Happy New Year!
Later this month we’ll be officially launching our Go Global In 2014 campaign – its purpose to build awareness among indie authors of the incredible opportunities emerging for ebooks and print in the international markets.
And yes, you did read right. Opportunities for print. As we’ll be reporting in another post shortly, POD is set to take off big-time, and though many indie authors haven’t realized it, indie POD titles are potentially now available worldwide on an unprecedented scale – bizarrely your print books have even better distribution that most ebooks! So much so that we will soon be including links to your print titles alongside the ebook links in our global promo newsletters. More on that at a later date.
But to kick off 2014, and appreciating some of you may be the worst for wear after the New Year’s Eve partying, we’re going to ease you in with a look at Eason.
Unless you live in or have visited the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland then the name may be meaningless to you, but for many Irish readers Eason (often referred to as Eason’s) is their first port of call, and should be high on your distribution agenda. Ireland is a key English-language market. Not huge – just 4.5 million people in the Republic – but certainly too big to ignore.
For those of you outside the British Isles wondering what’s going on with this talk of two Ireland’s let’s just say the island of Ireland has a complicated and turbulent history and for myriad reasons we shan’t address here the Emerald Isle is divided into the Irish Republic in the south and Northern Ireland in the north. Both are part of the British Isles. The Irish Republic is an independent nation. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (but not Great Britain – we told you it’s complicated!). They both speak English as their main language, but use different currencies. The Irish Republic uses the euro. Northern Ireland the British pound.
Apple, Google Play and ‘txtr all have dedicated Ireland ebook stores selling to readers in the Irish Republic in euros. So does Nook, but only on Windows 8 (it’s a long story). They also have dedicated UK ebook stores selling to the UK (of which Northern Ireland is a part, remember!). Amazon has a UK ebook store only. Readers in the Irish Republic are redirected to Amazon UK where they pay in a foreign currency – the British pound. Alternatively they can play with their country settings and access Amazon US in which case they pay in another foreign currency – the US dollar.
When Amazon was the only show in town it was a case of like it or lump it, and of course many Irish readers loved it and still buy from Amazon, own a Kindle, etc. For ebooks Amazon almost certainly hold the lion’s share of the market.
But nowadays there are plenty of alternatives and, hard though it is for many indies to grasp, as more print readers make the transition to digital Amazon will not always be their first port of call, either for devices or for ebooks.
Important to understand that while indie authors, because of the wonderful opportunities offered by KDP, bought into the Amazon ecosystem as early adopters, for those mainstream readers looking at the digital option now and in the future it is no longer a choice between a cheap Kindle, an expensive Sony device or an even more expensive Apple i-gadget.
The world of e-reader and tablet devices has changed beyond all recognition since 2009, and if you can bear to step away from the comfort of the writers blogs and look at the wider e-publishing and electronics blogs and news sites you’ll find that even within the US and UK there are more choices of e-reader and tablet devices than you can shake a stick at.
Oh, and did we mention smartphones? As we’ll be reporting in another post shortly, Russia is shipping truckloads of smartphones into Europe right now that have something rather special – dual e-ink and LED screens. Yes, e-ink smartphones!
Our point being, while all us indies were, rightly, lauding Amazon for its self-publishing portal and the Kindle devices and ebook stores, the rest of the world hasn’t sat back and let Amazon dominate like it did in the US and UK.
When these new smartphones and tablets are bought – often in countries where Amazon blocks downloads or imposes surcharges – then these people are not going to be downloading the Kindle app for their device. They’ll download an app they can actually use, and most likely they’ll use the apps that come pre-installed.
For the Tesco Hudl in the UK that means Google Play and Blinkbox. For Windows 8 devices and some Samsung devices that means… Wait for it… Nook. Yes, Nook rolled out across Australia and numerous European countries at the tail end of 2013 with a restricted platform international menu. More on Nook soon.
When you send your titles out through Smashwords you may well have ticked the Baker & Taylor box, just because its there. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? But who ever heard of Baker & Taylor?
You’d be surprised. Among Baker & Taylor’s retail outlets is a rather neat little ebook site called Blio. Check it out. You may even find you have titles there for sale!
Big deal, you say. Blio? Another here-today-gone-tomorrow hare-brained start-up to ignore.
Well, we’ll be looking at Blio in detail soon, but for now just to point out they are a specialist site for mobile devices – devices like smartphones and tablets, that have been about since 2010.
And here’s the thing: many smartphones and devices come with Blio pre-installed as the default e-reader. Notably in India, where two new mobile-based ebook stores are set to liven up the Indian ebook market big time. Needless to say we’ll be looking at India in detail soon.
Blio may have brought you zero sales so far (though some indies are doing rather well there!) but Blio is one to watch, and one to be in. So-called m-commerce – sales via tablets and smartphones – are set to soar beyond your wildest imagination over the next year or two, especially globally. Stores like Blio (there are plenty of others) will have their day. They may not match up to Amazon, but you’d be crazy to dismiss what they can and will offer.
As we’ll be reporting in another post shortly, Amazon has seen its German market share decimated by, of all things, home-grown German ebook stores and home-grown German e-readers and tablets. You’ve probably never heard of the Tolino Alliance, but if you want to sell ebooks in Europe’s second biggest English-language market then it’s time you became familiar and got your tiles in their stores. More on the Tolino phenomenon soon.
It’s a similar story everywhere. If you’re seeing most of your sales come from Amazon, and mainly from Zon US or Zon UK that’s quite understandable. We indies pretty much all start out that way. But be aware there are lots of indie authors who are selling more on other platforms than they are on Amazon. No, seriously. We’ll be inviting some of them to share their secrets here on the EBUK blog in the near future.
But for now consider this: Amazon’s ebook market share is estimated to be about 65% in the US, Australia and Germany. It’s still holding higher in the UK, but not for long. It used to be 90% in all these countries. If you are still seeing 90% of your sales come from Amazon then you really need to look again at your distribution and marketing.
Remember, being on other platforms does not mean you will sell less on Amazon. Quite the opposite – your Amazon sales will probably go up significantly. Not convinced? We’ll be having some guest bloggers along soon to share their experiences.
As market fragmentation accelerates and more and more smaller players jump on the ebook wagon some (not all, but a significant number) of these smaller retailers will grow in importance. Even some of the micro-sites and new start-ups that logic say haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of finding a single reader will thrive and prosper.
And if you are in them you can grow with them.
Eason is one such small player. If you’re not in the Eason ebook store you could be missing out on significant sales in 2014-15.
Eason are based in Dublin and are by far the biggest bookstore chain in the Irish Republic and a key player in Northern Ireland. They are Ireland’s equivalent of Barnes & Noble or Waterstone’s, with some 60 bricks and mortar stores for a population of 4.5 million. Compare B&N with 673 stores but serving a population of over 300 million to understand that the Irish love reading.
With sixty stores across the Emerald Isle (they accept both British and Irish currencies), including the key airport sites, Eason have the eyeballs – and the custom – of a lot of Irish and British readers.
And here’s the thing: Those readers who have remained loyal to Eason so far rather than go for the undoubtedly cheaper and broader selection of print books from Amazon, are unlikely to suddenly transfer their allegiance as they make the transition to digital. If they can buy a device and ebooks from the same store, they will.
Eason understood this and have had an ebook store for a while now, which was initially indie-accessible through the wholesaler catalogues. They had ambitious plans to launch their own ereader to go with their old Eason ebook store. A very savvy, but also very expensive move.
But in the end they changed their mind and in late 2013 partnered with Kobo. The exact reasons are unclear but it may well be to do with their acquisition of the rival booksellers Hughes & Hughes, who were in talks with Kobo at the time.
As we hit 2014 the transition is pretty much complete. Eason now sell and widely promote Kobo devices, and the Kobo store is seamlessly integrated with the Eason website. In theory any ebooks you have in the Kobo store will be available from Eason.
Theory and reality of course do not always coincide, especially where Kobo is concerned. Kobo’s partnership stores have been a mixed bag, from the excellent (Chapters Indigo in Canada and National Book Stores in the Philippines), to hit and miss (Angus & Roberston, Bookworld and Collins in Australia, Whitcoulls and PaperPlus in New Zealand), to disappointing (Crossword and W H Smith in India) to the downright disastrous (W H Smith UK).
Too soon to judge the Kobo-Eason partnership as indie titles are still filtering through, but it looks promising so far.
A couple of final notes on Eason. Like all innovative bricks and mortar stores they offer more than just books on shelves. Pop-Up Book Stores were in the news in 2013, but Eason were doing them, with m-commerce integration – way back in 2012.
Visit their website and you’ll find they have a ton of attractions to keep readers coming back to their store – the BookBind book-club initiative, for example.
Or Easonology (check it out!).
Once again, it’s important to step outside the indie-author box now and again and see the bigger picture. One of the reasons so many book store chains and indie bookstores have survived and will continue to survive the onslaught of choice and cheap that Amazon offers is because these stores can and do compete in other ways.
As we kick off 2014 there are untold and unprecedented opportunities for savvy indie authors to find new readers, hit new best-seller lists and even make money selling their titles in old, new and yet to be created markets.
Amazon is of course an essential part of any author’s toolkit – don’t ever misconstrue anything you read here to be anti-Amazon – but it’s not 2009 and Amazon is not the only game in town, even at home, let alone in that big wide world beyond.
Don’t be daunted by the challenge of the international markets. Yes, there’s more to it than just ticking the world rights box in KDP (as we’ll be explaining soon, the Amazon KDP world rights list bears little relationship to where Amazon actually sell ebooks). And yes it will require some effort on your part to get your titles into the international markets. But, thanks to retailers like Kobo partnering with stores like Eason, you are already well on the road to global ebook reach.
Going Global In 2014? It’s easier than you think!