Jonny Andrews is the founder of Author Platform Rocket, a service that helps authors build their subscriber lists using advertising and giveaways. This week, I talk to Jonny about his experience as an online business entrepreneur, why he thinks authors are late to Facebook ads and what they can do about it, and the two most important activities indie authors should be doing on a daily basis.
Jonny Andrews has been building online businesses since 2004. Before that, he was a professional musician, worked in the mortgage industry, and even sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door for a short stint.
His first love in writing was fiction, and he got into online business doing information products, learned SEO, learned pay-per-click advertising, wrote books on it, hooked up with partners and formed syndicate circles, all with the idea that this would fund his fiction — his art — later on down the line. But then he fell in love with building businesses.
“My art is now how I express my business,” he says, and he couldn’t be more happier for it.
Around 2010-2011, Jonny put together a quirky vampire anthology and promoted it on his website I Love Vampire Novels. He wanted to see how effective promoting to a targeted mailing list could be. As it turns out, very effective. His little anthology quickly hit #300-#500 ranking in the Kindle store, holding court over Stephen King for five hours. Jonny realized he was on to something big.
In early 2012, his small publishing company partnered with a health and fitness company to ghostwrite and promote a book for them. The book sold 15,000 in just 7 days, hit No. 2 on The Wallstreet Journal Bestsellers List, and attracted the attention of editors from traditional publishing companies. It was a great success for Jonny and his team, but it came as no great surprise. Jonny knew it was a foregone conclusion that the book would do well because of one key point: their partner had a mailing list of 680,000 subscribers.
Building Your Author Platform
Jonny bemoans the overnight outlier author success stories because it incites false hope among the 99.9% of authors who won’t achieve that kind of success. But that doesn’t mean authors shouldn’t be optimistic. If you work hard, consistently, and on the right things, he says, you can have a pretty strong expectation that you’ll be able to achieve a livable monthly income by your third year as an indie author.
“I think it’s important that authors realize this is the business you’re in,” he says. “This is your business. Your products are the books. Your business is building an audience and getting an email list. Those are your business activities. Outside of that, everything else can kind of fall into place. Just write your books, build your email list, period. If you do anything outside of those two things, you’re probably wasting your time.”
Keep in mind, he urges, “The only thing you control is your mailing list.” Authors need to build up that asset in their business so they can communicate with their customers.
Jonny recommends that authors combine their strategy with automation. While writing the next book, authors should be attracting new readers with an automated system that drives targeted traffic (through ads or promotions) to a landing page with enticing lead magnets (free books or stories) to attract people onto their mailing list. Autoresponders (automated pre-written sequential emails) should greet new subscribers and guide them through an author’s catalog of books or introduce them to the author’s brand. Once this system is set up, authors can build their mailing list automatically, freeing them to focus on writing the next book.
Author Rocket Platform
Social media platforms can change without warning, Jonny says, so investing a lot of time building up a following on a platform that you have no control over can be risky. Take Facebook, for example. “Facebook is no longer a social media platform. It is a social advertising platform.” Now authors must pay to connect with their FB audience, which is why it’s so important to build proprietary mailing lists.
Even with superlative premium courses like Mark Dawson’s Facebook Ads for Authors course that’s been out for the last 18 months or so, Jonny notes that authors are actually very, very, very late in the game to FB ads. Unfortunately, changes are already in place that favor marketers with bigger budgets of $600-$800 a day, versus folks who can only afford $3-$5 a day in advertising. Low budgets are becoming harder and harder to work with, Jonny says, given the amount of testing that needs to be done in order to get a solid ad dialed in.
That’s why Jonny started Author Platform Rocket, an author marketing service that will generate 150-225 leads by promoting to in-house lists, doing group buys on Facebook ads, and running giveaways. Out of all the businesses Jonny has started, Author Platform Rocket is one he’s most proud of for having overdelivered 100% of the time to over 500 people. Since he launched the service in November of 2015, his service has delivered over a half a million subscribers to their authors for the affordable cost of $97 a month.
Usually, most services cost more than doing the work yourself, Jonny says, but in the case of Author Rocket Platform, he says their service saves authors money by negating the cost of the learning curve on running successful ad campaigns. He notes a typical 80-90% failure rate on ad testing before you find an ad that works. Given a monthly advertising budget of $300, authors are likely to lose that money for several months as they learn the ropes and tweak their ad campaigns to be the most effective.
Author Rocket Platform sets out to shortcut that learning curve and take care of the automated subscriber-generating machine so that authors can focus on what they do best: write.
Advice to New Authors Starting Out:
Jonny offers two pieces of advice:
- Stick to a genre. Don’t genre hop.
- Expect this to take a little while. It’s one foot in front of the other. If you do the work, the benefits will show up. Just keep at it.
Talk to your audience! Are you emailing your list? Don’t know what to email about between book launches? If not, here are a few ideas from Jonny to get you started:
- Ask your mailing list for recipe ideas. This is how Jonny picked up a great pot roast recipe that he says he feeds his family like “dog food.” The key is to find something life-based that everybody does or has an opinion on…and everybody eats. A nice call to action might be, “If I pick your recipe, I’ll send you an autographed copy of my book.”
- Ask your mailing list for their favorite drink recipes. Share pictures with shout-outs on your blog, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook.
- Ask your mailing list to help name your child. That’s what Jonny did with his second-born, and his readers had a blast with it.
As an author, do you regularly run paid advertising to build your platform? What is the most effective strategy you’ve found?
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