David Blackburn

Unlocking potential

It is the newest and most exclusive literary club: those authors who have sold 1 million books on Kindle. At present, the club numbers just eight members: Lee Child, James Patterson, Steig Larsson, Charlaine Harris, Michael Connelly, Nora Roberts and Suzanne Collins. Those established names have just been joined by John Locke – a former insurance broker from Kentucky turned self-published author, rather than the seventeenth century political philosopher.

Locke writes particularly crass bodice rippers. Here’s a choice extract to quicken your pulse:

“She was smarter than me, and I hate when that happens. There was but one thing to do: seize the initiative. I played the trump card God provided: I stared directly into her cleavage.”

It’s tempting to mock this Stetson-wearing version of Mills and Boon, but Locke’s achievement is obviously tremendous. And it reveals a few points about online publishing’s present tack. First, subject matter aside, Locke’s success seems to be largely determined by price. His books cost between 25p and 60p, in comparison to conventionally published Kindle novels, some of which cost more than £6.

Under-cutting the established market is a standard formula for would-be professional authors – Amanda Hocking recently garnered a six-figure contract from mainstream publishers following the success of her self-published novels. 60-year-old Locke has vowed not to surrender his independence, but he had the opportunity to do so.

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