Category Archives: International ebook market

2016: The Year So Far For Internationalist Indie Authors

2016 The Year So Far

2016 is simply racing by. Either my calendar is on amphetamines or February’s gone, April is looming, and we’re well on the slippery slope to 2017, with 2020 just around the corner.

A step nearer to the the first decade of 5G and the Internet of Things. A decade that, for publishing, is going to make the tumult of the 2010s seem rather tame by comparison.

I’ll be re-visiting the future as we go, because any of us planning on still being on the writing and publishing circuit in the 2020s needs to be preparing now for the challenges ahead.

But we also need to keep one eye on the present because, to paraphrase John Donne, no writer is an island, and events unfolding around us largely unnoticed now will determine all our futures.

So I’m kicking off March with a look back on how 2016 is shaping up so far for us internationalist indie authors looking at the bigger picture than next month’s pay-cheque. (A reminder there, for any new readers, that I write in British English!).

And a reminder too that I live and write in West Africa, and sometimes the distractions of Third World life play havoc with my blogging schedule.

This is my first blog post in over a month. But I do post far more frequently – pretty much every day, often several times a day – over at the International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

While blogs have a permanence and discoverability Facebook sorely lacks, Facebook Groups are great for interaction. It’s a telling point that the Facebook Group, with fewer members than there are followers of this blog, gets far more productive, daily engagement than the blog does.

So do pop along and sign up to the IIA Facebook Group and enjoy daily reflections on Going Global.

◊ ◊ ◊

Meantime, back to 2016 so far.

Amazon is lining up suppliers for a new music subscription service intended to go head to head with Apple’s music subscription option and to challenge the established music subscription players like Spotify.

Currently Amazon offers a limited music subscription service option free to Prime members, but this latest move – expected to materialise in the latter half of this year – indicates the mighty Zon has bigger ambitions than just keeping Prime members on board.

It begs the question, where does Amazon go from here with subscriptions? And more pertinently for us, ebook subscriptions?

I’ve long suggested Amazon will, when the time is right and the costs are down enough, make Kindle Unlimited available free to Prime members.

KU may have a million titles, but in real terms the choice is limited, just like the Prime music and video selections.

But whereas Prime members get the music and video free they are asked to pay full price for KU (aside from the one free title a month).

The logical next step would be to make KU available free to Prime members in its current format, and then re-launch KU proper as a “real” ebook subscription service, dropping the exclusivity condition.

Dropping the exclusivity condition for self-publishers for the extended KU could bring into the game the titles of the many indie authors who play the wider game and are therefore excluded from KU by Amazon’s current rules.

That would be a win for the revamped subscription service – lots of new content to attract paying subscribers – and also a further income stream for authors.

But also a win for Amazon’s wider game, undermining the subscription competition.

It may seem like there is no competition to KU, especially now Oyster is out of the game, but to the extent that’s true at all, it’s only true in the US and UK.

Internationally subscription services like Bookmate, 24Symbols and Mofibo are doing just fine, and in the “home markets” niche subscription services are also doing well, while a new global subscription service, Playster, may yet surprise us.

Given Google has soaked up the Oyster team and skills-base it seems likely Google Play will enter the ebook subscription scene at some stage, perhaps with an international service to compete with Bookmate, Playster and Scribd.

And then there’s Apple.

Pundits like to dismiss Apple as a hardware firm that dabbles in content-supply, but that’s self-evidently untrue. Apple has plenty of content ambitions or it wouldn’t have introduced a music subscription service or be fielding 50+ global ebook stores.

Yes, Apple will remain primarily focussed on hardware, just as Amazon remains primarily focussed on e-commerce but dabbles in hardware and building its own content creation. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Last year Apple entered the music subscription game – something Amazon is now preparing to respond to. And while there are no indications yet that Apple is sounding out big pub on launching an ebook subscription service, it‘s a safe bet that it’s on the way.

For Apple, it’s an extra income stream for very little effort as they already have some 50 global iBooks stores. And of course it would be an extra arrow in their quiver to attract buyers to their hardware, which is the whole point of Apple’s content ventures. For the many publishers who don’t have a problem with subscription services per se, but are studiously avoiding KU for obvious reasons, an Apple subscription service would be welcomed.

And in another slow puncture in the wheel of Apple- isn’t-interested-in-content it’s just been announced Apple’s first original TV series is being made.

Something to keep an eye on as this year unfolds.

◊ ◊ ◊

But music subscription is not the only content push Amazon is planning.

Currently Amazon is advertising for new technicians to take Audible to a whole new level. I’ll be covering this in detail in a dedicated post on audio shortly.

And yet another event on the Amazon horizon is the arrival of an Amazon used-ebook store.

At the moment it’s only an industry rumour, and there’s no real indication of how this might work, or what its impact might be.

My guess is an Amazon used-ebook store would, like KU, be aimed at the indie circuit. I’ll reflect on why in another post, as so much else to cover right now.

Video, for example.

◊ ◊ ◊

Amazon has been actively building its film and TV production arm and clearly has ambitions far beyond simply adding to the free content available for Prime members.

Video is big business. Not just in the US but globally.

Of course, film and TV have long been available worldwide. Nothing new there. But what is new is a) the scale and b) the delivery.

Here in West Africa freeview satellite dishes are everywhere, for those lucky enough to have electric. That’s the same across the world. But old-fashioned satellite broadcasts are a hang-over from the twentieth century, like analogue TVs.

As the Globile (global mobile)  New Renaissance unfolds, access to video – by which I mean mainstream film and TV, not just three-minute home-made footage of a playful kitten on Youtube – is moving to new heights, delivered by mobile broadband.

As the world goes globile (global mobile, don’t forget!) and internet speeds and reliability move to new levels, pretty much the entire globe is within reach of mainstream video, just as pretty much the entire world can now access our ebooks.

Netflix kicked off 2016 with an expansion into 130 new countries, including Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Russia, taking Netflix’s reach to 190 countries globally, and in twenty languages.

“In 2016 (Netflix) plans to release 31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, a wide range of stand-up comedy specials and 30 original kids series. Netflix will also work to make the rest of its content available worldwide, so it offers the same programming in each market.” (LINK)

So let’s be clear on this. Netflix will be showing classic film and TV from our western culture, making it available around the world to audiences eager to lap it up. And pay for the privilege.

Books are no different. We only have to look at the bestseller charts around the globe to see how translations of top-selling American and British books are being devoured by eager readers in countries are removed from the culture of the US and UK.

Don’t think you need to be a Stephen King or an E.L. James to sell well abroad. Indies can do it too. Those of us who have made the effort to reach out to global audiences have, both for our translations and English-language originals, found a positive reception. Number one on Kindle China, anyone?

But we don’t need to stop at books. Savvier indie authors will be looking at operations like Netflix and asking ourselves – “Can they use my content?”

◊ ◊ ◊

If the Netflix scenario were a one-off story, this would still be significant But it’s far from one-off.

A South Korean TV subscription player in January expanded across Asia, observing astutely, “Korean content travels well”.

Hard on the heels of HBO announcing (end 2015) plans to stream video in Spain later this year and the global expansion of Netflix in January, Spain’s Telefonica announced plans to create and broadcast eight to ten series a year, starting in 2017. While Spanish-language focused Telefonica also plans to team up with other major European studios for co-produced English-language works.

January also saw the news that UKTV is to launch a new flagship subscription service called ‘W’ (don’t ask!) laden with original shows.

Steve North, W’s general manager, said, “We have a treasure trove of compelling original commissions, our own crown jewels.”

The tagged report notes that “UKTV’s investment in original content has pulled in millions more viewers to its portfolio of channels”. (LINK)

These are just a few among numerous similar developments as the Global New Renaissance blossoms, allowing countless new players to not just distribute but to create original content.

Which means production studios around the globe are screaming out for new content that can bolster their catalogue. Not just the big Hollywood film and TV studios and their equivalent in other countries, but the upstarts like Amazon Studios, Netflix, HBO, etc and the perhaps less-well known but still big enough to pack a punch producers like UKTV.

No, we don’t need to be professional screenwriters to be excited by this.

Yes, we can stay as we are, fingers crossed, and dream. it’s always possible someone will stumble across our works and want to option them for a TV series or a film. It happens.

But savvy indie authors will be proactive, not trusting to luck.

As I’ll be exploring in detail sometime soon, there are a number of agents who specialize in licensing IP rights for other media. There are also a number of agencies operating IP databases where production teams go to search a database as an easy way to find good content that by definition is available for licensing.

And then of course we have the option to approach production studios ourselves with our titles and show why they would work in other media, or to partner with a third party to produce a script/storyboard/whatever that will get the attention of those production studios. Amazon has its own film storyboarding software available free to use!

Several big publishers are setting up units specifically to team with video-production studios to develop their book titles in other formats, and the only thing stopping indies getting in on the act is our own tendency to think of ourselves as “ebook authors”.

◊ ◊ ◊

Moving back to books, and potentially good news on the horizon for indies looking to reach Australia’s readers. Amazon is launching The Book Depository in Australia (LINK), possibly as a prelude to a wider Amazon AU store down the road to compliment the Kindle AU store.

The Book Depository sells print, so is not on the radar of most indies because of our unhealthy focus on ebooks even at “home”, let alone in markets in far flung lands like Australia.

Equally safe to say that for most indies the Australian ebook market is the Kindle AU store, although there are numerous other options to read ebook readers in Australia.

With ebooks accounting for about 7% of total book sales in Australia right now, and ebook take-up growing by 26% per year, it’s worth taking Australia seriously.

That means at the very least being available on Kobo AU, Google Play AU and Apple AU, while for the more ambitious among us there are plenty of other players.

Angus & Robertson, for example, which is supplied by Kobo.

While some smaller AU ebook retailers lost the battle for survival (JB Hi-Fi and Big W both called it a day) other players are holding their own.

Not least Booktopia.

Amazon’s The Book Depository is the biggest player in Australia for on-line print titles even before it sets up shop in situ, but the second largest on-line bookseller is Booktopia, which last year bought out Bookworld, previously owned by Penguin Random House.

Booktopia doesn’t give out ebook stats but it shipped ten million print books last year and expects that to increase now it’s absorbed Bookword’s customer base.

Booktopia expects to sell $80 million worth of print titles in 2016. Amazon, boosted by the Book Depository local-launch, is on target to sell $200 million of print titles.

How much of that $280 million Australian print market will indies be getting a share of?

Very little, no doubt.

As we all know, trad pub has an oh-so-unfair advantage because it can get books into bricks and mortar stores and we indies can’t. Or so the chant goes.

The reality, of course is that indies can, if we make the effort, get print books into bricks and mortar stores, at home and around the globe.

But that debate is academic here because that $280 million market being discussed is all on-line sales, not though bricks and mortar stores.

Very unhelpful for us looking for any excuse to take the path of least resistance. Great news for those of us who are serious about becoming international bestselling authors.

But let’s stay briefly with ebooks. For indies looking at Australia, aside from Kindle AU there is Apple AU, Google Play AU and Kobo AU, as well as the aforementioned Kobo partner store Angus & Robertson. Then there’s Booktopia’s ebook store and beyond that smaller but still significant players like QBD.

If our books aren’t in these stores then obviously Australian readers who frequent these stores will not be able to buy them. It’s that simple.

Being available is half the battle.

How to reach Australian ebook readers? Amazon, Apple and Kobo are easy enough to get into, of course. Google Play not so much, as neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital distribute to Google Play. Luckily for us, both StreetLib and PublishDrive do.

To get into QBD we need to be in the Copia catalogue, and to get into Booktopia the Ingram catalogue is required.

Yeah, I know. It’s a cruel world. How dare they make life difficult for us over-worked, under-paid indies.

But here’s the thing. The retailers are responding to consumer demand. For some obscure and unfathomable reason consumers prefer to buy from stores that are convenient for them not for us.

Yes, it would be great if readers the world over were all thinking, “Those poor indie authors trying to do it all on their own… Why don’t we all buy from one store to make their lives easier and then they can spend more time writing and less time trying to maximise their distribution.”

But the reality is, our typical reader no more cares about us as authors of the books than we do about the screenplay writers who create the TV dramas and films we ourselves love to watch.

And let’s be honest with ourselves here. How many of us could even name, let alone care about, the writer or writers who wrote that TV drama we were enthralled by last night? Or the latest blockbuster film we watched at the cinema last week?

Exactly.

Bottom line is, it’s our choice. We can put consumers first or put ourselves first.

The path of least resistance is always there if we want to walk it.

But we wouldn’t be here reading this in the first place if that were the case, so take a deep breath and check out Ingram and Copia distribution if you haven’t already.

Australia, with urban populations separated by huge distances, is perfect online-store territory for both print and ebooks, and perfect long-term ebook territory now smartphones have replaced dedicated ereaders as the primary reading device.

Most Australians speak and read English meaning there’s no need for translations to reach this lucrative overseas market.

Yet indies seem largely indifferent to Australia’s charms. Even Australian authors seem to obsess more about the US market than building a fan-base at home. Which is crazy when a glance at any Australian bookseller – print or digital – shows the retailers obsessively promote home-grown Australian talent.

Whether Booktopia can hold its own when The Book Depository goes live in Australia remains to be seen, but the one certainty is the Australian book market – for English-language print, ebooks and audio alike – is worth taking seriously.

I am. How about you?

◊ ◊ ◊

Coming back to Amazon yet again, and Kindle Unlimited launched in China last month.

But don’t get too excited. Unless our ebooks are in the Kindle China store in the first place then we’ll not be there.

The good news, for those of us who are there, is that there is no exclusivity conditions so we can continue to reach reads on China’s many other and mostly bigger, ebook retailers while still getting the benefits of KU-China.

Kindle China is not part of the KDP set up, so there are none of the Kindle star names in KU-China to compete with.

◊ ◊ ◊

Finally for today, and staying with China:

More Than Half Of China’s Population Is Now Online!

Last summer I reported that India has more people online than the USA has people in it.

2016 kicked off with news that over half of China’s people are now connected to the internet.

688 million people (50.3% for fellow maths obsessives) are connected, and 620 million of those connect using mobile devices.

A reminder, if needed, that the world is going globile. That’s global mobile for anyone who’s not been keeping up.

And also for any newcomers, a mention that the Beijing-based aggregator Fiberead will translate, produce and distribute your titles in China at no up-front cost.

But let’s come back to going globile.

More Indians on the internet than the USA has people in it. Almost twice as many Chinese on the internet than the US has people in it.

Globile – global mobile – is enfranchising literally billions of people who previously had no access to books.

Now people almost everywhere on the planet have a device in their hands that can be used to read our ebooks. As I reported at the start of the year, even Easter Island, the remotest inhabited island in the world, has wi-fi.

The US is and will remain for a while yet the biggest book market in the world. But collectively the rest of the world will dwarf it many times over in coming years.

Already in 2015 India leapfrogged the UK to become the second biggest English language book market and the sixth largest book market overall.

Savvy indies will of course remain focussed on the US and UK markets that sustain us now. But we will also be sowing the seeds for future harvests in the now nascent markets.

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

Go globile in 2016!

◊ ◊ ◊

For daily news and views on the global ebook scene, and some great debate, join The International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

 

 

 

◊ ◊ ◊

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

 

It’s 2016. Carpe Annum! Seize The Year! Part 1

 

The new year is now two weeks old. Time enough to have recovered from any New Year’s Eve excess, and it’s time to have broken all those crazy New Year’s resolutions we ritually make and break each January.

Now let’s think about the rest of the year, starting with this five part question.

Are you a one-format, one-retailer, one-market, one-language, one-SMP ebook author?

Presumably the answer is no to at least several of those, or you wouldn’t be here reading this in the first place.

But there are degrees of “no”. And as we kick off 2016 we all need to be asking ourselves those questions because the answers will define our level of success or struggle over the next five years.

Put simply, our level of success or struggle will be determined not solely by the quality of our output, but increasingly by how much we put the convenience of consumers (primarily, but not only, readers) over our own convenience as authors.

Our level of success or struggle will be determined by how many options we can create for consumers and how many revenue streams for can build for ourselves in doing so. The two are inextricably linked.

Through January I’m going to take a closer look at each of those questions so we can start this new year with a clear idea of just how well we are performing against those criteria now, and how we might engage further with the Global New Renaissance as 2016 unfolds.

◊ ◊ ◊

Part 1: Are you a one-format author?

Here we may be smugly thinking, “No problem, I’ve got a mobi and an epub. Box ticked.”

ell, score 2 out of 10 for that. It’s a start. But if we’re to fully embrace the opportunities presented by the Global New Renaissance we need to broaden our idea of format.

We pretty much all have our titles up in the Kindle store (mobi) and many of us will be using an aggregator or going direct to Apple, Nook or Kobo (epub). But having mobi and epub files out there is just the first step on the road to format diversity.

And format diversity is the key to those elusive but lucrative multiple-income streams most of us will need to allow us to ride out the peaks and troughs of our ebook sales.

Smashwords is one aggregator that lets us make our titles available in multiple digital formats. PDFs, for example, among many more obscure formats we may never have heard of, but that some consumers still use.

In the smartphone era that’s not so important, but given it requires no extra effort on our part (assuming we’ve survived the Meatgrinder) it’s crazy not to have our titles available to those who are still using dinosaur devices to read on.

And speaking of dinosaur devices, how are we doing with print?

If our focus is on ebooks and then, if we can be really, really bothered one particularly wet and windy afternoon, we paste our ebook manuscript into a CreateSpace template and stick it out there for the sake of appearances, or to make our ebooks look a bargain, or to send a copy to our Great Aunt Doris, then we are one-format ebook authors.

If we never ever promote our POD titles because it’s well, you know, “print”, and it will never sell anyway, then we are one-format ebook authors.

Not that there’s anything wrong with CreateSpace – it should be the first port of call for print for all indie authors. But with emphasis on the word “first”.

CreateSpace is great – and it’s free if you can manage all the stages yourself. But if we’re serious about print distribution and reaching print reader we’ll need to be on board with other print operators as well. Ingram, for example.

Here’s the thing: if we are treating print as an afterthought to our ebooks, convinced our print titles will never sell anyway, then we are not just failing to put readers first, but we are short-changing ourselves.

Because even in 2016, over half a decade after the “ebook revolution” began – most US readers prefer print. And the same goes for the rest of the world, only more so.

Over 625 million print titles were sold in the US last year. How many were yours?

If we do have POD titles available and no-one is buying them we need to ask ourselves why.

Yes, getting our print titles into bricks & mortar stores is a challenge, of course. Not impossible, but not that easy.

Whereas making our print titles available online through Amazon, and via Amazon in numerous other online bookstores, is easy.

So no, the bricks & mortar bookstore excuse won’t wash. Not when some half of all print books sold in the US are sold online.

Yet most indies are still selling next to nothing in print even on Amazon.

Why? I’ll be taking a closer look at our print options in the near future, examining why so many indies struggle with print sales.

Here just to sum it up in three words:

  • Quality
  • Brand
  • Promotion

Yes, read that last one again. Promotion.

Contrary to popular indie belief, there’s not a law making it illegal to mention our print titles and print links when we promote our books.

But when was the last time you saw an indie author tweet or FB their print title?

Or maybe some of us are still staring in bewilderment at that suggestion that we (take a deep breath before we say it) promote our print titles.

“But all my followers and friends are ebook readers!” we cry.

Well sorry, but who’s fault is that? Do we seriously believe only ebook readers are on twitter and Facebook, and print readers live on some remote island where the internet hasn’t yet reached?

Get real. Print is still king even in the USA, currently the world’s biggest ebook market.

The savvy indie author will be working ebooks and print in tandem, not hiding our print titles in the basement and hoping no-one ever finds them.

And not just paperbacks. But how many indies do we know who have

  • Hardcover editions?
  • Special collectors’ editions?
  • Multiple-sizes of paperback to suit reader preferences?
  • Large-print editions for the visually-impaired?

Need I go on?

But of course there’s more to multiple formats than ebooks and print. And this is where we really need to start thinking about ourselves and what we do in slightly different light.

Yes, we’re authors. Yes, we write books. Or at least, ebooks. But more importantly we write content. We create intellectual property. Our book is not just a book. It’s an intellectual property. An IP.

And if we can start thinking of ourselves as IP creators then a realm of new opportunities opens up to us.

  • Audio-books

Any indie still not taking audio seriously as we kick off 2016 needs a severe talking to.

Audio is one of the fastest growing formats, and when it comes to generating multiple income streams audio is a great way to reach new audiences with just some tweaking of our existing content.

Amazon’s ACX makes it easy, cheap and painless to produce and sell audio-books, and of course there are lots of other options to reach the audio-book market.

But no need to stop at audio.

I’ll be returning to these alternative format options in detail in future posts, but here just to mention a few further ways in which we can tweak our existing content to fit new formats, reach new audiences and create new income streams.

  • Radio, TV and film

Now that may seem like a ginormous leap out of our comfort zone, but as I’ll be showing in future posts, if we can step outside the “I’m an indie ebook author” box then the only limits are those we choose to let confine us.

As Amazon expands its original-video output there’s an easy-to-get-the-attention-of production outfit right there.

Netflix this past week has expanded its video streaming options globally and is now available in 190 countries, with more to come.

Video streaming operators are breeding like rabbits and have reach far beyond their own shores.

There are any number of smaller production companies around the globe crying out for quality content.

Gone are the days when getting video distribution meant the support of a major film studio, a TV broadcaster or a satellite company to reach an audience.

Just like with ebooks, digital video and audio content is available on a global scale unimaginable just a few years ago.  Yet how many indies ebook authors are even thinking about reaching radio and video audiences in their own country, let alone globally?

No, we don’t need to take a crash course in screenplay writing or radio scripting to be in with a chance.

Yes, there’s always the possibility the BBC or Spielberg will come cold-calling wanting to option our ebook for the big screen, the small screen or the talky-box. But that’s not very likely.

So why not make some effort to meet them half-way?

For example,

  • Get an agent who specialises in licencing rights.
  • Sign up with a specialist rights operator who will put your titles into a database so that production crews can discover them.
  • Partner with a scriptwriter to adapt your work for film, TV, radio or whatever.

I’ll be offering some detailed suggestions on how in future posts.

Other formats? Again, I’ll be coming back on these in detail as we go, but here just to offer a few suggestions.

  • E-Magazines.

Digital magazines have been getting a bad press in 2015 thanks to falling revenues, but that’s an advertisers’ issue, not a reflection on the format, which is a great way for indie authors to reach new audiences. Another income stream in the bag for very little effort.

  • Serialized content

E-magazines are a great way to offer serialized content.

So is our preferred format, ebooks. In fact, serialized content ought to be high on our list of format options to keep those multiple income steams coming in.

There is a growing number of independent operators offering serialized ebooks, and lots more coming forward.

Yes, we can simply serialize our own, and put them out through our usual distribution channels, but these guys have the fancy apps and distribution networks that go beyond our normal indie reach. More on this as we go.

  • Comics?
  • Manga?
  • Illustrated versions of our works?

Pictures aren’t just for kids, after all, as the adult-colouring book craze clearly shows.

In fact there are a ton of ways we can add value to our titles by offering variant versions. with and without images, with and without and additional content and enhancements.

  • Merchandising

Once we step outside our “I’m an indie ebook author” box and start thinking about our titles as IPs instead of just ebooks we can also start thinking in terms of merchandising.

If we have managed to attract a serious fan-base then our book is more than just an ephemeral read.

Just think about the books we read ourselves. Some books are read, discarded and forgotten. Others stay with us forever.

Not just the books, as a whole, but the covers, the characters, the storylines, the concepts…

We write space opera with galactic battleships and distant-planets among the stars? We’ve got a fantastic cover everyone drools over? Or maybe we write paranormal fantasy with those oh-so-cute-and-colourful covers?

Why not make those cover available in other formats?

Give it away as a screen saver. Make it available to download for free or to buy or gift as a mouse-mat or a coffee mug or even a framed print.

For children’s books the possibilities are endless, but this will work great for adult titles too.

No, they won’t sell in millions, of course, but if they are good they will sell, and there are any number of companies offering printed product services to create novelty items like these, and many will deliver direct to the customer, so all you need to do is set up the product in their system and send them the orders. Just like POD.

Their value is not just in the direct sales to the fans themselves, but in having those images out there being seen by other people who have never heard of us or our books.

More on merchandising our IPs at a later date.

Other formats to consider?  The list is endless. But how about

  • Stage theatre
  • Musicals

Not convinced? Just look at how many stage productions and musicals are actually adaptations of books. What could be more improbable as a musical than Les Miserables?

No, we don’t need to learn stagecraft or be musicians or lyricists to get in on the act, and more than we need to be screenwriters to see our books considered for adaptation to film or TV.

For children’s authors writing shorter titles there’s a great opportunity to write mini-plays for school classes to act out. I’m working on just this with my children’s adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

And yes, I’m seriously toying with the idea of Sherlock: The Musical. Not that I have any musical talent whatsoever. I’ll leave that aspect to the experts. But I am putting together an outline and when I’m happy with that I’ll be looking to partner with third parties who can work their magic and, just maybe, make it happen.

Sherlock of course is public domain and has huge brand recognition.

Tweaking public domain properties is a great way of reaching new audiences. Just look at the myriad spin-offs of Jane Austen’s works that litter the ebook scene.

But how many of those will ever be more than just ebook variations? No matter how good they may be?

As part of my Classics For Kids series I’m working (very slowly) on a children’s adaption of my favourite Austen title, Pride & Prejudice. My Sherlock For Kids series itself is picking up steam, and a good example of tweaking content to reach new audiences, with translations already out there, audio books on the way, and other formats being worked on.

Tweaking our erotica titles for the children’s market would obviously be a step too far, but for older children and teen readers many of our more mainstream works might well work well in an abridged and slightly less “mature” format.

After all, younger teens at school will be studying and reading adult works from Shakespeare and Austen, Dickens and Bronte. None of which were ever intended for children. And many best-selling so-called YA titles were again written with an adult audience in mind.

Having an adult and a YA version or even an older-children’s version of our adult-intended work, tweaked slightly for language and content to suit the audience, is just one more way reach new audiences with existing content and expand the reach for our new content to reach new audiences and generate more income streams.

  • Translations

Translations are of course another. I’ll cover this in detail later in this series of posts.

I’m on target to have well over fifty translations out before this year is over, and while only a handful of been significant sellers to far they are all bringing in extra income streams I otherwise wouldn’t have.

And of course translations aren’t limited to ebooks and print. I’ve audio-translations in the works and I’m looking at other formats to expand their reach.

But let’s wind this post up with the language that is, for most of us, our first and only language.

  • English

First and foremost, English isn’t just English.

Way back in 2011 my UK best-seller got hammered by American readers for using British English spellings. Ouch!

The reviewer Red Adept declared the book Mystery of the Year but advised readers to be wary of “Britishisms” and British-English spellings.

So I re-wrote the entire book in American English and, while I was at it relocated the entire story to the US, and had two versions available – one for British and one for American readers.

Only to be accused of “gaming the system”. Sometimes you just can’t win…

Nowadays American readers are much more cosmopolitan. Back in print-only days British titles sold in America were tweaked with American- English spellings and other changes – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for example. A Quidditch pitch became a Quidditch field.

Many indies today still produce their titles in American-English and British-English versions. Yes, it’s easy to say those readers should get a life. After all British-English and American-English are not so different as to make the text unintelligible.

But these authors are putting the readers first. Always a good idea. Just ask Amazon, who have built their business on being customer-centric.

When a customer-centric tweak can be as simple as having variant-English spellings versions of our books it’s well worth considering.

The British-English and American-English versions of my best-seller sit nicely on the Amazon shelves and while the British—English original has sold far more better, the American-English version’s sales have proved more than worthwhile.

The more customer-centric we are as authors, the more income streams we can achieve as a result. Sounds good to me!

And for children’s books, the issue of variant spelling is all the more important.

Many British schools disapprove of American books, not because of the content but because of the American-English. How can young children in the UK be expected to spell colour in the British-English fashion when they are reading American books where color is the accepted spelling?

Yes, they are both “correct”, but try using American-English spellings in your British school exams and say goodbye to that top grade. Variant spellings matter.

And it’s not just an issue for young children. If you are a reluctant teen reader, a late-to-literacy adult learner, or an English-as-a-Second-Language student in Europe learning British-English then the variant spellings may well be an issue.

But don’t look on this as another nuisance getting in the way of our more important work of shouting “Buy My Book!” on Facebook. Look on it as yet another way in which we can diversify our output and generate new income streams.

  • Easy-English and ESL

As 2015 closed I launched my Easy-English series of adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, aimed at reluctant teen readers, late-to-literacy adults and English-as-a-second-language readers who have mastered the basics of English but are not yet confident enough to tackle the Conan Doyle originals.

Later this year I will be working with an ESL professor in Argentina to produce fully-fledged ESL versions geared specifically to the demands of the ESL circuit.

ESL is a humungous and ridiculously fast-growing sector of the publishing industry. More on this in a future discussion.

Other formats?

Don’t tempt me. This post is long enough already.

No, not all formats will be suited to all titles, but many titles will be suited, with just a little tweaking we can often do ourselves, to many variant formats.

And for more challenging formats like radio, film, manga, translations, etc, etc, there’s nothing but our own inertia to stop us reaching out to producers who specialise ln these formats to do it all for us.

Or partnering with other writers, artists, scriptwriters, etc, to produce our own.

 

After all, very few of us design our own covers or do our own editing. We farm out the work to third parties.

And we can do the same to embrace the variant formats that might suit our content but that are beyond our own skills range.

Not just revamping our existing works, but creating new IPs from scratch with multi-format options a consideration from day one.

◊ ◊ ◊

In parts 2-5 of this series I’ll be asking if we are one-retailer, one-market, one-language, and one-SMP ebook authors and I’ll expand on the myriad options for each as we go.

As we kick off 2016 we indie content suppliers have unparalleled reach and unprecedented opportunities to stretch our creative abilities and reach audiences quite unthinkable just a few years ago.

If only we can step outside our “I’m a one-format indie ebook author” box.

One of my all-time favourite films is Dead Poet’s Society. Required watching for anyone who aspires to be an author or a teacher.

A film about a teacher who understood the only limits to our achievements are the limits we allow ourselves to be shackled by.

A teacher of English literature – of Shakespeare and Byron, in whose footsteps we now follow – who encouraged his students not to be sheep and take the road most travelled by, but to explore new horizons and break new ground.

To seize the day. Carpe diem! To make their lives extraordinary.

So in tribute to the star of that film, the late Robin Williams – a village-hall stand-up comic who defied the shackles of format and limited expectations to become first a TV actor and then a movie star, I leave you with this thought as we start another new year.

It’s 2016.

Carpe annum! Seize the year!

Diversify in 2016! Let’s make our indie lives extraordinary!

◊ ◊ ◊

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

 

 

Free Wi-Fi On Easter Island. Is There Anywhere On The Planet Indie Authors Cannot Reach Readers In 2016?

wikicom

 

As we start 2016, ponder this round-up of global publishing news on which 2015 ended, and take time out to reflect just how far we’ve come from those heady days of 2009 when the global ebook market was, for all practical purposes, the USA.

◊ ◊ ◊

Readers in far-flung lands.

When it comes to distant lands you don’t get much more isolated than Rapa Nui. That’s Easter Island to us outsiders.

Its nearest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn Island (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) a thousand kilometres away, and the nearest mainland is Chile in South America, 3,500 kilometres distant.

Easter Island is about to get free wi-fi as part of a great initiative across Chile to make the internet available free to Chileans everywhere for thirty minutes a day. (LINK)

It’s a fine example of how our ebooks are now potentially available anywhere in the world.

As we start 2016, with literally half the world owning a smartphone, indie authors have unprecedented reach and unparalleled opportunities to find, engage with and, yes, sell, our books around the globe.

For much of the past five years I’ve been a lone voice in the wilderness advising indie authors to prepare for the global mobile future.

But as we kick off 2016 the globile (global mobile) markets are hot news on the indie circuit as more and more indie authors look beyond our own borders and embrace the opportunities globile offers us.

◊ ◊ ◊

The India goldrush is coming.

Obviously with a population of just 5,000 Easter Island is not going to be a primary focus for anyone looking to sell ebooks globally. 

For that we need to turn our attention to India, for example, where 4G roll-out continues apace, driven leap-frog style by the take-up of smartphones in the country.

Earlier this year India became the sixth largest book market on the planet, and the second largest English-language book market, pushing the UK into third place.

For those who wrongly believe print is not worth bothering with, ebook take-up remains in single figures as a percentage of the overall book market, but when we’re talking such big numbers even small fractions can be interesting.

But what really matters is the direction.

Flipkart may have just closed its ebook store in India, but even before that Amazon was reporting a 200% increase in ebook sales year on year. (LINK)

The Indian telco Idea Cellular is the latest to roll-out 4G, this time across southern India, with further expansion through 2016. (LINK)

As 4G roll-out accelerates so does smartphone embrace, which in turn accelerates 4G roll-out, which sparks further smartphone take-up, and so on.

I’ve covered India many times over the past year exploring how mobile internet is rolling out across the country.

China if of course bigger than India, far more internet-enabled and with far more prospective readers, but in terms of access and language India is, as we kick off 2016, the most exciting prospect on the planet for indie authors looking ahead.

India already has more people connected to the internet than the USA has people in it, and with another billion Indians on target to connect over the next five years it’s not rocket science to work out that the India book market alone, let alone the collected global markets, will, in time, dwarf the US market.

Savvy indies will be staking our claims now for the goldrush to come.

Not sure how? Stay tuned. I’ll be kicking off the New Year with some Going Globile guides to the international markets, for everyone from beginners just venturing out into the global publishing arena to advanced internationalists looking to fine-tune their global presence.

◊ ◊ ◊

Kobo now has a Wattpad section in its ebook store.

It’s still not clear exactly what Kobo and Wattpad are planning, but what is clear is that Kobo and Wattpad are collaborating to bring exposure to Wattpad authors who are on Kobo. (LINK)

Several industry blogs have carried versions of this story with wildly different assertions, but I think all of them are missing the point.

What I think we’re seeing is Kobo working with Wattpad to build its profile in Wattpad’s stronghold regions, while adding value to Wattpad for content-suppliers to keep fresh blood coming on board.

Kobo is the only really international store right now. Google Play and Apple have 60+ and 50+ global stores respectively, but no reach beyond those countries.

Amazon? There may be a massive dropdown list of countries in the KDP account that we all tick rights to, but the reality is Amazon blocks downloads to much of the world and imposes a Whispernet surcharge of $2-$4 – even on free ebooks.

Kobo understands it cannot compete with Amazon in any meaningful way in most of the countries where Amazon has dedicated Kindle stores, but the rest of the world where Amazon is surcharging readers or blocking downloads is a potential open goal.

Wattpad strongholds like the Philippines, for example, where Wattpad has its own TV show that goes out four nights a week, but no-one can buy ebooks from Amazon or Apple.

If Kobo can deliver sales to Wattpad authors then that’s a win-win for Kobo, Wattpad and the authors. Those authors will be more likely to put more content on Wattpad in the future, boosting Wattpad’s appeal.

Wattpad has its own revenue-generating angles connecting Wattpad content-suppliers with publishers, TV and film producers, etc. Kobo authors who are also on Wattpad are in with a chance.

But of course the main reason for being on Wattpad is to find our future paying readers.

◊ ◊ ◊

Twenty Percent of Kindle India’s Top 100 Titles Are Self-Published.

So says Neal Thompson, Amazon’s director for author and publishing relations. (LINK)
The “long-term goal in India is to expand into other languages”, says Thompson.

Long-term?

That’s not entirely encouraging.

I’ve no idea what sort of obstacles are presented in embracing the numerous Indian languages for the Kindle India store, but ebook retailers like Rockstand and Dailyhunt (as well as several smaller players) have no problem handling content in multiple local languages.

I suspect the issue is more about Amazon’s overall target audience, which is a niche of middle class India for whom English is the norm and they have bank cards available to pay for goods.

The majority of Indians do not speak English and do not have bank cards, so are not on Amazon India’s radar right now. Whereas Rockstand and Dailyhunt specialise in alternative payment options such as carrier billing
At which point some may be asking, is it worth bothering with other Indian languages at this stage?

That’s a big yes from me!

This is a great opportunity for indie authors to get local-language translations out on the ebook stores that do cater for the majority of Indians who don’t speak English, many millions of whom are holding a smartphone in their hands

With Amazon catering for just one local Indian language, Hindi, and with only 100 titles available, there’s not only an open goal on Amazon but of course also a chance to find readers using other ebook stores.

Getting my catalogue translated into, and selling in, multiple Indian languages is a firm priority for 2016.

◊ ◊ ◊

Print Matters.

For most indie authors print is an afterthought – “let’s add a POD edition to our ebook versions” – rather than an integral part of our business plan.

So here’s a thought to start 2016 on.

As of early December some 571 million print books were sold in the US in 2015, and that’s not taking into account the December Christmas surge. Yet already that was an increase of some 20 million on 2014, when a mere 559 million print titles were sold.

So much for the death of print.

We can all argue to suit our agenda whether ebook sales are still increasing or static, but one thing is clear. The much-predicted demise of print just isn’t happening.

Even in the romance sector.

Harlequin (now part of HarperCollins), which at one point hit the magical 50-50 digital/print mark, has seen that figure waver this year in print’s favour.

Some are “blaming” the increase in ebook prices by the Big 5 for boosting print, but that’s a spurious argument.

For starters only a tiny fraction of Big 5 front-list titles have seen their prices rise. Mostly Big 5 backlist ebook prices compare well with indie prices. Not convinced? Try signing up to the Big 5 newsletters and see what is really on offer.

But there’s a more important message there.

Readers are buying more print books from corporate publishers because, we are being told, corporate publishers have raised the price of their ebooks.

So let’s get this straight. Faced with a hike in ebook prices, rather than gravitate to the supposedly much cheaper indie ebooks available, readers instead shell out high prices for a corporate published print book in preference to taking a risk on a self-published title. Hmmm.

A more likely explanation why print in continuing to hold its own against competition from ebooks is that we are seeing an increase in reading overall as the New Renaissance builds momentum.

More ways to access and consume content combines with new ways to discover content across all media.

Far more people watch TV and listen to music of their choice now than they ever did in the old days of analogue, even though market fragmentation means less people are likely to gravitate to one particular TV programme or one music act.

Print overall is finding more readers even as the overall sales numbers for most top brands decline slightly.

Of course, more reading can only stretch so far. There are only so many hours in the day and so many dollars to splurge on books, or something else entirely.

One reason why trad pub is doing well is that it is catering for new niches.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy noted the rise of coloring books and of books by YouTube stars. “Neither of these categories was a factor before this year,” she said.

For children’s books and non-fiction – thanks in large part to dedicated e-readers being pretty useless for these sectors – print still wins hands down. For Jeff Kinney’s million-selling illustrated Diary of Wimpy Kid: Old School 95% of sales were for print.

Adult fiction fared better. Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See divided equally between print and digital.

Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman sold in hardcover by a ratio of 4-to-1 over the e-book.

Romance author Jennifer Ryan was first published digitally in 2013 through Avon Impulse, and did very well. This year another of her novels was finally published in print.

“When I got into the paperback market and was in bookstores I thought my e-books would outsell my paperbacks because people knew me just through e-books,” she said. “But over the last year or so the digital sales have gone down a little and my paperback sales have gone up. I have talked to other author-friends, and they have seen the same thing.” (LINK)

Indies don’t see that balance between digital and print because, with a handful of exceptions, we indies treat print as an afterthought rather than part of our core business strategy. Our loss.

But the point of raising these print-related stories here is this: If print is still doing so well in the USA, all this time after ebooks became a serious player in the US reading market, imagine the balance in the rest of the world.

As we Go Globile in 2016, remember that global mobile is about reaching readers across all formats, not just ebooks and digital audio.

Countless readers around the globe will be buying print books after reading about them on their smartphones.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Final Frontier.

To wind up here today (it’s New Year’s Day so I’m being gentle), let’s return to the Pacific Rim, that region that encompasses the west coast of the Americas all the way across to the east coast of Asia, and the vast Pacific in between.

Obviously the internet is already available, and per Easter Island above.

But by 2018 connectivity will be all the better when the Apstar-5C/Telstar-18 Vantage satellite takes up position to replace Apstar-5/Telstar-18 in a 138 degrees East geostationary orbital slot. (LINK)

atellite operator Telesat procured the new spacecraft from Space Systems Loral (SSL) to expand Telesat’s coverage of growing satellite service markets in China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean region.

For Tom Clancy fans who need a dose of tech detail it will be using “a combination of broad regional beams and high throughput spot beams in Ku-band to maximise throughput and spectral efficiency…(providing) extensive C-band coverage of Asia that reaches from India and Pakistan in the West all the way to Hawaii in the East, enabling direct connectivity from any point in Asia to the Americas.”

If you’re not a Clancy fan, no need to get hung up on the technical details. They are no more relevant to us than the specs for Facebooks’s Aquila drones or Google’s Project Loon.

What matters is that this satellite (not the first, and it won’t be the last) are just one more way in which our titles can and will be delivered to people literally anywhere on the planet.

  • If we take the trouble to make our content available where those consumers are
  • If we take the trouble to make our content available in formats and languages those consumers can use
  • If we take the trouble to make our content available at prices those consumers can afford
  • And if we take the trouble to make our content available through retailers/distributors that can take their payments

Sounds like a lot of work? Hey, no-one said going globile was going to be easy.

But if we are serious about becoming international bestselling authors we’ll be doing all these things and much more.

And thoroughly enjoying ourselves while we do so.

Because actually, going globile is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And somewhere down the road it will be rather lucrative for those who do it properly.

I’m already seeing over a third of my revenue from outside the US/UK and I expect to close in on 50% by the end of this year, and 75% before this decade is over, as the Global New Renaissance blossoms. While still earning from the US and UK markets.

As we count down the last few years of this decade the US and UK markets are just going to get more and more over-crowded. More and more competitive. While the number of readers is going to stay pretty much the same.

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

Go globile in 2016.

 

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

Draft2Digital To Distribute Indie Titles To Playster

Playster

The US-based aggregator Draft2Digital will be getting our titles in to the international all-in-one subscription service Playster in 2016.

Canada-based Playster (LINK), which just launched in the US is already available, in the words of Communications Manager Colin Strachan, “in most of Europe, Australia & NZ, the Americas and Asia.”

Strachan adds, “We’re also getting an increasing number of foreign-language titles.”

Stream Daily are suggesting Playster is now live in 100 countries. (LINK) I’m still trying to get confirmation of that.

But whatever the precise details, the deal with Draft2Digital is a great opportunity for indie authors to get on board.

Over in The International Indie Author Facebook Group D2D’s Dan Wood told us more about the D2D engagement.

“We are beginning our alpha testing right after the holidays with some books from our staff members and hope to open our beta program in mid-January. The beta period differs per retailer depending on what issues we encounter.” (LINK)

And StreetLib’s Anne-Catherine de Fombelle, in the same Group discussion, indicated StreetLib hopes to be on board with Playster in the near future.

That’s great news to wind up 2015 on.

But there’s a ton of other exciting news on the global publishing scene to report for this year, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a round-up of international developments that will have you looking forward to 2016 almost as much as I am.

If the past five years, as the self-publishing revolution got under way, have been amazing, the next five years are going to be simply incredible as the Global New Renaissance gets into second gear.

# # #
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.

 

 

Payments Is The Biggest Single Challenge For Global Ebook Vendors and Global Ebook Authors. Messaging Apps Are The Solution. 

wechat-logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the WeChat blog here. (LINK)

Follow WeChatZA on twitter – @WeChatZA .

And of course WeChatZA is on Facebook. (LINK)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The future is globile

Half The World Now Own An Ebook-Friendly Smartphone. Still Think Going Global Is A Crazy Idea?

Global Digital NOV 2015

Latest stats show the world’s total population at 7.3 billion. And over half of them – 51% – own smartphones that could be carrying our ebooks.

A quarter billion people have started using the internet for the first time just in 2015. 300 million people around the world have used social media for the first time this year. In almost every case that has been driven by globile – that is, global mobile.

And the growth rates are accelerating, not slowing.

The scale of our potential global readership is simply staggering, and growing literally by the day.

Obviously its not quite that black and white – not all smartphone users are actually connected to the internet, fewer still will be readers, and fewer still of those will actually be able to access our ebooks even if we have the best possible distribution.

But when we start talking numbers on this scale even tiny percentages can be massive in real terms.

As I’ve said many times, the global ebook marlets will collectively dwarf the US market over the next few years.

A full global overview will be available in early 2016. Meantime there’s a very instructive regional overview of SE Asia just released.

TechInAsia has a great post (LINK) on the digital transition in SE Asia (that’s roughly Asia to the east of India and south of China – essentially Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, etc.

With over 600 million people – almost twice the size of the US population – SE Asia should be on every author’s radar as a place to reach readers.

And rather helpfully 250 million of them are active internet users and 230 ae active on social media.

Check out the TechInAsia post for a comprehensive breakdown.

Here to look closer at the social media element, where there are a few surprises in store for those of us who still think Facebook and twitter are the only shows in town.

Needless to say Facebook is still the biggest player.

But in second, third and fourth place are not social media networks at all but those annoying messaging apps we indies do our best to ignore.

WhatsApp at #2, followed by QQ, then Facebook Messenger.

Twitter next? No, not yet.

Next comes the social media network QZone, followed by another messaging app, WeChat.

Followed by Instagram, and only after Ingram comes twitter.

To be fair, twitter has a respectable 316 million users in the region, but Instagram has 400 million.

And racing up behind are, amongst the regional names we may never have heard of, more familiar players.

249 million Viber users.
230 million Tumblr users.
211 LINE users.
200 million Snapchat users.
100 million Pinterest users.

Drilling down regionally for targetted marketing by country will help you focus on which network or messaging app is best by country.

Facebook is massive in Indonesia, for example, but in Thailand LINE is almost as big as Facebook.

In the Philppines Viber is especially strong.

I’ll be dissecting the data country by country in future posts, and needless to say I’m counting the days until the full global report is released.

Safe to assume the same pattern we are seeing here in SE Asia is being replicated across much of the planet.

Globile is changing the world, literally, and part of that change is a fast-growing global publishing market quite beyond anything we could have envisaged back in 2009-1010. A huge, globile market in which indie authors and big publishers alike can play a role.

When I first began talking about a global ebook market driven by smartphones, back in 2011, it all seemed too good to be true.

Fast forward five years and the Global New Renaissance is real, It’s happening. Right now.

Books and ebooks are a central part of it.

Are you?

Don’t let the incredible opportunities unfolding pass you by because a fixation on the US market is easier and more convenient.

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

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

google-mobile-asia

 

Asia’s Emerging Ebook Markets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

Here just to extract the most pertinent point:

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let them pass you by.

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

# # #

33% Of French Commuters Prefer Ebooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And more importantly to miss the opportunity.

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

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

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

Think OPPORTUNITY!

# # #

Children’s Book Sales “Booming” In China.

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

New Distribution Channel’s For Audio Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

as well as library providers such as

  • Findaway
  • Overdrive.

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For authors, reaching African readers is the big challenge.

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

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

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

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

I’m a six-continent content-provider.

How about you?

# # #

$10 Smartphones At Wal-Mart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Africa Watch 3: Nigeria.

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

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

And as well know, nobody in Africa reads.

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

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

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

Subscription video on demand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

British Comedian Russell Howard’s Pending 2017 Global Tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s down to us.

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

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

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

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

Don’t let these unfolding opportunities pass us by.

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply Google Play Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Africa Watch 5: ACE Soon To Reach South Africa.

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

Still not convinced? Consider this news just in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

reaching almost a quarter billion people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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