SPS-398: Sell Audiobooks Direct with BookFunnel – with Damon Courtney

Damon Courtney, the creator of Bookfunnel returns to the podcast to speak about recent features of the app and what it can do for authors who use it. Particularly, the rising accessibility of audiobooks through AI Voicebanks.

Show Notes

  • Bookfunnel Basics.
  • Distributing Audiobooks.
  • Bookfunnel and AI.
  • Audiobook listeners.
  • Direct sales and building a fanbase.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


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Sell Audiobooks Direct with BookFunnel - with Damon Courtney

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show,

Damon Courtney: What we're calling AI really is just learning from things that have already existed. And so your brain and your creativity are, are out there able to create things that simply don't exist.

Speaker 1: 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 Blat 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 with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me. Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Not in your, if you're watching on YouTube, not in your usual location. You are in East London. We're a gangsters.

Mark Dawson: My God, yes. I'm in Bethel Greem Well East then I suppose I will not walford, although Walford course is made up. Yes.

James Blatch: If you said you're staying in Walford, I, I'll call you out on that. Yes. What doing in East London being a gangster?

Mark Dawson: I'm with my daughter who's going to theatre school, so I'm taking a theatre school. Then today, I, I walked for over 10 kilometres. I, I had I went back to my first house in Hackney, then I went to my second, my flat in Dolson. And then yeah, wandered to the Museum of Childhood where I used to write, when I first started writing the, the Black Mile, I used to go to the Child, have a scone and a Diet Coke, and I'd sit there for two hours and, and write. So, although I've got there, it was shut. So I'm going to have to go by guitar, but yeah. There we go.

James Blatch: Oh, damnit. So you readers in your past, I remember your flattened dolson. I remember playing FIFA in there

Mark Dawson: Yeah. With you

James Blatch: And yes. You have a long time ago. I seem to Maybe you had a Rothko on the wall. Not an actual one though.

Mark Dawson: Not an actual one.

James Blatch: No. No. Good. Oh, well have a good week in London. Yeah. Things of course pressing ahead. In the world of self-publishing, we have taken your views on board about London versus Cambridge. Probably still a chance to have your say if you want in the groups, but we're now crunching the I'm going to say crunching the figures. It's not really the figures, it's more the practicalities of everything. And we're still waiting for some information from Cambridge various venues to really do a, like-for-like comparison. We will make a decision soon. And as I think I said to you before, you can put your name on the waiting list. If you go a self-publishing live, you'll be first to hear. 'cause We will do an early bird price again for the conference. We'll hopefully get that underway in the next month or so.

Yeah, I don't know what else there is to say at the moment. We've got our, we'll, we're heads down at the moment in course production and modification mode. So ads for authors. Our premium primary course is going to be opening its doors on September the 13th. Currently going through the material now. And we have an one-off course, which is just going into production on translations more of that later. And those of you who watched Bella Andre at the Self-Publishing show live or on the digital version of that one will be, I'm sure eagerly anticipating that particular course. And we had a little celebration for you at the weekend. I didn't bring you a birthday present or birthday card as I pointed out to anybody who asked me. It's not actually your birthday for months, but you did have a birthday party, so I did say, I hope you noticed, I did say happy birthday party Mark at the beginning of the evening.

Mark Dawson: Yes. No, it was very good. It was I had about under 150 people in the garden from various places and lot still got quite drunk, including my wife. I actually wasn't too bad. I think I managed to pace it quite well, but no, it was, it was, it was fun. I had a lot, a lot of people I had seen for age. So it was lovely. Very good

James Blatch: Really nice. Have a, a really good catch up and good chats with quite a few people from the published self publishing world, as well as some of your real, real world neighbours. Good chat with Alan Burrows, who you write children's books with. And he and I have some shared interests on Apollo and stuff like that. Yeah. And chat with Ricardo and Sarah, Ricardo AK from Reedy. And luckily you showed me your secret stash of extra cold beer, which I helped myself to most evening. I,

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I did.

James Blatch: I made good use of that. And it's nice to catch up with your mom again. So that was our, that was our weekend, our trip to Salibury. It was great fun. Okay. And yes, I should, we should also say we did have some chats about business. So more of that's anon 'cause there is a little connection here. We'll let you know. We're always working. You and me, aren't we even at a party?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, there's lots going on Absolutely. At the moment. Very busy. Yes, you too.

James Blatch: We've got one of the, one of the gods of self-publishing on today, Damon Courtney one of the founding fathers of the sort service industry that's sprung up around self-publishing. Wasn't that long ago, mark, when if you wanted to give away a book, you ran a spreadsheet, you would've done that and an email, try to send, send out emails. And I guess sometimes people waited a few hours day maybe to get their free book. It was all a bit manual plus few

Mark Dawson: Days sometimes. Yeah. You kind of stack 'em all up and send 'em back in. Yeah. As in the b c c card. Yeah, , there's

James Blatch: Only so many you can do like that though. Isn't, and I think email providers don't like it.

Mark Dawson: No, they don't. It is a very good way to get your email shut down. So no, we don't do all that anymore. We we use automation and book funnel, which is you know, two work hand in hand. So you build your list and a saw overnight, I had I 20 good drum, my mail list. I didn't lift a finger. So it was, you know, the ads are automatic. The the kind of joining, joining them into the, into the manual list is automatic. And then the delivery of the, of the ebook and in the that they need it. The help is automatic as well. 'cause Yeah, we all, so yeah, it's a very big help.

James Blatch: Yeah, I mean, I use it. I'm using it at the moment, running lead at Gen Adson and building up my main list. Again, as you say in your sleep, people join your main list and get your book. Yeah, so Damon's, but he hasn't sat on his, his heels at all during that time. They do lots more than that. A lot of chat in this interview about audio books and about direct selling and book funnel, really at the centre of of those movements. Audiobook discussion was quite interesting actually. So, well look, let's let's go over to, that's have the interview with Damon and Mark and I will be back for a quick chat at the end.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Damon Courtney, welcome back to the Self-Publishing Show. We've had you on before.

You are a guest of ours at the Self-Publishing Show Live in London, but now you are back home in Cosy and Cool Houston in Texas. It's neither, it's it's neither of those things really. Is it Houston?

Damon Courtney: It is. Neither of those things. No. Not cosy nor cool, especially after being in London for ss p s Live. It, and we just happened to, I took the whole family on a vacation and we just happened to be there when Houston and Texas and most of the Southwest were under what they're calling a heat dome, which I mean, ramped up temperatures to like 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't even know what that is in Celsius. I was trying to explain it to people while we were in London and I couldn't even come up with a number. I was like, I think it's about 46 degrees

James Blatch: Celsius people. Yeah, that's knocking on I meanif, oh, fifties. Like boiling points for a human, but it's it's knocking on that. That's horrible. I do not like a heat dome, but no,

Damon Courtney: And no one here did either. So we, we actually really lucked out. I was getting texts from my mom while we were in London. Like, ah, you're so lucky you're over there. It's 115 degrees outside.

James Blatch: Yeah, well you will build a city in the middle of a very hot area of the world. I mean, yeah,

Damon Courtney: Yeah.

James Blatch: But so, you know, there's, there's Cold Bits of America as well. I mean, poor Craig Martel

Damon Courtney: . Well, I mean, he's like, he's inside the Arctic Circle. So very, very,

James Blatch: He's a balancing up a little bit. Anyway, enough for the weather. Let's let's talk about Book Funnel. So Book Funnel is a fantastic book delivery system that you invented yonks ago in, in it terms in sort of tech terms. And it's become just part of the furniture, part of the landscape for indie authors.

You've done a fantastic job with that service, but for those people, and there can't be many of them who do not know what Book Funnel is, why don't you start off by explaining that service?

Damon Courtney: Sure. So like, I don't remember when the last time I was on the show. So, you know, we've, we've done a lot since we, since for sure, since the last time I was on, 'cause we're always building new stuff. But initially Book Funnel was you know, I, I had a reader magnet that, that I published self-published a fantasy series, and I had a reader magnet that I was, I wanted to deliver when people signed up for my mailing list. And I had no way to deliver that. And, and apparently it didn't exist. I went and looked around, I actually joined Mark's mailing list and Joanna Penns and Hugh Howie and Joe Conrad and all these people and, and all of them had done the same thing. They just kind of emailed you a, an epub and a mobi and said, you know, here's your book.

And I thought, that's, that's not, that's not going to work for a lot of people. I'm a techie guy, but I didn't figure that that was going to work out. So I thought, oh, well, I, I can solve that problem. My wife, Julie, who runs Book Funnel with me, would tell you that I, I, I think I can solve every problem with software. But in this case I was actually right because there was a a better way. Right? There's not always a better way. But, so we started off and it was really just ebook delivery. Like, we'll deliver your eBooks and if if readers have trouble, we will help them get their books to their devices. But over the years we've, we've grown into, as you say, like we're kind of the industry standard for delivering anything that you want to deliver outside of the traditional store system.

Right? You, you put your book up on Amazon, obviously Amazon is going to be in charge of getting that book or that audio book if you're on Audible, getting those to reader's, devices and things like that. But anywhere you can think of that you would want to do something outside of that store system, you want to give away a free short story to your mailing list and just say, Hey guys, here's a, here's a short story I had, I thought you guys would like or if you wanted to sell direct from your website, you want to sell your audiobooks or your eBooks direct. Like we are the, we're the delivery service. We're the one that puts all that stuff together and make sure that the readers are going to get what they paid for.

James Blatch: So as you say, the classic use of book Funnel people, perhaps familiar with the service well know is if you have a novella that you want to give away, and it's just, it just means there's a link that you send out to your email address. And one of the great things for us, and I, I have a, an older audience for my military Cold War stuff and yeah, for sure, they're not always as as used to tech perhaps as the 30 year olds, in which case I do a probably twice a week get an email from somebody. Usually quite nice, but just saying they had trouble loading it. And a brilliant thing for me is I can send them a link to your help pages knowing that you have a support team that will take that off my hands. And that, honestly, whatever, if it's 50 or a hundred qui, I, I can't remember how much it is now, you can tell us that is worth it's weight in gold not to have to deal with that.

Damon Courtney: Yeah. We built a lot of really cool features. Right. You know, it's, it's, I'm a software developer, so I love building cool stuff, but I always tell people the biggest thing that you get with Book Funnel, even on our, our lowest plan, which is only $20 a year, you get a hundred percent support for your readers. Our, our support team is there 365 days a year, even on Christmas. Like, we are answering emails Christmas morning from people who open up their new Kindle under the tree, and they've got that new, you know, they got that, that free book that they just got delivered. Like, we are there all the time. And it, it really is. In fact, we tell authors like, please, if some, if a reader contacts you, please just forward them to us and say, Hey, thank you so much for, you know, contacting me.

I'm so sorry you had trouble book funnel handles my, you know, ebook delivery and they'll be happy to help you because like you could end up actually confusing them more. Yes. If you try to help them. Like, we do this every day, all day, every day. And, and we're really good at it. Our people are trained on every, every device you can think of that a reader might have in their hand. We've got one and we've tested our process on it and we know how to get a book to it. So yeah, just we say, don't, don't, don't do that. You're, that's what you pay us for. Send 'em to us and we'll take care of it.

James Blatch: Which is superb. And as you say so, so that's giving away a novel novella, whatever. But you've added a lot more since then. I think the big innovation last time we spoke was the audio books. Mm-Hmm. You have your own audio player, which is a bit of a game changer actually because it's much more technically complex to deliver an audiobook. Even even back in the Hugh Harry Mark Dawson days when they're doing it themselves. I don't know how they'd do that, an MP three file, but it's quite big on an email, et cetera.

So you have a system of delivery and a system of playing. And now I think with ai and AI voices and so on, that's, that's opening up a whole little ecosystem for authors

Damon Courtney: For sure. 'cause We, so book funnel, like we get the email all the time, and I'll just answer the question here, book Funnel is, is a, you pay us as a service, right? So I don't really care what you are delivering. I don't have, we don't have specific policies about whether you can use AI narrated books or any of that stuff. We ask that if you're going to put, so, so we have a lot of authors that are doing this. And I know like Joanna Penn does, she does her audio books twice, right? She has the, for her nonfiction, she has the one that she records in her own voice, which she sells as sort of a full price audio book. And then she has one that she paid like $80 to AI narrate. And now I think you can even get it done for, for free.

Like Google Play will just na we'll do ai narration of your audiobook for free. And it's, it's, you know, there's still the uncanny value you can tell, right? You know, but I've heard few, some ais where I'm like, I have a hard time knowing that that's a computer. Hmm. Right. So the only thing the book funnel really asks is don't, you know, treat your readers with respect. Tell them put in the narrator field AI narrated or narrated by AI or something like that just so that it doesn't feel like you're trying to give them some sort of bait and switch. But we have a lot of authors that have started doing that because, I mean, let's be honest, audiobooks are expensive to produce. They, they just are, especially for an indie author who's really just getting started. But the the problem is that if you're just starting out, right, you, you've just got your first book out, maybe your second book out, you, you probably don't, unless you just somehow got on a rocket ride.

You, you probably don't have enough money to produce full-blown, you know, actor narrated audio books. Except that even when you're first starting out and you first have that first or second book out there, there is a hungry audience that would like it in audio books. Right. What we've learned since we launched audiobook a few years ago was that you, you sort of have three classes of readers. You have readers like me who don't do audio at all. I, I I, I read eBooks. I, that's the way I enjoy my reading. It's, I get in bed at night and I read, and that's my, my downtime. Have audio. You have readers like my wife Julie, who is an audio first listener. So if you have it in audiobook, she's absolutely going to take the audiobook first. But if you don't, she still reads plenty of eBooks and that's just fine.

And then you have this last class of audio only they have absolutely moved into, they only care if your stuff is an audiobook and you will not be reaching them as an audience if your book is not available in audio. So, you know, AI narration has opened up the possibility for a, a lot of indie authors to get their stuff into audio. And sure, maybe one day they'll have the money where they can say, oh, I'm, I could invest the money to actually get an actor to come in and narrate my audiobook, and I really want that. But in the meantime, you're missing out on a class of, of readers who just won't touch your stuff if they can't listen to it in audio.

James Blatch: Yeah. I mean, I'm fascinated by the the AI audio. I was playing with 11 labs in New Yorko and I, someone introduced me to it and yeah,

Damon Courtney: They're good.

James Blatch: And I created, you know, a British middle-aged male voice and you get like a, a slide bar, which goes zero to a hundred percent, but you'll never get the same voice twice. Even if you move it between say 18 and 19 and then back to 18, it's not the same voice again. So it seems to me there's like an infinite number because of the way the algorithm works of voices, and you can settle on one that works for your book and then it's pretty damn good. It's pretty damn good.

Damon Courtney: It is really good.

James Blatch: It's not a hundred percent, that's for sure. There's some inflexions, but what I've been doing, and I haven't released anything yet, I know this is controversial, I'll get some comments about this, but I am seriously thinking about doing my Noella, it's cost me three and a half thousand pounds to do my novels and that's expensive. And the idea of perhaps getting it out there using book funnel, delivering to those people who have already bugged me about having this in audio, and then maybe when it's made some money back investing that in a, in a human, it might be my, my way of doing it. But one thing I found, I copy and paste a chapter in, listen to it, and then rewrite some sentences that are going to work better with the way he talks and write some stuff out phonetically.

Like there's a r f station r f Habana in Iraq, which is mentioned a lot in my, my book and I have to spell that out Hania to make him say it. Yeah. But that's, you know, that's fine. So it takes a few minutes for each chapter, but it's going to cost me, I think probably on the top top plan on 11 labs, like 80 bucks probably in a month to get that done compared to three and a half thousand pounds. And that's a big saving. So I'm really tempted to release this. I will get some hate from it. And Mark's very suspect about the whole thing, and I realised that. But I love it.

Damon Courtney: I think we're in the, the early stages though. I think that there are people out there that are trying it out and, and you know, look back when in when indies were releasing eBooks and all the trad publishers were saying, oh, these are garbage. This is crap. Yeah. Like I, it feels the same kind of thing. And ultimately our message, the Mark's message, like everybody's message back then is still the same, which is we're going to let the readers decide. You, you tell me, you say that my book is, is crap because it's self-published, or you say, my book is crap because I didn't a professional editor, or I didn't pay $4,000 for a developmental editor, whatever. Right? Like, there's always some reason why somebody's going to crap on your book. And our answer was always yeah, I'm going to let the readers decide and readers are buying my book and they've decided that they like it.

So I get it that you think it's crap. But, but my readers like it. And I think you're going to get the same thing with ai you with with, with audio narration and things like that. The readers will decide if you put it out there, you spend your 80 bucks and you're like, Hey, I tried that. And it turns out yeah, everybody hates the AI narrated stuff. They said, it sounds it sounds like a robot and I don't want to listen to it, but you've learned the lesson. Yeah. Right. Yeah. And, and I think you'll find that some readers do care. So this is like what Joanna was trying, if you want to pay the full price audiobook, you get me Joanna Penn reading my nonfiction book, but for 4 99 for five bucks you can buy. If that is not important to you, you can buy the AI narrated one that only costs me $80 to produce.

And if that's good enough for you. 'cause For a lot of people, I'm just listening in my car, right? I'm, I'm on my way to work and I'm listening to audiobooks in my car. I, I, especially in the case of like nonfiction, I just want the material. I don't, it, it doesn't bother me. As long as it sounds good enough, I'm fine. But again, we're going to let the readers decide. What's really cool is, is that, so Book Funnel launched short audio, what we called short audio before we launched full blown audiobook. So for things like novellas and short short stories and things like that, all that stuff's included in your book funnel plan without the extra audiobook stuff, which I will say we haven't released audiobooks out of beta yet, which means everybody's just using it for free. We're not charging anything for it.

But it will be an add-on to an existing account. 'cause Most, most authors, especially younger authors or the newer authors are not doing audio yet. So for them, they don't need that extra audio book stuff. But we have short audio and a lot of our authors have started doing their reader magnets, their novellas, their short stories in audio. 'cause What's cool about that is that you send them the welcome, they join your mailing list and you send them the welcome email that says, Hey, welcome, thanks for joining my list. Click here if you want to get the ebook version of of mind novella, click here if you want to listen to it in audio. And what's cool about that is that based on that click, you can immediately tell that this person is an audio listener or this person prefers eBooks. Now, you won't necessarily know if they're audio only or audio first.

But the, the point is, you sort those people into a different list. You tag them and you put them on a separate list that says, Hey, when my full audiobook comes out, those are the people that want that. I want to inform about it. 'cause If you take a reader, like, like my wife who is an audio first listener, if you release your ebook first and then you don't release the audiobook for six months later, right? You, you finally, you put together the money and you, you don't release them. Most people, the authors who've kind of reached that next level, they're, they're really trying to get all those releases at the same time. So you want your ebook, your paperback, and your audiobook, all formats to drop at the same time. But newer authors, that's, that's probably not possible unless you, you know, have some sort of some sort of funding backing you.

Right? Because it, it does cost money to produce the audiobook. But what happens is those audio only listeners, you're going to get those guys when you finally publish the audiobook. 'cause They weren't paying attention. They didn't care when you released the ebook. But those audio first listeners, they would've paid full price for the audiobook if you'd had it. But since you didn't have it on launch day, they went ahead and, and read the ebook in ku or they picked it up for a few bucks on Amazon and sure you made, you know, you made a dollar 18 or whatever off of that. But they would've bought the full price audio book If they'd known. And so by sec segmenting your list and saying, okay, these are my audio listeners, these are my ebook readers. You don't tell those audiobook listeners that the new book is out until you know that you have the audiobook available. And then you send a list to that, to that group that says, Hey, the audiobook for my new book is, is up and available on Audible. And then those people run off and buy that version.

James Blatch: And in terms of selling it using book funnel, you have a cart system and a player.

Damon Courtney: So we don't, so this is the interesting thing was when we built sales, which was back in 2017, so people had been asking us for, for direct sales delivery every si like the week after we launched. And we were like, we, we just got like reader magnet delivery. You know, we're going to need some time. So that was in 2015. Two years later we launched direct sales delivery. And our, my philosophy with direct sales was that authors want to own the experience with their reader and book funnels just here to deliver the thing that they purchased, which at the time was only eBooks. 'cause We hadn't built audiobooks yet. And so we didn't build a, a full store and payment processing and all that stuff. That was actually a solved problem. There's PayPal, there's WooCommerce, there's Shopify, there, there our pay hip. There are so many places out there that already do that part.

I really felt like it was our responsibility to step in and do the delivery. Just like with the Reader Magnets, I don't want to be your mailing list. You can go use mailing line, you can go use MailChimp. Now when you want to send them something, that's when you come to me and I'll send them that thing. So the way that direct sales works on Book Funnel is you own the store. So let's just as an example, a lot of authors now are looking at Shopify. 'cause It's a gigantic platform, right? And it has a lot of reach. So you set up your Shopify store, you go and sell your audiobook. When you do the sale, everything, the money, all of that is handled on your side book funnel simply steps in and goes, oh hey, I'm going to deliver this audiobook to this reader over here.

The the really cool thing about that is we don't take a cut of the sales. There's, there's book funnel's not involved in the money. And so if you have an account with Book Funnel, we're delivering all your sales and there's no, not a single percent goes to Book Funnel. You're just paying us as a service. 'cause We're just a straight software as a service transaction. Right? so like when a reader gets an audio book, we have an audio player that is io for iOS and Android. So like you would expect it works on all the devices. We also have a, what we call the cloud player, which is people can listen to it in their browser. 'cause We have a lot of people that listen at, like, they'll open up their browser and they can't use their cell phones at work, but they can use their browser.

So they'll listen at work. Which also means we support a bunch of other devices that are not necessarily supported by iOS and Android. You can just open up your browser and listen to anything. And then optionally, depending on how authors feel about it, right? Because we try not to be opinionated about things. We try to say, you're the author. It's your, they're your readers. You decide you can optionally enable D r m free MP threes as a download. Right? And, and that what we've seen that that that really sort of folds out by, by genre. If you're in lid, p g, those guys want those MP threes because even though they can listen in the book Funnel app, they already have an app that they likes to listen to. Or they have a player that they wear that they, when they're jogging or whatever.

So they want those MP threes romance readers don't care. They just want an easy app experience. And we built the book Funnel apps audio player to be top-notch. Like just, it, it works. We're really picky about software. And my wife is a really picky audio listener. So she came back and was like, Nope, it's not good enough. It's not good enough. It's not good enough. It took us almost a year and a half to develop the audio. Like you were saying, like a lot of the, a lot of what we'd learned in eBooks couldn't translate into delivering audiobooks. They're just very, very different. We almost had to write entirely different sets of software to deliver audiobooks. But in the end we were really, really happy with, with what we came out with, which we, we think is a, as a first class audio player.

James Blatch: Yeah. The feature I used the most is the 15 second skip back. 'cause I'm, I mean, I don't, I don't listen to lots of audiobooks, but I do find my mind suddenly wanders. I realise I haven't listened to the last, last 10 seconds, 15 seconds. And I use that a lot. But yeah. That's, I mean that's terrific. And I think this you know, one of the learning, I went to Majorca after London, bit of a mastermind conference there, and one of the, the two topics that dominated were was AI and direct sales. they seem to be the two areas really on the growth at the moment. And you are well positioned with that. With that link, with Shopify in particular, it seems to be the, the package of choice for a lot of direct salespeople. Yeah. So it is as simple as having a Shopify account linking it with book funnel. We don't have to go into the details of how, but yes, you can do that.

And you can do things like refunds and stuff. You do all that. Presumably how would you do a yeah. You can do refunds?

Damon Courtney: So BookFunnel doesn't, like Shopify doesn't tell us if you refund them on, on that side. But if you go into your BookFunnel dashboard, you can just say refund. And really all that means is it pulls those books back out of their BookFunnel library and takes them away 'cause they've refunded and you can refund individually. So you can refund the whole transaction. Or you can just say, oh, they accidentally purchased refund that book. And it all, it really on from the book funnel side, it means take that book back out of their library. They're not supposed to have that one anymore because but yeah, it's, it's all there.

James Blatch: I'll tell you why I ask. 'cause I was thinking I say about the 11 Labs thing, and particularly some people being a bit cynical about it, what I was thinking about doing, it's interesting you say what you should put in for the author name is, is releasing it like 4 99 or something to my mailing list only. Putting a real name in there and then after a month emailing them to say, I love your feedback is an experiment. It's a test. What did you think of the narrator? What do you think of stuff? And then reveal to them it was ai. I have no intention of a long-term deceit, but I would quite like people to listen to it not knowing and then then know. And then that's why I'd want the refund because some people might think I wouldn't have bought it as ai in which, which case I'd obviously just refund them. But I would love Yeah. A control group to feed back to me not knowing whether it's AI or not. And, and, and they won't necessarily come back. I don't think they'll come back and say, I thought this, this is a robot. But they might come back and say, Hmm, I thought he was a bit flat. Something like that. They'd be quite interested to hear that.

Damon Courtney: It all depends on the, the ai. I, I've heard some of the stuff from 11 Labs and it's, it's really good. Yeah. Like I'm an engineer, right. I've, I've been building, I've been writing codes since I was seven years old and that stuff just blows my mind. It is incredible. Even as an engineer, I'm like, I don't even know how they did that.

James Blatch: Right. It is moving so fast. The fact that I can upload my own voice. I haven't done this yet. I can upload my own voice And I've got, I've got a lot of it recorded, but these podcast episodes a huge sample and it will then create my voice on there.

Damon Courtney: That's, it's so crazy.

James Blatch: Yeah. it's moving so quickly. It is going to be everywhere.

So, audiobook, delivery, ebook, delivery, what else are the features that you've rolled out are coming when we, we spoke either last time, but what, what are your latest things?

Damon Courtney: What are the latest things? So, I mean, you, like you said, we were talking about it in Mallorca, the direct sales has been the biggest topic of conversation even for the last couple of years. I think mostly because authors are f I mean if you're, if you're just new, and this is, I, I actually give a talk at, at some conferences albeit 20 books this year. And I have a talk on, on direct sales. And the thing is, is like if you're new and this is all, you're just publishing your first or your second book, it, it's probably not worth it for you to go through and try to set that stuff up. You, you, you need to have a little bit of a backlist. And more importantly, you, you really should have a bit of an audience that's already built up that is looking for your stuff.

'cause You're going to have a a you're going to have to direct traffic to that, right? You know nobody's going to, is just going to stumble upon your website and be like, oh look, they've got books for sale, I think I'll buy those. Right? That's, that's not really a thing that happens. But what we are discovering as authors is that once you've built an audience and you have a solid fan base, a lot of them would absolutely love to buy directly from you. Especially if you get your messaging right and it's like, look, you know, you can of course buy my books on Amazon and Audible and every place else, but if you buy them directly from me, I get all the money. And that's a, you know, that's a message that actually resonates with readers because you have, what we have found is you have a lot of readers who are especially like readers who have Kindle Unlimited accounts and they're k they're, it's almost exclusively KU readers.

They are loyal to the Amazon platform and they don't really care which authors they're reading as long as there is something for them to read. I say they don't care about their authors, they do, but, you know, if you stop publishing tomorrow, they probably wouldn't notice that another book never came out from you. 'cause They just went on and read somebody else in the genres that they love. But a lot of those readers, they care more about their author. They care more about the authors, readers like me, I have my list of authors that are my, that I'm a super fan and I buy all of their books when they come out. And if they suddenly told me, Hey I'm selling them direct from my website now, I would go and buy those because I want to make sure that you are going to, that you are going to keep publishing.

Right. One of the, the most shocking things to me 'cause now we've book funnels, been here for eight years now and, and I've made a lot of friends and, and met a lot of authors in the industry, including some that have been traditionally published for a very long time, and some that have been tr some that have been even publishing for 30, 40 years. And what was crazy to me was to learn that some of those authors that I loved as a kid, authors that I read as a teenager that were just like, to me, were these incredible books that shaped so much of my, my life. They didn't make a living at writing like they were high school chemistry teachers for their full-time job. And then they wrote these books on the side because you, you couldn't actually make a living. A lot of them couldn't make a living as a, as a full-time writer.

And that was, I think it was heartbreaking to 14 year old Damon who's just like, what this, these books that were so, you know, that made such an impact on me. The author couldn't make a living off of those. But of course, you know, we all know how traditional publishing works and or at least most of us have learned how all of that worked. And the truth was is that, you know, if you sold a book, you got like 18 cents and, and the publisher took everything else. So it's not surprising. And in the indie world, that's, that's flipped on its head, right? You know, more, I know more authors today that are, that are making a living at writing than probably there have ever been writers in the world at one time making a living at their writing. And so the more that that, that you build up that fan base, the more that you are able to reach out directly to those readers and, and talk to them.

So that's been the big push in the last couple of years as far as things that book funnel's been building audio books. Obviously we launched that a couple of years ago, but that's been a huge feature for us. That's been one that a lot of people have been coming in for. We do, you know, we do a lot of promotional stuff now. We're not, I I like to say we're not really a pro promotional tool. Book funnel doesn't have like a mailing list of readers that we'll send your stuff to. But we have group promos that you can join in with other authors in your genres so that you can find other readers for your books. And that's really, really important when you're just starting out, when you're first starting out with your first, or first or second book. The the goal is at that point is just to write the next book and find more readers for your books.

And so group homos are a great way to join in with other authors in your genre and find those readers that are actually looking for your kinds of books. And that's where you'll need a reader magnet and things like that. And, and we don't need to talk about that. I'm sure that you, you guys have talked about reader magnets and all that sort of stuff plenty of times. But, you know, once you have you know, in a talk that I give for beginner book marketing, one of the first things I say is first finish your book, and then once you're done with your book, think about what your reader magnet is going to be before you've published that book. And, and it, you know, the best thing you can possibly do is have that reader magnet done, whether it's a short story or a prequel novella or whatever it is, so that the minute you put that first book out there, you've already got a sign up in the back of the, you know, the a a mailing list sign up at the back of the book, and you've got your reader magnet ready to go because you don't know where those early readers are going to come from.

You know, the fir even as you put your first book out there, you're, you know, your or your first readers are probably going to be your family and friends and people that come in and buy your book and just want to be supportive. But as the book gets out there and other people start discovering it, you don't want to miss out on those earliest readers who may have joined your list, got your reader magnet, and ultimately been on the path to becoming a super fan. But if you put that first book out there and there was no click, there was no link in the back of the book, then they're just gone. They're, they're lost. You know? I know Lucy score was at s p s Live last year and, and got up and gave a big talk and she she came to my NNC talk in 2018 where I talked about reader magnets and, and putting a sign up and this ex specifically a bonus chapter.

So, so putting a chapter at the end of the book, you know, the, the book is finished. She writes Romance. So the happily ever after has happened. Hooray, the couple has met, they fallen in love and you get to the end of the book, but there's a little bonus chapter that happens a year later, right. You know, the, a year later when they, they, the, the baby's first born or, you know, whatever, right? She went home after Nate. She was like, oh my God, that's such a great idea. She went home, she wrote a bonus chapter for the two books that she had out already put those out into the world and immediately started. She has a list of over 120,000 people now. And she built all of that on the back of just having a little bonus chapter at the end of each book.

But the first, she was already on her second book when, when we met. And she was so mad because all those readers who read the first and second book before she got the bonus chapters done, she didn't know where they went. Right. They, they never had a chance. She didn't even have a mailing list they could join. And so, and, and she was one of those rocket rides, like she put out her first book and it just launched. And I tell people, you don't know that you won't be that one. I mean, we all hope to win that, that golden ticket, right? But you might actually be the one that wins the golden ticket that, that hundreds of thousands of readers pick up your book. It resonates in a way like The Martian that just, you know, takes off like crazy and you want to make sure that when they get to the end of the book, it's like, Hey, I hope you love the book. Click here to join my list and get a bonus chapter or a prequel novella, or whatever it is that your reader magnet is. And you want that in there from the very beginning.

James Blatch: Yeah. And mark was similarly, he had a big takeoff early on with nothing in the back of his book. Hundreds of thousands of downloads over a weekend. But gone, that was a wake up moment for him. I think we probably covered a lot of the the book funnel stuff. It's always brilliant to talk to you Damon and you know, well thank you on behalf of the community for providing such an excellent service. Coming up with a great product that fixed the problem, and then your team and the team you've built and the product you've built and the support you've built is outstanding. And the fact that you, you keep there, I don't think you are remotely complacent about your position in the industry and you, you work very hard.

Can you give us any glimpses of the future? I mean, the robots obviously are coming before they

Damon Courtney: AI is coming and I, I will tell people I know that everybody's afraid of it play around with it. Right. You know, even in my industry in, in programming, right? There's that the, the what AI can do in writing code is mind blowing. And so, you know, I don't know if there'll be any programmers in five years. Yeah. I don't know if that'll be a job, but I will tell you that it doesn't scare me as much because writing, writing code, just like writing words in a book, they're, they're just words. Right? You still need somebody to put that stuff together and make a good story out of it. And I know that AI can, can kind of make a good story, but keep in mind that the stuff that we're doing right now, that what we're calling AI really is just learning from things that have already existed.

And so your brain and your creativity are, are out there able to create things that simply don't exist. Right. I, I love telling people that the what we have now, because Indie stepped in and said, you know, I'm a fantasy reader and a fantasy writer. And for like two decades, traditional publishing lost me as a reader because Game of Thrones came out in 1994 and fan fantasy publishers decided everybody wanted to read Grim Dark Fantasy with, with people just getting their heads chopped off and, and lots of blood and violence. And I don't, I like heroes and I like, I dream about Knights and Dragons and things like that. And, but for 20 years traditional publishers weren't publishing that stuff. They had just decided that the fantasy readership had moved on in the same way that once Twilight hit and then was gone.

They were like, ah, people don't read vampires anymore and then here come the Indies. And they're like, well, I still like vampire books, so I'm going to write those. And then found like, holy crap. Yeah. There were millions of people out there that were clamouring for vampire books that the other publishers just simply decided weren't there anymore. The readers weren't there anymore. You know, when I, I started reading Indie Fantasy, I found the books again that I loved because the indie authors were like, you know what, scroll this grim dark crap. I'm going to write something with real heroes and real adventure and, and I'm going to, you know, have some fun with it. And I was like, ah, that's what I want to read. And you know, we have genres now that didn't even, and didn't even exist. Traditional publishing, you know, the Agatha Christie sort of cosy mystery novels at all, but disappeared.

They were like, ah, Agatha Christie's old stuff. Nobody wants to read that stuff. Cosy Mysteries is one of the largest genres in the world now. Yeah. Right. And then those people took it even further and were like hey people really seem to like cosy mysteries that have cats in Yeah. And so we're going to start writing Food and Cosy, right? It Yes, exactly Food and we're going to bake cookies, we're going to do all, like, all of that stuff came about because the Indies were trying new things and, and finding the things that worked . And so, yeah. And so like, the fear of ai AI at this point can only do, can only copy what already existed, right? So AI would not have created Cat Cosies because Cat Cosies didn't exist until authors came along and said, you know what? These cosies with cats are selling really, really well, and I think I'm going to write those.

And, and this whole genre of Cat Cosies was born out of that. Right. And so the same thing with like programming, and I think about the kind of fear that people that, that people in my industry have about AI is going to take over and make all the programmers obsolete, except that you can write code all day long. It doesn't mean you can design software. It doesn't mean that you can make a product that people actually want to buy and pay you money for. And so you know, the future of Book Funnel, I I, I don't have any plans to implement or integrate AI directly into both. I couldn't see how that would help in some ways, but for sure when we get asked the questions, you know, can I distribute an AI narrated audiobook? Absolutely. You can go out there and do whatever it is you're going to do as an indie author.

You know, we have the, the ability to pivot, right? I, you know, if, if something changes in our industry, and it has, we've been here, book funnel's, been here eight years. I published my book in 2011, so 12 years now. I mean, I'm an old fart in, in self-publishing. And yet, like the, what is it? The only constant is change, right? In the 12 years that I've been here, everything about the industry seems to change at least every other year, if not every year. And this is just another thing that you're going to roll with Yeah. And you're going to figure out how to make it work for you.

James Blatch: Yeah. I saw a quote the other day saying, you won't be replaced by ai, you'll be replaced by somebody using ai. And I think that's the thing. Either, either adopt it and see it as a tool that's going to make your productivity better. It's going to make your marketing slick. It's going to give you endless, endless possibilities of images for ads and stuff like that. Or you can be a resistor and but eventually I think the tools that even the resistors use will start to have AI built into them anyway, so they won't be able to get away from it. But yeah. Brilliant. Well fun to catch up, David. I hope it's cooled down a little bit in in Texas

Damon Courtney: We went from 105 to 99, so we're down double digits, which, you know, that's a chivalry, that's a love, that's a chilly summer in Houston. What

James Blatch: Do you do all day? Is it like, it must be like 85 in the evening even. Can you, you sit outside in the evening or is it too hot?

Damon Courtney: We have a pool, so we sit out. If we sit outside, we'll go hop in the pool and, and swim a bit. But yeah, I mean, it's with a nice breeze. 85 is comfortable enough that you, you can sit outside and enjoy a cooler or something like that. But I mean, it's, it's unpleasant. I'm, I'm going to be completely honest. It's, it's terribly

James Blatch: Wet. I, I did notice, you know, my brother lived in, in Katy on the suburb of Houston. We visited him a couple of times and I did notice that the, the language used about weather in Houston is the opposite of the uk. So if you talked about it being unpleasant at the weekend, it's not going to be nice at the weekend. Forecast isn't great. What you meant was it's going to be hot. Whereas in the UK it is exactly the opposite. Yeah, we would say it's going to be great at the weekend, it's going to be brilliant, which meant it's going to be hot. Yeah. The

Damon Courtney: Sun's going to be shining. It's actually going to be warm. Yeah. We, we should get out and do something. Yeah.

James Blatch: Although the moment it comes out, of course we do complain, but that's just just in our nature. Damon, thank you so much indeed for joining us. Thank you for your time as everyone. And and I remember what I said about your, you know, I do see it, I know you, it's a commercial enterprise for you, but it's a service to the industry that we're very grateful for.

Damon Courtney: Yeah. But it's something that I, I, I know that it's a business and I, you know, obviously I treat it like a business, but we make, I mean like being in audio books, being in beta for now, almost three years and everybody's just using it for free. We make decisions based on what works for our authors and what works for the, the community as a whole, because that's what I care about. Like, I, I genuinely care about this stuff. I'm a reader. I've been a lifelong reader. I'm an a self-published author myself. Like this stuff's important to me. And so everything that we build and everything that we do, sure we're a company that makes money. But it's, that's, that's rarely the thing that decides what we're going to do is, is, oh, well we could totally make money if we built this, you know, I built Book funnel because I needed it.

I, I needed what Book Funnel did and it didn't exist. And I think the best software out there in the world that I've ever used has been the stuff where people said, I need this. You know, some engineer somewhere said, I need this and it doesn't exist. I'm going to go build it. And then they build it and go, Hey, this is actually pretty cool. I wonder if other people would like to use this too. Yeah. and it's, it's when you get people who are like, how can I make money? What is something I can make money off of? Oh, you know what? Indie authors, self-publishing seems to be blowing up right now. I'll go build something to make money off of those guys. For me, it's, it's never

James Blatch: About that. That's not the same as you having a a problem trying to solve a problem in front of you

Damon Courtney: Right.

James Blatch: As the driver. Brilliant. Okay, Damon, we'll let you go. Thank you so much again. And perhaps are you in the autumn?

You're going to be at the conferences? You are obviously going to be in Vegas, I think. Are you going to be in link?

Damon Courtney: We'll be at Nin Kick in Sept. I'll be at Nin in September, and then I will be at 20 bucks Vegas in November. That's, I think that's it. For my slate for the rest of the

James Blatch: Year. Yeah, well, we'll be both in both places as well. That's the plan. So we'll

Speaker 5: See you there. Awesome. This is the

Speaker 1: Self-Publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: There you go. So one interesting area I thought was AI audio books. 'cause People are taking different views on this and it's controversial subject every time you mention it, but it is the hot topic that authors are talking about all the time and Damon takes the view that they're not going to say no if you, that's your choice. You can, and then they're, they're not that platform. We're going to have that sort of terms and conditions. But he does suggest ethically you should let people know, which I think is probably a reasonable point that it is an AI author. Although it's interesting that you do have to let people know. That's how good some of the voices are. But so yeah, so that's, that was one area I think, I think the direct selling of audio books and I'm really thinking about this.

I've got two audio books with real people narrating them and they've both been exclusive with with Audible since the beginning. And they've done me pretty well. I do about a, I've averaged about a book and a half a day and it's actually usually been my profit at the end of the month after the Facebook ads and sales even themselves out. And so I don't know, but I didn't have a great month two months ago though. Last month was back up a bit. I'm thinking, do I, do I go wide? I'll tell you, I slightly put off, I did an interview some time ago about this subject and some of the, the places you would want to go wide with take like 10 months the whole process of getting your audio book up on, on there. And I don't fancy that idea, particularly if I then wanted to reverse it at some point. But yeah, I don't know. Are you wide with any of your audio books?

Mark Dawson: Well I'm all, I with all of them actually. 'cause I, I have a, I don't do them myself, so I don't deal with, with WF Howes, they do everything including the distribution. So they are available everywhere. So yeah, I'm not the best person to advise when they comes Saw you 'cause I don yeah. Don't get my hands dirty to that. They, they do all that for me.

James Blatch: Thinking about it. I'll have a little thing. Let me know via Facebook whether you've got any anything to add to that. Okay. Well look, that's it I think for this episode. Thank you very much indeed. Mark, just to let you know again we are opening ads for authors on September the 13th. If you go to self-publishing, four authors, there will be a wait list there for you. But you'll be first to know if you're on our mailing list when that's open and ready. And that's it. We've got lots to do to get that ready. Right. It's less than a month we do

Mark Dawson: From

James Blatch: Where, where we're sitting. Good. Enjoy the rest of your week. Enjoy theatre school.

Mark Dawson: I will. Yes. I've actually, I will be working 'cause I'm kind of, I come back here and I have a little work set up here, but yeah, I've got things to do. Meetings tomorrow over which you are and you are, you are coming into one, don't forget. And yeah, lots going on.

James Blatch: Good. And you can go to the Museum of childhood and have a scone,

Mark Dawson: Which is right next door actually the museum charters. But yes, maybe I will or Scott to gone. Yeah, exactly.

James Blatch: Who knows? Who cares? , thank you very much indeed. All the remains for me to say, is

Speaker 1: This a goodbye from him? I didn't do goodbye from me. Goodbye. Goodbye. Get show notes, the podcast archive and free resources to boost your writing career at self-publishing Join our thriving Facebook group at self-publishing Support the [email protected] slash self-publishing show. And join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing. So get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self-Publishing Show.

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