Draft2Digital is one of the rising superstars that indie authors should know about. They distribute ebooks to more sources than Smashwords and StreetLib. They can even get your titles into the public library via Overdrive and have a print on demand system. I spoke with Kevin Tumlinson Director of Marketing to give you the lowdown on what makes Draft2Digital unique and how they focus exclusively on indie authors.
So who is Draft2Digital and what are they all about? Tumlinson explains ” Our goal is to take the work out of self-publishing, making it as easy as clicking a button. The core principle that drives our development is this: The hardest part of being a writer should be the writing. We use incredible technology backed with industry-leading customer support to solve the learning curve for indie authors. The benefits we offer authors come in the form of free eBook conversion, free automated layout for print, distribution to a global marketplace, and an ever-expanding catalog of resources, such as our Universal Book Links (UBLs).
This tool allows anyone (authors, bloggers, podcasters, or anyone else) to copy the URL for a book’s product page, from any eBook retailer (such as Amazon), paste it into the tool at Books2Read.com, and generate a single link that can send readers to everywhere a book is sold online. We scan the book’s metadata, search all the known book retailers, and offer readers a selection of where the book is available. The reader can make their selection a default, so that the next time they click any UBL, they’ll be taken to their preferred storefront, and straight to the book’s product page.
Authors (or anyone else) who register for an account with D2D or Books2Read can also track the number of clicks a link gets, the stores that are visited, and other bits of useful data. They can also embed affiliate codes from various retailers, such as Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and even Smashwords. ”
Draft2digital is proving popular with indie authors and has seen significant growth over the past three years. In 2015 they had 57,058 ebooks from 15,419 authors and one year later they had 86,179 titles from 24,400 authors and 2017 was the biggest year ever. There are 35,000 authors that are enrolled with Draft2Digital and they have over 120,000 titles in circulation. There are 100 new e-books uploaded everyday and distributed Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Tolino and Overdrive
Most authors are familiar with the US ebook market, but selling e-books internationally is quite different. “In European markets, particularly in the UK, Mystery/Thriller tends to rule. Beyond that, however, the relative popularity of genres in international markets is essentially the same as it is in the US. Tolino, for instance, has Romance/Erotica at the top, followed by Mystery/Thriller, followed by Fantasy.” Said Tumlinson.
In order to separate themselves from the competition, Draft2idigtal is the first self-publishing solution to give indie authors the ability to produce an audio version of their e-book. They were a launch partner of Findaway Voices and hundreds of authors are now producing digital audio and will be distributing them to Audible, iTunes, Scribd, Tunein and dozens of others.
Kevin explained what audiobooks means to his company and indie authors as a whole “One of our goals, in the partnership between D2D and Findaway Voices, is to break the existing credit model used by Audible, while giving authors complete control over their pricing.
The credit model is ultimately bad for readers and authors alike. Readers tend to limit themselves to the one or two audiobooks they get with their subscription, and they tend to avoid trying new authors or untried books. They also limit their selections to longer-format books, because they want to avoid “wasting” their credits on something short. These are all limitations on the reader, keeping them from discovering new authors and new works, particularly shorter works such as novellas and short stories.
For the authors, this means that short-format work doesn’t sell in the audiobook market. Authors are forced to bundle shorter works together, if they want to sell them at all, and this reduces the amount of profit they can expect per sale. It’s a much better system, if authors can produce and price shorter works, rather than bundle them.
We believe that giving authors complete control of pricing, everywhere but Audible (Audible always controls pricing on their platform), the authors can benefit from the ability to publish shorter works, such as serialized fiction. Since the authors can price all the way down to zero, they can also use time-tested marketing strategies, such as “free first in series,” and promotions based on reduced pricing. And since there is no exclusivity in place when distributing through Voices, authors can experiment with their approaches.
Our hope is that price control and non-exclusive distribution will give authors far more control of the audiobook market, empowering them to reach new readers. The readers will be far more likely to try a new author, or a shorter work, if it’s priced right. And since authors are paid based on their list price, rather than their sale price (everywhere but Audible), they can control their own margins. This means more profits and a faster return on production overhead. Findaway’s 170+ global marketplaces don’t hurt, either.
The advantage of entering Voices via Draft2Digital is that the standard $49 admin fee from Findaway is waived. There is no requirement for authors to actually distribute through D2D, so even those participating in KDP Select, with exclusivity contracts, can use Voices with reduced overhead. They’ll still have to pay for production, but Findaway is actively working to find ways to reduce that cost, and make audio production more accessible.”
Aaron Pogue, the Co-Founder and President explained the key acquisition drivers that the company employs to build brand awareness and get more indie authors publishing with Draft2Digital. “Our company was started by some very tech-savvy and author-savvy guys, but the founders didn’t really bring a lot of traditional business experience to the startup. As a result, they built an incredible product that was a perfect match for market need, but they launched it with no marketing plan apart from a few posts to some influential indie author forums (namely the Writer’s Cafe at Kboards.com and a blog post at Passive Voice). After that, for nearly three years, they relied on word-of-mouth to spread the message. As you can see from the growth numbers above, it’s worked well.
Our Director of Marketing Relations, Dan Wood, has done a phenomenal job of connecting us with some of the biggest author- and publishing-centric conferences on the planet, which we credit with helping to spread awareness of us. We’ve presented panels at conferences such as NINC, RWA, San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Nebula awards, and we continue to be greeted by a very appreciative audience there.
Kevin Tumlinson came onboard in 2016, as the Director of Marketing. He’s operated as the face of the company at conferences and author events, but has been particularly effective on the podcast circuit. We first became aware of Kevin through his own show, the Wordslinger Podcast. He was already out talking about the benefits of Draft2Digital, telling his listeners and the author community about his experience, and how much he loved the company. He was an award-winning indie-published author himself, Kevin had insight into the author community, and was well-connected there. He was already making appearances on the major players in the podcasting sphere. When we invited him to be a part of D2D, he was excited to become a brand evangelist for the company, and immediately started using his connections and resources to further awareness.
Word of mouth continues to be the best marketing strategy for us, and conferences and podcasts are a tremendous part of that. We’ve found that authors trust other authors more than they trust advertisements or marketing campaigns. Our ROI on paid ad placement, for example, has been incredibly low, versus the ROI for sponsoring a conference and sending one or two representatives to speak on our behalf. Our approach to marketing, as crafted by Kevin and Dan, is to form close relationships with the indie author community, to ensure they talk to real-live humans when they need support, and to be a part of the fast-growing environment where the authors spend their time. Our marketing approach is to build trust, in other words, and never break that trust, to always be worthy of it.”
The indie author landscape is constantly changing and in a state of flux. What does the future hold for self-publishing? CEO Pogue explains “As an author myself, and one with significant experience in both the traditional and indie paths, I see every part of the indie experience as positive. There has never been a better time to be a writer.
Sure, there are challenges. There’s a huge learning curve. There are competing systems (such as KU’s offer of enhanced visibility at the cost of exclusivity) and these demand some serious deliberation, but apart from the predatory actors that have always existed in this space, most of the options available to a writer today are good options. It may take hundreds of hours of research to come up with a guess at the *best* option…but there are lots of pretty good options available to even a brand new writer. And that’s a very cool world to be living in.”
Kevin Tumlinson chimed in “Indie publishing is an incredibly fast-evolving landscape, with new opportunities, and new challenges, emerging for authors almost daily. What is incredible about this business is how open it is. Successful indie authors openly share their strategies and methods with those who are just starting out, they participate in open discussions, some even literally assist new authors through collaborations, marketing and promotion, and one-on-one mentorship.
The industry, as a whole, borrows heavily from other industries, putting best practices to work from marketing to accounting to diversification and investment. The entrepreneurial mindset has taken a firm grasp of the indie author community, and authors become empowered by the emergence of all the new services that come on the scene. Draft2Digital, alone, is an incredible befit to authors and small press publishers. We provide a growing set of free resources, and we have no requirements for their use. We only make money when an author or publisher sells books through our distribution platform, which means we have a vested interest in every author’s success. That’s the way it should be.
The challenges facing indie publishers, these days, all come back to discoverability. How do authors and publishers attract their reader base? How do they get these books in front of the people who will love them and buy them, and spread the word about them? In an age where we’re already inundated by marketing messages, and drowned into oblivion by all the noise, how does an author stand out? That’s the ongoing and continuous question, and the greatest challenge. Whole businesses, even whole industries, have sprung up to answer that.
What I see as the future of this business, however, is an evolution to a hybrid model. Indie publishers have learned a lot in the past decade. They know their readers. They understand marketing and business better than generations of authors that came before them. Traditional publishers would be wise to recognize this, and to start thinking in terms of partnerships with these authors. Work with authors to expand and grow platforms, keep the overhead low, remain flexible, and pivot when a strategy needs to be adjusted. That’s could be the future. The alternative is that indie publishing becomes simply publishing, and someone comes along to provide any or all of the advantages that a traditional house might offer, while indies remain free of gatekeepers and barriers to entry.”
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.