Tag Archives: international ebook sales

Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

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2016: The Year So Far For Internationalist Indie Authors

2016 The Year So Far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meantime, back to 2016 so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s Apple.

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

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

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

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

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

Something to keep an eye on as this year unfolds.

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

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

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

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

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

Video, for example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not least Booktopia.

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

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

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

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

Very little, no doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being available is half the battle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am. How about you?

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

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

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

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

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Finally for today, and staying with China:

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

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

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

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

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

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

But let’s come back to going globile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go globile in 2016!

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

 

 

 

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The International Indie Author Is Now On Facebook

It’s probably a bank holiday where you are right now, so the briefest of posts to mention the formal launch of The International Indie Author’s Facebook Group.

This weekend yet another broadband satellite went into orbit. Launched from Kazakhstan and serving (from the end of the year) the Pacific region, it’s a reminder of how truly globile (global mobile) our world is becoming.

So no better time to be climbing on board the international indie author crusade.

For those interested you can find the Facebook Group here (LINK).

It’s a public group and open to any and all to join and contribute to. If you have any useful experiences of going global, or spot any pertinent news stories about the global publishing market, do share.

But please, no book promo. Only include a link to your book if making  a point about, or contributing a post about , the global publishing markets.

Which basically means that big wide world beyond the US-UK axis that most indies focus on.

English-language titles selling well outside the US and UK markets? Charting on Amazon India or Amazon Mexico? Seeing sales through Kobo in Japan or the Philippines? Getting good results from the Tolino stores across Europe? That’s news. We want to hear about it in the FB group, and yes, with relevant links.

Getting your works translated through Fiberead, Babelcube or by some other means? That’s pertinent. Come and and share your experiences in the FB group.

Seeing chart success with your by translations? That’s worth linking to. Come and show us it can be done!

Got a question about the global markets. Put it up in the FB Group and if I don’t have the answer someone else may.

There’s only a handful of members right now, because the group has only just today been officially announced, so come and help bump those numbers up and meet fellow indie authors travelling the global journey to international sales.

The International Indie Author Facebook Group

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

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

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

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

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

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.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Bookbaby Looks East – Why Indie Authors Should Too.

GoGlobalIn2014_500First, a quick word for those wondering where we’ve been lately. The blog has fallen behind partly because our main Features Writer has been lazing about pretending to be sick, but what really hurt us in April – and also disrupted the daily promo newsletters – was something quite beyond our control. Blackmail attempts by criminal gangs attacking the newsletter providers, demanding money in return for leaving them alone.

In mid-April we lost all access to Mailchimp’s design features for the daily newsletters. In desperation we switched to an alternative newsletter service, Get Response. Just as we were about to go live again, Get Response disappeared completely.

Criminals blackmailing cyber-companies is sadly a reality. Many prefer the public not to know about it. Get Response were more open. You can read their statement here, including the blackmailer’s demands.

Okay, excuses over. Time to put April behind us. But it was a busy month on the global ebook scene, so we can’t just ignore it. So, at risk of a rather long post this time we’ve strung together some of the many smaller items that would have gone out last month, updated with the very latest news.

~

We were saying last year that the ebook world of 2014-16 will be as different from 2013 as 2013 was from 2009. So with the first quarter of 2014 behind us, just how is 2024-16 shaping up?

Bookbaby now delivers to Oyster.

Mark Coker’s Smashwords came under pressure yet again in April as rival aggregator Bookbaby added Oyster to its already impressive distribution range.

Oyster is the second largest ebook subscription service in the US, after Scribd. Some observers count Amazon Prime’s one free ebook a month as a subscription service, but of course no-one is signing up to Prime for the free ebook, so no real comparison). At the moment Oyster only supports Apple devices, but word is Oyster will be expanding to Android soon.

As we’ve reported elsewhere, Scribd is doing rather well, with over 300,000 titles, and at the time of this post there is a free three-month subscription on offer. Try it out!

Scribd have also just issued an infographic showing where their readers are, what they are reading, how much they read and even how fast! The infographic doesn’t have much detail, but even from this brief glimpse we see signs of international reach the big retailers can only dream of, ranging across the continents from Uruguay to Nigeria to Indonesia. Scribd still needs to address its payments options (see below) but is potentially the biggest global player out there. Already more than fifty per cent of Scribd subscribers are outside the US.

Smashwords led the way giving indie authors access to Scribd’s subscribers, but Bookbaby soon followed suit. Bookbaby also now has a free-to-upload option, where they take a percentage of sales like Smashwords, so no up-front costs. For indie authors who eschew Smashwords for whatever reason (many do, for many reasons – we’ll be taking a close look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Smashwords soon) Bookbaby can now get you into both Scribd and Oyster. Indies now have an excellent opportunity to grow their readership as the ebook subscription services grow, not just in the US but internationally.

Inkbok’s subscription service went live at the end of March, and Entitle have just brought down their price and upped the number of books you can read each month. There are a good few other options readers can choose from, including specialist children’s subscription ebook services like Epic! and iStoryTime. Sadly most are not indie-friendly right now. But watch this space…

Just as we were about to post this the following headline went live over at The Digital Reader: Publishers Are Signing Up With Subscription Services In Droves. Nate thinks 2014 will be the year of the ebook subscription service. Us? Well, we were saying ebook subscription services are the new black back in January.

As we’ve reported elsewhere, ebook subscription services have been popular in Europe and Latin America for some years now, and just as US-based operators like Scribd, Amazon, Google Play et al are sending ebooks out across the globe, so international retailers and ebook subscription services are eyeing the American market.

Israel’s subscription service Total Boox, for example, is providing ebooks to American libraries. Both the Latin American ebook retailer BajalLibros and the German operator ‘txtr have dedicated US ebook stores. Brazil’s Movile, which is now getting into children’s ebooks, has operations in 26 countries including the US and Australia.

It’s important to understand ebook distribution is not a one-way street, and while it may seem like America is the centre of the digital universe, don’t be too sure.

As market fragmentation accelerates so more and more overseas players will target the key western markets like the US, UK and Germany. Expect Chinese, Indonesian and other operators to be offering ebooks where you live in the not too distant future.

Not convinced? Smartphones and tablets are proliferating globally at an incredible rate. To take but one example, China’s Xiaomi (which beat Amazon to having a stream-to-TV set-top box by a year) are delivering affordable smartphones across the globe. This year Xiaomi will be shipping smartphones to Brazil. Turkey, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India.

In November 2013 Xiaomi launched its own ebook store in China. Once the infrastructure is in place – and there’s no reason why the Xiamoi ebook app can’t come pre-installed on all these devices – it’s a small step to start looking around for local content. As said above, expect Chinese operators to be offering ebooks in your homeland in the not too distant future.

Plenty of Far East players are already getting devices into the US markets. Go to any smartphone and tablet price comparison site – or even look on Amazon – and you’ll find unpronounceable cheap devices ($100 and lower) alongside the big names we all know and love.

The tech geeks will tell you nobody would touch these with a barge pole. But here’s the thing. Most people aren’t tech geeks. They just want affordable devices that do the job. Fact: In America Amazon’s KindleFire market share fell last year – thanks to cheap Chinese tablets flooding the US market.

To put things further into context, check out this chart over at The Digital Reader. Apple accounted for 40% of tablets shipped in the last quarter. That’s 19 million units. Samsung 17% – 8 million units. Asus and Lenova are at third and fourth place, but what’s really significant is that “Others” – sixth place and below – comprising small players most of us will never have heard of, accounted for 31% of US shipments, or 15 million units.

The KindleFire, since you ask, only comes in at fifth, having seen shipments fall off a cliff in the first quarter, down from 5.5 million to just 1 million units.

When it comes to eastern penetration into western markets we expected the South Korean colossus Samsung would be leading the way, but the Samsung ebook store seems to be permanently in beta, and given Amazon has recently teamed up with Samsung to have the Kindle app pre-installed on Samsung devices it’s unclear where Samsung is going with ebooks.

Japan’s Sony has of course been there, got the t-shirt and found it didn’t fit. Sony have just pulled out of North America, but remember it still has ebook stores in Europe and Australia, and Sony Reader Store UK has been running some great promotions this year.

As we’ve reported before, apps for ebook stores like Blio come pre-installed on many smartphones and tablets. We understand Blio is a feature on many devices sold in India. No data handy on how Blio are doing, but in April the Aldiko ebook reader app (complete with Aldiko ebook store) surpassed twenty million downloads.

That might be small beer compared to Kindle app downloads, but multiply these numbers across the countless less well known apps out there on those even more countless tablets and smartphones nobody’s ever heard of but that are still selling, – many of which are available in places where the apps of Amazon, Apple et al are redundant –  and these “obscure” apps matter.

Many of these apps will originate in the east, not the west. Indonesian app-based stores like Scoop are already heading west and targeting the lucrative India market, which brings us neatly to Flipkart.

Bookbaby now delivers to Flipkart.

It seemed Smashwords had an exclusive on their hands last year when they began delivering indie titles to India’s Flipkart, but not satisfied with joining Smashwords in Scribd and Oyster, Bookbaby now delivers to Flipkart too.

This is great news for all indies, not just those who were excluded from Flipkart because they chose not to use Smashwords. Bookbaby’s entry into the Indian ebook market will bring a further flush of low-priced titles to India’s biggest ebook-store, helping breed interest in digital reading among the subcontinent’s vast population.

For indie authors Flipkart is their second entry-point into the Indian ebook market. Amazon of course is the first, and far too often only point of access, but there are others to clamber on board with. We’re seeing increasing numbers of indie titles in Flipkart’s rival online store Infibeam, and with the revamped Landmark website now live (Landmark has actually been selling ebooks since 2012) many indies are now in the Landmark ebook store.

Flipkart is by far the biggest on-line retailer in India and by far the biggest ebook store. Bookbaby puts Flipkart’s ebook market share at a staggering 80%. We’re not totally convinced by that (our understanding is Flipkart has 80% of the overall online market, not specifically the ebook market).

At the London Book Fair in April Nielsen’s Andre Breedt was explaining how things are shaping up, using a “Wheel of Global Consumer Confidence” to show just how the international book and ebook markets are being transformed. India came in at third place. Regulars here at the EBUK blog perhaps won’t be too surprised to learn that the top two countries were Indonesia and the Philippines.

In Breedt’s words: “India has shown huge growth. You can divide the Indian market into two areas, the “organized” and what you might call the “disorganized.” And in fact, the disorganized is growing even faster. Among retailers, Flipkart is an interesting online player. They’re very successful, with an unusual model in which you order the book and pay the delivery man in cash. Amazon are by no means dominant in India.”

Read that last sentence twice. If you want to make an impact in India, the world’s second largest English-language country, you need to be available where the readers are buying.

Where might that be? Well, there’s no Apple India store, leaving Amazon to fight for runners-up with Google Play, Kobo and the local retailers, of which there are several. As well as the aforementioned Infibeam and Landmark, other Indian ebook stores include Aircel’s Bookmate, W H Smith India, and Crossword (the latter two are Kobo partners stores). Then there’s the smaller stores like iMusti, which added ebooks to its digital collection in December, and Swftboox, although they concentrate on local talent.

And not forgetting two relative newcomers to the ebook scene that we predict will dwarf the others in the not too distant future: Newshunt and Rockstand. Newshunt and Rockstand already have seriously formidable customer bases from their news and magazine subscribers, so are off to a great start.

Back in January we mentioned the possibility that Magzter might get into ebooks. It’s happened. Magzter’s president Vijay Radhakrishnan told EBUK in April that Magzter now has the first slew of ebooks on its app, with several thousand more being added. We love Magzter’s global vision and are hoping Vijay will find time shortly to give us an in-depth interview about Magzter’s e-magazine and ebooks aspirations.

Meanwhile, here’s an indicator. Magzter recently entered the India market with its digital magazines, already has a six-million strong user base there and is seeing 35,000 downloads a day. More interestingly Magzter earlier this month signed a deal with Groupon India to sell even more e-magazines.

One quick thought on Groupon. Groupon can be used to sell ebooks. And not just in India. We’re not aware of any indie authors who have done this, but if anyone has, do let us know.

If you still need evidence that India is the place to be right now, consider Encyclopedia Britannica, in the news in April for calling time on the print edition of the famous 32-volume set. With time and resources on their hands they turn to… ebooks in India. They’ve teamed up with Indian children’s publisher Kathca to turn some 300 print titles, translated from over twenty local languages, into ebooks.

Card payments – how western retailers are stifling international growth.

Indie authors should also bear in mind that readers in India can buy from US stores like Smashwords, All-Romance/Omni-Lit and Scribd, and from European stores like ‘txtr international, which do not have territorial restrictions on downloads or payments.

That said, payments remain a big issue for western operators like Amazon and Kobo wanting to gain traction in places like India and the Far East. We’ve covered before the many hoops buyers in Indian need to jump through to buy from Kindle India because Amazon only accept internationally enabled cards and do not accept local currency on many items they sell in the Amazon India store, meaning extra charges for dollar payments.

Compare Landmark and Flipkart which sell print books and ebooks among many other products, and offers free delivery and a range of local payment options including COD. Flipkart is also prepping its own payments wallet, Payzippy.

Across Asia carrier-billing (whereby your purchases are added to your monthly ISP charge) is common, and a key reason Google Play is so popular in Japan. A fine example of the “glocalization” we often talk about here.

In countries like Indonesia and Vietnam credit cards account for just 1% of transactions. Across the region Singapore peaks at just 37% and Thailand at 12%. The Philippines just 5%. For companies like Amazon with a twentieth century fixation with card payments the region holds little hope for the future.

As m-commerce (online purchases via smartphones and tablets) accelerates in SE Asia options like carrier billing, Smart, GCash and Alipay (see below) are essential for any operators wanting to get a decent share of the developing world’s digital markets. And not forgetting over the counter cash payments. MolPay, a big Malaysian payments operator, has just rolled out MolPay Cash allowing Malaysians to pay for their online purchases at the local 7-11.

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But enough of payments. Let’s get back to India, and selling.

For those of you who believe FB and twitter can boost ebook sales, targeting the international markets like India is eminently sensible. If you’re wondering if India has enough Facebook users to make it worth the effort, try 100 million for size. Yes, as of April India has over one hundred million active Facebook users.

What’s more, 84% access Facebook on mobile devices which could potentially have your ebooks on!

Incidentally there’s a ton of other social media platforms in India. One is called WhatsApp. It hit 48 million active users in April. And over half of those – 25 million – have signed up in just the past six months! WhatsApp is actually owned by Facebook.

Okay, one final India statistic to savour. Some time this year India is expected to reach the milestone of a quarter billion internet users. And most of those will be on ebook-friendly mobile devices.

We’ll be taking a closer look at social media platforms in India and across Asia in another post. Here just to say while our familiar favourites like Facebook and twitter are big across Asia there are “local” social media platforms like WeChat and Ten Cent which are even bigger.

China’s twitter rival Sina Weibo claimed 148 million active users in March. WeChat in China has 350 million active users each month. That’s more than the entire population of the USA!

Sounds impressive until you consider that Tencent has 800 million active monthly users. At one point in April Tencent had an incredible 200 million users online at the same time!

Imagine. If you could tempt just half of one per cent of those 200 million simultaneous Tencent users to buy your ebook you’d have made 100,000 sales!

Okay, that’s not gonna happen, obviously. But our point is, the online world beyond the US-UK axis we all know and love is way, way, way bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. And it’s just beginning.

Would you believe Vietnam is Apple’s fastest growing market? And that the number of Facebook users in Vietnam is increasing at the rate of one million a month?

It probably won’t surprise you by now to learn China Mobile is the world’s biggest telco. It may surprise you just how big. China Mobile alone has over one billion subscribers!

Over 40% of the world’s current internet users are in Asia. Online shopping in Asia will exceed half a trillion dollars this year.

These numbers may seem astronomical now, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the world isn’t online yet!

Mobile commerce is still in its infancy, but its reach is already global in a way no form of commerce has ever been before. And as delivery, consumption and payment-processing technology advances there is no corner of the earth that won’t have access to digital content. Will yours be part of it?

Don’t get hung up on what you know and feel at home with. If you want to be a globally acknowledged ebook author you need to step outside your comfort zone and go to where your prospective readers are. The potential rewards are staggering.

Promoting ebooks in India? Do it in the afternoon. Their afternoon.

Stepping outside your comfort zone might be something as simple as tweeting links to more than one retailer. Or it might be something as simple as tweeting at the right time of day.

We Brits have problem enough making sense of America’s time zones, but for global SMP you need to keep a close eye on the world clock. To find out what time it is in India (or any other country) try this great little site.

Obviously if you’re tweeting to the Indian market there’s no point in sending out your tweets in the middle of their night. But you can further improve your twitter efficiency by tweeting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons (their time), which is when most Indians shop online. It seems noon ‘til 3pm-4pm is best for Amazon India and Flipkart. Curious eBay India gets the heavy traffic between 3pm and 6pm. Bear that in mind when eBay finally gets on board with ebooks, as it surely will.

Weekends, it transpires, are the quiet times for online shopping, when buyers prefer to go to the big stores in person. The weekdays of course reflect India’s current online dominance by office desktop computers.

This is an important point for all international markets, and one we indie authors need to grasp, because it directly impacts on our future sales.

The New Renaissance.

For most of the world getting online is not easy. Most people in most countries do not have home computers. What we in the west take for granted are still unimaginable luxuries elsewhere. Not only is a desktop hugely expensive, but it needs a reliable mains power supply. Laptops perhaps a little less so, but still off limits to most people.

Feature phones (which can read very basic ebook files) are hugely popular in many parts of the world. Nokia is the biggest brand in the Philippines and in many other countries thanks to its feature phones, but it’s noteworthy that as smartphones begin to impact most Filippinos intend to buy cheaper domestic smartphones rather than the big-name brands. We’ll be watching with interest to see which, if any, ereader apps come pre-installed.

The point is, smartphones, tablets and phablets are taking over from feature phones everywhere. And that change everything. For us in the West mobiles are just one more addition to our already luxurious lifestyles. To people in the developing world they are life-changing devices often making available for the first time the delights of cyberspace we westerners can’t imagine life without. Portable, quickly and easily recharged, and able to do pretty much everything a clunky old desktop could do, and much, much more.

As we’ve reported before, India has basic tablets like the Aakash selling for silly money, and cheap smartphones are everywhere too. They may not have all the fancy extras of your latest i-Device, but they can manage all the basic functions, including reading ebooks and listening to audio books.

Having said that, the next tier up is a raft of cheap but very powerful smartphones and tablets that are being bought up by Indians as fast as the Chinese manufacturers can deliver them. Here’s food for thought. The Indian smartphone market is expected to exceed the size of the US smartphone market this year.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of these developments for authors and publishers, and why indie authors especially should be excited by this. We’ll be looking at the phenomenon we call the New Renaissance in depth soon, but here just to summarise:

In the West ebooks, while not quite replacing print, could not be said to be bringing many new readers to the table. New titles, no question, but not so much new readers.

In the developing world it’s very different. In developing and “Third World” countries where print books are largely unavailable or unaffordable, mobile technology is expanding existing markets and opening up vast new markets hitherto un-mined by booksellers and publishers because of the logistics of print production and distribution.

Already in Asia 67% of all books are purchased online. As more and more people get internet access to buy online so book purchases will soar. But that’s only an option if you can afford the deliver fees on top of the list price. And if you have a delivery address. Many parts of the world don’t even have street names and house numbers, let alone a postal system.

But they don’t need one with digital.

Not just in India, but across eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa publishing markets are being revitalized, reinvigorated and in many instances created where no market previously existed.

As this UNESCO report shows, ebooks are helping boost literacy in many developing countries. UNESCO surveyed seven countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe – and found more and more people are reading ebooks on feature phones.

Most significantly, the UNESCO survey shows the biggest hindrance to people in the developing world reading on phones is not the cost of mobile devices, the cost of mobile use or even connectivity.

The single biggest obstacle to ebook reading in the developing world is the limited content available.

So as smartphones, tablets and phablets take hold in these countries don’t expect too many extra sales in the near future. With the exception of India all these countries are ignored by the western retailers right now.

No speaka da forrin lingo? Nada problem.

But let’s return to India. We mentioned e-magazines above. This link will give you some idea of what’s on offer. Go on, have a poke around on the Groupon India site and check out just how many books and magazines are in English.

For those of us who won’t be having our titles translated into India’s myriad languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Sanskrit, Telegu, Urdu, Manipuri and Punjabi to name but a handful), it’s worth keeping in mind India is the world’s second largest anglophone market after the US, with an estimated 150 million people speaking English.

But if you’re guessing the UK is next, think again. Nigeria and the Philippines both have more English speakers than the UK has people, coming in at fourth and fifth place, with Britain only sixth in the anglophone rankings.

Sadly Nigeria is not on the radar of any of the big western ebook retailers right now. Our guess is Google Play will be the one that does go there, eventually. This year? We’d love to see it happen, but don’t hold your breath.

Bizarrely Amazon and Apple aren’t in the Philippines either. Both these ebook giants limit their Asian interest to India and Japan (and China, but not with any significant ebook presence there), leaving vast tracts of Asia off-limits. Kobo is the biggest ebook player in the Philippines, thanks to a flagship partnership with the National Book Store, which is also the Philippines’ biggest bricks and mortar book chain.

For indie authors wanting a token presence in SE Asia try Bookbaby, as they distribute to the Malaysian ebook store eSentral. The eSentral team in turn gets ebooks into the hands of readers not just in Malaysia but also in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

But eSentral is a small player. Potentially much bigger, but still new to the region, is Google Play, commanding a growing share of the ebook market not just in Japan and the Philippines but also in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam.

Local competition is fierce. The Thai ebook giant Ookbee (85% of the Thailand market) opened a Philippines store in December. Ookbee also has stores in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, and just this month reported substantial new investment from Japan to expand further. Ookbee is also an example of an ebook store expanding beyond ebooks. They’ve just launched their own social gaming platform.

Other key operators include Indonesia’s Scoop, which we’ve reported on before. Then there are smaller domestic retailers across the region, like Dtac ReadEver and Flipreads.

Moving up towards Japan, now and at the tail end of 2014 the Japanese ebook store Fantasista joined with Japanese ebook operator mixPaper to launch what is believed to be the first ebook store on Facebook. Nate at The Digital Reader reports mixPaper for Facebook is currently only in Japanese but will be adding English this year.

In December 2013 Japan added another ebook innovation to its credit with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS ebook store and reading app.

And don’t forget Kobo, which began Canadian but is now opened by the Japanese retail giant Rakuten.

Okay, we’ve said some harsh words about Kobo recently. But Kobo has the potential to surprise us all. Westerners may not realize it but Rakuten is a significant player in Asia (and elsewhere, but let’s stick with Asia here). Take but one example – Rakuten Tarad. You may never have heard of it but if you live in Thailand it will be familiar. Rakuten’s Thai operation has seen growth of eighty per cent this year already, and almost all m-commerce (mobile device) driven.

It’s just a matter of time before Rakuten starts integrating Kobo’s ebook stores into its online retail infrastructure. Our guess is the new guy in charge at Kobo is looking at exactly that.

But to wind up today let’s go back to that list of top English-speaking nations. Those of you keeping count will remember that the USA and India held the top two places, with the Philippines, Nigeria and the UK at four, five and six.

Number three? India’s neighbor Pakistan, no less, with upwards of 90 million English speakers.

Now Pakistan may not be your first, second or even forty-ninth thought as a place to sell ebooks, and you’d be right. Ebooks are still very much unknown in this colourful country. The few that are being read will be on feature phones. But that will soon be changing. Very soon.

In April Pakistan auctioned three 3G and two 4G licenses enabling Pakistan telecom operators to roll out serious internet connectivity at last.

Pakistanis are no strangers to mobiles – there are a 133 million subscribers to the current 2G network – but broadband reaches only about 3 million people. By 2020 that figure is expected to be around 45 million, and it goes without saying most of that expansion will be smartphone and tablet driven. That’s 45 million people in Pakistan who will have an ebook-friendly device in their hands for the first time.

In fact smartphone sales are expected to exceed half a million per month over the coming year as Pakistanis embrace the new digital opportunities. And needless to say tech firms are already busily preparing for this exciting new market.

But there’s absolutely no indication that any of the big western ebook retailers are looking at Pakistan right now. We can safely rule out Amazon and Apple for the foreseeable future, leaving Kobo and Google Play as the only plausible contenders from our part of the world.

But you can bet your last dollar/pound/euro/bitcoin that S.E. Asian operators are already making arrangements to enter the Pakistan ebook market.

Go East, Young Man.

As we approach the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century be warned. The centre of gravity in the digital markets is shifting away from America and towards the east.

As a cautionary tale, keep an eye out for Alibaba. You may think Alibaba is just an oriental folk story, but in China and much of the Far East when people think Alibaba they think a giant Chinese company selling online, with big designs on the wider world. We’ll be looking at the exciting Chinese market more closely in the near future.

For now, just ponder this: Alibaba is already bigger than Amazon and eBay combined. It has its own online payments system Alipay (technically separate due to Chinese regulations), which recent reports suggest is three times bigger than Paypal and Square together, and Alipay has just tied up with Kobo’s owners Rakuten. Alipay also provides payments options to merchants in the USA.

No, Alibaba is not selling ebooks. Yet. But in April it got into video-streaming. Alibaba already has its own TV set-box and even its own Smart TV OS. Can ebooks be far behind?

A final thought on the titan that is Alibaba. Alibaba is about to launch in the US financial markets. “Bankers and analysts say Alibaba’s IPO could raise more than $15 billion, possibly surpassing Facebook’s 2012 market debut as the largest technology IPO in U.S. history.”

Savvy indies will be keeping a close eye on developments in the orient and laying the foundations now to reap rewards later.

That means not just making sure you’ve a presence in the east through the easy-access western players like Kobo and Google Play, but also climbing onboard with the new generation of cyber-retailers emerging in India, SE Asia and the Far East.

Go Global In 2014.

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

 

 

 

While Kindle Ebook Sales Plateau, Kobo Soars

GoGlobalIn2014_500

As we all know, ebooks sales have levelled off in the USA, which is why recent reports from Amazon have been conspicuously quiet about Kindle ebook sales at home. And even quieter about Kindle ebook sales abroad, where Amazon has been facing stiff competition from the Tolino Alliance in Germany, the supermarket ebook store Sainsbury in the UK and myriad alternative ebook stores in Australia. When Kindle ebook and device sales are going well Amazon miss no opportunity to let us know it. Their recent silence on this matter is golden.

While Google Play continues to roll out international ebook stores (forty-four and counting) it seems Amazon’s international Kindle expansion is on hold. There are strong rumours we might see a Kindle Russia store this year, but there have been strong rumours in the past about a Kindle Chile and a Kindle Netherlands store, which came to nothing. As Amazon shareholders get restless about Amazon’s continuing failure to deliver meaningful profits, it seems unlikely we will see many – if any – new Kindle stores this year.

The last expansion by Amazon Kindle internationally was in August last year with the Kindle Mexico store. The more recent addition of the Kindle Australia store simply consolidated an existing market of Australian and New Zealand Kindle users, bringing nothing new to the table.

Not that Kobo has been dazzling us with new partner stores lately, but at least Kobo have been seeing continuing growth. A possible factor in Bella Andre’s decision to go exclusive with Kobo.

While Amazon kept the bad news quite Kobo delighted in telling us that revenues were up 40% in 2013 and the Kobo userbase had seen a 50% increase. Several sites reporting this, of course, but we’re linking to The Digital Reader again for this because Nate Hoffelder has a couple of little gems tucked away in his assessment.

Earlier this month Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis stepped aside to let Takahito Aiki take over at the Kobo helm. For those out of the loop Kobo, originally a Canadian company, was bought out by the Japanese-based on-line giant Rakuten, often referred to as the Amazon of the Far East. Until now Rakuten has stayed firmly in the back seat so far as driving Kobo’s ebook business was concerned, providing funding but little else.

Despite this, as just mentioned, Kobo saw its revenue rise by 40% last year.

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Yes, we know. Most indies are selling next to nothing on Kobo, so how can this possible be so?

But as we’ve said before, Kobo has a very limited focus on the US market. In the wider world, on the other hand… Kobo is the biggest player in Canada and the Philippines and a significant player in France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Not least the UK, where it still supplies trad-pubbed titles to WH Smith, even though indies have been banned from the store.

If you’re not seeing significant sales from Kobo and other platforms then, as we keep saying, don’t blame the other retailers if you spend half the time in Select or promotion and marketing is geared almost exclusively to Amazon. You reap what you sow…

~

 What does the future hold for Kobo and indies?

Well for Kobo the future is bright. The Digital Reader describes Aiki as a

turnaround specialist (who) previously ran Fusion Inc, one of Rakuten’s telecom subs…Fusion was a money pit when it was acquired by Rakuten, but by the time Mr Aiki left it had generated over 1 and a half billion yen a year in operating income (aka operating profit) in 2012, and 1.9 billion yen in the first 9 months of 2013… If Mr. Aiki can have a similar effect on Kobo it’s potentially very good news for Kobo’s customers (as well as anyone who hates Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market)…

So looking good for Kobo customers who want to read trad pubbed books.  Kobo is going to go from strength to strength.

But (the likes of Bella Andre aside) will we indies do anything more than cadge a ride on Kobo’s coat-tails? We’ll be coming back to Kobo and the future for indies very soon, with what may be a bleak outlook although (see below) there are some promising developments too.

For now, a reminder that, as well as the Kobo international store Kobo has “localized” stores in the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and elsewhere (these have territorial restrictions so you may need to live there to access them) as well as ebook partnerships with a large number of retailers. If you are listed with Kobo you may be lucky and find your titles in the following partner stores:

Chapters Indigo in Canada, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, National Book Stores in the Philippines, LibriMondadori in Italy, Fnac in France, Crossword in India, Angus & Robertson, Bookworld and Collins in Australia, Whitcoulls and Paperplus in New Zealand. There are plenty more, though sadly W H Smith UK and W H Smith India are both off limits to indies, and that’s very unlikely to change.

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Kobo is a significant international ebook player, however much your sales and the Amazon-obsessed indie blogs tell you otherwise.

Don’t misconstrue any of this as anti-Amazon. Amazon is still the biggest player in several countries – and especially the US, UK and Germany – but Amazon is not the only show in town and indies need to stop partying like it’s 2009.

Kobo is an essential part of your ebook toolbox if you plan on going global in 2014.

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 Since this post is about Kobo a couple of snippets from the Kobo newsletter just released’

Kobo have just launched Kobo Next, an indie-exclusive recommendations engine. In Kobo’s words:

 Customers can find their next great read on the Kobo Next page.

This section highlights self-published titles exclusively, and NOW has prominent placement on the Kobo site and in new releases emails worldwide.

That’s not the only thing Kobo are offering indies. They also have five places available on the Pubslush crowdfunding blog for authors to interest potential investors in their next book to help fund editing, cover design, formatting, etc. But you’d best hurry. The deadline is February 21, just a few days away.

Here’s the link for the Kobo Writing Life February newsletter. Along with Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace newsletters this should be an essential part of your indie toolbox, whether you go to Kobo direct or through an aggregator.

A final thought. Kobo is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese company. The Japanese company Rakuten have just announced their Global Strategy Briefing. You can read about it here. In English. And if you’re thinking that’s just a translation of the Japanese original, check out the link and watch the video where Rakuten’s Japanese head honcho delivers his (somewhat lengthy) address in person to the media and shareholders. Guess which language he delivers that lengthy address in…

 Retailer Round-Up:

Another simple one. To get in the Kobo partner stores, in the Kobo localized stores and in the Kobo international store you simply need to be in Kobo. You can go to Kobo direct through Kobo Writing Life, or through pretty much any aggregator, including Smashwords, D2D, Ebook Partnership, Bookbaby, etc.

Also mentioned were Amazon Kindle (go direct via KDP or through pretty much any aggregator) and Google Play. Again, you can go direct if in a Google Play country, otherwise the only aggregator loading to Google Play appears to be Ebook Partnership.

As ever, if you know differently, do share.

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Far more than just the UK.