Have you ever wondered what Author Media is and where it comes from?
Somehow I have recorded 300 episodes, and I have never told the story of the company behind the podcast.
Where did Author Media come from?
2007 Umstattd Media Founded
While I was in college, I was working on a book about video game addiction, and I started attending writers conferences to learn how to get my book published.
I was sitting in a marketing session where the presenter told authors they needed a blog and website. All the authors in the room looked terrified. One author finally asked, “How do we do it? How do we build a website?”
The lady presenting answered, “Just find a five-year-old. Any five-year-old can build a website.”
It was a rather unhelpful answer to a very big question.
I was dazzled by being around all those authors because I was still in college. But I knew how to build websites. I’d been building them since I was 13 years old. So I made friends with one author from my area and told her, “I can build you a website on WordPress. It’s no problem. In fact, I’ll do it for free.”
I built her a website, and she loved it. Then she started recommending me to all her friends. I couldn’t build all their websites for free, so I started charging.
The next time I went to a writer’s conference, I brought my brochure advertising my website building services. I was still pitching my proposal to agents and editors, but I also handed out those brochures to authors.
I had authors writing me a check, sight unseen, for a new website. It was clear they needed help with technology, and I knew I could meet that need.
I started spending a lot of time building author websites and less time working on my book.
That book never got published. After a while, I was so busy building websites for authors that I had to hire people to help me, and Umstattd Media founded a company that built websites for authors and small businesses.
We launched AuthorTechTips.com, which was a blog to help authors with marketing and technology. Authors were wondering how to sign up for Twitter and how to use Facebook. They were asking basic questions that I could answer.
At the time, almost no one had a tech blog for authors. There were lots of technology blogs for business people but very few for authors. We were one of the first blogs to translate technology for authors, and we got a lot of attention for it.
Writer’s Digest featured us several times as one of the most helpful websites for authors. In fact, they’ve continued to feature us over the years. The most recent issue of their magazine featured us again. This time they also featured the Novel Marketing podcast.
By this time, I had graduated from college. My team and I were working full-time to build websites for authors.
My company was called Umstattd Media, which was a very bad company name because no one could spell my last name. So we changed the name to AuthorMedia.com
In 2011, AuthorTechTips.com became AuthorMedia.com. I had to buy the domain name from the person who owned it. It cost me a good amount of money, but it was well worth it.
A lot of people have a moral objection to paying someone for a domain name. But domains are like real estate, and one of the most valuable aspects of real estate or domain names is “location, location, location.”
It’s better to pay a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars to buy “yourname.com” rather than “authoryourname.com.”
2012 Castle Media Group, LLC
In 2012 we launched Castle Media Group as a business entity. Castle Media group has several DBAs (Doing Business As), including Author Media. At that time, Umstattd Media became part of Castle Media Group, LLC.
Around the same time, I also launched my first course. One advantage of being one of the only companies willing to translate technology for authors was that I received a lot of invites to speak at conferences.
Those speaking experiences led me to create an online course. I teamed up with a successful novelist and a successful nonfiction author to create the Bestseller Society. It was full of training and information for authors.
But in 2012, the technology for online courses was bad. Instead of adapting our teaching to what the technology was capable of, we tried to customize the technology.
By this time, I had ten people working for me building author websites, but I had two of them working on keeping the Bestseller Society website working reliably. The webinar technology back then was telephone quality. It was awful, and that’s why I’m so thankful for Teachable.com. It’s a high-quality, turn-key solution.
We had students who enjoyed the classes, but the online course was a strategic mistake for the business. We were ahead of the technology, so it became a distraction for my team of website builders.
2013 Novel Marketing & MyBookTable
In 2013 we finally launched the Novel Marketing Podcast. James L. Rubart was my original cohost. Our original goals for the podcast were to promote the Bestseller Society and write a book called Novel Marketing. We never wrote the book.
That same year, Author Media built two pieces of technology. We had a big team building websites, and the most time-consuming part of building a website for a successful author with multiple books was building out the book pages.
For good a search-engine-optimized book page, a book needs its own page on your website. Authors with multiple books needed a webpage to show which three books were in a series or which books were written with a coauthor. Connecting the books in the right way was a very tedious task. I was losing a lot of money paying my employees by the hour to do that work.
So, we built an in-house tool called MyBookTable to help us do that more efficiently.
Around that time, the indie revolution started to take off.
Before the indie revolution, traditional authors would typically receive a $5,000 advance from their publisher, and they’d immediately use that money to hire a company to build them a website. But when authors began choosing indie publishing, they were paying out-of-pocket to publish.
Indie authors didn’t have a chunk of cash up front to buy a website, and they weren’t willing to spend a lot of money on a website. So Author Media started building tools to help authors build websites themselves.
We launched the WordPress Plugin called MyBookTable, but we didn’t launch it to the public. We just put it on Kickstarter to see if there was a demand. Our goal was to raise $2,500, but authors from all over the world got so excited about it that we ended up raising $10,000.
With the funding in place, we did all the finishing work on that plugin to make it easy for authors to use. The last time I checked, MyBookTable was still the most popular WordPress plugin for authors.
We got so excited that we figured WordPress plugins were the way to go, and we doubled down on our efforts.
Our next plugin was called MySpeakingEvents. It was a calendar plugin to show off all your past and present speaking events. At the time, there were no good calendar plugins for authors. MySpeakingEvents had the functionality to roll “Upcoming Events” to “Past Events.”
While it was a great plugin, it was a strategic mistake. The number of authors who want to build their own websites and show off their speaking events is very small. Most professional speakers have staff to update their website, and they don’t need a plugin. Authors who aren’t speaking much don’t want to reveal that they only had two speaking engagements in a year.
While we had a successful Kickstarter and happy users, MySpeakingEvents never took off.
Author Media released the MyBookProgress plugin in 2015 so authors could keep website visitors up to date on the progress of their novels.
We also built an accountability engine into the plugin. You could input your word count goals, and your website would keep you up to date on your writing goal. The accountability piece was 90% of the work on that plugin, and I don’t think many people used it.
If you did, I’d love to hear about it at AuthorMedia.social.
We also launched MyBookTable2 that year.
As the economics of author websites shifted due to the indie revolution, 2015 was a year of transition for us.
We maintained the author websites we had already built, but we stopped taking new clients. We still maintain the websites we built ten years ago, and that’s a large part of what AuthorMedia still does, but we still aren’t taking new clients.
2016 MyBookTable 3
In 2016, I sold the Bestseller Society to the Christian Writers Institute, and Author Media released MyBookTable 3.
2017 The Five-Year Plan
In 2017 James L. Rubart needed a new computer. We couldn’t release new episodes with his old one.
So, to fund Jim’s new computer, we created a course called The Five-Year Plan to Becoming a Bestselling Author.
A podcast listener had submitted a question and said, “I need a five-year plan.” Jim and I started outlining an episode to answer that question, but we realized it would take several episodes. However, we had also discovered that if we did more than one episode on the same topic, we’d lose people who weren’t interested in that topic.
So we decided to create a course instead of a podcast series.
Jim flew to Austin, and we recorded the whole course. The Five-Year Plan guides you through each quarter of the year. We’ll tell you what you should be working on and what you don’t need to worry about. It has helped many authors avoid costly mistakes early in their careers.
That was our first time back to the course-creation world after a five-year hiatus.
2018 Patreon & Book Launch Blueprint
In 2018, we started taking everything to the next level.
Novel Marketing joined Patreon, and we started putting money into improving the quality of the show. While the podcast had previously been on a weekly-ish schedule, we moved to a consistent weekly schedule.
Book Launch Blueprint
We launched the first year of the Book Launch Blueprint, which was at the opposite end of the Five-Year Plan. It’s a different kind of course in that we open it once each year, and students do each day’s assignment together for four weeks. It’s a fun and intense 30-day process. It’s our most popular class. We’ll open it again in early 2022, so join the waitlist to get notified when registration opens.
We were still maintaining the WordPress plugins.
Finally, the Steve Laube Agency asked if I would be an agent, and I said, “Sure. Why not?”
2019 Pruning & Focusing
I was doing so much, and I was so busy that in 2019, I had a mental breakdown.
I was spread so thin that one day, I could not get out of bed. I knew something had to give. When I talked to Jim, I found out he was also feeling stretched too thin.
We recorded a very famous episode about pruning. And for Jim, pruning his activities meant stepping away from the Novel Marketing Podcast. Jim is still a frequent guest, but he no longer has the obligation of recording the weekly episode.
The Novel Marketing Podcast has become a huge weekly project. Each episode takes between 15-30 hours of work, so it’s almost a full-time job to produce the episode. Every week, we plan future episodes, edit upcoming episodes, and work on the blog posts. Fortunately, I have a team to help. If I didn’t have help, I wouldn’t be able to teach my courses.
For the sake of my health, I started pruning things from my work.
Author Media sold all the WordPress plugins to Stormhill Media. It was very difficult because those plugins were like my babies. I spent several years of my life developing and launching them.
I stepped down from being a literary agent.
NovelMarketing.com merged into AuthorMedia.com.
I pruned and pruned because I needed to be available for my family. I needed to be able to get out of bed. Plus, I was spread so thin that I was failing everywhere. The podcast wasn’t as good as it could have been because it wasn’t a priority for Jim or me. We were struggling to schedule a time to fit it in.
After all that pruning, I thought to myself, “When this is all done, 2020 will be a great year!”
2020 Mastermind Groups
Then 2020 happened.
We’d had our second baby, Tommy, in December of 2019. So far, he’s lived all of his life in a pandemic. He hardly left the house during his first year of life.
But because I’d done all that pruning, I was in a good position personally. I had some spare capacity in my life.
Free Writers Conference Webinars
When everyone was freaking out about all the canceled writers conferences, I decided to do a series of free webinars on all the topics I normally speak about at writers conferences. People enjoyed them. They started inviting their friends, and the AuthorMedia email list grew.
Largest Book Launch Blueprint Class to Date
We also had our biggest cohort of Book Launch Blueprint students that year. Everyone was locked at home, so they wanted to work on their book launch.
Author and Podcaster Mastermind Groups
I also launched the Mastermind Groups for authors and podcasters. Since I had the capacity, I wanted to focus on doing what I enjoy most. I enjoy teaching and coaching authors about marketing and publishing.
In the Mastermind Groups, I can teach and coach a group of five to ten people. Both groups filled up as soon as we launched, so I split one group, and now we have three Mastermind Groups for Writers, Authors, and Influencers. I enjoy those groups because I get to watch the authors grow from month to month. I can also give personalized advice rather than general advice.
Obscure No More
Obscure No More also launched in beta. It’s our signature course that covers every aspect of building a platform. Since it’s in beta, I’ve been adding modules to the course each month.
In 2021 I saw a lot of authors losing time and energy on social media. Plus, they were getting a lot of bad advice on social media. I’ve been warning authors about social media for a long time, so I wanted to do something about it.
So I did.
I created AuthorMedia.social as an online community to help authors learn, connect, and have fun. There’s a place to discuss just about everything an author needs to know.
A quick tour of AuthorMedia.social:
- 📘 Novel Marketing Podcast
- 📕 Christian Publishing Show
- 🖥️ Platform & Promotion
- ✏️ Craft
- 💼 Job Board
- 👥 Collaboration
- 🎉 Celebrations
- 💰 Deals for Authors
- 🖖 Fun
As I look toward 2022, I plan to create a course on How to Start a Podcast. I’ve already recorded the first module.
Eventually, I will sell the podcast course as a standalone, but while I’m creating it, it’s included with Obscure No More. Now is a great time to purchase these courses because while they are in beta, they are 66% off the regular price.
On a personal note, I plan to take time off in December because my wife and I are expecting our third baby.
Novel Marketing Patreon
With most things (food, movies, books) you have to pay for it before you know whether you like it. Not so with the Novel Marketing! You get to listen to the show for free and then decide how valuable it is to you.
Has this podcast helped you advance your career? If so, consider becoming a Patron to help support future episodes.
Patrons get the good feeling of knowing they keep Novel Marketing on the air, and they get a Bonus Patrons-Only Episode every month. At higher levels, patrons get access to the Podcast Host Directory, and they even get featured on the show as a Featured Patron.
In this month’s patrons-only episode, I answer questions about:
- How to Avoid Bad Advice
- What the Apple iOS Changes Mean for Author Email Newsletters.
- Email Open Rates
- Launch Teams
- Writing Contests
- What the MailChimp Intuit Buyout Means for Authors
- And more!
The patrons-only episode provides a forum for your questions and my answers, as well as “Thomas’ take on the news in the author world.”
You can become a patron here.