Feature Friday Interviews spotlight rare and wonderful individuals who embody characteristics of The Liberation Artist: living outside the status quo while writing their own rules and carving a unique path to self-defined success. This week it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and publisher, Tom Corson-Knowles. Tom first came on my radar through the success of his books, which led me to his websites. He has developed an absolutely genius business model. Tom’s story is intriguing in pure Liberation Artist style, having stumbled into the life of an entrepreneur in his teens, and becoming a well-established internationally best-selling author in his early 20s. Now he helps others find freedom, as well, through his Ebook Publishing School and TCK Publishing. You will quickly recognize Tom’s remarkable, focused thinking as you read his interview – he is the quintessential definition of a Liberation Artist. I’m absolutely thrilled at this opportunity to introduce you to Tom, and to his work. Without further ado, allow me to first share with you Tom’s bio, followed by his interview. Enjoy – it will be worth the read!
BIO: Tom Corson-Knowles
Tom Corson-Knowles is the international bestselling author of The Kindle Publishing Bible and 19 other books.
Tom is also the founder of EbookPublishingSchool.com, a free video training program for authors, and TCK Publishing, an eBook publishing company that specializes in publishing and marketing Kindle books online.
You are have had a somewhat unconventional life, achieving success at a very young age. Can you tell our readers a bit about your journey and what has been most important to you along the way?
I started my first business at 13 with my dad, manufacturing SAD lamps at home. My dad was a woodworker by hobby and had a garage full of woodworking tools and machines, so it was the perfect factory. I got pretty bored though after a few months and moved on to other things, like video games.
It wasn’t until I was 19 that I really had a sense of urgency about starting a business and becoming financially free. I had classmates at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University who were doing internships on Wall Street in big investment banking firms. Most of them were working more than 80 hours a week, some more than 100 hours a week. I shuddered to think what my life would be like if I went down that path.
So I started a business and never looked back. That was also about the time I started writing my first book which later became Rich by 22. I wrote it just for me at the beginning. It was like my personal manifesto for success. I used it as my roadmap to get where I wanted to go – which was a life of financial freedom, and had nothing to do with working in corporate America.
I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted, with whoever I wanted. That’s really been the biggest driving force in my life – the search for freedom.
Were you always that person thinking outside the box? Or was there one moment where you just woke up and everything shifted?
I was always different. School was ridiculously easy for me. I probably studied for less than 50 hours in my entire history of schooling, including 4 years in the #1 business school for Entrepreneurship at the time, and was always a straight A student (I had a few B’s I remember). School just came easy for me, but it was also incredibly boring. I would go home and read books I wanted to read instead of reading textbooks.
One of those books that changed my life forever was Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It woke me up to the fact that money is just a tool, like any other resource in life. Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. It’s up to you to use it the right way. That inspired me to get rich so that I could do good things with my wealth, like creating a foundation to help preserve the environment and biodiversity for future generations.
What inspired you to set off on an entrepreneurial path?
I was terrified of what my life would be like if I had to work in a job with someone else telling me what to do. It was pure fear.
I’ve always loved writing, but I could never get an agent or publisher to take me seriously. No one wanted to hear from an unknown 20-something kid with little skill for writing and no experience. But I had written about 10 manuscripts by age 24 when someone told me I could publish my books on Amazon Kindle.
So I did. A month later I checked and saw about 10 sales for my first book. I was so thrilled, I immediately got to work finishing all my manuscripts, and even convincing my mom to write a book with me. I got my brother to publish his senior thesis from college that was almost 10 years old by then. And I started writing a lot of new material and publishing it on Kindle. I read every single blog post I could find about self publishing and marketing books. I’ve always loved learning and teaching, so writing nonfiction for me is just a part of that huge passion.
Just 12 months after I published my first book on Kindle, I had my first month where I earned more than $12,000 in kindle royalties alone. That’s when I knew I had to help other authors out there who had been rejected and ignored by traditional publishers.
Entrepreneurs and writers alike will encounter critics along the way. People often don’t realize how much strength and courage it takes entrepreneurs and writers alike to put themselves out there – you must develop a thick skin. You did this, and at such a young age – how did you manage the early critics (and trolls) I’m sure you must have encountered? What got you through the tough times, and kept you on path?
I was more afraid of what my life would be like if I had to get a job working for someone else than I was with people telling me I was stupid (which happened a lot). I just knew that I’ve only got one life, and I’m sure as hell not going to waste it just because someone else disagrees with me. I’m just going to do what I want, and I don’t care if some people don’t like it. You have to just ignore the naysayers and dreamstealers. Learn from them if you can, but then move on.
You clearly seem to be someone who has a well-defined set of personal values that drive your business. Share with us the values you feel are integral in terms of guiding your life, making decisions that matter, and shaping a business.
Freedom, honesty, love of learning, and fun are my core values.
You are now helping other writers launch their career. While they have you to guide them, they still must embrace their own level of risk-taking, just in the process of putting their work out there – what advice do you give new authors?
I’ve written six books just for authors, created an extensive video training course and have a free podcast where I interview industry experts about what it takes for new authors to succeed today. So there’s a ton of information out there already if people are interested.
But, I think the biggest thing is that you must do what you love. If you love to write, then write. And screw what anyone else thinks about it. Spend at least 80% of your work time doing what you love. If you spend your life working on something you love, you’ll get good at it. Maybe you’d make more money doing something else, maybe you wouldn’t. But who cares? The biggest failure in life isn’t not getting rich. The biggest failure in life is wasting it. If you love to write, then write. Don’t waste your life living by other people’s values.
What would you say was the biggest risk you took, and how did it turn out?
I invested about $100,000 of my money and my family’s in a business. It didn’t work out well. I’m still in the process of winding it down, but we probably won’t see most of that money again when it’s all over.
Were there times where you questioned your sanity for taking the ‘‘harder’‘ path or can you not imagine living life any other way?
That’s funny. I NEVER questioned myself about whether or not to be an entrepreneur. I definitely questioned myself about being a writer (because I got rejected so much and made no progress in my first 6 years), but I never seriously thought about quitting to get a job. I just figured if what I was working on didn’t work out (and many times it didn’t), I would just try something else until I figured it out.
You’ve create pretty remarkable business success for yourself, what would you say has been the biggest key to that?
Every day I write down a to-do list and do my best to get the most important things done first. I study everything I can find about success, business, marketing, and whatever other topics I’m interested in learning. I just try to do the work in front of me and learn new things. I’m persistent. I always write down my ideas in a journal when I get them, even if they sound stupid at the time. I think most people, especially creative types, tend to ignore their ideas. If you’re not writing down your ideas, then you’ll likely lose them forever. When I started writing down all my ideas as they came to me, I started getting much better ideas, and I started having a lot more success a lot faster.
What is next for you? If you could work on anything, what would it be, and why?
Right now, I’m totally focused on growing TCK Publishing. We’re a small, author-focused publishing company. Our mission is to help authors earn a full-time income. There’s never been a better time to be a writer today, but, at the same time, there just aren’t very many options out there for most writers other than self publishing. Over 99% of authors are rejected or fail with traditional publishing. And many just don’t know how to self publish, or don’t enjoy the process, or just need someone to help show them the way.
I love marketing and teaching, so to be able to work with so many amazing writers, experts, and novelists and help them package and position themselves and build a real author brand is just a thrill.
I’m also having a lot of fun with the Publishing Profits Podcast show. It’s just awesome to be able to interview some of the most successful authors, editors, agents and publishers in the world even though I don’t get paid for it. I just love to learn and share information, so it’s been a really fun way to do both at the same time.
To learn more about Tom’s work, and especially if you’re interested in publishing, make sure to check out his EbookPublishing.com, and his ebook publishing company, TCK Publishing, as well as his Publishing Profits Podcast show. You will also find his internationally best-selling book, The Kindle Publishing Bible, useful too! You can connect with Tom on Twitter or Facebook, as well.