D2D’s own Dan Wood, Mark Lefebvre, and Kevin Tumlinson chat about the benefits and effectiveness they’ve seen as a result of conferences going online, and the rise of webinars and livestreams for authors.
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Mark Lefebvre, Dan Wood, Kevin Tumlinson
Mark Lefebvre 00:21
Hello, welcome to Draft2Digital Insiders. This is Mark Leslie Lefebvre with …
Dan Wood 00:28
Dan Wood. Hello, everyone.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:30
And Kevin Tumlinson. Howdy there.
Mark Lefebvre 00:34
We are thrilled to be back. It’s been a while. So I mean, the three of us have been sort of tag teaming on interviewing so many amazing people from the writing and publishing communities, bringing you guys inside information from so many fascinating individuals. But the three of us haven’t had a chance to chat since, I think it was February, like on a live chat like this?
Dan Wood 00:59
Yeah, it’s been a while.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:00
Mark Lefebvre 01:01
Yeah, it was it was pre-COVID. So I think maybe initially we do have, I have one question that queued up ahead of time. If you’re watching this live, feel free to pop a question into the comments and we’ll be able to pop that up on the screen. The first thing I wanted to talk about is, okay, so let’s—COVID. D2D was active at a lot of conferences. What’s going on with that now, how are we dealing with this?
Dan Wood 01:27
Well, definitely. Last year, I think between the three of us, we did about 33 conferences. So that’s an absurd amount, for anyone wondering. I don’t think anyone else in the industry does that many conferences. But it’s always been one of the best ways for us to connect with authors and in the market and just let people know about our services and everything. You know, with concern about our employees and with everything that’s going on, very early on, we went to working from home, like the first or second week of March. We have, Mark and Kevin are amongst many people at Draft2Digital who work remotely anyway, so we’d kind of worked out most of the logistics of being separate. So it hasn’t been that big of a change for us. And we’ve just been kind of playing it by ear waiting to see in health reports and whatnot, with conferences. And in this last week, we kind of made the final decision for this year, not to do any travel officially. And so, you know, it kind of sucks, but just the way the numbers are at and where the professionals think things will be, we just don’t feel comfortable sending anyone.
Mark Lefebvre 02:48
Yeah. So how have we compensated for that, then? He asked knowingly.
Dan Wood 02:54
Yeah, well, definitely these different live chats that we’ve done. Over the past, you know, there was a while there where nearly everything was shut down, where we were doing one every work day. Which was fun, but a lot of work, like exhausting, even splitting it up between the three of us. We’re doing a lot of stuff remotely. And just a lot of cons that were going to happen in person have switched over to remote and so we’ve enjoyed being a part of those. And we’ve got a couple of those coming up in the near future as well.
Mark Lefebvre 03:27
So what—you guys are both going to be at one of them aren’t you, very soon?
Kevin Tumlinson 03:32
Yeah, RWA or RW Australia, which we’re looking forward to. Yeah, we’ve got a couple of couple of different things going with that conference. And it’s been an interesting experience to kind of see this shift to a virtual format. You know, it actually, in a lot of ways these virtual conferences are a lot more work than the physical conferences, a lot more prep time. Now I’m creating like videos and presentations and things for all these. It gets a little exhausting, but it is interesting to see, like, in some respects, it’s like you have more coverage, people are getting a lot more information and a lot better information. So it’s been very interesting to see that shift happening.
Dan Wood 04:17
Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of feedback from the conferences I’ve been to so far. People are enjoying the remote experience. It’s kind of opened up—there are many people that couldn’t just couldn’t attend a physical conference, either because of resources like time, money, etc. Or, yeah, like this opens up to people that are handicapped, for different things of that nature. And so I think we’re going to see the nature of the conference change and it’s going to, we’re going to see some virtual elements, more streaming of content. I know for a lot of people that like being able to go back and rewatch the session after it’s ended, you know, they’ve attended live and then they can watch it later on to review what was talked about. Or, you know, they might have been busy at that time. Yeah, I know every year at NInc, we have people sad that they miss a session because there was another session booked at that same time. And this kind of eliminates that, so.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:18
Yeah, that used to be the kind of thing that they would actually charge extra for, to be able to play those sections back online somewhere or get a CD. A lot of conferences were still doing exactly that, like they were putting it on a tape or a CD. So having that ability to just kind of tune in and sort of customize your own conference experience, I think is very appealing to the authors. So it democratizes the whole thing,
Mark Lefebvre 05:42
So can that lead to a challenge that we already have online, with just like information overload? So I’ve come back from a conference where there were three tracks, obviously I can only be in one at a time. Sometimes I’ve tag teamed with other writers and said “You go to this one, I’ll go to that one, and we’ll share notes.” But now with a virtual conference, and I’m speaking of this from a writer’s perspective, like an attendee who’s there to learn rather than us, that’s there, you know, to buy drinks and share stuff on stage and mingle and all the fun stuff that we would normally do. But so you get back and you go, oh my God, now I have three weekends worth of conferences to get caught up on. What do you recommend to authors who may be feeling that sort of overload because there’s too much great information?
Kevin Tumlinson 06:27
In respect to the virtual version of the conference?
Mark Lefebvre 06:31
Yeah, with the virtual version. It’s like, okay, now I have the track I watched live and then I have the other two tracks or whatever that I can go back to. Is there a strategy to approach that?
Kevin Tumlinson 06:40
You know, I think, in a lot of respects, unless the conferences themselves are putting limitations on when you can watch that stuff, I mean, the great thing about this is you can take a break, go, you know, go have a meal with your family, do a Zoom call with some friends or whatever, and then come back. And you can even—maybe I shouldn’t pitch this, but I mean, you can watch this with other authors in the room if you happen to have other authors in your home. But you know, I think it opens it up for consuming this stuff at your own pace and allowing you to get more out of it, personally. I know that’s what I’m seeing with my conference attendees.
Dan Wood 07:20
Yeah, I think you always know your own learning pace, and what you can handle and what you can’t, and so don’t overwhelm yourself. Just like I tell any new authors at conferences, you always kind of leave feeling like you’ve been drinking from the fire hose, and there’s so much good information, you can get overwhelmed. Pick one thing, focus on that for a little while. If it helps your business, you know, double down on that. Maybe, you know, add in another thing that you learned at the conference. Just make incremental small growth.
Kevin Tumlinson 07:51
One thing I would like to see more of, and maybe some conferences are starting to look at this idea, but one of the things that I think is missing is the camaraderie and the connection you make with other authors who attend the conference. So I would love to see, and I’m hoping maybe there’s a way to facilitate this with tools like Zoom or whatever. But, you know, how do we get the authors to start talking to each other again and start interacting with each other again, because for a lot of authors, that’s really the main point of going to these conferences.
Mark Lefebvre 08:23
Yeah. So there was on thing—oh, sorry, Dan.
Dan Wood 08:26
I was gonna say, the SFWA Nebula Conference did a great job with that. They had, I don’t know what you call it, like breakout rooms where people would just go. And they kind of would randomly, they had moderators that were kind of just throwing you into different rooms. So you would meet new people and then you had powers to move between the rooms. It definitely had some technical glitches here and there, but overall, I was just amazed at what a great job they did a pulling that off. And it’s not perfect, like it’s, being in person as much better for the networking aspect of it. But you know, there was a Saturday night where I just sat around, you know, from my computer being able to talk to people.
Mark Lefebvre 09:06
Yeah. What I liked about the breakout rooms, and I think Career Author Summit did this, as well as one of, Kevin J. Anderson’s class with the visiting speakers. I was virtually visiting that in the last couple weeks. But the random breakout room where you’re in a breakout room for about maybe 5 to 10, 15 minutes, what I loved about it, because I’m an omnivert, right? So you put me on stage or whatever, I’m okay, but you bring me into a room and I’ll go hide in the corner because I, unless I recognize someone that I know, maybe I’ll feel okay talking to them. But I was forced into a room randomly with people I may not have had the privilege or luxury of getting to speak to. So I, you know, representing Draft2Digital, it was amazing, because I got an opportunity to not just like gravitate over, go, I know Kevin, I’m gonna go talk to him, or I know this other author or whoever, I’m going to talk to them. I was able to chat with authors I’ve never spoken to before. So, in some ways, I miss I do miss the camaraderie and the in-person relationships and how unique that is. Like, even just clinking a glass together, whether it’s a coffee mug or some other beverage. But I did love that.
Dan Wood 10:17
Let’s face it, it was rarely coffee, it was more likely to be beer.
Mark Lefebvre 10:18
It was more likely to be beer. But you know, I kind of, you know, in a virtual environment, I think that’s a bonus, because you’re in the room with six other people that you may not have had the chance to speak to. So I think that’s awesome.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:30
The drinks are cheaper too.
Mark Lefebvre 10:33
Yeah, they are. Yeah, when you have them at home. Now, we have some questions queuing up. I do want to jump to a previously submitted question from somebody who’s in Australia who said she’d be asleep during this time and wanted to ask. But I’m gonna ask this one from our very own Elyssa, who asks, “Have you noticed writers changing strategies due to COVID?” What have you guys seen?
Kevin Tumlinson 10:56
I’m seeing, because e-books are doing so well, I mean, I’m seeing people kind of leaning in and trying to produce more. So what we’ve seen, and we’ve seen this at Draft2Digital, there’s been an uptick in the production and publication of new books. I think a lot of authors who had day jobs had the opportunity to really knuckle down and produce more. And one of the side effects that’s coming out of that, from what I’m seeing in groups, is that the authors now sort of discovered a rhythm where, even as they start to return to their day jobs, they’re able to kind of keep up some of this pace. So it’s really helped in developing, you know, better—it’s really the advice we’ve been giving authors all along, but it’s really helped a lot of these authors to develop a daily writing habit.
Dan Wood 11:45
I think I’m seeing the same thing. Although, I mean, it kind of varies. For some authors, it did give them more time. For others, you know, when they have kids, and now they’re having to spend a lot more of their time entertaining the kids than, like, there would normally be activities during summer, school and everything like that. So some have had to slow down. It’s a mix. Like, I think the overwhelming thing is, people are trying to take advantage right now by doing more, because you’re just getting more out of your effort. E-book sales, digital sales are up across the board significantly. A lot of people that had not previously tried e-books or audiobooks are now getting used to them in this format. You know, we all are curious to see what it looks like a year or two from now. Will that stay? And I think generally, the convenience and better price of e-books will make it win in the end. So I think it’s going to stay, but you never know.
Mark Lefebvre 12:51
Okay, cool. Cool. Thank you. I’m going to pop into the first question that was previously submitted. So Demelza had asked, “So what can an author with 50+ books on D2D do to increase sales that they’re not doing already?”
Kevin Tumlinson 13:10
That’s a hard one to answer when we don’t know exactly what you’re doing already. But ….
Mark Lefebvre 13:15
That’s true. I’m assuming she’s doing all the basic stuff that we’ve—
Kevin Tumlinson 13:17
We’re going to assume ads and things like that are already being run. Gosh, this is tough advice. Because you know, the things that work that I know about are pretty standard stuff. You know, doing cross-promotion with other authors, and doing ads, and aiming for things like BookBub featured deals in particular. I mean, I can already feel the eyes rolling out there, but these are the things that work. I do think that right now, you really do need to start focusing on list-building over almost every other form of marketing, because as we’re starting to see here in the United States, I mean, we’re already seeing tech companies are sitting in on these hearings and talking about their practices, and we’re starting to see a little bit of a shake-up, and how those industries are going to be impacted, which has an impact on the authors and the self-publishing industry as well. So I think right now, your best bet is to start focusing your energies on cultivating and building that mailing list up as much as possible. I don’t want to irritate our question asker. I mean, that was a pretty standard thing. So if you guys have other things that maybe I didn’t think about.
Mark Lefebvre 14:30
Well, I was gonna jump in with maybe leveraging some of the tools …. We have some free tools that, again, I keep rediscovering the power of when I when I look into them. So you know, I look at things like, you know, having an author page using the Books2Read book tabs, where any of the books that you’ve put in through Books2Read, you’ve got an author page. And what I love about that author page is I can put all my social media links, I can feature what I want to at the top. Right now I’m re-releasing a series, so I’ve got the free First in Series featured right at the top, because that’s what I want to draw people’s eyes to. I’ve got the different carousels, no matter how it’s published, it doesn’t have to be through D2D. So I have some traditionally published books that are all in the same genre on one carousel. And I think, I know it’s a simple thing. But at least for me, with the concept of wanting to encourage my readers to be able to buy my books on any platform, and not just send them to a single retailer, which helps me grow my sales at Apple and Kobo and Nook and the other places, I can have an agnostic landing page that I don’t even have to design myself, but I can still control. So I know it’s maybe a small thing, and maybe some authors are using it to great advantage. But maybe others aren’t even aware that that tool exists, because the other thing is the geotargeting that happens, right? So it sends people to the right country, whether it’s the version of Amazon or Apple or Kobo or whatever, but it sends you to the right territory. So an author in Australia, for example, doesn’t have to to go, or a reader in Australia doesn’t have to go, oh great, the Amazon.com link, or the Apple US link. I wanted the Australia link because I want to look at it in Australian dollars. So I know it’s, that’s maybe another simple thing. But there are some really cool tools that you can leverage for free there.
Dan Wood 16:17
I would say the thing that maybe we haven’t talked about as much, because a lot of this stuff is stuff that we do talk about all the time. Make sure you’re letting readers know that your books are available to library systems to purchase if you’re wide. You know, they don’t always know that. They don’t know that they can request that the library system buys a book. And just let them know every once in a while, and be like, hey, my books are available at two libraries. Request to buy my books at your library, you know, if you want to read them that way, or if you really enjoyed the book and you want to make sure your community has access to it, request this library book. The libraries have budgets. They’re there just to pick up things that are requested by their patrons. And so that’s a great way to get discovered by a library. And you know, as they see people, if they’re reading it, they will go on and buy other books of yours.
Mark Lefebvre 17:13
Yeah, that is great. And it’s something people don’t often think about, especially since library sales dramatically grew, you know, since March. There’s a follow up question to something that Kevin brought up. So I’m gonna pop that up here. So Charles asked, he says, “Hey, what’s a minimum number of members that an email list needs to be effective?”
Kevin Tumlinson 17:33
You know, that’s one of those questions that’s going to be a variable answer depending on who you are. I mean, the annoying answer is, as many as it takes to support you and your goals. But a general rule of thumb is, if you can get 1,000 loyal fans, 1,000 loyal readers on your list, you’re probably going to be able to make a pretty decent living from what you’re doing. So if you need a target, I’d aim for 1,000. Don’t get too caught up in this though, because even if you only had a couple hundred people on a list, those couple hundred people can make a big difference in your revenue or book sales. Especially if you start kind of evangelizing them and getting them to go out. What you really want is to cultivate a good, well-vetted list. Don’t worry so much about how deep the list goes, or how wide the list goes. But you want to focus on how deep they go. You want them to be out there talking about your work to other readers, promoting you, leaving reviews. So you know, a couple hundred people on a list is a pretty good start. I started with 60 people on my list, and that was the number I sat at for nearly four years until I really started knuckling down. But those 60 people bought every single book I put out, and they went out and left reviews, and they really helped me to get a good start. So the magic number is going to be a variable for authors.
Dan Wood 18:54
And again I don’t think it’s the number of like, the overall number is irrelevant. If you have 100,000 people that you’ve gotten onto your list, that don’t click on your links or don’t follow through on what you’re asking them or read through it, that’s worthless. So it’s people that you can turn into to true fans that are interacting with your content. That’s the same for social media. If you have 60,000 Twitter followers that are just all bots, that doesn’t do you any good. So the size of the list, I would say, is irrelevant. And I see a lot of people spend a lot of money on all the different services to try to grow their list, and they give away free books, and then they wonder why it’s not doing anything to their sales. I mean, you just want to cultivate loyal fans rather than get people on the email list.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:48
Yeah, one thing I would recommend, by the way, to help with list building is to use services like BookFunnel, and to use their promotions tool. And I’ve had a lot of success with growing my list. I I have a fairly large list as it is, but I like to kind of just keep it going. And I’ve had a lot of success with getting some really well-qualified subscribers using cross-promotion through BookFunnel. So, something to consider.
Mark Lefebvre 20:14
That is cool. I mean, I would argue 10 really, really dedicated fans who love your stuff and are willing to talk about your work and share it and click and buy and review are way better than 100 freegans are dead beats.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:30
Especially if those 10 people are willing to buy 100 copies of your book.
Mark Lefebvre 20:32
Well, yeah, but I mean, but having 100 people that do nothing, you may as well not have them, right? Like it’s kind of like, you’ve crowded it out, but there’s it’s not really quality at all. Yeah. Cool, cool. Thank you guys. So this is from Alexis, and Alexis asks, “After months of conversations with publishing insiders, have there been any takeaways that you’ve considered particularly important for authors? Or information you might not have known, or known the importance of before all this?”
Kevin Tumlinson 21:06
Now you’re forcing me to go back and remember every single interview? Well, you know, I think one of the things that’s come out of this is, there are certain things that we hear over and over again, like list-building and things like that. And you start to kind of, after a while, you start to wonder, like, are ads still effective? Is this platform still doing well? So I think one of the things that’s come out of this for me is, learning some of this advice is still good. A lot of this advice is still good. So I think it’s more like a confirmation thing. I think these things are invaluable. One of the things that I’ve realized is that we take a lot of this stuff for granted, like we just know all this stuff. But I’m starting to realize there are a lot of authors who are kind of just new to the game, or maybe they never caught the wave of podcasts or whatever, who don’t know all these things. So it’s been enlightening to me to just watch authors sort of discover this stuff, essentially for the first time.
Mark Lefebvre 22:08
Yeah, I’ll second that, Kevin. Again, it’s something we encounter when—and when we go to conferences, one of the differences oftentimes is, somebody who’s paid to go to a conference probably is in the know a little bit because they’ve learned about the conference from another writer friend. That means they’re connected already. And every once in a while you do get an author who hasn’t been exposed to those things. So it’s a really great experience for them to learn new things. But online, the beautiful thing about that is, especially when we’ve done these Q&As is, we have the honor and privilege of getting to talk to authors who we may not have, may not have gone to a conference or may not know those things, so they don’t know what an ISBN is. It sounds basic, but um, so I think remembering that is really, really critical because again, we want to talk about next phase things and higher level marketing and all the other stuff, but we have to remember there’s so many authors who could use support and help at that, at the end of just getting started, right?
Dan Wood 23:03
Yeah, sometimes it feels like you’re repeating yourself over and over. And you know, we do, we talked so much about the email list. We talked so much about making sure you’ve got the cover right, different things that are really the key. You know, they’re 95% of the problems, when people don’t have the cover matching their genre, or you know, they don’t have an email list at that point. Those are things that are the big fixes. But people need to hear that. And, you know, we’re finding new people all the time—especially, we’ve been amazed by how our YouTube presence has grown. And it’s a very different demographic than what we’ve found on Facebook, which, the Facebook demographic tends to be the people we’ve met at conferences and like their circle. So it’s been really interesting. I remember, one that stuck out to me was when I talked to Michelle Spiva, and just all the different platforms and like, she was thinking outside the box and looking at the new platforms, and thinking about what those might mean to us, how you can use them now. There’s just so much stuff out there. You know, we have seen, like, the transition as more and more people are using video platforms for search. We’re seeing things that I quite frankly don’t understand like TikTok. But we need to always be thinking and trying to keep up with where people are at.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:43
It is interesting, by the way, when we go to the conferences live, the people, the authors who tend to go to these physical conferences, a lot of times they’ve already sort of made it. We certainly go to a lot of conferences where authors are kind of new, just getting started, and they tend to be a more local crowd. But we tend to go to some of the bigger, more national conferences. And those authors tend to have already figured some things out. And they’re there to just sort of, you know, hone and improve their game. So one of the interesting impacts of the, to go back a little to the virtual conference idea. And with our podcast and everything that we’re building now, we’re reaching this whole new audience. And we’re kind of, it’s more than just discovery. Like there, it’s eye-opening, because we’re encountering authors who really didn’t have a presence out in the conference world before. So that’s one of the biggest things, I think, one of the best things that’s come out of the Self-Publishing Insiders, this live thing that we’re doing with D2D, is we’re able to connect now with authors who probably maybe have never even heard of us before. But if they had heard of us, they didn’t realize the depth of the industry. So that’s been very interesting.
Mark Lefebvre 25:59
It’s almost like the way that digital publishing democratized the slush pile, and allowed really good content the ability not to be blocked by gatekeepers in New York, London, Toronto. But this allowed other authors who maybe wouldn’t have had the chance to engage and network, right, the digita. Because suddenly, if you had an internet connection, you could connect and learn some of those things.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:23
Exactly right. We got people who just pop in on things like this and ask us a question. They gain access to us and the experts we talk to, that they may never have had before.
Mark Lefebvre 26:33
And speaking of experts, I see Danielle posted a question about Vellum having issues with loading. I just want to remind people listening, if you have any questions or issues with tech issues, our customer service team are amazing real people who are there for you, business hours, Central Time. And send it to support at draft2digital.com and they’ll respond. Beautifully, Elyssa already responded to Danielle with her Vellum issue about uploading. So that’s obvious of how dedicated our people are. But if you have any questions or problems, don’t hesitate to just email. Because our team are actual real people, it’s not outsourced to anywhere else. And we will help you to the best of our ability.
Dan Wood 27:13
You can call, too. We have a phone number that’s toll-free in the US and Australia. If you’re international beyond that, like, you can use some services to get to us. But that’s something to keep in mind, that during normal workdays, Monday through Friday for the US, you can call and talk to somebody if you need to.
Mark Lefebvre 27:35
Which is kind of rare, which is kind of cool. So this is sort of a bit of a follow up question. And I’m going to pop up here. I just, Julie says “I’ve just been recently introduced to publishing wide,” (Welcome, Julie!) “and still at the start of my learning curve.” As we all still are, Julie. “I hear you talking about lists. Several authors have mentioned MailerLite. Do you have a recommendation of what makes a good e-newsletter?” Now I guess the question is, if you’re talking about MailerLite versus something else, Julie, or would you be talking about content for an e-newsletter? Which is what I thought the question was about.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:09
Let’s go with the content question. That one’s easier to answer. You know, some of the best practices of the email newsletter is to make sure you’re doing something consistent. And there are varying ideas on what makes a good, you know, recurrence of these things. I mean, I like to touch base, I try to touch base once a week. Some people think that’s too much. Once a month, some people think is great. But being consistent is more important. If you are—and you want to be personable in the emails, which doesn’t mean the same as being personal. You can share, like, select details about your life, but mostly what you want to do is be approachable when you reach out to these people. And I like to include, like, open-ended questions in my emails when I send to my list. So I’ll ask, you know, what are you reading right now? Or you know, what are your plans for the weekend? Or something like that, something friendly and open-ended that encourages people to respond to that email. And then every time I get a response, I reply back and try to personalize those comments as well. And they can be a lot of work. I’ve got like, around 70,000 people on my mailing list at this point. So it can get, it can become kind of a part time job sometimes. But it is so worth it, because what you’re doing is establishing an actual relationship with that reader. So in terms of best practices, those two things I think are top of the list.
Mark Lefebvre 29:37
Cool. Thank you. Well, Julie sent a follow up question to confirm what the question was. And it was that she uses Constant Contact, but “I’m more interested in the best vehicle to deliver my content to readers.” Thanks for clarifying. I had used Constant Contact via work in a past corporate life and not a fan at all. I just think it’s bulky, bloated, and way too expensive and manual. If you need to do anything fancy, you have to call them and get them on the phone. You can’t just DIY it. I’ve been using MailChimp for a long, long time, and I’m pretty satisfied with it. I’m still keeping my eyes open for other. What do you, are you MailerLite? What are you on, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 30:16
I use a little service called Author Email, authoremail.com. But I’m a little biased because I helped found it.
Dan Wood 30:26
And for Draft2Digital, we use Active Campaign. It, I would say there’s not a best one. Like, you have to look at what your needs are. And they all vary in the payment structure. It kind of, I have heard people talk about this a lot. It’s all over the place. There’s not one where authors are like, this is clearly the best right now. And so it’s just a moving target and what fits you. If you’re using all the features of Constant Contact, then that might be worth staying with. I’m pretty sure there are many cheaper options to do most of what authors need to do.
Mark Lefebvre 31:07
Awesome. Thank you guys. That’s great.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:09
Well, as with most things, the answer really is: you got to find the service that works best for your needs. That’s an answer that’s gonna get me stabbed one day, but it’s still the right answer.
Mark Lefebvre 31:21
“It depends.” Alright, let’s go into some a little bit more technical. And I think it goes back to one of the guests we had on, so we might even be able to refer. So Wasim asks, “How to find keywords that are going to work with my book discoverability and increase sales?” Did we not have an expert on one of these chats to talk about keywords?
Dan Wood 31:41
It was actually before we were doing these chats. Like, it was one of our “Ask Us Anything”s.
Mark Lefebvre 31:45
It was with Dave, right?
Kevin Tumlinson 31:48
Yeah, Dave Chesson.
Dan Wood 31:49
Mark Lefebvre 31:50
Yeah, so maybe we can maybe ask Elyssa to drop a link in the YouTube chat.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:00
I know Elyssa is listening. So there is a blog post on our blog that she could link to that, I believe, has the video and the post. But there’s also a YouTube video with our discussion with him.
Mark Lefebvre 32:14
Dan Wood 32:16
And he’s got a tool that just helps you figure out what keywords to go with, or what ones might work for you. And it gives you a lot of data back to figure out how you should do that.
Mark Lefebvre 32:29
Awesome. So we knew this type of question was going to come up. There are several questions about print. So Gerard asks, “When are you starting the print on demand services? Waiting for it because you guys are great to work with.” He’s talking about Dan and Kevin, of course, and everyone else on the team. But thanks to Robert, I’ll say thank you on behalf of the team. “Already have two of my e-books up with D2D.” Awesome stuff. So when is the print on demand service happening?
Dan Wood 32:55
So we’re pretty far along in the beta. We’ve got a lot of people in it right now that are testing with us. COVID-19 slowed everything down. The whole print chain has been disrupted, like, it’s just crazy right now. So we’re continuing to test, but everything’s slower, so it’s kind of hard to know. We’ve got a lot of stuff working exactly like we want, like we’ve got a great ability to help people change their digital e-book cover into a print cover. Because, you know, print needs three sides. And so we’ve made a tool to help with that. We already have our PDF conversion because that’s, a PDF is a print file. We’ve got everything worked out with distribution, where it makes it easy to get your book on to Amazon and all the different places that Ingram sells to. Author copies is kind of the hiccup right now, especially if you’re outside the U.S.
Mark Lefebvre 33:57
I’ll put this question up just to show what Dan’s talking about.
Dan Wood 34:01
So right now, our partner that we have is based in the U.S. And so any kind of international is expensive because of the shipping costs. We are pursuing international partners as well to cover more of the world. It just takes time. And like I said, the whole industry is slowed down. You know, they’re having problems with having enough workers in the places where they’re printing. A lot of traditional publishers are doing way more print on demand than they used to, so it’s kind of keeping the chain busier. And that’s just because there’s a lot of demand for books right now that’s moved online, in the traditional way and printing off a ton of books in advance isn’t working exactly. So. When it’s coming, I would go to draft2digital.com/printbeta to sign up for the beta. We’re adding people every week into the beta. When it’s gonna be available to everyone, I don’t know yet.
Mark Lefebvre 35:06
Cool. And there were some comments and questions about hardcover. And we do not have hardcover ability, it’s just trade paperback. I think if you want hardcover, you’re gonna have to go to Ingram Spark, which is what I’d probably recommend for hardcover production. But this is why publishing, trade paperback, free ISBNs, free cover wrap design, is more of an easier DIY solution for a lot of people who don’t have the full cover wrap if they don’t need it. And generic wide distribution, I think. Does that make sense?
Kevin Tumlinson 35:40
We have a playlist on YouTube that gives you a complete walkthrough of how the D2D print stuff works. Even though it’s in beta right now, you can still see how everything shakes out. And if you do get into the beta, you’ll be able to use that to kind of show you, but it’s a great overview of the features. And while you’re there, make sure you subscribe to us on YouTube.
Mark Lefebvre 36:09
So this is a comment from Russ. He said “recently Dan and Brian Meeks suggested”—was this at a conference? Was this one of our videos?
Dan Wood 36:17
One of our videos, yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 36:18
“Newbie authors should not worry too much about e-selling until they’ve written more. In other words, wait till your series has been written so an author can sell a set,” rather than just trying to focus on marketing the one book. Could you guys comment on that strategy or that methodology?
Dan Wood 36:32
Oh, yeah, it’s …. I see so many new authors that are like, I got my first book out. You know, I’m trying to do Facebook ads and everything, and just, the return on investment for a single book is, does not make doing ads …. It, the money just doesn’t work. And there’s a lot of readers that just don’t buy a book if the author only has one thing. Like, they wait to see if the author is going to do more. Like, series are helpful in that regard, but it doesn’t have to be a series. But, it seems like authors need to have done three or four books before a certain type of reader takes them seriously. And so I just always recommend, you can get really hung up on trying to learn to market right at the very beginning. The best marketing for you at that point is writing another book. The new book is going to help you show up in algorithms at the stores again. So at least early on, try to get your catalog to a decent size. And you can do some pretty cool things once you get to three or four books, like bundling the three books into a box set. That gives you other options for marketing.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:47
Yeah, there are basically three ways to sort of build an author career, and none of them involve writing a single book. It’s not that it can’t happen, but the, I would actually posit that folks who’ve written a “single book,” who became very successful in self-publishing, did it in such a way that it acted like a series. So if you look at like Andy Weir’s The Martian, he actually serialized that book as a series of blog posts before he released the book, then he did the audio. And then there was a movie with Matt Damon, you know, so that did help a little. But basically, you need to either be writing a series, or you need to write a lot of books, or you can tie a book to another service. So if you’re a nonfiction writer and thinker, you could actually, if you have like a coaching service, or you have something or you’re a doctor or whatever, you could actually leverage that practice by tying in your book. So then it becomes sort of a part of the your overall business. But writing just one book and putting it out in the world, unfortunately, for indie authors, your odds are very slim that you’re going to be successful with it. It’s not that it can’t happen. It’s just that the odds are kind of against you.
Mark Lefebvre 39:01
It’s harder. Yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:03
I don’t want to discourage people. I just want people to know it is tougher. That’s all.
Mark Lefebvre 39:07
Yeah, we’re not gonna lie to you and say, Oh yeah, you just publish a book and you’re a millionaire, right? Like, that’s not the reality.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:12
Exactly. You can do that if you sell the book for a million dollars per copy.
Dan Wood 39:19
You’re an entrepreneur if you’re a self-published author. And in the same way most entrepreneurs start and fail, like, most of people who have really made it and have a huge company have 5 to 10 failures before that.
Mark Lefebvre 39:37
I call them my first 5 to 10 books.
Dan Wood 39:39
Yeah, like every once in a while, someone right off the bat hits on successful idea and is able to execute and get it out there. But that’s so rare. And like, we focus on like the young tech billionaires and their success, but that’s such a, it’s like winning the lottery. Yes, it happens, but it’s not a way to plan your life. It really is, statistically the people win at making a new business are in their mid-40s. They typically have had multiple businesses fail. But they’ve learned from all that and that’s exactly what’s going on is, each book, you’re getting a little bit better, you’re making your process a little bit smoother. Hopefully you’re getting a little bit faster.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:28
I call my first 10 failures, the first 10 years of me being a writer. Those were my first 10 failures.
Mark Lefebvre 40:39
All right, Charles asked the question, “Where do you guys recommend, where to go to get good hands-on knowledge of all of this … Meaning stuff like email lists, social media, etc. I started writing when it was simply, ‘Use Writers’ Market and stick your work in a manila envelope and drop it in the mail.’ Online learning.” Charles, oh yeah, you and me both. Plenty of typewriter submissions to publishers. Where do you go to get, besides going to the Draft2Digital blog and checking out our YouTube channel?
Kevin Tumlinson 41:10
That was my answer.
Mark Lefebvre 41:11
Kevin Tumlinson 41:14
You know, there are so many resources out there that you can turn to, and the way authors tend to discover this stuff. One of the big ones is podcasts. And we have a podcast. But if you go on to your favorite podcast app and search for self-publishing, would be the key. That’s how I learned everything I know, basically, was from the early days, but I mean, from all these amazing podcasts that are out there. And now YouTube is a huge source for that. We know plenty of people who are out producing content, sometimes daily. I mean, really the answer should be, how do I cull down the amount of information that I can learn about this industry? But yeah, our blog is a good source of some pretty, our blog and our YouTube channel in particular are a good source. But you know, there’s no end. Reedsy, Reedsy.com has some great things. ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Publishers, has a lot of resources. But, basically you can get a free education at like a PhD level if you just use podcasts and YouTube.
Dan Wood 42:25
I have to say The Creative Penn, you should be listening to Joanna’s podcast. She’s been a guest on the show. Either her podcast or her blog. David Gaughrin, and David Gaughrin gives away a tremendous amount of free content that’s about the marketing angle. It’s about the whole publishing process. You can find his stuff on blog format, and also —
Mark Lefebvre 43:55
His books. His books are amazing too.
Dan Wood 42:57
Yeah. Really, really good. He’s got like an email that he sends out pretty much weekly, that you can subscribe to. Reedsy does as well. So depending on what format you want it in, people make it really easy for you. Those are some of the ones that I would definitely wholeheartedly recommend to people. BookBub Partners has a blog, where BookBub shares a lot of different stuff and they bring in guests to write blog posts for them. They’re generally best-selling authors, and so there’s always a lot of great content there as well.
Mark Lefebvre 43:32
Yeah, and if you like video content, Dale Roberts, Self-Publishing with Dale, he’s got some great videos. And he does walkthroughs, and his unbiased, you know, opinions of Draft2Digital and other aggregators, and working with different retailers, and how different things work. And I really like that because he’s, like David Gaughrin, he’s an unbiased person who’s just sharing his thoughts on, you know, in an open and honest way. And I like, I think I like those as well, as another resource. There are Facebook groups as well that you can join, where you can get some advice from other authors. There’s lots of other people asking questions. So if you’re shy, someone’s probably gonna ask the same question you would have wanted to. Oh, Elyssa says Michael LaRonn was a guest as well. And oh my God, yeah, he has some amazing … Kevin, you interviewed him just a couple weeks ago, didn’t you?
Kevin Tumlinson 44:22
I did, yeah. And he’s a wonderful resource. He’s one of the busiest people on the planet. I have no idea how he gets it all done. But he’s got a YouTube channel. He’s part of, he does some YouTubing and podcasting and blogging for ALLi. He’s always about to release a couple of new books. So Michael LaRonn, and I don’t know his Twitter handle offhand, but you might want to try to follow him on Twitter as well, because he’s always releasing stuff.
Mark Lefebvre 44:53
Or if you’re looking at Facebook, he was just a couple videos back. So there’s, all the links will be included there. Well, gentlemen, we basically have less than a minute to go. Thank you so much for your questions that you guys all asked. Dan and Kevin, thank you so much for answering those questions.
Dan Wood 45:11
It’s nice to be back together, it’s been a while. We probably should schedule these in more often now that we’re kind of …. You know, early on, we were trying to establish the new format, and so kind of moved away from this. But yeah, I’ve been missing this so I’m glad you recommended it the other day.
Mark Lefebvre 45:26
Yeah, it was great to be able to just talk to people and answer some of the basic questions that have popped up. Because I love having guests, our guests are amazing and they bring insights, but then we’re not able to answer questions not related to the guest, because that would be rude, right? All right, guys. Thank you so much. And thank you guys for watching.
Dan Wood 45:46
Thank you, everyone.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:49