Leading article: The writing's on the wall

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The Independent Online

Publishers will be trembling. So will agents and editors. And so will the owners of small bookshops throughout the land, and beyond. A chap called John Locke has just sold his millionth book on Amazon. And all without a tree being felled.

For Locke's books – nine novels and one work of non-fiction – have been published only in electronic format, for download by owners of Kindles and similar computer tablets. True, he charges only 99 cents for one of his Donovan Creed mystery-thrillers. But he pockets a third of that – three times the percentage that an author tied to a conventional publishing house might receive. An elite of just nine top authors, among them James Patterson and Stieg Larsson, have sold a million e-books, but they have all had traditional publishers pushing the products.

The breakthrough puts authors in control of their work. That is a mixed blessing. There isn't, and never has been, an author who has failed to benefit from the improving hand of an agent or an editor.

Locke's best-seller is called How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! – and all "without an agent, publicist, and at virtually no marketing expense!" A good editor might have removed the exclamation marks. New writers start here.

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