John Locke is one of the most inspirational writers in the world for indie authors. He burst onto the scene with multiple books in the Kindle bestseller list and last week he became the first self-published author to sell over 1 million Kindle books. He joins the ranks of James Patterson, Stieg Larsson, Nora Roberts, Lee Child and other household names.
***Ebook self-publishing has also gone mainstream with JK Rowling announcing her own business venture Pottermore which will offer the Harry Potter ebooks for sale through her site, no traditional publisher, no Amazon. The world is changing very fast!***
You might have read one of the Donovan Creed novels – here’s my review of Lethal People. Whether you love Locke’s books, or hate them, it doesn’t matter. He is a hugely successful author by anyone’s standards, and has just released a book on how you can follow in his footsteps: ‘How I sold 1 million ebooks in 5 months!‘ . I devoured this book and here are my main lessons learned from the book. I highly recommend you also buy it and find the information that will help you the most. In order to get the most out of this book, you need to separate the creative, whimsical, craft-loving you and put on your business head. Do you want to sell books and make money? If yes, read on.
- This is a business. John has an entrepreneurial, business background and he brings those attitudes to the ‘olde worlde’ of publishing. With examples from his career, he explains how you can’t fight on the terms that others set. He has demonstrated success in other areas of business and has independent financial success, so he has every right to talk about how to make money in many different spheres of life. If you are at all squeamish about money, it’s time to get over it! Make a business plan and take it seriously. Set goals that are achievable but still stretch you. Treat your books as sales people. Invest in them at the beginning and then send them into the world to earn money. Develop a brand – John uses the name Donovan Creed everywhere.
- On the 99 cent price point. Provide brilliant value and it enables people to give you a try. “When famous authors sell at $9.95 and my books are at 99c, I no longer have to prove my books are as good as theirs. They have to prove their books are ten times better than mine!” He also recommends that you find the size of your target audience and then determine how much to sell for e.g. his How To book is more expensive as there is a smaller market of authors who will buy it.
- Traditional marketing sucks, use Twitter, blogging and email instead. You need a sales and marketing system, but it doesn’t need to cost you money. It just costs time. John used traditional marketing techniques, like using a publicist, press releases, radio, even billboards and made few sales. Then he embraced blogging, twitter and email relationships and sales took off. (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I went through the same journey!) There are longer sections on writing blog posts, how to use Twitter effectively and how to drive people to an email list which are definitely mandatory these days. John also recommends participating in guest blogging and interviews i.e. use online tools for the social and the networking. He responds to his emails and tries to be personal in his approach. This takes a lot of time but is worth it, basically selling books to one person at a time. This type of relationship marketing is critical – but also enjoyable! These are the tools of internet millionaires and that’s basically what John is and what I certainly aim to be (maybe you too!) You can read more about these online marketing tactics here.
- Develop a list of guaranteed buyers. Building a targeted list of people who will buy everything you do is the holy grail of any business and for us, it is achievable. John goes through the steps you need to go through to get there, and you can also read this post on list building to help you practically manage it. I put a link to sign up for my next novel in the back of Pentecost and I get sign-ups every day. This is one step away from what John is recommending so I will personally be considering how to change things to make that list more effective.
- Loyalty Transfer. This concept is based on the idea that people who know, like and trust you will buy your books. John doesn’t blog much but he posts occasional pieces that appeal to his core target market. They reveal personal information and resonate with the themes he has identified in his target market. Powerful information and something I will be musing on as I have changed from non-fiction to fiction in the last year and perhaps need a different angle for the readers of my fiction.
- On writing like Shakespeare or prize-winning novelists. John is not afraid to say that his books are basically light entertainment. They aren’t intended to be literary fiction, they are intended to make you laugh, enjoy the ride and spend a few hours in escape from the daily grind. (I totally agree with this – see my post on bestselling vs best writing authors) You don’t need writing courses or books on writing, you just need to write. “..the more you sell, the more talented you’ll become in the eyes of the public!”
- Identify your target audience and then write to them. This is a business tactic that the most successful companies use. Identify the people who will buy your product, for example, like John, I am targetting people who work hard in their jobs so they want to escape in a book for pleasure. They don’t necessarily want to think too hard, but enjoy the adventure and come away happy with the time spent. My customers are interested in spirituality and religion, as I always want to include these themes in my own novels. You can get very specific about this niche, and the more specific, the more successful you will be. If you write to that market, they will buy everything you write. You can then do this for other genres, as John has done with the Donovan Creed thrillers and now with Westerns featuring Emmett Love. I will blog further on this as it’s something I definitely need to work on myself. John has 7 paragraphs on his target market so he gets into the detail, it’s not just “women aged 18-65”! Be specific.
- Have multiple books. Yes, you’ve heard that one before! I was stunned to read that Locke has a full-time job, a family, responds to his email, and manages to write a book in 7 weeks. If you think writing fast means bad quality, read Dean Wesley Smith on the matter. I would personally love to speed up to this rate of writing. I have it in my head. I need to get it to the page faster. To be this financially successful, you need multiple books. James Patterson, also a Kindle million seller, has a book a month out now, although he does have co-writers. Again, this is a business and so there needs to be product to sell.
- The business plan. There is a numbered list in the book that is basically your business plan. If you only want one page to read, spend the money and get this page. Print it out and follow the steps. They can’t be done in one day but they can be done.
This book is excellent and I am truly grateful that nothing was surprising to me on this list. I spent the first year with my first book getting it all wrong and this blog has been the journey to discovering a new way. I would have been devastated if John’s lessons had been to use traditional advertising or to ditch Twitter. But actually, his steps are mostly what I am doing, with a few tweaks needed. In June, I am on track to sell around 2300 copies of Pentecost. If I had 8-10 books selling that well, I would be pretty happy with the income. So if I can put these steps into action, I can see that my books will succeed, maybe even sell as well as John’s!
I like to aim high, and so I’m putting it on the line with you. I’m going to put these steps into action and you will see me on the bestseller lists. Thank you for the inspiration John!
What have you learned from John Locke? Will you commit to this type of marketing?