Category Archives: India

WorldReader and the Global New Renaissance

“Shivana and Rumana are teenage sisters from Delhi, India who use the Read to Kids app on their mobile phone to read stories to children in their community. Every afternoon, 8-15 children from the neighbourhood are invited to the sisters’ home for their reading sessions.

By reading to the children and getting the parents involved, the sisters are helping the children improve in school.”

That’s from the WorldReader Annual Report summary.

Those of you living in the rich First World where access to education and books are taken for granted cannot begin to understand how truly life-changing smartphones and the internet are for the rest of the world where access to books has been an unaffordable luxury for all but the lucky few.

Little children like these, that even five years ago had almost zero chance of ever seeing a book, are now discovering and enjoying the delights of reading.

Here’s two more impact stories from the WorldReader annual report.

I’ve been teaching English at Magoso Primary for 5 months now. Teaching is something that I’ve always known I wanted to do.

When I joined the school, no one would use the school library. When the e-readers came in, everyone wanted to use them so more children started coming to the library. Now every evening the library in the school is full. That makes me feel like I have done something, however small. I go to bed with a smile on my face.”

Emma
Kibera, Kenya

My town, Naivasha, has one of the biggest prisons in the country – Naivasha Maximum Prison – which has an education centre with over 1,500 inmates undergoing primary and secondary school education. Last week, we visited the prison with the e-readers and trained over 100 inmates and prison officers. That day, they begged us not to leave so they could read more! I have always wanted to be an instrument of change and I am glad to be serving my community as a librarian.

Richard
Nakuru, Kenya”

We are witnesses to, and as content-providers participants in, an event quite unprecedented in human history.

The Global New Renaissance.

Happening right now on a planet near you.

Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

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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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.

 

 

 

Google Loon Coming to India, Spotlight Falls on Poland, and more.

Loon

 

Google Loon For India.

It’s early days yet, but it looks likely India will join Sri Lanka and Indonesia in being among the first countries to have nationwide internet access courtesy of Google Loon.

Loon is a balloon project whereby unmanned balloons fly at high altitude reflecting and beaming down internet signals to places that would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.

Google is currently partnering with telcos on the ground (literally in this case) to move to the next stage.

Long term everyone benefits from these social infrastructure ventures being undertaken by companies like Google and Facebook (think Aquila drones), that will make the internet even more accessible.

Loon and Aquila are of course driven by mobile. Global mobile. Globile.

And with each new advance the potential audience for content suppliers grows ever bigger.

This post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 08 March 2016.  (LINK

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Spotlight On Poland 2016-17.

Poland will be in this spotlight this year and next, with several major book fairs showcasing the Polish book market.

Publishing Perspectives covers this in a post by Porter Anderson, where I noted in comments,

“Poland is a particularly interesting market for ebooks because Amazon has no Kindle store there and is therefore busily surcharging Polish readers for Kindle books unless they have pre-existing accounts from a Kindle country.

A lot of Poles have bought Kindles and have accounts set up whilst in Germany or UK, etc, which enables them to buy from the UK or Germany Kindle store without whispernet surcharges, but of course there is very little Polish content being made available in the Kindle store in the first place.

Many domestic Polish ebook publishers have taken full advantage of this by supplying ebooks in mobi format as well as epub.”

We indies tend to assume it has been the USA that has made all the running in the ebook sector, and of course by market size that’s true, but Poland was fielding ebook subscription services long before Scribd, Oyster and Amazon got in on the act.

Check out Legimi (one of the first Polish subscription services, way back in 2013) for one of many Polish outlets where we can sell our Polish translations, should we ever have them available.

Of course we all know that’s a waste of time because we all know central and east Europeans wouldn’t want to read our stories set in America and Britain.

That’s why there’s no sign in the Legimi store of Lee Child or Karin Slaughter or EL James or Andy Weir or… No, hold on. They are all there.

It’s just as indies that can’t be bothered.

Our loss.

Admittedly none of my titles are in Legimi right now either, but that’s just a matter of time. My first Polish translations will be going live in the next few months.

How about you?

This post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 07 March 2016. (LINK

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Augmented Reality Books Are Coming. No, Not Ebooks. Print Books!

Yep, Google has just patented the tech to create digitally-enhanced print books. You couldn’t make it up.

“The technology outfits a physical book with numerous page sensors, touch sensors, and motion sensors to understand the reader’s movements. Based on those movements and the storyline of the book, the system adds augmented reality elements over the pages.”

My guess this will in turn embrace hologram tech and provide, in time, a 3D augmented reality experience.

For children’s books, fantasy and sci-fi and for non-fic like how to and cookery this could be major step forward and show once more that print is far from dead and can be reinvented just like the story-telling process.

This a post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 05 March 2016.  (LINK

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Facebook Messenger Integrates With Spotify.

We can ignore them all we like, but messaging apps aren’t going to go away.

Facebook Messenger has now integrated with Spotify in an attempt to attract its NEXT billion monthly active users.

Yes, Facebook Messenger already has a billion monthly active users we could be connecting with to promote our books.

WhatsApp has 800 million, WeChat 600 million, Telegram 100 million and growing fast.

There are lots more.

As with Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc, a handful of savvy indies are shifting million of books (search the Group for posts on this) while the majority of us carry on partying like it’s 2010 and dismiss any suggestion that The Next Generation social media platforms might be worth a second look.

Our loss.

This a post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 04 March 2016.  (LINK

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The International Indie Author

Looking at the bigger picture.

Going Globile: India – Momentum Builds, Despite The Indifference Of The Western Retailers.

For those looking at the bigger picture, Publishing Perspectives this week (LINK), in the wake of the New Delhi Book Fair, runs a post on India reporting on the success of local authors writing in local languages.
 
As I’ve long been saying, the rise of globile (global mobile) means previously disenfranchised readers across the globe are for the first time being given the opportunity to read, listen and watch books, audio-books, video, etc, that were previously off-limits to them due to the restrictions (accessibility and affordability) of analogue content.
 
As the Publishing Perspectives posts notes, in India there are 22 official languages and over 100 more major spoken languages in dozens of communities from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. ”The emergence of smartphones and tablets — enabling so-called “mobile reading” — promises to make India a nation of translations.”
 
The post reports Prashasti Rastogi, director, German Book Office in New Delhi as saying, “Lately in India, there’s a huge concentration in publishing on Indian languages. Technology is deep-seated in the market, and we’ve seen the rise of reading apps which cater to Indian languages.”
 
Rastogi adds, “…hordes of people flock to book fairs in Patna or Kolkata to look for books in Hindi or Bengali.”
 
Print books that is. A reminder that we indies venturing into the India market should not ignore print.
 
Ebooks? If only.
 
But the simple fact is local-language Indian ebooks are not taking off in a big way because of retailer indifference.
Take Amazon, for example. With a whole 100 Hindi ebooks available in the Kindle IN store and zero titles on other Indian languages that’s hardly an incentive for publishers to start getting their local-language titles into mobi format.
 
But there’s always Apple and Kobo, right?
 
Sadly, no. There is no IBooks IN store, and Kobo treats India as an afterthought. Kobo has a disappointing partnership store with Crossword and the Kobo international store is available, but there is no localized Kobo India store and like Amazon, Kobo doesn’t want to know about local-language ebooks.
 
Having just absorbed Flipkart’s customers, that’s tragic. Kobo, wake up and smell the coffee!
 
There are two key local-language players in India right now – Dailyhunt and Rockstand.
 
Both are doing rather well, not least because they not only offer local-language titles, But also because they offer local-payment options too – another big fail for the western retailers in a land where only a tiny fraction of its people have bank cards.
 
Both Rockstand and Dailyhunt are in theory accessible to authors outside the country, but the hoops you need to jump through to go direct are not going to have western indie authors queuing up to clamber aboard.
 
Late last year the Hungarian aggregator PublishDrive signed a distribution deal with Rockstand, but that aside the big western aggregators, like the western retailers, seem determined to stick to the easy option English-language market in India.
 
“Languages (other than English) are really thriving, and in fact, there is an increased readership that we see in a lot of local languages,” says Meera Johri, head of an Indian publisher of Hindi classics.
 
In the tagged Publishing Perspectives post Jori adds, “There is a renewed interest in buying Hindi books and reading Hindi books. (Indian languages like) Marathi has always been very vibrant. Malayalam and Bangla, too… One reason is that these languages have a very strong culture of reading.”
 
Getting my titles translated into multiple Indian languages in multiple formats – ebook, print and audio – is a priority for me this year as the Indian book market – already the sixth largest in the world – transforms into a dual analogue-digital market.
 
The opportunities in India right now, for those playing the long game, are hard to exaggerate.
 
Stake you claim now for the India goldrush to come.
 
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.
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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

The Globile Future For Indie Authors Starts Here

globile

It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2015 and start the countdown to the end of this decade.

It may be 2016 in a week or so, but 2020 is just around the corner, and if we are serious about our writing careers we need to be thinking about where we will be in 2020, as the era of 5G and the Internet of Things becomes a reality. A global reality.

Personally I’ve got no time for crazy notions like New Year resolutions and Predictions of Things to Come.

If something is worth doing it’s worth doing now. No need to wait for a New Year to arrive to take the plunge.

As for predictions… The future’s not ours to see, but we can anticipate and prepare for the future by simply looking at the trends happening now.

When the latest Author Earnings report talked about the size of the US ebook market compared to the rest of the world it was pretty much spot on.

The US is by far the biggest ebook market by revenue and pretty much the largest by volume.

But a snapshot of how things are today is no guide to how things might be even next year, let alone in 2020.

2020 is going to be as different from 2015 as 2015 is from 2009 when the self-publishing “revolution” began.

E-readers – and specifically the Kindle – changed the ways Americans read. No question. But globile – that is, global mobile – has changed the way the world reads, and not just reads, but consumes TV, film music, radio, games, audio… you name it.

The Global New Renaissance that sounded so fantastical when I first started talking about it back in 2011, is now a reality.

We have unparalleled reach, not just as authors, but as content-providers across media, that was quite inconceivable even ten years ago, and pretty improbable just five years ago.

So bear with me today as I present some recent news stories that demonstrate just how much and how fast the world is changing, offering us unprecedented opportunities in 2016 and beyond.

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Bricks & Mortar Bookstores Sales Rose 6.9% in October.

It’s a strange old world.

More than five years after the ebook pioneers declared print to be redundant and the Borders closure to be conclusive proof that bookstores were dead in the water, print adamantly refuses to tow the line.

In October print sales in bricks and mortar stores across the US inconsiderately rose 6.9% compared to October 2014, following an equally inconsiderate year on year rise of 6.7% in September.

Given the time of year it’s beyond improbable that we are going to see any change to that pattern for November and December.

Which begs the question, what is happening out there?

It’s a fact that the biggest rise in ebook sales, seemingly at the expense of print, came in the era of dedicated e-reading devices.

E-readers are still available, and far cheaper than before, and so now are gazillions of smartphones, meaning people have a means to read ebooks whether they have an e-reader or not.

Ebooks are (mostly) cheap, there are literally millions to choose from, and there are any number of subscription services where you can read for next to nothing, and God knows how many free ebooks available such that we need never pay to read a book ever again.

We ought to be shifting tons more ebooks and seeing print spiral into oblivion.

But it just ain’t happening.

That’s not to say ebooks are fading away. Ebooks are here to stay. But for the foreseeable future so is print.

And as we hurtle into 2016 we should all be looking very carefully at our print options.

Revamping all my print titles has been a priority for me for 2016 simply because I’ve not had decent enough internet to do it properly until the last few months (for any newcomers, I live in West Africa), but the latest figures emerging add to the urgency of the task.

It’s easy for indie authors to relegate print to a secondary consideration because of the issues getting access to bricks and mortar stores, but the difficulties are nowhere near as big as we’d like to think (it’s always far easier to avoid a hurdle than try to jump it cleanly and move forward) if we do some homework and embrace more than just the obvious first port of call for POD that is Creatspace.

Not that there’s anything wrong with CreateSpace, but if we aspire to sales in bricks and mortar stores, at home and globally, we need to have more than one POD operator in our toolbox.

And the bricks and mortar stores excuse anyway does not stand up to close scrutiny. for the simple reason that so many print sales actually take place online.

It’s important to remember that it wasn’t ebooks that put Borders out of the game. It was the online sales of print titles.

Yet most indie authors treat print as an afterthought. We are, collectively, ebook authors, some of whom dabble in other formats.

Our loss.

Print has somehow survived the past five years of turmoil in the US, and will yet survive the next five years.

And globally… Print is still king and as internationalist authors we will all be missing major opportunities ahead if we ignore print as the Global New Renaissance unfolds.

Because smartphones aren’t just a place to read our ebooks. They are also a shop window to the global bookstores selling our print titles.

And it’s an amusing thought that smartphones, which ought to be sounding the death knell of print, are actually helping global print sales, by increasing discoverability among global print readers.

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Audiobooks Outselling Print by 4-1

This Marketwatch story (LINK) should be taken as anecdotal, in that only a handful of authors are seeing this phenomena right now – but indicative of the future.

As I’ve been saying since 2011, audio-books will form an important part of the Global New Renaissance as digital enables listeners anywhere to embrace our titles.

These reports of authors giving up their day-jobs on the strength of audio may be few and far between, but this is going to happen more and more.
The problem, as ever, is distribution, with very few outlets available for global a-book sales. But that’s already changing, and over the next few years will change all the more.

ACX is the obvious and probably easiest option for indies to go the audio route, and a good place to start, but it’s not the only option.

As indie authors we have somehow managed to sort our own production of ebooks. So it’s certainly within our capacity to make similar arrangements for audio and keep more control of our work.

Now I’m finally fully internet-enabled here in West Africa a-books are a top priority for me for 2016, and I’ll be exploring further the possibilities for both production and distribution of audio in a series of posts in the new year.

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Mickey Mouse Goes To Beijing.

If we were still having any doubts about whether China might be interested in our western culture, Alibaba laid that crazy notion to rest with the announcement that Disney’s content will be streaming to China next year, and included in the deal will be a year’s subscription to Disney Life, which has Disney ebooks as part of its package. (LINK)

This comes hard on the heels of a report in Publishers Weekly saying “The Chinese market is hungry for U.S. children’s book content, ”

More on that report and other exciting prospects unfolding in China, in a future post.

But first, let’s get to grips with just how big the China market is going to be.

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China To Hit A Half Billion 4G Users By End 2016.

China Mobile is leading a crusade in China to double the number of 4G users in the country over the next twelve months, with 500 million people expected to be 4G connected in China by this time next year. (LINK)

It’s not clear how many of those will be upgrading from 3G rather than new users, but safe to assume China’s total internet engagement will be well over a billion people.

China remains one of the most exciting places on the planet for indie authors. And as the barriers to global engagement with China continue to tumble it can only get more and more exciting as we head into 2016.

As the deal with Alibaba and Disney Life (see above) clearly shows, China is hungry for western culture.

Western publishers know that. They are piling in both English-language titles and translations, and seeing great results.

Indies too. Regular readers will know a few western indies have done rather well in China, even (no names mentioned) hitting #1 in the Kindle China store in 2014, and many more have hit the top ten this year.

2016 holds untold possibilities and hard-to-exaggerate opportunities for indie authors willing to take fair Cathay seriously.

China isn’t easy to get into. But nor is it a closed shop.

China should be on the radar of all internationalist indie authors in 2016.

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The Future Of The Big 5 Is Multi-Media. How About For Us Indies?

HarperCollins continues to embrace the digital Global New Renaissance, having just teamed up with the video production company Insurrection Media to option and develop books in sci-fi, drama and comedy for both digital video and linear television series. (LINK)

They will “jointly identify key titles that are most compelling and suitable for video series and then co-develop and produce shows to be owned and distributed by Insurrection in the U.S. and overseas on a multitude of over-the-top and linear video platforms.”

Just one more way in which trad pub, far from being destroyed by digital as we were assured would happen back in the early days of the “self-publishing revolution”, is in fact embracing digital to add value to its operations.

And for most indies this will just widen the gap between successful trad pub authors and successful indie authors.

While indie authors’ works can and do get optioned for other media productions (earlier this year David Gaughran reported one of his books getting optioned for film – LINK), instances of this happening are few and far between, not least because generally only the most successful and high profile indies are going to get noticed in the first place.

Meanwhile it’s well worth us looking at our existing titles and pondering what other media they might work well in, and also looking at our future production with multi-media built in as we write.

Back when I was writing for TV the constraints were dreadful. To keep down costs concepts had to be “int” (indoor, so studio produced, not expensive outdoor shoots) with as few speaking cast as possible (speaking actors cost more than walk-ons), etc, etc. The list of what to avoid was a book in itself. Modern production is a world apart.

The only real issue for adaptations to mainstream video now is momentum and timing (does the story carry forward evenly and will it break down into twenty/fifty minute segments or will it cram into a 90-120 minute film production.

For those of us writing series, and especially novella length, it would take little adjustment to write more visually with a video adaptation in mind.
In the Philippines Wattpad leads the way, with Wattpad TV going out four nights a week with video adaptation of Wattpad titles. Aimed at a Filipino audience, of course, but only a matter of time before this becomes a feature in countless countries.

Amazon is already moving in this direction with its own studios, and the logical next step for the Amazon is to adapt its imprint titles to video.

The US ebook market is going to get tougher and tougher next year, making diversity both at home and abroad, in content, content distribution and content format, absolutely essential if we are to keep moving forward.

The opportunities ahead are incredible. But only if we can not just step outside of, but take great strides away from, the “I’m a one-market ebook writer” box that characterises most indie authors today.

As for staying in the comfort zone of being a one-market ebook author, check out the next story to see just why I think that’s a bad strategy.

◊ ◊ ◊

Reality Check: Glut Of Scripted TV Content Troubles Hollywood.

So says this Wall Street Journal piece. (LINK)

Needless to say the Reality Check bit is mine.

Market fragmentation is something I’ve long been warning of, and we see it across all media. Music, TV, film, books, etc.

Put simply, as more and more content producers enter the fray with a means to distribute, so the competition for eyeballs, ears and consumers’ cash becomes more and more fierce.

We saw this clearly with television in bygone days as multi-channel broadcasting became the norm. The average number of viewers for a TV programme today is a fraction of what it was thirty years ago when viewers had very little choice about what to watch.

We saw it with music as it became easier for smaller bands to get noticed, specialist radio stations and record labels proliferated, and production was digitalised.

And we see it with books. Readers have more and more books to choose from and more opportunities to discover new material.

But at the end of the day there are only so many viewers, listeners and readers to absorb this tsunami of new content being flung at us from all directions catering for every imaginable niche in any format we want.

Nowadays corporate film, TV, music and book producers clearly understand this, and they all look to global reach to keep their businesses viable.

Whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster, the latest Marvel TV show, the latest Taylor Swift album or the latest Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, it’s a given these will be available worldwide to a global audience ion multiple formats and will rake in a ton of cash by being so.

Indie authors, not so much.

And while it’s true there are practical limitations to our global reach, the single biggest obstacle to indie success in the international markets is our own collective unwillingness to engage.

Our loss.

As globile internet takes hold we have unparalleled opportunities to reach audiences in places and formats totally off-limits even five years ago.

Or we can carry on partying like its 2009 and wonder why its getting harder and harder to get anywhere.

Go globile in 2016!

◊ ◊ ◊

From Russia With Love.

Over in the Russian Federation telco Rostelecom has extended its fibre coverage to 30 million households, with plans for further advances in 2016.

While not a priority engagement right now, everyone should have Russia on their radar.

Google Play is there, and of course Bookmate. Both accessible through StreetLib.

I’ve just signed up my two translator-partners for the Russian language and one for Ukrainian, and I’m looking forward to seeing my titles available to Russian, Ukrainian and CIS readers in 2016.

Currently Russian is not supported in Amazon’s KDP account, but there have been indications Amazon is planning a Kindle RU store. But don;t wait until that happens to start your Russian-language catalogue.

◊ ◊ ◊

 

Vodafone India Begins its 4G Roll-Out.

The Global New Renaissance is driven by globile – that is, global mobile.
It’s very much a leap-frog affair as 3G smartphones encourage people to buy smartphones which then justify 4G expansion which encourage even more people to get smartphones.

Vodafone India has just begun its 4G roll-out across India, (LINK) which will accelerate the take-up of smartphones across the country.

Literally half the world now own a smartphone. Over three billion people.

A reminder, if needed, that every single smartphone in the world is a potential home for our ebooks, audiobooks and other digital offerings.

◊ ◊ ◊

Instagram Is Already Bigger Than Twitter. Pinterest Won’t Be Far Behind.

Two new acquisitions by Pinterest strongly suggest the direction Pinterest is heading. As a major e-commerce player. (LINK)

The first five years of the “ebook revolution” have been dominated by one country, one retailer and two social media platforms.

The next five years are going to be dramatically different.

Not that the US, Amazon and Facebook and twitter won’t continue to play pivotal roles.

But the new world of globile publishing that is now solidifying is very different from what has gone before.

Availability everywhere needs to be combined with discoverability everywhere and buyability everywhere.

A diverse distribution strategy needs to go hand in hand with a diverse social media strategy over the next five years if we are to reach the hundreds of millions of potential readers who do not think Facebook and twitter are the be-all-and-end-all of social media existence.

◊ ◊ ◊

Google Steps Up Its Plans To Bring All Indians Online. Indie Authors, Stake Your Claims Now For the Goldrush Coming Soon!

This week Google announced plans to launch a program to train two million new Android developers over the next three years, partnering with more than 30 universities in India.

Google India already one of the biggest Google operations outside the US and is second only to the U.S. in total number of mobile search queries. (LINK)

I reported here back in September how Google planned to get wi-fi to 400 train stations in India, and this week Mumbai Central became the first to go live.

There will be 100 wif-fi train stations connecting 10m million train commuters by this time next year.

I also reported on the wonderful Google Saathi initiative involving Google teams touring the remote Indian countryside by bicycle and teaching rural women how to use their smartphones.

The Saathi project has now reached one thousand villages, and the plan is to reach 300,000 villages over the next three years.

These are just a few among countless initiatives from Google (like youtube offline) that are bringing more and more Indians to the internet each day.

And speaking of youtube, if you ever needed proof that we are witnessing a Global New Renaissance, just check out Youtube Space Mumbai, which also opened this week. (LINK)

“Today’s announcements are just our latest steps in our journey to bring all Indians online and make the Internet more relevant and useful for their needs,” Caesar Sengupta, Google’s VP for Chrome & Android said.

India this summer reached the point where the country has more Indians online than the USA has people. 350 million internet users. Most of them using smartphones that could be carrying our ebooks and audiobooks.

But here’s where it gets really exciting.

As Sengupta notes, “There are still nearly a billion people in India who don’t have access to the Internet.”

Not for much longer!

Any indie authors still not taking India seriously as we wind up 2015 should nip off to Starbucks and down a few treble-espressos.

India is already the second largest English-language book market on the planet (yes, bigger than the UK) and the sixth largest book market overall.
And it can only get bigger and bigger.

Given the hurdles to getting into China right now (it’s possible, but not easy) India remains my number one prospect for the next five years.
Don’t wait for the bandwagons to start rolling.

Stake your claim now for the India goldrush to come.

◊ ◊ ◊

Simon & Schuster Report “Significant Growth” In UK in 2015.

Reading the indie blogs recently you could be forgiven for thinking corporate publishing is on its knees once again. Every time a minor downturn in sales/revenue happens we seem to revel in the impending demise of the Big 5.

But of course sales and revenues roller-coast all the time depending on seasonal fluctuations, and of course one-off breakouts. And the Big 5, contrary to popular opinion in some indie circles, are not wholly reliant on the US marketplace for their continued existence.

This week Simon & Schuster are revelling in their global progress. Carolyn Reidy, CEO at S&S, notes,

“All the S&S international arms “turned in outstanding performances this year… with (our) Canadian arm growing faster than the Canadian industry. Australia has also outperformed the industry, gaining market share, strengthening (our) local publishing program, adding new distribution clients and making bestsellers from both US and UK titles. India, meanwhile, will launch its own local publishing program in 2016.”

Reidy adds,

“…the company’s direct to consumer marketing was ‘seeing terrific results’, with visits to its website up by more than 50%.”

On audio:

““We are positioned to capitalize on the fast- growing digital audio format which is transforming the audio business,”

Simon & Schuster and the other corporate publishers understand publishing is not a one-retailer, one-country, one-format affair.

Corporate publishing is enjoying the Global New Renaissance.

I’m loving it!

How about you?

◊ ◊ ◊

That about winds it up for now. There won’t be much industry news between now and the new year, so this may or may not be the last post of 2015, depending on what happens out there.

But as ever you can keep up on news snippets over at The International Indie Author Facebook Group.

But a final thought as I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

I live in a Muslim country in West Africa. Islam has its own calendar and their own new year. So does China and lots of other countries. Their new year does not coincide with ours.

But here in The Gambia, as around the world, Christmas will be celebrated in some way, and the New Year welcomed in as December 31st 2015 becomes January 1st 2016, whatever the local calendar says.

We live in one world where. whatever our differences, we all share a common need to be entertained.

As 2016 rolls in we, as content providers, have more potential reach, across more media, through more formats, in more languages, and to more people, than anyone has ever had at any time in history.

And the Global New Renaissance is only just beginning.

Don’t let it 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.

India – The Race For Local-Language Internet Supremacy Has Begun. Indie Authors, Prepare Now For The Opportunities Ahead.

India e-commerce

There are three major e-commerce players in India right now. Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon.

Of those only one – Amazon – is now selling ebooks, but don’t give up on this story yet, because what Snapdeal is doing right now is going to alter the Indian e-commerce landscape.

So far the internet in India has been very much an English-language affair. India may be the second largest English-speaking nation in the world, but English is spoken by a substantial minority of Indians.

And for those that don’t speak, read or write in English, the internet – and especially the field of e-commerce – has been of limited interest.

There are great sites in local languages, of course, and some ebook retailers specialize in local-language titles, but English has been the driving force in internet take-up in the country thus far.

But not for much longer.

As Google’s South Asia VP said earlier this year, the next 100 million internet users will not be in English.

The proliferation of smartphones has made internet access a global phenomenon in a way that was quite impossible even five years ago. Globile (global mobile) has allowed nations to simply skip the desktop era of cable internet access and go straight from no internet to 3G/4G internet pretty much overnight.

In India, the fastest-growing smartphone market, globile is changing lives as internet access becomes available to even the remotest parts of the subcontinent.

But with English a minority language (a mere 150 million speakers) the shift to embrace local languages on the net was always just a matter of time.

That time has come. And Snapdeal is the first of the big Indian e-commerce sites to grasp this nettle.

Snapdeal, generally acknowledged as the second largest player after Flipkart, is rolling out the Snapdeal site not just in English but in Hindi and Telegu with immediate effect, and by end January will have Snapdeal options in nine other regional languages – Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Assamese and Punjabi. (LINK)

Flipkart will follow suit in no time at all.

Amazon? Well, this is going to be interesting to watch.

Amazon’s focus is on the middle class niche who largely coincide with the English-speakers, not the whole population. With its limited payment options in a country where over 90% of the population do not have bank cards that’s unlikely to change.

In the Kindle store Amazon currently supports only one local language, and there are just a handful of titles available.

That’s not so important right now, when over 50% of print titles sold in India are in English. But that’s more to do with availability and affordability than reader preference.

As innovative local-language digital players like Rockstand and Dailyhunt are clearly showing, when local language ebooks are made available and affordable, Indian readers are snapping them up.

And now Snapdeal have just opened the door to local-language engagement with the internet in India at a whole new level.

It seems unlikely Snapdeal will be selling ebooks in the foreseeable future, but the idea that the internet in India will remain the preserve of English-speakers is now redundant.

More and more Indians will be coming online looking for local language content, including books and ebooks.

And many – probably most – Indians who do speak English likely do so as a second language learned at school, rather than their family conversational language at home, and will welcome content in their first language.

There are fantastic opportunities here for internationalist indie authors willing to go the extra mile and seek out translations in as many local languages as possible, for ebooks, print, audio and beyond.

By beyond I mean, for example, promo, blogging, social media engagement, etc.

It’s not commercially viable for me to have The International Indie Author blog and FB pages translated into other languages right now, but it’s certainly something I’m looking at for the future. if we want to fully engage with the world we will have to address translations not just of our books but of our wider social media presence.

But let’s focus on books for now.

Earlier this year India leapfrogged the UK to become the second largest English-language book market in the world. It’s now the sixth largest book market on the planet overall.

And it will get much bigger as smartphones make internet access available to literally hundreds of millions of Indians who previously had no way of getting online.

Many will be buying ebooks, and many more will be using their smartphones to buy print books from online stores.

We are going to see a big surge in local language take-up of books, across all formats, over the next five years.

Savvy indies will be positioning themselves now to enjoy the ride.

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

 

 

Flipkart Ebook Store Closes. You Heard It Here First!

When the International Indie Author blog broke the news back in September that Flipkart’s ebook store was on the chopping block, (LINK) I was hoping I might be proved wrong, but it’s now official.

Flipkart’s ebook store is history. (LINK)

This is good and bad news.

The bad is that Flipkart is a major brand in India and still, just, the biggest e-commerce operator in the country. Had it taken ebooks seriously it might have been a very different story for the Flipkart ebook store. But what’s done is done.

The good news is that indie authors now have an easy access point to India through Kobo.

As I said back in September,

“Rakuten-owned Kobo could yet surprise us all, make a bid for the Flipkart customer data, and start taking India seriously.”

That’s what has happened. Just how seriously Kobo will now take India remains to be seen, but there’s every reason for optimism..

India remains the most exciting prospect on the planet for indie authors as ebooks take off across the subcontinent.

The India ebook gold rush is imminent. Stake your claim now!

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.

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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.

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

 

 

100 Million Reasons To Think About Translations Into Local Languages In India.

When I talk about the global New Renaissance and how virtually everyone on the planet will soon be able to access our ebooks I know many struggle to take the idea seriously.

After all, we were brought up in another era. An era when internet access involved buying an expensive computer powered by expensive electricity, that needed an expensive desk to sit it on and an expensive telephone cable connection only available in big cities, and an expensive subscription to an ISP, just in order to dial-up a connection that would slowly unfold a static webpage.

Nowadays we in the rich west take for granted the idea of a handheld, cable-free smartphone that we can read books on, watch films on, message people all over the world on, and, oh yeah, make telephone calls on. And conference calls. And video calls. And…

Ten years ago much of this seemed like science fiction. Even five years ago, when ereaders were just becoming popular, the idea of reading books on a phone seemed a fad that would never catch on in the real world.

But change just keeps on coming, and it gets faster and faster.

IT is no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich west. It’s not even the preserve of the rich few in the rest of the world. The rest of the world has simply skipped all that pain and gone straight from nowhere to 4G.

We’re fast approaching the point where everyone on the planet will have internet access and a handheld device on which to engage with said internet.

There are already over two billion smartphones out there. There are over three billion people with some sort of broadband connection.

And while of course the focus is on the larger cities and densely-populated regions of the world, that doesn’t mean the rural areas are missing out.

Projects like Google’s Loon internet balloons and Facebook’s Aquila internet drones will soon be bringing the internet to even the most remote parts of the inhabited world. For example, Google has recently announced a deal with the Sri Lankan government for Google Loon to provide internet access to the entire island.

Meantime, down on the ground, Facebook’s internet.org initiative is bringing free internet access to the poorest of the poor.

And now Google’s “Internet Saathi” project is literally wheeling out the web across rural India. By bicycle.

Over the next eighteen months five million women in 45,000 Indian villages will be getting lessons in how to use their smartphones to connect to the internet. (LINK)

Google this past week tweeted that the first rural woman student, Jayant, had successfully used her smartphone to look up information about the cattle she rears to support her family.

The internet is a wonderful thing.

But it won’t just change Jayant’s life in practical terms like providing information about her cattle. It will also open up a world of entertainment and social engagement previously totally off-limits to her.

How long before Jayant and the other five million women this project will reach will discover ebooks? Maybe one of yours?

Google ‘s South Asia VP Rajan Anandan says that while the English language has dominated the growth of the internet in India so far, “the next 100 million Internet users will not be fluent in English”.

That’s one hundred million reasons to start thinking about translations into India’s myriad local languages.

I am. Are you?

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