Episode # 156 – Launch Your Author Platform with Jonny Andrews

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell23 Comments

jonnycovernewJonny 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.


Links:

Author Platform Rocket

Audience Hacker

Mentions:

Kevin Tumlinson

Wordslinger Podcast Ep. 75: “Exploding Your Author Platform with Jonny Andrews”

The Smarter Artist Podcast

Self-Publishing Podcast

Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula

I Love Vampire Novels

Louis CK

Dave Matthews Band – History

Show notes:

Background:

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:

  1. Stick to a genre. Don’t genre hop.
  2. 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.

Action Steps:

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.

Simon Asks:

As an author, do you regularly run paid advertising to build your platform? What is the most effective strategy you’ve found?

Untitled-1

Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 156 – Launch Your Author Platform with Jonny Andrews
  • This service sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true things. I think a lot of us have heard that Facebook ads are the best way to promote your work and grow your mailing list, but we’ve also heard how difficult it is to create ads that work and monitor them and change them when FB changes how they work.

    Of course I went to the Author Platform Rocket page to check it out. Nowhere on it is there the name of the person or company behind it. Yes, I know from the podcast who is promoting it, but why isn’t at least his name on the page? There’s no physical address of this business, no email address, no contact information. Even the link at the bottom labeled “Legal Information” just links to the same page. So if things go sideways, the author is left with no way to contact anyone to set things right.

    In addition to the author testimonials, I’d like to see samples of the FB ads they run. I’d also like to know more about the audiences by genre. Speaking specifically to my genre, the podcast mentioned “mystery,” but only thriller is mentioned on the web page. Two different things entirely.

    The good ad sites, e.g., BookBub, list how many subscribers they have per genre in addition to price. This service doesn’t.

    Before I’d hand over even a dollar to something like this–especially with the caveat that you will see no results for the first 30 days because that’s all setup–I’d need a lot more solid information.

    • Totally get where you’re coming from with this. We are only now opening up to the public after doing this in house for quite a bit of time (aka since about 2011). What you see here is what’s called “minimum viable product”. That means: what is the fastest, most effective thing that can be sent out into the world and then be built out over time. Behind the scenes we’re in the process of finishing a massive content delivery engine, a brand new podcast as well as some killer video training.

      By all means wait for that to feel more comfortable. We’ll have a new, killer look/feel to the site and all sorts of juicy things to sink your teeth into. But for the next week(ish) wile the code finishes cooling we’re running our training webinar. If you want to learn FB ads 101 and really see how to do this stuff on your own I actually break it all down for you live.

      We’re already on point to manage over $500K in author ad spend from those who have subscribed via I Love Vampire Novels and the other book discovery sites we own. This is why there was zero need to go public with a totally blown out finished APR ecosystem. We were already working with several thousand authors who know/like/trust us and have been getting great results for years with everything we’ve done previously.

      But because everyone over here agrees with you and wants to better reach out to the 100K+ authors who might not already know us, that is why we started the build and are just about ready to show off our new facelift to the public! Hope you like it!

  • Simon! Thank you so much for having me on! This show was a total blast and I’ve been telling all the author subscribers about it!

    • SimonRSP

      Hi Jonny, thanks for coming on the show, it was great to get the opportunity to talk to you 🙂

      • Tom Fox

        Jonny and Simon thank you for an awesome podcast. Jonny, thanks for some awesome comments. Honest and to the point. You’ve got a new fan!

  • iron_mountain

    Hi Simon,
    You’ve spoken to a lot of people in self-publishing and I’ve listened to a lot of your podcasts. I’m afraid the information doesn’t always sink in or stay with me, so I’d like to ask you a question: what in your opinion is the best way for someone about to get people on their mailing list prior to launching their first book? A link in the back of the book? A link in a blog? Something else?

    Also(and you don’t really need to read this part if you don’t want to), I’d like to say for the record how I’m currently feeling about all of this.

    I do get how self-publishing, by definition, is always going to have some elements of business and marketing. But I have to say that for me personally, listening to these SP podcasts sometimes depresses the bejesus out of me. So many fast talkers dazzling us with so many clever sales tricks and schemes. To my (naive?) mind, a lot of it smacks of doing things for all the wrong reasons to make a bit of coin.

    I sit here listening to these salesmen, and I lament that my one-time dream of getting away from all of that damn stuff, is apparnetly absolutely steeped in … all of that damn stuff.

    Yes, I’m acutely aware of the inherent flaws in what I’m saying. I get how you have to play the game if you want to make a living as an author. But when I hear things like people writing a series with over 10 books, or how you have to write a book every 2 months or forget it, I just wonder if it’s drifted too far into that area and away from good stories. Maybe good stories sell better anyway?

    Moreover I wonder if some of the dichotemies repeatedly presented are strictly true, or if they’re wishful thinking aimed at promoting middlemen. Because some of it is tremendously offputting when your’e a penniless fledgling author.

    Anyway I’m really sorry if this comes off as negative or unrealistically naive. And by the way this isn’t aimed at anyone in particular – it’s just me letting off steam about the whole thing after listening to a *lot* of SP podcasts.

    I bet you’ll say something like “well that’s the way it works – you can always go be a coal miner!”. Ha ha ha.
    All that said, I have got a lot of really useful info out of these podcasts. Love your interview style and diction. And thanks for all the free help.

    I had an idea of a show you could have where you arbitrate a debate between 2 successful authors – one a sales-oriented 1 book-a-month facebook ad guy; and the other someone who relies on the quality of their books and writes less. Hell, perhaps there are no susccessful SP authors matching that description any more!? In which case it’d be a short debate.

    • Good morning! I thought I’d jump on some of this as I’ve heard a lot of these view points before. Your questions are totally valid as are your concerns. Let’s start hacking away at what you’ve brought up and see if an alternative viewpoint bubbles up or perhaps some solutions…

      Q1: How do you build your list if you don’t have your 1st book out?

      A: Get your 1st book out! Write through the pain of writing until you have it done. Force yourself to put words on the page every day until it’s done. Edit the crap out of it until it hums with all the power of a small sun. Have an amazing cover made (you can do this on Fiverr for a few bucks) upload it to Amazon or all of them. Then write a short (or write the short first, it really doesn’t matter). Once again write every day even though it hurts and get it done as fast as you can. Repeat the process above. Buy an autoresponder (or use MailChimp which allows for your first 2K subscribers free) and give your short away in exchange for an email. Put an offer to get this short in your now published 1st novel. Put a lead capture on your for this same offer on your web page. Maybe even consider running a boosted post in FaceBook. And/or post your free book for email offer in relevant forums/groups. Then write your 2nd book. Set a daily minimum limit on your word count. Write through the pain of writing until it’s ready. Edit the crap out of it until it hums with all the power of a small sun. Then upload it to… (are you seeing the pattern here?)

      The trick is to do something every day to grow your subscriber base AND write books.

      Q2: Self-publishing, by definition, is always going to have some elements of business and marketing. So many fast talkers dazzling us with so many clever sales tricks and schemes. To my (naive?) mind, a lot of it smacks of doing things for all the wrong reasons to make a bit of coin.

      A: While not a direct question this next part is reflective of a mindset standing in the background in many publishing based conversations. Self-publishing is at least 75% business and marketing. Maybe, if we get lucky it’s 25% art. Why do you think publishers take 85% – 95% of author earnings from book sales? It’s because they take on the megalithic overhead of costs & logistics that transform a manuscript into something thousands to millions of readers want to buy. Finance, marketing, taxes, staff, dealing with artists, distribution channels, graphics, formatting, editing, accounting… the list goes on but I’m hoping you get the point. As an independent author you’re shouldering the burden of everything in exchange for keeping all the rights and royalties. YOU are your business. How well you run it depends on how open you are to taking steps to understand it.

      What I’m more curious about are these “tricks and schemes” to make a bit of coin you speak of. Are these editors? Cover designers? Book formatters? Or is it just people who help with marketing? And if that is the case, why would they be viewed any differently or less necessary than an editor or cover designer? Isn’t the skill of getting your finished book in front of readers THE most valuable and most missing element in the list of everyone an author works with to push the book into the world? Isn’t the inability to be “discovered” THE most lamented problem in all of both indie as well as trad pub?

      But clearly lots of these marketing people have fallen short of expectations! I must agree with that because I’ve NEVER heard of an author who went through 4-5 editors before finding one who could actually do the job 😉

      Q3: But when I hear things like people writing a series with over 10 books, or how you have to write a book every 2 months or forget it, I just wonder if it’s drifted too far into that area and away from good stories. Maybe good stories sell better anyway?

      A: Just like with any self-employed person in
      any profession, if you don’t get to work DAILY you don’t get to eat. Why
      would it be any different for authors?

      The main issue here is in the belief that an author cannot write quickly AND produce good stories. That is simply not true. Any author can LEARN to write quickly AND produce good stories. This technique is a choice NOT an either or. There are techniques you can use to help make it easier. Clearly I can only back this up by siting the book Write. Publish. Repeat. Go get it & use it. It can change your life as an author. Beyond that what or who determines if a book is good? What if a LOT of people buy it and it was written in 15 days? There is literally zero connection in any way between speed and quality. Horrifically crappy books have been written in 3 days as well as 3 years.

      This may help with some clarity on this point as this is very much an “artist vs business person” issue: Marketing can ONLY get a book in front of people who are most likely to buy & enjoy it. Marketing CANNOT force people to love it or tell their friends how amazing it is. That’s up to the writing. Good writing = people say nice things. Bad writing = the book dies in spite of how much money is thrown at it. It’s sort of like a combination lock: Correct marketing + correct audience + good book = healthy return on investment. Miss any one of those 3 elements and the efforts taken won’t yield desired results.

      Q4: Moreover I wonder if some of the dichotomies repeatedly presented are strictly true, or if they’re wishful thinking aimed at promoting middlemen. Because some of it is tremendously offputting when your’e a penniless fledgling author.

      A: I THINK you mean that themes repeat themselves when you search out a path to successfully publishing your stuff. This is true. There are repeated themes. This is mostly because they end up being true and effective once mastered.

      But the reason you hear themes coming up over and over again is because that’s how people sell things to people when there are no geographic limitations on your customer base.

      Example: If you have a group of people who like your work and are eager to purchase it, then you are dramatically more likely to sell copies of your next book when you tell them about it. AKA build your subscriber base and whittle it down to reader fans who fit this criteria. Then hit send and sell books.

      The arguments clearly come up not from the logic behind this (as it is actually unarguably correct) but from the methods behind it’s attainment. HOW do you build this group of people?

      It’s actually simple (but not fast or easy as it requires time/effort/money/learning curves)
      Step #1: Set up a subscriber getting system like I described above
      Step #2: Automate the follow up
      Step #3: Engage your audience on a weekly basis in some kind of way
      Step #4: Take daily action to grow these subscribers
      Step #5: Weed out those who aren’t there to help you or buy your books (automation)
      Step #6: Write every day
      Step #7: Hit send. Sell books.

      Over the days, weeks, months, years as your subscriber base grows, you will have more and more power to sell more and more books because you will have more and more people who know who you are and are excited to read what you write. You will also have more books to sell. As you grow your subscribers you will be able to send them through an automated sequence where they are exposed to your books and therefore buy more of your back catalog.

      The missing element here when folks ague this is… time. Almost all authors who show resistance to this seem to be coming from a place of seeing no other future than where they are in the present. IF you take these daily actions and IF you apply them over TIME small actions stack up into big results.

      How do you eat an elephant?

      Q: I had an idea of a show you could have where you arbitrate a debate between 2 successful authors – one a sales-oriented 1 book-a-month facebook ad guy; and the other someone who relies on the quality of their books and writes less. Hell, perhaps there are no successful SP authors matching that description any more!? In which case it’d be a short debate.

      A: Once again not a question from you but rather several from me: Why would an author who effectively sells books via facebook ads be a crappy author? Why do you believe that the act of writing quickly and selling a lot of copies somehow degrades the quality of a book?

      Would not the very result of selling a lot of copies actually mean the book is good? Wouldn’t lots of sales mean legions of readers are enjoying what they read? What determines quality if not reader enjoyment? Is there a certain length of time a book must live in an authors head or take to be written so it can be upgraded from bad to good?

      The flip side to this very common argument is that readers who buy books being advertised that were written in under 2 years have poor judgement and are unable to tell good literature from bad no matter how much they enjoy reading it.

      And the end of the day authors who hold these beliefs and are still struggling might turn it around when they realize success is not about them or their methods, but rather about the readers and reader enjoyment.

      But I think the end of the debate would be the slower author asking the faster author how they are fast and then asking for some lessons in FaceBook ads.

      • iron_mountain

        Hi Jonny,
        That was meant more for Simon than yourself but I appreciate you taking the time to try and address some of those point. You make a good argument about some of it. Like geting your stuff in front of those who like your stuff already and not putting a gun to their heads and making them buy it. However sales and marketing wouldn’t exist if the human psyche wasn’t prone to being massaged into making choices it otherwise wouldn’t make now would it. So there’s plenty of room for tricks and schemes I think and some that srpigng to mind off the top of my head are offering people something to get their email address then bombariding them mercilessly with adverts on a timer. I’ve been on the receiving end of that and I don’t appreciate it. Another is dubiously splitting what really ought to be one book into more books so that you can use the first as a hook(funnel or whatever) and milke the reader ont he others. Hearing Facebook ad experts talk about how they do all of that – spending 10000 to get 20000 back all seems very elaborate and engineered with one sole purpose – maximising the profit from your writing. Another one is increasing your online presence or “content”, perhpas under the guise of philanthropy, when actually it’s to generate more hits and follow through clicks.
        And yes I get that if youre a businessman then you’re out to make profit. The question I’m raising is where should the line be drawn there and has it strayed too far. And if a thing is done to make money, then for the love of god let’s be honest about what it is instead of packaging it as an act of kindness.
        I certainly wasn’t arguing there should be no marketing or business in self publishing at all – that’s a no brainer and believe me, I’m real grateful to you guys for showing other people the ropes, do’s don’t. I’m simply questioning aspects of it I’m not too comfortable with and I don’t think that’s anything to do with effort or a realistic view of what’s involved, I think it comes down to motivation and values.
        To answer your question:
        “Why would an author who effectively sells books via facebook ads be a crappy author? Why do you believe that the act of writing quickly and selling a lot of copies somehow degrades the quality of a book?”
        I’m not syaing that and I don’t know that. I’m raising the question if there’s a minimum amount of time, contemplation, rewriting, sleeping on it etc, whereby straying beyond that means the quality’s gonna have to slip. Something’s gonna have to give. Unless your’e paying someone else(an editor perhaps?) to do the lion’s share of the legwork, in which case, is it really your book any more?
        I also question if people can keep churning out good original ideas at that machine gun rate. I’m afraid I personally am not sold on the quality argument, but I accept I could be wrong. I really am new to all this. I can totally see how someone can sit and wriote copy, piecemeal stuff, chrn it out hour after hour day after day. Like a copywriter. I question whether it’s possible to write imaginative thought provoking original material doing that. And again I could be wrong. I may have a surprise as I get further into this.
        You might be right about everything. I don’t think so but I can’t provide solid evidence to the contrary and it looks like you’ve been in this world a lot longer than me.
        I really just wanted to raise the question after listening to so many SP podcasts now and being depressed by the overhelming focus being on all that stuff, and so little about writing. It made me sad truth be told.
        Bottom line, you may well be right Jonny in saying you can’t force people to buy it and the figures speak for themselves. If that’s the case then I have to accept that I guess.
        But I will always question whether art can be industrialised and sold like pepsi cola. Maybe I am just not business minded so I don’t see it. I dunno. I’ll find out I guess.
        it’s just a bunch of questions I felt like raising as a budding author and a listener to the RSP show.
        Anyway I do appreciate your taking the time to try and answer them fully here.
        Oh and thank you very much for the pointers oon the mailing list. I nearly forgot.
        Cheers
        David.

        • Any time! I actually love conversations like this! It gives me a chance to clear the air on a lot of issues that come up in artist communities time after time after time. For example what you said about humans being lead by marketing to make choices they normally wouldn’t.

          Sure. The force can sometimes be strong with this one and the weak minded can sometimes be lead astray BUT have you ever looked at the refund policies for quality online stores? They are iron clad and have nothing to do with the person who wrote the book or made the product. You want a refund because you felt tricked? Go get it. It’s easy and guaranteed. So trying to dupe people into buying stuff they neither want nor need is a futile effort that will get you banned from selling. I’ve even seen folks trying to trick customers into buying get shut down by their merchant accounts, ISP’s AND the government. In my experience you can’t sell something to somebody who doesn’t want to buy it no matter how may times you use the word “fresh” or “genuine”. It really does not pay in anyway to trick people. It’ll cost you far more than you make and that’s getting to be a known fact.

          Now! To the stuff you mentioned as “tricks”

          – offering people something to get their email address, then bombarding
          them mercilessly with adverts on a timer. I’ve been on the receiving
          end of that and I don’t appreciate it

          Sure! Most people HATE that stuff done in that way. Doing it like this is a choice somebody makes. There are other ways to accomplish the same end goal without blasting the crap out of some poor persons inbox. People who do this tend to not be around all that long because the market compensates for it and people talk. These things don’t really work like they used to when done incorrectly. They also have a high unsubscribe rate. This is a key indicator the method is being used incorrectly. You’re also not obligated to stay on a list you don’t like. As required by law you can click the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom and just have the issue go away. There’s actually no reason to think on it past that point.

          – dubiously splitting what
          really ought to be one book into more books so that you can use the
          first as a hook(funnel or whatever) and milk the reader on the others.

          Once again this is a choice an author can make and once again the market will compensate for it if readers aren’t happy. They leave reviews filled with anger and rage. The author will normally fix the problem or let the book die and not make the mistake again. Reviews will make or break a book.

          Sometimes authors have to take a chance and test ideas in order to see if they work. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. The broken novel can often be one of those things. If somebody is new and trying something I’d personally cut them some slack as long as they take steps to fix the issue.


          hearing Facebook ad experts talk about how they do all of that –
          spending 10000 to get 20000 back all seems very elaborate and engineered
          with one sole purpose – maximizing the profit from your writing

          It sounds elaborate because it is. Marketing in these arenas is an ever changing game where you need a very specific mindset along with ever improving skills to even keep your head above water. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with maximizing profit from writing. In fact I’d argue that’s probably why everyone is here! (Including yourself)


          increasing your online presence or “content”, perhaps under the guise of
          philanthropy, when actually it’s to generate more hits and follow
          through clicks.

          Why is using content to build a relationship with a potential buyer bad? Why is giving away free info so people can better themselves dubious? I personally had an author write in when I was doing my podcast and tell me they learned tricks on my show that helped them make $100,000/month in book sales using the paid traffic methods I talked about on this one. I even show the email in the webinar (and teach the tactic she was referring to)! I personally owe all of my initial success on free content provided before launches of “how to” products that cost upwards of $2,000! I was able to create my first self published book because I used free videos that taught me how to use social media to gain top Google results. I then used that in the business I was trying to get off the ground and that is what kick-started my entire career! Had it not been for “the guise of
          philanthropy” used to sell a product I could never afford I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

          I think you might be a bit jaded 😉 Not saying that to offend but rather to make you potentially take a step back and see what you’re turning your nose up at. You’re passing up on your future by holding these beliefs. Everything you’re worried or bothered by are the very things that could very well lift you out of where you are and, if practiced and learned, turn you into the author you’re hoping to become. I used to think just like you and it took YEARS of failing and not making it before I finally realized those people who all seemed to be saying the same thing weren’t just doing it because they were parrots… they were saying it because it is true and it works!

          The main issue I see here is you want to be an author but you’re fighting an internal belief war against BOTH sides of the coin! That’s never going to end well!

          Where I do totally agree with you is in the question of keeping up the book churn. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with A LOT of authors who are doing that book-a-month or book every two and I don’t see it as a long term strategy. It’s more of a method of building a body of work so after enough novels are written they can shift focus and write less while concentrating on getting new eyeballs on what they have done. I mean, what if they get a cold or something? The entire business will collapse! Lots of people are doing it but most of them will burn out after a few years at the most.

          While yes, I do believe 3-4 books per year is realistic, sustainable AND necessary, authors today need a more comprehensive platform building strategy or else they are still “working” like the did back on their job! That’s one of the points I make in this interview.

          But as to art being industrialized like Pepsi? I don’t think it has to be. I think an author can be totally authentic, original, fantastic AND branded without selling out. In fact they can sell a TON without selling out. I’d argue that successful indies are the epitome of NOT selling out while still selling. They are the ones who have won the art vs big business game. Hasn’t that always been the artists battle? To successfully make art on their own terms? (Cue your favorite remix of Charlie Sheen’s “Winning”)

          • iron_mountain

            Hi Jonny,
            Thanks again for your generous reply.

            You made some solid points there and I’ll just respond to a few things I don’t agree with.

            Just because people are free to unsusbscribe and are protected by law, doesn’t preclude sales tricks being employed and doesn’t ensure that the sellers’ motives or marketing strategies are honest and above board. Quite the contrary actually, those measures evolved to try and shield buyers from such practices being used in more underhand ways.

            I think sales and marketing very much seeks to use the human psyche against people’s better judgement. When I hear about people tailoring their stories specifically with a view to selling more as opposed to telling the best story they can, how can that be interpreted as anything other than a sales ploy? I don’t buy it. And like I said before, if you’re in this as a business to make money, then fine, let’s call it what it is. There’s really 2 ways to look on this. From a business standpoint, in which case all these things are probably fine and dandy. Or from a standpoint of what you think is right and how writing books ought to be. So it comes down to a choice. In a world where money is the rule, the business angle will always win, but I’m raising the question about some of the ulterior practices involved and what it does to writing.

            I also think the likelihood of someone going and requesting a refund for a book they were not satisfieed with is somewhat on the low side. It’s an awkward conversation at best. Regardless of the law, sellers usually want to know why, and unless there’s a tangible reason, I find that most people are very reluctant to have that conversation, especially for a few quid(bucks).

            I understand the argument about how it doesn’t pay to trick people. But I dunno. Things seem to have changed out there of late. They used to lecture about customer retention in business, repeat sales. Now I don’t see many companies giving a damn about any of that. There seems to be a tacit assumption that people are likely to move on elsewhere anyway after the current transaction, so why waste time and money being nice to them. A lot of what I’ve heard surrounding selling series with funnels seems to be about a quick hit, hooking them in then getting them to empty their pockets on your whole back catalogue in a very brief time. So I think there’s room for duplicity there while still making a lot of money. Maybe you don’t need to care if they come back or not after that.

            And sure, it could well be that the hook is simply a great first book, and all of those books in a series are great too. And “caveat emptor” and all that – the onus is on the buyer to do their due dilligence etc. But still, I don’t think the arguments you’ve presented remove the possibility of smoke and mirrors being employed in getting people to buy stuff they otherwise may not have or. It certainly doesn’t stop people trying to make that happen anyway as we well know. Whenever a lucrative watering hole appears, the usual suspects turn up and try and weave their magic to bleed it dry. It’s not just writing.

            So with such a huge market in constant flux, I don’t know if I’m sold on the idea that screwing people over doesn’t pay. It seems to be working out very well for some people who just move on to graze on pastures new of which there’s an endless supply in a world of 7 billion and climbing. There’s a separate conversation about reputation within certain communities, reviews etc. There’s definitely some wieght to that. I get that. I hope that people crucify those who employ duplicitous strategies in those communities. But does that protect those on the outside who are unaware? Of course it doesn’t.

            It’s really the dishonesty and spin I’m personally not comfortable with. I’m not saying you can’t outsource, or set up a business or do marketing or any of that stuff. Just that I don’t care for some of the tricks I’ve heard about, and I don’t care for avarice being dressed up as art or philanthropy. I just question when writing stops being writing and becomes something else. and once again, if you’re looking at this from a business angle, then maybe that’s all fine. But there are other angles to consider.

            About stories broken up into multiple instalments when they oughtn’t be: I wasn’t talking about an innocent experiment. I was talking about copying a method someone else used with the sole purpose of making more money. I’ve heard of people discussing this practice on several SP podcasts so I know it’s happened.

            “It sounds elaborate because it is. Marketing in these arenas is an ever changing game where you need a very specific mindset along with ever improving skills to even keep your head above water. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with maximizing profit from writing. In fact I’d argue that’s probably why everyone is here! (Including yourself)”

            Yeah and you’re right about that to a degree. I do understand that some element of marketing is necessary and that it’s competitive. But please understand that I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with that per se. That wasn’t part of my original argument. I was just providing an example of some of the marketing tricks I was referring to that I’m not crazy about because you asked me for examples following my original point.
            And while there’s nothing wrong with it per se, there is something about the calculated ingenuity of it that turns my stomach personally. When it’s done to extremes, it smacks of the rapacious dresssed up as something else. I do appreciate that if you speecialise in sales and marketing, then I’ve got my head in la la land there. I get it. I really do. It’s just that when I hear an autheor interviewed again and again and all he talks about is clever tricks for combining adverts with series and sales tricks to make more coin, it just doesn’t sit irght with me personally. And sure, maybe that’s my problem. I yam what I yam.

            To be honest with you Jonny, the main reason I’m here is to learn about what’s required to get a book published myself. To try and pick up as many tips on how to do that the cheapest way possible. Sure if I ever get to the stage where I’m looking to make a living out of it, then no doubt I’ll have to look at starting a business, and employing some outsourcing and marketing. I may eat my hat. But even then, I sincerely hope that I’ll baulk at employing any of those tricks cos that’s not who I want to be. So I wouldn’t assume too much about why people are here.

            Now, it could be that the market is such that if you don’t employ all of that then you’re dead in the water, guaranteed. Cutting your own throat. And if that’s the case that will make me very sad but I get it and you’re right about it all being necessary. Thought it doesn’t make it right. But regardeless, for the love of god, let’s just call it what it is. The spin that gets put on these things is hard to swallow sometimes.

            “Had it not been for ‘the guise of philanthropy’ used to sell a product I could never afford I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
            Yeah , absolutely and I was trying to clearly distinguish between the two in my original point. I REALLY appreciate the advice on how to get books out there and the basics on marketing etc. I really do, like you wouldn’t believe. I am specifically talking about duplicty, tricks, and when writing stops being about the writing and starts to become about making as much money as possible through writing. Big difference. Please don’t try and dress that up as me being anti SP podcasts cos that’s not the case and never was. I wouldn’t be here if that was the case. Huge difference.

            “Why is using content to build a relationship with a potential buyer bad? Why is giving away free info so people can better themselves dubious?”
            Same deal. I never said it was bad. I even said I’d appreicated the content in these podcasts as some of it was helpful to me. I was only giving you examples, as requested, of the various tricks employed.
            I think Jonny, it comes down to where you’re coming from and what you believe writing ought to be. Where sales meets art and creativity, I think there’s a choice to be made there. That’s all I’m saying. If you’re business/sales minded you’ll probably follow the money every time, even if it means employing some creative smoke and mirrors. Perhaps some ulterior methodologies. I just personally don’t care for it when the one thing is dressed up as the other. And maybe that’s my problem! Maybe I am naive and unrealistic. Could be.
            I also find it offensive when anyone who shines a light on these things is made out to be some kind of jackass or hypocrite. It’s entirely possible for someopne to want to publish their own books without doing any of that. Money isn’t the only driving force here, though it is a powerful one unfortunately.

            “I think you might be a bit jaded 😉 Not saying that to offend but rather to make you potentially take a step back and see what you’re turning your nose up at. You’re passing up on your future by holding these beliefs. Everything you’re worried or bothered by are the very things that could very well lift you out of where you are and, if practiced and learned, turn you into the author you’re hoping to become. I used to think just like you and it took YEARS of failing and not making it before I finally realized those people who all seemed to be saying the same thing weren’t just doing it because they were parrots… they were saying it because it is true and it works!”

            Oh really? Well I think you’re trying to paint me as soimething I’m not here to suit an argument but never mind. I’ll take that one on the chin.
            I’m certainly troubled when I hear people talking about writing in those terms. I don’t think that makes me jaded Jonny. I think you’re defending your corner is all. I’m not sold and I stand by everything I said I’m afraid.

            I will say this: it could be that you’re right about SP authors being able to employ the sales and marketing stuff AND be great authors. Maybe somehow, they can even do all of that and churn out a book every 2 months or whatever. I just haven’t earned the stones to say otherwise at this point. I really just wanted to raise the questions. More than anything I was curious what Simon had to say about it but I think that ship has sailed.

            And while I don’t appreciate your taking my 2 and 2 and trying to make 27(!), I do appreciate your taking the time to try and respond properly as that is a time-consuming headache-spawning task. You made some solid points there.
            David.

          • No headache at all! I seriously love this stuff! But I should clarify that your statement: “I’m not sold and I stand by everything I said I’m afraid.” has officially been my checkmate! You see, I have been ladling in every ounce of NLP and sneaky sales tactics I could muster in this thread to bend you to my will. My failure to con you into buying not only my philosophy but also all my stuff has inadvertently proven my point that sales tactics cannot force people to do anything they do not want to do! In fact, if I’m reading between the lines properly, it would seem my only accomplishment was in getting you to have an above average hankering for a medium size bowl of strawberry ice cream.

            But yes, I jest. (or do I?! Do you know where your spoons are?)

            But all in all we live in a world were merchants will make their decisions on how to treat customers and customers will then make decisions on how to treat merchants. Where there is money to be made you will always find the opportunistic hand in hand with those upon which they prey. But this has always been the case and will always be the case. The main question is why you trouble yourself with the issue. Simply chose not to be part of the problem and treat those who would buy from you with respect. Sure you can always make an argument for bad sales tactics used to sway people but why? How does thinking about that improve your chances of becoming a successful author?

            The answer to all of this is a bit cliche but none the less accurate: be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t stress about what other people do. Do what you do. My concern on your end is that it seems you have not taken actual steps into this arena but are sitting on the sidelines. When you say that maybe using tactics like this are the way it works and then you’ll be disappointed I hear an academic argument. You need to get out there and learn how to make YOU work. There literally is no “maybe that’s just how it is”. There are a billion ways to be you in the world just the way you want AND make an honest living.

            I’ve been doing this long enough to where I’ve seen the world of the scammer shrink from a 60% market share to less than .5% (just an example not actual numbers). The FTC, Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover all joined forces in 2010 to unilaterally shut down junk merchants. Literally, in a single evening, thousands of companies who were conning customers lost their ability to process payments and were forced to shut down. Amazon, PayPal, ClickBank and other merchant account alternatives/shopping hubs are the most customer focused groups out there. In fact the world has changed to such an extent that it is truly no longer “buyer beware” but now SELLER fear for your future. Refunds are not an awkward conversation. They are a simple email to one of these money processing middle companies and the money is quickly deducted from the seller and returned to the buyer. If a seller receives too many complains they are quickly shut down and their income absorbed back into the “hive”.

            You then combine this with the power of social media and reviews and the entire online buying landscape has gone from “buy my stuff” to “let me give you free things so you can decide if you like me and THEN maybe buy”. (Note: this is why you are seeing so much philanthropic free content out there these days.)

            I do get this was all meant for Simon and I’m just trying to take what you’re saying at face value rather than making 2 + 2 = 27 so I’ll cut it off here, but I do think if you get yourself out there you’ll find you CAN write quickly with quality AND sell a lot of books without being a jerk. After all… it’s 2016! We live in a world where the average jr high school student has more computing power in their pants than NASA did when they shot men to the moon! We can indeed have our cake and eat it too. (often times with another in the oven!)

          • iron_mountain

            Ha ha! Thanks for the laugh.
            You hooked me in there and then I realised it was a joke. I get the irony. It’s always a good time for strawberry ice cream.

            “The main question is why you trouble yourself with the issue. Simply chose not to be part of the problem and treat those who would buy from you with respect. Sure you can always make an argument for bad sales tactics used to sway people but why? How does thinking about that improve your chances of becoming a successful author?”

            I’m not sure I’m with you there Jonny. I’m not losing any sleep over this and I wasn’t trying to imply that somehow raising it would help me become a better author. Surely that’s a separate issue isn’t it?
            No, I’m troubling myself with the issue because as a fledgling author who’s been trying to learn how the business works for several months, certain aspects don’t sit right with me.
            So I was just giving a voice to that in a forum that seemed appropriate. It just felt discussion worthy is all. And honestly, I could’ve left this comment under any number of those podcasts – just happened to be this one. I think I was curious of Simon’s take on it all as he’s got a kind of unusual removed ubiquitous perspective from it all.

            “My concern on your end is that it seems you have not taken actual steps into this arena but are sitting on the sidelines. When you say that maybe using tactics like this are the way it works and then you’ll be disappointed I hear an academic argument. You need to get out there and learn how to make YOU work. There literally is no “maybe that’s just how it is”. There are a billion ways to be you in the world just the way you want AND make an honest living.”

            Well thanks a lot for your concern Jonny, but I think you may have misunderstood where I am on the curve. I’m not avoiding anything because of this. I’m just where I’m at on the curve. Once I’ve got everything written and I’m ready, I’ll publish. There’s no sidelines deal going on or anything like that. I do believe people are entitled to an opinion on this stuff regardless where they are on that curve. OK so it could be that they’re simply not equipped with the experience to get into certain things and that’s fair enough. But I dont think that’s the case here at all – my original comments were borne from concerns that came up after listening to a lot of podcasts about self publishing. As a beginner, I’ve been listening to them trying to build up a picture of how this world works, so that when I’m in a position to, I can start publishing my stuff.
            So as a beginner, listening to a lot of material presumably aimed at beginners, I felt entitled to raise those concernes to be honest.

            I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume criticism is always negativity or some kind of character flaw in the person doing the criticising. While that can be the case it certainly doesn’t have to be, and it’s not going to do a fat lot to help the cause.

            OK well listen, I’ve already said everything I wanted to say on this and we’re going round in circles. I can’t help feeling you’re not really getting the point I was originally trying to make but I also get that you’re just fighting your corner here. So we’re stuck in a feedback loop here aren’t we. I think I’ll duck out at this point if that’s OK, but I promise I’ll endeavour to read any further replies.
            I thank you again for all your time and for the advice on mailing lists earlier, ad I wish you all the best for the future.
            David.

          • SimonRSP

            Not really sure what happened here. I’m out of the office this week on a road trip… Thanks for jumping in on this Jonny, you obviously spent a lot of time on the replies here. I appreciate that.

          • LOL! It was no sweat! I’ve been working with authors for many, MANY years so I’m pretty familiar with where the issues live between art and marketing. This was a very spirited debate and I thought it shed a lot of light on a bunch of subjects and mindsets. He decided to delete his messages out of respect as he felt they may potentially cause harm. I didn’t think so but totally respect his decision to do it. What he was asking is what a lot of authors are asking. It was good stuff!

          • iron_mountain

            Sorry guys.
            I had a vacuuming epiphany and thought the posts were inappropriate, so I decided to delete them. I didn’t realise it would leave a mess like this or I wouldn’t have done that. If I could undelete them I would, but I don’t know how to do that I’m afraid.
            Maybe Simon can either make them appear or delete them all?
            David.

          • SimonRSP

            Hi David, the comments are gone and I can’t see an option to remove the deleted ones, but I don’t think it’s a major problem :).

          • iron_mountain

            Thanks Simon. Sorry about that. I panicked!

  • mtr amg

    wow Jonny you hit all my marks. I’ve listened to or read all those links, I’m even a DMB fan. Saw their first concert in Australia… sighs.
    Giving prizes will not get you real fans, just people chasing prizes. I often respond to the auto letters (when they ask you to) and I’ve got some help when I really needed it, and it’s made me think better of the site, and the people who run it if they take the time to reply.
    Hasn’t Amazon changed the rules recently wrt the book referral sites and affiliate links? They have to go through an extra link these days. The one thing you CAN rely on is that they’ll keep changing it to their best benefit. That’s business.
    I hate FB with a passion. It makes my teeth hurt to go check in with writing FB groups I have joined… ugh. So if someone does it for me… yay. Gotta write the damn books first, though.

    • We like to change it up a bit. With the prizes we tend to make it all about reading and books. Then, when combined with the targeting, you have a real high level reader who comes through. This is one of the main reasons our opens and clicks are often double or even 5x higher than industry average.

      Has Amazon changed the rules? Yes/no. The rules with affiliate marketing have been in place for a while but they are only now enforcing them. Does it stink? For many yes. Not even a little for us. We used affiliate links as a bit of a “spiff” for some extra income but their payouts are so low it never amounted to anything worth chasing. We weren’t even impacted slightly when they reached out.

      And your feelings about FB and all that are ONE of reasons folks like us 😉

  • Adam Gentry

    I’ve often worried that the urge to give up represented a failing on my part, that a real writer wouldn’t feel that way. It’s ironically comforting to hear that the temptation to give up is an ongoing challenge, rather than something I need to get past.

    • I hear you! That urge runs in the background of just about anything people try to do. It’s the act of over coming it on a daily basis, even just a little, that gets you to the goal.

  • Levi Kent

    Is this service no longer available? All I can see on the website is a webinar…