Everyone remotely interested in ebook publishing knows Amanda Hocking’s story, but fewer, I am sure, have heard of John Locke. No, not the 17th century philosopher. I mean John Locke, the Louisville businessman who was the first self-published writer to sell a million ebooks on Amazon. I first heard of him this week when a critique group friend handed me a clipping from the Aug. 23, print edition of The Wall Street Journal.
Since 2009, Locke has written eight thrillers featuring former CIA assassin, Donovan Creed. He has also written westerns and a self-help book for other writers who plan to publish digital books. http://donovancreed.com/2011/06/lower-your-expectations-really/
The Journal article, “E-Book Author Tries New Format: Real Paperbacks,” described a contract Locke has signed with Simon & Schuster, to handle sales, distribution, and returns of eight paperback versions of existing digital books. Locke will do the printing under his “Locke Books” imprint. Simon & Schuster approached Locke’s New York agent to form the partnership.
Such distribution-only contracts are becoming more frequent as traditional publishers look for ways to compete with self-published books in the face of the loss of Borders as a major point of sale for printed books. I heard a literary agent this spring confirm that successful ebook publishing is another possible avenue to traditional success, as measured by getting a New York agent and a contract with a “real” publisher. On the other hand, only eight authors have sold a million books for Kindle – pretty long odds.
“For every John Locke, there are probably 5,000 authors trying and falling short,” says Arthur Klebanoff, CEO of RosettaBooks LLC, a digital publishing house. But Klebanoff also says that, “The e-book world has created an opportunity in self-publishing that simply didn’t exist 18 months ago.”
The odds may be long on striking it rich and becoming a topic of cocktail party conversation, but the friend who gave me the article is going down the ebook road, as I may do someday. I am a great believer in opportunities, and that is what Locke’s story represents.