton.com

bowerbird said...

as i have just commented
in another related thread,
the newest john locke book
had just hit #30 in the list.
(and it since went to #29.)

> http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/list-experiment-update.html?showComment=1299787930679#c4588386730731367251

it's also the case that the
_worst_ ranking for a book
by john locke is now #45,
so he now has all 7 books
in the top-45 bestsellers,
with 6 of 'em in the top-30.

quite an accomplishment...

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

Dude, I take a break from this damnable addicting blog for two days and I miss everything! Harumph...!

John, I can tell I'm going to like your books, just from your comments.

Funny, I saw those covers on Amazon and thought, "Hey, who's the new guy writing erotica?" then read the description...

Well they say sex sells... I can attest to that. ;)

Faith said...

@John Some of the other blogging platforms to consider are wordpress.com, posterous or tumblr if you want to continue using a subdomain. For some reason I've noticed a lot of authors seem to gravitate towards that instead of self-hosting wordpress.org. Of course you can also buy your domain name and use any of the above as well. Posterous allows you to write a post using email which they format automatically. There's also Amplify. My day job is related to educating users on how to implement and integrate social media and technology. Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions.

Kendall Swan said...

Silly Selena --thinking you can quit this blog. Too cute!

Now if only we could get paid for spending so much time here...

Maybe an erotica story involving Joe's blog?? Hmmm....

Wish I had the willpower to go two days. Impressive.

Kendall Swan

chris said...

John, I just bought another one of your titles but I definitely think you should consider what Bowerbird suggested earlier - bundle every combination of four books and charge $2.99.

You'll earn $2 per sale ie, 50 cents each book. Certainly beats 35 cents!

I would have bought one of a bundle today if it had been available.

Dawn said...

Just had to say, that cover is bleepin' GORGEOUS!

---and I took Joe's name in vain on my blog the other day-- 99 cents works.
At first, I thought 99 cents was --as Joe put it--"slumming," but I think that was because I was taking myself too seriously---I couldn't deal with the fact that I cost around as much as a Snickers bar.

Anonymous said...

Question: how are these books marketed? Do people simply browse them on the Kindle store and then buy them?

I have a finished thriller and am 1/3 through a second.

Is this a gold rush that will collapse the way the App Store did?

bowerbird said...

and... bingo!

as of 9pm pacific,
on friday march 11,
john locke now has
4 books in the top-10.

amazing. just amazing.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

You mean, this is the end of literature? Of great literature, in particular? Hacks like John Locke and Amanda Hocking are the end-game? Locke creates a series about an amoral assassin and DHS gun-for-hire with a “heart of gold,” and Hocking pens a series of non-bodice-rippers about a girl who can’t decide whether or not becoming a vampire is the way to go? Of course, one can blame a facile readership for their success. But, why boast of it? Why be so smug about it?

bowerbird said...

an "anonymous" ass said:
> You mean, this is
> the end of literature?
> Of great literature,
> in particular?
> Hacks like John Locke
> and Amanda Hocking
> are the end-game?

you are an ass.

and a cowardly ass, to boot.

furthermore, you are stupid.

oh sure, you like to put on airs
about how you are so erudite,
painting yourself as a staunch
defender of "great literature".

but the truth is that you don't
know jack shit about what it is
that even constitutes great art.

nor do you seem to know why
humans should value literature.
among a wide array of things,
it's because it makes us better
_thinkers_, a skill that you lack,
indicating it didn't work on you.


> Of course, one can blame
> a facile readership
> for their success.
> But, why boast of it?
> Why be so smug about it?

your elitist crap is insufferable.

it's also totally beside the point,
which you have missed entirely.

we're not celebrating success
by one or two specific writers,
or one or two dozen of them,
or even one or two hundred...

what we are celebrating here is
the newfound ability for writers
to connect directly with readers,
and receive a big percentage of
all money paid by those readers.

this situation ultimately benefits
every writer, no matter how big
or tiny their audience might be.
because an absence of skimming
by middlemen might well mean
that an artist can live off of the
gifts from even a tiny audience,
particularly if it is passionate...

what we celebrate is the new
independence of writers from
the old gatekeepers, who were
not concerned in the slightest
with "great literature", but with
a mundane "what can we sell?"

in other words, the gatekeepers
who were totally caught up with
"facile readership", to the extent
they _created_ that very entity,
built to swallow the hype whole.

so "great literature" was just one
of _many_ things that had been
totally outside the purview of
former gatekeepers, meaning
that "great literature" will be
one big beneficiary of this new
ability for writers and readers to
bond directly with each other.

so readers of "great literature",
like you, mr. anonymous ass,
can now support your writers
honestly, with your own money,
instead of making them beg for
handouts from the government.

and you can lift your authors
out of the obscurity corner and
exalt them at the _top_ of the
bestseller lists, assuming that
they can outsell the "hacks"...

art has been freed from the
bondage of the gatekeeper.

artists of all types are rejoicing.

and fans of art will rejoice too...

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

Bowerbird: You are a thug, and certainly not a "class act." So, call me an "elitist." My bones are intact from decades of name-calling and having the gatekeeper slam the gate in my face.
Victor Hugo, Dostoyevsky, Rand, Rostand, Rattigan, Stevenson, and so many more giants and near-giants – these Locke and Hocking couldn’t hold a candle to. Yet someone writes an encomium touting them as the end-all and be-all to “celebrate” their successes, when they are Tin Pan Alley composers compared to say, Mozart and Rachmaninoff. I get very worried when people begin elevating mediocrity, with the aim of razing all the shrines.

My novels are on ebook, too, but, being an “anonymous ass,” I’ll let you search for them. If you’re hungry enough for something that isn’t trite and transient, for something that would give you emotional fuel to face the world, perhaps you’ll find them. Locke and Hocking won’t do that.

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> You are a thug

oh please. you wear a mask
and call other writers "hacks".

and _i_ am "a thug"? right...

i call an asshole an asshole,
that's what i do, you asshole.


> certainly not a "class act."

when you wrestle with a pig,
you get muddy. and the pig
likes it. that's what they say.


> So, call me an "elitist."

what i actually said was that
your elitism is insufferable...

there are good kinds of elitism,
which strive for a higher plane.
but your kind is the ugly kind.


> My bones are intact from
> decades of name-calling

i'm not "calling you names".
you _are_ an asshole, and
you are a _cowardly_ asshole,
and you are _stupid_ too, and
all of this can be determined
from what you have said, the
mask you wore while saying it.
and the way that you said it...

> and having the gatekeeper
> slam the gate in my face.

that doesn't surprise me...
you can't think a solid thought.


> Victor Hugo, Dostoyevsky,
> Rand, Rostand, Rattigan,
> Stevenson, and so many
> more giants and near-giants
> – these Locke and Hocking
> couldn’t hold a candle to.

i haven't read amanda or locke,
so i cannot say, but even if they
"cannot fill" those huge shoes
-- mostly, except for _rand_,
another insufferable elitist --
so what? john locke himself
said $.99 is "the right price"
for the books that he writes,
as they are quick breezy reads.
and what is wrong with that?
if it finds an audience, then
it must be filling some need,
and more power to mr. locke.


> Yet someone writes
> an encomium

practicing the word of the day,
are we?


> touting them as
> the end-all and be-all

when you continue to twist
your spin -- despite a firm
denial -- you show just how
desperate your assault is.

the only fight you can win
is with an ugly straw-man.


> to “celebrate” their successes,
> when they are Tin Pan Alley
> composers compared to say,
> Mozart and Rachmaninoff.

again with insufferable stuff...

now we diss all composers who
don't happen to be mozart, eh?

shove it, mr. anonymous ass,
shove it as far up as you can...


> I get very worried when
> people begin elevating
> mediocrity, with the aim
> of razing all the shrines.

oh yes, because you are oh so
_cultured_, and the shrines are
oh so _delicate_, and people
are such untrustworthy _thugs_.

great art fears not lesser stuff.


> My novels are
> on ebook, too,
> but, being
> an “anonymous ass,”
> I’ll let you search for them.

i can tell from the paragraphs
you've written here that i'd be
thoroughly bored by your work.
i doubt i could suffer a chapter.

so you would do me a favor
by telling me your name, so
i'd know what to _skip,_ but
i'm sure you know that, and
have known it all along, and
that's why you're anonymous.


> If you’re hungry enough
> for something that isn’t
> trite and transient, for
> something that would give
> you emotional fuel to
> face the world

oh please. shove it up your
butt, you insufferable ass...

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

Get a room you two!

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Congratulations on your great success, John! It's fun to see someone doing so well who has been writing for even less time than I have.

I started in 2006, and have seven books in the Kindle store. I'm not having your level of success, but I do have two books on Kindle Bestseller lists.

BTW, your covers inspired me to update my own covers to something more eye-catching. ;)

Nancy said...

Thank you for very impressive post.Congrats on your success, John, I will check out one of your books for sure!
-----
Nancy
Payroll Solutions

dre said...

Congrats John! This blog post has been timely. I am looking into publishing options and have decided to self-publish. I never thought about the ebook option. But I like the success it brought you at 99 cents. The publisher you used sounds like a good deal because the support publishing packages I looked at were in the thousands. Thanks so much and I'm inspired to follow in your footsteps.

Laura Lane McNeal said...

I tried to reach you homepage -- Yahoo wouldn't bring it up-- but I was happy to find this post. I have an agent who is in the process of trying to sell my first novel, but with everything that has changed in just the last year I begin to wonder if the route to publication itself has changed. I specifically wanted to find out who you used to design and format your novel, which you answered in this post. Thanks for that. Any other advice, now that I see from the WSJ article that you have taken on an agent. Has that changed your goals or or your means of achieving them??? I am so very interested as I am too a thriller writer. Good luck with your continued success.

Richard Bard said...

Yikes, I fired my agent!

John, You're an inspiration to us all (you too Joe!). Your success prompted me to make the very difficult choice of sending my agent a termination letter so I could proceed with self-pubbing without contract complications. (My thriller, BRAINRUSH, made the ABNA semifinals two years running but we still haven't sold it to a publisher. So I figure it's time to get it and the sequel out there on Kindle and POD.) Fortunately, my agent is a star--she completely understands and supports my position. Even so, I had to use a sponge to moisten the stamp on the registered letter I sent her because my mouth was so dry... Fingers crossed!
You guys are great. Thanks for keeping us in the loop on your groundbreaking journey.

Amy said...

Say goodbye to sending out thousands of packets and hoping someone will even want to read the first page of your book! eBook revolution!

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