Category Archives: Ebook Promotion

Would You Say No To 90%+ Royalties? Maybe You Already Are.

shopify

D2C and 96% Royalties. Get Started Direct2Consumer With Shopify Lite.

Shopify just deposited £9.58 in my bank.

Nothing to get excited about on its own, but when you consider it was for a five-ebook package, each individually selling at £1.99 (GBP) on Amazon, it gets more interesting.

On Amazon those five (children’s) books would have cost the buyer £1.99 x 5 = £9.95. I sell them as a pack of five (not a box set – some people prefer individual titles because they are easier to navigate and to share among the children) for a clean £10.

On Amazon each sale would net me 35% of the £1.99 each, sixty days after the end of the month in which the sale was made. That’s 0.70 a shot x 5 making a total royalty for the five books of £3.50 coming to me. Amazon would have taken £6.50 for brokering the deal.

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James Patterson Book Shots, Sachet Marketing and the Perils of the Look Inside Feature.

DeadHeat

I follow James Patterson with interest – not so much for the reading as for the presentation and innovation.

Patterson didn’t get to be the world’s biggest-selling author – bigger than Rowling –by hiding his books away from public view and sticking to safe bet formats.

His latest Book Shots project – titles of approx. 150 pages written for the new world of mobile consumers – is designed to chase reluctant readers for whom a full length title of 300 or 500 pages is a daunting prospect.

Stories at the speed of life, as they are cleverly branded.

But he takes that one step further still with his Dead Heat Book Shot, which with perfect timing is set in the Rio 2016 Olympics and released to coincide. And this is a 150 page standard Book Shot delivered in four parts, of just 35-40 pages each, and in the UK retailing at just 49p (a full Book Shot retails at £1.99 GBP).

Whatever we may think of the actual writing, we have to admire the packaging, marketing and timing.

Yes, we can all find things to complain about in the storylines, but Patterson isn’t pretending to be Shakespeare.

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The Thirty Minute Upload Workout – Going Wide Needn’t Be A Chore.

SFK-The-Red-Headed-League-English-German

And no, despite the image, this is not a self-promo Buy My Book post!

When it comes to finding the path of least resistance we indies have it down to a fine art.

Even though all logic dictates that, unless we have a sweetheart deal with a retailer, being available as widely as possible is the best long-term career move we can make, it seems many indies will nonetheless convince ourselves it’s all soooo much effort that we’re better off just signing up to Select and crossing our fingers.

NB: This isn’t an anti-Select post. Select is a great tool and used wisely can bring its own rewards, but we should never chose an option simply because it’s quick and easy, or because we see big-name authors doing well in Select but who may well have special deals like White Glove, etc that are why they are doing so well when so many regular indies are not.

Especially when it’s so quick and easy to go from being just in Amazon’s dozen stores to being in 400-500 stores worldwide, and still be in those same dozen Amazon stores as well.

How quick and easy?

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How To List At $0.00 On Amazon. No Exclusivity Or Price-Matching Required.

SFK FREE

Free On Amazon! And No, This Is Not A Self-Promo Post.

Yesterday I took one of my Sherlock For Kids titles out of KDP and uploaded to Amazon by another route and listed the price at $0.00.

Today here it is on Amazon at $0.00 with the immortal words “This price was set by the publisher.”

  • No exclusivity. It’s still on Apple, Kobo, etc.
  • No Select five days free every ninety days. This is free for just as long as I want it to be.
  • No going free on other retailers and just hoping Amazon will price-match, or getting friends to tell Amazon there’s a better price elsewhere. In fact it’s still at 0.99 on several retailers, but free on Amazon.

How? By uploading my title to StreetLib, the Italian aggregator (don’t panic, the site is in English!) that in many ways continues to lead the aggregator pack.

StreetLib’s Anne-Catherine de Fombelle has said this is a six month trial and that she hopes indie authors will use this option wisely. I’m sure we (mostly) will.

Free can be a great tool in our indie tool kit, but as above, indie authors have never had the option to list free on Amazon except a) by going exclusive and being able to list free for five days in Select, or b) going free on another retailer and hoping Amazon will price-match.

Now we have the option to list free on Amazon for as long or as short a time as we like, subject of course to either StreetLib and Amazon not changing the rules down the road.

As part of a multi-book and growing series I hope this title will now find lots of new eyeballs and lots of buys of the rest of the series, both on Amazon and on other retailers.

My thanks to StreetLib for making this option available and working so efficiently.

For those who haven’t used StreetLib before, it has some of the best distribution available from any pay-as-you-sell aggregator, and lots more to commend it too.

There are some downsides – not least the clunky interface – but the StreetLib team are working on that and to bring many new features to StreetLib this year.

But the free-on-Amazon option has to be the best thing they’ve come up with to date.

Do pop along to StreetLib (LINK) and at least check out what they offer. Access to Google Play, for example, and the best Italian and Latin American distribution of any English-language aggregator.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group (LINK) on 16 March 2016.

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Looking at the bigger picture.
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Payments Is The Biggest Single Challenge For Global Ebook Vendors and Global Ebook Authors. Messaging Apps Are The Solution. 

wechat-logo

 

With literally half the world now owning a smartphone, it’s never been easier to REACH potential readers. But even if we can get their attention, how can someone pay if they don’t have a bank card?

In the *real* world beyond the rich First World *we* are lucky enough to live, in, on-line micro-payment processors have been busily stepping up to fill the void. A full post on this in early 2016.

Here just to take a quick look at how messaging apps – yes, the ebook promo option most of us indies seem determined to pretend doesn’t exist –  is shaping up beyond China.

Within China messaging apps are far more than just messaging apps. Tencent’s WeChat is an entire microverse of internet possibilities within a single app.

And that includes payment processing at all manner of levels, from buying goods and services on line to making peer-to-peer payments from one smartphone to another.

Tencent has big plans to globalise this in 2016, and WeChat is already widely used beyond China.

In South Africa WeChat ZA (ZA is the international country code, not a typo!) is now offering payment options, and crucially users do not need a bank account or bank card to participate. (LINK)

It’s early days and of course no ebook stores are engaged yet, but that will happen, in South Africa and across the globe as Tencent roll out their WeChat mobile wallet more widely.

Where WeChat leads, other messaging apps and other social media – including the mighty Facebook and the once-mighty twitter – are following.

Check out the WeChat blog here. (LINK)

Follow WeChatZA on twitter – @WeChatZA .

And of course WeChatZA is on Facebook. (LINK)

The way payments are made online globally is being transformed, and enfranchising the vast majority of people who do not have bank accounts and bank cards.

Over the next five years not only will pretty much everyone, anywhere on the planet, own an internet-connected smartphone, but everyone will be able to make payments online, regardless of their ability to qualify for a bank account and bank card.

For internationally-minded indie authors it’s hard to exaggerate the potential here.

The global publishing jigsaw is still far from complete, but messaging apps offering payment services are one more piece of that jigsaw puzzle slotting nicely into place.

Indie authors who are using messaging apps to engage with readers globally and to build their brand will be in a very strong position to take advantage of the next generation payments options that are unfolding.

Keep a special eye on Kobo in this respect. Kobo is owned by Japan-based Rakuten, who own not just Kobo but also OverDrive, making Rakuten the biggest ebook distributor in the world in terms of reach.

Rakuten also own the messaging app Viber, and are actively engaging with readers globally through the app. Rakuten’s CEO has openly stated his intent to make Viber a shopping portal and has said clearly that Kobo ebooks will be at the forefront of that development.

Tencent happens to be a major ebook player within China, and is already well ahead of the game.

At some stage I expect Tencent to start looking at ebook sales globally. It can’t have escaped their notice that the big western ebook retailers like Amazon and Apple, powerful as they are, are completely ignoring most of the world. Obsessed with keeping their customer details in-house, they are never going to embrace fully the next generation payment processing options that will enfranchise the world as digital content buyers.

Other players will step in to fill this void, and savvy indie internationalist authors will be positioning ourselves to enjoy the ride.

If Going Global all seems overwhelming right now, don’t worry. It is.

2015 has seen countless threads in the rise of the global publishing market begin to entwine, but for many of us indies the challenge of making sense of it all and knowing where to start, let alone actively engaging, is a  daunting one.

And as the Global New Renaissance gets into second gear and the second half of this decades takes us towards 2020 and the Internet of Things era it will get even more overwhelming.

But the rewards for those who can stay ahead of the game…

In 2016 I’ll be putting together some step-by-step guides to Going Global that will pull together all these threads and offer some guidance on how to engage fully with the Global New Renaissance, whether we are just starting out on the global adventure, or are a hardened internationalist and just need to fine-tune our strategies.

The future is globile

Catching Up On The Global Publishing Scene. November 2015 Update.

google-mobile-asia

 

Asia’s Emerging Ebook Markets.

When it comes to global ebooks sales we all need to think “globile”. That is, global mobile.

Much of the world have simply skipped the entire desktop PC and dumb-phone era and gone from no internet access to 3G and 4G smartphones, pretty much overnight.

With every single smartphone a device that could be carrying our ebooks the potential for authors and publishers is hard to exaggerate. But where to focus one’s strategic planning?

That graphic from Google at the top of this post may help decide.

For those unfamiliar with the international two-letter country coding:

  • AU is Australia
  • ID Indonesia,
  • TW Taiwan,
  • SG Singapore
  • HK Hong Kong
  • JP Japan
  • KR South Korea.

Right now Korea is the tops and India and Indonesia are way down the list in terms of smartphone penetration. But it’s these two countries that are among my top priorities.

Not just because they are fast growing (India will likely be the second largest smartphone market next year) but because Indians and Indonesia, coming late to the internet world, are far more reliant on smartphones in their everyday lives than we in the rich west who use smartphones mainly as an add-on to our existing desktops, laptops, e-readers, dumbphones, landline phones, etc.

And given India is the nation that reads the most, and the sixth largest book market on the planet even before smartphones fully impact, it’s not hard to see why even the more cautious commentators are now joining me in predicting India will be the next ebook gold-rush.

# # #

Africa Watch 1: Egyptian Book Store Chain Sets Up In UK.

In a sure sign of how the Global New Renaissance is taking hold, the Egyptian bookstore chain ALEF has opened a store in… London.

Read the linked post on Publishing Perspectives for the full story. (LINK)

Here just to extract the most pertinent point:

“We believed that people in Egypt don’t read because they don’t have access to books, and we turned out to be right…”

In fact ALEF is doing “booming business” in Egypt and the new London store is just the first step of their international expansion, selling not just Arabic-language books but Arabic books translated into English.

Yes, there are issues of (comparatively) low literacy levels in many countries across Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. But the idea that people in these countries therefore don’t read is just ludicrous. The problem is, always, about availability and affordability.

And for indie authors and trad pub publishers alike the new “globile” markets where everyone and their dog has a smartphone in their hand, mean that we can, increasingly, reach readers hitherto completely beyond reach.

As we hurtle into 2016 the possibilities – and opportunities – ahead are unprecedented.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Go Globile in 2016 and build a truly international readership for your brand.

# # #

33% Of French Commuters Prefer Ebooks

It will come as no surprise to learn that French train commuters, just like commuters in many countries, while away the journey reading.

The French railway operator SNCF estimate 75% of passengers read books on their journey. (LINK)

What may come as a surprise is that 33% of them e-read – either on dedicated e-readers or on smartphones.

SNCF responded by offering their own ebook subscription service with 100,000 French-language titles. Check out the SNCF store here. (LINK)

It’s not clear who is supplying SNCF, but that’s neither here nor there.

What is key for us as indie authors is the direction digital reading in France is taking.

Ebooks, may still be a tiny fraction of the overall French book market, but early days.

Hard to imagine though it is, just a few years ago the US and UK were nascent markets with only a handful of people reading ebooks.

And in those early years it was very easy for a handful of savvy, forward-thinking indie authors to be very big fish in a very small pond.

This is the true beauty of the global nascent markets right now. There are open goals out there. Major opportunities to be big fish in small ponds now and to grow into even bigger fish as those ponds grow.

Already this year we’ve seen western indies top the charts in China. We’ve seen India leapfrog the UK as the second-largest English-language book market. In Germany indie authors have been dominating the ebook charts for some while.

Across Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe the book markets – and especially the ebook markets – are seeing a new vitality as the Global New Renaissance takes hold.

No, none of these markets (except China) can compare to the US market today. But that’s to miss the point.

And more importantly to miss the opportunity.

Because many of these so-called nascent markets – China, India, Germany, Latin America, Indonesia, etc – are already as big, or bigger (much bigger in the case of China) than the US market was back in 2009-2010.

And back in 2009-2010 savvy indie authors like Amanda Hocking and John Locke were gigantic fish in a very small pond. Million-sellers at a time when hardly anyone in the US even knew ebooks existed.

When looking at the emerging global markets available to us now, don’t think “nascent – not worth bothering with”.

Think OPPORTUNITY!

# # #

Children’s Book Sales “Booming” In China.

The Shanghai Children’s Book Fair took place earlier this month, and reports emerging (LINK) show a very vibrant children’s publishing sector with keen interest in titles from the wider world.

Hardly surprising given there are 370 million under-eighteens in China right now – more than the entire population of the USA. And that number could grow rapidly with the new two-child policy.

Incredible opportunities emerging in China across all genres, not just children’s books.

So far Fiberead remain the easy option for accessing this massive market, but I’m watching carefully for more direct opportunities alongside.

China is potentially the most lucrative of all the markets – the China market alone will dwarf the US market very soon – and it will rapidly expand over the next five years. But access is always going to be awkward. Not impossible, by any means, but not without its challenges.

Awkward it may be, but China should definitely be on the watch-list for any author serious about global reach.

# # #

New Distribution Channel’s For Audio Books.

While Amazon’s ACX is effectively the only show in town for indie audio, we should never rush to put all our eggs in one basket, because alternatives will be along soon enough.

  • Xin-Xii recently started distributing indie audio to German retailer.
  • Now, say hello to Author’s Republic (LINK), courtesy of AudioBooks(dot)com. (LINK)

I’ll investigate this further, but so far it looks like we now have a real alternative to ACX for distribution, although we’ll still need to get our audiobooks made first, which means ACX still has the advantage.

Author’s Republic does have some sort of iOS tool for making our own, but ACX clearly holds all the aces in this respect.

The Author’s Republic will distribute not only to Audiobooks(fdot)com but also to:

  • Audible
  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Scribd
  • Downpour
  • tunein

as well as library providers such as

  • Findaway
  • Overdrive.

And presumably they will expand further on that as we head into 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, this will be the first of many. A matter of time now before other retailers open up audiobook self-pub portals themselves or ebook aggregators follow Xin-Xii’s lead and start distributing audiobooks.

Those locked into exclusivity with ACX for their audiobooks may be getting slightly better royalties (although Author’s Republic will supposedly be paying a competitive 35%) but could be missing out on reach, especially with Author’s Republic ‘s access to key outlets like OverDrive and Findaway which ACX will deny you.

And don’t forget good old-fashioned CDs. CDBaby can your audiobooks widely distributed for the majority of audiobook listeners that have not yet embraced digital.

Beyond that, another reason to avoid exclusivity is radio. Global radio is an exciting opportunity for indie authors converting their works to audio. More on that in another post.

# # #

Africa Watch 2: One Billion Reasons To Take A Second Look At Africa.

For authors and publishers, Africa remains the Dark Continent (which BTW meant and means “unknown”, not something derogatory) for book sales and discovery.

But for me it’s THE most exciting of the long-term prospects for indie authors, and one I’m following closely, although little chance of any significant sales there in the very near future.

But a new report confirms my anecdotal observations that Africa is embracing smartphones and 3G-4G mobile internet just like everywhere else on the planet.

Mobile subscriptions across Africa are expected to pass the one billion mark in 2016. (LINK)

That’s one helluva lot of people with devices that could have our ebooks on.

Contrary to popular opinion Africans love to read. Their problem is access to affordable books.

For authors, reaching African readers is the big challenge.

  • There is not a single Apple iBooks store anywhere on the continent.
  • Amazon blocks downloads to most of the continent and surcharges the rest, including South Africa.
  • Even Google Play, from whom you’d expect better, are only in South Africa so far.
  • Kobo is sort of available, but there is only a localized Kobo store in South Africa, and you need a bank card to use Kobo, so that makes it pretty irrelevant to most Africans.

Right now, South Africa aside, the African continent is not a friendly place for authors. But make no mistake – that’s an issue of distribution and accessibility, not a cultural indifference to books, ebooks and reading.

And there are a few bright spots on the horizon, as I’ll be reporting soon in an in-depth analysis of the state of play across my favourite continent. Meanwhile, check out further posts on Africa below.

I’m very excited by the emerging prospects for authors here in Africa. When I talk about the Global New Renaissance unfolding I really do mean Global, and I intend to be selling across many countries in Africa before this decade is over.

I’m a six-continent content-provider.

How about you?

# # #

$10 Smartphones At Wal-Mart.

With The Next Generation social media like Instagram and Pinterest, and messaging apps like Viber and WeChat getting hotter and hotter by the day, it’s a real PITA that you need a smartphone to participate. Even though many, like Viber, have desk-top access, you still need a smartphone number to sign up in the first place.

And some people, quite understandably, do not want the expense of a new phone, a monthly payment plan, etc just to join Instagram or Viber.

For those in America it seems salvation is at hand. Over at The Digital Reader Nate Hoffelder reports that Wal-Mart now offering a smartphone for just ten bucks, and on a Pay As You Go plan so no crazy monthly payments for a phone you may rarely use. (LINK)

Perfect to buy, along with a separate sim card and phone number, and use exclusively for social media like Instagram and messaging apps like Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.

As per previous posts, Instagram is now bigger than twitter. Messaging apps are reaching close to two billion people. An updated post on messaging apps this coming week.

Don’t get stuck in the past for the sake of ten bucks. Move with the times.

# # #

Africa Watch 3: Nigeria.

When it comes to global ebook sales Africa remains the last frontier as western ebook retailers continue to ignore this vast and exciting nascent market.

After all, Africa is still in the stone-age when it comes to digital, right? There’s no internet there, so no-one knows what smartphones are.

And as well know, nobody in Africa reads.

The latter point, however widely believed, is of course so laughable as not to bear further consideration.

But let’s take another look at the first point – that Africa is has yet to realise the internet even exists.

Leaving aside the above report, that Africa will have over one billion mobile subscribers in 2016, ponder this report on what Ericsson is up to in Nigeria.

Subscription video on demand.

Ericsson’s NuVu will launch in early 2016 offering some 3,000 local and international TV and films to eager Nigerian subscribers eager to use their smartphones for entertainment. (LINK)

Ericsson is working with leading international distributors to acquire content ranging from Hollywood to Nollywood (Nigeria has a thriving film industry).

How long before a dedicated Nigerian ebook subscription service pops up? Well, it certainly won’t be KU – Amazon has zero interest in Africa. But it will happen.

And just as Nigerians love Hollywood films so they do and will love western books (Nigeria is the largest English-speaking nation on the continent) – IF they are allowed access to them, and IF they are affordable.

Nigeria presents a great opportunity to start building a pan-African readership beyond the usual suspect, South Africa.

More on how soon. Here just to remind everyone that, as always, we should keep the third tier nascent markets like Africa firmly in mind when looking at the next five years.

No, absolutely no point anyone rearranging their schedule to prioritise Africa right now, but do keep Africa on your radar, and do lay the foundations there now for future development.

Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania are close to the tipping point where smartphones will become the main everyday access point to the internet for millions of English speakers. And there are plenty of other English-speaking nations in Africa not far behind. Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc. And even here in tiny The Gambia (yeah, The Gambia is one of only two countries in the world where the definite article is officially part of the country’s name).

And of course this is not some uniquely Anglophone phenomenon. French-speaking Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, to name but two, are right up there in the globile (global mobile) stakes too.

Watch out for more reports on Africa below, and an in-depth report on Africa soon. The way things are shaping up here may well surprise you!

# # #

British Comedian Russell Howard’s Pending 2017 Global Tour.

No, not a book tour, but this isn’t as off-topic as it may at first seem.

Russell Howard is a British stand-up comedian who rose to fame in the UK on the back of the early days of the digital TV transition, when cheapskate TV productions flooded the myriad new broadcasting channels then emerging.

From being a largely unknown British comedian doing bottom-of-the-barrel shows for late-night TV micro-audiences Howard has, thanks to digital reach, built up a worldwide audience, in English, that goes far beyond the English language countries.

Yes, the tour is focussed on the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, but also Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, and of course his wider reach through digital extends globally.

Howard already knows where his paying audience will be in 2017.

The key throughout all this is digital. Digital reach is global, and that goes every bit as much for books as it does for stand-up comic TV shows.

Yet many of us indie authors still treat ebooks as simply cheap versions of print books, to farm out to the same home-market audience as print books, and then to wonder why it’s such hard work actually finding an audience.

Far from thinking about 2017 many of us indies don’t even have 2016 on our radar, even though it’s weeks away.

I’ve no idea how much Russell Howard actually understands or cares about all this, or how much his success is down to having a great manager and Howard is just sitting back and enjoying the ride.

But I do know most of us indie authors don’t have managers to think outside the box for us and spot the opportunities unfolding as the Global New Renaissance gets under way.

That’s down to us.

We have unprecedented opportunities to expand our reach and our modes of delivery.

We have unprecedented opportunities to step out of our ebook novelist boxes and become global content-providers across formats, across multi-media and across multiple nations far beyond the usual suspects.

Don’t look on 2016 as just a new year.

Look on 2016 as a new opportunity to break new ground and reach new audiences quite unthinkable back in 2009-1010 when the “ebook revolution” began.

Don’t let these unfolding opportunities pass us by.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

# # #

Africa Watch 4: Google Play Is Rolling Out Youtube Offline Across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

No, it’s not ebook stores, but the direction is clear. Google is focussed on the wealthiest English-speaking countries in Africa.

So far Google Play only has one ebook store on the continent – in South Africa.

It’s a safe bet that, some time soon, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya will follow suit.

Google Play already has more global ebook stores than any other retailer. Some sixty or so. We can expect that to increase next year.

Currently the Google Play Books self-pub portal is closed to newcomers – although existing clients can still upload direct.

For the rest of us will need to use an aggregator.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply Google Play Books.

Luckily both StreetLib and PublishDrive do, and can get your titles on Google Play within 24 hours.

NB: Other aggregators like Ebook Partnership also supply Google Play Books, but they have up-front fees. StreetLib and PublishDrive are pay-as-you-sell aggregators.

Google Play is a tiny player in the US, and if that’s where you are focussed, don’t expect too much action. But elsewhere around the world Google Play can and should be a key part of your global strategy.

But do be aware that Google Play pretty much automatically discounts our titles to make them more appealing to its customers. Which is great, except…

This will inevitably put you in conflict with Amazon’s price parity clause which dictates you cannot sell cheaper on another retailer than on Amazon.

So to avoid being punished by Amazon for Google Play trying to offer customers a better deal, you’ll need to price higher on Google Play when you first list.

But don’t let that put you off. Google Play is an invaluable place to be if you plan on going global.

# # #

Africa Watch 5: ACE Soon To Reach South Africa.

Okay, so quite a lot on Africa here today, but that’s just an indication of how Africa is fast gearing up to become a significant part of the global publishing scene.

Still not convinced? Consider this news just in.

Phase 2 of the ACE (Africa Coast Europe) project is about to begin. (LINK)

Now that may mean absolutely nothing to most readers, so let me offer some background as to just why this is so significant.

I’m writing this from The Gambia, West Africa. One of the poorest nations on the planet.

Five years ago, when Kindle UK launched, I had to partner with someone in the UK just to get my books uploaded, because there was, for all practical purposes, no internet here. Just a ridiculously expensive connection in the hotels, at dial-up speed.

Today I’m on a 4G connection quite unimaginable just a few years ago.

All thanks to ACE, a submarine cable which connects France and Portugal with :

  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Mauritania
  • Senegal
  • Gambia
  • Guinea Conakry
  • Sierra Leone
  • Liberia
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Benin
  • Ghana
  • Nigeria
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Sao Tome & Principe

In addition two landlocked countries in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Mali and Niger, are connected via a terrestrial extension.

Hundreds of millions of people have suddenly, in the past few years, gained access to the internet in West Africa, completely by-passing the desktop and dial-up telephone line era, and are now enjoying 3G and 4G internet on smartphones.

As Phase 2 of ACE rolls out the submarine cable will extend all the way down the west coast of Africa, bringing European-standard internet to:

  • Namibia
  • Angola
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • South Africa
  • as well as an extension to Cameroon

reaching almost a quarter billion people.

As reported above, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa is already expected to exceed one billion in 2016.

And that’s before Phase 2 of the ACE rolls out.

Unless you’ve actually been to a seriously Third World country it’s hard to imagine just how transformational the internet can be in terms of education, health and economic development. Or how much it can transform entertainment.

Ebook sales are probably the last thing the ACE team are thinking about as they roll out Phase 2, but indie authors looking at the global picture should be in no doubt about the new opportunities unfolding.

The global digital reading scene in 2020 is going to be far bigger than anything we can envisage right now.

I’ve said before and will say again – the global ebook markets will collectively dwarf the US market many times over in the coming years.

If you doubt that, just consider the projection for 2016. Over one billion mobile subscribers in Africa as soon as next year. That’s over one billion subscribers in Africa using a globile device that could be holding our ebooks.

That’s a billion people almost all of whom are completely off the radar of the big western ebook retailers right now.

That’s a great excuse for just ignoring Africa. But if we’re serious about becoming global bestselling authors then we can’t afford to ignore any prospective market. Least of all one with the potential of Africa.

Think about the next five years. Not the next five weeks.

# # #

NB These posts have appeared previously over the past week or two on The International Indie Author Facebook Group.(LINK)

 

 

Are Instagram. Pinterest And Tumblr Hot For Indie Authors? You'd Better Believe It!

TNG SMP 2014

A word of warning. This post is about The Next Generation social media opportunities available to indie authors wanting to expand their global reach. If that isn’t of interest, don’t read on.

If it is of interest, enjoy! And in particular pay attention to the graphic above.

# # #

When it comes to The Next Generation social media platforms many indies are letting pass us by, there are so many to choose from it’s understandable most of us just keep focused on Facebook and twitter and hope the rest will fade away.

Meantime savvy indies willing to step outside the box are doing extraordinarily well on these “new” platforms, many of which have actually been around for several years.

Take Tumblr, for instance.

Now Tumblr may be the last place you’d expect to find authors raking it in selling book on. But its gets crazier still.

Try poetry books.

Try completely unknown poets selling not tens, hundreds or even thousands, but hundreds of thousands of poetry books. And mostly in print, yet.

All thanks to social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram.

One poet, Tyler Knott Gregson, has accumulated over a half million followers on Tumblr and Instagram.

According to a post on Publishing Perspectives, “Out of the 10 best selling poetry books in the U.S., three are by poets who built followings on social media.” (LINK)

The post goes on, “…New Zealand–based (Lang) Leav(‘s) poems took off the moment she began posting them on Tumbler in 2012.” She now has almost a million followers.

Leav’s followers wanted to read her poetry in print. So she self-published – and sold 10,000 copies in the first month.

Which in turn led to an agent and trad pub deal and she’s since sold 300,000 copies. All thanks to being on Tumblr.

For internationalist indie authors there’s an interesting parallel here with addressing the global markets.

Most indies are focused on the overcrowded and hugely competitive US market to the exclusion of all else.

Just like most indies are focused on promotion using the overcrowded and hugely competitive social media platforms like Facebook and twitter to the exclusion of all else.

And yes, of course, those who hit the big time really hit the big time.

But the cold reality is, most of us don’t.

Likewise most of us use Facebook and twitter with moderate and usually ever-diminishing results, just as most of see moderate and ever-diminishing returns in the US book market.

In both cases the lesson is clear.

Stepping outside our comfort zones can bring its own rewards.

Being big fishes in small ponds can be very rewarding indeed.

And best of all, once you gain traction in these small ponds you grow as those ponds grow.

Those who are reading this at all have presumably already made the leap of faith and appreciate that, while the US market remains the biggest ebook and book player right now, the collective global markets are where the real opportunities lie.

Similarly we all need to make that leap of faith and recognize that, while Facebook and twitter are of course still major forces in social media promotion, they are not the only shows in town, and we ignore the rest at our peril.

Here’s the thing: Readers don’t give a flying fig how much time we authors have got to do our promo, or which social media platforms we prefer.

Readers use the social media platforms they prefer.

And if we are somewhere else then our author brand and our titles are not going to be on their radar.

Lost connections. Lost sales. Lost future loyal fans who might go on to buy our backlist and everything we publish in the future.

Tumblr may or may not be for you. But don’t dismiss it without taking a closer look.

And then there’s Instagram.

Instagram? That’s all about selfies, isn’ t?

Of course it is. In the same way as twitter is all about telling people what you had for breakfast, and Facebook is just for posting pictures of fluffy kittens.

Meanwhile savvy indies are enjoying significant revenue boosts by exploring the full potential of Instagram. Not least because Instagram is now bigger than twitter!

But no need to take my word for it. Check out this recent Bookbub blog post, motivatingly titled “15 authors running fantastic book promotions on Instagram”. (LINK)

I’ve posted many times about how the non-FB/twitter social media is where the promo action is moving, usually to blank stares and a thunderous silence from indies who understandably feel they already have far too much to keep up with.

But real-life doesn’t care for our overworked schedules,. Social media reach, just like the global book and content markets, will continue to grow and branch off in new directions regardless of how much we choose to bury our heads in the sand.

We’ve all heard of Pinterest, but how many of us are on it at all, let alone using it for book promo?

Is it worth the effort? Ponder this.

We all know the biggest social medium for referring people to retailers is Facebook.

But if we’re thinking twitter is the only other player that matters, we are well behind the times. As above, Instagram is now bigger than twitter.

But get this: The second-largest referrer of customers to retailers is… not twitter, but Pinterest.

Pinterest sends over four times more people to retailers than twitter does.

And while Facebook may be the biggie (now… nothing is set in stone in this game) Pinterest-referred-customers spend twice as much as customers who arrive at a retailer via Facebook.

Obviously we’re talking here major retailers who have the financial muscle and brand recognition to fully embrace the potential of Pinterest, but plenty of indie authors are using Pinterest very effectively on a smaller scale too.

Still not convinced? Check out this post on ALLi earlier this year. (LINK)

And for far more detail and how-to info check out this extraordinarily instructive post on Indie Recon. (LINK)

One reason Pinterest is so hot right now is that Pinterest’s demographic is far more affluent and better educated than either Facebook’s or twitter’s.

Leaked documents released a short while ago showed Pinterest is set to expand massively, with a ton of funding, and set to make big money, both for itself and for those who use it to reach consumers.

Pinterest is a global player with 70 million users at last official release of stats. The afore-mentioned leaked documents suggest the real number now is more like 150 million and rising fast.

And while that pales into insignificance besides the Facebook and twitter reach, let’s remind ourselves of those conversion rates again.

Pinterest sends over four times more people to retailers than twitter does. And Pinterest-referred-customers spend twice as much as customers who arrive at a retailer via Facebook.

As a career author, can you afford not to be taking Pinterest seriously? Or Instagram? Or Tumblr? Or…

They key with the so-called “next generation” or “new” social media like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, and the messaging apps like Viber and WeChat, etc, etc, is that they reach a whole new audience beyond and often quite separate from our twitter/FB range.

This is especially so overseas where so many people are skipping the desktop experience altogether and going straight from no internet to smartphone apps.

For them Instagram and Weibo, Kik and Kakao-Talk, Viver and WeChat, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram, etc, are just part of the furniture.

They are not new and scary fads to be wafted away. They are where the action is.

And, increasingly, where our prospective readers are.

I’ll be following up this post with an update very shortly on the messaging apps scene, because messaging apps are another social media arena very few indies are taking seriously, and are consequently missing a major opportunity to reach new readers.

No, Instagram, Pinterest, Tsu, WhatsApp, WeChat and a gazillion other social media prospects may not be quite as big as Facebook now or in the near future.

But any and most likely several will prove be the perfect small ponds for us to be big fish in, if we will just step outside our comfort zone and take a closer look at the upstart start-ups chasing Facebook’s crown.

Remember, it was only a few short years ago that MySpace was the titan of social media and, for many a social media maven, the only show in town.

How times change.

As the first half of this decade winds down and the run-up to 2020 and the 5G era of the Internet of Things gets underway, we all need to be thinking seriously about the *next* five years and how radically different they are going to be from the *past* five years.

Embrace the future. Because it’s gonna happen whether we like it or not.

# # #

Post Update:

$10 Pay-As-You-Go Smartphones At Wal-Mart. No Excuse Now For Not Joining The Next Generation Social Media Platforms.

With TNG social media like Instagram and messaging apps like Viber getting hotter and hotter by the day it’s a real PITA that you need a smartphone to participate.

Even though many, like Viber, have desk-top access, you still need a smartphone number to sign up in the first place.

And some people, quite understandably, do not want the expense of a new phone, a monthly payment plan, etc, just to join Instagram or Viber.

For those in America it seems salvation is at hand, with Wal-Mart now offering a smartphone for just ten bucks, and on a Pay As You Go plan, so no crazy monthly payments for a phone you will rarely use.

Perfect to buy, along with a separate sim card and phone number, and use exclusively for social media like Instagram and messaging apps like Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.

Messaging apps are now reaching close to two billion people. A full and updated post on this very shortly.

Don’t get stuck in the past for the sake of ten bucks. Move with the times. Get smart. Or at least a smartphone.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

# # #

To keep up with all the news about the global ebook scene and ways to keep ahead of the game, check out The International Indie Author Facebook Group.

Click HERE.

Mexico is Publishing’s New El Dorado, Draft2Digital to Distribute to 24Symbols, and other Hot Tips for Internationalist Indie Authors.

There’s so much happening on the global scene right now it’s hard to keep on top of things. And that’s before the Frankfurt Book Fair kicks off.

To keep you up to speed, here’s another batch of short posts on how the global markets are shaping up.

@ @ @

Regulars will know how excited I am about the Spanish-language prospects right now. With a half billion Spanish speakers around the world this is a huge market to tap into, and because of the concentration of Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America it’s also a relatively easy market to tap into.

Two Spanish literary agents have just this past week launched a new venture called The Spanish Bookstage. (LINK)

The more observant will have spotted that’s in English, and so is the site – a reminder as ever that we Anglophone authors have a built in advantage in tackling the global markets even when the markets are in another language.

I’m a big fan of Babelcube – it’s a great way to find translator-partners. But… And it’s a big but… By going through Babelcube you hand over the distribution rights for that language to Babelcube and, at this stage in their game, that can be a frustrating experience, as Babelcube’s distribution leaves much to be desired.

Which is why, while I use translator-aggregators like Babelcube and Fiberead, I also seek translator-partnership arrangements independently. Not least for when opportunities like The Spanish Bookstage come along.

“The new platform,” says Publishing Perspectives (LINK) “comes at a time when the Spanish publishing industry (both in Spain and Latin America) is gaining stronger visibility in the global marketplace.”

While this is the first major platform dedicated to Spanish-language titles, there are plenty of similar operators which savvy indies should be keeping a close eye on that cover the global markets generally. I’ll be taking a close look at some of them as we wind up this year.

@ @ @

Publishing Perspectives is always a good bet for global publishing insights, and especially so this month with the Frankfurt Book Fair almost upon us.

In an article on Publishing Perspectives few days ago Özkan Özdem offered some very useful insights into the exciting Turkish market. (LINK)

Again, regulars will know Turkey is high on my list of priorities, so I found this post very instructive. You may too.

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Moving on to that headline. Mexico is publishing’s new El Dorado?

Well, so says Diana Hernández Aldana from Turner Libros, a major Spanish-language publisher. (LINK)

Aldana expresses surprise at “the size of the markets in Mexico and Latin America and at their growth.”

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Over at The Digital Reader Nate reports that 3M is out of the library distribution business. (LINK)

From Nate’s post:

3M’s library division has been bought by Bibliotheca, a company that describes itself as “the largest global company dedicated to the development, deployment, and support of self-service library solutions”.

Nate assures us the 3M library distribution will continue without interruption, just under another name. Which hopefully means there will be no interruption to Babelcube’s distribution to what is currently called 3M.

3M supply mainly the US library system, and had ventured into Canada. There was talk of an international network along the lines of OverDrive, but that came to nothing. It remains to be seen what will happen globally.

Meantime be sure to be in OverDrive’s library catalogues. OverDrive have extensive international distribution and with Rakuten now owning them it’s likely they will be expanding further as we hit 2016.

OverDrive library access for your titles can be gained through the pay-as-you-sell aggregators Smashwords or StreetLib . as well as many pay-up-front services.

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Staying with StreetLib, a reminder that StreetLib now gets you into the key Latin American ebook retailer Bajalibros, which has stores across the region, including Brazil.

“In recent years,” opens Publishing Perspectives in a post on opportunities in Brazil (LINK) “while European book markets have remained almost flat or have even declined, the emerging countries are seeing a new chapter of the global business of books emerge in terms of exposure, opportunities and sales.”

Hardly news to regulars here, of course. Brazil has long been on my priority list.

Apparently only 25% of Brazilians have read a book in the past three months.

Plenty of reasons for that. Not least Brazilians being too busy playing on those beautiful beaches, or exploring the Amazon. Or, far more likely, that books have been a) unaffordable and b) unavailable.

But that is changing fast. Very fast.

And anyway, before we dismiss that 25% as too small to bother with, let’s bear in mind that 25% of Brazil’s 200 million population is 50 million.

Liana Suppressa, an Italian rights agent who specializes in children’s and YA titles, says that in Brazil there is a very strong enthusiasm and openness of publishers and of readers towards international authors,” adding, in Brazil “there’s a growing interest for middle grade and YA titles, both fantasy and contemporary realistic stories.”

Savvy internationalist authors will be looking to partner with Brazilian publishers to get a share of some of that growing enthusiasm, and of course making their own luck by going direct with their digital titles. Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google Play are in Brazil,.

And not forgetting POD.

Babelcube is a great place to find (with some effort sifting through) some very competent Portuguese translators for both Brazil and mainland Portugal.

And longer term there are prospects for Portuguese translations in countries like Mozambique and Angola. As I’ll be exploring in a dedicated post shortly, Africa is an exciting emerging prospect.

@ @ @

Speaking of Africa…

As I’ve reported many times, one reason I’m so excited by the global opportunities unfolding is because of the way some cyber-companies are investing in global internet reach.

I summarised the wonderful work of Google (Internet Saathi, Loon, etc) and Facebook’s Aquila project over on the Anne R. Allen blog last month (LINK), and also mentioned satellites.

Both Google and Facebook are investing in satellites, and this post over at VentureBeat this week adds further details of what Facebook have planned for us. (LINK)

Facebook have just partnered with Eutelstat Communications to deploy geostationary satellites  that will cover vast expanses of sub-Saharan Africa, starting in 2016.

The five ton Amos-6 satellites, built in Israel, will orbit above Africa (in sync with the Earth’s orbit) and facilitate broadband internet reception across the region, linking to African ISPs and direct to consumers. Crucially working with standard off-the-shelf devices like regular smartphones and tablets. No specialist equipment needed.

@ @ @

Next, some words from trad-pub industry commentator Mike Shatzkin.

Shatzkin’s posts often get picked up by the indie blogosphere with the intent of ridiculing everything trad pub is doing. Usually with scant regard to the reality that trad pub is doing rather well.

This post from Shatkin covered backlist and export. (LINK)

That’s global sales, to us folk for whom international is a frame of mind, not just an ambition. Of course the indie blogs seized upon Shatkin’s thoughts on backlist and totally ignored his thoughts on export.

Shatzkin reports on an Ingram-hosted conference recently where one US publisher, Diversion Books, had launched its own ebook store app for its romance titles.

Shatzkin reports that Diversion are now seeing almost half – 49% – of English-language sales coming from outside the US, and perhaps most significantly of, 43% of sales coming from outside the US, UK and Canada.

A safe bet that 43% is not all from Australia and New Zealand, and very likely India is playing a significant role. But even so, a substantial portion of those “export” sales will be coming from other markets around the world.

Why?

Because they are being made available and buyable.

As I’ve said so many times here, trad pub (big and small) is raking in the cash from the global New Renaissance while most indies are still partying like its 2009, fighting each other for a share of the ever more competitive US market.

Indies can already get very profitable global reach from the mainstream retailers, but there are still vast tracts of the world off-limits by going this route.

Diversion’s ebook store app is one way in which small publishers – and indies –can reach a far bigger audience. And earn more from each transaction. And have access to the customer data.

Direct to consumer sales are something all indies with a decent-sized portfolio need to be looking at as we enter the second half of this decade.

I’ll be exploring this more as we head into 2016.

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Finally, let’s end with the second half of that headline somewhere above.

Yes, Draft2Digital is about to announce a distribution deal with the Spanish subscription service 24Symbols.

24Symbols is a subscription service in Europe that has been happily managing to survive with the subscription model since 2011.

Draft2Digital currently supplies the US subscription services Scribd and Oyster (Oyster will be closing early next year), tas well as the European ebook operator Tolino, the global Page Foundry (Inktera and Versent ebook stores) and the usual suspects Apple, Kobo and Nook.

As best I can see, the new addition will make D2D the only English-language aggregator getting indie titles into 24Symbols (if anyone knows another, do let me know). UPDATE, With great embarrassment I have to admit I somehow missed the fact that StreetLib already supplies 24Symbols. Sorry guys! So Draft2Digital will not be the first or the only.  🙂

And with Smashwords having recently dumped Flipkart, the addition of 24Symbols will make D2D a first-option for ever more indies frustrated by Smashwords’ antiquated system.

I’ll be running a comparison of the main pay-as-you-sell English-language aggregators shortly, looking at the pros and cons of each.

@ @ @

We have unprecedented opportunities before us as the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century unfolds.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

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

The International Indie Author Facebook Group

The Intercontinental Indie Author

WestAfricaPt1-SpanishCover

When it comes to being an international indie author I like to do it from both ends.

The cover for the Spanish translation of Part One of my West Africa travelogue series, “West Africa Is My Back Yard, came in overnight. Now to format, upload and get it distributed around the world. But it already has more global credentials than you might expect.

Written right here in The Gambia in West Africa, it was translated into Spanish by a translator in Argentina in South America, and the cover was made by my regular designer in Indonesia in Asia. The English-language version has already seen sales as far apart as France, India and Brazil, but I’m looking forward to getting this title into multiple languages.

Most indies never give translations of their works a second thought because they believe

a) translations are unaffordable,

b) getting new covers in lots of different languages will require a second mortgage

c) no-one knows what ebooks are in the rest of the world, and

d) that the overseas markets are the exclusive preserve of the big-name authors with big-name publishers behind them.

Well, this particular book is pretty niche. A Spanish translation of a West Africa travelogue by a British ex-pat in one of the less-travelled parts of the world is hardly likely to set the charts on fire.

Is it worth an indie spending thousands on translators and hundreds on covers? For a proven bestseller, yes. For a niche title like this, no.

Which is where translator-partnerships and shoestring budgeting comes in.

I’ve covered the translation options before. (LINK)

For this title my Spanish-language translator in Argentina comes courtesy of Babelcube. No upfront costs.

And the cover cost me just five British pounds (about eight US dollars) from my Indonesian designer who plies his services on Fivesquid, the UK equivalent of Fiverr.

A few days ago I needed an update to another cover I’d first bought several years ago and paid $150 for. When I approached the designer she said it would cost me another fifty bucks to make the alteration and it would be a week before she would get to do it.

So I sent the cover to another designer I use on Fivesquid, in Romania, and the cover came back within four hours exactly as I wanted it, and cost me just a fiver.

Which is the same price I pay for all my translation covers and many of my originals now.

So far this month I’ve bought ten covers for my translated titles. At $100 a time that would have cost me a grand. At $50 a time that would have cost me $500.

Using the fiver sites I get ten covers for my translations for just $50.

As I do my own formatting that means each translation that goes live costs me just $5, and even a niche audience title like this one, aimed at a nascent market where ebook take-up is embryonic, can earn out in no time.

As I’ve said before (LINK) you can turn one title into six just by partnering with a translator and getting that title translated and selling in five different languages as well as English. One title becomes six without you writing an extra word.

Do that for two titles and those two titles become twelve.

Get five titles into five languages plus the English originals and your five title portfolio is suddenly a thirty title portfolio.

And somewhere down the road you’ll not only have new income streams but may just find yourself a truly international best-selling author.

It’s 2015, not 2009. The opportunities open to indies today are a world apart from just a few years ago when KDP launched and was only available in one country.

With two billion smartphones out there across the globe, each one capable of holding your ebooks, we have unprecedented reach and unprecedented opportunities.

Don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Invest in the future, now.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.