D2D’s own Kevin Tumlinson, Dan Wood, and Mark Leslie Lefebvre chat about global book sales, book marketing, and how the pandemic has influenced and changed indie publishing, all while answering questions about Draft2Digital.
In many ways, the pandemic led to a boon for indie publishers, opening the door for readers to discover new books and new authors. Draft2Digital saw record numbers of sales for self-published authors over the course of 2020, and even as those sales began to level off, they remained much higher than previous years.
In this discussion, recorded live in September 2020, Kevin, Mark, and Dan offer insight into the current and future states of indie publishing. They also answer viewer and listener questions about Draft2Digital services and features, as well as the company’s future plans.
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Kevin Tumlinson 00:00
It is showtime. Thanks everybody for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital, and we got our resident geniuses with us today. I’m Kevin Tumlinson. I’m not one of the resident geniuses. But I’m with the other two and I’ll let them introduce themselves.
Mark Lefevbre 00:16
I am Mark Leslie Lefevbre, coming to you from the Waterloo, Ontario office of Draft2Digital, and I’m the resident bald guy, the resident genius must be the next guy.
Dan Wood 00:27
I’m Dan Wood. I’m still out of Oklahoma City, actually getting a little tired of being right here in Oklahoma City all the time. So looking forward to being able to travel again.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:39
I forgot to mention that I’m in Holland, Michigan. I should have just stuck at Holland, but I’m in Holland, Michigan right now. And we are we are traveling so I guess that’s where I have the advantage over the other guys.
Dan Wood 00:54
Considerably colder, I’d imagine.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:56
Yeah, it’s getting pretty chilly up here. It was, well it’s not too bad, it was in like the 50s, so reasonable. But it’s supposed to get a lot colder very soon.
Mark Lefevbre 01:07
I was gonna say, normally, I mean, last year at this time, we were at a conference in Oklahoma City. And it was for the home of Draft2Digital, but we were also there, David Gaughrin was also one of the speaker guests. So we actually had a chance to be mixing and mingling in person, even when we had the party at the Draft2Digital office where we bussed people in. And it is quite a dramatic difference, which I think is why we’re doing these things, right? We want to engage and interact with authors and chat with them. So that’s, this has been a great experience. But you know, it’s not the same as being in person. But we’ll take it, because at least we do have the opportunity to answer questions from authors we may not be privileged enough to get to hang out with in person.
Dan Wood 01:51
Yeah, we’ve definitely learned a lot from going to a digital format for like just trying to get out and connect with authors. So it’s been great.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:59
So the girl, Sarah, who’s doing the transcriptions of our shows, has been, she’s a budding author herself. She’s a copywriter, she wants to write books. And she’s been telling me how much she’s getting out of these. So she’s getting like a free, like college-level education out of these little broadcasts we’re doing. We should tell everybody that, by the way, that if you want to catch up on all the past stuff—I’ll put this on the screen actually—jump over to SelfPublishingInsiders.com, because we’re actually pointing you to all the past episodes. You can watch them, listen to them, and read transcripts from them. So that’s a great place to kind of pick up where, you know, if you’ve missed something, or you’re just tuning in for the first time, it’s a great place to go.
Mark Lefevbre 02:44
And speaking of reading transcripts, hey Sarah, good luck with your next book.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:47
Yeah, we should encourage her as much as possible. She’s our key demographic actually.
Dan Wood 02:52
We should just start saying a bunch of random like nonsense words …
Kevin Tumlinson 02:57
Things that are very difficult to spell.
Dan Wood 02:58
So when she gets to that point in the transcript, she’s like, “What’s going on here?”
Mark Lefevbre 03:00
Or if I speak Canadian, that’ll really throw her.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:03
Yes. Yeah, yeah, you’re native Canadian. So we did start this whole thing as a way to … This, you know, back when the pandemic stuff and quarantine stuff first started, we started this program, the live streams, talking to insiders in the industry, as a way to basically supplement for the folks who weren’t able to go to conferences, because of the restrictions. But also, we discovered that there were a lot of folks who probably would have enjoyed going to conferences and getting something out of those conferences, but couldn’t, for reasons well beyond the pandemic. So this has been a way for us to shore up and help people as this sort of thing progresses. But we’re seeing some shifts in the actual industry now. And that was one of the things we wanted to talk a little bit about during this live stream. And by the way, if you’re out there, you can ask questions, no matter where you’re watching. YouTube, Facebook, or otherwise, make sure you’re asking your questions and we’ll take your questions live. Who wants to jump in and talk about some of the predictions of how this is impacting the industry?
Dan Wood 04:13
I think before we went on, Mark had really good points. So, would you share what you were talking about earlier, Mark?
Mark Lefevbre 04:20
Yeah. So one thing I want to remind out there, so I’ve seen some reflections in some of the author groups that I’m a part of that sales have started to slow down for authors. And that’s due to a number of factors. So one of the primary factors is, of course, in the last month or so, depending on where you are in the world—here, where I am in Canada, you know, school just started this week. And school has started in the last month. And so as people are adjusting to the new norm of, some of it’s online, some of it’s with masks, some of it’s, like, all of the different things. It’s very stressful for a lot of families, and therefore, the primary focus right now for families is most likely how to deal with this new, and how to get used to it. So chances are, they’re not looking at books the way they would normally. Even in September, they would be looking more at textbooks and things like that, rather than beach reads and things like that. So there is typically a dip. Now obviously, it’s a little bit more dramatic now. But then the other thing, and I’ve been in the book industry since the 90s. And every single election year is always a bad year for book sales. Now we did see incredibly dramatic increases in digital sales starting in mid-March, and have continued to see growth in ebooks, which is phenomenal. However, I want to remind people that we are, in the US, in a very divisive election. So a lot of focus, a lot of energy in an election year is towards anxiety about elections, and not in book sales. Traditionally, if you look historically at the industry stats, they will go down. So if your sales happened to start to go down a little bit, please do not panic. Think about the long term. Think about a book, a new book, especially, I think I was listening to the Six Figure Authors Podcast. And I think it was Joe Lallo, one of the co-hosts on that show, was talking about launching during the previous election year. And I think he launched the week of the election results. And he’s like, it was the second worst book launch he had ever done. And Joe’s a very, you know, six figure respectable earning sales author, and even an author with lots of fans and a great mailing list and stuff, people weren’t interested in reading, even if they loved the stuff. So if you’re seeing the sales go down, don’t panic, stay the course, stick with the long term. These are just some of the industry trends that we have seen historically, and I just want to make sure, you’re not alone. Chances are there’s, you know, it’s across the board. And in addition, I think, Dan, you were talking about, in traditional publishing, with the pandemic, delayed lots and lots of big major titles with a lot of publishing push. What, 600?
Dan Wood 07:02
Yeah, well, that was just last week that released, I believe in the UK alone. Just because the traditional industry runs so much off of selling print books, and selling them in a very short time period. Everyone delayed things because they mostly are trying to sell through those bookstores and brick and mortar in-person purchases. So they delayed, and they kind of, everyone punted it down the road. And now they’re trying to catch up. And so it’s caused a huge surge of books, new books, and unfortunately, a lot of people are going to get left out in that. Like, new authors debuting, authors aren’t going to get the marketing push from a traditional publisher they might have, because you can only, you know, there’s only so much space in a newspaper to review a book. And so, it’s very crazy to think about. I did want to touch real quick on a point you made very early on, Mark, about … Every year we see sales slow down a little bit as people transition back into going, like, getting their kids to school. Like, that transition point from summer into the school year. It’s just inevitable. It always slows down a little bit around then. What’s been fascinating to me this time, and seeing it with our staff, is just that uncertainty where they are having to, in many cases, their kids are staying home and being online schooled. And they’re having to figure out, how do I work? But also how do I parent and keep my kid doing all the schoolwork they need to? It’s a very difficult time and so I encourage everyone not to beat yourself up if you’re not as productive right now.
Mark Lefevbre 08:53
Yeah, good point. Very good point.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:54
Yeah, everybody’s still figuring all this stuff out. But it’s interesting to see how technology is impacting all industries, really, but authors as well. Because you are seeing things like, Zoom is being used a lot to go online for both collaboration and calling. There are author conferences that are being hosted entirely via Zoom or other streaming services. So it’s interesting to see how that’s shifting the perspective on the industry. I think before, you had a lot of people were very reluctant to try that sort of thing out. And now it’s almost old hat. Like, everybody’s doing it. All the kids are doing it now.
Dan Wood 09:33
I wonder if some of the traditional conferences won’t scale back or disappear entirely, because they’re generally very expensive conferences to attend. And if we can figure out how to do some of those deals virtually, like this, as opposed to like, everyone meeting in some of the most expensive cities in the world, like New York or London, it would save everyone in the industry money. Which hopefully would make it down to authors. Although, you know, I think, more likely, in those scenarios, indie authors will do very well and traditional authors won’t really see any of that money.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:13
I wanted to say something real quick about print and how right now all those printers, a couple of the big printers went basically out of business. And everyone who’s left is being really taxed on their workload. And so what we’re seeing is, basically, there’s not enough equipment out there, there’s not enough production out there to produce the number of print books that are being demanded. So as this new season, this weird oddball season of new releases comes up, a lot of books aren’t even going to make print. Like, a lot of their print dates are actually being pushed back or cancelled altogether. So if you are heavily invested in digital books, ebooks and audiobooks, this could be a good time for you to jump in and fill in some gaps.
Dan Wood 11:03
Definitely. With the printing situation, in general, a traditional publisher, they’re going to try to guess demand. And they’re going to do like a run where they have a few thousand copies printed out. They make much higher margins on those they print out in advance than they do on print on demand. Because nobody knew and everything’s crazy, everyone was being conservative, and didn’t print enough copies of books. All of them are relying now on print on demand to fill in some of the gap and so it’s really slowing everything down for everyone in the industry. I know, as we work with authors in our print beta, there’s a high priority for print on demand companies to make sure they fulfill orders, like from customers. So people that go and buy your book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, any of the places that sell a print on demand book, those printers will get those books out very quickly to customers. For author copies, the whole chain has slowed down. And we’re hearing that from our friends that go through Kindle Direct Printing, we’re hearing it through Ingram Spark, and we’re seeing it through our printer, that everything is much, much, much slower than it normally would be. So just take that into account, like when you’re ordering author copies, that they may take weeks, if not a month or so to get to you.
Mark Lefevbre 12:32
And I just recently received author copies from both the trade paperback that I did through Draft2Digital Print, and a hardcover through Ingram Spark. And within two days of one another, both equally, you know, three, four weeks after I placed the order, which is not normal. Normally, I would get them sooner. So that was, yeah, you’re seeing that effect. And this was stuff I had ordered, you know, hoping to have way earlier than this. But that’s just, that’s because of the demand, the incredible demand that we’re seeing. Unprecedented, for the use of those machines.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:04
So we do have some questions, I’ll start popping a couple of these up here. So, “Where can I promote my book to more readers? Such as social media sites.” You guys have any advice?
Mark Lefevbre 13:17
I would start, Lacey, with, when you’re thinking about social media, the first thing that I think you should think about is A) what social media are you comfortable with engaging with, and the communities that you’re engaging with? And think about your ideal readers, and where they’re engaging, and if that’s a place that you can naturally feel comfortable. Because if you don’t feel comfortable with a particular social media, just deciding to do it because people said you should do social media is probably not going to be a good experience for you. And it probably won’t be a good experience for the people on the receiving end. I think of social media as more of community engagement where you can actually give and share interesting content for that right audience with things that they would be interested in. One of those things they may happen upon is the fact that you also write in that genre, or you write that kind of book that can satisfy those needs. And so social media is not a single magic bullet for sharing your work. But it can be part of a larger long-term community engagement. So when you think about where, think about the places you already like and enjoy, and the communities you’re already an actual integral part of. Those would be the places I would start with. And if you’re not, pick one that looks interesting to you as a consumer of the same type of stuff that you’re publishing. And maybe you can be inspired by looking at what other people are doing, and look at what they’re sharing that makes you want to read and follow and comment and engage. And that’s the kind of stuff that at least I think works better in terms of, rather than, “Hey, look at me and my book,” tt’s more of a … And I think I learned this from either Kristine Kathryn Rusch or Joanna Penn, one of those goddesses that we can worship in the fire. But it was, if you’re producing interesting and engaging content, that is a direct relationship to people going, wow, this person is interesting and engaging and entertaining. I bet you the books are too. Because it’s just a natural inclination to say, well, “Wow, you know, Kevin Tumlinson writes these books and he’s is funny as heck? Hey, maybe I’m gonna enjoy his books too.” And it’s that natural thing rather than a forced, overly salesy kind of thing. That’s my Canadian approach, anyways.
Dan Wood 15:36
Go ahead, sorry.
Kevin Tumlinson 15:37
No, I was a lame joke. You go ahead.
Dan Wood 15:41
I was gonna say, we’re moving to a point where people really have that desire, and the desire has probably already always been there, but to really connect to creators, and platforms like Twitter and YouTube and Facebook are giving people exactly that opportunity. And so I think what Mark said was spot on. Figure out where your readers are, and which platform you’re interested in, and be active. Share things from your life, or … I mean, you don’t have to share like personal things from your life, but share things that you think might interest your reader group. And so, all this is different depending on if you’re writing fiction, if you’re writing nonfiction, if you’re writing a certain type of fiction. So just figuring out what would be most interesting to the people who are your ideal readers. There are kind of the easier answers of where you spend money. Bookbub, in general, the daily deals are a good investment, but it’s hard to get one. Facebook advertising works. Amazon ads work. Those are different ways you could spend money, but with social media, you have opportunities to do stuff that doesn’t necessarily cost you money. It just takes a little bit your time.
Mark Lefevbre 17:04
Yeah, Written Word Media is one I would also check out, for Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy. Because where it is, it’s really hard to get a BookBub. They’re like winning the lottery. But I’ve had some really solid luck with the Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy as well, through Written Word Media. Again, for those promotional sites, and there’s hundreds of them out there. But those are some of the ones that work well for me.
Kevin Tumlinson 17:26
I also recommend the cross-promotion tools on BookFunnel, which are all mailing list based, but, so if you don’t already have a mailing list, you may want to use BookFunnel to help build one. But if you can get involved in some of those promos, they’re basically, they’re built into the subscription price for the service. So they’re essentially free. I’ve had a lot of luck. I mostly like the ones that helped me build my mailing list up. I’m a big fan of, build your mailing list as big as possible. And you don’t have to worry about which social media platforms to focus on. We got another question from Bobbie. Bobbie asks, “Hi. New to self-publishing. Can I upload my book to D2D and put it on hold until I have a cover?” I actually think Elyssa answered this in the comments, but we can answer it too.
Dan Wood 18:11
I’m sure that someone else wants to know that might not be looking at the comments. The answer is yes, you can go through every step. It waits until the very end, where it says I’m ready to publish. So you can put, go ahead and like upload your Word document. If you don’t already have your own EPUB file, we’ll do the conversion, so you can see the conversion. Nothing will start publishing until you hit Publish. Technically, you can publish it as a pre-order without the cover at most of our retailer sites. If this is your first time publishing, I wouldn’t do that. But for someone that might be interested in putting up a pre-order, but they don’t quite have their cover worked out yet, or they want to do a cover reveal for a marketing reason, you can upload books, as pre-orders without a cover.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:02
Do you guys recommend putting up the cover “coming soon” thumbnails like Dean Koontz and some others are doing?
Mark Lefevbre 19:10
If my name, my first name were Dean and my last name were Koontz I would do it.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:16
Nobody else cares.
Mark Lefevbre 19:20
No, I know folks like Bella Andre and Barbara Freedy had done that, right? And then they do a cover reveal. But again, they have hundreds of thousands of fans who are itching, and they don’t care that there’s no cover. They know they’re gonna buy it anyways, because they love and adore the author. And that’s again where that mailing list comes in handy.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:36
Yeah, I do kind of want to experiment with that someday and just see if I can create that sense of drama, you know. Little torn corner, you know, “I’ll reveal on such and such a day.”
Mark Lefevbre 19:49
I tried that using Book Brush, another great free tool, actually one of our previous interviews with folks from Book Brush. And I did that when I relaunched the Canadian Marble series, I tried that little cover reveal because they actually have those built-in auto templates that you can generate immediately. And I played around with a little bit of that. So that was kind of a fun thing. You should check it out. Kevin, if you haven’t.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:08
Dan Wood 20:10
I imagine it works a little bit better when you’ve got sexy men or sexy women on the cover than it might with like, pyramids, but.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:19
I’m just gonna start draping naked people on pyramids. Okay, so Kathy asked, “How do you feel about publishing a book in December versus waiting until after the holidays and going for a January launch day?”
Mark Lefevbre 20:35
Can I answer this one?
Kevin Tumlinson 20:36
Mark, yes. You, in the back of the room.
Mark Lefevbre 20:38
Thanks. Thanks, Mr. Tumlinson. So, I take this back to one of my early years at Kobo, when I worked there. And how on Christmas morning, a whole bunch of people got Kobo devices as gifts under their Christmas tree. And it almost broke the servers, because that’s how many people around one o’clock in the afternoon, suddenly their Kobo was charged up and they were just buying like crazy. So when you think about this year, of being even more digital than ever before, Kindles and Kobos and Nooks and iPads, and all of those different electronic devices. And Android devices, like, all those electronic devices where there’s free apps, or the dedicated e-readers, where you’re probably going to stand a chance of having more people jump into e-reading in that week, in that week of Christmas, I would say, if it’s ready to go, and everything’s done and edited and polished, and you’re good to go, you may want to have it available prior to Christmas so that those people who were gifted those beautiful e-reading devices can get a hold of them. Or then they can go to the library and request to download them on the Libby app because you know, through Draft2Digital, you’ve made your books available for the library system. So I’m a fan of, I think, launching in December. Post-election would probably not be a bad thing.
Dan Wood 21:55
Yeah, one thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the retailers shut down about a week and a half or so before Christmas, and are down past the new year. So we always send out emails to let our customers know, here is what the publishing schedule looks like. And so, if you’re on track to get your book done in early December, I would agree with Mark entirely. If you think it’s going to come down to the wire and be more like the 20th of December, odds are it’s gonna be better to wait, because more than likely it’s not going to go live at the majority of the retailers that week.
Mark Lefevbre 22:34
Yeah, good point, Dan. I forgot about that. And they shut it down because the it’s the single biggest season for book selling, and they don’t want to break their systems. So it’s like, no changes. Let’s just sell what we have.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:47
I like December releases, but I do try to release at least a good week before Christmas itself. And, you know, I kind of do a lot of promotion around that. Like, you know, “the perfect holiday gift for the one you love” and “give the gift of adventure,” and that that does kind of nudge sales a little. Because there’s always somebody looking for last minute, easy to buy gifts. I think that’s really especially gonna be the case this year, because nobody’s gonna go out and do the crowds of Christmas shopping. You know?
Mark Lefevbre 23:15
I’m gonna say there’s gonna be a lot of gift cards going around, like email gift credit. Yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:23
Yeah, yeah. Um, here’s a question I’m actually kind of keen on answering. “Should I learn InDesign if I am tech savvy?” My opinion is, if you already have InDesign, and you already have sort of a background in design and layout, sure. Go ahead and use it. But there are so many tools out there now that are less expensive than InDesign, or just free altogether. Just like we have a free layout tool built into our D2D print beta. There are also tools like Vellum which will do just a sparkling layout for a couple hundred bucks. It is Mac only, so if you don’t have a Mac you’d need to get access to one. There are services out there where you can sort of lease a Mac for a day online, sort of a virtual Mac kind of thing. But if you’re, if you already own it, like I have InDesign through Adobe Suite, Creative Suite, and I learned it years ago, so I’ll use it every now and then. But I wouldn’t use it for ebooks, I would only use it for your print layout. And it’s kind of overkill for the most part.
Dan Wood 24:30
I’ll be controversial and say, no, I would not. It’s a waste of time, unless you plan on selling ebook design services. And really the only people that need you anymore are people doing very complicated nonfiction, and they’re never going to really want to pay you what your time is worth to do that. There’s just so many tools out there that make it easy for people to do it on their own. Yeah, like InDesign is good for very complicated nonfiction and fixed layout EPUBs for certain graphics situations, but a lot of vendors don’t handle fixed layout EPUBs very well, so.
Mark Lefevbre 25:15
And can I reply to Dan that also answers another question that I saw come up, asking about the quality of the print books that come from D2D? Can I kill two birds with one stone?
Kevin Tumlinson 24:30
Yeah, let me see if I can find that one. This question?
Mark Lefevbre 25:25
I’ve been using InDesign … Yeah, that was Rose’s question. So “Do you have a sample of what D2D’s paperbacks look like?” So I’m going to hold a hold this up. So this one I just got through D2D Print. And it’s basically the same quality that you would get from Ingram, using Ingram services. Same sort of printers. This is one that was designed—now, the cover I paid for, but then I used InDesign to design the rest of the cover with art from the designer. That’s an example of one that I’ve loaded as well as the interior. But then there’s also an example of one of the other books that I did, where I did not design the full cover, and this is one of the benefits of D2D print, is I only had the front cover. So when I went to load it, I just used D2D’s automatic spine and calculation. So you don’t need InDesign to do something as simple as that. And I’ve done that with a lot of my books, where I haven’t, maybe the shorter books as well, where I don’t have a cover. And it just saves me the time and energy. Now I can actually have a less than hundred page book. So Rose, I’ve been using print on demand through Ingram since 2004. And I adore the quality of these books. They’re, I can’t tell the difference. I think they’re very high quality. I’m a little biased, but I think they’re very high quality.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:38
As a couple of my friends have said, this looks like a real book! That will make you feel good.
Mark Lefevbre 26:46
Smells like a real book, too.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:47
That’s a great bathroom reader. So this is an interesting question, and we have a couple of ways we can go to answer this. But, “What is the best way to use the D2D book pages? One author posted that she uses the book pages as her website. With lots of books, I don’t see how that’s possible.” And I think that author may have been referring to the D2D author pages rather than the book pages, the book tabs. On the book pages, you can actually have a carousel of books in the same series. So if you have a series, you could do it that way. The author pages are a little more website-like. They include like an author bio, your headshot, links to your social media stuff, link to get on your newsletter, things like that. But they also feature a hero title. So maybe the latest book, or the one you want to promote, first in series or something like that. And then below all that, you have the carousels of books that are written by you, whether they’re in the same series or not. And then in addition to that, we also have what we call our reading lists, which are customizable carousels of books. They don’t even have to be your books. You can put other people’s books in these things. But I think if they’re talking about using it as their author website, it’s probably the author pages.
Mark Lefevbre 28:07
Yeah. And a trick for that, Charles, is if you’re looking at your Books2Read link, normally you get your book cover and then all of the retailer, library links, audio links, whatever you have there. If you click on the cover, it’ll take you to the book tab, which shows you the synopsis and a little bit more. And the author name, which is clickable, if you click on your author name, that’ll bring you to your author page. So depending upon the, in your My Account, under Draft2Digital, what you’ve loaded as your author profile and stuff will automatically pop up. And that’s how you can use that as a potential web page that’s universal to all the retailers.
Dan Wood 28:39
And we do have a video, both on YouTube and Facebook, covering the author pages. So, give you a lot more detail, and you can see exactly what Kevin’s talking about on that.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:54
I bet if Elyssa really likes us, she would go and find that link and share it in the comments.
Dan Wood 29:01
She’s probably ready to stab us by now.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:03
Yeah, she probably is.
Mark Lefevbre 29:06
She tolerates us, more like.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:08
Let’s see, we got some more questions here. This one from Catherine on YouTube says, “Generally speaking, how much time is there between when I push ‘publish’ in D2D, and when it shows up on Amazon?”
Mark Lefevbre 29:20
Assuming you filled out all the paperwork you need in order to distribute Amazon through D2D, you mean?
Kevin Tumlinson 29:27
Yeah, let’s assume that they passed the tax interview, they’ve got all their bio stuff, the metadata and everything is in place. They’ve done everything they’re supposed to do. They hit publish, what’s a good timeline to see their book go live?
Dan Wood 29:41
It’s a little bit complicated with Amazon. They have a lot more rules than just about anyone else. So we have to do a lot more checking to make sure the book hasn’t been on Amazon before. Like it just, there’s a lot of different things that go into it. And like Apple, they also have a lot of rules about, you can’t have links to other competitors. You can’t mention other competitors in your book. It can be as soon as like, within 24 hours. There’s certainly, a lot of the books we send on go through like that. But it can be a lot more than that. It can take a week in some cases, a little bit longer. Right now, Amazon is very backed up. I think everyone in the industry is seeing a huge spike, and authors are publishing more than ever. And so we’re hearing it from people who are direct with Amazon. And we’re seeing it on our end too, where, if anything goes wrong, it takes a long time to get Amazon to respond to questions and fix an issue.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:43
Yeah, it’s like everybody had two or three months of free time to write books or something.
Dan Wood 30:50
Yeah, and it probably also has to do with everyone adjusting to working from home. And Amazon’s certainly been one of the companies that made that choice. And that is going to lower productivity a little bit as you work through all the kinks of how to communicate and how to get things done.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:12
We have another question from Scott. Scott asks, “Hopefully not asked already. Does D2D allow me to pick and choose which distribution I want D2D to handle, and which I don’t?” I think that sums up the whole question. Yes. We’re gonna, we’ll remove that so we can see everybody’s faces. But yes, you can choose which vendors you opt into. You can opt out of vendors at any time, or retailers rather. It’s, for example, if you are distributing direct to someone like Amazon or Kobo, you can distribute to everyone else through us and opt out of those two channels. So, and later on, if you decide you want to come back in and distribute everything through us, or add a vendor that you previously opted out of, you can hop right back in, so.
Mark Lefevbre 32:03
And then I think the thing about the listing, right? He asked, Scott asked about the removal. And in most of our vendors, I would say are pretty quick. The one potentially which does have some complications is, because Kobo isn’t just Kobo. Kobo is fast at Kobo, because they control it,. We send them a message, they take it down pretty much instantly. It’s their retail partners, and they have hundreds of retail partners, that they all operate on different timelines. FNAC, for example, one of their partners in France, is notoriously slow. Kobo will send them a message and they may, “We’ll get to it.” I can say this because I’m French, but, “We’ll get to it, you English types.” You know, I can do that sort of thing. But they will get to it, because they only process once a week. Not like most of the vendors, like Amazon and Apple and Kobo, they pick up our files within hours of us sending them, whereas some of the retailers don’t have that speed. So that may be where you could run into some of your challenges, I think. Any of the vendors that have additional partners could cause a delay, right?
Dan Wood 33:05
Yeah, um, really at the main storefronts for each retailer, they’re gonna get it down generally within a day. Kobo, everywhere they else they go to, adds generally another day or so. But it can add more depending on delays, when it gets sent to them, when they process files. And libraries tend to be a little bit slower. I tell everyone to give themselves about nine days or so. From like, if they have a target date, they’re shooting for to have everything down. Our whole system is designed to be opt-in by default. We never even, when we add a new vendor, we don’t opt you in automatically. So you have to choose exactly where you want us to send it. We never just send it on to a retailer.
Mark Lefevbre 33:57
It’s like the author’s in control or something.
Dan Wood 34:00
Yeah, which is different than nearly every other aggregator. They just go ahead and send it out. And that causes problems for everyone.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:10
Right. So we, I’m gonna try to share this on Facebook as well as on here. We’ll show it on screen. Elyssa did find, first of all this, Elyssa says that we are so mean to her, which we are. And here’s the URL which I did try to share again so that it picks up in Facebook as well. But if you search for, you know, if you go to our youtube.com/draft2digital, and just search for author pages in our little library, you will find it. So I know that’s kind of a convoluted URL to try to write down. So we have another question. This one’s from Lyn. I’m sorry, there’s a lawn mower passing by me.
Mark Lefevbre 34:52
I’ll read the question from Lyn then. “Can D2D scan the existing Books2Read to read links before creating new listings for a book? It seems to duplicate listings quite often, especially if I’ve created a custom link for a book. Yes, I know I can deactivate extra links, but that gets old after a while, lol.” Can Kevin answer this? Is the noise stopped in the background? No, it’s still noisy. Dan?
Dan Wood 35:17
So we definitely need to do some work on that. I think I understand what you’re saying. We’re going to spend a lot of time, it looks like next year, on Books2Read. Yeah, it’s, we do create a link automatically and people sometimes don’t know that we create the automatic links, so they go create another link. So just communicating all of that better, and making it easier to manage the links that you do have is a priority we have. We’re finishing up some really cool stuff now that I can’t talk about yet, but just some very good tools that are going to be very helpful. And then we’re working on design for a bunch of new cool stuff with Books2Read.
Mark Lefevbre 36:06
And Lyn, thank you, and thanks for mentioning that Dan, because I will take that comment away as we look at plans for making Books2Read even more author friendly. So thank you.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:15
This is a question I think is 1) pertinent to some discussion we’re having, and I apologize if the lawn mower is drowning me out. “Since I create multi-author anthologies, how do I get them all to show my name as the primary byline? They seem to show up as by the first contributor name alphabetically.”
Mark Lefevbre 36:35
Is this on Books2Read, or is this on the retail sites? I’m just curious as to …
Kevin Tumlinson 36:41
I’m guessing this is probably from the universal book links, I’m guessing? I’m not entirely sure.
Mark Lefevbre 36:50
Lyn, can I ask you to email support at Draft2Digital, they can punt that over to me? You can also message that to me directly, since I know we’re Facebook friends, and I can take a look at that more specifically and see where it’s happening. Is it a thing we need to do to fix Books2Read? Is it the way the metadata is stored and sent? But, so we can get to the bottom of that, if that makes sense.
Dan Wood 37:09
I imagine nearly every retailer shows that differently based on how they interpret Onyx, which is what, it’s just like a universal language that they agree on, that we send them all this data in. But yeah, it’s probably more complicated than we can answer here. Yeah, email support, get in contact with Mark.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:33
She did clarify that it’s universal book links.
Mark Lefevbre 37:37
Oh, it is. Okay. Great. Thanks, Lyn. I’ll have a look at that with the smarter B2R people.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:44
My friendly lawn guy has moved on now. So hopefully we’ll be clear. So okay. This question from Facebook, “D2D shows that my book is published on Apple books, yet when I check Apple books, it says it’s not yet available. What might be the problem?”
Mark Lefevbre 38:00
I know, as the resident Canadian, it might be on Apple in the US, but depending on where your IP is, maybe it’s on one Apple site and not where you are? Is that a possibility? Just guessing, because it’ll automatically direct me to Canada where it’s not on Canada, but it is on the US. That’s a possibility.
Dan Wood 38:18
Yeah, it does depend on if Apple has an actual Apple Books store that sells books. There’s several countries where they don’t, where they just have public domain titles, but they don’t sell anything. One neat thing about Apple, if you do have a Mac, on the Apple Books app on a Mac, you can click on, it’s kind of in the bottom right hand corner, there’s a flag, and you can see the other storefronts. So you can click and go to the American flag and see the American storefront. Probably just something to contact our support about. There can be issues sometimes where our operations teams have to intercede and find out like why something’s not listing in another country. But that’s pretty rare.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:08
Yeah. And again, I would definitely reach out to our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions like that, just because they can do a little more of an in-depth search and answer than we can on the broadcast. So that’s pretty much all the questions we got at the moment. So if we want to loop back around and talk about some of our predictions for how things may evolve in the self-publishing, and/or just the general publishing industry, this might be a good time. We got about five minutes.
Dan Wood 39:42
Well, we definitely, we wanted to warn people that we think sales will be going down just because of this time of year. That being said though, like, we’re way up for the year. There’s a lot more people trying ebook reading than ever because of the convenience. Like, they’re not just going out and grabbing a book at a bookstore, they have to be a little bit more intentional than that. And on most of the websites, the print books are considerably more expensive. And so, ebook sales are way, way up, just considerably up over last year. Personally, I think this trend will continue. There’s just still a lot of people who had never tried ebooks, and as more people try them and try audiobooks … The format is great, like the convenience and the cost. So I anticipate that we’re gonna, we’re kind of, this will take us up to a new plateau and then it’ll plateau for a while. But things are good. We just wanted everyone to start planning now for things like the political changes, the, all the books that are publishing from traditional publishers that should have published earlier this year. It’s going to be a weird fall/winter.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:07
Yeah, it does seem like the traditional industry is still focusing very heavily on print. And so they’re going to run into some barriers and roadblocks, just because of shortages of, you know, materials and shortages of printers. So I think it’s a really good time to kind of put your chips on digital and try to fill the gaps. I mean, you know, and don’t just stick with retail, by the way. I mean, libraries are a great source of revenue for authors at this point. You should also look into audiobooks if you can, if you can swing it. There are some technologies emerging now that make audiobooks a little less expensive to produce. And someone had a question earlier and I didn’t actually, forgot to post that one. And I didn’t know if we would be able to answer it, because it was about Amazon’s text to speech tool. If I can find it I’ll pop it up.
Mark Lefevbre 41:59
Oh, that was the one about Polly I think, right? So that’s, I created an audiobook using that technology because Jim Kuchrul had a company called, and I’m drawing a blank on it, but it leveraged that technology of multiple voices. And I chose Brian, a British male, to do one of my audiobooks. And it was almost instantaneous. You can tell it’s computerized a little bit, but I sell that one for 99 cents. And the full audiobook, which is only about 18,000 words, I sell for $6.99 in my voice, which took me a long time to do. But Brian took 48 hours, and I didn’t have to do any work for it. So. But most of the retailers are not accepting artificial voice. So I’m only making that available through Draft2Digital’s partner Findaway Voices. They distribute audiobooks to retailers and libraries. And through their author’s direct program I can sell it, but I can’t sell it on the retailers yet.
Dan Wood 43:00
Yeah, none of the retailers accept Amazon Polly right now. Audiobooks generated by them. That will probably change as technology gets better. But the technology that’s available right now, you can’t get it distributed anywhere but … The Authors Direct is the Findaway site?
Mark Lefevbre 43:25
Yeah, Authors Direct, or if it’s short enough, BookFunnel has an option where you can sell audiobooks, if it’s less than an hour.
Dan Wood 43:30
Yeah, you could sell it directly, but then you kinda have to deal with the tech support of helping people sideload an audio book, which is not fun. Not fun at all.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:42
I avoid anything remotely like that. Here’s a question we can rescue before it’s too late. “What are the minimum number of pages for a paperback?”
Mark Lefevbre 43:50
64. So says the guy who’s done a lot of minimum pages.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:54
I was gonna say, tell them how you know, Mark.
Mark Lefevbre 43:57
I know because I’ve taken a lot of mini short story collections and single long short stories and done that, and it’s 64 pages.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:08
“Any thoughts on future growth of fiction category on Kickstarter and how that might interface or interface with distribution? (In light of Brandon Sanderson’s recent huge KS project)?”
Mark Lefevbre 44:21
So here’s the reality, Scot. Then when you think about this, and I had Russell Nulty, who’s done incredibly well with comic stuff on Kickstarter, he was on my podcast not too long ago. Did we have him on DVD insiders, yet? Maybe we should. He reminds you that when you’re on a place like Kindle or Apple books or one of the other major retailers, you’re competing with a lot of titles, and you may have to get X amount of sales. And most people, sales are gonna be relatively minimal. Even if your Kickstarter is a minimum of $500 or $1,000. That may be more money than you make on that book in a year on sales. And it’s a more, in some ways, it’s a more direct one on one relationship that you have that you can’t broker through a retailer. So I think leveraging Kickstarter in a way that leverages that community that you’ve already built, or the community of fans that really… Like, obviously Brandon Sanderson has millions of fans, and is a sweetheart of a guy too. So, he treats all of his fans very respectfully and kindly. You know, that’s going to work for somebody like that. So I think Kickstarter is yet another option or opportunity. I’ve been using it right now to support an anthology project, so I can pay the author’s pro rates. And it’s going well, I’m engaging directly with a bunch of people who are going to get the book early before I publish the entire book through Draft2Digital Print and ebook, and make that available on all the retailers. Those backers get it early. So they get to benefit from some of those things.
Dan Wood 45:50
I think the Brandon Sanderson thing is going to be a weird outlier. Like, Brandon had to have, like, a tremendous amount of leverage with the traditional industry to negotiate his contract to let him do what he did. Indie authors have been using Kickstarter and doing quite well. But like, that amount of money, that was very unusual and it was kind of an unusual situation. 99.9% of the traditional authors out there could not do what he did, because their contract would completely forbid it. And he thought way ahead to do that. And that probably took a lot of fighting, his agent really working to get that clause in there. Because most of the time, the publisher would retain all the rights to make any new edition and would not let you make any competing product with them.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:47
Exactly. Um, okay, well, we’re at time, so we’re gonna go ahead and wrap up. I hope everybody got something useful out of this episode. We are of course, you can find us at Draft2Digital.com. You can also find us at SelfPublishingInsiders.com, where you’ll find a bunch of stuff just like this. Sometimes even better, you might also want to go run on over and subscribe to us on both YouTube and Facebook. If you go to youtube.com/draft2digitall and facebook.com/draft2digital, those are coincidental names. But if you go and subscribe and follow us, you’ll get alerts whenever we are going to have these live events and you can tune in ask all the questions you want. And we have some really special guests who show up on the show. We’ve also launched a podcast based on this programming, so if you want to catch up on the past stuff that’s of course at SelfPublishingInsiders.com. So, guys, thanks so much for tuning in, and talking over lawn mowers and everything else. It’s been a great episode.
Mark Lefevbre 47:46
Thanks for the great questions, everyone.
Dan Wood 47:47
Kevin Tumlinson 47:48
All right, take care everybody. We’ll see you next time.