Tag Archives: Smashwords

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How quick and easy?

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Smashwords Adds Tolino, Odilo and Yuzu To Its Distribution List. It’s Time To Start Taking Smashwords Seriously.

sw + tolino + Odilo + yuzu

 

Regulars here will know I’m dedicated to a diverse and healthy global ebook market, and for that reason alone I would continue to support stores like Smashwords even if they had very little to offer.

But Smashwords has lately shown, after a faltering step with the Flipkart debacle (which as it happens matters not, as Flipkart has now formally closed its ebook store) that it very much still in the game, and slowly but surely grasping the global nettle.

This past week Smashwords announced three new partners that, in Mark Coker’s own words,

“further expand the reach of the Smashwords ebook distribution network in the US, Europe and South America.” (LINK)

Actually, Mark, it does even better than that, encompassing S.E. Asia as well. More on that below.

But first, the bad news. Smashwords erotica authors need not apply. Yet again the Smashwords partner stores have followed the example of OverDrive, Flipkart and Gardners and said “No thanks” to Smashwords erotica, while all happily distributing erotica titles from other aggregators.

There’s a message there for you, Mark Coker.

But let’s stick with the good news.

How good? Well that depends on which other aggregators we use alongside Smashwords.

Let’s start with the Tolino deal.

The Tolino Alliance is, put simply a bunch of ebook stores centred in Germany (but active in neighbouring countries) that collectively packs a punch comparable to Amazon’s Kindle Germany store.

Depending on which stats you want to believe, Tolino is slightly bigger or slightly smaller than Kindle Germany.

ither way, it’s well worth making the effort for, and not only if we have German-language translations available. Germany is a major English-language market too.

If the only aggregator we use is Smashwords then this a great new addition, and will further our reach across western and central Europe.

But if we use Draft2Digital, StreetLib, PublishDrive or XinXii we’re probably already enjoying the benefits of distribution to Tolino. Smashwords is late to the game on this one.

No matter. It’s great to have even more indie titles flowing into the Tolino stores.

Let’s take a look at Yuzu next.

Those of us involved in the higher education sector in the USA may have heard of Yuzu, as the store is, in Mark Coker’s words,

“the digital education platform and retailer operated by Barnes & Noble College, which operates 743 college bookstores serving 5 million college students and faculty members.”

But it’s not all text books and academia.

“The agreement will make it easier for a wide range of Smashwords Premium Catalog books to be assigned for classroom use by educators,” says Coker, adding “Students can also purchase Smashwords titles for their own enjoyment outside of the classroom in the Yuzu eBook store.”

Well, we’ll have to see how that pans out.  Over at The Digital Reader Nate Hoffelder is not impressed, dismissing Yuzu as a “failed” store. Yuzu is

“still only half functional, making this a platform you should avoid if at all possible unless you want to cause more grief for students.”

Nate’s words. (LINK) Not mine. I’ve no familiarity with the store, so am diplomatically reserving judgment.

Besides, higher education is not a sector I have any plans to write towards, but never say never.

But while I’m mildly indifferent to the deal with Yuzu, I’m delighted to see the deal with Odilo.

As Mark Coker says,

“Odilo is a leading ebook supplier to over 2,100 public libraries in 43 countries across Europe (1,000 libraries), Latin America (1,000 libraries) and North America (100 libraries). In October, they announced a deal with the ministry of culture in Spain to provide ebook services to over 15 million library card holders in Spain. The company is also running preliminary pilots to expand into Australia and New Zealand.”

But it gets better. Mark Coker obviously hadn’t checked the Odilo news feed or he could have added 180 libraries in the Philippines to that list. (LINK)

The Philippines is one of my priority countries for 2016, so this deal is especially welcome.

Kobo gets our titles into the Philippines (National Book Store), and so does Google Play and eSentral, but neither Amazon nor Apple are there, so this new access point to Filipino readers is a great asset.

Coker notes,

“About 40% of Odilo’s ebook sales are books in English, 40% Spanish, 15% French and 5% German.”

40% Spanish sounds good to me! I’m already delighted with the way my Spanish translations are taking hold across Latin America, and Odilo will hopefully help find me a lot more readers both in Latin America and in Spain as the new deal with Spanish libraries takes effect.

Last year (2014-15) Smashwords reported ebook sales worth $25 million. By 2016-17 that figure could be much higher as these new stores start bringing in revenue for Smashwords and its authors.

As we begin the second half of this decade Smashwords is shaping up to be a truly global player in the aggregator field.

And just as the new globile (global mobile) reality is beginning to strike home.

Reading the industry blogs over the past six months it’s hard to find any credible commentators not now talking about the globile future. Even JK Rowling’s Pottermore is at it!

The future is globile!

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Smashwords Titles Are Being Shipped To Gardners This Weekend. But How Long Before Coker Wields The Axe?

By the time you are reading this, Smashwords will have begun (October 22) shipping indie titles to the global distributor Gardners.

Based in the UK, Gardners distribute to retailers and libraries in 138 countries.

It’s a great deal for ambitious indies wanting global reach. My titles have been in Gardners for many years. Back in 2011 one became that year’s biggest selling indie ebook, and the eleventh biggest-selling ebook overall, thanks in part to Gardners. Obviously Amazon was the key player, but it was the availability in and sales from all the other UK retailers that clinched it.

I’ve long advocated indies get into Gardners, and now Smashwords has made it easy (unless you are an erotica author – Smashwords erotica titles are barred by both Gardners and OverDrive) I was initially delighted.

This new deal almost made up for the Flipkart fiasco, when Coker punished all Smashwords indie authors by axing Flipkart distribution because Flipkart wasn’t running its business to suit Amazon’s T&Cs. You couldn’t make it up…

I fear the exact same thing will happen to the Gardners partnership in the not too distant future.

Here’s why.

Smashwords indie authors were sending their titles to Flipkart and, at a later date, changing their mind and jumping into KDP Select.

KDP Select requires exclusivity, so Smashwords indies unpublish at Smashwords and Smashwords orders the partners stores to unpublish those titles.

The big players like Apple and Kobo are quick to respond. Flipkart was not so fast.

Indie authors, having done their bit and delisted from all other retailers, jump into Select and, out of the blue, comes the dreaded email from Amazon telling them they are in breach of Select rules because the title is still on Flipkart.

This meant a lot of unhappy Smashwords indies.

Coker responded by blaming Flipkart (far easier than fixing the problem at the Smashwords end), and cancelled the distribution agreement for all Smashwords authors.

No matter that most of us had no intention of jumping in and out of Select.

No matter that many of us were just beginning to gain traction in Flipkart.

As it happens there is anyway a big question mark over the future of the Flipkart ebook store right now.

But the issue here is Mark Coker letting the whims of Select-Hopping indies dictate which stores the rest of can get into.

Select-Hopping authors understandably didn’t like the Flipkart response time and Coker wielded the axe.

It’s now just a matter of time before the Gardners deal goes the same way, and for the exact same reason.

Gardners distributes to 400 global retailers. I can assure you from long years of personal experience that, no matter how quickly Gardners HQ send out the order to those retailers to make changes, not all those outlets will be fast to respond. Most will see delays of many weeks.

Many of these stores are in countries where Amazon doesn’t have a Kindle store, so the mighty Zon won’t notice if you’ve jumped into Select and your title is still on a retailer somewhere in Denmark or Poland.

Many more will be in countries that do have a Kindle store.

And when Amazon finds a Select title still lingering in a Gardners outlet in the UK, or Germany, or Italy, or Australia, or… The nasty emails will be sent, indie authors will go complaining to Mark Coker, and Mark Coker will start sharpening his axe again.

Internationalist indies looking to use Smashwords to build a global readership will once again find the rug pulled from under their feet. Hey, who cares about us? Not Mark Coker, clearly.

But there’s a simple and elegant solution, that could have been used to save the Flipkart deal, and can be used to save the Gardners deal.

Here’s the thing.

No-one is being forced to opt-in to Gardners, just as no-one was being forced to opt-in to Flipkart.

So, Mark Coker, why not just put a clear message on Smashwords that, if you opt into Gardners you should allow at least four weeks, ideally longer, for changes to be implemented.

That way indies who like to play Select-Hopping will simply not opt-in, or can plan well ahead, and internationalist indies can enjoy the fruits of the Gardners distribution deal without having to worry when the axe will fall.

With the slick and easy-access (no Meatgrinder nonsense!) Draft2Digital about to announce a deal with 24Symbols and lots of neat additions to its services, and with StreetLib and PublishDirect all offering a much broader distribution range than Smashwords does, Mark Coker needs to do everything he can to keep Smashwords relevant to indie needs as we head into the second half of this decade..

The Gardners deal is a big step in the right direction.

If it lasts.

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Mexico is Publishing’s New El Dorado, Draft2Digital to Distribute to 24Symbols, and other Hot Tips for Internationalist Indie Authors.

There’s so much happening on the global scene right now it’s hard to keep on top of things. And that’s before the Frankfurt Book Fair kicks off.

To keep you up to speed, here’s another batch of short posts on how the global markets are shaping up.

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Regulars will know how excited I am about the Spanish-language prospects right now. With a half billion Spanish speakers around the world this is a huge market to tap into, and because of the concentration of Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America it’s also a relatively easy market to tap into.

Two Spanish literary agents have just this past week launched a new venture called The Spanish Bookstage. (LINK)

The more observant will have spotted that’s in English, and so is the site – a reminder as ever that we Anglophone authors have a built in advantage in tackling the global markets even when the markets are in another language.

I’m a big fan of Babelcube – it’s a great way to find translator-partners. But… And it’s a big but… By going through Babelcube you hand over the distribution rights for that language to Babelcube and, at this stage in their game, that can be a frustrating experience, as Babelcube’s distribution leaves much to be desired.

Which is why, while I use translator-aggregators like Babelcube and Fiberead, I also seek translator-partnership arrangements independently. Not least for when opportunities like The Spanish Bookstage come along.

“The new platform,” says Publishing Perspectives (LINK) “comes at a time when the Spanish publishing industry (both in Spain and Latin America) is gaining stronger visibility in the global marketplace.”

While this is the first major platform dedicated to Spanish-language titles, there are plenty of similar operators which savvy indies should be keeping a close eye on that cover the global markets generally. I’ll be taking a close look at some of them as we wind up this year.

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Publishing Perspectives is always a good bet for global publishing insights, and especially so this month with the Frankfurt Book Fair almost upon us.

In an article on Publishing Perspectives few days ago Özkan Özdem offered some very useful insights into the exciting Turkish market. (LINK)

Again, regulars will know Turkey is high on my list of priorities, so I found this post very instructive. You may too.

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Moving on to that headline. Mexico is publishing’s new El Dorado?

Well, so says Diana Hernández Aldana from Turner Libros, a major Spanish-language publisher. (LINK)

Aldana expresses surprise at “the size of the markets in Mexico and Latin America and at their growth.”

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Over at The Digital Reader Nate reports that 3M is out of the library distribution business. (LINK)

From Nate’s post:

3M’s library division has been bought by Bibliotheca, a company that describes itself as “the largest global company dedicated to the development, deployment, and support of self-service library solutions”.

Nate assures us the 3M library distribution will continue without interruption, just under another name. Which hopefully means there will be no interruption to Babelcube’s distribution to what is currently called 3M.

3M supply mainly the US library system, and had ventured into Canada. There was talk of an international network along the lines of OverDrive, but that came to nothing. It remains to be seen what will happen globally.

Meantime be sure to be in OverDrive’s library catalogues. OverDrive have extensive international distribution and with Rakuten now owning them it’s likely they will be expanding further as we hit 2016.

OverDrive library access for your titles can be gained through the pay-as-you-sell aggregators Smashwords or StreetLib . as well as many pay-up-front services.

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Staying with StreetLib, a reminder that StreetLib now gets you into the key Latin American ebook retailer Bajalibros, which has stores across the region, including Brazil.

“In recent years,” opens Publishing Perspectives in a post on opportunities in Brazil (LINK) “while European book markets have remained almost flat or have even declined, the emerging countries are seeing a new chapter of the global business of books emerge in terms of exposure, opportunities and sales.”

Hardly news to regulars here, of course. Brazil has long been on my priority list.

Apparently only 25% of Brazilians have read a book in the past three months.

Plenty of reasons for that. Not least Brazilians being too busy playing on those beautiful beaches, or exploring the Amazon. Or, far more likely, that books have been a) unaffordable and b) unavailable.

But that is changing fast. Very fast.

And anyway, before we dismiss that 25% as too small to bother with, let’s bear in mind that 25% of Brazil’s 200 million population is 50 million.

Liana Suppressa, an Italian rights agent who specializes in children’s and YA titles, says that in Brazil there is a very strong enthusiasm and openness of publishers and of readers towards international authors,” adding, in Brazil “there’s a growing interest for middle grade and YA titles, both fantasy and contemporary realistic stories.”

Savvy internationalist authors will be looking to partner with Brazilian publishers to get a share of some of that growing enthusiasm, and of course making their own luck by going direct with their digital titles. Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google Play are in Brazil,.

And not forgetting POD.

Babelcube is a great place to find (with some effort sifting through) some very competent Portuguese translators for both Brazil and mainland Portugal.

And longer term there are prospects for Portuguese translations in countries like Mozambique and Angola. As I’ll be exploring in a dedicated post shortly, Africa is an exciting emerging prospect.

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Speaking of Africa…

As I’ve reported many times, one reason I’m so excited by the global opportunities unfolding is because of the way some cyber-companies are investing in global internet reach.

I summarised the wonderful work of Google (Internet Saathi, Loon, etc) and Facebook’s Aquila project over on the Anne R. Allen blog last month (LINK), and also mentioned satellites.

Both Google and Facebook are investing in satellites, and this post over at VentureBeat this week adds further details of what Facebook have planned for us. (LINK)

Facebook have just partnered with Eutelstat Communications to deploy geostationary satellites  that will cover vast expanses of sub-Saharan Africa, starting in 2016.

The five ton Amos-6 satellites, built in Israel, will orbit above Africa (in sync with the Earth’s orbit) and facilitate broadband internet reception across the region, linking to African ISPs and direct to consumers. Crucially working with standard off-the-shelf devices like regular smartphones and tablets. No specialist equipment needed.

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Next, some words from trad-pub industry commentator Mike Shatzkin.

Shatzkin’s posts often get picked up by the indie blogosphere with the intent of ridiculing everything trad pub is doing. Usually with scant regard to the reality that trad pub is doing rather well.

This post from Shatkin covered backlist and export. (LINK)

That’s global sales, to us folk for whom international is a frame of mind, not just an ambition. Of course the indie blogs seized upon Shatkin’s thoughts on backlist and totally ignored his thoughts on export.

Shatzkin reports on an Ingram-hosted conference recently where one US publisher, Diversion Books, had launched its own ebook store app for its romance titles.

Shatzkin reports that Diversion are now seeing almost half – 49% – of English-language sales coming from outside the US, and perhaps most significantly of, 43% of sales coming from outside the US, UK and Canada.

A safe bet that 43% is not all from Australia and New Zealand, and very likely India is playing a significant role. But even so, a substantial portion of those “export” sales will be coming from other markets around the world.

Why?

Because they are being made available and buyable.

As I’ve said so many times here, trad pub (big and small) is raking in the cash from the global New Renaissance while most indies are still partying like its 2009, fighting each other for a share of the ever more competitive US market.

Indies can already get very profitable global reach from the mainstream retailers, but there are still vast tracts of the world off-limits by going this route.

Diversion’s ebook store app is one way in which small publishers – and indies –can reach a far bigger audience. And earn more from each transaction. And have access to the customer data.

Direct to consumer sales are something all indies with a decent-sized portfolio need to be looking at as we enter the second half of this decade.

I’ll be exploring this more as we head into 2016.

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Finally, let’s end with the second half of that headline somewhere above.

Yes, Draft2Digital is about to announce a distribution deal with the Spanish subscription service 24Symbols.

24Symbols is a subscription service in Europe that has been happily managing to survive with the subscription model since 2011.

Draft2Digital currently supplies the US subscription services Scribd and Oyster (Oyster will be closing early next year), tas well as the European ebook operator Tolino, the global Page Foundry (Inktera and Versent ebook stores) and the usual suspects Apple, Kobo and Nook.

As best I can see, the new addition will make D2D the only English-language aggregator getting indie titles into 24Symbols (if anyone knows another, do let me know). UPDATE, With great embarrassment I have to admit I somehow missed the fact that StreetLib already supplies 24Symbols. Sorry guys! So Draft2Digital will not be the first or the only.  🙂

And with Smashwords having recently dumped Flipkart, the addition of 24Symbols will make D2D a first-option for ever more indies frustrated by Smashwords’ antiquated system.

I’ll be running a comparison of the main pay-as-you-sell English-language aggregators shortly, looking at the pros and cons of each.

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We have unprecedented opportunities before us as the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century unfolds.

Don’t let them pass you by.

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

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The International Indie Author Facebook Group

"Excellent Performance In Latin America And Double-Digit Growth In Ebook Sales" Says Penguin Random House. How Seriously Are You Taking The Latin American Ebook Scene?

The Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico is fast approaching. It’s the biggest Spanish-language book fair in the world, and this year its bigger than ever.

Edward Nawotka at Publishing Perspectives reports that the Guadalajara Rights Center – a meeting place for publishers to exchange foreign-language rights – has sold out its 125 table several months in advance, a sure sign of trad pub’s growing interest in the region. (LINK)

Trad pub understands the global New Renaissance, and is preparing to rake in the cash from it.

Remember how the Indie Old Guard used to tell us trad pub were just rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic? Penguin Random House (PRH) this month reported parent company Bertelsmann has seen its highest revenues since 2007 thanks in large part to PRH’s expanded global reach. (LINK).

PRH reported “excellent performance in Latin America and double-digit growth in e-book sales (that) more than offset the ongoing challenges in the Spanish book market,”

The Latin-American market is getting VERY exciting and anyone not thinking about Spanish translations right now is crazy.

For indie authors one of the biggest problems has been distribution in Latin America. Amazon has stores in Mexico and Brazil, but the rest of Latin America is surcharged by Amazon. Apple, Google Play and Kobo are there however, In fact, as reported here (LINK) there’s a new ebook megastore, Orbile, opening in Mexico this month, and Kobo is handling its ebooks.

But there are are also countless “local” ebook retailers in Latin America. And it’s not terribly difficult to get into them.

No, Smashwords and Draft2Digital won’t get you into the domestic Latin American retailers, but at least one English-language aggregator is taking Latin America seriously. And that’s StreetLib (LINK). A full report on

accessing Latin America soon.

Meantime, if you haven’t yet dipped your toes into the translation waters check out these two posts (LINK) and (LINK) on how to get started.

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

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

 

Sorry, Smashwords. There's Now An *Easier* Way To Get Into The OverDrive Libraries.

In a new blow to both US-based pay-as-you-sell aggregator Smashwords and UK-based pay-up-front aggregator Ebook Partnership, there’s now another way into the OverDrive global library catalogue.

Italy-based aggregator StreetLib will from September 15 be delivering Streetlib titles to OverDrive’s 33,000 partner libraries across 50 countries.

With Flipkart gone, the OverDrive libraries distribution option was one of the few reasons left to be putting titles into Smashwords.

But last month I spent far too much time trying to upload titles to Smashwords only to see them rejected straight away, sat waiting days to be approved (the exact same title would be selling on Apple in hours through Draft2Digital) or rejected days later after review. Titles with validated epubs that Smashwords rejects, yet that somehow manage to sail through Draft2Digital and into the exact same stores Smashwords says won’t accept them.

I’ve yet to have a title rejected by StreetLib

For OverDrive library access I’ll be loading all my new titles via StreetLib. I have to use them anyway to get them into Google Play (no direct access to Google Play from here even when the portal is working) which neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply.

StreetLib also get you into myriad other stores Smashwords and Draft2Digital are not supplying.

Stores like El Corte Ingles in Spain, for example. Here’s one of my titles in ECI through StreetLib. (LINK)

StreetLib also gets your titles into the fast-growing global subscription service Bookmate.

Check out the StreetLib self-pub portal here. (LINK)

If you have your own epubs it’s free to upload.

And it’s in English, despite being Italian, Unlike Smashwords and Draft2Digi9tal StreetLib understands not everyone speaks English and so the site has eight language options, making it very easy to navigate.

Make sure StreetLib is part of your going global upload routine.

Something for the Weekend. An overview of the global ebook scene.

There’s a rumour circulating in India that Amazon will be launching the Kindle Unlimited subscription service for just 199 rupees per month.

The report in ETRetail (LINK) does stress this is just a rumour, but if it turns out to be true it could be a game-changer.

The minimum price indies can set on Kindle India through KDP is 49 rupees, so a subscriber would have to read just five minimum-price titles a month to be up on the deal. For more expensive titles it would be even more rewarding for the reader.

And possibly lucrative for the author. The India ebook market may be nascent but it’s not dormant. In time it will be the second largest ebook market in the world.

That’s a few years off yet, but India is already set to exceed the USA as the second largest smartphone market. And every smartphone out there could have our ebooks on.

Any author looking to the long-term will be looking carefully at the India market, regardless of what happens with KU.

See this post on the “globile” future to understand why. (LINK).

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I’ve posted on the phenomenon of adult colouring books a few times.

Mainly to stress that as indies we are already, to some extent, “outside the box”, and we should always be willing to take a few strides further and explore the incredible possibilities digital presents us.

With adult colouring books it’s been small press print outfits that have led the way.

This week it’s emerged that the “Secret Garden” adult colouring book has sold three million copies in the past three months… in China. It also sold a million in Brazil and a half million in South Korea. (LINK)

Both Brazil and China wildly outsold the US, and Korea outsold the UK.

Meanwhile in the US a self-published children’s book produced POD via CreateSpace and Ingram has sold over 20,000 copies in the US, topping the print charts.

In the latter case it was an indie author. In the former it could easily have been.

In this brave new world of the global New Renaissance the boxes we choose to live are largely of our own making.

We have unprecedented reach, unprecedented opportunities, and unprecedented possibilities to experiment.

Don’t waste them.

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The issue of the self-publishers’ ghetto at OverDrive came up again this week. The post has since been updated to say there was “initially” a ghetto. (LINK)

Comments on that post confirm that, while there is a sub-section within the OverDrive facility for librarians that just holds Smashwords titles, indie titles from Smashwords ARE available in the OverDrive public catalogue.

In fact there are 187,000 Smashwords titles showing in OverDrive right now.

So let’s be clear. There is no ghetto.

I’ve been getting titles into OverDrive libraries for almost five years with no problems, and lately have been using Smashwords to add some new titles to the OverDrive catalogue.

For those who assert I’m “anti-Smashwords” for complaining about what doesn’t work well at Smashwords, let me be clear.

IF… and that’s still a big if, sadly – but if you can get your titles into the Smashwords premium catalogue, and of course if you’ve opted into library distribution, your titles will appear in the OverDrive library catalogues worldwide in a matter of days.

The exceptions are erotica titles, which OverDrive does not accept from Smashwords, but for everything else Smashwords is a cheap (pay as you sell), quick and (relatively) easy way to get your self-published titles into the OverDrive global libraries.

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Sadly the same cannot be said for Flipkart. Smashwords has just announced they have cancelled the deal with Flipkart to get indie titles into India’s largest retailer.  (LINK)

Mark Coker makes some interesting, if controversial, arguments about how Amazon’s KDP Select is in part responsible for this decision. Coker argues indies wanting to jump in and out of Select were finding their titles not being removed from Flipkart in timely fashion, leaving indies in breach of Amazon’s exclusivity demand for participation in KU.

But here’s the thing: by cancelling the Flipkart deal, it is Smashwords that is penalizing the many authors that do not jump in and out of retailers chasing every new shiny dangled in front of them and are trying to build a global presence.

Surely it is not beyond Mark Coker’s ability to simply put a clear message on the site in relation to stores like Flipkart that indies cannot expect instant responsiveness from this particular retailer, leaving indies the option to list on Flipkart through Smashwords.

The very real danger for Mark Coker is that ,by removing options like Flipkart, he risks sending indies to rival aggregators like Xin-Xii who do offer Flipkart, along with Google Play and the Tolino Alliance stores that aren’t available through Smashwords. (LINK)

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The latest of Big Pub to sign an English-language deal in China is PanMacmillan UK, who have announced a deal with Trajectory at the Beijing Book Fair this week. (LINK)

Trajectory are leading the way in taking English-language titles to the new globile (global mobile) markets, and fully understand we who write and publish are sitting on a global goldmine.

Trajectory has no facility for (or interest in) indie authors, but it may at some stage come to an agreement with one of the distributors we can access. That could be a long wait. Meantime trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language readers in China and elsewhere.

I’ll be forwarding this latest report to Fiberead (LINK) in the hope of nudging them in the direction of making our indie English-language titles available in China, but as yet their focus is (understandably) on the translations market.

But, in mind the current mess at Smashwords with Flipkart, Fiberead, or whoever steps forward to make China accessible to indie E-L titles, will have to include a clear contractual commitment to keep titles in for a sensible length of time, and that hopping in and out every five minutes will not be an option.

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Globile up 55% year on year!

A new report from Ericsson estimates there are three billion mobile broadband users across the globe right now, (LINK) and the vast majority therefore have potential access to our ebooks.

Globile (global mobile) is still in its infancy in much of the world, but the growth areas are worth looking at. The US, unsurprisingly, but also India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

I’m adding Myanmar (Burma, for those who last looked at an atlas when they were at school) to my watch-list in view of the latest data, which confirms the trend I’ve been watching this past year for Myanmar.  There’s been a massive investment in broadband recently and its beginning to pay off big time.

It’s a pattern we’ll see repeated very soon in countries like Pakistan and Nepal, and across the globe.

I won’t bore you with details of the countless 4G licences I’m monitoring being auctioned right now globally, but my globile map is lighting up in places even I, the eternal digital optimist, thought were unlikely before the end of this decade.

As Google’s Loon balloon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project go live over the next few years (the former already underway in Sri Lanka) we’re going to witness an explosion in globile traffic and global engagement that will be truly, truly remarkable.

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In mind the previous item ponder this, for of such things as this is our future as global authors made.

The Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS) has just started commercial operations. It links the USA, via Florida, with the Caribbean nations, Central America and northern South America as far as Ecuador, meaning millions more people across the Caribbean and Latin America have access to 4G-standard internet service. (LINK)

This in turn will accelerate the take-up of smartphones across the region, which in turn will build awareness of the benefits of the internet and so accelerate smartphone adoption even more.

Just one of the many reasons I am so excited by the Latin American market right now.

Here’s another.

The Russia-based subscription service Bookmate now has a carrier-billing deal with Tigo Mobile in Guatemala and Paraguay. (LINK)

Tigo Mobile is one of the big telcos in Latin America, and safe to assume this will be the first of many carrier-billing arrangements, not just with Bookmate but almost certainly soon with Google Play.

For those unfamiliar, carrier billing is where you pay for online purchases like ebooks from your mobile phone credit.

For Third World countries like these it is hard to exaggerate the significance of this. Most people across the world do not have bank accounts, let alone credit cards. But trying buying from Amazon or Apple without a card… Try subscribing to Scribd without a card…

Carrier billing enables the cash-paying reader to pay for ebooks online instead of relying on free-reading sites like Wattpad.

Study after study shows that, around the globe, the biggest hindrances to e-reading on smartphones are

a) that the retailers aren’t accessible and

b) where, as with Kobo, they are, local people simply have no method by which to pay.

Indian app-based stores like Newshunt and Rockstand shift millions of ebooks every year thanks to carrier billing. People who have no way whatsoever of paying Amazon India, for example, can simply buy a mobile credit scratchcard with cash, top up their mobile, and buy and download an ebook from Newshunt or Rockstand. No wonder these two stores are the fastest growing ebook stores in India.

In Latin America carrier billing plays a similarly crucial role in allowing people to pay for goods online. But it requires the retailer to come to an arrangement with the telco.

This service is already offered by some “domestic” Latin American retailers, but this move by Bookmate is the first by an outsider. I understand Google Play is also in talks with Tigo and other telcos to offer carrier billing.

Bookmate is a global subscription service that cleverly focuses on markets Amazon neglects, and it’s doing rather well. As well as being one of the biggest Russian services (along with LitRes – but watch out for a possible Kindle Russia store in the future – there are indications Bezos is trying to get a foothold there) Bookmate is a global operator, and big in key countries like Turkey (Amazon blocks downloads to Turkey).

The move with Paraguay and Guatemala is believed to be the first of a wider campaign by Bookmate to embrace Latin America. Just one more sign that Latin America is now firmly on the radar of the global retailers.

I get my titles into Bookmate through the British aggregator Ebook Partnership, but it’s a pay-up-front service and not one I could recommend just now, as the global landscape is changing so fast, and other routes are opening up.

Bookmate recently launched its own self-pub portal. I haven’t had the chance to investigate this yet, but it’s on my To Do list.

Bookmate is not going to make anyone rich with its payouts, but as a vehicle for global discovery and laying the foundations for the future, Bookmate should definitely be a consideration for any author going global.

One final word on Bookmate – they’ve just launched this past week in Indonesia. I can’t tell you how exciting that is. I’ll be doing an in depth post on the Indonesia scene shortly to explain why.

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Here in West Africa the ACE cable linking Europe and the west coast of Africa finally went live in The Gambia just over two years ago.  While meaningful reach is still limited to the coast because the relay infrastructure is not in place yet across the country, the transformation has already been remarkable, with pretty much everyone having a smartphone of some sort in their hands.

Bear in mind this is one of the poorest countries on the planet.

People who two years ago did not know the internet even existed, and still have no access to running water or electricity, now watch youtube videos, use skype and Facebook, and would be lost without their (probably counterfeit, they are so cheap) smartphones.

Do they e-read? Most definitely, yes. But mainly on free sites like Wattpad because, quite simply, there is no mechanism for them to make payments even if the big retailers actually let them download.

But that will come, and with it will come a surge in global e-reading on an unprecedented scale as the global New Renaissance gets into second gear.

It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen everywhere at the same time, but it will happen. It is happening.

And those authors who have positioned themselves well now, and are using sites like Wattpad to establish a global presence where they have no commercial reach, will reap the benefits.

The PCCS cable mentioned above is just one of myriad similar projects happening right now around the globe that, along with the Google Loon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project, is creating an internet-connected world that within ten years will net-enfranchise well over 95% of the world’s population.

Already our potential audience is well over two billion people. That’s how many people have a smartphone, tablet or similar e-reading device in their hands right now.

More than two billion people.

Yet the majority of indie authors are so busy fighting each other to grab a share of the fraction of the couple-hundred million US market that they don’t even know the wider world exists.

Their loss. And less competition for the rest of us.

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Google’s fleet of self-driving cars now numbers twenty, averaging 10,000 miles a week. (LINK)

Over the past six years there have been eleven minor accidents and all have been the result of human-driver error in other vehicles – even a super-duper computerised self-driven car that can simultaneously see every other vehicle and pedestrian on the road can’t stop some idiot driving into the back of you because they were on their phone.

One day these vehicles will be everywhere, and will save countless lives.

Driverless cars, books with no paper, watching films on a phone, 3-D printers… My childhood science-fiction is today’s reality.

5G is almost with us, and at the current rate of accelerated innovation it’s impossible to guess what even 6G, let alone 10G, will bring, but I plan on living forever so I can find out. 🙂

That way I might even get time to finish a few more books.

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Not everyone is enamoured by the idea of serialization of works, but I’m having great fun with it, and I’m not alone.

This report from the Bookseller is well worth reading to see how trad pub is engaging with serialization and seeing great results. (LINK)

Of course in the case of Transworld and Headline all the serialized parts were professionally edited to meet the requirements of serialization and put out well-formatted on all retail platforms, and then strung together professionally in a print version also made widely available.

Sadly indies going the serialization route often seem more focused on short-term gains (as with the old KU system), but serialization has much more to offer the savvy author.

One of the problems with serialization, of course, is that a serialized novel (or indeed non-fiction works, which is where my serialization focus is) is not a stand-alone book simply chopped into equal pieces.

A thoughtfully serialized work needs to a lot of careful consideration to balance the parts. So while it may allow you to get to market sooner and start building an audience for the project, it may well prove to be not just as much, but more work than slogging away at a single full-length project.

I’m certainly finding that with my serialization of the West Africa travelogues. In theory part two and three could have been live by now, but as I work through parts 4-5 I keep finding cause to go back and make adjustments to parts 2 and 3. While that’s easy enough with digital, it’s not a sensible option once the early parts are live, because early readers will not know of the re-writes and be lost if they impact on later parts.

So if you do go down this route take a leaf from Transworld’s and Headline’s book and make sure you have several parts firmly in place before you launch.

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The Madrid-based digital-library supplier Odilo (LINK) is ramping up its game, and shifting to more English-language titles alongside its Spanish-language range.

No easy way into Odilo right now, but definitely one to keep an eye on, both as possible outlet in the future and as a barometer of the way things are shaping up.

Globally digital libraries are still pretty embryonic, but they present a fantastic opportunity for discovery and reaching new audiences.

Odilo is gearing up to challenge the long-established players like OverDrive, and its focus is worth watching.

While Spain is of course its core market, Odile is taking big strides in the US, and is in Peru, Colombia and Mexico right now, and will soon be in Chile. It’s also, intriguingly, in Australia.

And it’s handling titles in Italian, Russian and Chinese as well as Spanish and English, suggesting global ambitions and, for authors, global opportunities ahead.

Odilo isn’t geared to indie authors yet, but I’m making tentative enquiries about third-party routes in.

Even if we can’t get into Odilo this year or next, we should all be looking at operators like this, because they show clearly the way the global markets are developing. Latin America, for instance, is getting more exciting by the day.

If we’re not taking the global markets seriously and getting into translations and extensive distribution right now we’ll only have ourselves  to blame in years to come when other authors are seeing global success while we’re still struggling to get noticed in the ever more overcrowded market at home.

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

Getting In To Google Play (It's Still Possible!)

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The View From The Beach:

Mark Williams At Large

With the Google Play self-pub portal still down (LINK) I’ve been getting tons of queries about whether this is a block on indies, or a genuine issue with the portal.

Safe to say it seems a genuine issue with the portal. Why Google seem in no hurry to fix it is another question, but I can confirm indies can still get titles live on Google Play today.

The big US aggregators Smashwords and Draft2Digital do not have deals with Google Play, and it looks like they never will (payment model incompatibilities) but there are alternatives.

The British aggregator Ebook Partnership will get you into Google Play, but theirs is pay-up-front service, and while there are sound reasons for going this route, it’s not the best option if you expect low sales levels or are just wanting access to a handful of stores.

Bookrix will get you in to, but they appear to have an all or nothing retail outlet option and an unimpressive list of outlets anyway.

But there are two very nice pay-as-you-sell aggregators in Europe – Xin-Xii and Narcissus, that will also get you into Google Play.

Yesterday I used the Narcissus portal StreetLib to upload a title to Google Play specifically to see if indie titles were still being allowed in through the aggregators while the direct portal is down.

And I’m delighted to be able to report they are! My title sailed through in less than 24 hours. So clearly the self-pub portal being down is not some ploy to block indies from listing in the store. Another great conspiracy theory bites the dust.

I’ll be doing a full report on StreetLib (Narcissus) for the EBUK blog soon, as part of a series on the aggregator options available, but meanwhile you can find it here. (LINK)

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Draft2Digital Now Distributes To The Tolino Alliance. Smashwords Beginning To Look Jaded.

DiversifyIn2015

Draft2Digital just took another leap ahead of Smashwords as it introduced the Tolino Alliance stores to its repertoire.

Regulars will know we’ve waxed lyrical about Tolino many times. It’s an alliance of ebook retailers in several countries – Germany, Netherlands, Austria and Belgium – with a collective market share heading towards 45% in Germany, which puts it ahead of Amazon.

Germany is the biggest western book market after the US (ebooks not so much, but coming on fast) and the biggest English-language market after the UK. Yes, bigger than Canada and Australia!

Most indies haven’t seen much action in Germany because most indies are only there through Amazon, Apple and Kobo. Meantime the Tolino stores have been mopping up sales.

Now, thanks to D2D, your E-L titles can be in the Tolino stores across Europe. A full post on the latest with Tolino soon.

Throw in territorial pricing, monthly payments, great reports and a very smooth interface that you can upload scripts direct to and get a tolerable epub conversion (not recommended – it won’t win any prizes – but far easier than going through the Meatgrinder) and it’s yet another reason to make D2D your primary aggregator.

Smashwords still has some irons in the fire. Flipkart, Txtr and the OverDrive library catalogue for example. But where they overlap then, unless you already selling well through Smashwords (in which case a move would lose your momentum), it really would make sense to focus on D2D and use Smashwords as the secondary means of distribution.

Congrats to D2D for reaching out to Tolino. Google Play next, guys? That would really set you a world apart from the rest.

Smashwords maybe the biggest indie outlet right now, but for how much longer?

And Ebook Partnership, another of your jewels has just been stolen. You really need to move to a pay-as-you-sell model. The USPs you still have, great as they are, simply do not justify the annual fees anymore.

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