Tag Archives: Magzter

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

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

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

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

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large.

May Is Short Story Month. Are You Ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career Authors Alert: Selling Rights Vs Selling Ebooks.

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

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

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

If so, think again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Germany is the trans-Atlantic powerhouse.”

“Japan is the fourth largest publishing market.”

“The Spanish language markets offer global opportunities.”

“Turkey is taking off.”

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

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

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

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

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

Asia Watch 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK and Australia Digital Libraries Now Supplied By 3M.

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

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

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

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

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

Magzter Now Open To Indie Authors.

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

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

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

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

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

Watch out for a detailed post on Magzter soon.

 Asia Watch 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Macmillan has followed suit.

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

It’s happening.

And it won’t stop at just China.

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

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

Subscription Services Get Bigger & Better. Mostly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Amazon Prime In India By End Of The Year?

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Nothing official, but it seems Amazon is sizing up the prospects for launching Prime in India, with digital content streaming as a key attraction.

Film and music are being explored, in keeping with the current Prime offering, but of course a big boost to Prime’s appeal – in India as at home -would be to add ebook streaming.

Nothing will happen in India this side of summer, but we would expect Amazon to be pushing this venture to be live for the Indian festive season in the autumn.

Amazon is facing lots of local difficulties in India but is making progress despite. Shopping at Amazon is something of a status symbol for the lucky few who can afford to. One more example of eastern interest in western culture, that none of us should ignore.

Flipkart will remain the largest e-commerce player in India for a long while yet, and that goes for ebooks too. Remember, you can get into Flipkart through Smashwords with no up-front costs.

But anyone thinking the Indian ebook market is a two-dog fight needs to think again. Apple still aren’t there, and Kobo totally dropped the ball with this one, with a token presence that does no-one any favours.

But Google Play are there and making good ground. We expect Google Play to become the dominant ebook service in India in the not too distant future thanks to a combination of brand recognition, availability on Android devices, and carrier billing.

Landmark’s experiment with ebooks was short-lived, for reasons not yet clear, and players like Infibeam and Crossword are never going to amount to much.

But keep an eye on the magazine turned ebook purveyors like Rockstand, Newshunt and Magzter, all growing in importance as India goes mobile.

What we would love to see is the big western aggregators like Smashwords and Draft2Digital team up with these three, but as yet no sign. British aggregator Ebook Partnership do supply Magzter, and are looking at Rockstand and Newshunt, but that’s not a cost-effective option unless you plan to use EP’s wider distribution network.

Looking at the wider region, expect Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan and Sri Lanka to open up to ebooks this year, with Google Play leading the way.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

E-Zines – The Next Big Thing For Indie Authors. Think Outside The Book.

Go Global In 2014

Apple has just bought a digital-publishing start-up, in what look like the next step in a shift towards more focus from Apple on content-sales. Good news for all of us.

This latest acquisition is aimed at the magazine market and will likely be integrated into the iAuthor ebook creation tool, or run alongside as a dedicated e-magazine creation tool, allowing small publishers and individuals to produce e-zines of comparable quality to the content currently available from the big players.

E-zines are an area in which indie authors would do well to invest some serious thought.

Not ideal for everyone, but for many – especially those planning image-rich non-fiction, etc – a periodic e-magazine (quarterly, for example) would be a great way to reach a new readership who are regular magazine readers but not so heavily invested in reading books.

Apple already has the software to make great illustrated books, and for those using them it should be a small step to producing e-magazines, especially when this new acquisition is integrated.

But other authors should not feel left out.

Consider: we all pay out for covers for our ebooks, and many of us invest substantial sums finding a graphics artist who can deliver a bespoke cover that embraces a character or theme.

The next step is to get closely involved with that cover artist and develop a bevy of bespoke illustrations that reference the characters, locations and events in the story.

This is especially ideal for fantasy and sci-fi, of course, but equally applicable across any genre, and particularly valuable for a series, or where building an eco-system where different series – even in different genres – are linked, affording a bridge for readers to cross genre with the author.

This can be done as a one-off on a website, for example, but only existing readers will know about it.

Pinterest is the next step up. A lot of authors use Pinterest to promote their book covers. But very few use it to promote their book’s content in a visual way. An opportunity missed.

But stepping beyond that, think about a quarterly e-magazine.

For any author with multiple titles, having a graphics designer on hand to provide consistent-quality and consistent-style illustrations would open many doors.

Most obviously your ebook readers would want to buy the e-zine. Magazines are marketed in a separate sphere from ebooks, so your e-zine will reach a new audience who may then buy the ebooks.

For writers in genres like fantasy in particular this might open the doors to comics and games based on your created world. And of course having a breakout game on your hands could make you forget all about writing books!

But for all authors there are serious opportunities ahead.

For example, writers could open up to fan-fiction and fan-art, and use this to provide content for the e-zine. No payments made, of course, but the contributors get full credit and a free ride to be seen before all your readers. If your readers like their work they can then buy the contributor’s own stuff. Obviously you have total editorial control, so the only material that would be allowed through would be approved by you.

And it doesn’t just need to be existing fans of your ebooks. If you are producing a non-fiction journal about animals, for example, these are pretty much guaranteed to find a very receptive audience among magazine readers. And many of these readers – readers who will have never seen your books – will have their own animal stories and photos to share. At least some will be good enough quality to use as content for the next issue.

And of course anyone who does get included will be sharing like crazy among their friends and e-contacts when the new edition is published.

For authors of books aimed at younger readers, again, the opportunities are endless. Not least inviting the young readers to submit their own drawings and thoughts on the book and characters. They and their parents will be delighted, and in a school environment word of mouth and ease of e-transmission could see your e-zine gain new readers in leaps and bounds.

But the same goes for books across all genres. Anything from romance to diet books, from erotica to cookery, from thrillers to history books.

And so much cross-over potential. All that research for your thriller set in Cold War Prague, your cozy mystery set in Barbados, your thirteenth century historical romance, or your dystopian sci-fi epic about climate change could find a receptive home, while also letting you test interest in new projects. And of course slipping in a mention for other books you may have in other genres.

Yes, you can do all this on a website or blog, but who will see it that doesn’t already know your books, and how will that add to your earnings?

E-zines bridge that gap, boosting your income and boosting your reach and readership.

Don’t dismiss the idea out of hand because you haven’t the time or skills to do it yourself. Just like with formatting and cover design, there are plenty of people who can and will for a one-off fee.

Or consider this: try putting the word about on graphic design sites and the like that you are looking for artists willing to help develop your fantasy novel (or whatever) on a profit-share basis. They’d do most of the hard work, and probably have the design expertise too to take it to completion.

If you offered a 60-40 or even a 70-30 in their favour on all net proceeds from the project (not from your existing ebooks, etc, just the stuff they work on) you’d likely get a lot of interest and have very little to do yourself.

It’s a great deal for them ,earning more than you, so giving them every incentive to go that extra mile. And for you it’s 30%-40% of something, rather than the 100% of nothing you are earning right now in this format.

We’ve mainly referencing Apple here because of the ease in which you can already create e-zine style ebooks with Apple software, but ebooks and e-zines are not the same thing, though Apple is closing the gap.

But once you have the Apple version done it will then be a lot easier to create (or pay someone to create for you) a version compatible with Amazon’s e-magazine store and the epub magazine stores of the other key digital players like Nook, Google Play, etc. And you can also put them direct on web-sites yourself either free or with paid access.

Beyond this there are the specialist e-magazine retailers like Magzter and Scoop which have global reach and open up vast numbers of potential readers you won’t come close to by just being in the ebook stores.

Don’t get trapped into the rut of an ebook-only existence. We are witnessing, and are party to, far more than just an ebook “revolution”. We are witnessing, and are party to, a global New Renaissance.

POD and audio are two obvious ways in which indie authors can reach new audiences who may never read a digital book, but there are plenty of others.

E-zines are one of them. More on other options at a later date.

 

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

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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.

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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.

~

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

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Magzter soon to open up to ebooks?

GoGlobalIn2014_500

The EBUK team are over at the Anne R. Allen with Ruth Harris blog this week, with some facts and figures on the German ebook market that may surprise you, and some facts and figures on the tablet, phablet and smartphone market that may surprise you even more.

ARA Blog

Did you know what India’s biggest selling tablet is? No, it’s not a Samsung or Apple device, and its certainly not the Kindle. It’s a tablet you’ve probably never heard of. The Aakash. But here’s the thing. Millions of Indians have heard of it and have bought it, and some could be reading your ebooks on it.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Magzter, either. And that’s okay. They’ve probably never heard of you.

magzterlogo175

But one way in which market fragmentation is accelerating is in digital content providers who do not sell ebooks jumping on the bandwagon and selling ebooks.

No timetable yet for Magzter, but given they sell digital magazines it’s a logical next step and there’s been a few hints it’s on the cards.

Yes, we know what you’re all thinking. Amazon already sell magazines, so this new start-up may as well give up now. These smaller stores will never amount to anything. Whoever heard of Magzter anyway?

Well, Magzter is no new start-up. It’s been around since June 2011, and currently seventeen million people around the globe subscribe to magazines through Magzter, reading on their tablets, phablets and smartphones. If that number doesn’t at least double in 2014 we shall be very surprised.

And there are interesting possibilities ahead for stores like these to cross-match ebooks and magazine. For example, travel mags coming up alongside non-fiction ebooks about, or fiction ebooks set in, particular locations. Magzter may or may not be the store that does this, but you can be certain it will happen.

Magzter is just one of countless very successful e-reading outlets you’ve probably never heard of but which millions of other people have. Although New York based, Magzter is big in places like India and Singapore. Amazon has finally got a Kindle India store but still blocks digital downloads to Singapore.

rockstand175

In India digi-mag sellers like Rockstand and Newshunt have recently opened up to ebooks. They both already had millions of subscribers each for their magazines and news, and now ebooks are being put in front of their regular customers.

newshunt150vertical

It’s not rocket science to work out that many of these customers will not be buying their ebooks from the big stores like Amazon, Kobo, etc, when they can get them alongside their regular magazines and news instead.

If your ebooks are not in the catalogues of these “smaller” retailers that are proliferating across the globe then you are going to miss out on future sales in a big way.

Indies need to step outside their comfort zone and see the bigger picture emerging as e-reading goes global. The international e-reading market is still in first gear but already there are more people e-reading on more devices and buying from more outlets than you would ever imagine.

And this is just the beginning.

“Small” outlets like Magzter with their paltry seventeen million subscribers are collectively going to eclipse the sales of the big players in the next year or two, and then leave them behind. Way behind.

If we were investors we would be throwing money at trad pub right now, because trad pub are already making a fortune from the global e-reading markets, and will make money beyond their wildest dreams over the coming years as global e-reading gets into second gear and beyond.

And not by spending all day tweeting and FB-ing “Buy My Book!”. Just by having their titles available where the readers are.

Most indies, still partying like its 2009, will be left waving from the shoreline. Those indies who are playing the long game and riding the international wave now, while the goal is wide open, will be reaping big rewards in years to come.

Which will you be?

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