John Locke writes like this! Nearly every sentence contains both italics and an exclamation point, and sometimes Locke even switches to all caps because what he wants to tell you IS VERY IMPORTANT!
Hand-waving and cheerleading aside, I found HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS to be a deeply cynical book. Locke states that in order to succeed, a writer must spend more time marketing than writing. His role model is McDonalds, where the business plan is vastly more important than the food. He has absolutely no desire to improve his craft, any more than fast food places want to improve the quality of what they serve. Now, I’m not saying every writer needs to write world-class literature. Some of my favorite books are novels that the literati look down upon. But Locke’s advice–produce slap-dash, cheap novels and market the hell out of them–is exactly the kind of thing that gives self-published writers a bad name.
The sad thing is, it works. At least it did for Locke. I don’t know if other writers can replicate his success, although I see many of them trying. Locke starts the book with reasonable advice: don’t try traditional book marketing, blog effectively, have a website, use social media, and above all, write more books. It’s good advice and I can see why people are swayed. Come on, the guy sold a million books!
Then we come to Locke’s big idea, something he calls “loyalty transfer.” It goes like this: find a popular celebrity that you admire. Craft a blog post that somehow ties you to that celebrity, no matter how fragile the connection. Make sure your post drips with emotion, too. The idea is that some of the celebrity’s glamour will rub off on you and people will therefore buy your books. He includes an especially cringe-worthy example involving himself, his mom, and Joe Paterno.
I’ve seen the results. New Locke disciples are easy to spot. The author is suddenly full of praise for Lady Gaga or Stephen King or George Lucas because they have so much in common. The loyalty transfer blog is always a complete departure in style from the author’s previous blog posts. The insincerity practically oozes through the computer.
The next step, Locke says, is to go on Twitter and tell people to read your post. Not just the people who have chosen to follow you on Twitter, either. Using a keyword or hashtag search, you must seek out people who’ve never heard of you and tell them to read your post, too. (I blame Locke for most of the book spam that fills my Twitter feed.) Worse, Locke cozies up to people on social media not because he likes them or thinks they’re interesting, but because he thinks they’ll sell his book for him.
In Locke’s own words: “If you’re only interested in forming wonderful friendships, you can do that with Twitter by taking an active interest in what your friends are doing. But from a marketing standpoint, it is almost NO BENEFIT to have 10,000 Twitter pals if you don’t get some of them OFF Twitter and onto your promotional team.”
It’s so completely the opposite of the way I use Twitter, I had to read that part twice, just to make sure Locke said what I thought he said. Making wonderful friendships is the whole point of Twitter for me. And yes, I take an active interest in what my friends are doing, whether or not they buy my books. I sincerely hope that none of the great people I’ve connected with on social media think I’m using them as a means to a sale.
I refuse to put out crap books, suck up to celebrities, spam social networks and treat everyone I encounter as a wallet instead of a person. That probably means I won’t sell a million books. Or maybe I will. When I do, it will not be because of anything I learned from John Locke.
rating: 1 star
I recommend The Author’s Marketing Handbook by Claire Ryan or How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie and Brent Cole instead of this book