Category Archives: Global ebook market

Global New Renaissance – the Rise and Rise of Africa.

Africa.
Still in the digital stone-age.
Or is it?

This week comes confirmation that Big Machine Label Group‘s new global music-video streaming platform Big Machine TV will be powered by a start-up in… Nigeria

BMLG, the first major music label (Taylor Swift among many superstars) to operate its own streaming platform, is using Nigeria’s PublicVine PaaS (platform-as-a-service) system.

For most of us in the First World west, Africa is still assumed to be in the stone-age, but the reality is rather different.

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Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

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Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

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Digital Libraries – Our Best Bet For International Reach

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I’ve covered the value of OverDrive and like digital library suppliers many times here, but it’s worth revisiting once more in mind OverDrive’s presence at the Beijing Book Fair last week.

From the OverDrive blog: (LINK)

“Over the last several years, OverDrive has made a significant investment to increase the amount of global content available for our library and school partners. We now offer 35,000+ Chinese titles from over 500 publishers in our online catalog, Marketplace, both in the U.S. and internationally. Additionally, Marketplace now features hundreds of thousands of titles from publishers in 63 countries and we add new titles each month in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese as well as Japanese, German, Spanish, Polish and many more languages. Titles include bestselling eBooks and audiobooks written in the native language as well as titles translated from English.”

But it’s not just about selling Chinese content in China. it’s about selling Chinese and other foreign language content globally.
From the Over Drive blog again, taking Chinese titles as an example,

“Libraries have responded by creating curated collections of community language content. Toronto Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library and Seattle Public Library all provide examples of digital collections featuring thousands of Chinese titles.”

This is where the true value of digital libraries for foreign-language content lies for us internationalist indies: accessing ex-pat and immigrant communities around the world that still want to read in their home language. Continue reading

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

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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.

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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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Paypal Suspends Operations In Turkey. StreetLib, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Pronoun et al – Take Notice.

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Imagine you’re an indie author in Turkey. You’ve been selling ebooks using platforms like Smashwords, StreetLib, D2D, Pronoun, etc, and receiving your payments through Paypal because for most of the above that’s the only option available to you(in Pronoun’s case, the only option available, period.)

From 06 June your writing career is going to be effectively over as Paypal suspends all operations in Turkey.

The Turkish financial authorities have declined to renew Paypal’s licence. (LINK)

The whys and wherefores are neither here nor there.

For these Turkish authors (and ex-pats in Turkey without a Paypal account in another country) sales coming in through Smashwords, StreetLib, D2D, Pronoun, etc will effectively be meaningless unless those authors are able to use one of the very limited alternative payment options available.

Pronoun only offers Paypal. Pronoun no longer has any relevance to Turkish authors. Some of the other distributors offer bank-transfers, but getting money transferred to a European account from the US can be prohibitively expensive ad make smaller payments pointless. Likewise receiving and banking USD cheques/checks outside the US can be a nightmare.

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

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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.

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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.

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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.

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

 

Facebook Lite – Why It's Good For Indies, BRUSA, Amplifiable Content, And More.

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Facebook Lite Has 100 Million Monthly Active Users After Just Nine Months. Great News For Indie Authors Using Facebook Targetted Advertising To Grow Our Global Audience.

Most of us in the rich west use the internet with scant regard for how much data we consume. A typical plan with our ISP will be “unlimited”. We don’t have to worry about how “big” a site is, or avoid sites with video or fancy graphics because it will eat up our credit in a few minutes.

But in many parts of the world the only affordable way to by data is in sachets – x-megabytes at a time – and when it’s used up we need to go buy some more.

That was a big problem for me here in West Africa not so long ago, and while I now have “unlimited” access to a 4G network and can download what I like, it costs me more per month than most people here will earn in half a year.

Facebook Lite is an app that lets data-conscious internet users access Facebook without having to worry about how much data that attached image or is going to use up, because the Lite app adjusts content to minimise the data needed device by device.

It works great for 4G, 3G and even 2G networks.

The top countries where Facebook Lite is used are Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines. By happy coincidence all priority markets as recommended by me for internationalist indies looking to find new audiences.

Facebook Lite means it’s that much easier for authors to connect with people in those countries, and particularly worth bearing in mind for those of us using paid, targetted Facebook ads to reach new audiences. Facebook Lite countries obviously have better potential reach.

In India, for example, Facebook has 142 million active monthly users (69 million accessing FB daily!), but 133 million of that 142 million use the Facebook Lite app.

That’s a lot of people we could be letting know we have books available.

But a gentle reminder here that targetted global promotion needs to go hand in hand with targetted global distribution.

Last year I watched with mild amusement as one author ran targetted ads aimed at the Philippines to promote their ebook on Amazon and then complained bitterly that he’d seen no upturn in sales.

Mild amusement because I’d said to this author time and again that Amazon blocks downloads to the Philippines and most of Asia.

I’ll cover targetted global promotion in detail soon. Here just to note some observations on those top Facebook Lite countries, Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Indonesia and the Philippines are both blocked by Amazon and Apple. Nook of course is only a player in the US now. Luckily Kobo and Google Play are available in all five of the top Facebook Lite countries. Kobo also has a partner store in the Philippines – National Book Store.

Brazil and Mexico are catered for by four of the Big 5 retailers, but be aware you’ll only get 35% from Amazon unless you are in Select. Brazil and Mexico both have Kobo partner stores as well as access to the Kobo store itself.

India, bizarrely, is both the largest market and the least well catered for, and here probably Amazon is indeed the best bet. No Nook or Apple, and Kobo and Google Play only have a token presence.

In each country there are domestic ebook stores available, but none are easily accessible, and are best left only to the most serious of internationalists.

Of course all these countries also sell print books, and in far, far,far greater volume than ebooks.

But again, no point in promoting a title unless it is actually available there.

Targetted global promo can get good results. Even better results if using cheap paid-promo like Facebook and twitter ads.

But targetted global promo, paid or free, is pointless if our titles are unavailable or unaffordable in the targetted country.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 10 March 2016 (LINK

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New Undersea Cable To Link Brazil And USA in 2018.

Submarine cables are the key to our international internet reach.

While futuristic social infrastructure projects like Google Loon (internet balloons) and Facebook Aquila (internet drones) are soon to join satellites in making the internet available globally, it is submarine cables that will continue to be the mainstay of our globile (global mobile) future.

Spain’s Telefónica is behind the new BRUSA (Brazil-USA if you’ve not yet had your morning coffee) cable, which is going to significantly improve not only existing 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity between the USA and Brazil but also give Brazil a firm foundation for the imminent arrival of 5G.

This in turn greatly accelerates interest in and take up of mobile devices for consuming digital goods.

This new cable link from Telefónica is in addition to its existing Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS), a consortium submarine cable which links Florida, USA with the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curacao, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador, and the Unisur cable connecting Uruguay and Argentina, and the SAM-1 submarine cable system which forms a 25,000 km ring linking the USA, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Latin America is already a lucrative market for our digital content, and is just going to get bigger and better as we wind down this decade, move into the era of 5G and the Internet of Things, and move inexorably towards 6G and the Internet of Everything.

The market for digital content is global. It’s driven by mobile.

5G will arrive whether we like it or not, and while it won’t destroy print, it will radically alter our prospects as digital content providers in the future.

Huge opportunities ahead. But also huge challenges.

We all have the option to look the other way and pretend the globile future isn’t happening. But it’s happening anyway.

I’m embracing the globile future.

How about you?

 

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 10 March 2016 (LINK

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“Amplifiable Content” – A Digital Publishing Buzzword That Might Just Buzz.

When it comes to business buzzwords, they are usually great for comedy, but not much else.

But the term “amplifiable content”, which got the spotlight at DBW this week, is worth a second look.

The tagged report from BookBusiness notes,

“Although social media, in particular Facebook, is often at the top of publishers’ audience growth strategies, organic search is still the top traffic driver.”

That alone is worth pondering.

There’s a common belief in the indie world that the only way we can possibly sell a book is by marketing it to death, spamming everyone day in day out with promo and paying for advertising.

Well, promo certainly helps, of course. If done right. But spamming people isn’t doing it right, and the big question I would be asking is, if our book can’t build its own momentum, do we need maybe to revisit the book?

I’ve sold, to put it mildly, a fair few books over the past half decade. Yet I’ve never run a Bookbub ad, have maybe ratcheted up a dozen promo tweets and FB promo posts over the past year and generally do very, very little promo.

I prefer to just put titles out there and let them find their own way.

No question I’d have sold more if I was more active with marketing, and probably a ton more if I went for (and was lucky enough to secure) a Bookbub ad.

But organic growth is more meaningful than blip-driven growth in the long term.

I see some authors who buy a big ad, race up the charts, and a week later are back in the wilderness and need to do it all over again just to stand still.

That’s blip growth. Instant gratification, but like your average takeaway / carry out meal, you feel hungry again an hour later.

A big ad only pays off long term if backed by plenty of quality content available where the readers are.

If we have that, then organic growth kicks in and big ads and promo can become a supplement to our careers, not the only thing that keep us afloat.

When I hear authors, who have been on the circuit for several years, saying “we can’t sell books unless we promote them non-stop” and “the moment I stop tweeting and FB-ing my book my sales stop”, I can’t help but wonder what they are doing wrong.

Discoverability is a big issue for unknown, new writers just starting out, of course, or for an established author going incognito under a new pen-name, or kicking off in a new language.

But if we’ve been on the circuit for many years using the same name and the same branding and churning out the same books and we still have no organic momentum and are reliant on promo for our next sale then just maybe we need to take a step back and address the underlying problems.

To return to the DBW post, where SEO expert Rand Fishkin discusses “amplifiable content”:

“On average, Google drives 7X to 10X more traffic than Facebook does,” says Fishkin, adding that for ecommerce sites, search traffic is still the top referrer.

“Although publishers should invest time and energy in identifying valuable keywords, optimizing search snippets for articles, and building a network of links back to their original content,” says the DBW report paraphrasing Fishkin, “SEO success really comes down to understanding on a deeper level one’s audience and creating content that they will not only love, but will also share.”

That is, “amplifiable content”.

If we have to spam people just to get our next sale then we don’t have “amplifiable content”.

We don’t have organic growth.

And we don’t have a sustainable writing career.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 09 March 2016 (LINK)

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This Island Earth.

As I reported here at the start of the year, residents of Easter Island, the furthest flung inhabited island on the planet, may have trouble getting hold of print books, but they will, if we’ve made the effort to be available, have access to our ebooks.
 
A couple of days ago Easter Island’s LTE (4G for all practical purposes) network was activated, giver Easter Islanders even more reason to buy a smartphone that they could be reading our books on.
 
Also this week comes news that Kiribati is soon to get an advanced internet connection through the satellite service O3b Network, in conjunction with SpeedCast International.
 
Earlier this year 03b and Speedcast Int. began new operations in Papua New Guinea and on Christmas island.
 
Elsewhere in the Pacific O3b teamed with local telecoms to expand advanced internet reach to Palau and the Solomon Islands.
 
Back when the “ebook revolution” began in 2009 reach for indie authors was pretty much a one-country affair, and consumers needed a computer and an expensive e-reader to engage,
 
In the globile (global mobile) world of 2016 it’s hard to find anywhere on the planet we cannot reach, or anyone on the planet who does not have access to an affordable device that could be used to download our ebooks.
 
And not just our ebooks, but our audio, video and any other digital content we might care to make available.
 
But that’s down to us. The consumers are out there. The means to reach them is available to us all.
 
But if our titles aren’t available where they are… Our loss. They’ll just buy another author’s works instead.
This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 11 March 2016 (LINK)

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The International Indie Author.

Looking at the bigger picture.