Q&A: Building An Author Platform with Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is an author, podcaster and coach, as well as the ringleader of 7-time soccer league champs. He will chat about how he built his author platform, what non-ad marketing authors are under-utilizing, and how to optimize that non-ad technique.

Q. Thanks for chatting with me today Bryan! Where are you at?

A. Sure thing, Jewel. I live in Chicago!

Q. Oh that’s right. What makes Christmas in Chicago fun? * this is not a sarcastic question * LOL

A. In a place this cold, they go all in on decorations 🙂. There’s an ice rink outside of Wrigley Field with giant trees and ornaments. And lately, it’s become obsessed with Christmas pop up bars. We recently went to a Christmas Vacation themed bar with an RV parked out front 😊

Q. Christmas pop up bars. Wow. So like food trucks, but inside?

A. Pretty much. Special Christmas menus and decorations. When it’s below freezing these places have to do Something to make people show up 😉.

Q. Cool. Okay, so for some background, can you tell me what you do? Author, podcaster, coach. Did I miss anything?

A. Probably 1 to 6 other things that I do. I’m kind of all over the map with this stuff. I have a variety of novels, and courses, and soccer teams. I like to keep my schedule packed to the brim.

Q. Soccer teams. I love the seeming randomness of that. Okay, so we’ll try to corral some of that here. Wishing us luck. Tell me what was the first of these things that you started with. Author, I presume?

A. If nothing else I am definitely seemingly random 🙂. My first non-fiction book, which was actually a book for authors, came out in 2010.

Q. Ha ha ha. So nonfiction came before fiction? And what is the title of that book?

A. Yes. That book is called 1000 Creative Writing Prompts. It actually spurred a collection of books and workbooks for writers and students.

Q. Ah, okay. I have seen that series on your Amazon page. So you have been at this now for 10 years. What would you say was your breakout book as an author? And how did that come about?

A. That’s a great question. I kind of feel like my first book ended up doing a lot better than I thought. It got me very excited about the idea of writing and sharing my words with the world. It was a little easier to market books back in 2010. I had a semi-popular website about writing, and made sure to link to the book on every single page on the site. That made a huge difference back in the day.

Q. And that website was/is called…?

A. That site was called Build Creative Writing Ideas. I have since sold that site but it made a big difference to the beginning of my Author career. I worked it hard. I did a lot of blog tours and really pushed myself to get out the word about the different books with every chance I could get.

Q. Oh so it was even a precursor to The Sell More Books Show. Why was it easier to market books back in 2010?

A. Less competition! The market grows every single year.

Q. Makes sense. As a nonfiction/fiction author, I am interested in how one builds a nonfiction platform while also creating fiction books. What would you say is your top takeaway/s as you have built your own platform over the last decade?

A. I would say it’s become very important to keep the platforms separate. If I could go back in time, I would probably write all of my Fiction with a pen name just to make sure that readers didn’t get confused. I will also say that when you write nonfiction, there are so many more opportunities to further educate your readers. Whether that be through courses or services. While you don’t see as much riding in a series with non-fiction, there’s a lot more you can do that serves almost as a natural sequel to non-fiction readers.

Q. Yes, I can see the wisdom in that. What do you see as an underserved resource for authors? What are authors constantly asking about nowadays?

A. Interestingly enough I think the most underserved opportunities right now are the ones authors are not talking about. Lots of offers talk about the fancy new paid marketing opportunities they can use. But they forget that some of the things that worked in 2015 and 2016 are actually still valid and not talked about as much. As a result, they may be better opportunities.

Q. Huh. Like what, for example?

A. Email marketing for sure. I’m still surprised by how many authors ignore email marketing in favor of running more paid ads.

Q. Whoa. I didn’t expect that. What is your advice for authors wanting to optimize their email marketing?

A. My number one piece of advice is to subscribe to the email list of some of the top self-published authors in your genre. See what they’re doing. Take some notes. Things that you like. Things that you don’t like. Then use that to inform your own email marketing strategy.

Q. Great advice. You are obviously very entrepreneurial. What do you think accounts for that from your childhood? Did you have mentors in your family, or….?

A. That’s a good question. I’m not exactly sure where it came from. Neither my mom nor my dad are or were entrepreneurial. And yet my brother and I both seem to have that bug. I did have a lot of great teachers growing up. And I’ve had a lot of great mentors here in my 30s. But nothing really for my background. I guess I’m just a weird one 🙂.

Q. I thought maybe you were the kid selling candy to your classmates in grade school. Speaking of strange/weird, what kinds of interesting experiences has your author career given you?

A. Interesting? Well, I will say that some of my favorite experiences have been on stage. There are a few things I enjoy phone teaching an audience live. This is more of the me being weird thing, but I don’t need to do any strange tracks in order to get on stage and feel confident. I have a cavity background. I did theater in college. I like going onstage and some of those moments have been my most rewarding as an offer.

Q. A cavity background?

A. Comedy background. I actually have excellent teeth.

Q. Ha ha ha! So funny it’s so sweet….! Yes, you do podcasts and Youtube videos and improvs. What is your tip to people who want to be funny?

A. Haha. Take improv comedy classes for a year 🙂.

Q. Omigosh. Bucket list. Online? At the community college?

A. Definitely in person. Wherever you can find one! Chicago has the best classes, but there are tons of good instructors all throughout the world!

Q. Okay, it sounds really intimidating. How does one survive that? How did you?

A. I think I survived by remembering that my scene partners were probably just as nervous as I was. And if I just did everything I could to help them not embarrass themselves, then we’d probably both be ok.

Q. Cool. How do you divide your time between all your projects nowadays?

A. Having a strong team. Scheduling things out with task management software. Journaling my plan for the day when I wake up. A lot of hoping and scrambling 🙂.

Q. Occasionally, I read that authors are burnt out on marketing. What is something they can do to market their work without running themselves (and their bank account) ragged?

A. Burn out is a major challenge. But it usually means that you need to get rebalanced with non-writing things you need to do. You have to actively market, so you can’t skip that. So doing something fun or relaxing on a regular basis can stave off your burnout so that you’re more resilient to market your books.

Q. A fellow author asked this. Is there any resource out there that gives you a general idea of common bidding practices by genre? I write in several genres and Amazon’s recommendations are all over the place.

A. Never use Amazon’s recommendations. They’re crazy.

Q. Ha ha, okay.

A. Always try starting low and see if you can get clicks with a lower bid of 20-40 cents first. If you can’t, try everything you can to avoid upping your bid. Higher budget. Shorter campaign. But avoid higher bids if you can. No matter what genre you’re in.

Q. There are so many options nowadays for author courses. If you could recommend one of yours for newbies and one for more experienced authors, which would they be?

A. I recommend newbies try out my free 5 Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge. It’s coming up on January 20, 2020. You can learn more about it here.

For more advanced folks, my Amazon Ad School teaches both ads and the concepts of profit/conversion, which are fundamental to understanding marketing. And that will open back up this winter.

Q. Great! Last question, what do you do for fun?

A. I play soccer every Sunday with my team Zombies FC. We’re 7-time league champs and I’m the player coach. It’s great fun and I’m proud of it like it’s my side hustle 😉.

Q. Ah! I get that soccer reference now. Thank you so much Bryan! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. Keep up the great work you are doing for the author community!

A. You’re so welcome. Thanks for having me!

Check out Bryan Cohen’s Amazon page. Visit his website for info on his podcasts and courses.

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