Category Archives: Kindle Unlimited

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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”.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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

 

 

 

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The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

We tend to focus on in-depth posts and analysis on the global publishing scene for the EBUK blog, and as the entire EBUK project is a not-for-profit operation run by volunteers it often means smaller, but no less important, items of interest get passed by.

So we asked frequent EBUK blog contributor Mark Williams to run a regular column here sharing with us pertinent shorter news stories, as ever throwing in his unique perspective as an international bestselling author and surveyor of the international publishing markets from the far shores of West Africa.

And yes, that is his local beach. As he likes to remind us, he lives the writers’ dream, hammering away at a keyboard on picture-postcard white sandy beaches lined with picture-postcard green gently swaying palm trees next to a picture-postcard warm blue ocean beneath picture-postcard blue skies.  Hey, nobody said life was fair!

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large.

May Is Short Story Month. Are You Ready?

It’s actually the third Short Story Month – it started in 2013 – and momentum is gathering as more and more people look for “bite-size” reading. (LINK)

Millennials have been particularly identified with the demand for this type of material, in part reflecting the rise of smartphone reading and lifestyles where working hours are far more flexible than in days of yore.

Vintage/Anchor Books are releasing a short story every day during May to mark Short Story Month, all priced at 0.99, and I think they are on to a winner.

I also think, because I’m going down this route myself, that short non-fiction, and especially short narrative non-fiction is also the new black.

Amazon’s Kindle Singles and B&N’s Nook Snaps have already proven the demand for short digital material, and Vintage/Anchor see a lot of potential to engage readers with shorter offerings.

We were all surprised to find Millennials, the generation most comfortable with smartphones, preferred reading paperbacks to reading ebooks, but my feeling is its all to do with length. Reading a 100,000 word novel on a smartphone (as opposed to an e-ink ereader) is probably not the most pleasant of reading experiences, but for consuming a shorter work in a short space of time a smartphone may well be the ideal vehicle.

As indies we have in some way painted ourselves into a corner with our 0.99 full length novels flooding a handful of key markets, but we need to step back and view the markets from the perspective of readers, not writers. Something we collectively seem not very good at, as the huge number of exclusive-with-one-retailer indie titles shows. What better way of telling readers that what we care about is us, not them…

As the global New Renaissance gets into second gear we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about what will sell and where, and what will be commercially viable, and likewise we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about marketing and promotion.

Kobo Parent Company Rakuten Enters The Magazine Publishing Market. Expect Amazon To Follow Suit Soon.

I’m surprised Amazon hasn’t gone down this route yet, but with Rakuten leading the way it’s now pretty much inevitable they will do so.

Rakuten’s first venture is a fashion magazine in Japan, and rather cleverly all the fashions featured are also for sale on Rakuten’s Ichiba retail site. (LINK)

Purely speculative but I would imagine India would be the ideal place for Amazon to follow suit. Amazon’s fashion arm has been making big strides in India, and an e-magazine devoted to exposure for fashion items available on the Amazon IN store would boost Amazon’s challenge to the 600lb gorilla in the Indian e-commerce marketplace, Flipkart, which happens to own India’s 600lb gorilla e-fashion site Myntra.

If I were a betting man I’d put money on both Flipkart and Amazon launching e-magazines this year. And if I were adviser to Jeff Bezos I’d be asking why Amazon doesn’t have both an e-zine and a print zine of its own in the USA.

Career Authors Alert: Selling Rights Vs Selling Ebooks.

Here’s a White Paper that’s free to download from Publishing Perspectives. Its theme: Global Rights and Licencing.

This is only 20 pages, but well worth the time if you are serious about being an international bestselling author.

Don’t be misled by the title. A lot of indies think in terms of selling ebooks. Even thinking about selling print books is a stretch. So selling “rights” might not be something you think indies need to be bothered with.

If so, think again.

Selling “Rights” should be at the heart of your career strategy so you can let someone else worry about the donkey work of selling your work beyond your comfort zone, while you actually spend your time writing the next book.

But it’s not just about selling the book. It’s about selling the translation rights, the film rights, the TV rights, the boardwalk rights, the game rights, the…

So long as we indies are locked into the microverse of ebooks we are never going to be able to compete with the big boys.

The White Paper is mainly about global book (print and digital) rights, but also includes a very useful section on film rights – something ALL of us should be thinking about.

It also includes a “starter” for the global markets by focusing on two countries regular readers of EBUK or my posts elsewhere will know are high on my list as places to be focused on: Brazil and Indonesia.

I know few of you are convinced about Indonesia, but ponder this little gem from the report:

Of the 32,000 titles published in Indonesia in 2014, 50% were translations of foreign languages, with English the front runner.

Other snippets from the post reiterating what I’ve been saying:

“Germany is the trans-Atlantic powerhouse.”

“Japan is the fourth largest publishing market.”

“The Spanish language markets offer global opportunities.”

“Turkey is taking off.”

“Poland and the Czech Republic are showing strong signs so life.”

The global New Renaissance is a fact. It’s happening all around you as you read this. And you can be part of it. Front seat tickets are on sale right now.

Or you can be a bystander and wave as it passes you by.

Hopefully this link to the GoogleDocs download form will work for you. (LINK)

If not, pop along to the Publishing Perspectives website. (LINK)

Asia Watch 1.

 Tencent, the Chinese e-titan, has just seen its value exceed two hundred billion dollars, leaving the likes of Amazon in its wake. (LINK)

Yet another clear sign, as I’ve been warning this past few years, that the centre of digital gravity is shifting east, and we should all be focused on getting a foothold on these oriental players now, before the rest of the west wakes up and starts a stampede to climb on board.

Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, JD and a host of unpronounceables I’ve been tagging these past years are now coming of age and with that come opportunities unparalleled in the west as the global New Renaissance shifts into second gear.

The upstart start-up Xiaomi has just upped its ebook game with a deal with Trajectory, Macmillan and Gardners to get western English-language ebooks into the Xiaomi store. See more on this below.

A week or so ago Tencent became for all practical purposes the biggest ebook store on the planet (except by revenue, because ebooks in China are so much cheaper) as it reinvented itself (more on this in an in-depth look at China shortly).

JD has long been one of the biggest ebook stores in China, and last year signed a deal with one of the Big 5 western players to get English-language ebooks into China, where demand for E-L literature is high.

In doing so they followed the lead of OverDrive, now ironically owned by another eastern giant, Rakuten.

Alibaba doesn’t sell ebooks yet but you can sell your print via Alibaba through its US store 11Main. Expect Alibaba ebooks soon.

As the only western indie author to have a title hit the number one spot on Amazon’s Kindle China store I’m probably better qualified than most to say savvy indies should all be making sure China is not just on their radar but on your URGENT ACTION NEEDED list.

And make sure India and Indonesia are there too, because these are among the next eastern hot-spots for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.

UK and Australia Digital Libraries Now Supplied By 3M.

 The 3M Cloud ebook service is now available in the UK and Australia, having shifted north to Canada last year. (LINK)

We’ve covered 3M on the EBUK blog before and will run an update on the global library markets soon.

Here just to remind you that, erotica authors aside, you can get your ebooks into the OverDrive catalogue via Smashwords.

The pay-up-front aggregator Ebook Partnership will get you into the OverDrive global libraries (over forty countries) and also into the OverDrive retail outlets which Smashwords does not deliver to.

Or you may prefer to pop along and try Ebooks Are Forever, a new initiative by Joe Konrath to get indie titles into US libraries. (LINK)

Magzter Now Open To Indie Authors.

 The global digital magazine retailer Magzter also sells ebooks, and following a reference in a post here on EBUK recently they kindly reminded me that indie authors can now upload direct to Magzter.

Go to Magzter (LINK) and set up a publisher account and then upload your titles. They need to update the site as it seems to suggest you can only publish magazines still, but if you go through to the next stage you’ll find a portal specifically for ebooks.

I get my books into Magzter through a third party so can’t say what the experience is like, but I can say Magzter is a fast-growing global player (over 200 countries).

As most magazines are non-fiction I’m expecting non-fiction ebooks to do particularly well on Magzter, and all the more so if the subject matter ties in with the theme of the more popular magazines.

At the moment the Magzter ebook store is sparely populated and this is a great opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond if you play your cards right. My guess is many people will discover e-zines before they discover ebooks, and most of those will discover ebooks on the same site they buy their e-magazines from.

Watch out for a detailed post on Magzter soon.

 Asia Watch 2.

Xiaomi Steps Up Its E-Book Game! Are You Ready?

  Xiaomi, the upstart start-up from China, has in just five years has gone from nowhere to be one of the biggest smartphone players on the planet.

This month it has been announced Xiaomi has a deal to take western ebooks into its China store, with strong indications the ebook stores will be extended to other countries in the near future.

Nate at Ink, Bits & Pixels has the scoop. (LINK)

Trajectory recently fixed a deal with Tencent to get English-language titles into the Chinese market, and what is gobsmackingly wonderful about this new deal is that it also involves Britain’s wholesale distributor Gardners, which means there is a back door in for indies.

Needless to say l’m already in Gardners, so looking forward to seeing my English-language titles in Xiaomi alongside my Chinese translated titles which have been doing rather well in the China markets.

Yes, before you ask, there is serious demand for western E-L titles in China. Last year OverDrive did a big deal to get western content into China and in September we reported here on the EBUK blog on HarperCollins signing a deal to get its E-L catalogue into China. (LINK)

Now Macmillan has followed suit.

We’ve said on previous occasions that Xiaomi isn’t yet taking on western titles but that it will, and when it does, to jump in with both feet.

It’s happening.

And it won’t stop at just China.

Earlier this month Xiaomi sold 2.12 million smartphones in twelve hours when it did a special sales event across its outlet countries, which include key nations like Thailand and Indonesia, India, Brazil and Turkey.

If you’re serious about becoming an international bestselling author then you need to be serious about players like Xiaomi. Because Xiaomi is serious about ebooks.

Subscription Services Get Bigger & Better. Mostly.

Digital music has been around a lot longer than ebooks, in a meaningful commercial sense, but only in 2014 did digital revenue finally exceed “physical” revenue for music.

And much of that was driven by subscription. (LINK)

Meantime Netflix had a stunning Q1 picking up 5 million new subscribers (LINK) while continuing to make profit.

The naysayers love to say ebook subscription services are unsustainable, and then point to music as an example of why, but music is doing just fine and film and video subscription – far closer to ebook subscriptions than music – goes  from strength to strength.

A given ebook subscription service may come or go, but as a commercial entity the subscription model is working just fine for all digital products. For content providers? Spotify not so much for musicians, and Kindle Unlimited not so much for authors. But early days.

New subscription services are emerging by the day. The Danish subscription service Mofibo will be launching in the UK this year.

And be sure to watch out for the new kid on the block, Playster, due to go live this summer. Playster plans to offer an across the board digital subscription service with music, video, ebooks, audio, etc, all for a fixed fee.

Simon & Schuster have just signed up for Playster. (LINK)

And in separate news Penguin Random House, while still eschewing subscription for ebooks, has put its audio books into Scribd.

Back in February HarperCollins put its titles into the Russia-based subscription service Bookmate. Expect Macmillan and Simon & Schuster to follow suit soon.

Although CIS based, Bookmate is far bigger than just Russia, and is focused on targeting places Amazon blocks downloads to. But with an Amazon Russia Kindle store rumoured to be around the corner the competition between Bookmate and Amazon might be about to be heat up.

I’ve been in Bookmate a while, and can’t say as I’ve seen much action, but I have great hopes for Bookmate in the future. Bookmate is fielding a quarter million English-language titles, only a handful of which are indie. Plenty of opportunity for savvy indies to get traction in the nascent markets Bookmate serves.

Be part of the subscription ebook scene or miss out, because the readers are heading that way in their droves.

 Book Tango / Book Country – What Worries Me Is Books On Board.

 The rebranded Book Tango (LINK) has long been on my watch list, but what worries me still is the links and references to Books On Board, which went under two years ago this month. (LINK) Surely two years is time enough to get the website updated?

One good reason for looking at Book Tango was that it distributed to Google, which the main pay-as-you-sell American aggregators like Smashwords and Draft2Digital do not. But with both Xin-Xii and Narcissus able to get your ebooks into Google Play I still can see no reason to risk playing with Book Tango. But I’d love to hear from anyone who has and has some experiences to share.

+ + +

I’ll wrap this session up with something from trad pub at the London Book Fair. Yeah, thought you’d be impressed. But love it or hate it, trad pub is here to stay and doing rather well. And we can learn a thing or two from it.

At the London Book Fair Faber & Faber CEO Stephen Page talks about how a “new ecology” has emerged in the publishing industry.

Quote: “The previous ecology got hammered and challenged. A new one has emerged that is partly around the resilience and return of physical books, partly around the new confidence there is.  There is a new confidence about the options open to publishers, about the creation of value, about investing in content with confidence. There is a shift towards the consumer, which is still continuing and isn’t finished yet, and just a new confidence about the tools and opportunities open to us.” (LINK)

For those indie fundamentalists who live and breathe the “self-pub good, trad pub bad” mantra it’s bad news. Far from rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic (try finding an indie blog between 2010-2013 that didn’t say that), trad pub has sealed the hole, pumped out the water and fired up the engines again.

For authors who prefer to live outside the tribal lines it’s another sign of a wonderful future ahead for all of us who are willing to embrace the New Renaissance rather than chase archaic print dreams in digital formats.

The opportunities are just beginning to emerge, and many indies will miss most of them because many of us are still thinking books and readers. That is soooo 2009.

Look at the words Stephen Page uses. “Content” and “consumers”, “tools and opportunities”.

Yes, we can dismiss these as meaningless biz-speak, but alternatively we might want to consider that trad pub, having adamantly refused to keel over and die as the indie movement gleefully hoped back in 2009-12, might just be on to something.

For industry-watchers there is not just a new confidence but a new vibrancy in the publishing industry as 2015 gets under way. So very different from the uncertainty and near-despair that epitomised 2010-12.

Indies would do well to watch trad pub very closely, because trad pub is very clearly thinking about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Individual publishers and bookstores may come and go, but as an industry trad pub and trad pub retail will be stronger than ever in 2020 as it embraces the tools and opportunities of the global New Renaissance.

Where will you be at in 2020? Riding high with them? Or still trying the same tactics that worked so well in 2010 and wondering what’s gone wrong?

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery Promo Newsletter Launches Today!

DiversifyIn2015

We’re often accused of being anti-Amazon. And we’ve been particularly scathing of certain elements of Amazon’s ebook subscription service Kindle Unlimited.

So it may come as a surprise to some that we have today launched a promo newsletter exclusively dedicated to promoting titles in Kindle Unlimited.

But here’s the thing. The Ebook Bargains UK project is dedicated to helping authors reach readers, across as many retail platforms as possible and as widely as possible.

We are also dedicated to helping authors make informed choices about their distribution objectives and how they can best build a loyal global following while developing a career as a writer. That means calling foul when we see clear downsides to retailer operations. Our views on the royalty cut for authors that is Kindle Unlimited need no rehearsing here.

But our role is not to boycott retailers or retail services. As above, it’s to help authors reach readers.

And for those authors who have made the (hopefully informed) choice to stick with Kindle Unlimited – maybe to take advantage of the currently excellent payout KU offers 0.99 titles – the Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter is one more weapon in their armoury.

Obviously there’s only a handful of subscribers at the moment – this is the first day – but that should improve rapidly as word spreads. A free newsletter for readers highlighting Kindle Unlimited titles in both the US and the UK. You can see today’s Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter here. (LINK)

For authors, the deal is simple. Any title booked to appear in the main daily prom newsletters and that is in Kindle Unlimited will automatically appear in the Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter as well.

In addition we’ll be adding extra titles from advertisers who want to specifically promote their KU titles just to the Kindle Unlimited daily Discovery subscribers. For the princely sum of just £2 (yes, two measly British pounds) we’ll add your KU title in the next Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter we can fit it in. As ever, first come, first served.

It will only take a handful of KU downloads to put you in profit on that deal!

Obviously Kindle Unlimited is the best known of the easy-access ebook subscription services, so we’re starting off with KU. But we hope to launch a Scribd Discovery newsletter in the very near future.

Finally, a reminder. Unlike most promo newsletters the Ebook Bargains UK newsletters do not carry affiliate links. We are retailer-neutral.

And the proceeds from the EBUK project go towards supporting babies, children and schools in West Africa. More on that very soon.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Hugh Howey Warns Of Shrinking Market Share For Amazon In 2015.

DiversifyIn2015Now there’s a headline we never expected to write. But it seems Howey had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future over the festive season, and shared with Galley Cat his “predictions” for 2015. (LINK)

We all know Howey has plenty so say, even if lately it has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous as Howey tries to defend the indefensible. As most indies are slowly coming to terms with the fact that the Amazon honeymoon is over, Howey, blinded by the special treatment he gets from Amazon, is busy digging holes for himself.

Most recently Howey has been offending indies everywhere by asking “does Amazon treat us as second class?”, agreeing Amazon does exactly that, but asserting we deserve no better because we indies are a bunch of scammers and pirates. And no, this is no satire. (LINK)

But in a separate interview with Galley Cat Howey said something far more interesting and relevant. He predicted Amazon will lose market share to Google Play and Apple in 2015. Coming from Howey that’s quite something.

~

 While there are no official stats yet, the anecdotal evidence is building that Google Play in particular is making good headway, both in the US and in the global markets. With sixty or so ebook stores, as opposed to Amazon’s baker’s dozen, Google Play unquestionably has better global reach than Amazon. And with Amazon’s international ebook expansion effectively at a standstill (one new Kindle store this year – the Netherlands, and the hint of another – Russia) Google Play’s global position is obviously going to get stronger and stronger.

But what about in Amazon’s stronghold at home in the US? Is Amazon conceding ground here too?

The US ebook promo newsletter Bookbub is a good barometer of the US ebook market. With four million subscribers it both reflects and helps shapes the ebook market’s direction.

You only have to look at Bookbub to see how, whereas six months ago almost no indie listings carried Google Play buttons, nowadays as much a 75% of the daily twenty Bookbub titles include Google Play.

As an affiliate promo newsletter Bookbub selects listings based on likely sales for those titles, which is why we see the same handful of top selling authors manage to get listings month after month after month while lesser mortals get rejected at a rate of 68 a day.

But what we’ve seen this past several months is a major shift towards multiple-retailer listings, with a very noticeable increase in Google Play buttons.

Obviously it helps that more and more indies are signing up to Google Play in the first place, which in turn is driven by word of mouth reports of good results from those who took the plunge early.

And Apple, we should remember, has this year upgraded visibility of the iBooks store by making it default on iOS8 devices, meaning Apple ebooks are in front of a lot more people, not just in the US but around the world.

But what we also appear to be seeing is KU spectacularly backfiring in one of its primary objectives – to get as many indies exclusive with Amazon as possible to damage the competition.

As the KU payout continues to drop (expect a brief rise in January as Amazon try to stem the haemorrhage of talent, then back to the relentless drive to get the payout below a dollar) so more and more indies, while still available on Amazon, are jumping ship with Select as soon as their ninety days are up and getting back on board – or in many cases on board for the first time – with the other retailers.

How much this is being reflected by the increased multiple-retailer listings on Bookbub and how much Bookbub is helping drive this phenomenon is open to debate, but safe to assume it’s a mixture of both.

As an affiliate site Bookbub stands to earn off each sale, on top of the listing fees. Nothing wrong with that. Just good business.

But there’s the thing: Most Amazon-only listings will be Select titles and therefore in KU.

We ourselves are not an affiliate operator so are unfamiliar with the details of the arrangement, but logical to assume that KU borrows are either giving a very small return for affiliates, or more likely none at all, on the grounds Amazon asserts the downloads are “free”.

Assuming that is so, it is not in the interest of any affiliate site to excessively promote Amazon-exclusive titles. Yes, they still carry some, because it’s still a great deal for subscribing readers. But self-evidently not as many as they used to.

By increasing the listings with multiple retailers Bookbub acts in its own business interests and in the interests of its subscribers, but in doing so Bookbub is driving more traffic from its four million subscribers to those other retailers.

Which makes Howey’s prediction that Amazon will lose market share to Apple and Google Play a realistic one.

Howey of course has the original date (as opposed to what the public gets to see) from the Author Earnings reports, and also invites indie authors to submit feedback about how they are doing.

Feedback we are getting from indies is very clear. Those who have taken the time to diversify are reaping big rewards. All the more so as Amazon twists the KU knife. Some authors are reporting Amazon reduced to bringing in less than 25% of their income as a) Amazon drives readers to KU making the main Amazon site a backwater, and b) the efforts promoting the other retailers pays off.

No reason to think the feedback Howey is getting will be very different. And a safe bet that data is behind Howey’s “predictions”.

We use that term loosely. Howey’s other big predictions are straight out of Mystic Meg’s Crystal Ball & Tarot Readings tent at the local fair.

The fate of B&N will shake out next year. Really? What with Nook all set to be sold off and all? That’s not a prediction, Hugh. That’s a statement of the obvious. A prediction is telling us HOW it will shake out.

Howey also says “I predict eBook penetration will continue to grow.”

How does he do it? Where do these insights come from that are denied us lesser mortals? And there we all were thinking the ebook fad was over and everyone was going to buy print books instead.

But let’s get back to the one prediction we can concur with.

As a rule when we find ourselves agreeing with the Amazon cheerleaders it’s time for a cold shower and some strong coffee. But two ice buckets and three triple espressos later it still reads like Howey said Amazon will lose market share to Apple and Google Play in 2015.

Well, it is Christmas, and Ebeneezer Howey does indeed appear to have had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Take heed. It’s not just us saying this.

Diversify In 2015!

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Exodus! Konrath Joins The Big-Hitters Leaving Kindle Unlimited As Amazon Continues To Punish Indies For Their Loyalty.

Go Global In 2014

When Joe Konrath launched his latest attack on trad pub, in the form of a “translation” of Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s statement to Macmillan authors, we looked on in amazement as Konrath appeared to take hypocrisy to a whole new level.

Konrath slammed Macmillan for even thinking about putting Macmillan backlist titles into subscription services, saying that these services devalued books, and that authors were badly remunerated, even noting that indie authors were complaining about Kindle Unlimited’s lousy payout.

But as we asked in comments on the Amazon-affiliate blog The Passive Voice, which carried Konrath’s post (LINK),

“If subscription services are such a bad idea, why are your titles in one at all, and why is it they are in the one that, unlike Scribd and Oyster, treats indies as second class, imposes conditions on indies other publishers are not required to meet, pays indies less than other publishers, and will not even tell us in advance what that ever-diminishing payment will be?”

Konrath didn’t respond to that. But other authors picked up on the apparent hypocrisy and successful indie author Mel Comley, on Konrath’s own blog, coyly asked Joe exactly why he had all his titles in KU if subscription services were such a bad idea.

Konrath responded,

“I’ve taken them all out after this period”, adding lamely, “to compare numbers.” (LINK)

And so we end 2014 with a bang! Konrath adds his name to the list of big-hitting authors like HM Ward who are deserting Kindle Unlimited after seeing their income plummet.

It’s not clear when Konrath will be officially out, but the wording offers room for further speculation. Konrath says he’s taking all (not some, all) his titles out “after this period”. The mixed tense suggests he’s pulling them when the current 90 day KDP Select runs finishes.

(Edited) But why wait? When KU launched, all Select titles were included but it gave indies the chance to opt-out. Konrath clearly chose to stay in despite his belief subscription services devalue books. It seems that opt-out is no longer available, which presumably means Konrath is leaving KDP Select itself, and with it Amazon exclusivity, and going back to all the big retailers.

A safe bet this news will make a lot more indie authors question the value both of being in Kindle Unlimited, and in KDP Select.

Hugh Howey perhaps the exception. Howey left KDP Select back in 2012, but in September of this year was saying going all-in with Amazon was his inclination. (LINK)

Howey of course was one of the authors who got the red carpet treatment from Amazon and was allowed to be in KU and sell on other retailers too. And needless to say he has seen a lot more sales/borrows from Amazon as a consequence.

With logic that beggars belief Howey then concludes that being exclusive with Amazon, with just 65% of the US ebook market and sweet FA of most of the global market, reaches more readers than being available on all retailers everywhere and on Amazon as well.

If Howey cannot grasp the simple fact that Amazon is tilting the playing field in his favour to keep him on board, increasing his titles’ visibility at the expense of other authors not exclusive with Amazon then there’s no hope for him.

Or maybe Howey really believes that 65% of the ebook market is somehow bigger than 100%.

By all means go exclusive with Amazon, Hugh, while they are rigging things in your favour. You write for a living, not for free. But don’t pretend you really think that somehow Amazon’s KU has magicked out of thin air millions of new readers equivalent to more than 35% of the US ebook market. Most KU subscribers are the exact same Kindle readers who were previously paying full price for our books and now getting the same books for less.

Or just maybe you will do the right thing and join Joe Konrath in pulling your titles from KU. KU might not be hurting your pocket, Hugh, but you know as well as we do that for most indies it’s a different story. You can’t champion our cause by looking the other way.

2015 was already promising to be a watershed year for the industry, and this latest show of disaffection from Konrath, one of Amazon’s most vocal supporters, makes the prospects for 2015 all the more interesting.

Now it’s time for the other Amazon cheerleaders like David Gaughran and the aforementioned Hugh Howey to declare their hand and draw a line in the sand. Come on guys, grasp the nettle.

Hard through it may be to understand, we don’t need more posts telling is how scammy Author Solutions is. We don’t need more posts telling us how evil trad pub is. Seriously. We’ve got the message. You’re preaching to the choir.

Here’s the thing, guys. We indies know about Author Solutions. It doesn’t affect us. We know about trad pub. If it affects us it’s already too late because we are contracted, or we’ve made a conscious choice to go down that route.

What Amazon does affects us all, every day, whether its “royalty” cuts at Audible or stealth “royalty” cuts through KU, “royalties” that vary from country to country, lower “royalties” at certain price points, demands for exclusivity, etc.

Apple manages to pay us 70% (or more accurately to charge us just 30%) across the board regardless of list price, regardless of where the sale is made, and without demanding exclusivity.

Scribd and Oyster manages to pay us a full “royalty” rate for our borrows in their subscription services.  No exclusivity required.

Meanwhile Amazon has been turning the screws. We’ve seen KU payouts drop from around $2.30 to below $1.40 in less than six months. For ordinary indies not called Hugh Howey Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s digital equivalent of a sweatshop factory in China or India. No wonder Joe Konrath is calling it a day.

Come on guys, give the Author Solutions bashing and Trad Pub a bashing a rest for 2015, and start addressing the real issues that affect us indies every day. Kindle Unlimited is top of the list.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

Where Next For Review Scams. KU, Maybe?

Go Global In 2014Here’s a neat little variation of the age-old buy-a-review scam.

This enterprising Brit will, if you hand over a fiver (£5 GBP) buy your ebook from Kindle UK, up to a value of £1.99, and then leave you a VERIFIED positive review. (LINK)

For a £1.99 title you’ll get 70% back anyway from Amazon, so £1.40 coming back to you from the buy itself. Therefore a five-star verified purchase review for just £3.60.

Anyone with more money than scruples racing off to take advantage should bear in mind Amazon can, if so inclined, pretty easily find out what this person’s Amazon account is, ban her and remove any reviews she has placed.

This from the Amazon review guidelines: (LINK)

“We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment (whether in the form of money or gift certificates), bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts.”

Meantime we await with interest the first entrepreneur to offer their services to download, say, five of your KU titles and skim through 10%, netting you a pot payout for each one. A KU subscriber need only get two paying clients to cover the subscription.

For the author it would be a no-brainer (no ethics, either, but that’s another story). With the pot at around $1.30 per borrow, five titles downloaded and skimmed through (by 10% read, Amazon just count how many pages were turned) would net the author $6.50.

The scam artist charging $5 could easily carry ten clients a month, netting them $50 income. Twenty clients and a $100 a month, etc. Pay out the KU subscription and they are up $40/$90 on the deal. As KU is unlimited they can download and skim through ten books in as many minutes, never reading a word of any, and making themselves a nice little income and the author a nice little income.

Maybe it’s already happening. If not, rest assured it soon will be.

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

Ebook Bargains UK Rolls Out Buy Buttons For OverDrive, Scribd And Oyster And Kindle Unlimited.

Go Global In 2014

Here at Ebook Bargains UK we are committed to promoting a healthy and diverse global ebook market.

From the beginning we took a conscious decision not to go down the affiliate route.

This was a) to maintain our editorial independence as observers and commentators through the blog;

b) to ensure we were open to promoting ebook stores as widely as possible, regardless of whether they had an affiliate scheme we could make money off;

and c) to ensure we were not drawn down the route of favouring some better-selling authors over others less-well-established who were less likely to bring in affiliate fees.

The downside to that of course is that we rely solely on advertiser fees for revenue. As our subscriber base is small (inevitably, as we are targeting nascent markets) the fees are low, which in turn impinges our ability to develop as rapidly as we might like.

But we are getting there. If you haven’t seen our daily promo newsletters recently, check out the links below, to see how things are changing for the better.

First and foremost – and one in the eye for those who repeatedly assert we are anti-Amazon because we occasionally run posts on the blog that are less than flattering about the Everything Store – we now carry buy buttons for the Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service.

We think it safe to say we are the ONLY ebook promo newsletter carrying KU buttons at this time.

As of this month we are also carrying buttons for OverDrive digital libraries, and the subscription services Scribd and Oyster. Again, we are probably the only promo newsletter reaching out to readers using these platforms.

For those unfamiliar, we also carry buy buttons for the global Txtr stores and Google Play stores, for Smashwords, for All-Romance and OmniLit, for Blio, Versent and for Books A Million, and of course the usual suspects Amazon, Apple, Nook and Kobo.

In addition, this month we have increased our support for indie bookstores in the US, and now have buy buttons for no less than four Kobo-partnered independent book-sellers.

These are Flights of Fancy in Albany, New York ; Gulliver’s in Fairbanks, Alaska; Poor Richard’s in Kentucky; and Skylight in Los Angeles.

Check out today’s Ebook Bargains USA newsletter (LINK) to see some of these in action.

Obviously the buttons appearing depends on the authors concerned having books available in these stores on the day.

Unlike other promo newsletters we are not price-restricted. If you have a title free in one store, 0.99 in another, 1.99 in another, and 2.99 in yet another, you can still include all the retailers in your EBUK listing.

In the EBUK newsletter for Britain (LINK), for example – advertisers are promoting titles not just on Amazon UK and KU, Apple UK, Google Play UK, Nook UK and Kobo UK but also Waterstone’s, Hive, Txtr UK, Foyles, Blloon, OverDrive and Scribd. In addition we also carry buttons for W H Smith, Sainsbury and Blinkbox , although these stores are currently off-limits to indies.

For the Ebook Bargains Australia newsletter (LINK) listings again could include Amazon AU, Google Play AU. Kobo AU, Apple AU, Txtr AU, Angus & Robertson, Bookworld, Collins, Dymocks, QBD, Booktopia, Fishpond, Pages & Pages, Big W, JB Hi-Fi, etc. And not forgetting Scribd and OverDrive

For the Ebook Bargains Germany newsletter (LINK) authors can promote their titles not just on Kindle DE, Apple DE, Google Play DE and Kobo DE but also domestic ebook stores like Hugendubel, Thalia, Buch, Bucher, Weltbild, Der Club, Bol and Ciando, and of course not forgetting Scribd. We have yet to have any author with titles in Skoobe, but when that happens…

Sadly the most exciting prospect for indie authors – India – is as yet the one most ignored by indie authors.

Today’s Ebook Bargains India newsletter carries listings for thirteen titles but only one of those thirteen has an India listing other than Kindle India.

Partly that’s the fault of the retailers. Neither Apple nor Nook are represented on the subcontinent. Kobo has a rather pointless partnership with W H Smith India and Crossword, and if they have a ”localized” India store it’s not possible for authors elsewhere to get the links for promotion.

Google Play has an India store, but none of today’s titles are in Google Play. We carry Scribd links in the India newsletter, but by chance none of today’s titles are in Scribd. C’est la vie.

More disturbing is the fact that India’s biggest store by far, Flipkart, is easily accessible to India authors through both Smashwords and Bookbaby, yet only one of the titles listed today is in Flipkart.

Landmark have lately stopped carry ebooks, but other domestic stores like Newshunt and Rockstand are upping their game by the day. And yes, as and when authors have titles in those stores we will carry buttons for them.

Here just to remind everybody that our feedback from subscribers in the nascent markets like India is very clear. They want to see deals in the stores they shop at where they are.

For India the most requested stores are Flipkart, Rockstand and Newshunt. We carry titles in Kindle India every day, so obviously those who do shop at Amazon are happy, but those that don’t are not going to change their buying habits to suit us indies. They’ll just buy books from other authors that have made the effort to be available.

That doesn’t mean indies need to try be everywhere. That simply isn’t possible, even if it were sensible.

But it does mean that, if we want to reach a global audience – and if you don’t, you’re reading the wrong blog – we need to put ourselves in our readers’ shoes now and again, and see things from their perspective.

Here’s the thing. Readers don’t care a damn what’s convenient for us indie authors. They don’t know or care how difficult store B is to get into compared to store A. They don’t know or care that D2D is much easier to upload to than Smashwords but that D2D doesn’t get our books into Flipkart and neither get us into Google Play.

Australians who buy from Angus & Robertson, Booktopia or QBD are not going to sign up with Amazon or Kobo just because it’s so much more convenient for us indie authors. If they want to get their books from their local digital library and we aren’t in the OverDrive catalogue they’ll just read someone else’s book instead.

Likewise the 60% of German readers who do not currently get their ebooks from Kindle DE are not going to change their buying habits just to enjoy our books. They still have plenty to choose from in the Tolino Alliance stores like Hugendubel and Thalia, in the Ciando stores (Ciando has its own dedicated English-language ebook store, such is the demand for English-language books in Germany) or Txtr DE, Apple DE, Kobo DE, Google Play DE, etc.

More hassle than it’s worth? Not necessarily.

While some global stores are nigh impossible to get into, and many others are, to say the least, challenging, it’s nonetheless never been easier to get diverse  global distribution.

Smashwords will now get you into the OverDrive catalogue serving digital libraries across the world, as well as the global subscription service Scribd. Smashwords gets you into India’s Flipkart. So does Bookbaby, and Bookbaby also gets you into places Smashwords does not, like the e-Sentral stores of SE Asia.

As we wind up 2014 and head into the brave new world that is 2015 we indies really need to address the issue of diversity.

Wonderful as Amazon is, putting all your eggs in one basket is never a wise idea, and as we’ve noted on many occasions, no matter how well Amazon is doing for you in the US and UK, it is not the dominant global player outside those shores, and never will be.

Diversifying your distribution does not mean leaving Amazon. You can still reach the exact same number of readers on Amazon that you do now while also being available to readers elsewhere.

As we wind up 2014, and launch our Diversified Distribution In 2015 campaign, we’ll be looking at all the latest options open to indie authors to reach readers where the readers are, including review of which aggregators gets you where, and which do it best.

Diversified Distribution In 2015!

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Greenpeace Declares War On Amazon. Uses Amazon-Approved Review Trolling To Make Their Point. Third Amazon Exec Jump Ship In A Month.

Go Global In 2014

We’ve pretty much all been at the wrong end of trolls who abuse the review system to leave a negative for a book because they have some grudge against the author or the subject matter or whatever. But trying getting Amazon to remove them…

And we’ve pretty much all had perfectly sound 5-Star reviews removed by Amazon because some automated-system has decided they didn’t meet the guidelines.

Amazon makes clear no-one needs to have bought, used or even seen a product in order to leave a review. Unfair on the seller? Tough.

This week saw the Amazon Fire phone, already struggling with a mediocre 3-star review average, get over 1000 additional 1-Star reviews as Greenpeace supporters took full advantage of Amazon’s review policies.

Greenpeace are protesting at the fact that Amazon is one of the dirtiest company’s in the tech world.

No, nothing to do with erotica. No-one can compete with Smashwords on that front. We mean environmental pollution.

It’s easy to get carried away with the idea that e-commerce and the internet is some sort of pollutant-free green paradise, but the reality is that all these on-line systems handling and storing enormous amounts of data need an equally enormous amount of energy to keep them all going.

Greenpeace have long since been pushing for tech companies to be more environmentally friendly. Some have responded positively. Some just look the other way.

And while Apple, Google and Facebook all now use renewable energy to fuel their systems – Apple’s iCloud is run on 100% renewable energy – Amazon takes the cheapest route – good old fashioned fossil fuel burning.

For two reasons.

First, that Amazon just doesn’t seem to care. Consider: Environmental-friendliness would be a fantastic selling point for ebooks and encouraging readers to desert paper. How many millions of trees would be saved if we all went digital with our books, newspapers and magazines? But the concept seems never to have occurred to Amazon.

Second, costs. Amazon is already deeply in debt and struggling pretty much across the board. The company is just weeks away from issuing the worst financial report in the company’s history. The ONLY area in which Amazon had been making serious money had been AWS – the Amazon cloud.

But with Google and Microsoft both slashing prices and forcing Amazon to follow suit (now there’s one of the great conundrums of our time – if Amazon is always the cheapest, why does it need to price match?) there’s no spare money for important things like investment in our children’s future.

So next time some troll lands a spate of 1-Stars on your ebook, thank your lucky stars you haven’t upset Greenpeace.

 ~

 Meanwhile, at risk of getting slammed again for being anti-Amazon for reporting news the Amazon-affiliate blogs prefer to overlook, it’s worth noting that yet another top Amazon exec’ is jumping ship. the third in a month.

Back in early September Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Thomas Szkutak – the poor soul obliged to deliver the bad news about Amazon’s financial mire – stated he would be leaving the company next year. No reason to make that announcement so soon except to get the news out before the Q3 results are formally made public.

As Reuters bluntly put it: “Amazon CFO to step down next year amid investor discontent.” (LINK)

barely had the ink dried on that news that Amazon’s Vice President of Music and Video, Bill Carr, decided he had had enough too.

In what most observers agree is a clear indication of discontent in the Boardroom, Amazon said on Carr’s behalf that he was leaving “to spend more time with his family” and that he “has nothing else to add”. (LINK)

Now it emerges Jon Fine, Amazon’s Director of Author & Publisher Relations is also jumping ship. (LINK)

To lose one top man is a tragic loss to the company.

To lose two in as many weeks just as the going gets tough stretches the definition of coincidence to its limits.

To lose three in the space of a single month… The month before Amazon is set to report, on its own guidance, a loss of over half a billion dollars for a single quarter…

Hopes that the Fire phone sales would mean Q4 would be better were dashed long before Greenpeace added to its woes.

Hopes that the new range of Kindles would help have also been dashed. Sales are so far looking at best unimpressive.

And the latest tablet figures out this week show that Amazon is commanding just 3% of the tablet market three years after the first Kindle was announced.

None of this is good news for investors as the Q3 announcement and Q4 guidance looms.

And now Google has turned up the heat.

Amazon’s cloud service has for several years been the key driving factor in Amazon’s bubble growth. No profits. Just revenue. But it looks good.

Then Google and Microsoft started slashing their prices. Amazon had no choice but to follow suit. And its revenue plummeted, along with its share value, currently almost $100 down on its January high.

Now, in what looks like deliberate timing to maximize Amazon’s discomfort (and why not – Amazon deliberately forked Google’s Android system so the Fire phone cannot use Google apps or access the Google Play store) Google has just this week slashed prices again, ahead of Amazon’s Q3 announcement.

Amazon has no choice but to price-match. It will lose more market share to Google if it doesn’t. It will lose millions more it cannot afford if it does.

Amazon will choose the latter path, because it has already painted itself into a corner.

Just like it has with Prime, offering fast, free delivery on items it can no longer afford to deliver fast and free. So much so that Amazon now offers to PAY Prime members to accept slower and cheaper shipping options.

Which of course is precisely why Amazon is trying to force down trad pub ebook prices. Not because Amazon wants to give consumers a great deal, but because sending out heavy hardbacks for free eats into its margins.

If Amazon can force the price of front-list ebooks down then fewer people will buy front-list hardbacks. It costs Amazon sweet FA to send the ebook. They lose money on every hardback they have to store, package and deliver.

There’s a growing consensus among the money market commentators now that Amazon is structurally unable to ever be a profitable company. That it’s a bubble in the process of deflating.

No-one is suggesting Amazon will fail. But few believe it can carry on like it has been.

Some even speculate whether Bezos will still be in charge next year. An unlikely scenario, true, but bear in mind Steve Jobs was famously fired from Apple way back.

But Amazon is facing increasing competition while losing market share pretty much everywhere

Alibaba’s arrival on the scene makes Amazon’s position all the more problematic. With the IPO last month, Alibaba went from some obscure company in China to a an America player with a market valuation almost $100 billion bigger than Amazon’s. And over $20bn in surplus cash, while Amazon is having to borrow.

We’ve speculated here before that Alibaba could well bid for Nook when it comes up for grabs in the New Year, and now there is increasing speculation that Alibaba could buy eBay, once the Paypal spin-off is done.

Either or both would be great news for authors.

eBay already has a great little book arm in Half, and has been actively toying with an ebook venture. Alibaba’s cash would be the perfect supplement to make it happen.

Both would be major setbacks to Amazon’s aspirations at at time when it is already facing growing difficulties.

As above, Amazon isn’t in danger of going bankrupt. But no-one should be under any illusion all is rosy in the Amazon garden right now.

For indie authors the thumb-screws are already being tightened.

The ACX royalty cuts were just a harbinger of things to come. But Amazon learned its lesson then. Do it discreetly next time.

So now we have stealth royalty cuts through Kindle Unlimited while Amazon hands out All-Star cash payments to compensate the chosen few who stand to lose the most, to keep them on board.

But there may be more to come with Kindle Unlimited.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Bezos and Grandinetti have already shown how desperate they are by begging indie authors to write to Hachette because they couldn’t resolve a simply dispute on their own.

Bezos cannot afford to let Kindle Unlimited fail, but the Big 5 boycott holds.

Harlequin has just signed up exclusively with Scribd in a clear signal to Amazon that they will have nothing to do with KU. (LINK)

Simon & Schuster have just signed with the ebook subscription service Mofibo in Denmark and Sweden, while notably not signing with KU. (LINK)

Amazon is expected to launch Kindle Unlimited in Germany and France this month, but if so it will be a sorrowful affair with no Big 5 brands on board.

The only thing Kindle Unlimited has in its favour is volume of titles. Amazon is fielding 700,000 compared to around 500,000 each for Oyster and Scribd.

As more and more titles flood to other ebook subscription services, and pointedly do not sign up with Kindle Unlimited, that gap will narrow, and with it Amazon’s volume advantage will diminish.

A simple solution lies in the hands of Grandinetti and Bezos.

Expect all our indie KDP titles to be dragged into Kindle Unlimited soon, whether you want to be in or not.

And watch out for the next Amazon executive to jump ship. It appears to be contagious.

***

Just as we go to post this, reports are coming in that Booklinker.net is having problems with Amazon.

According to an email just being sent out by Booklinker, Amazon is withholding affiliate fees, causing them financial difficulties.

Hard to imagine this is in turn due to Amazon’s financial problems, but a  timely reminder that when anyone puts all their eggs in to one basket it is asking for problems.

What follows is the email being sent out by Booklinker. We reserve judgement on what lies behind it.

You may have noticed that BookLinker short-links are currently displaying brief rich-media advertisments before redirecting to your content.

This is because Amazon Associates are withholding affiliate income from us; effectively forcing us to display these ads in order to meet our ongoing costs.

Sales are unlikely to be affected, but if you would like to continue using our service *completely ad-free*, we are offering a new premium plan, costing 10 GBP per month.

Please respond to this email if you would like to upgrade to this plan, and we will respond with instructions.

Best regards

Richard @ BookLinker
www.booklinker.net

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