Draft2Digital Adds Discoverability for 2018

Draft2Digital has stepped up their game. Over the past year D2D has made nice additions that further their distinction from Smashwords, another longtime choice for self-publishing distributors. What was done in 2017 is substantial:

  • ebook style templates
  • paperback layout improvements (much needed)
  • automated end matter
  • Findaway Voices for audiobooks and narration
  • better email notifications and payment options
  • added distribution partners OverDrive (libraries), Playster, Kobo Plus
  • added distribution to Amazon

That last one is huge. Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon (except for special requests from authors with sales over $2,000/title)

D2D’s focus for 2018 is helping authors and readers connect even better. In their words;

Books2Read is all about Discoverability

In 2017, we focused all of our development power and energy on building as many new things for the indie author community as possible. The result was dozens of amazing tools and resources that help make it so much easier to build and grow your author career.

You can read all about those here!

Now, we’re turning all that attention and energy to tackling one of the biggest challenges an indie author can face: Discoverability.

The Idea is Simple, the Impact is Huge
Discoverability means making your books easy for readers to find. It’s one of the primary goals of marketing, and for authors it can be the difference between having a hobby and having a career.

After all, you can perfect your craft, invest in professional editing and covers, get your manuscript converted to a professional-looking eBook or print layout, and distribute it to some of the biggest online retailers on the planet—but if no one knows it’s there, the sales won’t come.

Solving the challenge of discoverability isn’t going to be easy, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But we’re taking aim at it with the same problem-solving skills and expertise that have made Draft2Digital the best eBook distribution service on the planet.
In other words, we got this.

Enter Books2Read

If you’ve been with us for a while, you’re already familiar with Books2Read. It’s currently the home of one of our favorite tools: Universal Book Links (UBLs).

Since introducing them in 2016, we now have more than 200,000 UBLs out in the wild, generating millions of clicks. UBLs are used by authors to promote their books on websites, in social media, in podcasts and videos, even on printed materials. They’re evergreen links that take your readers to everywhere your book is sold online, with a single, customizable URL.
That was just the first step, though. Now, with 2018 ahead of us, we have bigger plans.

Books2Read will become our reader-centric source for indie author discoverability
We’re going to build a platform that helps promote your books to the readers who will love them!

Here’s what we have in store for the next year of development:
UBL Search Filtering—We’ve already started! As we wrapped up 2017, we added a new feature to our UBLs that authors have had on their wish list. Now you can quickly search through your UBLs to find just the one you need, to check data, add new storefronts, or make any other changes quickly.

Author Pages—Another in-demand feature, and one we’re very excited to offer! Author Pages will give you a single platform for directing readers to your work, complete with an author bio and photo, and a list of your books that will be updated as your catalog grows! This can be your home online, and a central place for readers to find you, without the cost and overhead of creating a website.

Book Tabs—You’ll never have to worry about manually creating book pages again. Book Tabs will let readers learn more about your book, and they’ll find a Universal Book Link that lets them pick it up anywhere they prefer to buy eBooks online! Your book will be beautifully presented, with a cover image and description, and with a UBL to make it fast and easy for readers to get their hands on it. Plus, you’ll have all of the data that UBLs provide, as well as their ability to include affiliate links from various retailers.

Custom Bookshelves—You’ll be able to group your books together any way you like! Segment them into series, genre, co-author, preferred reading order, even the color of the covers if you want—it’s all up to you!

Improved UBL Analytics—More data means more control, and UBLs will be getting an overhaul to provide you with better analytics. Get a deeper insight into your readers, their habits, and their preferences!

More. So much more. Both in the spotlight and behind the scenes, Books2Read is evolving, with new features and resources that will make it much easier for readers to discover your work.

Over the next year, we’ll be turning out these features and more, as rapidly as we can make them ready, with an eye toward making your author life easier and your author career more successful.

We’re gearing up for 2018 to be the Year of Discoverability. And we can’t wait to see what it means for the indie author community.

Keep watching your inbox for more to come!

Happy publishing,
The Draft2Digital Team

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Author Marketing Challenge: Online vs Real World (part 1)

Lynne M. Spreen headshot 2016Guest post written by Lynne M. Spreen (pictured right). Lynne writes coming-of-age stories about people who are age 50 and over, including her award-winning novel, Dakota Blues. Look for subsequent posts to follow as real world vs online marketing is a great idea for an author marketing challenge.

A month ago a friend and I decided to challenge ourselves to an amped-up marketing plan. She was going to implement certain strategies in real life, like looking for opportunities to speak and sell her books in person, and I was going to use Twitter and blog more vigorously. To make it fun, we decided to compete with each other, but the real goal was to see if any of our techniques were effective.

Now it’s September and the results are in. None of our methods were overwhelmingly effective, but they did boost our sales a bit and we learned something from all of it.

What we did

Judy HowardIRL (in real life): Judy Howard basically threw herself into selling and speaking. She got a few extra speaking gigs and book signings over what would normally happen. Every time she left her house, she brought books and was “on.” She also handed out postcards and bookmarks with her author page URL on them.

Online: I increased my use of Twitter and blogging. I would assume most of the increase in sales was from Twitter.

What we sold

It was quite a bit more than usual, but that’s relative. Also, my KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) went way up (again, relatively speaking). And I got about 700 more Twitter followers, up from 3,350.

Here’s what we learned

Middle Aged Crazy by Lynne M. SpreenIt was easier and more fun to market if you set up a challenge with a friend.

You get good at what you focus on: The more we thought about marketing, the more we did it. More ideas bubbled up, and it got easier. It became more like fishing than working.

I used Hootsuite to schedule over 400 Tweets, about a dozen a day. Of that, half were pushing my three books, and half were RTs (retweets). Would definitely recommend Hootsuite. This took me about 16 hours to set up because I made mistakes. Otherwise, I’d think it might take half that long.

I discovered it was better to make up marketing tweets on Canva than just uploading my book’s cover image, because the graphic wasn’t always uniform. Plus, with Canva, I could invent some come-on (like quoting a great review) to augment the book cover. It was a good skill to learn.

COAST TO COAST WITH A CAT AND A GHOST by Judy HowardYou get good at what you focus on, part 2: I found myself enjoying going on Twitter and finding out what was trending, and following new people. And since my sales increase was due to Twitter, it made sense. But was it the most effective way to increase sales? I don’t think so. Right after August ended, a friend told me she got many times the results I did from an Amazon ad.

You get good at…Part 3: because I was focusing on building up my blog frequency and using MailChimp better and more frequently, I learned more about that and improved the look of my website, my links, my newsletter (appearance and also I attached it to my RSS feed). I started thinking of more blog topics and writing them became easier. My blog subscriber numbers are going up, although it’s still miniscule.

So my bottom line is this: although improvements were good enough to make me think Twitter and more frequent blogging are good ideas, I think there must be more effective ways to sell. While this was useful and fun, it’s more of a baseline by which to measure other tools. And I think that’s good in itself.

Draft2Digital Adds Ebook Templates

Draft2Digital templatesFormatting ebooks has always been a challenge for self-publishers. Smashwords, the original ebook distributor, literally wrote the book on universal formatting with the Style Guide that teaches authors to do it in ways that will convert and be readable at any retailer. Their system is all about keeping things simple, using basic structure and avoiding fancy aesthetics for assured conversion. A functioning solution that was perhaps a bit plain, plus the instruction was difficult for many authors to follow.

Years later when Draft2Digital came out as an ebook distribution service, it distinguished itself from Smashwords by accepting virtually anything uploaded and made an ebook from that using the artificial intelligence of its automated system. Big surprise, a lot of crappy-looking indie ebooks got produced.

Now D2D has done a smart thing, adding ebook templates where authors can display more creativity in titles, chapters and more. Obvious question: does it work? Next one: what took so long? Final question: why doesn’t Smashwords do this? Let’s answer those.

D2D Template for Drop Caps

With D2D’s templates you can have extras we thought we couldn’t have in ebooks. Dropcaps, headers, fancy scene dividers and more are now an option. It’s easy enough to do. Just upload your document and then check the Preview tab and choose a Style compatible with the new feature. Then check the Enable Drop Caps button and viola! It will convert the document and allow you to download it in epub, mobi or PDF format to inspect it.  You can use a free program like Calibre or Adobe Digital Editions to view it.

If you find it isn’t perfect, which is likely, you may want to play around with your font sizes and layout in your own document and try again. Or try one of D2D’s other styles: romance, sci-fi, mystery/thriller, etc.

It definitely does work but not flawlessly. In some cases of my experimenting, the drop cap letter overlapped with the 2nd or 3rd line of text beneath it. I had to play around with choices and options until settling on one which looked good instead of being able to use them all without issues. Clearly a work in progress.

Admittedly it’s a nice option and one that will hopefully see improvements in the following months. I doubt Smashwords will implement a similar thing since their model has always been based on teaching how-to-formatting for authors while D2D has always been about automation. In the long run, automation has plenty of advantages for those who are pressed to learn formatting or don’t want to.

For now, I’m sticking with self-formatting and using the basics I teach in my course on Formatting Ebooks.  However, this option from D2D isn’t a bad way to go. And for those who want to embrace the best of both worlds, there are ebook templates where you can copy and paste in titles headers and chapters one by one, even add drop caps one by one, although that is by far the longest way to get there.

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Draft2Digital now distributes to OverDrive

draft2digitalFor authors using Draft2Digital to distribute ebooks to retailers, the outlets just got better. OverDrive has been added to their list of partners. OverDrive currently serves more than 38,000 libraries and schools in over 70 countries, including public, college, and corporate libraries.

If you already have ebooks listed with Draft2Digital, you’ll need to opt-in to get your books sent to OverDrive. Very simple to do, just follow the prompts at Draft2Digital.

The update list of partners looks like this:

  • iBooks
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
  • Inktera (formally Page Foundry)
  • Scribd
  • 24Symbols
  • Tolino
  • Playster
  • OverDrive

It’s smaller than the list of partners for Smashwords, a common choice for essentially the same service, but the major players are there.

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Join Me at SBWC Santa Barbara Writers Conference June 18-23

SBWC Santa Barbara Writers Conference 2017Since 1972, the Santa Barbara Writers Conference has been connecting writers with mentors, agents and editors. Every summer, writers in many genres from around the world gather to participate in a magical week of intensive work focused on story, voice, craft, marketing, and networking with fellow writers and publishing professionals.

The conference has hosted a legacy of America’s best writers, including:

Ray Bradbury
Jane Smiley
William Styron
Eudora Welty
James Michener
Sue Grafton
Charles M. Schulz
Clive Cussler
Fannie Flagg
Elmore Leonard
T.C. Boyle

Join us this summer for our 45th anniversary, June 18-23, 2017, and become a part of this on-going literary legacy.

I will be there on a panel with Gail M. Kearns, Lisa Angle and Lida Sideris called Navigating the Amazon: Building Your Author Platform Friday, June 23rd at 4 pm. Looking forward to seeing familiar faces and some new ones too!

Register at http://www.sbwriters.com.

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