When it comes to learning more about being a success in the self-publishing world, you’ll always get the best advice from an insider. And who better to turn to than two guys who aren’t just working for authors, they’re authors themselves! Successful indie authors and self-publishing influencers Kevin Tumlinson and Mark Leslie Lefebvre are talking about the insights and influences that led them to their own careers.
Authors and D2D Insiders Kevin Tumlinson and Mark Leslie Lefebvre take questions and chat live about what it’s like to work as both authors and industry people. Learn how two authors juggle working on both sides of the self-publishing fence!
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We are live Hello to all of you viewing from Facebook, YouTube or wherever you’re picking us up right now. I am Kevin Tumlinson, the director of marketing and PR for Draft2Digital. And off to my virtual left, I guess, is …
Mark Lefevbre, the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital.
You know, I always want to be clever and like point to the person on the other side, but then I don’t think everybody sees it the same way I do.
Yeah, I’m seeing you on this side. I don’t know if you got that. But if I go like this, I’m fine, right? Yes.
I think we’re good. There we go. All right. So this should be a really interesting one today, because we are … It’s a little different than what we usually do. Normally, we have a guest and we’re interviewing. And if it comes to it, Mark and I will just interview each other. It’s just what we’re born to do. But this time around, we’re gonna be talking about what our experiences have been on both sides of the fence, both as authors and as insiders for self-publishing. And we really want you to ask all the questions you want. We want to be able to answer your questions. Normally we say, you know, we’ll answer in the last 15 minutes or so, but feel free to pop a question in any time and we will be happy to answer it. And I’m actually gonna pop up, Tory Element says, “Hey, Kevin and Mark from Spokane via Facebook.” So hello, Tory. Thanks for popping in. And our own Lexi Greene says “Afternoon, y’all.” Very Texan. That was a very Texan way to …
Are you Texan or is that Oklahoma?
That’s, she’s in Oklahoma. I’m Texan though. Y’all is, I think Texas invented y’all. I’m just gonna stand by that.
Putting a stick there. Okay, cool.
All right. So I really, this is one of those things by the way, Mark, that I’ve wanted us to talk about live for quite a while because it was …I had the idea, we were interviewing some folks, and there’s—we sort of draw a line with the with the Self-Publishing Insiders podcast, that you know, you’re an author or an insider, right? But we’ve had plenty of people who are on both sides of that line. You and I happen to be a part of that world, or those two worlds. So I was just really, I thought people might be interested to kind of hear our perspective on what maybe some of the differences are, the things we’ve learned from both that cross over, that sort of thing. So what is your immediate take? No preparation whatsoever.
So the thing that I always find funny, and I’m sure you find it funny because you have your own, the Wordslinger podcast, right? I have the Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast. But then we also have Publishing Insiders D2D, which is D2D brand, but also the podcast, the videos, etc. So one of the biggest challenges I’ve long had in the industry, at least since probably 2010, 2009. And this is, you know, even prior to getting into the ebook realm with Kobo, etc., was when somebody asked me to be a guest on a podcast or to come speak at a conference, I had to ask them which hat they wanted me to wear. Right? At one time I was president of the Canadian Booksellers Association. So do you want me to represent the independent bookstores? Do you want me to represent the publishing insight? Do you want me to represent, you know, a published author since 1992? Do you want me to represent Draft2Digital? And so even now, when somebody … Somebody just reached out to me today on LinkedIn said, “Hey, we’d like to have you come on as a guest for a podcast.” I’m like, great—which of the four hats do you want me to wear? And I primarily, my two main hats are Draft2Digital, but then I’m also an author. And I’m sure you encounter that all the time, right?
Pretty frequently. Yeah. Cuz, you and I are very similar in that we get asked to be interviewed frequently, and I never actually know. I always have to clarify, like, what is it you are coming to me about? You know, because I’ve gone oninterviews before where I thought I was there to talk about Draft2Digital and it turned out they wanted to talk about my fiction. So a lot of readers got a very interesting education about what D2D can do for them. So I guess it’s not necessarily bad, but …
You never know, right? The readers could use it. And that’s one of the reasons I have Barnaby Bones behind me. Because usually when I do a Draft2Digital video when I’m interviewing an author, or it’s you and Dan and I doing the Q&A, I remove the skeleton behind me. There’s still some of the skulls you see in the background, because that’s part of my author brand, writing horror, thriller, stuff like that. But then usually, for D2D, I usually remove Barnaby the skeleton. I usually dress it up with a jacket, although when I’m an author, it’s sometimes a jacket but I just have a skull shirt on or something like that. So, do you do that sort of thing as well, for your brand?
For a way to shift gears between brands?
You know, I don’t really. I mean, there was a time in my career where I had a baseball cap that was my writer’s hat. My literal writer’s hat. So when I would be out and about, these were early days of Starbucks, right? So if I went someplace like a Starbucks I’d wear that cap to essentially remind myself of what I was there for. But I haven’t done anything like that in years, though.
Well, there’s a tip. You reminded me of a tip. I was listening to the self-publishing Sell More Books Show with Brian Cohen and H. Claire Taylor, just listening to it this morning while doing the morning dishes. And there was a tip from an author, shared actually from the comments from last week’s episode, and it was that hat thing. Because Brian’s like, I’m not a hat guy. But this writer, to identify to her family that she’s writing, like you know, she’d put on a Wonder Woman costume or something to identify, oh, I’m writer person right now. So don’t bug mommy, she’s writing. But if you have that, whatever, the Stetson on, or whatever it is that identifies you’re Author Kevin. If your wife, for example, catches you browsing Facebook instead of writing, they can call you out on it and say, wait a second, you told me not to bother you. So I love that as a great tip for writers.
Okay, so that that brings me to these guys, which I have started wearing. And I’ll tell Kara, you know, we’re traveling full time, so we don’t have separate spaces to retreat to. So our separate spaces are our air pods. Like, okay, I’m going into my office, and I pop in the air pods and start playing some music. And I do my work. Yeah, so that’s her visual cue that I’m working. So maybe that qualifies.
That works, but they’re subtle, right? Like it’s too bad it’s not like a giant headset so there’s like, she can see. Like, maybe she’s driving and you’re doing work in the back, right?
Which we haven’t, we haven’t yet done that specifically, although we will say, okay, so Kara will maybe work on her laptop while I’m driving, or vice versa, right? But we haven’t like, okay, I’m going in the back while you drive. I think it’s technically unsafe and possibly even illegal to do that.
If you’re strapped in, right? As long as there’s a seatbelt.
Yeah, as long as there’s a seatbelt. We don’t have seatbelts in the back of our van. Isn’t that sad? That’s sad. I’ll have to mount something back there so we can safely do that.
So um, okay. So that is, to me, that’s a really interesting thing, how to put, if you are doing multiple things … I think this applies to people, not just like us who are on both sides of the fence in the industry. But even if you are, say, balancing a writing career with some other aspect of your life. Maybe it’s your job, or maybe it’s your family, or maybe it’s both of those things. Sort of the dress for the part idea. I’ve noticed that when we do official D2D stuff on video, you tend to wear your sports coat. But you always wore a suit every time we went to a conference, every conference I’ve ever seen you at, you’re wearing a suit. So is that kind of same idea?
It is. It’s part of the brand. I mean, I’m not wearing pants because I don’t have to, because nobody can see, right?
Well, what are pants?
And it’s warm here now, so. But yeah, tthat’s part of the brand, it’s part of the persona. There’s even, it just puts you in the right frame of mind to say, “Okay, I’m now representing this business and I need to be,” … You know, I think we’re quite authentic in the way we come across as well. But I’m going to not use adult language, if I can help it, for the most part. I think I’m 99.9% there. Sometimes I might say “poop” or something like that. But I’m still going to be a little bit funny, silly dad jokes, stuff like that, because that’s still part of the brand. But I’m going to be a little bit more professional in my approach, and it’s going to remind me that people are here, the people who are watching or listening to us are writers, and they’re here for insights about writing and publishing and the business of writing and publishing and marketing and all those things. And so the suit reminds me of that. Barnaby usually reminds me, oh, you’re supposed to be an entertaining horror guy, right? So that’s the, that’s horror, h-o-r-r-o-r.
Kara and I actually have our own little skeleton named Sheldon. We couldn’t really bring him with us because there’s just, there’s precious little room as there is. But uh, yeah. So every time I see your guy, I’m thinking that looks a lot a lot like Sheldon. They may be brothers.
Well we should have Sheldon and Barnaby do a thing together, right?
We’ll have them live conference together. That’d be hilarious.
Two talking skulls.
So you are, we write in very different genres. Not so different, but I mean, we write in different genres. You are a horror writer primarily. Do you write anything other than horror?
Well actually, yeah. My Canadian Werewolf series is more urban fantasy/thriller. But I called it horror because it wasn’t sciency enough to be science fiction. It was like speculative, what-if Twilight Zone. It wasn’t fantasy enough, with dragons and castles and magic. It was just in that in-between space. So horror worked best for me. And I realize, of course, maybe when people think of horror, they think of the slasher movies and stuff like that. And so maybe that’s a mistake. So now I’ve more been saying, Twilight Zone-style fiction. Or people who are not of a certain age, like me, might go, “Oh, you mean like Black Mirror?” Yeah, like that.
Yeah, Black Mirror. I was about to say, when you say Twilight Zone, they’re probably thinking about the Twilight movie series.
Stephanie Meyer, yeah.
Especially with werewolves involved.
That’s true. Yeah. So there’s no glittery werewolves in this.
So I sort of pawn off the whole travel thing that we’re doing as part of my research for my thriller series. So what would you call research for … How do you research a werewolf story? You do some, you go to like, you do the whole ghost tales thing, right?
Yeah. So yeah, because a lot of my, and these are more traditionally published books, the True Ghost Story books. So even, for example, when I was going down to RWA, in Florida, Liz and I drove down and took the time to go visit a whole bunch of haunted places along the way, because she was off for the summer. And it was just a chance to kind of combine vacation and learning and work all at the same time. And so it’s kind of like, and I’m sure you encounter this, right? So, because you’re wearing multiple hats, you’re like, okay, I’m going to get up early. I’m going to attend to our Slack channel, check out some emails, focus on this stuff I’d scheduled to work on. Then I’m gonna go answer some personal emails, and I’m gonna … whatever, right? So how do you juggle the typical day? Because again, you’ve got like multiple things going on. And lots of deadlines, right?
My whole thing, I start with my calendar. The calendar is the word of God here. Like, if it’s not on the calendar it doesn’t exist. If it is on the calendar, you better make sure that you do it, right? But I also kind of move things as needed. So the calendar kind of works almost like a reminder list too. But I work in kind of like capsules. So you know, I get up very early. Usually around 5 a.m. at the latest, 6 at the really latest. And I do all the things I have to do to get ready for the day. I take the dog for a walk, shower, I do some reading. Generally by about six o’clock I’m sitting and writing my own stuff till about nine. And then from nine on it’s like, you know, D2D time plus, you know, in the middle of day I’ll correspond, I’ll do personal emails, send out promotions for my work, things like that. I do these things in like, capsules. Because of the nature of how the work works, with Draft2Digital in particular, I may … You know, I’ll have an interview scheduled or something late in the evening or whatever. So the time shifts around a lot. So it’s a very flexible kind of way to work, which works perfect for me. Like, I’m a very flexible worker. I work all day, every day, and barely ever take time off. My wife will attest to that. But, you know, I’m able to get it all done because it doesn’t have to all be done at once. You know, I can just kind of spread it around. What about you? How do you manage all the different workloads?
Yeah, so again, I’m usually up between, ideally between five and six in the morning. The very first thing I usually attend to is deep work style writing, if I’ve got deadlines and stuff. Right now I’ve got three books in the works. So it’s like I’m toggling between different fiction, nonfiction, etc. And then I’ll toggle over to, it’s sort of an intermediary from writing to maintenance, business stuff. Attending to the business aspects, maybe it’s marketing and promotion campaigns, or submitting, and stuff like that. And then usually, because I know I’m an hour ahead of Oklahoma, I know that the D2D folks are going to be coming on around 9 a.m. Central Time, which is 10 a.m. Eastern Time. I’ve usually dipped in and done some D2D work before then, just to clear up anything that came in overnight or anything like that. And then the day depends on what I have scheduled. So today, I’ve actually had … And here’s the funny thing is, I had a meeting with a librarian earlier today to show them how to use Stream Yard for their social media that they’re doing, because we use it through D2D. So I gave her a tour of the studio and how we do it for D2D. And then it was like, “And would you like to come on the Draft2Digital Spotlight thing?” So we’re scheduling to have her come on. So, sometimes my personal work, you know, and my D2D work overlaps so much, I’m not sure if I’m working or not.
Same. Yeah, same here. [inaudible]
[inaudible], right? Like, you’re doing social media, you’re answering stuff on Twitter with both your personal account as well as the D2D account. I’m constantly all day answering questions from authors around the world on social media. And then what I usually have to do is, “Oh, that requires a really smart person, you’ll need to talk to our customer service team.”
Exactly. A lot of … 98% of my job is redirecting people to the much smarter people in customer support.
Yeah. But, I mean, the typical stuff you can answer right away, right? And, you know, that sort of thing. And that happens 24/7 practically.
Right. Yeah. And so when you say, it doesn’t feel like you’re working. It does help a great deal to really authentically love what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it for. So that makes it much less of a burden. You know, I’ve had careers, jobs and careers, where I did feel like I was working 24/7 and I was burnt out all the time. But since we’ve been doing this, well, you know, we have a pretty nice lifestyle, actually. So it’s a lot less stressful than it used to be. I stressed myself out, unfortunately. But then it’s all on me. We got a couple of questions real quick. I want to pop something in. And one of them is, I do like this one from Charles Harvey. We’ll see if we can answer it. “Is D2D going to try Google Books again?” You probably have some insight into this as well. But I can say, Charles, that one of the reasons we don’t do Google Books, much as we love Google, their structure doesn’t fit well with our structure. So they, you know, there were little problems like, they would change price. They do price matching. You’d have scenarios where they were price matching, and Amazon was price matching. And eventually, your book is free. Little problems like that. So we decided that until Google changes their sort of business practices … Nothing wrong with how they do business, but until they kind of make a few tweaks, and maybe accept us as a publisher, instead of whatever they categorize us as, then … it really just wasn’t working out for our authors. It wasn’t in their best interest to offer Google Books. But Mark, do you have some insight on that as well?
Well, the other thing, from a business development standpoint, is you had to have a direct account with Google Play in order to come through Draft2Digital, and so they didn’t … You know, our relationship with Kobo and Apple, for example, we are a publisher publishing to the platform. So if there’s issues, we can go in and fix things, and we can work with their operations team. Here it was kind of a hybrid model where, even though we were pushing your stuff to Google Play, you could still log in directly and change things directly. Which means there’s no, and this is more of a database thing, because in my past life, I was a database manager. You know, you have to have a single point of truth, otherwise you’re gonna mess up the system. So it was not a good experience for the authors. It was not a good experience for our customer care people and our operations people. It was not a good experience for Google, because there was no master that you could trust, like this is the source, and it’s always flowing one way. And I would never want to be in a situation where you can get data corruption from multiple sources and then not be able to be accountable. Like when an author says, “Hey, can you guys fix this or update my cover or whatever?” We work with our retail partners to fix it. But if the source of truth can come from other places that we can’t control, well, that’s not a good experience. So if they fix that and make us a publisher, and the experiences is easier, and actually saves the author time as opposed to costing them more time, then I think we would reconsider it.
Yeah. I’d love for us to have them again, it just didn’t quite work out.
Great question, Charles. Thank you.
So, let’s see. Hold on. I love when I go to click a question and zips up, zips down to the bottom. So Lexi says, “Is that what I need to get on the level of the D2D greats? Get a skeleton?” Couldn’t hurt.
It never hurts. Now Halloween is coming up, they’ll probably be on sale soon.
Yeah, yeah. So we had a lot of comments about the air pods. “Kevin, the headphones are working for me,” Vicki says. So a lot of people like that idea. So let’s see. Tory asks, “What? No exercise or breakfast in that morning routine?” Maybe a little exercise. I am walking the dog. I don’t eat breakfast. And in fact, I usually eat lunch around 10:30 or 11. So it’s a fast, I guess. I’m doing intermittent fasting.
Tory, I get enough exercise following your Instagram account, just watching your workouts.
Exactly. I know, I’m exhausted. Here’s a question from Karen on YouTube. “What is the best marketing strategy you use to sell your books?” We can both take a swing at this. Go ahead.
Um, for me, it’s making sure that my books are actually available on all the platforms and not ignoring the library channel. So for example, in a newsletter I just sent out with a new book release last week is a reminder: “You can get pretty much all my books, traditionally published or self-published, at your local library. Here’s a couple links to make it handy for you.” For example, I’ll link to my books on Overdrive, which is one of the massive distributors there. So I know it’s a subtle thing, and you’ve probably heard it before, but being inclusive, and including obviously the free Books2Read links that Draft2Digital have that say, you pick the retailer of your choice. Or library. So for me, making sure I’m available everywhere is fine. I haven’t made a lot on Google Play. But my books are on Google Play. Because one day, if it ever happens, and somebody discovers my books on Google Play, they can buy all of them. You know, so I like to be there before the wave hits.
Yeah. I think one of my best marketing tools has been the, this is such an old standard. So my email list has always been my best marketing tool. And one of the best ways to utilize that list is then with cross-promotions, and I am frequently—in fact, I have one going on right now within a group of fellow thriller authors. The downsides tend to be that after a while, you’re basically, you all have the same list. But I get involved a lot in like the BookFunnel promotions and, you know, these cross-promotions where everyone is sort of sharing their lists in a way. Not sharing their lists, but sharing with their lists. Those have been very effective for me. And I actually find it more effective to concentrate on building my mailing list than trying to spend money on advertising or something similar to sell. If I spend money on ads, usually it’s to, maybe it’s to promote a pre-order or something along those lines. But a lot of times on Facebook or elsewhere, any ads I run are focused almost entirely on list building. Because the bigger I can make that list, and the more engaged that list is, and the more vetted that list is, the easier it is for me to say, “Hey, I’ve got a new book,” or “Hey, have you read anything from my catalog?” And then I can see my sales reflect that relationship. So that’s, I know those are pretty standard answers. It seems like no matter what level you are, from … I was talking to Ben Hale today. He has this, what he calls his Author Pyramid, and it’s like level one to level five. And from level one to level five, everybody wants the same question answered, which is, “How do I promote and market my books?” It doesn’t matter how successful you are. That’s the biggest question. Okay, so Ray, this is a long one. Okay, so, “How do you classify a series that’s about something like Atlantis, but set in the 1800s involving a religious sect and advanced scientific fiction? I’ve struggled while finalizing the past two years.” So I’m guessing he’s asking like, how would you, what genre would you put this in? Where would you aim this, Mark?
Yeah, so I mean, it almost sounds like in your genre, right? Like the historical thriller? But it’s also speculative fiction, it’s science fictiony, right? I would … That’s a tough one, because you have the science fiction aspect or the alternate history, potentially. It’s tough to say without knowing the full details. But the great thing, Tom, the great thing is you’re not stuck or married to a category. Right? You can change the categories, you can take a look at what’s popular and what’s going on in the categories, you know, and the cover that you’ve had designed for it, if you’re already at that point or not. Take a look at what similar titles there are. Because there will be crossover there. Nothing’s going to be the exact same, but there will probably be, right? So some of Kevin’s books might be crossover comp titles, right? Considering the … you do have an Atlantis book in one of your series, don’t you?
I do. Yeah, I do have The Atlantis Riddle. And it’s an archaeological thriller. The thriller category is kind of a nice fertile ground for that sort of thing. And since it has a historic element, historic fiction or historic thriller would probably be a good category for you. And the good news is, it’s a low-competition sort of category. I probably shouldn’t say this, since I kind of run in this category. But it is somewhat of a low competition category. And people are pretty hungry for books in that category. So if it fits, that might be a good one to go with. I’m gonna, there’s two questions from Josephine here that I want to run. I’m gonna run the second one first, because this one relates to what we were just talking about. “Kevin and Mark, how often do you send out your newsletters?” How often do you send your newsletter out?
So by default, so this is after the autoresponder sequence, right? Which I now have up to three, which is sort of like follow-ups. Did you get the free book, etc., a reminder to leave a review. Once a month, except when I have something going on. So I did a book launch earlier this month. So that was an additional one. So I usually tell them, no more than 15 a year. And I try my best to stick to that, and usually I’m at 13 a year on average. So I don’t want to bombard them with too many emails. How about you?
You know, my whole philosophy is too send, I attempt to send an email a week, one email a week. I’m sorry, it just started raining here. So if you see me pick up and move, that’s why.
I’ll cover for you.
I attempt to send at least an email a week. And some people think that’s too frequent. And it could be. And what I’m not doing is trying to sell to them every week. So I send emails that are, you know, engagement emails. Like I’ll send something, here’s a blog post I just wrote, here’s some photos of me and Kara on the road, or something similar. And it’s all about establishing a relationship with those readers, so that when I do get ready to ask, “Hey, would you go preorder this book?” or whatever, people are much more responsive. So I think it’s really, it comes down to, how engaged are you with that audience? That will determine how frequently you should reach out to them. You know, sometimes once a month is probably more than enough for most authors, but I feel like over the years, like I’ve got around 70,000 people on my mailing list. That’s grown quite a bit over the years, right? I mean, I started with 60 for the first like six years of my career, like 60 people, and 40 of those were either family or me, using multiple email addresses. And then I did all these little things to try to grow that list rapidly, and found that I usually ended up with people just mass unsubscribing, or fake email addresses, or whatever. What I found was very effective was, I started sending things out very regularly, and what would most people call frequently. And over time, it sort of self-cleansed itself. Like I actually want people to unsubscribe from that list because they don’t belong there. If they are irritated that they got an email every week, then they’re not there to hear from me, they’re there for a free book or something similar. So I want people who are as engaged with me as I am with them. So that’s why I do it a little more frequently.
That makes sense.
Josephine had another question. “A lot of people are reporting low sales for August. Is that your experience?” Not really.
No. I launched a book, right? This month. And usually when you launch a book, you’re doing a bunch of promos. And it kind of relates to I think another question that may come up. I don’t know if you’re going to talk about the … It’s kind of related to marketing, but I did a free first in series push and I used Freebooksy. By far—I couldn’t get a BookBub—but FreeBooksy by far was my best return on investment. I did Trusty Librarian, Book Doggy, Book Bongo, Book Gorilla. I couldn’t get, I didn’t get the Robin Reads either. So, but I ran stacked promos. And the trending, because Amazon’s one of the only sites where you can actually, the ranking and all that is really plainly visible. It stuck, even though I started on the 11th … So this is critical. This is like, stacking your promos is critical. And stacking also means social media, which I use 90% of my social media is sharing stuff, not trying to sell. But you know, 10 to 20% is “Oh, by the way, I have a new book out, here it is” or “Here’s a great review” or whatever, a newsletter, not just my newsletter, but a fellow author newsletter as well. One of those just went out last night and I saw a peak, but the ranking stuck. So even though the big move was, you know, the 11th with the FreeBooksy and everything else was sort of you tributary, sort of like the smaller numbers. It stuck and it’s stayed ranking high in the top 100, on Amazon, at least. I can’t see the ranking on most of the other sites except Kobo. But that’s been effective. But no, so my sales have actually been higher in August than they were in July.
Yeah. Similarly … wow, the rain’s really kicking up. I’m surprised I’m not soaked right now. I’m gonna, I’m sending my wife in with my laptop.
And I’ll, I may transfer locations. But I similarly had releases and things, and stacked promotions and things like that that have really helped out with, you know, keeping my sales nice and even, if not increasing them. I’m getting under the ceiling here. Sorry.
No, good idea. This is an on the move podcast.
On the move. It’s a first for our live streams. So my recommendation to people is, the whole stacking idea is exactly what you have to do. Like, you have to make sure … like, when I have a release, I try to get a bunch of promotions, even if it’s not for that book. And people don’t think about that either. But I try to get a bunch of promotions for all the books surrounding that book, so that … And then you make sure that the book itself has something that promotes, or all those books promote the new book. So yeah, I’m gonna do a quick update, so that when people download that, you know, older book, they’re seeing a promo for the new book. And then when all those promotions hit out there, for all the various things, you get that halo effect. So like, for example, I have a pre-order coming up and at the same time I have a BookBub for a related book. And I’m just pushing the crap out of it. Like, you know, as soon as that BookBub hits, and it’s for a free, it’s a free BookBub, so that book will be free. You know, a few thousand people are gonna download that free book, and then there’ll be an advertisement in the back of it for the pre-order. Whether they pre order or not doesn’t matter to me. But it does allow me to promote something brand new to this audience that just discovered me.
Right. And you’re talking about the value of that back matter, right. So that’s the other thing I did as well. I was promoting the first free book, even though it was the second book in the series. And I knew it was going to be, it was going to take a while. So I started early. But the back matter—which, you know, D2D will automate for you. You know, if you like this, you might like this other book. Or, you know, the universal book links to other books in the series. Or read the next book. And I’ve even put a sampler, “Hey, here’s the first chapter of the next book.” And then at the end of that is, click here to buy it: Books2Read link. So I don’t have to worry about having a link for every retailer.
Yeah. And I know that seems a little self-serving, but whether I was working for Draft2Digital or not, I would be using those universal book links, because it just makes my life so much easier.
Well, can I ask you a question about that? Because I think it’s critical, because suddenly it felt like I put my D2D hat on. But it was like, no—one of the main reasons I wanted to work with Draft2Digital was because I used Draft2Digital tools for years and love them. And I believe in them. Like, I’m not one to, I can’t sell you something that I don’t either use myself or that I don’t believe in myself. So that’s the challenge, is like, I know it sounds like I’m being a salesperson for D2D, but I’m really just an author who uses it.
Right? Yeah, it’s the Men’s Warehouse thing. You know, I’m not only the D2D marketing manager, I’m also a client. Yeah, that was one of the reasons why … When I came on board with Draft2Digital, that was … This is kind of on topic, actually. But when I came on board with Draft2Digital, that was one of the things that attracted me, was working with a company and with people that I already liked, that I already, you know, identified with. Like, they’re in this industry and understand this industry that I was very already very passionate about. And so I had an opportunity to kind of get an insider’s view of, you know, my career. I was writing and publishing, but getting involved with Draft2Digital opened up all new windows and doors for me, and a new perspective for me. That’s made all the difference in my career as well. Like, I’ve learned a great deal about how to run my business by being able to see it from the inside. I don’t know if you had the same experience or not.
Well, yeah, for sure. The other thing too, is the comparison. So if you’re just beginning and you’re like well, I’ve only sold one book this month, or I haven’t sold a book yet this month or whatever. We see that there are hundreds of thousands of authors who have books that have not sold at all this month. So even though we may be seeing, “Oh, so and so sold 1000 copies last week. I must be useless because they’re doing great and I’m not.” Well the reality is … And again, even though I have access to this data, I know I’m not doing so bad. You know, compared to the six and seven figure authors out there, I’m doing okay. Compared to people who may not have sold any books in August yet. So even though I have access to that data and understand that there’s a lot of stuff going on, that the average book sells less than 100 copies, I still have to remind myself, because there’s that ego issue, right? We’re a little bit narcissistic as authors, because we think people want to read that stuff we make up. But there’s also the fact that we beat the crap out of ourselves. And we have really low self-esteem. Right? You know, it’s kind of like no, I kind of, I need that validation. So that’s one of the things that’s helped me in many ways, but it even hasn’t helped me. Because you know, you could have 1000 reviews, one 1-star review and 1000 5-star reviews. You’re going to spend all day focusing on the 1-star review and going “Oh, someone didn’t like it.”
Yeah, yeah. That’s our egos. We have to get beyond our egos. So TheLadyWrites on YouTube says, “What is your favorite time to write?”
Wee hours of the morning. It has to be the early hours. Everyone else has to be unconscious, asleep. I have no distractions. I am so easily distracted by anything. So, you know, I don’t turn on the email or any of the other things. I jump right into the document I’m working on. Usually I type it in. And I attribute that to my father, who’s a fisherman. Early to bed, early to rise. Usually for me it’s, I stay up late writing, then I go to bed for four hours and I get up and write. And that’s when I’m on, usually a deadline.
Yeah, yeah. I am also an early writer. And, you know, for the longest while I got up at 4 a.m. Now I sleep in till 5 a.m. and I spend the first the first chunk of my day writing. Because that’s where all my creative energy is. If I, you know, I can write in the afternoon, especially if I catch a nap or something, you know, or I’ve rested in some way, I can come back at it. But for the most part, you know, afternoons are kind of a tough brain fog kind of time for me. And this is, by the way, a very interesting topic. Like, I talk to thousands of authors, as do you. And I constantly run across this theme. Like, you’re either a late writer or you’re an early writer. Nobody says, you know, my best time to write is smack in the middle of the day. I I’ve yet to encounter anybody who says that, straight up noon, that’s my biggest time.
Lunchtime, though, right? For working full time, some people … Because it’s kind of like, I make the time to write. I wolf down my lunch and then I spend 45 minutes of my lunch break working on my manuscript.
Oh, people do write in the middle of the day, but I never hear anybody say that’s their best time. Like, they write because it’s necessary, but they don’t necessarily write because that’s their best possible time. So Tory is asking, “Kevin/Mark,” we’ve now been merged into one powerful name. ” Are you currently writing your next book?”
Tory, I’m writing three, four books right now. The next book in the Canadian Werewolf series, which I’ve posted for pre-order, Fear and Longing in Los Angeles. So it’s only 50,000 words in, I’ve got to get to about 100,000 words to cut it back down to 80. I’ve got Wide for the Win, a nonfiction book, which is a different sort of writing that I’m compiling the information for. and working on the chapters. And then I have another nonfiction book, Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls, and other Haunted Objects, which is another one. And then there’s actually three other book projects that are kind of on the back burner, co-authored books and other fiction stuff. So yeah, I’m writing my next books.
I am never not writing my next book. I am constantly working on something. Right now, I’ve got a … So I have a pre-order coming up on September 11 that is actually the launch of a brand new series, a brand new thriller series. And I’m writing a sequel to that, which I have given myself a deadline of September 11 to complete that. And then I’ve got more Kotler books on the way, and a couple of nonfiction books. Some stuff related to the writing world, but also some stuff related to this whole van life thing that we’re doing. So, you know, I’ve constantly got at least three or four books in the fire at all times. Plus, I’m seeing a huge value in writing and publishing short fiction. I published a, one of my short stories set in the Dan Kotler universe. So it’s an archaeological thriller. You know, it was less than 30,000 words and I put it up on … I actually wrote it as part of like a Christmas anthology. So it’s actually Christmas-themed, the bones of St. Nicholas. So it fits with our skeleton theme. But that book has done, that short little ebook has done so phenomenally well since I released it. And by the way, with very little marketing, like I just put it out there and I sent an email to my list, and then suddenly it blew up. So I’ve decided to start writing, I used to write short stories all the time and I’ve gotten out of that habit, but I think I’m gonna start writing more short fiction as a sort of bridge between longer books.
It’s a palate cleanser, and it increases your SEO, it increases your IP offering. So if someone invites you to an anthology, you’ve got something. I mean, Stowaway, which I just launched is a novella, it’s only 24,000 words. I originally wrote that for an anthology. And then when the rights came back to me, I was like, well, I wrote it in this universe, therefore I’m now going to release it as a standalone novella.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Let’s see. Here’s another question, again from TheLadyWrites. “What trends are you noticing in publishing this year?” This is a weird year to comment on because of the pandemic, so some of these trends may not carry over to future years. Just giving that caveat.
I think digital reading, right? Let’s be honest. We live in an ebook world, right? Draft2Digital is an ebook world. But the majority of people, prior to COVID-19, had never picked up an ebook. And even still, I would argue that still, the majority of people who read still have not picked up an ebook. Now, that changed significantly when the Kindle was introduced, when the iPad was introduced, when the Nook and the Kobo and all these great readers came out. But it actually, the next big bump we saw in the industry was in March of 2020. When you couldn’t go to a bookstore. You couldn’t go to a library. You couldn’t, you know, library sales shot up 130% with ebook sales, you know, that we saw. So, what I’m noticing is that we’re furthering the tipping point of digital reading. And we’re still not even at a 50/50. So for any author who thinks, oh, it’s too late. Ebooks are dead. No, they’re still growing and we still have so many more readers who have not even discovered the convenience, the pleasure, the large print, all of the things you get with an ebook, right? The portability, right? A thousand books right here on my phone.
I live in a space that’s less than 100 square feet full time. So the ability to carry a few thousand books with me is a luxury. Trust me. So okay. All right. So that pretty much wraps us up. We had a few other questions in the comments that I think would be not quite worth our time to get to today. Too elaborate, so if you have questions that we didn’t answer, and you really want them answered, teel free to email our support folks at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will help smooth things out. You can even yell at us in there if you want to. I’m okay with it. All right, so we’re kind of getting at the end and I want to do a little bit of housekeeping. First of all, Mark, let’s put your author hat on for a second. Where can people find you and your work?
I’m markleslie.ca for my author stuff. How about you Kevin?
Well, I am kevintumlinson.com. Or the easier one to remember is authorontheroad.com. So that’s where you can find me.
Oh, that’s a good one.
I know, right? I have Roland Denzel to thank for that. He actually suggested that, because I was complaining that my … it’s great to own your name as a domain name, but it’s so difficult for people to remember and spell. I needed something more memorable, and authorontheroad.com was a very good suggestion.
Remember and spell, eh? I wonder why I use Mark Leslie.
Exactly. Yeah, I didn’t want to say it out loud. All right, so everybody, thank you for tuning in. Make sure you are subscribing to us on both YouTube and Facebook. Depending on where you are right now just hit subscribe or follow right there and you’re done. But we would really appreciate it, like we’re nearing the 2000 subscriber mark on YouTube. So, go hit us up on YouTube. We don’t know what kind of magic powers we get once we get those kind of numbers. So go check us out at youtube.com/draft2digital, and you can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/draft2digital. It’s funny how that worked out, with that Draft2Digital at the end. And also make sure you are bookmarking D2Dlive.com, because you’ll get countdowns and archives related to these live streams and our new podcast which is Self-Publishing Insiders, which you can find at selfpublishinginsiders.com. We got domain names for days.
It’s like you planned this or something.
So, and there it is. Selfpublishinginsiders.com. That’s our brand new podcast. But if you go there right now, it’s pointing to all the past blog posts related to this show. So you can see videos, get transcripts, listen to us, whatever you want. And you can find us wherever fine podcasts are sold. So make sure you check out Self-Publishing Insiders, the podcast from Draft2Digital. That’s our official name. So, Mark, man, I’m so glad we had a chance to chat.
Yeah. Thank you, Kevin. And thanks, guys for the great questions.
All right, everybody. Thank you for tuning in. Take care of yourselves out there and make sure you check out D2DLive.com to see when the next live broadcast will be, and we’ll see you there. Take care.