John Locke Wants to Set the Record Straight

What’s so special about today?  That’s the day my self-published novel, Wish List, becomes available in book stores and retail outlets across the nation!

For the past five months indie authors, book bloggers, journalists, readers, and even close friends have asked for details about “The Simon & Schuster Distribution Deal.” Last August when it was first announced, indie and Kindle boards were buzzing about whether or not I’d “sold out.”

Frankly, I don’t get the whole “selling out” notion. Ninety-nine percent of the self-published authors with whom I’ve conversed would give anything to get a book deal with a major publisher. Had I secured one, why should indie authors be upset with me? And how would my getting a huge book deal hurt other indie authors? Wouldn’t it help?

If there’s a battle raging between indie and trad publishing, I’ve never been in it. I don’t wake up each day with a chip on my shoulder, thinking up ways to bring down the establishment! I’m just another indie author trying to build a reader base. I happen to prefer being independent, but that’s just me. When indie authors get big publishing deals, I’m very happy for them, and that’s the truth.


From the day I completed my first novel I believed a bridge could be built between indie authors and traditional publishers, a bridge that would lead to retail outlets and newspaper book reviews. Thanks to Simon & Schuster, a forward-thinking company that understands the power, mindset, and value of indie authors, it’s about to happen.

I believe there will eventually be several lanes of traffic crossing this bridge into retail sales, and each lane will have their own risk-reward toll booths. In the lane I’ve chosen, Simon & Schuster did not pay me for distribution rights. The way it works, they receive a fee to distribute my books under my imprint, John Locke Books. That sounds stark, but here’s the kicker: S&S has gone out of their way to help me succeed in this endeavor. They’ve provided sales and marketing, accounting and tracking services, valuable advice and insight, and they’re overseeing all facets of production from printing to warehousing to shipping, and more.

I retain all rights to my books and ebooks.  Let me say that again: I retain all rights to my books and S&S is helping me reach an audience I would never be able to reach on my own. To my knowledge, this type of arrangement has never been done before, but if it works, I expect some form of what we’re doing to become commonplace.

Simon & Schuster is a perfect example of a traditional publisher not only embracing the new publishing paradigm, but leading the way into the future of what publishing can be. In every phase of our dealings they’ve shown nothing but complete respect for me, and I’m happy to report they’re interested in helping other self-published authors make the transition to retail outlets.

Are you rolling your eyes at me? I can already hear some of you saying Simon & Schuster has got me drinking the corporate Kool-Aid!

Well let me tell you something. I’m not some wide-eyed novice when it comes to dealing with major players in the business world. I’ve been around the block. Simon & Schuster is not a stodgy old group of fat cats who don’t get it. This is a first-class company with cutting-edge ideas. This is a company in motion!

I owe so much to S&S, and especially their sales team. See, I’m an old sales guy. When I was in the field, I owned the field. Ask around, if you don’t believe me. The point is I know a great sales force when I see it. And the sales force at S&S is amazing. These are my kind of people! I’ve seen first-hand what they can do. They’re a dynamic bunch, and without their enthusiasm, belief, and commitment, none of this would have happened.

If I’m being completely honest, before our first conversation, I expected management to be condescending. But I was wrong. From day one they’ve been completely supportive. They’re not afraid I might succeed and upset the publishing apple cart. They actually want me to succeed!

What I’m saying, we’ve become a team, working toward the same goal. I believe in this company, Simon & Schuster. I like them, and…I trust them. As I said, they are earnestly seeking best selling indie ebook authors for distribution deals. It’s pretty cool to see these changes taking place in the world of publishing, don’t you think?

Simon & Schuster believes in us. But others are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude.

I hope you’ll help me sell the retail world on the idea that self-published authors belong on bookstore shelves. One way is to swing by Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, or one of the many airport bookstores and other book retailers this week. Go to the mass-market paperback section and pick up a copy of Wish List. It’s a wild ride, Wish List, but you can handle it! How much will it set you back? $4.99. Even less, in some places. In other words, about the price of a cup of coffee! Why so little? Because I get to set the price! Of course S&S could make more if I charged more, and so could I. But in my experience, when you put the reader first, great things happen.

  • I, too, believe in that bridge. I don’t see why the indie/trad debate has to be adversarial. Traditional publishing has a great deal to offer self-published authors, and if you still have the rights to your work, creative control and the ability to set your book’s price, why complain? You’re allowing your readers a level of access that they wouldn’t have otherwise had, and in the end the reader is who we’re aiming at.

    • John Locke

      Hi Jane! Thanks for posting. In my opinion, you completely “get it!” Thanks for the support. The message here is WE BELONG! 🙂

      • Mindy Ross

        You know why indie authors don’t like your deal, John? Because they don’t have it. You shouldn’t have to justify your actions. Not one person out there would turn the deal down. Go for the gold!

        Mindy Ross
        author of Glamour Ghost

  • I find your success inspiring and your deal with Simon & Schuster brilliant. The best of both worlds is how I would describe it. Anyone who gives you grief about your journey is either not looking at the big picture or acting out of jealousy. Best wishes for fabulous book store sales.

    • John Locke

      Thanks G.P., If you and I can get other indie authors to realize how important this first deal can be for indie authors everywhere, I’ll be happy. I’m not a great author by any means, but I have an effective style. If my style of writing got retail stores to consider stocking indie authors, for the first time ever, it’s a good thing. But if my deal works, the many GREAT indie authors out there will get even better opportunities to make history in retail long after I’m forgotten. I hope to rally indie authors to help promote the news that Wish List is in retail stores, because this deal represents a far bigger opportunity than John Locke selling a few paperbacks!

  • I hope we continue to see collaborative efforts between traditional publishers and indie authors. We’re all in this together and the goal is simple: get quality books into the hands of readers. Quality books can come from the indie world–I almost exclusively read indie books, so I know first hand. And good work can come out of the traditional world–I’ve seen that first hand too.

    Let’s work together on building each other up and see just how far a positive outlook and mutually beneficial decision making can take the industry as a whole.

    What have we got to lose by treating each other with respect?


    • John Locke

      I agree, Cheri: When you throw dirt, you lose ground. So I’m with you: respect goes a long way. I’ve only known the folks at S&S for six months. But I know where their heart is. And I like what I see! I think if this deal works, it can be a game-changer. Best wishes, and thanks for the support!

  • Excellent article. Thanks for sharing this encouraging message.

    *heads over to B&N*

    • John Locke

      Bless your heart, Donna. This message is particularly sincere because I have always wanted to be a postive force for self-published authors. While I’ve always had total respect for trad publishers and authors, I’ve always been proud of my indie status. I’ve always wanted to be known as a guy who remained indie when I didn’t have to. Because I feel there is prestige in being indie. And I want to do all I can to generate respect from the newspapers who won’t review us, the TV stations who won’t interview us, the best-seller lists who won’t recognize us (that’s already changed, yes? ) 🙂 and of course, the bookstores who have always refused to stock our work! (that’s about to change, with your help!)

  • Well said. Why can’t we enjoy each others successes? We are all in this together, right? Writing, dreaming, editing, crying, revising, laughing, living and hopefully publishing.
    Good luck to ALL writers on your dreams!

    • John Locke

      Well said, Taffy!

  • I love this idea of working with them without letting them take over your rights. It seems like a terrific meshing of your skills and theirs and I hope it goes gang busters!

    • John Locke

      Thanks Heather. This was not a simple deal to put together, nor a simple idea to convey. But it’s a great one that has ramifications for indies everywhere. Please help me convince the world that indie books belong on retailers’ shelves!

  • As my mother used to say to me, “M.Y.O.B.”

    Good on you, John Locke.

    • John Locke

      Thanks Pete! No advice beats a Mom’s!

  • Interesting article, and good luck, John.

    I’m unsure how I feel about this, it seems S&S are seeing a way of grabbing some money from the indies by turning into a distribution company as opposed to a publisher (if I’m understanding correctly). It feels similar to Penguins book country project; in that they are attempting to make money off indies. It might be a good thing for the indie, but it reverses the flow of money. Maybe that’s what needed in this new world, but without knowing the details of the deal I can’t conclude one way or the other. It sounds good in that it gets your book out into the wild, but wasn’t that a publishers role anyway, with the money flowing too the author? I realise the author gets to keep the rights, so maybe that’s why this reversal works. Certainly gets me thinking.

    Either way, this is changing the status quo, and it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.

    • John Locke

      Hi Colin! Thanks for the well wishes. I totally understand what you’re saying: my deal would not work for most indie authors at this time. I agree. But as I wrote, I envision many lanes on this bridge. While I chose to take the one with the highest-possible risk, I have several ideas for deals that can be done with a greater blend of traditional support. While that will lower profits to the author, it lowers risk as well. I didn’t seek to negotiate a safe deal for myself because I’m okay with high-risk, high reward. But if my deal works, you can believe traditional publishers will be happy to create a hybrid modelthat helps them maximize profits!

      • thanks for the reply, John, I’m a few years behind your journey with my own stuff and still working it all out and appreciate you documenting your experiments and new ways of doing things, it’s really refreshing to see 🙂

        • John Locke

          My pleasure, Colin. I’m just here, holding your place. My wish for you is that when you achieve your dreams, you enjoy it as much as I have.

  • I completely agree with him! Indies should work with publishing companies this way. S&S did a good thing here!

    • John Locke

      Hi Melissa! Thanks for writing. And for your support. Mass-market retail paperback has a chance to be like ebooks were a few short years ago. New voices will become famous, voices that never had a chance to be heard until now. Let’s embrace this new paradigm and support it. And thanks to S&S for understanding it, and helping to make it happen.

  • John,
    Thanks for sharing. You’ve given me some food for thought. Sounds as if you have a great support team at S&S. I wish you all the very best.

    • John Locke

      Hi Barbara! Great to “see” you again! This is sort of like whoever the first person was to epublish a book. And just like that person, I doubt anyone will remember my name when they think about self-published authors and mass-market paperback sales in the future. But right now we’re on the threshold of a major opportunity, and I’m asking for your help because this could really lead to something special if it works.

  • I think Indies have an idea that traditional publishers often pass over better writers in favor of lesser quality with bigger sales potential. This may be true to some degree, however, as with most issues, there is a two way street. Just about every how-to in terms of writing and selling, including Mr. Locke’s own, tells us the best way to sell books is to write to a specific audience. To submit to a publisher, write what the publisher sells. To get readers, write what they like to read.

    Personally, I like print books, and would hate to see them fade away. If S&S is taking Indie authors into print, and helping them establish a fan base, I say Excellent. And, even if they choose ebook only distribution in some cases, why would any writer scoff at the chance to build their reader base?

    Artistic merit and sales do not have to be mutually exclusive, and more people reading our books is never a bad thing.

    • John Locke

      Dave, that’s not only well said, but very astute, as well. I’ve heard a lot of people parsing this deal, looking for weaknesses or advantages, and many seem to miss the point: S&S is putting their reputation on the line for me, because they believe in me, and as a result we both have an opportunity to profit. They’re giving me the opportunity to have my books in retail stores, where I can attract a completely new audience, and I don’t want to let them down. I want to do everything in my power to make sure this investment succeeds,so S&S will know their faith in me was not misplaced. And when we make it happen, other indie authors will possibly have a blueprint.

  • John, you just keep paving the way for us Indies and we’ll support you the best we can, The thousands of fans who’ve enjoyed reading your work should be represented, and not looked down upon by some authority who’s there to tell us what we should like and what we shouldn’t. Reminds me of the old Sheryl Crow song, “If it Makes You Happy.”

    • John Locke

      Hi Gary! Nice to hear from you. You’ve been a good friend, and great supporter, and I really appreciate it. You’re also a an excellent author, and I’m glad more and more people have discovered that. This could be something special, and if it is, I’ll have wonderful people like you to thank for it.

  • The only thing you can say about changes is that they will keep coming. But John, you have figured out what is really important–keeping your readers happy. Keep following this golden rule and you will keep racking up the successes

    Johnny Ray.

    • John Locke

      Thanks Johnny, I’ll do my best. Thanks for your continued loyal support. You’ve been a good friend.

  • Congrats on the S&S release of Wish List, buddy. I smile when I think back to when Joanne and I beta-read it for you. All I have to do is get my sales up to your level and we just may be sharing a shelf in a bookstore some day! 🙂

    • John Locke

      Claude, you are another excellent author whose books I’ve enjoyed. You and Joanne have always been there for me. I think Joanne gave my very second or third book review! And I will never forget that you were the very first person to read my western, Follow the Stone. As a favor, you translated my character’s words into French before reading the actual story and must have thought I was insane! Haha. You know I stand ready to help you anyway I can, and always will. I hope I can count on you once again to help spread the word about these paperbacks. I’ve been warned that social media won’t work for bookstore sales, but my response is, “The jury’s still out on that!” –Let’s see if we can shake up the world a bit, my friend!

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again – your story is inspiring for many reasons, many of which have already been listed above – I have been reading the comments and saying “yes, yes!” aloud. I especially like the bit about writers working together in a mutually supportive fashion. I cannot wait to finish my manuscript and join the ranks of hopeful indie writers everywhere. I do believe you are paving the way on that beautiful bridge you speak of.

    Congratulations John – well done, well deserved. Will absolutely be picking up a copy of Wishlist on my next trip to B&N. Cheers!

    Who will be next! *points to Claude Bouchard*

    • LOL Thanks, Jen! Very nice of you to say. 🙂

    • John Locke

      Jen, it’s been too long without hearing from you, and I know it’s totally my fault! But you’ve got my email address, right? Send me a note when you finish your manuscript and print it out for the first time. I want to read how you feel when you look at that stack of papers and get the full impact of what you’ve accomplished. I also want to be one of the first to congratulate you when it happens! And as always, thanks for your amazing support.

      • Color me speechless! John – Please, no worries whatsoever. I am very impressed that you have taken the time to respond to everyone here and on Facebook. It says so much and makes people like myself want to promote you even more. The jury might well be out on social media as it pertains to book sales, but I have to say…it’s often WHO you connect with there. I will now be on a mission to prove this :).

        I must double check on your e-mail address and would be honored to send you a note once the manuscript is complete. You’ve made my day and all of this buzz is highly motivating! So, thank YOU!

        Claude – you are most welcome and you know I will do as much as I can to help promote. 🙂

        Hugs and Cheers all around!

  • Congrats John! Just goes to show that us indies are not “one size fits all”. You have to do what’s best for you and your career goals. Best of luck to ya!

    • John Locke

      Thanks, Traci! Best wishes, and thanks for writing!

  • Congratulations John. I can’t tell you how happy I am for you, and how thankful I am for the insight and vision you have shared. Kudos for S & S for recognizing your gift and business acumen. You have been and continue to be an inspiration to me and many others.

    • John Locke

      Eric, you’re a great writer and a wonderful friend! You have tirelessly promoted me on Twitter and I must seem like the biggest ingrate in the world, because I owe you so much and have said so little in return. But you have always encouraged and supported me, and I think the world of you. Thanks for commenting. I’ve neglected Twitter in a shameful manner, and seeing these comments from you and my other Twitter buddies has suddenly made me homesick. Thank you, Eric, for being the special person you are.

  • Interesting. This deal was announced quite a while ago very loudly in a very circumspect way which made many people think an indie could sell their print rights separate from their eBook rights, which, of course, is not the case at all. But looking at the original announcements one feels a bit taken for a ride.

    There’s been a lot of confusion and disinformation put out regarding “indie” authors. I heard an editor this weekend giving a talk about how Eisler was a flagship for the indie movement, which is also not true at all. He swapped a book deal from one corporation, St. Martins, for a book deal for a much bigger corporation, Amazon. No indie in there. A smart business move and one pretty much anyone in his situation would take in a heartbeat. But again, a lot of smoke and mirrors hiding the reality.

    Every author has to examine their particular situation and make the best decision they can. The key is education and the key to that is seeing the truth behind the smoke and mirrors. Thanks for being up front about how this is working. It’s very helpful.

    I think it’s a daring move, as well as leading the way in the .99 movement and selling a million eBooks, and all the best with it.

  • As an avid reader (which includes every one of yours books John) I am not as concerned with the process of publishing but also recognize how important this is to the author . It is so heartwarming to see a site that appreciates self published authors and gives them an opportunity to vent and share. Hugs to you!!

    • Amy Edelman

      And hugs back to you, mom 🙂

  • John Locke

    Thanks Bob. I attempted to clear up the confusion when the announcement was originally made. There may have been others, but I noticed two very astute writers who completely understood the deal, and I publicly thanked them: David Gaughran and Mike Shatzkin. Beyond that, I realized the best time to try again was yesterday, when the books actually hit the stores. I agree with you that every author needs to make informed decisions, and those can only be made with a knowledge of all the pertinent facts. Because you understand how daring this move is for me, I will raise a glass of bourbon to you Saturday night and wish you good health!

  • What amazes me is John has responded to everyone of these comments…no wonder he is where he is! Congrats John you’re an inspiration.

    • Amy Edelman

      Yes…he is an inspiration! And on behalf of IndieReader, we thank him for sharing with you via IR!

    • John Locke

      Thanks, Denise. That’s very nice of you to say, but the truth is my time is no more valuable than yours or anyone else’s. And when someone takes the time to ask me a question or send an email, it’s such a personal honor, it wouldn’t cross my mind not to respond! But seriously, I appreciate your kind words. And yours too, Amy!

  • Freedom in America – in this case freedom of the writer – permits anyone to pursue what is happiness to him or her. John, you are a shining example of that, as is S&S.

    A well-known screenplay writer once told me, “If the work is good, it will find a way to get out there.” Your collaboration has opened another way. Thank you, sir.

  • John Locke

    Hi Merle! First, let me say thank you for reading my books! I’m so happy to hear from you. Second, yes, I totally agree is a fantastic site that gives self-published authors valuable information and support. I also love how this site helps readers “discover” and appreciate indie authors.

  • Well I for one think it is wonderful! Congrats and well done. Who cares what anyone else thinks, you have to do what is right for you and you have more than proven yourself to be a force to be reckoned with! I wish you only luck and success 🙂

  • That is great, John. I love the idea that S&S is so open to helping Indie authors. I’m with you in believing that one day soon more Indie’s will be taking this route. I know I’m onboard.

  • I think this deal you’ve made with S&S is brilliant. I’m amazed that anyone would think it’s not completely empowering to indie authors. I’m thrilled for your success and what you’ve been able to do. Way to go!

  • I don’t get the “selling out” accusation either; I’ve heard it flung about with abandon about you (and Amanda Hocking, as well), and it perplexes me. To me, being an indie author is simply another way of garnering the attention of the publishing industry. As the cliche says, there is more than one way to skin a cat. In my estimation, the more indie authors who build relationships with the trad publishers – whether they be conventional relationships or interesting new hybrids – the better off the indies are as a whole, and the reading public will respond with increasing respect and support. Griping and whining and thumbing noses seems to be a little self-destructive, quite frankly.

    Congratulations – yes, you are an inspiration to indie authors far and wide, but more importantly, you are a fantastic writer, and at the end of the day, that is what matters most in this game.

  • Thank you John. For one I applaud you for what you’ve done. The first step in bringing balance to this changing industry for the better. Nice to hear Simon & Schuster is a forward thinking company. And for an indie author I don’t believe there is such a thing as selling out. The idea is to reach as many readers as possible with a team who works together. Will definitely keep an eye out for “Wish List” Thanks again for posting this article, but for the record not once did I ever think of you as selling out, but instead paving the road for something better for all authors.

  • It would be great to bridge the gap. I went from traditional to self, so I’ve seen both sides. This adversarial attitude isn’t good for anyone, and is near to spiraling out of control. What I wonder is how this will help the unknown indies? You made a name for yourself first, which is great, but it wasn’t until then that interest was expressed. How many of us can approach a publisher with such a request? I dare say, not many. We’ll just have to see how this plays out and if a ‘bridge gap’ industry is fostered to aid those with potential but not yet a household name.

  • Dani Plastini

    I loved your article and am obsessed with your books. I have turned several kindle friends on to the Donovan creed series. I am happy that I can now share with more people that are not ereaders. You are an inspiration to your industry and a smart and savvy businessman that TRULY cares about your readers. Looking forward to your next book. My bday is Sunday a hint on the next edition would be greatly appreciated.

  • Kudos to you for being a bridge builder! 🙂 We’re all in this together.

  • Having just lost my battle with Curtis Brown/Gelfman Schenider to publish my sequel Karakal to James Hilton’s 1933 Lost Horizon I can see why the indie/trad debate has become adversarial.( KDP) KIndle Direct Publishing, Nook and Apple iBook, Amazon.con is kicking butts and taking names while traditional publishers like Curtis Brown and other’s continue to follow the same failed business model, doing what they have always done, that is; reprinting books that haven’t made them any money in 20-years while Kindle, (Amazon) Nook (B&N) and Apple iBook (Apple) are setting records for new epub authors like John Locke who joins 14 other authors that have now sold over one million copies online.
    Sounds like at least one traditional publisher Simon & Schuster is smart enough to realize how much business they have lost to the electronic publishing revolution and are doing damage control by partering with million selling author John Locke. But, I venture to say, that unless you sell a million copies and come to the attention of SS, the big publishers will continue to slam the door in the face of small authors without so much as a, “How do you do?” I further venture to say Harper, Penguin, Curtis Brown will be asking themselves one day in bankruptcy court just what the hell happened and why they went out of business. The Schuster merger with John Locke is a “Hail Mary Pass” and while I am more than happy for my colleague John Locke, I venture to say it probably would not have happened had he not sold one million copies on Kindle.
    My message to aspiring independents- you might not sell one million copies on Kindle like John Locke but even at 100,000 copies- that’s $70,000 in royalties. Nothing to sneeze at. But I would avoid trying to deal with the big publishers, the wizard behind the curtain in that fantasy city called Oz. You’ll have better success on your own. Just stick with it. Learn all you can about self-marketing/promoting yourself on the social networks.

  • I went out and bought a copy of it the first day it was on sale. I am looking forward to enjoying it as much as your other books.

  • Always an inspiration, John. What you’ve done with S&S is brilliant, and I personally expect this venture to be a hit, causing a dynamic change in the publishing world. What I love about you is that you never set the stage to “prove” what’s right or wrong in this industry. Instead, you “show” by choosing to take innovative actions and see them through until success is the only result.


  • M.J. Rose

    There has always been a bridge. Certain authors have denied it but others of us are proof of it. S&S bought my self pubbed novel in 1998. Doubleday Book Club and the Literary bough it too. I still do both trad and self – reasons for both. S&S and others – like Little Brown – have been doing creative deals with writers for years. This isn’t new – but its good. The future of publishing hasn’t been written yet but will be by more creative deals. Readers and writers are not going away and every one knows that.

  • Thanks, John, this answered the question that I posted earlier on your latest blog. Congratulations and thanks for setting the record straight. Don’t worry about the haters. .

  • Thanks for your cogent argument. It seems to me our goals are to get our stories to the people who want to read them. That may be in a book store, on a kindle, in an airport, or from a friend. These are interesting times we live in.

    Best wishes,

    Laila Ibrahim
    Author of Yellow Crocus

  • Red Tash

    I can’t help but giggle at the bridge analogy, John, because I live in New Albany. 😉

    Thanks for setting the record straight on all this. I hear you loud & clear.

    Have a great 2012, neighbor.

  • Hello John,

    In foreign countries like France, your progress and the ones of others writers like Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath are closely watched. In France, we are not the most advanced concerning the new deals with traditionnal publishers (perhaps I made a little understatement there). Nevertheless, I have made a post on my blog on the subject :

    The title ? “John Locke, an exemple to follow.” Sorry for the people who don’t understand it, it’s in french.

    Best wishes,

    Alan Spade

  • Thanks for this information, John. Exactly the kind of arrangement I’ve been dreaming of for my memoir. I wish you HUGE success.

    Ingrid Ricks

  • As a newbie to the self-publishing world, I’ve been amazed by how fast things are changing. I think for many, they must feel much like people did when cars replaced horses, when TV overtook radio, when CD’s replaced albums, etc. The only thing we know will never change – is that things will always change. Your openness to try and make the old world of publishing and the new world of self-publishing merge in the best way possible for the readers is wonderful. Thanks for the post.

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