Free Markets, Free People
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)?