Fifty Shades Of English-Language Best-Sellers In Germany

GoGlobalIn2014_500The Hollywood Reporter announced this week that the Fifty Shades series by EL James just sold its one hundred millionth copy.

One hundred million sales!

Time was the indie blogs were proudly proclaiming EL James as a fine example of how trad-pub was exploiting this oh-so foolish indie who signed away her chance to make real money when Random House came calling. You can do far better on your own, they cried.

Even when Fifty Shades hit the fifty million mark there were still some indie blogs carefully explaining how James could be earning ten times as much if only she’d stayed indie.

As the Indie Old Guard love to tell us, with ebooks indies can match “legacy” distribution anywhere in the world and you get 70% royalties.

None of them have explained yet why, in that case, their ebooks are absent from so many international ebook stores, and completely unavailable in so many countries. And they are all remarkably reluctant to discuss the reality that the 70% royalty only applies to a handful of countries. As for surcharges… More tea, Vicar?

The reality is, of course, no indie can possibly match the reach of a big publishing house when it throws its weight behind a title. Indies can’t get their print books into stores in their own country in an effective manner, let alone abroad.

Indies have better luck with ebooks, but still cannot begin to match the reach of the big publishing houses, who are way ahead of the game, and raking in the cash as a consequence.

Yes, most of that global market is still print, but pretending print doesn’t matter just because we indies can’t get our share is not a sound basis on which to plan our future careers. Print matters big time, whether we like it or not.

Here’s the thing: Print and ebook sales work in tandem, pulling one another along, both contributing to discoverability, both contributing to reader interest. An avid print reader may recommend a book to a digital-only reader, and vice versa. Which is one reason it’s so important to make sure your POD titles are out on as many platforms as possible, as well as your ebooks.

Print isn’t dead. Bookstores aren’t dead. Sadly many indies seem to wish it were otherwise.

We saw that with the closure of Borders, and we see it now with the current problems with B&N and Nook. In most industries fellow-workers would be doing all they could to support a struggling business upon which livelihoods depended. Can you imagine any other industry where fellow workers revel in predicting and encouraging the demise of a business?

But wishful thinking won’t alter reality. The closure of Borders had nothing to do with ebooks, and the rise of ebooks since has yet to imperil the print industry.

Print is doing just fine, thank you very much.



Fifty Shades of course has been translated into countless languages and has sold in more countries than most people even know exist. Go to pretty much any non-specialist book site or ebook site and you’ll find EL James there alongside the likes of Patterson, Grisham, Brown, Roberts, King and all the other mega-sellers.

But the original English-language version has also sold extremely well globally. The hype helps, of course, but be in no doubt readers are out there, across the globe, looking for good quality English-language books and ebooks.

Check out Amazon Germany, for example. As well as the main charts Am-De also has a top 100 chart for English-language books. It’s worth keeping an eye on to see what’s capturing the interest of English-language readers in Germany.

Kindle Germany is the third largest of the Amazon ebook stores, after the US and UK. Nowhere near as big as the UK yet in terms of sales, but that will come in time.

The German book market is actually bigger than the UK’s. True, most of the book sales are German language, but there are an estimated 45 million English speakers in Germany. If you haven’t got your POD titles in a ton of German online book stores you could be missing out.

As for ebooks… If you haven’t got your ebooks in a ton of German ebook stores you are definitely missing out. We’ll be back with an in-depth look at the German ebook market. But here’s few numbers to ponder this weekend.

Fifty Shades – the English-language original, is currently at 250 in the entire Kindle Germany store. Of course it’s been much, much higher, but then this book is in a sales league of its own, so no surprise there. Can English-language indie titles in Germany even hope to compete?

The top ten bestsellers in the Kindle Germany English-language charts are not – as best we can tell – indie titles. Two of them are Amazon imprints (and there are several more in the top 100 – draw your own conclusions…) but what’s important is this:

The number one best-selling English-language title in Germany is (as we write this – it may have changed by when you check the charts) at number twenty-five in the entire Kindle Germany store. The second best-selling English-language title is at eighty-four. That’s two top-100 titles on Kindle Germany that are English-language originals. Yes, #2 is a Thomas & Mercer title, but still the English-language original.

The top ten English-language titles on Kindle Germany are all within the top 320 in the Kindle store as we write this. The details may have changed by when you check it out, but the overall picture is clear. There is a vibrant market for English-language books and ebooks.

No, there’s nothing unique about German Kindle users that makes them want to read in English. Check out the Tolino Alliance store Bild. This image (one of several of similar theme in a very prominent slide show) will greet you.


If you just want to see the chart, this link takes you directly to the Bild Top 100 English-language rankings.

Many other German stores are likewise giving English-language titles a high profile. More on that soon.

Obviously there won’t be any Amazon imprint titles in the Bild store or any other German ebook store as they are Amazon-exclusive. On which note, pause for thought. Amazon has, depending on which estimate you prefer, at best 65% and at worst just 50% of the German ebook market. Bild may be a small-player on its own, but collectively these other stores pack quite a punch.

While Amazon imprint and White Glove titles may be getting special treatment in the Kindle DE store they certainly aren’t selling anywhere else in Germany. That’s a huge chunk of market to be missing out on. Titles just in regular Select will be seeing even less of the action.

It also means the non-Amazon platforms in Germany are a much more level playing field. The fact that so few indies are showing in the top charts in stores like Bild is quite simple to explain. There are so few indies there.

As we’ve possibly mentioned before, being there is half the battle.

 Retailer Round-Up

An in-depth report on the exciting German ebook market very soon. For now, one more example.

Bild is one of the Tolino Alliance stores. You may be able to get into Bild through Xin-Xii. Xin-Xii appears to be feeding several Tolino Alliance stores, but in a haphazard fashion. We hope to have heard back from Xin-Xii on this by when we run our full report on the Germany ebook market. Meantime we know the aggregator Ebook Partnership will get you in, though the wholesaler catalogues.

There may be others. As ever, if you know better, do let us know.


Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.



2 responses to “Fifty Shades Of English-Language Best-Sellers In Germany

  1. I wonder if this wishful thinking is, in part, because for some indie authors what is required to become a ‘best seller’ is too overwhelming/daunting, etc. It’s easier to imagine a world where all they have to do is write a (good) book, publish it through Smashwords (for example) then forget about it – until the royalties come rolling in, of course.

  2. That’s no doubt a big part of it, Widdershins, along with some ire and frustration at past rejections.

    far better if we writers could all pull together, and call foul when the big publishers and retailers cross the line, but also give credit for the good things they all offer.

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