Why I Haven’t Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months … Yet

28 Jun
Why I Haven’t Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months … Yet

This morning a new twitter follower who runs a blog called Extremely Average sent me a link to his review of John Locke’s new eBook, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. I shelled out the $4.99 for this eBook several days ago, after a recommendation from David Gaughran over at Indie Publishing for International Authors. (If you’re not subscribed to David’s blog, you need to be! And watch out for an eBook version detailing Dave’s digital experience soon to be released). I finished reading Locke’s eBook sometime afterward, at about two in the morning. (I have reclaimed the wee hours of the morning as “me” time). Both reviews said Locke’s eBook was worth the $4.99, even though there is, in fact, rather little in it that they weren’t already doing. I can only agree with them.

While the eBook won’t offer a lot of tips for the canny “Authorpreneur” who is already utilising social networking and online marketing to move books off the virtual shelves, it was worth the $4.99 and, if nothing else, is an interesting insight to Locke’s success.

Written in the somewhat circumlocutory stye common to copywriting and marketing, Locke’s book shows why he is such a success, which probably has more to do with his marketing genius than writing skills alone—a point he makes himself rather self-deprecatingly.

I won’t tell you what his mind-blowing secret to success is—suffice it to say that the build-up is rather more interesting than the “big reveal” itself—but I will tell you that he does two things very effectively that big traditional publishing houses should take note of.

The first is simple and something every writer must do: know your audience.

The second is a little more time-consuming but equally as important: connect with them personally.

In my experience, “big” publishing is notoriously bad at doing either of these things. “Genre” you see is different from “knowing your audience”, which is more about understanding the demographics of your intended readers. What do they like? What are their hobbies? Where do they shop? Where do they eat? Most importantly: what do they want? And, even more importantly, how can you give them what they like and what they want in a place where they shop.

Traditional publishers tend to focus more on whether a particular genre sells well, where it sits in the store and the look and feel of a  piece. While getting the cover right, the length right and the price right is part of knowing an audience, it is not the only part. Few publishers truly do extensive marketing research and that Locke thinks about his audience even before he puts fingers to keyboard is a telling part of his success.

Mind you, sometimes publishers get lucky. A case in point is the Stephanie Meyer Twilight Series. Is it fabulous writing? I don’t believe so. Yet it garnered many millions of fans and, quite frankly, I’d swap paypackets with Meyer anyday. It did so because Meyer knows her audience and she gives them what they want: teenage angst, a rather insipid everyday heroine, romance, a choice of two hot “boys” (who just happen to be supernatural), and a simple read that doesn’t tax their vocabulary while getting them hot under the collar without overt eroticism or even any sex scenes at all (who’d have thunk it?). Timing, with a vampire genre that hadn’t seen such success since Anne Rice, also probably had something to do with her success. Charlaine Harris‘s much better-written (imo) Southern Vampire series also tapped into that subject area.

Traditional publishers, at least from what I have seen, also tend to promote the author, but rarely promote a true one-on-one personal connection with the work or the author, outside of book signing events. Self-promotion using social networking,  on the other hand, now allows for fans to connect directly with authors and forge a personal connection, and that connection is gold … quite literally in Locke’s case. Responding personally to fans takes time. In fact, marketing takes time. Locke may have made 1 million in just five months, but he has put an awful lot of work into getting there, and much of that has been in marketing.

Late last year I went to a seminar run by IF:book Australia where Kate Eltham and Richard Nash mentioned that, where in the past “content was king” in today’s publishing word “connection is king”. People want to connect with their favourite authors without the middleman of a publisher and self-publishing and social networking are allowing them to do that.

I can see that Locke’s book is going to be useful and  inspiring for lots of authors seeking self-publishing success. My only caution would be that it is important for authors to ensure they spend as much time making a reader like their book as they do making a reader want to buy their book. What I mean by this is that, while excellent marketing and business skills (which appear to be the common denominator in the success of many best-selling series) can take a good book and make it  great, even they can’t take turn a turd into a treasure. Good, preferably great, writing AND proactive marketing skills are both necessary to make it in the new world of self-publishing.

So until I feel that my novel is the absolute best it can be and will totally flabbergast readers, it won’t be going up on Smashwords or Amazon, but perhaps, one day, it will.

Visit Karin’s website at for some great writing tips and to see more samples of her work. She also has a poetry anthology available on smashwords.


Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


10 responses to “Why I Haven’t Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months … Yet

  1. Cheryll Ganzel

    June 28, 2011 at 12:54 am

    I love this blog site! Initially I only meant to give it a quick glance to check it out. I soon found myself reading not only the latest post, but many of the previous posts as well. This blog is interesting, informative, and very nicely written. Great Job!

    • karincox

      June 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

      Awww (blushing), thanks Cheryll. I’m so happy you enjoyed it. It is a work in progress. I am trying to post once a day—doesn’t always happen with a three-month-old daughter needing my love and devotion too, but I’m getting there. Thanks for reading.

  2. Maria Staal

    June 28, 2011 at 12:59 am

    I absolutely loved John Locke’s book. I now know that I did things wrong by not knowing who my target audience was, or in any case, not well enough. I also had no idea of where to find them.
    But since I finished his book, which was only 4 days ago, I have started implementing some of his tips and things are much clearer for me now.

    I do agree with you when you say that it’s important that your audience also likes your book. But I think the point that John is trying to make is that when you know who your target audience is and can find them, they will have no choice BUT to like your book, as it was written specifically for them to like it.

    In any case a book that I would highly recommend to any self-published author!

    • karincox

      June 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

      That is partly true, Maria. I suppose my point was that to like your book it also has to be well-written, edited impeccably and professional in appearance. Locke manages these things, and mentions these things in his guide, and they are as important as excellent marketing. As for everything there are no “get rich quick schemes”, hard work, professionalism and determination are key. But I agree that Locke’s book has a lot of hand tips when it comes to social networking and building a platform.

      Thanks for reading and for your comment.

      • Maria Staal

        June 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

        Ah… I misunderstood what you said in your post. You are totally right to say that a book has to be edited well, proofread and have a professional appearance. Without that, even John’s method wouldn’t work. 🙂
        And indeed. Marketing a book is a lot of hard work and takes time. I am glad that John pointed that out in his book as well. No one reading his book can think it is easy.

      • karincox

        June 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm

        Too true, Maria. It is not easy and while the title of Locke’s eBook may make it seem like a rapid rise, the book makes it clear that it took a lot of hard grind.

        Karin Cox Follow me on twitter @Authorandeditor

  3. Tony Slater

    June 28, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I think there’s a good point to be made about the benefits of this ‘connection’ based world to the author – I love it!! Chatting to people who have read, or are reading, my work is thrilling! And considerably less like hard work than traveling from signing to signing on a punishing schedule. I’m quite pleasantly surprised to find that the hardest part of the process – the marketing – can be largely achieved by commenting on Facebook posts, responding to Tweets and generally being sociable online. I’d be doing that anyway – well, maybe not the Twitter, still can’t keep up with that, but I’d be doing some of it. Just not 18 hours a day, like I am now :0)
    Great post Karin!

    • karincox

      June 28, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      It does seem to take longer than the one hour a day Locke suggests, and he must get loads of requests, emails and comments. But, like you Tony, I enjoy it. So much more fun than making small talk at signings and networking functions. Thanks for reading.

  4. charlie nitric

    July 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Hello Karin –

    Thank you for inviting me to your blog and I am very happy you did. I purchased John’s book the other day and finished it last evening. I too was not enthralled with the “Big Bang” wow but I did observe something that very few observe about Mr. Locke. He is a master promoter. He is a hype man and performs this tasking very well. Although there really is no “wow” moment in the book as he continuously repeats him self, I am reminded of the many infomercials in America and certainly the same exists in Australia. I am also reminded of the many stock gurus whom send me mails daily hyping up a new company for me to invest in (I day trade stocks). All these people including John Locke are experienced and professional promoters. That’s where John’s connecting with his audience comes in to play. I haven’t read his books but if his “1 Million ebooks” book is any indication of his writing expertise, the man’s ability to promote is what gives him the edge. It certainly isn’t the stellar information he presents yet the book is worth a $5.00 USD investment. Thank you Karin and enjoy your Wednesday down under. 🙂

    • karincox

      July 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      I’m so glad you stopped by, Charlie. And I totally agree. John Locke is a smooth-talking marketing man and his book really reminded me of a lot of the rhetoric I had to wade through when I was taught how to write ad copy when I first finished my university degree.

      Mind you, he also knows his market and knows how to tap it. He knew that while the market or his novels isn’t other authors, writing this book might also bring some sales from interested writers wanting to read his work to fathom his success. So it functions as a clever hook for getting them to buy at least one of his novels too. Very clever. Not exactly my style and far from THE most groundbreaking book on writing I’ve ever read, but certainly another smart move from Mr. Locke.


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