Sunday, 26 February 2012

Locked In

Ruby’s review of ‘How I sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!’ by John Locke

In the last two months I’ve been devouring non-fiction as research to support my new project – a how-to book on novel writing, social media and independent epublishing. It’s been an interesting journey and my final port of call was the much talked about million selling method book by Mr Locke.
The first thing I do when considering a popular book is to browse the negative reviews. Locke’s knockers were scathing, claiming he didn’t really reveal his secrets, that his method wouldn’t work for most people and he was on an ego-trip. Then I took a look at the three star reviews (the ones that Locke himself discounts when he calculates the positive / negative review score of books). I sensed from those middling reviews that he was connecting with his readers. Not everyone felt they could emulate his approach but they began to give it credence. A sample of the higher scoring reviews showed genuine praise. So I One-clicked and slipped my few bucks into Mr Locke’s bulging pocketbook.
First impression? An avalanche of advertising, branding and hammering out credentials. Close to sales pitch overload. I’m a bit of a straight-laced Brit and pushy product placement presses the wrong buttons for me. However, in between the lines of Locke’s opening gambit, I sensed warmth and something akin to humility. So I read on.
It didn’t take long before I realised that I was in the hands of a master of rhetoric. That’s a positive super-power, when used for good. Locke’s entrepreneurial understanding of sales and marketing, coupled with that gift for rhetoric, are a powerful combination. He’s a rich man who has unsuccessfully tried to herd his ebook camels into sales heaven through the eye of a needle (or some more suitable metaphor). That was the first major learning. Money thrown at traditional product promotion won’t propel an indie author onto the best seller list.
Locke went on to describe how his writing polarises readers and that demarcation defines his market niche. I read that on the day that Peril received its first ever one-star review. The reader had found my anti-hero thriller unpalatable, where others had lauded it. There, I had polarisation.
Donovan Creed, Locke’s MC in his main series, isn’t a regular guy and the quirky story lines aren’t mainstream. Bells began to ring in my head as I compared the appeal of Creed with my Peril MC Ger Mayes. Locke has a series of Creed novels and that was where my hopeful comparison faltered (note to self – produce more!)
Then Locke went on to describe his GBL (Guaranteed Buyer List) and how these people have become personal friends who not only buy his new releases but are evangelical in spreading the word. I call them the Locked In. He explained his approach to social media and how he engages in a supportive social network where spam is anathema and everyone benefits, how he communicates personally and builds relationships. I thought of people I have met on Twitter, facebook, this blog and in chat forums. How they might have bought my book but I don’t know. How I don’t know if the 17,000 people holding ecopies of Peril even know that I’ve written and released The Baptist! I’m adept at the how-to aspects of social networking and epublishing, and I think I write a decent novel but, compared to Locke’s sleek, tight and smooth machine, my marketing is a pair of old lady’s wrinkled stockings.
All the way through the book Locke promotes his sound marketing plan but the major catalyst for his success, the trigger that set Locke’s snowball rolling down the hill, is his incredible rhetoric. He attributes the initial rush of sales to a series of blog posts that hit the sweet spot with potential readers and went viral. The resulting sales success fed into his business plan with all its carefully designed components and he leveraged the momentum to great effect as the Creed series rolled out.
If you are an indie author who understands product marketing, customer relationship management and the principles of persuasion, then you have to read Locke’s book. If you don’t understand some or any of those things then you have to read Locke’s book.
At the end I wanted to hug John Locke. And I’m not the kind of guy who does man hugs. I don’t think that many people will be able to fully replicate his method. Few have the skill set, determination and work rate that he displays, but there are nuggets in there for everyone and I’m thankful to the man for sharing. And I just bought my first Donovan Creed ebook.

If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!


  1. And I bought my first Creed book, too. The man makes a hell of a lot of sense, and I'm giving his method my all, but I can see there's a bit of chicken-and-egg in that he builds on previous books. What previous books, I ask, in my case? Such incredible productivity he has--that's hard to match. And despite his playing down his prose, he's a good story-teller. I admire the guy, and I'm giving his method a try.

    Jim Hendee (author of Codon Zero,

  2. Hey, Jim. Yep, I'm in a similar position. A lot of Peril readers have come back asking for more of the same character. I have a second book but it's very different to the first. Well, we know what we've gotta do!

  3. Thanks for this post! I have just finished my second run through of Locke's book, and I can't help but wonder how much of his success was actually due to the fact that he was one of the first to market with a 99 cent book in the e-book revolution. I believe the market is now flooded with 99 cent or free work that is no good, and that readers are catching on.

    Locke does do a good job of building relationships that turn into an opt-in email list, but this is marketing 101, and not the stuff of revolutionary books.

    The most valuable part of the book was definitely how to use Twitter hashtags to promote blog posts. Am I sorry I bought this book? No. Am I sorry I bought Saving Rachel just to see what all the hype was about? Yes. Guess I'm one of those polarized readers who truly hate his fiction.

  4. Hey, Diane. Yeah, when someone gets big success in any field it's not always easy (even for them) to dissemble the success factors. Which is the chicken, which is the egg and then the traditional question. 99c pricing was a buzz but I agree with you, and I've gone back to $2.99 myself (modest as my sales are). I want to differentiate quality somewhat with price, even as an indie.

    I think Locke's forte is his rhetoric, by which I mean empathic salesmanship. He's very personable and he seems to have struck gold with a few carefully formulated blog posts, his system then driving traffic in a virtuous circle and culminating in loyal readership that evangelicises the next novel in a series.

    Haven't finished Rachel yet, so reserving judgement on that score for the mo ;-]

  5. Was he in Eastenders? 'Where's Grant? I'm goin to do him!'...

  6. I've read the book, and his sales and marketing tactics certainly look valid to me. I'll be doing my best to start building up a following, and who knows. Maybe someday I'll be joining him on the million sellers list.

  7. Good review Ruby... now I need to check out the book (another sale for Mr Locke?), but from your review I think I'm a very different type of person to him... maybe I'm not cut out to be a successful author.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Ken. You're right, not everyone is the entrepreneur that Locke is. I'm not either, but I'm always on the lookout for tips and tricks that might create that watershed moment ;-)