Last month I read an article in The Telegraph about author John Locke and how he had already sold over 1 million self published ebooks.  The article starts by saying that he “publishes and promotes his own work” but I think the key word there is promotes.

When I first read the headline I thought “Wow, how did he do that?” followed very closely with a tinge of jealousy.  But reading further it becomes very clear that he was much more focussed on the marketing than anything else.  He talks about not having a big marketing budget, but in the electronic age who really needs one?  Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter, Linked In…. there are so many ways to start the ball rolling with word-of-mouth without any words actually leaving anyone’s physical mouth.

John Locke says that when he found out Amazon pays 35% on ebooks priced at 99c, he was over the moon!  He’s been in commission sales all his life and anyone in that line of work will know that 35% really is, as he says, “like a license to print money”.  He’s obviously very talented at marketing but from the reviews of his books it seems that really is his focus and the writing tends to be sub-par.

The one thing that grabbed me right away is that he has a book out now called “How I sold 1 million ebooks in 5 months” and at the end of the article there was mention of this as a way to “find out how he did it by buying the book”.  On his blog, his posts end with similar phrasing such as, “You know how I’m celebrating? By making my marketing system available for everyone who wants to duplicate, or exceed my achievements. I wrote it all out, step-by-step. Everything I tried that didn’t work and everything that did. I’m charging $4.99 for this information via eBook, $9.99 paperback. I hope you’ll consider it a bargain, since I spent $25,000 for information that didn’t work.”

He follows the hookline closely with, “You know when my friends finally considered me an author? When I started making serious money from book sales! And no matter how nice your friends and family are, you know in your heart they’re not going to consider you a real author until the royalties start pouring in.

It’s very strong imagery, that you aren’t a real author until you earn royalties and that you won’t earn royalties unless you buy his book.  As a writer, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s the same kind of marketing as all of those adverts on the web saying things like “I lost 6 stone in a month!  Click here to find out how!” and then you get taken to a page roping you in and at the end it says “You can find out how to do it too!  It’s all in my new book priced £39.99…”.

He seems to be very much all about the profit, which can be a big motivation for people to want to be a writer and marketing is definitely a large part of becoming a known author.  But taking the focus off the writing and putting more time into marketing the work, just makes me concerned that this kind of thinking will come back to bite new authors who focus on writing first.