Indie Author Platform with Tom Corson-Knowles

Indie Publishing Austin met for the second time this past Sunday. Once again it was a room exploding with enthusiasm and ideas. I always leave feeling completely overcharged and immensely satisfied at the same time.

The topic was “Author Platform—What is it and why do you need one?” and we were joined by special guest Tom Corson-Knowles, the best-selling author of The Kindle Publishing Bible and host of The Publishing Profits Podcast.

Finally, here are my notes from the event:

Indie Publishing Austin
Minutes for Meetup #2: Indie Author Platform
Special guest: Tom Corson-Knowles

Tom’s intro

Wrote his first book at 19. After three years of searching for an agent he gave up the dream of publishing, started a business, moved on. Then, about 4 yrs ago he discovered self publishing on kindle, but was so embarrassed he didn’t tell anyone when he finally did publish his first book — a month later he checked back and had 14 sales. He knew immediately if he focused on it like a business, he could make it work. That year he finished the rest of his manuscripts and hit his first $12k in sales month.

Other places to find Tom: — A podcast about indie publishing and selling books. — Tom’s publishing company. Currently accepting new authors, if interested reference submission guidelines here.

Notes from Group Discussion

Includes questions & responses.

The chat was focused on author platform for fiction authors, but much of this is applicable to all authors. There’s tons of info online about nonfiction (that he has written), but for fiction, here we go:

Definition of Author Platform: the methods, tools, strategies, resources you use to connect with your readers so that they buy your book.

Finding an Agent
When you talk to an agent, they want you to have an author platform. They want hard numbers. How many Facebook followers, twitter followers, mailing list subscribers, sales.

Fiction and nonfiction author platforms are very different. Nonfiction writers might have clients and speak at conferences. But if you write urban fantasy, you might not speak at many conferences. So how do you actually go out there and build a platform?

What I’ve seen that works best is:
1. Write great books
2. Write lots of books. As many as possible!

Tom’s Broad read of the market:

  • Trade market for books is about 80 billion/year.
  • In next five years, there will be 10 billion dollar decrease in physical sales, and corresponding increase in digital sales.
  • There’s a huge shift toward ebook sales
  • Digital audiobooks are growing really fast as well ( is really powerful for digital audiobooks. You can find narrators there to pay flat fee or do profit share, royalty split 50/50 for example).

Tom’s 7 ways to build author platform

  1. Radio
  2. TV
  3. Social media (Facebook, twitter, pinterest, forums—50 shades of Grey, her entire platform was built on reader forums)
  4. Video
  5. Podcasting
  6. Blogging
  7. Public speaking

Who is your audience?
How do you connect with that audience?

Example: Cozy mysteries. Audience: female, 55+, all over the country. Where are they hanging out? Cozy mystery reviewers; Goodreads section for cozies. Possibly knitting conferences, anywhere ladies over 50 gather.

A lot of time people think, “I need to have a million fans.” But what you really need is a small group of enthusiastic ambassadors.

Don’t let your stuff sit in a drawer: “I look at books as real estate. If you have a manuscript that’s not published, you’re losing money.” — Tom (paraphrased)

(Sidenote on Kickstarter: connecting your kickstarter to your Facebook account shows you’re a real person, and increases your chances of a successful campaign by 20%.)

Strategy: connecting with influencers. If you can find people within your industry who already have a big audience, that can be a great way to get sales fast. You can guest blog at one of these other people’s platforms, or network with them—find a way to add value. can show you ranking for website. Look for 300,000 or less, which would be a high traffic website. Connect with them on a personal level. Don’t be spammy.

Your goal should be to add value and give back to people. And this good karma will come back to you in the form of fans, sales, ideas, chances, opportunities, offers, etc.

Q: Do you find that the old saying that people need to see something 7 times before they buy it is still true?
A: Amazon is such a trusted retailer, people will buy from them based on good reviews if they like the look of it. Some readers are picky, but many are looking for new things.

Strategy: find other authors in your genre/niche, and work with them as collaborators. Create box sets, put together collections, promote each other’s work.

(Sidenote: You don’t need an ISBN on ebooks, and in fact getting on when you’re not selling a lot, you don’t want one. ISBN’s gather data on book sales, so if you’re not selling, keeping that information close might be to your benefit while you’re growing your platform.)

Q: What order do you create your platform? Website, then twitter account? How do you put it all together?

For a new author, get it done as fast as you can, however you can. Go out and make a mess and you can clean it up later. Be there and do it, otherwise it’s going to linger on your todo list. You can come up with a strategy and commit to it later.

In terms of where to spend your time and how you do it?

  1. Self publish as fast as you can.
  2. Get your second book out as fast as you can.
  3. Now you can start thinking about marketing.

Interesting point for fiction authors to note. USE YOUR OWN NAME (or pen name) for your platform, unless you have a specific reason to use a different brand.

For social media and productivity in general, 15 minutes a day is the magic number. 15 minutes a day I will: write, tweet, post on Facebook, edit, etc. Then at least you do it once a day. Build up from there.

As an author, focus on ADDING VALUE and CREATING NEW THINGS.

ADDING VALUE means valuable to OTHER PEOPLE (i.e. your readers, your audience, your customers).

Don’t just shout into an empty room.

Listen to your audience, and give them what they want.

If you don’t have an audience, PUBLISH YOUR BOOK. Your audience will grow that way. Then you can write another one 🙂

Strategy: 70% of people say they want to start a business…. 70% of people say they want to write a book. So if you SHARE YOUR PROCESS, people care about that. Share how you came up with the idea for your book. Share how you hired an editor and they ripped you off. Share the different book cover options you’re considering.

Create systems. When the same question from your readers keeps coming up over and over again, create a list of good responses you can reuse. More importantly, address the question in a book.

Q: How did you (Tom Corson-Knowles) publish 12 books in a year? (50-100 pg nonfiction ebooks).

  • Every manuscript was half done or more when the year started.
  • Get up and write in the morning for an hour or two, take a break, go do marketing for the books
  • Lunch, go back to writing
  • 8 hours a day, every day.
  • All my first book covers were from (You can always change them!!)
  • Emailing editors, cover designers, coordinating the production process.
  • Likes to outsource everything except writing and editing and marketing.
  • (Sidetone: Rule of 3 for hiring contractors: Find 3 different contractors, and ask for 3 references from each. That way you can be sure of who you’re hiring.)

Q: Should I link directly to Amazon when marketing a book, or to a landing page that lists new services?

A: I’m going into more detail after the meetup because this was a complex question. Tom’s response: Amazon is 70% of the ebook market. You definitely want to push people primarily towards that channel, if you have to pick single place. However, you might also want to send your readers to a landing page for a specific book or series from (for example) the back matter in your book. In that case, you might PREFER to have a custom landing page that gives the reader the *option* to buy from whatever retailer the book is available on. One caveat: though conversion rates vary (widely!), a good standard for estimation purposes is that your conversion rate drops 50% for each additional click the reader has to perform to buy your book. If you send them to amazon, they can buy in a single click. If you send them to a landing page, it’ll take at least 2 clicks, so you’ll sell less books through that link… Personal opinion: send the back matter readers to a nice landing page. It gives them a better experience, and it gives them CHOICE. Your readers will love you for it. — a service to create landing pages for your books, so that you can link to all the retailer options. Not cheap.

Q: Pricing

Sweet spot in terms of pricing? Sweet spot for fiction novels is 99 cents to 3.99 (currently). If you go above that price it will be hard to get traction.

First book free model totally works still as well.

(Brainstorming future discussions)

This is the article about the goodreads troll I mentioned:

‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic

› Amazon buy links are part of the Amazon Associates referral program. Thanks for your support!

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