Designer Diary: DriveThruFiction Experiment

DriveThruFiction [DTF] is OneBookShelf/Roll20’s fiction ebook site. It is identical in almost every way to DriveThruRPG except for the books on sale, and it has a purple or is that lilac color scheme. At the moment, there is no sign of PHNX, which is a good thing.

I assume that once they are satisfied with PHNX they will roll it out across all sites. Until then, in theory, everything we know about DTRPG, as was, should still work for fiction books on DTF.

This means that if releasing a new thing will continue to drive sales of previous things, then the longtail will work. As it happens, I have an ample supply of fiction that I can prepare and upload. This is ripe for experimentation.

My motivations are not really directed at DTF. What I want to do is build up my fiction line on Amazon and on my own website (powered by Shopify and currently Lulu but soon to be BookVault). This is all about breaking my dependence on DTRPG, and having a broader appeal.

So, the experiment started with Frankenstein. It has sold 2 copies so far, it has 500+ page views, which proves that DTF has its own organic traffic. I have picked up a few organic sales, and I am showing up on some hottest lists.

The second book was Dracula. This has also picked up organic visits and sales and is a hot title for now.

The biggest problem I have with PHNX is that they have hidden both the sub categories and the top 15 publishers in each category. DTF still has these features and because both these books are in the horror genre, I am already a named publisher in Horror, Horror->Gothic, and Horror->Vampire.

The next book to be released is Lovecraft’s Herbert West Reanimator. It will go into Horror->Cthulhu Mythos and Horror->Zombie.

If DTF is more popular with gaming folk than literary folk, a Lovecraft book should do better than the other classics already released.

It is also about time to build a footer to cross-promote my books and consider starting a bundle, like a digital bookshelf or digital box set.

The print proofs for both existing books are in progress. I am about to order one proof, and one is out for delivery. Tonight I will prepare the Herbert West print interior file.


Getting these books on Amazon has thrown up some extra hoops to jump through. It turns out that there are special rules for translations, these count as literary translations, and for public domain books, and these are based on public domain works. This has delayed getting Dracula published, but that should be live by the time you read this. Frustratingly, the Amazon review process failed to pick up on Frankenstein, so that went through without flagging anything I had missed from the product title and description.

I don’t like it when unexpected problems leap out at me when I am just repeating something that I know works. I just have to think of these first products as pathfinders. Eventually I will have a well beaten path to follow and all should go smoothly.

At that point it will be a case of throwing up enough titles to find the ones that take off, and letting the intermittent sales of the rest to form a steady stream of micropayments. If I sell one or two a month of each book individually it won’t look like much, but if I have 500+ titles it turns into a few thousand dollars.

That is the plan at least.

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