November 27, 2011

Made It Moment: M. Louisa Locke

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 11:23 pm

Maids Of Misfortune

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Poet Langston Hughes penned those chilling and poignant lines, but in M. Louisa Locke’s case, her deferred dream exploded into e publishing success. For those of you considering both traditional and independent publishing routes, this author’s Moment exposes some real advantages to the latter.

M. Louisa Locke

I knew by the time I was twelve I wanted to write historical fiction. By college, however, I had concluded that writing fiction was not a career that I could count on to support myself. So, I concentrated on the historical part of my dream, getting a doctorate in history, challenge enough for a woman in the 1970s. Nevertheless, while writing my dissertation, I came up with the idea for an historical mystery, and, when I had a year off between teaching jobs, I wrote a draft of that mystery. That same year I also got a full-time college teaching job, and again I put the dream of being a writer away. I did periodically make stabs at the traditional publishing route, experiencing most of the disappointments that unpublished authors face, and simply confirmed my belief that my decision to pursue a teaching career had been the right one. Yet, I told everyone that when I retired from teaching I would try again. That time came in 2009 when, after cutting back on my teaching, I pulled out the manuscript for the historical mystery that would become Maids of Misfortune.

However, in 2009 the traditional publishing field was in a slump and new forms of print on demand, ebook, and self-publishing were emerging. I was intrigued and began to research these new opportunities, but I found it difficult to shake the old idea that self-publishing was vanity publishing. Until something happened to me that changed my mind. In June 2009 I attended a mystery conference in LA, where I heard the same old story about how you had to have a “platform” to even get an agent, how first time authors were having difficulty getting contracts, how advances were shrinking, and that the minimum time it would take from first query to finished product was 18 months. Even more discouraging, the editors at this convention made it clear that an author couldn’t expect their work to be published as an ebook for at least another additional year or two, even though ebook sales, unlike traditional books sales, were increasing.

I had an epiphany. I was approaching my sixtieth birthday and I felt too damn old to waste 2-3 years on a process with no guarantee that my book would ever see the light of day or be read by more than a handful of people. And, my research had shown me there was another way.

So I put the business cards away and committed myself to taking the self-publishing route.

I took the next six months to do the final edit and do what was necessary to be ready to publish (get a cover designed, set up an author website, and a blog) and then in a two-week period in December of 2009 I published Maids of Misfortune as an ebook on Smashwords and Kindle and used CreateSpace to publish a POD edition.

Two weeks, not two to three years.

My first made it moment came a year later, when I realized I had made enough money with the sales of Maids of Misfortune so that I could retire completely and become a full time writer. My second made it moment came this month when I published my second book, Uneasy Spirits, and I realized if I had decided to go the traditional route in December 2009, my first book would probably not yet be published, much less my second. In addition, that first book would certainly not be available as an ebook (where I have made the bulk of my sales,) so it would be very unlikely that I would have sold the 15,000 copies I have. And finally, without those sales of Maids of Misfortune, the sequel, Uneasy Spirits, would not have become the #1 best-selling historical mystery in Kindle after being out for less than a week. For me, the decision to forgo the traditional route was the best decision I ever made.

For over twenty years, M. Louisa Locke was known by students taking U.S. History classes at San Diego Mesa College as Dr. Locke, an enthusiastic and amusing teller of stories about the past. Now semi-retired, she has taken her story telling in a new direction with the publication of Maids of Misfortune. She is currently living in San Diego with her husband and assorted animals, where she is working on her next novel.


  1. What a wonderful story, and what a talented person you are. I will check out your books, because I love history, almost as much as anything I read. Good luck with your new work.

    Comment by Lil Gluckstern — November 28, 2011 @ 1:24 am

  2. Great story! Just goes to show that a little grit and determination might get you farther than the traditional road. There is something to be said for impatience!!

    Comment by mountainmama — November 28, 2011 @ 6:21 am

  3. It would really be wonderful if Ms. Locke would tell us, specifically, what sort of promoting she did. What does she think was her most effective strategy? How did she drive traffic to her website? How did she attract readers to her blog? Inquiring indies want to know! :-)

    Comment by Gary Val Tenuta — November 28, 2011 @ 7:41 am

  4. How encouraging! I would love my own book Orange Petals in a Storm to do half as well. I too decided not to wait for publishers to give me permission to send a little piece of my soul into the world. At age 6o, we simply cannot wait for others to empower us. Very, very good luck to you in all your future endeavours.

    Comment by Niamh Clune — November 28, 2011 @ 7:57 am

  5. Louisa, love your story! Shows you are a strong woman. I’d love to have you write a blog post on being such for my blog at Check it out and let me know.

    Sylvia Dickey Smith (

    Comment by Sylvia Dickey Smith — November 28, 2011 @ 8:26 am

  6. That is fantastic! What a beacon of hope for us as we struggle as authors. Congratulations on your success, and long may it continue!

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — November 28, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  7. Great story! I think being able to retire and live off your writing is definitely making it.

    Comment by Gary Hoover — November 28, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  8. What a wonderful story! Congratulations on your success, M. Louisa!

    Comment by Karen S. Elliott — November 28, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  9. Congrats on your success, M. I have lots of novels published traditionally but haven’t made much money. Your success is inspirational. However, being tech challenged I now have three e-books put out by a publisher as well as in print. Price may prove to be a problem as ebook readers seem to expect to pay extremely low amounts for ebooks or get them for free. You should do a Murder Must Advertise blog to let us know how you marketed your novels.

    Jacqueline Seewald

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — November 28, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  10. Louisa’s story as a writer is particularly inspiring to me! This is one of my favorite posts ever on this blog!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — November 28, 2011 @ 10:24 am

  11. Congratulations. One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to go indie. There are plenty of days that I still second-guess myself on that, but then I go to my computer and bring up the numbers for readers I’ve connected with and I believe I did the right thing. Or maybe, the write thing.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — November 28, 2011 @ 11:35 am

  12. An inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it. I look forward to reading your books. As others have said, I’d be interested in learning your marketing strategies. (And I do love your dog.)

    Comment by Anita Page — November 28, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  13. I echo the others who want to hear more about your marketing strategies. It’s abundantly clear that you did your homework (setting up a website and a blog) long before you put your work out there, but you still experienced phenomenal success in record time. Good writing will keep people reading once they find you, but how did you drive those readers to you in the first place? Congratulations. Liz

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 28, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  14. Thank you all for your wonderful comments on my “Made it Moment.”

    One of the wonderful things about ebooks and self-publishing is that you don’t have that terrible deadline that says if your books don’t sell within 6 weeks, the books are going to start being returned. So, I really was able to learn how to market as I went along. I published my first blog post and put up my website at the same time I published my first book, and not surprisingly I didn’t sell a lot of books at first. (I sold 150 in the first six months.) But I sold more than I expected, since I would have been glad to sell any!! However, by month nine had had sold nearly a 1000.

    Obviously a lot of things came together, and if Jenny wants me to, I will go into more detail in another post.
    However, you can learn some of my tactics if you check out 2 of my blog posts. The first gives my “7 tips for selling on Amazon”

    The second goes into more detail on the importance of getting your book into the right browsing category.

    Hope you all find these and other posts useful and that I will be hearing about your “made it moments” soon!

    M. Louisa Locke

    Comment by M. Louisa Locke — November 28, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  15. Isn’t it delicious to go your own way and reap your own rewards? Congratulations. My next stop is your link because I love to read historical mysteries for pleasure.
    Nash Black (Irene)

    Comment by Nash Black — November 28, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  16. Love your story, Louisa! (Beautiful dog by the way.) Thanks Jenny.

    Comment by Pamela DuMond — November 28, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  17. So nice to see everybody here! I hope you all enjoyed a nice, restful turkey/tofurkey day. I was deep in the entrails of editing (though the turkey was good).

    M. Louisa’s story is inspiring indeed–and I am hearing rave after rave about her book, so up it goes on my Pile–and I would love it, Mary Lou, if you would return for part II. Clearly, the readers would, too :)

    Comment by jenny — November 28, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  18. WHat a nice story. I dream of retiring on the money made from the books I have sold.

    Comment by Lisa Zhang Wharton — November 28, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  19. Neat story about dreams deferred and success… finally!

    Comment by Juanita Wilson — November 29, 2011 @ 12:53 am

  20. Great post, Louisa. You’re an inspiration to us all! I’m going to check out the 2 blog posts you mentioned for further details. Best wishes for your continued success!
    Pat Browning
    Holiday Special at Kindle and Nook — 99 cents.

    Comment by Pat Browning — November 29, 2011 @ 2:02 am

  21. Congratulations on your success! Such an inspiring story. Like you, I felt nothing but impatience at the idea of waiting two years to have my book published. Even though people wring their hands about the state of the publishing industry, I’m not worried. We are writers and there will always be a market for compelling well-crafted stories. We are also lucky because now, for the first time in history, we have direct access to that market.

    Comment by Johanna — November 30, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

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