Not for John Locke, who wrote his first book at the age of 58 and had nine more under his belt by the time he was 60 . He went from singing rock ‘n roll to selling insurance to having 20,000 followers on Twitter and selling 369,000 ebooks in one month. Read on for more about how life can be a celebration every step of the way.
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Current Residence: Louisville, Kentucky
Areas of Focus: Thriller Novels, Westerns, Non-Fiction “How To” books
When did you start writing? What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve been writing novels for two years. It was something I always wanted to try, and never got around to doing. I guess you could say it was unofficially on my “Bucket List” of things to do before I die, and one day I found myself at age 58 with no books written and enough free time to write one. I had so much fun writing the first novel, I haven’t been able to stop! Including the book coming out this week, I’ve written ten in two years!
Can you share with us some of your interesting career background prior to your attaining prominence as a writer?
From age 11 to 21 I sang in a rock ‘n roll band. I wasn’t very good, but I was very enthusiastic! At age 21, with no telephone, no car, no suit of clothes, and no money, I began selling life insurance on straight commission. Somehow, within a matter of months, I managed to become the top producer in the history of the company! At age 35 I bought my own life insurance company. Ten years later I sold the company at a profit and began investing in retail shopping centers. I now own 13 centers in three states. Managing them is my full-time job, and I write in my spare time.
It only took you two weeks to write Saving Rachel. Can you share with us the experience of what it was like? How many words per day? How many hours did you spend each day?
In general, it takes me about 80 hours to write a first-draft manuscript and ten more for the rewrites. Because time is my enemy, I never start writing until I have the entire novel worked out in my head. Sometimes that takes a couple of months, and I’m always thinking about the next one while I’m writing the current one. But I don’t try to write a certain number of words each day. Instead, I write scenes. Because I know where the book is going, I often write the scenes out of sequence and insert them in the appropriate place later. The reason for doing that is some scenes are short, and if I only have a couple of hours available that day I’ll write a short scene instead of the “next” scene. When I have a full day to write, I often lose track of time and will sometimes write up to 14 hours in one day! I usually check the number of words after a prolonged writing session. On two occasions I wrote 25,000 words in three days. But that’s rare.
I understand you sold 369,000 ebooks in one month. The Wall Street Journal states that your publishing revenue amounted to $126,000 from Amazon in March alone. For anyone wanting to get into writing and self-publishing eBooks, can you share with them some of the best practices and advice – i.e. challenges they may face along the way, how to network, pricing and marketing?
The 369,000 eBooks refers to Kindle sales. Adding the other platforms, my sales topped 400,000 downloads in March. The best advice I can give an author is to know your target audience before you write your book. You should know who they are and what they want. Write your book directly for that niche audience and no one else! Strive for a deep audience, not a broad one. When you’ve written that type of niche book, you’ll be able to market it directly to the segment of the book-buying public that’s looking for it. I just finished writing a “How To” guide for self-published authors that shows exactly how I marketed my books onto the best-seller lists. It will be available on Kindle in a few days, and is titled, “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.”
Have you done business with any New York publishing houses? What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
I haven’t accepted a publishing contract for several reasons. First, it wouldn’t be fun. Second, I’m afraid a publisher would try to maximize sales by pushing me to “soften” my characters and make my scenes more “appropriate” for a wider audience. A big advantage for self-published authors is speedy entrance into the marketplace. Best-selling authors often publish one or two books a year, but I can publish whenever it suits me. Another advantage is pricing.
I can set the prices for my books at any level I wish, and change them on a moment’s notice. I can also offer my books for less than traditionally-published authors and still make a profit, which gives me a competitive advantage. Three disadvantages of self-publishing are: no books on display in bookstores, no newspaper reviews, and no newspaper interviews. With regard to income, a self-published author who – in my experience – knows how to find an audience will make more money than a traditionally-published author who relies on traditional marketing methods.
You have more than 20,000 Twitter followers. What do you twit about? How do you get new fans to read your work through Twitter?
I tweet about other people’s blogs and the websites I think will interest my followers. In my new marketing book I compare Twitter to junior high school, where you have two types of friends: the ones you see at school, and the ones you invite home for sleepovers. By that I mean you have to get your pals off Twitter and onto your website and email list so you can convert them into friends who will try your books, write reviews, and help spread the word. At that point they’ve become part of your promotional team.
I understand you personally answer hundreds of emails every week. Can you share with us your typical day as a writer?
I answer emails at least one hour when I wake up and at least one hour in the evening. On the weekends I’ll devote about four hours a day to answering emails if I’m not writing. If I’m writing, I don’t answer emails until my writing session has ended.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing the 8th book in the Donovan Creed series, titled, “The Love You Crave.” I’m hoping to release it by the end of June, if all goes well. As I’m nearing the end of that novel, I am already working out the details of my next western, which will be titled “Emmett & Gentry.” I hope to release it at the end of July.