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The ebook market is mature in the US and getting there in the UK, Canada and Australia, but in most other countries worldwide, the ebook revolution is only just beginning. In today's show, Dan Wood from Draft2Digital and I get excited about self-publishing to a global market.
In the intro I talk about The Bookseller #authorday and the responses from the author community, the latest AuthorEarnings report about amazon.co.uk, the Smashwords 2015 author survey results plus you can join Nick Stephenson and I for a webinar this week on growing your author email list. Click here to register.
The corporate sponsorship for this show pays for hosting and transcription. This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
Dan Wood is the Director of Operations and Publisher Relations at Draft2Digital.com.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video here or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- What Draft2Digital is, how it supports authors to distribute their books and how it differs from Smashwords.
- How D2D chooses the different book vendors they work with and how authors can know which ones are worth choosing.
- The increasing opportunities in international sales, especially given the rise of mobile phones worldwide, and how authors can take advantage of the global market.
- Dan's thoughts on Oyster and Google Play, and on Facebook entering the book market.
- On the advantages of assetless pre-orders and the results Dan and D2D have seen with these.
- The email list feature and back-matter feature on D2D, and pricing locally.
You can find Dan at Draft2Digital.com or on twitter @danwoodok
Transcription of interview with Dan Wood
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today, I'm here with Dan Wood. Hi, Dan.
Dan: Hi, Joanna. Thanks for having me.
Joanna: Oh, it's great to have you on the show. So just a little introduction, Dan is the director of operations and publisher relations at Draft2Digital.com which is very exciting.
Dan, start by telling us a bit more about you and why you're personally so passionate about books and authors.
Dan: I was lucky to have a family that was really into reading. And my mom read to me every day when I was a child, and my grandmother would take me to the library every week for reading time. And so it made me love books. But I think what really got me passionate about books was my mom's employer would have us over to her house and she kept a library of books for children. So when I went over there I got to pick out a book and keep it. And so she introduced me to The Hardy Boys.
Joanna: Oh I love The Hardy Boys.
Dan: The mystery books, and I loved them. And that just got me reading that whole series. There were so many of them at that point. Years later I was devastated when I found out that Franklin W. Dixon wasn't a real person but just a long list of ghost writers.
Joanna: Nancy Drew was the same.
Dan: Exactly. So that really got me loving books. I went to high school with Aaron Pogue who was one of our founders and the president of our company. He has always wanted to be an author for as long as I've known him. I got to be alongside him as he got dozens of rejections in the traditional publishing back in the 2000s. And then around 2008, when self-publishing really started being a viable thing, I got to see him get passionate about that. And then it led to some of the ideas that made Draft2Digital.
Joanna: Oh that's great to hear. The Hardy Boys had a big influence on me. I actually preferred The Hardy Boys to Nancy Drew. Definitely, definitely more fun. They were the ones with so-and-so adventure when they, like, sea adventure and jungle adventure.
Dan: And then great covers. I remember the covers always had these two boys and they were like looking at some skull or something awesome, treasure maps. Amazing.
Joanna: Exactly. Now that influence is totally in my books. And Wilbur Smith, you know, later on and that sort of thing.
Joanna: But anyway, we digress.
For anybody who doesn't know, anyone who is probably either just starting out or perhaps is not aware, what is Draft2Digital and what does it offer authors?
Dan: Draft2Digital is a setup tool, so it will help you publish your books.
We're document converters. If you've written your book in Word, but you don't have all the different files you need like an EPUB and a MOBI to publish it in different stores, we can do that conversion for you.
We're very proud of our converter because we've made it really robust, so we don't need to have a style guide. We can make these beautiful EPUBS and we provide all those file types. Even though we don't distribute to Amazon, we provide a MOBI file. We provide a PDF file if you want to use us to upload your book to CreateSpace for instance. So we're able to convert all those files over.
We also make it easy to manage your catalogs.
I think what authors find is time is really their most valuable resource. And so we try to make a bunch of tools that help you save time.
And I know we're going to talk a little bit about later, but like the end-matter, automated end-matter that we do and making that a one-button solution to update all of your old catalog to let people know, “I've got this new book in my series,” is a really powerful feature.
We do these constant checks and audits of our distributors to make sure books are alive. They're supposed to be alive. Books are down. They're supposed to be down. Books are at the right price. And so all those tools together just make authors' lives a lot simpler and rather than going to 20 different websites and uploading your content, uploading your tax information, we wanted to make it very, very simple.
Joanna: And so we've had Mark Coker on the show and of course there are reasons to go with Smashwords versus Draft2Digital and some people do both. But as you say, it's all about kind of saving time.
What would be the comparisons with Smashwords? Because I know people are listening, going, “Yeah, okay,” but they can't really tell the difference in their minds.
Dan: Definitely, Mark has been a trailblazer for self-publishers and Smashwords has been around for a very long time and it's opened up a lot of new avenues. A lot of times, we're very similar. It's a very similar business model.
Our document conversion’s where a lot of people say we differ heavily from Smashwords and just a little bit quicker process.
A lot of authors enjoy that we do monthly payments as opposed to quarterly. A lot of times, when people tell me they've completely switched over, it’s because of that. We do believe in you can use both us and Smashwords. Our whole system is opt-in for every channel, and so we have a lot of people who do use both. We would love to distribute to the Smashwords store, because there's a lot of readers that take advantage of that.
It’s very, very similar. We just try to make it very, very fast. We do the monthly payments. We pay in direct deposit and PayPal, which I don't think Smashwords does direct deposit at this point.
We also do some different stores. And so they have some that we don't offer and we have some that they don't offer.
Joanna: What are your criteria around which stores to distribute to because it just…you know, given the website I have, I get pitched every day from a new distributor or a new store. I have to reply now and say, “Look I'm sorry. I just can't look at another store or another new platform.” Obviously you have NOOK and you have Scribd and you have some other ones, but I know you've got some stores now that people might not have heard of.
Why do you choose different distributors and how can we tell which ones are worth publishing on?
Dan: I follow all the industry newsletters and try to find who is being mentioned in Publishers Weekly, who is making deals with the Big Five. That gives me some idea that they're legit.
We have a number of technical requirements that really end up…if they can't meet certain speeds, everyone has to be able to react to the same speed the Amazon publishes, because if they don't, Amazon does not like it if a price change takes a week in another competitor or if we need to de-list a book so someone could go on to select. They have be able to de-list it within 48 hours, more or less. We do those things.
I, personally, talk to nearly each and every one of the people who pitch a different store to us, to get a feel for their overall strategy. We've been looking for companies, especially right now as we focus on our national who are partnering with telephone companies.
You know, at 24symbols, I think the thing I'm most excited about that relationship is that’s where they're planning to get their growth is making those partnerships where people can pay for a subscription service for ebooks through their phone bill.
Joanna: Wow, okay. That's a big deal.
Tell us some more about 24symbols, because I think you mentioned it was a Spanish site. But is it Spanish language or is it everything?
Dan: It's a little bit of everything. They are based out of Spain — I think Madrid, but I'm not positive about that. But their largest market really is South America. They are aiming at Spanish language content, but they've also expanded recently into Germany and to the US. And so they were looking for all kinds of content. Nearly everywhere else in the world, English is very commonly spoken. So they wanted the English language content.
There are a lot of people who read in English, even though it's their second or third language.
That was also going with Tolino. One of the big things was they knew there's a ton of Germans who speak English. And so they wanted to have some English language content to be more competitive with KDP in Germany for those English readers.
Joanna: And talking about Tolino..
For people who don't know, Tolino …has it got a bigger market share now than Kindle in Germany? It's certainly 50%, isn't it?
Dan: It's really hard to say. I see varying reports that say yes, it's bigger. Last year, they're claiming to be about equal size. They do say that they are bigger in Germany and that central Europe area than Amazon at this point.
There's not a Tolino website, but it's an alliance of a whole bunch of German booksellers that have been traditional print sellers and have been in the market and will on end, forever.
So it’s been like if Barnes & Noble and Borders had got together, and Books-a-Million, and made a store instead of just competing on their own individual sites. One of those stores, they have the Tolino device, the Tolino is like their Kindle. But all those books, regardless of store, will work on that device and on the Tolino app.
Joanna: And this is the thing. I hadn't heard of 24symbols until I got an email from you about that and that's exciting. I'd heard of the Tolino, obviously.
But this is, to me, why the international side is important because Amazon doesn't own all the world. I think that people in America, particularly, consider this because they only see Kindle really, don’t they? Even the NOOK, we talked about NOOK and any of that.
Can you maybe talk about your opinion of this global shift and anything you see that's exciting?
Dan: We've really focused on international this last year.
You had Thad McIlroy on the show a few months ago, and I think Porter Anderson might have turned me on to his website and all of his blog posts. But he's a brilliant guy and really convinced me how much opportunity there is internationally, especially just for English language content.
I think translations will be important too, but just to get your books available everywhere is such a huge opportunity. We believe that those markets haven't taken off most other than the US and the UK.
Most of the other markets are under 10% for eBook adoption. However, we know that's going to change.
As with all new technology, convenience and speed and price always win, and eBooks are going to win on every count with that.
And so beforehand, not a lot of books cross the oceans, because it was very expensive logistically. Well now with eBooks, that's not the case. I think Amazon has about 11 branded stores for countries. Apple has 51 territories. Google Play has somewhere around that, like 51 or 52.
Kobo, of course, adopted the strategy years ago. So they're at like a 190 different countries or territories they deliver to. And so we're very excited about that. We're pursuing those markets and being there and having a solid foundation for when global markets really take off.
We think mobile is going to be the trigger for that.
People are reading more and more on their phones. The Wall Street Journal recently had a great article about that. Especially the case in foreign countries where they might not have internet access in the way we do, except for their phone or the extra income to go out and buy an eReading device just for reading.
Joanna: You know, I'm a total convert on this, and I'm just trying to get everybody else onboard. And I think I'm excited now, because it seems like people are getting on board with international.
And if we just wind back five years, I think the five-year thing, in five years’ time, people should be making…I mean, when you think about the population of the world, and like you said the growth in mobile, the growth in digital globally, we should be technically making more money from global sales than from US sales.
People should be going from making 90% of their income from Americans to making only maybe 10%, 15%. That's how it should look according to the global population. Do you agree with that?
Dan: I do. When I started doing the research, because I had a chance to speak at BEA and RWA about international markets, 2014 we sold about 69% of our books in the US and the rest was the rest of the world. Australia was our second biggest market, especially US romance does so well in Australia. Canada and UK were the second and third respectively.
This year, the numbers are just about the same. We're hoping to increase that. Certainly Barnes & Noble has pulled back a little bit from international. So we think there are reasons why it's staying stable right now.
I hear over and over from authors, they wish they'd been there in Kindle right when they really took off around 2010 to 2012. Right now, they have that chance to be there at the ground floor with international markets.
I think since Apple added iBooks as a default application to all the Apple devices, they have a billion reading devices out there, and they're the second biggest eBook distributor right now other than…
Joanna: I read on my iPhone. I have a Kindle that I read in bed, and then I read on my phone. Isn't it the most popular phone in China as well, I think?
Dan: Yes. It's done extremely well in China and that drove most of their growth last year.
Joanna: And I mean obviously, getting eBooks into China right now is difficult, but these things will only continue to open up. I think people forget. Like you said, authors going, “Oh I wish I was there in 2010.” But we haven't even started yet. I really feel that. I mean look at the crappy formats we still have. I mean, we’re nowhere, really, are we?
Dan: We’re not at all.
Joanna: We're in the cranky printing press days of eBooks.
Dan: And traditional media keeps talking about how it's kind of all stabled out. It's fine. It's fine. But it's not.
Print is losing market share to digital.
It's just really hard to measure the market right now, because of the ISBN problems. We're going to need new technologies and new people really wanting to answer the question of how big the book market is right now.
Joanna: I totally agree with you. And okay, so a couple of things that you said there, you mentioned the subscriptions.
I wanted to ask you about Oyster because you distribute to Oyster which has been bought by Google Books. So what do you think is happening with Google and what's happening with Oyster?
Dan: Google is so interesting. We've been talking about them a long time. One of the big holdups to working with Google has been they've tried to compete on price with Amazon, and so they have a discounting policy which is just something we couldn't make work with Amazon's policy. So it would just be a nightmare for authors.
We had a great relationship with Oyster staff. They have told us they're going to go in to Google and talk to them about it. We hope they will champion the cause for indie authors, because right now Google is still closed, the Google Plus Store, to new accounts and new authors. We have a very, very robust rights audit and quality audit. We've automated with algorithms to make sure we're getting our eyes on every book that we need to and making sure books that don't have issues are going through fairly quickly.
We think we'd be great to work with Google Play. We can solve some of the problems they have with…they had some issues with piracy I believe was why they closed.
Joanna: It's the one store that I haven't done, because of all of those reasons. And I did try going direct, like a year or so ago, and it was really hard. Their backend was just ridiculous.
Dan: Yes. That's what I hear.
Joanna: It just became like, “Oh dear, I can't do this.” So yeah, I think everyone's holding out. When you think about the phones again, thinking about how the phones will work, Apple obviously has the phone. I mean, it's interesting with Kobo, because I have actually sold books in 68 countries through Kobo which I love. I mean that's awesome, really. And those are mobile. I mean most of these are mobile, many of these Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, South America. So they're obviously an app on a phone. But Kobo don't have their own phone, whereas Apple have their own phone and Google have their own phone.
And what do you think about Facebook?
Because Facebook's going to have their own phones. They're going to have their own browser. They've just kind of expanded their Notes feature. Do you think Facebook will do publishing?
Dan: They could and they could be so competitive. They're working right now at the new space. I wouldn't be surprised to see them do something with it. You just never know. And they have so much data on what people like already. They could be a very game-changing platform.
Joanna: … especially with Zuckerberg's year of books and paying attention to books. He's obviously a ready, geeky guy and his company is full of people who read. So I think that will be really interesting.
Let's talk about NOOK.
NOOK upsets me, because when they pulled out of international sales and actually because I'm still having problems with NOOK formatting, NOOK Press is terrible. I always recommend people to use Draft2Digital or Smashwords to get to NOOK. And then they pulled out of international sales. And that, to me, is a big deal. It's very hard to even buy a NOOK in England, and the UK is the only other market other than the US now. They pulled out of everywhere else.
What is your personal opinion, obviously not the company opinion, of what's going on with NOOK?
Dan: You know, we've heard and we've seen the numbers that digital sales are going down at NOOK. As a company through, we've actually grown. We think part of it is the new agency pricing and all the Big Five raising their prices so much. Any authors there are still very competitive of price. I'm sad that they moved out of the international markets, but they kind of renewed focus on the markets where they're still strong.
All their international market stuff, they had never really dedicated the resources I think they needed to it. So it wasn't that big of a loss anyway. They had worked really hard in the US and UK. So we'll see.
They went through that period where they were trying to spin off the NOOK division and sell it to another company. They decided not to do that, and so we're seeing a little bit more renewed focus. There's a big difference between if you think your company's about to be sold off and what you're doing and what you're doing when you're really focusing on growing towards the future.
It used to be their merchandisers really didn't work with the authors or work with the ad creators selling indie. And they've changed that, and we found their merchandising is very, very powerful, I think, because their readership was so used to having a kind of curated space in the Barnes & Noble where there's the staff picks. They liked that. And so we've had several NOOK daily deals hit first in the US or our Free Fridays. When we get books in the Free Fridays, anywhere between 10,000 and 25,000 downloads, it was a really, really good buy through rate to the rest of the series, if it's part of a series.
I think we're going to see NOOK continue to evolve, and I hope that they're still around, because they're such a great player. But you just never know. I mean, the whole industry's changing so rapidly.
Joanna: It's interesting isn't it? Kobo's owned by a Japanese company, Rakuten, but part of me thinks it will come out of left field next. I mean it won't be Google. It will be Facebook or it will be Alibaba or it will be, you know, something that will challenge. It has to be a big player.
That's what's interesting, I think, because of all these smaller players. They can probably dominate. Like the Tolino dominates in Germany. Do they dominate in Switzerland and Austria, for example, other German-speaking territories?
Dan: I think they do, but I'm not positive about that.
Joanna: But they're not going to take over the rest of the world.
So the question is, to me, is really, are we going to see these big companies that would take over lots or will we see a breakdown into companies, country-specific readers?
Dan: I don't know and it'll be interesting to see how social media changes and the rise of messaging apps. Didn't you do something on Viber with Kobo?
Joanna: Yeah, I did.
Dan: Is that coming out?
Dan: That's really interesting to me. WeChat is such a huge thing in parts of the world. Who knows how it's going to affect the book publishing industry. I think that's the great thing about being an indie author is you have the chance to be nimble and to experiment, and try new things.
And we see the traditional publishing is learning from what indie authors are succeeding at.
Joanna: Exactly. And what I like with what you're doing with the 24symbols thing, it was, “Do you want to opt in all your books?” And it's like, “Well, why not?” I always just feel like I'm not losing anything. And if I don't have to spend any more time on it, then why wouldn't I? But I think the question that many authors have, and I mean I do around some of these, you know, I have good traction at Kobo and decent traction at iBooks, but my NOOK sales are terrible.
What are you seeing amongst the top-selling authors on these other platforms other than Amazon? How are people getting traction and making some decent money?
Dan: I think part of it is just making sure you're talking about the other platforms. I see a lot authors that look like their personal website just has Amazon links. All of their social media is links to their Amazon, like their author profile in Amazon. So it's a matter of time, and you know it’s going to take more than six months to really take off, because it's effectively like starting over as an author, because that readership hasn't heard of you. And within each kind of branding, seeing your name over and over is going to make them more comfortable with it to the point they're going to buy.
We've done a lot of work with merchandising. We're trying to help authors get that traction wherever we can. I tell people, if you're a brand new author, write in series, at first. You're just going to make it so much easier on yourself. Try to get to the point where you've got three books out, because there's a ton of readers that won't buy until you have about three books out, and then go free first in series with the first one. That will help tremendously. And all the authors I see doing that are selling so many more books than the people who aren't.
We ran our numbers and series' with a free first in series were selling three times as much revenue as series that did not.
We're seeing our most successful authors are all using no asset pre-orders.
They're sending out pre-orders way in advance so that when a reader finishes their book, there's already another one in line for them to buy. And so right at the moment where they're the most fond of you, you can take advantage of that, because discoverability is a huge issue. But it's not just finding new readers. It's maintaining the readers that you've already got, because there's so many things competing for their time and attention. So we're big fans. We do no asset pre-orders at iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Tolino now.
Joanna: Oh okay, so Tolino as well. That's really interesting. And it's funny that I still…and I totally get it, because Mark said the same thing and I really get the pre-order thing.
Part of me really struggles with committing to that date. But with Apple, you can change the date, can't you?
Dan: Yeah. With all of our distributors, they do not mind pushing the date out. Yeah. You can go forward or back. You have to give them about 10 days for review and to process the content. But none of them mind; if you say you set a release date in December 20th. You can push it back to January 20th. If you keep doing that, after a while, readers will complain. But no, it's something… it's not punitive. I know Amazon, if you miss a release date, they don't allow you to do it again for a while. None of the other vendors feel that way.
Joanna: I want to just come back on the technical question on some of your cool features. So you've got this automatic back matter which actually sounds amazing, as in you generate this back matter, so when people have a new book they can just add it in and you add it into every other book, which is just fantastic, because once you have a number of books, it is a pain in the ass to update everything.
Dan: It really is.
Joanna: So you have that.
And then you have this new email list for authors. I wanted to ask about that, because the questions people are emailing me about your feature is if the author later on decides that they want their own email list, can they export those readers or is it just held within Draft2Digital?
Dan: Right now, it's held within. We are working at expanding that out. We would like to make it much more robust. We're trying to figure out the legal part of it, because there's a certain number of legal constraints and they vary internationally. But we think we can do something like what MailChimp and Aweber do to allow you to move on to another service. So we are working on that.
Right now, we made it where it's like Amazon's subscribe to author feature, where it's just kind of a very basic, “We'll let you know when a new book comes out.” But we do send out the email every time we release a new book under that author name. We would like to make it a much more robust platform to maybe be an email replacement for spending money on those companies. We see some authors that just use them for their free services, but then, they're constantly having to prune that list to stay under 2,000 or 5,000. I'm not quite sure what the amount was. And we also see a lot of authors who just don't even do an email list.
It's such an important part and just getting that part of letting people know when a new release, we thought, would help sales tremendously. So we want to make sure to have that.
I was talking about Aaron Pogue our COO. He's one of those authors that just because of time has never set up an email list. And so this was A-grade feature for him.
And I'm surprised by the number of very successful authors that still don't have an email list. It adds another layer of anonymity for authors to write steamy romance and don't necessarily want their friends and family knowing, because every email list has to be tied to a physical address. So now it goes to our corporate address. So we have people who use us for that reason.
Joanna: I have two brands that are kind of public, but there are some things that I think about doing and I actually have some friends of mine who've published and haven't wanted an email list because of that reason. They don't actually want to interact with readers either. So if there’s just a way to push notification, that's actually brilliant. And there are, of course, authors who may only have one or two books and publish slower. And like you say, the monthly amount of money that you will pay to keep the email list might not make it worth it. So I think that's a great feature.
Are there any other cool features that you've got at the moment?
Dan: I think we're going to keep building out those. The end-matter stuff has been huge and making it a single button to update. And we send those store-tailored links, so if someone buys your book at Barnes & Noble, they're going to have a list at the back of the book with Barnes & Noble links. We think that will be huge, and for the most part, we're seeing a lot of people opt in to that.
Joanna: If we already have books, say like I've got books going through you, do I republish the EPUB without the back matter so that you can add the back matter?
Dan: Right. You will take it out of your version, and then click on the enable option that we have for us to generate your also buy page. And then it would go kind of into the whole system where we would handle all that for you.
Joanna: That's so cool, because when I rebranded earlier this year, a couple of titles, that's just been a nightmare and I still haven't updated everything. And of course, I've got Risen Gods coming out next week and now I have to go all of those books that I have to update, and of course, the more and more books you write, the worse this problem becomes. And I know some listeners will be like, “Well I'm only writing my first book,” but a lot of these problems come I guess when you're more mature in the market. So it's very cool and it's great that you're trying to fix the problems that we have.
Of course, another problem we have is the getting free books to advanced readers. Any chance you're working on that?
Dan: We are. We've been working on that for a long time. There's a couple of different ways we talked about doing it. And so I don't have details to offer yet, but we would love to do it, because that's a huge feature.
Joanna: And what about direct sales? That would be the other one.
Dan: We have talked about that too. We kind of feel, with direct sales, that with the way the market is right now, you might be hurting yourself at the retailers by going with direct sales. But we see that might change. A lot of different services are out there that are making it easier and easier to sell…the European VAT tax, but a lot of these services are taking care of that for you too.
Joanna: Yeah, and of course, we must say now, it's not just the European VAT tax.
All the other countries saw how good it was, and everyone is adopting it, right? Japan, Australia. There's a whole load of them just going, “Oh yeah. We could take that money as well.”
Joanna: The Europeans started it, but now it's everywhere. I agree with you, the direct sales is one of these things. I think people were considering that as a financial extra but also a protection extra, and also there are interestingly some readers who are protesting against some of these bigger platforms and want to buy direct from the author. Small percentage, but it's quite interesting. I've had those emails. It's like, “I don't want to give my money to XX big company.”
Joanna: Anyway, that's quite interesting. So what other questions did I have for you? Oh I wanted to ask about genres, because you mentioned in Australia, the US romance, for example, sells really well.
We all know that romance represents a big part of the market, but are you seeing any other particular things, like 24symbols, for example, are you seeing within different countries, are there different preferences?
Dan: I would say with the German market, we sell a lot more romance too. The UK market, the US romance doesn't tend to do as well at. Mysteries and thrillers have been pretty consistently the second for us in the different markets. Sci-fi seems to be fairly universal, like it's always pretty high on our list of outliers. There are things that don't go well, like certain types of historical romance. If it's set in England, then it does well in the UK. But if it's like a civil war historical romance, it doesn't do very well anywhere else outside the US. I imagine there's a lot of international content that's the same way where it's just a little bit too specific to one market.
Joanna: Actually, I have another point on this. I think that the other thing I want is different covers per country.
Dan: Yes. Now we want that too and then none of the retailers make it easy without making it an entirely different book. So you lose all of your reviews. That would be huge, because there are differences. The UK market favors more conservative covers than the US market.
Joanna: That's why the US romance doesn't sell. It's because the covers are so American.
Dan: Yes. Yes. It's like we're putting the flag and eagles all over something almost, because it just screams to UK readers, “This isn't for me.” And so we would love to be able to do that.
Joanna: Even if I was traveling in India and Asia, they use a lot brighter colors in Asia on covers than they do in Britain. In Britain, we're quite muted in terms of…
Dan: And on pastels, right?
Joanna: Yeah, very arty.
Dan: What I would call like a cozy mystery type cover is working on different genres there.
Joanna: Yes, whereas you go to India, it's got to be bright. You got to stand out. So I really want those different covers.
In fact, I would probably use different covers in America and the UK. I think it would make a big difference, so I'm glad you're all on that too, because obviously publishers do this right now, because they publish in territories, and they always have a different cover don't they? Always.
Dan: They do, but a lot of times, they're selling the rights to another publisher that is from that market. And so that publisher's taking what they know about that market. That's what I'm excited about to see for the future is authors talking more about to the other markets and saying, “This is what works in England,” like really thinking about it. We've seen BookBub expand into the UK, Canada, India just recently. When people really start thinking about…I think a lot of authors just think about the US sales.
Joanna: That’s where most people make their money, so they're like, “Why should I worry about my $10 in all the other stores?”
A question on pricing, because I always advise people to price locally, but many people find it very confusing. And of course at Draft2Digital you get the choice.
Dan: I've joined Mark LeFebvre in preaching set your territorial prices everywhere you can. You want to have a price that ends in 49 or 99 for most currencies, because the psychology of it is just so powerful. It really does help sell more books. And if you have something that comes up to be like a weird price like £2.62, that's weird to people. It's off-putting, and so they don't buy a thing. So we allow the territorial pricing. Kobo makes it easy. Amazon makes it easy. iBooks makes it easy. So we tell people to set territorial prices.
We've talked about maybe making that easier and letting people opt-in for us to round up or down, depending on the market to one of those nicer prices. iTunes already does this with their tiers. So they kind of force you into it, and sometimes people don't even notice. But we've thought about doing that. But we've also made it really easy for authors to make sure that their pricing matches up with their Amazon pricing, so they don't get the nasty emails from Amazon.
Joanna: The emails. Yeah, it's funny isn’t it? There's all these little things you have to do. I'm always preaching that too. And also, it's not that hard. I mean I would like that button that says, “Yes, we will round it up or down, whatever is the closest.” But if people do it, you mean if you type in 4.99 US, you default what the exact exchange rate is, and then all you have to do is go in and change a few digits.
I don't want people to be scared thinking that they have to come up with a number because they don't, do they? They literally, they will see the number. Maybe it says US$4.99 might come up as £3.48, and you just round that up to fact.
And the other thing, in Britain, for example, is don't do a £3.48. You would make that a £2.99. You would actually round that one down, because people here won't pay 3.99.
Dan: What I would most love to do is give a suggested price.
So like looking at the bestsellers in your genre and maybe looking at your also boughts, show people a price that we would suggest for that currency. Because there are some currencies like Mexican currency, it's very different numbers. The yen is very different. Who knows if they're setting the right price. And so I would like to be able to suggest those prices to people, and for markets like the UK, where pricing is more competitive, to recommend a lower price.
Joanna: And then Australia, for example, you can price higher.
Dan: Exactly. And I think that'd be awesome and that's something I keep pushing for, and our developers just look at me and kind of groan because I've got so many ideas.
Joanna: No, that really is a good one. And I know what you mean. Like I have some idea because I've traveled in a lot of these places, and like India, for example, you can get a pristine paperback for like 120 rupees. So I mean, who's going to pay 190 rupees for an eBook? So this is the thing. It does become quite difficult even with the exchange rate. You don't want to pay the exact exchange rate in some of these countries. Interesting, I'd love that. That sounds like a great tool.
Dan: You’ve always seen Amazon do that with their move into India with KU. They're not charging the same thing that they're charging in western countries.
It's just knowing the market and there's so many markets to know now. We, as a company, have to help authors do that better.
Joanna: Yeah, and that's fantastic. You've been great telling us loads of things and we're excited about this, aren't we? Lots of things to get excited about.
Do you see anything else coming in the next year, like what should indies be looking for or excited about or focusing on apart from the international sales stuff?
Dan: It's kind of tied in, but the global word that we keep throwing out, “globile,” – global and mobile.
I think that'll just continue. That is international sales. I think people are going to start talking more about discoverability and how to tackle that, because there are more and more books being published and there are a lot of people that just want to slow things down and it's never going to slow down.
So it's a matter of how do we make ourselves more discoverable, how to we get our metadata right. I think we're going to see a lot more authors talking about that and conferences focusing on that.
Joanna: That's great. And of course, I talked about that with Thad McIlroy about the fact that the metadata is the blooming book. It is, and if we have better AI around emotional resonance in books, I mean, nonfiction is easy, but around fiction.
If we understood more about the metadata of the actual language in the whole book, there should be a smart way of doing metadata. I shouldn't have to come up with seven keywords. You know what I mean?
Dan: Yes. And yes, so much discoverability is driven by just sales patterns. Also boughts are only driven by what a lot of readers buy that they also buy with this book. We've got all this technology.
Google is working on their machine learning. We're getting closer and closer to being able to recommend things, to what's selling and what's not selling, you have bestseller lists.
Kobo released their list of some of the data they had from different countries, and it was shocking. Some of the biggest hits last year were read to completion by very, very few people that bought them.
I would love to see more things like national language processing to tell you that these books are very similar.
And there are companies that are working on that and tackling that. I think we're going to get better and better search recommendation. Netflix is doing that at the video level and constantly improving their algorithms. I'd be shocked if the other companies like Apple and Amazon weren't doing something similar.
Joanna: I think that should be encouraging to people, like actually technology, as we've seen in the last five years, technology has enabled authors like me and many others to make a living.
And in the next five years, we're going to see all this explosion with technology that will help us even more.
Yes, it will always be competitive, but as long as you're not being scared of it, I think that's a thing too isn't it? You've got to jump in and give it a go and just see what happens.
Dan: Exactly. Two or three years ago, I think most authors just saw Facebook as not a very good way to advertise. But now authors are starting to realize how powerful it can be. You know Mark Dawson's course has taught a lot of authors the way in which to use Facebook and not just experimenting with new things.
People are starting to experiment with Wattpad to help them find new readers and younger audiences, just being open to change and trying different things. Don't try to be everywhere, because there's way too many platforms out there.
But try to find the platforms where your target reader is. And you're probably going to like it, because those are the people that are getting excited about you.
Joanna: Yeah, fantastic. Well, where can people find Draft2Digital online?
Dan: Our website is www.Draft2Digital.com. We have the same, our Twitter is @Draft2Digital. You can find me, and I mostly Tweet about industry-related news @DanWoodOk.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Dan. That was great.
Dan: Well, thank you very much for having me. I've listened to your show for a very long time. I've learned so much from it. I think you provide a great service to authors.
Joanna and Dan, Thanks so much for this interview. The topic of the possibilities of global expansion have come up more that once on The Creative Penn Podcast, and that’s got me asking this question: Do you think there’s anything indie authors can do to be well-prepared for what we hope will be increased reach for our books?
Thanks for any thoughts you have.
Joanna Penn says
I think mainly just being on the platforms once they emerge. For example, D2D distributes to Tolino, a platform that many authors ignore, yet has around 50% of the German market, and many of those readers read in English.
Also, having mobile optimized websites so that people who find your free books and want to sign up can do so easily on mobile, which will increasingly become the way people sign up for things.
Joanna, when did you last look at going direct with Nook? I only ask because I’ve started going direct recently and found that the interface is so much easier than last year (when I previously tried) and they also do some interesting promotional tools. Things like Nook First and direct promotional tools (a little like the beta promo tools on Kobo) are all accessible when you go direct.
I’ve seen some double-figure sales days since going direct, which sounds like very small potatoes, but is pretty good for me bearing in mind I haven’t iterated my business yet.
Might be worth trying with Risen Gods since it’s not a continuation of a series?
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Anthony, but I am really happy with using D2D now and they have contacts with NOOK for merchandising. I’m glad the interface is easier to use now – thanks for telling me!
David King says
Now that Nook are pulling out of the UK, for a UK author, is it worthwhile doing anything with Nook now? Although D2D do still distribute to Nook, of course.
Joanna Penn says
I’d just opt in via D2D but I wouldn’t push anything specific. My NOOK income has dropped a lot from the US. Focus on growing iBooks and Kobo as well as Amazon.
Aleshia Robinson says
I just want to say I LOVE how you keep me in the loop with all things publishing at the beginning of your show. I often don’t have time to read up on the happenings of the publishing world but your Twitter feed and podcast intro always keeps me up to date. Thank you so much!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Aleshia – glad you enjoy it 🙂
A.J Sendall says
Thanks for another great and informative podcast. I’d been considering D2D for a while, and after listening to your discusion with Dan, I jumped in.
I’ve put two books up so far, and am really impressed with the ease and speed of their system. Having simple access to Tolino and 24Symbols is a real plus.
Thanks again, and keep up the great work.
Hi Joanna. Fabulous interview with Dan Wood. I agree pricing could be an issue. I’m glad you brought up the issue of pricing in India. Paperbacks cost here anywhere between 120-250 rupees ($1.99-$3.99). I have noticed that traditional publishers price e-books around 60 rupees ($0.99). My e-book prices in the Indian market is between 60-75 rupees ($0.99-$1.49). 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Prasenjeet, I need to go change my Indian pricing. I’ve been pricing at 100 rupees. Thanks 🙂
David King says
I think LibreOffice Writer is far easier to use than MS Word, and it’s free and quite powerful. It saves files in .odt format by default. It would be great if Draft2Digital (and other such places) would accept .odt files as well as Word files for conversion to ebooks.