When you’re known for being the go-to source of answers in the self-publishing/indie author community, you get asked lots of questions! In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, we take a swing at answering some of the most common questions we get at conferences, in webinars, and pretty much everywhere we go.
In a recent blog post, D2D’s own Kevin Tumlinson wrote about “5 Common Questions Authors Ask” (find that post here: http://d2d.tips/5authorqs). In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders the D2D team talks about the questions they get the most, and answers questions from our live audience!
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Kevin Tumlinson 00:02
Well, hello you. Thanks for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders from Draft2Digital. We’re glad to have you here. And right now, it is me and my co-host Mark Leslie Lefevbre of the Canadian Lefevbres. We should be joined pretty soon by Dan Wood, who is dealing with other matters right now. But he’s assured us that he’s going to be here. So don’t be disappointed. Don’t ditch out on us. So hey, Mark, how’s it going?
Mark Lefebvre 00:30
Doing great, Kevin. How about you?
Kevin Tumlinson 00:32
It’s pretty good. It’s an interesting series of events happening around us right now. We got so many things going on. Irons in the fire and fires to put out too.
Mark Lefebvre 00:46
Lots of things related to fire, apparently.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:49
Lots of fires.
Mark Lefebvre 00:51
But there’s also earth and there’s water. And there’s air, right? So it’s well rounded.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:59
So we do these, we’ve been doing these monthly Ask Us Anythings for a while now man. For a year, at least a year, a little over a year. And they’ve gotten huge responses. So we’re real glad to see that everybody’s getting something out of this. Today, it’s not going to be any different from our Ask Us Anythings. But we have a kind of theme, because we recently published an article on our blog called Five Common Questions Authors Ask. So I’ll pop a link up to that right now. And I’ll also add this in the comments. I’ll give it to you at the end of the show, too. Just in case you want to follow along. We’re not necessarily going to go through this or anything, but we can. But the idea here is we, as Dan is popping in right now. Let’s get him in there. Hey, Dan. Sorry, we started without you, man.
Mark Lefebvre 01:59
We’re just getting them warmed up for you, dude. Getting them warmed up.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:03
I like the idea of the three of us in particular addressing this topic, because when we’re out there in the world, either the virtual world or the real world, we’re constantly being asked certain questions by authors. And I really wanted to address the ones that we see in common. The post that I wrote, I feature five of them that I get a lot. And we can definitely go through those. But this is an opportunity for us to, each of us individually, I wanted to hear what you guys hear the most. And then we can take questions from the listeners and watchers. We already have one, somebody popped in real early. Gil Jackson, we’ll get to his question in just a second. So he gets the reward of being named out loud. So Dan, and I know you’re just coming in fresh, man. And I know you’re hot on other things, but what are some questions you typically get when you’re talking with authors?
Dan Wood 03:02
I think a lot of times people, I see a lot of questions about library systems, and they don’t quite understand how to get into a library. Or they’re wondering how they can see their book, why they don’t see their book in a library and don’t realize the library vendors, the storefront is only open to librarians. And so unless that library has purchased a copy of your book, it’s not always going to be in your library system until they purchase it. Some other things I see a lot of questions about, confusion about reporting, like the way in which sales are reported. Obviously, we get from most of the major vendors, we get like Daily Sales estimates. Those aren’t going to include things like returns, they’re not going to be exact numbers because there can be currency conversion involved if someone’s buying your book in another country. And so we really don’t know what the final numbers are going to be until we send them out at the, it’s a little bit after the end of the month. So I see a lot of questions about that, that I think it’s useful for people to take some time to just ask questions for whoever you’re working with. If you’re direct with the vendor, or you’re using an aggregator like Draft2Digital, ask questions about how the reporting works. Because it’s going to clear up a lot of confusion and save you some headaches down the road.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:23
I know on reporting, one of the expectations we sometimes get is that they want to know why, “I just bought my book myself five seconds ago and I’m not seeing the sale, where is it?” And so those are not immediate results. We just don’t get that kind of real-time result. But we do update as quickly as we get the data. So those are pretty accurate numbers day by day. So Mark, what are some of the …
Dan Wood 04:50
We’re always asking them to, like the retailers we work with, we’re always asking to speed it up. There’s many of them that started with us where they would only give us the monthly numbers that are now giving us daily estimates. Which are great, like if you’re doing a promotion or something, getting that immediate feedback is necessary, or as quickly as you can. Unfortunately, none of them are real-time. And so you do have to wait till the next day for the majority of those numbers that we can report on.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:20
That’s why I usually tell authors, you should pay more attention to trends than to specific data. Because if you are using this data to shape your marketing approach or your ad approach or something like that, the trend is going to give you a lot better, it’s a better metric to use. So if you see that, you know, ad A is trending upward over time, that’s going to be your best bet. And if you’re seeing sales trending upward or downward on a particular platform, that will let you know where you need to put your attention. Rather than, I got 15 sales on this book today. You know, that’s never going to be that useful a metric. So, Mark, what about you, man? So you the conference circuit too, and you also do a lot of the virtual stuff. So what are some of the common questions authors ask you while you’re doing that?
Mark Lefebvre 06:15
Yeah, I think, I’m going to go back to the basics. One of the one of the most common questions I get, usually from people who are just starting out is, you know, what rights am I giving up if I use you to publish? Whether it’s going direct to a publisher, whether it’s using Draft2Digital to publish to a platform is, am I allowed to, can I publish elsewhere? Even the questions for authors here is, Amazon exclusivity versus everywhere else? And I’ve even seen the question recently, of, oh, do I have to take my book down from Amazon if I publish everywhere else? I like to say no, no, no, it’s inclusive, you own the rights. You’re allowing the retailer the privilege of having your book. You’re allowing Draft2Digital to distribute to whatever platforms you want to publish to through Draft2Digital. You own all the rights, you’re the publisher, you’re in charge. And similarly, even on some of the great tools we have, I even just this morning in an author group was chatting with authors. And they were talking about international pricing, because that’s a really important factor. And we have long had the ability to manage territorial prices, but we also have this really sexy auto-conversion and rounding to the nearest clean price. So you know, you put in your US $4.99, for example. And then you know where I am here in Canada, it doesn’t just go $6.73. It rounds it to a nice .99. Or .49 or .99 in pounds or euros. And an author was saying, well, but what if I want to offer a bit of a discount to my Canadian customers or Australian customers or whatever? And they forgot, or didn’t realize, yes, we do that for you, we make it clean. So even if you don’t care about international prices, we try to help you. But you still control that. And you can override that automatically in conversion. So what I like to remind authors is that when you choose to do this, if you do it properly, where you’re still in control, rather than … there are some service companies that take over and don’t let you make price changes and stuff like that. You’re in charge and you have full control. And I think that’s a really important thing for authors to understand.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:23
Yeah, I agree. And the fact that we give authors so much control over all that is actually pretty rare in the industry, too. So I’m going to dive into a little bit of what I wrote in the post here, but like, one of the questions I get a lot is how much does the publishing cost? So a lot of times people will ask me directly, like, how much do you guys charge? How much does Draft2Digital charge? And it’s really funny when you tell them you don’t charge anything, because they do not believe you. Like you actually have to fight to get them to use the free service. I’m not entirely sure why that is. But my theory is that, you know, we’ve been trained to be wary of things that are free. Thinking there’s a hidden cost we’re not going to know about until it’s too late. But no such hidden cost here. With us we only charge, we take like a cut of the royalty. and it usually ends up being about 15% by the time it’s all said and done. And that’s the only money we ever make. So that’s, you know, I think that’s pretty good. That’s a low overhead kind of thing.
Dan Wood 09:35
It’s exactly 15%. The 15% number is the exact number. For easy math in your head, it generally works out to about 10% of the retail list price with all the major retailers, and then the retailers tend to keep about 30%. That’s going to be a little bit different for libraries that are on a wholesale model, but by and large, we’re just keeping a 10%. So if you had a $10 book, we would keep $1. You’d get six and the retailer would keep three.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:07
Mark Lefebvre 10:08
Yeah, I think the 15 confuses people, because that’s the actual math rather than the percentage of margin that’s different from going direct. I think that’s where people go, is it 10% or 15%? So that’s actually a really good …
Kevin Tumlinson 10:20
I used to say 10%. And then people got mad at me and said, well, it’s really 15%. And then so you have to go through that whole discussion, and it’s a difficult thing to understand. I think Dan explained it pretty well. But yes, so the point of that is, there is a, using us doesn’t have what we would call overhead. So there’s no direct cost to the author. And we try to keep it that way for pretty much everything we do. But there is, you know, there is that cut of royalty on the end, so that’s an acceptable, I consider it like a convenience fee for getting me [inaudible].
Dan Wood 11:01
Yeah, that’s really only for our distribution, which is where we make our money is off the distribution. But we do offer, I ran into this the other day, where someone was asking about what programs should I buy to do my formatting? And they’re asking this on Reddit. And I was just saying, hey, you can try Draft2Digital’s conversion tool and Reedsy also has an editor for free, like both of them are free. And they were like, what’s the catch? Why are they free? That doesn’t make sense. But in both cases, our hope is that you’ll try our software, you’ll see we’re easy to work with, and that you’ll work with us in the ways that we do make money. And so for Reedsy, it’s selling services like editing and graphic design. For Draft2Digital, it’s our distribution. Same thing with the universal book links, they don’t cost anything. We use them because we realized people needed better ways to advertise their books when they were wide and needed a way to find the links to the other retailers, which helps us. If they are distributing through us, then if we help someone sell more books, then we also make more money.
Mark Lefebvre 12:14
Yeah, we built that because when you use Draft2Digital to distribute, we use a universal book link. And then when we send it to Apple, we only send Apple the Apple links. And if we send it to Kindle, we only send the Kindle links, and Kobo and all of those platforms. So we figured if we’re going to build this for ourselves, we may as well just expose it and allow people to use it on their own. I have all my traditionally published titles not published through Draft2Digital, I have universal book links, because oh my god, it’s so much easier to say here’s a single link. rather than here’s eight Amazon links and 29 Kobo links and all the different links that are available.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:49
That’s my entire, my Books page on my site is nothing but universal book links. And that’s been, it’s saved me so much hassle, because I can build like this. I use Squarespace and WordPress has something similar, but I build a gallery with each cover, I put the link, embed that in there and all the messaging and everything is in there. And so every time I release a new book, I just go add it to that gallery, and everything is beautiful. I don’t have 1000 links per book that I have to maintain and update each time. It’s glorious. But speaking of websites, we got a question from Gil Jackson on YouTube. He says, “At what stage should an author begin a website, use funneling, Facebook etc.? One, three, 20 books? So much out there that it’s a job to know where to start, and more importantly, when.” So I mean, my advice right off the bat is you should begin your website. I mean, you could have your website ready before you even have a book out. And really a lot of marketing advice is aimed in that direction. Marketing starts well before you actually even have the book, because you want to try to build an audience and build a platform before you even launch. So what I’d recommend is, get this stuff in place just as soon as you can. I mean, if you’ve already got a book out there, it’s not too late to start. But it’s never too early. And what I would do on the website side, speaking of a marketing funnel, you brought that up. I’d go ahead and if you could create like a short story or something that you can give your reader to get on that mailing list, offer that to them on your site, and then start using Facebook to point them to that offer. So all the things you just mentioned would be included in that. And I’d get that started as soon as possible. Either of you kind of have a different perspective on that?
Mark Lefebvre 14:51
No, not at all. I think having, you’ve got your website, which is your author brand. And that brand is who you are and what books you’re going to publish. Even if you write across the different genres, they’re still branding. It allows you to be in control, not the retailer. So the book is forthcoming, you’re working on it, it’s not even up for preorder yet, you can still have that communication. And like you said, Kevin, so critical for your newsletter, right? So that they can always come back to your website so you’re in control again.
Kevin Tumlinson 15:19
Exactly. Own your platform, don’t let Facebook own your platform.
Dan Wood 15:24
Yeah, I think the newsletter is the key part of that. And it’s really, to me, the reason to even set up a website. So make sure, ideally when someone Googles your name as an author, you want them to see your website. And that website should include a reason for people to sign up for your newsletter. Controlling that communication and not letting a retailer control that is key. And that’s going to give you so much more flexibility in the long run. Having a newsletter, it’s not just to communicate about, like when you have new books, or when you have a book on sale. You also can use some of those email addresses to help you later on when you start into ads and whatnot, find new readers to target that are like that current reader that you’ve already met. I would say, you know, we kind of covered the website part and how important we think newsletters are. With the other stuff, like Facebook ads, I would … If you only have one book, I would not in most cases recommend starting down the road of advertising until you have more books. The economics work out better when you have more books when you’re advertising. If you just have a single book, you should probably concentrate on getting a couple more books out there.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:43
Yeah. I almost exclusively use Facebook ads for list building, rather than trying to get sales. And I should, I’m going to shift gears on that a little and start experimenting and learning a little more that might help with that. But it’s a good tool for helping to funnel people toward that. But it is an investment. So you should know, if you don’t have a budget, don’t expect money to start just pouring in to help cover the expensive ads. Only spend what you have, and only spend what you’re prepared to lose, is the rule on advertising. So we got another question coming in from YouTube. “Does a box set or collection or mystery series sell well on D2D? Does it increase the sales dramatically on your sales channel?” How do box sets do with us?
Mark Lefebvre 17:36
So I think, I’m assuming that you’re talking about a digital collection of multiple books in one, like a digital box set or an omnibus edition. And there are some of our partners. So Amazon, for example, has a cap at the larger, anything priced over $9.99, you don’t make the full 70%. However, our partners Apple and Kobo and Nook, for example, don’t have that cap. Which means you can, you know, if a book is $5, and then you have six books in a box set, five times six is $30. Maybe offer it for $24.99. Because it’s a deal to buy that digital box set. There are some promotions through those other retailers, where you’re still, you know, through Draft2Digital, you’re still making that full 60% on those sales, those can do really, really well, because you’re offering a great value to the reader. And chances are since indie authors tend to price low anyways, you know, for the price of maybe two independently published or two traditionally published books, which would be about $30 or $25, you’re getting a full box set, whether it’s a mystery collection, or whatever. The other benefit, I think, is it increases the number of titles in your catalog. So you have the books, independent books all published separately as part of the series. And hopefully your metadata properly identifies the exact same series name and the volume number, which the retailers will use to help get that in front of the right people. But then having one or more box sets also allows choice for your customer. But it also allows additional discoverability. It’s just one more product out there with your name on it.
Dan Wood 19:18
We have several partners like Barnes & Noble that have a specific page for promoting bundles. Apple frequently runs promotions that are only for bundles. So if you don’t have a bundle, you’re not going to be eligible for any of these different types of ways to add to your discoverability. I would say with Kobo, you could see a dramatic sales change. With the others, it’s kind of having the product out there. Having more products out there is going to give you more discoverability, it’s going to give you more options for, you frequently see BookBub take box sets, because you have so much more range to work with on the price. So you can do like a lower price on the box side and make it a really great deal for different people. We have noticed within our outliers at Kobo that, for whatever reason, Canadian readers just love box sets. And so at least at Kobo, definitely have box sets up there. Because there’s just a type of reader that prefers to buy things as a box set versus buying the individual books.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:26
That’s good advice. I actually did not know that. So now I’m gonna go put more box sets into Canada. You’re welcome, Canada. So our own Elyssa has a question. “You mentioned wholesale. Does D2D have any wholesale priced stores right now?”
Dan Wood 20:45
Most of our library vendors are going to be on a wholesale model. We don’t have any, we’re not working with any retailers that are wholesale.
Mark Lefebvre 20:54
That means we just go right to the retailer rather than through a third party, whereas the libraries are wholesaling, our library partners are wholesaling to libraries.
Dan Wood 21:05
Right. And I should say, the caveat there is that’s for ebooks. With print, print is a wholesale model. So like, for instance, if you have a print book up with us, or if you’re using someone else, you might see every once in a while, Amazon will lower your price. They can do so because it’s a wholesale model. They do pay you at whatever suggested retail price that you give them. So if they cut it from $15.99 to $9.99, they’re paying you the whatever the agreement is off the list price you give them. So print is different, because wholesale is very common in print.
Mark Lefebvre 21:43
I’ve gotten really cheap author copies that way, I found it for $3, which is less than the cost to print the book. And I was like, well, I’m just gonna order that from Amazon. Now they did limit me to only being able to order one. But hey, with my free shipping, that was a great way to get an author copy for really inexpensive and make royalties on it.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:00
Yeah. We got a question from Facebook from Carey Dotson, actually a friend of mine. He says “I’m curious, are you required to put out a certain amount of material in a set amount of time?” And he says he’s not sure if it’s if it’s relevant to the discussion, but I think it could be. Because really, there’s no requirement. Like you’re not, it’s all part of your strategy and how you want to go forward with this stuff. There’s an idea called rapid release that people sort of swear by, where they’re releasing, you know, say a book a month, in order to generate a lot of momentum, a lot of sales, build a large audience very quickly. That can be very difficult to do and can cost you a lot of time in advance to prepare, but it is a strategy that a lot of successful authors have used. But really, there’s no set timeline, I personally try to release something within a 90-day window of each book, just because certain retailers like Amazon, that kind of keeps things moving. I don’t know that that’s true with necessarily every retailer. But it does work on Amazon, if you can keep things kind of going at a constant rate, you stay, I guess relevant, according to the algorithms. But that’s just a personal preference on my part. What about you guys?
Dan Wood 23:23
It’s a tactic. Like, at the end of the day, you want to make sure your books are shown to potential buyers. As Kevin mentioned, there are algorithms to just favor new books. So there are authors I know who kind of publish very quickly to make sure people keep seeing their name and their brand. Because by having a new book, it’s going to keep you kind of in front of people. If you have an old book that you’re not doing anything with, you’re not advertising with, then odds are people aren’t seeing it very often. Then I know people who release one book a year, or like a book every other year. That’s going to be like traditional publishers where, because they’re not putting out books that quickly, they’re spending money on advertising. And so either one can work. I know authors who do both. They spend money on advertising and then they release, every 90 days is a very common one because of algorithmic fall off. But I know people who release every month. And while there’s some diminishing returns to how often you publish, the faster you release books, the more likely you are to find more readers.
Mark Lefebvre 24:41
And I think the key thing, which I’ve mentioned earlier, is you’re in control as the author, as the publisher. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with. Here are the tools, they’re available for you to use at your leisure, at your convenience, at your pace. Whatever works best for your author plan.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:59
Yeah. Okay, so Michael Dillard has a question about distribution, I think. “How can readers buy books from self-published authors in South Africa and Zambia?” Is it Zambia or Zambia? Zambia? I never know.
Mark Lefebvre 25:13
You say Zambia, I say Zambia. Now, one of our partners, one of our partners, Kobo, does have a really strong presence in South Africa. I remember seeing stats that showed South Africa was very often within the top five to 10 countries where they get really strong sales. So they are available. I’m not sure if Amazon’s even available in South Africa. I don’t think they are. There’s plenty of countries that are not. And I’m pretty sure Apple, I’m pretty sure Apple has presence in South Africa as well, because they’ve got a pretty good decent global presence.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:49
Yeah. And I think that makes a very good case for distributing wide, by the way. Because Amazon is not in every country. So if you are tied in, I think the rules at Amazon are, if they do not distribute to a country, then you are not violating their terms of service by using someone to get to that specific country. But I could be wrong about that. So don’t go testing that saying Kevin said so. Read the rules. But to me, that always made the best case for not going exclusive to Amazon in the first place and going wide, because I want to be able to reach all those countries, regardless. So that’s maybe one of the better arguments. So, good. Well, I knew Kobo distributed in South Africa, I think. So it’s good to have you verify that.
Mark Lefebvre 26:41
In English and French too.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:46
English and French?
Mark Lefevbre 26:47
Well because it’s a bilingual country, right? So there are actual French sales there too, not just English sales.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:53
Yes. So that’s also good. The whole, I am not yet in the game of doing translations. I haven’t figured out a really good solid way to do that without costing me an arm and a leg. Do you guys have any advice on that? There’s a question from this author.
Mark Lefebvre 27:10
Do you have $10,000 to $15,000 to invest up front in a translation? No, I’m serious. Okay, then maybe just don’t go there yet.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:19
That seems to be the advice.
Dan Wood 27:20
The advice I give people is, German is generally going to be the best language after English. That tends to surprise people, they tend to go Spanish or think it’s going to be Spanish. But German has the best market, like language-wise, outside of the English market for ebooks. So it tends to do pretty well. A lot of romance authors tend to make back their investment in the translation very quickly. So if you’re a romance author, something to consider. Some of the other genres can do pretty well. But I know romance does very well in translation. Urban fantasy, we’ve seen some urban fantasy do very well in translation. After German, probably French, and then it’s kind of like French, Italian, somewhere in there. Spanish just isn’t a unified market in the same way, since there is the concept of like Spanish from Spain, and Mexican Spanish, and there’s differences. And while there are some similarities, kind of like, I think the French Canadian, there’s some big differences in the language, so that if you have a French book, it’s not necessarily going to do well in both France the country, and then up in Quebec.
Mark Lefebvre 28:43
Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of like American English versus proper English. Very similar.
Dan Wood 28:50
We just call it American now.
Mark Lefevbre 28:53
Says this Commonwealth country guy.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:54
It’s just American now. Or ‘Murican. So I’m lifting this question from the post, actually. With all the different marketing options, how do I learn them all? And I covered this in that post, first starting with a definition about what marketing was, because I think that helps shift people’s thinking. Because my definition of marketing has always been that it’s the process of improving the odds that the right reader will discover your book at the time they’re most ready to buy it. So if you keep that idea in mind, it changes the game on where you put your focus for learning all the various marketing options. Because some people fret and worry over things like, you know, should I be on every single social media platform? Probably not. And in fact, you might just want to choose the one that you’re most comfortable with and spend your time mastering that platform for at least a month. You know, spend 30 days mastering Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest and see how it works for you. Start with the one you’re most comfortable with. And then later, you can add something else like, you know, a second social media platform or Facebook ads or something else. But I would stick with one thing at a time and just make sure you’ve fully explored it, mastered it, and are getting real benefit out of it. You do not have to do all the things. But that said, I’d start with a mailing list.
Mark Lefebvre 30:25
I would add to that. The question is, how do I learn them all? You’re never going to learn them all. So don’t stress yourself out trying. And Kevin, I loved your definition of that marketing, because it’s so open-ended, right? It allows you to make really good decisions. And where I always want authors to start is, before you start thinking about how to market or where to market, go back to who your target readers are. Who is your ideal audience? And often, because I come from traditional book selling, I always think of comp authors and comp titles, so complimentary authors and titles. Meaning, and Kevin is a perfect example of this, for people who have read Dan Brown, and like that action adventure, archeological, you’re going to go with the Dan Kotler series from Kevin Tumlinson. So it’s kind of like identifying what they’ve read, what they’ve enjoyed, what kind of movies, TV shows, what they’re into culturally. You know, if people like ghost stories and are fascinated by my skulls, then they may be interested in some of my true ghost story books or some of my horror fiction. And always starting with the ideal audience. I’ll use an example, and I know this was something I used to pitch a book to a traditional publisher, but it’s no different when you’re talking about a self-published book. Haunted Hamilton was a book, and I did a Venn diagram. I said, there’s people who love ghost stories, that’s one circle. There’s people who love history, particularly Canadian history, because a lot of the ghosts come from, you know, the war of 1812, and historical things in Canada. And then people who love the city of Hamilton. And you put them together and right dead center is my ideal reader. And that’s who the book is marketed to. And so with every book that I do, I try to draw, even for myself, not to pitch to a publisher, but to draw who is my ideal reader. And then your marketing can spin from there. Because if you can find, if you’re into Twitter, and you enjoy Twitter as a social media platform, there’s probably hashtags and people you can follow and then communities you can engage in discussions with that are about that, those topics. And if you enjoy it, and you’re sharing and part of that community. I mean, Dan, you’re big into Clubhouse, right? That might be an area that you’re like, hey, I’m enjoying Clubhouse, I’m having fun. I’m making new friends, I’m engaging in … Obviously, you’re engaging in the writing and publishing community. But it could be for the science fiction you read, right? You could be in different, are you in any Clubhouse groups for your reading interests?
Dan Wood 32:45
No, everything I’ve been doing has been around the author community on Clubhouse. Not that I’m against it, it’s just that for me, for book discovery for what I like, and I’m somewhere in kind of the, I read fantasy, sci fi, and like, horror and weird lit. Reddit is where I get most of my book recommendations. And so like, I don’t really need another place to look for them. I could see how Clubhouse could be powerful for that. But just, I’ve already got solutions, and I have way more books to read than I have time. And so, you know, the to be read list is huge. For me, like … I want to keep on this topic for just a little bit. As I think both Kevin and Mark said, don’t try to be everywhere. Be where your target readers are. And that’s going to be the best advice. Figure out where they’re most likely to be. I mentioned Reddit, for fantasy there’s a very strong community. And so that’s a good place, if you’re a fantasy author, you should be involved in that. You shouldn’t be spamming them with, hey, I’ve got a book, I’ve got a book, go buy my book. You should be involved, you should be part of the community and getting to know them. And they will reward you for that. I’ve seen it with both traditional authors and self-published authors, where Reddit has really, the Subreddit around fantasy has really promoted their works, because they like the work and because they like that the author as part of the community. Definitely, like if you had all the time in the world, being on as many platforms as possible is going to help you some. But like everyone, you’re constrained. So like the 80/20 rule of 80% of your effort, or your results are going to come from like 20% of what you’re doing. And so the better tuned in you are to what marketing works for you to connect to your ideal reader, the better your results are going to be. And so just kind of focus on that. One of my pet peeves, I see authors do this a lot don’t just go to the sources that let you make posts on every social media platform. Don’t just do that, where you try to make one post for every platform. Every platform has differences in the way they expect the graphic images to look, every platform has differences in the hashtags. If you’re not going to individualize to a platform, don’t bother being on it. Like … I say don’t bother being on it. Like you might want to go out, like if you suspect that maybe someday you’re going to be on Pinterest, Instagram or Pinterest, you might go out and grab your author name as your user profile. But don’t just post there, if you’re not going to take it seriously and not going to try to understand the community that’s there. Just post to the places where you understand the community, and you’re actually going to participate.
Mark Lefebvre 35:54
Yeah, I agree with that 100%. It’s part of an engagement and a community. The other thing I think that can work, Dan, is when you find a platform where there are Book Tubers, or Book Talkers, or whatever the platform is, Instagram stories of reviews of books, you can potentially find the people who are passionate about reading those things. And what I’ve had some great success with lately is offering them, hey, I know you like, you know, Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy tales. I’ve got a series very similar, with a similar type of humor. Can I send you, can I sign and send you, and I do prefer mailing them a print copy of the book. Because in those platforms, rather than holding up a device there, they can actually hold up the book, because some of the visual media, it’s a lot more effective. And in my mind that expenditure, even if they don’t end up reviewing it, I’ve sent it off to them, maybe they’ve given it to a friend that they think would find value and somewhere down the road, the word of mouth works. But that expenditure, in my mind, is well worth compared to oh, I threw a whole bunch of money on a Facebook ad. And potentially, you know, I think as Kevin says, getting them on your list is a lot better than just trying to sell a book on Facebook through an ad. But some of those things can work because what you’re doing is, you’re giving to the community rather than saying, hey everyone, go look at my book. So I think that’s an important distinction there.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:25
I want to pop this question up from Saved by Grace on YouTube. They oriented it toward Elyssa, but we’ll answer it too. “Is it possible to copyright and publish your book anonymously?” And I got some thoughts on that. But I want you guys to hit that up first.
Mark Lefebvre 37:43
Yeah, yeah. You know, there are so many authors that we know their real names, but they have pseudonyms. There are several authors, even when I see them in person, I just call them by their author name, because that’s how the community knows them. There are people who write potentially, you know, erotic literature, and maybe they have a professional day job where it probably doesn’t look good if they’re writing erotic literature. And so what happens is, when you publish a book on Draft2Digital, you can put it under whatever name you want. Obviously, it’s a name that’s not already taken. So I’m not going to publish a book and put the name Stephen King on it, obviously. But the copyright is owned by you as the creator of it. So you can go register that directly, and register it with a copyright name. So Michael Connelly, for example, His real name, traditionally published author. All of his books are copyright under Hieronymus Inc, and Hieronymus Bosch is Harry Bosch, the main character. And he so he created a company name, so all of his books are copyrighted not under Michael Connelly, but under the company name, which is obviously forward thinking of him for when he passes on. His estate has it. So yeah, you can publish them under a name that is, you know, a company name or some name that is not your name that people know you by.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:03
Yeah, you can layer. So a lot of authors will do things like, they’ll get an LLC or something similar, some kind of corporate structure, like what Connolly’s done, and that is the entity that actually owns the works. Copyright is a little weird, there’s a real good chance your name is going to appear somewhere. But a lot of people, if they want to stay anonymous, can kind of bury themselves in that way. And unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of legitimate reasons for wanting to stay anonymous in that scenario, so people tend to get suspicious of you and start trying to dig. So maybe combining that with a pen name might be a good idea. It would detract from, you know, people kind of trying to search you out. So I think Elyssa’s been answering these in the … Go ahead.
Dan Wood 39:58
It’s hard answer your question entirely. If by anonymously, you mean, no one’s gonna know who you are, no. At the end of the day, whoever you’re using to list your book, so we at Draft2Digital, or if you go direct to Amazon, you’re going to have to give them a real tax identity. So we’re gonna have to know who you are so we can pay you and make sure you’re not from countries that we’re not allowed to work with. Like, if the US has sanctions against a country, we just can’t work with you. We have to have a real place to send bank money, we can’t send it through Bitcoin and things of that nature at this point, or probably ever. So at the end of the day, someone’s gonna know who you are. If you have reasons for wanting to protect your identity, like you write in a genre, and you don’t want your friends and families or coworkers to know, then some of the strategies we talked about. Having the pen name is going to protect your identity. Having an LLC, it’s going to pull that away. So like with copyright, that’s under the LLC’s name, that also has some other advantages to doing it that way. Like if you decided later on, you want to sell your books to someone, have them maintain them. You could do stuff like that. And so, options out there to obscure your identity. But at the end of the day, there’s no way to be truly anonymous and get a book out there.
Mark Lefebvre 41:24
Right. Grace followed up with the reason, is because there were people who were going to their channel and threatening about writing. So yeah, that’s a perfect case where yes, with a company like Draft2Digital that’s private, that’s between us in the back end that’s never shared publicly. Whatever name you use is the name that we use when we communicate with our vendors and stuff like that. So nobody knows who you are behind the scenes.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:49
And yeah, we do actually protect that pretty stringently. There’s no chance … you can accidentally launch something under a different name if you’re not careful. But there are ways to work around that as well. So, we never release any of that information. I think there’s actually safeguards that prevent us from ever being able to release that information. So, we’ll keep you safe.
Dan Wood 42:17
We don’t send that information to the retailers, we only send the publisher name. And then any retailer that shows something like the seller, it would show us instead of … Like Apple is kind notorious for accidentally outing authors, because Apple has a seller field. And if you don’t, if you haven’t already set up your LLC and you put your legal name, then your legal name is the seller name. And so people frequently don’t give enough time or don’t realize they need to have an LLC if they want to keep their identity hidden on Apple.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:49
Yep. Easy Graphics from YouTube says, “Speaking of remaining anonymous, how does a nonfiction author promote their brand / books under a pen name? Would love some ideas.”
Mark Lefebvre 43:01
I have one for you, Easy Graphics. And you already know this, because I know your real name, but I’m not going to share it. But Easy Graphics is the brand, right? And you obviously have already established that brand. So with your nonfiction author brand, let’s say Easy Graphics is the author name or the company name. You build that brand trust as an expert in an area, for example. And I think that’s really important. So when you’re thinking about the website, the website’s going to be under that author name, or this is the author who is an expert in this area, and is going to share that information. I write under Mark Leslie. All my fiction has been under Mark Leslie, all my nonfiction has been under Mark Leslie. And the reason I did that is because nobody could ever spell or pronounce Lefevbre. The only reason I made that exception was because I spent the last 25 plus years working in the book industry, building a name for myself as Mark Lefevbre, and so people in the book industry knew me as Mark Lefevbre. So I do have books under that nonfiction Mark Leslie Lefevbre brand, only because I had almost no choice. I’d already built a brand. But had I been thinking, I should have used a pseudonym. It should have been like Mark Smith or something a lot easier to spell.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:15
Yeah. I have pen names and I kind of rotate through them with certain things. I’ve yet to reveal any of them to anyone. So if anyone out there can identify me amongst my pen names, I will give you $1. I’m confessing to nothing on air by the way.
Mark Lefevbre 44:37
Are you Chuck Tingle?
Kevin Tumlinson 44:38
I am not Chuck Tingle, unfortunately. I don’t have Chuck Tingle money. But good guess. Okay, so that is gonna have to wrap us up.
Mark Lefevbre 44:50
Are you really Danielle Steel?
Kevin Tumlinson 44:51
I’m not confessing to anything, sir. We’re at the end of our time. I think this was a good one. And of course we always love taking questions from everybody. And anytime we have one of these live events, you are always welcome to pop in and ask us anything. But having something specially aimed at that I think has been pretty helpful. But now that we’re at the end, it’s time to pay the price. Go subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook. If you do /draft2digital, Draft2Digital on just about any URL, you’ll probably find us. But definitely go to youtube.com/draft2digital and facebook.com/draft2digital, you’ll find us there. Make sure you’re subscribing, click the little bell, all the things they tell you to do amongst the popular YouTubers. We’re not Tik Tokers yet. I saw that come up in the comments. Mark and I are too curmudgeonly I guess. We’re gonna have to look into it, buddy. Make sure you mark you bookmark D2DLive.com, that’s where we’ll have countdowns to each of these live broadcasts. We’re looking at trying to up the game on these in the future. So you’re definitely gonna want to be subscribed so you know when these things are coming. And we have been sharing something from the blog today. But if you have not seen that or our other posts, you want to check that out. Go to draft2digital.com/blog to see our current posts and an archive of everything that’s in the past. And that also includes episodes of this program, we put all the videos and we have a podcast associated with it. We put transcripts, things like that on there. This is a good place to find everything we’re producing. And you can follow us of course on Twitter and elsewhere, but that blog is going to be a real good landing page for everything you’re doing. I never read the tips out loud. Oh, wait, that’s not the right one. I never, oh, yes, it is. I never actually read it out loud for the listeners. But go to d2d.tips/5authorqs. That will get you to that post directly. But if you just go on to the blog at /blog, you can type in, you know, five author questions and that will probably pop up. So that’s going to do it for today. And we’re really glad that you’re with us. We’re about to jump into conference season. So if you’re going to NINC or 20 Books Vegas or dozens of others I’ve probably forgotten.
Mark Lefevbre 47:27
Career Author Summit.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:28
Career Author Summit, I think that’s the first one I’m going to. So yeah, if you’re gonna be there, make sure you say hi, and we’ll be happy to chat you up and answer some questions live there too. So, you guys want to throw anything in before we check out? Everybody’s shaking their head. All right, everybody Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see y’all next time.
Dan Wood 47:44