SPS-262: 2020: The Year for Author Innovation – with Kinga Jentetics

PublishDrive founder and CEO Kinga Jentetics has a look back at 2020 with James, observing the trends and changes, and they consider what 2021 might hold for authors and indie publishers.

Show Notes

  • Thanks to sponsors of the SPF Foundation
  • Trends observed in self-publishing in March 2020 as the global pandemic began
  • How sales growth occurred outside the Amazon system
  • The increase in the numbers of readers during 2020
  • On the advantages of having audiobook versions of your books
  • The importance of self-care while also taking care of a business

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

COURSE: Ads for Authors is open for a limited time to help you sell more books

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.


SPS-262: 2020: The Year for Author Innovation - with Kinga Jentetics

Announcer: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Kinga Jentetics: More people are looking for alternative career options, and now many of the people think that finally they have the time and they have the external motivation, as well, to actually become an author and write the book that they always wanted.

Announcer: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one 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. It's Friday. It is the Self-Publishing Show. We are very pleased to have you with us this week. It's James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: I saw a screengrab from one of our listeners, someone who we're going to mention in a moment, actually, listening to the podcast in her car, and it said, "Unknown artist," which I thought made us sound like Prince. Or enigmatic, at least. Unknown artist, the Self-Publishing Show.

Mark Dawson: Unknown artist actually just means that we haven't put the metadata in properly, so we're just being slapdash, which is about right.

James Blatch: Dire.

Mark Dawson: Who's responsible for the podcast metadata? It's got to be John.

James Blatch: I miss the days when John was on all fours at our feet when we were recording the podcast.

Mark Dawson: What? Excuse me?

James Blatch: Don't you remember those early days of the podcast?

Mark Dawson: I don't actually miss the days when John was on all fours. That's for sure.

James Blatch: He can't get on all fours. Well, he can get down there now, but he wouldn't be able to get back up.

Mark Dawson: He can't get up. Yeah.

James Blatch: Look, before we move on let's just mention that Ad for Authors is in its periodic open for enrollment, first time in six-odd months, and will be the last time for another six-odd months. You can find out everything you need to know about the Ads for Authors course at, all one word. And lots of students joining us now, very excited buzz in the group.

We always love this time, don't we? When they come on board and start working through the course. Which is why, by the way, we onboard people like this, because we all go through it together with several hundred people.

Some people just jump right in, don't they? They enrol in the course on Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning they're into the type of thing you just mentioned, like metadata, and we're dealing with that in the group, which is great.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. It's a busy time. Obviously it's a big course now, hours and hours and hours of content, and we thought we'd updated everything to show the most up-to-date screens and things, but occasionally, just because Facebook's odd, sometimes you'll see different... They're all odd, but I mean Facebook especially. You'll see some different interfaces. And we had a couple of people posting screen flows, but then within five seconds, well, not really but as soon as we can, we just amend it and upload it, and it's current. Which is one of the things that we're very keen to make sure that it continues to be. Always what you see on the screen when you're watching the course is what you'll see on your screen on the interfaces of the various platforms.

James Blatch: Yeah. Absolutely.

Mark Dawson: That's one of the things we are very religious about making sure that it stays up to date.

James Blatch: Indeed. Now, we also have a foundation. We're aware that the course, it's not just the price of the course when you start up as an author, actually it's a relatively small part of the, once you add everything together with covers and editing in particular, which is hugely important of course to get yourself going, plus you do invest in education and ad spend and so on, and it's just beyond the means of some people, particularly this year. So we started a foundation that people could apply for, and if you meet the criteria you stand the change of being awarded a grant. The grant, I think, is worth something like $2,500.

We partner with on that. Reedsy is the place to find expert professionals to help you with your author career. So a service I personally use. At the moment, I'm working with an editor called Andrew Lowe who did some development work for me last year, and will get my copy edit on March the 1st to March 22nd. A copy edit for the The Last Flight is booked in, currently on target for that. Thank you, Andrew, for your help. So Reedsy's been a very important part of my process and they've been an important part of this foundation.

We've added more slots this year, thanks to the generosity of you, some of our listeners to this show and author's who've been successful in their field. So we want to give a shout-out to those people, we want to thank them really wholeheartedly for putting their money where their mouth is and putting some money back into the community to help other authors.

I'm going to start with Marc Reklau who's sponsoring a nonfiction... In fact more, I think he's sponsored for something like five years. Marc has been very generous indeed. Mark you may remember. He's been on the show before. He lived on a boat in Barcelona. He's now in Malta. I think he got a bit fed up with the Spanish lockdowns and the way they were operating there. He's German, actually, he's a true European.

Marc writes self-help books. He's a really lovely, enthusiastic guy. Did a great turn for us at the Self Publishing Show Live in London, and is sponsoring a place for a nonfiction author in the foundation.

Lucy Score who was the person I can tell you listened to Artist Unknown in her car with Mr Lucy, as he's called, Tim, her other half. So hello Lucy and Tim. Huge part of the SPF community. She is a rockstar by any measure in the indie world, in the writing world, generally. We love Lucy. I love Lucy. And she's sponsoring a romance place because she writes romance.

Dawn Brookes is sponsoring cosy mystery. Thank you so much indeed, Dawn. Thibaut Meurisse is also self help, so nonfiction, self help. I guess Marc's is a bit broader if you're nonfiction, but Thibaut is self help. Perry Wilson is sponsoring a place in a mystery, and Tony Moyle is sponsoring a multi-genre place.

In addition to that, we put up the money for, I think, three other places, Mark, which will cover any genres. I did work out that we are going to give away something like $28,000 this year into the foundation to help authors get on their way.

Mark Dawson: Hold on, hold on, hold on.

James Blatch: ... Written Word Media. I know what you're going to say. Written Word Media.

Mark Dawson: Well, yes. Talk about slapdash. Yes.

James Blatch: I was coming onto that. It's not slapdash.

Mark Dawson: ... Ricci and Ferol from Written Word Media, who do Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy, and other excellent promotional sites, and have been in the community for actually longer than I have, I think. But they're very lovely and generous as well. They sent me some shortbread at Christmas which was very delicious. Thank you very much. Did they send you any shortbread, James?

James Blatch: They did not send me shortbread.

Mark Dawson: And I think we know why that is. Yes, you can carry on now that I've covered your backside.

James Blatch: Yes. Thank you Ricci and team at Written Word Media indeed for making all this possible. If you want to apply you can. Now, I'm not sure where we are now, because the awards are made in January. So Lucy will be going through that now. Now, Lucy Dawson-

Mark Dawson: She's doing it now. This week she's very, very busy.

James Blatch: I'm sure she is. You're probably looking at applying for next year now, but you can find the application process on our website in one of the drop-down tabs at the top, called SPF Foundation. So thank you very much for your generosity. What a brilliant thing we've been able to do.

Similar to that, I should mention, we don't really talk about this very much. Occasionally I put something on the Facebook group, but Mark, John and I, as part of SPF, are also sponsoring three schoolchildren in Tanzania, a very poor part of Tanzania where education is of a premium, and we've paid for the education of these three young girls. We get their school reports, we get photographs of them holding their school equipment, and we've doubled that this year to make sure we are covering six children. The pandemic's had its effect in Tanzania as well.

That's effectively your money as well, if you're part invested in the SPF community, that's where some of the money goes, into Tanzania, helping those schoolchildren. I'll publish their pictures at some point on a roundup on our SPF community page because they are lovely to see, the small difference that we can make to a very poor part of the world.

So, we've mentioned the course, we've mentioned the foundation and our sponsorships, Mark. The only other thing to mention is that you have mentioned the world of virtual reality this week. I don't even know if that's actually you now, or whether this is virtual Mark.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Completely off-topic, so I won't take too long about it, but I bought an Oculus Quest 2 on Saturday. It was Friday it arrived. And I tried it out on Saturday. I have to say, as someone who I love tech, I'm probably not an early adopter but I am certainly just after the early adopters, usually, so I have an electric car and things like that.

I tried the Oculus and I have to say, just the demo, and playing one of the games, it is absolutely incredible. I am extremely impressed. I'm surprised it's not quite as mainstream.

Although saying that, my mum called me this morning and she'd read in the newspaper that sales of VR equipment, and typically that means Oculus, are up 350% during lockdown, which makes total sense. People are stuck in their houses, and some of these things you can effectively go somewhere else and feel that you're not in your bedroom or wherever but you're actually on a beach somewhere.

Joseph Alexander, he's a friend of the show, he has one and he says he turns on a sun lamp, and puts the headset on and-

James Blatch: Yeah, goes to a beach.

Mark Dawson: ... goes to a beach somewhere.

James Blatch: It's not quite as healthy as actually going outside, by the way, with your dog or something like that, anyway. But.

Mark Dawson: No, but it is quite tempting. And also, I listened to Jean-Michel André Jarre whilst I was writing this morning.

James Blatch: Love a bit of J. M. J.

Mark Dawson: And he's very much, for those who don't know, he's a French multi-instrumentalist, famous for things like Oxygène and Equinoxe. A little bit nerdy perhaps. I'm prepared to accept that.

James Blatch: Fair enough.

Mark Dawson: And anyway, he's at the cutting edge of things. And he did a VR concert in Notre Dame cathedral, Christmas day I think it was. And I've seen it on YouTube in a non-VR way, and I don't think you can experience that unless you were there live. So I missed that one. But it looks fantastic. So yes, I'm tempted. I think I managed to persuade you to buy one this morning, didn't I?

James Blatch: Yes. I've put my order in this morning, then immediately got a call from my bank saying, "Is this a real transaction? It looks like a fraudulent one." So I had to deal with them. It's vaguely connected in that keeping an eye on new technology is not a bad thing for the world that we're in, and who knows exactly where it's going to be? There may well be an ads platform connected to VR at some point. Those big events you talked about, which I can see that happening. I can see a Premier League match or NFL game on a Monday night being a VR experience that you pay for.

Mark Dawson: They do that now. Yeah.

James Blatch: There you go.

Mark Dawson: We're going way off course here, but yes, it is possible to do that on a thing they call Venues. I think you can sit at the front row of an ATP tennis game, which I can imagine that'd work really well.

James Blatch: Yeah. How about a book reading of John Milton with-

Mark Dawson: Yes, absolutely. I'm sure that's coming, and it's very evident that things are moving that way. And the technology's getting smaller and faster and cheaper. So yeah, it won't be long.

James Blatch: Okay. Right. We are going to continue our theme of looking back at the year that 2020 was. It's quite difficult to say that. A hugely disruptive year, of course, in many ways, but not a bad year at all for our particular corner of that market. And that's really reinforced by the people who have this helicopter view. People like Draft2Digital, and then today's guest, which is Kinga from PublishDrive. Very fast-growing aggregator, and a few other services they provide now. So I wanted to catch up with Kinga anyway, find out what their latest offerings are, and hear her informed view by looking at the data of what exactly happened in 2020. Here's Kinga.

Kinga, welcome back to the Self Publishing Show. It's been a long while, actually, since we've had you on. And one of the reasons you're here I think is we want to catch up with what's happening with PublishDrive. It's been a while, I know there's some new products along, a new way of doing things. But also, as we get towards the end, in fact I'm not sure when this interview's going to go out so it might even be the beginning of '21, but as we look back at the extraordinary year of 2020, I think from the conversations you and I have had, you're in a really strong position to give us an overview of what's happened this year in terms of the data. So that's something we're going to get into in this interview as well.

Let's start with you. How are things? How's Hungary been? I know PublishDrive is based over in Hungary and I know you, like the rest of us, nobody's been immune from this chaos, has it?

Kinga Jentetics: First of all, thank you, James, for bringing back to the show. I enjoy all the discussions that we have privately but I'm really happy that now I can share all this information with everyone on the Self Publishing Formula show. And yes, 2020 was an extraordinary year but I wouldn't say it's in a very good sense, I would say. Because obviously, there was a lot of world events that we didn't really anticipate.

When it comes to self-publishing I think we still are in a very good position, and everyone who is into publishing has some new ideas, how you can actually survive, and also the trends are really promising at this moment, that's what we can see.

I think last time we chatted we were in Las Vegas at the 20Books show, two years ago maybe, when we had the first Self Publishing Formula interview.

James Blatch: Yeah. It seems like a very long time ago that we were all in somebody else's country.

Kinga Jentetics: Yeah. And now unfortunately we didn't have that opportunity to catch up again in Vegas. Meanwhile, that was really cool, and I hope that next year everyone can join there as well.

James Blatch: Can't wait until we can meet up in person again. Okay, well then, let's talk about trends. Let's start with that.

What did you see happening as we went into lockdown, in March, I guess is when that all began? What did we see in the self-publishing market?

Kinga Jentetics: Basically with PublishDrive we started to look at the whole book market very closely, since the whole lockdown happened in March 2020. This was actually a very interesting time for us, because in March, basically mid-March, just when the lockdown happened, we came out with print on demand and audiobook distribution as well, next to the eBook distribution that we already had. So that was very weird, how we can get through the noise of all the world being upside down, and now we had two more interesting formats available within the platform.

That was actually really interesting to see, and now we can actually gather all the data for three book formats as well, which is, I think, really cool. And what we could see definitely when the whole lockdown happened, that obviously when people needed to stay at home they were looking for at-home entertainment options. And one of them is obviously reading. So many of the people went to look at the hundreds of Netflix series, but thank God, we still have people who read. And I think there are more and more people who go to books just to escape from the whole world that we all have to experience right now.

Also, it's something that can actually be still done at home without being outside. And what we can see, that different kind of books were trending. So that was first of all the very, very first experience that we had, that most of the trending titles came out from nonfiction titles as well, obviously because all the schools were locked down as well so teachers needed to actually get teaching materials and all these education-related materials as well. So we really could see a huge spike in nonfiction, especially education-related titles.

But then, when it comes to nonfiction, we also could see a lot of increase in self-help related titles, psychology, family and relationships. Basically everything that is somehow related to mental health as well, as people were really looking for ways how they can still get connected and stay connected with their family. But also, if you have to stay at home with your family, you might have actually other problems that you have to deal with. Because it's obviously a totally different mental situation.

So that was very interesting to see at the first side. And also on the fiction side, we could see that obviously that genres that were really popular before, like romance, and thrillers, science fiction, they were also trending. But we also could see that there were action and adventures, for instance, or humour-related titles, that were basically a new way of people to get some kind of good news and laugh and entertain themselves. And I think that also shows that people needed to escape from all this weirdness that happened in 2020. And hopefully it will not happen again in 2021, but yeah, that's definitely something that we could see.

And in general, more people are reading. We could see an instant 20% increase from the sales compared to February to March, just with being all the people locked down and they were looking for new ways to entertain themselves. And especially subscription-related platforms, they started to perform way better than before, that what we could see, libraries, all the different library platforms and library providers, all around the world. That was also a really cool way to see that more people are actually going to their existing library providers and they are trying to get all the contents through them as well.

And all the international retailers that we are working with, that's where we could definitely see a big growth. In a way it comes to the general retailers, like Amazon, Apple, all of them are actually growing. So that's good news to anyone who is in publishing on the digital side. Obviously we work with a lot of authors, we work with publishing companies as well. Some of them come from the traditional world, so they were hit by the whole COVID-19 a bit more. Because obviously, most of the physical stores were closed down as well, so they had troubles, how they could actually get all the income that they usually have from the physical stores. But we could be there and help them as well, how to make their whole digital strategy a bit more stronger in terms of sales.

James Blatch: Can you put any figures on it, Kinga? Can you give us an idea of the size of the growth, particularly in the indie market?

Kinga Jentetics: Sure. What we could see, that compared to last year, same period, we have about 60% more sales in general. Which is really huge. So that's definitely a huge bump on the market. Obviously, we can see that those sales come from, part of the same come from Amazon as well, obviously, because they are one of the most dominant players on the market. But actually we can see that more than 60% of the sales come outside of the Amazon world. So that's actually huge opportunity right now for everyone who actually is thinking about expanding their sales.

There are some very cool subscription platforms that were really performing well, such as Scribd. They were really looking strong. So for this year, also, we have a new partner in subscription. They are based in Singapore and they have a very strong presence in the US as well. They are called Dreame. And we are in a distribution partnership with them as well, and they are specialising on some fiction titles and they are in a very interesting episodic business model. And their sales were really strong this year also. So these are some of the cool platform that we could see growing.

In general, I think whoever is in Kindle Unlimited as well, I'm sure that they've seen more readers and more reads throughout the Kindle Unlimited platform, also. Because subscription is booming right now when it comes to reading.

James Blatch: I guess people are worried about income and subscription models suddenly make sense to people who perhaps weren't looking at them before. So we have books in KU, we've certainly noticed an equivalent increase. Although they were very busy at giving offers out to new subscribers, which probably hit the author payout in the short-term but I think will benefit the authors in the long run.

Okay, so that all sounds interesting. And you have a lot of data now, right? You've got a pretty helicopter view of the industry from where you are.

Are you seeing a sign that this is carrying on? We're still in lockdown in the UK at the moment and in America, and the various states of lockdown around the world. But is this being sustained, this uptick?

Kinga Jentetics: Yes, definitely. We also could see, because since March, every month we put together the book report where we basically look at our own data. We have millions of data going through every month basically, so that's a lot of fun for a data and geek person like me. But also, it really is a huge as well to see what kind of trends are out right now. And we can see that, despite the fact that we always could see some seasonality on the market like during summertime, we have had a huge spike in sales because all the romance novels and all the light reads during summertime when everyone was on vacation were actually really trending.

And also, during Christmas and after Christmas, still in January, we always had a very huge spike in our sales. And despite those trends that we could see before, we could always see that the amount are getting stronger every month, basically. So usually we should have seen some kind of decline, 5%, 10% or 15% decline from month to month, but no, it wasn't actually happening. It was pretty much stagnant and increasing as well. So that was one thing that we could definitely see that this shows a very good future for all the authors that we are working with.

Also, personally, I believe that even though we are still in a lockdown and maybe in a few months, let's hope for that, more people can actually go outside, I think something changed in people. I'm not sure whether we can go back to the same status as we were before, and I'm sure that more people will be cautious about how they spend their time and how they want to interact with other people again, and how often they want to go for vacations and so on. So that's going to be changed I think. That's what I think personally.

James Blatch: It's interesting, isn't it? I wonder how many people switched over to eReaders during this time as well? Because again, they seem to fit nicely with being trapped at home. It's easy to download books, you don't have to wait for them to be posted to you. And even then you might worry that your particular supplier is unable to distribute physical books.
Once we've got eReaders and start getting used to them, that's such good news for indies. Because we rely more on eReaders than the traditional industry do.

Kinga Jentetics: Yes, definitely. And also, what I could actually personally see, that based on what kind of genres were trending better, that there are a new type of reader that arise, basically. Those people who were travelling before, mostly they were experiencing the world with their six senses. They were not just staying at home and reading books to go to another country, but they were really keen on travelling and experiencing, more hedonist type of people, you know?

Those people need to stay at home, and they will not stop in terms of their hungriness of getting new experiences. And we could see that they started to read more and more self-growth and self-help and cultural rated books as well. And I think they are becoming heavy readers as well, in many cases. I'm not sure if that kind of specific reader segment will stay, if the world opens up again, but I think some of the growth can be definitely because of them who didn't really spend enough time before on reading because they had other things to do.

I believe that as more people are getting accustomed that hey, there is digital reading in different formats, they are just realise how easy it is compared to getting all the physical books and store them at home and so on. So I'm sure that this kind of digital effect will not decline after the whole COVID-19 and pandemic will be resolved, hopefully.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, that's all good news, and it's great to know that what we've been seeing on individual levels is being reflected in the big data that you've got available to you. And it makes sense. I think we were discussing the other day about the craft of writing books, the theory that people read books, watch films, et cetera, but read books in order to help them navigate life. Not just to escape it, but to help them navigate their own life.

And of course, I think that last group you talked about, the people perhaps like us, actually, who do quite a lot of travelling, quite busy lives, haven't necessarily needed to retreat into books in the past, but during a lockdown and a pandemic and what felt like an existential threat, find ourselves looking for answers in books.
That new group of readers who are perhaps rediscovering book reading.

Kinga Jentetics: Yes, in terms of the market, it's really true that there are more readers who are actually reading. But on the other hand as well, you could see that there are more authors who finally decided that they are writing as well, because they have more time to do that. And also, another unfortunate situation is that there are more people who are losing their jobs, or they are feeling threatened because they might lose their jobs in the near future, and more people are looking for alternative career options.

And now, many of the people think that finally they have the time and they have the external motivation as well to actually become an author and write the book that they always wanted. So we can definitely see that more and more people actually are joining the platform who are in the situation that they finally can do that. And hopefully we can help them to be financially stable as well in the future.

James Blatch: Yes. Indeed. Welcome everybody who who's decided now's the time, because now is the time.

Let's talk a bit about PD then, PublishDrive. You're an aggregator, then. People should probably know that to start off with. This is a place where you can upload your book and have it distributed across a huge myriad of services. Makes it nice and easy for you to do that, and it's a monthly fee option that you offer on this front.

Now, let's talk about the new services. So print on demand is an important one I think for people like ourselves, and Fuse Books who are in Kindle Unlimited, and in the past aggregators haven't been as obvious a choice for us.

Suddenly with POD as an option, talk us through how that would work on the POD front.

Kinga Jentetics: Since March 2020, we started to have print on demand books on our platform as well. It's pretty easy when you sign up and you try to upload a book, you have three options now. We ask whether you want to upload an eBook, a print on demand book, or an audiobook. Now, after that, when you select it, let's say print on demand, you can just upload your different assets, like the PDF cover, the content file itself, so everything that is related to print on demand like the front cover, back cover and everything that needs to be included.

Then basically you can see which stores are integrated. Right now we have Amazon, we have Chinese stores, and also hopefully in a very few weeks, and I'm not saying anything that is not public yet, but we are working on having Ingram on the platform as well. So we will have a very wide distribution in all senses. And that's how it works.

You can also ask for a review copy, if you need, because obviously when you're an author you want to have that selfie with your book finally.

James Blatch: Of course.

Kinga Jentetics: I know that that's one of the best feelings as an author you can get.

James Blatch: Yeah. And the reason I mention, of course, for KU people, is that not everyone realises, actually, that you are free to distribute the print version of your book. The exclusivity only operates across the electronic version. So there's definitely potentially money left on the table if you're not going wide with your print version.

It is complicated. There's lots of different outlets, and that's the beauty of an organisation like PublishDrive.

Kinga Jentetics: Yeah. And also what is really cool, that you can see all your sales data in one chart. So that's super handy if you have different book formats, and then you don't have to deal with all these Excel sheets if you don't want to. Because not everyone likes Excel sheets and data as much as I do, for instance. And you can basically filter whatever you want to see.

When it comes to the print on demand side, we can see that there is a huge growth in that area as well. Obviously we don't have that much data yet, as we have for eBooks, but we can definitely see that from month to month, the sales data are growing. So it's a really cool way of having your book for the readers in different formats as well. And even though there is the pandemic, people still read physical books as well.

The other side, that you actually want to have your own print version at home. Or for Christmas, you want to actually give that for your family and friends as a Christmas gift. We had those kind of authors as well who was for that. And it's amazing to give that option, because being an author is become legit when you actually have that selfie with your print book.

James Blatch: Yes. It's real when you're holding the book. And that's from kids onwards, that's what we've dreamt of, is having that physical book. Even though it's all about the eBook these days, which is arguably better economically, better for the environment and so on. But there's still that romantic attachment to the physical book, which I think we all share.

Okay, so you mention POD, and there was something else I think that you were launching just as the pandemic took a grip on the world?

Kinga Jentetics: Audiobook distribution.

James Blatch: Audiobook. Yes. Okay. Talk to us about that.

Kinga Jentetics: It's pretty similar to eBook and print on demand. When you have your audiobook ready you can select it from the platform that you want to upload an audiobook. Then you upload your content files. When it comes to audio, it's super important to have the chapters separately, and also read out loud the chapter. So there are some basic stuff that you need to know and you need to meet those requirements. But other than that, everything will be handled by PublishDrive.

Basically we have different partnerships with Google, where we go direct, we have Kobo, we have Audible, so we have a lot of different retailers included within our platform. But also we work with Findaway as well. So for some of the stores, we go and we partnered up with Findaway to extend this fusion network. And also we have Chinese partners on the audio side. So it's really a wide variety of retailers where you can go.

And, we can definitely see a huge growth when it comes to audio as well. I personally listen to a lot of audiobooks as well, because it's just easy. I'm doing some chores or whatever and then I'm listening to a good book. It's a really cool way of increasing your sales. And we can see that most of the successful authors, they actually invest in audiobooks as well.

Because we all know that creating the eBook is way more cost effective in terms of creating the eBook version, and also the print version. But when it comes to audio, you usually have to invite and hire some kind of narrators who charge hourly. But we can also see that for some books, like for some nonfiction type of books, authors who read out the book, they can actually do a good job as well if they have some kind of good skills for that.

For instance, just a couple of days ago I talked to one of our authors and she said that yeah, I was a radio host before. And I was like, "Hmm, maybe you can actually narrate your own audiobook then." Because that's something that I personally really like, if I listen to an audiobook and there's a talented author who actually can entertain me, and I feel a better connection when I actually have the author read out aloud. But obviously it doesn't work for everyone.

And yes, when it comes to audiobook, you can actually have the same kind of experience and everything, including one dashboard when it comes to your sales and also we start to have more and more options for the marketing side as well. So that's what we already established with eBooks, having all the marketing calendars and promotion calendars for the year with all the different retailers we work with. We started to have that with the audiobook side as well, and with the print side as well, to make sure that we can actually suggest more and more authors in more formats to the stores, and we can give extra visibility by featuring even audiobooks or print on demand books in different stores as well. Or in newsletters. So we have these kind of options when it comes to promotions.

If it's about Amazon advertising, for instance, you can advertise an audiobook as well, if it is selling on Amazon. So it is pretty cool. And also that Amazon is linking the different formats on your own author page, that actually is a pretty cool way to direct more readers to your Amazon page.

James Blatch: So is it the distribution of audiobooks, do you have a hand in the helping people with the production side?

Kinga Jentetics: Currently we don't have production side for the audiobooks. We have distribution, but we can help you get in contact with some good audiobook production companies or some narrators we know of. But we currently don't have any kind of production setup in house.

James Blatch: So you need to have the finished product, as you say, either something you've done yourself, or I think Findaway and others will allow you to just do the production side of things.

Kinga Jentetics: Yes.

James Blatch: Audiobooks is a big area of discussion at the moment for various reasons, but it's one of the areas that's a little bit neglected, I think, by some authors, just because it's a little bit more complicated than simply uploading a manuscript.

Kinga Jentetics: Yes. And it has different rules as well, or maybe lack of rules, I would say. In some cases what we can say, that obviously the eBook market is more mature in terms of having the set of rules that you have to play with. Meanwhile with audiobooks, it's still in infant phase, how it's actually managed. And I think there will be a lot of changes coming in the future as well, to standardise more the market. And I'm sure that the whole market will develop. But I think it's a very good area to invest in early on, and right now as well, because the growth numbers are there.

Also, you can instantly expand your content, what you've created, whether it's an eBook or print on demand book. Because you just invest, it depends on how, but you can invest $1,000 or if you DIY then your time, to create the audiobook. And then afterwards you can actually expand to a totally new set of readers, or listeners in that case. Most of the people who are listening to podcasts, so different kind of audience, which can open you new doors, depending on what your goals are with being an author.

James Blatch: So a good expansion of the service that PD offers this year. How is the company doing? You're the CEO. I still think of it as a startup.

Do you still think of yourself as a startup? Or have you matured now?

Kinga Jentetics: I prefer to say a young company.

James Blatch: Okay. There you go. You've moved from startup to young company. And how's it going?

Kinga Jentetics: It's going pretty well. We have a 60% increase in our whole business year on year, in the last couple of years as well, and we expect to have that by the end of this year also. And I think when it comes to the company, we really have a talented team of book nerds, but also engineers and also marketing people, and we try to have more and more to the authors we are working with.

We started our webinars that we actually have for our audience, to make sure that they are keep up with all the trends that is ongoing and also to showcase the new features that we have in the product. Because basically, every week we release something new, and that's not easy to keep up with in some cases.

We have more people within our team as well. We are expanding our team also. And we have great plans for next year, because we definitely want to have more help on the marketing side as well. And I believe that someone can do way more in the future, especially when it comes to metadata and how to optimise your book for relaunch, for instance. So there is a lot of new things that we can do with all the knowledge that we have so far in the market.

James Blatch: There's a lot of stuff buried in all that data, that it'd be a job in its own right just to tap that, I guess. It's a bit like an oil well underneath the sea. I don't know. The land. You know what I mean. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Finally, Kinga, about you, because I know you've been on a couple of these programmes. You've met a couple of high-level operators around the world. I guess that's been a bit curtailed this year with lockdown.

Are you feeling your own development as a young CEO is coming on well?

Kinga Jentetics: Yes. I've learned a lot of things throughout this year, that's for sure. On the personal side as well, I think I grew a lot. Because to be honest, this year was one of the most challenging years for me, on a personal level. I learned a lot how to overcome those challenges. So I think that is one of the things that I actually take away from this year, if there is any kind of positive things.

And also, yeah, it's good that you mention that I was actually involved in a programme that basically is finishing this week. It's a programme that is focusing on female founders, and it is supported by Google. It was a three-month online only digital programme because of the whole COVID-19 situation. They brought 11 female founders from all over the world, and we basically could develop ourselves and each other in different fields to become better leader, and also to grow our company.

We were fortunate to have those mentors joining us who are C-level executives at YouTube, or at other big companies. But also to talk to and have mentorship from those people who built companies before, and they went through all the challenges and all the different problems that I'm sure we all are going through. And learning from them, it was really an extraordinary thing to do, and I think I've learned a lot to become a better leader, but also to become a better person as well.

This was definitely one of the highlights of the year, to go through this whole programme. Because we already went through some other programmes as well before, but I think this was the first programme where I could delve into the personal side as well, because obviously you build a company and you have your team members, and you build a great product, and you actually have a lot of authors and a lot of customers, but at the end of the day you are a person and you have to actually develop yourself and you have to also take care of yourself. So that's something that I usually forget about. But this year made me actually realise that this is really important also.

James Blatch: Good. Well, that is good to hear, and I think that's an important message to learn. We do need to remember that we're people, and we need looking after in the same way that we'd look after a database or anything else. And it sounds like you've had that forced upon you a little bit this year. You've had to confront that, but you feel like you've come out stronger.

Kinga Jentetics: Yes. Definitely. That's what I've learned throughout this year. Basically I felt the need that, okay, something needs to be changed or something. I needed some extra help, some extra motivation. So that's why I applied to this programme, and there were thousands of applicants to this programme. I am really fortunate that I could take part in, and there we could have a lot of mentorships with consultants who were focusing on becoming a better leader, like life coach and so on, or career coach.

But also, we had experienced professionals from C-level and above, and founders, who could actually help us grow. Within the company and also as people. And I think 2020 was really difficult for all of us, and I'm sure that we all needed to go through some challenges and fight with our own demons. And I hope that everyone learned something from it. I'm sure that I've learned a lot as well, this year.

James Blatch: Yeah. Bring on 2021. Well, we should also reflect back on the positives of 2020 in the indie space, as we talked about earlier, and that's been a positive and a blessing for us in our particular industry. And I know some people have their feet in both camps. They can be part-time authors at home, and have a job that's under threat, or a partner who's job's under threat, but trying to build up that side of things. And with the help of organisations like PublishDrive. So thank you for all the work that you've done. It's very impressive.

You and your team have built this platform that never sleeps, seems to evolve every day of the week, which is superb. So thank you, Kinga.

Kinga Jentetics: Thank you, James, for inviting me to the show and tell our story. And we have a lot of information to share, and that's why we create this whole book report every month, to make sure that we are not sitting on all this information and data, because we believe that the whole industry should really share the data and make sure that authors could really develop themselves. And without having an exact view on the market, it's really hard to do. So that's why we try to connect the information we have, and also connect other authors together to learn from each other as well.

James Blatch: Great. Okay. Well, let's hope the next time we're talking it's in person somewhere, we've all been let out of our home arrest situation. So brilliant.

Kinga Jentetics: Yeah. Hopefully with some good weather.

James Blatch: Good weather and a cold drink. Because you're in Hungary and I'm in the UK, so I'm cold here today. We're not in the warmest parts of the world this time of year, are we? We do miss those blue skies and a bit of travelling. Kinga, great. Thank you very much indeed. Lovely to catch up with you, and definitely, this won't be the last time we chat, I'm sure, on the show.

Kinga Jentetics: Thank you very much.

James Blatch: There you go. That's Kinga with confirmation, if we needed it, Mark, that sales were up across the board. Some genres did better than others. And we mentioned last week, I think. Was it last week when we did the look back? We talked about the fact that there was this perfect storm of increased appetite for books, and a lower advertising rate. Certainly after the election there seemed to be a lower advertising rate. And I've been seeing pretty good acquisition figures in Facebook in particular since Christmas. So I'm quite pleased with that.

Mark Dawson: We've covered it before, it is a good time to be writing and advertising at the moment. It's basically a good time to be selling books and making a business as an author just for those reasons. The ads are cheap, certainly cheaper now that the election's out of the way, Christmas is out of the way, and people are still locked down. And demand is quite high. So people are reading more.

I think I mentioned it last week, I did a survey and my readers, I think it's a pretty stupid question because I knew what the answer would be, but, "Did you read more in 2020?" And 93% said yes, something along those lines. Which, I don't know why you asked that question because it was patently obvious what the answer would be. But there it was in black and white that my readers were consuming more because they're at home more. They're not working and they've got more time, and that just all adds up to a very good time to be doing what we do.

James Blatch: We'll see what the longer-term impact on this is. It'd be good for the individual authors that manage to find new readers during this time, if they've got series, and they continue writing, for obvious reasons. There may not be a return to commuting on the same level that there was before. I've certainly got friends who are hearing noises from their London-based jobs that they may well be stuck... Not stuck at home, I think it's their choice to be at home in the future, rather than be going backwards and forwards. There's that wasted hours in the day.

I used to read on the train until 2006, 2007, when the iPhone came along, which I do regret now stopped me reading. I used to have a book with me all the time on the train, and then from '07 onwards I was sat on this stupid phone scrolling through stuff. But I don't know whether that'll have a... Who knows. If it was people's reading time, then obviously they're not going to have that, but they're going to have more time at home. And we've seen this year that has led to people investing in things like Oculus Rift, we mentioned earlier, and books and things that they can just do in the house.

Mark Dawson: I think probably it'll be balanced by the fact that lockdown, and I've seen this from people emailing me, telling me they've read all of the Milton books in lockdown, people who I knew they hadn't read for ages. So they're stuck at home, they want something to do, and even when they've got these other distractions there's still time for them to reignite a love of reading. And I think lots and lots of readers will have been brought back to books by the fact that they've had a lot of time to spend, or to fill, in the last 12 months or so. I think once they've got the bug again, they'll be in for the long haul.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: I'm optimistic. I'm always optimistic about most things, and I think this will be an opportunity that will continue to pay off as we get out of lockdown and hopefully go back to normal again.

James Blatch: Yeah. So get writing. Produce more product to go on the shelf, and stay ahead of the game in terms of marketing, is our top tips from the Self Publishing Show. And that's what we help you do.

We're going to be talking to Ryan Zee from Plottr next week if you want to hear more about that bit of software to help you write your books, and lots of other stuff in 2021 to come.

Thank you very much indeed to our guest, Kinga Jentetics, I think that's right, Genetics is often how people say it, for being our guest this week. Thank you again to our foundation contributors, very generous for 2020. We'll be announcing those foundation winners soon. We're also going to have a couple of those who have been awarded grants in the past to see how they're getting on. We know Elle Thorpe's going great guns. We had her on a little while back. I've seen her posting in the 20Books group maybe three weeks ago, if you want to go back and find that thread where she outlined her successful year. What a brilliant year she's had, and that started with the SPF Foundation.

Right. That is it, Mark. I think I'm done. I've got nothing else to say. Have you got anything else to say?

Mark Dawson: No. I've got some emails to write, and then I'm going to do a bit of VR-ing.

James Blatch: Fair enough. Okay. Right. All that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

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