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The E-book as a Starting Point to Print Publishing?
by Molly Blaisdell
December 20, 2011

Many authors see an e-book as a starting place for their publishing dreams. Their ultimate goal is to publish their book as a print book. This is certainly possible, as illustrated by the story of Amanda Hocking’s self-published e-books that caught fire through the following she built through her platform of networked blogs. Her efforts ultimately led to sales of over a million dollars and then to a traditional publishing contract.

Other authors have also found their way from e-book to print success. Author Victorine E. Lieske e-published and found her way onto the New York Times Best Sellers list with her suspense romances. She now offers paperback covers of her novels on her website. Yet another success story is Aaron Patterson’s. He achieved a No. 1 Amazon Kindle Best Selling Book status with his e-Book and now also sells print books. For more success e-book stories, check out Novlr , a website dedicated to reading, writing, and Internet fiction. Generally, successful e-Book authors redistribute with indie-published print books.

Heady stuff, but don’t go crazy with excitement because only relatively few authors are achieving this kind of success. Proceed with the idea that you might succeed if you work hard, your content is excellent, and you educate yourself. There are a myriad of print-on-demand publishing (POD) options available to successful e-book authors. Check out these various POD publisher options from such author sites as AuthorHouse, iUniverse and Xlibris, to expand the reach of your books. More such companies are Createspace and Lulu. Be aware that print options continue to evolve. Author Solutions has partnered with several traditional publishing companies to provide a hybrid-platform for self-published authors.

Finally, no one can guarantee that your book will be a hit. All publishing is a risk. The beauty of e-publishing is you have a chance to test the waters before trying paper copies. The low production costs and the ability to test the popularity of a book in the market helps self-published authors make informed decisions. Research the success stories. If your e-books achieve significant sales, educating yourself will put you a step ahead of the competition, if you should later decide to print books.

Interview with John Locke

by Suzette Conway
October 21, 2011

Author John Locke is arguably one of the most successful independently published authors to date. 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. Others notables include Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and Charlaine Harris. In fact, John Locke has sold more than 1.2 million of the Donovan Creed series alone since January 2011 and he has had as many as four books in the top ten Kindle list at the same time. Given this massive success, we thought it safe to consider John an expert author who really knows how to sell books. So, we reached out to get his perspectives on writing, future publishing trends, and more. Here’s what we learned in our Author Learning Center (ALC) interview with John.

ALC: 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.

ALC: What do you think about the common notion that a publishing path has to be either/or… you either go traditional OR self publishing? Can it be an AND situation? Why should it be?

John: We have come to a time in history when publishing can be anything we want it to be, if we can establish a proven market for our books. The fastest, most direct path to readers is self-publishing. Before I started writing it never dawned on me to ask an agent or publisher to take a chance on me, a complete unknown. It just didn't make sense. What made sense was to see if I could develop an audience for my books on my own. If I could, I knew the agents and publishers would eventually find me. To answer the last part of your question, you CAN get the best of both worlds, but only if they come to you. If you're an unknown, and you contact an agent or publisher, you've got your hat in your hand. If they accept you, you will get their deal or no deal. But if you can develop a loyal audience on your own, these people will approach you. And when they do, you will have options.

ALC: In a blog post you made earlier this year you talk about breaking rules. What rules do you think are worth breaking during a writing and publishing journey?

John: The first rule is that there are no rules in writing for self-published authors. If you break a writing rule, no one gets injured, no one gets hurt, unless your audience doesn't approve. And if that's the case, it's on you for not understanding your audience. I've been told my characters need to be inherently good or inherently bad. I've been told my character can't talk directly to the reader. I've been told I shouldn't write sentence fragments, or create separate paragraphs in the middle of existing ones. I've been told my main characters can't be killed off. I've been told my manuscripts can't be single spaced, and the headers and formats I use can't be the way I like to set them. I don't believe in breaking rules just to break them, but I believe the more rules you break, the more original you'll be. When it comes to promoting your book, the generally accepted rules say you should travel, do book signings, radio interviews, and so forth. Those things don't work for me. Take the five questions you've asked me today. These are very astute questions that prove you know your audience and care about them enough to prepare. You had to learn about me before asking them. Compare that to a radio host who's filling a five or ten minute segment, asking the same questions he or she has asked every other author. Generally established rules say I could have done ten radio shows in the time I took to answer your questions, so that would be a better use of my time. If this is a "rule" I'm glad to break it, because your loyal readers are more valuable to me than tens of thousands of casual listeners of radio shows!

If you are an author (aspiring or otherwise) John Locke is clearly someone to learn from. Check out How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! to learn more about how he found this level of success or read one of his novels and you’ll find a funny, action-packed, and completely unique writing style. You can learn more about John’s novels or read his blog at http://lethalbooks.com/ and you can catch him on twitter at @DonovanCreed.