Category Archives: messaging apps

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

Loon

 

Google Loon For India.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spotlight On Poland 2016-17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our loss.

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

How about you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook Messenger Integrates With Spotify.

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

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

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

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

There are lots more.

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

Our loss.

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

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The International Indie Author

Looking at the bigger picture.

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)

 

 

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

TNG SMP 2014

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

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

# # #

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

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

Take Tumblr, for instance.

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

Try poetry books.

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

All thanks to social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In both cases the lesson is clear.

Stepping outside our comfort zones can bring its own rewards.

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

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

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

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

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

Readers use the social media platforms they prefer.

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

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

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

And then there’s Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it worth the effort? Ponder this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, increasingly, where our prospective readers are.

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

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

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

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

How times change.

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

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

# # #

Post Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

Click HERE.

Amazon Embraces Messaging Apps For Kindle Promotion. It’s Time For Indies To Take Messaging Apps Seriously.

DiversifyIn2015

This past year or so we’ve been plotting the rise and rise of the messaging app and advising messaging apps are where the future of book promotion lies.

Kobo’s owner Rakuten is gearing up its Viber site as a sales and promotion platform for Kobo ebooks. The Japanese messaging app LINE already has music subscription services in two countries. Many companies globally are using messaging apps to drive traffic and sales.

This week Amazon climbs on board with the Kindle store. The only surprise is that they’ve taken so long.

From Amazon (LINK):

“Kindle readers can share quotes and recommendations with specific friends, using their favorite mobile apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, texting, and more.
Friends who receive a share can instantly start reading a free book preview right from their phone, tablet, or PC—no need to sign up, sign in, or install an app.”

Its early days for Amazon’s venture into messaging apps. Expect a big expansion of this engagement as we hurtle into 2016.

And with Rakuten already owning Viber don’t be too surprised if Amazon picks up a messaging app of its own before long.

~

Okay, as promised, here’s a rough sketch of how this will work for indie authors.

First, we need to look on messaging app engagement as an extension of our email lists. While we may have gazillions of “followers” and “friends” on sites like twitter and Facebook, we all know a good mailing list outperforms them all, because the people who have signed up have made a specific request to be kept updated on our latest releases, news, whatever.

But here’s the thing. Readers generally are not writers. Not every reader is comfortable with email, and likewise not every reader will be on Facebook or twitter, let alone following or friending us.

A reader who doesn’t use Facebook or twitter or email is not going to be able to sign up for our latest news. But chances are those same readers are using Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, or LINE, or Viber, or WeChat, or KakaoTalk or Nimbus or…

And just a reminder here. WhatsApp and Viber alone have over one billion users between them.

So developing a messaging app list is just like developing an email list, except that instead of sending out emails we send out messages (with images and even video if needed), which the recipients receive direct on their smartphone.

How does it work for us?

Let’s take the hugely popular WhatsApp (800 million users, 70% of whom access the app daily) as a guide. With subtle variations the same will apply to other apps.

Back when WhatsApp launched in 2009 it was very much a one-to-one service. You sent a text message to one individual. The idea behind the apps was to bypass the text fees telcos charged. Messaging apps are either free or charge a token subscription fee. WhatsApp costs $1 a year.

In 2013 WhatsApp rolled out “broadcasting” (other apps have similar) which essentially means you can send the same message to a number of people at one time without revealing the contact numbers to others, so like a blind CC email.

At the moment WhatsApp has a limit of 250 contacts for a broadcast, but that’s a great starting point. And you can simply have variant lists, slightly differentiated, to get around the limit. You have 1,000 contacts? Just send four messages, each very slightly different. Facebook has already made exceptions for big companies using WhatsApp to reach more people, and the broadcasting limit will surely be raised for others as we go. Other apps vary.

Facebook itself has an organic reach of 6% – that is to say, just 6% of “friends” on average actually see the posts we put up.

Now compare message broadcasting where you have effectively 100% reach, just like with your email list.

The key is to get readers to sign up in the first place, and in the case of messaging apps it means adding your number to their phone. So in the first instance you need a number. Don’t use your personal number.

Most smartphones nowadays come with multiple sim capacity, so simply buy a sim card and keep that number exclusively for promo. Then get that number out on your website, blog, regular promo campaigns, etc. In fact, tweet and FB it!

The key then is to treat your new contacts with the same respect you show your email sign-up contacts. Sending out a message ten times a day seven days a week will have people delisting you like crazy. Remember, EVERY message you send will ping on EVERY phone EVERY time.

So from the beginning, think global. If you are building a contact list on WeChat to boost your China sales or trying to get a contact list going in Australia or New Zealand, bear in mind that (unless you live there yourself) their time zone will be the reverse of yours. Sending out a message in the early afternoon in London or New York may not be appreciated by the recipient in Beijing, Canberra or Wellington being woken in the early hours with a pinged message. So when you compile your broadcast lists, doing so by country or continent might be a good starting point to consider.

Keep your broadcast messages short and pertinent. No nd 2 use txt-spk. Proper English is fine. But keep it succinct. Individual readers who want a further engagement will let you know. But message too often and you’ll have people delisting you, just like with email mailing lists.

On WhatsApp you can create and edit lists just like with an email list. You can have a list of contacts in Siberia and list of contacts who only read your children’s books and another list for readers who only read your hard core erotica with dinosaurs titles. Messaging apps really are just email lists for reaching readers who don’t like email.

A reminder of the top ten social media messaging apps:

WhatsApp
Viber
WeChat
LINE
Kakao Talk
Kik
Tango
Nimbus
Hike
MessageMe

There are many, many more, and if you are looking at the global markets it’s really worth doing some research and finding out which app is doing well in a particular country. LINE, for instance, is big in Thailand. Nimbus has 25 million users in India. A full post on messaging apps by territory another time.

Messaging apps on top of FB and twitter!!! “No! No! No!” we hear you cry. But hold on.

Yes, its more hassle for us poor, over-worked, under-paid indie authors. But as we’ve said here before, if we want to stay ahead of the game we need to stay ahead of the trends.

Just like, not to very long ago, we all had to sign up with and learn how to use Facebook and twitter and our blogs. Oh, and that crazy new thing called KDP that allowed us to bypass the query system and actually publish our books ourselves.

Yes, we can all scream “Gimmick! Gimmick! Gimmick!” and pretend it’s not happening. But it’s happening anyway.

Just ask Amazon.

And no, before someone says it, no-one can do them all. Don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at least a few.

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

 

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Messaging Apps Are The Next Big Thing For Savvy Indie Authors Looking To Stay Ahead Of The Game.

DiversifyIn2015

While most indie authors continue to look the other way as messaging apps become the new black for selling digital goods, the Japan-based messaging app LINE has just launched its second music streaming service in as many months. (LINK)

Hard on the heels of the Thailand launch last month, LINE now has digital music streaming available in Japan, and other countries will be joining the, ahem, line-up later this year.

With Rakuten preparing to relaunch the messaging app Viber as a global sales platform for Rakuten products this year, we indies all need to sit up and take notice of the way the winds are blowing.

We can be forgiven for being unfamiliar. The so-called social media experts and mavens continue to tout Facebook and twitter as the only entities that matter for ebook marketing. Far easier to keep recycling the same old mantra than look at what’s coming next.

Without naming names, one social media maven famously told us MySpace was here to stay and that new cowboy outfit Facebook was just some fly-by-night rival that had no future. This was the same social media maven who told us reading ebooks on phones was a fad peculiar to Japan and was never going to catch on.

Meantime savvy authors are using sites like Pinterest and Instagram to great effect to find new audiences.

And the super-savvy amongst us will be getting established on the messaging apps.

Make no mistake, messaging apps are the next big thing for promotion and sales. Rakuten have made very clear their plans for Viber, and in particular they have spelled out their intention to sell Kobo ebooks using the Viber messaging app.

With LINE leading the way offering music streaming, others will follow. And just how long do you think it will be before other digital goods – ebooks, for example – are streamed on the messaging apps too?

Viber will be leading the way with messaging app ebook sales, and the rest will surely follow.

Meanwhile us indies are still busily carrying on as if Facebook and twitter are the be all and end all of social media promotion.

Wake up and smell the coffee!

Check out our past posts on this subject on the EBUK blog. Here’s one. (LINK) Several more in the archives.

Mobile messaging apps are the next big thing in global ebook promotion. Don’t wait for the social media mavens to wake up and jump on the bandwagon. Explore the world of messaging apps now and lay the foundations for your global ebook promotion empire.

Here’s the top ten social media messaging apps:

WhatsApp
Viber
WeChat
LINE
Kakao Talk
Kik
Tango
Nimbus
Hike
MessageMe

There are many others.

Never heard of them? We need to step outside our box. WhatsApp alone has over 800 million monthly users. Just because they are not on our radar does not mean no-one else has heard of them.

Nimbuzz has 25 million users in India, one of the key up-and-coming ebook markets.

Viber has over 300 million subscribers.

We all know how few of our Facebook friends and twitter followers actually get to see our posts and tweets. And we all know the services are clamping down still further to force us to pay to reach people, especially if there’s a promo link involved.

Instead of playing the same tune over and over to the same handful of people who actually do see our Facebook posts and do see our tweets, most of whom couldn’t care less, why not spend just a tiny fraction of that time and energy reaching out to new audiences in new ways.

Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram… LINE, WhatsApp, Viber…

Yeah, new learning curves, new ways to interact, new demands on our precious time.

But if we want to stay ahead of the game we need to stay ahead of the trends.

Just like, not to very long ago, we all had to sign up with and learn how to use Facebook and twitter and our blogs. Oh, and that crazy new thing called KDP that allowed us to bypass the query system and actually publish our books as ebooks.

Yes, we can all scream “Gimmick! Gimmick! Gimmick!” and pretend it’s not happening. But it’s happening anyway.

Don’t worry. The social media mavens will be along in a year or two to say they saw the messaging apps coming but were biding their time before letting anyone know.

Meanwhile everyday folk, you know, like readers, are busily signing up to messaging apps not by the hundreds, or thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, but by the billion. WhatsApp and Viber alone have a billion subscribers between them.

Just this week twitter announced it is expanding its character quota as it recognizes messaging apps are where people are heading. (LINK) Facebook of course famously already owns WhatsApp.

And no, before someone says it, no-one can do them all. Don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at least a few.

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

+++

Note: We’ll be following up this post with some specifics about getting started with messaging apps in the next few days. Stay tuned!

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Far more than just the UK.