If you have anything more than a passing interest in publishing, you’ll have already heard that author John Locke has become the first self-published author to sell a million e-books through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Better yet, he’s released an e-book that promises to tell us all exactly how he did it: How I Sold 1 Million E-books in 5 Months.

Being a self-published author myself (and currently making a living from it) I was intrigued to find out how Locke had done it. Even more so because I’m one of his legion of Twitter followers, and have been since before he came up with his e-book selling strategy, which he says he did around October 2010. But would this book really contain the secret of selling a million books? Would it say something new or just more of the same? And was it worth the $4.99 (€3.50) price-tag or should he have priced it at 99c like he does all his other books?

Let’s work backwards, shall we?

Yes, it’s worth the price. It’s a very short book – you could read it in an hour or so – but Locke is an entertaining writer, and who wouldn’t want to know just what he’s been up to for the last few months? Locke is convinced that if you do it right, anyone can sell a million e-books, and afterwards I felt motivated to get out there and do more to promote and sell my own book. So for an hour’s entertainment and a shot of motivation, it was definitely worth the price.

Does it contain anything new? It might not seem like it on the face of it, but Locke really did think of a way to convince people to buy his e-books that no one else had done before, or at least not done so knowingly. With a proven track record in sales, Locke applied to his e-books the same principles that had worked for him to sell, say, insurance, concentrating more on the customer than the product he was trying to get them to buy. He even proved his initial success with the system wasn’t a fluke by using it to propel his Westerns – traditionally one of the worst selling genres of fiction on Amazon – into the bestseller charts. So yes, I think it does contain something new, and that something new is also very clever and very, very interesting.

(Of course I can’t come right out and tell you what he did, because that wouldn’t be fair, but rest assured there is something there.)

And finally: does the book really contain the secret of selling a million books?

Yes… and no.

I self-published a year ago purely in attempt to keep myself in coffee grounds and ink cartridges while I pursued my dream of traditional publication. (And so I could leave my job; if I had stayed, my former boss would definitely have had an unfortunate incident with a stapler by now). I’ve wanted to be a writer since I found out real people were behind the books I loved, and that dream will never change – regardless of how many copies I sell, and we’re up to over 6,000 now. I see everything I do with self-publishing as what’ll go in the middle paragraph of the query letters I’ll send to agents when I have written something good enough to try to get one of them. I have a general rule when it comes to promotion: if I couldn’t do it with a traditionally published book, I don’t do it at all. The readership I’m building now needs to be portable, ready and willing to come with me if I ever do get that illusive book deal. Otherwise, what’s the point? Money? I like money as much as the next person – well, maybe a little bit more than the next person – but ultimately that’s not what this is about for me.

Locke didn’t, I don’t think, grow up wanting to be a writer. He didn’t dream of seeing his books on shelves or, ahem, getting picked for Oprah’s Book Club. He writes books in eight weeks and he does this part-time. If a reader feels his book has entertained them to the value of 99c, then he’s happy. If a reader doesn’t like it, he’s merely found someone outside his target readership and thinks no more about it. And he’s figured out a way to get people to buy his books, and buy over a million of them to date. This is purely a business for him and he is doing great business.

But while I preach about self-publishing professionally, this isn’t just a business for me. If it is for you – if your goal is to make money from selling e-books – then How I Sold 1 Million E-books in 5 Months is the well-written, reasonably priced and fascinating book for you.

But if this is about your writerly dreams, it isn’t.


How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! (Affiliate Link)