Monday, June 27, 2011

"John Locke is not a real published author unless I say so!" -The Big 6

*Warning Rant*

I woke up to this post on my Twitter feed and after reading it had to first smack my face, throw up and after all that read it again just to find out that yes, in fact it was posted by a real human. The Shatzkin Files posted this on John Locke.

Here is my take.

First off, this entire post is about what could have happened, might, maybe, but more important, DIDN'T. It is like a friend of a lottery winner trying to tell everyone else what they would spend the money or how it should be done.

We all know that JL has made headlines as the indie author that has sold one million eBooks. Now out of the woodwork come these talking heads that want to over think how he did it and what he should have done.

What is the goal of all this? To keep us thinking that the big publishers still have something to offer. He will run the numbers on a .99 book or a 9.99 book. How is that even in the same ball park? I mean, he sold the books he sold because of the price and his marketing. One without the other would not work as well and to compare what he would have made if he was with a big publisher is just stupid.

The fact they will never tell you is that JL would have never sold the books he sold if he was with a big publisher. No publisher would have taken him on, and even if he did get a deal they would not market him like he marketed himself. The price of his eBook would be to high and the small number he sold through them would put him out of print in 13 months.

So, I ask you, why are we trying to shove him into this box? Why not just say, good job john? Are we that scared to leave the old system? Is it that bad out there?

He was smart, he sold his books at a low price, built a fan base and made himself worth a ton of money. Now if a publisher wants him they will have to pay out the nose. It is not the money, I am so tired of all these talking heads and writers who just think of the money and how much the book is and what it cost and are you worth it and is your writing worth a buck and are you selling yourself short and is this a run on sentence?

Look, it is about FANS, let me say that again, FANS! If you build fans the money will come. He reached a million people and it doesn't matter if he gave out all those books for free! That group if they liked the book will come back and pay for the other books. I wonder why this is such a mystery in the publishing world.

So could he have made more money if he sold the books at 9.99? Well DUH, if he sells them at a higher price he makes more. Come on! But would he have sold a million? Nope. Not a chance, sorry but it wouldn't happen. Also, if he sold through a publisher for 9.99 he would make only 1.75 per book when he could do it himself and sell the book at 2.99 and make 2.10 per book. Lets do that math!

This blogger did at least say as much: Of course, if Locke himself sold the ebooks at $2.99, he’d be taking in six times more per book, or about $2.10 a copy.

But, either way, he seems to be leaving a lot of money on the table. Without a publisher’s efforts, he’s certainly leaving a lot of marketing on the table too.

The only thing here is the marketing he is leaving on the table. What marketing? Really, you think a big publisher is going to market you better? Come now, let us not be dumb. The only person going to market you is you. If they do anything it comes out of their royalty. Besides, why would they market him, he is a small fish, cuz we are talking all this before anyone knew who he was... You can't backdate your rules and treat him like a bestseller before he was. Now I would say he could get some marketing out of the publishers, but not before the million books.

And here is the meat of the matter: But if the markets are distinct, there is also some great potential reward. If there are people who only choose from the cheap books, there are also people who want to choose from the professionally validated books, the ones from the major publishers. The more you believe the markets are distinct, the more opportunity there could be for Locke in using what he’s done to launch himself independently as the springboard to a career as a published author with a major player.

This is what all the big publishers and the blind authors want you to think. That you are no good, you are sub par because you are not professionally validated.

Take that Amanda Hocking, Take that Vincent Zandri!

So we are fed the same lie. You are just a lame writer and have no value unless one of the Big 6 publish your books. Remember that when you see more and more eBook millionaires. Remember that when you read an amazing novel from a new author, that you the reader have no power, that you cannot choose who is a good writer or not, they choose!

It is the men on the hill that make the call, the publishers that decide if we are good enough. Well... what say you? Is it us the readers or them the publishers? You tell me.

Rant over.



  1. Thank you Aaron! I enjoyed your rant and agree.

  2. Excellent response, umm.. I mean rant. Well, not so much a rant but an insiders perspective on what it really means to be successful. John Locke set out to sell (not give away for free - big distinction) as many books (and sold a million) as possible. And he succeeded.
    Thanks for saying what needed to be said Aaron.

  3. Ummmm...There's a reason I didn't sell a lot of copies of THE INNOCENT or GODCHILD (soon to be known as THE GUILTY) ten years ago when Dell published them. First of all, they were very expensive. Second, no one from marketing/advertising did a thing for it, other then sending out to reviewers (they both got great reviews and sold some awesome foreign rights). Third, the bookstores only wanted them on their display shelf for six weeks. Fourth, my last name is Zandri, so if you happen to be no taller than a mouse, you might notice my books on the bookshelf in the far lower right hand corner. Listen, I'm not complaining. I made some great friends publishing in NYC and had some awesome times. I even dated my publicist for a short time. It was a sweet life. But it was sweet until they pulled the plug because I wasn't selling as many books as Patterson my first time out (the other Patterson, you know his name...). My point? If John Locke had tried the traditional route of agent and publisher, he'd still be selling insurance. The dude who wrote that blog yesterday and that himself Barry Eisler tweeted as a great piece of work, or some such nonsense, couldn't have been more off base if he wrote a book about how JFK wouldn't have been shot if he simply hadn't gone to Dallas that day. No Shyte Sherlock!!! Anyway, Locke did what he did cause his books are good, he writes a lot of them, he priced them to sell, and he marketed them well. When you do things the right way, you invite luck. I suppose you will inevitably invite the Monday morning quarterbacks too....
    PS. What's with Konrath and Eisler? Are they the steadfasts indie's they profess to be, or are they once again traditionally published? I'm confused...

  4. Good POV Vincent. I think so many of us think the Big publishers have some sort of magic to sell books. We don't hear about all the books that never make it and how little they really do. I think to have a book or two with a big house would be good as far as putting in with as many different people as you can. But to run that way in this age unless you can pull in a killer advance is just silly. I think Amanda Hocking is one example of someone who did it right. Published on her own and got the sales and landed the big deal. She still has her books and has a mixed bag filled with a bright future.

    The other thing we need to look at is the work it takes to publish. I understand people like Konrath wanting to write more and back out of doing it all on his own. It is a ton of work but I am not saying to do it all yourself, get a small publisher that will work with you on price and all that. But to take a royalty under 25% is INSANITY!

  5. I think Mr. Shatzkin misses the boat on two key points - marketing and the effect of price point.

    Vincent Zandri addressed the marketing issue in his comment above, and he should know what he's talking about, HE LIVED IT. Even the "Big Six" do little to no marketing for ANY of their titles unless those titles are written by their superstar authors - the Kings, the Pattersons (the other one), the Cusslers, the Browns.

    The midlisters, everyone else in other words, are left pretty much to fend for themselves from a marketing standpoint. I'm involved in the ITW's Debut Author Program and I've met plenty of Big Six debut authors who are receiving little to no support for their releases.

    The second point Shatzkin got wrong pertains to price. There is no possible way he can make the argument that Locke would be selling the same number of ebooks at $9.99 that he's selling at $.99, and that was especially true months ago when nobody knew who he was.

    The lower the price of the ebook, the better chance a new author has of introducing himself to the reading public, and Aaron, you said it perfectly in your post - it's all about earning readership, which then hopefully follows the author onto the next book, and the next and the next.

  6. You know Honda used to make cheap cars and motorcycles back in the 60's and 70's, then moved up to Acura in the 80's and 80's. You have to start somewhere and after the 100th rejection letter, the hell with them we can live without them, it is they who cannot live without us!

  7. Lol... good point Whoever you are... And Al, right on. I thought it was funny how it was just assumed that he could sell at 9.99 as many as he did, i mean come on!

  8. I'm not sure who professionally validates a writer, but I will say this about John Locke and his method for achieving a million sales in eBooks - he would never work with a major publisher.

    Locke's plan has been simple -- have a good marketing plan, adhere to the principle that mass production at low costs can still equate big profits, use gratuitous cover shots (I mean, really, if he's writing thrillers then he's fooled me -- I thought his books were about legs for a long time :), and pricing it low. Sure, he's got a small fan base, but he's appealing to those looking for cheap thrills. Technology has created a vehicle for him to sell his books and at 99 cents, people say, "What the heck? I'll try it."

    But this formula won't work for a major publisher that depends upon good reviews to separate itself from the pack. His books would get panned by critics. So, he's got to stick with what got him where he is. And maybe that's all he wants, so more power to him.

    No one will take him seriously because he's not trying to be a serious writer -- he's having fun writing and finding enough suckers along the way to make him wealthy.

    However, there are ways to be both critically acclaimed and self-pub through eBooks that will make Big 6 publishers long for you to sign with them. But Locke's strategy isn't one of them.

  9. Jason,
    Excellent point. Lot's of people and interviewers ask me about the reason behind my "success" if you want to call it that. I believe that price can propel a reader to the top, but I also believe in my case, my previous reviews from some major publications like New York Post and Publishers Weekly (before writers could pay for reviews), and blurbs from notable authors like Harlan Coben, have also helped my cause...