Many popular authors such as Suzanne Collins (the author of “The Hunger Games”) have sold over one million e-books through Amazon’s Kindle, but John Locke is the first independent author to sell one million e-books exclusively through Kindle. Unlike the other authors in the Kindle Million Club, John Locke does not sell any of his books through traditional publishers or bookstores. All of his sales come exclusively through his e-books sold through Kindle.
John Locke even explains his secrets for selling a million e-books in his latest e-book “How I Sold 1 Million E-Books in 5 Months.” The basic strategy is to write novels with recurring characters and price each novel at 99 cents to encourage people to take a chance on an unknown author. Once someone reads and likes one of his novels, they’ll be more likely to buy and read his other related novels, and that’s his basic strategy that works.
Now John Locke is the first independent author to sell one million e-books, so you might be curious to know how many authors have sold one million books through print-on-demand services like CreateSpace or Lightning Source? As far as I can tell, the answer is a big fat zero.
First, most of the Kindle Million Club authors are popular authors like Suzanne Collins who wrote “The Hunger Games.” When you have a major movie promoting your book, it’s easy to sell a million copies as e-books. John Locke is interesting because he sold one million e-books by himself with no outside help like a movie or even a traditional publisher to promote his books.
Second, print-on-demand caters to independent authors and not established authors. Established authors can let traditional publishers sell their books so they don’t need print-on-demand services. That leaves print-on-demand solely for independent authors.
Now most bookstores won’t stock print-on-demand books, especially those created by CreateSpace since that’s a division of Amazon. To reduce risks, most bookstores buy books with the option of ripping off the front covers and getting a full refund for unsold books. If a bookstore buys books from CreateSpace, they can’t return them for a refund, but they can return books for a refund purchased from Lightning Source according to this site.
With bookstores dying and space at a premium, why would a bookstore even order a print-on-demand book to stock on their shelves when most people have never heard of those authors? The simple answer is they probably won’t buy a single print-on-demand book, so print-on-demand books sell mostly online.
Now given the high cost of buying a book from an unknown, independent author, sales will likely be weak so the chances of selling one million print-on-demand books is extremely small. John Locke sold one million e-books because he could price them at 99 cents to reduce the risks of buying. You can’t do that with print-on-demand books.
In most cases, print-on-demand is more of a vanity press than anything to give independent authors the feel of a “real” book they can hold in their hands. But it probably won’t make much of a profit and it probably won’t sell many copies due to the high cost of printing and shipping a printed book. These factors make print-on-demand services seem like a waste of time if you plan on reaching a large audience and make a profit at the same time like John Locke did.
If you want to be successful, follow the strategies of successful people like John Locke. You can try to sell one million print-on-demand books if you want, but you’ll need to do all the marketing yourself and hope people will order your book online, sight unseen. Then you have to hope that they’ll keep buying more of your print-ondemand books for a high price to cover printing and shipping costs.
Basically the expense of printing and shipping is killing print-on-demand (along with traditional publishers), which are two costs that e-books totally avoid. Chances are good we’ll see more independent authors selling a million books through Kindle. Chances are exceedingly slim that we’ll ever see anyone selling a million books through a print-on-demand service.
If you want to soothe your vanity to have a printed book you can hold in your hands, go through a print-on-demand service. If you want to sell books and make money, stick with e-books. It’s a far easier route to fame and fortune.