Monthly Archives: May 2016

StoryDrive – Beijing. End May. Something To Look Forward To.

001beijing

China’s StoryDrive convention kicks off later this month. Not something we can easily attend, so enjoy the photo of the convention centre as a reminder that China is very much part of the digital age, and we should all be looking very closely at the opportunities unfolding in this amazing country.

I’m on limited net access this month (for the many new subscribers, I live in West Africa) so just a brief post here to point you towards Porter Anderson’s post over at Publishing Perspectives with a preview of StoryDrive. (LINK)

As Anderson describes it, StoryDrive “is a conference that focuses on storytelling across cultural and international borders, and the rights trade.”

For the many newcomers who may be thinking “why bother with China? It’s a closed community,” just to say I regard China, along with India, as the two most exciting prospects on the planet right now for savvy indie authors looking at the bigger picture.

It’s a common misconception that western authors can’t sell in China and no-one in China would be interested in western books anyway.

A widely held belief that has no basis in reality.

As long ago as 2014 my UK-based crime thriller that has absolutely nothing even remotely Chinese about it topped the ebook charts in China, including taking number one slot in the Kindle China store.

It can be done. It has been done.

China is a very real opportunity for adventurous indie authors, and not just for ebooks. China is way ahead of the transmedia game.

Do take time to check out Porter Anderson’s post and see why you should have StoryDrive Beijing 2016 on your Follow Closely agenda.

Oh, and watch out for StoryDrive Asia in Singapore in November.

A Global New Renaissance is unfolding. Writers today have opportunities quite unprecedented in human history.

Don’t let them pass you by.

The Global New Renaissance is real. It’s happening right now.

Be part of it.

Alas, Poor Waterstone's, I Knew Thee Well. The UK’s Biggest Bookstore Shuts The Door On Ebooks.

001

The UK’s prestigious Waterstone’s bookstore chain (the British equivalent of B&N for those unfamiliar) has finally called it a day with its token ebook store, and customers have until mid-June to transition to Kobo.

I’ve been with the Waterstone’s ebook store since the beginning. It helped make one of my titles the eleventh bestselling ebook in the UK back in 2011, and while sales hardly compared to Kindle UK, they were well worth having.

That was then. In recent years Waterstone’s sales have dwindled dreadfully (to be fair possibly a reflection of my shift to children’s titles the last two years, which are generally less rewarding as ebooks) and it’s long since become clear the Waterstone’e book store had lost the will to live. Waterstone’s chief James Daunt knows a futile battle when he sees one. I’m just surprised it took this long.

It’s another notch on Amazon’s bedpost. Waterstone’s joins Sony UK, Nook UK, Txtr UK, Tesco Blinkbox and the subscription service Blloon in the Uk ebook graveyard, leaving token players like Hive, Blackwell’s and Lovereading to compete with the bigger stores.

The bigger stores being Amazon Kindle, of course, along with Apple and Google Play. In addition Kobo has both a localized UK store and a partnership with WH Smith.

The other small but significant player is Sainsbury, but no indie access to that store.

Playster is also in the UK with its subscription service. Indies can get into Playster through StreetLib and I’m expecting an announcement from Draft2Digital soon.

Future competition in this sector may come from subscription service Storytel-Mofibo (or whatever it will rename itself in the wake of the merger), and a subscription service with trad pub titles in number may well find a niche to compete with KU.

But safe to say that now, as opposed to if it had happened back in 2011, the closure of Waterstone’s ebooks will make a difference to no-one but the Waterstone’s clients who will be transferred to Kobo.

Alas, poor Waterstone’s ebooks, I knew thee well.

How well?

Back in 2011 my titles were topping the Waterstone’s e-charts and while Kindle was bringing in far more, of course, the Waterstone’s money was not to be sneezed at.

Bear in mind Kindle UK only kicked off in summer 2010 and ebooks were still a novelty and possibly a fad. In early 2011 you could top the Kindle UK charts with just 20,000 sales a month.

James Daunt only took over at Waterstone’s in May 2011, at which time the Waterstone’s ebook store (it still had a sensible apostrophe back then) was ticking over nicely. There was almost zero indies to compete with (I think Waterstone’s was Gardner’s supplied then – OverDrive came later) which meant the handful of indies that were in could do well.

Daunt took over an effectively bankrupt bookstore chain (backed by Russian money) with a token ebook store and rumour kicked off about a B&N Nook partnership. Clearly at that time Daunt was hedging his bets. He even dropped the apostrophe in the name of the store to make it more on-line-friendly.

No-one was sure what way the ebook wind would blow in the UK, but B&N’s straddling physical and digital with the Nook project seemed (back then – hindsight is a wonderful thing) as good a bet as any.

At that time the Waterstone’s store sold iRiver and Sony ebook readers and displayed them quite prominently.

Then came the surprise Kindle partnership – presumably an offer Daunt couldn’t refuse – to pre-empt the Nook partnership. Why Daunt took it is anyone’s guess, but I suspect Daunt understood the long-term conflict that B&N was later to face – that you can’t cannibalize your physical stores by promoting ebooks.

Under the original B&N model that wouldn’t have been an issue, because the ebooks and print books were all from the same supply base. No problem. Ebooks and print books sold in tandem and complemented one another.

The phenomenal rise of self-publishing tipped over that apple-cart, and instead of ebooks complementing the print titles, ebooks began to cannibalize print.

B&N exacerbated the problem with the self-pub portal, making it easier for indies to sell on the Nook platform (back then Smashwords was the only realistic alternative route into Nook).

Daunt possibly had the foresight to see that coming. After all, at least one indie in the Waterstone’s ebook store – no names mentioned – was outselling the biggest names in publishing and was the most searched for brand in store for three months solid.

I was disappointed to see the Waterstone’s ebook project effectively shelved. The store remained open, but hidden, and the Kindle partnership was never taken seriously. Kindle devices were never displayed to their best advantage and staff studiously avoided being helpful when customers asked about them.

From public statements by Daunt in the last year or so it’s clear the ebook store had dwindled to irrelevancy. He was going out of his way to belittle its impact, suggesting the revenue from ebooks wouldn’t buy a coffee at the Waterstone’s Costa coffee bar. Back in 2011 the Waterstone’s royalties I was collecting would have kept me in coffee for a year, and I drink a lot of coffee!

Even allowing for some exaggeration (de-aggeration?) by Daunt, it was clear the Waterstone’s ebook store was not pulling its weight.

How much that was market economics and the obviously powerful impact of the Kindle store, and how much deliberate policy by Daunt, is unclear.

By 2013 it was obvious Daunt had no intention of developing the Waterstone’s ebook store, and by 2015 obvious it was on borrowed time. The only surprise since is that he’s kept the Waterstone’s ebook store open this long.

I suspect Daunt has ideological as well as commercial antipathy towards ebooks, but all credit to him for turning around an all-but bankrupt bookstore chain to the pont where it’s now expanding, showing that print bookstores can thrive in the face of ebook and on-line print sales from a far bigger competitor.

Without the burden of the Nook – a valiant attempt by B&N, but one destined to fail because the two arms cannibalized instead of complementing one another – B&N might be in a far stronger position, as Waterstone’s is in the UK today.

◊ ◊ ◊

The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.

◊ ◊ ◊

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

Dan Brown Shows Us How Its Done – Age-Group Verticals.

da vinci

Yeah, I’m still here. It’s just that I haven’t been, well, here.

Living in The Gambia, West Africa, has its compensations, of course. and my worst nightmare would be having to leave, but life is never a breeze here. At last, not when it comes to trying to keeping on top of the writing workload.

Back when I actually lived in the UK I imagined being endlessly productive once I set up here, with no commuting to and from the coffee bar every day, no distracting TV and newspapers, etc.

If only. Trying to straddle the First and Third Worlds is like swimming in treacle.And for some reason WordPress seems to suffer from the heat and sand while Facebook doesn’t, which means while I’ve managed to remain active in the International Indie Author Facebook Group, keeping up with the posts on the blog has become a casualty of real life.

So for the next week or so I’ll be re-running some of the posts that have already appeared in the IIA Facebook Group, along with new posts that will with luck go out the same day on both sites.

And I’ll kick off today with this IIA Facebook Group post from a day or so ago.

Dan Brown Shows Us How Its Done – Age-Group Verticals.

I’ve long been an advocate of exploring every possible vertical for one’s titles.

We’ve written an ebook?

A print version should be the standard next step, not a token afterthought if we can be bothered.And not just a print version. We can offer print versions in variant-sized paperback formats to suit reader needs. We can offer large-print versions. We can offer hardcover versions, special editions, numbered and signed editions…

With Amazon’s ACX helping us produce audiobooks and Babelcube helping us get translations with no upfront costs there’s really no excuse for us not to be adding these verticals to our portfolio even if we have severely limited budgets.

(BTW I deliberately use the word portfolio rather than catalogue because these are one hundred percent investments.)

As per previous posts on this subject, we need to think of ourselves as content-providers, not just book authors, and definitely not just ebook authors.

There are so many possible verticals we can breed from one single ebook if we would but set aside the time, energy and token expense to look at the bigger opportunities unfolding.

As I’ve explored in many previous posts, we don’t need to be screenwriters to see our books turned into film or TV, we don’t need to be artists to produce colouring books (adult and child alike), illustrated books or Manga versions of our titles, we don’t need to…

Just as we don’t need to be voice-artists or fluent in foreign languages to have audio-books or translations.

We simply find a third party, paying or partnering for the service, to do it for us.

But there are some verticals we can do very easily ourselves. Age-group verticals and easy-read verticals.

By way of example, not self-promo, I’ve been exploring both with my Sherlock For Kids adaptations of the classic Sherlock Holmes short stories, and my easy-read Easy-English versions of those stories. I’ll be producing illustrated versions and adult and child colouring book versions of these titles later this year too. Audio-books are under way and I already have some in a dozen or so languages.

Let’s take easy reads first.

We easily forget, as authors who have been devouring books since infancy, that not everyone is lucky enough to have had an education or up-bringing that encouraged them to read.

My Easy-English titles are beginning to find a receptive audience among late-to-literacy adults, reluctant teen readers, and ESL students who have some grasp of English but aren’t confident enough reading to tackle a full-length book written for native-speakers. I’ll be working on dedicated ESL versions later this year.

And sometimes adult titles will work very well as teen or even children’s reads.

Most of us will, as I did, have discovered Dickens, Austen and the other greats in abridged children’s versions long before we tackled the originals.

Some adult titles – erotica, for example – might not easily be adapted to YA or children’s versions, but most books will, and it’s a niche well worth looking at.

Later this year Dan Brown will trigger a goldrush for this sector as he releases a YA version of The DaVinci Code, to coincide with the Inferno film.

Save the scathing criticisms of Dan Brown’s literary skills for elsewhere. He makes no claim to be Shakespeare. Here let’s just remember The DaVinci Code has already sold 82 million copies, and the YA version is going to open up that classic to millions upon millions of new readers far too young to remember the phenomenal success of the original, and many of whom will be to young to tackle the original.

YA and children’s versions of our titles are just one more way we can leverage a single book and turn it into multiple new income streams.

And I do mean multiple. Because once we have abridged and adapted our adult title to the YA and children’s ebook market (and why not go the whole hog and do both separately?) we then have the opportunity to produce print versions, audio versions, illustrated versions, colouring book versions, TV and film versions, musicals, school plays and a host of other possibilities it would take me all day to list.

Don’t be an ebook author. Be a three-dimensional content creator.

Take your horizontal ebook, explore and exploit every vertical you can, and then look at your diagonals (series, spin-offs, etc) and explore all those verticals too.

I’m a 3-D content-creator that happens to start with ebooks.

How about you?

◊ ◊ ◊

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 18 May 2016.