Kevin: Thanks for tuning in to Eight Questions. This is Kevin Tumlinson. You may know me online as the Wordslinger if you happen to listen to my podcast, but I’m glad to be a guest host on this show.
Today I’m talking with Jonny Andrews, who’s the founder of Author Platform Rocket. And he helps authors do the one thing that they fear and dread most, which is actually market their work. For years he’s helped Supernatural Romance authors make more inroads and build bigger mailing lists, and now he’s bringing his expertise to other genres, which I’m extremely grateful for, Jonny.
(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the 8 Questions Podcast)
I’ve got to tell you this has been a big need for me. Now, did I miss anything in your intro or did I goof anything up?
Jonny: No, man, I think you totally nailed it better than I would, because that was pithy, succinct and to the point. I think it’s golden.
Kevin: All right. So, real quick, and before we get into the actual questions, just can you give me a brief summary for our listeners of what Author Platform Rocket actually does?
Jonny: Yes, totally, man. If you’ve been authoring for any length of time and the biggest problem that authors have is how the heck do we sell more books.
The biggest issue with that is that all these people are out there author hustle, trying to go and promote these things, but they’re doing it in the wrong way and the wrong place.
Essentially what they need to be focused on are two things.
The first is writing more books — that I cannot help you with.
And the second part, which is just as vital, is growing your mailing list and building a group of people who are instantaneously contactable when you have new stuff that you want to get out there.
And that’s what Author Platform Rocket does.
We go out there and we use paid Facebook traffic to build your mailing list for you. We do it every single day, all the time.
Right now we’re working with just over 440 authors from obviously paranormal romance, but we also have every line of contemporary romance, the non-romance like paranormals, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian.
And we’re also opening up just a little bit here, action/adventure, mystery, thrillers, all those kinds of things. So, we’re definitely expanding.
So, that’s what it does.
Kevin: I did accidentally say supernatural romance instead of paranormal romance.
Jonny: You know I think it’s all good because it really comes to my personal definition of that genre, is things that go hump in the night. I’m pretty sure both of those nail it.
Kevin: Okay, we got it. Let’s get into the eight questions because there’s some of these that I’m actually kind of anxious to hear your answers.
Jonny: This will be interesting.
Kevin: The first one here is why do you think marketing is so difficult for authors?
Jonny: Marketing is so difficult for authors because it requires a different kind of mindset.
You have to have almost two people living in your skull to be able to do this effectively, because the artistic end of things is very much a self expression. It’s storytelling.
And while storytelling does play a lot of roles in marketing, there’s also an epic volume of scientific kind of testing that goes on with that.
And not always do these two things make good bedfellows.
I think the other part of it is there’s a fundamental shift that has happened in the marketplace and most authors are coming at marketing from what they know.
People usually take action based on their experience, and most people’s experience with marketing is horrific.
It’s like going to a car lot. Most people have experience trying to buy a car, and everyone has the picture in their head of like the smarmy used car salesman. That’s absolutely true.
But the problem with that is that’s bad marketing.
You only know marketing when it’s happening to you if it’s crappy, and it’s going to give you a bad experience.
That’s what’s happened. Authors have been aware of crappy marketing since they were probably little kids, and they’re like oh, I have to do this crap?
That’s why when you see all these authors on Twitter and Facebook doing it and it’s just so annoying and so spammy, it’s because that’s all they know. And that’s all that they think they need to be doing.
Whereas good marketing is a completely different ball park that requires a totally different set of skill sets. It actually takes a long time to learn to do right. I think that’s part of it.
It’s the mindset, it’s the experience, and it’s also having maybe the wrong education.
The other part of it is a lot of folks willingly go into these things like okay, I’m going to put some money towards advertising. And they’ll throw in $5.00 into, let’s say, Facebook ads.
Their expectation is that if you take $5.00 and put it in Facebook, you’re going to hit the New York Times. It’s going to blow you up. There’s going to be like shoving a rocket up your tuchas and firing you into the stratosphere.
What really happens is pretty much nothing.
Then you get the impression of oh, Facebook ads didn’t work for me.
Of course they didn’t, you didn’t do it right. You didn’t take enough time.
There’s a ton of facets to the marketing game, even if you’re not doing paid ads, even if you’re doing free stuff. There is a specific scientific way you can go about doing things that will typically get you a better result than what you’re probably currently doing.
So, it just takes a while to get there. It’s persistence and consistence applied over time, consistently.
That’s all it is.
Then all of a sudden you crack it open and boom, there it is.
All of a sudden it’s working now and once you learn that, you learn those processes and you learn the psychology behind it, you can usually get to a real happy place a lot faster.
But it takes times, effort, energy and money to get there.
Kevin: You make it all sound like it’s just stupid easy and we’re just all big baby whiners for not.
Jonny: Oh, not at all. It’s a megalithic pain in the tuchas.
Think about this, learning to write, that’s hard. On the opposite spectrum of that, learning to market your stuff effectively, learning to identify your audience, where your readers are, that’s just as hard. It’s just hard in a different kind of way.
A lot of people, when they’re writing the books and overseeing the cover design, and all this other stuff, because there’s a lot of do-it-yourselfers, then they’re like ah, I have to market now? Crap. I just write books.
Ultimately you only have so much energy and time in a day.
Where do you put your energy during that time? A lot of authors opt out of the marketing thing because it’s exhausting.
Kevin: Right, it’s a different muscle.
Jonny: It’s exhausting to suck at it. It really is, and I say that with the utmost respect because I used to be there. Many, many moons ago, over a decade ago when I first got started, I was horrific at this stuff
But I dedicated myself to it, and I learned how to do it. You get better as you do more of it.
Do more of it, learn from your mistakes, and keep going.
Kevin: And hire Jonny to do it for you.
Jonny: Or you could do that. That works too.
Kevin: So, who is the target market for Author Platform Rocket and what prompted you to pick that market?
Jonny: The target market for Author Platform Rocket is fiction authors.
I could give you the demographics. The absolute ideal are going to be either male or female, I typically target above the age of 25 all the way to 64, because once after you get past that you tend to lose traction where people don’t really believe in social media at that point.
Also it’s for authors who already have at least, at the very zygote level, one book out there. Whether you’re traditionally published or – we work with tons of traditionally published authors, but obviously more so we work with self-published authors.
From a psychological standpoint you have to be at a point where you understand that marketing has got to happen.
You have to build your email list and platform.
I spend a lot of time on the webinar where I teach this stuff talking about this to move people from where they are to where they need to be psychologically.
What I try to do is bypass that 3-6 year gut punch that happens with a lot of people where if they think they can keep doing what they’re doing and get a better result, it doesn’t work.
It’s like okay, here’s what it is, here’s why it doesn’t work.
Cognitively I want people who are on the cusp of either understanding that or already understanding that.
We’re working with authors who are currently spending money on advertising, because it might not even be working. That’s fine.
But we want people who understand that they’ve got to spend money on building their business in order to sell their product. And their product is books. Their business is getting human attention.
Jonny: So, once you understand the fundamental shift there, and that’s the other thing that we’re teaching in the webinar, is how to shift your focus from just focusing on trying to sell product, to building a business so that you have this group of people who are interested in what you have to say.
Then when you send them something, they say ah, absolutely, I totally want to buy that. And then they do.
So that’s really the kind of people I’m looking for. 25 and up, they spend more money, they have the ability to buy things, and psychologically you can’t really target that, but you can speak to people and they self-select from that point forward.
So hopefully, did that answer your question?
Kevin: Yes, I think so. Plus people that age are closer to death so they want to hurry and get their books actually written.
Jonny: Right. Anyone over the age of 25 is clearly closer to their death than they were at 18.
Kevin: All right. So, what’s the biggest challenge that these authors face beyond building a mailing list?
Jonny: Well, it comes down to one key factor, and that’s discoverability.
Right now we work in various capacities with over 3,500 authors now. I asked over the past few days what is your biggest question, what is your biggest problem?
The one that came back that I felt really just absolutely encapsulated everything, the core question being asked was there are so many people doing this now, in all these different genres.
How is a person supposed to cut through all of that noise and get discovered?
That discoverability can apply to getting an agent, to getting a publisher, or if you’re self-publishing a book, getting it out there for readers to find. It’s ultimately the same equation, regardless of who you’re trying to get.
That’s the biggest problem right now, is cutting through the noise effectively.
The reason it’s not working is because the marketing is being done wrong. It’s just absolutely completely back-asswards from what it should be.
Kevin: Right. So let’s move a little away from this part of the conversation because we’ve been talking about Author Platform Rocket and how it helps authors. But now let’s dig in on you a little, all right?
Jonny: You want to know about me? What? No, that’s crazy.
Kevin: There you go, because I’ve known you for a couple of years now and you're brilliant, by the way.
Jonny: Thank you, you’re a sweetheart.
Kevin: Yes, when it comes to this marketing stuff, dude, seriously I’ve done this for a long time for other clients and I can answer their needs easily enough, and it usually comes down to better copy, right.
You know the science of all of this at a level that kind of scares me sometimes. Let’s look at you a little. So, what does your typical work day look like?
Jonny: My typical work day. I get up sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. and I go lift heavy objects with large people in the gym. That’s because I need to get my body moving so I can get the blood flowing.
Typically by about the point where I’ve exhausted whatever body part I’m beating into submission, I then jump on a treadmill and start getting the cardio, because that’s where the inspiration starts coming. It gets the blood flowing.
It’s similar to taking a long shower I guess, except I’m taking a shower in my own sweat.
Jonny: Yes, so I get up, I have a little bit to eat, go to the gym, do that kind of thing.
I’ll come home and absolutely crank for about an hour, because I’m usually back before the rest of the house has woken up.
I’ll get cranking on overseeing various ad campaigns and things like that. So, my assistant will go in and if there’s something that she can’t handle, she’s going to flag it for me and be like I have no idea. So, I’m like okay, cool.
I’ll get in there and make some executive decisions as to what needs to happen here, there and the other place.
I also take care of a lot of the customer service for stuff. So I’ll begin that and then typically by the point where I’m sort of segueing into answering emails and that kind of thing, we will then be inundated with the youth. We must feed the creatures.
I then cook for the family, get everybody going. Make sure the wife is – because my wife also works from home and so get her cranking on what she needs to do. Make sure everybody’s fed and watered and running around without hurting each other.
Then get right back into it.
That lasts for a few more hours and then we take the kids to school, come back, probably maybe hit the grocery store if we’re going to create a fairly ridiculous meal. And honestly, the rest of the day I spend bouncing between cooking – I actually work out of my kitchen, on a laptop.
This whole time I’m usually on Skype or the phone. I’ve six people who are part of this organization that I could not breathe without their assistance.
I’m usually in some form of direct communication with them and they are in some form of direct communication with many of the authors that we work with.
It’s literally actually refining ads, launching ads, looking at the metrics, looking at the data, running ads with different networks. Seeing what works and where.
So I have tons of tests going all the time, just on our in-house stuff because I typically don’t subject clients to that kind of foolery.
Just looking for where’s the next big spike going to come and can we replicate it for other people.
I’ll pretty much crank until the kids get home from school, at which point I’ll hang out with the children and periodically jump in there. And then after they go to bed do a bunch more. Go to sleep, wake up, do it again.
Kevin: That’s a hell of a day, man!
Jonny: It’s kind of intense but I like doing it. It keeps me sharp and focused. It keeps me dedicated to doing what I’m doing.
Kevin: What are some of the tools that you use for managing all that, like software and that sort of thing?
Jonny: We’re actually having a bunch of software developed right now because when we launched this thing it was a very hands on process. And that’s why we have six people building these things simultaneously.
We have editors, people that oversee the various things and people that handle a lot of the customer service.
It’s kind of on and on and on, full of stuff, but we’re developing software right now that’s going to take a lot of the manual labor out of that, so we can focus on what we’re best at.
So if there’s some sort of alert that we need to be aware of, we’re going to see okay, the software pulled the data, it looks like these three people, they’re a little bit low this week, so we’re going to have to get in there and make sure that we make adjustments.
So we get an early warning.
So we’re building basically like an accountability software on our end, so we’re better able to monitor how many subscribers we’re giving authors, based on what their advertising spend is.
And if for some reason, like right now we’re coming up to a holiday, everything spikes. There’s just nothing anybody can do about that. Welcome to the game.
Because we’re bidding against – I don’t want to date myself, but we’re bidding against Mother’s Day at this point. That’s an expensive prospect. Every day this week is going to be like oh, okay. It’s okay.
We do what we can, but it is what it is. And then after that happens and everything falls back down and everything’s cool again.
But yes, that’s what we’re doing. We’re building software that handles that.
We don’t use a ton of proprietary systems. Or I don’t buy or subscribe to a ton of that stuff just because I have previously.
I work better naked, I guess you could say.
Kevin: Me too, man.
Jonny: Absolutely, just naked to the world. I don’t mean to disappoint but even the stuff we’re developing right now is very Spartan.
It handles very rudimentary tasks that need to be taken care of so we don’t have to scurry to handle the needs of these authors.
Kevin: All right. So what do you consider your best daily habit?
Jonny: Wow, that’s a really good one.
Kevin: I stole it so…
Jonny: That’s good, that’s good. I would say physical exercise is my best daily habit.
I used to weight close to 300 pounds and be a Type-2 Diabetic. I just lost another 7 pounds so I’m down to 215 at this point and I can definitely say that it’s like 17% body fat.
There’s nothing worse, and nobody really tells you this until you get it. I like to say well, oh, yes, a lot of these bad decisions in the 21 years of sloth and apathy.
That’s not exactly true. I really focus on personal health right now because if I backslide, it affects everything. It affects my relationship with my wife and my kids. It affects my ability to do work. It affects my ability to be on top of it, cognitively.
I’m off the medication, all that sort of stuff. The beer belly’s gone and all that stuff is back to where it needs to be. Blood sugar is super ninja. We’re good. But it’s all because I don’t eat like an idiot anymore and I absolutely work my butt off in the gym.
Kevin: I need to take a page out of your book.
Jonny: Just do sit ups and run. Just run for yourself. That’s what it comes down to.
Kevin: I’m going to run while doing sit ups. That’s going to be my approach to getting healthy. Run while doing sit ups.
Jonny: I need to see that on video because that would be the greatest film ever.
Kevin: All right. So where do you turn for inspiration and new ideas?
Jonny: Where do I turn for inspiration and new ideas. I don’t know, man. It’s kind of like they come from everywhere.
It’s going to be like the smallest thing.
I put out a product a bunch of years ago that taught publishing back when it was like only Amazon Kindle, that was the big rage kind of thing. That was the product and then the subsequent people I worked with afterwards landed me on that Pat Flynn podcast because of what we did there.
But the inspiration literally came from a random forum thread I saw. I was like oh, my God, that’s so crazy, that this one thing turned into this product that ended up selling, I want to say close to a million dollars worth of units over the course of a two and a half year period.
I mean literally, six words in a forum thread. And I was like dude, that’s it, let’s go. It kind of like just hit my head like pouring gasoline on a fire.
I remember my wife bringing me a sandwich while I was working on the zygote of the product and she’s like what are you doing, and I’m like shh, I just need to do this.
I was literally writing a book and making videos and cranking it out and getting ready to sell it.
But now, inspiration comes like it burbles up from the back of my head typically if I’m in the middle of some super intense cardio thing, or if I’m taking a shower, or out walking, or even talking to people.
It just happens.
Kevin: Is that the backstory for Author Platform Rocket too? How did that come about?
Jonny: Author Platform Rocket came about because – you’re kind of part of that too because you remember that story.
Jonny: Yes, I’m sitting in the parking lot talking to your for like literally three hours one day. My wife is blowing up my phone with texts going where are you. I haven’t even gone into the Costco yet.
And you were just telling me, wow, man, I think people really need this. I’m just like no, no, no.
You want to talk about heroes journey, refusal of the call, that would be it right there. That’s one of those things.
It’s been years and years and years coming, because people kept asking and asking and asking. Finally I was just like all right, I need to shift my thinking away from why not do this to how can I possibly develop the logistics for doing it.
To say that that product was sort of the catalyst for that, no, not so much.
What was more was just having a lot of people asking for the same thing and seeing that need in the marketplace, and realizing that I have such a love for fiction and for authors that I kind of was the right guy to do it.
I try to keep stuff as clean and above board as humanly possible. I think that so many authors have been given the runaround by so many people that I was like, you know what, I might actually be okay with this.
I’ll just figure out how to build a team and build the software and build the thing that does it. So, I started putting this stuff together and I have this massive dry erase board that I have painted on my wall. It’s all black.
I started diagramming what it was one day and called up Arial Burns who I had do the P&R Radio Podcast, because I needed someone who is way more – how can I explain this. She’s an extremely intelligent person who’s very hard working but she has that logistic mindset.
I’m nuts. I can go any direction all the time.
I need someone who can just walk in lock step with a strategic process and diagram standard operating procedures, and just be that person that I’m not.
That was her. That was the first and only call I made. She’s crazy good at this stuff.
So, we had a conversation. She’s like all right, fine.
I changed her title from Office Manager to Uber Overlord. So, if you’re emailing us, you see that in the signature.
Kevin: I think I have actually seen that. So how do you determine what to work on next?
Jonny: That’s a tough one. I say no to more things now than I say yes to because one thing I’ve learned very intimately is that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Not to sound like my grandmother or anything.
Kevin: No, no.
Jonny: But when I was a younger man, like in my late 20s…
Kevin: Five minutes ago.
Jonny: Yes, five minutes ago. When I was first getting into this stuff, everything looked awesome. Like I can build a business around this, I can build a business around this, or I can go here and I can do this.
And it was all awesome and I did all of it, then I was exhausted and burned out.
When I focus on what to do next, the primary question I ask myself is does it further the current objective that’s working?
It’s like does this work, and I’ll do tests. And if I need to find a direction, I’ll test multiple directions to see which one has the best response before I go down that path.
It’s very much a product of saying no, and to relate this to maybe authors, if you’re asking yourself well, should I write in six different genres? The answer is no. You shouldn’t. Not if you want to be commercially successfully sooner.
You want to go one genre, get it going, maybe then start another one years down the road or something, after you’ve really hard core established yourself in one place.
It’s one of those things that even The Sean and The Johnny and The Dave all talk about. Genre hopping is the slow kiss of death for a lot of people because they don’t get traction in any one place.
Kevin: Right. It’s not that it’s wrong to do it, it’s that it’s going to take you longer that way.
Jonny: Exactly. If you think about this, in reality, this was a huge, huge issue that I very much had to look at. Any time I built a new book discovery eco-system.
So, there’s all the vampire novels for the paranormal romance, we have romance devoured if you like romance novels. Rate of Reads for the cool stuff that you do, then we’re going to build another one and I don’t even have a name for it yet.
But every time we do that, and this is almost an identical reality for authors in every genre you pick, it’s going to take a bunch of months and a bunch of money to get that to where it needs to be.
So if you’re running in twelve different directions, and let’s be generous and say it only takes $10,000 to build something like this effectively, if you’re in two genres, now you’re in $20,000, if you’re in three, you’re in $30,000.
So there’s a legitimate dollar figure that’s associated with genre hopping. I think $10,000 is pretty right on for a year’s worth of ad span, if you want to market your books effectively. And you need multiple books.
So how many hours do you have? How much money can you spend on the editing, on the covers, on the marketing, on all that kind of stuff? And can you make that back?
Can you put out four to six books over the next eighteen months and have them all be where they need to be? In every genre.
I honestly am not convinced that Sean, Johnny and Dave are still human. I think they replaced their brains. They have robot parts, because those guys are machines that crank.
That’s not normal human behavior. They have special powers.
Kevin: You left the Summit early so you didn’t get to see the big reveal when Dave lifted his face off and there was like this Terminator face underneath. Final question and we’ll wrap up. What’s your endgame — where do you want to see Author Platform Rocket in let’s say three years?
Jonny: In three years. I can give you the end of the first year endgame.
Jonny: Because the end of the first year determines how we move forward in the second year. Because what we’re doing here is something no one’s ever done before for a group of people no one’s ever serviced like this.
The goal is to work with – it’s funny because on your show I was like when you have 2,500 authors, that was not correct. We’re going to take out 1,000 authors, we’re at 440 now. We’ve been open to the public for about three months or something like that.
Kevin: That sounds about right.
Jonny: Yes, it’s about it. So it’s growing rapidly, which is awesome. The retention we have is phenomenal, but what we need to do is, we get to 1,000 authors then we have to close it up a little bit, work on making these guys the happiest human beings that have ever seen the planet.
Then we have to decide okay, are we going to open it up to a 1,000 more, or are we going to modify, or are we going to go forward?
But ultimately my goal is to be working with, over the next couple of years, to be able to, in a very real way, impact the careers positively of about 5,000 authors over that length of time.
It starts with this first group of 1,000.
That’s where we are, that’s how we’re going to figure out what to do moving forward, because you’re going to hit road blocks. In every business you hit road blocks, and you have to say how do we either go around, under or through this thing while still delivering amazing results to people?
That’s always going to be the thing. Whatever action we take, it has got to benefit the authors because the reality is, if it doesn’t we’re not going to be in business in 15 minutes.
It’s a ridiculous thing to even consider. Oh, what makes us money? No. Seriously, it is laughable to think like that.
It has to be how can I provide the absolute maximum impact of life transforming value to people in an environment that makes sense for a price the majority of people could actually afford, and how can I run a successful business doing that for them.
That’s where I see myself, is answering that question a lot. I can’t right now.
Kevin: Maybe I should have just said one year, but I think you did it.
Jonny: No, that’s fine.
Kevin: All right. So, where can – well, we kind of announced this a few hundred times but from your own lips, where can people find more about you and Author Platform Rocket?
Jonny: Well, you can check it out every week I try to do a live training webinar. The cool thing about it is yes, I’m obviously going to show you the service at the end of it.
If you want to pick it up that’s super cool, and I’d love you to, but in the meantime, and there are people who do this.
They come on, they watch this thing, they ask questions at the end and then they implement. There are a ton of people who are doing that. I really try to not only get your head screwed on correctly for what you can do, but also show you how we’re doing it.
So, I actually take you into our pages and pull up some random author and go here’s how I’d research this, here’s how and watch this, here’s how we’d start testing this, and here are the elements that I would look for as I move forward.
I break the whole frickin thing down.
Most people who watch the training consider it to be – not to rattle off a group of testimonials, but I’ve had literally had multiple writers write in after seeing it and going I understand more in two hours watching what you teach than I have in the past two, three, four, five years of doing this on my own.
Kevin: Yes, it’s very informative. I’ll attest to that. But the short answer, by the way, was authorplatformrocket.com
Jonny: I’m incapable of giving short answers. I broke the Internet.
Kevin: No, you’re all good, man. All right. We’re going to wrap up and let you get back to your regular scheduled life. To everyone out there, please go visit Jonny at authorplatformrocket.com. You can find the webinars there and learn all about this process and how he can help you. You might be one of the lucky 1,000 for this first year.
And if you’d like to learn a little more about me and my work, you can do that at kevintumlinson.com and you can find all things Wordslinger.
Thanks for tuning in to 8 Questions. Jonny, thank you for being on, man. We’ll be talking again soon, I know.
Jonny: Thanks for having me on. It was a pleasure.
Kevin: Take care every one.