Tag Archives: global ebook sales

The Thirty Minute Upload Workout – Going Wide Needn’t Be A Chore.

SFK-The-Red-Headed-League-English-German

And no, despite the image, this is not a self-promo Buy My Book post!

When it comes to finding the path of least resistance we indies have it down to a fine art.

Even though all logic dictates that, unless we have a sweetheart deal with a retailer, being available as widely as possible is the best long-term career move we can make, it seems many indies will nonetheless convince ourselves it’s all soooo much effort that we’re better off just signing up to Select and crossing our fingers.

NB: This isn’t an anti-Select post. Select is a great tool and used wisely can bring its own rewards, but we should never chose an option simply because it’s quick and easy, or because we see big-name authors doing well in Select but who may well have special deals like White Glove, etc that are why they are doing so well when so many regular indies are not.

Especially when it’s so quick and easy to go from being just in Amazon’s dozen stores to being in 400-500 stores worldwide, and still be in those same dozen Amazon stores as well.

How quick and easy?

Continue reading

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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Self-Publish At Home, Query Abroad. The Indie Author's Guide To Becoming A Bestselling Author In A Far-Away Land.

The chances of getting “discovered” by a foreign (outside US/UK) publisher and getting a nice deal in a country you can’t easily reach on your own is pretty remote.

It happened to me with Sugar & Spice when a French publisher came cold-calling, and a nice advance and 50,000 hardcover sales later I’ve no regrets. But I’m not holding my breath until it happens again.

Now I’ve got my new-and-improved internet here in West Africa I’m taking Going Global to the next level.

Not just chasing translators through Babelcube and Fiberead (which together will get you eleven languages if you are lucky see here ((LINK)) and the follow-up post here ((LINK)), but trying two other key tactics:

1)  Finding more translator-partners independently.

My priority countries should be well-known to any regulars. China, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico, Japan, India, South Korea, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Poland, etc.

And the other countries on my radar should also be familiar. The rest of Latin America, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary…

The downside to this strategy is that, even if I can get a translator on board and get my ebooks into Polish or Korean or Vietnamese, my chances of actually getting into the ebook stores in these countries is limited, and of course the level of ebook take-up in many of these countries is still low.

Which is where the second strategy comes in.

2) Finding a trad pub print and/or digital partner in these countries.

The indie stalwarts will cry “No! Self-publish and get 70%!”

But that’s a fundamentally flawed approach when it comes to the international markets that ignores certain realities.

Taking Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh as examples, Apple has no iBooks stores in these countries and Amazon blocks downloads to these countries. In countries like Poland, Romania, Norway or Argentina Amazon pays just 35% and surcharges readers.

My first Norwegian translations are just about ready to go live. But these are short stories selling at $0.99 or the local equivalent.  Amazon will charge a Norwegian reader $2.99 (list price plus the Whispernet surcharge) and I’ll get just 35% of the 0.99 to share with my translator.

No, that’s not “anti-Amazon”. It’s simply stating the cold reality we need to understand when going global. That outside the dozen or so Kindle stores Amazon is not going to be our key breadwinner.

~~~

But don’t let that put you off. No question the readers are out there. And no question sowing the seeds now for future harvests in the global markets is eminently sensible.

But sometimes sowing those seeds may be best achieved by partnering with trad pub in these countries.

With Google and similar search engines it’s no big deal to find publishers and agents overseas, and there are a number of websites that specialise in such information, complete with useful email addresses and contacts.

But when your English-language email lands in the inbox of the Vietnamese or Korean secretary who doesn’t speak English, always assuming it has survived the local spam filter, what chance they will then bother to track down someone in the company that does speak English? More likely the secretary is as far as your email will get.

You might have just blown your chance of getting a trad pub deal to get your bestseller translated and in book stores in a remote land.

Don’t go assuming foreign publishers will only be interested in the “big name” authors. The reality is those foreign publishers will of course be interested, but simply won’t be able to afford them.

On the other hand your respectably-selling indie title that doesn’t come with demands for a huge advance and special treatment might be perfect for them to expand their portfolio.

And don’t assume that your particular book won’t be of interest because it’s set in the US or UK and has absolutely no connection with the rest of the world.

Sugar & Spice is a dark crime thriller set in obscure parts of the UK and heavily reliant on the detail of the British criminal justice system, with lots of British prison slang and absolutely nothing to suggest it would appeal to readers in, say, France or China. But the translations have topped the charts in both countries. And I do mean topped. So far it’s the only western indie title to reach #1 on Amazon China.

Another factor that gives indies an advantage is list-price. A title that sells at 9.99 in the US is not going to fare well at a similar price in Vietnam, Turkey of Indonesia, but if you’ve been happily selling at 2.99 or less in the US and UK you are hardly going to object if the foreign publisher prices you low in their country.

But that’s all pretty academic if you can’t get their attention in the first place because your English-language email doesn’t get past the company secretary.

But there’s a simple solution. Invest $5 of £5 on a Fiverr or Fivesquid translation service.

Check out these sites and you’ll find no end of people offering to translate anything from 500 words to 2,000 words of English text into just about any language you’ll likely to need, and for just a fiver.

That could get expensive for a translation of a novel, but for a short query letter it’s perfect.

I’m just about to approach publishers in Vietnam and Korea. Having final-drafted the first-contact letter (which should be kept brief, so 500 words should be ample) I’ll be paying £5 a time to a translator to turn that letter into fluent Vietnamese and Korean.

Here’s an English-Korean translator on Fiverr (by way of example, not a recommendation). (LINK)

And here’s a Vietnamese translator. (LINK) Again an example, not a recommendation.

When you compose your English-language template do remember to include a note that you don’t speak/read Vietnamese, Korean or whatever and if they can reply in English that would be greatly appreciated, but not essential.

If the foreign-language reply is brief you can run it through Google translate to get the core meaning, and if the reply is positive then invest another fiver to get it professionally translated back into English so there’s no misunderstandings about what’s on offer.

DO NOT use Google translate to get a cheap translation of your letter to the publisher. At best it will be a poor translation and look unprofessional, saying more about you than your book, and at worst it could be complete gobbledegook.

If you have translated titles out in the big wide world, whether direct, through Babelcube or Fiberread, or through a publisher, it could also be well worth spending a fiver to get short blog posts and other promo tweets, etc) prepared.

Anyone using Blogger or WordPress for their English-language blogs will have seen those wonderful maps showing where your traffic is coming from, and this could be a great indicator of where you (and potentially your books) are finding interest overseas among English-language readers, and where you might therefore want to focus your global aspirations.

We are witnesses to, and can be party to, a global New Renaissance quite unprecedented in human history.

We have unprecedented reach and unprecedented opportunities.

Don’t let them pass you by.

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

The Intercontinental Indie Author

WestAfricaPt1-SpanishCover

When it comes to being an international indie author I like to do it from both ends.

The cover for the Spanish translation of Part One of my West Africa travelogue series, “West Africa Is My Back Yard, came in overnight. Now to format, upload and get it distributed around the world. But it already has more global credentials than you might expect.

Written right here in The Gambia in West Africa, it was translated into Spanish by a translator in Argentina in South America, and the cover was made by my regular designer in Indonesia in Asia. The English-language version has already seen sales as far apart as France, India and Brazil, but I’m looking forward to getting this title into multiple languages.

Most indies never give translations of their works a second thought because they believe

a) translations are unaffordable,

b) getting new covers in lots of different languages will require a second mortgage

c) no-one knows what ebooks are in the rest of the world, and

d) that the overseas markets are the exclusive preserve of the big-name authors with big-name publishers behind them.

Well, this particular book is pretty niche. A Spanish translation of a West Africa travelogue by a British ex-pat in one of the less-travelled parts of the world is hardly likely to set the charts on fire.

Is it worth an indie spending thousands on translators and hundreds on covers? For a proven bestseller, yes. For a niche title like this, no.

Which is where translator-partnerships and shoestring budgeting comes in.

I’ve covered the translation options before. (LINK)

For this title my Spanish-language translator in Argentina comes courtesy of Babelcube. No upfront costs.

And the cover cost me just five British pounds (about eight US dollars) from my Indonesian designer who plies his services on Fivesquid, the UK equivalent of Fiverr.

A few days ago I needed an update to another cover I’d first bought several years ago and paid $150 for. When I approached the designer she said it would cost me another fifty bucks to make the alteration and it would be a week before she would get to do it.

So I sent the cover to another designer I use on Fivesquid, in Romania, and the cover came back within four hours exactly as I wanted it, and cost me just a fiver.

Which is the same price I pay for all my translation covers and many of my originals now.

So far this month I’ve bought ten covers for my translated titles. At $100 a time that would have cost me a grand. At $50 a time that would have cost me $500.

Using the fiver sites I get ten covers for my translations for just $50.

As I do my own formatting that means each translation that goes live costs me just $5, and even a niche audience title like this one, aimed at a nascent market where ebook take-up is embryonic, can earn out in no time.

As I’ve said before (LINK) you can turn one title into six just by partnering with a translator and getting that title translated and selling in five different languages as well as English. One title becomes six without you writing an extra word.

Do that for two titles and those two titles become twelve.

Get five titles into five languages plus the English originals and your five title portfolio is suddenly a thirty title portfolio.

And somewhere down the road you’ll not only have new income streams but may just find yourself a truly international best-selling author.

It’s 2015, not 2009. The opportunities open to indies today are a world apart from just a few years ago when KDP launched and was only available in one country.

With two billion smartphones out there across the globe, each one capable of holding your ebooks, we have unprecedented reach and unprecedented opportunities.

Don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Invest in the future, now.

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

Google's Android One Launches In Africa. Thoughts On Arabic Translations.

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

The View From The Beach

Mark Williams At Large

Pray that you never get quite as obsessed about the global markets as I am.

Awoke this morning about 4.30 am (living in a Muslim West African country it pays to be awake before the dawn chorus call-to-prayer shakes you from beneath the mosquito net) and settled down to check the overnight emails while the water heated for my kickstart coffee.

But who needs coffee when there’s a report on publishing in Vietnam in the in-box?

Now that may be enough to send any normal person straight back into bed, but for me the outside world may not have existed for the next ten minutes, and I came back to reality only when my water pan boiled dry.

Vietnam is not on my recommended list right now because of state controls and other difficulties facing “foreign” authors, and for ebook-reliant indies only Google Play among the Big 5 retailers has an ebook store serving Vietnam, although you can get in through regional micro-aggregators like e-Sentral.

But while I’m not recommending Vietnam should be anyone’s priority target, I have to confess Vietnam is a personal priority for me, a) because I love a crazy challenge, and b) because I sincerely believe in the global New Renaissance. I’ll be making strenuous efforts to get at least some of my titles translated and available to Vietnam’s 90 million pepulation before 2016 is over.

The other priority for me is Africa. Not just because I live here, but because there are over a billion people on this continent and in the new globile (global mobile) world every one of them is a potential reader of our books.

So I had just refilled the water pan and was looking forward to my first coffee of the day when I felt that all-too-familiar adrenalin rush as another email in the in-box caught my eye. Google’s Android One has finally launched in Africa!

Cue second Happy Dance of the morning. 🙂

I’ve long said Google would lead the way in bringing the internet and western ebooks to Africa beyond the borders of South Africa (where currently Kobo and Google Play operate but there is no iBook ZA store and Amazon surcharges South African readers).

While a Google Play Book store has yet to happen, the new Android One initiative brings it a big step closer, with Google Android One phones (in partnership with Hong Kong’s Infinix) now available in Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Kenya – which by no coincidence whatsoever are among the wealthiest nations on the continent, and the ones I identified would be Google priorities a year or so ago.

There are ebook stores in Africa already (notably South Africa via OverDrive, and in Nigeria) but these are not easy access for western indies. But this latest move by Google is a big step forward, presaging not just Google Play Books stores in the not too distant future, but also laying the foundations for the rest of the Big 5 to look more closely at the continent.

Of those six countries Android One has just launched in, three are English-speaking – Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana – and English is of course widely spoken in the others. The first language of Ivory Coast and Morocco is French, so an easy target for our French translations, and Morocco and Egypt are of course also Arabic-speaking nations.

I’ve spoken often about the prospective opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa as the Arabic-speaking world gets noticed by the Big 5 retailers, and Google and Kobo are leading the way.

And while Arabic translations of your works are unlikely to bring you great rewards any time soon, don’t rush to dismiss Arabic as a worthwhile investment.

Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with over twenty-five Arabic-speaking countries. Total population over 400 million.

• Algeria
• Bahrain
• Chad
• Comoros
• Djibouti
• Egypt
• Eritrea
• Iraq
• Israel
• Jordan
• Kuwait
• Lebanon
• Libya
• Mauritania
• Morocco
• Oman
• Palestine
• Qatar
• Saudi Arabia
• Somalia
• South Sudan
• Sudan
• Syria
• Tunisia
• United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In all these countries smartphones are widespread, and many of these countries have wealthy and literate populations. The biggest hindrances to our ebook reach here are the usual twin-fold problems of availability (I think it safe to say Amazon blocks downloads to all these countries and Apple has no iBooks stores here) and accessibility (ie readers being able to make payments without credit cards).

Over the next five years we’ll see those issues confronted and solved as some of the Big 5 western retailers rise to the challenge.

And be prepared for an eastern operator to emerge in the nascent markets like these and run with the ball, rolling out ebook accessibility on a truly global scale.

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

Already we have reach quite unimaginable just five years ago. In another five years it’s a safe bet most of these countries, along with most of the rest of the world, will have both availability and accessibility to our titles.

Chasing Arabic translations right now might seem like a waste of time and energy. But get real.

The savvy author prepares for the future, and the future is globile. A global mobile market where digital products are accessible to everyone, everywhere on the planet.

Don’t wait until the train has left the station before you buy your ticket. Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Mark Williams international

The Future Is Globile!

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The View From The Beach

Mark Williams At Large

With India set to surpass the USA as the second-largest smartphone market after China, there’s never been a better time to start taking the global ebook scene – and especially India – seriously.

“While it often seems the tech world revolves around the US”, said VentureBeat earlier this month, “this next decade is shaping up to be quite different.” (LINK)

Well, no surprise there. I’ve been saying a long while now that the centre of digital gravity is shifting east. I’ve also been saying that there are some two billion people out there that hold a device that they could be reading our ebooks on.

And that number is growing by the day.

As the same VentureBeat post reports, global smartphone sales (not total, just new sales) will increase from 1.5 billion this year to 1.7 billion in 2017.

India will play a big part in that, with 118 million smartphones being sold in India this year. By 2017 the figure is expected to be 175 million.

And that may well be a very conservative estimate.

I’ve often talked here about Xiaomi, the upstart start-up in China that went from nowhere to become the number one smartphone maker in the country. They also sell ebooks, and as an aside are setting up an English-language ebook section in their Chinese store this year.

This month it has been announced Xiaomi are setting up their own manufacturing plant in India, which will bring down costs and make even more smartphones affordable to Indian consumers. (LINK)

Not to be outdone, Google recommitted to its exciting Android One project in India. (LINK)

Amazon of course is investing massively in India, and so, somewhat belatedly, is Apple, which saw 93% growth in India sales of its ebook-friendly iPhone 6 in April-June of this year following a big TV promotional campaign.

There isn’t an iBooks India store yet, but that will come. Meanwhile Apple devices are just one more instrument on which consumers in India can read our ebooks.

The problem of course – and the excuse we can all hide behind to avoid taking this seriously – is that India has only a woeful 19% internet penetration right now.

Nineteen percent! Now worth bothering with, right?

Let’s just knuckle down with the easy US market. The USA has 86% of its population online after all. An impressive 280 million people.

Why spare a second thought for India’s measly 19%?

Here’s why: That measly 19% equates to almost 245 million people. Just 25 million people short of the US number, and India is barely off the starting grid.

India needs just a 3% increase in internet take-up to equal the USA. A 5% increase will push India significantly ahead, and a 10% increase will leave the USA far behind.

Imagine what a 25% increase will do…

And then, if you brain can take the strain, give some thought to the rest of the world where internet access is also becoming “the norm”.

With projects like Google’s Loon and Facebook’s Aquila set to transform the way the less accessible parts of the world connect to the net, we are just at the start of an incredible journey.

Just last month Google announced a deal with the government of Sri Lanka to bring internet access to every part of the country via the Google Loon balloon project.

Facebook are already committed to connecting the Third World with the internet, as we see with their innovative (if controversial) internet.org initiative.

But with the Aquila drones project they quite literally move to new highs. Sixty thousand feet, in fact, which is where the Aquila drones will be flying.

While Amazon is working on drones that will one day deliver your POD book to someone’s door, Facebook’s solar-powered Aquila drones – each the size of a Boeing 747 – will be delivering your ebooks to places that right now can only dream of connecting to the internet.

But no need to wait for the Loon and Aquila projects to turn science fiction into reality.

Science fiction is already a reality for the over two billion people who now hold a device they could read our ebooks on.

Three billion is just around the corner, and five billion is on the cards as Loon and Aquila come of age to deliver the net, and as smartphone proliferation (and whatever comes to make them obsolete) escalates.

And that escalation might just exceed our wildest expectations.

Last year I reported on Xiaomi’s fabled flash-sales, when they would sell 40,000 smartphones in less than five seconds.

That is soooo last year. This past week Letv, another of those upstart startups we’ve never heard of, sold one million smartphones in just ninety days. (LINK)

In author terms, that’s one million devices that could be holding your ebooks, sold in just three months.

With 86% net penetration the USA’s 240 million internet users, important though they will remain, are just one small fraction of the reach we indie authors have right now, let alone the incredible reach we will have in five years time.

As indie authors we can and of course should all stay focused on the big western market(s) that sustains us now.

But it’s not rocket science to see the way things are going.

The US and UK markets are not going to get any less crowded with titles. Just the opposite.

• Fact: more and more people are self-publishing for the first time, producing a ton of new titles that compete for visibility and reader’s dollars with ours.

• Fact: more and more established indies are upping their output as they grow in confidence and keep churning out new titles. All competing with ours.

• Fact: more and more trad pub titles are seeing their contracts time out and rights revert. Guess what. The authors of those books are going to slap a cover on them and re-release, flooding the market with even more titles that will compete with ours.

• Fact: trad pub, instead of keeling over and waving its legs in the air as seemed to be the consensus view back in 2011-12, is going to churn out even more ebooks, flooding the market with more titles that will compete with ours.

• Fact: it’s not just fiction ebooks we have to worry about. Smartphones and tablets make great reading devices for the many areas of non-fiction and children’s fiction which, back in the dark ages of black & white ereaders, were an insignificant part of the market. All these new titles will be competing with ours.

• Fact: comics and graphic novels, not so long ago insignificant in the digital reading scheme of things, is now directly competing for readers’ attention. And often on the exact same device those readers will be reading our books on.

• Fact: it’s not just a tsunami of new reading material that we have to compete against. Digital games, digital music, digital film and TV, audio-books, social media… All right there on the same device as our ebooks.

And all this stuff is still in its infancy.

We know how hard it is already to get noticed in the e-stores if we aren’t big names or do not have a well-established brand. The future is just going to be more and more authors chasing an ever smaller slice of the American and British pies. Pies that, put simply, haven’t got much more room to grow.

Because let’s face it, even if US internet penetration increased to 100% and every single man, woman, child and baby in America was connected we’d be talking less than 350 million people.

Now that may sound a big number, but bear in mind we’re already talking 240 million right now.

The number of authors and titles competing for those readers’ attention is growing much faster than the number of readers who have attention to give.

So what’s a savvy indie author to do?

Well, we could take a step back, take a deep breath, and spend just a fraction of that time and effort we currently spend fighting for a share of the US and UK markets and invest in the future, laying the foundations for a truly global presence in a truly global market beyond our shores.

Because mobile is going global, and where mobile goes, the savvy indie authors ebooks will go too.

Make no mistake, the future of the internet is global mobile. And here I exert my right as an author to invent words and lay claim to the word “globile” to summarise this new phenomenon.

The nascent markets are going to expand at a phenomenal rate over the next decade, as the developing countries simply skip that expensive and cumbersome desktop and cable phase we grew up with, and go straight from no internet access to a globile world where everyone and their camel has a mobile device in their hands.

And for savvy indie authors this presents us with incredible opportunities, because just like the US market in 2010 and the UK market in 2011, the globile markets are still pretty much an open goal for those authors willing to go the extra mile.

While the individual globile markets may not (China aside) be as big as the US market, they collectively already pack a punch and can deliver a healthy chunk of change.

And in five years time…

Where will you be an author brand in 2020?

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

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

E Unum Pluribus – Going Global Part 2. The View From The Beach: Mark Williams At Large

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Last post I sketched a simple but very effective outline of how to vastly increase your global reach by adding substantial numbers of new titles to your catalogue without writing an extra word.

For anyone who missed it, go here (LINK) and get the background.

E Unum Pluribus, for those who flunked Latin, or simply prefer to live in the modern world, is an inversion of the US motto E Pluribus Unum, meaning From Many, One. The inverted version therefore means, From One, Many.

Get your bestselling English-language title translated into another language and you have two titles instead of one without writing an extra word. Get that same book translated into ten other languages and that one book is eleven titles.

Do that for three books and your three English-language titles become over thirty titles, all potentially selling around the globe to readers who would never know your English-language version existed.

And as I said last post, it needn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Since then, as this follow-up post is running late, many have emailed asking for more info. Apologies for that. Real life here in West Africa has an annoying habit of interfering with my schedule.

This post will be a brief outline of the options you might want to consider. In future post I’ll present a detailed how-to for the various options, but the more ambitious or impatient among you will find plenty here to get you off to a good start.

~~~

By chance I was researching Thor Heyerdahl for my newly-launched travelogue-memoir series West Africa Is My Back Yard. The first of the series should be available in Spanish in late August, in Portuguese and German later this year, and a half dozen more languages sometime in 2016.

Which sounds exciting until you consider Thor Heyerdahl’s flagship book The Kon-Tiki Expedition has been translated into seventy languages.

Of course, Thor Heyerdahl wasn’t an indie author charting the unexplored waters of global self-publishing. He had a publisher behind him able to take care of all that.

Which brings me to Option # 1: Trad Pub.

Back in 2012 my flagship title Sugar & Spice, marketed under the Saffina Desforges brand, was picked up by a small French publisher, who found the English version on a French retail site, loved it, and offered a rather nice advance, translation and promo package for the French-language rights.

The indie die-hards said it was crazy to hand the foreign rights to a traditional publisher. Pay for a translation, upload from home, and get 70%, they cried.

Yeah, right. The problem with that is that the rest of the world is not the United States or the UK. Had serious money been spent on a translation the chances are it still wouldn’t have earned out today.

France isn’t big on ebooks even now, and back then was even less so, so ebook sales were negligible, especially given the ebook price was just a fraction below the 20 euro price for the hardcover.

Obviously if it had been self-pubbed the price would have been a lot less, and ebook sales might have been better. But by how much? The French ebook market is still, in 2015, nowhere near where the UK ebook market was in 2011.

And the best print alternative would have been a POD version.

No hardcovers in French bookstores.

Not so important in the US, perhaps. Critical in a country like France that has yet to embrace ebooks in any meaningful way.

Instead a French publisher took control.

The advance alone was substantially more than it would have cost for the translation. The book then sold a respectable 50,000+ hardcovers and might have gone on to do far better had the publisher itself not encountered problems elsewhere in its business and was forced to call it a day. So rights reverted last year.

And it has to be said, current French ebook sales even at the far cheaper price currently on offer, are lightyears away from the hardcover sales the traditional publisher was able to bring in. And I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Bottom line is, for most of the world print ebooks have yet to reach even 10% of the local book market, so a focus on print as well as digital should be a key part of any self-respecting indie’s going-global strategy.

No matter how much we may loathe the idea, the reality is trad pub is by far the most effective way of gaining traction in the print market on foreign shores.

November marks my fifth anniversary as a digital author, and for my “relaunch” for the next five years global print availability will be a key part of my plans.

That means reaching out to trad publishers large and small across the globe to see what might be on offer.

But here’s the thing: it does not mean you need to compromise your indie position back home if you are doing well with digital in the more mature ebook markets like the US and UK.

Global rights should always be viewed in the plural.

Not one all-encompassing “world rights” deal, but myriad deals for each and every language, country and territory you can make happen.

Seek out and approach trad publishers big and small in as many places as you possibly can. Most countries do not have literary agencies, so a direct appeal to the publisher is often the way to do it. A sometime-in-the-future post on how best to go about this – everything from finding publishers, to best ways to approach them, to clinching deals, and to protecting your rights. But for the impatient among you, savvy use of Google or your preferred search engine would be a good place to start.

The downside with Option # 1 is of course that having a publisher take on all the hard work will result in lower royalties per unit ebook sale. And when your target audience is your home-market in the ebook-mature US and UK that has to be a serious consideration.

But most of us are not even selling that well in the other key English-language markets like Australia and New Zealand, let alone the foreign-language markets. So a pragmatic approach should take precedence over any ideological fixations along the lines of self-pub-good-trad-pub-bad.

Here’s the thing: can you realistically do it on your own?

If a trad pub deal with a publisher in France or Fiji, Morocco or Malaysia, Oman or Outer Mongolia, gets your titles in front of an audience in a country where you cannot by any reasonable, cost-effective means get to yourself then it really should be a no-brainer.

At its simplest, x-percent of something is a whole lot better than 100 percent of nothing.

Yes, in five or ten years time there might conceivably be an easy-access self-pub portal in Outer Mongolia and you might conceivably be able to top the charts in the Kindle Mongolia store and be signing your books for avid readers in Ulan Bator.

But by then you’ll have a ton more books written to go down that route with, in the unlikely event that scenario was realised. Meantime you could be gaining traction and establishing your author brand in readiness, with the help of a traditional publisher and a presence in the global print market.

But this post is about translations with ebooks the key focus, so let’s look at Option # 2: Buy Your Translations Outright.

At first glance, this seems by far the best choice if you have the cash to splash. It’s just an extension of what most indies already are doing to get covers designed, to get editing and proof-reading done, etc. Pay a fixed sum for the job and reap all the rewards down the road. A no-brainer, right?

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

First off, it’s a huge up-front expense. Translations do not come cheap.

Over at the translators’ café (LINK) http://www.translatorscafe.com/ a rate of $0.05 a word is about average for non-technical translations.

Not too bad for a translated tweet, perhaps, but a 5,000 word short story will set you back $250. Selling at 0.99 on Amazon you’ll need to clear well over 700 sales just to break even. And that’s without paying someone to check the translator’s work, and paying for the foreign-language cover, and other costs like formatting. And then there’s getting the blurb and keywords translated, and…

An 80,000 word novel at that rate will set you back $4,000. Not bad if you are already established in that language and can command a premium price on the foreign retail sites. But a helluva risk if you are barely ticking over in English and a total unknown globally.

Selling at 2.99 you’ll need to sell 2,000 copies before you earn out, again without taking account of other expenses. And that’s assuming you are collecting 70%. Which you ,most definitely cannot assume when it comes to going global.

This is where things get complicated.

Supposing you spend four grand on a Spanish translation and you are in KDP Select. You may be thinking you’ll be picking up 70% from sales in Spain and all those Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, but the reality is rather different.

Amazon will pay you 70% in Spain and Mexico. For the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, where Amazon allows downloads at all, you’ll be getting just 35% of list price. And to complicate matters further, list price will not be what the reader is paying. Amazon will be imposing a $2-$4 Whispersync charge on top of your set list price, of which you will see nothing. So even if a reader does pay $6.99 for your $2.99 title you’ll only see a dollar of it.

No, none of this is anti-Amazon. This is simple fact.

When thinking globally, the Amazon Whispersync charge and the 35% royalty outside of the dozen Kindle countries are things you need to take account of when investing serious sums for outright translation deals to reach the global markets.

The upside of the pay-up-front model is, once you’ve earned out the fee all the royalties will be profit.

But…

The downside is, that book is out there on its own. Probably just the ebook and maybe a POD, and with few exceptions (Germany, China) in a market where ebooks are just beginning to gain acceptance.

Let’s assume you’re savvy enough to be able to get access to all the key ebook markets for that language. That’s pretty easy for the German language, with Germany, Austria and Switzerland the key players.

Not so easy for Spanish where, Spain aside, the key market is Latin America. Amazon considerations as above. Mexico aside you’ll be getting just 35%, and you’ll only get 70% in Mexico if you are exclusive with Amazon.

Apple and Google Play are in some Latin American countries (Apple paying 70% and Google Play just over 50%) and Kobo is a token player. With Txtr and Nook out of the international game you really need to be looking at the domestic retailers in the region. But getting your books into the key domestic Latin American retailers is not at all easy.

And even if you can get your titles there, how will anyone know?

How do you promote and market your foreign language title in a foreign language you don’t speak or write? How many twitter followers and Facebook friends do you have in Argentina or Chile? In Guatemala or El Salvador? In the Netherlands or India? How would you get any?

How do you answer emails from fans in Spanish or Dutch or Hindi if you don’t speak that language? How do you take advantage of the self-pub portals in foreign lands (everywhere from Mexico to Vietnam right now and more coming) if you can’t navigate the foreign-language site?

There’s no question you should be available in these places, and in local languages it at all possible. That early start could transform your prospects down the road, quite apart from bringing in useful income trickles now. But does it make financial sense to pay outright translation fees for even one book at this stage, let alone several?

To my mind, no. Even with a proven international bestseller like Sugar & Spice that has topped the charts in several countries I’m simply not convinced this option is worthwhile at this stage in the game. Not when there are so many alternatives that can help you get a foothold on foreign shores.

Presuming you’re not a one-book wonder you’ll have plenty of future opportunities to go down the pay-up-front route, and as these foreign markets mature that will probably become cost-effective. But for now, I recommend a focus on getting maximum reach and maximum exposure without taking out a second mortgage.

Which brings me to Option 3: Translator Partnerships.

For my partnership arrangements I offer the partner translator nothing up-front, but a tasty 50% of net proceeds for the life of the foreign-language title they translate.

In return I ask for far more than just a translation. I want partners who will not just translate, but also help market and distribute afterwards, for the lifetime of the book.

The incentive is all on the translator. They undertake the task because they believe in the book and they believe they can not just render a great translation but also help market it effectively in their language.

The more it sells the more they make. If it dies a death after the first week you’ve lost the cost of the cover and whatever. They’ve lost months of hard work.

Crucially the partner-translator understands that from day one and if they climb on board with your project they do so not as a day-job to be done, dusted and forgotten, but as a financial investment.

Again, it may at first glance seem like collecting 50% less money just to save on paying out a lump-sum for the translation is a dumb idea. But, unless you are able to competently handle ALL the issues arising from having a foreign language title selling in a foreign land, then it makes a lot of sense.

By which I mean not just the translation, but local uploads, blurbs, keywords, cover and back cover translations, tweets and other promo, press releases, responding to queries from readers and possibly publishers, making sense of reviews, engaging with foreign book clubs, finding a local POD operator, talking to bookstores in that country about stocking the title…

A translator-partner will understand all this, and while they may need some help making sense of the self-publishing world, they’ll be keen to learn, because every sale you make is a sale they earn on too.

Again, don’t confuse profit-sharing with giving your hard-earned cash away.

The translator will be getting 50% of something you never had before, and wouldn’t otherwise be getting now, so it costing you nothing in real terms. And crucially you’ll be getting the other 50% where before you had nothing for sales of your book in that language. And they are doing all the hard work!

How to find a partner translator? You can ask around on sites like Translators’ Café and Proz, for starters. There are a ton of sites where translators can connect, and while pretty much all are set-fee focused, there are plenty of opportunities to negotiate.

But better still you should, if you’ve been making yourself known on the international circuit with your English-language titles, and have been using your social media presence wisely and not focused exclusively on the US market, have a wealth of contacts to draw upon to find the right people.

The downside of this type of arrangement is sorting contracts, handling payments, etc. This can be quite challenging.

So wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as a translation aggregator along the lines of Smashwords or Draft2Digital that could connect you with a translator, handle all the distribution, collect all the monies and share out the rewards on a pre-agreed basis while you just sit back and put your feet up?

Say hello to Options # 4 and 5: The Translation Aggregators.

There are a small number of outfits out there that fit the bill. I’ve tried a few and can recommend two of them: Babelcube and Fiberead.

Both are translation aggregators, but they work on slightly different models and have different reach, so I’ll briefly deal with them separately here in outline. In future posts I’ll offer a detailed breakdown of how each one works and how best to use them.

Fiberead.

Regular readers will know that late last year I became the first and so far only western indie to hit #1 on the Kindle China store. The Mandarin Chinese translation of Sugar & Spice also charted on numerous other Chinese ebook retailers.

This came as a big surprise to the many indies that didn’t even know China sold ebooks, let alone that Amazon has a Kindle store there. In fact China is the second largest ebook market on the planet and will soon be bigger than the US.

But, being China, access is strictly controlled. To sell your books in China you need to distribute through a domestic operator, which is why the Kindle CN store is not part of KDP.

As has been reported here on the Ebook Bargains UK blog many times, interest in English-language ebooks in China is soaring, and trad pub is doing all it can to get a slice of the action. There are only about ten million competent English speakers in China right now, but English is the lingua franca of the world and there are three hundred million English-language learners, many of whom will be eagerly buying the few English-language books that are available.

But of course that number pales beside the number of Chinese speakers who will be buying local-language titles. And while they may well gravitate to Chinese authors, all the evidence suggests the same desire to learn English and engage with western culture means they will also swarm to competent translations of English-language books.

My own Sugar & Spice makes the point. An extremely dark crime thriller about the hunt for a child killer, set in small town Britain, went from nowhere to #1 on Kindle China within weeks of release, and is still hovering in the top 500 in store nine months later.

And it got there thanks to Fiberead. (LINK)

Fiberead are a China-based translation-aggregator that lets you load up your English-language titles and if approved Fiberead undertake, at no up-front cost to you, to have them translated into Mandarin Chinese and marketed not just across China’s myriad ebook stores (many of which are much bigger than Kindle CN) but globally, reaching Chinese readers around the world. The Chinese version of Sugar & Spice, for example, is available not just in the Amazon US store but also in Books-A-Million, Nook, etc.

But of course it is the prospective China sales that make this so exciting. Not just right now, when the Chinese ebook market is still in its infancy, but for the future when the Chinese ebook market will dwarf the US ebook market.

I know some authors who have had books on Fiberead and have been disappointed with the results, but Sugar & Spice is living proof that Fiberead can deliver. At the end of the day there are no guarantees for any book in any language. Some will do well. Some won’t. One more reason to keep the pay-up-front option at arms-length until you are well-established.

The one thing you can guarantee is that if your book isn’t available for sale in a given country it won’t sell there.

So when an operator like Fiberead is offering the chance to reach the extremely lucrative and extremely fast-growing China market with no up-front cost, when there is no other realistic way in, it really is a no-brainer not to give it a try.

A detailed break-down of the Fiberead operation soon.

Here just to say that, while up until end 2014 Fiberead were actively seeking new authors, there’s now a long waiting list to get accepted.

Babelcube .

Babelcube (LINK)  runs on different rails.

Babelcube is a multi-language translation-aggregator, but with the key difference being that whereas Fiberead finds translators for you, Balelcube acts as an interface between would-be translators and authors.

You load up your titles to Babelcube and either wait for a translator to make an offer, or you can approach listed translators and pitch direct to them.

The deal is that no money changes hands, but when a translation has been agreed and completed it will be published by Babelcube through their not-insignificant distribution network. Babelcube will then, like Fiberead, share the proceeds among author and translator on a pre-agreed basis, plus of course a percentage for Babelcube.

Does it work?

Well, I’ve not emulated the China success just yet, but I’ve now had several titles translated and published through Babelcube, and am seeing sales from them that I would otherwise never have had, in languages I was not previously available in.

It’s working for me!

I’ve got a dozen more titles currently at various stages of translation in my Babelcube account, and the plan is to get translations of all my titles in all the available languages (currently ten) on Babelcube just as soon as it can be done.

Babelcube is a great idea, and while there are some minor irritations and of course there are ways it could be improved, it’s unquestionable a great way to connect with prospective translators and get your titles widely distributed.

~~~

 So there you have it. Five ways to get into the global ebook marketplace with translations of your works.

Which is the best? Well, aside from the pay-up-front option, why not try them all?

Fiberead is the obvious (and pretty much only) choice for China.

But why not hunt down a traditional publisher in India or Indonesia, Poland or Hungary, Nigeria or Turkey?

And sound out your contacts to find a translator-partner for another language.

Then pop along to Babelcube and try get a translator and let Babelcube take the strain for a Spanish or Portuguese or Italian translations, for example.

Before you know it your 1 title could be in 5 other languages. From 1 title, 6. E unum pluribus.

But why stop there?

Thor Heyerdahl has set the bar for me. It’s 71 languages or bust!

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

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China’s Golden Age For Writers.

The China Gold Rush For Western Indies.

China Daily today confirms what we’ve mentioned here before – that some Chinese indie authors are picking up the USD equivalent of $1.6m per year from e-writing. (LINK)

That’s the top end, of course, but many more are doing very nicely at slightly more moderate levels, and handful of western indies are enjoying the rewards too.

At the moment the easiest way into the China market is the translation and aggregation service Fiberead (LINK), but that will change soon enough as other operators realise the potential here to leverage western literature in the barely started but already humungous Chinese digital-reading market.

Fiberead is largely retailer-focused, and while I’ve of course no complaints about what Fiberead has achieved for me (first western indie to hit #1 on Kindle China for those unfamiliar), and I’m working closely with Fiberead on new projects, there is much more on my horizon.

My sights are set on the many micro-payment sites which is where the readers are, and where savvy Chinese authors are making the serious money. Think Wattpad but getting paid. 🙂

No easy access to these sorts of sites from outside the country, which is why I am cultivating contacts within China to help me go to the next level in reaching Chinese readers.

There are incredible opportunities in the global markets right now for those of us willing to go the extra mile, stake our claim and do some prospecting.

China is by far the largest, but by no means the only goldmine out there for savvy indies willing to take the international markets seriously.

No, there are no just-add-water instant-gratification solutions, but if you are ambitious, willing to work hard, and not averse to the occasional risk, the whole world is your potential audience as the global New Renaissance gets out of first gear.

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What Are The Top Five Countries For Romance Ebook Sales?

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We all know romance is a very, very popular genre and many ebooks authors are doing exceptionally well, but we also know most only focus their attention on two countries – the US and UK – and of course therefore only see results from two countries.

We’ve been arguing a long time now that the global market is worth the effort, but very few indies are taking this seriously. We ran a post here back in February stressing the significance of the Indian market for romance writers. Again, it fell on largely deaf ears.

This week there emerged some new data that shows how wrong you are to be ignoring the wider world.

What are the top five countries for romance ebooks? Obviously the US and UK take poll positions.

But in third, fourth and fifth place in order are…drum roll please…India, Australia and South Africa.

And the stores are worth looking at. Obviously it goes without saying Amazon is top, and Apple and Nook close behind. But this report from Epub Direct also cites the following stores as performing well with romance titles.

Quote:

Other sales channels that are quite virile are ebooks.com, Flipkart, Kobo, Sainsbury, Txtr, Asia Books, Fishpond and Libri.

Unquote.

For the UK, read W H Smith for Kobo, and for Australia Angus & Robertson and Bookworld.

Ebooks.com is an Australian store (the oldest ebook store still going in fact!) that sells in US dollars. Supplied via Ingram.

Sainsbury is off limits to indies, but make no mistake Sainsbury (and lately Tesco – too early for any stats for Blinkbox) are doing very well.

Txtr gets a mention. Remember Txtr has twenty global stores, and you can be sure most of Txtr’s sales are not coming from the Txtr US and Txtr UK sites… Txtr are not in India, which means Txtr sales will be coming from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and mainland Europe. If you are with Smashwords or Ebook Partnership you will be in the Txtr stores.

Flipkart is well up there, of course. See our Valentine’s post to understand why Indians love western romances.

Then there’s small players like Libri, Asia Books and Fishpond that indies just love to write off as a waste of time.

Of course Epub Direct, who compiled this report, supply a ton of other retailers too. In fact they have the best reach of any distributor, including getting titles into the key UK stores WH Smith, Sainsbury and Tesco Blinkbox, all off limits to indies.

No, Epub Direct don’t deal with indies (logistical, not philosophical – they are not anti-indie, just not set up to cater for individuals) but what they don’t know about ebook distribution and selling probably isn’t worth knowing.

If you are with a publisher make sure they know about Epub Direct and (if they are big enough) demand they sign up. For the rest of us… Well, for now they are off limits, but we’re hoping someone from Epub Direct will come and share with us their thoughts on how things migt pan out in the future.

Meanwhile, a few other key points from this report:

Subscription services are performing well for romance. Ditto for libraries except for erotica, where many libraries filter titles or – as with OverDrive and Smashwords – simply don’t want to know.

Romance titles see less blockbusters so the market is far more evenly spread and self-pubbers have a better chance of getting in. Look at any best-seller chart where indies are to see this is true.

Romance titles do well in series and are less affected by seasonal buying, so a good year round bet.

Nor is it just India. Michael Tamblyn, Kobo’s president said this week “For e-book retailers like us, it has helped Romance become a huge part of our business.” As we all know, Kobo is not amajor player in the US, so these sales are coming from elsewhere.

But to finish this post a reminder- India is the third biggest market for English language romance titles according to one of the world’s biggest ebook distributors. And no, you don’t need to write about Indian characters in Indian settings to appeal to Indian readers, as we said in the EBUK post in February, and as the new Epub Direct report shows.

 

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Scribd – What It Is And Why You Should be There

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The first Scribd results are in for Smashwords, and it’s looking good.

Over at the Smashwords blog Mark Coker reports “It was the largest first-month sales for any new Smashwords retail partner in the last five years.” April figures were even more impressive.

Coker also reports on a Scribd promo dedicated to indie authors. Check out the Smashwords blog for more details.

Not in Scribd? You’re not alone.

Scribd is a fine example of the parallel universes readers and authors inhabit. Many indie authors have never heard of Scribd, and even fewer have given it a second thought a venue to reach readers.

Yet Scribd has over one hundred million registered users globally and gets EIGHTY MILLION unique visitors each month.

No, that’s not typo. Eighty million a month!

No, not all those visitors are looking for ebooks, but many will be and that number will be increasing by the day thanks to the ebook subscription service Scribd offers.

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First, some background. Scribd has been around for a while now. It launched in 2007 as a global document sharing platform, and since as long ago as 2009 – the same year Amazon launched the KDP – Scribd has been selling ebooks.

In January 2013 Scribd soft-launched its ebook subscription service as part of its premium content offerings, with an official launch in October 2013. By the end of 2013 the ebook subscription service was one of the biggest of its kind.

Amazon famously lets you borrow a whole ONE ebook a month for free if you are a paid-up Prime member, and that free ebook comes from the limited selection available in Select, which of course will be free at some stage regardless. And of course it excludes all mainstream-published titles.

Scribd lets you pay $8.99 a month and you get to read as much as you like from an impressive range of titles from big name authors. HarperCollins, for example, has put much of their back-catalogue into Scribd.

Why would anyone want to use Scribd instead of buying from Amazon or B&N or Google Play or whatever their favourite retailer is?

The answer is very simple, and why subscription ebook services like Scribd are the new black.

Here’s the thing. When you buy an ebook from Amazon (or any other retailer – I’m using Amazon as an example because it’s the one most indies are familiar with) you don’t actually buy the ebook.

No, seriously. You may think that when you click on “Buy” and the retailer takes money from your account that means you’ve bought an ebook and it’s yours to keep. The reality is rather different.

Never mind that it’s an intangible you can never hold or touch or put on the shelf. You don’t even own the ebook once you’ve paid for it!

What you buy is the licence to read that ebook on a certain range of devices subject to the whim of the retailer. You don’t own the ebook and you never will. You can’t resell it, or even give it away when you’ve finished.

Let’s spell that out clearly, because this is going to impact on your indie author career whether you like it or not.

An ebook you “buy” from a retailer is licensed to you. It’s not yours any more than a library book is yours. Savvy readers understand this and ask themselves why they would want to pay top whack for an ebook when they might be able to get the same title on their device for a token fee from a library or subscription service.

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Of course we all know that subscription services and digital libraries are so new – America only invented them last year – that readers don’t even know they exist, so we indies needn’t worry. Just carry on as we are.

But there’s the problem. Readers. The fly in the ointment of all ambitious indie authors. If it wasn’t for pesky readers our lives would be so much simpler. Just load up to KDP and sit back and watch the cash roll in.

The trouble is, readers (who are the ones who actually pay us, remember. Amazon, Nook, Apple et al are just the middlemen in this game) don’t really care about our convenience or well-being. They just want good books at good prices, and they will go to retailers and outlets that suit them, not us.

As more and more subscription services appear, so more and more readers will migrate to them. Scribd saw three million downloads of its Android app in its first month after the official launch in October, and in February this year Scribd lunched a KindleFire app after 100,000 Scribd ebook subscription service users said they wanted to use Scribd on their Amazon device.

Pause briefly to ponder the significance. If you own a KindleFire it’s pretty much a given that you buy your ebooks at Amazon. Not compulsory, but the two tend to go hand in hand. Yet here, in the space of a couple of months, are 100,000 KindleFire owners asking for an app for their device so they can read ebooks from the Scribd subscription service.

Why? Because, as above, you don’t own your ebook from Amazon, so why buy a licence each time you want to read a book if you can pay Scribd $8.99 a month and download as many ebooks as you like?

No, Scribd hasn’t got several million titles to choose from like on Amazon, but the selection is big and growing fast as more and more publishers and authors clamber aboard.

And of course it’s not just Scribd playing havoc with the big retailer’s hopes and aspirations. Oyster currently supplies Apple iTunes and is US only, but will soon have an Android version for all devices and has ambitions on the wider world.

Both Scribd and Oyster are accessible to indies through Smashwords or Bookbaby.

The other subscription services aren’t so indie-friendly right now, but give them time… Entitle face an uphill struggle with some bizarre pricing decisions, but may yet turn their boat around. Epic, the subscription service for children’s ebooks, has recently obtained new funding and will be expanding into Europe later this year. That’s just a few from many US options.

And won’t the Europeans be delighted to finally see some subscription ebook action? That’s the problem being away from the cutting edge of the ebook industry in the US. The rest of the world are just so far behind with this ebook malarkey.

But don’t tell that to 24 Symbols in Spain, Skoobe in Germany, Riidr in Denmark or the many other subscription services around the globe, including in Russia, which many analysts are predicting will be the third biggest ebook market after the US and China before this year is out.

Total Boox in Israel is now sending ebooks to US readers and libraries.

And don’t even mention Nuvem de Livros, an ebook subscription service for Argentina and Brazil that is set to roll out across the rest of Latin America this year. Nuvem de Livros already boasts one million subscribers. If you’re not seeing many sales from Kindle Brazil, Apple Brazil, Google Play Brazil or Kobo’s Brazilian partner store Livraria Cultura in Brazil it may just be that many readers are too busy reading ebooks from Nuvem de Livros or borrowing ebooks from digital libraries instead.

Digital libraries? The other elephant in the room for indies who want to believe a certain well-known US store is the be all and end all of their existence. Because for the same reason that subscription ebook services are taking off – that you will never own the ebook you “buy” – so savvy readers are turning to digital libraries to sate their hunger for ebooks.

Last year North America’s leading supplier of ebooks to libraries in the USA and Canada, OverDrive, saw one hundred million digital downloads. The numbers this year are expected to dwarf that figure. And OverDrive is just one of many options to get your ebooks into digital libraries, not just in the US and Canada but around the world.

Oh, and as an aside Overdrive doesn’t just supply libraries. It will also get your ebooks into key retailers like Books A Million in North America, Kalahari and Exclus1ves in South Africa, Waterstone’s in the UK, and a host of other outlets globally. OverDrive has just this week signed up a deal to take content to and bring content from Japan.

And news just in – Baker & Taylor now supply ebooks to Canadian libraries. Those of you with Smashwords or Bookbaby should see some benefits.

But back to Scribd.

One of the downsides to Scribd is concerns about piracy. Scribd operate a two-tier service and the free file-sharing platform does seem open to abuse, as pretty much anyone can upload anything. The premium platforms – including the ebook subscription service – appear to have resolved this problem. The fact that a major publisher like HarperCollins has signed up with them should reassure those with concerns. Bottom line is, piracy happens. It happens on Amazon, on Kobo, etc. It’s something we have to live with.

But Scribd isn’t sitting back and hoping for the best. They have a new system in place – Book ID – to help keep Scribd a healthy place for authors. Check out the details on Book ID here.

How to get into Scribd? You can go direct, but both Smashwords and Bookbaby now offer you an easy route in. Which is best? Hard to say at this stage as Smashwords titles have just started to get results and Bookbaby is a little behind them.

If you are with Smashwords for the other subscription service Oyster then I would recommend you go to Bookbaby for Scribd. Why?

First, it’s always good to spread the load. Putting all your eggs in one basket is asking for trouble.

Second, Bookbaby has a reputation for quality which Smashwords sadly lacks. Bookbaby requires validated epubs and ISBNs, which means only the more serious indie authors go there, and there are controls over what gets through. Smashwords is a free-for-all load-what-you-like option.

Third, Smashwords also has a reputation as a Triple X porn site, which Bookbaby most definitely has not. As above, Smashwords is a free-for-all load-what-you-like option.

But let’s end on a positive note. Scribd and the other ebook subscription services, along with digital libraries, are going to be major players in the coming years as more and more readers reject the idea of paying for a licence for every ebook they read and pay a token fee to a library or a monthly fee to a subscription service and read all they want.

Whether it’s Scribd, Oyster or some other subscription option, getting your ebooks into the subscription model and the digital library distributors should be your priority.

The readers are already there. Are you?

 

 Ebook Bargains UK

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Far more than just the UK.