The VOICE-TRIBUNE Reports
What does it take to create a New York Times best-seller? Louisville-based author John Locke took the time to talk with us about how he became the best-selling author in the world ‑ yes, the world – one book, one buck at a time.
When did you know you were a writer and not just any writer, but one who would compose pieces – books – that would interest others?
The key part of your question that rocks is the last four words, because anyone who completes a novel feels like a writer. But the mental promotion from writer to author occurs the moment you realize your words had a positive effect on total strangers. When you start receiving emails from fans and five-star reviews from all over the world, it’s a heady, and humbling, experience.
According to your website you were once a rock ‘n’ roll singer. Really?
From age 11 to age 21, I sang in various rock and roll bands in Louisiana, where I grew up. What I lacked in talent, I made up for with enthusiasm.
I read an interview where you said you have made it a goal to become “the world’s greatest 99-cent author.” Please explain what you mean by that.
I’ve been in commission sales all my life, and when I learned Kindle and the other eBook platforms offered a royalty of 35 percent on books priced at 99 cents, I couldn’t believe it! 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 eBooks, I saw an opportunity to compete, and so I put them in the position of having to prove their books were ten times better than mine. Figuring that was a battle I could win, I decided right then and there to become the best-selling author in the world, a buck at a time. By March 2011, it happened.
What does it mean to be an indie author?
At first, it means people look down their noses at you, because there’s a stigma self-published authors face that no other business on earth imposes. The general public has been conditioned to believe if you’re self-published your books don’t measure up. What they’re saying is when an author believes in his abilities to the extent he’s willing to invest his own money to publish a novel, he’s writing purely for his own vanity.
When I invested my own money to buy a life insurance company, no one called it a vanity investment. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen invested their time and money into developing code for the Altair computer, no one accused them of writing vanity code. How is it that self-publishing is the only business where self-funding is considered undignified?
For me, all that changed when “Saving Rachel” became the No. 1 eBook in the world and agents and publishers began calling. I think it shocked a lot of people in the industry when I said I wasn’t interested in a multi-million dollar book deal. After I was featured in the Wall Street Journal, and Entertainment Weekly, and became a New York Times best-selling author, the term “indie author” actually gave me more prestige.
You’ve created more than a dozen multimillion dollar companies. Have you continued on this career path or are you solely a best-selling author?
I’m strictly a part-time author. That’s what keeps it fresh and fun for me.
You’re the first writer to have the No. 1 best-seller on the Amazon Top 100. You also held the No. 2, 7, and 10 spots at the same time, had six books in the Top 20 at the same time and had eight books in the top 50. Yet you admit no one really paid attention to your work last year. To what do you attribute the attention?
In October 2010, after eight months of virtually no success in marketing my books, I stopped doing all the things the experts advised. Instead, I created a no-cost marketing system that propelled me onto the best-seller list practically overnight. I just completed a how-to book explaining this revolutionary marketing system, and will be releasing it in a few days. My book will give other self-published authors the opportunity to compete with the major players for those coveted spots on the best-seller list. The book is titled, “How I sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!” and I am pricing it as an eBook for only $4.99.
Who is Donovan Creed and how did you create him?
Donovan Creed is the hero of my first series of books. Creed is a former CIA assassin, a smart-aleck tough guy with a heart of bronze, meaning he has an abundance of flaws, including ties to organized crime, and a penchant for call girls. Creed is the kind of guy men want to be and women want to be with. He’s like that big, overgrown dog you find at the pound, and decide to bring home against your better judgment. And sure enough, he turns out to be your worst nightmare. But just as you’re about to send him away, he saves your life, or does something so endearing, you can’t bear to part with him. Creed is not just rough around the edges, but everywhere else as well, and yet, every now and then he surprises you.
(Editor’s Note: Thus far, Locke has written seven books that follow Donovan Creed: “Lethal People,” “Lethal Experiment,” “Saving Rachel,” “Now & Then,” “Wish List,” “A Girl Like You,” and “Vegas Moon.” He expects to release the eighth Creed book, “The love You Crave,” at the end of this month.)
What is your writing process?
Unlike other authors who make a daily commitment to pound out 500 words every day, I never sit down at my keyboard without a specific plan. I work out an entire scene in my head, and when I find myself with at least three hours of uninterrupted time, I type it out.
In March, you were contacted about selling the movie rights to your Donovan Creed novels. Has there been any progress with that endeavor?
While I said no to a publishing contract, I did sign with one of the powerhouse literary agents who contacted me after “Saving Rachel” became No. 1 because I wanted to negotiate the sale of movie and TV rights, foreign rights, and audio book rights. My agents are in talks with four different producers regarding the sale of movie rights for the Donovan Creed series, but at the moment, a TV series seems more likely. Meanwhile, I have sold foreign rights in two languages, and also the audio book rights.
How many books have you sold thus far?
I have sold just over 1,100,000 ebooks since January, 2011.
Your website claims: “Every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day, a John Locke novel is downloaded somewhere in the world!” Seriously?
That number was based on sales made during an 8-week period that ended recently, and needs to be adjusted slightly, but yes, it was a valid claim at the time it was made. The best day I ever had was Thursday, March 10, 2011, when I sold more than 27,000 eBooks!
What about the westerns you’ve written? Where did they come from?
I thought it would be a great idea to trace Donovan Creed’s ancestors back to the pirate days, which I did in “Now & Then.” My westerns begin in 1860 and continue the saga with a new set of Creed’s ancestors. But these are not your grandfather’s westerns! They’re hip, outrageous and fun. The first is “Follow the Stone,” and the sequel is “Don’t Poke the Bear!” Both books became best-sellers within a week, and are the No. 1 and No. 2 best-selling westerns. This series allows me to branch into a different genre and widen my reading audience while offering opportunities to create crossover fans between the two series.
What else do you write aside from contemporary fiction?
The how-to book for authors I’m about to release is nonfiction, and shows authors how to market their existing books. At some point I may write another how-to book to teach would-be authors how to write a best-selling novel in eight weeks, which is not as hard as it sounds. As a part-time author, I wrote “Vegas Moon” in four weeks and “Don’t Poke the Bear!” in two weeks. It’s possible would-be authors might be willing to pay a small fee to learn how to do that.
Contact author John Locke at www.lethalbooks.com.
Category: The Profile