Episode Summary

Draft2Digital has the best vantage point in the business for seeing trends in the self-publishing industry. And we want to use that insight to help indie authors and publishers do more to build and grow their publishing business. This episode of Self Publishing Insiders kicks off a recurring segment, featuring Mark Leslie Lefebvre, discussing the current state of the self-publishing industry and where we see things evolving from here.

Episode Notes

D2D’s own in-house experts—Mark Lefebvre, Kevin Tumlinson, and Dan Wood—chat about where we are as an industry of indie publishers, and where we see things going and growing.

This episode refers to a blog post from Mark Lefebvre, which you can read here:

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Mark Lefebvre, Dan Wood, Kevin Tumlinson

Kevin Tumlinson 00:01

Well, hello, everybody, thank you for tuning in. This is a brand new day. This is the first official livestream since we acquired Smashwords. So we want to welcome everybody from the Smashwords family into our family. And if you are a Smashwords author, welcome to you as well. So thank you for tuning in. That was kind of the big exciting event of the month so far, but too far behind it is the very first of a series of Industry Insights that we’re going to be pushing to you guys. We got our very own Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who is the Director of Business Development at Draft2Digital who’s got a blog post, he’s going to do this thing, he’s going nuts with it. We’ve got a whole new way of looking at the industry. And we’re so excited to share it with you. Also joining us almost at the wire is Dan Wood, the Chief Operating Officer. Did I get it right? See, I didn’t prepare that in advance. That’s how you know. So anyway, welcome, guys. And I can’t wait to dive in knowing what the industry looks like from our brand new perspective. Mark, you had a blog post. Now, I’m going to go ahead and share this up front, because I want people to be able to click over to it, if they want to follow along. This is almost the transcript of the show. But if you go to D2D.tips/insight, that is going to be the new home for our industry insights. Mark’s gonna be writing a blog post around this each month, we think each month, maybe each quarter, we’re still figuring that part out. But he’s gonna be writing a regular recurring thing there. And we’re gonna try to always follow them with one of these livestreams so that you get not just that content that you can ingest and digest on your own, but our take on it, what these things mean, as we’re growing. So first up, Mark, this is all kind of coming out of the merger between D2D and Smashwords. How do you see that, just as a start? How do you see that impacting our point of view on the industry?

Mark Lefebvre 02:15

Well, so the data for today’s post is from exclusively Draft2Digital sales amongst all of the Draft2Digital partners. Not the new Draft2Digital, where we’re going to soon have the combined Smashwords feeds and Draft2Digital feeds to look at, which is going to be amazing, when you think about the magnitude of our ability to help look at trends and help share this so that authors can understand the market better. Because if you understand the market better, we’re gonna help you sell more. And what I love about our company, the new, bigger, larger, improved bionic man kind of Draft2Digital, is that our success is dependent upon the success of our authors, because that’s the way we make money, when they make money. So if we can help authors make money. And I know we’ve been talking about wanting to do this for a long time, but what better time than, you know, officially March 1, 2022, on our 10th anniversary. And Smashwords is 14 years old. That we bring the companies together, and we’re really able to do that. So the data this article is based upon is a snapshot of two years of data. And it’s kind of like, let’s look at, we saw the industry change dramatically, especially for ebooks, and indie author books, in March 2020. So roughly two years of data, just to get a feel. And we were looking at the top selling titles out of Draft2Digital for all our retailers and library markets. So we amalgamated at all. So we’re not saying like this retailer is better than that retailer or anything like that. What we really want to do is just show, here are the overall trends we’re seeing, and that was kind of the genesis of it. Because if we can analyze the trends, we’re going to have some thoughts. And I love the fact that, you know, we have some of this data now. We have, obviously the three of us also spend a lot of time chatting with authors, and again in the last two years, not as much. It was all virtual mostly, with the occasional Novelists, Inc. or 20Books or Superstars, the conferences that we’ve been at in person, but we’re also basing these speculations, or these sort of trends, not just on our sales data, but on keeping an eye to the ground, an ear to the ground with indie authors.

Kevin Tumlinson 04:37

Dan, before we really dive into the actual data and insights stuff, how do you see the merger with Smashwords influencing our perspective, but also just the industry? What’s your take on where we’re headed from here?

Dan Wood 04:57

It’s definitely going to be interesting. The amount of historical data that we now will have on the wide market. You know, we could tell both from back when we, you know, way back in the day when we had a resource like Data Guy, we worked a little bit with him. And, you know, the majority of the wide sales for years have been Draft2Digital and Smashwords. And so we’ll learn a ton just from their historical data. Going forward, I told everyone, was that Tuesday, when we all kind of met for the first time? We will have the most institutional knowledge of indie publishing, especially to the wide market, in the world. Like, there’s just no other company that has the people that have been around, you know. Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital have had extremely good retention of our employees. Most people, I mean, I think it’s probably like over a century worth of indie knowledge, if you add up all the years, all the different people in our group have working in the indie industry. And so I’m just super excited about that, like, that’s gonna help us help authors. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that there is a much wider market than just one retailer. We want to make sure that people can succeed and offer them the most chances of quickly getting off the ground going wide. And we’re not going to have like all these different tools to do so. We’ve got our Books2Read brand that, you know, helps authors connect to readers. We have the Draft2Digital brand as an aggregator that’s going to open up more places we can send books than ever. And then Smashwords as a storefront, and that’s going to be huge. Everyone loves the coupon codes that Smashwords storefront has offered, and it pays authors better than any other storefront out there. And that’s huge, and both the work that they’ve done so far, and just freeing up some of their development resources to put more work, like all the different exciting plans they’ve had for the Smashwords store. I’m sure we’ll also come up with some cool ideas. And I’m very excited about that integration between Books2Read and the Smashwords store. It’s going to be a really exciting time over the next few years. And getting everyone who has been working with Smashwords access to things like the D2D print program, it’s just gonna, sky’s the limit as far as opportunities for authors to reach all the various places that they might if they went through a traditional publishing route, with a lot more control and making a lot more money.

Kevin Tumlinson 07:52

Yeah. Mark, you actually referenced, you said something about this in your post, which we can dive into now. But you referred to Smashwords as the world’s largest indie author store.

Mark Lefebvre 08:04

When you think about it, right? Every other every other major retailer, you think about the big five, the Big Five retailers. They have self-published titles and traditionally published titles. You think about the Smashwords store, the Smashwords store has Smashwords author titles, indie authors and indie publishers, because there are publishers that use Smashwords and Draft2Digital. And very soon, you know, Draft2Digital authors are going to be able to get their titles, push a button, and get them into the Smashwords store. And when you think about this, this will be the world’s largest repository of indie author titles, you know, so that’s a pretty amazing thing when you actually come to think of it. And because, and one of the reasons I think the Smashwords store has been so successful over the years, is that the Smashwords store is available in far more markets than Amazon is. So a lot of authors who were successful on Amazon would use smashwords to sell to customers in all kinds of countries throughout Europe and other parts of the world that they just couldn’t get. Maybe they’re even, you know, downloading and reading on a Nook or a Kindle or Kobo or any device because, you know, usually without the DRM, you can just grab the file and read it on whatever device you want. So when you think about just that alone, and when you go to Smashwords.com and you look at it, there are some really great features where they’re actually showing you, here, a new release was just released, which is great for authors because it’s spotlighting those indie author titles. It’s not competing with, well, here’s the new Lee Child and here’s the new thing that JK Rowling did and whatever. It’s just indie author titles. The other thing is the bestseller list. There is a beautiful composite of both the sales on the Smashwords store and the sales across all of Smashwords partners, which are now also included, or will be included soon, like the Draft2Digital and Smashwords sales to all these partners. And so that’s going to be a very comprehensive bestseller list of best-selling indie titles. Well, more power for indie authors.

Kevin Tumlinson 10:07

Yeah, I’m very excited about the indie bestseller list. That is, it’s was an unexpected bonus to me. So I’m very excited about that. Dan, I want to start talking to Mark about the post. But real quick, because you probably have the most insight into this. What sort of data are we not going to be allowed to share, when it comes to like our retailers and stuff? Is there stuff that we are blocked from sharing?

Dan Wood 10:40

Kind of, as you mentioned, like, we can’t just give a list of, here are the top, like this retailer has more sales than that retailer, stuff like that. That’s probably like the main consideration. You know, we can break things down and let people know, like, what countries we’re selling in, what languages we’re selling in. Just the common sense things that retailers don’t really want us to compare and contrast them that much.

Kevin Tumlinson 11:11

Okay. As long as we don’t drill down into specific details about a specific sales partner, we should be able to share some pretty useful insight. So. Okay, Mark.

Dan Wood 11:25

We’re also pretty limited on talking about what the terms are with different partners in forums like this, or like in blog posts and whatnot.

Kevin Tumlinson 11:35

Yeah, yeah. Maybe that’ll change in the future. I doubt it. But maybe.

Dan Wood 11:40

Generally, it’s a provision most of them have. We do make sure that the reporting that we pass on to authors gives them exactly the knowledge they need to make choices about all of that. And so the final sales reports we get from the different places. And over time, we’ve added more and more data. We’ve just recently, not too recently, but within the last year or so, we’re able to, with like some of our library partners, list the actual library system that bought the books in the final report. And so there’s a lot of stuff in the reports that we mail out to authors every month that can give you some really great in-depth data about where your book is selling.

Mark Lefebvre 12:29

Yeah. So I think what we could potentially do is say, hey, this genre is doing really well in the last quarter through our library partners, whereas a year ago, that same genre was doing this, just like we reported. And I have to look at the stats on international growth in general. We’re not saying, you know, Apple sells really good in this country. We’re not drilling into those specifics, but overall, our sales data show that in 2018, 62.6% of all of our sales at Draft2Digital were in the US. Whereas in 2021, 55.6%, meaning our international sales grew by 10% in that timeframe. That’s a significant growth in international sales. And of course, our authors are seeing that on a case-by-case basis, but we can amalgamate all that data and go, well, look at what we’re seeing. Yes, the US is still a critically important market. But international growth is obvious. Think about the partnerships we have with Toleno and Vivlio. Vivlio grew recently in the last year and a half in terms of expanding and doing a lot more promotions with our authors. And then BorrowBox, right? We signed up for BorrowBox, which most Americans would never have heard of it. But BorrowBox is Overdrive, like in terms of stature, when it comes to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, a library wholesaler. So part of the international growth is just continuing to expand. So I love the fact that we can share these kinds of insights without, you know, giving away any sort of secrets. Like we can be transparent and open and share and help. But obviously, we’re not going to, you know, we’re not going to violate the terms of partnership that we have with so many great partners.

Kevin Tumlinson 14:12

And I would say, and this is my perspective, so maybe you guys can correct me if I’m off base here. But I feel like there is some value in knowing specifics about each storefront. But I’d say in general, it’s not helpful from an industry perspective, or it’s not as helpful. It might be individually helpful for targeting like where you want to focus your attention on putting your books and advertising and that sort of thing. But you know, you can accomplish essentially the same sort of thing with just this general knowledge of, you know, regions and sales, you know, across various genres and things like that. I mean, that gives you quite a bit to work with.

Dan Wood 14:52

I feel like building a sustainable good business, and that’s going to be in author terms, making sure the quality of the product you’re putting out there is good. Making sure your branding is right. And like, that changes over time. And we’ve seen indie authors changing their covers every once in a while, all those things, making sure you’re controlling your connection to your readers. So capturing, by way of an email list or some other means the ability to communicate with them. Those will build like a great long-term business plan. Unlike the people, you know, we’ve seen people that just focus on how to game the algorithm at one or two storefronts, and you don’t control that. And eventually that tactic will fail as they change things. And so just doing all the normal things that, we see all the industry experts, when we’re at conferences, when we’re listening to podcasts, along with, you know, we know our authors listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of us have the same advice. And it comes down to just like, fundamentals of running a business, just like any other business works.

Kevin Tumlinson 16:11

Yeah. In fact, our connection with the industry is kind of the origin of the name of this podcast. We are not the only self-publishing insiders, we’re connected to all of them. So that’s, we’re passing along the benefits of those things. Mark, you kind of started the blog post with a, you bolded the statement so I know you think it’s important, but, “The digital divide between traditional publishing and indie publishing is going to continue to grow.” Can you kind of unwrap that a little?

Mark Lefebvre 16:45

Yeah. So I mean, we had the most interesting opportunity in the history of publishing, from March 2020 till today and ongoing, that a global pandemic affected the world and changed things. It changed the way, the business of shipping dead trees around. And so there was an opportunity for, and we saw this dramatically, especially in the library market growth that we saw that was in the triple digits that March of 2020, we saw an opportunity for publishers to finally embrace ebooks. Because ironically, you know, the fear at the time was that you might get a virus if you picked up a print book. Ironically, the digital books didn’t come with the virus, but you could open up an app or your Kobo or Kindle or Nook or your Apple device or Android device and you could get an e book or you could get it through Libby, you know, or Overdrive library system very easily. But you couldn’t get a physical book because the stores were closed. And then, you know, on top of that, we have supply chain issues and paper shortages. And there’s even a good friend of mine. He’s got a book with a publisher here in Canada that was supposed to be out in April, but they can’t get the actual materials to make the cover for the hardcover. It’s gonna be pushed off till September. So what we saw publishers do was delay release dates and go, well, we can’t release the book because there’s no other way people buy books except walking into physical outlets and stuff like that. They had a real opportunity to leverage digital. And they didn’t. And I remember Joanna Penn talking about this on The Creative Penn, when she was at, what’s the UK book, Digital Book World or whatever?

Kevin Tumlinson 18:31

That’s it, I think.

Dan Wood 18:33

The UK one is …

Kevin Tumlinson 18:35

London Book Fair?

Dan Wood 18:36

Future Book World.

Mark Lefebvre 18:38

Future Book World. It’s in January, I think. And it was kind of like, it was kind of funny because she was kind of, you know, cheekily shaking her head and going, wow, they just realized that digital, there’s a difference with the borders and stuff, than shipping goods on a boat over across the ocean. And they seem to be recognizing that. And I thought, oh, wow, they’re picking up on it. And then we continue to see this reliance on a business model that works beautifully for them. They actually make lots of money, most of their money, selling print books, and they do a great job at it. Indie authors, conversely, do a really great job selling ebooks. And so they’re operating two different business models. And I thought they would come together a little bit more. And I do see parallels in how indie authors are growing the way that these original publishers, you know, back in the 1920s, ironically, 100 years ago, they grew in the same way. They grew out of passion. They grew out of niche markets, they grew out of focusing on experimental new formats, like the, you know, the mass market paperback was new and experimental to bring books to a new set of readers. The ebook is nothing more than just a new format, the growth of audiobook, a new format. And so what we’re seeing though is the drive, and I think one of the best books that I’ve read that came out of traditional publishing about the book market, called Book Wars by John B. Thompson, is probably one of the best books I’ve read that actually has some insight. Jane Friedman had a book for writers about that. And her book was probably the best one that had really good insights about traditional publishing and self-publishing. With this one by John B. Thompson, which is, Merchants of Culture was his previous book. And there was very little or nothing in that one with indie titles. But fortunately, he was smart enough researching Book Wars, he talked to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, who has long shared lots of great industry insights about indie publishing. And you also have Data Guy, he talked to Data Guy. So he did have a couple chapters about the growth of ebooks. But ironically, I just, you know, today was looking at the Amazon listing for the book, because you can see all the formats in one page, and the ebook was $2 or $3 higher than the hardcover. The ebook is $32. And I’m thinking, bam, no wonder they’re telling us that ebook sales are drying up, because they’re forcing ebook sales to dry up. Who’s gonna spend $32 on an ebook when I can have a nice hardcover for $2 cheaper. And I did buy it in hardcover, I ordered it at a local independent bookstore so I could support a local business during the pandemic.

Dan Wood 21:24

it’s probably worth pointing out for, this something we talk about a lot internally, but for anyone that’s new, the numbers that are out there about the book industry are wildly incomplete. Like, no one really knows how big the ebook market is, because a large portion of the industry just ignores it. And Amazon refuses to share any details about the things that are exclusive to Amazon, be that authors who are in Kindle Unlimited, or books that are their own imprint. I guess they probably share some of the information about the print sales from those. But the ebooks side, we just don’t really know. And so we have to make educated guesses about how big it is. That’s something where we’re hoping to add to the conversation by having more information. But the ebook market continues to grow. It’s just that, if you were to look at the reports that get cited frequently, by like the New York Times and some of the other traditional outlets, you wouldn’t think that. But it’s very much the case. When you see more and more studies, like the Nielsen studies show more people are trying ebooks for the first time, both in the US and other organizations to do that for other countries. The pandemic made a huge difference in the number of people in European countries that were trying an ebook for the first time, because there was some cultural pushback to the whole idea. And then when people try ebooks, I think they catch on A) because of convenience, B) generally because of price. Although the traditional publishers are kind of shooting themselves in the foot with price. And C) for just the the older readers that don’t want to have to put on their bifocals to read a book.

Kevin Tumlinson 23:22


Mark Lefebvre 23:24

Every ebook is a large print book, if you want it to be.

Kevin Tumlinson 23:26

Exactly. Regarding the price, real quick, because it is a pet peeve of mine. But there is a, do you think it’s unreasonable to suggest that that might be intentional on the part of traditional publishing? Do you think they’re doing it on purpose?

Mark Lefebvre 23:47

Yes. They’re engaging in price windowing, right? So having been a traditional bookseller for a long, long time, they go through windowing of formats. So you release a hardcover, and it goes a full 12 months before the trade paperback and then even mass market releases. So oftentimes, you can have a three-year window, and that’s big price. medium price, small price. You want it to be 12 months, because you want a book to go through Christmas, because Christmas is the best time of year, between September and December, best time of year for print book sales, and a lot of sales in general. But so you have that. And when ebooks came along, I think traditional publishers said okay, we get the hardcover, the trade paperback, the mass market, and then the ebook. And I bet you if they had their way, they would have not released the ebook until year four, because it’s like the least amount. And their fear was, well, why would they buy an ebook for, you know, $10? Which I think Amazon tried to set the standard price at $10, right, with KDP capped at $9.99. I think what happened is they looked at it and said, well, who would pay $30 for a hardcover if they can get it for $9.99, not realizing it’s a different consumer. Like their predecessors, who created mass market paperbacks. Penguin created the paperback to provide high-quality literature to more readers than ever before. So not even following their own history of going, wait a second, we can bring more people into reading if we just embrace this option. So I think it is on purpose. It’s frustrating. When you look at BookBub as obviously one of the … Okay, author newsletter, if you have your author newsletter it becomes one of the most powerful levers you can pull as an indie author, if you can get a lottery win of getting a BookBub deal. It’s pretty sweet, right? But we know that it was a lot easier to get BookBub until traditional publishers started submitting to BookBub. So they have the data to show, hey, when we drop our book price from you know, $15, which is the average price of a traditionally published book down to $2.99 or 99 cents, we sell a lot. But then we put it right back up immediately right up to the ridiculous price, because it’s only like a temporary thing. And I don’t think they’ve put two and two together yet, and I say this too long. But you know, maybe they, like indie authors, recognize they can buy my books for $5, they could buy six books in my series, and read them all for less than the price of maybe one book from a traditional publisher. So I do think it’s on purpose. But they do have a lot invested. They have a lot invested. And I’m not making fun of them. But they have a lot invested in shipping dead trees around. That is their business, and they’re really really darn good at it. And that’s where their focus is.

Dan Wood 26:47

I mean, if they were really that good at it, then Amazon wouldn’t have become so dominant.

Mark Lefebvre 26:54

No but they sell through Amazon. They sell their print books on Amazon too. So it’s not that that’s hurting them, you know?

Dan Wood 27:01

In the way that we, the whole return system is ludicrous. Like it is one of the weirdest parts of any industry I’ve ever seen.

Mark Lefebvre 27:10

And their business model, their business model, actually, they’re the purveyors of all the risk, and God bless them for that. But that their whole business model is dependent upon having to have caches of money to pay for returns. Trust me, I just had to do a massive return as an indie author, and I went, ouch. That was scary.

Kevin Tumlinson 27:30

I want to dive in a little bit on, because you brought this up as one of your points regarding audio. And as of today, there was announcement from, I’m going to share this in the comments, that Barnes & Noble is getting into audiobooks and building their own little distributor subscription service. So where do you see us going, in terms of audiobooks as an industry?

Mark Lefebvre 27:59

I was waiting for Dan to start with his [inaudible].

Kevin Tumlinson 28:02

I mean, you wrote the article, Mark.

Mark Lefebvre 28:05

It’s been growing. I didn’t even get into audiobooks because the growth of audiobooks has been phenomenal. The growth of consuming audio content, podcasts, audiobooks has been phenomenal. We saw our partner, was it last year? Not even last year, six months ago, our partner Findaway Voices, Findaway was purchased by Spotify. A lot of people panicked and thought oh, no. But let’s look at the reality. Kobo was purchased by Rakuten, a major Japanese company. All that that did was enabled Kobo to do stronger and better growth globally than they had been able to do when they were a scrappy little startup in Toronto. And so Findaway is an amazing company that’s built from the same DNA as us. Great partners of ours. We punt people over to Findaway because they do for audiobooks what we do for ebooks, and obviously now for print books. But Spotify is just gonna enable Findaway to continue to grow in better ways. And authors, you know, like with us, they have a choice, you don’t have to distribute to, if Spotify becomes a place to put your ebooks, or your audiobooks, you don’t have to. So I honestly think the growth of audiobooks is just going to continue. We’re only seeing the beginnings of that, I think.

Dan Wood 29:19

Yeah, I agree. I think the whole digital book market, and I include ebooks and audio in it, follows—and I think Nick Thacker has also made this point, it follows the music industry by some number of years, five to seven years. So trends that were things going on in the music industry are coming to the book world. That Spotify acquisition is a perfect example of that. I mean, it’s inevitable that you’re going to see audiobooks become part of subscription platforms like Spotify in a different way, you know. We’ve got subscription credit systems with Audible and Kobo. And I think Barnes and Noble, their new offering is kind of that same, you know, every so often credits. But then there’s places like Scribd and the library systems that are allowing people to check out more than one book. It’s only going to grow the audiobook market. Will it change how people are paid out? Yes. And that’s where there’s a little bit of fear for many people. But growing the size of the market outweighs all of the things that I think people really fear about it. Because you’re not, if you’re just looking at it as, I’m competing against other books, I think you’re missing the broader thing. It’s that we’re now competing against every form of media. And some of them are more flashy. Movies are more flashy, television. Wider audience. Video games are taking up more and more of people’s time. The democratization of video, so things like YouTube and Twitch are taking up more and more time of younger people. Being more available is going to make your brand more profitable. You know, so we see that, the coming of subscription. In the future, we’re going to see a mix of human narration and AI narration, just everything points towards that. And there are people that fear that, but it’s also going to grow the market. And so, yeah, I think I would encourage everyone with audiobooks to think about the long run. I see authors who are being offered very small amounts to tie up their audio rights for five, seven years. I wouldn’t take that money, just in the same way that I think it’s inevitable that like AI and human translation for foreign works is going to be a bigger and bigger thing. Just taking money for your rights, tying them up for a very long time, I think it’s just not a good bet right now. If you need the money, sure. But if you don’t, even if you’re not making any money off of it now, the things coming in the future are going to make it worthwhile to retain your rights. And that’s the most exciting part about being an indie. because the traditional authors have probably signed away all those rights in perpetuity, or close to it.

Kevin Tumlinson 32:44

Yeah, pretty close. So Mark, I want to be sure we get to this component of your report here before it’s too late. But you did talk about like the top-selling genres. And this is all currently from the Draft2Digital perspective. But we are going to grow that perspective over time. But what is currently selling best out there?

Mark Lefebvre 33:13

Well, predominantly fiction over nonfiction, so it’s a big cut. Although we have been seeing indications of growth for nonfiction in some of the newer markets, some of the newer partners we’ve signed on with. Some of the library systems and even in print, we’re seeing some of our best sellers in print through Draft2Digital print, which is relatively limited now. So I don’t know, Dan, how many thousand titles are in there? It’s pretty small. How many print titles do we have through D2D Print right now? Is it just a couple thousand?

Dan Wood 33:45

Somewhere like 4000 to 5000.

Mark Lefebvre 33:48

But we are seeing a little bit more of an increase in nonfiction because in a lot of cases, for example, you want to read a new book by Joanna Penn or Tammy LaBrecque’s Newsletter Ninja II. You want the paperback version so you can mark it up and flag it and stuff like that. So that’s a trend we’re seeing within fiction, which is primarily what a lot of our authors are making lots of money on. Romance is of course by far the top genre and has been for years. That hasn’t really changed. We have seen growth though. We’ve seen more growth in mysteries and thrillers, a lot of those domestic mysteries and thrillers along with a series. We’ve seen continued growth in science fiction and fantasy. But among those top selling, because a lot of the genres do really, really well. But along those genres, the one that we saw quite a bit of an increase in was biographies and memoirs, ironically, which was very, very interesting. I know there were a few outlying titles in the last couple years that had an impact on that. But that’s how the industry works. There are always going to be outlying titles like in bestseller lists, when the big-name author that everyone knows puts out a book, that’s going to influence the whole genre. So we’re no strangers to that at all too, so we have seen some of those changes. Even within, you know, the 18 sort of high-level submission categories of romance. You know, I was just looking at that and seeing the growth in LGBTQ romance, we’re seeing the growth in paranormal romance, with contemporary romance being at the top. Historical, which has what, eight or nine subsections of kinds of historical, also seeing a growth. Is that related to Bridgerton and Outlander and stuff like that? Because then, and this is what happens in our industry, is something becomes popular, people enjoy it. And then indie authors who have similar titles enjoy that. Diane Capri, our good friend Diane Capri. As more people go, wow, this Reacher show is good. Well, Lee Child has only written so many of them. But Diane Capri has a whole series, the Hunt for Reacher, authorized by Lee Child, that are a great look back into the universe. Let’s revisit the town a month after Reacher leaves as the FBI agents come along. And there’s a whole new story to be told with the pieces that were kind of left hanging. Indie authors have a great opportunity to leverage those kinds of growths. And so we’re seeing parallels to that in our sales. I’m really thrilled. And I think our friend Johnny B Truant is another example from, remember the Smarter Artists summit in Austin? And his Fat Vampire series is currently in production in Victoria, BC, in Canada, with Jason Battalion, the gentlemen who played Ned, Peter Parker’s best friend, Ned Leads, in the Spider Man movies, and that’s gonna be Reginald the Vampire. And that’s kind of cool. Because when did he release that? 2011 or so? Of course, you know, we publishing the ebook through Draft2Digital, of course. So we’re gonna see some growth for that genre, but there’s gonna be other you know, this is a sympathetic vampire, who’s more like me, not a sparkly vampire or an Anne Rice vampire. So I think we’re gonna see trends like that happening. And it’s going to help a whole bunch of other indie authors. Because, you know, when you focus on those niche markets, and you’re writing the things you’re really, really passionate about writing, the trends will come and go, things will come up and things will come down, and your sales go up and your sales go down. But hopefully, what we can help you do is understand, oh, my sales went up because there’s an industry trend. So it can help you understand when you’re doing your analytics. Was it the ad? Was it a combination of the ad at the right time for a trend? We’re just trying to help you. I think we want to help authors just be better equipped and have another arsenal another tool that they can use for sales increase.

Dan Wood 37:57

Yeah. The traditional industry just revolves like obsessively around frontlist. And what we’re releasing next, what we’re releasing next. In fact, like, over the last decade or so, the majority of sales have been backlist. So much of sales are related to just things you can’t control or predict. That’s one of the awesome things about the digital book world is that your book remains out there forever. Like, there’s not the concept of, this book hasn’t sold in a while so it’s not on the bookshelf anymore. And that’s where, I think, why we’re seeing some of the big box retailers have books, you know, fading over time. Where some of the other places have built a relationship with their customers, like the indie bookstores are providing that curation people want. But there are things you just can’t predict. Mark mentioned hits like Bridgerton, and Twilight prompted a huge revival of vampire books at a time when traditional publishing was telling everyone that vampire books were dead. And so people who had vampire books, even if they hadn’t touched them in years, saw sales. Most recently, I saw Monica Leenal, who’s a friend of Draft2Digital’s, she co-wrote a book on Kickstarter. And it did well when they released it. But now suddenly, Brandon Sanderson does this insanely popular Kickstarter, and now it’s like a best seller in their category on Amazon, nothing they could have predicted or caused to happen. The same thing we’re seeing happen with TikTok and BookTok, where people are finding and talking about something they’re really passionate about. It’s not the things that traditional publishing is telling them, hey, this is coming out real soon, and we need you to talk about it. It’s things that have been out forever and they’re becoming instant hits. And for the authors that control their rights, they’re going to get the most money out of that, they’re going to be available. Hopefully, they’re going to be in print on demand so that the people who do want it in print can get it that way. I did look up the numbers, I was wrong. We’re up to 12,000 books that are in print in our system. Our print is in beta. So if you’re wondering out there, we’ve been slowly but surely adding more and more people in. We’ve gotten in, especially in the last few weeks, we’ve been adding hundreds every week from the print beta list. Which, can you share that link below? It’s draft2digital.com/printbeta.

Kevin Tumlinson 40:36

Yes, I have it in a moment.

Dan Wood 40:39

So for anyone that’s interested in getting in early on our print, we are working hard to make it available to everyone, but it is print is more complicated, vetting wise. Just the more things can happen. You know, we have to take into account, like right now, the global shipping is kind of bad. And so print’s a little bit more difficult for us than ebooks. But it’s growing. And as Mark said, it’s been an interesting mix of, it’s not the normal genres that work super well in ebooks. It’s a mix of all kinds of things. And so we encourage people to take part.

Kevin Tumlinson 41:19

Now I want to add on the tail end of the talk about, you know, you never know what’s going to make a book take off or when. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t. there’s this weird trend of people who, when they don’t get sales on a book, for some reason decide to pull it. They either pull it and go exclusive, which you know, whatever. But the ones that really bug me are the ones who pull it altogether. Like, I didn’t sell any copies, so I’m just, I’m out. That makes no sense to me. But this is exactly the reason why you should never do that. Because you just never know when someone, if your book about, say, the Gilded Age is out there. And now there’s this HBO show called The Gilded Age, that might prompt people to try out your book. So don’t lose heart, just leave the book there. It’s not costing you anything. You might hit a treasure trove later.

Dan Wood 42:16

Time after time, when I hear people doing that tactic of taking their book down, it’s because they’re trying to game the Amazon system. And they’re like, oh, this book is pulling it is pulling down my rank. And if that’s how you’re building your business, you don’t have a business. You are just a byproduct of Amazon being good at throwing things in people’s faces. Build your actual business. Have the products out there.

Mark Lefebvre 42:44

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Kevin Tumlinson 42:48

Right. And you should always think long term, you’ll be much better off for it. We have a question that came in from Pete Fu, who’s actually going to be on the show in a couple of weeks, I believe. But he says from y’all’s perspective at D2D, how would you estimate the percentage of authors on your platform earning a monthly royalty of over $1k, $5k, and $10k?

Mark Lefebvre 43:12

Is that something that we would be able to at a high level share in future?

Dan Wood 43:17

Yeah, it’s something we haven’t ran the numbers in a long time. There are a lot of people out there. But also consider that we have a business model with no upfront costs. And so we have a ton of people that sign up and have only listed one book ever. So like I think you’d find with anything, like with KDP and all of them, when there’s no upfront costs, there’s a ton of people that haven’t sold very much at all. It’s probably, the majority of sales are from the 20%, like you find at a lot of other businesses. So breaking it down that way isn’t necessarily all that helpful. But we know we’re working with thousands of authors that are making enough just off of their wide sales to be writers full-time. And then when you add in that they’re making some money off Amazon and probably making at least as much on Amazon, it can be, there’s just never been a better time to be an author as far as actually making it a full-time career and not just kind of having to live off of someone else, be it money that you inherited or a spouse or whatnot. Patrons, back in the day.

Kevin Tumlinson 44:38

Just for those listening, if you’re not tuned in live or watching on YouTube, make sure you go to Draft2Digital.com/printbeta, that’s all one word. And that will get you to the page where you can sign up to be included in the beta, which I don’t know this gonna be a beta for all that much longer. But for now, it is, so you want to check that out. And make sure you go to D2D.tips/insight. That is where you’re going to find this show, this episode, as well as any blog posts and things that pop up. Everything that falls into that industry insight tag is going to be right there, real easy for you to find. So you can go back through all the past live streams that we do as you start to grow. We’re going to be adding to this over time, and we’re really excited about how it goes. The format may change, the details you get may change, we want to hear from you on this. So make sure you comment on the posts on the YouTube videos everywhere. Let us know what you think the kinds of things you’re looking for. And we’ll see what we can accommodate going forward. But all that said, I think it’s time we wrap up. Mark, do you want to add any further insight before we tune out here?

Mark Lefebvre 45:54

No, I just want to reiterate what Dan said. There’s never been a better time, there’s never been more opportunities, there’s so many great free tools that you can take advantage of, for print, for ebook, for universal book links, all those things and more to come. So I’m so excited we get to share more data with people.

Kevin Tumlinson 46:13

Yeah. Dan, how about you, you want to throw anything in at the last minute? You’re the last minute guy.

Dan Wood 46:20

Yeah, you know, honestly, I can’t. I’m glad we did this topic, just like talking about some of the exciting things that come from the merger with Smashwords. Talking about some of the trends and wanting to share more of that data. We know authors love data. And we’re trying to figure out the ways in which we can share that more and more. And I’m really excited about, like, as we integrate the Smashwords store and Books2Read and the Draft2Digital distribution. Like the data we share from all of that combined, I think we’re going to be able to provide authors more granular data than ever, and, you know, hopefully encourage some of our retail partners to share more and see what all good comes out of that. Because we know, if we give authors the tools to help them connect to readers better, they will take advantage of it, they will come up with strategies we wouldn’t even ever have thought of. And so just growing the reader market and making it easier and easier for authors to be able to make writing a full time living.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:29

Yeah, that’s the goal. And we want to help you get there. And to that end, that’s what this show, Self-Publishing Insiders podcast and our live streams, that’s what we’re all about. So make sure you bookmark D2Dlive.com. So you know when we’re gonna have another one of these, you get a nice little countdown on that page to the next thing that we’re doing. So go over there right now, bookmark that so you can use it later. And make sure you subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, and now on TikTok. If you go to pretty much any of those / draft2digital, you’re going to find it. So go over and click subscribe, click the bell, do all the things that you know you got to do in this digital age. That’s just being a good digital citizen. But beyond that, guys, thank you for helping me get everybody up to speed on what the industry looks like right now. Can’t wait to see what we do going forward with this stuff. It’s gonna change and evolve over time. We have no idea what its gonna look like. But this is the start. So everyone who’s tuned in live, you’re part of history. And everyone who’s listening in after the fact, hey, hi. And make sure you go to draft2digital.com to get started on your indie author publishing career. So that said, we’re gonna roll on out and we will see you all next time.