Episode Summary

Life as an indie author is easier with the right tools, and BookFunnel is all about putting those tools in your hands. Damon Courtney returns to tell us what BookFunnel can do for you!

Episode Notes

Whether it’s delivering your reader magnet, sending out advanced copies of your book, handing out ebooks at a conference, or fulfilling your digital sales to readers, BookFunnel does it all. Today we catch up with founder Damon Courtney to learn what’s new with BookFunnel and to discuss strategies to help your readers love you even more!

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Damon Courtney, Kevin Tumlinson

Kevin Tumlinson 00:02

Did we make it, are we live? Looks like we’re live. You wouldn’t think we would have made it given all the things happening behind the scenes right now. But here we are everybody. Thanks for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders live from Draft2Digital. And also from Damon Courtney of BookFunnel fame. Welcome back to the show, Damon.

Damon Courtney 00:25

Hey, thanks for having me back.

Kevin Tumlinson 00:27

So you are, you hold a record. I don’t know if you’re aware of it.

Damon Courtney 00:31

I wasn’t, no.

Kevin Tumlinson 00:33

You are the very first guest for Self-Publishing Insiders. You were the very first guest back on March 30 of 2020. 2020, period. End of sentence.

Damon Courtney 00:46

And here we are almost three years later. You guys should have me back more often.

Kevin Tumlinson 00:50

We should have had you back since then, but we have you now, man. So I’m glad to have you. So what how’s everything going right now? How are you doing?

Damon Courtney 01:00

Well, you know, we were just talking about like, Texas is getting freezing crazy weather, which is becoming more normal than it used to be. But we’re still not built for this stuff. And so if there’s ice, if there’s snow, everything just shuts down, like schools close. Grocery stores are gone. Like we just don’t do anything. So I’m down in Houston. So we’re not getting it quite as bad as Dallas or Austin or any of the rest. But yeah, I’m cozy, trying to stay warm.

Kevin Tumlinson 01:29

Good. That’s what I want to hear. I want to hear that all my people are warm and safe. So it’s been, like you said, almost three years. Not quite, just under the wire, three years. I was thinking two. So I’m glad you actually did the math.

Damon Courtney 01:46

You still have to do it in your head. It’s like oh, right. It’s 23.

Kevin Tumlinson 01:50

And if we hadn’t started on like an even zero year, I’d be completely out of luck. You were the first, not only the first episode, the first interview, but it was just before the world turned upside down. How did how did you spend your pandemic vacation? How did things develop for you at BookFunnel?

Damon Courtney 02:15

We actually got a lot of stuff done. Not in the beginning, because my kids, we ended up pulling them and doing homeschooling because the world was in a panic and we weren’t sure what was gonna happen. So we kind of homeschool and private school anyway. So we pulled our kids home. Thankfully, we have an upstairs space that we were able to sort of convert into a little school room. And once we got that thing going, then Julie and I, my wife Julie runs the company with me, and Julie and I were able to start getting some work done. But I think like everybody in the very early part of it, nobody knew what the hell was going on and how it was all going to shake out. But after about the first six months, we found a rhythm, and actually BookFunnel managed to get a lot of development done. Because I don’t know, more people were signing up, I really feel like we had a lot more people signing up. And I feel like it was people that were either laid off or furloughed or working from home and sort of had this feeling like, you know what, maybe I’m gonna give this author thing a full time try. You know, I know a lot of authors, most of the authors out there that I know, certainly most of the ones that are signing up for BookFunnel are people that are wanting to make this a career. This isn’t a hobby, this isn’t just like, you know, flopping it out there like a blog, they want to be a career writer, or they want to be a full time writer. And so you know, chances are good if you sign up for a BookFunnel account, that is your goal. That’s where you’re headed. And so I think we had, in the very beginning and then as time went on, and more and more people were sort of stuck at home, we had more people that had either written a book and were getting ready to publish or had their second or third book even and we’re going you know what, I got laid off or I got furloughed, and for six months, I’m gonna see if I can make this author thing go, right. I’m gonna make a go of it. And so we had a lot more people signing up and making a go of it.

Kevin Tumlinson 04:12

Yeah. So you did have a lot more people sign up? That was gonna be my next question.

Damon Courtney 04:18

Yeah, it wasn’t really a downturn for us. Also, readers, I mean, every author that I know that had books out there already out in the world, when things kind of started to shut down, started to see their incomes rise. People are stuck at home. They want stuff to do. If you read books, you’re probably reading more books, you know? And all things equal, books are still probably the cheapest form of entertainment you can probably get, especially in the indie world, right? You can pick up books for a couple of bucks, three bucks, five bucks. Right? You know if you’re in the audiobook world, Julie’s a huge audiobook listener, you’re still paying 15 bucks and maybe even more. But if you read ebooks especially, you could pick up indie ebooks for a couple of bucks. And so you can’t go to the movie theater. Right? You know, those things were all closed down. And even places like, you know, as we got longer into the thing, you know, Disney started going, okay, well, this movie was supposed to go to theaters and theaters aren’t open right now. So we’re going to release it on Disney Plus, but you had to pay like $30 to rent it. And you know, for me, I’m going well, I would have paid $50 to take my kids to the theater and see it. So it’s still kind of a discount. But you’re still talking about 30 bucks to watch a two-hour movie versus, I don’t know, $2.99 to read a book that I’m gonna read for at least six to eight hours of enjoyment. And so readers were piling on, they were buying a lot more books. And I think authors were jumping on that and taking advantage of it.

Kevin Tumlinson 05:52

Did you have your app at that point? The mobile app?

Damon Courtney 05:58

Yeah, yeah, we had that out. We actually had that out right at the beginning of 2020. So I guess it would have been, we’d actually had the app for years, I should say, we had the app out since probably 2018, or 19. But we hadn’t added audiobooks yet. So it was a library management and reading app for readers. But we didn’t have a lot of readers that were reading in it. And most of them were still using it to just send to Kindle or send to Kobo or to send to these other devices. But as time went on, more and more people, the reason that we built the app was really for, you’d be surprised by how many people we get every day that have still never read an e book, right? It’s just not something they’ve done before. And so for them, they’re not already locked into something, this is the first ebook that they’ve gotten, they got it for free from an author in a giveaway, or they got it somehow from one of their authors that they already love. And they’re like, hey, I got this, you know, such and such gifted me a copy of their book, how do I read this? And unfortunately, you know, with all the other apps out there, our answer used to be oh, well, you just need to install a reading app, go get the Kobo app, or go get the Kindle app or go get the Nook app, if you’re familiar with any of those things. Problem with all those apps is, if you’re not already embedded in that ecosystem, you have to install their app, which their apps are pretty huge, right? The Kindle app weighs in at a couple of 100 megabytes on your phone. And if you’re running on a smaller Android phone, it’s kind of a large download. But then also, you’ve got to create an account. Most people will probably have an Amazon account. But you got to remember it, you got to go look up your password, you got to do the whole thing, right, and you would be surprised. For us, that’s probably not a big deal. But for a lot of the readers that we get, that we see in our support queue, that’s a lot of steps. And so once we put our app out there, well, then the answer simply became, oh, well, if you don’t already have a reading app, just download the BookFunnel app and your book is already there, just start reading, just open it and start reading. That was what we started. But we really built the app when we started to develop audiobooks, because sideloading audiobooks into another app is not a thing. It’s not a thing that you can do. You can’t just like drop a bunch of mp3s on the Audible app, and it will start, you know, oh, cool. That’s an audiobook, I’ll play it. So we really started developing apps specifically so that we could get audiobooks out into the world as a feature. But the more that we built into it, we’re like, this is actually a pretty awesome reader. Like Julie and I are really picky people. I have really picky requirements for my reading, my ereading experience. And so I built my app to work the way that I liked it to work, which was basically just giving you the option to change things. Oh, I like as I’ve gotten older, you know, I’ve worn glasses my whole life. But as we’ve gotten older, and I read in bed, it’s like I want the line spacing to just be a little bit wider between these lines, because it’s easier for me to read. And a lot of the apps out there, they don’t do that. Or they give you like 1, 2, 3, you know, oh, you want line spacing, you can have a little bit, a little bit more, or like, five lines between, whereas we designed ours to be just really incremental, you can kind of just plus and minus and go okay, that’s where I like it. That’s where I want to read it. So over time now I’ve gotten to where even when I buy books off of Kobo, I will take the EPUB. And I’ll put it in my app, because I prefer to read in my own. So we have the app out there and already like going strong. And now, as we enter 2023, we have millions of people that have installed our app and tens and tens of thousands of people that read or listen to audiobooks in it every single day. Like yeah, it’s actually kind of astounding how much data, how much stuff we’re serving out there into the world. Now, when you consider you know, seven years ago when we started we would get 100 downloads a day. What a big day.

Kevin Tumlinson 09:52

Yeah, I remember. Yeah, 100 downloads a day is still a big day for some of us. So how hard is it to get something from outside the app into that app? Like if you bought a book elsewhere, how challenging would it be?

Damon Courtney 10:09

Oh, well, so we really can’t do it, we don’t actually support. I actually, like, take the book and I load it into my BookFunnel dashboard. And I add it as a book and then I add it to my own library. So if you have a BookFunnel account, you can actually do it really easily. You can just go and upload the book and use it yourself. We don’t support loading out, though we are a company that is built on side loading books into other people’s apps, we do not allow side loading into our app, because I mean, the theory was, BookFunnel was built so that we could get your book into the apps that you’re already reading in. If you already have all your books in the Kobo app, we’ll put your books into the Kobo app. You like reading on your Kindle, great, we’ll put your books on your Kindle. So it was sort of like whoa, if my app is there, and initially, my app was just there, the BookFunnel app was there to get your books to those other apps, because that’s probably where you want to read. I will say we’ve had a lot of requests from readers. And we’re like, well, but now I like reading in the BookFunnel app. So I want to get my books from that other app. And I’m gonna put them in here. And I’m like, oh, well, we don’t do that. Yet, yet. It’s been talked about because like, we have had enough readers that have reached out to us that they get a lot of books, and especially now that, I mean, 2022 was kind of the year where direct sales really blew up in the indie author community, right? We had so many people that were signing up, and immediately asking us questions about setting up their Shopify store, or how do I connect BookFunnel to WooCommerce, and all of this sort of stuff. And so more and more and more readers in the last year have been exposed to BookFunnel as a delivery mechanism. And for some of those, they’re now buying their books directly from their authors. And they’re reading them all in the BookFunnel app. And so when they do go and buy from another author, they actually want to put it into their BookFunnel app where they’ve got all of their other books. So it’s something that we’ve considered for sure.

Kevin Tumlinson 11:58

Yeah, I think there are certain storefronts out there, we’ll just say storefronts that smash things like words, it would be really helpful to be able to just maybe export from there to a special BookFunnel app. I’m just saying, I’m just putting that idea out there. So well, that’s cool. So you know, I wish I had a list. I didn’t like make a list at the time, of course, but the things that you had running for BookFunnel at that time, I know you’ve made some advances. What are some of the things that have happened for you guys since then? Since 2020 I mean.

Damon Courtney 12:39

Audiobooks was probably the biggest one. And that came straight from our authors. You know, I’ve told the story before but we had opened our doors in September of 2017. So here we are, you know, I’m sorry, September 2015. And, like a week after, keep in mind, I’d spent over a year building everything that was BookFunnel. So I spent a year building it, we opened our doors, and a week later, it was like, well when is BookFunnel gonna have audiobooks? Like I just, I spent a year building this just to get ebooks. And so it was always sort of on our radar, but I’ll be honest, it was always sort of on the way in the future, some day, maybe we could do audiobooks. But then around 2019 or so, you know, we go to conferences, we go to a lot of the biggest indie conferences in the world. And around 2019 that buzz sort of really started, those questions kept coming, more and more people asking us, hey, you know, when is BookFunnel going to do audiobooks? It’d be really great if you guys could do audiobooks. Yeah. So we finally launched that in 2020, toward the end of 2000. And I’m sorry, 2020. And that has been like the biggest change for us because it was such a departure from everything we’d ever done. We were able to reuse, I mean, all of BookFunnel’s infrastructure is really built to deliver digital media, right. But up until that point, everything we delivered was a mobi file or an EPUB. That might be a megabyte or two megabytes, or goodness, 10 megabytes. And now you’ve got oh, now this audiobook has several gigabytes of data, or some author has slapped together the eight book box set of audio books, that’s just this massive file delivery. So it was just really, really different from us. And over the last couple of years, we learned a lot and figured out all of the little pitfalls and you know, we always say you don’t know what you don’t know. So we just kind of threw it out there, man. Okay, here it is. So that’s been the biggest departure for us. And then I think as a result of that, direct sales became a much bigger conversation. Once BookFunnel could deliver audiobooks. Yeah, because for a lot of authors, you know, like they were already selling paperbacks, maybe they were selling ebooks, maybe they were using BookFunnel delivery on their ebooks. But really audiobooks is where direct sales became a really different proposition. And I think that’s because for most authors, if you’re doing audiobooks, Audible is probably the lion’s share of your income on audio, except that when it comes to the revenue sharing of Audible, Audible is taking the lion’s share and leaving you with, you know, half a hyena leg. So, authors are looking at that. And while I think that for most authors, you know, selling an ebook and getting 70% of the cover price is pretty reasonable, right? You know, everybody would like that number to be higher, or they’d like for everybody to for all of the retailers to take a lower cut. But for the most part, if I sell a book for x, and I get 70% of that, it’s still way better than traditional publishing ever gave. Yeah, yeah. But now you step into audiobooks. And suddenly, oh, now it’s completely flipped. Audible is taking the vast majority of the income of the money and you’re getting the small pittance of the royalty. Whereas in ebooks, it might cost you, let’s say you get a nice, a fairly cheap cover, you bought a copy of Scrivener, you format your own book, you might be able to get an ebook out there in the world for under 100 bucks, or maybe a couple hundred bucks. Not so with audiobooks. You’ve probably spent thousands of dollars to get that audiobook produced. So now you’re putting your audiobook out there on Audible and you’re not getting the money, Audible is taking all the money, right. So by the time we launched audiobooks, and then direct sales really came into the zeitgeist in this last year. And most of it was because of audio when authors looked up, and they actually looked at that spreadsheet from Audible and started doing the math, they went, this is not so great. This is not, the numbers aren’t working out for me.

Kevin Tumlinson 16:49

I remember when that first happened, I mean, I was so irate because, you know, I am grandfathered in on some of my earliest books on Audible, but that split, I’m like, I’m the one actually doing all the actual work, right, and have all the actual overhead for a development. And so you’re gonna yourself in for a bigger chunk of change, that makes no real sense to me.

Damon Courtney 17:15

And I just don’t think, I mean, me personally, as an author myself, I just don’t think that’s fair. And one of the reasons that we built our sales delivery the way that we did, BookFunnel is not involved in the money, we don’t take a cut of anything. If you have a BookFunnel account, you can deliver your stuff, you pay for just your regular BookFunnel account, which you’re probably already using for your reader magnets, or group promos and a bunch of other stuff. If you’re already using it for that, Hey, start doing your sales will deliver all that stuff, it’s all just included. So not a single percentage goes to book funnel on your sales, which means that all of that money goes back to you. And that comes back to my sort of belief as an author myself that it’s my product. I’m the one who did all of the work. Why should you get a cut of all of my sales?

Kevin Tumlinson 18:02

You can always tell the companies that were started by authors. Yeah, because we all think the same way. We’re all like, you know, I don’t deserve a slice of your pie necessarily, like, maybe a tiny sliver but not the lion’s share, as you put it. We all think like that.

Damon Courtney 18:21

Well, because before I was running a company, I was writing and publishing books. Yeah. And so I mean, now that I’m running a company, I don’t get to publish nearly as much as I would like, and I loved being a writer. So the difference between being a writer and being a software developer is that when you write a book, and you finish a book, you finish the book. You know, you might go back every few years and recover it or something like that. But you’re not gonna go rewrite the book, for the most part, I suppose you could, but you really don’t have to. The book is out there and it’s selling. Software is never finished. Like if you start a software project, you don’t just like build three features and go, that’s good. I’m done. Great. That was a good time. Everybody buy my software. No, you’ll develop software till you’re dead.

Kevin Tumlinson 19:08

Yeah, it’s different. Because you know, you don’t have things like as a author, they don’t suddenly make a change to the way that books can be read. And now your book is incompatible or whatever. There’s always those dangers with software development. Like some minor change to even just a web browser. Suddenly everything is broken. Because Web Five is coming now or something. Speaking of, I mean, how do you how do you guard against things like that, like changes in the way the world works?

Damon Courtney 19:45

We do a lot of work on that. So you know, just to give you an example, because we get this question a lot where we have a hard time sometimes describing what we do. When we came onto the scene in 2015, anybody who had been doing any kind of reader magnet delivery on their own, immediately knew the pain point that we were solving. Which was, you don’t want to be the one doing all the support when your readers don’t know how to sideload this book onto their Kindle, let us do that for you. But then, you know, the problem is, we’ve become a victim of our own success. We solved that problem, right? The issue of how do readers get books to their devices outside of the stores was solved by BookFunnel. So then by say, 2018, 2019, we start getting people going, well, why do I need BookFunnel? Can I just email them an EPUB? And then, of course, like the old folks would step in and be like, no, don’t do that. You weren’t here before BookFunnel existed. So you don’t realize what a problem this is. Please don’t do that. Just pay BookFunnel and let them do it. And so now here we are in 2023. And we get this question a lot. Well, why do I really need BookFunnel? Well, I’ll tell you why. Every time Amazon releases a new Kindle, and they release new Fire tablets every year, they release new paperwhites, voyages, the one you can write on now, like all kinds of wacky stuff. And every time they do, they change something, they change their process, they change the how things get delivered, they change what they’ll accept, you know, this big change in the last year has been, they’re no longer going to accept mobi files when you email them. And at first, you’re like, yay, that’s a great change. It actually really is, it means that Amazon themselves is standardizing on the EPUB standard, which would be great, right? It would have been great. If it’s not like EPUB didn’t exist, when Amazon did the Kindle, they could have done that, they actually chose to go their own way, and build their own format. And the world has suffered for it ever since. And they announced they’re getting rid of mobis, and it’s like, awesome, I’m so glad they’re getting rid of mobis, but they’re not really getting rid of mobis, because what they’re doing is when you email them an EPUB, they convert it in the back end to a mobi-like monstrosity, and then they send it out to your device. So we didn’t actually get rid of them, we just got rid of Amazon accepting them. But that’s a perfect example, if you were doing your own thing, if you were doing your own delivery, and you weren’t using BookFunnel, you wouldn’t be ready for this change. BookFunnel has already made this change over with our readers, they are now getting Kindle EPUBs. We do a lot of work, we built a lot of code on the back end to actually analyze every EPUB that gets uploaded and go, ah, this thing here that you did, Amazon is not going to accept that, like they’re going to reject your book. So we’re just going to fix it for you. And then that’s what we’re going to give to readers, so that when the reader actually goes and emails into their Kindle, they don’t get those failure messages back from Amazon. And if you’re not on top of this stuff, then you’re going to fall victim to all those kinds of changes. So really, in answer to your question, it’s just a lot of legwork. I mean, every time we get, when we start seeing the benefit of BookFunnel delivering millions of books a month is when there’s a problem. We know when like our queue starts, we start getting emails, and then we go, hey, a lot of people saying that Send to Kindle is rejecting every book they send, or this particular book, this new book that an author has sent out. they’re getting tons of rejections. Ah, okay, there’s a problem. And sometimes it’s a problem as simple as, oh, that book file had a problem with it, we fix the file for the author, and then let all their readers know to go download a new copy, and they can send it on their own. Or we discover that oh, Send to Kindle change something, right? It’s like the deja vu in The Matrix. They’ve changed something. And we have to quickly scramble and figure out what have they changed. How do we fix it so that our authors don’t have to be burdened with whatever Amazon has decided to change? If I showed you my desk, it’s just littered with devices, tablets, phones, Kindles, Kobos and everything you can possibly imagine. And when something changes, we grab those devices, and we start testing. Okay, it works on Android eight, ah it doesn’t work on … As a perfect example. So Amazon has changed, they no longer accept mobis. A lot of people use the BookFunnel app to Send to Kindle, because I’ll be honest, app on your smartphone is faster and easier to use than Amazon’s email method for Send to Kindle. Like you can send a book, you can send a book from the BookFunnel app to your Kindle in like two taps, it’s almost instant. Whereas if you email it, maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. Maybe they’ll reject it, maybe they won’t. So sending through your smartphone and using the BookFunnel app is way faster. But as of the latest release, of course, Amazon pushed out updates that says hey, just to let you know, we’re no longer going to accept mobis at some point in the future. It was August last year, then it was end of last year. And now we’re into February, and it’s still not gone yet. So, I mean, they’re a software company like anybody else, the greatest, the best laid plans and all that. But one day they will, they will kill the mobi and they won’t accept it anymore. Here’s the problem. Everybody that is on an Android device before Android nine, they’re not getting that update. So their devices are simply going to stop working. Everybody Android nine and above, they’re going to keep working, they’ll work fine, because they got the updates. So once again, we had to figure that out, we had to go and test, we had to grab all of our Android devices. We tested 10, 11 12, nine, eight, ah, that’s where they broke it, they broke it on Android eight and below. And you know, people change their phones fairly quickly, right? Most people are getting a new phone every couple of years. They don’t change their tablets that often. So we have people that are running Android tablets and still running Android six, and five, Android seven. And we have to tell those people, well, you can continue to do this for a little while longer. But once Amazon makes the final change and gets rid of mobis, you’re not going to be able to do that on your tablet anymore, you’ll have to switch to another method. And don’t worry, BookFunnel will be there to help you through it.

Kevin Tumlinson 26:21

Yeah, I can’t even imagine that level of work, honestly. And I know that we do something similar. I don’t. This isn’t part of my purview at Draft2Digital. But we have people, we own multiple devices, multiple operating systems, I don’t think we have to go quite as deep down that rabbit hole as you do.

Damon Courtney 26:43

Probably not. That’s what we do, right? And I tell people like the benefit that you get with paying for BookFunnel is you get our expertise. I can tell you how to deliver a book to every device in existence, even ones you’ve never heard of. And then you the same thing with our support people, if somebody has trouble, then you’re gonna get kicked to BookFunnel support and all of our support people, they’re trained on all the same devices, they understand this stuff at a very deep level.

Kevin Tumlinson 27:10

Yeah, that’s something else I was impressed by, Damon, because I was kind of there at the earliest beginnings of BookFunnel. So I got to see what you were doing. And at first, it was you. You were the entire development team.

Damon Courtney 27:30

I was it. I answered every email.

Kevin Tumlinson 27:34

Every single email. In fact, I still catch myself sometimes when I’m emailing, if I have to email a support question, I have to make sure I don’t address it as Damon. But how has building and running a team gone for you?

Damon Courtney 27:51

It’s actually really awesome. It takes a fair bit of work, right? So when we bring on a new support person in particular, it takes about three months before they can start really answering some emails, and really six months before they fully understand the system and how everything works. And that’s not because I’m a bad programmer, although, you know, it’s arguable. But it’s mostly just that it’s a really complicated system, right? We’re trying to deliver books to every device that a reader could possibly have. And we want to do a good job of that, we want to make sure that the reader is going to be able to read it. So when they come and they say that, oh, I’ve got a Nook Glow Light Plus or whatever, which is probably a 10-year-old device. But I want to get that book on there, I want to make sure that your readers are reading in the experience that they enjoy the most. And so you know, and when somebody comes in and we start training a new support person, we have to go, okay, here’s a Nook, this is how they work. This is how we get books to them. And we start with the largest, you know, obviously Kindle is the largest, most people have a Kindle reading device, or they have a Kindle app on their phone. But we have to walk them through all of that stuff. And then, you know, you start going through and you see the kinds of, and I mean, we get all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s not just, sure we get people that need help with their books, but we also get just random questions, right? You know, our readers, which are not our readers, your readers. Our authors’ readers learn very quickly that BookFunnel answers every email we receive, every single one. You will never email BookFunnel and not get a response. Whereas you could email large river companies for example, and get an automated response. And you’re like, hi, I’m having trouble with my Kindle and they’re like, hi, did you order a washing machine? Like it’s all automated, right? Nothing at BookFunnel is automated. We pride ourselves on always being human and being real people so that when someone reaches out and says I have a question, or could you just help me with this, that you’re going to get a real person who helps you with that and not some automated, terrible answer. And so you know, but once readers figure that out, they’ll email us with questions that have absolutely nothing to do with us. How do I ,you know, how do I restart my Kindle? How do I do this? Why is my Kindle not charging? How do I get it to charge? Like, you’re gonna have to call Amazon about that, right? But we do. We’ve had questions like, oh, my laptop broke. I’m looking at getting a new one. What laptop do you recommend? We really do, we get questions like that all the time.

Kevin Tumlinson 30:32

Oh, I bet. We get support questions for everyone out there. People write in asking us how, what can I do about this problem I’m having with river company? And well, if you if you distribute there through us, we can probably help. But otherwise, there’s nothing we can do.

Damon Courtney 30:52

If you went direct, I got nothing, you’re gonna have to get on with Amazon support and have them deal with it. Good luck.

Kevin Tumlinson 30:57

We’ll at least give you emotional support. So when people do have trouble, on the author side we’ll say first, like, what are the things authors need to know if they’re going to come up to you? Or what’s the biggest mistake you find authors make?

Damon Courtney 31:26

Oh, we get this one all the time. So somebody, either they’re in a group, and they’ve heard people talking about newsletters, or they’ve heard people talking about BookFunnel or whatever. The biggest problem that we get is somebody who comes to us and says, well, my friend told me I should get BookFunnel. Now I have BookFunnel, what do I do with it? And so that’s kind of rough, because it’s like, what are you trying to do? We do a lot of things now. BookFunnel has a plethora of features that you can use us for. So it really kind of comes down to, what is it that you’re trying to do? But let’s say that the average author is probably coming to BookFunnel because they’re starting to build their newsletter. They have a reader magnet that they’ve written. And now they want to start finding new readers. And so they’re coming in and they’ve heard from people that BookFunnel has group promos and author swaps, and they can go in and they can do all of that stuff and start to build a newsletter, which is great. That’s a lot of people sign up for BookFunnel to do that exact thing. So then the biggest problem that I see is number one, they jump in, and then just join like 30 promos in a month, which is way too many. You need to be a little bit choosy so that you’re you’re choosing the promos that represent your books the best. If you write space opera, it’s better to join a promo that is for space opera than one that is just broad sci fi fantasy, right? Because if you’re joining a promo that’s specifically geared to space opera, every other author in that promo is also writing space opera, and all of the readers on their newsletters read space opera. So you’re better off and kind of narrowing down into the smallest niche that you can find, that’s not so small that it’s like you and two other guys. You want it to be like oh, there’s about 20 or 30 authors in this promo and hey, they all write Small Town Christian romance. Great. That’s much better than, small town Christian romance is better than small town romance is better than romance. Because everybody in that group promo is going to write and their readers read small town Christian romance. And if that’s what you write, that’s the better place that you want to be. So that’s the first mistake is just kind of jumping in and joining everything that you can see that even kind of relates to your book. The second one is once they start building that newsletter, they start getting readers on it, they don’t ever email them/ They don’t talk to them. They don’t engage with them. And so you know, you started to build out your newsletter, you’re getting readers on it, you kind of have to start talking to them, you have to tell them about yourself. A little bit about who you are, about what you write or why you write it. You know, whatever you’re comfortable with, whatever works for you. I read we recommend Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja book, if you haven’t read that, because it’s a fantastic book that really tells you and teaches authors how to talk to people in the right kind of way so that you’re not salesy. You don’t want to just email every time you have a new book, and it’s like buy my book, buy my book, buy my book. No, you need to form a little bit of a relationship. It doesn’t have to be this deep personal connection. But you want those readers to know who you are. And more specifically, you want them to know that the books that I write are exactly the kind of books that you like to read. And so when I have a new book available, you’re gonna want to check it out. And I see that a lot. They start to build up this list and BookFunnel has, we have thousands and thousands of authors and they’re all joining promos, and they’re doing author swaps and so it’s usually fairly easy to get started on BookFunnel if you already have your reader magnet and start building a list of a few hundred or a few thousand people. But if you’re building that list, and you’re never ever talking to them, it’s a missed opportunity. And eventually, those people will go away. They don’t know who you are. If you’re only releasing a book every six months, and you’re never emailing them, except once every six months to tell them that you got a new book, they didn’t remember who you are, they picked up your reader magnet because your cover looked great. Your title looked good. Something about what you were offering interested them enough to pick up a copy and join your newsletter. But then you didn’t, I mean, it’s just like you didn’t engage with them, right? It’s like standing outside of a candy store and offering free samples. And then once they walk into the store, you just refuse to sell them anything. Like what was the point of the free candy?

Kevin Tumlinson 35:48

Not only do you refuse to sell them anything, you yell at them outside the store.

Damon Courtney 35:54

Or every time they ask you about candy, you just like turn away.

Kevin Tumlinson 35:59

So okay, yeah, the promo tool, by the way, has been really interesting, too. I’ve used it. I’ve used it a few times. I don’t use it all the time. But I don’t know why, I don’t have a reason for that. I think I got on too many lists. So I think I see your point there. Like I’m not running promos with all those people. But I get a lot of those invitations, basically.

Damon Courtney 36:30

And we really do recommend that you keep it small. You don’t have to join 50 promos, you don’t even have to join 10 every month. Even if you kept it down to like one or two a month, or one every couple of months, you’re gonna start building your list. And we tell people all the time that you still need to be focused on writing the next book, like that is your most important tool. And you know, you’re trying to find new readers for your books. And the best way to do that is, once you get them in the door, in marketing, we call them a lead. Once you have a lead, meaning they haven’t read your stuff yet, so they don’t really know exactly that you’re the author that they want to read. So the purpose of sending out those emails is just to sort of remind them, hey, these are the kinds of books that I write. You’ve got my reader magnet. If you like that, you’re really going to love my book series. Because if you like this kind of writing, then that’s what you’re gonna like.

Kevin Tumlinson 37:27

Okay, we got some comments and questions, at least one question I’m gonna pop up. First up, we have Mark McCraw on Facebook says good afternoon, sir. Our friend Randall Wood says Audible is now our least requested audio platform.

Damon Courtney 37:45

Randall’s over at ScribeCount.

Kevin Tumlinson 37:47

Randall from ScribeCount, which you if you are, if you need a handy tool for keeping track of all these sales that you’re having, you definitely want to hook up with Randall and ScribeCount. Chad from YouTube says hey, Damon. Hope things are well. And we got a first timer, Vanessa Strickley from YouTube says hello, first time here. And Matthew, I’m gonna say Creek. Oh, I lost him. Here we go. There we go. Matthew Kreke, and I’m sorry if I get your name wrong, sir. What do I talk to my mailing list people about?

Damon Courtney 38:27

This is a really good question. So first, I would recommend Newsletter Ninja. It’s a couple of bucks. You can find it everywhere. And Tammi goes into specific detail about this. So I don’t want to say that I’m an expert on that. I will tell you that I do get this question a lot. I go to conferences and I give a talk that talks about setting up your newsletter and your reader magnet and all those the ways that you can do that sort of stuff. And yeah, this is probably the number one question I get. Because if you spend enough time in a group full of authors, you’ll find that most of them tend to be fairly introverted. Some would even say shy. And so we all like to hide behind our keyboards where we can just write our wonderful stories and then not have to do a lot of interaction. The problem is that the reality of the world of publishing today is that if you’re not out there … You know, back when I was a kid growing up, people didn’t talk to authors, right? I didn’t even know what my favorite, I read these books, these amazing stories, I couldn’t have even told you what those people look like. Or some of them that just used initials, I couldn’t tell you if they were a man or a woman. I didn’t know, right? That’s not the world that we live in now. Readers are more attached to their authors and also they want to hear from you. So I will say that if you’re the kind of author who doesn’t like sharing a lot of personal details, that’s okay. You don’t have to do that. What I would do is, people are there for stories. So if you can tell stories, those are really good. I’ve seen some of those be the most successful author newsletters, where authors are just sort of telling a story about something that happened recently in their life or something that happened a long time ago, right? You’re a storyteller. So you’re telling stories. If you’re not able to do that, either because it’s … I will tell you that it is way harder for me personally to write an email to people than it is to write a book, to write a short story. Because to write a short story in my world is to take my characters, who I love, and they live inside my head, and come up with a cool idea and they go off on some adventure. I write epic fantasy. So they go off on some little side quest adventure. And I can write that short story in almost no time. To sit down and write an email from me, Damon, takes a lot more effort, right? I want it to be very personal. And I want it to be funny, but not too funny. And I don’t want to make any jokes that are going to hurt somebody’s feeling or offend someone. So it actually takes a long time to write that sort of email out. If you’re not into that, if you’re not into sharing personal details. You don’t want to talk about your life. You don’t want to talk about your process. Talk about your books, but not in a salesy way. The point is not just like, my books are on sale right now. The point is, you know, I write what I write. I’ll give you a perfect example, I write what I write, the books that I wrote, because I felt like that the books that were out there in fantasy were no longer being written for readers like me. The epic fantasy genre had moved very deeply into what we call grim dark, which is Game of Thrones, everybody dies, nobody’s a hero, everybody’s a terrible character. Nobody is a redeemable character at all right? They’re all just awful people. And I don’t like that. I like the fantasy that I grew up with. I like heroes, I don’t need them all to be perfect heroes, I don’t need them to always do the right thing. But I need to know that in the end, when it’s a desperate moment, that they’re going to do the right thing, right? And that they have honor and integrity, and that they’re ultimately, even the thief, like the guy who’s like, the whole novel has not been a very good person. But in the end, they’re going to do the right thing. But the entire traditional world of traditional publishing had left me behind. They were all into anti-heroes, and everything was grim dark. So I actually set out to write my books, because I was like, I want heroes to be heroes again. So I’m gonna write books that I would like to read. And then as you talk about your books, that’s what you want to talk about. Why do you write what you write? More importantly, as a reader, why should I read what you’ve written over all of these other books in fantasy that I have available to me? And then the last thing that I tell people is if you really truly don’t know what to write, if you’re really not sure what to mail people, write a short story. Write a short story about your characters, write something that happens in your series, something that happens in your universe, and send them that. We have authors that write a short story every month. They just crack out 2000 to 3000 words, it’s part of their existing series. So you don’t have to like do a lot of background, you don’t have to write a lot of backstory, you don’t have to explain everything, you’re just taking a character out of your books, and you’re writing a quick short story that you’re going to send to them. The great thing about that is that every short story you write becomes another piece of your back list. You can send it to your mailing list for free and just say, hey, guys, I’m still working, you know, progress on book six is coming along great. I had this great idea for a short story, I thought you guys would love it. Here, you can download it for free. Then you also can take that short story and put it up for sale somewhere else or sell it direct from your website or put it up on Amazon. We actually have an author, a romance author who writes every other month. So every month, she emails her list once a month. Every other month is sort of a progress update on her books, and then what’s going on and where she’s at. And then every other month is … Oh, it looks like we lost Kevin. Every other month she writes a short story that exists in her world and uses her characters and pulls them out and puts them on a little side story. The cool thing is at the end of the year, she always ends her year with a Christmas short story that she publishes in December. And at the end of that Christmas short story, everybody that’s on her mailing list, that if you’ve been there the whole year, you’ve actually been getting those short stories delivered every other month as they are released, because she gives them out for free to her fans. If you’re on her newsletter, that’s just a little bonus that you get for being on her newsletter. Then at the end of the year, she takes the six stories that she’s written throughout the year including the Christmas short, she boxes them up together. And that gets published on Amazon and everywhere else. And now you have another piece of content for your backlist. So Matthew, my answer to that question is, if you really don’t know what to talk about, write a short story. Like I said, I can write a short story way easier than I can try to be me or talk about, you know, at some point, I’m just … Especially, when I was writing my books, it took me a year to write each book because I’m not terribly fast at it. And so like, there’s only so many times that you can say, hey, I’m still working on the book, right? And really, if all you’re going to do is email your list once a month, and tell them that you’re still working on the next book, don’t do that. The point is not to just hit them with sort of simple progress updates. You want to try to email them something that is going to interest them in continuing to buy your books or in some cases, if they are leads, and they’ve never actually read any of your stuff because they got on your list, they got your reader magnet, now they’re on your list, but they still haven’t actually picked up and read any of your books. Remember, don’t forget that the goal of getting them on your list and giving them the free reader magnet is ultimately to sell more books. Right? That is the goal, and sometimes we lose sight of that. You’ll start building the list, and it feels like the goal is just to build the list and it’s not. The goal is to build the list with the end game of selling more books. And so everything that you put out there, again, Newsletter Ninja does a much better job of describing this. Tammi’s fantastic. You can be salesy without sounding salesy. And that is the trick, is telling people about your books because they’re awesome. And they’re great books, and not a buy it buy it, buy it, buy it, buy it, right. And so that is what you’re trying to do. Kevin, are you back with us? Are we back?

Kevin Tumlinson 46:35

I am back. Our power has snapped off here. So I’m not sure, I think we’re gonna go ahead and close this out. But I am really glad I did have a chance to come back and thank you for being a part of the show, not just once, but twice now. Three years, man, we got to make sure we do this sooner rather than …

Damon Courtney 46:57

More frequently, three years seems … With as much as we’ve done in the last three years. I could fill hours. If I just went down a list of everything we’ve done in the last three years, it would be massive.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:08

We’re gonna need more podcasts. Well, thank you again, Damon, for being a part of the show. Everyone else, thank you for being a part of show as well. Three years is a long time to go with no audience. And so we really appreciate you being here and being a part of everything. Make sure that you go and visit bookfunnel.com, so you can go sign up and get an account. Damon, I don’t know what the going rate right now is for an account. But I’m sure they’ll find out on the website, right?

Damon Courtney 47:44

Yeah, that’s all up there. We could talk about it but it’s all up there, since we’re gonna go ahead and go. But yeah, you can find all of our pricing information right there.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:51

Excellent. Go there, BookFunnel.com, check it out. Make sure that you like comment, share, subscribe, all the things that you need do on YouTube and elsewhere for this show. And make sure that you visit Draft2Digital or let’s go with D2Dlive.com, where you get a countdown for shows like this, hopefully with fewer power outages.

Damon Courtney 48:13

Now fewer power outages.

Kevin Tumlinson 48:15

Let me tell you how, I connected to my phone so that I could finish the interview. That’s how clever we are at Draft2Digital. So thank you everybody for tuning in. And we will have to go but we will see you next time. Again, thank you Damon for being a part of the show.

Damon Courtney 48:30

Yeah, thanks for having me back.

Kevin Tumlinson 48:32

All right, take care, everybody.