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.

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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Which cover should Ruby go for this time?

As The New Author project approaches completion, it's time to choose the kindle / paperback cover.

This book is a beginner’s guide on how to write a novel, publish as an independent ebook author and promote your brand using social networks.

Which of the following six covers A - F catches your eye and best conveys the book's contents? Please let me know your thoughts ;-]
Ruby x

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Monday, 6 February 2012

I just spent the weekend with a bunch of psychos!

 The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson
I’ve always been interested in psychology, especially abnormal psychology. Anyone who’s read Peril or The Baptist will understand. When I spotted that my local bookshop’s Minority Interest for last month was The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, I had to grab it. You can’t know too much about psychopaths in my line of work.
 Ronson is also the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats (a book that led to a very strange film with George Clooney) so I was expecting quirky humour, journalistic investigation and some genuine insights. That’s exactly what I got, with a few intriguing case studies thrown in. The 286 pages flew by.
Now that I’ve finished this book I’m left slightly perplexed. Not by the book but by the subject matter. Ronson doesn’t claim to be a clinician, he’s a journalist. He examined several attitudes towards psychology in general and psychopaths in particular.
The approach of categorising mental illness into specific codes was explored and the hazards discussed. Autism, ADD and infant bi-polar disorder were identified as diagnosis growth areas that were probably stimulated by the coding, with attendant questions about the roles of pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Ronson studied and adopted the Hare PCL-R checklist as a methodology to assess several subjects (including murderers and business leaders) for categorisation as psychopaths and, following him in his discoveries, I found myself using the same approach. He himself was at first exhilarated and then somewhat dismayed at his own jumping to conclusions based upon a few days’ training. As a wannabe amateur psychologist, I was very glad that I had read the entire book in a short space of time, narrowly avoiding the making of armchair psychiatric diagnoses of my own.
At the same time he discussed the Scientologist approach that all psychology is gobbledegook. That was a real eye-opener.
All of this was informed by interviews and meetings, sometimes a series of them, with the key players. It wasn’t a desk analysis. Ronson flew around the world to meet with pivotal individuals, past and present.
The big question is whether society is led by psychopaths. We would wish that it were led by altruists but the suggestion is that key influencers in society might otherwise be categorised as dangerous were they not in a position of power and influence. Look at a few of the twenty points of Hare’s checklist: superficial charm, grandiose self-worth, pathological lying, manipulative, lack of guilt. These, if not all the points on the list, seem a fairly typical recipe for any leader that has taken major corporations through major restructuring or brought a nation into a war zone. What if society is driven by psychopathic behaviour? Ronson’s book only scratches at the surface of that question but I suspect he is describing the human condition.

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