The Other eBook Superstar

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.

John Locke

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.

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.

6 thoughts on “The Other eBook Superstar

  1. Morgan,

    My novel has been backburnered for several weeks because I am too busy to write. My semester is fulltime with overload classes, too. I have 148 online students to chat with and grade each week. … and then I read this.

    There is something about your commitment to getting words written and the glorious opportunities to share them with those who might think them worth reading that re-inspires my own storytelling. I plan to borrow a bit of your enthusiasm today and put pen to page. (I teach online, so longhand provides a physical and mental signal to myself that is fiction and not teaching. When I am ready to revise, I’ll type.)

    Thanks for the gentle shove!


    • I’m glad it worked out that way, though any inspiration you found was a happy side effect. My conscious motive was simply that I found the story interesting – more rumbles of change in the publishing landscape, as well as discovering the author of Amazon’s #55 best seller, who I had not heard of.

      I too enjoy writing longhand, especially for introspective sorts of ruminations. I can imagine with your kind of schedule, brief time-outs would be very important.

      I downloaded one of Locke’s books last night and found the opening very compelling. I may review it later here.


    • Yes, and with all the articles on ebooks I’ve seen this was the first mention of Locke I’ve come upon. I downloaded one of his books the opening was very compelling. I’m looking forward to getting back to it.


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