In case you haven't heard, independent and self-published author John Locke succeeded in selling over a million ebooks on Kindle.
While this may not sound like a big deal. It is. For many many reasons.
First, not many authors have sold a million ebooks. In fact I believe that as of the date of this post, only five or so authors have achieved such success. And although ebook sales have risen exponentially over recent years, many authors still find success in paperback. Especially authors with major publishers.
Which brings me to reason number Two. It is very hard to market books as a self-published author. Very Hard. I should know, I published the middle-grade novel, Alexander Hickory, in early 2008 and have been beating down the doors of libraries, schools, local bookstores and the virtual marketplaces just to get a handful of sales. Like Locke, I paid a lot of money for online ads, press releases, and professional marketing to help generate sales. But, regardless of how much money I threw at the book, sales, even ebook sales, remained low.
There are certainly exceptions to stories like mine and Locke's, stories where self-published authors find amazing success through traditional marketing means. But, it turns out, most independently published authors fight enormous (and often expensive) obstacles when it comes to selling books and finding our audience. Obstacles that, until now, have been controlled by traditional publication.
The truth? Traditional book marketing doesn't work for self-published authors. Well, it usually doesn't work. Like I said, there are always exceptions, but for the majority of us, we have to find other means of finding our audience. This is especially true for fiction writers.
Which brings me to reason number Three. It's easy to find the target market for non-fiction. For fiction writers this is much, much more difficult. While there are certainly forums and websites for different genres of books, there are literally thousands and thousands of books on these sites and any book can get lost in the sea of fiction. And for those that write quirky stories or plots that are on the edge of genre fiction, it's even more difficult.
John Locke writes fiction, quirky, off-the-beaten-path kind of fiction that doesn't always fit into standard categories. Like the rest of us, he followed standard rules for marketing and pitching his stories. They didn't work.
So he broke the rules, followed his gut and, by using his background in sales, discovered new ways to find a target audience and attract loyal readers. As a result, John Locke, a self-published author of quirky fiction, found an enormous audience, a dedicated following, and impressive sales.
His advice goes against everything I've been told. And it's brilliant.
Authors told me “Follow the rules.”
Editors told me “Write what you know.”
My opinion? Write what you Love. And Break the rules.
Both self-published and traditionally published authors can benefit from his advice. It's not just about marketing, it's about connecting with readers and giving them something you know they'll love.