In today’s show, David Favor and Tom Corson-Knowles talk about great ideas—how to find them, model them, and use them to transform your life and your career.
David Favor is a self published author who knows quite a bit about technology and how the Internet works. In our conversation, we cover a wide range of topics including how to be successful in any area of life (and especially self publishing.) We take a deep dive into platform building, and we also discuss the important differences between traditional publishing and self publishing.
How I Self Published My First Ebook
Tom Corson Knowles built an e-book Empire that made over $12,000 a month in royalties from Amazon.com in one year.
His first published book was a book on nutrition that he cowrote with his mother. He helped her get her ideas down on the screen and organize them into a book accessible to everyone.
Tom followed up that book with a book on personal development. He was inspired by Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki. Tom learns a lot more from writing about a subject than simply reading about it.
When Tom was young he believed that corporations were evil because many corporations do a number of things that aren’t that great. After reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, he came to understand that money is simply a tool, and it’s what we do with that tool that matters.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
He realized if he really wanted to see the world change in significant ways he needed to make money to affect change in the world. Using money to change in the world is a great way to make a difference.
Of course, you can help people without having a lot of money, but even Mother Teresa wouldn’t have been able to affect change on the scale she did without people donating to her cause.
The Time Value of Money
When you make $1,000,000 over 20 years, you get a certain amount of value out of that money. If you make that same million dollars in 12 months, you’re getting a lot more value with the same amount of money.
You have much more power and flexibility if you can make $1,000,000 in one year than if you have to wait 20 years for your million dollars.
Money only has value relative to time. For example, how much would it be worth to you if someone were to pay you 1 billion dollars today? What about if they would pay you 150 years from now? Big difference, right?
Value Your Time
Every business goal you pursue can be achieved one of two ways. You can either:
- Or pay someone else to do it.
If you do it yourself, it won’t cost you any money, but it will cost you the time it takes to learn the skill necessary in order to achieve the goal, plus the time it takes to actually perform the tasks necessary to achieve the goal.
You have to ask yourself this question: “Is my time better used in learning the skill necessary to achieve the goal and doing the task myself, or is my money better spent paying someone to achieve the goal while I spend my time doing other things?”
Model Successful People
Find a role model who has achieved success in every area of life that you want to achieve success, and ask them how they did it.
Success leaves clues. If you can distill what actions your mentor took in order to become successful and then do the same actions, you will become successful much faster than people who flail about trying to figure out the rules of success for themselves.
Get Expert Advice
Great ideas are free, and they work for everyone. If you see someone who is successful doing what you want to be doing, figure out how they got to where they are and follow the same process. Keep track of the results, and modify your efforts as necessary.
One of the things Tom has been interested in lately is licensing. He hired an expert at $350 an hour to answer all of his questions about licensing. That’s a lot of money, but at a much cheaper cost in both money and time than getting a business degree and learning everything you can about licensing over several years.
It’s important when searching for writing advice that you make sure the people you listen to actually have the level of success that you want. Anyone can give you some advice on writing, but if you actually want to learn how to write better, you should follow the advice of someone who has achieved great results with their own writing.
The great thing about the Internet is that anyone who wants to write a book or blog can do so. And everyone has opinions. Just make sure you’re listening to people who’ve been successful the way you want to be successful. Don’t blindly follow the advice of writers who have only sold a few books, or who have never worked with a professional editor.
Just the other day, Tom read a blog post from one author is saying that the best place to publish your book is on kobo.com. That idea is ridiculous. How can Kobo be the best place to publish a book if it has less than a 5% market share?
Amazon controls 70% to 80% of the e-book market in the United States and the United Kingdom, the two largest markets for e-book sales. If you ignore publishing your book on Amazon you’re missing out on at least 70% of the money to be made publishing your e-book.
Also, realize that if you’re not publishing exclusively on Amazon for the first 90 days, you’re missing out on several income generating opportunities.
Amazon rewards authors who choose to publish on their platform exclusively. When you publish on Amazon they’re going to ask you if you plan to be exclusive or publish your book on other platforms as well. It’s important to be honest because Amazon is going to find out if your book is available anywhere else.
The E-Book Market
In 2015, the book market (including all formats, hardcover, e-book, paperback and audio) was about $80 billion a year. That overall market isn’t going to change dramatically, but over the next 5 years the money spent on books is going to shift dramatically towards e-books. We’ve seen that trend starting already and it’s going to accelerate into the future.
As a new author with no audience or platform it’s going to be much more difficult to enter the traditional publishing market and make a living. You have a much better chance if you go indie and self publish your books on Amazon.
Most indie authors sell at least 5-10x as many ebooks as they do print books.
The greatest net profit is going to be from selling your ebook. This just makes sense. Ebooks are the least expensive things to reproduce and the easiest things to distribute, it’s no wonder that they produce the most profit.
Publish Your Book on Amazon First
Publish the book first on Amazon before you publish your content anywhere else on the Internet. When you publish your content on Amazon first, it establishes you as the author of record in Amazon’s database and that is a powerful tool when determining authorship.
Don’t let concerns about internet piracy stop you from publishing your book. Internet piracy is going to happen no matter what you do. The only way to make money on your book is to publish it and give people the opportunity to buy it.
“No matter how smart you are your book is always going to be better once you put it out into the world and get feedback.” – Tom Corson Knowles
A great way to get feedback is to give your book to beta readers. These are your first readers who will give you feedback for a free copy of the e-book.
Often authors will get beta readers from their fan base. These are people who know your work and like it. Typically, they are people who enjoy your work, and they are eager to give you feedback to make it better.
Finding Your Audience
Let’s say you’re writing a romance.
- The market for your book is all romance readers.
- The audience for your book is everyone who read your book.
Your audience is always going to be a slightly different and smaller group than the market for your book.
If you’re publishing a book on Amazon the largest part of your audience is going to be in the US, especially if you doing your marketing right.
Create a Customer Avatar
When you’re writing your book, it’s important that you envision your ideal customer. You want to be as specific as possible when you imagine this person. That’s what’s going to help you the most when you go to market your books because you’ll understand WHO you’re marketing to.
Specifically imagining your ideal customer allows you to more directly connect with your ideal audience on an individual basis. You’ll be able to tailor messages directly to them, and you’ll be more effective at getting them to know, like, and trust you.
Once you’ve created your customer avatar, think about where they might hang out online. There are reader forums for every conceivable niche under the sun. One of the best ways to promote your work is to become a member of forums where your customers hangout.
Don’t just promote your book there! Become a helpful member of the community. Write the most helpful article you can on the topic of your book. You will become someone people know, like, and trust on your topic. Let them discover your book from there.
When you write something of real value, people are naturally going to share it. And if you write your article the right way, people will be finding your article on the Internet for years to come.
“All success in my experience is about long-term success. Long-term success comes from long-term relationships and long-term value.” – Tom Corson Knowles
Create an Avatar for Your Pen Name
David has a client with a team of ghostwriters. His client owns a number of different websites. Each of those websites is written by an avatar that closely resembles and can relate to the target audience.
Every time one of his ghostwriters writes for a particular site, they have an avatar sheet that has:
- A picture of the character they’re writing under
- Their age
- Their interests and hobbies
- Information about their family
- Any other pertinent details
By creating such a detailed character sheet for each pen name, he helps his ghostwriters really get into the mind of the character they’re writing for.
When you’re creating these pen name avatars it’s important to realize that you don’t have to get it perfect in just one day. You can add to your avatar’s character sheet for years to come and that’s perfectly fine.
The power of an exercise like this is that it changes your mindset. Instead of writing to the masses, you’re writing to one person for a purpose. That will make your writing clear and direct.
Even if you are only writing for money, you still need to know:
- Who your audience is
- What they like
- What they don’t like
- And why they by what they buy
Why Author Platforms Matter
Your author platform is a group of people that already know who you are. These are people you can connect with, and they’re willing to buy your book because YOU wrote it.
If you have an email list, that’s a platform because a certain percentage of those people are going to buy your book.
Likewise, if you speak at conferences and public events, the audiences you speak to are part of your platform. Again, this is because a certain percentage of those people are going to buy your book simply because they like you and what you have to say.
The main reason the term platform has become so widely used is that traditional publishers require you to have a platform before they’ll even consider publishing your book. Traditional publishers invest quite a bit of money in printing and distributing your book to traditional bookstores. And as we discussed the traditional publishing market is contracting. So they need to make sure their investment is going to pay off!
If you’re somebody with a large platform who can guarantee that you’ll sell 10,000 books simply from your platform alone, you’ll be way further ahead than somebody who just has a great idea for a book.
How to Build Your Author Platform
The best way to build your author platform is to focus on your strengths.
If you’re great at public speaking, you need to be speaking in public. Have someone record you (video and audio if possible) every time you speak publicly.
You can put those recordings up on YouTube. If they’re only audio recordings, you can put a single frame on the video and upload the video version to YouTube.
If you don’t know how to use YouTube, and don’t want to learn how to do it yourself, have your assistant or a teenager in your neighborhood upload the file to YouTube for you.
David always records every speech he gives. He never believes event organizers when they say they’ll send him a copy of his speech, because sometimes they don’t. They may have the best intentions of doing so but it’s always good to have a backup recording solution in place in case something goes wrong with their technology.
If you’re an introvert who’s afraid of public speaking you don’t have to use public speaking to build your platform.
What you want to do is figure out what your strengths are, what you like to do, and how you can leverage your strengths and passions to help build your platform.
Focus on using your strengths to help your audience and your platform will grow by word-of-mouth.
Choose one marketing channel with the potential to reach millions of people. Master that marketing channel before you do anything else.
Tom’s Top 3 Platform Building Methods
The best thing you can do to build your platform is to realize what your strengths and passions are and leverage them to build your platform.
These are the strategies that work best for him given his strengths, passions, and temperament.
Video is a particularly powerful platform building method because reviews can be repurposed so many different ways.
You can put the video on YouTube and other video sharing sites.
You can get audio from the video and distribute it through podcast services like iTunes and Stitcher
You can also get a transcription of the video and make a PDF or publish it on your website.
2. Writing Blog Posts
Writing blog posts is another powerful way to build your platform especially if you pay attention to search engine optimization.
You can see hundreds of Tom’s blog posts at tckpublishing.com/blog.
3. Email marketing
This is by far Tom’s most valuable marketing activity: gathering a list of people interested in your topic and communicating with them on a regular basis.
Your customer list is your most valuable asset. You can lose everything else but if you have a list of people who bought content from you before you can rebuild your business in a very short period of time.
More Platform Building Strategies
Here are some more great platform building tactics you can consider using:
- Social media
- Apps for your phone
All of these methods are points of connection for people in your audience.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to use all of these methods to build a platform. Just choose the method or methods that complement your strengths and passions.
If none of the methods above appeal to you the best way for you to build a platform is to have an email list, and have a way for people to get on that email list, and then just write a lot of books.
Remember every book you write is also a marketing tool. If you put a link so readers can join your email list in every book and write a lot of books you will begin to build a platform.
3 Sides to Every Author Business
There are 3 sides to every author business.
- The writing side where you produce the books
- The publishing side where you distribute the book
- The marketing side where you promote the books
The way to be successful as an author is to be as professional as you can in every aspect of the business and implement your strategies to the best of your ability on a daily basis.
“Find that thing that you’re so grateful to have the opportunity to do and then make that valuable for your audience.” – Tom Corson Knowles
Use Meetup to Build a Platform
Meetup.com is a website that facilitates groups of people with similar interests being able to get together in a certain place to do something.
They have groups based on interest and geography. You can find groups of hundreds of people within a matter of minutes. Nothing is quite as powerful as networking in person.
Meetup already has your platform built for you. There are people on these interests lists who’ve expressed a desire to get together with other like-minded people.
People who use Meetup are very action oriented. They’re willing to get in the car and drive to where you are to take part in an event. They are very different than a typical web surfer.
Another benefit of Meetup.com is you can set up your own Meetup group. When you set up your own Meetup group you have the ability to email everyone in that Meetup group and you have very high deliverability on every email you send that group.
That’s one of David’s online business tricks. He creates a Meetup group for anyone he wants on a particular email list, then he simply emails that group through the Meetup interface.
Use Udemy to build Your Platform
Udemy is an online learning marketplace filled with millions of customers eager to learn about your topic. There are several different ways to build your platform on udemy while making money.
The greatest benefit of putting a course on udemy is you can email your students at any time about anything. Ideally, you’d want to have the email be related to your course content. But I have seen emails from the instructors that just inform their students they have more information on a topic in an Amazon book or on their podcast. Those types of emails are also acceptable.
One strategy you can use is to release a simple free course on your topic. Then develop a paid course and email your free course customers that you have a new paid course available.
Another strategy that works quite well is to let your existing customers know every time you’ve developed a new paid course.
One strategy you can use to learn about your audience on Udemy is to go through the profiles of your students. Tom discovered that a lot of his Udemy students take 40 courses or more on the website.
Competition in a Creative Field
Competition isn’t a bad thing when it comes to creative work. Whether it be books or courses, people interested in a topic are going to get as much information as they can on that topic.
The same holds true for voracious readers. Romance is the best-selling fiction genre on the planet. It also has some of the most prolific writers writing today. One writer can’t possibly write enough books to satisfy every reader that likes their stuff. Indie authors don’t compete with one another. We simply provide more content for our mutual audience.
Joint Venture Opportunities
When thinking about partnering with someone in your ideological sphere, only partner with people who harmonize with your values and believes. The relationship you have with your audience is the most valuable relationship in your business. You don’t want to introduce your audience to someone who’s going to treat them poorly.
One of the easiest ways to manage a joint venture situation where one person wants to get a commission for referring people to another product is to have the affiliate payment be taken care of by a third-party vendor such as Clickbank.
When a third-party vendor takes care of payment it makes the whole process run smoothly and both partners are confident in the fairness of the transactions taking place.
It’s really important when you do joint venture partnerships that you care about the audience that’s being sent to you. Tom has taken part in several joint venture offerings where he has promoted a product and then there were problems with the product being delivered to the people he sent to the product page.
Understand that customers are just people. Care about your customers like they’re people you want to have a relationship with.
You can see Tom’s Clickbank affiliate program for Bestseller Ranking Pro.
Dave’s Top 3 Platform Building Strategies
- Meetup.com – for quickly connecting with a larger audience.
- Udemy.com – for building an audience of course takers.
- Event jacking – you can do this using Meetup.com. What you do is organize an event around a conference that you’re already going to.
Say you’re going to SXSW in Austin Texas. Every year there are literally dozens of events before and after the actual festival itself. If you want to build an audience quickly you can organize an event using Meetup.com that will take place either just before or just after the main event itself.
You can also use Facebook ads to advertise your event to all the people going to the main event. That will help you sell tickets to your event.
How Tom Manages His Day
Tom doesn’t have a strict schedule every day. There are daily habits that Tom has developed but he doesn’t schedule them.
He goes for a walk every day and he makes sure to create something every day. If you create something of value every day, eventually your audience will find you and you’ll have more than enough money to handle your needs.
The best way to ensure success is to do something productive every day. If you set aside time every day to work towards completing a project, eventually you will complete that project.
Writers who say it took them more than a year to write their book probably didn’t work at writing their book every day.
The Benefits of Being an Author
Tom finds he learns much more from writing a book or teaching a course on a subject than he does when he simply reads a book on the subject.
Teaching a subject accelerates learning on that subject and also helps you learn in a more deep and meaningful way than if you just learn from another teacher.
Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing
People often ask Tom which is better, traditional publishing or self-publishing? It’s important to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone.
Tom doesn’t want to use traditional publishing to publish a book. Under traditional publishing, even if everything lines up perfectly it will take at least 2 years from the time you submit your manuscript to the time your book is published.
A traditional publisher isn’t going to spend much money promoting a first-time author. And if your book that doesn’t sell as much is expected you won’t be able to get another book sold to a traditional publisher using that author name.
This is all true because traditional publishers run on an old and expensive business model. Also their segment of the book market is shrinking.
Another thing to consider is the Internet gives everyone the ability to gather an audience. You don’t have to go through traditional media sources anymore. You can spread your message directly to readers.
As a self published author you can directly affect the number of people who see your book on Amazon by making a few simple tweaks to your books. If you publish your book through a traditional publisher, they have the power over how your book appears on Amazon and they can prevent you from making those tweaks.
Self-publishing also allows you to publish the book you want to. You don’t have to try and make the book fit any cookie-cutter genre.
Mass Media vs. Micro Media
50 years ago the world ran on mass media outlets. In order to have a large audience you had to get on TV, and the radio and in the and major newspapers. You needed to be traditionally published in order to get the attention of the larger audience.
Today the world runs on micro media. Anyone who wants to can start a blog, a Facebook business page, a YouTube channel and a twitter account for their business.
Today you can build a multimillion dollar brand in record time if you do the right things with online marketing.
Today there’s so much potential to control your own financial and personal destiny by using the tools the Internet provides you.
David’s Key to Success on Amazon
“Publish fast. You can always fix it later.” – David Favor
With e-books it’s easy to upload a new edition of your book. Don’t be afraid to publish a book that’s less than perfect. No book you publish is ever going to be truly perfect.
Publish your book as soon as you have a minimum viable product and make profits as you revise and update your book.
Remember a bad review isn’t the end of the world, it’s just feedback. There’s a difference between a bad product and a product that just needs improvement.
It’s all about intent. If you intended to publish a crappy book quickly just to get some quick money, then that’s a bad product.
If you wrote the best book you could at the time and readers point out that something is missing in the book or you have typos, that just means you had a product that needed improvement.
“If you have the mindset that you’re constantly going to them for your product, it doesn’t matter how bad the product is when you launch it what matters is where you take it.” – Tom Corson Knowles
Don’t believe the making money online experts who tell you a complex process is required to make money online. David’s most profitable online business doesn’t even have a website.
All of the referrals for that business come from long Skype conversations and word-of-mouth. He helps people build and maintain fast WordPress sites.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
Rich Dad Poor Dad By Robert Kiyosaki
http://radiopublicity.com/ – Alex Carroll’s website on how to get radio publicity
ebookpublishingschool.com – Tom’s free course on how to format, publish, and market your e-books so that you can be successful publishing your books on Amazon.
David Favor is a technology genius, bestselling author, and successful entrepreneur. You can learn more about David at davidfavor.com
Get David’s book Beautiful Business Codex on Amazon.
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