Takeaways from Author Marketing Live: J. Thorn

We are pleased to announce the start of a new feature on our site, The Captain’s Blog: Publishing. In this space on Mondays, we’ll share information and resources on publishing and marketing your books. Our first posts will include takeaways from the generous and helpful speakers at Author Marketing Live (AML). You won’t want to miss these great strategies and tips, so sign up now to receive your weekly update.

We’ll still share information and tips on the craft of writing on Fridays on The Captain’s Blog: Craft.

Today we’ll share five takeaways from J. Thorn, the horror and dark fantasy author of the Portal Arcane trilogy and the Hidden Evil trilogy. Thorn went from selling two to two hundred books a day in a short time. He is now among Amazon’s top horror fiction writers, and has been featured alongside such greats as Stephen King and Dean Koontz. During his AML presentation, he told the story of his author journey and what he thinks was helped him climb the charts. Here are five of my favorite takeaways from his talk.

1. Everyone starts at the bottom. Thorn presented an honest picture of where he began his journey. His initial book sales and reviews made his prospects look bleak. But Thorn said, “No matter how bad it seems, there is an opportunity.” He found what worked for him by writing more books and experimenting with formats and covers. These are the elements of success. It was heartening to hear that successful authors, too, have to work and learn. Overnight successes are rare, but working toward your goals pays off.

2. Write the story you want to read. Thorn’s inspiration to write his first novel came from reading a story that was good, but not quite the story he wanted to read. Writing the story you want to read helps maintain your motivation for the long haul.

3. Have readers vote down unhelpful and negative reviews. You can’t control what people write about your books in reviews. You can however have your fans vote down negative Amazon reviews that are not helpful in that they don’t help other readers decide whether they might like the book. Thorn chooses not to respond personally to reviews or forums because he feels they are for readers, not authors.

4. Ask yourself, what do I need to outsource? In Thorn’s case, he needed to hire an editor and a book cover designer. These tasks required more expertise than he had at the time. So he found people who did it well, and began to sell more books.

5. Leaning into the unknown and doing things for others without expectation is a way to become successful. Thorn used his project management and formatting skills to create multi-author box sets that helped expose readers to him and his fellow authors. The authors were able to promote the set simultaneously and increase sales for all participants in the box set. He didn’t ask for anything in return, just offered his skill for mutual benefit. Most recently, he organized a collaborative novel with nine other authors called The Black Fang Betrayal. Here’s a post he wrote about the experience.

If you need help formatting your ebook, you can check out Formatting Your eBook (Using Word & Basic HTML to Format a Title by Yourself), available from Amazon ($4.99) and free from Kobo and B&N. You can also listen to The Horror Writers Podcast, which Thorn hosts with Richard Brown. The discussions include topics that apply to all genres, so even if you write cozy mysteries or romance, there is plenty for you to learn.

Is there one takeaway here that you can apply now? Do these inspire other ideas that you want to run with? We’re big fans of publicly declaring our intentions to increase accountability. We invite you to share what you intend to do next in your own journey to successful authorpreneurship in the comments below. And before you go, be sure to sign up for regular updates from the Captain’s Blog: Publishing!

/Leslie