SPS-221: Getting Into Libraries With Draft2Digital – with Dan Wood
Director of Operations and Author Relations at Draft2Digital, Dan Wood talks to James about how D2D helps authors get their books into stores worldwide and plans to hopefully change the way authors can distribute print books to libraries.
- How indies are stepping in when publishers stop working with libraries
- The retailers writers should remember to distribute to when they go wide
- Why pricing is different for libraries
- On the print-on-demand beta program Draft2Digital is involved in
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Automated: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Dan Wood: I grew up very poor. I went to the library system for all my reading when I was a kid. That made me a lifelong reader, and so now most of those books I read as a kid are series I’ve gone out and bought. People that are tremendous readers have a library story from their childhood.
Automated: Publishing is changing, no more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one’s standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the self-publishing show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show on a Friday from our lockdown UK. This is me James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson, in a different place.
James Blatch: In a different place. More than two meters apart. A couple 100 miles apart. So we’ve been doing this for years. Everyone else is suddenly discovering Zoom, aren’t they? And remote working and all the rest of it. But this is how we live our lives. So we’re as always ahead of the curve, Mark.
Mark Dawson: Yes, by a different place, it didn’t mean we were next to each. I mean, I’m recording in a completely different place.
James Blatch: Oh, yes.
Mark Dawson: Because I can’t leave my house at the moment. I can’t get to the office. So I’m actually in the study at the moment.
James Blatch: You are on rural broadband, but it’s holding up well, at the moment.
Mark Dawson: Yep. Well, that will, as I said, we’ve hit record. My kids are about to have their tea and they’ll both switch on their iPads and start streaming on YouTube. So very, very soon, I expect this is going to go completely tits up. But anyway, it’s our first world problem.
James Blatch: It is. Considering what else is going on at the moment.
Let me just press on and do our most important thing, which is to welcome our new Patreon supporters this week. Delighted to say a big shout out from Matty Dalrymple, it’s a good author name, I think, Helen Wilkie, Ellie Barker, Kristen Ethridge from Texas in the United States.
They’re not all from Texas, United States. In fact, Ellie Barker, I happen to know is close to your part of the world, in the West Country. An old BBC chum of mine who’s going to be a fabulous author, I’m sure. We welcome you all.
If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/, well, I’ve forgotten now, what do I call it?
Mark Dawson: This is your job.
James Blatch: Yeah. selfpublishingshow, isn’t it? Is it selfpublishingshow? Why have I forgotten that?
Mark Dawson: I don’t know.
James Blatch: If you search on Patreon, you’ll find us patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. That’s what it is because I got the beginning a bit wrong, patreon.com/selfpublishingshow.
Okay, look, we’re going to have a quick chat, I think about the COVID situation, and we have a good interview coming up in a moment. Recorded just as things started to go south in that sense.
I think the first thing we should say, Mark is that we wish everybody who’s listening to this, we hope that you’re safe, and well, that you’re obeying the guidelines, which is important for all of us.
We know that lots and lots of people are going to be affected from this illness. For most people, we know it won’t be serious, for some it will be serious and we know lives are going to be touched by that.
So we’re a community in this together and we hope that we can support each other and certainly our best wishes go to everybody who listens to the show at this time. The second thing to say is we alluded to this before, I think Mark is that the long term I think for authors selling books online and doing online work is a good place, if your nine to five job is not in that area. It might be in a field that’s more directly affected.
Again, our thoughts go out to you about that but keep your focus perhaps on the eBooks and we’ve started to see some noise from the retailers, Amazon in particular that there has been an uptick in sales, have we not?
Mark Dawson: Well, I don’t know about that in particular but I can only speak towards eBooks because I’ve seen a big increase. Really, really strong week, 30, 40% up based on historical numbers, and there’s a number of reasons why that is.
I did a little, I was going to do some Facebook Lives, during my dog walks in the morning. I did a couple this morning and one thing I mentioned was that ads are much cheaper now. Much, much cheaper. Maybe 60, 70% cheaper because the big budgets of the corporations are not being spent on ads at the moment. Facebook still has the same number of ad slots to sell, and that means that there’s less competition.
I’m seeing CPC on UK ads of six, seven, eight, nine, 10 pence, which is really cheap in the genre that I write in, and then you combine that with the fact that the audience is stuck at home with nothing to do. So they really want to read.
And then you add on top of that, the fact that digital delivery means that they don’t have to go to the shops which are closed anyway, and they don’t have to take an Amazon package from someone who hands it to them at their door because there’s no physical item and it’s just very convenient.
So there’s a number of things that are combined to make what we do, I can’t really think of an industry that is as well equipped, well placed to deal with something like this as being an author selling books digitally. Music, perhaps but books is pretty much perfect.
So as I said this morning there’s lots and lots of clouds on the horizon at the moment, but some of those clouds have quite nice silver linings, and if you’re looking for one, that is a pretty good one, I think.
James Blatch: I think maybe we should think about putting together an episode more specifically about actions authors should be taking or could be taking at the moment, and perhaps using some of your own experience recently of launching books and your own sales figures. So should we try and say in the next couple of weeks, we’ll do that.
It’s a bit difficult for us to plan everything at the moment, because we are like everyone, slightly disrupted about things, particularly from a family point of view. But let’s see if we can do that in the next couple of weeks.
It is a very strange time and it affects writing in more ways than one. It’s not just about your sales, your marketing, your nine to five jobs, it’s also about themes of books.
I saw Ian Rankin on social media a couple of days ago saying every writer will now start thinking that their current work in progress may feel odd and different because of the context of everyone’s lives has changed, and other future books maybe, we’ll be I think influenced and swayed by this. I think the best thing probably Mark is to set your book in the 1960s.
Mark Dawson: Yes, yes.
James Blatch: I write that.
Mark Dawson: You could possibly have done that. It was actually though Stephen King not Ian Rankin. I saw that.
James Blatch: Was it Stephen King?
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: Yes, you’re right. It was Stephen King. Ian Rankin’s also saying stuff. But he didn’t say that.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: So we’ve got bits to talk about, I think, and we finally got ourselves
out of the back end of the conference of the 101 launch and a few things have gone down with us and actually set some quiet time down today and done some accounts and all that stuff catching up.
Starting to feel that we might have some time back in our lives. Me more than you because my children look after themselves, your children require supervision.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Last week, the only time I could reliably do work was I was getting up at five, and working past five, six o’clock till nine. So maybe three and a half hours in the morning, and that was pretty much the only time I could get.
It was fine for about the first three days and then Friday, I was absolutely exhausted. Even though I was going to sleep much earlier, I don’t think my body is really meant for that kind of really early working. Although I like working in the mornings, but I think that might be pushing a bit too much.
I’m just thinking about how I’m going to work this. Whether I work later at night and get up late in the morning. I don’t know, it’s tough. We’ve been doing this for two weeks now.
My production is way, way, way, way down. But that’s completely understandable, and also, again, another upside although looking after kids, mine are, eight and six now, so fairly demanding. On the other hand, it’s actually, I’m having some lovely moments with my kids.
My daughter Freya and I usually walk the dog together every day. So that’s six kilometers, and she really likes being out with me, talking to me about that stuff. And then this morning, I mean, this afternoon, this is my study and it’s also a little kind of home cinema.
We just downloaded Frozen II and all watched that together. So that was really nice, and I don’t even know what day it is anymore. I think it’s Sunday, but I’m not entirely sure. Everything’s blending into one another. So yeah, it’s nuts but we just have to do our best.
James Blatch: I did see a funny tweet from a UK journalist saying on Friday, he said, we understand reports coming in its Friday. We’re waiting for this to be confirmed.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it’s very difficult.
James Blatch: It does feel like that at the moment. Yes, I completely agree, and I often get back off holiday off my sort of, we tend to take one or two weeks in the summer and go away and thinking, how much I’ve enjoyed being that close to the children, that close to the family for such a period of time and it does, there’s a bit of that going on now where we’re doing that.
My teenage girl, daughter obviously just spends a reasonable amount of time laying on her bed watching Netflix. William and I are a bit more active in the garden but even Emily’s taking part in that, in life a lot more around the house. You can’t avoid each other.
We had karaoke night last night, which obviously, I sing like an angel. So it was a beautiful experience for everyone else.
Okay, let’s save some of the COVID stuff for next week. I think maybe next week or the week after, we’ll let you know. We’ll keep you updated in our Facebook groups when we’re going to do that episode and we’ll talk about all aspects of this. We may even have a guest on but we do have a guest this week, Mark because we have Dan Wood from Draft2Digital who a plucky hardly sold, he made it across the States, from the States to our conference in London.
He was going to come over for London Book Fair as well, but on the day London Book Fair should have been taking place on that Tuesday we met up, I was going to say we hooked up in my hotel room but that’s in an American sense is not the right thing to say. We met up in our abandoned hotel room-
Mark Dawson: It’s not right in any sense.
James Blatch: … And sat down and chatted to Dan really about what’s been developing and happening in Draft2Digital. He talks a bit at the beginning about the basics of what they do and how they do it which we always I know not everyone’s familiar with every organization and every term, and then some quite interesting stuff, particularly for people who wouldn’t necessarily use an aggregator i.e., people who are exclusive with Amazon.
So other areas, other avenues that are opening up on platforms like Draft2Digital, and their other aggregators around of course. Okay, so let’s hear from Dan and then Mark, you and I can have a quick catch up off the back.
James Blatch: Dan Wood, here we are amongst the debris of what’s left of the London Book Fair.
Dan Wood: Yes. We had a great day yesterday.
James Blatch: Yeah, fantastic day yesterday. The conference that did go ahead.
Dan Wood: It went ahead, it survived. I imagine you guys are exhausted after all of that.
James Blatch: Not too exhausted to have a good chat with you and to catch up because I know there’s been some developments in Draft2Digital we want to talk about but I would just say we are in the Olympia Hilton, which is the prime hotel for London Book Fair and yet there’s no London Book Fair. Now, we recognized some of the faces downstairs.
Dan Wood: It’s pretty dead, yes.
James Blatch: I think meetings are going ahead but there’s, it’s weird.
Dan Wood: Yeah, it was like a maybe a before London Book Fair conference was planned here, and they just kept it anyway, so.
James Blatch: We are going to talk about D2D.
I think you’ve hit a milestone recently, which is great. Can you just tell us about that?
Dan Wood: We have. We just hit 200,000 books. We’re getting close to our eighth anniversary as a company. So we have 200,000 books that are live, that we distribute worldwide to hundreds of retailers, thousands of libraries. So we’re very happy about that, and it’s been just a very steady growth and growing now just about faster than ever, so.
James Blatch: Yeah, and that’s a key thing. You’re growing faster than ever now.
Why do you think that is the case?
Dan Wood: I think A, we go to a lot of conferences throughout the year, and so we’re getting the name recognition. The fact that we’ve been around for as long as we have is really helping, and I think we’re seeing more and more people with the number of books that are coming out, some authors are coming out of being exclusive with Amazon, and so they’re trying some of the other places to have a more diverse risk to their whole business.
James Blatch: Sure.
Dan Wood: A lot of them are hearing the news about the major publishers like Macmillan that aren’t working with libraries, and they’re wanting to take part with libraries and our library sales have been growing tremendously this year.
James Blatch: Library is really interesting area and Jo Penn mentioned this at our SPS Live conference yesterday that it’s a bit of one of these money on the table situations that people leave-
Dan Wood: It is.
James Blatch: Because they don’t work out they should be doing it.
Dan Wood: A lot of people don’t realize there’s a couple of different business models with libraries. But in general with your library price, you’re going to charge more because they are going to be checking out your book to multiple people throughout the time it’s with the library system.
Your library price, you can set it much higher. Your retail price might be 9.99 or 4.99 but your library price could be 24.99 39.99 because it’s kind of up to you.
If you are in the UK, Canada or Australia, they have some government programs where they also pay you when your book is checked out from the library. So there’s all kinds of different ways you can make good money off of libraries. From talking to our partners at Findaway who help with audiobooks, they’re also seeing a tremendous upsurge in sales to the library systems.
James Blatch: That’s really interesting. Good trend to know about. You mentioned KU, I mean KU’s not dwindling. It’s not going anywhere, and yet you-
Dan Wood: No, it’s definitely growing.
James Blatch: Do you get a sense that there is a bit of a movement of people going wide?
Dan Wood: I think so. If you look at the average KU payout, it’s settled a little bit lower than half a cent, which for a while was kind of fluctuating and now it’s kind of on the lower side, and so I think we’re seeing people that are frustrated that payments gone down a little bit, and also they’re having to spend money on Amazon ads just to continue to be visible on that platform, and so they’re trying the different other places.
Not every genre works well, wide. There’s some genres that are fairly case specific. They’re kind of newer things. But a lot of the classic genres, like mysteries and thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, all doing very well, wide.
James Blatch: We should actually just spell out what it is D2D does, and although aggregator is the kind of posh word for it, but just explain to an author who might be…
Dan Wood: I do hate the word aggregator.
James Blatch: Yeah, it’s not a great word, is it?
Dan Wood: I think it’s a leftover from like the video and music world, but we make it easy to get your book to all the different retail platforms that are out there. We primarily focus on the digital side. And so getting the eBooks and helping you get it into the bookstores like me Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and then we work with a number of international retailers.
Our international sales have been growing for five or six years. 70, 75% of our sales were in US market. We’re now kind of towards 60. Where 60% of our sales are in the US market and 40% are the rest of world. We do very strongly in Canada and Australia. Amazon’s a little bit more dominant, I think in the UK market than it is even in America, so.
James Blatch: That’s interesting, and Kobo of course is a big retailer in Canada, which I guess might explain why your Canada.
Dan Wood: Exactly. Kobo is kind of the Amazon of Canada, and so when they think of an eReader, they think of the Kobo device rather than the Kindle. But they’ve also-
James Blatch: They always do something a little bit different in Canada, don’t they?
Dan Wood: Yeah. Oh, definitely. They also partnered with a ton of international retailers and so they handled eBooks for WHSmith, they handled eBooks for Walmart in the US market. A couple of different places in France, and so Kobo has been very internationally focused, and that’s really paid off for them, I believe because they’ve been our fastest growing retailer now for like the last three years.
James Blatch: That’s great. Who are the other big retailers then?
What names should people be making sure their books are available if they’re wide?
Dan Wood: People frequently don’t realize it, but Apple books is definitely the second biggest digital retailer on the market by a fairly good margin now. Obviously Amazon the king, Barnes & Noble is still the third, and then after that Kobo is getting close to Barnes & Noble, I’d say from our numbers. I don’t know if that would be true across the board for the industry. Then, much further down would be Google Play.
People will frequently think that there’s so many Android devices that Google Play must sell a lot of books but they really don’t sell that many.
Library systems have began to kind of rise above some of the retailers. OverDrive is by far the largest of the digital retailers for library systems, and they’re doing very well right now.
James Blatch: Are those eBooks?
Dan Wood: Yes.
James Blatch: So explain to me how that works? I have to say, I haven’t frequented my library for a while, probably since the kids were small.
In my imagination, the library is still a physical book place.
Dan Wood: Right. So it works in a couple of different ways.
With OverDrive, their main business model, and it’s been the one, most people when they’re talking about OverDrive sales, they’re talking about where the library system buys a copy of your book. They buy it at the library retail price, which is going to be higher.
With all the indie contracts, it’s perpetual license to them with some of the traditional publishers, let them check it out so many times and then they have to buy a new copy. So the library buys your book and then you can download an app. You have to have a library card. With OverDrive, the app is called Libby, and it lets you check out a book or an audio book from wherever you are, as long as you’ve got your library card.
James Blatch: This is an online virtual library?
Dan Wood: Yes. And so it checks it out to you for one to two weeks depending on what the library has chosen, and then it checks itself back in once you’re done with it, or once that period of time has passed.
James Blatch: Do people pay a subscription for this, for the library card?
Dan Wood: No, it’s absolutely free. Especially for authors that are leaving Kindle Unlimited, and if they have their readers complain that they don’t have money to go out and buy anything more than their Kindle Unlimited subscription, the author can let people know, hey, my books are available in the library systems and all you have to do is request your library purchase this book.
James Blatch: And so with the library and a virtual library of that scale, would it purchase your book just the ones for $30 or whatever?
Dan Wood: Frequently. Most of the time.
James Blatch: And that covers anyone in the world who wants to sign up to the app? Or is it key-owned?
Dan Wood: So you have to have a library card. So you have to be a part of that library system. Generally, with the library cards, they will check and make sure. They’ll ask you for a utility bill or something to make sure you actually live there.
James Blatch: Okay. So it’s still a local system of library card issue?
Dan Wood: Yes.
James Blatch: Okay, yeah.
Dan Wood: There are other models where it’s a kind of like the KU system, kind of pays out if a person checks your book out and then read some of it. There’s a retailer we work with called Hoopla, where basically they make anything bookstore in their system show up to all of the Patrons. So it’s not like you have to get a librarian to purchase your book before it’s available in their system.
Your book will be in the system and then if someone checks out and reads it, then you get paid for it. So you don’t make as much as a sale but say you were in a town and doing a talk as a nonfiction speaker. If 100 people want to check your book out? They could, and you get paid for each one simultaneously.
With the OverDrive system, typically what happens is if I check out the digital book, it treats it like a physical copy. So while I have it out, you have to wait and it’s on hold for you, and then once I check it back in, then it comes to you.
James Blatch: So there’s only one copy of the digital book, if you like. Clever.
Dan Wood: Yeah, right, and every once in a while, if there’s a high demand, there’s multiple holds for a book, library systems will buy multiple copies so that they can meet that demand.
James Blatch: Okay, that’s a really great system. Fair to the author.
Dan Wood: Obviously it really is. Yeah. They won’t want to make their patrons wait forever. So it’s a great discovery mechanism because I know for me, I grew up very poor. I went to the library system for all my reading when I was a kid. That made me a lifelong reader, and so now most of those books I read as a kid are series, I’ve gone out and bought, and so it’s just when you think about the future library of the discovery has a part of most of the people that are tremendous readers have a library story from their childhood.
James Blatch: Yeah, that’s great. It’s been like the 99 cents book, isn’t it?
Dan Wood: Yeah.
James Blatch: Getting the book into somebody’s hands for the first time can pay dividends for years down the line, and if all this sounds complicated, and then people think God, how am I going to do this? That’s the whole point of Draft2Digital right?
Dan Wood: Exactly.
James Blatch: You just tick a couple of boxes and you do all that for people.
Dan Wood: Right. Our whole system’s opt in, and so if you want to go direct with some of these retailers that you can, you get to pick and choose. We go to Amazon, but most of our customers do go directly to Amazon and then use us for the other retailers.
But it’s nice, instead of having to go to eight or nine websites and change your price or change your description. You change it our website once and then we send it out to everyone, and on the back end, we continue to check every day to make sure the books are listed in live and the way they’re supposed to be in all of our retailers because every once in a while these are kind of complicated computer systems, things get messed up, and so we check to make sure prices are right.
So all that goes on in the background without authors having to worry about it. Then we handle the payout.
You get one payment, you get one tax form from us, so. Just really simplifies your workload, and I would say what we’ve learned in working with authors now for the last eight years is that authors never have enough time. So many of them are using tools like us. They might choose to hire a virtual assistant or have a big team of people. So we just like to be a part of that.
James Blatch: How much does this cost the author to use?
Dan Wood: All of our services are free. We have no upfront charges or anything. While you distribute through us we keep 15% of net of any of the sales that you make.
James Blatch: So of the royalty?
Dan Wood: Yeah.
James Blatch: So if Amazon for instance, an example pays 70%, you take 15% of the 70%?
Dan Wood: Yes.
James Blatch: Not 50% of the overall product.
Dan Wood: Yeah, 15% of the 70%.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Dan Wood: It generally works out to about 10% of the retailers price. So the retailer is going to hang on to that 30% chunk. But again, theoretical $10 a book, we would keep about $1, the retailer would keep $3 and the author would get six, and so we tried to line up our motivation with the authors to pass interests to make sure we’re trying to sell their book.
Because there’s a lot of companies out there that make their money off of the author themselves, rather than helping the author make money.
James Blatch: There are other aggregators that do charge us a monthly fee and low or no royalty fees. I guess at some point you must have done, I think, and look at your Microsoft fundamental review of your prices, but you’ve got no particular plans to change the way you operate.
Dan Wood: We haven’t seen any one of these aggregators survive with that business model that didn’t have some venture funding. If you’re charging that low of a price for things it’s generally too good to be true.
We saw a couple years ago Pronoun came in and tried to do what we were doing for free, and they quickly went out of business with that model. It’s not to say that we’d never look at someone doing it as a service rather than our current model. But the economics of it don’t seem to work out.
James Blatch: For people who are exclusive with Amazon, you can of course, once you can’t distribute the eBook, you can distribute the print book wide?
Dan Wood: Correct.
James Blatch: So is that a viable option for people who are in KU to use Draft2Digital, just for print?
Dan Wood: So currently, we are in beta with a print program to do print-on-demand, and so yes. The exciting thing is, if it’s in your best interest to be exclusive with Amazon with your eBook, you still have your audio book and print books to reach a wide market.
With audio, they do have Audible gives you slightly better royalties if you are exclusive with Audible but you don’t have to be. Something with print-on-demand, you can have your book available through the Amazon system where people, if they buy the book on Amazon, it can be shipped and done by Amazon printing.
But you can also use services like our service or IngramSpark to reach everyone and be available anywhere that books are sold online as well as a lot of the bookstores and libraries won’t buy books from Amazon Print, but they will buy them from the other print-on-demand retailers.
James Blatch: I imagine this is quite big area for you because that chunk of exclusive people must be fertile territory for you to at some point think what can we often offer them and if there’s a very viable print distribution only, why would you not do that?
Dan Wood: Exactly. We go to conferences. The indie conferences are pretty split up but there’s a lot of people that are in KU, and so we’re always looking at services that we can offer them different things. Let them still be in KU but we can still work with them.
James Blatch: How’s the company itself doing? I know that Mark Lefebvre, I could never quite say.
Dan Wood: Lefebvre.
James Blatch: You can’t say it certainly either.
Dan Wood: That’s why they always called him Mark from Kobo. Now we’re trying to make it Mark from Draft2Digital.
James Blatch: I know Mark joined you and blessed he’s not here because the whole virus thing where everything was scaled down a little bit but we’ll see, hopefully catch up with Mark, lovely guy later in the year. So you took on Mark, and is the company expanding in terms of personnel? You all work, what was the word you work from home?
Dan Wood: Remote work.
James Blatch: Remotely, that’s the word.
Dan Wood: Yeah, we have, I’d say 10 or 11 of us are based all out of Oklahoma. Several of us went to college together and that’s how we knew each other.
James Blatch: Are you a founder?
Dan Wood: No, I’m not. I was the second employee to join the company but I was about a year into. So I’ve been there most of the time.
We have an office and the majority of us meet there, but we do have six or seven people throughout the US and then Mark in Canada. So everything we do, we can do remotely, which in these times of virus, that’s probably a really good thing, and every Friday we do remote work, and so that’s kind of one of the perks of the company.
It’s been nice when we have inclement weather. Oklahoma is known for tornadoes and all kinds of crazy weather. We can let people stay home and just work from there.
We have expanded to, I think we’re at 19 people now and we have one joining us in April to help us merchandising. So that’s very exciting because me and Mark have handled the merchandising but we travel a lot. So it’s hard to keep up with all the email sometimes.
James Blatch: When you say merchandising, what are we talking about?
Dan Wood: We nominate books from our catalog for promotions at all of our retailers. They let us know what they’re looking for. A lot of times they’ll be like, they’ll have romance. Sometimes they’re looking for beach reads. So they want romance where there’s a beach on the cover.
We did one recently, or we’re working on one with Apple right now for nonfiction titles, and so we go through and sort and look for what Apple might be interested in and what we think their merchandisers will like, and then we reach out to the authors and see if they’d be interested in taking part because sometimes it requires a price discount, and then we just kind of arrange those.
I’d say in the last year, we’ve gotten thousands of books promoted through OverDrive, through Kobo, through Apple, we do stuff with Barnes & Noble. It’s one of the smaller international vendors we don’t do a lot with yet but we’re always working on that and so having another person to email them and pester them, I’m hoping that will lead to a lot of new opportunities for our authors.
James Blatch: So the company’s profitable?
Dan Wood: It is profitable. We’re in a lucky situation. We’re a private company, but we can be profitable in a year that we want. Sometimes we’ve decided to hire a developer a little bit early and take on a little bit of debt. But we’ve been able to pay off those loans pretty quickly, and so we’re always balancing.
We have all these different things planned out that we want to do versus making sure we have enough money and everything but we’ve always balanced it quite well and our CEO, Kris Austin has just been great at that. Just really thinks ahead, and it’s turbulent times so I guess like a year ago, we were worried about Barnes & Noble.
The thought of Barnes & Noble suddenly disappearing like Borders did. So we kept things lean to make sure that if they just suddenly disappeared, it wouldn’t cause us any major issues and that we could pay authors for what was owed to them by Barnes & Noble.
We were quite glad when they got bought by the private equity firm. So we’re interested to see what James Daunt does with the company. Hoping he cares about the digital side of it, so.
James Blatch: I do wonder if at some point, the big publishers will end up buying all the book shops because it’s an obvious thing that they need the book shops to be there.
Dan Wood: They very much need that supply chain. They need things to work the way they are now for their economics, and so I could see one of them possibly doing it.
James Blatch: And that sounds great, the business set up. It’s very similar to us SPF actually, we have no investors and no shareholders apart from us who own the company. So there’s no pressure.
Dan Wood: Isn’t that like a great feeling?
James Blatch: It’s a great feeling, yeah, because otherwise you’re effectively working for someone else and you’re having to skew your company around, rather than take a year without profit for investment.
Dan Wood: Yeah, and we’ve seen a lot of the companies that got the private funding, or the funding through venture capital that have just kind of flailed around from business model to business model, looking for something that worked because their investors want to make money.
James Blatch: Of course, yeah. They’re patient for so long I guess, investors at some point they need their money back, don’t they?
Dan Wood: Yeah. So it’s been nice, me and my bosses have never been like sell, sell, sell, they’d never really pushed and so it’s kind of allowed us to do the right thing by the authors we work with and I’ve never had to worry about an author going to Kindle Unlimited. We’ve made it very easy for people to get in and out as fits their business model.
James Blatch: Circling back, because you mentioned the print-on-demand beta program. I know people will be interested in that particularly if they’re exclusive at the moment.
What phase is that out at the moment?
Dan Wood: Kind of in the round two. We had announced at NINC, a year and a half ago, and then we did a pretty long beta last year. We realized that there were a lot of people, we built it into our overall workflow that we have with eBooks.
From the beta, we found out there were a ton of people that wanted to do print only with us. So those people that were in KU, and so we decided to redo the user interface for that.
We’ve also been busily looking, Mark is in a business development role with us. He’s been out there looking for printers that can serve like the UK and the Europe and Australian markets because they are a little bit harder to reach for author copies.
We’ve been addressing those two problems. I think at the end of March, we will be opening up the print beta with the new user interface, and so we’re excited to go ahead with that and then we should have that done fairly soon this year.
James Blatch: Good, and for the rest of this year, I mean people do like bumping into you and Kevin and Mark and stuff but it’s been a disruptive time. We got our conference on yesterday but really it clung on by its fingernails over the last week or so. I do feel had it been a week later, we probably would have had to have canceled it and things seem to be changing every day.
Will people see you at conferences this year?
Dan Wood: We are evaluating that and the same way that you are. We really hope so because we love the conferences. It’s been our primary marketing tool is being at the conferences and getting to know the authors.
It’s hard to say with the Coronavirus situation, just what will happen and what restrictions that will be on travel. I’m anticipating probably the stuff through the summer maybe getting canceled. I’m hoping the fall will be different because I always look forward to Novelists Inc and some of those conferences that we all go to frequently.
James Blatch: It’s nice to be on the beach in September, isn’t it?
Dan Wood: It really is. Just to hear all the great speakers and to have a chance to see it. It becomes kind of like going to camp where you see friends once a year, maybe you get lucky and get to see them a couple of times a year.
James Blatch: As a veteran conference organizer now I’ve got one under my belt, my heart goes out to the organizers of NINC and 20Books of Craig and so on, because they must obviously just be going through what we’ve just been through. Just watching the news every day and working out where they’re going to be.
Dan Wood: I know. People don’t realize just how much work organizing a conference truly is.
James Blatch: I know how much work. Everyone in this room knows how much work there is now.
Dan Wood: And you guys did a great job.
James Blatch: Thank you.
Dan Wood: I have to say, I really am looking forward to next year. Europe and the UK needed a conference like this, and so we’ve definitely seen the demand of you guys selling out so quickly, so.
James Blatch: Yeah. We’re already talking about it.
Dan Wood: Good.
James Blatch: And it’s the morning after the night before. So that was excellent. Dan, always a great pleasure to catch up with you.
Dan Wood: It’s great to talk to you.
James Blatch: It’s always exciting to see such a community author focused people doing well, so thank you.
Dan Wood: Thank you very much.
James Blatch: There we go. Lovely Dan Wood. Always great to spend time with him and brilliant that he came over and supported us at the conference. It was so much fun to see him. That was literally the day before we all got home and basically, haven’t left the house since of hunker down at that point, as this thing swept across the globe.
Interesting areas I think that he’s talking about particularly audio books and print books and libraries and libraries not so much because eBook libraries, this lending libraries online at the moment would be in breach of the KU contracts. The deal you do with KU to remain exclusive with them although Dan did say there is pressure on Amazon to change that because of lending libraries.
Mark Dawson: You don’t have to be in KU to be able to selling on Amazon. You could just be not exclusive to Amazon and then you could be anywhere you want.
James Blatch: Yes, you could, but I’m talking for the KU people who don’t use aggregating services, which was an area he was developing, and I think a lot about this now about the people in KU, what they can offer them.
So those print avenues and the libraries, which I think is a really interesting concept. People join these libraries, they can borrow a book, one at a time for a few days and hand it back, replace it with another one, which as Dan explained, he would like Amazon to see that as not being in breach of the exclusivity but whether that will happen or I don’t know but there was some world pressure on that.
Anyway, interesting area, don’t want to leave money on the table, right? Audiobooks, prints, wider distribution. These are areas that are more complex, and that’s the role that an organization like D2D can have because it makes it easier for an author to click a few buttons and do it rather than go to every organization and work out how this all works. That’s an avenue for both parties.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, they’re great as well, and I love those guys, and also just from when I used them to get into Barnes & Noble. I tend to launch my books, the way I do it now is because they’re all in KU but I launch them for three or four days on the other platform so that people on those platforms can take advantage of that.
So Barnes & Noble, I can’t get into that from the UK without quite a lot of faffing, and the other thing, which I never used to do this but then, in the end of this thought it was working out how much my time is worth.
To get something on to Apple is a bit more complicated than it is on most of the other platforms and you need a Mac with iTunes producer and stuff of that on it, and I changed Mac’s not too long ago and I haven’t got around to reuploading producer and then going through the authentication process, which is quite involved.
So what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks is just uploading it through Draft2Digital which is very, very easy. Let them get it on to Apple and then take it down when I’m ready and although technically I’m losing 10% because that’s their take, I’m quite happy to let them have that just because I’m too busy or too lazy depending on how you want to cut it to do it myself.
So it is very convenient. It’s a very convenient way to get onto every store really. They’re good guys, and Dan is one of the nicest guy. He’s so lovely.
James Blatch: He is a lovely guy, I know they all are with the D2D team, but it’s also interesting-
Mark Dawson: Apart from Lefebvre, he’s awful.
James Blatch: He’s a vicious man. He’s quite violent. I noticed.
Mark Dawson: He posted a picture of his nipples the other day. For those who don’t know, this is Mark Leslie Lefebvre, once of Kobo, who I know will be listening to this. He usually listens on his commute though I’m sure that’s not happening at the moment but he posted a picture of, I think I may have prompted him to do it but he posted a topless picture the other day which really was a struggle to sleep since I saw that.
James Blatch: You asked him to send you nudes? Send nudes Mark?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, sexting basically, yes, that was unpleasant but yeah-
James Blatch: I’m sure, that’s all fine.
Mark Dawson: … Apart from him, they’re all lovely.
James Blatch: They’re lovely, and Mark is lovely too. And what’s interesting also talking to someone like Dan who’s been there right from the beginning, or nearly the beginning, he’s not quite a founder, I think he’s like first or second employee.
Mark Dawson: Very close, yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah, it is just their helicopter view of what’s going on? What’s changing how things were? Because they see a lot of these trends in their data, and all these organizations are getting to the point now where they’ve got enough data to be able to do proper analysis of how this community, this world, self-indie has grown, and where it’s going.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, he’s a good person to chat to. So over the last year, I think, I usually see him at bars at conferences. I had a drink with him at the bar in Bali in January last year, and then we had dinner in Vegas.
You came to that as well, and then where else did I meet him? Oh, Florida, and then London he came to our kind of pre-sponsors and speakers dinner on the Sunday before the conference. So I had a nice chat with him then and then he was going to come down to the house. He’s going to come stay with us for a day but it was in the middle of, well the kind of the ramp up to COVIDgeddon. So we decided to park that till next year.
James Blatch: Yeah, good. I’ve got a roast to cook in the house because it’s a nonstop round of domestic bliss in this lockdown. I don’t know what tonight’s treat is. I probably won’t sing at the children tonight. They looked a bit horrified when I did Sweet Caroline last night.
Mark Dawson: Scout’s woofing.
James Blatch: Scout wants you back. I think Sweet Caroline’s a good call for a karaoke because the crowd join in, and it drowns you out a little bit, that’s mine.
Mark Dawson: That’s a treat. Yeah, that’s quite good one.
James Blatch: Good. Well, on that karaoke bombshell, we’ll probably leave it for now.
We’ll let you know what’s going to happen next week in the Facebook group or we may have a COVID episode and you can perhaps post some questions in.
I was going to say we’ve got a webinar coming up. We do have another one in the pipeline, which is going to be on BookBrush. But we’ve just had the webinar, would have had the webinar on Wednesday on Instagram stories with Stuart Grant.
But it’s a reminder that for this whole COVID period, the SPF University is free to become a member of and you’ll be a member for life if you get in.
After that, it’ll be a bonus part of signing up to a course or supporting the podcast, and if you want to take advantage of that go to selfpublishingformula.com/SPFUfree.
Good. That’s it Mark. We are released from our slightly unusual you at home, me at my office arrangement. That’s how it’s going to be I think for the next few weeks. Goodness knows how long but for a while. Yeah, let’s just take it one week at a time at the moment.
James Blatch: Stay safe everyone, and I guess that leaves me just to say goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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