It’s Valentine’s Day In India Too. Indie Authors Take Note.

GoGlobalIn2014_500

Westerners may think Valentine’s Day is a very occidental affair, but love is a universal theme that transcends geographical and political boundaries.

Romance authors who are not bothering with the global markets, thinking they haven’t a hope in hell of selling their chick-lit mystery, paranormal romance, Regency bodice-ripper or BBW erotica in Asia, the Far East and elsewhere, are missing out on some fantastic opportunities to reach new readers.

And not just romance writers. That’s our focus for today because it’s Valentine’s Day, but what we say here is relevant to every genre and every author who wants to sell ebooks globally..

As ever trad pub, always being ridiculed by the Indie Old Guard for having their heads in the sand and not knowing ebooks exist, are raking in the cash from international ebook sales – and especially English-language international ebook sales – while most indies dither and dally, faffing about like a fart in a colander, not knowing which hole to go out of.

To observe Valentine’s Day India’s Flipkart, the largest online store on the sub-continent, has been running a special Valentine’s deal where all ebooks from the Mills & Boon range are half-price for Indian readers.

Flipkart St valentinesMills & Boon in India? In fact India is big market for romance, be it contemporary, historical, paranormal or even chick-lit. Yes, Indians love chick-lit, and it’s our prediction the first western indie to make it big in India will be a chick-lit author.

Check out this ad from one of India’s biggest online fashion stores, Myntra.

Myntra ad

No it’s not an ebook cover, but is it so very different from the sort of covers you see on chick-lit and fluffy-kitten romance titles in your local ebook store?

India is a wonderful country full of colour and contradiction. It may have slums that are among the worst on the planet but that’s a problem of wealth distribution, not abject poverty. India also has wealth beyond measure and a fast-growing “middle-class” who aspire to western values, who want to embrace western culture, and who make a point of speaking – and reading – in English.

Which means the Indian ebook market is probably the most exciting prospect on the planet right now for us indie authors who aren’t in a position to get our works translated into other languages.

But the longer we indies sit back and wait for the market to “mature”, thinking it’s all a waste of time right now because the rest of the world don’t know ebooks exist, the harder it will be to get a foothold when we do finally take the plunge.

Trad pub are selling books in India and making hay while the sun shines. Yes, they sell books in many different Indian languages, but the bulk of their sales come from English-language titles, and the ebook sales numbers are growing at a phenomenal rate as smartphones, tablets and phablets proliferate. Ebooks not only bring down the cost of reading, but just as importantly ebooks make reading possible in slum areas and remote villages where print bookstores simply don’t exist.

Are they reading on Apple devices? Possibly. Apple devices are very popular in India. But they won’t be buying your ebooks from the Apple India iBooks store, because there isn’t one. Hopefully that will change soon.

Meantime Indian readers can buy from Amazon India, of course, or from Flipkart. Or from ebook stores like Infibeam, or Pothi, or Aircel’s Bookmate. But most will be (with the emphasis on will be – this is where the future action is going to happen for ebooks in India) buying from innovative and forward-thinking stores like Newshunt and Rockstand.

We’ll be doing an in-depth post on all the Indian ebook retailers shortly, and explaining why ebook stores like Kindle India, Flipkart et al are never going to realise their full potential. While Google Play India may yet surprise us we think Rockstand and Newshunt are going to be the big players. But for today let’s return to Flipkart and Myntra.

Myntra, as per the image above, is one of India’s online fashion giants. It pulls in 50 million visitors a month already, and expects to grow substantially following a new round of investment just announced.

What’s this got to do with ebooks? Well, The Times of India reports that Flipkart is in merger talks with Myntra.

First, check out the link to The Times of India. Yes, it’s in English. There are upwards of 150 million English-speakers in India, and that number is growing fast as Indians embrace western culture. Many see speaking and reading in English not only to be of practical value – it is after all the lingua franca of the world –  but also to be a status symbol.

If Flipkart and Myntra do merge then this will bring a whole new flush of eyeballs to the Flipkart store, who may then buy your ebooks to read on their designer smartphones, tablets and phablets while they wear their designer clothes.

Here’s another ad from Myntra.

India Garfield

Garfield?  Make no mistake, western culture is big in India, and western children’s books and ebooks, just like our romance and chick-lit, have huge potential across the sub-continent. Check out the children’s sections in any Indian book or ebook stores.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to write in Indian languages, write novels set in India, or even have Indian characters, to sell well in India. Of course if you can do those things too then the sky’s the limit. But for those of us indies less cosmopolitan the possibilities in the Indian book and ebook market are still seriously worth looking at.

More on all the Indian ebook retailers soon. But the eagle-eyed among you will spot we just said book and ebook market. Yes, your PODs can – and may already – be in the Flipkart book store.

If you have POD versions of your books through CreateSpace and paid for Expanded Distribution your books should now be in the Flipkart store. If you didn’t pay for Expanded Distribution you may need to log in to CreateSpace and tick the Extended Distribution box (it’s now free) and your POD titles should magically appear in the Flipkart book store soon after.

And not just in Flipkart but in online book retailers all over the globe.

No, this is not some great new deal by Amazon. If you’re with Lulu, Bookbaby, Feed-A-Read, Ingram or some other POD facilitator your books ought to be appearing in Flipkart and myriad other stores too. If they are not, check with your POD operator and ask them why the hell not. You could be missing out on sales.

Your ebooks should be in the Flipkart ebook store if you are with Smashwords. At the moment Smashwords are the only western aggregator getting titles into Flipkart for indie authors outside the sub-continent.

Other ebooks stores have been mentioned above. Just a few of many. We could have added Landmark, WH Smith India and Crossword, for example, and for POD sales there are even more retailers. Watch out for a post soon on the global POD opportunities many indies are missing out on.

India is a very exciting market right now, and Flipkart is just one of myriad book and ebook stores where you could be reaching readers across India. If your only title representation on the sub-continent is through Amazon India then you really need to rethink your distribution. Amazon India is an important player, but just one among many. And by no means the biggest.

Going Global In 2014? Make sure India’s many ebook and POD retailers are high on your list of priorities, even after Valentine’s Day.

Retailer Round-Up

We mentioned several ebook retailers and stores in this post. Here’s how (or if) you can get your titles into them, In order of appearance in the post.

NB This list is hopefully accurate, but doesn’t purport to be inclusive. If you see any errors, or know of other options, do let us know.

  • Flipkart – India’s biggest online retailer. Accessible through Smashwords or Pothi.
  • Amazon India – KDP. One portal to all the Kindle sites.
  • Apple – No india iBooks store, but for other Apple options you can go direct if you have the right i-device, otherwise most aggregators will get you there, including Smashwords, Bookbaby, D2D, Xin-Xii, Untreed Reads and Ebook Partnership among many.
  • Smashwords – As well as being a key aggregator tat can get you into many stores other aggregators cannot, Smashwords also has its own retail site offering an excellent rage of format, does not have territorial restrictions and does accept international payments.
  • Pothi – One of the ebook pioneers in India. Small but worth making the effort for. Go direct.
  • Infibeam – Flipkart’s main rival until Kindle India opened. Accessible through OverDrive or Ebook Partnership.
  • Aircel Bookmate – No direct access. We’re waiting to hear more on their feed-liness
  • Rockstand -No direct access. We’re waiting to hear more on their feed-lines.
  • Newshunt – No direct access. We’re waiting to hear more on their feed-lines.
  • W H Smith India – Kobo partner store but as it’s the India arm of W H Smith UK there’s not much hope of getting in.
  • Crossword – Another Kobo partner store, but it’s just a link to the main Kobo store. Kobo has a localized store but you can’t view it unless you’re in India, it seems.
  • Landmark -India’s biggest bricks and mortar chain. No direct access to their ebook store. We’re waiting to hear more on their feed-lines.

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