Apple Books represents a huge opportunity for authors—with a market that could rival Amazon in many ways, and a reading app that comes pre-loaded on every iOS device. But cracking that market can be enigmatic and challenging, at best. In this special episode of Self Publishing Insiders, we’ve gotten permission from the folks at 20Books Vegas to share a panel that includes our very own Mark Lefebvre, focused on how you can make money with Apple Books.
“Going wide” is the best strategy for a long-term author career, and getting your books onto many platforms as possible opens up possibilities for reaching more readers in more places. One of the biggest potential audiences for books may be right in your pocket. Apple Books comes pre-loaded on all of their devices, which means millions of people worldwide might be tempted to read your work, wherever they are. But first, they have to know you’re there. In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, we explore how to improve the odds and use Apple Books to reach those readers.
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Kevin Tumlinson 00:01
Listeners, this is Kevin Tumlinson and we are presenting something special to you this time around, we’re going to be playing some audio recorded from 20 Books Vegas 2021, a special panel about Apple Books and how you can make money on that platform. So let’s jump right in to that special, and thanks to all the folks at 20 Books for allowing us to use this audio. Thanks.
Mark Lefebvre 00:45
Don’t worry. I’ll wait till we’re on time. Should we start early, you guys? Alright, let’s do it. Okay, welcome. Welcome to the Apple Books panel. I’m going to let these wonderful folks introduce themselves. My name is Mark Leslie Lefevbre, I am the Director of Business Development with Draft2Digital. And I am, of course, a huge fan of Apple and the Apple Books store. And I’m really here because I’m excited about opportunities for authors to earn money everywhere. And I know Apple has some great opportunities, which is why I invited these folks, because they’re really smart and knowledgeable and they know stuff. And I know you’re going to get some great benefits. So Cheryl, why don’t we start with you and your background, what you’re doing.
Cheryl Bradshaw 01:28
My name is Cheryl Bradshaw, I write mainstream mystery thriller and suspense. I’ve been published for about 10 years, I have about 50 books. Um …
Mark Lefebvre 01:44
So in terms of Apple, have you always been publishing to Apple, and how have you published to Apple?
Cheryl Bradshaw 01:48
Yes. So I started off … before Kindle Unlimited, there was KDP Select. And that was not a subscription service, like it is kind of now. And I was selling like mad in there. I just right out the gate was just selling like crazy. So I just stayed on there. And then when KU came, it kind of shifted for me in what I write, in that I found that KU wasn’t for everyone. I mean, a lot of my demographic, so I decided to go kind of play the field. And I went in, I went and signed up for all the platforms, and just spent the next quite a while like trying to build up readers from all platforms, and go wide. So that’s my process.
Diane Capri 02:42
So I’m Diane Capri. I write mystery thriller and suspense. I’m trying to talk loud so I can reach all the way in the back back there. Can you hear me? Yay, okay. I am probably best known for my Hunt for Jack Reacher series, which is a spinoff of my friend Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. But I also write traditional mystery, and I have even one cozy series. And I have some other thrillers as well. I think I have 50-something books, I haven’t counted them lately. And my entire catalog, not the whole catalog, but most of it is wide. I started in 2011, when there was no KDP Select, and there was no KU. But I still started off with Amazon because I was learning and I had no idea what I was doing. So I decided I would choose one retailer and learn to do it. And then I could figure out what to do after that. So then, starting in about late 2012, I went wide, which at that time was Barnes & Noble. And that might have been all actually, and then Apple came on board after that, and then Kobo after that, and then Google Play after that. So that’s where I am now, in addition to libraries. And Tulino, I get to through D2D. I’m in Baker and Taylor and Overdrive for libraries. I also publish in print, paperback, hardcover, large print and audio. So I think at this point, not speaking about my physique, but I believe my catalogue is as wide as you can get.
John Wilker 04:22
My name is John Wilker. I write primarily space opera sci fi adventure. I have 13 books out and been doing this since 2017. So pretty new to it. I dabbled in KU for the first book for just the one-time three-month window that I was in. Didn’t really like it, didn’t do very well. And just then kind of realized that that’s not how, as like a business standpoint, I wanted to work. I wanted to be as wide as I possibly could be. The controlling piece of me made sure I went direct wherever I could. I even signed up for Google Play, I think like, while I was in KU, because they opened the window briefly where you didn’t have to be through like D2D or anyone else. So I just signed up, I was like, well, I don’t know if I really need this, but if they open the door, I’m gonna jump in real fast. But yeah, so I’ve been wide pretty much, with the exception of the first few months.
Mark Lefebvre 05:24
Thank you guys. So just to give you guys a bit of a background, and I would like to say, as an author myself, I write urban fantasy, as well as horros. Just wanting to make sure we had a bit of a variety of content here as well, so we can talk about it. So let’s talk about Apple Books. Let’s talk about the Apple brand. Let’s talk about the Apple storefront. Can I just see a show of hands from how many of you actually read ebooks? Yay. No, it’s true. I just had to ask. How many read ebooks on an Apple device? Okay, great. So, so the folks who raised their hand—and just for the folks at home, we probably have, I think eight or nine people who read on an Apple device, which is pretty good. You probably are familiar with the storefront, the Apple storefront, as opposed to oftentimes we think only of the world’s longest river storefront as the only place to go. But so you know that there’s … so what about the Apple storefront, just from a customer’s perspective, what is it about the Apple storefront that makes it such a unique and we agree that it’s a very customer-centric experience. But what do you guys find it to be like?
Cheryl Bradshaw 06:38
As in like the page itself?
Mark Lefebvre 06:39
Yeah, like how do they do things? And how is it different than that rive place?
Cheryl Bradshaw 06:47
I think well, the page itself, the way that they break things down into categories, super easy. It’s super easy. Paid top, paid top, free. I can go on and like that, I can know who my competition is, who’s doing well, what’s going on, I can find my books real simple and easy. And I also like the colors of it, like the bold color, like they take your book and they make it, I don’t know, they do something with the colors to make it really stand out over there. And I really like that, they just, I think it’s very easy to use.
John Wilker 07:23
And what I like is, it’s very minimalistic, and it’s very specific, like, you know, the river store. When you go to Apple Books, its books. They’re not trying to push even their own stuff. They’re not pushing iPods and you know, laptops on you. It’s, here’s books, and they have all kinds of curated categories. And very Apple-like, everything is very heavily curated. Which is kind of, which I like. Like, it’s not just which thing had the keywords that gamed the algorithm. Somebody looked at and said, I like this.
Diane Capri 07:54
So what I like about the store is, it’s actually a store, and it’s just an Apple store. It comes preloaded on every Apple iPhone, and every iPad. So everybody who has one of those things has the store, which is great. I mean, there’s something like a billion units or some crazy thing out there, Apple likes to say. So anybody who has an iPhone, which is like a million people, can access the store, which is a great thing, they don’t have to download an app or anything else. Reading the books on an Apple device in the Apple Store is a very pleasant experience. It looks like an actual book. And when you can flip the pages and the pages kind of turn. And that’s kind of cool. And it’s all in color. And it feels more like reading a book. And it’s easy. The fonts are clean and clear. Apple’s very picky about, like Cheryl said, the colors, they have a whole color palette, they require a certain type, a certain size, when you upload your cover and all that. They actually physically look at every single book that gets uploaded in the store to make sure that it passes their quality controls. So every book you get looks great. Works great. You know, you can find it. I think it’s just a terrific app. I really do. And I like it a lot.
Mark Lefebvre 09:23
Thank you. So I want to get into some of the, I know you guys are looking for, you know, what are the specific things you can do to try and increase your chances of discoverability? And when we were talking before this started, there was a really great analogy about the author who just puts their books up and then walks away and thinks, okay, I’m done. That’s all I need to do now. I’m gonna go run Amazon ads now. But so, what are some of the, we were talking a little bit about some of the analogy of, what are the things that are really, really important for the Apple experience? It’s not just, you put your book up there and yes, they have customers, it’s going to be featured. But how do you get visibility? There was a really great shopping analogy.
Diane Capri 10:12
I know you’re waiting for me to say this, but I like to fish where the fish are, right? So Apple is, I think of it kind of like a store in a mall. So you have your book, and it’s there. And there are people that are coming to the mall all the time, coming to the Apple bookstore all the time. But they aren’t necessarily looking at you. I mean, maybe they’re there to buy shoes, right? And not really, because the Apple bookstore is all books. But maybe they’re there to buy a book about shoes, okay? But if you want them to buy your book, you have to get their attention. There are things you have to do, you know, and if it were really a mall, maybe you’d hire a clown to, you know, stand outside and wave them in or whatever. But getting your books uploaded on the store is just like the first step. Then you have to find a way to get those readers who are there, they are coming to the mall, you have to find a way to get those readers who are there to notice you and to buy your book. And that’s on you. I mean, Apple’s going to help you because when you upload, you’re going to list your categories. And you’re going to have your great-looking book, and you’re going to pass the quality standards, and you’re going to be in the right spots. But it’s on you to bring people to your book and help them find you. And really it’s like that on all the storefronts. But we’re used to doing it, as Mark said, on the river store. And we know how. So on Apple we don’t necessarily know how, but it’s the same thing. We have to get them to come to us.
Mark Lefebvre 11:35
What are some of the options or strategies that have worked to get people to go check out your books on Apple?
John Wilker 11:47
They really like free first in series. My longer series has a permafree book one. And even when before I kind of learned how to reach out to them, they reached out to me and were like, hey, we’re doing a big thing. It’s gonna be on the homepage of the bookstore, free first in series science fiction. Cool to include you in it? Like, of course. And I had people that I know who would like send screenshots like, oh, I was looking for a new book to read, and there’s yours like on the front page of the carousel on the Apple Books page. So that’s definitely one, they really like free first in series.
Mark Lefebvre 12:27
Okay, and that was that was a case, just to confirm. Apple reached out to you asking to make a book free that wasn’t free?
John Wilker 12:33
No, it was free.
Mark Lefebvre 12:34
Oh, it was free already, they wanted to make sure you kept it free.
John Wilker 12:37
Right. Yeah, that was really the gist of the email. They’re like, you’re not changing the price anytime soon?
Mark Lefebvre 12:42
So I do want to talk a bit about that. Because when I worked for Kobo, I used to run their self-publishing platform there. That free first in series was a great funnel that I know a lot of people talk about. It doesn’t necessarily work all that well on Amazon, especially since you only get the five days of free exclusivity. But in all the other stores including Apple, you can make permafree. And the merchandisers love it, because they know that funnel works. If they feature your first book, you probably saw some sales on those two and three, right? They know, the long run is if they can hook the right readers, that’s going to be a profitable venture. So that is a strategy that works. The other thing I want to kind of allude to, as we’re talking about this, is preorders are really important on Apple. Can you guys talk a little bit about some of the features or some of the options that are available related to preorders?
Cheryl Bradshaw 13:36
One of the great thing I think about doing preorders on there is that there’s flexibility. You can put up for your cover, you can kind of do a placeholder and you can change the date, you can … you know, they’re really flexible in what they will allow you to do on there with your, with regard to like putting it up and adding stuff to it later or replacing the cover or whatever.
Diane Capri 14:08
If you put up a preorder on Apple, you can put it up for a year. And you don’t really have to do anything else other than get it ready to release it on time. But people will find it and they’ll click it for preorder. And then you’ll have built-in sales when your book releases finally. There used to be kind of a little timeline, and I didn’t look it up to tell you what it is. But basically I do a one year preorder. And then as soon as I have the book to the point where I can, I put up a sneak peek. And I use usually 50 pages. By this time I have a cover. So I have the cover. I have the first 50 pages at the end, and you know, it’s not exactly 50 pages but about that many. And then at the end of the sample I put a link to preorder the book. And I call that, they call that a sneak peek on Apple. And they feature those and they use those sneak peeks to help them curate upcoming releases. They use the preorders in the same way. So if they’re looking to do say, some kind of promotion for cozy mysteries, and Diane has a sneak peek at a cozy mystery that’s coming up during the promotion period, they might then contact me and say, you know, are you going to definitely do this? And if you are, sort of like with his, you know, can we feature your book? I always say no. So I was gonna say, there’s a lot of things like that that you can do to sort of get their attention, but you have to be kind of in the pipeline, like Mark said.
John Wilker 15:49
I was gonna add too, the other nice thing with preorders or just another thing they like to do is, because it’s on all the iPhones and iPads, they’ll just send out push notifications and be like, you know, you read this book, and you get those from, you know, an email from Amazon. But this comes up on someone’s screen, it wakes up the phone and says, John Wilker has a new book out, you read the last one and liked it, want to know more? Then they can tap right on that push notification and go right to it.
Mark Lefebvre 16:17
So another thing about the preorders is, Apple is a unique store in that a lot of them have a preview, whether it’s a preorder or not. And the preview is usually the first 5 or 10% of the book. With Apple, you can customize. If you’re publishing to Apple Books directly, you can go in and put whatever. So, like, obviously, hopefully the hook at the beginning of the book is good. But maybe you want to tease them, like they can’t wait to get to that point in the book where something happens. So if you’re publishing directly, you can put a custom preview, or if you’re publishing through an aggregator like Draft2Digital, there is a way for Draft2Digital to work with Apple to get that special custom preview for you. So that’s, I don’t think … how many of you guys knew about that option with Apple? A few people didn’t.
John Wilker 17:03
I think too, and I don’t remember how the ranking works. But doesn’t Apple let you double dip on preorders with rank? I think you get rank as your preorder moves. And then on release day, you get again, celebrating.
Diane Capri 17:19
Yeah, celebrating the realease basically.
Mark Lefebvre 17:21
Yeah, which is great. I mean, only Kobo and Apple have that sort of two times bonus in different ways. But that is a really great feature and a question. If it’s okay, we’ll just wait to, probably in another eight or so minutes I’ll just open it up to questions if that’s okay. Okay. Thank you. We talked about the preview. So we didn’t talk about something that’s really important. We talked about the fact that Apple is very much curated, right. So some of the people that I know at Apple have worked in traditional publishing, and that it’s not just this hodgepodge of everything. It is, they do have a huge catalogue. They can feature audiobooks, and ebooks, too, right? So if you have both of them, they’re pretty good. The metadata is clear and clean. They’re pretty good at linking those together. So you can have them. But we talked about Apple as partners. Could you guys expand upon that? The thought of Apple as not just being this platform, but actually being in partnership with the authors that they publish?
Cheryl Bradshaw 18:25
I think when we were talking earlier about the build, like, you got to start somewhere on there to build up your platform. And they’re watching for like, hey, I keep seeing her, this person’s book or whatever. They’re watching. Because like, when he was talking about the promos, they’ll do, they do promos all the time. And there’s like, maybe like one that revolves around Christmas, or one that revolves around winter, and then they’re looking to see like, which authors can we include in this? And so if you’ve, if you’re doing what you can to like, push things up, like I would say, if you’re first starting out, and you are … free is good in the beginning, because that is how a reader will pick you up and read you. Because, you know, they’re not paying anything on somebody that they don’t know, well, am I gonna like this if I spend six bucks on it or whatever? You know, so you’ve got to get the reader first and then keep the reader. And so as you start building your platform on there, and your books start getting more visibility, that’s when you have these opportunities where they work with you more on a personal level. Because they’re, it’s like being rewarded for doing hard work on their platform and building and building and growing yourself, and then in turn, that’s when they’ll kind of pick and choose, like reach out and say, you know, hey, I noticed you’ve been doing really good on that, can we include your book?
Diane Capri 19:51
They want you to demonstrate that you understand, that you’re a partner with them. You know, you’re not there expecting them to do something for you. You’re there expecting that you’re going to work together with them. So for example, if you’re running Facebook ads, make sure you have an Apple link in that ad. If you’ve got your books on your web page and your listing where the books can be bought, make sure you have Apple on there. They look. They do check. They want to know, is this person serious about being an Apple author or not? And some people are not, some people want to just come in and give it a try. And they don’t want to, you know, be partners with Apple. And those are ones honestly, that generally are not happy and feel like they haven’t done well. But if you’re partnering with Apple, it’s to your advantage to do all these things. And they like it when you do all these things, because then they feel like you’re working with them. And they want to work with you. And like everybody here, you know, I’ve talked to these people. And I can say for sure that that is what they are looking for. And that’s what they want.
Mark Lefebvre 20:57
And to that end, they will accept inclusive links. So you have links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Apple and Kobo and Google and whatever. When you use the logo, if you haven’t already, update your logo to the Apple Books logo. If it says iBooks, that’s going to be a little bit of an annoyance that they’re not going to like that, because they did change their branding a couple years ago. And so be very careful about that. So make sure that it is a logo. You can also use a Books2Read or some sort of universal link, because all they really want is inclusivity. Not exclusivity. They just want to make sure they’re included, as well. So that’s the other thing, but it’s a subtle thing.
Audience Member 21:42
I haven’t seen that to be true. I had a bunch of links, and I was using D2D. I had all of the links. And Apple rejected my book because Amazon’s links were included.
Mark Lefebvre 21:53
You had all the links … si the question was, for the people at home, you had all the links on your website? Oh, in the book, okay, so no, in the book itself. Think about this. I go to Diane Capri’s party because she invited me, and I start inviting people to go to Jasmine Walt’s party in the other room. Oh, no, on your website. Yeah, no, no. So a Books2Read link in your book is fine. But if you have links to all the other stores in that book, trying to draw people to a different store from Apple. Oh, yeah. They will reject your book. Thank you for asking that.
Diane Capri 22:30
But all the stores will do that. None of the stores will accept that. And it makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t want that if I owned a store. And you probably wouldn’t either.
Audience Member 22:42
Yeah, sorry, I misunderstood what you meant by inclusive links.
Mark Lefebvre 22:45
Yeah, no, inclusive links on the website. They just want to make sure that they’re included, as well. So that’s the other thing as well, I’m going to do just a little bit of advertisement for Books2Read, we tried to roll this into production yesterday, and had to roll it back, there was like a 10 minute maintenance window where you couldn’t go and edit your Books2Read. And the idea is that you’ll be able to change the store priority. So if you wanted to put Apple first because you love Apple, you could do that. Or if you wanted to put your PayHip or whatever. But the whole idea is that if you want to impress Apple, take all your Books2Read links, and put the Apple links first. So that is coming soon. And obviously you can control that on your own website at any time.
Diane Capri 23:18
So there are lots of readers in Apple, at least a billion people have access to the store. That’s a pretty large number of customers out there.
Mark Lefebvre 23:27
That’s more than people in my hometown.
Diane Capri 23:32
Mine too, actually. More than the dollars in my bank account. So we’ve talked about how we can partner with Apple. So then did you want to talk about how we can help ourselves there?
Mark Lefebvre 23:44
Oh, and that’s the next thing is, so how can we, how can we take ownership and control? Especially because I’ll be honest with you. I mean, they contacted John, they haven’t yet contacted me. I don’t sell enough. I don’t have enough play on Apple yet. It is growing slowly. But so, how can someone like me? How can I help myself on Apple?
Cheryl Bradshaw 24:07
One way that I think is one of the best ways when you’re just starting out is to find your author people. Like, when she says fish where the fish are with your readers, I think you can fish where the fish are with your authors. You’re trying to go wide. Go look in your genre. Who do you know that is also on Apple? And you get a bunch of you, get all your posse together. And then you do like some kind of a group giveaway that it is exclusively trying to get readers specifically for Apple. You want to talk a little bit about our [inaudible] that we did?
Diane Capri 24:37
Oh, sure. So several years ago, we did that, exactly what Cheryl’s doing. We did it together. John wasn’t with us then, but next time. And so we had, at that time I think we took 25 authors, and we ran a big giveaway. I think I used King Sumo for it. And everybody in the group, you know, rang the bell and tried to get readers to come on board. And the prize was a paid book, not a free book, a paid book from each of the 25 authors. So each of the authors donated, I think, five books. And so we had five winners who won 25 books each. So it was a big giveaway. And the way we funded it was with the free Apple Book codes that we get.
Mark Lefebvre 25:31
How do you get free Apple Book codes?
Diane Capri 25:34
I don’t know Mark. With every book you upload to Apple, they will give you 250 codes for free books. Now, the codes do expire. So you don’t want to just go in and get 250 the day you upload your book, and then think you’ll give them out, you know, over the next 100 years, or whatever it is. I think it’s 30 days.
Mark Lefebvre 25:59
It’s 30 days before they expire. So you want batches, right?
Diane Capri 26:03
Yeah. So you want to wait till you’re ready to use them.
Cheryl Bradshaw 26:05
And know how you’re going to use them, because you just have a limited window. So trying to get your thoughts together on like, what can I do with these to maximize them?
Mark Lefebvre 26:16
So you can request those if you’re direct with Apple, right? By emailing the support. You can request them through a distributor like Draft2Digital, and they’ll request them for you. So you can do it either way. Quick, quick question on that.
Audience Member 26:32
Are those codes for you to give to your customer?
Diane Capri 26:36
Yeah, and you can give them away in a zillion ways. And they will help you get your reviews on Apple, like you can give them to your arc team and ask them to post reviews for you. You can give them out as a giveaway, you know, indicate that, you know, if anybody would like a free book, if you’d like to review it, you know, you can get your reviews that way. The nice thing is, it applies to any book that you have. So it doesn’t have to be just your first, or just your free book, or anything like that. So yes, 250 codes, each and every book, any time you want. But they do expire. So that’s the only thing to keep in mind. Yeah. And it works really well for group promos and giveaways.
Cheryl Bradshaw 27:18
Oh, it was amazing for us. Like, we were all trying to just grow our readership on there. And it made a huge difference, pooling us all together for one goal, for the one goal in mind.
Diane Capri 27:33
And it really cost us nothing except a little bit of effort. Because the codes were free. And we just, you know, we put it on our websites, we put it on our social media pages, you know, on our newsletters, and that’s how we got people to do it. And we got a lot of a lot of readers, got a lot of traction.
Cheryl Bradshaw 27:52
And you know that people are signing up for that for the right reasons. Because what they’re getting, they’re books. And so you don’t have people that are signing up for your giveaway or whatever that are interested in like a gift card or whatever. These are actual readers, you know they are, because they know that what they’re going to receive are books.
Diane Capri 28:10
And you know they’re Apple Books readers, because what they’re getting is a code for an Apple Book.
Audience Member 28:15
Do you get those when you upload the book? Or do you, anytime you can request them?
Diane Capri 28:17
You can get them any time.
Audience Member 28:18
And then how many times per book can you request them?
Diane Capri 28:20
Audience Member 28:21
That’s it? So you use 250 and then now you move on to the next book, kind of a thing. Right?
Diane Capri 28:22
Yeah, I personally, I would not do that. I don’t do that.
Mark Lefebvre 28:24
Do you do batches of 10?
Diane Capri 28:42
Well it depends. So in this instance, we had 25 winners. So I requested 25 codes. So you don’t have to request all 250 at the same time. You could take two. You could take one.
Mark Lefebvre 28:54
You could request 250 individual times for one.
John Wilker 29:01
And the best part is, tou can do your promo ahead of it. So it’s not like you get the codes and then you got a ticking clock. You can do your promo and then request it.
Mark Lefebvre 29:08
Yeah, so you got 30 days after they give them to you. Yeah, so that’s an important …
Audience Member 29:13
Is Apple more friendly about giving away free books and getting reviews?
Diane Capri 29:19
Giving away free books and getting reviews …. You can make the book free if you want.
John Wilker 29:23
Do you mean in the terms of service, like …
Audience Member 29:27
Yeah, you can’t give away a book and say you’ve got to give me a review if I give you this.
Diane Capri 29:30
Oh, I don’t think you can do that anywhere.
Mark Lefebvre 29:31
That’s more of a legality, sort of moralistic thing. However, Apple will not penalize people for having to have a verified purchase. They haven’t gone in and purged reviews. So when you get an Apple review, you actually get to keep the Apple review. It doesn’t disappear on you. But that’s an important thing, because you can work really hard on another retailer, and then the reviews disappear for no rhyme or reason. But if you actually work hard to get Apple readers to review your books, they’re gonna stay there. I mean, unless there’s something rebelious or whatever in the in the review, and they go, well, you can’t say this.
Diane Capri 30:17
Generally speaking, you can’t … I mean, any child that I know would not be happy if you said to them, you know, here’s this cookie, but you know, you have to do this first. I mean, it’s not a quid pro quo. You can’t do that. But you can give out, you know, you can put every book in your catalog on Apple for free forever if you want to. I don’t know why you want to do that. But you could. They don’t …
Audience Member 30:47
So you can have a free book on Apple that costs everywhere else.
Mark Lefebvre 30:49
Oh, no, no. So one thing, thank you for that question. One thing about the retailers that a lot of people don’t realize is, the contract you have with Apple, with Kobo, with Nook, with Google, with Amazon, is you cannot have a lower price on any other retail site. Amazon’s the only one will come in and kneecap you if your price is lower. I mean, they’ll usually aggressively auto price match. But all other retailers have that. So if your book is free somewhere, it should be free everywhere. Now, it obviously can’t be on Amazon if you’re wide. So then you rely on their aggressive price-matching. But that is one thing to do. So if you’re dropping the price to zero, you should you’re bound by the contracts that you should drop them free, or everyone has the right to price match at your expense. So next question right there? No, sorry, one at a time. Questions expire after 30 days.
Audience Member 31:50
[inaudible] codes US?
Diane Capri 31:53
They’re geocoded. So you can only give out US codes to US customers. But you get them from all the stores. I don’t know if you get 250 from every store.
John Wilker 32:04
I think you have to request the store.
Mark Lefebvre 32:06
You request the geo …? Yeah, that’s a good, that’s a good point. But the question is, can you get 250 for US only? Yeah. Great question. Why don’t we let him ask number two?
Audience Member 32:18
Let’s just say, hypothetically, that we’re distributing on Draft2Digital [inaudible]. How do we go about [inaudible]?
Mark Lefebvre 32:34
Okay. Yeah, if you’re publishing to Apple through Draft2Digital, you can contact email@example.com and request the custom preview. You can also request the codes as well. So that’s as easy as that. There’s actual real humans, one of which is that the Draft2Digital table this week. Another question right there.
Audience Member 33:03
When you were talking about the preorders, Diane, and then you said later you would put your cover up, what are you putting up if you don’t have the cover for that long preorder?
Diane Capri 33:11
If I have the cover, I put it up. Sometimes I have it. Sometimes I don’t. If I don’t have it, I put up a placeholder cover, which early on when I used to do this, it was actually pretty ugly. It was just nothing but the right shape, you know. But now what I have is, I have all my branding, but no art. And so I have a cover that looks like my branding, like with my name and my series name. And I always have the title. I generally don’t put up a preorder without a title, but you could do that. So anyway, so that’s what I do. And then when I come, when they get the cover I put the cover up. And then when I have the sample ready, I put the sneak peek up. But I try to do it well in advance of the release date so that there’s time for it to kind of get into the system. After a while, after I’ve had the sneak peek up for a while exclusively on Amazon, I will make it available to my mailing list. And then I have it delivered by BookFunnel. But they can also download directly from Apple them as well.
Audience Member 34:22
You said custom preview. What is that?
Mark Lefebvre 34:24
Okay, the custom preview. So by default, the web stores where you load your epub or wherever you’re loading, and they’ll take the first five or 10%. And a customer can go, oh, like you’re in a bookstore, I’m going to preview the book. And they’ll allow them to read the first five, take a look inside the book. It’s a look inside feature. And so with Apple, I love this about Apple, because again they let you pick exactly what you want to show. So never mind the, you know, the copyright stuff in the beginning in the introduction or any of that stuff. Let’s get right to the point. And you can put in a custom, this is what I want them to see Very clean, very, very controlled.
Audience Member 35:04
Here’s another question. If you’re working through Draft2Digital, what is the difference working with these other book retailers?
Mark Lefebvre 35:11
Great question. So the difference, the difference between going direct to Apple and Draft2Digital, the only difference is technically the 10%. You make 10% less, because Draft2Digital keeps 10%. So instead of getting 70%, you’ll get 60. In terms of marketing, to be quite honest, I adore the people at Apple because they care, not about how you’re publishing, they care about what you’re publishing. And is it good? And is this good to feature for customers? They care about the reader experience, and so they’re just as willing to work with authors who are through an aggregator as they are to work direct. If anything, I would venture, and I’m not speaking for them, but I would venture to guess that it probably helps them that there are aggregators willing to do some curation and customer service and help so that they can continue to focus on their platform and creating a great reader experience. So you don’t have to be direct, you don’t have to be through Draft2Digital. Either should work for you well. I do know there are, we do have through Draft2Digital promotion opportunities for authors, if you go to d2d.tips/conference and sign up, so d2d.tips/conference, there’s a form where you can say, hey, I’m publishing military sci fi to Apple or some of the other platforms. And when we get opportunities that are unique to your genre with Apple, we may send an invite for you to submit. Now, for every 100 titles we get, they accept one or two. So it’s very hard to get in. But you keep trying. That’s the one thing, that you want to keep trying, right?
Cheryl Bradshaw 36:53
Yeah. And I go, I go through Draft2Digital for Apple Books. Not really, for some other retailers I don’t. But I love going, it’s very easy. And I love that. Because one of the promos a few years ago, they started offering promos through there. And I thought that was really cool that they were reaching out and giving us those opportunities without you having, whether you’re direct with them or not.
Audience Member 37:25
I love being wide. I’m emotionally committed to being wide, and all my books are wide. However, I am also desperate to pay the bills. And there are people richer and smarter than myself currently advising the strategy of going into another store for 90 days before going wide. And I’m tempted by that Apple. Ha. But I don’t want to anger the Apple gods. So I’m wondering how much that annoys?
John Wilker 37:27
Do you mean, like, leaving Apple and going 90? I don’t know that Apple cares about that. I know that they care if you’re hopping back and forth. But I don’t know that they care.
Mark Lefebvre 38:06
Here’s one thing that I can tell you burns their butts. If you publish exclusively to some other platform, and publish your book in 2020. And then in 2021, you decide, I’m going to go and publish on Apple, on the other platforms. Please put the actual pub date, not the date you pubbed on Apple. They want an authentic user experience and they know that book is not … So I’ll give you an example. Star Wars came out in 1976? 1977. I was 8, I should be able to do the math. Just because it’s on Disney now doesn’t mean that the release date is 2019 when it got on to Disney. The release date is still 1977. Apple wants the same truth. If it was originally published on another platform, then please put that date in. Because sometimes I’ve had authors who just take, okay, all 20 of my books were published on April 1, 2020. And it’s like, well, that can’t be true. So they do, that annoys them more than publishing 90 days exclusive.
John Wilker 39:11
And it doesn’t have an impact. Like, on the river store. Dropping it gives you that window. But that doesn’t happen on Apple.
Mark Lefebvre 39:20
They care more about good books.
John Wilker 39:21
Yeah. So trying to trick them. There’s no …
Cheryl Bradshaw 39:24
There’s no benefit to you doing that.
Diane Capri 39:28
And it’s also annoying. It’s annoying to them because they don’t want … I mean, again. They’re partnering with you. They want to trust you. They want to believe you. And they want to represent to their customers that you’re a trustworthy, believable person. So if you had Star Wars come out in 1977. And you put that in your metadata, they’re going to believe that, and they’re going to tell their customers that, because that’s the truth of that situation. So you want to just be honest about it. And like he said, there’s no penalty to it. It’s not like it’s gonna hurt you in any way. So, you know, put down the right dates.
Audience Member 40:09
Do you know what percentage you sell on the different stores? The major ones like Kobo Apple, Amazon.
Mark Lefebvre 40:18
Yeah, Scribecount is a great tool for finding that out really fast. For me, Apple is my third highest store. For me it’s Amazon first, Kobo second, Apple third. I worked for Kobo, so I have a bit of insight there. What about you guys?
Cheryl Bradshaw 40:34
Mine sometimes fluctuates, but Apple is generally my second to Amazon.
Diane Capri 40:41
For me too. Apple’s my number two store.
John Wilker 41:44
For me, it tends to be number three. But there have been months where it’s been a strong number too.
Mark Lefebvre 40:51
But as a percentage, is it, I mean, does it ever get high, like 50% of your sales?
John Wilker 41:00
For me, it’s close to like 10 to 15%.
Cheryl Bradshaw 41:04
If something has been really pushed hard for me, or I’ve been chosen for some … like they used to do, I don’t know if they do this so much anymore. But like banners at the top, I’ve had some amazing months where I could actually like rival, you know, that other store. But I mean, so the potential is there. If you get noticed and get picked up for different things.
Mark Lefebvre 41:30
Can I add, speaking of money, one of the things to think about with Apple is, there is no cap at 70% at $9.99. So box sets, and I know you guys have a lot of series books, you don’t have to limit yourself at $9.99. You could do a six-book box set and charge $16.99 because you’ll still make 70%, or 60 through D2D. And those did work well on Apple too, right?
Diane Capri 41:53
Yeah, the only thing you can’t do is, you can’t put that on Amazon for $9.99.
Mark Lefebvre 41:58
No, no. I wouldn’t even, I would publish it to Apple and Kobo and just leave it off Amazon, they can just buy them individually.
Audience Member 42:09
Readthrough wise, do you find that you have better readthrough on Apple? Or do you notice?
John Wilker 42:16
I haven’t noticed much of a difference.
Mark Lefebvre 42:19
I get better readthrough on Apple and Kobo. So for example, with Kobo, for every 500 free downloads, maybe I get 1 or 2%. I get like a small percentage of people. With Apple I can get the same readthrough with 50 free downloads. I found there’s a lot more Freegans on Kobo. With Apple, if they like it, they just click that button at the end of book one and book two. So I have noticed the readthrough’s better.
Diane Capri 42:44
So if I run a special, I don’t have a free first. Okay. So if I run a book at free on all platforms, I tend to get better sellthrough to book two on Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play than I get on Amazon. Amazon’s about 1 to 2%. On Apple, I can sometimes get 10 to 20%. But to me, that’s a special situation for a promotion, only because I don’t have a free first in series. Typically, what I would talk about is sellthrough from, they buy the first book, and then they buy the second book. I also have better sellthrough on those other platforms than he river store. If you’re in KU, what you have is readthrough. So you have people that are borrowing the books and reading through and that can be very powerful, because they’re not having to actually say, you know, at the point of purchase when they download the book. So in my case, read through KU can be a lot higher than sellthrough, even on the river store. There’s less resistance. It’s a completely frictionless experience.
Audience Member 44:02
How do you see your reviews on Apple? I’ve had readers tell me, and I can’t find them.
Mark Lefevbre 44:13
How do you see your reviews on Apple, is the question. Ideally, you’re on an Apple device.
John Wilker 44:16
Yeah, I don’t think you can on mine. I think you see stars, like if you go to whatever it is, like books.apple.com. I think you see the stars. I don’t think it exposes reviews.
Mark Lefebvre 44:28
You have to use the device itself. So a tablet or an iPhone, so you have to have a friend who’s an Apple person. It could just be, so what you’re seeing there in that case is, it’s not a review, somebody ranked the book. Which is good, because that actually does help with social proof. I mean, it is nice to have a few words, but a ranking is beneficial because it adds to the star rating. And you’ll see that on other platforms. Apple, Kobo, as well. So, other hands, we still have a few minutes. The only other thing I was gonna bring up, if there’s no other questions, is I use third-party newsletters to get people to Apple. You can do ads, you can target Facebook ads or BookBub ads, and specifically target Apple readers if you’re looking to get more people onto the Apple platform. I really do like the … You can’t always get a BookBub. It’s like, yeah, I’m gonna win the lottery today. That’s what it feels like. So I can buy a ticket, but I might not win. But usually with a Bargain Booksy or a Fussy Librarian, eReader News Today, or some of the other platforms, usually you can pretty much almost guarantee to get that. So when I’m doing promos, even if I have a promo that’s on Kobo, for example, where I’m dropping the price everywhere, I’ll book a newsletter … and I even have found, and I’ve gotten some Kobo promos through Kobo Writing Life. And then while the promo’s about to be featured, I then run some newsletters or even my own newsletter as part of them. And I’ve actually outsold on Apple more than I sold on the Kobo. That week that Kobo is featuring my book, because I mean, Apple does have more customers globally, as Diane said. So those newsletters can also help get Apple readers, because they say hey, I read on Apple devices and I read romantic suspense. And therefore I’m going to, they’re going to find your books that way too. So any other tools that you guys have used, or strategies?
John Wilker 46:29
That’s my predominant one right now, is just paid newsletters. I stopped running ads this year, just kind of as an experiment. So I only do paid newsletters, and I only do the ones that support wide books. And yeah, that works really well. And then newsletter swaps with other authors is a good one.
Audience Member 46:49
Do you have any particular newsletters that you recommend? I’m always suspicious that they say they link to all the stores, but they’ve got like three people subscribed who read on Apple. Do you have any recommendations?
John Wilker 47:02
Bargain Booksy, FreeBooksy, Robin Reads, Book Cave, Fussy Librarian.
Mark Lefebvre 47:13
If you’re a member of the Wide for the Win Facebook group, there’s a really great list. And they even tell you by genre, right? Because I mean, area foods, the head of that. I mean, she writes a certain genre. So obviously it’s gonna work for her but not for some of my stuff. But I always go back to that because it’s bookmarked at the top, so I go back go whenever I’m on a promo, and it’s like who should I try to add?
John Wilker 47:33
It’s a little bit labor intensive. But luckily, most of them, you don’t pay until you submit everything. So I’ll open the form. And if the form is just like give us the ASIN and nothing else, it’s just like, close tab.
Audience Member 47:47
Do you find much success running 99 cent ads through bargain newsletters, or is it just free that really does well?
John Wilker 47:57
I’ve only done free first in series.
Mark Lefebvre 48:00
I’ve done okay with 99 cent ads. I like them a little bit better, because it’s obviously, I know the volume’s not as high. But at least I’m making 35 cents back right away. Not hoping for the return. And I think there was another hand up because we’re just 30 seconds.
Audience Member 48:18
I’ve gone wide with every retailer except for [inaudible]. And I don’t want to give out my Social Security or whatever. So do I need to go to Draft2Digital for that? And I realized it’s like, we can’t give you the answer. But is there anything that like, the difference between going direct and going… like, things that I can’t do?
Mark Lefebvre 48:45
I don’t think there are things you can’t do going through Draft2Digital. I mean, the big thing is the 10%, right? You’re making less, honestly. And the Apple reps are great about treating you the same whether you’re direct or not. They’re really wonderful.
John Wilker 49:00
Yeah, and even if you get like a promo through them, like if they reach out, they’ll say you know, okay, you’re through D2D. Confirm. And one of my friends had to send like a screenshot confirming a price change schedule. But that was it. It was just like, make sure you’re gonna make this when we advertise it.
Mark Lefebvre 49:15
Yeah, they’ve contacted us to say, hey, do you know so and so? Could you reach out and see if they want to participate in a promo? So they’re really good about that. Because again, they want really good books.
Audience Member 49:31
I have a quick second question if we have time. Is it important to have translations since [inaudible] of the readership is throughout the world?
John Wilker 49:45
I don’t have any. It won’t hurt, for sure. I would love to have lots of translations.
Mark Lefebvre 49:53
It won’t hurt. But right now it’s, you know, seven to $10,000 to do it. I wouldn’t do it unless you’re taking it from a funding that you already have, that you’re not going in the hole in making translations.
Cheryl Bradshaw 50:07
Build yourself up first would be what I would say, and then look into that when you’ve got the revenue and you feel like you can really get readers in some of those other countries.
Diane Capri 50:18
It takes a while to earn back those investments, and most of the authors I’ve talked to who are doing translations will say that if you ask them honestly. Some genres do better in some locations, like Greg and Mark and I were talking last night, I think that French is a big thing right now. But partly because you know, there’s Canada, where you know, French is a second language right? So I would, I agree with everybody else. I would only do those when you have money to invest and when you have a long time horizon covering the investment.
Mark Lefebvre 50:59Well, thank you for your great questions. Thank you guys for a great talk.