Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS by John Locke

After being only the 8th author in history - and the 1st self-published author - to sell 1 million ebooks on Kindle, John Locke has been the latest buzz in the publishing industry. His new book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, may lead some people to believe that he's an overnight sensation. But, as is usual when someone makes it big, it wasn't so easy.

Locke put a lot of time and effort into achieving what he has and it started long before the 5 months to 1 million sales began. But he's an astute businessman and an investor and he has, smartly, applied business fundamentals to selling his books. When it comes to his books, from the first word he writes to his marketing system, everything is done with a purpose. He explains his success system in this short book. Yes, it's short - I read it in a couple hours - but that doesn't mean it's superficial.

What I Liked About This Book:
  • First and foremost, his emphasis on knowing your target market - your reader - Of course this is my favorite part! After all, this is what I stress all. the. time. in my Monday Marketing series. You must know everything you possibly can about your reader so you know where to reach them and the best message that grabs them and makes a connection. You must know how much they'll spend on a book by an author they don't know as well as how much they'll pay for an author they do know and love. You must know where they learn about new books and where they buy. Knowing your market is the foundation to effective marketing. Without it, everything else falls down.
Locke takes it a step further - by knowing his readers and what they like about his stories, he writes his next book with that in mind. It's not the same thing as writing for trends or what you think readers, in general, want. This is understanding your specific readers and what they like when it comes to characters, situations, plots, steaminess (for romance), crassness of language, details in blood and gore, etc.
I, personally, have to write the story that I'm given, not what readers tell me should happen because then the story isn't true. But, it's a good idea to know how much gore your readers can stand, if they like details of a scene and poetic language or if they want the down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty action. Because if you turn them off with a single scene in one book, you might have lost an otherwise lifetime fan.
No, you can't please them all all of the time. You have to write your story. However, if the difference is something that doesn't matter to you but does matter to your readers, then make your readers happy!
  • His views on self-marketing vs. traditional marketing - Locke made some excellent points about why this is a good time to go indie, but what I really liked were his ideas on why today's publishing and book world calls for new means of marketing. Although he emphasizes the need for self-pubbed authors to fight their own fight - and not their opponents' way - this can all be used even by the traditionally published author, especially those given little attention and marketing dollars (at least 90%!) by their publishers. It's a new game now. Why should any of us be playing by the old rules?
  • Usable marketing techniques that make sense - Locke gives you a straightforward plan that worked for him and can be easily followed to work for pretty much any writer who gives it the time and effort it needs. Which, really, isn't overwhelming and no more (and possibly less) than what most authors do right now. It's a proven system. At least for one author. Only time will tell if it works for everyone who uses it.

What I Didn't Like About This Book:
  • His underestimation of what worked in his favor - I strongly believe Locke underestimates many other factors that led him to success besides the system he shares in this book. The number of books he had out at the time he started his plan, pricing, timing and some luck all go into it, too. I can say this because I've pretty much have been using a similar plan, although there are a couple areas where I can improve. Maybe those are the areas that would make all the difference in the world, but I don't think so. Because my sales have really been great in the last few months - hundreds of books a day and thousands a month. That's nothing compared to Locke or many other indies out there. BUT, I only have 2 books out!
Locke does recommend having at least 4 out to expect incredible results and I really think that's a big part of the secret - probably THE biggest part. If you look at the few indies who are highly successful - Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Michael Sullivan, etc. - they have 6, 7, 8 books out before sales really take off. If a reader really likes your book, they're going to read the next one (whether or not it's a series) and they'll keep doing so until they read something they don't like so much and lose their love or they run out of books. Momentum is built. But it also slides when they run out of books and it slides a lot faster the sooner they run out.
  • Style/structure of the book - This is probably just a personal annoyance to me because I'm so familiar with copywriting techniques. You know those junk letters you receive in the mail that really suck you in because everything sounds so good? They're usually for some kind of magazine or other information service that will make you wealthy, healthy or more knowledgeable about whatever subject it is (from investing to traveling to parenting). I've taken courses on how to write those. I know the techniques used that make direct mail so successful. And I believe Locke does, too (notice that he's an investor and how the topics of these letters are often investing...). This book reads like those letters. The only difference is that he actually provides his plan in the book and isn't trying to sell you anything additional. At least, not yet. Did I mention the man is an astute businessman? I'm sure he'll recognize other business opportunities available here and make the right business decision about them.

There is a lot more I could say about this book, but this post is already so long. I had to keep my likes and dislikes to a minimum. What it really comes down to is this:

Recommendation: Yes, I'd recommend this book not only to those who are indie or are considering self-publishing, but to all authors. Especially those with no or very little marketing knowledge. Locke provides a good system to use. Unless you already have at least 4 titles to publish, just go into it with reasonable expectations. Even if you follow his plan to a T, you might not sell 1 million ebooks. You might sell more, you might sell less. But either way, I think you'll be satisfied with the results.

2 comments:

  1. Awesome. I couldn't agree more! I didn't want to do this model at first, but I loved watching the sales grow from tens to thousands!

    Brenda Pandos
    The Emerald Talisman.

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  2. Excellent review!
    You're right - I don't think he took his business background into consideration. Most people have been employees their whole lives. Owning a business - and making it successful - it a completely different ball game.
    This was the first time I've ever read Twitter tips that actually made sense, so those I will put to use.

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