Episode Summary

We’ve learned a lot over the past couple of years, and we’re starting to see some trends and patterns. In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, we’re looking at some of the publishing industry trends that will impact self-published indie authors, and we’re giving some of our predictions about what to expect in the near (and even distant) future.

Episode Notes

The D2D team talk shop about what we’ve learned and where we think the self-publishing world is going. 

Links mentioned in the show:

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Mark Lefebvre, Kevin Tumlinson, Nick Thacker

Kevin Tumlinson 00:02

Well, hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders from Draft2Digital. Welcome to the new year. I think we’ve actually had a, we did have a podcast or a live stream earlier in the year, so I guess I already did the whole welcome thing. But hey, welcome anyway. No now, two people you haven’t been able to say hello to from the D2D team are Nick Thacker and Mark Leslie Lefebvre. Hey guys, welcome. Welcome to 2022.

Nick Thacker 00:30

Well, thank you. I didn’t feel like it was 2022 yet until Kevin Tumlinson welcomed me into it. So now I can breathe. Now we’re here.

Mark Lefebvre 00:38

Thanks for waking me up to join. Wow, 20 days in already? Where have I been?

Kevin Tumlinson 00:43

I know. I’ve been kind of counting back. You know, we’re dealing with a lot of house-related stuff. My time disappears. Basically, I wake up in the morning, and just about the time I have finished logging in, it’s time for me to go to bed. So that’s the kind of days I’ve been having. But 2022. So you know, one thing that we should tell people. I haven’t done anything around this yet, but this is actually D2D’s birth year, birthday year, 10-year birthday. I’ll get it right. 10-year anniversary as of 2022. So we’re going to be doing some things around that coming up over the next month or so. But that’s pretty exciting. But that’s the past. What we’re here to talk about right now are trends for the future for the self-publishing industry. And, Nick, you’d actually suggested this topic because you found a couple of blog posts. And, you know, we can definitely go through some of what’s in there. Mark was a contributor to one of those, so we’re gonna expect him to answer all the questions by himself.

Nick Thacker 01:55

I recommended it because I love talking about the future. Because nobody can tell me I’m wrong.

Kevin Tumlinson 02:01

True. Not immediately.

Nick Thacker 02:04

Exactly. But by that time, you know, as enough time has passed, they’d forgotten that I lied to them 10 years ago. So nobody can call me out on my predictions. Jetpacks and flying cars for all.

Kevin Tumlinson 02:14

Right, well, just so everyone’s clear, feel free to ask us anything during this entire broadcast. If you’re listening to us in the podcast, you can still ask us questions wherever you found this episode. Facebook, YouTube, podcast player of your choice, or right there on the Draft2Digital blog at draft2digital.com. So ask us anything, we’ll answer everything we can as we can. And let’s jump into it. So Nick, since you were the one who talked me into this one, why don’t you start? Like what’s, first of all, what was this article you found? You want to talk about that for a minute?

Nick Thacker 02:52

Yes. So this was an article that I covered on another podcast that I’m on. And I saw a name here that I recognize, and it was Mark Leslie Lefebvre. And I thought, well, dang it. I know that guy. And I bet we could probably have a good conversation with Kevin Tumlinson about the future of publishing, specifically self-publishing. But generally publishing trends is what this article is titled. It’s over on Written Word Media, who are the friendly folks behind … Well, now I’m drawing a blank. They’re the Free Booksy and Bargain Booksy? Yes, yeah. Which I know and love. But they’ve got a list of eight things here that they say are the top trends for 2022. We can go through those one at a time if we want. We can talk about random stuff. I just wanted to start with a question for you, Mark. And I don’t want this to sound defensive at all, because it’s not. I’m just really curious. I’m reading this article, and I’ve read it a few times now. And there’s not really any data in it. These are the opinions of like you and Brian Cohen and all that. I’m curious, is there somewhere we can find the data on this stuff? Like is there somewhere that says … Like, for example, direct sales are going to grow is the first thing? Where does it … Because I want to read that. I want to see where it says …

Mark Lefebvre 04:08

Well I’ll point to our beautiful colleague Kevin Tumlinson for that, because we had shared 2021 sales data from Draft2Digital, and shared some of the pieces. And we’re going to be continuing to do that, as we want to empower authors with information so they can understand and analyze these trends better. So some of the data, just so you know how this works is … I’m trying to remember if it was Clayton, or who at Written Word Media had reached out and said, “Hey, would you like to comment on this?” I ended up writing a 2000-word essay about my thoughts on publishing, knowing that he was just going to extract bits and pieces because I kind of had to walk through it. And when I was doing that, I was looking at some of our sales history to get that. So the data on direct sales is a difficult one to measure, because—and this is the problem we have when we look at ebook sales and the growth of ebooks compared to print books and all that, is there’s no real systems that cross compare. But the Six-Figure Author podcast, in a recent episode, Katie Cross talked about the growth. And through my own experience working with Joanna Penn on The Relaxed Author in 2021, I saw evidence that holy crap, the direct sales … We did well on all the platforms with all the other regular usual suspects, but the direct sales on The Relaxed Author were amazing. Now, Jo has been building this. And Jo is, I always look to Joanna Penn for future. She’s always five to 10 years ahead of the rest of us. And she’s been talking about that for a while. And it was only when I partnered with her and I actually got a taste of how big the direct sales could be, I realized that there are opportunities that we’ve been ignoring. So one of the things we’ve done, just to give people a tip, is on Books2Read, the free tool where you can do universal book links, we’ve always had a Payhip link, so authors who were selling direct … Payhip, usually Payhip and BookFunnel, you kind of merge them. And everything’s taken care of for you, the credit card processing and the delivery, and the customer service. And that’s a great tool. We are, as we speak, rolling into production, you’re hearing it here first, my friends. And this again is thanks to Joanna Penn, who first reached out amongst other authors to say, “Hey, I’ve got direct sales of my audiobooks,” well, audiobooks through Findaway Voices, authors direct you could always do, but she also had other ways to sell, audiobook links, and direct print book links. And so through Payhip right now, because it’s a slow building process that our devs are working hard at, you’ll be able to add a Payhip link for audio, Payhip link for ebook, and a Payhip link for any of the formats or all of the formats for print. And we’re doing this work in recognition of the fact that we’re seeing more authors taking control. Because what’s the one thing we always tell authors to do? Get a newsletter. I think, Nick, you know a little bit about how to do that. I know there’s maybe even a book coming out sometime in 2022. This decade, I’m gonna push you for 2022. But yes, when you’re in control of communicating with your readers, you can not rely on the retailers and the libraries and all the other systems, you can actually be in contact with them. So when you’re in contact with them, there’s an opportunity for them to want to support you directly. And we are seeing trends across the industry. There’s just no single source of data that can show that, because we’re all indie, right?

Nick Thacker 07:35

Well, that’s the thing, it’s self-reported a lot of times. So even if we did get data, it’s not necessarily trustworthy, not that people are lying, but it’s hard to tell. I listened to that Katie Croft podcast. She was also on the other Joe, Joseph Laurie, she was on his show. And she did a fantastic job there as well. And you know, what I’m gleaning from this, which does jive with my own experience coming from music many, many years ago. Don’t go search in Spotify folks, I’m warning you. Now, where the publishing industry tends to follow about five to 10 years behind, is that you know, the technology to do this has existed in different … We can duct tape together, WooCommerce, or you know, Katie’s using Shopify. And then like Lulu Press has a plugin for Shopify, we can do all that. Draft2Digital makes it so much easier and under one roof, which is good because it gives us the control without the additional headache. What we’re seeing is not that the technology is finally here, it’s that authors can finally do it easily. And it’s worth setting that up so that we can train our readers in a sense to buy directly from us. Because right now, it’s easy to buy from Amazon, because everyone uses Amazon. And we know how to do that. If you can start getting that mailing list of yours to go to your website and buy something from you, even if it’s just, you know, here’s something for free, but I want you to go through the checkout process, then you get the data in there. And they have an account now on your website. And it just makes things easier in the future. And that’s the trend that I’m seeing for sure, a lot more authors are becoming more comfortable setting that stuff up.

Kevin Tumlinson 09:08

Yeah, and what I think, there’s going to be a need then as we go forward, somebody is going to have to come up with a means of aggregating reports about sales that are purely direct. And right now it’s sort of like, I’ve got no clue what that’s going to look like. It seems like it might have to be voluntary, in some way, probably inaccurate. But somebody is going to have to crack that nut and figure out, you know, how do we monitor and measure sales on those platforms? Because where that becomes important is, you know, there are other opportunities that come to authors because of being on these other platforms. For example, you know, if I’m hitting number one on Amazon and Apple and Barnes & Noble and across the board, and maybe I’m on a more national list or something as well, that gets attention. That gets people, first of all aids in discoverability. Second of all, it might get the attention of somebody who wants to leverage your IP for something else, like a Netflix series or, you know, a movie or something along those lines, or maybe they just want to get your foreign distribution rights. So eventually, somebody is gonna have to crack, how do we aggregate data from the direct sales in order to benefit the author market? Do either of you have a solution to that already?

Nick Thacker 10:29

I think we need to get a big shared spreadsheet or Google Sheet, and just every single indie author just puts their sales on it every month. No way that could go wrong.

Kevin Tumlinson 10:37

No way that can go wrong. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre 10:39

I mean, so ScribeCount added, I’m a subscriber to that. So they aggregate my Draft2Digital sales, sales from the various direct platforms that I’m on. And they all come into a central repository, they built the ability to show, you can manually input or enter your direct sales. So again, there’s still some platforms that they’re not reporting on, and none of my traditional sales are there. So I’m waiting for the ability to use that tool to save me the time. And again, ScribeCount does not collect the data and does not store the data. So they don’t have the means, based on their terms of use, they don’t have the means to actually report on that. But that’s something that I think could be done, maybe with an author saying I’m allowing you to share, as part of an aggregate, what the direct sales of my books are compared to the percentage of the other platforms, so you can blend it and share it. I would be willing to participate as an author, because I love, I’m sorry but you know, I’m getting stuff ready for my accountant from the end of the year. I love just pulling a report from ScribeCount. But now I still have to go and add a whole bunch of other things. I want to be able to have all those things there because they make a nice, pretty chart for me.

Kevin Tumlinson 11:49

Well, I’ve seen that he does have, he’s added the ability … And by the way, shout out to Randy. Hi there. He has added the ability to add outside sources, right?

Mark Lefebvre 12:00

Oh, yeah, you can add sales from other sources. But the challenge I’m running into right now is, they have to pull my titles from Amazon, Kobo, Draft2Digital, Apple, Nook, any of the places they pull from, my traditionally published titles are not in those platforms. Any sales I had, or even, for example, with The Relaxed Author, that’s in Joanna Penn’s Draft2Digital bucket. And so it’s not in my account. So that title doesn’t appear. So I couldn’t even put in, I could manually put in my direct sales. I could put in sales that we received from Story Bundle, for example, or any of the other places that are outside the regular suspects. But that’s something that I know they they’re working on. I keep poking Randall about, hey, I want to be able to add my trad pub in there so I can get a real percentage of, you know, what percentage is this for me in business?

Kevin Tumlinson 12:55

Yeah. Before we go too much further, we’ve got we’ve had a couple of questions pop in. So let’s get those. And by the way, shout out to the Streamyard folks. This is the first time I’ve actually used this, it’s been around for a while. But now I can actually tag the comments, that’s pretty cool. Star them for later. So this one comes from some guy named Kevin Ikenberry.

Nick Thacker 13:16

We can probably just ignore that then, move on.

Kevin Tumlinson 13:23

So regarding direct sales versus platforms, did you offer another version of the book to differentiate it from the platform choices? Or was it the same book just offered directly? I can say that on my part, it’s the same book. I just treat it as another storefront. What about you?

Mark Lefebvre 13:40

Same here.

Nick Thacker 13:42

I was gonna say, I’m exclusive to KU for a lot of my ebooks, not all of them. So I can’t do this, obviously, because I’ll be in breach of their terms of service. So in that case, you know, Kevin and I have talked about this, too, doing like a special edition version. It has to be substantively different, of course, and all that, but that’s down the road. I’m not even sure if that would work.

Kevin Tumlinson 14:03

And even then, we should caveat that by saying it’s probably iffy whether or not that would violate the terms of service.

Nick Thacker 14:09

I do live life on the edge. That’s true.

Kevin Tumlinson 14:13

Sorry Mark, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, man.

Mark Lefebvre 14:15

No, no, no, I was just saying that I have plans to do that this year with a box set, where I’m going to include something in the box set that you can only get in the box set, you can’t buy separately. But I thought, well, for my fans who already have all the books and don’t want the box set, I’ll give them the opportunity to buy it directly from me. So it’s available in the box set exclusively, unless you’ve already bought all the books and I don’t want you to have to spend more money. So that’s where I’ll say well, okay, so you buy it from me directly. And it’s probably going to be way cheaper anyways, because I get to pocket 95% of it, not 70 or 60% or whatever. So I’ll be leveraging that a lot more going forward, especially based on experiences from last year.

Kevin Tumlinson 14:53

Yeah, there’s a lot of ways to experiment with this. And I kind of like you know, Nick, and I were talking about ways to, you know, I am wide on everything now. I wasn’t always, but I am now. And, you know, what are ways to entice people to go to various platforms where you might have another advantage? And I think Kevin’s kind of hinting at one of those ways, to write or create a create a substantially different version of the book. Maybe that’s bonus content. You know, Nick and I have talked about redoing some releases of the same book, but it’s got, you know, a novella in the back. Not in the way that … so, some folks were using that to game the page read system on KDP Select. Don’t do that. That’s a bad plan. But offering a different version of the book and bundling something in with it, there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as people know that’s what they’re getting. So here’s another question coming in from YouTube. This is from guy on the road who asks, “On behalf of D2D authors in Europe, can I ask when we can hope to be able to buy author copies? At present author copies are only available in the US and Canada. It’s a big issue for us here.” So, you’re absolutely right. So Mark, you actually I think have some insight into this, don’t you?

Mark Lefebvre 16:13

Yeah, so our team is working really, really hard with our print partner, who does have the ability to deliver locally sourced and printed books in Europe and other continents. That is a priority of our dev team. And they’re working really, really hard on it. So guy on the road, stay tuned. In the next little while, and I use air quotes when I say that, you’ll see that. And that’s one of the one of the reasons we’ve been keeping D2D Print in beta is, we know it’s not yet for everyone properly. We were really upset at the ridiculous shipping costs of printing in Tennessee and shipping it to New Zealand or somewhere in Europe, that was just ridiculous. Even as a Canadian, I’m used to ridiculous shipping costs from the US to Canada. But that is coming. And it is a priority for our print on demand team as we continue to improve it. So it is coming, we just want to make sure it’s actually worthwhile and cost-effective for you until we make it available. Otherwise, you’d be paying $100 for shipping, which is just unreasonable.

Kevin Tumlinson 17:17

To some of us. Okay. We had an, and that’s an ongoing thing. We are always working behind the scenes to improve things just like that, you should know. Because we don’t like that either. That’s not something D2D is culpable for, really. I mean, we’re trying all kinds of ways to figure that problem out. Got another question from Michelle D. Smith on Facebook, asks “Will Draft2Digital offer more creative ways to format my paperback book?” You know, I don’t know if this means you haven’t seen them, or maybe they’re not enough. But we have some very cool templates for the sort of layout of your book. One thing that we introduced recently is the poetry template. So you’ve got a little more functionality there. And that actually will allow you to format in stanzas, where that was kind of an awkward thing before. But I say that to say this, we are again, working behind the scenes constantly to try to improve and update and add to all these various things. We got a lot of stuff that’s on the board, so right now, those templates and everything that are there. That’s our offering at the moment. But we do plan to add some things over time. And as we learn new stuff, we’re always happy to update.

Nick Thacker 18:40

And we will have new things like that. This is exactly why I love talking about this future kind of stuff. When all three of us at least got started, we had Microsoft Word, or maybe WordPerfect. I don’t even know how old you guys are. But you know, whatever. Basic or something, right? That was it. It was not a purpose-built thing. Now we’ve got multiple purpose-built solutions for this very problem. We’ve got Vellum to compete with, and we’ve got Atticus to compete with, which are both great in their own right. And that’s going to only be good for all three of these tools, Draft2Digital Print included. And so yeah, it’s just time. Time will tell what those things will be. But there will be things that will be improved.

Mark Lefebvre 19:21

And I saw Michelle did a follow up comment, “I’ll have to check it out. I did the basic one originally and wasn’t really happy with it.” So Michelle, just to let you know, we have improved it significantly. Even that automated cover wrap, which used to be very nonadjustable, we’ve added the ability to change the font size, move things around, even add your own imprint for the spine, for example, if you wanted to have that appear there. And that’s based, Michelle, on requests from authors like you. So if you see something that you’re not happy with, and you say, “I really wish I could do this,” please email support@draft2digital.com. We do pay attention, we do talk through these things. And we do prioritize it if these are requests that come in from our authors, so please ask for what you’re not seeing.

Kevin Tumlinson 20:10

Right. What’s the name? I can’t … it’s a colophon, right? Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre 20:15

Which reminds me, I’m 52. I’ve got to go get mine checked.

Kevin Tumlinson 20:19

Yes. Have your colophon checked regularly, a public health service from Draft2Digital. I’m glad to see questions coming in. So please keep them coming. This one is from, and I apologize if I pronounce it wrong, Dorothy, but Dorothy Zemach. Zemach? One of those two, I’m almost positive. So will D2D accept shorter paperback books in the future?

Nick Thacker 20:45

She’s probably like, no, it’s Dorothy.

Mark Lefebvre 20:49

It’s Smith. And it’s Dorothy that’s how we pronounce it in Canada.

Kevin Tumlinson 20:55

Yeah, shorter paperback books. So the problem there is that’s an actual limitation from the printer, not from D2D. And you’re going to find that the page length is pretty much set, you know, across the board, no matter where you go.

Mark Lefebvre 21:13

Well, with one exception, if I can interrupt, Kevin. The current limit that we still have in place was based on the limit based on our first print partner. Our new print partner has a different limit. And I know that the dev team is looking into how to do that. So again, Dorothy, if you could please email and say, “Hey, I’ve got a book that’s this length, would that be accepted?” Because I’ll be honest with you, if our partner can accept it, we are in the means of being able to adjust and control it. Now we do have to be very careful about how we open things up. So we want to make sure, at the end of the day, our systems can provide the proper automated formatting to meet the quality of the design. So if we change the limit, well we can’t go beyond a certain page count because of the limits of that technology. But we can certainly go to a smaller size. And I’d say please request that so that we can, you know, help the dev team prioritize that.

Kevin Tumlinson 22:47

So how long have I been talking to myself?

Mark Lefebvre 22:49

Well, I thought I was having a tech issue. I see Nick dropped off, because he probably thought he was having a tech issue, and no one else was saying anything. So I was like, I just can’t hear Kevin, what’s going on.

Kevin Tumlinson 22:58

I just saw, it alerted me. My apologies. That’s all on me, somehow I got muted. But yes, the question was, “Will D2D add more markets for French language?” The answer was, we have added some recently. And of course, we are happy to add more as we come across them. If you know of some, please feel free to email us and let us know about a particular market and we can always look into it. But oh, Nick has joined us again. So welcome.

Nick Thacker 23:29

So I go out to try to solve the problem. And I find out it’s Kevin causing the problem.

Kevin Tumlinson 23:34

I don’t know how that happened. But it happened. You should just know that it’s me.

Mark Lefebvre 23:39

Similar to the problems we have when we’re hanging out with Kevin in person, right?

Kevin Tumlinson 23:43

Sometimes I may be standing directly across from you and go mute. That happens in the real world too. Okay, so moving on, guys. Thanks for calling me out. So Elyssa wanted to pop in and say, colophon equals the publisher’s mark. So we were right.

Nick Thacker 24:04

Get out of here with your knowledge, Elyssa.

Kevin Tumlinson 24:06

You learn something new every day.

Mark Lefebvre 24:07

Not my publisher, but just the publisher mark, the term in general. Not myself.

Kevin Tumlinson 24:12

Yes, yes. Okay. So um, let me see. Let’s scan through. Yes, I’m sorry, everyone else out there. Someone thought their headphones were broken.

Nick Thacker 24:24

If you take nothing from the show, folks, just know that it was Kevin’s fault.

Kevin Tumlinson 24:28

Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Sound disappeared. You’re all right. You’re all right. I’m sorry. So let’s see, scanning back through. But anyway, so let’s get back to a little bit of a look into the future. You know, here’s what’s interesting. This is a great time of year for sort of seeing the perspective of everyone else and I’ve seen lots of blog posts. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written quite a bit about her predictions. One thing that I am seeing, and I think this is true. It’s interesting because we’ve been saying, I know I’ve been saying this for years. But I’m now starting to see some folks who have more of a traditional background start to say this stuff. But it’s looking an awful lot like self-publishing is just going to be publishing. Like, publishing as we know it has been impacted so much by the self-publishing and indie publishing sphere that it has just taken over. I think that there’s still room for traditional publishing out there. But I think it’s going to become a different animal from what we’ve known in the past, not the juggernaut that it’s been all these years. What do you guys think of that? Mark, you in particular have a very specific insight into this. What do you?

Nick Thacker 25:43

Yeah, Mark’s the publishing guy. Where’s my hand? There we go. Up here, this guy. I moved.

Mark Lefebvre 25:48

Yeah. So I mean, I’ve been saying this for quite a few years. And actually, I don’t think the big publishers are going to go away. We know, and we just saw some recent industry stats that, you know, 60% of people still read print books. And the majority of the print book market is owned by the traditional publishers, because they have access to the old boys’ school of supply chain and bookstores and things like that. We know it’s changing. And we saw that happen in the last two years where ebooks are growing. So the good news for indie authors is, ebooks have nowhere to go but up because there’s so much growth. Billions of people still haven’t read an ebook yet. So there’s all kinds of people, the market is not saturated. So that’s the good news. But what I’m seeing is that the publishers, the self-publishers, the indie publishers, and Kris’s article from just yesterday, I believe it was part six of her look at the past year, she does a really good job of breaking it down. And I’m seeing the likes of publishers like Chris and Dean with WMG Publishing, who operate like a traditional publisher in certain senses. I’ve been paid by them to publish books through their imprint, like a traditional author, but they treat me with respect and kindness, like a self-publisher, like an indie publisher. And so it’s the best of both worlds. You see people like LMBPN Publishing, Michael Anderle and the 20 Books to 50k movement, working collaboratively with authors. You have so many other authors that are doing that, you have Dakota Crout as well, you have Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Master, where they have these small publishing companies. Even Curl Up Press with Joanna Penn, right, where they start off as indie, they grow, and they build and then they work collaboratively with other people to help them out. We of course have tools to help them make that easier, so they don’t have to worry about the payments, etc. But I honestly believe, when you look at Penguin Random House, when you look at those publishers, Random House started off with a couple friends that said, we were just going to publish a few books on the side at Random Books we thought we would like to read. They started off with the same passion that we indie authors have. Their love for story, their ability to say, “Hey, I can do this, I want to put these books in the world and make the world a better place.” And that’s what indie authors do. So we’re leveraging technology in the last 10 years or so, to build these little empires in a more digital, more friendly way, and actually reach more people than print could ever possibly reach. So that, as Kris says, and as we’ve been talking about, the indie publishers of today are going to become the big publishers of tomorrow, sitting right alongside those major conglomerates, but they don’t have to have an office in New York. And just trivial fact, the reason the offices are in New York is because they all wanted to be there when the monthly stories from Dickens came in, because copyright laws were so lax back then that whoever got it first could just publish it without having to pay anyone. And so I mean, ironically, they were all pirates. So that’s why they’re all in New York publishing. But we don’t have to have an office in New York, we can have the portable office from our laptop, as Kris even talks about in that great article.

Kevin Tumlinson 28:53

Yeah, she quoted someone about an empire on your laptop. And I thought that was that was a brilliant turn of phrase, really, because that’s really what is happening. Even, you know, at Draft2Digital, we have an office space, and we have, you know, offices and multiple users and that sort of thing. But when it really comes down to it, it’s a digital space. The office space is just sort of an artifact, and the rest of the business is built in the cloud as it were. And there’s no reason why, you know, we can grow exponentially because of that. The same thing applies to the author. You know, Nick and I talk about this stuff all the time. But, you know, our business is built around like, basically, I write the book, I do my covers, I do my editing, I do my formatting, I upload and distribute. I don’t ever have to leave any given space and then, I don’t even have to have a laptop. I’ve done that kind of thing from my phone. So it’s a really interesting turn of events for publishing, that it sort of democratizes the whole thing, Nick, so what are some other things we might be looking forward to trend-wise over 2022 and beyond?

Nick Thacker 30:15

Well, one of the things that I saw on here, you know, we should probably just talk about it, because everyone’s always asking this question. But it’s NFT stuff. What is it? Is it something we need to focus on? Do we need to care as authors, is it going to be part of our life? I definitely want to hear your thoughts on it. My thoughts are very, maybe not simple. We can get into what it is if we want to, but you know, assuming you know what an NFT is, it’s something I think of as similar to what the internet was in the early 90s, mid 90s, where it may not be quite as invasive as the internet is now. But NFTs, specifically the blockchain technology that these things operate on, is going to be the way things work in the future. And what I mean by that is, essentially, an NFT is a contract. And it’s a contract that is sort of self-regulatory. We don’t need humans to go look at which side is upholding their end of the bargain or not, and then sue them and all that. So it’s really cool in that way, because, for example, we could sell a book to somebody and say, “You own this outright. You also have permission to resell this, even though it’s my book and I wrote it, you can own this and sell it. And that contract that NFT lives on will pay me 10% every time you want to do that,” just every time it gets sold to somebody for whatever the price is that you determine. So that’s just one example of many. So I think what we’re going to see is, again, this is why I liken it to the internet of the 90s. It was the wild wild west, everybody had a website, very few people knew what to do with them. Very few people figured out how to do things with them. I’m thinking pets.com, right? Early Toys R Us website debacle with Amazon. If you do the same way, they look crazy and weird and chaotic. Now give it 10 years, we’re all of a sudden going to go, that’s a really cool idea for an NFT, that makes perfect sense. So don’t necessarily go out and get NFTs for all your books at this point is my advice. But just pay attention. Just read some articles every few months and see where we’re going with the technology because it’s pretty cool.

Kevin Tumlinson 32:15

I have to say, I feel like one direction for NFTs is, one service or setup or system in our world that is in desperate need of an overhaul is copyright and intellectual property. And the potential that I see for NFTs is that this is a way to overhaul that entire system, and maintain the ownership. You know, even to the point of it being part of the contract negotiations, even if you’re a traditional author. I could see, you know, this is how you … Let’s just put it out there, there’s been a whole, if you’re familiar with the hashtag Disney must pay, there were several authors, including one of my favorites, Alan Dean Foster, when Disney bought certain properties like Star Wars and the Aliens franchise and bought Fox and stuff like that. There were authors who were writing books in those universes who suddenly weren’t being paid for sales of those books. And, you know, the claim was that Disney bought the property, but not the liability. And so that’s been challenged again and again. And there’s some headway being made there. But you know, think about that in terms of something like an NFT, where if I create the book, and I’ve contracted with you to distribute it, I can guarantee my share of that book, no matter who buys it later. And that’s always safeguarding my rights and my ownership. So that’s one way that I could see NFTs working. I’m still scared of it, because I’m a Gen Xer and nearly 50. So it scares me, but I’m interested in it and want to see more about it. Mark, did you want to weigh in on that?

Mark Lefebvre 34:04

Yeah, I’m excited about the possibilities that exist with NFTs. In the same way that ebooks showed the world that a book does not have to be defined as 300 pages bound between two pieces of cloth. An NFT is going to be a tool that authors are going to be able to use, publishers, authors, actually consumers as well, to really exploit your IP well beyond just thinking about it as a book, as a bound thing. Because ebooks are made to look and feel as if, like that experience of turning pages, etc. It takes us into a whole new realm where, when you have an idea or a concept, it’s not just the ability of the transactions. On top of that, you’ve got consumers who will be able to, I bought the rights to have access to something but I don’t want it anymore. So Nick, I’m just going to tap my phone against yours and transfer that, and I get my share for selling a used product to you, but that can go back to the publisher and the author and everyone in the supply chain. So it’s kind of like, it really can help explain IP in bold new ways that can allow more people access to a piece of the pie. And I love the ability to spread the wealth around. So again, I think it’s going to be a disruptive thing for the industry. But if we pay attention to it and are open to it, we can ride that wave of disruption rather than be terrified by it.

Nick Thacker 35:31

I think so. And you’re kind of getting into one of the, it sort of segues into one of the things that wasn’t in this particular article, but that I’ve been harping on for a couple years now. It’s not really coming, because I don’t think anyone’s actually doing this in our space, but what needs to happen. And that is, and I mentioned this earlier, but I really do think the self-publishing, and largely the publishing industry, follows about five to 10 years behind the music industry. And we have proof of that with Apple coming out with iTunes, and the ability to get artists. Artists could go, you know, all of a sudden, you could stream their music, right? Well, that’s great. That was 15 years ago now or 20 years ago now. And then Kindle did the same thing 10 years ago, right? So that’s an example of this. And one of the things that I want to see that’s happening now in the music space, is the way that we’re paying artists changing from a pool-centric model. This is how Kindle Unlimited pays its artists right now, pays its authors, to a user-centric model. And a very quick example. I’m old, I’m an old white guy. I listen to one band all the time over and over again, that’s all I ever listen to. So if I pay my $10 or whatever it is to Spotify, that $10 minus their fees should go to that one artist. And it shouldn’t go to anyone else, because I don’t listen to anyone else. And what’s happening instead is, we take my $10, your $10, Kevin’s $10, it goes into the pool, and then we split it up based on whoever got listened to. So it’s subtly different. But it’s drastically different when it comes to brass tacks, when it comes to actually who gets paid. Adele and Taylor Swift get a few million less. They’re still going to be fine, trust me. But when you look at the graph, instead of these guys up here and it just goes sharply down, and then nobody else gets paid. It’s going to even things out a lot, right? If that happened in Kindle Unlimited, just for example, and there’s other stores that are operating the same way for audio, authors like me, not an Adele or Taylor Swift in the author space, if anyone thinks I am. You know, I’m doing okay, but I could be doing better. And this is one way for me to get paid more as an author is a user-centric model. And the reason that’s been given right now that it’s too hard, you know, to do is it takes too much resource, too much computing power, things like that. The Spotify CEO said it’s too hard. Well, then SoundCloud’s CEO said, we’re doing it, we’ll figure it out. We’ll make it happen. And so I think that’s one of the things that we can see in the future is different ways to pay people almost transactionally. You know, one to one. If I’m going to listen to this, you’re going to get paid for it right away.

Kevin Tumlinson 38:00

Yeah. Um, I’m gonna pop this one up instead of the one I had starred. So NFTs stands for …

Mark Lefebvre 38:13

It’s a sport, isn’t it?

Nick Thacker 38:15

Yes, I enjoy watching it every Sunday.

Kevin Tumlinson 38:18

It stands for non-fungible token.

Nick Thacker 38:21

It means it can’t become a fungus.

Kevin Tumlinson 38:23

Right. Here, I will read the Wikipedia definition. This says, “A non-fungible token is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain,” and you can go Google that one yourself. It’s a form of digital ledger, it says. So think of it like a, it’s a record book of sorts, a digital record book, of who has purchased this item that you created. In our case, it might be a book, but some people get NFTs for artwork, you know, graphics, photographs, things like that. And actually, a real popular one right now is, people are getting NFTs for popular memes. So if there’s a meme you’ve seen online, someone probably owns the NFT of it now. And what it does is track the ownership of this thing as it as it moves around out there. And then who gets paid what, who gets what? It kind of keeps track of it for you, Nick, go ahead, correct me on all of that.

Nick Thacker 39:20

That was good. It was good. The NFT is the thing that you’re that you’re transacting. And the reason it’s called non-fungible is it’s not money. It’s not interchangeable like cash. It’s an object. It’s a digital object in this case, but it’s an object. You know, I have this gummy bear that I can sell to you. That’s a thing. This isn’t money. So it’s a non-fungible. And you could call it a token, if we’re negotiating it. What the NFT lives on is what I was talking about being the important part of the future. And that’s the blockchain, which is the decentralized ledger, the accounting of who owns what and when and for how much. Now, we can write a contract between the three of us right now, but we’ll need lawyers to argue with your lawyers on who needs to pay each other what if we start arguing about it. We need humans, we need more resources in order to make sure that these contracts are being adhered to. And if not, who owes what, when and how and all that stuff. And that takes time, money, energy. NFTs specifically, again on the blockchain and whatever blockchain that is, if it’s, you know, Ethereum, which is a common one, you know, allows us to do these kinds of transactions without needing those resources like humans to get involved. So you and I can have a contract between each other, and we don’t have to worry that you’re going to screw me over, because the NFT, it’s digital, it’s whatever happens. And if that doesn’t happen. If something doesn’t work the right way, then it’s going to, you know, the contract will see itself play out, essentially, is a good way to think of it.

Kevin Tumlinson 40:47

Yeah, so there’s a lot of potential there, particularly in our world, in the publishing world. There’s potential there to use the NFTs for all kinds of things that were problematic and expensive for authors in the past.

Nick Thacker 41:01

Yeah, an example is digital rights management, right? Like right now we have DRM, and I never turned it on. Because if someone wants to pirate my books, they can. They can take off the DRM with software. And it’s not that hard.

Kevin Tumlinson 41:13

They can, not in go ahead, but they can, as in they’re capable.

Nick Thacker 41:20

They’re capable. All DRM really is is kind of an annoyance, you know, but it also implies that I don’t actually own that content when I buy it. With an NFT, you don’t have to worry about DRM because the book lives with the contract. It’s one and the same thing. And so if somebody purchases my book, and that book is an NFT, I don’t have to worry about DRM because that contract will make sure that I get paid, you know, as long as it’s sold the right way. And again, piracy will still be a thing. I’m not saying that it’s going to solve that problem. But it does solve a lot of other problems that DRM brings in, for example.

Kevin Tumlinson 41:53

Yes. Okay. So we’re getting close to wrapping up. Let’s hop into something that’s not NFT. What are some other predictions we have? You know, 2022 is the year ahead. But even beyond, is there anything that we should be alert for?

Nick Thacker 42:14

Well, I want to ask Mark, about one, if that’s okay. BookTok.

Kevin Tumlinson 42:21


Nick Thacker 42:21

And largely TikTok, what do you think? What are your thoughts on TikTok? Is it something we need to get involved with, Mark? Because I may or may not have evidence that you are involved with BookTok.

Mark Lefebvre 42:32

Yeah, like anything, like any social media or any first at the gate, one of the one-percenters who get there early? Yes, it can be a beautiful thing. I think people are hyping it up as a magic bullet. And that disturbs me more than anything. There are no magic bullets. There’s nothing but a lot of hard work, dedication, persistence, and keeping at it. So BookTok is yet another tool and yet another community that you can engage in or participate in. I have not had any huge successes using a TikTok to sell books. But what I have done is, I’ve had huge successes in establishing a community of people that I can entertain, and a very small percentage of them have gone on to think, wow, he’s entertaining. His books are interesting. I have also invested, instead of in some ads, I’ve invested in shipping hard covers, hard covers, like expensive, beautiful books, to BookTokers, to have them go on and demonstrate my books or do reviews on it. Now I haven’t gotten to the BookToker that has an Oprah-like following and suddenly the book becomes a best seller. But I have sold, you know, substantially more because of that. I don’t think it’s a magic bullet. And I don’t think any social media is a magic bullet. But I would advise to authors, I mean, have fun. We have a great, if you’re listening, we have a great TikTok presence at Draft2Digital where Elyssa and Alexis are doing a lot of really great content and sharing insights and all kinds of fun stuff. And that’s just being part of the community. And really, it’s just another way so we can reach out and connect with authors and even find other authors and go wow, you’re doing something really cool. So that’s what I think TikTok’s for. What do you guys think about it?

Nick Thacker 44:19

Do you think even old guys like me can have a place on Tik Tok?

Mark Lefebvre 44:23

I’m even older than you. Oh yeah, there’s lots of us old folks on there.

Nick Thacker 44:26

Man, I’m 75 years old. This is just clean living, okay?

Kevin Tumlinson 44:30

That’s a hell of a filter. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t like TikTok. But that’s my personal preference. I mean, I haven’t really been in there enough to kind of dig around and find the BookTok side of it. But it’s all personal. It’s all what are you comfortable with, as far as what should you use. Now in terms of, do I think it’s going to be beneficial? I think yes, I think that there are definitely people on using TikTok who, we are going to discover books and authors for the first time that way. So, you know, whatever. I have strong opinions about TikTok that I need to just sort of deal with, I guess.

Nick Thacker 45:15

My opinion of TikTok is, it’s a Chinese data-mining collection service, and because Mark is invested in it, he’s gonna be first in line to be one of our overlords when China invades.

Kevin Tumlinson 45:24

Mark Lefebvre, the Canadian arm of the Chinese government. Alright, so I think that’s gonna have to do us for this week. That was a pretty good glimpse into the near and distant future of the self-publishing world. And I hope that if you’re watching and listening, you got something pretty good that you can take with you. And of course, there’s more. We mentioned our blog post for the 2021 review, which has some insights about you know, how we did, the things we learned over 2021 that might lend to the conversation a little. I’m going to drop that in the comments.

Nick Thacker 46:09

Are we going to link to this article, the Written Word Media?

Kevin Tumlinson 46:13

Yeah, I’ll drop that in as well. So if you are listening to this, you’re not getting to see these right now. But go, if you go search on Draft2Digital, the title of the post is, “2021: The Year of More Author Reach,” and on the Written Word Media site, if you go to writtenwordmedia.com and go to their blog, it’s “The Top 8 Publishing Trends for 2022”. So go ahead and check that out. Let them know we sent you. They’re friends, we like them and they like us. So all that said, guys, thank you so much for being our sherpas into the future. And everyone else, thank you for tuning in. Make sure that you bookmark D2Dlive.com, where you can get a countdown of these live streams. We’re gonna try to start doing these every week. We’ve been pretty good about that so far this month, so we’re gonna try to keep that up. And we got some upcoming stuff, including webinars about features on Draft2Digital, the first one will actually go live next week. Those are all prerecorded, but you’ll still be able to ask your questions live. And we’ll be in the comments lurking, just to answer those for you. Make sure you subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, and now TikTok. If you go to youtube.com/draft2digital or facebook.com/draft2digital, you can like, follow us, subscribe there. Click little bells, all those things.

Nick Thacker 47:40

I highly recommend doing it guys, because I’ve heard, I can’t say anything. But I’ve heard there’s some crazy cool stuff coming up.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:48

There’s some big, big crazy cool stuff.

Nick Thacker 47:52

I think it’s probably in your best interest, listener, viewer, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:54

I don’t think we’ve hyped that enough.

Mark Lefebvre 47:57

Is it bigger than an NFT?

Nick Thacker 47:59

It’s bigger, you would say it’s niftier than an NFT.

Kevin Tumlinson 48:02

That said, all our non-disclosure agreements prevent us from going any further than that. But also make sure you follow us, just click on over to D2D.tips/tiktok, where you’ll find us on TikTok. And that is going to wrap us up for this week’s Self-Publishing insiders. Thank you again, and we’ll see y’all next time. Take care.