Free Markets, Free People

The democratization of publishing

I love stories like this because the demonstrate the momentous changes that have been introduced by technology which has democratized publishing and not just opened the gates to everyone, but flat torn the gates down:

John Locke, 60, who publishes and promotes his own work, enjoys sales figures close to such literary luminaries as Stieg Larsson, James Patterson and Michael Connelly.

But unlike these heavyweights of the writing world, he has achieved it without the help of an agent or publicist – and with virtually no marketing budget.

Instead the DIY novelist has relied on word of mouth and a growing army of fans of his crime and western novellas that he has built up online thanks to a website and twitter account.

His remarkable achievement is being hailed as a milestone of the internet age and the beginning of a revolution in the way that books are sold.

His achievement is doubly impressive because of the way he accomplished this:

He saw that many successful authors were charging almost $10 (£6) for a book and decided that he would undercut them – selling his own efforts for 99 cents (60 pence).

"I’ve been in commission sales all my life, and when I learned Kindle and the other e-book platforms offered a royalty of 35 per cent on books priced at 99 cents, I couldn’t believe it," he said.

"To most people, 35 cents doesn’t sound like much. To me, it seemed like a license to print money.

"With the most famous authors in the world charging $9.95 for e-books, I saw an opportunity to compete, and so I put them in the position of having to prove their books were 10 times better than mine.

"Figuring that was a battle I could win, I decided right then and there to become the bestselling author in the world, a buck at a time."

Or, he figured that the opportunity of self-publishing allowed him the freedom to decide how much to charge and take advantage of the royalty being paid a lower price.  Obviously you have to have something worth selling, but he’s figured out that formula as well – what most of us would consider “pulp fiction” with mass appeal:

His books – which centre around characters such as Donovan Creed, a former CIA assassin "with a weakness for easy women" and Emmett Love, a former gunslinger – are unlikely to trouble the Booker Prize judges.

But nevertheless they are immensely popular among the new e-Book fraternity, selling a copy every seven seconds and making him only the eighth author in history to sell a million copies on Amazon’s Kindle – a milestone he passed this week.

Phenomenal.  Kudos to Locke … John Locke, that is.   Great name.

The gate no longer exists and that has to make publishers as nervous as the news media is anymore.  Anyone can publish just about anything and, unlike before, the market gets to decide what is or isn’t worth the money and reward – directly – those who manage to give it what it wants.

What’s not to like (our own Martin McPhillips may be able to give us a little insight into this phenomenon – and it will give him a chance to plug his book)?


Twitter: @McQandO


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

12 Responses to The democratization of publishing

  • Notice that important term: commission sales. I can’t think of a rougher business. The guy is on easy street, now.

  • Are you missing a blockquote tag on the paragraph starting “His books”?  Because that comes straight from the linked article.

  • And at $0.99 / book, people will buy pretty readily; one can hardly buy a used paperback for a buck these days.  I’ll check him out myself.

    I would also add that this is what meritocracy is all about.  I’ve read (parts of) some real stinkers from well-known authors; these guys get rich(er) because they are “a name”.  This guy – and, we may assume, others who will follow in his footsteps – got rich because he’s an entertaining writer.  Good for him.

  • See the term “Penny dreadfuls” – his idea isn’t new, it’s practical and fills a market need.
    Not saying his work is dreadful, just saying not everyone wants to read the ‘great’ works as declared so by the New York Times at a cost of $10.00 or more.   Based on costs I get very picky about authors I purchase these days – I bought an ‘acclaimed’ author a while back, read 1 chapter and put the book down never to be picked up again.  Pricey mistake all in all.
    There’s always a market for certain types of work, and the author need only have a half decent story line and characters that appeal to people.  At a buck a pop, an avid reader can afford to make a mistake now and again.

  • I wonder if I should do the same with my fantasy novel?  Why not, I sure can’t get any publishers to look at it, and my own objective opinion is that it is a lot better than 90% of the crap on the bookstands right now.

    • Give it a go man, what do you have to loose?   I mean, other than someone ripping off your material.

    • I agree with looker: go for it.  If you do, please let me know the title so I can check it out.

    • And mark me down for notification too.
      Meanwhile back at the ranch, Looker discovers that the word loose is not the same as the word lose.

  • Just had an old acquaintance who published his novel through Amazon’s CreateSpace have it picked up by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. He didn’t tell me what the advance was, but he got a two-book contract and has to write a sequel by late next year. He said he had to take it down from Amazon as part of the agreement, but it was still there last time I checked: Something Red by Douglas Nicholas. It’s set in the 13th Century. I read it and loved it. Douglas is quite a writer. His luck ran like this: He gave it to a friend for Christmas, his friend gave it to a friend who was a (bigtime) agent, who gave it to a honcho at S&S who loved it. And so there it is. It can happen.

    I brought my novel Corpse in Armor out at roughly the same time, through CreateSpace. Still waiting for the movie producers to show up. It’s on Kindle now for 99 cents. Paperback around $12.99. I went that way to avoid the whole publishing song and dance. I just wanted it out.

  • Good news for me.  I just began writing a science textbook for 10th grade high school students.