SPS-404: Making Self Publishing More Affordable – with Dan Wood
Trying to go wide with your publishing can be a headache of a task. Managing all the retailers and putting together all the resources to be as accessible as possible often leaves authors tired- and wanting to just stay with one service. Dan Wood joins the show to talk about D2D, his service that helps indie authors go wide in a painless way.
- The biggest talking points at conferences in 2023.
- Direct sales and its benefits.
- Print vs ebooks.
- Australian conferences and resources.
- D Two D and how it makes distribution accessable.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
SPS LIVE: Get your digital tickets here
THIS WEEK’S BLOG POST: Reading Analytics Dashboards to Sell Books
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Making Self Publishing More Affordable - with Dan Wood
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show,
Dan Wood: We all know the best advice that you don't want to switch to narrators midway through a series because readers will just freak out about that. And so for some of them, they've just given up on having audio available because they couldn't find a narrator. They work under that circumstance and now they have some options. Yeah,
James Blatch: Because the robot never goes on holiday.
Dan Wood: No. Until it declares War on us.
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 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? Yes. Welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. I'm James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: I'm Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Now if you're watching on YouTube, in fact, if you're listening it'll sound a bit windy and weird, but if you're watching on YouTube and you're really observant, you'll notice that we're not in the United Kingdom are we?
Mark Dawson: We're not even in different rooms. We are actually standing side by side on a beach whilst Dan Wood from Josh. That was a secret. I thought. I like spoiling secrets. He's holding the camera for us, which is very kind to him.
James Blatch: He's like Renaissance, managing downward. He'd can't see anything. That's a good steady shot as well. Well, it looks steady. Yes, we are at NNC Novelist Incorporated or novelist in, is it San Sanford Incorporated? I guess it does, yes. At the Tradewinds Hotel in southern Florida. Southern western Florida, the Gulf Coast of Florida. I don't really know my geography around here.
I mean my geography was so poor. I flew into Miami and had a meeting in Boston.
Mark Dawson: You did? And then you flew over the hotel this afternoon.
James Blatch: Yes, I flew Junior. You saw us. Did you see my wing waggle?
Mark Dawson: I did. Yeah, I saw that someone has just driven past. That's nice. There we go. Lots of noises off in this episode. Yes, James flew over the hotel with Nathan and
James Blatch: F 14,
Mark Dawson: the F 35 that went missing last week. James found it and decided to take it for a spin. So yes, went over to the hotel. Gave me a little, you didn't see me, so you course not dying.
James Blatch: I was flying. But Nathan, he had my phone. He texted you to say he did and
Mark Dawson: I rushed, I literally, I ran, ran to pick my phone as I thought you'd be very upset if I didn't try and take a video.
That was quite good. I sprinted. I have a balcony on the second floor which looks over the beach and I heard you coming and I thought, that's got to be patched. And then he came across and did the little waggle, which I thought was very, very nice. So you could probably say that was you giving me a sign, but I think it was probably you nearly dying. That would be my view on things. I did three landings. The middle one was I know just would
James Blatch: Well it it's pilot training Mark. Yeah. No, I didn't find that F 35. It was complex. F 35. Even if you've got the keys, you have to log into it before it all starts.
Mark Dawson: No one caress James. No one cares.
James Blatch: Okay, look, we are a conference and we are going to make a big conference announcement of our own today.
Sorry, I'm going to try and I should have put my wind thing. I dunno where it is. It's not too bad though. I'm monitoring this so hopefully you can hear me. But we are announcing our conference, which is going to be in June next year in London. In London in London's not going to be in Cambridge. We've looked into it, we looking into it,
Mark Dawson: it was a fairly even split. A lot of people would like to come to Cambridge and it was about 51 40. It was kind of a Brexit vote with London just edging out Cambridge. And given that we've done it there for three years, we know how it works. It's a great venue. People love coming to London. There are benefits of Cambridge, but I think we'd have had to educate people a little bit more.
James Blatch: Yes, we have to sell it basically a bit more to people
Mark Dawson: and I think people, our show is in London, that's where our show is.
James Blatch: We're not ruling out for the future, but as we got into the Cambridge side of things, it became more complicated and we're doing it in London. So it is going to be in London on June the 25th and 26th. They are the dates, I'm going to say slightly caveated as provisional provisional, but they're almost in Penn, but you can probably book that at this stage and we'll absolutely sign contracts with the South Southbank Centre very shortly. So 25th and 26th is a Tuesday and Wednesday of June, 2024 in London baby, it's going to be the biggest indie publishing conference on that side of the pond. I say on this side of the pond, but we're now that side of the pond and conferences are great and we're going to get onto our interview in a minute, but I do want just to say about going to conferences.
We had this conversation on the flight down from the frozen north of Boston yesterday, the number of things, the conversations that have led things in our world in S B F in our writing and so on. Just underline how important that kind of face-to-face time is.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. And I probably won't go to many of the sessions, although they're very good. I've got lots of meetings lined up with different people. Obviously we met Dan last night in the bar, had an interesting lubricated session with Dan actually though. We'll have to change that. That sounds awful.
James Blatch: Yeah, lucky you.
Mark Dawson: We'll skip over that. So yeah, that was fun. But yeah, we met with BookBub. We'll see them again tomorrow. Podium, some other audiobook producer, Cobo Barnes and Noble. There'll be a good collection of people here. And one of the things people sometimes say to me if they have problems with their Amazon account, for example, can I introduce 'em to someone Amazon?
And although I'd love to, I would annoy Amazon really quickly if I was doing that. So I didn't know anybody at Amazon. It was only from coming to these kinds of things and putting myself out of my comfort zone and kind of introducing myself and getting to know them. That's how you do it. And plenty we've had, speaking to Dan last night whilst we were having a beer, I've seen Dan now 15, 20 times at conferences around the world and I met Dan at a conference. I'm trying to think which one it was now I can't think what it was. What do you think? Not sure
James Blatch: You knew him by the time you introduced him to me at London.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, we can't remember. It was a long time ago, but you make really good friendships that way. Ricardo from Reeds is another one that we've named for years, our
James Blatch: Business partner from written word Media we here this
Mark Dawson: Week. That's right. Yeah, absolutely. So it's a really, conference are great. I mean for content too, and we make sure that ours is as good as we can make it, but especially for, I hate the word networking, it's just an awful word, but just kind of meeting people, meeting, getting to know people. It's really invaluable for them.
James Blatch: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. Love that. And also who can't be being on the beach as you can see if you're watching on YouTube. Okay, look, let's get into our interview. Our interview is with Downward. It's slightly weird. He's standing just there behind the camera, but this was prerecorded. It's a proper sit down chat and a really good chat, Dan, and always loved chatting. Neither of us were lubricated at this stage in this interview. So let's hear from Dan and then you and I'll be back for quick chat at the end. We might even bring Dan in.
Speaker 1: This Is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Dan Wood, friend of the show, friend of Self-Publishing Formula. Welcome back to the Self-Publishing Show.
Dan Wood: It is great to be here. I think the last time I was on, we were in London as the pandemic was breaking out. We were in that hotel room.
James Blatch: Yes, that's right. Well God, that was right. I mean literally
you must've been lucky to have got home because they were shutting down by the hour
Dan Wood: That point. They closed Heathrow Saturday and my flight was Friday.
James Blatch: There you go. Yeah, that was that week. March 10th, 11th, 12th around there. And then it's been a bit crazy about that. We were just having a quick chat off air because you do a lot of travelling and a lot of people listen to the show at some point would've seen you in the flesh if they'd been to a conference in Europe, Australia, United States somewhere. And you've had a big year this year of travelling
Dan Wood: Very big year. We had two rounds of conferences where in April I think there were three or four different and D related conferences in Europe. And then in June of course you guys had your big event and we had a couple of others around there as well. So I really had a great time getting to see more and more of UK and Europe.
James Blatch: So you're based in Oklahoma I think.
Dan Wood: Yes. I'm still in Oklahoma. We are now during the pandemic, we figured out we could work remote pretty easily and so now we are hiring people kind of all over, but I have not moved yet, although I might in the future. Oh,
James Blatch: Where are you going to move to now that you've seen the whole world? What's taken you fancy?
Dan Wood: I don't know. I think I need to stay in the us. I manage people mostly in the US time zones, but you never know.
James Blatch: You never know. We'll see. So what did you see, we'll get onto publishing in a moment, but what did you see in the world this time that you,
what were your highlights from Europe and Australia this year?
Dan Wood: I would say the pandemic really opened up a lot of opportunity for authors with eBooks. More and more people tried eBooks for the first time, whether it be during the lockdown, they bought an ebook rather than having something shipped to them or not being able to go to their local bookstore. Many more people tried their local library systems and all the digital offerings that are available there for eBooks and audiobooks. And so there were some of the countries where there seemed to be a cultural bias against eBooks, especially in southern Europe that we've seen. Sales have just been going up and up places like Italy, France, Spain, eBooks are becoming more popular. Obviously audio books just continue to grow. People love that format and so we're seeing that across Europe and we're seeing it in Australia. Australia their print books are very expensive and so that's also been a driver for more book selling in Australia. I think the thing I love about going over to Australia and talking to their authors is a lot of them don't realise how much opportunity there is on the world market for their books. They kind of assume that a book said in Australia won't have a global appeal, but we have some of our top authors are Australian and New Zealand authors and now that they can reach the American market and the UK market, they're able to finally have their author job be a full-time career.
James Blatch: It depends what they write. If you're writing fantasy or something, it doesn't really matter where you are. In fact, there are some big fantasy authors in New Zealand aren't there? I guess probably. Is that the Peter Jackson thing? I dunno, but seems to be the land fancy.
Dan Wood: Yeah, they've got his whole thing with the studio that helped him with all the props as they're New Zealand. Yeah,
James Blatch: Yeah, I mean that certainly feels like that. We've had a couple of French authors on a couple of German authors on this year and they've been talking about this blooming in scene in Germany and France and the French one was quite interesting. She sort disguises herself as an American writer, but she's French writing in France because she sort of feels that there's suddenly a younger generation picking up eBooks and kind of writing off the French market is feeling a bit old fashioned. And so for those who are English and American, that's good news for a big market like that.
Dan Wood: I think you see that also just in English literature with there's these huge groups like RP G and Reverse Harem and the dark academia that traditional publishers and people in the book world might look down on but have huge appeal to the wider audience and many of the authors you've interviewed are just killing it in those genres that are kind of not really mainstream yet.
James Blatch: And I'm talking to a translator so I finally get around to translating my books. I'm just waiting for
Dan Wood: Excellent
James Blatch: A sample back in a quote, get my first book done in German because I think my books would do okay in Germany. It's that sort of military thriller they quite like.
Dan Wood: I think one of the most consistent pieces of advice I've been able to give people is German is the right after English. German is the right language to go into next for nearly everyone.
James Blatch: Great Marshall report back of course on this show as to how that process goes. And I'm not using ai if anyone asks, I'm getting a quote from natural president, not that I'm hugely opposed to it, but in fact maybe when the sample comes back I'll get AI to do a sample and then send those two out to my neutral German friends and ask them to tell me which is better without telling them.
Dan Wood: It's great to have options, isn't it? Yeah,
James Blatch: I mean an option that costs you a hundred bucks rather than $10,000. It is a tempting option, isn't it? Of course. I mentioned ai, we probably will talk about AI on every single podcast episode for another year, but we actually had you on our AI panel at the self-publishing show you Hannah Lin and Stuart Ba and Me on stage chewing the breeze on it.
Has that been, I felt that direct selling and AI have been the two talking points I've felt at the events I've been to this year. Is that where you picked up as well?
Dan Wood: Agreed. Those are the two big things. Every conference I go to, we end up talking about them. I think it's very important. I think direct sales is a great opportunity that it's finally coming into its own. I heard people talk about direct sales for five or six years now and five or six years ago I would've said it was a bad idea because there was so much organic discoverability on all of the retailers. Nowadays Amazon has made organic visibility has gone away and it's now pay to play with ads and so it becomes very appealing when people do direct sales, they find it is much harder than they thought to get people to come to your website, but for your super fans, they're going to do it and you're going to make more money. It's just a great win for anyone that's not exclusive.
James Blatch: If you have a big fan base, even if you're doing really, really well and you don't really feel the motivation to do something else, I think you don't understand how much you're missing out the margin on direct sales, particularly on print books, companies like Book Vault here in the uk. It's a very, very attractive option.
Dan Wood: It really is. People are using, I hear in the last few years I feel like I've heard book vault over and over. I know some people use Lulu in the US for different things. Print sales continue to go strongly and so it's something that we strongly feel every indie author should make sure they're in print audio if you can. And then obviously eBooks.
James Blatch: Yeah, do like our print books, I went to a friend's house, friends of my parents more than mine and so an older generation just into their eighties and we had a lovely afternoon and he's a big reader and his house was just covered in this glorious bookshelves and each one, he has a little story for the one he's read and he sits in his conservatory reading and there's something however much I love the Kindle. I do love the Kindle. It means I can read at night without putting the light on, which is a small thing, but it's actually changed everything for me because means I don't read all the time, but there's nothing quite like a physical book. And I think as authors we feel that right when it gets sent to us. The first one we buy on print on mine that hold in our hands, so let's not do away the print too soon.
Dan Wood: Yeah, that's something the younger generation Twitch streamers not Twitch what you love TikTok? Yes, they love that print. They love to be able to show it. They use it as decoration in the background print. We'll always have a place. I've been eBooks for now 13 or 14 years, eBooks and audio mix, but I bought my first print book in forever. I had a friend that was encouraged me just to read print to kind of go offline and not be tempted to check social media and everything. I think I might need readers now. That's what we call it, the glasses that are just for reading in the us. I don't know if that's the same from the same thing reading throughout the world, but I think because I switched to eBooks, I just didn't realise this. I was able to control the font size, but I'm like, oh crap, I might need reading glasses.
James Blatch: Did you find yourself stabbing the page at some point? Trying to change the font size
Dan Wood: All the time and trying to define words. I'm like, oh,
James Blatch: That is something. So I picked up a couple of print books and we went on vacation in the summer back to New Yorker. Seemed to go there three times this year. and that was the one thing I loved having the print book and I read a fantastic book, which I loved, but the one thing is every, and again, you come across the road and you want a bit of background on it or I love learning new words. Couldn't do that. I had to go and find my phone. Of course. That's a terrible thing to put your phone in your hand when you're trying to read, so
Dan Wood: It is, yeah.
James Blatch: Look, I want to talk a bit about Australia.
We don't talk enough about Australia and New Zealand, so you were there earlier this year. Tell us what you went to and who you met.
Dan Wood: I only got to go back to the Romance Writers of Australia conference, which has been one of my favourite conferences for years before the pandemic we had been going for I think 2019 was our third year. We've become one of the major sponsors for the event because it's such a great one. Usually the romance writers of New Zealand will also host their conference around the same time within a week of it either way. And so if you're travelling from the US or another part of the world, you can get two conferences in which is a good bang for your buck and the people are just so great. There's such an indie presence there already, but it's just not quite as fully formed as say the one in the us the uk. So they haven't made all the connections and so travelling over there to help them understand all the opportunities and connect them to some of the great groups like the Self-Publishing Formula Group 20 books wide for the Win, all the different groups out there that help authors succeed, that's kind of been a mission of ours to keep them in the loop because many of them just can't afford the time or money to travel over the US for our big conferences.
James Blatch: Yeah. Oh that sounds good. And they were talking about the same stuff that we're talking about in Europe, I guess you say they feel a little bit disconnected. That's understandable. It's 10,000 miles away. Feel a little bit disconnected from the bigger communities in the US and uk.
Dan Wood: I would, yeah, I think many of them are following the groups and following podcasts and whatnot, but it's just the power of in-person networking and communication that we get. We kind of take it for granted at times, but I mean even for you, you come over several times a year for things like N and 20 books and I know every time that I come over for your conferences I love it, but it is also, it's quite a time commitment. Yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah. I do fancy the Australian New Zealand one though. What time of year is that conference
Dan Wood: Generally in August.
James Blatch: Okay, so winter.
Dan Wood: Yeah, winter for them, which is still quite lovely. It was like sixties Fahrenheit. I have no idea what that is in your temperature units. It wasn't so bad to me.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's probably 17, 18, 19 around there. Yeah. Yeah, I'm not sure. Oh yeah, 19, 19 and 66. I know that we won the World Cup in 1966, so I remember that one. And in terms of the market in Australia and New Zealand, you say obviously you talk to 'em a lot about, look, there's a big market in the US and the UK and so on for them, but the market is still important in New Zealand and Australia.
Do they have the full gamut of services there now? I mean Amazon was a bit late to roll out some of the things like print on demand, wasn't it?
Dan Wood: Bits and pieces of everything. There are printers now there. I don't know that Amazon can do print on demand for author copies there yet. I'm not quite sure about that, but Ingram does have a facility there so they can provide that. They still have some issues with, they can't make direct contracts with a C X and a couple of other key parts of Amazon, so Amazon still not fully, doesn't have their full foot in the market yet in the way that they do in some other countries. Yeah.
James Blatch: Okay. Well we should really get a couple of Australian New Zealand authors on at some point to talk about the market there and they're doing,
Dan Wood: You definitely should. Fascinating some of the most nice people you'll meet. I heard a little rumour that you guys might be thinking about Australia at some point and I would highly encourage it. Yeah,
James Blatch: It feels like it's ready for a big indie conference there wider than romance, but I mean romance is of course half of all publishing, but
Dan Wood: Exactly the way in which it felt like that way in UK and Europe before you guys put together your conference. It was a little bit behind the US market in terms of adoption and indie authors coming over, but then once that need was there, it was huge.
James Blatch: Yeah, let's do that. Okay.
We should talk about D two D, which is,
Dan Wood: Yeah, I guess that's my job is to digital
James Blatch: On your t-shirt there. It's a lovely t-shirt. Yes. Do you sell them?
Dan Wood: There are no official drafted digital. We've never made any, this was made for me by Damon Courtney. It was kind of a private joke on the back. It says we were supposed to be titans of industry and it was just an industry dinner with Damon BookBub, Tam Re from email Newsletter Ninja and a few other people. I think the Cobo people were there as well, like authors. We were just sitting around talking, having fun and being very immature and so Damon made us all these t-shirts.
James Blatch: Is there something rude on the back?
Dan Wood: No, it just says we were supposed to be Titans event
James Blatch: Industry. Oh, see that's what it says. Okay, okay. Yeah. Okay, nice. Good old Damon. Right, so D two D drafted digital an aggregator, a place where you can upload your book once and then it will populate all the other platforms. That could even include Amazon, but all the platforms that could potentially sell your book in ebook and print format. That's a summary of what you do, at least the core of what you do. I think it's a bit more to it than that now.
Dan Wood: It's definitely our business model. It revolves around breaking down all the remaining barriers to indie authors having the same access to the book market or traditional authors. We're trying to get indie authors everywhere we can in eBooks, in print, and now we're beginning to dabble in audiobooks and just giving them the opportunity to reach readers wherever those readers might be. Our service where we make the most of our money is off of distribution. We offer a lot of different things around that to help authors, but distribution is the core of what we do. It's all opt-in and so you can choose if you want your book to go to Apple through us and then Barnes and Noble and Cobo, you can use us forever everywhere we go to you can use us for one or two. It is just all mix and match. We never make that choice for you.
Where I've been the most proud of our efforts, and we talked about this the last time I was on the podcast, was helping indie authors get into libraries with their eBooks. That was very important to me and that's just continued where we've added several new vendors since we talked last. We added Borrow Box, which is primarily a library vendor for Australia, New Zealand, but they do reach in some of the other Commonwealth nations. We've added D P L A, which is the digital public library of America. It's the company that Amazon went with with their imprints, so they get their books into libraries for the things that they traditionally published, so Thomas and Mercer and some of those imprints that they have. So adding that this year has been great. We've added gardeners, nodillo that have some reach into libraries as well and other places and so just trying to give authors as many opportunities as possible. Amazon remains the biggest player, but there are so many different players out there and just making your book available everywhere you can build up that fan base for readers throughout the world.
James Blatch: Yeah, I do love getting a library borrower you get paid for, which people don't necessarily realise because I always imagine somebody's actually gone into the library and asked for my book, which seems more of an effort than simply scrolling and clicking and it feels quite special.
Dan Wood: They can go in and ask, they can email or I think there's forms on most library websites where they can request books that they don't already own. It's great.
James Blatch: Yeah, that is great. And a few more pennies in the pots
print on demand. So tell me how that works exactly. When you say D two D offers print on demand, what exactly is that offering?
Dan Wood: So one of the things we noticed was that many of our authors were not getting into print, and so we were kind of wondering why that is and we started looking into it way back when in 20 13, 20 14 we were working with Create Space, but they weren't really well situated to working with an aggregator. What we noticed then was that people would kind of quit when we asked them for the cover and the exact dimensions it has to be in because it's very technical. Every print on demand company has different requirements around the exact dimensions of a wraparound cover for indie authors. They're generally just getting that ebook cover, which is like two D. It's just meant to be an image in the browser. And so getting that and going back to your cover artist and paying them to make a fine and then make the back and then put the barcode in the right place just seemed to be a stopping point for people.
And so we kind of developed our own technology to take the existing ebook cover and wrap it around and make it fit the exact specifications it needs to for whatever size the author chooses, it takes the existing metadata they have for their blurb and puts it on the back. It figures out if they've got an author picture uploaded to us, it puts that on the back, figures out where the barcode needs to go, puts the title on the spine, all that good stuff. And so that's kind of where we fit into the whole print landscape. We make it available through the Ingram network, so anywhere a book can sell through Ingram, these books can reach print on demand is a little bit different. Traditional publishers tend to do offset printing and print thousands of books at once if not tens of thousands and then ship them somewhere and warehouse them and then feed them to the bookstores and the Amazon, all the different places with print on demand, things just get printed where your reader buys them the nearest place to them and get shipped directly to them,
James Blatch: Which is a slightly more expensive way of printing a book. Obviously you 25,000, they're going to be a much smaller unit price, but it is much better for the environment to print a book when somebody's ordered one.
Dan Wood: I think people don't realise how many offset print books get printed and destroyed every year because they don't, even the economics, they realise it didn't make sense for them to ship the books back to the publisher. They just rip off the covers or other things to destroy them and that's just dead trees that didn't need to be dead. That's a lot of waste and in some cases some of it gets reused, but it's always at a cost. You can't reuse a hundred percent of it.
James Blatch: No, it's an ous end for a tree, isn't it? To be?
Dan Wood: It is Pop. Think of the trees people. You need to be print on Van Indy. Come on.
James Blatch: Yeah, you need a t-shirt that says that. I know. And is there an advantage if we go direct to Ingram, set our book up there or go to D two D and tick the box?
Is there an advantage? Is it easier then to make sure that the book is available in the stores? That's something you do. That's beyond what we can do in Ingram Direct.
Dan Wood: The real advantage if you are already with Ingram is just that we offer quite a bit better customer support than Ingram does. That's not hard. They don't have, they stop doing phone support and the way offering free phone support at least and tend to take a while to get back to people. We get back to people within a day generally if you're already set up, you've already figured out how to do all the things to Ingram's liking, there's no real reason to draught a digital. If you've tried and that process has been difficult or you just want to be able to talk to someone when you have an issue, that's going to be where reaching out to us is going to be the best solution for authors
James Blatch: And audio books. You mentioned audiobook as well. Yeah, this is an area that's developing quite quickly and we mentioned Damon, so they have their audiobook service. If you want to sell direct, you can use them.
So what is your link with audiobooks?
Dan Wood: The way we have entered the audiobook market is working with Apple on their digitally narrated books. Apple approached us a few years ago as they were working on this project and we spent several years sworn to secrecy in ways that who knows what Apple would do. They love comes to your
James Blatch: Secrecy house in the middle of the night, Dan. That's what they do.
Dan Wood: Yeah, suddenly all my Apple products would stop working. So that was for us, we were a very transparent company. We liked talking to people about everything, so it was a difficult time, but they really made an interesting product where they are offering to authors in the genres that they support right now a free service to convert their book into a digitally narrated audiobook. These are clearly labelled in their store that they've been done by a digital narrator. Apple worked and hired real voice actors to come up with the voices they're using and to record samples for them and then they just use their technology to take that and apply it to the book and it's been coming along great so far. These tend to be priced a lot less than human narrated audiobooks because the cost to produce them is so much lower. So Apple tends to keep them under the 9 99 range because it's a wholesale contract with agency. You as an author, set what your price is going to be and show up at the digital retailer with wholesale you set a price and then you get paid off that price, but then the retailer can add some to add margin for them or they can subtract some if they want it to be a loss leader and draw in new customers. And so that's where these kind of fit in is.
An audio book tends to cost about $25 on up if you're buying it a la carte. If not, you're probably going through Audible and doing their credit system where you're paying somewhere between eight to $17 for credit U s D. These fall into a lower margin. So for many readers they just don't care. They want to hear the book in audio, but they don't care if it's well acted or anything. I think the great thing about the Apple digital narration is it really does infer emotion from the text. It does and so it's not flat. It sounds really good distinguishes between different characters and uses slightly different voices. I've been blown away by it and I've listened to audiobooks as at least half my book consumption for the last five years, so I've been very impressed with it and I continue to refine the product right now.
It supports most of the romance genres. They just added sci-fi, fantasy mysteries, thrillers and then a women's literature. It is kind of a neutral American accent. It's all that's offered right now. It varies by which genre, which narrator they went with, but you do have an option between male and female voices for those, but it's been great. Readers have been responding very positively I think because they're clearly marked readers know what they're getting and that they're getting a better deal because it is digitally narrated, but Apple's internal reviews have showed that they're getting reviews on par with human narrators for these. I think if you didn't have the mark and you had someone listen to a human narrated and a digitally narrated book, they're clearly going to choose the human narrator one nine times out of 10. But I think there's a market for these kind of like paperbacks are to hardbacks. There are people that want to spend as much money as they can to get the nicest version of a product and there are people that just want the mass market version that they can quickly consume and go on to the next book.
James Blatch: And you presumably don't get wider use of this recording. It's proprietary of Apple
Dan Wood: On the retail side, it's exclusive to Apple. They are allowing us to make these available to sell to libraries soon. It's something that we are experimenting now. Overdrive will be the first market for that. So we are working with both Apple and Overdrive on that and we're hoping to get that out before the end of the year.
James Blatch: Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? You say this has been a few years, we are all suddenly talking about AI this year and it's the first time I've played with audio narration, but you've been talking for a few years, you would expect Apple to be ahead of the game a little bit on this
Dan Wood: Do honestly now we've been talking about AI stuff for about eight years and we've had multiple vendors pitch us products. We've listened to a lot of these. There were none of them that were ready until this last year and a half I would say I've heard samples. The Apple samples I think blew me away. The Google Play, I am not terribly impressed by the quality of, but their editor, the way in which they let you manipulate the files is incredible because they'll let you go in and pick and choose and add pauses and whatnot. That's really good. That is pretty cool.
James Blatch: I've been playing with 11 labs a bit recently. We talked about this in Madrid and I do think it's impressive, but it lacks a couple of things that you can't. One thing a simple thing I would want is to be able to highlight a word so that it's the emphasis word in a sentence, but you can't do that. You can put commas in to try and get force the computer too. To see this as the emphasis word doesn't always work.
Dan Wood: I feel like that's the way that the industry will end up going is to be able to add some extra metadata to give the digital narrator cues on how you want something to be done. But at that point you're suddenly adding, I've talked to people who are going into manually changing things and they're spending 15, 30 hours editing these and at that point, if you look at your time as money, how much are you really saving over a human narrator?
James Blatch: Yeah, I mean I'm doing this as an experiment. I dunno whether I'll go any further with it, but each chapter I'm playing it, which by the way, you pay 11 labs, you pay by the word you paid for that. So you have to listen through, make notes whilst you're listening, then go into the text to make the changes. You want to make some sentences just need rewording because the computer just doesn't understand the structure. Do the sort of things we just talked about, then do it again. Hopefully that would be okay, might not be delete the other version so you don't end up accidentally using that and then export that chapter and so on. So it was a lot more time, what's the word time heavy than I expected it to be, that process. It's not quite a press fire and forget.
Dan Wood: Yeah. It's interesting to me how many authors that once they got into audio, either digitally or human narrated have changed the way they write because they suddenly realise we just say things differently. Dialogue happens differently. Once you hear it out loud, you're like, oh, I should really change that. That's just a weird sentence structure. I think it makes the writing better in most cases. Yeah,
James Blatch: I think you're right.
Dan Wood: We are wired for hundreds of thousands of years for oral storytelling and so I think I love the audio is becoming as widespread as it is.
James Blatch: Yeah, I mean you can get word to read your, I dunno, Scrivener has that built in yet. Probably will do at some point, but that was a tip I got a long time ago is to listen to a chapter being spoken by Word and that's an early version of that, but you can start to pick out a sentence that you think is okay, but when you hear it out loud, it doesn't really work,
Dan Wood: Especially if you're going and doing a little bit of self editing, hearing it in a different way, the human brain fills in. You can't just read over it because you know what your brain expects. Your brain will just fill it in even if it's wrong. But if you hear it, it's jarring enough that you're like, oh, that's not right. So yeah, I think those tools are great. Most products will have some sort of text to speech product for accessibility reasons. That's another thing I love about, I've never seen an exact statistic, but there are so many books that it will never make financial sense to convert into audiobooks because audiobooks tend to cost somewhere between $2,000 on up to produce digital narration kind of takes care of that and it just makes more books accessible to readers that need it that way. Yes, they can use the Texas speech products, but they're not great products yet, and in this way, the and publisher are also getting paid for providing a better reading experience for people that have accessibility issues.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's a really good point. And it's not always taking away somebody else's job. In some cases you'll write that book would just never get made into an audio book without that option.
Dan Wood: For us, one of the surprising things that happened was we had a lot of older romance authors who had gotten their rights back to books from Harlequin or they'd been writing for 30 years and they got their rights back to a series with 20 books in it or series with 15 books in it. You can't really get a narrator to agree to stay with a series for 15 books unless you pay them upfront for it. And we all know the best advice is you don't want to switch to narrators midway through a series because readers will just freak out about that. And so for some of them, they've just given up on having audio available because they couldn't find a narrator to work under that circumstance and now they have some options
James Blatch: Because the robot never goes on holiday.
Dan Wood: No, until it declares war on us,
James Blatch: Which it will do. It's always a caveat we have to give with ai. Eventually they will rise up and kill us all.
Dan Wood: I was incredibly proud of the Self publishing formula audience at the Self publishing live show. No one brought up Skynet and every other conference I've had where we've been talking about ai, someone inevitably brings up Skynet. I'm like, ah,
James Blatch: Come on. I'm not bothered about it. I just accept that some point the robots in time will rise up and they have no need for us anymore and then they'll suddenly see us in inconvenience. I've watched Futurama, what does Bender mumble when he is sleeping?
Dan Wood: Yeah, kill bender.
James Blatch: Kill humans. Okay, so what's next for D? Do anything else? There's probably some other secret you're working on. You can't tell us.
Dan Wood: There are many secrets going on, keeping in what we've been talking about so far. We have a couple of things lined up. We're talking to new retailers, new partners, so some of those will be coming. There's one big one that I think will really excite the community and give them access to a place they've never had access to before, and so keep your eyes out for an announcement around that. We're just kind of waiting on them to be ready, so that will be very, very cool. That mission just we continue to try to destroy anything that is a gatekeeper to make it so anyone can publish a book that comes along. It used to be access to stores was a big thing and that's still a minor thing, but really now most indie authors have got close to parody with eBooks. Access to bookstores like in print is still kind of one of the areas that indie offers don't have as much access to. That's something we're working on in the background all the time, but that one will take much longer.
Another gatekeeper that we've identified, it's just the cost. And so one of the reasons we agreed to work with Apple on the digital narration product was because we know cost is a factor that keeps a lot of authors out of audio, and so it made sense to us. We weighed the pros and cons. We understand it's a sensitive subject. Anything having to do with generative AI right now is very scary, but we believe that technology has just made given more people access than ever. We really don't talk about machine learning. AI has kind of replaced terminal machine learning, but machine learning is a much better one I think because ai, none of the models are intelligent. That's a very giving people an idea that these are intelligent, they're not, they're predictive. They know what they know and they predict based on what they've seen, what should go next.
They can give you this appearance of creativity, but they're just throwing together a lot of random ideas and they have enough data that can make a probability of what will sound good and what might not. Machine learning those would enable Amazon to let indie authors submit directly and those were jobs where unpaid interns and young editors used to go through piles of books to say what was worth publishing and what allows us and smash words to accept books from anywhere. If we had to read through every one of them by hand, we would publish a fraction of what we do. As it is we use machine learning and we scan the books, we look for things that might be problematic or we look for things that might just be a poorly written book and then we have a human look at it and the technology is enabling things. It's making it so that books can be published by people that aren't necessarily affluent. I think one of the hidden secrets of traditional publishing is it tended to be only rich people could publish books because they needed to go to the right college, they needed to have the right connection. They needed to be able to take an unpaid internship to work for a publisher in one of the most expensive cities in the world, be it New York or London or Toronto.
We're levelling opportunity, we're giving more people opportunity with the technology. So as part of that drafted digital recently announced our author success division, Nick Thacker is running that for us and includes two companies that we've acquired over time. The first one's author email, and we've been working on that to give people an email provider that is working on providing what authors need as opposed to if you go with someone like Mail or Liar or MailChimp, they're developing for small businesses and authors tend to use email in a very different way than many other businesses. I think unfortunately, we've also seen with both those companies, they get acquired and then suddenly the prices start creeping up and creeping up and creeping up.
We want to eliminate that barrier and so we've been working on offering email for a while. We're not really at a point where we are pushing that heavily because it doesn't have all the feature parody we want, but it's something that we are working on. The other one is we just acquired the self hub book covers.com. It's a company that's been around for about 10 years, so about the same length, Asraf Digital, and they've made a great interface for cover artists to upload different pre-made covers. The cover artist fills in the information as far as where they got their stock art and everything. They make a pre-made book cover and then it's got an editor, so the authors can go in and buy that book, book cover. They can tell it what the title is, they can choose the font and where it kind of appears on the cover, and if they're happy with that, they can just download that if they want, they can ask the original designer to come in and tweak it and make suggestions. And these book covers started about $50, so a much cheaper option for authors that don't necessarily have the money to go find a professional cover designer. Some of those cover start in the hundreds and go on up into the thousands depending on if you need customer photography and whatnot. So that's one of our efforts to just try to eliminate that as a barrier and make publishing as inexpensive as possible. Yeah,
James Blatch: That is fantastic, Dan. I mean, just making it as accessible to as wider audience as possible is a great service to authors and readers.
Dan Wood: And when you think about it, especially for, we work with authors all over the world and certain countries just do not have the same economic means that we have in the US or the uk. And so just making that more accessible to them I think is a good service for the world. It's a good service for readers. Most importantly, it allows more people to be professional authors and make that their full-time career
James Blatch: Or amen, as I believe you say, brilliance. Dan, what's always great to catch up with you D two DO is such a vibrant organisation. You're always moving forward. Every time we speak, there's a whole new raft of things that you're doing and new divisions, but that philosophy behind it of enabling author success at entry level is brilliant.
Dan Wood: Thank you. It's something, it's been part of our D n A since the beginning. At this point, we probably have almost 10 writers on our staff, and so that's been great to just have them to be able to give input As we're looking at changes, we try to make everything as author centric as possible.
James Blatch: And we are 12 days away from the beach. Well, I am. I'm going on the 16th. I cannot wait.
Dan Wood: I will be there, I think the 18th. So I will see you then. We're doing the Halloween costumes for the karaoke party Saturday
James Blatch: Night. Oh, you didn't know. I hadn't read that, but so Halloween costumes for the, I've only got one small suitcase, so it won't be my buzz light year. I might bring one of my many flying suits.
Dan Wood: You really should. Yeah.
James Blatch: When is the karaoke? So I need to deconflict with that.
Dan Wood: It's Saturday night after the Beach bash at Inc. For those of you that don't know what we're talking
James Blatch: About. Yeah, sorry. We're talking about the Novelist Incorporated annual conference, which is held on the beach in the Gulf Coast in Florida, and it's a wonderful conference to go to and you don't necessarily have to be attending the conference to come along to our drinks. Well, having said that, apparently, I think it was you who told me that the shark tooth tavern's been closed. I think Ricardo told me yes.
Dan Wood: Ard. Yeah, they're doing some remodelling and that's now the Pizza Hutt and ice cream place. And so
James Blatch: Yeah, that's no good. Not at all. I need to find somewhere for our drinks, but there will be an opportunity. I think I've given the date out. I think it's the Wednesday night. I've given the date out. We'll have a few beers with anyone who's around. I'll just come say hello. I'm sure you'll be there then.
Dan Wood: Oh yes, as often as I can. It's always a fun time hanging out with y'all.
James Blatch: Yeah. Brilliant. Okay, well thank you Dan. I'll see you in a couple of weeks and until then, yeah, one of the big thank you to you and the guys at D two D, you're such an important part of our community.
Dan Wood: Thank you.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-PublishingShow. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Okay. And now selfie filming. This is not going to be long, so I can't hold my arm like this forever. So here it's down wood in the flesh. Good chat, Dan. Good catch up. There's no point in us going over that again, people just heard it, but just one word really about conferences. Obviously our London conference, you're excited about coming back to London.
Dan Wood: Incredibly excited. I always love coming overseas and everything, and so it's just great to meet all the authors, British authors, European authors, so really looking forward to it.
James Blatch: Okay, 25th, 26th of June. If you want to sign up, the actual tickets will go on sale next month, but you can get on the wait list now. If you go to self-publishing formula.com/sps live, just stick your name in there and you'll be the first to hear it when tickets go on sale. Can't wait. We've got a lot of organising to start. It's a mammoth task, but we do
Enjoy it. And a big shout out to Catherine behind the scenes, who's our chief coordinator in chief. I guess she organises the conference.
Mark Dawson: That's kind of one of her main jobs and she's very good at it. She is indeed.
James Blatch: Okay, look, it's windy. You need a beer or cocktail? I need a beer. So we're going to sign off in the beach in subpoena. Lemme quickly show you around. So here's the Gulf Coast of Florida. Out there is British Petroleum Oil, which we're stealing from the Americans. And here we are. It's beer time. Thank you very much indeed. All the most we say is a goodbye from him
Mark Dawson: and a goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
Dan Wood: Goodbye.
Mark Dawson: Bye.
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