Everywhere I turn, there's talk about John Locke's ebook, HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS. I didn't pay much attention until I received the Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine and saw this article by Randy Ingermanson. I've subscribed to Ingermanson's Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine for a number of years. I trust it and it's loaded with information writers need to know. Subscription info is at the end of this article. (And yes, I bought John Locke's book.)
(Reprinted by Permission)
John Locke is a self-published novelist who has sold over a million copies of his e-books so far this year.
That's rather amazing. He's had as many as 8 of his novels on the Kindle Top 100 list at one time, all
priced at $.99.
There are people who think Locke got lucky. I've been told that Locke sells well because he produces short novels, writes decently well, prices his books low, releases new ones frequently, promotes them hard, and has the same name as a popular character on the TV series LOST.
All that may be true, but it doesn't explain why Locke's books were selling only a few dozen copies per month until last October, and then suddenly began selling hundreds (and now thousands) of copies per day, starting in November.
How does Locke explain his change in luck? He says that he changed his marketing strategy at the end of October. He says that he began doing things differently in early November, and he saw good results right away.
You can read all about it in Locke's latest $4.99 e-book, HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS. Here's a short link to the description page on Amazon: http://amzn.to/ndd258
I recently read this book and it's radically changed my thinking in a couple of key areas. I consider it the best marketing book I've read in the last year, and it's the best fiction-marketing book that I've EVER read. (To be fair, there aren't many books on how to market fiction.)
Locke's book is a very quick read. It's thin, and it's even thinner if you consider that the first half is obvious stuff that "everybody knows," along with a discussion of all the things Locke tried that didn't
If you already know all the things that "everybody knows" and you don't care about the things that don't work, you might decide to skip Parts 1 and 2.
On the other hand, since some of the things that "everybody knows" don't actually work very well, I suggest you read Parts 1 and 2 anyway.
It's not until Part 3, halfway into the book, that Locke unveils his marketing plan.
If you don't look closely, you might imagine that it's all the same stuff you've heard before. Most of the elements of Locke's plan are things we've all heard about: web sites, blogging, Twitter, e-mail, etc.
Locke only does a very few things differently than most people. That should be reassuring. He's using the same tools as most authors. He just uses them differently.
I've read through Locke's book twice now, taking it apart to figure out what the pieces are. There are four major tasks you must complete and there are two ongoing projects that you will keep doing indefinitely.
Locke doesn't list these in so many words anywhere in his book, nor does he give you any estimates of how much calendar time most of them normally require, so I'll do that here. The first four tasks have a definite end-point. The last two are open-ended:
* Define your General Target Audience (days of work)
* Create your book (months of work)
* Create your platform (weeks of work)
* Launch your book (one day of work)
* Grow your platform (ongoing effort for years)
* Market your book (ongoing effort for months)
Over the next few months, I'll talk about these in more detail in this column.
For today, I'll focus on the first step, defining your General Target Audience. All the other steps depend on this one. If you haven't done this, or if you haven't done it well, all your other efforts are going to be out of focus.
And what is a General Target Audience? It's the group of people who love the kind of books you write, or who would love your books if they knew about them.
Not just LIKE your books. LOVE your books. The people who, once they find out what you write, will buy anything you write.
Don't confuse your General Target Audience with the set of all people who have ever bought one of your books.
Some people in your General Target Audience may never have heard of you, much less bought one of your books. Your goal in marketing is to help them discover you.
And some people who've bought one of your books may not much like your writing. Your goal in marketing is to prevent similar people from buying your books because they probably won't enjoy them.
Your General Target Audience is crucial to get right. The reason is that the other five steps in producing and marketing books depends on them:
* When you create your book, you should do everything in your power to produce a a book that is perfectly targeted for your General Target Audience. You should be desperately trying to make this core niche group as happy as possible.
* When you create your platform (including a web site, blog, Facebook page, etc., you should do everything in your power to make it as appealing as possible to your General Target Audience. You really don't care about anyone except them. These are your people.
* When you launch your book, you should do everything in your power to reach those people in your General Target Audience. If you accidentally reach other people too who somewhat like your book, that's fine, but your General Target Audience will be the ones who love your book and spread the word.
* As you grow your platform over the years, you'll continue to focus on building an online presence that makes your General Target Audience happy. You'll focus on adding them to your e-mail database, and they'll be delighted to be there, because there's nothing they want more than to hear when your next book comes out.
* As you market each book over a period of months, you'll focus on crafting a message designed to appeal to people in your General Target Audience. These are your evangelists. You reach them; they'll reach everybody else.
You may be surprised to hear that John Locke prefers a small, sharply defined target audience. This is why he doesn't want to work with a major publisher, who would try to force him to have wider appeal and would thereby destroy the amazing loyalty of his actual readers.
This may sound like you're asking for a disaster--consciously trying to appeal to fewer readers. But it makes great marketing sense to focus on making one small niche exceptionally happy. Because that's how word-of-mouth gets going. Small fires burn hot.
Next month we'll look at some of the methods Locke uses to reach his target audience, using such ideas as the "Friendship Circle," the "Viral Circle," the "Loyalty Transfer Blog, and the "Guaranteed Buyer" e-mail list.
All of these are powerful tools, and if you can't wait to hear about them, go ahead and grab Locke's book and read it. Once again, a link to his Amazon page is here: http://amzn.to/ndd258
If you get his book, read his description of his target audience. It runs on for about a page and a half. Some parts of it are rather dull demographic stuff, which your publisher has probably already asked you to define.
In my view, the demographic stuff--age, gender, and socioeconomic status of Locke's reader (or your readers) are the least important part.
The real gold comes from knowing what emotive buttons your target audience wants pushed. Locke knows that his readers want a quick read but not a deep read. They aren't a bit worried that Locke's signature character, Donovan Creed, is an amoral bed-hopping assassin, because it's all just good clean sex and violence.
Locke's men readers would like to be Donovan Creed. His women readers would like to date Creed -- but not to marry him, because he's a lousy marriage risk. They like that he has potential.
Locke has plenty more info on his target audience, but you get the point. Locke knows exactly who he's writing for, and everything he does is aimed at pleasing those people. Nobody else. Just them.
Most people are not in John Locke's target audience. I'm not. You might or might be. You might find his books outrageous or offensive. Or you may find them hilarious and relaxing.
This is, I believe, a major part of Locke's secret. He writes so consciously and so specifically for one small class of people. He doesn't care about any other readers.
What that means is that there are plenty of people who don't fit in Locke's target audience -- but they might in yours or mine.
But they'll never know, and you'll never know, unless you first figure out exactly who YOU write for.
So let's get practical. You will probably never have much success in publishing unless you clearly define your General Target Audience. Let's take a first cut at it right now. It won't be perfect, but it's a start. You can polish it later.
Think about the following kinds of questions for a few minutes. This is not an exhaustive list. It's intended to get your mental juices flowing so you can ask the right questions about your particular General Target Audience:
* Who are you writing for? (No, no, no, the answer is not "everybody.")
* What are your readers looking for? Do they want to laugh? Cry? Think? Avoid thinking? Have a romance? An adventure? Both? Neither?
* Do your readers suffer from low self-esteem? Sneer at the "little" people? Don't care what anybody else thinks?
* What kinds of hero will make your reader cheer? A tough guy? Tough girl? A patriot? One with a soft side?
* What are the powerful forces in your reader's life? Religion? Politics? Science? Gaming? Exercise?
Give yourself 5 minutes to think about the above questions. Then give yourself 15 minutes to finish this sentence: "My ideal reader..."
Don't stop and think. Just type. Shoot for 500 words in 15 minutes. Drill out the words. You can edit them later. Just blast out thoughts.
Now save the results in a document named "My General Target Audience." You'll come back to this again and again over the years, and you'll refine it as you get more information from actual readers. But for now, you've got a target to shoot at.
Next month, we'll look at some of the other steps in the process of writing books for your General Target Audience and helping your General Target Audience discover you.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit
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