Success by Default?

Okay, I am going to take a moment and speak out against the masses. This is more for writers, but has bearing on readers as well.

I recently (and very quietly) read the success book by John Locke (How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!) Let me start by saying, I am not bashing this book. It was okay. It offered some good advice that may or may not work for the masses. I am guessing he has sold a buttload of copies of it, and good for him! I mean that.

What I’m worried about is all the authors out there who have made this their new bible of sorts. Nowhere in his book does he promise that if the author does everything he did and exactly like he did it, they will find the success he has. NOWHERE! I went into the book expecting a little more and was a little disappointed. Not because it didn’t offer good advice, in fact I agree with a good portion of it and have been using his principles for some time and preaching them to the authors and writers I have met along the way. No, I’m not looking for credit, I am trying to make a point.

    • I blog. Actually I think I blog pretty well. I’ve never had complaints. I get plenty of praise, and I’m confident that I have a pretty good following. But how many of you have actually bought any of my books or short stories? You like me, right? So why not invest in my career?
    • I interact with people. Probably more than I should. I am a social networking whore. I admit. My name is Karen, and I am addicted to social networking. I don’t talk at people, I talk to them, and you talk back.
    • I write well. One difference between Locke and I is that I do care what people think about my writing as well as my stories. Of course I want my words to move you, but I don’t want you to get a headache trying to sift through crappy punctuation, grammar, and spelling. I will read one of his books (probably one of the westerns) and I’m sure I’ll be entertained, but I’m already prepared for writing that may or may not be good.
    • I invest in people. When I was going through some horrible times, years back, I turned to books as my refuge. You’ve heard people say that, but it’s true. Authors like Caroline Bourne, Jill Barnett, Rebecca Paisley, and all manner of others took me through some pretty dark days. Days that I readily admit could have ended in my death, were it not for the hope and inspiration their stories and their writing offered me. When I came through all of that, I decided I wanted to give back. I knew I wanted to write as well as them, and I wanted to tell stories that touched and affected the lives of others. I’ve spent the last 15 years offering to others what I took back in those days. I offer it with my writing and I offer it with my publishing.


Now, here’s my point. After reading Locke’s book, I was disappointed. I have done the things he spoke of and I have done them for years. Yet, I have sold nowhere near a million of anything. Why is that? Am I not working hard enough? Smart enough? Am I more confident in myself than others are in me? Whatever the reason, I would like to offer a bit of my own wisdom with regard to this matter.

Read books by people like Locke, and learn from them, but don’t put them on pedestals because they accomplished something. They are people just like us, and no matter how much you pay for a book like his, it will never guarantee the success he found. There is no secret to successful bookselling. It is something you simply must strive to do every day. EVERY DAY you must go out and tell people who you have written something that is so important to you that you are confident that in some way it will affect them. You must give readers a reason to make the investment in you. Will it work every time? Obviously not, or people would be interviewing me and not John Locke or Amanda Hocking.

They deserve the praise, they have both worked very hard and obviously very smart. Am I jealous? Yes, but not for the reasons you may think. I don’t envy their success. I envy their ability to convey to others the value of buying their books and remaining loyal readers. I envy their ability to show others their personal value, because that is a huge part of their success. Readers believe in them. I want that.

Authors, there is no secret for selling millions of books. No book is ever going to give you that. People like Locke can offer you insight into how they did it, but facts are, you are not him. Your situation, life, and abilities are very different. It is the wonder of diversity. Read the books, pay attention, and then go out and find your own success. It’s out there for all of us, we just have to embrace it and nurture it to its full capacity.

Readers, embrace the authors you love. Continue to buy their books and help them find their success, but I urge you to keep your minds open and embrace what you don’t know with the expectation of great things. There are new authors exploding onto the scene with books and stories that will blow you away. Don’t be caught in the he said, she said trap of the industry. Things are always changing in the book world. Formats, styles, themes, everything. Don’t be afraid that if you set aside a paperback novel and try reading something on a Kindle that it will be the ruination of you and the paperback industry. It won’t. We live in a vast world that offers so much potential for growth and only if we explore and embrace all of our choices will we find what we are truly seeking.


13 responses to “Success by Default?

  1. Kudos to you Karen! Thank you for saying what so many of us are secretly thinking but afraid to express for being labeled as jealous wannabes. No one path is the same for everyone, just as no one genre is right for all authors.

    Something touched me in what you said about books giving to you when you needed it most. A flare went up inside me as I recalled so many hours of comfort and solace I found, and still do, between the covers of a good book.

  2. Preach it, Sister! Amen! All we can do is be ourselves. If we try to be someone else and succeed, who has succeeded? If we try to be someone else and fail, we’ve not only failed, we’ve abandoned ourselves AND failed. If we’re true to ourselves… whether we make tons of money or not, we haven’t failed.

  3. I’ve not read anything by Locke, but have to admit his sales figures are impressive. As a reader, I have to say that I’m willing to take a flyer on an unknown author in ebook format at .99, but I’d have to be really bowled over by the description of the book or have a recommendation from someone I trust to spend 2.99 at this point. Or I’d have to know something about the author. For example, I might DL a book by Sean Hayden or Sam Morton at a higher price point because I’ve read something by them and I liked both books a lot, but I wouldn’t just spend it on any author.

    .99 to me is an impulse buy. It’s dropping a buck in someone’s collection bucket for charity when you don’t even know what the charity is. 2.99 is a point that I still think about the amount. Hopefully at .99 I’ll find some authors that I like enough to spend 2.99 or 4.99 on their future books…

  4. Karen, I haven’t read the Locke book, only a sample. Probably won’t buy it. He has his fans, and that’s fine, but I write in a different style for a different type of reader. I don’t know if you have seen Russell Blake’s snarky but outrageously funny response to Locke’s book, if not it’s here.

  5. Karen,

    Thanks for sharing your take on Locke’s book. I usually follow the adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I agreed that Locke provided useful information, but I, too, looked for some guarantee or evidence. Your four points say a lot more.


  6. An excellent post that illustrates Hollywood king William Goldman’s statement: nobody knows anything.

    We don’t know precisely what accounts for success, especially on the blockbuster level. All we can do is put our best work out there, every day, just as Karen says.

  7. Jacqueline Seewald

    Hi, Karen,

    I haven’t read the book in question, but was very interested in your take on it. Lots of good sense in what you’ve said.

  8. Nancy, I used to have issues with selling the books so low as well, but as I have learned, we need to flow with the economy and right now, the entertainment business is holding on because I think people are tired of being depressed. By offering our books at a lower price, we reallly do sell more. I also believe that there will be a time again when we can put those prices back up and people will not complain.

    I do think the readers appreciate our efforts to keep them entertained without them having to skip a meal.


  9. I haven’t read Locke’s book. I’m one of those odd people who think selling books for 99cents ultimately harms all of us writers, so I didn’t buy his. I did note a couple of things about his book, though: his best seller is non-fiction, quite different marketing involved than fiction; and today, after selling his books and encouraging a wave of 99cent books, he charges $4.99 for Kindle and $9.99 for paper.

  10. As always very insightful and full of wisdom.
    Chris Redding

  11. I think telling a good story at a reasonable price is still the best way. You do have to get your name out there and promote to bring it to reader’s attention, but you can only reach so many people. A story that they recommend to others and talk about is what will keep it going.

  12. Karen,
    Wonderful post. Every day we’re bombarded with info re how we’re to sell our books: blog, but not about yourself; talk up your book; don’t talk up your book; ebooks and self-publishing IS the new publishing; ebooks is a faze. No one knows what’s ahead. I think we writers must do what we can to get our work out to readers. There’s no magic bullet or “way”. Each person’s path is a bit different — and the same.

  13. That’s definitely a great piece of advice, and just a reminder to take everything with a grain of salt. Especially success stories. There’s no trick, no set rules, no balance to get on the New York Times Bestsellers list. There’s nothing ascertaining that you’ll sell a million books, no straight way to do it, and some people, yes, they may become success stories from blogging, interacting with people, writing well, investing in people, but more likely than not, they won’t. All you can do is try, like you said, to find your own success.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s