Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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China’s StoryDrive convention kicks off later this month. Not something we can easily attend, so enjoy the photo of the convention centre as a reminder that China is very much part of the digital age, and we should all be looking very closely at the opportunities unfolding in this amazing country.

I’m on limited net access this month (for the many new subscribers, I live in West Africa) so just a brief post here to point you towards Porter Anderson’s post over at Publishing Perspectives with a preview of StoryDrive. (LINK)

As Anderson describes it, StoryDrive “is a conference that focuses on storytelling across cultural and international borders, and the rights trade.”

For the many newcomers who may be thinking “why bother with China? It’s a closed community,” just to say I regard China, along with India, as the two most exciting prospects on the planet right now for savvy indie authors looking at the bigger picture.

It’s a common misconception that western authors can’t sell in China and no-one in China would be interested in western books anyway.

A widely held belief that has no basis in reality.

As long ago as 2014 my UK-based crime thriller that has absolutely nothing even remotely Chinese about it topped the ebook charts in China, including taking number one slot in the Kindle China store.

It can be done. It has been done.

China is a very real opportunity for adventurous indie authors, and not just for ebooks. China is way ahead of the transmedia game.

Do take time to check out Porter Anderson’s post and see why you should have StoryDrive Beijing 2016 on your Follow Closely agenda.

Oh, and watch out for StoryDrive Asia in Singapore in November.

A Global New Renaissance is unfolding. Writers today have opportunities quite unprecedented in human history.

Don’t let them pass you by.

The Global New Renaissance is real. It’s happening right now.

Be part of it.

Alas, Poor Waterstone's, I Knew Thee Well. The UK’s Biggest Bookstore Shuts The Door On Ebooks.

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The UK’s prestigious Waterstone’s bookstore chain (the British equivalent of B&N for those unfamiliar) has finally called it a day with its token ebook store, and customers have until mid-June to transition to Kobo.

I’ve been with the Waterstone’s ebook store since the beginning. It helped make one of my titles the eleventh bestselling ebook in the UK back in 2011, and while sales hardly compared to Kindle UK, they were well worth having.

That was then. In recent years Waterstone’s sales have dwindled dreadfully (to be fair possibly a reflection of my shift to children’s titles the last two years, which are generally less rewarding as ebooks) and it’s long since become clear the Waterstone’e book store had lost the will to live. Waterstone’s chief James Daunt knows a futile battle when he sees one. I’m just surprised it took this long.

It’s another notch on Amazon’s bedpost. Waterstone’s joins Sony UK, Nook UK, Txtr UK, Tesco Blinkbox and the subscription service Blloon in the Uk ebook graveyard, leaving token players like Hive, Blackwell’s and Lovereading to compete with the bigger stores.

The bigger stores being Amazon Kindle, of course, along with Apple and Google Play. In addition Kobo has both a localized UK store and a partnership with WH Smith.

The other small but significant player is Sainsbury, but no indie access to that store.

Playster is also in the UK with its subscription service. Indies can get into Playster through StreetLib and I’m expecting an announcement from Draft2Digital soon.

Future competition in this sector may come from subscription service Storytel-Mofibo (or whatever it will rename itself in the wake of the merger), and a subscription service with trad pub titles in number may well find a niche to compete with KU.

But safe to say that now, as opposed to if it had happened back in 2011, the closure of Waterstone’s ebooks will make a difference to no-one but the Waterstone’s clients who will be transferred to Kobo.

Alas, poor Waterstone’s ebooks, I knew thee well.

How well?

Back in 2011 my titles were topping the Waterstone’s e-charts and while Kindle was bringing in far more, of course, the Waterstone’s money was not to be sneezed at.

Bear in mind Kindle UK only kicked off in summer 2010 and ebooks were still a novelty and possibly a fad. In early 2011 you could top the Kindle UK charts with just 20,000 sales a month.

James Daunt only took over at Waterstone’s in May 2011, at which time the Waterstone’s ebook store (it still had a sensible apostrophe back then) was ticking over nicely. There was almost zero indies to compete with (I think Waterstone’s was Gardner’s supplied then – OverDrive came later) which meant the handful of indies that were in could do well.

Daunt took over an effectively bankrupt bookstore chain (backed by Russian money) with a token ebook store and rumour kicked off about a B&N Nook partnership. Clearly at that time Daunt was hedging his bets. He even dropped the apostrophe in the name of the store to make it more on-line-friendly.

No-one was sure what way the ebook wind would blow in the UK, but B&N’s straddling physical and digital with the Nook project seemed (back then – hindsight is a wonderful thing) as good a bet as any.

At that time the Waterstone’s store sold iRiver and Sony ebook readers and displayed them quite prominently.

Then came the surprise Kindle partnership – presumably an offer Daunt couldn’t refuse – to pre-empt the Nook partnership. Why Daunt took it is anyone’s guess, but I suspect Daunt understood the long-term conflict that B&N was later to face – that you can’t cannibalize your physical stores by promoting ebooks.

Under the original B&N model that wouldn’t have been an issue, because the ebooks and print books were all from the same supply base. No problem. Ebooks and print books sold in tandem and complemented one another.

The phenomenal rise of self-publishing tipped over that apple-cart, and instead of ebooks complementing the print titles, ebooks began to cannibalize print.

B&N exacerbated the problem with the self-pub portal, making it easier for indies to sell on the Nook platform (back then Smashwords was the only realistic alternative route into Nook).

Daunt possibly had the foresight to see that coming. After all, at least one indie in the Waterstone’s ebook store – no names mentioned – was outselling the biggest names in publishing and was the most searched for brand in store for three months solid.

I was disappointed to see the Waterstone’s ebook project effectively shelved. The store remained open, but hidden, and the Kindle partnership was never taken seriously. Kindle devices were never displayed to their best advantage and staff studiously avoided being helpful when customers asked about them.

From public statements by Daunt in the last year or so it’s clear the ebook store had dwindled to irrelevancy. He was going out of his way to belittle its impact, suggesting the revenue from ebooks wouldn’t buy a coffee at the Waterstone’s Costa coffee bar. Back in 2011 the Waterstone’s royalties I was collecting would have kept me in coffee for a year, and I drink a lot of coffee!

Even allowing for some exaggeration (de-aggeration?) by Daunt, it was clear the Waterstone’s ebook store was not pulling its weight.

How much that was market economics and the obviously powerful impact of the Kindle store, and how much deliberate policy by Daunt, is unclear.

By 2013 it was obvious Daunt had no intention of developing the Waterstone’s ebook store, and by 2015 obvious it was on borrowed time. The only surprise since is that he’s kept the Waterstone’s ebook store open this long.

I suspect Daunt has ideological as well as commercial antipathy towards ebooks, but all credit to him for turning around an all-but bankrupt bookstore chain to the pont where it’s now expanding, showing that print bookstores can thrive in the face of ebook and on-line print sales from a far bigger competitor.

Without the burden of the Nook – a valiant attempt by B&N, but one destined to fail because the two arms cannibalized instead of complementing one another – B&N might be in a far stronger position, as Waterstone’s is in the UK today.

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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.

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

 

Dan Brown Shows Us How Its Done – Age-Group Verticals.

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Yeah, I’m still here. It’s just that I haven’t been, well, here.

Living in The Gambia, West Africa, has its compensations, of course. and my worst nightmare would be having to leave, but life is never a breeze here. At last, not when it comes to trying to keeping on top of the writing workload.

Back when I actually lived in the UK I imagined being endlessly productive once I set up here, with no commuting to and from the coffee bar every day, no distracting TV and newspapers, etc.

If only. Trying to straddle the First and Third Worlds is like swimming in treacle.And for some reason WordPress seems to suffer from the heat and sand while Facebook doesn’t, which means while I’ve managed to remain active in the International Indie Author Facebook Group, keeping up with the posts on the blog has become a casualty of real life.

So for the next week or so I’ll be re-running some of the posts that have already appeared in the IIA Facebook Group, along with new posts that will with luck go out the same day on both sites.

And I’ll kick off today with this IIA Facebook Group post from a day or so ago.

Dan Brown Shows Us How Its Done – Age-Group Verticals.

I’ve long been an advocate of exploring every possible vertical for one’s titles.

We’ve written an ebook?

A print version should be the standard next step, not a token afterthought if we can be bothered.And not just a print version. We can offer print versions in variant-sized paperback formats to suit reader needs. We can offer large-print versions. We can offer hardcover versions, special editions, numbered and signed editions…

With Amazon’s ACX helping us produce audiobooks and Babelcube helping us get translations with no upfront costs there’s really no excuse for us not to be adding these verticals to our portfolio even if we have severely limited budgets.

(BTW I deliberately use the word portfolio rather than catalogue because these are one hundred percent investments.)

As per previous posts on this subject, we need to think of ourselves as content-providers, not just book authors, and definitely not just ebook authors.

There are so many possible verticals we can breed from one single ebook if we would but set aside the time, energy and token expense to look at the bigger opportunities unfolding.

As I’ve explored in many previous posts, we don’t need to be screenwriters to see our books turned into film or TV, we don’t need to be artists to produce colouring books (adult and child alike), illustrated books or Manga versions of our titles, we don’t need to…

Just as we don’t need to be voice-artists or fluent in foreign languages to have audio-books or translations.

We simply find a third party, paying or partnering for the service, to do it for us.

But there are some verticals we can do very easily ourselves. Age-group verticals and easy-read verticals.

By way of example, not self-promo, I’ve been exploring both with my Sherlock For Kids adaptations of the classic Sherlock Holmes short stories, and my easy-read Easy-English versions of those stories. I’ll be producing illustrated versions and adult and child colouring book versions of these titles later this year too. Audio-books are under way and I already have some in a dozen or so languages.

Let’s take easy reads first.

We easily forget, as authors who have been devouring books since infancy, that not everyone is lucky enough to have had an education or up-bringing that encouraged them to read.

My Easy-English titles are beginning to find a receptive audience among late-to-literacy adults, reluctant teen readers, and ESL students who have some grasp of English but aren’t confident enough reading to tackle a full-length book written for native-speakers. I’ll be working on dedicated ESL versions later this year.

And sometimes adult titles will work very well as teen or even children’s reads.

Most of us will, as I did, have discovered Dickens, Austen and the other greats in abridged children’s versions long before we tackled the originals.

Some adult titles – erotica, for example – might not easily be adapted to YA or children’s versions, but most books will, and it’s a niche well worth looking at.

Later this year Dan Brown will trigger a goldrush for this sector as he releases a YA version of The DaVinci Code, to coincide with the Inferno film.

Save the scathing criticisms of Dan Brown’s literary skills for elsewhere. He makes no claim to be Shakespeare. Here let’s just remember The DaVinci Code has already sold 82 million copies, and the YA version is going to open up that classic to millions upon millions of new readers far too young to remember the phenomenal success of the original, and many of whom will be to young to tackle the original.

YA and children’s versions of our titles are just one more way we can leverage a single book and turn it into multiple new income streams.

And I do mean multiple. Because once we have abridged and adapted our adult title to the YA and children’s ebook market (and why not go the whole hog and do both separately?) we then have the opportunity to produce print versions, audio versions, illustrated versions, colouring book versions, TV and film versions, musicals, school plays and a host of other possibilities it would take me all day to list.

Don’t be an ebook author. Be a three-dimensional content creator.

Take your horizontal ebook, explore and exploit every vertical you can, and then look at your diagonals (series, spin-offs, etc) and explore all those verticals too.

I’m a 3-D content-creator that happens to start with ebooks.

How about you?

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This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 18 May 2016.

Future Watch: Sky Steps Up Its VR Game. What It Means For Indie Authors.

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One of the biggest transformations we’ll see as this decade closes and the era of 5G and the Internet of Things arrives is Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality (VT) and its cousin Augmented Reality (AR) have been slowly moving from science fiction to science fact for a good few years now, driven by the games industry.
We’ve seen token gestures towards the future, most famously with the VR documentary shown at the premiere of the final Hobbit movie, and I’ve reported here recently on AR books.
But with Sky’s announcement of a dedicated VR production studio (LINK) VR moves firmly into mainstream media.
The tipping point has been improvements in quality, affordability and availability of the headgear required to make VR consumption an experience worth paying a premium for.
The next step is to produce content worth paying for, and that’s where we authors, in time, will be presented with opportunities and challenges.
Opportunities? Expect children’s books, adult erotica and documentary books like cookery and educational titles to become early runners.
No, we don’t have to do crash-courses in VR-scripting to get in on the act. We just need to be pro-active, follow developments, cast our net wide and build contacts who might, for profit-share or as a freelance paid job, do all that for us.
VR/AR is just another sub-licensing opportunity unfolding.
In time it will be another major distraction for consumers who might otherwise by buying and reading our books.
But it will also bring promotional and retail opportunities.
Back in 2011 I sketched a VR future where instead of looking at flat-screen pages of books and having to jump from page to page each time, we could walk around a virtual book-store, see hundreds of books lined up on shelves just like in a book store, step away and be in a different section discovering new books, and be able to pick them up, read them and engage with them, just like in a real book store.
Imagine a full-size box-store in your living room where you can stroll the aisles, select a dozen books and pile them up, then grab a virtual coffee at the virtual coffee bar and sit and flip through each title as if turning real pages, and decide which you want to buy.
And then, having downloaded the title, take it to bed with you and virtual-read it as a book, turning virtually-real pages with your absolutely real fingers, highlighting passages with a virtually-real pen, dog-earing virtually-real pages and, if you’re of the crazed mentality of one patron of my local library a few years ago, rip-out the virtual-last page so the next poor sucker won’t find out how the story ends.
If Amazon (the player most able to afford to make it happen) hasn’t got a VR book store by 2020 I shall be very surprised.
And if that VR book store isn’t replete with VR and AR books I shall be even more surprised.
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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.

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

How To List At $0.00 On Amazon. No Exclusivity Or Price-Matching Required.

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Free On Amazon! And No, This Is Not A Self-Promo Post.

Yesterday I took one of my Sherlock For Kids titles out of KDP and uploaded to Amazon by another route and listed the price at $0.00.

Today here it is on Amazon at $0.00 with the immortal words “This price was set by the publisher.”

  • No exclusivity. It’s still on Apple, Kobo, etc.
  • No Select five days free every ninety days. This is free for just as long as I want it to be.
  • No going free on other retailers and just hoping Amazon will price-match, or getting friends to tell Amazon there’s a better price elsewhere. In fact it’s still at 0.99 on several retailers, but free on Amazon.

How? By uploading my title to StreetLib, the Italian aggregator (don’t panic, the site is in English!) that in many ways continues to lead the aggregator pack.

StreetLib’s Anne-Catherine de Fombelle has said this is a six month trial and that she hopes indie authors will use this option wisely. I’m sure we (mostly) will.

Free can be a great tool in our indie tool kit, but as above, indie authors have never had the option to list free on Amazon except a) by going exclusive and being able to list free for five days in Select, or b) going free on another retailer and hoping Amazon will price-match.

Now we have the option to list free on Amazon for as long or as short a time as we like, subject of course to either StreetLib and Amazon not changing the rules down the road.

As part of a multi-book and growing series I hope this title will now find lots of new eyeballs and lots of buys of the rest of the series, both on Amazon and on other retailers.

My thanks to StreetLib for making this option available and working so efficiently.

For those who haven’t used StreetLib before, it has some of the best distribution available from any pay-as-you-sell aggregator, and lots more to commend it too.

There are some downsides – not least the clunky interface – but the StreetLib team are working on that and to bring many new features to StreetLib this year.

But the free-on-Amazon option has to be the best thing they’ve come up with to date.

Do pop along to StreetLib (LINK) and at least check out what they offer. Access to Google Play, for example, and the best Italian and Latin American distribution of any English-language aggregator.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group (LINK) on 16 March 2016.

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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.
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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Undersea Cable To Link Brazil And USA in 2018.

Submarine cables are the key to our international internet reach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huge opportunities ahead. But also huge challenges.

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

I’m embracing the globile future.

How about you?

 

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

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

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

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

The tagged report from BookBusiness notes,

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

That alone is worth pondering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is, “amplifiable content”.

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

We don’t have organic growth.

And we don’t have a sustainable writing career.

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

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This Island Earth.

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

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The International Indie Author.

Looking at the bigger picture.

 

 

 

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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Part 1: Are you a one-format author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here just to sum it up in three words:

  • Quality
  • Brand
  • Promotion

Yes, read that last one again. Promotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need I go on?

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

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

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

  • Audio-books

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

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

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

But no need to stop at audio.

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

  • Radio, TV and film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example,

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

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

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

  • E-Magazines.

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

  • Serialized content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Merchandising

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

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

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

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

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

Why not make those cover available in other formats?

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

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

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

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

More on merchandising our IPs at a later date.

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

  • Stage theatre
  • Musicals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Translations

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

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

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

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

  • English

First and foremost, English isn’t just English.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Easy-English and ESL

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

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

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

Other formats?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s 2016.

Carpe annum! Seize the year!

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

wikicom

 

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

◊ ◊ ◊

Readers in far-flung lands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊

The India goldrush is coming.

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

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

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

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

But what really matters is the direction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊

Kobo now has a Wattpad section in its ebook store.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

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

Long-term?

That’s not entirely encouraging.

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

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

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

That’s a big yes from me!

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊

Print Matters.

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

So here’s a thought to start 2016 on.

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

So much for the death of print.

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

Even in the romance sector.

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

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

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

But there’s a more important message there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊

The Final Frontier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And thoroughly enjoying ourselves while we do so.

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

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

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

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

Go globile in 2016.

 

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