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Indie authors are a lot like tech start-ups, bootstrapping and pivoting and trying new things. In today's show, I go full-on geek with Damon Courtney as we discuss how mobile reading impacts publishing, piracy, direct sales and much more.
In the intro I mention the rise of augmented reality with Pokemon Go, Daemon by Daniel Suarez if you like technothrillers, and Scrivener is being released for the iPad and iPhone on 20 July.
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
Damon Courtney is a fantasy author, programmer, entrepreneur and the founder of the fantastic (and really useful) BookFunnel.com.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- On Damon's background as a programmer.
- The link between the software development world and the indie author space, and why indie authors are like tech start-ups.
- Why Damon created BookFunnel and how it works for readers and for authors.
- Should authors be concerned about the piracy of their books or is obscurity a bigger concern?
- How BookFunnel is helping authors share Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) while avoiding piracy.
- How the BookFunnel dashboard tracks the stats for an author about the types of files being downloaded.
- The global reach of ebooks and how mobile phones are changing the world of reading.
- The possible future of direct sales and audio downloads with BookFunnel.
- Damon's predictions for the indie author world, and tech world.
You can find Damon at www.BookFunnel.com and also at www.DamonJCourtney.com
Transcript of Interview with Damon Courtney
Joanna: Hi everyone, I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com, and today, I'm here with Damon Courtney. Hey, Damon!
Damon: Hey, Joanna. How are you?
Joanna: I am good. Great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Damon is a fantasy author and he's also the founder of the fantastic BookFunnel.com, which we are talking about today.
Damon, just start off by telling us a bit more about you and your writing and your business background.
Damon: I'm a software developer by trade. That's what I've done my whole life. I mean, literally, my whole life. Since I was seven years old, I've been programming on computers. That has been my career. And then with the Kindle and self-publishing boom that began back in 2009 or '10 or so, I realized my dream of wanting to be a writer, which I didn't actually know was a dream until I read a self-published book.
I got to the back and the author's note in the back was basically just like, “Thanks for reading.” It mentioned that he publishes it himself and I remember reading that and going, “Wait a minute, you can just write a book and put it out there?” I'd always loved the idea of telling stories. I've been a fantasy reader my whole life, but the idea of going through the traditional system and all that, I was just like, “I would just love to write stories and put them out there.” That sort of started that journey.
I have three books published in a trilogy, which took me about four years to get all three of them done. The last one was published the November before last. BookFunnel was an idea that I've had for a couple of years and had sort of backburnered, because if I had allowed myself to think about it or work on it, I never would have finished the books. I serve those two muses of programming and writing, but only one can be in my headspace at a time because it will shove everything else out of the way. As soon as I finished the trilogy, then I started working in earnest on BookFunnel.
Joanna: Fantastic. I was going to ask you about this, before we get into BookFunnel.
What similarities do you see between the tech world — the software development world — and the indie space?
Damon: I think that they're linked completely. The ebooks and the whole indie revolution really wouldn't have existed without the Kindle, and the Kindle is all about technology. Before that, print books are lovely. I've read them my whole life and I have nothing against them, but there was no way that the indie explosion was ever going to happen if we all had to go out and do a print run of a thousand books and they try to hand sell them out of the back of a car.
Technology has completely enabled the indie publishing revolution. More than that, as we continue to move forward, mobile is what is driving the future of not just indie publishing, but indie music. I don't think it's long before it's not just indie anymore, it's not indie music, it's just music. It's how music will be produced. It's how books will be published.
There will always be traditional publishers, but I think the line is going to get blurred a lot as we move forward. Especially as I think about my nieces who are teenagers, when they grow up. If I send them a book, they have no idea who published it. They don't care. They just care, is it a fun book to read and do they enjoy it?
I think that they're intimately linked, because we really can't have indie publishing without all the technology which has enabled it.
Joanna: What about the indie author as start-up? Obviously you know a lot about tech start-ups and how you have to be an entrepreneur.
What do you see as the similarities or how indies can be more like tech start-ups?
Damon: I think the beauty of being an indie author likes sometimes being a start-up, it depends on the kind of start-up you're trying to do. A start-up like BookFunnel is something that I was able to do, just me. And then eventually, my wife jumped in and the two of us were doing it together. It was the kind of thing that I could start, just me.
That's the beauty of indie publishing is it is just you. Eventually, you will grow to the point where you have that team of people. You have the editors. You have the cover designers. You have people that you work with, and so even though you are the master of your domain, you kind of have — on a contract basis — but you have a company around you.
I love that, because I love the idea that you can start very, very small. We all know — and I know you've talked about it on your show and others have talked about it on other shows — you still need to have some start-up seed money, a little bit of capital, because you probably do need an editor, maybe even a developmental editor when you're first starting out, because I know I did. I'd never written anything. I sent my first book to my editor along with a note that just said, “I just need you to tell me if this is crap or not.” I had no idea.
I've read fantasy stories my whole life, but I can't judge my own work. I can't tell if this is good or not. It turns out, it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. It needed some work. I had to buy a cover, and that was a few hundred dollars. In fantasy, you can't do a photo manipulation cover, you need hand-drawn illustration. You do have to have a little bit of that start-up money to get off the ground. The beauty is it's not nearly as much as the millions that some start-up companies need to get off the ground.
Joanna: Absolutely right. I think the need to think about being an entrepreneur and actually getting into doing things for marketing purposes;
You have to be the creator, the maker, and the manager. I think that was that Y Combinator guy came up with that.
Damon: It is. That's why being an indie publisher, it is like being an entrepreneur. Gone are the days where you can just say “Hey, I wrote a book everybody, come get it.” That doesn't work.
It's never worked in start-ups. Facebook didn't just say, “And we built this site, and somebody can come look at it if you want to.” They had to aggressively push themselves out.
BookBub, who is the crown jewel of marketing for indie publishers right now, spent millions of dollars to build the list of readers that they had before they could turn it around and start making money off of it. It does take time and it takes effort. It does take thinking like an entrepreneur, not just, “I want to write books and that sounds like fun.”
If you just want to write, that's great. You can certainly publish that way. You can just write them and not edit them, and make a little cover in Microsoft Paint and you can put them out there. As long as you don't care about selling books, that's fantastic. You're going to have a good old time. If you want to sell books, you've got to think like a marketer, like an entrepreneur.
On that topic, what is BookFunnel? Why did you start it?
Damon: I had the idea a couple of years ago and it basically came from the whole first and free series is a really effective marketing technique. People have never heard of you as an author, so they're looking at your name next to the names of people they know. They're saying, “Why do I want to try this guy?” My proposition was, “Here, I'll give you the first one free.” I can make it perma free on all the different stores, we all know how to do that, but I also wanted to be able to give it away to people.
I wanted to be able to send a copy to my mom and say, “Hey, Mom. Here's the book I wrote.” There really wasn't a way to do that. Not for anybody who was technically challenged. That was the biggest problem; how do you get a free book to somebody who doesn't already know what they're doing?
I'm a tech guy. Send me a mobi file and I'll get it to my reader, no problem, but that's not most of the world. If I wanted to be able to reach the rest of the world, I had to have a way to do it.
I started off, probably like a lot of other authors, “Well, here's a page on my website. It has a mobi and it an epub. Here's some instructions. If you're on an iPad, here's how you do it. If you're on a Kindle, here's how you do it.” The software side of my brain just said, that's not good enough, that's not good enough.
People are going to be confused, they're not going to get through that process. It's just not good enough. So I built BookFunnel, because I needed something that was better. There really wasn't anything out there that I could find that did what I needed it to do, which is deliver books.
Joanna: Yes. To be clear, somebody wants to give a book away for free, but not by setting it for free on Amazon or Kobo.
Talk us through the process of how it works on BookFunnel.
Damon: You upload your book through BookFunnel, just like you would through on any store. If you upload your book to Amazon, Kobo, you upload it to us.
Joanna: It's a really easy interface. It's just like, “Click here and find your file and upload it. Add the name,” and stuff. It's not complicated.
Damon: I like to think so. In my day job as a software developer, one of my big concerns is user experience and user interface. I try really hard to build on that. I do try to make it easy for readers and for authors.
We get emails all the time from people who do need a little bit of help, and it always just feels like, as indie authors, there's always something new to learn. Every single day, it's like, “Oh hey, and here's this new thing. Go learn that.” That is really, really hard, so I wanted ours to be at least as simple as it could possibly be.
You create a link to that book, and then share that link wherever you want so that readers can get your book. For some people, that is literally, “On my website, here. Click here and you can go get my book.”
Most of our authors are using it for building their mailing list, so they say, “You sign up for my mailing list. Hey, get a free book.” Once they're signed up and they're confirmed, they get an email that say, “Hi, welcome to my list. Click here to go download your free book.” And that “Click here” goes back to us. That's where we step in, and depending on the kind of device you have, you are given instructions to help you get it to your particular device.
If you come in from your iPad, you're going to see something different than somebody who comes in from their PC or on their Kindle Fire. We'll just walk you through the steps. The biggest thing is if they can't walk through the steps, which is always going to be some percentage of the population, our support team will step in and help. They're pretty awesome at it. We've tested all of these devices. We know everything there is to know about these devices. There rarely is a case where there's one that we don't know how to get a book to it.
Joanna: Yeah, and that person who's still got a Microsoft PC from 10 years ago with Windows XP.
Damon: We do.
Joanna: With Internet Explorer. There are still people who have that.
Damon: There are, and you'd be surprised. They're usually looking for a PDF.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly.
Joanna: We support that. We require an epub and a mobi so that we can reach as many readers as possible. The PDF is optional. Some authors don't want to give it. For sure, if you want to reach the widest number of readers, then offering a PDF for the really technically challenged is probably your best bet. Most of them know what a PDF is and how to read it. They've already got the software on their computer to get it opened and read it.
Joanna: If people aren't getting this still, because the reason I'm such a fan and why you have a growing number of raving fans about BookFunnel is the problem that you've solved for authors.
The problem you have solved for me is everyday getting emails that say, “Thank you for your free book that I've just signed up for, but I don't know how to get it on my device.” It was probably five or more emails a day of technical discussion over getting devices, getting files to devices.
This might not sound like a big deal to people who might be just starting out, but if anyone is building a list, as you say, if you're building Facebook advertising to build a list or if you're just on your website, you have a free download. This is the way to essentially bypass tech pain, which is why I'm such a raving fan.
I presume that's the reason most people are using BookFunnel.
Damon: Yes. The big thing that we offer is — somebody even said it, we were talking to him recently — that not only do we handle that headache, we will continue to handle that headache going forward. Every time a new device comes out, every time something new, something changes, that's our job to figure out what has changed and figure out the new way to get the book to them.
I've seen other people's instructions. People have said, before BookFunnel came along, I kind of looked around at what everybody was doing. I thought surely somebody had solved this problem. I kept looking for somebody who had solved it and I kept coming up empty.
Most of them were, “Here's a zip file, with a mobi and an epub. Here's a read-me PDF file, which sort of gives instructions.” Most of them pretty much relied on the fact that you were probably on a Kindle, which I will say that in our download statistics, which we have reams of data, about 70% of our downloads goes through mobi files. On a Kindle app, or a Kindle e-reader, or a Kindle Fire, some sort of Kindle reader. But that other 30%, yeah, if you've never dealt with those devices, you might not have any clue of how to get a book to them.
That's what we do. We take on that tech support and we give them the instructions. When they can't get through it, and some people can't, then our support team will walk them through it, step by step, and make sure that they get their book.
Joanna: You guys are great, because I've sent you the really difficult people who really need a lot of help. In the end, you're just like, what is the point? How are they reading ebooks in general?
Also we haven't use the term yet, but the phrase sideloading is the problem. That's the word that people have used for the problem. Of course, some people might be saying, “Well, I'll just give away my book for free on Amazon.” The point is you don't get people's email if you do that. This is a way to get people's email and then give them a free book. That first in series, as you said.
I did want to ask you, since you started, is instaFreebie the only competitor that's arrived since you started?
Damon: They were around before we were. Somebody posted about them on KBoards while I was still building BookFunnel. I had never heard of them. I clicked through and saw what they were doing. I would say that they're the closest thing to a competitor that we have.
They take a very different method, but the idea is basically the same. Here's a free book and we'll deliver it for you. We'll handle the support if you need help.
Joanna: What is the difference?
Damon: Their biggest difference is email. You have to give them an email address upfront, and then once you give them the email, whether you're signing up for the list or not is optional, but once you give them the email, they email you the file that you've asked for, either the mobi, the epub, whatever it is that you want.
Now you have a book sitting in your email, in your inbox, and then they send you back to a help article that says, “If you have trouble downloading this, just click over here and read.” They do have support. Their support team, I'm sure, is very good at helping in the same way that our team is.
We take a different tact. For us, email is always an option. Emailing the book to yourself is always an option, but there are many, many better ways to get your book to most of the devices that we have. We would rather not do that.
There's always a U.S.B cable too. When I was building BookFunnel, to me, that was the absolute last resort option. If we can't get it any other way, we'll walk you through how to plug in a U.S.B cable into your computer and get your book there. That's the worst of all options and we try to never ever get to that point, because there are better ways to get your book there. We just take a different method of getting your books there.
Joanna: I should ask a broader question, because many new authors in particular are still concerned about giving books away for free. Again, many new authors are worried, like you're sending them, potentially, a mobi file that someone could then use to upload to Amazon and basically plagiarize from you.
One, what evidence have you seen that free books still work; and two, do you have any concerns around piracy?
Damon: I, as an author, don't have a lot of concern about piracy, about people pirating my book. We all have seen now where an author's book is taken wholesale, re-published sometimes with a different cover, sometimes not even a different cover, and re-published to Amazon and sold. I don't know, that seems more a problem that Amazon is going to need to solve. I know that they have algorithms in place to try to detect similarities in books and stop that from happening. I don't think that's a problem that anyone can solve or that we can solve. That has to be solved from the bookstore level.
The thing is that even giving a free book on a site like ours is no different than them getting the book on Amazon. Be it free or even if they paid $2.99 for it. They can buy your book for $2 and turn around and do the same thing.
Once they've bought your book, they have the mobi file. They have the same file that they would have gotten if they've gotten it from us for free. The book that I give away for free is the first book of my series, and so I don't worry so much about piracy. I would just as soon as many people as can possible read that book. I'm more worried obscurity than piracy.
I think that becomes less of a concern as you grow and you have more books out there. A lot of first time authors are very concerned about their first book being pirated. I don't know a nice way to say, “No one's going to pirate your book.” You're a first time author. You should really be worrying about how am I going to get this book in front of people's faces? That's what you need to be mostly concerned about.
We have built features around those authors' concerns to try to help with that, in particular, with ARCs, even big authors have this problem. You're an author who has 30 books out. Here comes the seventh book in your long running series, and you have an ARC team. You want to give it to those people, and you don't want it to end up on a pirate site before you've even published it. That's the worst thing, that people can go get it and you haven't even published it to the bookstores yet. People can't even buy it. That is what authors really start getting concerned about.
Joanna: We should say that ARC is Advanced Reader Copy, in case people don't know. That is basically, as you say, it's kind of exactly the same deal. You upload the book to BookFunnel and you get a link. You send that link to your street team. Right?
Joanna: One of my questions was that you now have an email feature around Advanced Reader Copies? Talk a bit about that.
Damon: That came directly out of authors communicating with us about their concerns. Several authors have said, “The minute I send an ARC to my street team, it ends up on a torrent,” which really sucks. This is your street team. This is supposed to be a team of, hopefully, readers who really like your stuff and wouldn't pirate your books because that would do damage to your career.
And so what the certified mail feature that we built was when you're ready to send to your ARC team, you take your book and you give us the list of email addresses. We send each person on that list an individual link that is only good for them. Rather than a general purpose, “Here. Click here to download your book,” every reader gets a different link that's just for them. And if they share it, then someone else will download their copy and they won't be able to download their own copy. It's not in their best interest to share it. You won't get your copy.
Once those files are downloaded, we watermark the files with the reader's information so that we can trace where that book came from. We can't stop the book from ending up on a torrent. You can't stop the book from being shared in a Facebook group or something like that. At the very least, you can figure out who is sharing the books and boot them off your team, because that's just a really crappy thing to do.
Joanna: That's great. You're adding those type of features. I did wonder, you mentioned a bit about 70% going to the Kindle.
Have you seen any other changes? For example, what percentage on e-reading devices versus a mobile versus tablet, for example.
Damon: We have statistics on all of that. I don't know if you've gone and looked at your dashboard, but the…
Joanna: No, clearly.
Damon: Well, because a lot of authors really do sort of set it and forget it.
Joanna: I have.
Damon: They create their link and that's beautiful, and you can set up that auto responder sequence with your emails. Once you have a link from us, you just drop that link into an email and you really can just forget about it. Your books will just churn along and add people to your mailing list and then people get their books.
If you go back, if you look at your dashboard, we break all that stuff down. We actually tell you that of the people who've downloaded your book, what percentage have downloaded the mobi, the epub, or the PDF and then what percentage of devices that they're on.
I would say our biggest downloads come from iOS devices. iPhones and iPads probably make up more than 40% of the total downloads followed by generic Android devices, so Android phones, Android tablets. We don't break down those statistics in the dashboard, because it just starts to get a little unwieldly.
We know the difference between an Android phone and an Android tablet. And then, followed by Kindle Fires, really the kind of Kindle eReaders, Kobo e-readers, and things like that sort of trail at the end. You probably don't own an e-reader unless you're a pretty hardcore reader. All things being equal, that's still a pretty small portion of the global population. Whereas Android phones, iPhones, cheap Android tablets, they're permeating every part of the world.
I know you've talked about it before, but the $4-phone in India goes on sale this week.
Joanna: In India. Amazing.
Damon: That's huge. That's amazing. We see a lot more of those devices coming online more and more. The statistics, initially, we probably had more Kindles in the beginning, but as we have grown, I have seen the shift to a lot more Android devices. Now it's pretty much iOS, Android, and then the also-rans.
Joanna: That's interesting. What about country splits? Of course, as we said, India is probably coming online. I see from my website, it's really crazy like, 50 different countries in terms of traffic.
Do you see an international split or is it mainly U.S.?
Damon: We see mainly in the U.S. I think that's pretty common for a lot of U.S. authors. I don't have any demographics on where our authors come from. Other than a .co, .uk email address, I don't know you're in the U.K., unless somebody happens to mention it. I don't know where most of our authors are coming from.
I do know that in Mark Dawson's Facebook ads, generally most of them are pitching to U.S. readers. When you tighten up your Facebook audience, a lot of them are using U.S. and Canada to start with. Because they're using those and using Mark's course to build mailing lists, I think we see a disproportionate number of U.S. readers coming in to get the free books.
Joanna: Yeah, you're right. To be honest, if you're an author in India, you would be advertising and trying to build your list in America because your profit will be much higher than trying to sell in rupees. And it is from Britain, especially with the Brexit, which has just happened as we record this, the pound has dropped, so the more I can do is U.S. dollars, the better off I'll be, a silver lining to the dark cloud. The other question I had around that was NOOK.
Have we seen a drop in NOOK? Well, is anyone reading on NOOK now?
Damon: We actually saw a growth, a slight uptick in NOOK. We got emails from several readers who basically said, “Thank you for making this so easy. After Barnes & Noble pulled out of the U.K., I can't get books on my NOOK anymore.”
Authors suddenly had a way to get books, because Barnes & Noble had pulled out of the U.K. completely. You can't get ebooks onto your NOOK. There is no store for you to buy from anymore. The newer NOOKs that are like the Samsung Galaxy NOOKs, they call them, are really just a Samsung…
Joanna: Samsung device.
Damon: Yeah, it's just a Samsung Galaxy Tab with a NOOK app pre-installed. It's a little bit different than that, but that's basically all it is. For those people, they said, “Yeah, okay. I guess Barnes & Noble screwed me. I'll go download the Kindle app and start buying books over on Amazon or the Kobo app.” That's exactly what they did.
We did get emails from several U.K. NOOK readers who were just like, “Thank you,” because our process is pretty easy on even on those older NOOK tablets.
Several of those readers, they got screwed. Their older NOOK tablet now can't get books, but they can get them from us. Right now we don't do direct sales, we only do free books. We don't have a big library or anything that they can download from, but they were just happy that they can suddenly get books again.
Joanna: You mentioned it first, what about direct sales? That's something I asked you about last year. It is a big deal.
Any plans for doing sales or partnering with Draft2Digital or Smashwords, or something so that you could sell off their sites?
Damon: We're hoping to do that at the later part of this year and we are probably going to talk with other providers. I know you're using Selz and the other one that I've seen, a lot of people use Gumroad, which they're really big. They have their own platform for distribution, so I don't know that we would end up talking to them. Payhip is another one.
Our biggest thing is figuring out what kind of sales provider we want to be.
We would probably initially roll out to non-VAT countries, because it's just easier to not deal with that. I know Selz, you'd mentioned that — and I've seen it on their website — they just have a checkbox that says, “Don't sell to VAT countries, because you don't want to deal with that.”
The way that Selz handles it is “If you sell to VAT countries, we'll collect the VAT on your behalf, but then it's on you to go and pay your taxes.” Payhip says, “Yeah, we'll do all that for you.” They take care of all of the VAT and they pay it on your behalf and they do all that.
Ours is really figuring out what kind of sales provider we want to be. Whether or not we want to be that one-stop shop, which is a lot harder. It requires many lawyers and all kinds of stuff, but that ultimately might be worth it.
I think that our 1.0 is going to be non-VAT countries, because then, there really isn't an issue of collecting taxes. I think, honestly, the book delivery is the harder problem to solve than the actual just collecting of a payment and then sending them a file. I think we've already solved the bigger problem. Now it's just, figuring out the details of how we collect the money and then pay the authors.
Joanna: Absolutely. As I've said before, and just in case people didn't know. Selz, S-E-L-Z-dot-com, and yes, there is a checkbox. The reason I use it is because there's an exemption. If you're in the U.K., selling to the U.K., you're exempted.
Damon: Oh, really? Okay.
Joanna: Yeah, so I don't sell to other EU countries, although, in two years we might not also be an EU country.
Damon: Out of EU.
Joanna: Yeah, it is difficult. Although I think once something like VAT goes on, they're never going to take it off. Someone will take the money. Yes, that's how I'm doing direct sales at the moment.
The other question I had, today as we record this, which will be in the past as people listen, I'm now going to sell my audiobooks direct again. The issue with that, of course, is people will buy the MP3s. The MP3s will go onto their computer. They're going to have to then put it into their, whatever the app is that then they sync to their phone, probably.
The reason Audible is crushing it in audiobooks, because you just go to the thing and then it's on your phone. There is, again, the delivery problem with audio is exactly the same.
Have you considered audiobooks as well?
Damon: We have and we get that question every week. Every week, some author says, “Hey, do you guys do audiobooks?” The delivery of audiobooks is a different problem to solve, because they're so huge. You get a 10- hour audiobook and you're talking about hundreds of megabytes of data.
For most readers, what they really want is what Audible does, which is stream it one bit at a time. Or if I'm going to get on a plane, I want the option to say, “Yeah, go ahead and download the whole book, I'm going to be on a plane and I'm going to be offline.”
It's not an unsolvable problem, it's just very different than distributing an ebook that just might be one or two megabytes large. We run into people right now that tell us, “Well, I couldn't get the book. I don't have any space on my Android.” The book's only a megabyte. They can't, they really have that little space.
It's just a different kind of problem to solve, but it is one that we want to look at for later this year, along with a bunch of little smaller things and other features that we want to build on.
Joanna: I would agree. I also think that there's increasing disillusionment with ACX, with the royalties through Audible. A lot of people are like, “This is crazy.” It was a good deal, but now the sales have dropped. The revenue have dropped even if the sales volume hasn't.
So that's why I'm not going to sell these on ACX, it's just because I can't control the price. I also think, like I just bought a 164, whatever it is, the biggest iPhone, because my other iPhone, which I've had for a few years was fine two years ago. Now it just won't cope.
Obviously, these devices are getting bigger and bigger in terms of their storage. Presumably that size issue will change.
It's got to change in the next couple of years, hasn't it?
Damon: Yes. That's just it. The amount of data they can fit into a small space grows every year. If you can imagine, 128 gigabytes, which is the largest iPhone, they can now put that much memory in something the size of my thumbnail. That is just insane. To somebody who's been on computers their whole lives, that is just a crazy amount of data in a very, very tiny space. It's just like anything, it's one of those problems that technology may solve for us.
MP3s made it possible to carry music around in your pocket. MP3s made it possible to take a very, very large piece of music, and compress it down to a few megabytes. Without MP3s, that whole thing, without the technology of MP3 compression, none of that would have existed.
That was a problem that technology came along and everybody solved. That was software, which is always better, because software can solve a problem with an update. Whereas hardware requires entirely new devices and sometimes entirely new ways of thinking to solve the problem.
Joanna: I'm very excited. Some days, I just think… Like your BookFunnel, for example. Not that I'm saying you took so long, but how come it took it so long for there to be an answer to this problem? If you listen to your podcast and things from a couple of years ago, everyone's like, “Someone's going to do this. Someone's going do this.” Now you've done it and it's awesome.
I wondered, what is your opinion of some of the other things that are going to change in the next few years? What are you excited about?
What do you think is coming for indies or even just in the tech world, in general? Like I'm total VR-centric.
Damon: I think for, as far as publishing, the things that I'm most excited to see are we're seeing a lot of growth in other non-Amazon e-bookstores, which I think is great.
We all love Amazon. Amazon started the revolution and made it all possible, but having one company hold all the cards is not good for anybody but Amazon.
The same thing you're seeing now with Audible and ACX. There really is no other game in town. If you want to do audiobooks, you're going to sell them through Audible. You're going to publish them there and you're going to take whatever terms they tell you to take, or you're not going to be moving any audiobooks.
Watching Kobo, Kobo is continuing to grow, which is great, because Barnes & Noble is continuing to shrink. Unfortunately, for the longest time it looked like Barnes & Noble was the only one who can take on Amazon, and now, it pretty well looks like they're just throwing in the towel and giving up.
Apple, a few years ago was, an also-ran. And it was like, “Oh yeah, and you can get iBooks on your iPad and maybe you can go read a book over there, but you probably don't want to.” Now, Apple has grown. Apple has the money to compete with Amazon. I think competition's a great thing.
I would say the move to mobile everywhere is huge. The fact that people in the most far, remote villages can get an Android phone and be online, be on the Internet, is crazy. From a kid who used to dial-in on a little 300 baud modem, it's amazing.
My kids are in a world where the Internet is just all around them all the time. Even when we're driving in the car, their iPads are connected to my 4G iPhone's connection. We're driving along, and my daughter's like, “Dad, my iPad's not working.” I'm like, “Yeah, we're in the middle of nowhere. The network is not working right now.” She's like, “Well, can you fix it?” “No, I can't fix the cellular Internet in the middle of nowhere. You're just going to have to wait until we get a better connection.”
Joanna: That's what's interesting is they expect it to be in the air. That's what they are expecting like, “Why isn't the Internet everywhere, Dad?”
Damon: It took several minutes of explaining to explain what the Internet was. They were just like, “The Internet's down.” My son was playing a game that required network connectivity. When I told him the Internet is down, they're working on it. “Well, I guess I'll just go watch YouTube.” “No, the Internet is down. You can't do anything except play what's on your device and only if it's not a network game. I don't know how else to tell you?”
Joanna: How old are your kids?
Damon: My son is nine. My daughter is six. My littlest girl is turning three in two days. They really have, their whole lives, grown up with the Internet just all around them. They can just pick up anything in the house and it's connected to the Internet.
Joanna: It's so funny, isn't it? I read, I think it was in Wired this week or something that a two-year old, three-year-old, like your littlest, would pick up a photo, a physical photo and like tap on it and try and expand it.
Damon: And start touching it, yeah.
Joanna: It's like, “Why can't I zoom in on this photo?” The things that we, you and I, being older didn't grow up with. Me and my husband, I think we're more like millennials in the way that we live and it is that total connection all the time. I agree with you. I think one of the biggest revolution is 4G Internet access across the whole world.
That $4-phone, what we didn't say is that's a smartphone, right?
Damon: Yeah, it's not a cheapy phone.
Joanna: It's actually a smartphone.
Damon: Yeah. It's an Android device, fully functioning, that can do everything that my device — maybe not as fast — but it can certainly do everything that a top of the line device can do here in the States that would cost you $800.
Joanna: Oh yeah.
Damon: I see those advancements coming and I sit and wonder what does that mean for the world? Already, the Internet has changed everything. You and I are talking right now because we have the Internet. My little brother lives in France, I'm able to FaceTime with him. To make a call to France used to cost like $8,000. Now, we just FaceTime for free, and I get to see video of his little girl who was born last Christmas.
I get to see all of that because the Internet has changed everything about our lives. How will it change as, truly, 6 billion people are able to get online and not just the people in the richer countries that have been able to have access to all of that.
Joanna: I think it will be an explosion of more books, but also an explosion of readers.
When I recently did my one year's worth of book sales, it was only 45% sales in the U.S., and I was surprised.
Damon: Yeah, that's really surprising.
Joanna: So actually, the majority of sales are already outside the U.S. for someone like me, and that's crazy. I thought I would start measuring it this year in order that over the next few years, we would see a change. I was super surprised to find it was already…
Damon: How quickly it's changing.
Damon: It had already changed.
Joanna: Yeah, so I think we'll see that shift over time. Okay. We're pretty much out of time. Tell people where they can find BookFunnel and information about how it works and also about where they can find you online.
Damon: So bookfunnel.com is where you can find us and we have all the information there, pricing plans and all that sort of stuff. Our cheapest plan is $20 a year, so we really made it really inexpensive for every author to use it, even if you're just starting out and it's your first book. For me, damonjcourtney.com is my author site, where my fantasy books, unfortunately, have been languishing while I continue my work at BookFunnel.
Joanna: While you serve everyone else.
Damon: Exactly, while I serve everyone else's books, my poor little trilogy is languishing over there.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Damon. That was great.
Damon: Thank you so much for having me, Joanna.
Jack Arbor says
Joanna / Damon, thanks for this podcast. I’m now convinced. As a technologist myself, I figured I could do it all – put up the download page, provide tech support, etc. Ironically, as I was listening to this, I got two emails from folks who have no clue how to get the books onto their devices.
One question for Damon – can I white-label the download page with a custom banner and my own branding?
I’ll be switching over as soon as I can make the time.
Caroline Mickelson says
Wonderful podcast, as always. I love (love, love!) BookFunnel and cannot say enough good things about it. It’s so easy to use, very affordable, and nicely designed. I recommend it to all my author friends. So thank you, Damon, for all the work that went into it. I’ll be watching for updates on direct sales, and (in all your spare time!) I’d love to see a Spanish version one day.
Michael Gallagher says
Wow! Thanks for the reference here! Nice article. I just joined Book Funnel for Starving authors – up to 500 books delivered a month for an unlimited number of books. I plan on simplifying the download process for people talking my perm-free book, Mossad Strain. Pick one up here if you are interested in seeing how the funnel works :
Icy Sedgwick says
Loved this podcast! Well I love all of them but anything tech-related gets two thumbs up from me 🙂
Edwina Gustafson says
Precisely what I was looking for today and I just signed up! I published my first ebook in June. I quickly realised that not everyone knows what to do with what seem – from a tech savvy indie author’s side of the screen – to be simple book files. Things will change in time but for now, BookFunnel can is welcome to do the hand-holding for me!
Dana Murguia says
I’m still unclear, does book funnel allow you to download from Amazon? Also, is it a platform where an unknown can find readers?
Joanna Penn says
Bookfunnel delivers ebooks without the need to use Amazon e.g. for your ARC readers. They also have promotions with other authors for giveaways, but it’s definitely best used if you have an audience.