Book sales is not the only reason for publishing a book, but book sales is something every author is concerned about. The most recent successful self published author is John Locke. He is a New York Times best-selling author (Saving Rachel) and has written eleven books across three genres (titles include Vegas Moon, Wish List, A Girl Like You, Follow the Stone, Don’t Poke the Bear!). He is the first independently published author to have sold one million books on kindle and is one of only eight authors to achieve this milestone.
What follows is excerts from an interview he did on the Author Learning Center. His insights are very interesting and helpful. Enjoy.
How do you write so many books so quickly? What’s your secret?
John: I complete the entire manuscript before editing, and don’t get distracted with research. I don’t believe in trying to “perfect” or “fine-tune” my first few chapters. Those who strive to write something perfect never complete their manuscripts. I’d rather fix a bad manuscript than never finish a perfect one. Also, I don’t waste time researching details I can look up later online. For example, in my latest western, Emmett & Gentry, I knew my character had to cross a river in West Kansas in 1863. Faced with that, some authors would begin researching rivers, settings, nearby towns. They’d uncover all sorts of fascinating things, which gives them a million possibilities how they could write that scene. When I come to that part in my manuscript, I just write (name and description of river), highlight it in yellow, and keep writing. When I come back to that part in my edit, I’m not searching for all the possibilities, I’m only searching for one thing, because I’ve already completed my manuscript. It takes far less time to fill in the blanks than to write an essay! If you’re researching after the fact, you can get the answer in 10 minutes instead of four hours. Same way with character names. I would never sit at my computer and waste time trying to decide the perfect name for a character, or a character’s description. I would have figured those things out while taking a shower or waiting for my son to get out of football practice. In other words, when I’m at the keyboard, I don’t allow the details in my novel to distract me from writing the manuscript. If I did, I’d never complete it!
ALC: A lot of people are getting angry and speaking out these days about the price of e-books being out of synch with the manufacturing costs. The big publishing houses sell books from the big name authors at almost the same prices as the print book even though they have no printing, shipping, or stocking costs. In your book “How to sell a million e-books in 5 months” you talk about how e-publishing has allowed you to turn the tables on the traditional publishing industry. Because you can publish so cheaply, without incurring the costs they incur (staff, advertising, reseller discounts…), you can offer books at 99 cents and they never could. So far, many of the big houses are sticking to the ‘agency’ model that supports this high pricing structure. How do you see the traditional publishing industry responding to this in the future?
John: The traditional publishers will soon be forced to price their ebooks much lower, and the timing of when to release the ebook will be a bigger decision than the pricing. There are loyal readers who are currently willing to pay $14.99 for an ebook because they love the author and want to read the novel immediately. But even these loyal readers will soon feel gigged by the publishers when, a month later, the price starts dropping. This type of pricing model punishes the most loyal readers instead of rewarding them. I have a loyal audience and could easily bring my next book out for $2.99 instead of 99 cents and make a lot more money. I’m not going to do that, but if I did, I would offer my loyal readers a two-week window to buy the book for 99 cents before setting the higher price. They’re the ones who brought me to the dance, and they’re the ones who deserve the discounts.
ALC: A lot of people still look down on self publishing. A common reason cited is because without the ‘gate keepers’ of the traditional process (editors, agents, publishers)… the quality is likely to be very poor. You sent your book Saving Rachel to a writer and an editor. The writer said it was really bad and the editor said it would never sell. You published it anyway. What advice can you offer to other authors about how to know when to ignore ‘expert’ advice and stay true to their vision… and when to take the advice in an effort to make the book as good as it can be?
John: If it’s advice, they should listen. But when someone just torques your manuscript without offering specific reasons, that’s not advice. My first manuscript, Killing Hailey, was terrible. I never published it. But I was able to receive some specific reasons why it was so terrible, and I used that advice to get better. But the advice worked for me because I could follow it without destroying my vision. By contrast, when an editor told me Saving Rachel needed an additional 20,000 words of descriptive elements, I responded, “That would slow the action to a crawl.” He said, “People don’t want that much action in a book.” –His advice ran counter to my vision, so I chose not to take it.