Look out, Stephen King. A new generation of Horror authors are using the power of self-publishing to climb the ranks, get new fans, and push the envelope in the genre.
J. Thorn is an up-and-coming Horror author who knows how to write great books … and build an audience and income stream with them.
In this episode we discuss:
- How he went from selling 2 books a day to 200 books a day
- How to build a powerful fan-base and turn them into readers through creative content marketing
- The biggest mistakes he made when writing and launching his first book
- What readers really want and how to give it to them
- How much work is involved in becoming an authorpreneur
Listen to Authorpreneur below ...
The Show Notes
- J. Thorn’s Author Site
- J’s Amazon Author Page
- Dark Arts Theater
- Author Marketing Institute
- Author Marketing Club
The ‘Horror’ of Making a Living from Selling eBooks
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Jim Kukral: I’m not a horror guy. I like the classic movies and stuff: Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, stuff like that. In general, I’m not a guy that gravitates to the horror genre. However, if you look at the statistics of readers and what they’re reading today, horror is right there in the top list of genres people read. My guest today is J. Thorn, a sometimes top-five-ranked horror author. Welcome, J.
J. Thorn: Hey, how you doing, Jim? Thanks for having me.
Jim Kukral: It’s great to have you here. For the people listening, here’s a couple names for you all. You might recognize these two, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. J.’s books may not outsell those books, but his consistently show up right after them on them rankings on Amazon and other places. I’ve got to say, that’s pretty amazing. Congrats on that, J.
J. Thorn: Thanks, Jim.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, it’s really cool. Like I said, J. Thorn is a top-100 most popular author in horror, science fiction, action and adventure, and fantasy. He has published over 1 million words and has sold more than 130,000 copies of his books worldwide. In March of 2014, Thorn held the number-five position in horror alongside his childhood idols Dean Koontz and Stephen King, which I already mentioned. That’s pretty darn cool.
J., you’re a super authorpreneur simply for the fact that you’ve written so many words and sold so many books, but mostly because you’re self-published. You’re doing all this on your own, right?
J. Thorn: Yeah, that’s true, for better or worse. I don’t even have a virtual assistant. I keep having some of my author friends tell me that I need to do that, but I haven’t quite gotten to that point yet.
Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about the story here of how you got to the point. Just a little bit of disclaimer here, J. lives in the Cleveland area, like I do, and he’s spoken at one of my events, Author Marketing Live, before. One of the reasons I wanted to have him on is because he’s got a great story. We can’t do your whole speech here on the interview today, but I do want you to talk about the title of your speech that you did, which was, ‘From 2 Books a Day to 200 a Day.’
As somebody who wants to be an authorpreneur, that’s really where everyone starts. You’ve got one book, maybe two books, selling a day, maybe none, and then getting to the point where you’re selling a lot of books.
Let’s talk about that story from the beginning. The first thing you did was you put a book up, right? Which book was that, the first book you put up?
The Biggest Mistakes J. Thorn Made When Writing and Launching His First Book
J. Thorn: Yeah. The first book I put up, I have taken down. I’ve unpublished about a quarter of a million words because they weren’t as good as I thought they were when I put them up. I think that’s a pretty common occurrence with authors. The first book that broke out was The Seventh Seal. That broke out in March of 2012. I have to remind myself that this has only been a little over three years, which is kind of hard to believe. That book was the one that broke. That was during the ‘KDP gold rush.’ In March 2012, I think, that book was downloaded over 30,000 times.
Jim Kukral: You unpublished that book the first time, right, you said?
J. Thorn: I unpublished a different set of books. That particular book, I ended up having that professionally edited about four times since March of 2012. That’s part of the story.
Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about that story, because the first books you put up didn’t go as well as you planned, right?
J. Thorn: No, they did not. They sold one or two or three copies. I had no idea what I was doing. In all fairness to the reader, they were pretty terrible. That’s why I’ve unpublished them since.
Jim Kukral: In part of your speech, you talk about some of those reviews. We’re going to get to our little review segment soon, but let’s talk about some of those reviews of that first book, and first of all, talk about why you got those reviews, because it was the first book you put up.
J. Thorn: Yeah. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was pretty devastating. I was right on the brink of clicking the ‘delete’ button on my KDP dashboard and just throwing my cards down and walking away. It was hard. I didn’t know any better.
The Seventh Seal, I wrote, and I revised, and I proofread, and I thought, “I’m an author. I know how to write. That should be good enough.” I didn’t know any better, and I uploaded that. It wasn’t professionally edited. It wasn’t proofread. When the reviews started coming in, they were pretty brutal, and they were justified. There were grammatical errors. There were misused words. There were a lot of problems.
As I said, I had that book reedited a number of times. Really, since it’s been edited by Rebecca Dixon, who’s my go-to editor and an incredible editor, I’ve only received two 1-star reviews, and they are really about the story and not about the editing.
I feel pretty good about where it is now, but at the time, it was pretty devastating. I was getting hammered by one-star reviews.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, that’s a big mistake that most authors make — self-published — is not getting that book edited right the first time. People just hammer you over even the smallest typos, won’t they?
J. Thorn: They should. If you want your book to sit on the virtual shelf next to the New York City publishing house books, then it’s got to compete. It has to be of that quality, and it wasn’t. I think that’s a less-common mistake now, because the self-publishing route is maturing. It’s not mature, but it’s a long ways from where it was in 2011, 2012. There are not as many authors making that mistake as there were when I did it.
Jim Kukral: The self-publishing model is obviously very lucrative if you can sell enough books. For people who don’t know about the self-publishing model, we’ll talk about Amazon. If you price your book between, was it $2 or $3?
J. Thorn: $2.99.
Jim Kukral: Between $2.99 and $9.99, you get 70 percent of the revenue of a book. That adds up. When you talk about a typical self-publishing contract, the statistics and research say that you’re going to make about 17.5 percent commission on each book sold. So 17.5 versus 70 percent — it’s a pretty big difference, isn’t it?
J. Thorn: Yeah, it sure is. I’ve spoken about this a number of times. There used to be — and this is becoming a less-relevant argument too — an argument that you could either traditionally publish or self-publish. I’ve always said that that’s not true. I don’t believe you have the option. The number of people who are chosen to traditionally publish is .001 percent. It’s like saying you have a choice between working retail and hitting the lottery. That’s not really a choice.
How J. Thorn Went from Selling 2 Books a Day to 200 Books a Day
Jim Kukral: Yeah, you’re right about that. It’s a false equivalency. There is obviously an opportunity. What’s so great about self-publishing is that everybody has the opportunity. Anyone can take their stories and put them online and have a chance. To be an authorpreneur, you’ve got to do it on your own. You got to do the marketing on your own. You’ve got to build your fans and all that.
Let’s talk about how you went from this two to 200 books a day rate. There must have been something — a bunch of things — that happened between selling a couple books to selling hundreds of books.
J. Thorn: Yeah. A lot of things. I have some takeaways I’m going to share with you today. I also think it’s important to note that I’m not selling 200 books a day now. There are peaks and valleys. You may be selling two books and then 200 and then 100. I think every author who’s been in this space for more than a year or two will tell you that that’s how sales are. They fluctuate. You have to be willing to roll with that. There are things that are out of your control. In the self-publishing world right now, there’s a lot of angst over what Amazon is doing in their Kindle Unlimited program. Really, there’s nothing I can do about that.
When you say, “What can you do to improve sales?” the most important thing that you do is you write good books. That’s advice that you’ll find everywhere. Everybody says it. What I mean by ‘good books’ is not necessarily writing to fads or writing what the mainstream wants, but making sure you have a professional cover, you have a professional edit, that the story is as tight and as good as you can possibly make it. You keep doing that. That’s what it means to be an authorpreneur.
Yes, you must write, but it’s more than just sitting in a cabin in the woods and then handing off your manuscript to someone else, and you sit back and collect royalty checks. That doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen in the traditional world, either.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, I was reading through the bio on your site. You grew up in an Irish Catholic family, a working-class family. You were the first to go to college. It’s a typical family. What I really thought was interesting about all this is the Irish Catholic background, working-class family. You got a work ethic from that upbringing, didn’t you?
J. Thorn: Yeah, I sure did. I say that I am the black sheep and still the black sheep of the family, and that’s okay. The other side of that is even though I felt alienated at times and felt like I didn’t belong, I had two parents that worked really hard their entire life. They modeled for me what it meant to work hard. Every day, whether you felt like it or not, you got up, and you got your lunch pail, and you went to work. You earned a living. You weren’t entitled to anything. I think that’s the aspect that drives me as an authorpreneur.
Jim Kukral: Do you find that this dark side of you came from that upbringing? Obviously this is authentic. This love of this genre and these types of themes is authentic. Do you feel that that came from the way you were brought up? Or how did you gravitate to that?
J. Thorn: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that before. I think it’s really a double-edged sword of having a middle-class, working-class upbringing. My parents didn’t see art as a way to make a living because they were middle-, working-class people.
I always gravitated toward art, especially dark art. I don’t know where that comes from, but I’ve always loved hard rock and heavy metal and horror and fantasy. There was never an encouragement. My parents never said, “Wow, you should be a writer.” They said, “You should work hard so you can go to college.” I think there is a double-edged sword there.
Jim Kukral: It’s funny, because you’re the protagonist in your life story of the black sheep of the family, right?
J. Thorn: Yeah. One thing, I’ve been asked about my branding before. I’m like, “I don’t even think about my branding because it’s just who I am. I don’t have to develop a brand or a persona because that’s who I am.”
Jim Kukral: I guess the point I’m try to make with this line of questioning, Your Honor, is that you have to be authentic to what you’re really into. I’ve said this for years and years. If you’re not into what you’re writing about or talking about or teaching or whatever, it’s just not going to work. It’s very smart.
On top of that, once you pick what you’re into and what you like, to focus on that and just hammer it over and over and over again is really the successful path to authenticity and to building true fans and creating something truly special, right?
How to Build a Powerful Fan Base and Turn Them into Readers through Creative Content Marketing
J. Thorn: Yeah, absolutely. I have to give you credit, Jim. You were really helpful in pushing me in that direction a few years ago. I’m not ‘just’ an author. I put ‘just’ in quotes, but people always want entertainment. Whether that will always be books, I have no idea. Ten years ago, I didn’t think I would be in a band. Then I was. Five years ago, I didn’t imagine I’d be an author, and now I am. Five years from now, I don’t know what that’s going to be.
One of the things I’ve done is I created a new, what I call video magazine called Dark Arts Theater. That’s really to feature all my passions. It’s heavy metal. It’s horror. It’s fantasy. I don’t know where that’s going to lead, but you’re right. You have to find out what it is you’re really passionate about and just hammer that. I’ve moved away from creating writing courses and being the writing advice guy, because although I know some of that stuff, that’s not really my passion.
I’m going to give you credit, because you were really helpful early on in telling me to get into that space and start doing that stuff.
Jim Kukral: Thank you. I’ve always called it ‘own your digital land.’ You want to claim that space in whatever it is that you do. If you’re going to write horror, guess what — you’re going to be the best horror content creator in the history of the world.
I think the other point that people need to really realize is once you pick your genre, there are so many subgroups of people on the Internet today that are into what you’re into. It’s just a matter of finding where they are and reaching out to them. Let’s talk about that, because you mentioned Dark Arts Theater, which I think is a really cool new initiative that you’re putting together as an authorpreneur. You’re not just sitting back writing books. You’re saying, “Look. I’m going to create other content besides my books that I can put out there that’s going to attract an audience and build a true fan base for myself.” That’s what Dark Arts Theater is, right?
J. Thorn: That’s right. I think you have to. I think if you want to be an author today, especially an independent author, you have to have multiple revenue streams, except for a small handful of uber-successful Hugh Howeys, and those are rare.
Most of us are not going to be able to rely on royalties as a primary source of revenue or income. I think you need to have other areas, and you need to have other revenue streams. Books, for me, is one. That’s why when Amazon makes radical changes or when my sales fluctuate in different quarters of the year, I don’t freak out. Hopefully I have other things that are bringing me some money.
Jim Kukral: Besides Dark Arts Theater, which you’re working on now, what are some of the other ways that you are building a fan base? Obviously, I bet email marketing is a big part of what you’re trying to do.
J. Thorn: Yeah. I have to give props to both Mark Dawson and Nick Stephenson, who are geniuses when it comes to a lot of the marketing stuff that’s being done by independents right now.
I would have to say, again, Jim, you’ve been doing email list marketing for a long, long time. There was a period, probably most of 2013, when I didn’t do anything with my list. I thought, “Wow, email, that’s so old-fashioned. People don’t care about email anymore.” I think I lost some ground there.
Since then, I’ve worked really hard at building my list. I treat my list like gold, because they are. I very rarely sell to them. I give to them, because I think that the word-of-mouth and having them go out and talk about my work and what I’m doing is worth far more to me than a $.99 or $2.99 royalty on a sale. I’m constantly doing giveaways to just my list. In fact, I just finished one yesterday for a $100 Amazon gift card. That list, those are the people who are my true fans. I’m going to treat them as best as I possibly can.
Jim Kukral: I know when you reach a super, mega-level star of an A-lister, it’s impossible to really connect with your true fans. For most people like me and you, we don’t have 10,000 letters coming to us every month. How has the Internet helped you engage and create relationships with your fans?
What Readers Really Want and How to Give It to Them
J. Thorn: I think it’s given me a variety of ways. I think that’s the big difference. One of my author friends says, “I think some people just don’t want to be bothered by an author. They just want to read a good book and then move on with their life.” That’s true, but that’s just one type of reader. I think there are readers who love a good book, and they don’t care who the author is, don’t want to interact. They just want to be entertained and then move on with their day.
Then there are people who want to get updates from an author, know when something new is coming out. Those are the people on an email list. I have a small group I call ‘The Keepers,’ which is a private Facebook group. That’s for people who want to have a little more interaction, and they want to have a direct connection with the author. I have that.
I think what the Internet and social media has done is it’s given authors more tools to connect with people in different levels of engagement.
Jim Kukral: I think we’ve got to talk about The Keepers thing, because there’s two things about that that are so smart. Number one, having a private Facebook group for your fans is really smart. The Facebook groups that I run for my brands are really, really good. There’s a lot of engagement in them. It works well.
The second thing that’s really smart about that is putting a name on your fans. Calling them ‘The Keepers.’ Now, they join, and they feel like they’re part of something. It’s not really an official club or anything, but at least they feel like they’re part of your brand. I think that’s really smart.
J. Thorn: Thanks. It’s a pretty common practice. It’s not necessarily a fan club, and it’s not a street team. It’s a private group, and it’s informal, and it’s free. I have a little application form, because I want there to be a little bit of a barrier to entry. I want someone to do just a little bit of work to show me that they want to be part of this. The last thing I want is just this massive Facebook group but no engagement. I want people who are going to be engaged.
What I do is I help the people that are there — some of them are artists, and some of them are writers. A lot of them are just fans. I’ll have an early copy of a book that I’ll give to them a few months before it gets published. That’s a benefit for them, too. They get to be part of the creative process. I’ve asked for their feedback on a number of things, and I’ve even used a number of them in my books. So they show up as characters, with their permission of course.
Jim Kukral: How cool is that? That’s really cool.
All right, let’s move on to the section of the show where I embarrass you and force you to read one of your one-star reviews from one of your books. I have chosen a review from your book The Seventh Seal. I’ve got it here in the messaging thing for you. If you would read that review, if you would be so kind, and then react to it. I would love to hear it.
J. Thorn: Yeah, I’ve been listening to Authorpreneur, so I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this. So here we go.
Jim Kukral: The cat is out of the bag, so I’m not fooling anyone from now on. Everyone’s prepped for this.
J. Thorn: All right. The title of this one-star review is ‘Terrible.’ The review is, “I got through page 2 and said to myself, ‘Self, this has to be the worst writing I’ve ever experienced. I cannot believe I spent $.99 on this rip-off. I want my dollar back.’”
Jim Kukral: Oh, come on.
J. Thorn: “Worst writing I’ve ever experienced.” That’s a nice one there.
Jim Kukral: I love the prose. “I said to myself, ‘Self, this has to be the worst writing …’” It’s great. I love reading stuff like that because people try to be so creative in some of these. How do you react to that, J.? I ask everyone this question. When you read stuff like that, how do you react?
J. Thorn: I think when you first see it, it stings. I think anyone who says criticism doesn’t sting is not human. It does. I’m a person. I have feelings. I think that review was from 2012 or 2013. I think back then, it probably stung for a lot longer than it does now.
I read all of my reviews, and I cast them off within a matter of minutes, whether they’re one-star or five-star, because it’s just one person’s opinion. If there was something in there that said something like, “This guy starts every paragraph with the word ‘open,’ then I would go and take a look. But if it’s someone saying, “This story is terrible. I didn’t like it,” okay. I think that’s a really legitimate thing. I have no problem with that.
I don’t get many reviews that have ever gotten personal. But personal attacks or wrong information … like I had one review one time, a woman who wrote that she thought it was deplorable that I had detailed the killing of a puppy in a story. I’ve never done that. I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know why she posted that. I wrote to Amazon and said, “I don’t care about terrible reviews but this is not true. I don’t have any puppy killing scene in my book.” They left the review, so whatever.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, Amazon is known to do that. They don’t even mess around. They just leave it up there.
J. Thorn: Yeah, it stings, and then you get over it, and you just move on. That’s what I’ve done.
Jim Kukral: Thanks for doing that. It’s always fun to hear authors do that. I do go every six months or so and look at my bad reviews just so I can feel better about myself.
One of the things I think you did that was really cool I wanted to talk about, which I thought was really smart, when we’re talking about the marketing of your book, is you want to Comic Con. You got a table, and you put your books up and met new friends there. Talk about that experience.
J. Thorn: I think you’re getting me confused with someone else. I didn’t have a table there. I just attended as a fan.
Jim Kukral: Oh, I thought you had a table. Okay, well talk about you going. I thought you had an actual table there. Talk about you going and meeting with fans, have you picked up any new fans while you were there?
J. Thorn: No. I really didn’t. I went with my kids. My kids are 9 and 12. Not surprisingly, they’re into a lot of fantasy, Minecraft, video game, comic book type stuff. We really just went as fans, and we walked around and ooh’d and ahh’d and looked at the merchandise. I have a local author friend here who did have a table. He said, “Yeah, you’ve got to do that next year.” It’s on my list, but I wasn’t smart enough to think of that ahead of time.
Jim Kukral: I’m sorry, I thought … I guess my point is, going to where your audience is is really what it takes to be an authorpreneur these days. If you’re writing stuff about Japan or something, you want to find groups and conferences and places where people are congregating for that. The Internet and shows are a great example of where to find those fans. That’s the big thing — discovery, getting your books discovered by new potential readers.
J. Thorn: That’s true. I think that one of the best way to do that, especially on the marketing side, is through marketing collaborations. I had a big year in 2013, 2014 with box sets. They’ve become standard now on Amazon. But at the time, when those first came out, they were relatively new. I went and did all the heavy lifting and offered all these authors to both format it, organize it, keep track of royalties, distribute them, et cetera.
That single thing has really opened many, many doors for me. Like you said, it’s a discovery issue. If you have eight authors who are in a single volume, who have eight times of the promotion and marketing efforts, then you get crossover readership. I think a lot of times, too, discovery is really about not being competitive, but being collaborative.
Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about that, because you brought this up, and I forgot about it. It’s so smart what you did. Essentially, what you did was you went to eight other authors. You probably went to more at first. How many did you go to?
J. Thorn: Early on in the first — This is the End was the box set series. That first one, I probably went to 40 or 50 people.
Jim Kukral: Anyone can do this. Let’s say you’re like J. You’re writing the horror genre. He went to 40, 50 people, found their contact information, email, Facebook, whatever. He sent him a note, and the note basically said what, J.?
J. Thorn: It basically said, “I’m a fan,” which was true. Everyone’s who’s in the set, I’ve read their stuff. I went as a fan, and I said, “I love your stuff. I’m writing in the same genre, style. Wouldn’t it be cool if we put our books together in a box set and gave the reader a tremendous value? A $.99 box set with 8 novels in it.”
The key to this is, I went offering instead of asking. What I basically said to these are authors was, “I’ll do everything. All you got to do is send in your book, and I’ll take care of the rest.” I was the new guy on the block. I wasn’t going to be the sales anchor in these things. I had to offer something, so that’s how I did it.
Jim Kukral: That’s such a great point. Asking for stuff never gets you as far as offering to do stuff for people. These are other busy people. They’re all interested in marketing. Believe me, every author wants to get the word out, find new readers. This is such a smart thing for anyone that you can do. The other thing that’s interesting about it is, like you said, you were just starting. It’s not like you were established in the genre at this point. A lot of people probably just blew you off. You never heard back from them, right?
J. Thorn: Yeah, that’s totally fine. I understand that. There were a few authors who said, “I’ve been burned in box sets before, so no thank you.” I totally respect that, too. I understand too that even putting your work into a box set with other people is a risk.
I’ve never been risk-averse. It’s always something I’ve done. I’ve gotten burned many, many times. You talk about this all the time, that nine out of 10 things you try fail. The box sets were a big risk. They’ve also led to some of my biggest growth and have opened many doors for me. It’s probably something I’ll continue to do.
How Much Work Is Involved in Becoming an Authorpreneur
Jim Kukral: That’s really the biggest thing to be an authorpreneur is having the ability to deal with risk and try things like that. I think one of the things people need to take away from this interview today is that this is what it takes. This is absolutely what it takes for you to move from selling no books a day to finding an audience and having some modicum of success, whether it’s going to be Stephen-King level or whatever level. You’re going to need to sit down and try things like this.
I’ve been teaching this for years, but you can’t just put stuff out there, walk away and hope that people are going to consume it. I just got done interviewing Andy Weir from The Martian, which I did through a recommendation through you. He basically said he had built an audience of people for his short stories for years and years through comics before he wrote The Martian. It takes a lot of work, doesn’t it?
J. Thorn: It does, and it has a cumulative effect. I think not only in the authorpreneur world, but in modern American culture in general, everyone wants the silver bullet. They all want the pill. They all want the immediate fix. “Fix this now.”
That’s why there’s so much freaking out going on whenever Amazon tweaks an algorithm or changes something about their program. I think if you take risks and at the same time you’re somewhat stubborn, you hold your ground, you don’t walk away from it, you keep trying, and you keep trying, I think there’s a cumulative effect to that.
Over time, you change your mindset. More and more opportunities present themselves. Many of the opportunities I have now, whether it’s with Dark Arts Theater, whether it’s with Jason Hovey and the great people at Booktrack who are doing a new book for me there, all of those things are results of taking risks years ago. It’s not something that pays off immediately.
Jim Kukral: You know what’s funny? When you start out in anything, you’re the one where you ask people. You offer things, and you don’t hear back from people. I’m in this position now with the business that I run at Author Marketing Institute. Now I’m the one getting the calls. The people who wouldn’t respond to me before, now they’re the ones emailing me and being like, “Hey, that’s a great show. I’d love to be on it.” “Hey, you’re doing great things, can I help you do this?” You got to put the work in and improve yourself and take those risks and put yourself out there. You’re really showing people how to do it, J. I’m very excited to have you on talking about it.
J. Thorn: Yeah, thanks, Jim. It’s really important. I’ve gotten some great emails from people. I’ve heard from a lot of different authors who are trying to do new things. I keep telling everyone, “My path is not necessarily going to be your path, but I’ve always found that I grew more and I open more doors for myself when I offered as opposed to asked.”
Jim Kukral: How many books do you have out there now?
J. Thorn: I don’t even know. I think I have the equivalent of maybe 10 novels or so. In March, I released Shadow Witch, which I co-wrote with Dan Padavona. He’s an incredible horror author. He’s the son of heavy-metal legend Ronnie James Dio. We had a blast writing that.
Then, just a few weeks ago, I kicked off J.R. Rain’s Vampire for Hire Kindle Worlds with a novella called Vampire Apocalypse. That just came out. That’s not a full novel, but that’s something that’s relatively new.
I should probably know the answer to that question.
Jim Kukral: You’re too busy writing to know the answer to that question.
J. Thorn: Yeah, that could be. The collaboration piece has really spilled over into the creative side as well. Even right now — I can’t say who just yet — but I’m in the process of writing three different novels with three different people. At some point in 2015, I’ll have three books that’ll hit the platform all in the same year. Because I’m co-writing them, it’s much faster and less work. I’ve got a lot of great stuff that’s come out of some of the risks I’ve taken earlier on.
Jim Kukral: The business model of an authorpreneur who writes fiction books is typically, “Let’s get as much work as we can possibly get out there,” because you increase your chances of one hitting and becoming a huge thing the more you have, right? It’s the only way that you’re going to get there, because there’s a scalability issue of how many words you can write. It’s a collaboration thing.
Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Again, you did it with the box set, which is super smart, and now you’re doing it with other authors. I think that’s just a really smart way to go about creating more content.
J. Thorn: I think that’s the key. In the nonfiction space, you can have a book that’s a lead gen to a $500 or $600 or $1500 product. When you’re selling fiction, it’s tough. I think it’s a war of attrition. Matt Stone over at Buck Books, I read his latest book. He likened the mailing list, building the mailing list, as a fiction author, to filling a rock stadium full of people and then asking them to buy a pack of gum. That really stuck with me. I thought, “Wow, he’s right.” As fiction authors, we spend all this time building a list and creating content, and then we’re making $.30 or $2.10 on a single sale.
You have to think beyond that. I don’t quite have that figured out yet. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that having a bigger catalog and having sales funnels and getting people into those is going to be part of it.
Jim Kukral: I think the one model there is let’s get as much content as we can over time. Then just incrementally, if you’ve got a lot of titles selling a couple copies a day, that becomes a passive income stream that can live forever, can’t it?
J. Thorn: Yeah, absolutely. I think Joe Konrath is famous for saying “Ebooks are forever.” It’s his main argument for not signing a traditional contract, because you don’t own your rights. With ebooks, absolutely. What format they’re going to be in 10 years from now, who knows? As an independent self-publisher, you own those rights. You can go with the flow and change with the times, but you still retain your IP.
Jim Kukral: Yeah. It’s been great talking to you, J. If you had to recommend one book of your collection that people should go start with from you, what book would that be?
J. Thorn: I would say my marquee series is the Portal Arcane series, Reversion: The Inevitable Horror, Book 1. That book is perma-free on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. It’s free everywhere. That’s a no-risk way to try me out if you want to.
Jim Kukral: All right. How do you go and find that book?
J. Thorn: If you go to JThorn.net/Books, all the links to all the different platforms are there.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, that’s ‘J.’, just the letter J.
J. Thorn: Right, JThorn.net.
Jim Kukral: Last question — what is the long-term plan? Is it to do what we just talked about, have a catalog of a ton of books out there and just live off the royalties of those down the road? Is there a secondary income plan? I know you started to do some speaking. What’s the long-term plan for J. Thorn?
J. Thorn: I think the long-term plan is I want to be an entertainer who creates content. Right now, that’s books. It could be television. It could be screenplays. I think that’s my long-term goal. If there are any talent agents out there listening to this who are interested in an ambitious author who is looking to grow, get in touch. My long-term plan is to not necessarily pigeonhole myself as an author, but as a content creator of entertainment. That’s my goal.
Jim Kukral: That’s a really smart approach, obviously. I wish you the most success in the world. It’s great to have you on the show. Thank you so much.
J. Thorn: Thanks, Jim. I appreciate you having me here.
Jim Kukral: All right. Thanks to everyone listening. Also go check out J. Thorn’s website. That’s JThorn.net. Go grab a copy of his free book there, and check out his other books. I’ve read a couple of J.’s books. Again, I’m not really into the genre, but I did enjoy the books. He’s a good writer. Everyone go check it out.
After you do that, if you’re an authorpreneur or an aspiring authorpreneur, head on over to my website, AuthorMarketingInstitute.com. It’s all about the business of writing and marketing your books. We’ve got all kinds tools and training and stuff for you over there. If you’re writing anything — nonfiction, fiction — you’re going to get some help over there. We have a free video course called How to Sell the First 100 Copies of Your Book. That’s AuthorMarketingInstitute.com.
Guys, cue the music. It’s time for all of us to get back to work and writing and building our businesses and doing all the things that are hard that nobody wants to do.
I’m Jim Kukral, and I’ll be back soon with another Authorpreneur show guest who will help you on your journey to becoming an authorpreneur yourself. Thanks for listing, and as always, I would really appreciate it if you went over to iTunes and reviewed the show. I need more reviews over there. We’re just getting started.
Also, if you have any author groups or places you want to share this in social media, we’d love to have those as well. Thanks again, everybody. Have a great week selling more books. I’ll see you on the next show. Bye-bye.